Saturday, June 20, 2020
From the Stoop of PJH:
My old man has been gone from this world now for four years. It was the week before last. Not a day goes by that I do not think of him, miss him, or wish that he were still here for me to tap his seemingly endless wisdom, his keen insight, his Paterson, New Jersey street knowledge and that special way he had to deal with this crazy world. The old man was a product of a vocational school in downtown Paterson, New Jersey, when they were not ashamed to call it what it was or is. He was one of the smartest men who ever lived. No college brainwashed him, erased his common sense, or planted an agenda in his mind. He was a machinist for fifty-two years and a damn good one too. He went to work every damn day at five in the morning and came home late at night. The old man worked two jobs, sometimes, three jobs and he got it done. This was the Borough of Haledon, right on the north Paterson, New Jersey border. Fifty feet away. We lived in the hood. No Land of Oz, no Yellow Brick Roads in sight. Yet, my sister and I had a loving, and caring home and we had an amazing childhood.
The old man was a hero and a man of what now seems as if it is a bygone era of heroes. Nothing comes for free in this world, there is always a price, yet, nowadays, many people think the world owes them something for free. As the old man taught me, “The world doesn’t owe ya ass jackshit. Ya gonna have to earn it.”
I could write a very cool book on his endless sayings and someday, I will do so.
The day and the week of his passing is always an emotional week for me, and this year, with all the crazy things going on in this weary world, it was especially so. While I missed many things of my life with my father, I truly missed, with all of my heart and soul, sharing a few cold beers with the old man out on the front stoop at 182 Belmont Avenue. I would love to have his take on all of this current madness. It is the simple things that mean so very much in this life. Money does not buy simple things and it damn well does not buy love.
The character of the old man depicted in my books is not too far off from the “actual old man.” Very similar in fact. There was not too much to change. When you lose a special loved one, you move on but you never recover. Ever. It is just the way it is. As Father’s Day looms closer, I think of him more often. Not because of the holiday, in fact, my old man despised the holiday. He would mumble in his classic Paterson, New Jersey accent that, “Father’s Day is a buncha’ bullshit. They abuse the old man 364 days a year and try to be nice to him one day.” That is one of his best sayings. I agree with it too!
Instead, I think of all the awesome shit that he taught me.
Right now, my mind is reeling with all the memories. It helps to write, as it always does for my soul. It helps me to purge the thoughts and the pain. However, the ghosts always return. All of these damn ghosts! Ghosts, who chase me into every room, in every corner, I cannot escape them. A million thoughts of what the old man and I experienced together and we shared. From baseball games to hockey games, to sharing mugs of beer, to sitting and listening to another military story, to working together on junky cars, to what I might miss most of all, and that is speaking to my father on the telephone, before, during and after, every single New York Jets football game. We always lamented together how our beloved team sucked.
Of all the awesome shit that my old man taught me, one memory stands out. I do not know why, other than it has paved the way for me all of these years. It made me understand and wake up to the cold, stark reality of everyday life. It helped to turn a hotshot, longhaired young man, who thought that he had the world by the ass, into a strong man. It was a simple handwritten note, a few words on scrap paper, but it hit home into my soul as no other words that I have ever read in my entire life have. Little did I know at the time, how important those words would eventually become to me. If only, I could write something so full of impact, so simple, yet so profound, and so meaningful.
I too, as my father did and so many of us did from the old neighborhood, attended a vocational school program for my high school education. I am very proud of that fact. It made me who I am right now. It taught me to work with my hands, it taught me trade skills and honor and it taught me to go to work every single, damn, day and to work as hard as you can. I owe that school an awful lot. In my junior year, I received an apprenticeship in my selected trade and I was on my way! I went onto higher education much later in my life but nothing ever beat that vocational education for practicality and real life use.
My best friends Harry and Jeff attended vocational school along with me. They too, will testify as to how much we owe that school. Jeff was a cabinetmaker, Harry was a welder and metalworker, and I was an electrical and electronic technician. I earned a starting wage of $2.35 per hour at an electrical shop in New Jersey and worked my way up to a journeyman. On the day that I graduated trade school, and high school, my boss gave me my own truck, a service route and a raise to a wage of $3.85 per hour! In addition, I was playing semi-pro ice hockey and had thoughts of grandeur of making it big in the NHL. I was on top of the world!
We had a wonderful graduation ceremony and a huge celebration and on the night of our graduation, Jeff, Harry and I went out celebrating, by drinking beer and chasing young ladies all over the place.
Oh well. . ..
When you are a young man, you are a fool, and you learn lessons the hard way.
After a long night of young ladies, salty kisses and sweaty passion, drinking, parties and celebrations, I carried my sorry ass home. When I finally staggered into my bedroom, a handwritten note that I found on the pillow of my bed surprised and shocked me. It changed my life and my perspective of it.
It was a note written by my old man.
I picked it up and read it.
“As of tomorrow you owe me:
1. $15.00 per week for room and board.
2. $15.00 per week for food.
3. $5.00 per week for laundry service.
4. $5.00 per week to park your jeep in my driveway. If you do not like that fee, then park it on the street. It is my damn driveway.
5. $15.00 per week for your share of the utilities.
6. $5.00 per week for the maintenance and upkeep of the house. Feel free to jump in and cut the grass, or trim the shrubs, shovel snow, or perform other household duties to offset this fee. If you are too busy working, playing hockey or playing grab-ass, with Miss Whatever-her-name-is, to work around this joint, then you owe me the dough.
Welcome to the real world.
Paulie, your mother and I have supported you for eighteen damn years, and now, you need to understand that the free ride is over. Pay your bills, go to work, love, and play and work hard, be honest and respectful and always tell it as it is. It will bring you far in this life. If you do not agree with these arrangements and fees, then pack your shit up and move the hell out. We love you and will miss you, but do not let the door hit you too hard in the ass on the way out of the house.
By the way, your mother and I are very proud of you. Congratulations on graduating and taking the first step to being a man. Great work on learning a valuable trade. No matter where life lands you, those trade skills will always serve you well. Someday, you will thank me for the awesome shit that I have taught you. Right now, I know that you want to kick my ass. So be it. Just remember, there are no free rides in this life, and no one owes you jackshit. You have to earn it. You have to earn all of it, and never forget where you came from and who you have become.
The old man”
Well, Dad . . . someday has arrived.
Thank you from the depths of my soul and from my heart. For that note, for so much more, and most of all, thank you for the awesome shit that you taught me.
And yes, the New York Jets still suck.
Cheerio for now.
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