There are times in our lives when momentous things occur for which we rarely are prepared.
It’s as if we are acting in a play, and we walk onto the stage only to find we are in a production, unlike the one for which we knew our lines.
I faced such an event fifty years ago today, and I have never recovered from the shock of that feeling of not knowing my lines.
Thank God for that.
It was September 3, 1971, and I finished my last day as a mail clerk at Lorillard Corp. It was the best job I ever had. I learned so much, not just about mailing parcels or postage meters but more about people.
We were a typical group of guys from New York City.
We could have easily met at a Yankee game, sipping a beer in the bleachers as we had sipping coffee in the mailroom.
It was a Friday.
It was payday.
As we often did, we went to our local Blarney Stone for lunch, where we dined on a fine roast beef sandwich and a few cold beers.
The meal was topped off on the way back to the office with a Tiparillo Cigars.
I was entering my senior year at St. John’s after the Labor Day weekend, which is why it was my last day at Lorillard. I wanted to enjoy my last year of college and opted not to work after school that year.
It so happened that it was my mother’s 64th birthday (How young that seems to me now!), so I couldn’t go out for a drink after work as I wanted to be home for a birthday cake celebration for mom.
I also had to pick up something for her, which I did at the Parkchester Pharmacy on Hugh Grant Circle when I got off the six train.
We had a nice dinner (which my mother made, of course) and sang Happy Birthday, and I gave her my gift of perfume and other cosmetic items included in the boxed set I purchased at the drug store.
After dinner, I went out with my friends as usual on a Friday night.
We met at Al’s Wine and Liquors, where Freddy was working, and PJ was already endeavoring to cut out the middle man by sipping Bali Hai before we went bar hopping.
Actually, I don’t think we called it bar hopping in 1971, and anyway I was intent to stay at the first place we visited, a bistro on East Tremont Avenue known as The Castle Keep.
Others in our group wanted to go to the Hollow Leg, formerly known as the BIC or Bronx Irish Center. I did not want to go there having traumatic memories of the place from my high school days.
But as luck would have it, the Castle Keep was dead.
We were the only people in the bar, and it appeared that the castle might have had a moat keeping others out, especially feminine people.
So, we made our way down Tremont Avenue to the Hollow Leg.
Now to be fair, I was already on my way to a full night if you will allow me my euphemism.
I was well into a bob and weave as my friends left me stranded as they pursued other interests.
Then, the lights came on.
The curtain rose.
I was in the middle of the stage, but it was not the drama that I anticipated.
It must have been a comedy.
Because as I looked over to the bar, I saw a beautiful redhead. A very young gorgeous redhead.
She was laughing at me.
I approached her but had no clue as to what my lines were. And there was no director to cue me or coach me or save me from falling on my face.
I may have stammered, but I did say something coherent if nonsensical.
“I’ve been admiring you all night.”
She almost fell off the barstool. Her fits of laughter were so explosive.
That was it.
That was the mother of all momentous moments from which I never recovered.
For some reason, we connected that night back in 1971, and before we left each other’s company that fateful Friday (now Saturday), we somehow knew that I’d be writing about that moment fifty years in the future.
We didn’t know that there would be three children and a grandson who might be interested in how this all came about.
So much has happened in these fifty years, not all of which has been pleasant, but I don’t think either of us would have done anything differently.
Thinking back to that Friday night, I had no idea as I left apartment six at 1261 Leland Avenue that Friday evening that when I returned, my life would have changed forever.
You just never know when that’s going to happen.
It has left me in awe every time I think back to that night.