by: john Harrison
Hello. My name is john harrison. I’m Harvey’s friend. We met over a busted real estate deal well over 30 years ago. First though, I want to tell you a little bit about myself. I learned to read in the 4th grade. I was slow at first but since then I have read between 2 and 300 books a year, year in, year out. I’ve been a soldier, a realtor, a lawyer, and a high school history teacher. I am now 75 years old. In all that time, in all those books, in all those jobs, I never met, I never heard of, anyone remotely like Harvey Rothstein. He was sui generas, an original in every respect.
He was a Jew, and proud of it. He was a born again Christian, and proud of that as well. He was the Godfather of several of my children. A godparent’s job is to see to the religious education of the child. We are Episcopalian. He was Harvey Rothstein, our children’s Jewish, non-denominational, born again Christian, godfather. It worked. It always worked with Harvey.
As most of you already know, Harvey liked to tell stories, as he got older he told the same ones over and over. I am sure that at least some of them are true because the ones he told about the things we did together were all true. If anything, in these stories about us, he minimized his contributions, and maximized mine.
Harvey was a truly brilliant man, but he worked very hard to hide it. If Harvey had a good idea, he would try most times to give it to someone else to raise. It was not that he wanted to test the idea, he already knew it was a good one, but he did not need the credit, and he rarely sought it for himself.
Harvey was not an athlete, but he beat me repeatedly at ping pong. The $2 dollar paddle he gave me to use, and the $350 dollar, hand made, professional, ping pong paddle he used during our games may have had something to do with it. He could also sink a basketball in a net on the other side of the pool at his old house. I never did figure out how he did that. I could hit the backboard, sometimes. The net, on the other hand, always eluded me.
Harvey loved harassing the people he loved the most. The more he loved them, the greater the harassment. He once sent my daughter Johnna a MAGA hat when she lived in California knowing that she despised then President Trump, and even though he knew full well that she was otherwise immune to what he thought of as the West Coast’s favorite lunacies.
In this, and in many other ways Harvey often behaved more like an immature six year old boy than anything else. But that was part of his beauty. He was still six years old most of the time. Like a child he enjoyed every minute of every day; each day was a miraculous gift that he wanted to use to make the most mischief in. His curiosity was as legendary as his pranks. He always wanted to find out something, and he always wanted you to help him, and we did because being with Harvey was a movable feast of adventure and fun.
Before they put in the Osprey perch at their old house, Harvey decided that he wanted to set off some fire works on the 4th of July; but not just any fire works, Harvey wanted the real thing. So, he ordered about Five Thousand Dollars worth of professional grade fireworks delivered to my law office in Virginia. Do you have any idea how much fireworks Five Thousand Dollars would buy, 25 or so years ago? It filled the lobby and then the library of my law office for about a month waiting for the 4th of July. Harvey said he had them send it to me, because these fireworks were illegal to deliver in Maryland. He figured as his lawyer I could not tell anyone that I had them because of attorney client privilege. That is also why he never told me when he was picking them up, or what he was going to do with them. As long as they were in Virginia, the fireworks were legal to have, but profoundly stupid. Moving them to Maryland was, on the other hand, a crime.
Now, safely ensconced with his fireworks in Maryland, Harvey wanted my help in setting them off. I guess he thought that my experience in the Vietnam War had made me an expert in making things go boom. Everything was fine until there was one errant rocket that headed for his and Maria’s house. It landed on the small porch that was just off of his and Maria’s bedroom, the one where where Maria was sitting, watching the fire works. That was the first and last year for fire works at Harveyland. That’s what my kids called his house.
Harveyland was a place you went to, to have fun. To swim in his pool. To use the slide into the pool over and over. To fish off the dock. To play with the various pinball machines and other toys. To shoot his guns in the yard, silenced guns, fully automatic sub-machine guns, both properly tax stamped and legal. To watch the dogs play. If it was not there when you came, almost anything you wanted would be there the next time you visited Harveyland.
