CHANGE AND REBOUND

Life is not easy. We all have problems-even tragedies-to deal with, and luck has nothing to do with it. Bad luck is only the superstitious excuse for those who don’t have the wit to deal with the problems of life. ”
Joan Lowery Nixon, In The Face of Danger

Problems?  Yeah, I had a few.  But let’s be real.  My weird situations are nothing compared to many suffered by others.

Consider Denne Bart Petitclerc, journalist, author, producer.  When he was 5 years old in 1934, his father took him to downtown Seattle to admire the holiday decorations.  Stopping in front of the giant Christmas tree, his dad told him to “watch the angel (on top of the tree), I’ll be right back.”  He didn’t return.  He left his child there, abandoning him to be an orphan in the December night.

At least I had a Father to love, to admire, to tell me funny stories, to join in the family business, and then to, maddeningly, watch as he withered away.  There were many good years, regardless.

I think we’ve all had pivotal moments like that, when everything changes.  Today’s story, a repeat, is about my night when the sky was darkest, and most unfamiliar.  Merry Christmas and don’t forget to count your blessings (and not boobies)!  

In the spring of 1962, I turned 4 years old. Mom and Dad were living at 1050 Fifth Avenue and Central Park was my playground. In the evening, I would play in my room and when I heard the door open and Dad enter the apartment, I would thrust myself down the stairs, yelling “Daddy, Daddy!” One time I came down the stairs so fast, I tripped and fell. I arrived at the bottom in a tumbled mess.

My Dad would have a seat on the couch, maybe after turning on the hi-fi or plopping the Four Lads on the phonograph. Mom would serve him a Rheingold. “What’s that?” I asked. “Beer,” he said. “Can I try some?” “Sure.” I did, it was not to my taste.

I was oblivious to the fact that the marriage of my Mom and Dad was finished.

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GLORIA RATES MY T & A!

Today, my x-rated repeat from 2 years ago about Dad’s 4th wife.  She was a beauty!  Her Mom (my Step-Grandmother, as it were) was also blessed with much largesse; this included a sense of humor.  Once at the Christmas table, she told a story about how she had changed her shirt and brassiere in front of a neighbor’s 4 year old boy.  She thought nothing of it; he was very young.  “Addie,” the boy exclaimed, wide-eyed, “you have TITS!”  Addie wasn’t able to stop giggling after recounting that tale.  To tell ya the truth, neither could I.  Enjoy!  Over 18 only, please.

As explained in my post SURPRISE!!!, gosh was I ever!  A new step-mom.  I didn’t really get too anxious about meeting my new step-mom because I didn’t have time – it was to be in 3 days!  Her clothes were in the closet.  She had already traveled with Dad to Brazil and Japan.  Silk wedding gowns adorned the walls.

So Gloria joined our small Olcott nuclear family.  This meant that whenever we went out for a road trip, which was often – and something I continue to do to this day between Québec and North Carolina – I had the pleasure of her company in the car.  Gloria was an excellent conversationalist.  And we tested each other right away.

Gloria and James Xmas 1973 2

The author, Gloria, and Dad.  Photo by Addie Lundberg.

Something else was new for me.  Up until the Gloria years, I came back to New York City region only during summers.  In December 1971, I hopped a plane to come up North for my first snowy Christmas since 1961.  Ten years for a 13 year old is a long time; I had forgotten what snow looked and felt like, in its various forms.

GREEN EGGS AND HAM

In April 1992, I had one foot in two worlds.

One foot was planted in the familiar lush flagship Polo Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue, a marvel of seductive, dazzling, stylish, and pricey eye-candy.  The other was a run-down office precariously hugging a cliff on the anus-side¹ of the Lincoln Tunnel, overlooking the double helix resounding with the roar of vehicular traffic.  I dubbed that sound in my post “THE NIGHT IS DARK AND FULL OF TERRORS,” as the ‘soul grinder.’

The first was glamorous, but offered me little future career growth.  The second was pretty much its antithesis on both counts (except, sometimes, for the travel).

To aspire to my greatest future potential, I had to risk the crushing of my essence.

IS YOUR MEXICAN DIVORCE LEGAL?

Above: A beautiful view of Cuidad Juárez from El Paso earlier this week.  Photo by DLynne Morin.By mid-1982, Dad’s marriage with Gloria had devolved into crass posturing for litigation in a divorce action.  After all, he had plenty of experience as he had been through this experience three times already.

