TWENTY

 

I suppose the first memory that we share of September 11, 2001, was that it was an absolutely gorgeous day.

I always felt that September, especially in New York, was the best month of the year weather-wise.

Of course, as a child, September always represented the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. But in terms of the weather, it always seemed to contain beautiful summer days with a twist of autumn in the air.

Other memories that we share of this date are not so joyful but extremely memorable.

We remember where we were.

We remember whom we were with.

We remember when we heard that a plane flew into one of the towers of the World Trade Center, and many of us thought (Hoped? Prayed?) that it was a small plane whose pilot had lost consciousness, etc.

The thing that I remember most is watching the news on a small television in one of my Associate Director’s office and seeing the plumes of smoke and bronze flames coming out of both towers, as by now the second tower had been struck and all delusions that we were not under attack were finally put to rest.

I remember as the entire office watched, and I said, “One thing you have to say is that the engineers who built them knew what they were doing because the towers are still standing.”

A few seconds later, the first tower fell, and I stopped watching for a while.

In the days that followed, the entire nation seemed to be united.

We weren’t thinking of hanging chads or the 2000 election that was so close and that Al Gore reluctantly conceded out of a concern for national unity.

We appeared on September 11, 2001, to be living up to E Pluribus Unum.

We were behind our President, and even the Mayor of New York became America’s Mayor as his calm demeanor in delivering updates seemed to serve as a balm on the open wounds of the terrorist attack.

The feeling of oneness didn’t last long, and twenty years later, it seems hard to imagine that so many feel so alienated and despised that the nation that saved the world and ushered in the era of exploring new worlds can no longer save itself.

Twenty years ago, acts of terror brought us together, while today, a vaccine and a mask threaten to divide us.

Remember what you were doing on 9/11 and pray for the survivors and the families of the fallen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Before He Was Captain

Twenty-five years ago this month I took my children to see the Yankees play the Red Sox.

We sat in Row X in the grandstands of the old Yankee Stadium.

It was a Saturday afternoon September 21, 1996.

Like most Yankee-Red Sox games this was a nail biter and actually went into extra innings.

In those day there was on Ghost Runner on second base to start the extra innings but there were plenty of ghosts there nonetheless.

In the bottom of the 10th inning Jeter came up to bat with two out and bases loaded.

Jeter got a single and Boggs scored from third and the Yankees won the game.

Jeter was a rookie but all of the nearly fifty-five thousand baseball fans in attendance probably new that there would be a day when Derek Jeter would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Today is that day.

Fortunately, that day in 1996 was only one of many days that we got to see Derek Jeter earn his way into the Hall.

It wasn’t just what he did in the playoffs and World Series that mattered. He played the same way on a cold Monday night in April as he did on a cold early Thursday morning in November.

He played like a champion.

He always played like a champion.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Fifty Years To Forever

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Hey Could You Give Me A Boost AKA Hit Me With Your Best Shot

I am only home a week after spending a beautiful three weeks in the Beautiful Bronx with my children and my gorgeous grandson.

Traveling back to Florida went as well as traveling anywhere by air can go. Which is to say no criminal passengers were fighting with crew members or other passengers or who made an uproar over wearing THE MASK!

Of course, the one thing that did worry my wife Eileen and me was returning to the Delta Variant Sunshine State.

While the discussions about booster vaccines and who should get one persisted, Eileen and I set off to get ours this past Wednesday.

Similar to the second shot, our reaction consisted of a slow progressing journey towards aches, pains, and exhaustion.

Wednesday was not such a bad day, but we knew what was coming, so we learned to take it easy and do what we can. No over-taxing ourselves.

Thursday, the Mack truck arrived. (I don’t use that analogy often ever since I was T-boned by a Mack truck.)

All I could think was that Friday would be better.

However, I had to endure Thursday first.

Let me just say that if what I experienced was what Covid patients endured, then stop reading this and go out and get the vaccine or booster if you have already been vaccinated.

I didn’t have any respiratory problems, just aches in every joint of my body and fatigue. That was it, but that was enough.

I suppose due to my compromised immune system thanks to CLL, I never get a fever. My temperature always hovers around 97.4. However, Friday morning around 4:00 AM, it seemed that the “fever” had broken.

I woke up in a sweat, and I actually felt terrific. I was able to walk with absolutely no discomfort, and my body aches all but disappeared. (Except the usual pain I live with.)

Here it is Saturday morning, and I am thinking seriously of going into the pool and maybe even have the first pumpkin ale of the season.

It’s hard to think that Autumn is coming when it is still in the nineties down here. Still, baseball has entered the critical part of the season, and football is upon us, so before you know, we will be cooling down into the high eighties, the perfect time for a crisp pumpkin ale.

I tell you all this because this was the furthest thing from my mind on Thursday, but here I am Saturday morning, and I can get off the mat and get back to living the life.

So, the message is: Get the Vaccine; Get the Booster if you can.

Don’t fear the vaccine.

Fear the virus.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

These Are The Good Old Days…Really!

 

Back in 1971, Carly Simon refrained that “These are the good old days.”

She wasn’t wrong.

