Archive for the ‘friends’ Category

Mark O’Neil

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Mark O’Neil went to school with me at St. Joesphs (The Worker) Grade school in Carteret NJ. His family lived right next to the school and I remember there seemed to alot of turmoil in their home. They were a pure Irish family, on the short side and Mark was rather nerdish perhaps even a little sloppy. He always seemed to be struggling to hold himself together. His shirt was always untucked, one of his collars would always be pointing towards the fluorescent lights of the classroom. He had a little pot belly and sometimes his zipper was halfway down or his belt was unbuckled. Besides all that, while most kids had bookbags back then, he carried one of his fathers old brief cases. When he opened it, it sort of popped and things flew out and sometimes papers blew into the aisle where Mark would grumpily stumble out of his desk to go bend over and pick it up. As a result of this slight physical feat, his belt would probably pop open, his shirt would untuck and Mark would always be mumbling under his breath and get red-faced. Mark was blessed with Irish fair skin that usually blushed very easily at the slightest discomfort before people. Usually trying to hide the blushed face just made things more embarrassing and the face would get even redder. As a result of all of this Mark O’Neil become easy to make fun of or laughed at. He wasn’t one to bully, though, because of his Irish spirit, he was one tough little fireplug. He had alot of pride, and stubborn determination.

Every year St Joseph (The Worker) of Carteret NJ had a “Talent Show” This was a big event that I think happened at night in front of the whole school and all the parents. The auditorium was transformed into a rather large social extravaganza, most people dressed up and there were decorations and a sort of special anticipation filled the air.

There was usually the same thing every year. Groups of classes lip-synching to a scratchy 45 on a school phonograph. Synchronized dancing. Small one act plays. If a child was brave enough or talented enough, he or she would do a solo either on a musical instrument or singing a popular song of the era. But the solo acts were very rare. One year a girl blew the lyrics to a song and panicked, the crowd kinda laughed, she ended up crying on stage and this became a legend for years. The nuns would be back stage running around setting up the next act or adjusting the clumsy costumes.

This one particular year was going to be special, though, it was seen on the scheduled agenda for this years talent show, that Mark O’Neil would playing the accordion……..SOLO. By himself. On his own. In front of every parent, teacher and child in the whole community of St Joseph (The Worker) Grade School. It was said that even the janitor had somehow booked front row tickets for this amazing event.

I will never forget the quiet that filled the auditorium when the curtain rose and Mark was sitting there on a stool. His white dress shirt slightly untucked his thick hair parted sloppily to the side and a HUGE accordion on his lap.
Now I heard his father playing sometimes when I passed his house so I knew there was some kind of musical thing happening in that household. But it never struck me that Mark was taking lessons from his father for a musical instrument that looked almost twice his size on his lap. A musical instrument that looked slightly more complicated algebra book I had seen in Terry McSherrys room one day. A musical instrument that had so many buttons it seemed to be part of an American lunar landing that was going on in the days this took place.
Mark never looked up. The awkward silence was broken by the sound of this strange carnival sounding thing. It was a song. Some sort of slow sad melody and then ….a broken note….. silence again. Mark started all over. Playing again while audience stared. Then several notes into the song….he messed up again. He started wiggling in discomfort never looking up at the huge crowd in front of him, some of whom started to open their mouths in disbelief. Halfway through the song, maybe, he blew it again and the mistake was loud and whiney. Now more long awkward silence. Mark started mumbling to himself. I think everyone in the audience was uncomfortable as his face started to turn bright red. In the silence, what to do? By now he was physically struggling, sweating and getting redder by the second. Mark gathered up enough courage to start the song again, for the forth time! To most people they were witnessing an epic failure live in person.
It seemed like forever to me, that Mark O’Neil was in front of the whole world stumbling, staggering and failing until finally a nun lowered the gold curtain. Maybe it was God that lowered the curtain because there was a huge sigh of relief that it was finally over. There was a small silence then applause and finally a buzz of talk in the auditorium until the nuns finally opened the curtain to another act; the entire fifth grade class doing the Alley Cat (a popular song and dance at the time)

Mark O'Neil and the accordion

It is a funny thing, the memory. How we remember only certain things in life and forget others. That all that was taught to me that year; math, english, geometry and even art class. That all the people I had has friends. All the things I did, learned, and lived that school year are forgotten except for this moment; Mark O’Neil playing accordion in front of the whole school.
I will never forget his father, how he smiled and hugged him afterwards, I didn’t understand. Mark blew it. He was horrible. He collapsed in front of everyone and will be a laughing stock in Carteret for the rest of his life.

It was years later. After I had kids. After I had learned the disappointments and failures and ups and downs of life. Of learning to live without a father. Of getting over pride and ego. Of learning to accept myself for who I am. Of learning how to keep trying no matter HOW HARD it is that I realized this:
Mark O’Neil playing accordion on stage that school year was the only thing I remember because it was probably the most important learning experience of my life.

