In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Memory on the Menu.” Compared to recent memories, I’ve always very much preferred the long ago kind. In an episode of “The Odd Couple”, Oscar Madison reminds Felix Unger of Dorothy Parker’s claim to have hated writing but loved having written. That’s the way my understanding of life is. I see time as being divided into three parts. The future is pure theory. There is, to a certain extent, no point in bothering to think about it. The present is one big responsibility. Even the good things have their share of annoyances. The past, though, from this point of view, is the nicest. Each of us is able to see it, as he can see the present, but he’s not obligated to deal with the hard parts. The recent past still has entirely too many memories of all its annoyances. Life during my school days, or during the times when I was working at some long-lost job, was no more interesting then than my current life is. What makes it so interesting for me to reflect upon those previous times is the very fact that I can’t possibly have them back. I can’t possibly control my past. What is done cannot possibly be undone. Anything left undone cannot possibly be done. I can, however, control it in my imagination. There’s no point in bothering to take such an approach to the immediate past, but it works well with much earlier time frames. There’s quite a significant reason for my having used a picture of a Good Humor ice cream truck instead of a currently commonplace vehicle. Last night I attended the first night of the annual fair at St. Mary of the Isle Church in Long Beach, New York. That truck was there. For me, Good Humor is a perfect example of the best of nostalgia. It was prominent long ago and has been hardly ever seen during current and recent times. That’s the kind of memory that has always truly piqued my interest.
Although I’ve never been able to stand Jane Fonda, or trite inarticulate cliches either, the concept of “no pain no gain” has quite a lot of merit to it. Anyone who’s ever tried to do something exceptionally well knows quite well, after only a very short time, that nothing comes easily. Whether it’s getting a job, playing a musical instrument, exercise or anything else of any significance whatsoever, all important things require strenuous effort. At the church I attend, St. Mary of the Isle in Long Beach, Father Brian Barr recently told us about the time his nephew graduated from junior high school. His other nephew, the graduate’s brother, asked him what the word “commencement” meant. Father Barr told him that it referred to finishing something. The nephew who was on the verge of finishing school told him that it really was about beginning something. That’s what all of life in general has always been about. Nothing can be begun without something else’s being given up. Life is a series of beginnings and endings. All of life is a series of obligations and opportunities, and to try to avoid that combination would be a false dichotomy.
If my current mood could be depicted in a painting, as a representation of something tangible, it would perhaps be a very old, worn-out tree on an exceptionally hot day. Right now I’m in at least a reasonably decent mood. I’m so calm and happy, enjoying the temporary peace and quiet. My only problem is that I’m entirely too hot and exhausted from my having recently taken too long of a walk from here to St. Mary of the Isle Church, and then the Coffee Nut Cafe, around a half mile away. It’s a very annoying trip when the weather is either too hot or too cold. Maybe I could be represented by the kind of a tree that’s seen a lot of changes in the weather and circumstances in general and although it’s still doing quite well, has been knocked around a bit by its environment and other factors. It’s a sunny day in the painting. The surroundings are impressive. There’s the slightest hint, though, of exhaustion. The tree that is my life can take the occasional dose of sweltering heat. It simply needs a bit of replenishing every once in a while. There’s no trouble with the roots, leaves or fruit.
