My name is Larry. Officially I’m named Lawrence, after my mother’s father, who died in late August of 1959, slightly over two weeks before I was born. Although I never got a chance to get to know my grandfather, I grew up constantly in touch with my Uncle Larry and my cousin Larry, on my father’s side. Among my father’s relatives there have even been nine Joseph’s, and a bit too much repetition of other names too. Throughout the years, in order to differentiate from among us Larry’s, I was too often referred to as Little Larry, and even Baby Larry. My niece and nephews, knowing that my full name is Lawrence, have often asked if I have ever gotten any mileage out of that variation of my name. I remind them that under official circumstances it frequently comes up, in school, work, and anywhere else that may require me to be a bit formal. Sister Miriam Therese, of the Sisters of Charity, was my fifth grade teacher at St. Gabriel’s in East Elmhurst. It was in her class that I was first reminded constantly that my name was Lawrence. She was quite strict about each student’s always being addressed and referred to by his first name. Around the time of my twelfth birthday we moved from Jackson Heights to Lindenhurst. When kids in my new schools, Copiague Junior High School, and then Our Lady of Perpetual Help, asked me what my name was, I took a chance on introducing myself as Lawrence. The Copiague kids stuck with it for around the next three years. Somehow after that it faded away entirely. In my Catholic school, though, things were a bit different. The first kid I met there was Jerry Antonacci. He asked me my name. I introduced myself as Lawrence. He then asked if he may call me Larry. I said yes and that was the end of it. Unlike certain other names, such as Anthony, David, Michael, and Peter, the name Lawrence simply doesn’t strike people as that interesting as far as always calling somebody by his full name. I see no point in ever bothering to change it. There have been times over the course of my lifetimes when it has struck me as somewhat annoying. In general, though, it’s quite nice.
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.
The school year has ended for St. Gabriel’s in Queens. My father drove us to the Port Authority. My mother, my younger sister Mary Anne, and I are now on our way to my grandmother’s house in northeastern Pennsylvania on a Martz Trailways bus.
For a ten-year-old city kid, all this farmland is amazing. The only sound I hear is Johnny Rivers’ “Mountain Of Love” playing quietly on my transistor radio. I wonder what it’s like to ride a tractor instead of a utility bus. I think I’ll count the cows and horses for the rest of the trip.
Having gone, a few hours ago, to the Coffee Nut Cafe on Park Avenue, I’m now sitting down on an unseasonably warm Saturday, listening to the radio. The coffee they sell in that establishment is most delightful. I especially like the distinctive flavors, featuring ingredients like cinnamon, vanilla and icing. They have tea with lemon too, but so far I haven’t gotten any of their tea. I usually walk there since it’s so close to my neighborhood. If I’m going to spend a significant amount of money on something at least it’s good to know that it’s a fine product. I often walk at least twice a day, and say hello to each neighbor as he passes by. One of the ladies behind the counter is dressed in yellow. Sam, Bridget and I just recently ate bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches for lunch. Sam and I drank Costa Rican coffee with ours. I frequently walk down to the beach too, and enjoy all the water. Bridget has been complaining lately about problems with her telephone. It’s an Apple. Over the course of the past few weeks the weather outside has been so ugly but today’s is perfect. Nice weather always makes me happy. My Facebook friend list includes a lot of people from my past, like Brother Edmond from St. Gabriel’s, and other teachers, classmates and friends of mine. Facebook is a land where fantasy meets reality. It’s a world where everyone takes for granted a green light to ramble on about anything that interests him. The Irish advocate the wearing of green. The monarchists advocate a country ruled by a king and queen. Thanks to the internet, I’m now quite lazy about reading the paper. There are quite a lot of things I haven’t seen in Long Beach, but, of course, I’ve never seen an X ray of a zebra either.
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.
I’ve always been quite pathologically disorganized. My old friend Jo Anne, reminded me a few years ago that when we were kids in St. Gabriel’s she and the other kids from our neighborhood used always to have to wait quite an obscenely long time before I was finally ready to go home from school. It plagues me to this very day. If I could have a key
to one room to which I ordinarily don’t have access, it would be the key to Organization Girl’s room. Organization Girl, from what I’ve always heard, is such an exceptionally fine lady and she appears to understand that not everyone is good at keeping things very neatly arranged and clean as a whistle. She knows that some of us tend to be awfully seriously absent minded and less than sufficiently attentive to life’s unavoidably necessary details. From what I’ve always heard of her, she’ll give me quite a good stern talking-to and flatly forbid me to leave until I’ve mastered each and every single one of the minimum requirements that are involved in being truly tidy and good at keeping track of things. “I’m not getting down from this washing machine,” she’ll sternly inform me, “until you’ve truly learned how to keep track of things in an efficient manner, whether you like it or not!”
I can’t remember anything of any significance regarding my very earliest interaction with someone else, but my first meeting with Sister Rose Eugene, my first grade teacher at St. Gabriel’s Elementary School in East Elmhurst, has always struck me as quite distinctive. When I first started school, the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton were in charge of the kids in the younger grades. Back then each Sister still wore an old fashioned traditional
black habit, ankle-length, with a gigantic black bonnet, and and enormous Rosary for a belt. When I first met Sister Rose Eugene, immediately before I was to start the first grade, she must have scared me out of at least fifteen years worth of growth. To this very day I can still remember my not having been able to come up with an answer when she asked me my name. She was still only a young adult so she may not have been professed for a very long time. I assume she was only trying to be friendly with her new young charge. From her point of view it may already have been quite a reasonably familiar experience. That’s all I can remember of what appeared to have been a relatively brief episode. I assume she handled it quite tactfully. I have no memory of her having been stern. She was friendly and humored me. As a teacher and a professed Religious, she must have been very well educated in child psychology. My first year of school went well and I was so happy there.
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.
St. Gabriel’s, on 97th Street in East Elmhurst, was such an exceptionally good parish, including a school. The Sisters of Charity, De La Salle Christian Brothers, and lay faculty members ran quite a tight ship but they were entirely likable and fair too. One would think, logically, that nothing of any significance could possibly go wrong there. There was one incident when I was a kid, though, that boggles people’s minds to this very day. Sister Rose Eugene, my first grade teacher, was quite a tall, imposing looking lady. Back then the Sisters of Charity wore old fashioned black habits and bonnets, and Rosary beads as belts. To this very day I still remember my very first day at St. Gabriel’s, as a student of hers. We youngsters all got the shock of our lives when we first showed up on that otherwise fine September morning so long ago. My neighborhood friends and I all got off the Q 19 B, the local utility bus, and walked through the schoolyard in order to enter our new school. Uncontrollable shock and chaos set in the instant we first walked through the school’s doors. The children arrived for the first day of school to find that there were no desks in any of the classrooms. Being six years old at the time, we youngest kids didn’t know what to think. “Maybe Martians took them,” said Dale. Upon hearing such a claim, Jo Anne whined, “Oh shut up! Everybody knows Martians don’t even have butts so they can’t even sit anyway!” After the shock had all somewhat subsided, the principals, Sister Dolorita and Brother Andrew, got us all together for an assembly, so they could explain how to deal with our most unprecedented problem. They ended up deciding that they couldn’t let us stay unfortunately. Being kids, we were all so very happy to be allowed to go home. Our very first day at our new school ended up having to come a week late because of all the problems that were involved with finding new desks. To this very day no one has any idea what could possibly have happened. It wasn’t a result of anyone’s negligence and there was no criminal activity involved. It was just a weird quirk of fate. Even now my oldest friends and I still always talk about it, often wondering which of us may have perhaps been the guilty party.