Road Trips

Friday, August 21st, 2009
From Left: Nicole, daughter of Glenn our brother. Barb, our sister in middle. Brooke, daughter of Brenda and Madison (hanging on bottom) daughter of Nicole (Grand daughter of Glenn) Family is SO EASY with Ten kids.

From Left: Nicole, daughter of Glenn our brother. Barb, our sister in middle. Brooke, daughter of Brenda and Madison (hanging on bottom) daughter of Nicole (Grand daughter of Glenn) Family is SO EASY with Ten kids.

Almost missed this great shot from a recent Summer road trip with a few of the Ohio Girls. Bernadette is probably taking this photo in the depths of Times Square NY.
With the advent of Facebook there have already been several strange hometown get-togethers. Some are planned this week and next. In Florida where several old Jersey friends ended up are having a BBQ at Bonnie Szeztaye’s house. Apparently next week there is a BBQ in New Jersey at Johnson Park with a bunch of old chums (not sure of the details, but I’ll check)
BERNADETTE and LARRY are driving to Jersey next week for some beach time.

As our family continues to grow, with Bonnies pregnancy and the rediscovery of our long-lost cousins the Gills, I have fallen WAY BEHIND on the Family Ties Web Site. Especially with photos of the children. They grow like weeds, ya know. I don’t think any of you would recognize my two boys if they walked in the room right now. I’m not even sure, I would.
As I struggle with dealing with teenage hormones, demands and pure INSANITY, I have also been through quite a bit this year also. The darkened economy hit some industries harder than others. I am surfacing every once in a while to grab a gasp of air. I have plans for two totally different business’
I have been going back and forth to the Hudson Valley. In my unemployment, I have also found serene friends, artistic inspirations, gurgling brooks, hot sun and mountains. Getting a job is hard work. I have been here before.
Once I knew a man named Alex. He married at age 18. Lived in the same house, in the same town for 40 years. Stayed with his woman for 40 years. Had the same job for 40 years. Worked in the same room with the same people for 40 years. Went on the same vacation every year at the same time for 40 years.
How I used to envy Alex. This guy had security every where he turned. He had everything I thought that life should be. The American dream. Money, a wife a retirement and his home was paid off.
Alex used to love talking with me. He said I was a great “story teller”
“But, they aren’t stories Alex, they are my life. Divorce, job loss, children, hardship, moving, debt, worrying, praying, dreaming, death, happiness, drugs, drinking, sobriety and…………hope.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Alex with that big smile
“I envy you George, my life is so damn boring.”

Photos That Make You Think August 2009

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Multiple heads and thoughts from this months Photos That Make You Think

Multiple heads and thoughts from this months Photos That Make You Think

To the best of my knowledge from what my mother told me: There was a neighbor that was an amateur photographer that came around and took photos of the Gill children. For the years that some of these were taken (the mid 1940’s) he is using some very high end equipment of the time. I found an envelope of negatives and from my best guess, he used a Browning Camera.
This photo of Fred Gill (Brother) is a pure classic. The photographer captured a moment in time that could thrill even non family members.
Just look at Brothers eyes! Doesn’t take much to thrill children this age. Innocence reigns!
My mother told me that Brother had this doll for many years. Took it with him wherever he went and as you can see by the look in his eyes, he absolutely adored this thing. As beat up and dirty as it got, he loved it even more, his sister Joan said.
Photography really took off in the 1940’s and was a huge but expensive hobby for many people. Family Ties will be revealing much more of these Austin Street gems in the future. Some of them need some work. This Photo Album was rescued from the heat and humidity of Florida just in time.
This photo had a pencil scribble in Brothers hair that I painstakingly removed. But when I thought about it, the pencil scribbles are acually part of the history and heritage of this awesome photo.
So here is the original, making us all wonder, WHO might have been the artist from such a long time ago.

About Aunt Pats glasses: What can I say? It was the EARLY 1960’s. Batman was a popular show on TV Saturday nights. Catwoman was his hot villian. Was Aunt Pat inspired by Catwoman? Who knows? Actually, who cares???

why the wicked witch is NOT dead

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Because evil will always be seeking to hurt us. Temptation, greed, lust and wishing your life was as good or better than your neighbors.
I got fired today. Eight days after I got the job. I kind of saw it coming. The short spanish man just did not like me. I have faced the “short man dilemma” my entire life but this time it was a great thing. The Wicked Witch lives in all of us, especially in prejudice.
“George, I am going to have to let you go. Peter just can’t work with you.”
From my first meeting with this man, his karma was very destructive and strong. He had the upper hand and he knew it and he used it. I never talked back, actually got humbler, nicer, funnier, more cooperative, more understanding, overly helpful and this just got him angrier and more POWERful.
I believe that if I would have given him what he wanted, fights, arguments and negativity I would have retired there with a huge pension.
It was a great relief to walk out that air conditioned office into a blast of heat and the stench of the side alley garbage. I climbed into my car, rolled down all the windows, opened the roof and blasted my son Joshuas death metal music. Shaking, rocking and rolling down Spanish Harlem. Giving and getting the thumbs up from Senoritas with huge butts. Goodbye to another rather short and humbling chapter to the quest for materialism.