Instead of pining over a time long ago when life was so much better than it is now, we were reminded that today is even better than yesterday.

Ironically, I look back to the year that Anticipation (the source of Ms. Simon’s lesson for today ) as a time worthy of nostalgia. It was the year I met Eileen, which took me on a journey and the main reason that today, in the midst of political mayhem and a pandemic, these really are my good old days.

I constantly lecture my family about things from my past. I frequently begin conversations, “I remember…”. But the best part of those old stories from another century is that I am telling them to the people I love today.

Many of us hear a song from the 60s or even the 50s and can remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard that particular song. We love the memory but have no desire to give up our present to return to that past. 

No matter how sweet and dear that memory was, it hid the truth, and we know that.

The past contained much of what causes us grief today, including bad politics, war, a struggling economy, a nation divided on many issues. Yet, as bad as these particular good old days may have been, our minds weed out the pain and enhance the glorious times we had back in the day.

We can do that for our current good old days simply by reminding ourselves that we live in a wondrous time with wondrous people who are the joy of our lives and the source of memories that we will save forever.

Of course, to do this, we have to shut off our cable TV news shows.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Saturday Morning Musings From Florida

Here we are, another Summer Saturday in the Sunshine State.


Either my blood has sufficiently thinned to the point that I no longer feel the eternal heat that is Florida’s summer, or it really hasn’t been that hot…for Florida.


We did, of course, had to wrestle with the threat of a tropical storm two weeks ago, but that wasn’t nearly as bad as it might have been.


I don’t remember talking or writing about the weather this much when I was in my twenties and perusing the joys of Central Park on a New York Summer Saturday. Is it age that has me so preoccupied with the weather? Is it the news of west coast heat waves and wildfires and east coast downpours and floods, not to mention the terrible flooding going on right now in Germany and Belgium?


We didn’t talk about global warming or climate change back in the ’70s, but now that I am in MY 70’s, it seems that is all we talk about.


We are told on June 1st every year that “Today is the start of the hurricane season.” Oh, joy!
Instead of worrying about my summer music playlist or reading list, I have to make sure my hurricane survival kit has batteries and other paraphernalia to get us through the dark days of a power outage.


I know writing about the weather can be a divisive topic to address, so I am just stating the obvious. It’s raining in Europe. It’s not raining in California or Washington. And I am watching the coast of Africa to see if any hurricane’s a-comin’.

What else?


Oh yeah, the Yankees.


Well, my chosen boys of summer are not exactly taking my mind off the weather.


They, like atmospheric conditions, are hard to fathom and often serve as a source of frustration and angst.


I am not really complaining, but it is a little ironic that I am more optimistic about the New York Jets than I am about the Yankees making the playoffs.


Still, I remember 1978.


That summer around this time of the season, the Yankees were fourteen games out of first place. You must remember that at that time, there were no wild cards)so that if you didn’t win the division, you didn’t get to play in the playoffs.


Eileen and I went to Bermuda in August of that year, and when we came home and got a cab at Laguardia, the first thing I did was ask the cabbie how the Yankees were doing. I was told that they closed the gap and were about seven games out.


Later that season, when the Yankees were only four games out, they had a big four-game series with the first-place Red Sox up in Boston.
Willie Randolph, our terrific second baseman during the first game, was 3 for 3 before the number nine hitter for Boston even came to bat.

The Yankees won all four games, and we were tied for first. Well, the season ended with the Yankees and Boston tied for first, and a one-game playoff had to be played to determine the pennant winner.


As luck would have it, the game was played in Boston.


Now, everybody remembers Bucky Dent’s dramatic homer that gave the Yankees the lead. Still, Reggie Jackson’s homer ultimately proved the difference in the game, making the Yankees the American League East Champions.


The Yankees went on to beat the Dodgers in six games to capture the World Series.


Of course, then there was 2004.


The Yankees swept the Red Sox in early July, including the game when Derek Jeter dove into the stands after catching a fly ball while running at full speed. The Red Sox were sent back home demoralized, knowing the Yankees were on their way to another title.


Ok, so instead of another Yankee World Series, the Red Sox made a miraculous recovery in the American League Champion Series, having been down 3 games to nil, and finally broke the jinx that they and their fans were certain was a result of Boston selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees back in the day.


Both 1978 and 2004 illustrate that in baseball, anything can happen.


It’s much too early to despair. I can get angry when we lose, but I won’t give up.


As they say, “That’s baseball, Susan.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Harry Sang

On July 16th it will be forty years since the world lost Harry Chapin. For those too young to know who he was, simply search on iTunes and download an album or two.

At a time when singer-songwriters monopolized the airwaves of the better rock stations, Harry was the best. He was so good he even got radio stations to air seven minute songs. Now, while they may have seemed long to station managers and advertising executives, to those of us who loved a good story, those songs were Shakespeare on vinyl.

Whether listening to Harry sing in the comfort of your living room or while sitting outside on the rock at Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park you were transported to Frisco on a rainy night or a steep hill in Scranton, Pennsylvania. You could care less who was President or what party controlled Congress. You were listening to Harry tell stories and that’s all that mattered.

