Alexis and I stopped at the White Castles at 59thand Cicero. There’s nothing like two sliders smothered in mustard to take away the sorrow of once again leaving your daughter in the The Big Apple. It’s a tradition. Go to New York. Hang out with the daughter and her boyfriend, maybe visit my sister and her family, fly home, get two sliders apiece with fries and a heavily-carbonated Diet Coke.
Our last two days in New York were filled with a lot of stuff. I woke up at 6am on Saturday morning in my daughter’s apartment and laid in bed for two whole hours trying not to wake everybody up. At eight, I walked down to the grocery store on Broadway and Crescent. I picked up eggs, potatoes, bacon, orange juice, bread and an amazing cantaloupe and walked back to the apartment.
By that time, Alexis, Jeanie and Daniel were waking up. We had been to the Yankees-Mets game the night before, so you can understand how we were all a little slow. I’d like to be slow once in a while in the morning, but I am old and I am happy. My eyes open before 6sm no matter what time I go to bed. There’s only so much life left. I want to live it. Besides, I was waking up in Queens, New York, and that is always exciting.
I prepared breakfast for everyone. Then we called an uber to the Woodside train station. This is the big station closest to their apartment. It’s also the big station closest to that nasty airport I was just telling the three or four of you about. I can’t say its name or it’ll give me anxiety. I’ve been in Greyhound stations all over America. Not a one is as bad as LaGuardia Airport in the Queens section of New York City.
We boarded the Long Island Railroad to Huntington. It’s really a peaceful ride. I’ve done it a bunch of times now and every time it comes down to driving out to my sister’s house or taking the train, I opt for railroad every time. The only thing is that the conductors aren’t very nice, not like on the South Shore trains along the bottom of Lake Michigan. In Indiana, it’s as if the conductors are longing for you to talk to them, to notice them. On the LIRR, they get annoyed.
“When is the Huntington station? Is it before or after Syosset?”
“It’s on the wall right there,” the conductor points. “Huntington is the end of the line. It says right there.”
Sorry to bother you. My sister picked the four of us up. She drives an SUV the size of a small house. You could never get claustrophobic in it but you could get seasick. It drives like a boat.
Speaking of boats, when we pulled up to my sister’s house, nephew Alexis was standing on his boat in the driveway. He had just taken it out into the Sound. That’s what people on Long Island are into – boats. Alex explained to me that he had to rinse down the hull and engine and everything else with fresh water.
“If you leave just a little salt, it’ll eat away the hull in no time,” Alex explains. This makes sense. If you leave the window open all night in Long Island, you wake up feeling salty. It’s as if someone turned on a fan, put some salt in front of it and turned it on “high.” Lick your forearm and you taste movie popcorn.
Everyone went in the house. I stayed out in the driveway talking to my nephew. This happened leisurely. We talked about the boat and the waves and the best time of day to be on the Sound. We talked for a good half hour. This made me feel good. One of the few disappointments in this life of local radio is that I have not often been around my sister’s and John Mark’s three children. I pride myself on being a good uncle. It’s difficult to do that when you’re a thousand miles away.
I went inside and there were the two nieces. Lisa is heading to high school. She is a nationally-competitive gymnast and soccer player. I didn’t think it was possible, but I think she got even stronger for her size. Later, we would wrestle in the pool. I’m not sure or not if I’m stronger than my 14-year-old niece. I believe it’s a tossup.
The younger one – my godchild – Marie is also a gymnast and soccer player. Whereas Lisa is straightforward, Marie is coy, always on the verge of a smart aleck comment. Maybe she has a future in radio.
They have a pool in their backyard, and a Jacuzzi and a bar and hammock, volleyball net and a trampoline. John Mark has put together a resort. Within minutes, I changed into my swimsuit and dove in the pool. It’s salt water, which is the best way in the world to swim. The three or four of you have been in a zillion chlorine pools. A saltwater pool is nothing like that. You want to stick your face in the salt water and hum a Karen Carpenter song. Salt in the air, salt in the water. You never lack for salt on Long Island, New York.
