Posts Tagged ‘carteret’

One Summer Day a long time ago…

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

blackandwhiteblog

Photo’s That Make You Think
Yeah, brother Gary or Gunk as he may be known as, suddenly started randomly texting me photos. So cool and it made me realize (like I’ve always known anyway) just how many photos are out there that I don’t have access too. But one of these photos really set me back. It was during one of our Uncle Brother’s visits after Dad died. We were a gang alright! All thirteen of us on the picket fence. Beverly hiding in the back. Gary always the clown. Bonnie and Bern little babies.
|click for a better view|
So Mom or Brother were able to harness us all together for a photo. How did they do it? How did they manage us or even feed us for gods sake? These were good times. I wish we took more photos but this one (a photo of a photo-means there’s better quality out there—) makes up for all the photos that were never taken. Thanks for sharing it.

Cloud Forest

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

newCloudsleep

The one reason why I thought it was NOT a dream was because I distinctly remember being so excited at this situation that I just had to put my arm around my father. While the photo was being taken, I swirled my head in total ecstasy as to who I was with. I remember turning my head. That wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t deja vu either. It happened.

I’ve kept a watchful eye on my sugar intake. There are some very serious diabetes in our family, I want you all to know.you should really check your glucose level when you can. One of the major culprits in our sister Beverly’s death was diabetes. Our great grandfather had his left leg amputated due to diabetes. Our grandfather also had his left leg amputated and he passed away from diabetes and gangrene triggered by peripheral neuropathy.

Since we all reluctantly visit death in our imagination, we sometimes wonder how we will go. In the movie Big Fish, several children visit a haunted house where a witch with a glass eye lives. and she offers a view into her eye so that you can see how you will die. If you were offered a glance into that glass eye would you be brave enough to look?

It was on the bottom of a box. The box was underneath a pile of other boxes. Like twenty boxes. They were all filled with stuff from Whitman street. Most of it was old toys from Christmas’ long ago. A lot of papers and old letters. What I was looking and hoping for were photos. I don’t even know how I got here. It’s feeling like a dream. Maybe it is and I’ll wake up. Because Whitman street seems dead. I shouldn’t be here. I don’t even live anywhere close to this god-forsaken town. Up these crazy stairs. Doesn’t look like our old house. I don’t get it. Here is the room filled with boxes. The first bedroom on the right. By the upstairs bathroom.

Do you remember this Whitman bathroom? Once our dad spent all day assembling beautiful glass sliding doors on the bathtub so that we could take showers in a sort of luxurious way. He was pretty handy with a drill and hammer. I remember we hounded him all day as he worked on these sliding doors. Mom was excited because they were really nice looking. So when he is finally done, we all take a step back and look at this magnificent work of art. It has probably doubled the worth of our home, I’m thinking. We were the first family on our block with color TV and now we own the richest looking bathroom in Carteret. So we check it out, open and close the glass doors slowly. Yeah, everything works fine. Beautiful. Then someone, I don’t remember who, (probably Glenn did it) slammed the brand new door shut and the room exploded with a million pieces of glass.
What I remember most about that tragedy was my father who typically has a very short fuse, just shook his head, mumbled “It just wasn’t meant to be” and began cleaning the mess. Nobody got yelled at. Nobody got punished. The glass was removed but the frames that he spent hours putting into the wall remained. They were there for years. And for many years after he died. I always looked at them and felt them whenever I took a bath or shower. Touched the screws inside the track holding them to the wall and I thought of my father and his patience. His eerie silence cleaning up afterwards.

Einstein showed that mass and energy are the same thing. Based on this theory, time travel seems possible. If not now, then in the future. Parallel universes, or alternative universes or mirror universes have had a long run of popularity in science fiction and science fantasy, in both print and visual formats. One need only look at an “Alice in Wonderland” or look no further than the “Star Trek” universe (our Universe in less than obvious disguise) to view the near endless plot variations that such parallel / alternative / mirror universes provide our heroes and heroines. While there are some serious reasons to suspect that parallel universes do exist. Time travel is the name of the game!