Now you may think that the fireworks story cannot be topped. However, during one case Harvey and I were at a deposition at Sherman and Stirling, a huge, white shoe law firm in New York City. They told Harvey that there was no smoking in the building. He said “Fine. Then, I’ll need a smoke break at least every 10 minutes for ten minutes or so.” They came up with an ashtray with a large, gold embossed, Sherman and Stirling logo on it and and air filter. As he sat there during the deposition in this huge conference room, and between smoking unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes, Harvey started putting things in the empty briefcase he had brought with him. First, there was a large stack of legal pads, again with the Sherman and Stirling logo, that disappeared into his briefcase. He did not hide what he was doing and he kept answering the questions as they came. Then, all of the S&S logoed pencils and ball point pens in the room were the next to go.
I stopped him when Harvey started toward a particularly handsome, signed, framed, photograph of Winston Churchill by the famed Canadien photographer Karsh that was hanging on one wall of the conference room. I had tried to buy an unsigned copy of that photo for my office a few weeks before. The $10,000 price tag for the unsigned photo however had cooled my desire immediately. I knew that would not slow Harvey down though, nor would a felony theft charge. He thought that he should be compensated for being made to come to New York City to be bored by these people. Harvey also thought that these pompous, stuffed shirt, lawyers at Sherman and Stirling should do the compensating. I could see that he was determined to steal that photo as well as the other stuff already in his briefcase. It looked like there was just enough room left in his briefcase for the photo and frame. While I managed to talk him out of stealing that photo; when we left Sherman and Stirling that evening, the ashtray and all the other stuff left with us, cigarette butts and all.
When he and Maria learned that I was having trouble getting a 30 foot cigarette boat I used to own repaired in DC where I had it docked on Maine Avenue, Harvey came to the rescue as he did for so many of us. He built a boat lift on his dock and told me that he really needed an impressive boat on it and could he please borrow mine for a while to put it on his new lift? Then he told me there was another friend of his just across the river from his home that did boat work exactly like my boat needed. Harvey could give me his number. Soon, that boat never ran better. We even got Maria out in it a couple of times. He would not let me pay him for the storage and his place was a half an hour closer to us than any other place on the Bay.
Later I learned that it was Maria that had found the boat mechanic, but it was Harvey that put everything together. He was always fixing other people’s problems, sometimes even before they knew they had them. Almost everyone that knows Harvey has a story like that, a story of Harvey doing something really important for someone else for no reason other than he could. That was the Harvey that I remember. That is the Harvey that I will miss every day. He loved making people smile. Harvey Rothstein, husband of Maria, and my friend.
My book, Steel Rain, the Tet Offensive is available on Amazon both as a paperback and on Kindle. It is a Five Star book with lots of reviews, many by others that were there with me as well. Please give it a look. See; Steel Rain, the Tet Offensive 1968
Recent Reviews of Steel Rain, the Tet Offensive:
“John Harrison does an eloquent job writing what it was like being in the infantry during the Vietnam war. I know, I was in the infantry in Vietnam. There is a statistic which states that only 1 out of 10 who served in Vietnam were in the infantry. All of us have been asked what that was like at one point since our return. It is an impossible question for most of us to answer in part much less in full. John Harrison manages to do this in his book, Steel Rain, the Tet Offensive. So, if you are inclined and wonder what it was like, or you want to tell someone else what you went through, buy this book. Show it to your friend, show it to your family. It tells your story. To, “LT” John Harrison- thank you Sir.Salute.”
“John Harrison’s book, Steel Rain, the Tet Offensive, is a series of short stories, told mostly in the first person, that weaves together the humor and violence that only a talented writer can accomplish. The result is a compelling book that is hard to put down. John’s words flow easily on the pages, making an easy read. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has been there and did that, or anyone wanting to know a personal record of one lucky Lieutenant in Vietnam and the people that made it possible for him to return home.
Dan Hertlein, helicopter mechanic with the 192nd AHC at LZ Betty 1968″
“John is the soldier speaking the truest story of Vietnam. I will confirm his action as I was in a different company same battalion, fighting the same battles.”