25 January 2010

A TIMID, STALE MORSEL OF INANITY




Blog note... The following is an excerpt from a book, novel, primer I am assembling as a counterculture response to Bill O'Reilly's (no relation to my mother's side of the 505 clan) bestselling book: A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity. (2 million weeks on the NYT Bestseller List? huh?)
A kind of Dark Side expose to what Bill O'Reilly didn't write about in his prose about the magnificence of a suburban Long Island childhood.


Many say that Mr. O'Reilly painted a masterpiece (subject to opinion....not mine) in recounting his formative years in the Swanson TV Dinner littered ghettoes of suburban Long Island during the 50's and 60's epoch. (Salisbury Steak with nuclear apple compote anyone?) As I read his gallimaufry between No-Doz supplements, I couldn't help but wonder why he left out so much of the good stuff. Consequently, I decided to take keyboard in hand in a pedestrian attempt at presenting a fair and balanced story. With appropriate amounts of poetic license.


Mr. O'Reilly and I have much in common- Irish Heritage, spawned within the blue collar working class South Shore of Long Island, Catholic Schools, same High School (he is 6 years older). A commonality that obligates me in my not so humble way to bloviate, and admittedly rip off his jejune by offering my own salmagundi and raillery about the formative years on Long Island in the 60's and 70's. An experience that did not launch your's truly nor millions(?) like me to the life of fame and fortune that Mr. O'Reilly has achieved. In effect, my intention is to produce a softcore Dante's Inferno to Bill O'Reilly's homogenized and pasteurized milk white Bold and Fresh portrayal of a 60's/70's Long Island upbringing.


In an obstreperous kind of way.


(Acknowledgement... Thanks go out to the online Bill O'Reilly dictionary for the big boy words used in the above introduction).


Anyhow..here's a sample....(unedited and at times unabridged to nowhere)




Chapter #TBD ---An Introduction to "The Morley Bus".


On the morning of September 2, 1969, fresh off The Summer of Love, Woodstock and Met's Fever (none of which applied to me...I was scared of girls, too young to appreciate Richie Havens, and above all, a Yankee fan), I bounded out the front door of my safe haven of 14 years for what was to become my daily schoolday pilgrimmage for the next 4 years of my life. A one third mile walk to my bus stop at the corner of Hicksville Road (RTE 107) and Brewster Gate.


I was embarking on a grand and daunting challenge. The previous spring, upon graduation from St. James Grammar School (the term "Elementary School" was not fashionable in NY in 1969), I had been accepted to what was arguably the finest High School on Long Island... Chaminade.. Where young boys became older boys and no girls were allowed. Acceptance to this institution of closer to higher learning was a huge accomplishment for a second generation Irish kid from the South Shore of Long Island. In 1969, the usual response from many people upon finding out about where you went to High School was "Owhhhhhhh....CHA-min-ade!?!?". (emphasize the nasal NY twang when you pronounce "Owhhhhh"). Indeed, in 1969, and even to this day, anyone who has ever been remotely affiliated with this high school will often "Play The Chaminade Card" whenever they need something or are just trying to impress those around them. It is a well established fact (cuz I have seen it) that too many otherwise rational people are convinced of the mystical powers of playing "The Chaminade Card" in everyday life, well beyond their High School years... as long as you limit use of it's purported magic to within the 516 or 631 area code. But to the credit of our greater humanity, it rarely works.


So as I apprehensively departed my house that morning, vintage 50's aluminum storm door slamming behind me because those greasy strutlike pneumatic door closers never worked very well, my psyche was 90% fear about where my life was headed. With nothing in hand except a first day of school brown bag lunch (Tuna sandwich, masterfully remixed by my grandmother from the dolphin murdering Bumble Bee oil packed tin can, and most likely a 3 pack sleeve of Yankee Doodles), I began my stroll to the bus stop, making sure to say hello as I always did to the miniature statue of the black stable guy holding a light sitting on the cement and brick staircase while passing the house of our neighbors, Sol and Pearl Goldfarb. (Yes, I am aware of the colloquial un-PC slur that was given to those those statues, but unlike Randall in Clerks II, I'm not taking it back).


