Posts Tagged ‘NJ’

Hard to describe in words

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

window
You may find yourself…
One day I woke up here and the sun was spilling into our bed in what seemed to be huge buckets of yellow and orange paint. We had breakfast together and then went outside into the garden.

People come in and out of your life for a reason
I come here immersed with gratitude. I am very lucky blessed and God has been very good to me. As I look back on Gods impeccable track record a glow of thankfulness covers me like a warm blanket in my new home.
In all that was chaos is blessings. I have done some of the footwork for I have no idea where I would be today if I wasn’t sober. Most times my mind goes faster than what I can keep up with but even that is getting better. It seems like so many many years ago I walked thru the doors of a place in Piscataway NJ, fresh out of jail, jobless and confused. It was a big room on the second floor covered with windows by a railroad track. There was always cofee and sweets, there was always clouds of cigarette smoke (yes, that’s how long ago this was.) but most of all there was always meetings. The building was not dedicated to anything else but recovery. Everyday, several times a day. And during holidays it was 24/7. I am very lucky blessed to have found people to talk to and phone numbers (there were no cell phones back then but I knew where every phone booth was)

she died a Hartman

she died a Hartman

I continue to be in awe of life …. and death. If you take for granted the billions of miracles that are going on around you and within you then you can lose touch with this whole amazing thing. You were actually a very sweet person, you just got a little lost. (like we all do) I’ve lost count of how many people have just slipped away from my life just so suddenly. They are up here, swimming and struggling* to stay afloat like the rest of us and then you turn around and
they are gone.

* and some people can just float

One day, a long time ago, I woke up on this farm in Canada too.

One day, a long time ago, I woke up on this farm in Canada too.

So this past June 16 was the 45 anniversary of my fathers death. I remember him telling me about the “7 year locust” next to that funny looking tree that is (still!) in our front yard. Obviously the seven year locust only come out every seven years. The story is that he was working on the rose bushes which he loved to do and one of those huge MF’ers flew into that tree and let out one of his crazy long noise/scream/bug sound. It freaked me out but my father soothed me by saying, “Don’t worry it’s only a seven year locust. He wont hurt you.” And that’s the end of the story pretty much. It’s funny how I can have memories that long ago! Actually if you asked me what my deepest longest memory EVER was, I might think it was the 1964 Words Fair in Flushing NY.

I lost you in the butterfly tent
So basically I have obtained a Flux Capacitor on Ebay and with the help of a friend of mine from New York City, we have created a Time Traveling APP. In a nutshell, when the phone is charging I can transfer through communication lines into different periods of time. My current quest is to travel digitally to a bar in West Carteret (Mikes Bar) and transfer my image onto the TV at that bar. The date I picked is October 10, 1968. A Thursday. My father frequented this bar ofter especially on Mondays and Thursdays when the Westfiels Sewing Center was opened until 9PM>
Since my father has never seen my kids, HIS grandchildren, I plan to show photos and small movies of them projected thru this black and white TV in Mikes Bar. My only hope is that dad sees them.

I haven’t traveled into the future yet. I’m too scared.

IDGAF
Sometimes I wish I never connected this blog to the family website. Sometimes creativity is hard to understand. Many

once a long time ago I woke up on the third floor of this Victorian mansion and had just impregnated my wife at the time with my first son.

once a long time ago I woke up on the third floor of this Victorian mansion and had just impregnated my wife at the time with my first son.

people need pure logic and straight thoughts. Sorry I don’t have much of that nor does this blog feature happy butterfly clipart and borders of flowers. I can view the number of times this blog gets “hit” which is actually pretty high probably only because it’s so public. So I’m sorry I can be so deep and dark and I know my audience isn’t keeping up with me nor caring but it’s this: Writing for me is incredibly therapeutic and the creative energy it creates just knowing I have a little corner in the world to turn to is so very nice. At least there is some family tree stuff and heritage so maybe one day one of our kids or their kids might be interested in that. I seem to be the only one.

Every time I start feeling Sorry For Myself I watch The News
I used to think I knew too much about life to have optimism. I was very wrong. When I was a teenager and into my twenties I wasn’t a very good person. In fact I was a big dick. I was indeed a racist, a sexist, an egomaniac and an irresponsible punk ass hippy. I’m very sorry to all the people I hurt, especially my family.

Everything that makes you happy is going to end at some point. I have gotten over that and have diligently tried to be a better person. I used to think that letting my divorce happen was one of my biggest mistakes. One day I woke up in my car and said “what the fuck have I done?” I should be waking up with my kids and teaching them how to sheetrock a fucking house or something! How to make a living in life. How to cook. How and when to put on underarm deodorant.
Actually I don’t have the first clue of how to sheetrock a house.
And today I don’t regret the sloppy one-sided nightmare divorce one bit. I know in my heart of hearts I did the absolute best that I could…..stressing with WHAT I HAD.

I am extremely blessed with these guys. You can not put a word to parental love.

I am extremely blessed with these guys. You can not put a word to parental love.

