“I’ve just found out that my oldest friend, Earl, has died,” I told Paul. “We were friends in Jackson Heights until we were twelve years old. Then I moved to Lindenhurst.”
“Even today I can remember his parents’ thick Puerto Rican accents, and how his brother, Junior, used to pick on me. It just goes to show what happens when someone makes a really lasting impression. We never got a chance to meet again, in person, after September 11, 1971, though it might as well have been yesterday.”
I then went to Youtube to listen to Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were the Days”.
Welcome back to Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers. On her site, you can read the rules. Dale Rogerson has supplied this week’s photo prompt.
On September 11, 1971, I moved from Jackson Heights, Queens, to Lindenhurst, in Suffolk County. It was five days before my twelfth birthday and I had a difficult time adjusting to my new circumstances. Always having gone to Catholic school, at St. Gabriel’s, I was forced, for two weeks, to attend Copiague Junior High School, the local public school,until I got into Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I ended up spending many decades in Lindenhurst but my early days there were quite a quirky trip.
On September 11, 2001, five days before my forty second birthday, the Moslem terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in Manhattan, and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.,also hijacking United Airlines Flight 93. People on the left still don’t quite seem to understand that Islam is ruled by Satan. I was at 9:00 a.m. Mass that day at Our Lady of Perpetual Help when Father Edward M. Seagriff told us about the attacks.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Going Obsolete.” Of all the technologies that have gone extinct within my lifetime, I’m not sure of which one I miss the most. I can remember, though, that when I was a kid in Jackson Heights, milk men, and other kinds of salesmen, used always to drive through people’s neighborhoods in trucks. Since I’ve never liked traffic or crowds it would be nice if we could go back to those days. Now we have mail order sales and internet sites that do sort of the same thing, so in a certain sense the convenience is available. I used always to enjoy, though, seeing those big silver colored milk boxes on each neighbor’s front stoop each day in anticipation of his regular delivery from the milk man. Perhaps it would do more harm than good, though, to bring back that specific thing. I’ve never liked traffic and having it unnecessarily obstructed by some character stopping every few feet as he drives down the street would drive me to distraction. We already have that anyway with U.P.S. trucks, school buses and other kinds of vehicles constantly defiantly bringing traffic to a frustrating halt. In my imagination, of course, it’s quite a fond memory and a nice idea.
If I were ever forced to point out an era during my lifetime which I could refer to as the very best of times it would be fairly easy.I’ve always thought that there’s a tie between my very early days, up until my twelfth birthday, on 92nd Street in Jackson Heights, when I was attending St. Gabriel’s Elementary School in East Elmhurst, and the time somewhat after that, during my teens in Lindenhurst, when I was attending St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip. During my very early days in Queens, I lived in quite an exemplary neighborhood where there were all sorts of colorful characters. Two thirds of the families on my block were either Italian or Hispanic and constantly spoke Italian and Spanish. I was involved with a lot of activities at St. Gabriel’s, in both the church and school, especially Brother Thomas’ bowling league, and the glee club with Brother Edmond and Brother James. My friends, many of whom are now on my Facebook friend list, were quite an exceptional group of kids. We spent a lot of time together, visiting each other’s families. During my teens, at St. John’s, I had such a nice time too. Many of the kids I got to know there are also now on my friend list list on Facebook. It was a time for me to learn about new things and ideas, and to grow into what would become ultimately my current persona. Then, as in Queens, I was known as the kid with the obnoxious sense of humor. Unfortunately that period was the disco era but once I got over that I enjoyed all the other things about it. I was involved with lots of activities, including the student council and chess club. I realize that those weren’t perfect times for me. I had all sorts of trouble in certain ways. They were quite exceptional though in the sense that the bad very far outweighed the good.
Assuming my imaginary friend is still alive today, he’s probably quite an even much wiser and imaginative fellow now than he was then. As a kid I lived in a neighborhood in Jackson Heights where a third of the families spoke only Italian and another third spoke only Spanish. My friend used to drive me crazy by rambling on at me constantly in Spanish and Italian. He was a good guy but he could be quite the wise ass. I’m sure he’s probably about the same now in many ways, a perfect gentleman with a colorful twist. I hope for his sake he didn’t fall in with the wrong imaginary crowd, drinking, partying and carousing until all hours of the night. Maybe he ended up shacking up with some imaginary floozy whom he met at an imaginary singles bar. Perhaps they formed an imaginary band and have spent the entire time since then cruising up and down Route 81 on an old broken down imaginary Greyhound bus, playing Grateful Dead and Dylan songs in exchange for chump change at imaginary saloons, greasy spoons and dives. I’ll bet they dress and behave quite stylishly. If I ever get a chance to meet him again in person, would he even be willing to talk to me or might I strike him as too much of a square?
