Monday, May 27, 2013

Our Own American Soldier: My Great Uncle Charlie's Story

My grandfather James Pecoraro, my mother's father, was one of nine children. Grampa had a brother named Charlie who wanted to be a doctor. Back then, in the 1920s, there was no such thing as a student loan. And coming from a poor Italian family, my great grandparents didn't have the money.

So the entire family scraped and sacrificed for the one child. Whatever Charlie's brothers and sisters earned went into the kitty to put Charlie through pre-med and then medical school.

When he graduated, he was drafted into World War II. After basic training, he was sent to a hospital somewhere in the war zone. I don't remember where. On his second day, the hospital was blown up and Uncle Charlie was killed in action. All that effort for two days.

Gone but not forgotten. Rest in peace, Uncle Charlie.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Day I Visited a Mental Hospital

Many years ago, when I was a young twenty-something, I sold advertising for a now defunct radio station – WJAZ, a jazz station out of Stamford, CT. The station’s signal traveled across Long Island Sound and so we had a lot of listeners in Long Island, which meant we also had advertisers in Long Island.

One day, I was driving down the middle lane on the Long Island Expressway headed to see a client when out of nowhere there’s a full muffler in the middle of the lane. There were cars to my left and right and  so there was nothing I could do but go over it and pray for no damage. I ended up with a flat tire.

I could hear the sizzle as the air slowly leaked, but figured I could continue to coast until I came to the next exit. “There’s a gas station off practically every exit in Long Island,” I said out loud.

Along came the exit and I proceeded as planned. However, at the bottom of the exit was no gas station. There wasn’t even a town. I had coasted off an exit that led right onto the property of a mental hospital. Yup.

So I pulled up to the front door and walked into the lobby, where I found a security desk with three security guards. I explained that I had a flat tire and asked if any of them could help me. I said I would pay. Immediately they all started to mumble as to why they couldn’t help. One pointed to his back.

I was shocked. Are you kidding? These guys are supposed to serve and protect. They were strong, burly looking men. And they were too lazy to change a tire that could take 10 minutes?

I told them there was nowhere else I could go and one of them told me to follow the winding road until I got to the end and “Michael” – I don’t really remember his name anymore but that’s what we’ll call him – would fix my tire.

So I followed the winding road. It was a one-lane path that felt like I was in Little Red Riding Hood’s forest or something. At the end I found a one-bay garage. The door was up and I could see that it was a workshop. Michael came out. The security desk had called.

He said “no problem,” I can change your tire. As he pulled the spare out of my trunk, I saw the heavy scars on his wrist. He was not only a worker at this mental facility, he was a live-in patient. I was nervous and sympathetic at the same time.

He changed my tire and I gave him $10, thanked him and went on my way. It’s been more than 30 years, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. He was just one of those unforgettable people that we meet in our life. Every time I get a flat tire, I remember the day I coasted into a mental hospital.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.