I haven’t seen TV in a month !! It is almost like “I haven’t had a cigarette in a month !”
I have heard that quitting smoking is a “spiritual experience” Really a tough one.
But really. No TV in a month is a great feat. I don’t miss it at all.
What a bunch of fucking bullshit. I would sell my left kidney for ONE freakin RERUN of Seinfeld.

Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, what if you found yourself transported not just over the rainbow but beyond — to other worlds and other peoples? What practical information, ideas, or gifts might you find there to bring back home?
In my journey now I have included Peter (the short spanish man with way too much power) in my mantras. As much as I would love to be angry with him and dump a gallon of fresh red paint over his he-man sports car, what happened in that Grand Format Print Shop was meant to be. As my brand new three doors slam shut, I am already anticipating the next door to open.
BUT NOW with Summer hotter than hell and the ocean waves cool salty and refreshing, I have no problem staying “In the hall” for awhile. I can wait with full unemployment benefits for the next heartbreak and or challenge. Have to go now.

Breakfast at Tommies

Monday, July 6th, 2009

In Westfield with dad. That handsome guy that wore the white apron, kinda quiet. Never asked what dad wanted, just gave him the same thing everyday, at the same green marbled table. The smell of that place was breakfast. Toast, butter and muffins. His little shiny toaster in front of the window. Deer heads on the wall. Old newspaper headlines from the 50’s hanging framed.
Sleeping in the car: Almost three weeks now. The first week was really frustrating because the police kept kicking me out of public parking lots. The first night it poured out of nowhere and I left my overhead window open a crack and there was a streak of soaking wet running across my quilt. I usually get about five or six hours and I always wake up very suddenly…like “AAAAhhhhhh!” and I never go back to sleep. The sun comes up so early these days.
I haven’t watched tv in three weeks and I don’t miss it at all. At night radio waves carry better and I explore the AM radio. I fell asleep to a talk show from Toronto the other night.
I stayed at my friend Bobs house a couple nights but it feels rather awkward.
It has felt awkward since I gave my home to my kids eight years ago. I miss companionship. The divorce left me incapable of a relationship for several years. I have been listening to “Blood on the Tracks” over and over again. Almost like I was on my bunk bed in 1975 again. I opened up an old wound and found myself crying and angry and heartbroken again.
I used to have a therapist that fell asleep on me EVERY damn time I went to see him. I used to make up crazy shit just to see if the Shock could keep him awake.
Once I had sex with a Japanese girl but I was horny again an hour later. Her pubic hair was very fine like silk and I thought it would be good material to make a nice
or tie.
I have been watching the June Solstice moon with a woman the last few days. Last night under a gorgeous Cranford Summer sky night we looked up at it together. It was almost full.
When we hugged, I felt like I was home again, or someplace where I might not get kicked out. It was warm and comfy and the smell of her perfume and hair made me crazy.
I will never give up my home again, or my fireplace, gardens or deck…..where I used to watch the stars with a telescope.
Breakfast at Tommies is like a good woman. You feel like you are always home and it smells like home. Being in a room that is filled with history and compassion and orange juice and hot coffee.
Right now in this bookstore cafe I have the perfect view of a young childs eyes as her mother reads her a story. It is so beautiful and amazing. I am so glad I read to my children almost every night when we were together. They still remember that.
I hope they do it with their children and I hope that they take them to a place like
Tommies for Breakfast.

the last time i saw you

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

The last time I saw JoAnn she was kicking me out of their current home. I just wanted to take a piss. The last time I saw Lowri, she was getting married and her father left her a ton of money. The last time I saw Suzy we were hugging on her front porch on a windy day in late October and she was chasing her Halloween decorations which were blowing all over the neighborhood. I miss her the most. The last time I saw Erin she had come back from Colorado forever but was storming out of the bookstore because I am a jerk. The last time I saw Debbie we were snowed in her country home over and beyond the other side of Jersey. The last time I saw Tammy, she said her new boyfriend was an old friend from high school and had a BIG pickup truck. The last time I saw Marielle she was driving her pickup away from me on a lonely road somewhere in a fishing town upstate NY. (she just gave me a baby tree from the back of the truck) The last time I saw Jill, she gave me two Christmas presents early (a Giants tree ornament and underwear) as I was leaving the the early sunlit front door. The last time I saw Maggie, she told me I sing off cue and I needed a vacation. The last time I saw Sandra, she asked me to come back to her parents cabin by the lake. But I had to work. And that was it. I never saw her again.

