Two Saturday mornings ago I was sitting down eating breakfast, at a local restaurant, with my cousin Larry and his wife Rose. My plate had a picture of a bluejay in its design. It was so enchanting I quite regretted having to pour so much syrup over the fine illustration. I knew there was no way the ink could run, but it would still spoil the pristine appearance of it all. It was quite a lovely meal other than that one unfortunate problem. When we eventually went back to their house, on my way up the front stoop, I couldn’t help noticing that a neighbor of theirs was hanging around their mailbox with his dog, who, he pointed out, was named Bob.
“Bob?!”, I spontaneously blurted out. “What in the hell kind of name is that for a dog?”
“Isn’t it the most interesting name?” he replied.
“Dude, surely you jest.”
“I quite think it fits him so well.”
Our confrontation went on for several minutes until I finally gave up on this seemingly pointless episode. I was especially stunned when he explained that Bob is an avid Dylan fan.
Over the course of my school days I had always been quite a reasonably good student. Math and science were the two very definite exceptions to that rule, however. As a high school freshman at St. John the Baptist in West Islip, I somehow got put into a biology class, in spite of the fact that freshman biology was intended for students who were good in science. Mr. Richard Morabito, my teacher, frequently called my mother and complained to her that I could never keep up with the work. He wondered if maybe I should start wearing eyeglasses again. When I was a senior I took Mrs. Joan McGrath’s probability and statistics class. She, like Mr. Morabito, knew that I was a conscientious student but that I just couldn’t handle the subject matter. One of the very last things she ever said to me officially as a teacher of mine was that it would be a bad mistake for me to study math from then on. The next year, as a freshman at S.U.N.Y. Farmingdale, I was a liberal arts major. During my first semester I was forced to take another statistics course. During my first week there the professor insisted upon my dropping out of the course because he knew I’d never be able to pass it. Those are only a few representative examples of the horror story that was my life in math and science classrooms. My late cousin Karen, who was a math teacher, once told me that she could never understand how anyone could possibly be a poor math student, considering that it was so logical. Perhaps that’s my entire problem. I must not be capable of handling courses that are too logically consistent. I appear to require the twists and turns that go with the humanities and social sciences.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “You, the Sandwich.”For many years my cousins, Larry, Gary, Joe, and I were on a bowling league with the Knights of Columbus St. Jane Frances de Chantal Council 6526 in Wantagh, New York. We bowled every Friday night at Wantagh Lanes. While we were on the league they gave me the name B.L.T. It only makes sense that were a restaurant to name a meal after me it would have to be a B.L.T. sandwich. Of course there’s no rule that says its ingredients would have to be restricted to bacon, lettuce and tomatoes. I’ve always been quite smitten with Swiss cheese so it could have quite a healthy helping of that on it too. In order to be consonant with the way I operate it could, at least occasionally include things like turkey, chicken, ham, fruit and anything else that may remind people of my lopsided antics. Never having been overly fond of spices I could see how anything with an exceptionally intense kick should be kept to a minimum. I’ve never been able to handle anything too sloppy or sticky. The local Lido Kosher Deli has a hamburger that drives me crazy because it’s so hard to handle, being so extremely sticky. My sandwich, by definition, would have to be plain and simple in that respect. As long as its ingredients include those three primary ones, and it’s reasonably need and easy to handle, it’s quite the perfect edible symbol of me.
“Fostoogle” is an old word that my cousin Gary first told me about when we were in our teens. It’s new to everyone else though. It’s an obscure word, with antecedents that go back to the Old English of Beowulf’s era. I can imagine that characters ranging from Theodoric of York to King Arthur may have quite often said it. It means “to confuse”. Because this word hasn’t ever caught on with the general public, I often very much enjoy shocking and confusing people by using it, ever so casually, in a sentence. “Old friends and classmates often fostoogle me with other former friends and classmates of theirs.” “I get so fostoogled when I have to drive through someplace I’ve never been before.” To my chagrin, it will most probably never make the big leagues, to the point where it may fit in with such hep obscure words as “obviate” and “moot”. It’s such an exceptionally nice word though. In today’s word, there’s always so much confusion that we may even need at least one more word to cover all its varieties.