Every morning for the past few months, I’ve been going to Mass at St. Mary of the Isle Church in Long Beach. From Monday through Friday I go to 9:00 a.m. Mass. On Sunday I usually go to 11:00 a.m. Mass. After that I absolutely have to go to the Coffee Nut Cafe, right down the street from the church. On Saturdays, the only day I don’t have any other reason to be in the neighborhood, I make sure I go there anyway. Mary Anne and Steve have always been in the habit of going to Gentle Brew, slightly farther down Park Avenue, on the opposite side of the street. At Gentle Brew they have waffles, a favorite of Steve’s. The Coffee Nut Cafe has a wide assortment of tea, pastries, ice cream and other things, though so far I haven’t gotten anything there except coffee. They have coffees from places ranging from Italy and Ireland to Costa Rica and Peru. I often drink the Irish Alien, in honor of my ethnic background, and Queens Madness, in honor of my home borough. It’s always struck me as such an exceptionally nice quiet little place. Like the bar on “Cheers”, they kind of seem, as far as I can tell, to have sort of a mini subculture going on where the regulars have all gotten to know each other quite well by now. I haven’t yet reached the point where I’ve gotten that familiar with them. I never spend a significant length of time there, beyond a few minutes each day. Because of my having gone there so frequently and so regularly, though, everyone recognizes me, including a girl who’s a friend of Bridget’s. By going there on such a regular basis, I get to know a few people in Long Beach and to become a familiar face around here. Besides that I also get lots of excercise, because lately I walk everyplace. Most importantly, though, I get to wallow in a fairly wide variety of different kinds of coffee.
No one’s life is entirely perfect. Each of us has his share of things and circumstances he simply can’t possibly be expected to handle very well. That happens to me occasionally too. When I have that kind of trouble one of the very first things I try to do to alleviate the problem is to try to have as much peace and quiet as possible. Unwelcome noise, unwelcome sound in general, has always struck me as quite difficult to take. Especially now, in the era of cell phones, we’re incessantly bombarded with it. Of course things most certainly don’t have always to be entirely silent. I enjoy good music too. Everyone knows, by now, of my notorious interest in the songs of the 1960’s, but I spend a lot of time listening to quite a wide variety of music from all eras and genres and it always helps to alleviate any troubles I may be experiencing. I don’t like any current or recent pop music though. I even play the guitar too. The reason noise bothers me so much is because it’s such an unwelcome intrusion into the environment. With me it all comes down to a question of control. Another way I can alleviate my blue moments is by way of watching a really good television show or movie. Since I generally tend not to enjoy any recent shows or movies either, yet again I usually go to those of previous eras. I have quite a large collection of records and tapes, CD’s and DVD’s to keep me occupied. Besides the fact that these provide me with a perfect means of lifting my spirits, they can also be quite an endless supply of conversation pieces. I also enjoy solitude. Other people’s company can be very interesting and beneficial but when I’m having a very hard time I frequently enjoy being left alone. It helps, once in a while, not to have to deal with all the entirely ordinary predictable circumstances that transpire when others are around. Lately because of problems with my car insurance, I walk back and forth each morning to 9:00 a.m. Mass at St. Mary of the Isle Parish. Although it’s quite frustrating to be without transportation, the walk each day, with all its attendant peace and quiet, does me quite a lot of good. Another way I can alleviate my troubles is by reading. As I’ve said before I have such exceptionally discerning tastes in reading material and tend to be a bit of a literary snob. I read things ranging from Sir Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte D’Arthur” to Sigrid Undset’s “Kristin Lavransdatter”. My taste in literature, besides being quite a nice antidote for the blues, can also lead to some especially interesting conversations every once in a while. Food and drink, including coffee and tea, can do wonders for putting up a fight against life’s troubles. Over the course of the past few months I’ve gotten into the habit, especially when I’m alone, of having a cup of hot tea with a fluffernutter. Everyone knows how good marshmallow Fluff is. I’ve also gotten into the equally predictable habit of going to the Coffee Nut Cafe, on Park Avenue, immediately after Mass six days a week, and on Saturdays too, to have a hot flavored espresso or cappuccino. By now I’ve become quite a familiar character there and all the ladies who work there have gotten used to seeing me each day. They have a variety of international coffees available. Unfortunately the only foreign country I’ve been to is Canada and they have nothing Canadian. They have a flavor named Queens Madness, though, and I’ve most certainly been to Queens. Life is frequently overwhelmingly tough but these kinds of things can do each of us a lot of good in the never ending battle to avoid being discouraged.
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.
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.