I have been calling Uncle Billy and I did that because I had some kind of crazy resentment with him. That he “abandoned” us or something. See, I can still be an idiot. After Carol died we used to think Barb was the last elder left in the family, then we found Jerry Jones but she sadly passed away almost as soon as I found her. Our fathers brother is still here and he such a nice, intelligent man with many many memories. He was so pleasant and patient when I last spoke with him and I had a hundred questions(knowing me yes some of them were strange) He is doing very well and will soon be out of assisted care.

Westfield NJ 1919. The Westfield Sewing Center not yet here (second store from the right) I hope to time travel here some day.

Westfield NJ 1919. The Westfield Sewing Center not yet here (second store from the right) I hope to time travel here some day.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve conquered it all except death. And maybe heavy merges on Rt 46 during rush hour.
When I see people in their twenties freaking out in their car, I laugh to myself. I was like that once too. Climbing the ladder of life. Knocking people down. Building a wall around myself and possessions. Yeah, this materialistic fever fed by American TV and movies. I’m reading a book now that changes all that. After the last France truck terrorism episode… it changed me greatly and I needed to find myself again. I’ll tell you one day soon how I made out.

POV #8

Friday, July 29th, 2016

BLOGFLOW
E X P A N D the P H O T O

POV #4

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

blogPlanes
E X P A N D the P H O T O

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

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

writers BLOck

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

vigil by the deep lagoons
cRazy Indian colors:
glops
of paint/
freshDripping
o
n
her
scratched canvas
rich browns. If
landscapes could dream and poetry
could walk
the earth woul>dn’t be crippled with
leafy green disappointment. Gracious
shadows slowly unroll across the floor
the artist drinks a quart of fear
chanGes the oil
grows a salaD
builds a lego castle. Mops
the Kitchen floor with gasoline
lights a cigarette
calls the boss and gives
a ten year notice
oF retirement

neonduskjanuary820139:51am

Rising to the top

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

My love of New York City began when my father took me to my first Giants game in “old” Yankee stadium and we took the subway from Manhattan into the Bronx. I was nine years old and my right arm was glued to my fathers huge hand as I was dragged through the streets towards the stairwell that led to the underground train. The whole scene seemed too fast and noisy for any talking, but I do remember looking down the street towards downtown and seeing the World Trade Center being built. It was quite a sight, not just the size of them, but because there were two. One building was higher than the other and I thought that was funny. Was it a race? If they were to build twin skyscrapers then they should be built…..together….right? I pointed towards them and asked my dad, “What’s that?” because I had to know.
“That is the World Trade Center and they will be the biggest buildings in New York City.”
Wow. To a nine year old that is really exciting. Dad was the smartest man in the world because he was always watching the news and reading newspapers. After their completion, they had become the biggest building in NYC. It seemed like forever until that fateful day 9/11. But more interesting then that, they had broken the record (1931 – 1972) of the Empire State Building which was NYC’s largest building for 41 years. Before the Empire State Building there was the Chrysler Building on Lexington Ave that held the record for less then a month.

The Empire State Building as seen from New Jersey. Days before becoming the second tallest building in New York City.......again.


There has always been an aura of magnificence and history surrounding this building. It was amazingly built in a little over a year during the Great Depression. Six people died building it. Five were construction workers and the other one was a woman on the street that had her leg grazed by a falling object. She died several days later from an infection. Unlike the World Trade Center the Empire survived a plane crashing into it’s side (1945) and has witnessed 30 suicides. The most famous being Evelyn McHale when a photographer captured her cradled death on the roof of a limousine just four minutes after her plunge.

Life Magazine called it: "The Most Beautiful Suicide" and Andy Warhol made this photo into art prints.

The building was designed “Art Deco” style from the top down in just two weeks and was built by Mohawk Indians and European Immigrants in record setting time. The changing spectrum of colors lighting it’s peak actually mean something. The famous variation of floodlight colors have celebrated holidays, people, sports and seasons. For the most part I have tried to figure out what the colors might be celebrating and I have been horribly wrong most times. Who would really know that all yellow flood lights would signify that the US Open is going on in Queens? This link HERE will take you to the floodlights schedule on the Empire State Buildings official www site. The movie King Kong when I first saw it as a little boy on the MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE (probably a rainy Sunday afternoon) scared me so much that I ended up having out-of-scale stop-action nightmares for weeks !!

WHERE OH WHERE HAS MY UNDERDOG GONE?

In this corner.....the rising champ of the century.

And now a new target for terrorism rises in the distance. Maybe that’s why they changed the name from “The Freedom Tower” to “World Trade I” Nothing will deter an attack on this building and it may not be in my lifetime and I hope and pray never. Such an insignificant event it seems today in the news… The Empire State Building losing it’s “Bigger is Better” title but it caught my eye. I read everyday about all the children murdering their parents, guns being pulled everywhere, corruption corrupting my very soul. But the moment the Empire State Building loses it’s title, New York City will lose it’s 1930’s innocence again. “The World Trade I” a modern marvel of octagons, twisted steel, plastic and glass is just asking for trouble. The world will change and step deeper into the future of high tech terrorism, suspicion and doubt. Here in New Jersey, we are always in the shadows of these giants. We can only watch from a distance the rising concrete mountains as it takes center stage to the troubled world. I do love New York, especially after my stint of working large format graphics there. But unfortunately, the darkness never goes……in some mens eyes.

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.