Continuing past the Goldfarb's, the Nettler's and the Bohr's classic Levitt split-level homes, all now remarkably similar since everyone had been suckered into tearing off their attractive shake shingle exteriors in favor of aluminum siding during what was THE CLASSIC marketing campaign of the 60's, I made a right turn at the intersection of Wisconsin and Hastings. A T-intersection of streets that was our neighborhood home "field" for stickball games earlier in the decade. The lower part of the "T" intersection along Hastings was long, straight and treeless. Best of all, cars never parked there. It was one of those unintended consequences created by the development planners in the haste of the post war construction boom, as the adjoining housing plots were facing away from that stretch of the "T". I fondly reminisced about old Mr. Bohr, the owner of the home on one of the corners, who would often come out and involve himself in our games, as a pitcher for both teams, or an umpire or whatever. And laughed to myself as I remembered Mr. Bohr's Tourrettes-like staccato alarm-"K-K-K-K-K-K-K....AR!!", boisterously shouted to us as a warning to get out of the street in advance of an approaching car. But being kids, we always stayed close enough to each passing vehicle so we could slap the rear quarter panel as it went by. This was Massapequa afterall. Looking back, I suppose we were unknowingly paying some kind of existential homage to the original inhabitants of this area of Long Island by counting coup on our mounted enemies. How dare they interrupt our baseball game by driving through it.


I fretted that those carefree days were over. I was going off to Chaminade to become a Young Man.


Little did I know at that time, but what I was about to experience in the first of my daily 45+ minute bus rides (often longer...by devious design) to and from Chaminade for the next 4 years would wipe away far more of my youthful innocence than the 4 years of 6-10 hour days of indoctrination in Chaminade's "Fortes in Unitate" principles and comprehensive education. (Strength in Unity for those of you who are Latin impaired).


I arrived at the bus stop and was greeted by a fellow springtime alumni of St. James, Francis "Chip" Splain. Chip only lived 3-4 blocks away from me. Despite the common denominators of schools and neighborhood, I hardly knew Chip, and had most likely never even said more than hello to him prior to that first day at the bus stop. Keep in mind that this was post-war baby boom Long Island. There were probably 2-3 dozen or so other kids between my part of the neighborhood and Chip's, and since Chip didn't play many sports, (I had inaccurately prejudged him as a gearhead, a "greaser", because he was one of those kids always putting old lawn mower engines on Schwinn's and terrorizing mothers, toddlers and pets within the neighborhood) and he was always in a different class than I was at St. James. Our paths had very little reason to cross until that morning. But to my good fortune, this initial encounter with someone who was to be one of 350 classmates at Chaminade, resulted in a lifelong friendship. (sadly, the organic aspect of that friendship ended abruptly for us as Chip has moved on...RIP).


But there is no doubt in my mind that the shared 4 year experience of The Morley Bus was the cement in our bond.


After exchanging awkward and uncomfortable greetings, Chip and I stood on the corner awaiting our 7:25AM appointment with The Morley Bus. We had a non-virtual National Geographic channel in front of us as we watched Impalas, Roadrunners and Mustangs migrate north toward the feeding grounds of the Bethpage Plain where the occupants of these beasts provided sustenance to their herds with real jobs building F-14's, lunar modules and canoes at nearby Grumman (yes, there was a time in America when "business diversity" meant more than hiring minorities). And we stared blankly at the Esso Station across from us on Hicksville Road, oblivious to the long term global ramifications of the neatly uniformed full service attendant changing his pricing sign from 34.7 cents/gallon to 34.8 cents/gallon.

At that point Chip and I engaged in a ritual that is symptomatic of most 14 year old pubescent males during first encounters. We engaged in mutually uncomfortable conversation, i.e., trying to demonstrate an unquestionable platform of Trebekian general knowledge about all things in life, while simultaneoulsy doing everything possible to establish borders of alpha male dominance. And when it came to all things "Chaminade", Chip had an early and distinct advantage over me. His brother had graduated from Chaminade two years previously, but more importantly, his brother John was THE STAR football player at Chaminade during his four years, winning the prestigious "Thorpe Award" (Chaminade's Heisman Trophy) during his senior year. Although Chip could proudly stand on this higher level with me that morning, he would soon find out that being John Splain's younger brother was gonna get his ass kicked on The Morley Bus. To Chip's innocent misfortune, John had been a 4 year Morley Bus rider. And the freshmen and sophomores during John's junior and senior years on The Morley Bus were now the upperclassmen in possession of the upper hand over us in our version of that long running sitcom/reality show. Which quickly ended Chip's bragging about his brother in public, especially on The Morley Bus.

