I was born in northeastern Pennsylvania and have lived in New York for most of my lifetime, with the exception of my first three and a half years, and for seven and a half of the past eight years. During that time I lived in northeastern Pennsylvania. If I were ever to be forced to pick only two places between which to split all my time I should have to pick Long Beach, New York, where I live right now, and the surrounding region of Long Island, as one of them. The other would be northeastern Pennsylvania.Since I have spent so very much time in each of these places, and have always felt so very comfortable in them both, it would be an ideal arrangement for me. Long Beach is only about an hour’s train ride, on the Long Island Railroad, from Manhattan and the other boroughs of New York City. I could do quite a lot of sightseeing there. My recent trips to Manhattan were exceptionally interesting. Eventually I really want to get into the habit of going to Queens every once in a while so I can feel really comfortable with the trip in case I ever have a chance to visit my old neighborhood in Jackson Heights and to go to a St. Gabriel’s reunion in East Elmhurst. It’s also very close to Suffolk County. While I’m here I can have a nice time visiting my cousins in eastern Nassau County and Suffolk County. By staying here I can have a really easy time getting to Lindenhurst to visit my old neighborhood there, and to West Islip for reunions at St. John the Baptist. In the immediate vicinity of Long Beach, there’s a nice self-contained world, with a business district, a beach and really nice neighborhoods.
Besides Long Beach I should really like to spend the rest of my time in northeastern Pennsylvania. I’ve only lived there for around seven and a half years as an adult but I’m quite accustomed to it because, since my parents were both from there, I’ve been visiting it throughout all my lifetime. It took me quite a while to get accustomed to driving through the steep Poconos but the scenery is perfect. The Susquehanna River is quite an impressive sight. Aunt Lauren, and Michelle and her family, live in Harding and Dallas so I can visit them frequently. Krissy Krissy Krissy and her family live only around an hour away so I can visit them sometimes too. There are a lot of nice places to see and things to do on a significantly smaller scale than New York. There are no significant cosmopolitan hot spots there but they have concerts I can attend. One day seven years ago my cousin Gino and I went to a Meat Loaf concert at the Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton. They even have Jitty Joe’s Ice Cream in nearby Moosic too. If I were ever forcibly restricted to only two places in the world , I could honestly say that I could count on being my happiest in those two.
I turned sixteen years old on September 16, 1975, during the disco era when Gerald R. Ford was president. I lived in Lindenhurst, New York. Back then, as during most of my lifetime, I was quite shy with people I didn’t know, but upon having gotten to know someone I could be quite the quick-witted obnoxious character. In my yearbook, when I graduated, people wrote several comments about my distinctive sense of humor, and complaints about how I let people get away with too much. A junior at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip, on suburban Long Island, I got along very well with all my teachers and the other kids in school. As a teenage boy, I could never help noticing how exceptionally lovely so many of the girls were. Fortunately most of the people on the faculty, and in the administration and guidance department were quite impressive. My favorite class that year was Mr. Brian Clancy’s seventh period American History class. History’s always been one of my favorite subjects anyway and Mr. Clancy really knew how to keep things interesting in a classroom. The single most distinctive memory I have of Mr. Clancy is that throughout the year, he kept trying to get each of us kids to recite, in order, the name of each president from George Washington to Ford. He always seemed to have been especially determined to drill it into my head. Not a day went by that he didn’t stop me at some random time and try to get me to name them all. Unlike my adult persona, in those days it could never have occurred to me to think of life as one big theology and philosophy classroom, or as a cultural battlefield between the forces of good and those of evil. I just tried to be a good kid and to have a few laughs. When my tenth grade theology teacher, Mr. Jerry Di Noto, now on my Facebook friend list, found out what kind of adult I’ve turned into, he was genuinely shocked because, according to him, I was always simply such a nice guy as a kid. Then, as now, I was never even the least bit interested in, sports, nor was I the least bit competent at anything athletic, so whatever references other guys in my crowd made to that kind of thing were all entirely over my head. Having always been very interested in chess as a youngster, I joined Mr. Nagy’s chess club. For some strange reason, though, that group fell apart after only a very short time. When I was a freshman, my homeroom classmates, who were among the most colorful, obnoxious characters I’ve ever met, made me their representative on the student council. I stuck with it throughout school. After I got home from school each day I spent most of my time hanging around with the Copiague public school kids in my neighborhood. Things were about the same with them as with my friends from school. I virtually always avoided sports except for something that vaguely approximated basketball in the street. No description any part of my lifetime could possibly be complete without a reference to my musical tastes. Maybe it’s because of my total lack of a connection to sports, but I’ve always been quite inordinately interested in music, especially the Beatles and everything else from the 1960’s. Disco, though it now might just as well not even exist, was an omnipresent curse in those days for those of us who didn’t like it. I used always to try to convince my friends that the music of the 1960’s was infinitely superior to even the best of what our era had to offer. On July 3, 1976, my cousin Larry, five years older than I, got married. I was an usher in his wedding party. Although I was still only a kid, it was a bit of a reminder that adulthood wasn’t extremely far away. Unfortunately my parents never let me get a driver’s license, or even a permit, until I was nineteen years old. At sixteen, unless someone was willing to give me a ride, I could never go anyplace that was any farther than either my feet or a bicycle could take me. I like to think I was quite a gentleman in those days. As far as I know I must have been at least reasonably decent because whenever I meet someone who remembers me from that part of my life, I get a nice friendly reaction and a reminder of what a very good time it was.