stairsSo, in this dream, (which I thought was a dream) I went up the Whitman street stairs, opened a door to the first bedroom and found a bunch of boxes and began digging into them. In one window I could hear birds chirping and the sun was blasting through. When I opened the curtains and looked down it was the side of our house. When I looked up at the Summer sky, it was a cloud forest. There were a few of us playing whiffel ball and Toker was aimlessly walking around. I could hear Schnauzer barking in the backyard. Schnauzer was never allowed to wander around aimlessly. The window on the other side of the room was gray and I could hear the wind whistling through the cracks. I pushed the curtain aside and it was a blizzard outside. I could see Gitters house across the street and it was buried. Mr. Gitter was desperately shoveling the walk leading up to the door and Peanuts was barking like crazy behind him. So here I am in a room from the past split into two different seasons.
Downstairs I heard our whole family screaming. People were yelling Glenn’s name and I went to the door and opened it. At that exact moment Danny Braza was racing down the stairs to save Glenn’s life. A chicken bone stuck in his throat. This was the first use of our brother Glenn’s 16 lives.
I shut the door and realized I was way back in time. It seemed like I knew what I was looking for. Went back to the boxes and there on the bottom of a box filled with receipts and papers from Westfield Sewing Center was this photo. |Click HERE for a better view|
flattenFORblog4generations

August 3 2000

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

glennBev
Today Beverly passed away 15 years ago and we approach the one year anniversary of Glenns passing August 17 (yeah, I know, already!). Bev would have been 58 this September which means she was a very young 43 when she died. Somewhere on this blog I write about the day Bev died and how I’ll never forget it. She used to raise and sell persian kittens and the funny thing is one of her cats is still alive and lives with George Poulo in Plainfield NJ.
Personally I have so many memories with each Glenn and Beverly but I did have a special relationship with Bev. It was just one of those things. We go way back. She understood me deeply. As she sailed further and further away from us in her sickness, I never tried to find her. I wasn’t strong enough.
It is these kinds of anniversary that tell you fast the clock ticks and how fragile our time here is. I really miss them.

pawn to king four

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Early June. Welcoming the unofficial start of Summer. Here in the North/mid/east all the seasons don’t slowly blend into one like most of our southern friends .Our season are abrupt, extreme and sometimes frightening. Winter here was brutal and the snow piled higher than cars at times. It has yet to release us from her grip as here I am on June 7 seeking desperately a hoody to help me make it thru the morning.
It was an email from cousin Jim Gill “Paul McCartney and Wings (on the radio now) remind me of our visits to Jersey.” that triggered this post. Also a call from a very old friend Jim McSherry was filled with resurrected Summers.
This topic has been covered ad infinitum yet I feel a desire to write about it. I’ve waited 55 years to finally say, “You kids don’t know how good you got it.” or “Get off my lawn you no good sons of bitches!” Social media is swarmed with the “when I was young…” cliche. Social media will always be telling us about life before the internet. I remember the set of outdated encyclopedias in our rec room actually WERE my internet. And if it wasn’t in there, then I really did walk 20 miles in the snow (actually it was more like one mile and it was only in the snow once) to the little library on Carteret avenue. I filled many reports with cut out photos and charts from those encyclopedias……and I hate to admit I also used books from the library for my primative “cut and paste” knowledge.
Todays internet brats don’t know how good they got it. But the internet is just the first in-line glaring example of how things have changed. Summer has changed dramatically as I look around now at the empty streets and playgrounds. Most kids have resorted to cyber entertainment. When we played in the Summer, we had to use our imagination. First of all our Summers were at least three weeks longer! For whatever reason the school year has definitely lengthened for todays school kids.
It started on the carpet when Jim McSherry and I would play “little army” with plastic soldiers frozen in boring poses. We don’t know where he got them but Johnny Lambert had the coolest, meanest looking Japanese toy soldiers in unique poses of death and destruction. How we yearned for those politically incorrect yellow soldiers. They were never to be found in any toy store.
There was always our pool and Kenny Gitters pool which sometimes became strange when we decided to take off our suits and swim naked. Mrs. Gitter put an end to that real quick Most hot Summer days she could be found at the end of our kitchen table playing Scrabble with our mom. They had also discovered a fabulous new drink by reading “Hints from Heloise” in the Star Ledger. It was called Iced Coffee. It was this same Heloise daily article where mom found out that we could actually eat the skin on our baked potatoes and didn’t have to throw them away with the tinfoil that they were wrapped in.

