by Angela Giannotti
Welcome to an erstwhile column. And to all those who are too old to blog and too young to not express your feelings, this is a place where you too can expound. I wrote a column for the Moriches Bay Tide for several years and for Dan’s Papers for one. But that was in the early 90’s. I loved having a column and began to hone it to a nice, neat 400 words or so. But it has been awhile and I beg for compassion.
I am a retired English teacher, former Brookhaven Youth Orchestra Director and a constant yarn jockey. But, here comes the disclaimer, I’m not one of “those English teachers” who sniff and toss their heads at poor grammar and really bad spelling. I taught junior high English which has more to do with hormones than homophones. I often make mistakes. Oh, I have a few pet peeves but I do not write like Faulkner. Think Erma Bombeck. If you find a glaring error, typo or offensive philosophy, send an email to Bellport.com. I will, in turn, give you extra credit on your next book report as I did with my 8th graders, lo those many years ago.
However, you will not find a sentence in this column containing the following phrases:
I could care less…..If you could care less then why don’t you? I couldn’t care less is correct.
Enthuse …. is not a verb. I’m so enthused is incorrect. You can be enthusiastic but you can’t enthuse anything, including a watermelon with vodka.
Less/fewer ….John has fewer quarters than Mary, therefore he has less money. TV sports announcers are the worst when they compare stats. For all those who are still reading, I’ll go into apostrophes next time.
With all that said, I’m thrilled to be writing a column again. And I hope, once in a while, you’ll enjoy it too. Thank you.
I am a southerner – southern Italy, southern USA and southern Long Island.
My grandfather came to the United States from Sicily in 1903 and my father
was born in 1909 in NYC. My mother was born in Ingalls, North Carolina and
grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Since moving to the wilds of Long
Island I have lived in a straight line on the south shore from Patchogue to
While I am proud of my diverse heritage, I have had to defend it more than I liked. According to most Italians born on the mainland, Sicily is not a part of Italy. Even when I was an Italian major at St. John’s University I was ridiculed. Recently, I befriended a couple from Milan and when I shared that I was Sicilian I was chastised. “No Italiano, Africani,” they admonished. To make things worse, my maiden name, Mauro, means Moor as in the likes of Othello. Since Sicily was conquered by the Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians and Moors, it is not out of possibility.
Every summer of my young life, I went to North Carolina and enjoyed being among my many cousins. But I was treated like a curiosity by my family’s friends. “Ya’ll from New Yaaak? Why saaay sometin’. I just love the way you’uns Taaak! Soon I would slip into a less exaggerated drawl which would baffle my brothers when I called home from Spruce Pine. I still don’t know where they get all those extra syllables in “Ho on eee.” I pride myself on speaking different dialects of English- Broken, Southern and Queens and can confound most anyone in all three.
My husband and son tell me that my voice changes as soon as I pass the Queens border or talk to any one of my southern relatives. I just talk – tawk-taaak. I will spare you my Italian flavored broken English because spelling it eludes me.
I like having a grandfather who was a moonshiner and another who worked at a bronze foundry and as a plumber. My aunts did piecework in sweatshops of NYC and made quilts out of feedbags in Appalachia. My uncle told me that when his father returned from the still one night, he shot the clock. It was just too loud for a man who had been tasting his product. Then Uncle Frank added softly, “We were late to school for a long time after that.”
The south shore suits me. Less traffic, quick access to the ocean and more temperate. I do not venture to the north shore if I can possibly help it. I guess that is my bias. I love being Southern.
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I got a new computer. I suppose I should say that I bought a new laptop
computer. It was my understanding that my life would somehow get easier. My
previous laptop was 8 years old and ran Windows XP – which was tantamount to
a death sentence. Deciding on what I wanted was agonizing – Apple or PC was
the greatest question. Having friends to ask is usually a comfort to me but
having friends in both camps was painfully mindboggling.
I wish I were a real techie. I am not. I do have a techie on call. He is knowledgeable, personable, patient, friendly and reasonable in every way. I still struggled. I have an iPhone which I love. I have a husband who I also love. He has an iPad that he loves so much I get jealous. It is never far from his hand and he can find any answer to any question ten seconds faster than I can. Admirable. Annoying too, I might add. I am also now envious of his iPad.
However, I do own a Kindle on which I can get answers to questions mere seconds later than my husband. Actually occasionally I beat him and once had the right answer. But I digress, which I can do better than most. I can play games on my Kindle and on my iPhone so the laptop would be free from these duties. My techie suggested a Dell which I got from Costco at a reasonable price and with excellent freebies like tech support and extended warrantee.
I was happy with my decision because I am devoted to Microsoft Word and I like a keyboard. I also want to be free from the roadblocks that have kept me from writing this column. I apologize for my lack of communication.
My techie came over to help me set up the new computer as well as cleanup my little Netbook which was very, very sick. I have to stop opening intriguing emails. I am not sure it is entirely well, even now. So my Dell is making me happy with its touch screen and Intel core i7 processor. I am learning all about Microsoft Word 2010 which is more interesting than frustrating and I solved a printing problem without making a call to my techie. I am very proud of myself.
So what absurd thoughts do I have to ramble about? For one, why with all this wonderful technology do we have to have wires up the wazoo? I have multiple adapters plugged into multiple outlets with multiple surge protectors. It is a nightmare to vacuum around all those wires. It makes me think of that Direct TV ad with the marionettes. You would think that there would be an easier way than having multiple inputs into multiple outlets. We never needed so many outlets. How is this progress? It makes me fear electrical fires especially since these electronic marvels are never truly off unless you unplug them.
My wireless printing problem, which I thought I had fixed, has reared its ugly head again. I can only print by attaching my printer to a USB port on my new laptop. It means walking upstairs to a room which is not heated or air conditioned like the rest of the house. So what? I can use the exercise and we do have a window air conditioner up there. I am taking enormous pleasure in being able to print again. Getting this new laptop is truly like getting a new toy, I have all sorts of things to figure out now.
