Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just Call Me Poppy. . .

"THE Fedora'
Well I was about to say "It's about time!", as nothing seemed to be happening when I pecked at the keyboard, hardly a newsworthy phenomenon, when, well, you've got the picture - AND the copy.
        Today is my husband's birthday - an event grandly feted at the reunion we've just labored through.  Of course telephonic and mailed best wishes poured in all day along with the occasional wry and touching Irish Blessing.  I was among the wishers and 'blessers', to be sure but it occurred to me that
1)  You already know the 'shaman'
2)  I've done 'imortant birthdays' (p/s see august 2011) and
3)  I've never written about my DAD!
        We'll not be able to say that tomorrow.  Joe's birthday was September 1.  Our fourth child, Declan, was born August 31 and I really think Daddy felt slighted that I had dared go into labor on what was most surely HIS appointed day.  No matter.  He brought the 'big broyjher and sisters' to the hospital and joined in the festivities - all the while referring to the infant as "Joey".  (Dad was a quiet kind of fellow but subtlety was a LONG suit.)  Might as well begin at the beginning with 'Joe-the-suiter'.
        Greenpoint, our Brooklyn 'hood, was not the haven of the recherche that I'm told it has become today.  Rather, it was on the 'wrong side' of the "Lake".  A 'point', yes; green, no.  more of a smoky, slate gray.  Riverside, yes;  Manhattan loomed like a Lego cityscape in clear view from OUR side.  In fact, waterway access defined Greenpoint's existence and provided adventure-on-the-docks for athletic little shavers like Joe - tall, lean, fast - a super athlete.  "Leap-Pile" was a favorite.  the game involved jumping from one tarred, pigeon=flecked sunken piling to the next.  The winner was the guy with the best time.  Joe held the record, finally besting good friend Benny-the-Bat one fine day.  That he broke a front tooth, did a lousy job of attempting to glue it back on and didn't get it past his Mom, caused a 'luster loss' for the activity but you could always get a bunch of bored fellas together for a run or two.
        Joe was the eldest of four - only one sister - so his was a 'birthright' pace-setter role.  A devil on skates, metal roller AND ice - his rep was most firmly established an d widely-known in stick ball.  The family (as well as the family of the gal he would woo/pursue) lived on Diamond Street.  Honest.  The big games were played on the last segment of the street which terminated - unfortunately for the diocese - in the huge Gothic, gargoyled magnificence of St. Stanislaus Kostka roman Catholic Church.  (Some might have called it the far center field wall but it was definitely a church.  Stained-glass windows, twenty to thirty feet by roughly fifteen feet indented the sand castle-like mammoth cathedral walls at intervals, beautifully depicting biblical business or stellar, haloed luminaries.  So when Joe hit a homer, which would be the distance of a city block (four sewers; thirty row houses; as many vehicular chrome and white-walled hunks of metal - pick your metaphor), "Holy S___!" was NOT an unusual vocal response/shout of athletic prowess, it SOMEtimes acknowledged yet another 'stained-glass' fatality. 
        He had a vegetable cart business before and after school.  I don't recall whether it had a name but it certainly provided the opportunity for the "Joe and Julie romance story of the times" to begin, flourish and culminate.  Mom was SO impressed with Dad's looks, athleticism and dancing prowess, that ere long, much to Grandma's disapproval, they were an 'item'.
        I COULD have touched that photo up but it was TOO much a part of the love affair.  You see, in the early thirties, you could go to the top of the Empire State Building (a serious date), have a four shot strip of pictures taken in thirty seconds AND record a SONG which, after an hour or so, was presented to you as a genuine 78, playable at home.  Forever.  And the ENTIRE package was yours for a mere FORTY CENTS!
        Having WALKED across the bridge to 'the city' done the lickety-split picture segment of the deal, Joe then gave us his a Capella, croon-tune supreme, "Old Shanty Town":
It was just an old shanty
In 'Old Shanty Town'.
The roof is so slanty
It touches the ground
In an old tumbled down shack
By an old railroad track
Like a millionaire's mansion
Keeps calling me  back.
I'[d give up a palace
If I were a king.
It's more than a palace
It's my evry-thing.
There's a queen waiting there
In a silvery crown,
In a shanty
In old shanty town.
And so it went - many times for us kids when Dad was in a show biz mood.  Which was often - and he was GOOD. 
        You see, after a proper courtship (On one date, they walked across the bridge - in February - sharing a five cent "O Henry's" bar, paid twenty five cents each to get into the Imperial Thee-ay-ter to climb tnhbe three flights of MARBLE steps and sit in the loge section and watch a movie.  Stella (Grandma-who-did-not-like-the-Julie-business) had put mothballs in her 'Joey's' winter coat pocket in the off season.  Joe was not aware of Mom's prophylactic busy-ness, took his coat off in the dark thee-ay-ter, and, while grandly folding it over his super-long arm, inadvertently lifted it high enough in the air so that its pockets gave up the forty or so moth balls which 'clink-lock-hopped' down each of the flights of marble steps.  THIS 'gauche' misadventure was perfectly timed between the Newsreel and the 'Main Feature'.  (I always figured Stella was singing "Who's Sorry Now" THAT night.)
        Julie loved it.  Julie loved Joe.  And was SO excited to show off his high school graduation picture.  She would take his yearbook to work with her (she never had the opportunity of an education beyond eighth grade, having to go to work in a sewing sweatshop to 'help out' at home) and pass it around d to the girls - all proudly garbed in their white, starched uniform dresses provided by the employer - and point to his picture.  The class editor, responsible for captions placed under said head shots, had directed the phrase, "Did You Ever See A Dream Walking?" under Joe's.  Mom naturally (and proudly) pointed the caption out because it obviously referred to his looks.  Turns out what with sports, tap dancing around, selling veggies pre and post school, Joe did a fair share of napping during class.  Oops.
        Their whirlwind pre-nups have me catching my breath - and thinking of those naps.  So rest up, friends, because Joe-on-his-way-to-being-"Poppy" will have you hoppin' like a mothball.  Tomorrow.
Later, Lorane. . .
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