Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Night I Slept on the Ground in New York City

Last night, I was with a group of friends enjoying an evening out. When the conversation turned to interesting memories of times in New York city, this one of mine came to mind.

I was 17 years old and on my way to a Led Zeppelin concert at Madison Square Garden with 5 of my friends. The year was 1975. The group came on 45 minutes late so they announced that they would play 45 late to make up for it.

The concert was phenomenal, of course, but I knew right away it would put us dangerously close to missing the last train at Grand Central Station that would take us back to Connecticut, but we figured we would just walk fast. Well, apparently we didn’t walk fast enough. We arrived right at 1:30 a.m., and the doors were already locked.

We didn’t know what to do, but someone told us we could get a train from Penn Station at 3:05 a.m., so we all trudged the eight blocks back to 34th Street and waited. Unfortunately, the conductors wouldn’t take our Metro North tickets and wanted us to pay for new tickets. Well, we didn’t have the money for new tickets so we turned around and trudged back to Grand Central Station again.

Fortunately, it was July, and a dry day, so we plopped down on the sidewalk in front of the 42nd and Lexington Street entrance to Grand Central, where the brown doors – six of them – were angled out facing the street.

We could see we weren’t the only ones who had missed the last train. Underneath the Park Avenue overpass, there were about 10 or 15 more teens on both sides of the street. One in particular that I remember across from us was a girl with long blonde hair in white denim overalls. She stood out because of the brightness of her hair and outfit. Seven years later I would be telling this story at work and a gal that I worked with whose name also happens to be Lynn said that she was the girl in the white overalls!! Such a small world.

So we slept for a couple of hours, and at 5:30, were starting to wake up to take the first train home when a large, plump police officer came by and said, “All right everybody up and empty your pockets.”

Apparently, he could smell pot. It was coming from two boys that were near us but not with us. He made all of us get up just the same. One of my friends had 2 joints in a baggie. He crushed them with his feet. Another had a small pipe and he confiscated it. He threatened to arrest us all but didn’t. Then he said, “I may not be able to stop you from smoking pot, but you’ll never smoke in this town again.”

It was all we could do not to laugh. It sounded like he was trying to act tough but he wasn’t succeeding. Was he imitating Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry? Or some other famous movie star? It was such a bad attempt, it was hard to tell.

Between the amazing concert, sleeping on the street and our run-in with the police, it was a night none of us will ever forget.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I Have Mad Respect for the Old TV Show The Waltons

I never watched The Waltons when it was on the air from 1971 to 1981. But now that the reruns are on the Hallmark Channel, which I love watching, I can’t wait to get home at night to watch more episodes.I was surprised to see that the show touches on many serious issues and brings history to life.

At first, the large wholesome family was a nice departure from the horrors in the daily news and on other shows like Law and Order, Criminal Minds and CSI. I love all those crime shows, but I just got so tired of the blood and the gore of it all. The Waltons became my escape.

I started watching The Waltons and it was refreshing, with their yes sirs and yes ma’ams and brothers and sisters who are kind to each other. And the fresh air and countryside are a nice departure from the city I’m used to.

Created by Earl Hamner, Jr., the story and the location – Walton’s Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia – are completely fictional, but the show is based on a book he wrote called Spencer’s Mountain about a family in rural Virginia. There’s one General Store, a couple of spinster sisters who make daddy’s moonshine recipe behind closed doors.

The time period covers the Great Depression and World War II. I never expected the subject matter to be so important or progressive. All four Walton sons join the Army or Navy. 

Maryellen’s husband is killed in Pearl Harbor. John-Boy Walton is shot down over Germany but recovers. Jason helps liberate France. And Ben Walton is captured by the Japanese and becomes a prisoner of war. Meanwhile, a black neighbor is turned away at a restaurant. The issues they cover on the show are amazingly progressive and painful.

As I’m writing this, Ben has made an American flag out of clothing stolen from the Japanese’ laundry, which the POWs have to wash daily. He hangs it on the flagpole where the Japanese flag belongs, and ends up in solitary confinement as punishment. “I don’t care, it was worth it!” he says stubbornly as he’s thrown in the brig.

You see women going to work as Rosy Riveters in the factories. And the food and gas are bought with rationing stamps. It really brings to life the things that our grandparents went through and that we can only imagine. I think it’s better than history books in teaching kids about the past and I think they ought to have to watch it in school.

As I wait until tomorrow to find out whether Ben gets out of the Japanese concentration camp alive I know what’s coming – the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I can’t wait until this war is over and The Waltons can all be together again.

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