Update: Since I initially wrote this column I have been spending too many hours on the phone with the Costco tech help as well as Dell. On two separate occasions I lost my mouse or whatever that handy little arrow is. As I have said, this laptop has a touch screen but I need that handy little arrow for times when my fingers simply cannot do the task. The good news is that I did get my arrow back, lost it again and then it returned like Scarlett O’Hara to Tara. It seems that if I use the touch screen the arrow gets insulted and runs and hides. Rebooting flushes the arrow out of its hiding place for a time anyway. I am becoming more familiar with the computer and have solved problems on my own which is not a bad thing. But the bottom line or the crux of my rambling is that a purchase of a computer from Costco with the free tech help is well worth it. At least that is how I fell currently since my pointed friend is clearly in sight. And just when I will have it all down pat, I’ll be updating my phone. Umm.
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Bellport was on Broadway. No, really.
Bellport, Long Island had a bit part in the
limited engagement play “Lucky Guy” by Nora Ephron. What I did not know but
learned from Linda Leuzzi’s article in The Long Island Advance is that Joe
Forbrich, a Bellport native, was an understudy for various roles in the
I went to see “Lucky Guy” with my brother. I love Nora Ephron’s writing and am a Tom Hank’s fan so it was inevitable that I’d get tickets. The plan was to get my favorite seats – Front Mezzanine. Contrary to popular opinion, matinees are not sold out first and I had tickets for two days hence.
The play is about Mike McAlary who had been a reporter and columnist at the New York Post, the Daily News and New York Newsday. He wrote during the late 80’s and early 90’s and was one of the last of a dying breed. His hero and sometime rival was legendary Jimmy Breslin which gives you the flavor of his writing. McAlary was portrayed as a hard drinking Irishman. It seems that all newspaper reporters were hard drinkers in those days. In fact, a bar was onstage for most of the play.
McAlary was fearless and had an uncanny way of getting blockbuster stories from very reliable sources, usually detectives. However, even when his sources were reliable they were sometimes flawed and he took a big hit by a technicality that nearly put his career “in the crapper,” to use the vernacular of the day. It was a very difficult time for him but he never stopped his search for a great New York story. I know we will never again experience such times in quite the same way.
The play chronicles McAlary’s manic moves from newspaper to newspaper. His writing became well-prized. So when McAlary began to be well paid for his tomes he moves his growing family way out “the island”. You guessed it- Bellport, Long Island where they could have a porch. This was done with the help of friend and attorney Eddie Hayes, played by Christopher McDonald, one of the delightful ensemble of characters onstage.
When McAlary is diagnosed with colon cancer, he is faced with many challenges. He gets an anonymous tip about some cops and a man named Abner Louima and is reluctant to follow through. McAlary’s wife, played by Maura Tierney, urges him to go but Mike counters that he can’t possibly because he is being interviewed by the Bellport Bugle. I think I was the only one who laughed. McAlary writes the story, of course, and wins a Pulitzer Prize just months before his death at age 41.
I wondered how many in the audience really remembered the Abner Louima incident. I remember it and subsequently, the loss of McAlary’s unique voice. What I do not remember is much of McAlary’s life in Bellport. Was the doctor he first consulted, as mentioned in the play, our beloved Edith Forsythe ? Did all of his children attend South Country Schools? Where are they now? How is his wife? Did he get interviewed in the Bellport Bugle? Does anyone have a copy? Mike McAlary died so young and we get news differently now. I cannot help but wonder what part he would play in today’s media mania.
Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the play. The loss of Nora Ephron made it even more poignant. Her writing always makes me laugh especially at myself.
After the curtain call where they received a standing ovation Hanks and company made an appeal for Broadway Cares a non-profit that helps not only Broadway people but helped many a Sandy victim. Hanks invited the audience to take pictures. My brother, Matthew Mauro, a Manhattan based professional photographer, took a few which we happily share here.
If you are comfortable sharing any local stories about Mike McAlary and his family’s time here in Bellport please send them to Bellport.com and we will update our story. Thank you.
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The English Language is not an
easy one and I am grateful that it is my native tongue. But the way the
language is rapidly evolving and deteriorating disturbs me. Where is George
Carlin when we need him? He was such a wordsmith and would have cleverly
said what I attempt here.
Nonetheless, please accept the following: much, much, much, much, much, much. These are for the people who insist on constantly writing and saying “So fun”. “So” is an adverb and does not modify a noun, which “fun” is. “So” can modify an adjective which “much” is in the phrase “so much fun”. Thanks for reading that. I feel much better.
I know many of you “couldn’t care less” about this error. Which leads me to the phrase “couldn’t care less”. When asked if texting is eroding our language, many people might say, “I could care less.” To which I say, often under my breath, “If you could care less than you, at least, care some, so please care more and correctly use the language. Don’t people even listen to themselves these days?
I wish I could aptly describe the look on the clerk’s face when I complimented him on correctly using, “No problem.” The clerk went out of his way to help me and I thanked him. He replied, “No problem.” So I ranted:
Oh thank you for using “No problem” correctly. Most people say “No problem” when they should say “You’re welcome.” I buy something. The clerk gives me the bagged item and I say, “Thank you.” He/she then says “No problem.” At this point I want to say, of course, it is no problem because you are doing what you are supposed to do and should be grateful for my business and correctly say, “You’re welcome.” I do not care that you are not the owner of the store. You are his/her representative and should be happy you are conducting business which pays your salary.
However, he/she couldn’t care less.
Am I really being unreasonable hoping for common courtesy? Bill Flanagan, a reviewer on my favorite show “Sunday Morning”, ranted about this very thing this past week. He is a pretty good wordsmith as well. Also, it was reported on National Public Radio that there is a movement to replace he/she with “ya” because “ya” is not gender specific. So “ya” couldn’t care less. What would happen with the old “ya” like” Whatta ya think?” The previous sentence was written “tongue in cheek.” Is this progress?