Actually football is always compared to a chess match. Maybe because the knight wears a helmet?

Actually football is always compared to a chess match. Maybe because the knight wears a helmet?


As the Summers progressed we invented new things to do and keep us occupied. One time we spent an entire Summer in our backyard creating mazes with lego pieces and watching bugs walk around in circle. It would piss us off when some bugs would just say “fuck this” and climb the Lego wall to exit our “maze of doom.”
Unfortunately for these clever bugs escape usually meant being captured again and being subject to some cruel torturous death. Being burned to death with a laser from the sun via a magnifying glass was a popular choice.

In our neighborhood the 5th of July was much more popular than the actual holiday on the fourth. For it was the day after the nightly fireworks that we would walk the sidewalks and gutters looking for “duds” Unexploded fireworks. Anything. Fire crackers, bottle rockets, the remains of a roman candle. We bought hundreds of these used explosives home and carefully unraveled them into a box. It was long tedious hours with little payoff. I ate a few crabs last Summer and it kind of reminded me of that. A lot of work with little meat and never feeling close to having my appetite satisfied.
What we did with our gunpowder harvest hardly satisfied my appetite for destruction either. I was pretty keen on destroying plastic tank models that I spent weeks building but that was usually done with gasoline. Sometimes we got lucky and were able to purchase real fireworks from the local firework dealer on Tennyson street. We would knock on this teenage kids door and barter with him. A nickel, a dime, ANYTHING for one single firecracker or bottle rocket.
We played outside. Sidestreet baseball, touch football, man hunt. We built forts in trees and under bridges. We explored the endless miles of railroad tracks that led up the dirt hill from Daniele. We hung out on the trestle

Then there were the Summers of the Gills. I had already written about this in a previous posts but these were great times. Just a few years after the passing of our father, it was good to have a man in the house again. This was Summer at it’s very best. Carefree and happy. Lot’s of pool, barbecue and popcorn. Wherever we went, we all went together. Filled the station wagon and sang songs from the FM together. It never got any better than this.

We did surrender to TV though, although it was a different monster than it is now. A huge wooden box attached to an antenna on the roof. Seven channels and sometimes eight, if we could get channel 3 to come in. Monty Python was a Summer staple on Sunday nights along with all the other mindless sitcoms of the day. Greg got us into “Dark Shadows” Saturday Night Wrestling and eventually Mary Hartman Mary Hartman.

The Day I Beat Walter Lambert In Chess
In the Summer of 72 we sat in front of channel 13 and “watched” the championship of chess between Russia and USA. This was huge when we were young. There still was a cold war going on and anything Russia vs USA was must see. At this time Bobby Fischer was still in the progress of losing his mind and didn’t allow cameras in the room where they were playing. So, for the entire Summer we sat in front of the TV and watched some guy move paper chess pieces on an upright paper board. There were sometimes HOURS between moves. It was like watching grass grow yet this is how we spent an entire Summer. This championship match had ignited a national interest in the game that we caught.

In 1973, this was worth more than three bars of solid gold.

In 1973, this was worth more than three bars of solid gold.

So when chess wasn’t on TV, we were playing it everywhere. Nobody was better at the game than Walter Lambert. One of those wise ass kids a few years older than us that “knew everything” and actually owned the yellow plastic Japanese soldiers that we craved.
I had gotten rather good at the game and even got a book from the library. Next to Fran Tarkenton, the then quarterback of the New York Football Giants, Bobby Fischer was an absolute hero to me. I studied and envied his life and his mysterious quiet way was even more intreging.
So one day, it happened. In the Lamberts always open garage door, I challenged Walter Lambert to a game of chess. Nobody had ever beaten him or even come close. And he would smirk and let out a whinny laugh everytime he beat one of us and called us knuckleheads for even trying.
But as the game went on, it became interesting and a small crowd began to gather around. I knew I had him on the ropes and he was just waiting for one stupid move, like we always seemed to make, to beat us. Not only did I keep my head in the game but I actually check mated the older, the wiser, the much cooler Walter Lambert. There was a shock of silence first but then the place erupted. George beat Walter Lambert. Yes. George Hartman had beat Walter Lambert in a game of chess. In the Summer of 1972 in a small rural town off the New Jersey Turnpike where planes flew overhead to land in Newark… I had become a folk hero for a few days. I had indeed beaten Walter Lambert at chess.
For me,
I want every anticipated Summer to be good. I yearn for the sun in my face. I watch our tomatoes and flowers grow. I BBQ ribs and steak on weekends. I’ve seen a Summer moon rise from the deck. I love each abrupt season better than the next. I couldn’t stand ‘summer all the time” or rainy seasons but Summer is a great time to feel alive. There is no greater swim than body surfing on an Atlantic ocean wave. Much like George Costanza, today, I proclaim this THE SUMMER OF GEORGE!
the abrupt seasons