I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I’ve always considered September 11, 1971 quite a major watershed moment in my lifetime. I was on the verge of turning twelve years old and had virtually always, for as long as I could remember, lived in Jackson Heights in Queens until then. On that date my parents, Mary Anne and I moved to Lindenhurst, two counties away in Suffolk County, in the middle of Long Island, on the south shore. To this very day I can still remember having made up my mind, in quite a determined manner, to make it quite clear that I may have been in Lindenhurst but I would always consider myself from Jackson Heights. Some people, upon being bombarded with such a seemingly infinite supply of cold turkey irrevocable changes, seem to thrive on such an adventure. I found it all entirely too nerve racking. Upon my having said good-bye to St. Gabriel’s in East Elmhurst, I went to Copiague Junior High School for two weeks. From then on I went to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary School, in Lindenhurst, until the end of the eighth grade. Perhaps I would always have been an excessively shy neurotic with all sorts of lopsided ways anyway, even if I would never have moved at the beginning of my adolescence. That much change, in that short a time, didn’t help though. Eventually by the time I started high school, I no longer minded all the new circumstances. The best thing about someone’s being a high school freshman is that he’s only one among many other freshmen. During my first two years in Lindenhurst, though, I was practically the only new kid there. There was a girl named Cindy in my class at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, who started the same day I did, but everyone else was already an established member of the old guard. The other most memorable moments in my life were when my parents both died, at eighty years old, within forty five days of each other, last autumn. In November 2012 my mother started getting very violently ill with cancer. She was forced to spend the next ten months constantly going back and forth to Medical Oncology Associates in Kingston, the Geisinger Hospital and General Hospital in Wilkes Barre, and John Heinz Institute of Rehab in Kingston. She died on September 23. My father died around a month and a half later, at the Veteran’s Hospital, on November 7, of a heart attack. Everyone knows this brings about quite a significant change in an individual’s life. I was forced into making quite a lot of significant decisions and changes that would have been otherwise entirely unnecessary.
Because of their having lived until I was fifty four years old, their having always been around had most certainly been quite a significant part of my identity. Their good and bad qualities, character strengths and defects are now all in the past tense. One of the properties this had in common with the move to Lindenhurst from Jackson Heights was its irrevocable, cold turkey nature. Surprisingly, although I’ve never dealt very well with stress, I got through all the hospital trips and both funerals fairly well. Whatever I was supposed to do, I must have done in an acceptable manner. What still boggles my mind is that things go on and neither of them is available anymore. All the things that transpired between November 2012 and November 2013 are now permanently embedded into my memory. Like a change of address this milestone marks the beginning of a new era of my life and even a new identity for me.