I honestly can’t remember my ever once having used a word whose meaning I didn’t know. My problem is often with pronunciation. I’ve been known to mispronounce everything from nomenclature to Manichean. It appears that my track record has always been quite good with the spoken and written word. As far as I can tell, I can attribute that to the simple fact that I don’t ever presume to take any unnecessarily brave risks with language. I always take great care first to see to it that I find out exactly what a word means and only then do I use it. For as long as I can remember I’ve always been determined to be as articulate as possible. That’s why I always try to master a word quite thoroughly before I try it on other people. Most certainly even I must have made the occasional small error or two over the precise distinction between things like knockwurst and bratwurst, or something equivalent, but that’s about all. When we were kids in our teens my cousin Gary kept reminding me that the word “laminated” meant “covered with plastic”. It turned out that he was right but I could never be quite sure he wasn’t trying perhaps to pull a fast one on me. Life in the early twenty first century is filled with new words, some not even good enough to be worth bothering with, for me to have to get to know. We now live in the land of bling, wii and wi fi. I try to avoid bothering with those kinds of things. Unfortunately though we’re stuck with them. I shall take my time attempting to figure them out.
I’ve always enjoyed exceptionally warm weather and dreaded the several months of the year when it’s cold. Autumn is, to a certain extent, quite an exceptionally nice experience for me though. At first, when all the leaves start changing colors and orange and black seem to be everywhere, it’s such a fine feeling. I have many decades’ worth of nice memories of Halloween, especially when I was a kid, and Thanksgiving, most significantly when I used always to spend it with cousins in western New York. I remember during my very young days, as far back as Jackson Heights, the weather on Halloween was usually so bitter cold that I was forced to explain to people that somewhere under my fifty layers of heavy clothes was a costume, and that I really was dressed as either the Green Hornet or some other then-current character. Thanksgiving in North Tonawanda, during the 1980’s, was also frequently bitter cold. November can often be exceptionally rainy. Once the full brunt of autumn settles in, though, it then becomes quite a seriously nasty depressing time for me. The miserable weather and dark gloomy atmosphere have always struck me as exceptionally frustrating, and are also quite an intense metaphor, for me, of the dark side of life. My mother died during the last week of September and my father died during the first week of November so that adds yet another dark property to the fall. When I was a kid autumn brought with it the beginning of the school year, that was always welcome, but as an adult I can count on no such milestone to keep things interesting. Walt Whitman’s poem, “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” from “Leaves Of Grass”, specifically references the ninth month as a symbol of birth. September, the ninth month, is when fall begins. For me it represents all the good and bad that life has to give. Change has never been easy for me. The positive and negative aspects of fall perfectly reflect the good and bad things in life.
Over the years, ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been surrounded by second hand things. As a kid I always wore clothes that were originally worn by my older cousins Larry and Gary from Ozone Park. Now I drive my father’s car, and often wear my mother’s watch. Because it’s been going back for as long as I can remember I don’t even bother to think twice about it. Even in general my world has always been quite significantly characterized by the derivative. I tell other people’s jokes and stories, listen to second hand music and otherwise wallow absolutely constantly in the borrowed and left over. Perhaps I can even be characterized as the Linda Ronstadt of life in general. No one is even capable of being very original anyway. Each of us takes great phony pride in what he seems to consider some kind of ex nihilo creativity. Everything is inevitably derivative in one way or another anyway though. I honestly don’t happen to think it’s even the least bit bad. I obviously wasn’t around during the 1960’s but I borrow quite shamelessly from that era. As long as I can continue to be happy as a throwback I shall continue to make the best of all sorts of borrowed things, circumstances and ideas.
It’s the Fourth of July weekend in Hilldale, Pennsylvania, and all the local townspeople are having their annual bonfire. My cousins and I have always especially enjoyed it. It’s a nice way for each of us to get out his frustrations and, more importantly, to act stupid in an acceptable context.
My cousins and I have had such an entirely lopsided rapport over the years. The fire is only one representative example of all our odd antics, which, of course, no one else understands. We laugh. We reminisce. We watch strangers burn things. Are we a fun bunch or what?!
Light out Wanderlust. Head us out to sea. My brother in law Steve and cousin Mark own a yacht together. Ever since around my twelfth birthday I’ve always lived within walking distance to a significant body of water. Except for my seven and a half years in northeastern Pennsylvania, where I lived down the street from the Susquehanna River, I’ve always lived by salt water canals and a bay that leads to the Atlantic Ocean. Although I don’t ordinarily spend a lot of time specifically on boats or at the beach, or in immediate proximity to any of the water, it’s always been quite interesting and enjoyable for me. Because of my always having been a bookworm I can see lots of significant symbolism in water. From Noah’s Ark to “Moby Dick” mankind has always been inextricably linked to this extremely important reality of life, and has always referred to it significantly in story telling. From the point of view of wanderlust its appeal can easily be found in the significance of what lies out there beyond all that man’s eye can see. A horizon can be both frustrating and intimidating. Many things in life can be elusive and deceptive. Once someone reaches what is currently his horizon, it’s not there anymore. It’s all relative to his current circumstances. That’s why wanderlust can be a frustrating problem, never to be satisfied.