the abrupt seasons

What Goes Without Saying

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

The ART of Appreciation or
The Appreciation of ART

I enjoy this ____ because ____
I respect this ____ because ____
I admire this ____ because ____
I appreciate this ____ because ____
I think this _____ is worthwhile because ____
I love this ____ because ____

July 2012 New York City
The city. In a nutshell I missed you terribly and yearned for that thundering subway underneath my tattered (I’m in shatters) sneakers. (Sha doo bee) The stench of rotting sewers sweltering above as we wait for the green flashing WALK. My balls tingle as we rise rise rise above the sweltering elevator of un-airconditioned heat. (Sha doo bee, shattered shattered)

Diary of a Sex Addict
scene 32
Greenwich Village. A crowded outdoor Cafe.
CoCo: That’s a nice camera.
Butch: Bigger is better.
CoCo: (signaling for a check) Not always.
Butch: I’m not talking about cameras.
CoCo: (annoyed) Why change the subject?
Butch: Because I’ve been watching you walk around the Guggenheim in that sexy dress all day.
CoCo: (laughing) Oh, lets’s get a room, then!
Butch: How about a secluded back alley off Bleeker street?
CoCo: Cheapskate!
Butch: No. Thrill seeker.
CoCo: Mmmmm, that does sound intriguing. I dare you!
Butch: I dare us!

The Gone-by Days of When I Drove a Forklift on the Nightshift.
or Goggling Your Own Name
Entering a new drag and drop dimension Funny how life works in ebbs and flows. A lot of blogs I read are written through rose-colored glasses. We all have a tendency to sugar-coat our own life – social networking gives us that opportunity every day.
When I woke up, I was 18 and working at a warehouse across the railroad tracks and over the West Carteret bridge. I woke up drunk because bed-time wasn’t but a few hours ago. (spent most of the night driving around with Glenn Haley drinking Bud nips. (7 ozs bottles) I don’t know why we always got those nips. I think because we were driving and if we got pulled over maybe it would be easier to hide.
In the past the Summers are always hotter and easier. There were no cops or confusion. Just drinking and adrenaline laced adventures.
My fork truck was #30 and I named it Wharf Rat. Written on the side in black magic marker forever. One of the faster in a large fleet of fork trucks. I was young, dumb and full of cum. My pony tail curled up into a twisted blonde ball, my beard a wiry mess.. Wharf Rat was my horse and I rode her into the sunrise of the receiving dock hangover in tow. This was my life for too many years and I thought I would die there in the long aisles of warehoused sporting goods.
Back to the closet of another job here in the future. One final kiss before the time travel. Kryha is so into passionate kissing Now to a different warehouse on a rainy night and the smell of fresh cut pine.
You’re face is glowing red in the distant sun of the EXIT sign.
Yes, I have said goodbye to all my friends of the past. Some are even dead now, but I’m going to see them again.
Mc (pronounced “Mick”) Gitts (pronounced “Skeeter”) Bill Brunner (pronounced “Bill), Hoy (part of the original Banana Splits) Stuff, Beds, Dino, Puppet, Nutty, Pokey, Bobby Orr, Bok (pronounced “Baaaaaaaak) God I miss these fucking bastards.

