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First night in Boston, September 19, 1978

February 14, 2017 1 comment

First night in Boston

September 19, 1978

First night in Boston was something that had been foremost in my mind for better than a year.  I had spent the previous 2 days pacing a hole in the living room carpet while debating my leave taking for Boston.

I was enrolled in Northeastern University but the apartment I had secured had been rented out from under me leaving me to hitchhike, again, to Boston to find housing for the upcoming semester.

Boston Common Realty rented me a spacious, albeit dilapidated, studio on Huntington Ave. for $160 a month directly across the street from the N.U. quad.

I hitchhiked back home to Port Washington, N.Y. and packed the trusty foot locker which had seen me through a 12 year-old’s rustic New Hampshire summer camp, 2 summers of sports camp and 4 summers of Massachusetts religious camp, with underwear and the clock radio my parents had bought me for Christmas 1970.  I was undecided as to what else to bring.

As the departure day loomed my feet got cold as I contemplated moving to a city where I had no employment lined up, formidable academic challenges and less than $100 in liquid cash after having a summer camp counselor-in-training position defunded.

I did have a ride from a friend however…if only to the Throgs Neck Bridge.

My friend called.

“Hey Steve, you pussy.  Have you pulled the panties out of your crack?” offered my friend.

“Thanks for the reminder,” I wittily replied.

“Steve, you’ve hitched 200 miles at midnight with $10 in your pocket and you’re afraid of college?  You even said you wanted out of Port; like y’know, yesterday.”

I replied, “Yeah, I know what I said but it just seems that I’ll be moving into a new place without having a job or money.”

My friend was a good guy.

He answered, “You moved into that place on Main St. with only a little more..”

I interrupted and said, “But that was only a few hundred yards away and I moved back at the end of the summer.  This is a much bigger move in more ways than one.”

My friend answered, “I can give you a ride tomorrow but after that I have to get back to work.”

“I will call you tomorrow,” I answered and hung up.

I knew that it was now or never.

I bounced my foot locker down the 13 stairs to the dining room.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

I stuffed my foot locker with shirts and more underwear.

I grabbed my green Army surplus duffle bag from the drying line in the basement and stuffed it with the books and records that I deemed worthy of sustaining me through whatever might transpire in my soon-to-be home.

And then anxiety, as evidenced by my sweating soles, overcame me.

I turned on our 12″ black and white TV to see the reassuring ineptitude of my N.Y. Mets.

Lindsay Nelson’s calm baritone spoke through the speakers, “And the Yankees will be fending off the Brewers tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium as Dick Tidrow and Mike Caldwell face off.”

Being a Mets fan I loathed the Yankees and relished the chance to root against them.

I stepped to our side porch where my brother Peter and his friends were puzzled by my mixed emotions.

“Hey Steve, we can’t miss you if you don’t leave,” offered a friend of my brother Peter.

I now knew I had to leave.

I called my friend.

“What time can you drive me to the Throgs Neck?”

“I work until 6, so around 7.  So you finally made up your mind?” my friend asked in a question that was the answer.

The next day I was packed early and spent the afternoon bemoaning the defunding of my counselor-in-training earnings while taking in the sights of Port Washington’s Main St. and gazing at the apartment I had occupied for 90 days earlier in the summer.

I went to my bedroom and attempted to sleep.

I laid on my back.

I laid on my left side.

I laid on my right side.

I touched myself.

I turned on my clock radio, which I had retrieved from my foot locker and listened to WBLS…

“…Frankie Crocker with the world’s best looking sound…”

…eventually falling into a fitful sleep and awakening on a very warm afternoon.  I putzed around the house before bouncing my foot locker down the 13 stairs of 42 North Bayles Avenue, Port Washington, New York.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

At the bottom of the stairs I opened my foot locker to make sure that my clock radio was wrapped in clothing so as not to be damaged on my trip.

I was too nervous to eat.  7 P.M. loomed and I wrestled in my mind whether to call my friend.  I wanted to push without being pushy.  My brother Peter’s friends came by and toasted me with a bong.

“Aw, you’re not going to go,” said one.

“Wanna bet?” I replied.

It was 7:30, dark, yet still very warm.  I tucked my Sweet-Orr work shirt into my Uncle Sam fatigues.

The phone rang.  It was my friend.

“Sorry I’m late.  Ready to go?”

“Yup,” I stammered as my heart hammered.

In 15 minutes my friend’s red VW squareback pulled up.  I had met my friend while hitchhiking 2 years ago and now that very same vehicle was to be my way out.

My Mom came out of the house and gave me a loaf of banana bread and told me that I could call collect when I made my arrival in Boston.  Mom’s eyes were wet.

