I went to a wake in Woodside the other night. A good friend of mine lost his grandmother a few months shy of her 106th birthday. As soon as I stepped into the funeral home, I could tell this family matriarch was revered and was going to be sorely missed, but there was a celebratory air about the place, a proverbial “Irish wake” with joy and laughter for a life well lived.
As I sat listening to her family and friends, I got to thinking about just how much this remarkable life had seen. Born in 1906, she’d witnessed the development of almost all of the technological advancements that shape our world. She was there for the development of radio, telephone, television, the instant camera, the washing machine, gas ovens, and a new-fangled thing called the “icebox.” She observed the rise of motorcars and mechanized flight. She watched as we developed the atomic bomb, broke the sound barrier and put a man on the moon. She marveled at computers and in her later years she spoke to far-away family on their smart phones while looking at their photos via the Internet, all thanks to the miracle of satellites.
Gino’s Pizza, Baxter’s Sports Shop and Time Alarm, Inc. Those were a few of the sponsors of the many baseball teams I played on for the Elmont North Little League. It feels like so long ago, yet the memories are etched into my brain to hearken back to. The mornings and afternoons at Averill Park and games at ‘The Sump’ off of Dutch Broadway were days of great excitement and fun.
I guess some might call me old-fashioned, but I still enjoy listening to talk radio. Even with the rise of online media, there is still something very personal about radio that I like. You get news and opinions of course, but it’s the sound and inflection of people’s voices that give you insight into the personalities and emotions surrounding a subject. Whether it be a long-suffering, fellow Mets fan or an author discussing his or her latest book, I admit that I often drive around the block or take a longer route to listen a little longer.
I found myself in just this position last week as I tuned in to a program that debated the merits of this year’s Olympic opening ceremonies. While most everyone agreed that London put on quite a show, the controversy stemmed from their notable omission of some type of memorial or moment of silence on the 40th anniversary of the Munich Olympic Games. For those too young to remember, about halfway through the 1972 games in Munich, 11 Israeli athletes were kidnapped in the middle of the night and held hostage by a terrorist group. They were eventually shot and killed – assassinated. Inexplicably, the Olympic Committee (IOC) this year declined requests to recall the event during the games.
The Greek Olympics at Covert Avenue School were nothing short of exciting when I was a sixth-grader. The games were various athletic challenges while re-enacting the culture of Ancient Greece through costumes, speeches and artwork. I was a member of “Team Corinth.”
Back in February of 2011, I met Susan, a resident of New Hyde Park, who shared with me yet another of those Long Island Rail Road stories that can drive sane people mad.
Just a few weeks before, Susan had decided to avoid the snow-covered roads and purchased two one-way tickets at the New Hyde Park railroad station. She didn’t use the return fare since she was able to get a ride home. When she tried to refund the ticket, she was shocked to learn MTA policy called for a $10 processing fee regardless of the ticket’s price. That was more than her $7.25 ticket. Imagine a refund fee more costly than the actual product itself.
“To a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish.” That’s one of my favorite expressions. If you’ve never heard it, it simply means that we’re mostly concerned with the world we actually live in, the everyday circumstances of our existence. We do, of course, devote some attention to greater matters, but we are generally shaped by our own daily realities.
In that light, I’d like to tell you about my recent experience having been selected to attend, and attending, the Emerging Leaders Program at the Darden School of Business at The University of Virginia, the venerable institution begun by Thomas Jefferson, himself. The program’s objective, sponsored by the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, is “to educate and inspire our nation’s current and future state legislative leaders to excellence, without regard to party, politics or ideology.”
Numerous breakfasts, dozens of lunches and a slew of dinners I’ve spent at the Stop 20 Diner on Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont fill my cerebral cortex on a daily basis. Their cheesecake is to die for, the burgers are cooked to order and the décor still serves a time long-since passed, but still is ever prevalent today.
Discipline, respect and strength. All these things I learned as an Elmont Cardinal playing football in the Nassau County Youth Football League (NCYFL). The memories are cherished; the long hot two-a-day practices were not, but in the end were well worth it. I got to play with my friends, which is always to be desired.
I’d like to share with you the story of Paul Brady, a Malverne firefighter who was killed in his firehouse in 2006. Brady, who was 42 at the time, had been working on top of one of the trucks in the firehouse when another firefighter mistakenly drove it out, not realizing he was up there. Paul was consequently crushed between a beam in the ceiling and the truck.
As heartbreaking as this is, it got worse. Brady’s name was prevented from being placed on the wall of the New York State Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Albany. In fact, it had been declined four times by the committee that oversees it.
As a teenager and even today, getting up at 6:30 a.m. is a task. But that’s what I had to do to get to Sewanhaka High School on time for the 7:45 a.m. bell. The only saving grace was the walk. Yes, I said the walk.
I lived near St. Vincent De Paul Church in Elmont, which is just close enough to SHS to not be eligible for bus privileges and just far enough to be considered exercise for a then 14 to 18-year-old teenage boy with the metabolism as fast as the Road Runner.
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