I accidently by all
no fault of mine

traveled via blue sky many years ahead
waking up in twisted wet sheets

a man breathing, walking white halls
pulling around squeaky wheels

his oxygen tank
into pristine whiteness and

florescent dementia and weed cancer
in the retirement home

of ex designers and production printers
spray paint freshness of the train muralist

(pronounced “Graffiti”) crazy old people
mostly men and my sister Bonita visiting me

So I must be in Ohio, she sits on a white surreal plastic chair
flirting with the younger male receptionist

I miss driving most of all and texting
and the rest of my family where ever they have gone

I don’t recognize my hands
and I’m missing a finger

Kryha is in Poland milking cows
with rich Asia on a golden farm with huge bales of hay

you always told me “I’m not going to take care of you”
I appreciate your honesty, emails, and electronic brain photos

of Polish hillsides
and those strange looking trees

you always liked to paint
“I am in love..” you type “…with another…

…bucket of hot foamy milk”
and brown crispy fresh baked bread

the jagged fields of berries
are radioactive red! those damn Ruskies!

the sky is swirling with doubt
I am an old fox in a florescent cage (pronounced

retirement home) waking up alone
with a nurse washing my armpits

All the Arctic animals have melted
everyones warm laptops scream the news

Outside my recycled window the bravest hour
strikes my analog clock

My desire to live will never go away
is what my sister whispers in my ear
(to be continued this post)

Inventing Abstraction
Man of Construction says this: Can you climb that ladder on the hottest day of Summer
carrying tools, strip the three layers of old roof off and install a new roof?
Man of Printing says in return: No. But can you scan a high resolution image, color correct, clean, clone and print?
Man of Construction then says: No. So I guess we are even?
Man of Printing says this: Yes, pretty even I guess, except that I didn’t emasculate you in front of your mate like you did to me.
Moral: “Say it once again now-
Oh I hope you understand-
When it’s done and over
Lord, a man is just a man

The wind whispers yet another rainy Jersey Shore evening
Butch: (looking off into the distance) I want to change the world!
CoCo: Oh yeah? You don’t have any money.
Butch: (shakes his head out of a daydream) Money! Who needs money to change the world?
CoCo: (laughing out loud) You need money for everything dear.
Outside the thunder and pounding rain on the boardwalk invite warmth and love into the warm cozy hotel room.
Butch: I love thunder.
CoCo: Perfect timing too. You are going through another Super Hero stage.
Butch: (after taking a deep breath) You don’t need a super power to change the world. When you wake up to the blessings and gift of another day, you must face it with the willingness to do the best that you can. Be kind to every person you meet. It’s not easy. Neither is judging. When I meet somebody for the first time, in my mind, I have them all figured out within ten seconds. Their aura is sucked into my brain and most times I configure people to be less of a human then me. I am learning to stop this quick judgement of people. If there is a leach on your back, it is probably sucking the life out of you and you don’t even know it. This leach has the capabilities to to suck all the monies, strength, and dreams from your body and soul. The leach is in a place on your back where you can’t reach it. Everybody sees the leach on your back but they can’t pull it off for you. That leach is yours and only yours..or so you think. Until the day comes when you can finally reach around and pull that F-ing thing off your back, you MUST walk tall and act as if it isn’t there.
A leach will never learn to live for itself. It’s whole world depends on sucking from you twenty-four seven. I have the super powers of sobriety, calmness, patience, love and most of all: GRATITUDE. You can fly through the clouds self-doubt. Break through the brick walls of depression. The day the leach falls off your back, curls up and crawls away, you will realize that it was indeed years and years of this leach that has actually made a super hero out of you!
CoCo: I have a craving for cheese perogi.

(the continuation)
I know if anybody knows
the trails and cliffs of time travel

Whose are these doors I open?
where strangers in white shadows swim

If you’re driving down a ONE WAY street
in a refurbished pick-up full of trees

thank you for not turning around
the snow flurries carried me home

Ill miss your Chinese eyes
Ill miss your chicken soup

A robot cleans my room today so
grab a brush and paint your dreams

End
(pronounced “see ya later”)

