In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In the Summertime.” Last winter was nightmarishly long, having lingered well beyond my ability even so much as to attempt to put up with it. My spring wasn’t even somewhat active. So far my summer hasn’t been the least bit eventful either.
I’ve been truly enjoying it all though. Each day I try to walk at least a mile in order to get my requisite exercise. During the cold months that’s an absolute nightmare for me. This past Memorial Day I marched with my Knights of Columbus council in Long Beach’s annual parade. I could never handle that kind of thing during a Thanksgiving parade.
The rain, fog and snow, along with the early sunset and bitter cold, drive me nuts. Road conditions are unbearable. Warm weather makes the little things in life such a pleasure. I go to the beach and enjoy the perfect breeze. Plants are in full bloom. There are cerain minor drawbacks to warmth though. For the past nineteen years I’ve always driven Saturns. My 1992 SC, during its heyday, was absolutely perfect. Over the course of its last few years however, there was a lot of trouble with, among other things, its thermostat. I froze during the cold seasons and roasted during the summer. My current 2001 Saturn, that belonged to my father, now deceased, is still in good shape, so fortunately that’s not a problem. A major advantage for me during the warm seasons is being able to take a nice relaxing drive to wherever I may want to go. As long as my thermostat works I’m plum thrilled.
My nephew Michael and his girlfriend Erin got engaged a few weeks ago at the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Astoria, Queens. It was an outdoor affair. In May, the kin and I went to Brookly Botanic Garden in Park Slope. That was also outside. Because the weather, each day, was warm I had the absolute time of my life. Cold weather, alas, would have made that impossible.
Even under the circumstances where there are no significant milestones to count on, spring and summer have always been perfect for me, much more relaxing than cold weather. The clothes, food and all sorts of other things are thoroughly to my liking.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Snapshot Stories.”
On May 9, Steve, Mary Anne, Sam, Bridget and I all went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Park Slope. We left right after I got back from 8:00 a.m. Mass at St. Mary of the Isle. Mary Anne and I are originally from Queens so I was quite happy to be right next door in its neighboring borough. As a general rule, I don’t pay very much attention to plants but I’ve always been so smitten with them. They’re significantly more interesting than animals. Unfortunately I don’t know much about plants so I was forced to pay such a lot of attention to anything I wanted to find out about. We spent a few hours walking around the grounds enjoying all the sights . My only problem was that I wore a heavy long sleeved dress shirt on what turned out to be a warm day. Besides that I took a hooded sweater with me. While there we sat down and ate for a while. During the time we were eating we got into a conversation with a guy who came up with an answer to a question one of the kids had asked. From the looks of his age, and the clothes he was wearing, I assume he was a Viet Nam era veteran. It was such a nice quiet day. I was having a relaxing enjoyable time. Unfortunately, my memory card in my camera ran out of storage space so I couldn’t take any more than one video. There was no problem with taking pictures though. To my chagrin, my story isn’t very involved, complicated or interesting. It was just an especially fine spring day in a most pleasurable environment.
It’s the end of January and 2015 is settling in upon us. Last night I went to the first lay Carmelite meeting of the new year. I got my niece Bridget to drive me to Our Lady of Peace parish in Lynbrook. All went well. I made sure I paid my forty dollars dues. We’re studying Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. I really miss both the St. Joseph community in Seaford, New York, and the Our Lady of the Mountain group in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, but these meetings seem to be working out very well so far too. Compared to my last two groups, this one has quite an exceptionally large membership. They said last night that there are over forty official members. The Seaford and Wilkes Barre groups only had around a dozen each. Karen Lee gave me a form to fill out so I can officially transfer from my Pennsylvania group. Next month there will be a day of recollection at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston, Queens. I’m hoping to be able to go. I haven’t been there in quite a very long time. It would be so good if someday I could say that I’ve gotten things all figured out and all was right in the world.
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?
