My friend Bernard
Updated: Jun 9, 2019
Today is Friday February 22th and early this morning, I heard from Johan, that my friend Bernard just passed away in Paris. The first text was informing me that Bernard was in critical condition in a Paris Hospital, To me the only logical explanation was a traffic accident.
Later texts explained that Bernard had an aggressive cancer, and that it was a matter of days, maybe even hours. A couple hours later, came the sad news that Bernard had passed away.
I met Bernard around 1990, we lived in the same building in Hong Kong, we shared a common background as we were both born in Tunisia, he was younger than me, and we started meeting every day after work for incessant backgammon games. He loved to win, and for him every victory counted double because first, he beat you, and second, he beat in you, your misconception that he would lose.
I usually cooked dinner for us, and one night, he challenged me to replicate a dish, his mom used to cook. I knew the dish and thought I could recreate it based on smell and taste memory, I gave him a list of ingredient and sent him to the store:”go get this stuff and I will show you”. This set up the tone of how he would get me to cook for him, whatever he would fancy, in the next 30 years of our friendship.
Every time he visited LA, he would call in advance to set the menu of what he wanted to eat during his visit. He demanded that garlic and onion, be invisible in the dish, he loved the taste, but could not see the ingredient, I would humor him, because I loved him and I would let him get away with his constant teasing, always based on having met a better cook. The latest one was some cook from Madagascar he met in Bali that he coerced into making fricasses, and his tease was that they “might“ have been better than mine. I would pretend to be very upset by that and we would exchange some insults, and end the conversation in big laughs.
He was a frequent caller, generally at the same time of the day, either early morning in HK, or late evening, i figured that he mostly called when he was exiled to his balcony to have a cigarette, as he was not allowed to smoke inside. The same rule applied when he visited us and he would always pretend to prepare to smoke inside, curious as to, how I would ask him to go on the balcony and close the door.
Under the appearance of loving gossips, he was in reality one of the most private person I ever met. Bernard would never talk about his business, or his personal life, but never gave the impression, he was withholding anything.
I loved him because he kept everything simple, in life and in friendship. He was always ready to help and would go out of his way to get answers or solutions to situations that did not involve him, but he felt would help his friends.
I almost never saw him upset, and always suspected that his passions were expressed in a more covert way. He worked smartly, meaning efficiently enough to make money without working too hard. He was bored often, and he was always looking for tech novelties, that he would then share with his friends, even showing up with gears to our place and spending the whole afternoon installing it. I would accuse him of using these excuses to hack our network, and we would have a good laugh.
He loved gambling, and he loved winning, after our lunches, he would leave around three, I knew he was headed to a card game, but I made a point to never mention it unless he brought it up himself.
The last time I saw him, he came for lunch a couple month ago. I cooked the Tunisian dish he requested by phone, we had an enjoyable lunch with my sister Aline. My sister told him he looked depressed and he opened up a little, but gave no indication he was gravely ill, he had good plans for the future. He promised to be back the following Saturday, but he didn’t come, he called a couple weeks later, I told him “you left town like a thief” which is a French expression, when someone leaves without saying goodbye
Bernard was a real benevolent presence in my life, I cared for him and enjoyed our talks and his visits. It is hard to process the thought that he is gone. Against all odds, he found his place in the world, creating a wonderful family, he perched himself in a remote place, where he could be alone but still have the world come to him, as he stood at the door of China, over the years, he manufactured garments, accessories, and yes major art pieces, always finding his way into products the world was interested in.
He left this world like a thief, but somehow, I think his last visit was to say goodbye to me. Gerard Medina, Henry Kam and now Bernard Seroussi. My best friends are gone, each from a different part of my life, each with his own magic to me, and I realize brought together with me, in this paragraph, for the first. time