The first had been 32 years earlier, in 1950.  His newly wed wife, Pat, returned home one evening to their Beekman Place neighborhood apartment.  As soon as she walked in, Bern hung up the phone.  “Who are you on the phone with, Dear?” she asked.  Oddly, Dad declined to say.  It took her a while to find out and it turned out to be her former best friend Connie Richards.   Pat had the marriage annulled within a few weeks via an expedited petition direct to the Vatican.

Dad never told me anything about his marriage with Pat.  Or Connie Richards, for that matter.  I had to find Pat 60 years later to ask her personally.  Remember, she was wife number one and my Mom was only the second.  Does that make Pat a stepmother?  The English language does not have a term to describe our relationship.

In any event, Pat was very annoyed with Bern (and went on to marry four more times herself).

MY DAD’S BUDDHIST WEDDING!!

In 1983, Rosemary Egan was a nimble 32 year old brunette who worked the rigging (or the galley) as a crewmember of a 282 foot Windjammer sailing vessel that plied the aqua waters of the Bahamian outer banks.  This was not just any sailing vessel, but a real barkantine, a three-masted ship, square-rigged on the foremast and fore-and-aft-rigged on the other masts.  Up to 30 guests paid for the privilege of waking up in cabins to the sound of sea birds, feasting on lobster, hammocking in the rigging, cannonballing into the ocean and participating in the sailing.

When not hoisting a jib, Rosemary could be found singing and dancing in off-off-Broadway productions.  Show tunes were a specialty of hers.  And if not sailing, singing, or dancing, she had a steady part-time gig as a Medical Assistant.  It’s good to have multiple options.

You could say that she fit a certain profile.

One day after completing a cruise, she was waiting in line to check her luggage at Nassau International Airport for a return flight to Newark, New Jersey.  Born in New York City, she had moved with her folks to Plainview, New Jersey as a youngster during the exodus out of the city proper in the 1960s and 1970s.  Please see my posts “THE END OF AN ERA” and “WELCOME TO NEW JERSEY.”

As she struggled to move her luggage towards the check-in, a handsome stranger who resembled Jack Lord of Hawaii 5-O stepped in to help.  He was awfully chatty and his eyes lit up when he learned that she was part of the crew for Windjammer cruises.  He lifted her bag onto the check-in scale with utmost care and she watched her bag carted away into oblivion as it was promptly lost by the airline for days.  It was an omen of things to come.

MR. CLEAN AND ANOTHER END

Back in 1961 and 1962, I would often be plopped down in front of the black and white television.  In between ‘Heckle and Jeckle’ and ‘Mighty Mouse‘ cartoons, there were commercials, many in great sing-along formats — sometimes both cartoons and commercials featured bouncing balls.

Heckle_and_jeckle_promo_picture[1]

But there was one that always remained far and away my favorite.  Mr. Clean:

There’s nothing you can’t do, Mr. Clean!

Oh gosh, do I remember clapping along to this jingle!  I would get my Mom and Pia, my stocky middle-aged and eastern-European (Hungarian?) nanny, to join me in song and dance.  I was a very infectious musical conductor.

My Mom loved Mr. Clean because it made the floors so antiseptic you could eat off them (wait for it to dry first, please).  My Dad loved Mr. Clean, well, because my Mom loved Mr. Clean.  And me?  I was ecstatic to be the third wheel spinning in the love-a-thon.

THE LOST LINE, PART 1

Built in the 1870s, the Third Avenue IRT was the above ground cousin of the Lexington Avenue IRT subway that runs completely underneath the sidewalks in Manhattan.  Towards the end of its days in the 1960s, the remnant of the Third Avenue line in the Bronx was finally designated as the 8 train.  However, back in the 1950s, the last decade of service on Third Avenue in Manhattan, the trains were only marked by destination – southbound to City Hall, northbound to The Bronx (Bronx Park or 241th Street).

Vintage elevated lines are a disappearing breed of mass transit.  The Third Avenue El was derided as a noisy eye-sore and was hurriedly demolished to placate real estate developers who were eager to rebuild Midtown East.  The stated intention was to replace it with the new Second Avenue subway which, unfortunately, was delayed more than 60 years and is still not yet in service today!