Home Movies

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012


On the plane back from Las Vegas Nevada my prized possession was a dvd that Jaybird had burned for me. Several attempts at viewing proved futile and finally a visit to a "dvd specialist" gave me the bad news. The dvd never really burned. What I had was three seconds of Comedy Centrals Happy Days. Well, these weren't the happy days I was looking for.
When I called Mr. Jaybird with the bad news he almost instantaneously resent the dvd along with some other surprises. The movie then had to be converted in order to edit it. I found some free software on the web.
Originally this movie was just thrown together. It is a scrambled mess of dates and places and is in no way in any kind of chronological order. Some of the earliest stuff on here is around 1961 and the pool scene is probably a two years before dad died.
I want to thank Robert Jaybird Jones our long lost cousin for getting so many memories to me. It has been so good to be able to talk to him randomly on the phone.
For me, it is really quite eerie seeing dad "moving" That many of us probably never even remember seeing him move. To see someone you love acting goofy and even clowning around with his father is quite amazing after 41 years. The few seconds of mom being a loving mother is just priceless. You can almost forget at this point in your life that she did indeed give birth ten times in her life. She was a mom practically her whole life. A good mom too.

Most of these movies were taken by Jay Jones. Our uncle. He too, died terribly too young before any of us could really grow up to appreciate what a great guy he was. I remember him fondly. I am very fortunate. He had a heart of gold in his own military way!

A further analysis of this tape including a "who is who" list will come quickly after this posting.

Coffee with Bill

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Memory is such a strange and elusive thing. It is much more than mere knowledge, awareness, or the impressions that a person retains – be it a person, an event, a period, or subject. Memory is a celebration of those experiences. It is the realization of our past, our history, our whole life.

Bill Brunner was one of my closest friends growing up. He lived conveniently just around the corner and we were the same age we had the same toys, the same interests and quite possibly the same dreams. Bill was more than a bunch of great memories, Bill was my early childhood. Going to school together, watching TV, sports, playing games for hours. We got into everything and anything. Chemistry, geology, astronomy , swimming, racing, bikes, football, baseball the list is endless. He was the punter, running back, lineman of our football team. The only football team with real uniforms and painted helmets. Sidestreet baseball home-run hitter. Engineer of some incredibly swift paper planes. Hot wheels racer enthusiast. Tough competitor and all around typical American kid from around the block.

We threw back coffees in our little meeting spot, up there in the north west corner of New Jersey – a Pannora Bread – late one freezing week night. In my estimation, we had to fill in the gap of at least THIRTY-FIVE YEARS!

After thirty-five years, best friends find each other on the Internet.


Bill has been married over twenty years and is currently raising two preteens and we all know that is more than a full time job. If you want to reconnect with him like some of our family has already done, you can find him as one of my friends on Facebook.
Bill hasn’t changed much, except of corse in only the wiseness that life slowly unwraps for you as you become a husband, a father and a person. He was very genuine, kind and funny.

The thing that I always enjoy when I frolic in the past with old friends or family is that their memory always has a lot more than you could have ever remembered. I thought I knew it all. I thought I remembered it all. Bill kept bringing up times and memories that I thought I had long forgotten! There are so many events that connect together in your childhood, that it is impossible to keep them all.

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.

One day last month….Entry for February 10, 2009

Friday, May 15th, 2009

If once upon a time you were lucky enough in your life for this moment. To hold your newly born child in your arms. It is a moment that changes most people forever. You take a huge step away from self-centeredness that last for the rest of your life. For the first time in your life something-someone is much more important than your own welfare. It is an amazing journey parenthood. Sometimes unbearably nerve wracking most times a thrilling euphoria.

In the middle of January 2009, I took my boys to the ocean. The boardwalk is a magical place in the Winter The empty beaches and forgotten rides and stands. Only a few indoor arcades remain open. I have been doing this with them since they were very young. We have always looked forward to the quiet of Winter here. The crashing waves. The ice blue water where only a few months ago we were riding waves.

We walked down to the beach but it was too cold.On the horizon a lonely barge stood still. The seagulls are never on vacation.

The blaring heat of the arcade called us. It seems that now they have no interest in the stuffed animals. I am at the verge of losing them. Their childhood innosense echoing like the waves outside. Bundled up joggers and walkers go past the glass doors. I miss the sand in-between my toes, the taste of salt in my mouth, the burn of the hot sun on my shoulders
And my boys
Looking up to me (not down)
For another handful of quarters.

DO YOU REMEMBER