For my first twelve years of school I had virtually always gone to exceptionally good Catholic schools in Queens and Long Island. In grammar school, with the exception of two weeks in Copiague Junior High School at the beginning of the seventh grade, I went to St. Gabriel’s in East Elmhurst for six years and spent most of my last two years at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst. After that I went to St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip. I’ve always really enjoyed keeping in touch with people from those days. As Hope, one of the ladies from my class at St. John’s, once said on Facebook, just because we were classmates so long ago, doesn’t mean that we should be forbidden to try to be friends again now. Because of my having spent all my adolescence and most of my adult life in Lindenhurst it’s always been so much easier for me to get back to St. John’s reunions than St. Gabriel’s. During the very early days of the twenty first century I got back in touch with a few friends from Jackson Heights and I’ve been to a couple of St. Gabriel’s reunions with most of them. My parents and I got to see a lot of my old friends and their parents and families. The Sisters of Charity, de la Salle Christian Brothers and lay teachers who were on the faculty and administration were there too. I always have a really nice time at St. John’s reunions too with all the classmates, and Dominican and Franciscan Sisters and lay teachers from the faculty and administration. The hard part for me has always been having to say good-bye when it’s all over. Although I understand that the food, music and other circumstances at these events are never objectively any better than they are at other parties or occasions, being back with all the people from my early days, in the same place in which we first got together, is inevitably quite a thrill. Over the course of the past quite a few years I’ve been in touch with very many of these people on Facebook and e mail anyway but that’s never struck me as anywhere near as interesting as seeing them in person. It’s even better when we can get back together on the grounds of the school, though St. Gabriel’s was recently turned into a public school. It’s so interesting for me to be able to see how these people and places have turned out over the course of the time that’s passed since I was a kid. I’ve always been quite smitten by the grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side syndrome. At least I understand that though. It wouldn’t be the same if I could see them in person on a regular basis again. Then it would become a routine chore and would lose all its charm. Each of those specific times, precisely because they’re so infrequent and so temporary, is so very hard to let go of when it has to end. Because I’ve always had both an overwhelmingly good imagination and an intense interest in my past I tend to get really engrossed in times like this. The bookworm in me sees it somewhat as if I’m revisiting a previous chapter in my life story. Although no one can rewrite anything like that it’s still quite nice to see how all the characters, and the settings, have turned out. Each of us, though, has to make sure he leaves before midnight in order to avoid turning into a pumpkin.
Surprisingly, I haven’t classified anyone specifically as a best friend since I was a kid in Queens. Does that make me somehow a bit offbeat? If it does then it’s only one of my very many eccentric qualities. I left Jackson Heights in September of 1971. Up until then Earl and I had always been the best of friends. His parents were both from Puerto Rico and he’s lived there for most of his lifetime. He and I haven’t met in person since our early teens when I went back to 92nd Street a few times to visit. It’s not that I haven’t had any friends whatsoever since then. It’s just that, with the possible exception of Jimmy in my very early days in Lindenhurst, there hasn’t been any specific individual who’s been designated to play Lenny to my Squiggy. Jimmy soon moved to Arizona and eventually ended up in California. Earl and Jimmy are now on my Facebook friend list, so maybe they can take turns as my honorary Lenny. I’ve always enjoyed keeping in touch with a few favorite cousins of mine from Long Island and western New York. We’ve always hung around together ever since we were little kids. Maybe they can count, sort of, as best friends-ish of mine. We’ve always gotten along reasonably well and have lots of inside jokes and shared experiences so it’s kind of like the same thing. Being the best of friends with the recent version of me seems to be entirely too big a responsibility for any one individual.