My friend dragged my foot locker to the rear of the red VW squareback.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

My friend shifted gears and we were off to the access road leading from the L.I.E. to the Grand Central Parkway.

“…this is Tony Pigg rocking ’til 10 PM tonight…”

“Hey, could change the station?” I asked.

“Please don’t tell me you want to listen to disco again.  Didn’t you get your fill at work?” my friend wondered.

“The Yanks are playing the Brewers and as a Mets fan the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

My friend smiled and dialed in WINS AM as the throaty tones of Frank Messer intoned. “Going for the Brewers tonight is Mike Caldwell who has been a great surprise for the Brewers thus far this year having won 20 games already with the Yankees sending Dick Tidrow to the hill.”

All the windows were open.  Traffic was light as Tuesday night wasn’t a going out night and rush hour was over.

My friend pulled over on the shoulder of the access road.  E.J. Korvettes’ discount department store’s parking lot lights shone across the L.I.E.

I took the foot locker out of the VW squareback.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

“Well, I guess you are really going.  What time do you think your arrival in Boston will be?” my friend asked.

“I dunno…about 3 A.M. I guess.”

“For Christsakes be careful,” my friend offered.

And then, abruptly, “How much money do you have?”

“$37,” I answered.

My friend rolled his eyes and pressed a $20 bill into my hand, gave me a hug, and honked the horn while he drove to the next exit to return to Port Washington.

I put my thumb out being careful to stand under the Grand Central Parkway sign’s lights while glancing towards the Eastbound lane of the L.I.E. in the hope I could see the red VW squareback returning to Port Washington.

No such luck.

I wondered if the Brewers were beating the Yankees.

Up the road was my first night in Boston.

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PEARL HARBOR, December 7 & 8, 1941 and today.

December 8, 2016 Leave a comment

75 years ago, Sunday, December 7, 1941 Japan attacked the Naval Station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The very next day, December 8, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war characterizing December 7 as a “day that will live in infamy.”

3 hours later both houses of Congress voted to wage war on Japan and on Germany as well and all of their allies.

When I was a child some 50 years ago December 7th. and 8th, 1941 were well known as the folks, my father among them, who fought in WWII, were alive.

Nowadays only my 91 year-old aunt, actually my Mom’s first cousin, Thelma Allera is still of this world.

As late as my days at Nassau Community College, 1976-78, these dates were mentioned by teachers.  Ofttimes they would speak on what they were doing and where they were when Pearl Harbor was attacked and listening to President Roosevelt’s radio address.

On occasion this would spark a discussion of the atomic bomb(s) used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At our congregation of the North Shore Unitarian Universalists in Plandome, N.Y, F.D.R’s formal declaration of war was often contrasted with U.S. policy in Vietnam, and prior to that Korea; where formal declarations of war were deemed needless or overly divisive.

Suffice to say that the U.S. hasn’t declared war since December 8, 1941 although our armed forces have been engaged in conflicts too complex and numerous to delve into here.

President Obama declared today National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day but it seems to have flown under the radar of many folks.  Being 58 my generation’s parents fought in that war so it remains my touchstone.

Indeed, it is difficult for me to conceive of any President making a formal Constitutional declaration of war.

Today my thoughts are of the adults who surrounded me in my early years.

Follow this YouTube link for a film of President Roosevelt asking Congress to declare war on December 8, 1941.

https://youtu.be/YhtuMrMVJDK

Christopher Columbus Day 2016

October 14, 2016 2 comments

Christopher Columbus Day passed with nary a notice this Monday, October 10, 2016, with about as much attention as that garnered by Thanksgiving in Canada.

Columbus Day was a celebrated holiday during my boyhood.  I remember very well standing in front of the 1/2 bathroom of 269 Lincoln Blvd. Merrick, New York that stood at the cusp of our kitchen and screened porch looking at the Meadowbrook Bank calendar affixed to the door and seeing the caricature of Christopher Columbus wearing what appeared to be a round crowned sombrero on 10/10.

My 2nd. Grade teacher Miss Glugatch at the Merrick Ave. school had us make little models of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria by tracing around construction paper forms to make little flat models of Columbus’ ships from the very same construction paper forms that would make little flat models of Thanksgiving turkeys.

Brown for the boats, yellow for the sails and red dots for the sailors with all of the hues available from the Crayola 64 crayon box, you know the one with the sharpener that stripped off the paper and got jammed with 1/2 of the silver crayon.  You do know, don’t you? 

Coloring within the lines was even at that age a challenge for your narrator but my “art” passed enough muster to be displayed on the refrigerator of 269 Lincoln Blvd.

51 years ago!