I also might point out that these idiosyncrasies are mostly verbal in nature. The written word is something else entirely. I am virtually apoplectic about my use of quotation marks in this very column. But there are not enough words to tackle how texting has eroded our written language. And I love texting. I almost bought a texting dictionary at AC Moore’s the other day. I am the quintessential impulse buyer. They put all those bins of nonsensical items, like a texting dictionary, so I would pick it up and hand it to he clerk to add to my purchase. I touched it, opened it and decided that it was a ridiculous item to own. I am a recovering impulse buyer. I text whole words and even capitalize and punctuate correctly when I text which makes me slow but happy. I must admit to occasionally using “u” instead of “you.”
I abhor misspellings on public property. The Swan Deli has “occassions” on its awning. Don’t awning companies use spell check? How many times do you see “Hero’s?” Hero’s bravery? I do not think you can buy that item at most delis like heroes. Apostrophes are problematic. Test them. Judge’s as “in judge’s term” or “three judges.” But I digress. I did say that I was going to stress verbal language.
However, I will end by writing: Could care less about it all? OK, no problem. Its been so fun. But I find that simply revoltin’.
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It was the center of town even before it was Wallens. It was a theatre where
vaudeville acts came to perform. For the forty years I have lived in the
area, it was the place to meet friends and shop.
When THE Mr. Wallen walked the aisles he carefully surveyed all around him. He had a presence about him that, to tell the truth, intimidated me and I don’t think I was alone in that.
I remember when he came to the register to talk to me, some 30 odd years ago and told me that my last check had bounced. I was mortified especially since I had overdraft checking. The bank accepted the responsibility and I demanded a letter totally exonerating me and apologizing to Mr. Wallen.
Armed with the letter, mounds of cash and a humble attitude I straightened the whole thing out that day. Mr. Wallen and I got along famously after that, though I still treated him quite reverently. He would tell me stories about the old days and I loved to hear them.
One day he told me how he climbed a ladder many times over to rescue children from the high school fire in 1963. Mr. Wallen had to coax one frightened girl to trust him to carry her to safety and he remembered how tightly she held onto him. Someone, unwittingly, had flicked a still lit cigarette into the backstage area of the auditorium. That flicker found costumes and props and flames grew into the worse school fire in Long Island history. Mr. Wallen repeated slowly as to underscore the import - “No child died that day. There were a few with burns but we got them all out.”
The look in his eye and the manner in which he spoke told me how this event shaped and reshaped many a life in this community. Everyone within 50 miles knew about the fire and now so did I. When THE Mr. Wallen grew ill and could no longer be in the store, he was missed. More than a little history died when he did. I really liked the picture they put up of him in the store. His amazing face still surveys all around him.
That was many years ago. In the years that followed I would run into Wallens sometimes twice a day. In the years I worked at the Sou’wester Bookshop I would get boxes of Earl Grey tea and fresh milk for Pat and the staff and pick up fresh meat and produce for my dinner.
I saw Glenn Close in the store once and I knew others who saw one or another of the celebrities that have passed through Bellport at one time or another. But it was not the famous that made Wallens special, it was the regulars. I would invariably meet one of my son’s teachers, any amount of friends and acquaintances and pause to talk. At any time you would see people hugging, making friendly inquiries about their children, pets, gardens, and churches- all while placing items you could only find in Wallens into their carts.
If you needed something special or merely wanted it - it was gotten for you. The butchers were so helpful and would make up special orders. I wanted sausage meat and because Wallens made its own sausage they would make it up for me without the casing. Chuck, sirloin or round were freshly ground. Fresh holiday turkeys. There never was any worry when you bought meat from Wallens. It was the best.
There is no Wallens anymore. What we did not know all these years is that it was hard, nearly impossible, to continue to be what Wallens is. While we shopped and visited and chatted over parsnips we were oblivious to the plight of a small market. There are only so many shelves. How can a store compete with Costco, Stop and Shop and Pathmark? It belonged to a gentler time when neighborhoods sustained their local businesses.
Bob and Bob Wallen Jr. are, to use a term from the past, the salt of the earth. I cannot tell you the hours, and I mean hours, I spent talking baseball with these two men. I would stop the flow of traffic with my cart and we would share the pain of being Mets fans. Father and son had different ideas about the team and I often agreed with them both. I will really miss those talks. It was hard for them to speak in the last days. The strain was evident on their faces. I know how that is too because my father closed a business after 53 years. Wallens was such a part of their day to day existence. What do they do now?
I will miss everyone who ever worked in the store. Once Camille Bloom ran outside after me because they found the zucchini I needed. She practically ran across the street waving a package of zucchini. That only happens in time warps. How many students manned those cash registers over the years -exceptional kids, polite, helpful and friendly. When Eric Lunde told me about looking forward to marching with the Brookhaven Fire Department at the Memorial Day Parade, I told him I’ll be watching. Eric’s head nodded in recognition as I hollered at him as he marched. Sometimes I think Andy Hardy must live in our neighborhood. I liked talking to Cortney Mancusi and Jessica Ferraro too. It always pleased me how these young people talked to us and not to each other as if we were invisible. I will miss them. But things change. I was once told that nothing is really gone if the person or thing stills lives in memory. With that in mind Wallens will be alive for a very long time.
Note: I referred to Wallen’s Market as Wallens sans apostrophe. I called it Wallens and to me that was the entity. So forgive my conceit and allow my poetic license.
A note from Peter Satterley:
I was probably an infant when my Mom first brought me into Wallen's Market. At age 14, Mike Wallen asked my Mom if I, [Peter] wanted a job there. When she came home from shopping and told me, I jumped on my bicycle and went to talk to Mike. He hired me and I've been there ever since. Mike was very good to me and a tremendous influence on my life. I learned so much from him, Bob Edwards and so many other long-timers having worked with them so many years. I have seen many changes over the 43 years I have been employed there. I have worked with so many wonderful people. Some for a short time and some for a long time along with so many high school / college kids over the years. Not to mention, all the wonderful customers.
I will miss Wallen's because it has felt like my home away from home. But most of all, I will miss all my Wallen's family; co-workers, vendors, and all the wonderful people I have met over the years.
Many have asked me what I will do next? I don't know what the future holds, but I know WHO holds the future so I will put my trust in God to lead me to what is next.
Thanks for the memories,
This note was displayed in and out of the store:
We would like to Thank EVERY customer who has passed through our doors.
Customers are a privilege, NOT a right, and you all had as much to do with
making Wallen’s Market the place it was as we did.
Again…. THANK YOU ALL !
Father and son wanted to mention the following members of the Wallen Market Family:
A note left on Wallen’s window:
There was a death in Bellport yesterday, January 28. Wallen’s IGA grocery store closed its doors forever, marking (as it says in the firmest of clichés) the end of an era.
But what an era! For decades Wallen’s was the place where you picked up your comestibles, greeted your neighbors, commented on the weather, and opined on our putative political leaders.
Shoppers ranged from Isabella Rossellini (she of the rusted bicycle) to Jack
and Dottie Ellsworth, whose desperately overflowing cart made you fear that
Armageddon was surely at hand. Trust me, Norman Rockwell would have been
right at home here recording the zeitgeist.
One typical incident to illustrate what we’ll miss: last week my wife asked the butcher if he would grind a particular piece of meat twice for her. “gladly,” he chuckled, “although I always grind it three times.” Try that request at one of your big box stores.
All day yesterday, just about everybody managed to stop in and say goodbye. It was said, so sad. It made me want to cry.
So I did.
"Wallen's Market" Comments...
2/29/2012, Marc Rauch wrote...
Thank you for including Angela Giannotti's column
henceforth in Bellport.com. Her piece on Wallen's is literate, honest,
thoughtful and touching. And she cares about the English language!
I am a relative newcomer to Bellport, since I started visiting in 1972, just 40 years ago, and have owned a home there only since 1990. These days I spend most of the year in Egypt. I did not have the same deep feeling of connection to Wallen's that many longtime, full-time residents of the village developed over the years, but Angela's essay certainly served to deepen my feelings of connection to Bellport.
Now, about that apostrophe...
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I’m annoyed. I don’t like some of the “conveniences” that
are being forced upon me. The one that I take most offense to is the Drug
Store. (The “Drug Store” does anyone call it that any more? I never really
thought about it before. Now we simply say Walgreen’s, CVS or the pharmacy
at some super supermarket. When we hear so much about drugs, whether it’s
cocaine, steroids or crystal meth, referring to the place we get our
prescriptions as the “Drug Store” seems very old-fashioned.)
But for my purposes I will use “Drug Store” as to not offend CVS. (Yes, I realize I did that.) I get phone calls from them, phone calls that tell me that my prescription needs renewal. I take offense to this because I know when I need to renew a prescription. I am not addled. Yes, I know that this is a service that is meant to be a help to me. Don’t help me. I don’t want to be on automatic renewal either. I do appreciate that “the drug store” calls the doctor to renew a prescription when needed. But when I’m about to go on a trip and need 14 pills and the bottle only has 9 left, I don’t want to hear the disembodied voice say that I have too many pills left for them to give me more. You don’t know me. Why have you insinuated yourself into my life? I never asked you in. Butt out. It is at these times that I miss Barry who was the real pharmacist at the real drug store. His place of business is now occupied by Rosie’s Revolution which is a pretty neat place. Barry would understand all the unique circumstances and help you out in a kind, unobtrusive, way. I miss Barry.
With every advance in technology we have to pay a price. Sometimes I just don’t want to. When I go to the rest room I want to determine the appropriate time to flush. Often the mechanism is not in sync with my needs. It annoys me. The sink dispenses water when it sees fit. The paper towels cascade down when it senses my dripping hands. At first I was amused by it all. Now, I’m annoyed. If they are determined to anticipate my every need then add: filling the soap dispenser to the list and taking out the overflowing trash. I am not fond of the having a bathroom matron either. I kept wishing that I could find her a better job.
Some things I don’t mind. I prefer EZ Pass to throwing coins. I like paying at the pump and enjoy filling the gas tank in my car. I play with the numbers sometimes to see if I can get exactly $30.00 worth. I enjoy the ease of zipping my debit card through those machines in the supermarkets and pushing buttons, even though the number of steps often differs. Then there are those little people that show up on the bottom of my TV screen like scary gremlins – but that’s another story.
Does anyone ever reach an age that abdicates the right to do things for ourselves? It is a testament to our abilities to be able to fend for ourselves. It took too long to get to that place of competence to give it up so easily. However, I must realize that I am naïve. Most of these practices are in place to help make or save money for businesses or government. I still hate it.
"I'm Annoyed" Comments...
10/30/2011, Peter Cisek wrote...
What a welcomed surprise to read your articles. You're
refreshing, thought provoking and an inspiration to our youth. I remember
when Greg was in my 5th grade class at Hampton Ave years ago and having your
support and expertise when teaching writing. You had come in numerous times
demonstrating writing and verbal techniques and the class was always excited
when they knew you were coming in. Seems to me you are still at it,
inspiring children and young adults. Keep up the great work.
10/31/2010, Wesley Springhorn wrote...
Ms. Giannotti: As a former english teacher, how do
feel about two very popular and frequently used items which really turn me
off. First, "No problem" used in place of a plain old fashion "Thank you".
Giving something, doing something, or acknowledging something does not
constitute a problem in any way, shape or form. Secondly, "awesome" to me
indicated a unique experience, sight to behold or anything that would make
you recoil sometimes in horror or surprise. What happened to "great,
marvelous, wonderful, etc.
10/21/2010, Margaret Realander wrote...
I feel the same way about the Drug Store vs. CVS pharmacy...the automatic refill calls and the denial of more pills to hold you over on your trip is aggravating. However, I think you are missing the great thing about the technology of automatic flush and hand towel dispenser. I really like these because I don't have to touch the handle and also because there many people who don't take the time to flush...what is more awful than going into a stall and finding that someone was too rude to take the time to flush? Ugh.
The automatic flush takes care of that. Also, I like not having to touch the button or handle to get paper towel to dry my hands. Call me a germophobe, but in my mind these are great things.
Now, to the really important observation. I have known you a long time and I think that Rich and Gregg have finally rubbed off on you. Please don't let this happen! You have caught "rain-cloud" itis!!
10/21/2010, Todd Evans wrote...
Just a quick note to tell you that I enjoyed reading all of your columns (and Rich's). I was reminded of our local LI treasure Lois Morton's song when I read your one about clutter. Thought you'd get a laugh.
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The Red Barn is no more. That is a very sad statement for anyone who frequented the Brookhaven landmark that graced Beaver Dam Road for over a hundred years. The barn, among other things, was the home of the Pumpkin Patch Players, a theatre group of neighbor kids who studied, rehearsed and performed plays, music and improvisations.
My son Gregg was one of those kids and so were so many of
his friends and neighbors – Katie, Andrew, Eric, Natalie, Matt, April,
Justin... I remember this group well - all born in the early 80’s. Debbie
Mayo, their mentor, would gather them together and gently fashion a
marvelous experience for actor and audience alike. Debbie is an actor and
professor at the Stony Brook University Drama department and lives across
the street from the barn. The Pumpkin Patch Players were all but perfect.
The barn’s stage was fashioned from wood and curtains that seemed to be from earlier times. The surroundings were more 50’s than 90’s. Seeing a performance was like being in a Disney movie, only better, much better. Everyone who sat on the boxes and makeshift chairs knew how special it was and how lucky our kids were to be part of magical Brookhaven Hamlet lore. And, like lots of joys in Brookhaven Hamlet, the experience was thanks to Betty Puleston. It was her barn after all. Betty had the kids perform every year at her birthday party at her house, a short walk from the barn. She would rock with laughter and her smiles would soften all the lines on her face. Betty loved the magic.
The first pictures of the South Country String Band were taken in front of the Red Barn. The band was an erstwhile group of musicians that included John DiNaro, Rich Fuller, me, my husband Rich and our son Gregg*. Gregg was about 12. We later performed there for a HOG fundraiser and joined our neighbors as the Hamlet Organic Garden was planted in the fields behind the wooden structure.
I’ve marveled for the 39 years I’ve lived in the Hamlet that a place like the barn existed. Not just the structure but all that it housed including Looms for weavers and pottery equipment. There were also priceless Puleston family mementoes. But the barn is no more. We really must remember how lucky we were to have had it. It was out of another time but we were able to partake of those simple times because it existed. Instead of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland it was our kids who put on a show. The same kids who are drama teachers, musicians, composers, sports talk radio hosts**and fine adults. It was one of the purest joys of those summers. Thanks Betty. Thanks Debbie. Thanks kids. Their memories and ours are now what’s left of the Red Barn.
* Shameless Plug : These musicians and many others still can be heard at the Acoustic Jam on alternate Fridays at the Community Center in Bellport.
** Shameless Parental Pride - Gregg is now a sports talk radio host.
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Because I have a new credit card, I thought I had to notify EZ Pass. Luckily I had just gotten a statement from them and I called. Think Bob Newhart.
Hi. I want to change the credit card on my EZ PASS account. I have my account number. My telephone number? OK. What do you mean, how could it be wrong, I’ve had that telephone number for 38 years? The area code? Oh. It used to be 516 but it’s been 631 for maybe 10 years now.
OK. The cars on the account? No, I don’t have that car anymore. Well, OK, I have the same brand and model but I drive a 2005 now not a 2001. No, I don’t remember the license number of the 2001. No, we have new plates on all the cars. The other two cars have not changed except for the license plates. Listen, don’t you need my mother’s maiden name? That hasn’t changed. It’s G R… Oh, you don’t have that. OK.
Well I’m not asking you for money, I’m giving you another card to take MY money. Can’t you just believe me? OK. Well, OK. Here are all the cars and their plate numbers. Well, only one has numbers; the other two have letters. No, I don’t own that car anymore….
Moral: Don’t call EZ Pass. Let EZ Pass call you when your credit card no longer works.
I love National Public Radio. I enjoy Car Talk, Whaddaknow?, A Prairie Home Companion, All Things Considered and Morning Edition, among others. I do my part at pledge time. But I have such a hard time dealing with the pledge drives. It’s like listening to commercial radio not WQXR but WALK. In an attempt to find out why WALK’s Walky Bear was at Brookhaven Hospital last week I tuned to WALK and heard 12 minutes of commercials. It was unbearable. That’s one of the best reasons to listen to National Public Radio.
However, there are the pledge drives. I am sensitive to such things, having been involved with non-profit organizations. I’m glad that I no longer have to worry about keeping an organization alive considering how terrible the economy is currently. But I’m still not a big fan of those begging sessions. I really feel for those people. So I thought that it would be great if there were a way to have the pledge drive end as soon as you make your pledge. Wouldn’t it be nice that once you call in your donation, regular programming would resume on your radio or television set. I think that pledges would increase.
We are all creatures of habit and if we enjoy programs on Public Radio or Television we don’t want anything to interrupt it. If we knew that Garrison Keillor would be able to finish one of his great tales of Lake Wobegon as soon as we make our donation, wouldn’t we head for the phone or computer? I’d much rather have that option than an umbrella or a coffee cup. Recently WSHU did a one day pledge drive because we, as listeners, complained of “concerto interruptus”? Unfortunately, the station did not make their goal so there will be another pledge day soon. However, if there were alternate (non-pledge) programming for those who made their donation, the money would be piling in.
Think about it. Somewhere in the world of cyberspace there must be someone, probably a 10 year old, who could figure out how to make this happen. Maybe that little girl who makes those slide shows for that Microsoft 7 ad, or one of those stock trading babies? Someone can do this. Someone please try, quickly before the Peter, Paul and Mary retrospective on Channel 13. I’ll be the first to pledge.
I recently wrote a column about groups. It showed how important the individual becomes to the whole. One of the groups was a Tuesday morning compilation of all sorts. Many of these individuals met nearly every day and had many no-holds-barred conversations. It was so stimulating that I could not help but think that it rivaled those at the Algonquin Hotel with the Marx Brothers and Benchley. By that reference if nothing else, you can tell that we are of a certain age. We may struggle with Tweeting but can still finish the New York Times crossword puzzle, in ink.
One of us has left us and we don’t like it one bit. Fletcher Bedell died on September 16th. He and his family have been part of Bellport FOREVER. It didn’t matter how long you knew Fletcher to appreciate his good humor, intellect and love of life. Even when he made you the recipient of his pranks, you loved him for it. Fletcher shared his struggles with cancer in a way that you never believed it would get the better of him. He was like John Wayne only with a better smile and a glint in his eye that rivaled no other. He would travel on his motorcycle down to Florida or cross country with Stella, bringing back tales of adventure. He loved history. Fletcher was descended from the Huguenots, we learned one morning which opened up another lively discussion. There are many of our little group and many in Bellport that have shared stories about Fletcher Bedell. May we always remember the laughter. Thanks Fletch.
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Last week my pocketbook was taken. It was hard to imagine
it happening because I was at a funeral. However, I could not believe
otherwise because my bag was not under the votive candles at the church
where I put it. It was nowhere to be found.
The deacon even asked the bereaved at the cemetery if anyone had picked up a purse in the church by mistake. I was grateful he asked, but I also felt terrible. What a thing to ask the family gathering as they said their last goodbyes. The loss of my wallet was annoying but not horrible.
Unfortunately, my car keys were in the side pocket. Friends drove me home to get my spare keys and my husband drove me back to the church. The church secretary scoured the grounds as I drove around the village and checked bushes and trash cans. Nothing. It was gone.
While I was already planning my phone calls to credit card companies, my husband, in his quiet yet emphatic manner, explained how the loss of my keys was far worse than replacing the plastic. The car keys opened not only my car, but with a push of a button, the garage entrance to my house. My house, all its contents and the people in it, were now in real danger. I had even provided the getaway car. Recent tragedy in Bellport only served to emphasize this threat. We had to call the police and the officer was very sympathetic. It was hard to say that the bag was taken at a funeral mass. It was still so difficult to fathom. He explained that detectives would be calling because a felony was committed.
It was true that the harder the times, the greater the risks. We could no longer leave the Volvo in its usual place in the driveway. So we secured the car out of sight, changed the front door lock, and checked the locks on the downstairs windows. Even house alarms did not quell our fears.
We had no choice. We must replace all the locks in the car. I called Volvo, knowing full well that it wasn’t going to be cheap. It cost $400 to replace a transmitter key not too long ago. I thought I was ready for the hit, but when the service manager came back with a total of $1600 for the entire job, I groaned. Impossible ! No, labor alone is $700 because they have to dismantle the steering column. A constantly rattling steering wheel was in my future, I just knew it. But, there was no alternative. The dealership was able to get the parts in a day and we had an appointment for late Friday morning. Bravo to Volvo!
There was still much to do and I was so angry with myself. If only I were organized and had all the numbers at hand. Alas, I was not. Nevertheless, the minutia of driving to the Motor Vehicle Bureau without a license to get a replacement was better than I thought. There was no replacement fee, which frankly, surprised me. I did keep my old photo because it was one of the three in my life that I did not mind. (My column photo isn’t one of the remaining two, if you were wondering.) I was out in less than a half hour with a temporary license.
I then remembered that I would often carry a blank check, in case I couldn’t use the debit card. So I opened a new account and notified my direct deposit agencies. Then slowly, one by one, the automatic payments on my debit card came to mind - E Z Pass, gym memberships, Netflix. But, it’s almost useless to notify them until I have the new card. After 5 working days, I received a debit card, as promised. However, they also informed me that my new pin number would take an additional 3 to 5 days. I use my debit card constantly. I don’t use cash for anything over ten dollars. It’s a real handicap for a debit-holic like me. How can I food shop? What are the real banking hours anyway? How much do I really need in cash??? Luckily, I bank in Bellport and my friendly neighborhood banker helped me out. Bless her.
My huge checklist of necessary chores attached to losing a purse was getting smaller. The car locks would be changed by Friday afternoon, and we would soon feel safe again. All of the stuff I carry in my car found temporary homes and we were ready to head out to Riverhead. Then the phone rang. I had stopped hoping, too much time had passed. My purse was gone forever.
My purse was found. It was taken by mistake not stolen. I had put it under the candles but not far enough away from the grandchildren’s many bags, bottles and toys. An adult, minding four very young children, gathered everything in sight and secured it in their out-of-town car. There was no reason to even think of the items until it was time to unpack. Late Thursday night an unfamiliar pocketbook was unearthed in New Jersey.
What a relief! What timing! In a matter of minutes we would have been off to spend $1,600 on new locks. Dare I say miracle? The bag was over-nighted to me. I didn’t have a blank check in it, after all. I did have club memberships, health insurance cards and important addresses in it that I had not yet missed. It was all there and I am so grateful. I still feel sorry for adding stress to anyone at the funeral. I’m grateful, I have learned a lesson and I’m going to pass it on.
Go directly to your pocketbooks (or wallets, for any man still reading this column). Take out all the cards, credit, debit or business and scan and copy them on both sides. Make sure that you can read all the numbers including the phone numbers necessary to notify the companies. Do the same with your license. Add this info to the names and account numbers of services such as EZ Pass, in order to expedite notifications. Do a general wallet cleaning, securing important phone numbers from old grocery lists.
And lastly – believe first that a mistake was made, before you believe a crime was committed. I like being an optimist, not naïve but optimistic. So long Buckaroos. Remember: Be prepared! The aggravation you save, may be your own.