One sunny Saturday morning, I got the idea to go back to my old neighborhood, 92nd Street in Jackson Heights, for a while, just to see what it’s like now. I also really wanted to visit St. Gabriel’s five blocks away in East Elmhurst. When I first got into my car, it was the perfect day, with sunshine and clear skies. Unfortunately, though, that didn’t last. By the time I got to Astoria Boulevard, about an hour after I first left, the sky became very dark and it began to rain terribly. On my way from 92nd Street to St. Gabriel’s I decided to pull over and to park for a while on Astoria Boulevard. In order to pass the time until the weather conditions improved I walked into the first store I noticed. It was a dark, forlorn looking antique store, filled with quite a collection of artifacts, books and mounds of what appeared to be decades-old dust. I was so happy simply to be inside someplace, safe from the bad weather, that I didn’t mind taking a chance on staying inside for a while. After a few minutes, I rang the bell on the desk, hoping to get some service. A large, gaunt, very old man, dressed entirely in black and grey, came out of the back room and asked me what I wanted. He introduced himself as Igor and explained that he and his wife, Olga, were the owners. His glassy-eyed fixed stare and weak voice gave the impression that he was very ill. He asked where I was from. I told him that although I’m now living in Long Beach, I was a neighborhood kid, having lived on 92nd Street long ago. The more I looked around the old place, the more I got the idea that I appeared to have wandered into another world entirely. It was one big cliche, something from an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” or “The Twilight Zone”. He gave me a tour of the establishment, even taking me down the long winding stairs to the cellar, explaining that that was where the couple kept all their supplies and records. I couldn’t help noticing how cold, damp and musty it was down there. Although it was quite a genuinely seriously terrifying experience I kept trying to convince myself that no real harm could possibly come to me. I wondered when would the predictable plot twists kick in? Maybe he’d try to sell me some obscure artifact that would grant me three wishes-or would some long lost ghost appear from beyond the grave? Eventually I was able to conclude that the fellow was merely a harmless eccentric old gentleman, no more threatening to my well being than anyone. After a few hours we passed a window, through which I noticed that the weather had gotten very much nicer, with sunshine in a cloudless sky. I politely excused myself and explained to the old fellow that I was in a hurry and that I wanted to take advantage of my chance to visit St. Gabriel’s. We bade each other good-bye in quite a gentlemanly fashion. I took a brief walk over to my old parish, relieved finally to be able to enjoy an afternoon in one of my favorite places. Perhaps, though, that brief detour through such a tense unwelcoming environment can serve as a warning to me that certain things from the past must never again be referred to.
Over the course of my lifetime I’ve gotten many compliments about my speaking voice. I’ve often been told that it’s quite distinctive. Once I’ve spoken to someone on the phone at least once he always recognizes my voice, from then on, whenever I call him. Over the course of the past two decades, I’ve always been a lector at the churches I’ve attended. My looks are not necessarily to everyone’s liking but I’ve gotten some compliments about them. It’s hard to say whether I’m forced to cringe more because of a video recording of me, or a recording of my voice. I should have to say, though, that my voice has such a distinctive quality about it that it always leaves me quite seriously taken aback. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a video of me that would a representative example of my appearance. You can, however, very easily see my profile picture on my blog. I have a youtube video, though, that demonstrates quite clearly the offbeat nasal timbre of my speech. Ever since I was a kid, during the days of reel to reel and cassette tape recorders, I’ve always noticed that my voice has a one of a kind property to it. My parents were both from northeastern Pennsylvania and I was raised in Queens and on Long Island. Because of that, especially in my young days, I had an accent that was a combination of both places. As far as I can see my speech and appearance are like an underground cult movie or musical group. Not everyone can figure them out but there are people who find them quite exceptionally hep.
As everyone knows by now I’ve always been quite irremediably smitten by music in general. When I was little the Beatles made it unavoidably necessary for everyone who fell under their influence to want to play an instrument. I have no idea which instrument is my favorite but when I was a kid in Queens, my friends and I took guitar lessons at one of the local public schools, either P.S. 148 or P.S. 127. Unfortunately that only lasted for a fairly short time. In 1980 I finally decided to get a guitar and to learn to play again. To my chagrin I’ve always had only acoustic guitars. Although I’ve never learned to play any other instrument, I’ve always been quite smitten with all different kinds of instruments. One day at O. L. P. H., about ten years ago, one of the church’s bands was practicing for a while in the sacristy. A parishioner named Lou was playing his French horn. To this very day I can still remember how perfect it sounded. I’ve also always been quite awe-smitten with the sound of slide guitar on Beatle George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) and fuzz bass on his “What Is Life”. When I used to visit relatives in Buffalo and North Tonawanda, in western New York, during the 1980’s my cousin Vinnie and I used always to play his guitar. We played quite a rousing version of J. J. Cale’s “Cocaine”, popularized by Eric Clapton, and we played an overwhelmingly memorable version of the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man” with a band Vinnie was in for a while. Then there are all the annual Fourth of July jam sessions. Steve’s a music teacher and the kids all play instruments too. Besides that quite a few of my cousins also play instruments. Cousins Gary and Lanfranco even play the accordion, and the Ronald, when he was young, played the trumpet. In my world there’s most certainly never been any shortage of exposure to different varieties of instruments.
When Earl and I were ten years old, Frankie and Tommy were twelve. They thought they were the hottest stuff in Queens. One day we were all hanging around at the empty lot at the end of our block. Frankie pointed to the tallest tree and claimed that thousands of years ago a sprite had angered the tree’s owner by trying to climb it without permission. Overcome with rage the owner petrified him permanently. “The kids at St. Gabriel’s will never believe this!” I told Earl in amazement.