Harry sang about people, ordinary people. A tailor who dreamed about singing at Town Hall; a waitress who could recognize her own loneliness in others; a cabbie who fell short of his dreams. Harry sang about us. We saw ourselves in his cast of characters and, somehow, we were made better people because of it.

It’s useful to remember that the seventies weren’t exactly the golden age of America. Cities were burning down; we had hostages in Iran; we could only buy gasoline on certain days; and double digit inflation was the norm.

No matter.

When Harry sang it was really a better place to be.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Freaky Saturday

My Saturdays used to bring me to a park.

I would either find myself amidst the park-goers of Central Park or among the Bleacher Creatures of Yankee Stadium.

I have yet to discover my Florida park.

Instead, my park-option has been to walk around Sarasota and take in a farmers’ market.

This is probably closer to walking in Central Park than watching a ballgame in Yankee Stadium. Pre-pandemic, the Sarasota experience was like walking through a Woodstock reunion. People of that age milling about, some in tie-dye apparel, others accompanied by their pets.

Booths erected to encourage buying and selling, primarily items like coffee, vegetables, and the like. Then there are the shops of a more permanent nature like book stores. It’s nice to wander through a book store and to find something you weren’t even looking for or even thinking about before you snatched it off the shelf to purchase.

Amazon is easier but not nearly as much fun.

I have to remind myself to buy a stereo system.

My new Mac desktop doesn’t accommodate loading a CD onto iTunes, and I have grown desirous of re-purchasing the vinyl records I gave away before moving to Florida.

Bluetoothing my iTunes saved music on to my Bose is easier, but I long to flip an album to the other side and marvel at the album art and liner notes.

I haven’t yet decided what kind of system I will buy or, more importantly, where to put it when I do.

I know the next thing I will be looking for is a used SLR camera that uses film instead of digits and doesn’t know squat about pixels. I have my son’s enlarger in the garage, so maybe I will go back to the days I developed my own prints?

That’s a nice thought, but digital is too easy for me to create a darkroom in the Sunshine State.

Maybe I should just get a tune-up kit for my 1973 Vega and call it a day?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Rebel Rebel

Happy Fourth of July Everybody.


Today is a good day to remember who we are and maybe who we want to be.


We are the heirs of a noble experiment. A few men, yes, they were men and they were white, set off to create a nation.


These men weren’t perfect, and there was enough partisanship to go around to keep them from being perfect and from creating a perfect country.


Still, it is what it is, and we are who we are.


While we celebrate the joys of liberty and prosperity, we can still acknowledge that there is a great deal of work to be done to bring liberty and prosperity to all.


We are all tired of pointing fingers and being pointed at as the enemy of the nation. We have enemies for sure. Some are foreign, and some are domestic. But we have a system of laws that binds us all together as one nation, and I do believe, under God.


So when I watch the fireworks tonight, I will be thinking of our glorious past that has not been without its flaws and imperfections, as well as the glorious future that is surely ours to behold.


Don’t forget to have a hot dog and a cold beer.


Now, that’s an American tradition!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Is A Father? What Is A Dad?

I wrote this a few years ago to commemorate Father’s Day. I wrote…A Father is the guy…

I have updated this today and changed it to A Dad is the guy…

It’s a clarification that needed to be made. Any man can be a father but it is the blessed ones who become Dads. So, for all of you who are Dads or were fortunate to have a Dad, Happy Dad’s Day.

 

A Dad is the guy who took you to your first Yankee game and sat you in the Bleachers because that was where Mickey Mantle played.

 

A Dad is the guy who just couldn’t wait until December 25th to give you your first set of Lionel Trains and so he gave them to you in October.

 

A Dad is the guy who that same Christmas gave you your Santa Fe diesel three days before Christmas.

A Dad is the guy who didn’t get you those Mouseketeer Ears you wanted so badly but came home with the most beautiful red two-wheeler you ever had in your life.

 

A Dad is the guy who didn’t always give you what you wanted but made damn sure you got everything you needed.

 

A Dad is the guy who never uttered a profanity in his life until that day you went missing, and he had to search the neighborhood looking for you.

 

A Dad is the guy who answered ‘steak’ to the question ‘What’s for dinner?’ that you yelled to him up at the window when he was calling you in for dinner because he didn’t want the neighbors to know we were having meatloaf.

 

A Dad is the guy who took you to Ferry Point Park on evenings after he worked all day and then had to flag every fly ball that went to the opposite field he was playing.

 

A Dad is the guy who couldn’t tune a ukulele without breaking a few strings but could sing Ain’t She Sweet like no body’s business.

 

A Dad is the guy who made a weekend without electricity the most magical weekend of a kid’s life.

 

A Dad is the guy who was called The Tasheroo Kid and never explained what that meant.

 

A Dad is the guy who didn’t know the definition of a sick day.

 

A Dad is the guy who saw you sleeping on his living room floor and went out and bought a sofa bed the next day.

 

A Dad is so much more than all the things I have listed, and I am only one of his five children, and if you have been blessed with such a Dad, then you have been truly blessed, indeed.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments