Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Not Fade Away

'48 Cadillac
What's so hot?
For one:
Rather turn it
than not.

Senior this,
senior that.
yoga, yogurt
for a
tummy, flat.

Discount tickets
on the train,
Medicare prices
to ease the pains.
aspirin mornings,
Lipitor nights,
keeping away
the heart attack.

Well, Bo Diddley
(Buddy Holly too),
you was right;

my love's
still bigger
than a Cadillac.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Travels With My Friend's Aunts

Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist for “The Doors,” whose more famous member was Jim Morrison, passed away recently, and I was reminded of one dangerous summer, during which “The Doors” hit the top of the charts.

Growing up, my best friend and I lived in apartments at opposite ends of a long corridor. His mother suffered from a long illness and passed away when we were both thirteen. My friend had several aunts, his mother’s sisters, who tried to spoil him and his brother rotten. It didn’t work. I mean the rotten part. Spoiled worked pretty well, and I, by extension, loved being spoiled right along with them.

Take his Aunt Ruth, whose boyfriend had access to a box at Yankee Stadium right behind home plate. In the early 60’s, we rocked in those seats. Ruth ( a babe, but no relation to The Babe), ignored  all of my friend’s father’s instructions, and must have spent a hundred dollars, real ones in those days, on everything being vended in the aisles, except the beer. And that was before the first pitch. The name on the metal sign in the box read “Dan Topping,” the principal owner.

And, how about Aunt Helen, who lived on Park Avenue and invited a group of our friends to spend some time at her house on Cox’s Curve Lane in Westhampton Beach. She also had her husband, Alfred, take us on an excursion to the grass courts and beach club at Westchester Country Club, where he wore a funny look on his face when he took a look at the bill we’d run up at various snack bars.

Or, Aunt Mary, married to Uncle Jack, who lived in a gracious apartment building near us. She gave us access to her son’s Corvair, one of those engine-in-the-back things with push button drive, which Detroit made in order reinvigorate the Japanese economy. Come to think of it, maybe that was actually payback for something, maybe like the time we partied in, and totally trashed their cabana at Sun & Surf Beach Club in Atlantic Beach. After that foray into delinquency, a group of us decided to run away from home, rather than face the music as composed by Uncle Jack. He just didn’t get it at all.

Dan Topping Autograph
Our pièce de résistance of sorts involved Mary and Jack’s apartment, in which my friend was living during the summer of 1967 after our first freshman year at college (some of us liked it so much, we did it again). Our friends began meeting there before going out, and then we just forgot to go out, or home, for that matter. Basically, we moved in, perhaps forgetting about Uncle Jack under the influence of the kind of forgetting-related habits we were acquiring at the time.

Towards the end of our stay, on August 12, 1967 to be exact, The Doors, whose album we had been treating our new neighbors to at high volume all summer, played the stadium at The West Side Tennis Club, which was close by, and we were there. As in really close there, since most of us were members of that otherwise august place and had developed advanced free-concert attendance skills. We sat on the lawn right in front of the stage.

The Doors came on and played their entire first album, including a perfect rendition of their huge hit, “Light My Fire.” We loved every minute of it, but the crowd seemed very subdued, impatient. When Jim Morrison slowly, morosely as only he could, sang the words of what was to be the last tune of their set, “This Is The End,” the stadium erupted in loud, prolonged applause.

They were happy: couldn’t wait for our boys to get off the stage. What were they thinking?

The crowd had really come to hear two local boys from Forest Hills High School, who had begun singing doo-wop on corners not too far away from the stadium: Paul Simon & Art Garfunkle, whose melodic duets soon doused the remaining embers from The Doors' set. We stayed until the concert's real end.

Those were good days, despite our being somewhat bad boys.

My friend’s name was Kurt Sanger, who died in 1989. He would have been 65 on June 2, seventeen
Aunt Mary and Uncle Jack's
days before me. I miss him and always think about him each year around this time.

I’d like to think that he’s having a ball somewhere with his aunts right now, and handing the bill to Ruth, Helen, Mary, or, even better, Uncle Jack.

You can read more about the 1967 Simon & Garfunkle/Doors concert at:

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Who Wants Yesterday's Papers?

It’s pouring at a slant and the raindrops on my Warby Parkers are making it impossible for me to see the small zipper that’s supposed to secure the side window of my Jeep. I take off the glasses and hurl them on the front seat and just then it occurs to me that I’m not going anywhere in this vehicle, because I’ve left the key home. I drove another vehicle, the one assigned to my daughter, to this parking lot in town this morning to leave for her when she gets off the train in Rye.

The slashing rain means it must be publication and delivery day. The usual delivery vehicle of preference will not help, so I reach for my phone to see if my wife can bring a key.

But, I left my phone home as well.

So, I go to the office to call, but, of course, the office keys are home with the you know what key. I ask to use the phone in the law office next door and realize that I actually do not know my own daughter's cell phone number; only my iPhone knows that number and it is home. I leave a message on my wife’s, the DG's, phone.

When in doubt, or just having a bad morning, might as well get a really good breakfast. This seldom means a really healthy breakfast, but one must indulge when the weather, your memory, and your rides let you down. So, over easy, bacon, home fries, and, wheat toast.

Things are beginning to look up, except at meal’s end I realize that I have only a few dollars in my pocket, having given most of my cash to my daughter last evening on the corner of Fifty-Third and First. That was just after parking the car in the wrong (expensive) garage, attending a party, having to leave early due to the DG not feeling well, sitting in the waiting room at Greenwich Hospital Emergency Room, leaving because the wait was too long (we later learned she was fine), waking up groggy and leaving my…well, you already know that part.

The ladies behind the counter at Poppy’s look dubious when I tell them of my cash shortage, like they’ve heard this one a million times before. I’m the Editor of the paper, I begin to explain, reaching for the new edition to show my name, except it isn’t there, because it’s pouring and the Jeep won’t move, and I don’t have keys and I left my phone home. And the ladies think I’m kind of dopey, and they may have something there.

The nice new law intern lets me make another call, and my understanding wife ( the DG has been through many of my off-days), promises to bring a Jeep key and tell my daughter where I’ve left her car key.

People around town often ask me about the future of print. They mean printed newspapers. The funny thing about print is that it really means papers delivered by truck, Jeep, car, foot, hand, maybe even bicycle still in some heavenly places. Except that, some days it’s really not that funny and saying that newspapers are “all dried up” couldn’t be further from the truth. Wet newsprint is nobody’s idea of fun; it’s hard to wash it out of your khakis and rain slicker, to say nothing of your hands.

People may be getting tired of my telling the story of how my first job at age thirteen was stacking and folding papers at Jack’s newsstand at the hyper-busy corner of Continental Avenue and Queens Boulevard; but I tell it anyway. By nine or ten o’clock on Saturday night, when the crowds were leaving both the Midway and Forest Hills movie theatres, my hands would be black with Sunday “News,”  “Times,”  “Trib,”  “Journal-American,”  “World Telegram & Sun,” and “Long Island Press," and I could never put the sections together fast enough for Jack or all those outreaching hands. All of those papers, but two, are long gone, but the print’s still on my hands: shades of Red Smith, Murray Kempton, Russell Baker, and all those sports section batting averages embedded under the skin.

As it happened, my day turned much better, I got that Jeep key, and later walked around town to deliver a few more papers, holding them under my slicker to keep them dry.

This morning, the rain is finally gone, I could see blue from my pillow, and got up, went downstairs to open the door and grabbed today’s paper before putting on the coffee.