Columbus Day here in the Boston of 20-25 years ago found me selling pretzels from a “truck,” actually a 3-wheeled pushcart, in the then still Italian-American neighborhood of East Boston.  As the 21st. century progressed the crowds thinned and aged and it was no longer earning effective to pay the permit fee for an event that was sliding into irrelevance.

It was around this time that the historical worth of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America became an increasingly contentious issue.  During my elementary school days my well thumbed copy of the SBS/Lucky Book Club THE INDIANS KNEW by Tillie Pine with art by Ezra Jack Keats disavowed me of any notion that European settlers were the end-all and be-all of knowledge.

However, I was impressed that Columbus had sailed across the Atlantic piloting 3 ships and returning safely by means of dead reckoning without the benefit of celestial navigation.

(The fact that the Spanish Inquisition played no small role in Ferdinand and Isabella commissioning Columbus would come into my consciousness during my Junior High North Shore Unitarian congregation religious education).

Having been interested and active in the cause of statehood for Puerto Rico I am very aware of the rightfully disputed nature of Columbus’  exploration/exploitation of that island.

However, as a beneficiary of Christopher Columbus I know that my life would be very different, if it existed at all, without Christopher Columbus.

Columbus Day festivities were not covered by NECN(New England Cable News) and the BOSTON GLOBE offered an article on the prospect of an “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” holiday to be celebrated.

I have no objection to an “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”.  Indeed the mainstreaming of the varieties of Native American history and culture into formal education is still all too under-served and long overdue.

Still, I miss the visage of Christopher Columbus gazing at me from the 1/2 bathroom door framed by the 10/10/65 Meadowbrook Bank calendar and memorialized by the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria hanging on the refrigerator door.

Bit by byte, childhood recedes.

Happy Birthday, Mom! 9/17/1925

September 18, 2014 1 comment

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!

 Doris Gallanter, my mother, would be 89 today if she was still with us.

Last week, September 10, I sent an email to my brother, exter and nieces reminding them of her birthday and my warm thoughts upon her birthday.  My recollection was precipitated by the playing of the CD VIVALDI: THE FOUR SEASONS as performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa with Joseph Silverstein as lead violinist.

But…September 17th, NOT the 10th. was Mom’s birthday as my brother, Peter and niece Amy quickly pointed out.  It took me a moment, and a consultation with my analog era Daily Reminder to realize that I had been mistaken…or not?

Classical music was one of Mom’s passions.  WQXR and WNCN frequently flowed from the clock radio perched precariously on our refrigerator.  (To be sure News Radio 88 got its due and WABC’s Dan Ingram’s authoritative baritone got their time as well.  I grew up in a loud household!).

THE FOUR SEASONS was one of my Mom’s favorites as even my Dad recognized as when he bought a new LP of the classic to lend melody to their strained relationship.  I had the good fortune of being the unwitting recipient of classical culture.

Classical music is not something that I am intimately familiar with.  However, THE FLOUR SEASONS, along with Ravel’s BOLERO, Beethoven’s 5TH. SYMPHONY and Khachaturian’s SABER DANCE is something almost as familiar as BLITZKRIEG BOP .

I have more music than I can listen to.  LPs, CDs and even cassettes fill my studio apartment even after having purged my collection years ago upon moving from a 1 bedroom to a studio.  I still listen to terrestrial radio and Internet streaming radio, (57 Chevy is the mostest) claim the hammer and anvil while YouTube, (I hear you Golden Earring and Lenny Tristiano) also has its place in my bandwidth.

Daily I pull something from my collection and give it my ears.  On September 10th, I pulled out THE FOUR SEASONS on CD. 

This CD was purchased by me when I bought Mom a portable CD player in 1999(?).

I remember her smile as she pressed ‘Play’.

“I see that it is the Boston Symphony Orchestra,” she said.

“You don’t miss a thing,” I replied.

Oft times my attempts at humor went for naught but on this occasion we both smiled.

Upon her passing I kept THE FOUR SEASONS for myself as both memory and music.

On September 10th, 2014 I inserted THE FOUR SEASONS into my boom box and melody and memory flooded over me.  The current was so strong that I felt compelled to email the family to let them know that I recalled the import of the date.

The lilting excitement of “La primavera(Spring)”, the hyper mania of “L ‘Estate(Summer)”, the descending melody of L “Autunno(Autumn)” and the somber hibernation of “L ‘Inverno(Winter)” evoked my Mom even as the date of her birthday was my misapprehension.

Peter and Amy corrected my misapprehension…

…but is it really a misapprehension when the chord between music and Mom is so strong?

…My mind was mistaken…

…My heart…perhaps…not…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!