An entire decade is quite a long time, so I can’t remember precisely which specific day since 2004 may have struck me as the most hectic of all. I can most certainly think, though, of a few days since the end of last year that have been among the top contenders. During the course of last December I went one day with Steve to St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, New Jersey, with the intention of spending the day there, and then going to Union Square in Manhattan to do some Christmas shopping. Because all the bathrooms in that entire section of New Jersey were out of order that day, though, everyone was sent home very early. We then went to Union Square. Somewhere around that part of the year Mary Anne, Steve and I, along with the usual collection of friends and cousins, went to Manhattan on Friday and Saturday nights one weekend. The first night was to see Madama Butterfly at Lincoln Center. The second night was to see a tribute to Woody Guthrie in Greenwich Village. Each night was quite an exceptionally nice time but I was quite frustrated, for the same reason I was so worn out when we went to New Jersey and Union Square. I’m not used to all that exercise. We spent a lot of time on trains and subways, walked constantly and each day lasted very long into the night. Everyone knows how weird and uncomfortable New York trains and subways are. I made the mistake of standing for a while on one of our subway rides. That was quite a nasty experience. In a very real sense neither the trip to New Jersey and Manhattan, nor the trip to only Manhattan, was all that big of a deal. What made each trip quite a hectic frustrating experience, though, were all the irritating problems that went with it.
I have very many cousins. Now, since the days of the internet are here, I have found out that I have many very distant cousins in places including Italy, Argentina and even Hungary and Turkey. I assume we’re at least distantly related because we have the same last name. Believe it or not, even with our distinctive name, some have even expressed quite a bit of astonishment that I take it for granted that we’re related.
By now I’ve gotten to know most of my cousins in this country. There’s at least one exception though. I haven’t seen my cousin P.J., Uncle Jimmy’s son, ever since we were kids. Uncle Jimmy was my mother’s younger brother. I know I met P.J. at least twice then, once when my family visited his and once at Aunt Lauren’s wedding. I’m practically positive he lives somewhere in New Jersey. I should like to dedicate an annual holiday to P.J. and to all the cousin P.J.’s of the world. As far as I know, each of us most probably has at least a P.J. or two in his life, especially if he includes all the people he knows of only tangentially at school, in his workplace or wherever else he may be. Unfortunately I may never again get a chance to meet you, P.J., but I can at least doff my hat to you once each year.
I absolutely don’t remember any details whatsoever about this picture except that it was taken sometime between the period slightly before Christmas 2013 and somewhat before Easter 2014. I can say that much with absolute certitude for exactly two reasons. One is because that was when I had a beard. For some reason I chose to take a chance on trying to grow as full a beard as possible last autumn. The other reason is because I’m wearing Steve’s sweatshirt from St. Peter’s Prep. It’s a Jesuit high school in New Jersey. He’s on the music faculty and he’s in charge of the band . I only started wearing it around the end of last year when it started getting very cold. There were only two occasions I can remember during that time frame when we took pictures. One was Christmas. The other was for the Polar Bear Club fund raiser on Super Bowl Sunday. Unfortunately I can’t even try to remember what I was wearing either day. The picture was taken in the living room, where I am right now. I can tell that I was standing right in front of the couch I’m now sitting on because I can see the air conditioner and light bulb in the picture directly over my left shoulder. This picture has been getting quite a lot of mileage as a profile picture. It’s quite a lot nicer than very many other pictures of me. Besides that it’s an interesting change of pace since I’m most certainly not known for wearing a beard. Unlike many men I have quite a nasty time with facial hair. If I let my beard go for only a short time it looks atrocious and I have to shave. This time I really exercised quite a lot of patience and tried to leave it alone for a significant length of time. After a while I got bored and annoyed with it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNE7kdIDgJA 1980 provided us with much of the very best music of the New Wave era. I was still only very young then. It was the year I turned twenty one years old and all was going so very well in my life. Sometime during June of that year I got together with a favorite cousin of mine, Gary, who was then living in Ozone Park, Queens, and his then-fiancee’ Maria, who lived in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Gary and I drove, by way of the Belt Parkway, from Ozone Park to Brooklyn to pick up Maria so we could go with some cousins of hers and friends of theirs to Great Adventure Six Flags Amusement Park in Jackson, New Jersey to see the Ramones, one of the biggest bands of the era, in concert. It was the first concert I ever went to , as far as I can remember. We spent a lot of time on the rides and taking advantage of all the other attractions at the park. The Ramones, of course, provided us with quite a concert. All the young people at the concert were decked out in trendy new wave garb and doing the pogo and other dances that were then really popular. What really sticks out in my mind, though, to this very day, is Blotto’s then-current song, “I Wanna Be A Lifeguard”. Unfortunately I had never heard of it before that afternoon. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Vinnie (a.k.a. Jimmy), Victor and Joe Jag started singing it. Something about it instantaneously caught my attention. I couldn’t help getting overwhelmingly curious about it so only a short time after that I made sure I went to Sam Goody at the Sunrise Mall in Massapequa and bought a copy of the album , “Hello, My Name Is Blotto. What’s Yours?” It’s still considered an underground cult classic. Gary and Maria and I still occasionally refer to it. To this very day I can’t help associating it with that trip to Great Adventure.
Unfortunately I got out of the habit, for a while, of making entries into my blog. A lot has happened since November. The first Christmas since my parents’ deaths turned out fairly well. Steve and I drove Michael here from Long Island City and Sam was here from Hofstra. A while before that Steve and I went to Union Square in Manhattan where, among other things, we got some of the Christmas presents. It was an especially harrowing day for me because we first went to St. Peter’s Prep, where Steve is on the faculty. It’s a Jesuit high school. As soon as we first got there I went to 7:30 a.m. Mass in their chapel. After Mass I met some really interesting people, most of whom were on the faculty. None of the bathrooms in that entire section of New Jersey was functional that day so we were all sent home early. Ultimately, though, I really enjoyed the trip to Manhattan. I’ve always really been interested in that type of environment. We went to a big outdoor market where they were selling all sorts of funky esoteric things. We got much of our Christmas shopping done there and stopped to get something to eat. On Christmas morning we all went to Mass at St. Mary of the Isle Church on Park Avenue in Long Beach. Micheal, Sam and Bridget all wanted to open their presents that day instead of Christmas Eve. Late that afternoon we all went to Mark’s and Laura’s house in East Setauket for a Christmas party. I finally got a chance to meet Laura’s brother Harold. Mark has always told me about Harold’s being as much of a Beatlemaniac as I’ve always been. Harold and I did quite a lot of talking about the Fab Four. Frank and Autilia were there with their kids and I saw a lot of other familiar faces too. Because I didn’t have to drive I even drank some bourbon. I got both my annual Christmas cards too, one from Carole and one from Grace. Unfortunately Carole’s husband Bob died on October 2. I also got a lot of Christmas cards this year which my parents would have gotten. A while before Christmas I first started growing my beard, the first time I’ve ever really let it go for significant length of time. Alas the highlights that were once such a nice shade of red have since turned grey.