We played a family volleyball game, four on one side and four on the other. I’m pretty sure that I smiled the whole time. In years past, I would not have smiled. I would have had the competitive, stern face that everyone else had. My daughter, her boyfriend, my sister Allison, her kids and husband – they’re all type A’s. That’s what makes them all so successful.
I was once that, too. Now, I’m type B. I’ve reverted to my roots. I’m “type Berkeley,” which means that you allow the beauty of the moment to seep into your soul.
And the beauty of that very competitive and very long volleyball game seeped into my soul. As I sit on the guest room bed typing this to you, my eyes water just a little. That’s what happens when you release the type A that once controlled your whole being and there’s less testosterone scurrying through your veins.
Later, we all went to dinner at a place called “Ting” in Huntington. It’s an Asian fusion place, which I would never recommend to anyone except for this place. They know my sister and her husband. The hostess was waiting at the door. She escorted us to our seats. We ate sushi, curry, edamame and the best thing about it? It didn’t cost nearly as much as I would have thought. It’s weird. You go places and you expect to pay a ton for some things and then it doesn’t happen.
It’s that way in Key West. You go out to eat and you have a great meal of seafood and beer and then you get the bill.
“No kidding. It’s the same as I’d pay in Highland, Indiana.” The key with Key West is that there are so many restaurants that they have to stay competitive with their prices. Every time we go there, there’s ten new restaurants. Some close. Some expand. Everyone keeps their prices reasonable. Hotels and condos is another story altogether.
After dinner, we came back to the house. The kids did DDR in the basement. That’s when you dance to keep up with the instructions on the screen. I hit the pillow and, like the old man that I am becoming, fell asleep. In the morning, my sister, daughter, wife and I made breakfast for John and the kids. I’ve told the three or four of you before that it makes me happy and sad to see my sister and her family. Happy when I’m there. Sad when I gotta sit down and write about it.
On Sunday morning, we went swimming again. Jeanie’s boyfriend Daniel was trying to figure out how to do a flip. It really is a comical thing when an athletic young man jumps off of the diving board in an attempt to do a flip but just can’t commit to it. He winds up doing a belly or back flop. Daniel did this several times before discovering a method.
He went to the trampoline, did a flip, and then ran to the diving board and without hesitating did the same flip. It took a bunch of tries. He finally flipped. We all clapped.
My nephew Alex did not attain his goal as quickly. He was trying to do a gainer of some sort. So, like the stubborn teenager that he is, he would jump off the diving board over and over again only to do a flop of some sort. He jumped off the board 24 times in an attempt to do a gainer. Then Alexis and I left. When we landed in Chicago, my phone buzzed. It was a video of Alex doing a gainer.
“F U” was his message.
Persistence and Perseverence can’t be taught. I would tell that to my nephew if he lived around here instead of a thousand miles away.
Today, I woke up and did my morning radio show. Rick Suarez, the runner, came in and so did my childhood chump, Billy Baker. I don’t know what it is about going to New York but every time I feel both exhausted and exhilarated by it. There’s so much to do and so many people and so many big bridges that it drains you… and gives you energy at the same time.
I’d like to tell the story of myself
Not Bob or Tom or Steve or Ralph.
They’re good enough guys,
happy and wise,
But not half the story
of my manufactured glory.
After the show this morning, Darya, Debbie, Ryan, Mark and I worked on some marketing stuff. We finally got the new website – wjobnetwork.com – to a reasonable point. There’s an ongoing live stream of video there. I don’t know where all of this video dream is headed but I get the feeling that it’s headed somewhere. We made two sales today. No kidding.
Later, after dinner, Alexis had to watch Anderson Cooper by herself for a while. I sat outside at the picnic table finishing up a proposal for tomorrow. My real fear about this streaming video dream is that it will actually work out to the point that it disturbs this balance that I am comfortable with. I have to pedal hard enough every day to pay the bills. If I slow, we fall behind. It’s a good place to be, for me. Good night. Verlie Suggs comes on in the morning so I don’t have to prepare as much tonight. She’ll come in with pages of notes. That’ll do.