For close to eight years I lived in the borough of Wyoming, in northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s always struck me as such an exceptionally nice small town environment. When my parents were alive it was quite interesting. They were old and retired and we could always count on each other. Uncle Frankie was less than a mile away in West Wyoming. He’s also very old and retired. My parents both died last autumn and Uncle Frankie now spends most of his time living with Fran in southeastern Pennsylvania. Aunt Lauren and her family are the only other relatives I have anywhere near there and they live way over in the mountains of Harding and Dallas. After our father’s funeral Mary Anne and Steve reminded me that I should have to be confronted with a final decision over whether to remain in Pennsylvania, where I had already made an established life and reputation, or to come to Long Beach, New York, where I could be very close to them and other family members. I’ve ended up in Long Beach. Over the course of most of my adult life, as when I was a kid, I’ve always been very actively involved in the churches I’ve attended. When I moved from Lindenhurst to Wyoming, I automatically got just as active in Our Lady of Sorrows as I had been in Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Having done so, I made quite a few really good friends. I should suppose that now I can do the same thing in St. Mary of the Isle, Long Beach’s parish. Making new friends has always been somewhat of an annoying experience for me. Meeting new people in general has always made me uncomfortable. I’m hoping to join their local Knights of Columbus council here so that I can meet a really wide variety of new people. I’m a fourth degree member. I shall have to start going to the nearby lay Carmelite meetings too at Our Lady of Peach Parish in Lynbrook. I’ve never liked change or felt the least bit comfortable with it. The first significant change I can remember is the big move from Queens to Long Island when I was twelve years old. To this day I still refer to that time as an unbearably traumatic experience. Another major advantage of my being here is that now I can be much more available to visit my old schools for reunions and other functions in general. Now that I’m back in the same general area as St. Gabriel’s in East Elmhurst and St. John the Baptist in West Islip, it will be a lot easier to get back there to see old friends, including classmates and teachers of mine. The best way to convince me that a change is acceptable and even enjoyable is to keep on reminding me of all that it has in common with all that I’ve already gotten really familiar with anyway. Although many people equate the following of familiar patterns and habits with being stale and dull, I like it. That must be at least part of the reason for the fact that the Beatles have always been my favorites since I was around four years old. Change in a certain sense can be nice too but even then I’ve always most especially liked the kind of change that enables me to go back to things I can remember from days gone by. Absolute cold turkey change simply isn’t for me.
The kinfolk appeared to have survived yet another of our annual Hilldale feeding frenzies. This one was number 52, the first ever having been in 1961. That was the year I turned two years old. Mary Anne, Steve, Michael, Sam & Bridget were here. Michael brought Erin with him. Michael, Erin & I even went to a convenience store on Wyoming Avenue in Wyoming to get cigars. Richie, of course, made sure he got all us musicians together for a jam session. Most of the kin from Michigan, North Tonawanda, Long Island, the western U.S. & southeastern Pa. got here. As always there were the predictable piÑata, an obscene excess of food & drink, & the occasional showboat who couldn’t resist making an utterly pointless speech. The softball game was cancelled because of heat. I stink at sports anyway. Of course they all talked about sports. Many people went to the casinos to gamble. When it was my turn for K.P. duty I helped my cousin Vinnie, Anthony & Ed with the hamburgers & hot dogs while Matt took charge of the vegetables. My cousin Vinnie’s girlfriend was even here with her daughter. For the first time in many years I went swimming in the built~in pool. I got a bit of sunburn because I din’t put enough sunscreen on. Cousins Larry & Gary, of course, went off on their predictable tirade about how libraries are such a waste of taxpayers’ money. Happy anniversary wishes go to Larry & Rose tomorrow & Elaine & George on Wednesday. Michael L., Aunt Helen, Richie & a bunch of others all have birthdays too.
Steve’s fiftieth birthday is tomorrow so my parents, Fran , Lisa & I went to Long Beach on Friday to attend his party. Fortunately there was only a little too much trouble with traffic in Douglaston on Friday & absolutely none whatsoever yesterday. Mary Anne, his mother, & the kids arranged a really nice time for one & all. His family, as well as friends of his & Mary Anne’s from work & their neighborhood were there. Jonathan & Maria were there too. They remembered me. Jonathan even said he remembered me because of my guitar & my lifelong obsession with John Lennon. One of the major disadvantages of a party like that is that I always make quite sure I eat & drink entirely too much for my own good. Mary Anne & Steve recently got a dog, a mixed~breed terrier named Sadie. It’s really nice & quiet. I have never liked animals but I don’t mind having it around because it’s so exceptionally well~behaved. It was abused by a previous owner. In certain ways Long Island has changed quite a bit since I lived there so it was very interesting for me to be able to check out all the new things that have been going on around there. The Sunrise Mall in Massapequa is under new management. The shopping center where Barnes & Noble & Tower Records once were is now entirely different. Mark & Laura were their with their kids. So were Frank & Tillie with their kids. I was especially happy to see Gary & Maria, & Larry & Rose & their son Eddie. Right before the party my parents & I, along with Larry & Rose, went over to Amityville to visit Aunt Norma. Maria showed up while we were there. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to the Carmelite meeting, so I left a message with Barbara’s husband asking him to explain my circumstances. I also called Donna asking her to cover for me because I was supposed to lector at 4:00 Mass on Saturday.