from the shores of iwo Jima….Entry for March 19, 2009

Friday, May 15th, 2009

On the side of the (cliff) couch
Jim McSherry and i played little army
the green plastic kind frozen
expressions loaded
macHINe gUns
tanks not to scale

we played with our vivid imagination
in the tv newsglow of the vietnam news
103 dead will be shipped home this week a jump from 72
just last week
InspiRed by the army movies his DaD sat down to watch
the rabbit ears covered in tinfoil
constantly moved to get better reception
so hard to get them to stand up
on the carpet battlefield
the music from the MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE
always made me cry


Without a Net………..Entry for September 3, 2008

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

It was thirty years ago today. I went to my first Dead concert at almost brand new Giants stadium. It was a very long strange trip for sure. It went on for a long time with my brothers. Traveling to allot of different places. Meeting so many people. The art was always so fresh and it covered the parking lots, shirts, faces and stage. Camping, tripping, getting busted, fights, getting lost, getting high….I always liked the small theaters, Stanley in Pittsburg, the Capital in Jersey and I was blesssed to see them at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. After they became a money making machine, Brent the keyboard player overdosed, they played in big stadiums to crowds that half-cared about the vibes and music. Americas greatest secret vacation had become a “cool trend” Will the rain stop in Florida? Everytime I talk to Grant the amount increases ten fold. In our last phone conversation it was 75 inches of rain that has fallen on Florida. Florida Hartmans-get in your boat and float up here and have some tomato sandwiches with me. I picked fifty on my birthday. And we only have 5 plants.

Dad if you ONLY KNEW. The will of God took you away and I wonder what y’all are doing up there. Brenda, Beverly and Carol probably laughing their asses off, telling stories. Dad you were a fucking idiot. The more I read your endless pages of bullshit in your journals. Never once did you mention any of your children by name. Your life was money. Numbers, the Sewing Center and saving your soul. Nobody remembers you. You never gave us the chance because business came first. Some of us remember getting the shit kicked out of us, I gotta give you that much. Mysterious dark figure. In the Summer I remember the smell of gasoline, fresh-cut grass and you….aqua-velva and cigars.

THE END of Summer. Always so quick. In this red tomato sky, my boys are huge. Taller than me and sometimes smarter than me. Walking on the boardwalk, trying to find that “last hurray” the final salute to a season lost. Another lost sibling. If I am just a ballon head in the photos—you are all gathered around her funeral….holding hands in a dream. Heads bowed down in prayer. But the surviving eight peeking up. Looking around at each other. Wondering who will be next. How many balloons will we need. I can still put my feet in the sand. The kids are going to school. Football season. Catch maybe one more huge wave from the churning sea. The seemingly endless pounding waves (bigger because of the hurricanes down yonder.) I miss my boys being little. I miss Brenda and the red tomato skys of Summer.

My opening day…………Entry for October 8, 2007

Friday, May 8th, 2009

This is one of the last things left of Dads. These damn tickets. In 1972 I started going to Giant games at the ripe old age of 12. Thirty-five years later….I am still sitting in the same seats (well, 30 years at Giants stadium, 3 at Yale bowl and one at Yankee stadium) Approximatly 330 home games later I sit here with my 15 year old son. It is alot of heritage, history and memories. Some of the people that have gone to games with me, Mr Moran, Ed Deloreto, Frank and John Karst. beverly. barbara gary grant brenda, Gene Kaufman, John Morgan, Susan, Dan Braza, Erin, Mr Blackford, Chris Espeland, Marielle, Mom, Don Bok, Erin, Glenn Jr, Jo Ann, Buc Bahlman, and Roy Henderson to name a few.
I HAVE BEEN SITTING next to the alot of the same people for 30 years. They remember when I had a poney tail and beard and drank and flipped out over missed first downs.
On this particular beautiful sunny day they played the “other” NY team and won. Josh and I got to the parking lot at 9am and finally left around 9:30 pm. We had the grill going all day: pork roll, hotdogs, clams with garlic and drawn butter, hot wings, shrimp, steak and potatoe salad (made the way mom made it) As the sun went down and we began to launch fireworks into the orange sky….I realized how many hours of my life I have spent in this damn parking lot….between the Giants and the Grateful Dead…I have met so many people…and I am passing this heritage onward…in the glow of our little fire…..says Josh….”this is cool dad.”…..yeah this is cool.

Please pray for……Entry for August 31, 2007

Friday, May 8th, 2009

An old friend of the family is not doing well. Please pray for him. Thank you.