"My Absence Of Thought" Comments...
7/8/2009, Ginny McNulty wrote...
Hey Angie- Your article reminded me of when you locked both your keys and
son in the car! I loved reading your article, it was like we were sitting in
the faculty room and you were telling us the story.
7/1/2009, John Hannon wrote...
Angela- What a wonderful surprise to have the
opportunity to read your "Ramblings." I especially loved the one on grammar
and use of words. Takes me back to my days proof reading IRS course
materials as a project manager. Look forward to read your continued
"Ramblings." Hi to Rich!
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I belong to several groups. Not one of them is organized
to the point of having official anybodies. I tend to think that is one of
the reasons the groups run so well. Often, when people are elected, they
feel that they have power of some sort or other. On the other hand
constituents often feel that they, by virtue of their vote, have some power
over the person elected. There is nothing new there.
Two of my groups are fiber related. The biggest decision I must make is about which yarn or what fabric shall I use to create something. But so much more is decided while we knit or quilt. Three years ago two of us were dealing with breast cancer diagnoses and the distraction of cutting up beautiful pieces of fabric and sewing them back together to make quilts made the process easier. Crocheting while waiting for a radiation treatment is easier than being alone with your thoughts.
Each life of the twenty or so women that gather weekly have had to deal with something - illness, deaths, unemployment, concerns about a husband or children, and parents. Young women brought their children when they were off from school; another brought her 90 year old mother-in-law who put us all to shame with her skills and vitality. Creating something with other people was often more supportive than talking. If someone needs to talk there are enough people in the room to select a sympathetic ear. If not, stitching away at something is a welcomed distraction.
My friend Janet and I went to a quilting class given at the Henrietta Acampora Cottage in Blue Point. The class grew into a quilt group. I had been concerned that I did not have the skills to keep up with the avid quilters but that soon dissipated. Each member was generous with her time and talent and I soon felt comfortable enough to make horrendous mistakes and ask for help. This same generosity was true of a Friday afternoon group that meets at the Brookhaven Library. The added bonus to this group is anyone who wants to work on any project, or simply wants to try some handwork, is welcome on any Friday afternoon. Members knit, weave, crochet, quilt, do blackwork – which dates back to Catherine of Aragon and mentioned by Chaucer. In addition, members have made jewelry, dolls, teddy bears, dragons and other fanciful creatures. I even tried Igolochkoy or punch needle embroidery. The willingness to teach and learn makes it a most pleasurable afternoon. Here, as well, the ages of the women vary, a fact that does not matter one bit.
How does a group evolve? A person goes out for a morning cup of coffee. He or she meets others out for a bagel or danish. At first, pleasantries are exchanged and others join in. After a few weeks the conversations range from the esoteric to the banal but always entertaining. Years go by and a few people grow into an eclectic group of interesting men and women that discuss, laugh, provoke, tease and enlighten. I enjoy being part of them once a week.
With the technology of today any person can spend days and even weeks without seeing another person. How are social skills learned if you are constantly blogging, or twittering? How can you ascertain if a person is really “fine” without looking at them? Where are the nuances?
A common interest binds people together even if initially it was only a quest for a good cup of java. Classmates, fellow employees, musicians, retirees, widows, church members, wood carvers and pilots can meet to talk about the connection between them. Some experience, good or bad, connects them and they become aware of each other. The best time to kick yourself out the door is when you really feel like pulling the covers over your head. Human beings are social animals and really need more than a tweet to keep going. Maybe knowing this is a blessing of the old – Ah, finally a benefit to growing older!
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I like movies. I’m a movie junkie. When I was little, my Aunt
Rose and I would go to the Radio City Music Hall about once a month, or
every time there was a new movie. The Music Hall was a regular movie theatre
that just happened to also have a stage show complete with Rockettes. I
watched “To Kill a Mockingbird” from the front row at Radio City. It made
Gregory Peck look even more spectacular. Sometimes my aunt and I would catch
another show at the Criterion or even the Roxy. We saw “Anastasia” with
Ingrid Bergman at the Roxy before they dismantled it.
Ever so often in those days, “Gone with the Wind” would be re-released to some theatre in the city. I saw it three times before I realized what Rhett had in mind when he carried Scarlett up those magnificent stairs. I was rather naïve in those days. We did not have movie ratings then other than those put out by the Catholic Church. I remember that “Baby Doll” was condemned. I don’t remember much else about that list.
When we weren’t going to movies, Aunt Rose and I would watch movies in her room. She had one of the first TV remotes. It was about the size of a bar of soap with a thumb-sized lever that “cachunked” when you hit it. It only changed channels and went in a clockwise direction. If you wanted channel 2 and you were watching channel 4 you had to go through all the other channels, but we had so few channels then. It took years before a movie that you saw in the movie houses made it to “The Million Dollar Movie” on Channel 9. Then, you were able to see it every night that week at 7:30 PM. I learned all the words of the songs and some of the dance routines from “Yankee Doodle Dandy” that way. George M. Cohan would have been proud.
Aunt Rose died in 1981. I can’t even imagine what she would have thought about movies today. I know she would lament the passing of the real ”Movie Stars” like Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Gregory Peck. I mourn them still.
I know that she would not approve of three-quarters of what is made today, but my Aunt Rose would have loved the accessibility of movies we enjoy now. Netflix would have been her favorite as it is mine. The first movie I ordered after I subscribed was “Marty” with Ernest Borgnine. “So whattaya wanna do, Ange?” is such a classic line especially if you are an “Ange.”
With Netflix, and all the movie channels, it’s easy to catch a good new movie or a favorite oldie. But, I especially love it when I find a sleeper, or a small market film that never made it to Suffolk. Those seem to be the most worthwhile. Now, with the new Netflix feature “Watch Instantly,” I can put a film into my instant “queue” and through the magic of a box called Roku, have it on my screen in seconds. Currently you need yet another box to use this feature but I found one for under $100 and I hooked it up myself. For those who don’t know me, that’s fairly astounding. My husband, Rich, usually gets those tasks, but he was happy to let me set it up. Unfortunately, not all movies are available instantly, but it is still worth it. Amazon.com is in the process of making all movies available to us instantly. However, we will be charged per movie unlike Netflix’s monthly plans.