Over the course of my lifetime I’ve always been a bit of a square, never trusting the new and unknown. I usually tell people that it all started around my twelfth birthday when I was forced to move to Lindenhurst from Jackson Heights. That was my first confrontation with significant change. I’ve always been resistant to change though. The Beatles have been my favorite band for as long as I can even remember. I have always astonished people with my lack of interest in new pop cultural milestones. Politics, of course, is entirely too important a priority to allow novelty to become a significant factor. I’ve always seriously suspected that the most controlling people use the supposed need for change-always, conveniently, change of their choosing-as a way of winning people over to their side. I’m quite happy the way I am and see no need to be on the vanguard of a new experience. It doesn’t pay to bother to go too crazy for new experiences. Everything new and fresh inevitably soon becomes old and stale anyway. If someone becomes too attached to the new for its own sake, he then goes through his lifetime perpetually frustrated.
Right now my bedroom is significantly messier than my computer’s desktop. I’ve always been a bit of a slob. When I was a kid I lived in Jackson Heights. My friend Jo Anne reminded me once, a few years ago, that when we were kids in St. Gabriel’s, at the end of each day all the other kids from our 92nd Street group used inevitably to have to wait for me to get ready to leave school because I was always so nightmarishly disorganized. Unfortunately that’s one of the bad things about me that haven’t changed since my very earliest days. In my defense, though, this bedroom is significantly more neatly organized than other’s I’ve had throughout the past many decades. Most of the messy things are clothes separated on the floor into piles, one neat and one dirty, and besides them there’s a big pile of sheets and blankets just waiting for the much dreaded cold weather finally to kick in. My books and toiletries are all neatly arranged. At least it’s currently quite an organized mess. I just have to get it more neatly arranged. I tend not to throw things away soon enough so I always have quite a pile of junk mail and obsolete church bulletins lying around long after they serve no purpose. Unfortunately when my kind of Oscar Madison shows up, everyone else feels compelled to play the role of Felix Unger. That alone is enough to make me sick and tired, by now, of all the incessant whining, to the point where I end up wising up and trying to change.
For as long as I can remember I’ve always been quite a most hearty eater. My niece, Bridget, and nephews, Michael and Sam, have frequently passed remarks about how it’s so difficult for anyone to find out about my tastes in food because I always eat anything that’s put in front of me. I can remember that when I was a kid in Jackson Heights I’d always considered strawberry my least favorite flavor of ice cream, and I’ve never been crazy about spaghetti or most kinds of seafood. As a youngster I’d never liked liver but a few years ago I ate some with onions, when Uncle Frankie made it. I quite enjoyed it. Lasagna has always been my favorite food, and home made apple pie my favorite pastry. I now attend a church where a very large number of the parishioners are from Hispanic countries and the Orient. It’s quite enjoyable for me to go to their parties and fund raisers because I can try all kinds of exceptionally funky new foods. I enjoy going to restaurants with distinctive menus because then I get a chance to try new things ranging from goat to buffalo. There is only one problem with my eating habits. I have quite an insatiable need to finish each and every single last morsel on my plate, no matter how difficult it is for me to handle it. I should suppose it is a kind of a neurotic quirk. People have often complained that it strikes them as more pathological than conscientious. Of course I have absolutely no patience whatsoever with the vegetarians’ insatiable need to run our lives. I defiantly reject absolutely everything they stand for. The very idea of animal rights is simply insane anyway.
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.
To this very day I can still remember my first day, on the verge of my twelfth birthday, in the seventh grade. My parents, Mary Anne and I had just moved to Lindenhurst from Jackson Heights. After six years of St. Gabriel’s suddenly I was in Copiague Junior High School, on Great Neck Road, where I was to spend the first two weeks of that year. I know it’s quite impossible to believe but I was such a square then. If I were ever to wake up tomorrow morning as an adult stuck in a twelve year old body, I should assume that all my discomfort would come back for different reasons. That’s not quite entirely true though. I should still feel thoroughly out of place. At first it might be a somewhat nice interesting experience, to be able to visit a bygone era of my life. With my perpetually obnoxious sense of the absurd I’d really want to let all the fun parts linger for as long as possible. At least then when I really was twelve I could blend in a little. Now, though, I have already been through all the experiences that an adult could be expected to have, and that would be well over a kid’s head. I’d be quite terrified of looking like some kind of a complete lunatic. The only way I could ever be expected to get through a day in that kind of environment would be if I were to pretend to be abnormally shy. I don’t know what’s going on in the lives of kids that age these days so I couldn’t possibly be expected to carry on even the simplest of conversations. When I was twelve kids were listening to Carole King, and Sly and the Family Stone. I could just imagine the stupefied smirks as soon as I started rambling on about “It’s Too Late” and “Everyday People”. Today no one’s even heard of them. I’d have all sorts of problems with things ranging from clothing to slang terms. I’m way out of practice with skateboards, bicycles and yo-yos. Being a kid, like anything else, is a Garden-of-Edenish experience in the sense that once it’s gone it can never come back. All of life is like that. My teachers, as well as other kids and their families, would catch on immediately. There are so many things separating this September from September of 1971.
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