North Tonawanda N.Y.

hi de hi de hi de ho

It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving, 1983, At twenty four years old, I’m on a plane home from Western New York, after having visited some relatives.

I can’t shake the feeling that I recognize that old black guy in front of me as a famous musician. “Duke Ellington?” I wonder. “Count Basie?”

At least one of them’s dead.

There’s a middle-aged couple next to him. The wife asks him, “Are you Cab Calloway?”

My anxiety attack is no more. I heave a sigh of relief.

I overhear Calloway say softly, “That handsome young gentleman back there won’t have to go crazy now.”

Each week Rochelle Wisoff~Fields leads us in Friday Fictioneers, as we write a story based upon a photo prompt.

This week’s photo was supplied by Lucy Fridkin.


it’s a sunshine life for me

For as far  back as I can remember I’ve always quite thoroughly enjoyed only warm  weather.    There’s most certainly something quite exceptionally enchanting about the early days of autumn too though, with all the colorful changes in temperature and the colors of the leaves.   Even autumn, though, especially Thanksgiving in North Tonawanda, New York, can be pure torture if it’s cold.   Unfortunately I honestly believe that I have quite an extremely nasty time coping with cold weather, especially when there’s precipitation along with it.   Throughout my lifetime I’ve always lived in either Queens, Long Island or northeastern Pennsylvania.    In each of these places winter is quite notorious for being nightmarishly long and bitter cold with a significant amount of rain, ice and snow.   Especially when all that endless weather trouble is combined with an early sunset, it drives me inevitably to extreme frustration.   Because of my always having been such a bookworm, and a literature major, I tend spontaneously to see things in terms of symbolism.     All that cold, dampness and darkness invariably remind me of unbearable desperation and desolation.    It’s the perfect symbol of pain, unhappiness and evil in general.   The dreary appearance and mood, combined with horrible road and traffic conditions, and the lack of foliage on deciduous plants, always get me frustrated and resentful.    As I’ve quite frequently said before, by the time March gets here, I simply can’t even try to wait any longer for nice weather.    I’ve often referred to my nasty reaction to March’s tendency to hold back on the warmth and other nice weather conditions that are supposed to accompany the arrival of spring.   That’s a lot like what life in general is like.    Evil and pain never like to let go.   Bad habits have a nasty tendency to remain.    In the vocabulary of philosophy, the concept of time is divided into time and duration.    Objective time is always the same but the way people react to it in a subjective sense, its duration, is what varies.    March always takes the same relatively short length of time each year, the same as many other months, but its association with spring’s nice warm weather

, combined with its tendency to keep on torturing and tormenting us with bitter cold  and precipitation, always drags me down.   It appears absolutely never to end.   Besides all the increased risk to people’s physical health and safety it’s an unbearable strain on the emotions and nerves too.

lord I was born a ramblin’ man

On an old episode of “The Odd Couple”, Oscar Madison points out to Felix Unger, “Felix, Dorothy Parker said it best for all writers.   She said she hated writing but loved having written”.      That’s always been my entire approach to life in general, including travel specifically.      Unfortunately I haven’t done a significant amount of traveling.   The farthest trips I’ve ever been on were one to Titusville, Florida, to visit my cousin the Ronald and his family in 1981, and one to Chicago, Illinois, about ten years ago, when his daughter got married.    The trip to Illinois marked the only time I’ve ever been outside my time zone.    During the 1980’s I frequently visited my cousins in North Tonawanda, in western New York, for Thanksgiving.     My biggest problem with travel, as with everything else over the course of my adult lifetime is that I tend to get anxious.  It’s not as bad now as when I was young-it was especially bad when I reacted so violently to coffee- but I still feel significantly more uncomfortable than most other people would be under the same circumstances.      Although my intellect knows quite well that nothing bad will happen, or at least that there’s no inordinate risk of anything bad, my emotions, who’ve always resented me quite bitterly, always seek to have the last laugh.   I should really like to say that I’m the sort of jolly good fellow who can merely hop on a bus, Gus, or make a new plan, Stan, and go wherever I want.    Unlike my imagined alter ego, hep Larry, real Larry has to deal with all sorts of frustration over waiting for the big day to come, getting up and ready on time when it finally gets here,  and all sorts of other practical responsibilities.    I’ve always had quite a Felix Unger-ish flair for obsessing over all sorts of things.    I tend to go crazy when a trip seems to take an inordinately long time, there’s no available men’s room or I’m faced with some other problem.    When I have to drive someplace, I always have to be able to say with absolute certitude that I know precisely where I’m going.    snoopyWandering out of my way, and losing track of where I am, can lead to lots of trouble.   As anyone who’s studied even a little philosophy knows, time is divided into objective time and subjective duration.   Objectively time is merely quantified by an entirely set standard.   Subjectively, though,  the way I react to its passage is often overwhelming.   As I said earlier the manner in which I deal with travel is quite similar to the manner in which I deal with life in general.    The future is no big deal because nothing’s happened yet anyway.    The present is one big bunch of chores and risks.   After it’s all over with, though, I can kick back and acknowledge the obvious fact that I knew it would inevitably work out anyway.


The Fourth of July went so well this year. As always we ended up visiting my father’s relatives in Hilldale for a few days. The weather was perfect for anyone who enjoys the heat. Most of the kin showed up. Mary Anne and Steve, as well as Michael, Sam and Bridget, were here. Unfortunately, though, Erin wasn’t available. My mother still has lots of trouble with her cancer so she couldn’t go. Each of us took turns staying with her. I was especially happy to see Maelene, Joe and most of their family from North Tonawanda, and Vinnie from North Carolina, as well as Larry, Rose & their family from Massapequa. Anthony showed up from Brooklyn too. An inevitable reality of this occasion is the incessant reminiscing. Predictably we all got together & relived our past circumstances, especially the kin’s obnoxious references to all my supposedly bad driving. We also celebrated relevant birthdays and anniversaries. Rich, the Ronald’s son, got me an especially nice poster of Beatle Ringo Starr. Alas there was no softball game but I don’t play anyway. One night several of the cousins went to Friendly’s but I didn’t go. I was too tired. Unfortunately we didn’t go to Jitty Joe’s.  Michael and I made sure we got our traditional cigars though.    Music, religion and politics, and current events provided much conversation. I spent lots of time in the pool so I made sure I pot on lots of sun screen. The lay Carmelite meetings have been going well lately in Wilkes Barre, at the Little Flower Manor. So have Fr. McKernan’s men’s group meetings at Our Lady of Sorrows. Recently Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church at St. Joseph Marello Parish, on William Street in Pittston had their annual bizarre. I made sure I spent around an hour there each night. It was a very nice time. My mother still needs a lot of medical attention but we’re keeping track of it well.   Aunt Lauren,  Uncle Frankie and Fran come over fairly frequently and Mary Anne and family come in whenever they can.


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.