Movies are a great diversion for me as is baseball, specifically Mets baseball. We all have our passions and hobbies and are fiercely devoted to them. That is a good thing. Our creativity needs as much exercise as our bodies. Try watching a great movie, listening to a ball game, and knitting something at the same time. It sure makes me happy.
P.S. I’ll occasionally pass on some movie titles that I found most enjoyable. Check out: “Tea with Mussolini”, “The Mighty”, “Simon Birch”, “Dress Code” also titled “Bruno”. “Dress Code” was made on Long Island complete with Gary Sinese as a Suffolk County cop. Let me know what you think.
6/3/2009, Nancy Benardello wrote...
Hey Angela, love your column. When we were kids, my
sisters and I waited every year for the week of Yankee Doodle Dandy on
Million Dollar Movie. We also learned much of the dialogue and every song
and dance from that movie and frequently performed them! Thanks for bringing
back that memory!
5/3/2009, Marilyn Supon wrote...
My all time favorite movie is Yankee Doodle Dandy. I,
too, learned every line from watching Million Dollar Movie. I still can't
walk down a long staircase without a little bounce in my step, as I am
always reminded of Jimmy Cagney dancing down those stairs in the White House
at the end of the movie.
4/27/2009, Donna Gaspari wrote...
Loved both columns--the movie rambling and
particularly the clutter column. Bravo. You brought both tears of laughter
and reminiscence to my eyes and want to get a hard copy of that one in
particular. My brother NEEDS to read it for many reasons. Thanks, Ange. Keep
4/26/2009, Toby Walker wrote...
Jason Robards in 'A Thousand Clowns' did it for me.
Give me a flick where the dialog and acting take precedent over everything
else and I'm a happy camper. Throw in some snack food and I'm in for the
Real nice Angela.
4/22/2009, Kate Hines wrote...
Movies are great! I can recall seeing "The Sound Of
Music" with my friend Arleen back when it only cost $0.50 with our High
School G.O. card! We'd go in for the first show and stay at least three
Have enjoyed your columns. Keep up the good work!
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I’m a “clutterer”, or should I say I am one who clutters since
clutterer sounds much better than it looks. I’m come from a long line of
clut… messy people. My favorite cleaning lady defined clutter as messy not
dirty. I take great solace in that.
My husband Rich and I lived on Bay Road in Brookhaven for 20 years. I had stacks of stuff. Things I could not bear to throw away. The main problem comes from not gleaning the wheat from the chaff, at least, occasionally. The house on Bay Road was eccentric, old, had a dirt basement and no closets or attic. Because of the layout we couldn’t even buy stuff hiding furniture. So I had “piles” everywhere.
When we moved to a much larger house on Prairie Lane, my friends and relatives started making predictions as to how long it would take for me to get those dreaded piles. It has been 13 years since those predictions and I beat them but things are piling up lately,.
I come from a long line of stuff keepers. I grew up in Corona, Queens in the house my father moved in as an infant in 1910, and died there in 1983. My father had carefully filled a four car garage so well, that it was a feat to drive his 1969 Ford Galaxy into its measured spot. This was the same garage that his father filled. My grandfather at least had a discerning eye when it came to kept treasures. Unfortunately, someone long before even my father was grown, tossed out all those glass items. After all, to them, Tiffany was only the name of a neighborhood factory. I think that story marked at least two generations.
I read a self-help book on clutter which, in short, expounds that is ALL clutterers have deep psychological reasons for holding on to stuff. I did clean out the basement after reading it. But for some reason the last chapter of this book was devoted to the importance of colon cleansing; so I lost my initiative.
Someone once told me that filing cabinets are really not useful if you don’t regularly reorganize them. Most holding boxes and, my personal favorite, totes of every shape and size, are filled with unnecessary items. Recently I went through a file cabinet drawer and found the physicians’ lists from at least two health insurances ago. I started gleaning and filling bags of recycled paper. It reminded me of cleaning out the house in Corona after my mother died. My brothers and I had to go through over 80 years and two generations of piles. I was on one of my paper recycling crusades and had been tearing out pages from an old spiral notebook when I found it. I started to cry.
On a page scrawled in my mother’s distinctive handwriting was a note to us. My brothers and I had been at each others’ throats over dealing with all you have to do when your parents die. But somehow in the middle of an old spiral notebook, our mother pleaded with us not to fight because it would have broken “Daddy’s” heart. She wrote that she was ready to join him and that we shouldn't feel too bad about her leaving.
How ?… when?… why?… who knows?…My brothers were as awestruck as I was, and as good “watch out for the bad omens” Italians, decided not to discuss it. Luckily I felt that notebook had too many clean pages to throw away.
Moral: Piles can be more than a pain in the ass.
2/20/2011, Marilyn Beard wrote...
Hi Angela, Have you read Homer and Langley? Clutter gone too far....sad and semi-true.
5/6/2009, Bianca Merante wrote...
Love the "clutter story" ....this is great stuff ..
keep it coming!!
3/25/2009, Marilyn Supon wrote...
Way to go, Angela! You give voice all the retired
English teachers out there. We needed the representation.
3/20/2009, Linda Davis wrote...
I loved Angela's column.
Would like to read more.
3/18/2009, Alice McLerran wrote...
I am much taken with this new voice now part of the website. I enjoyed the debut column, and look forward to more!
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"Thoughts, Ramblings & Other Absurdities" Column Comments...
2/29/2012, Bob Stevenson Wrote...
I loved reading your remedial words on incorrect
Next time you get into it please ask people to STOP using the phrase you even hear in the media on a too regular basis.....
Specifically, that someone "went missing"..... that is SOOOOO bad. And how about the phrase " ...... it is so fun." What happened to the word much? Guess it went missing.