So when the aged (this was a private bus company) and standard bright yellow school bus arrived a little late that first morning, Chip and I were greeted by a less than jovial driver as he swung open the door without taking his eyes off the road in front of him. I upstaged Chip by boarding first. (I was bigger than Chip, everybody was bigger than Chip...While his brother John was a fire hydrant-like beefstick, Chip was clearly the runt of his and just about every other family). Upon boarding, I cleared my throat, but still gutturalled a cracking "hello" to our 1969 precursor of Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy. He gave me a brief glance, said nothing and looked to his left to review the rolodex of direction cards on his dashboard in search of the next stop. Although the look toward me was brief, it was long enough for me to recognize the story in his eyes that I had seen all too often at the caddy shack of Bethpage State Park in the early morning hours of my previous two summer jobs. He had eyes that were bloodshot and filled with residual alcohol.

So I brushed past him and without taking much notice of the other inhabitants of this artery to the heart of all things Chaminade, I spied one completely vacant seat about 5 rows from the front of the bus and fixed my attack on that target, thinking that my new friend Chip was close behind and would join me for the ride to school. Upon barely reaching the 4th row, I heard a deep manlike voice shout out from somewhere in the rear bowels of the bus.

"HEY!!! ARE YOU A FRESHMAN?" "uh, yeah" was my cracking reply while hardly looking up. "WHERE THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING FROSH?" "to this open seat?", I said while pointing to Row 5. "WRONG!! FRESHMEN IN THE FIRST 4 ROWS", was shouted at me in unison by most of the group leering at me like a pod of Orcas drifting in a nesting ground off the coast of Antarctica.

Wisely, I demonstrated some common sense beyond my years and decided to get a better handle on these new surroundings and it's inhabitants. The first four rows were filled with peach fuzzed kids that looked my age, each one properly attired in nice ties and white collared shirts with period flares and an occasional bell bottomed trouser. All comfortably sitting 2 to a seat, with the exception of the bench where a knowing Chip had already taken residence with 2 other freshmen to make it a very crowded looking three man ensemble. Beyond that, and toward the rear, was a smattering of 1-2 two man benches, with an occasional open row, populated with progressively larger disheveled and grizzled males (these guys were shaving? WTF did I get into?) as the rows progressed deeper and darker toward the emergency exit in the back.

At that point, I succumbed to the insecurity of size and age and quickly turned around to grab the edge of an already occupied bench seat across from a cockily smiling Chip. Score one for the little guy.

The Morley Bus was a private bus company contracted by Chaminade to provide student transportation from the eastern south shore and central parts of Nassau County (Amityville, Massapequa, Massapequa Park, North Massapequa , parts of Levittown and Hicksville) to the school each day, about 9 miles away. Annual cost to parents was about $400.00 a year (combined with tuition to Chaminade, total cost to parents for this upscale private education was about 1500-1800 a year....quite a deal by today's pricing structures, eh?). The bus route began at about 630AM in Amityville and snaked through residential and main streets, scheduled to get all of us to school by 8AM. One trip to school in the morning and then two trips home in the afternoon. The first homebound departure was right after classes, and then a second departure left at 6PM, to accommodate students with after school sports and activities.

If our parents only knew how their son's got their money's worth from this bus ride.

So the The Morley Bus proceeded north on Hicksville Road to pickup another St. James Alum, Kevin McLoughlin, who committed the same crime that I had just attempted, and like me, squeezed into another burgeoning seat full of freshmen, and then picked up about 5 or six other students, upperclassmen, which brought our population on the bus to about 50 students overall.

After the driver negotiated the route puzzle for the final student pickup from his rolodex cards (what a weapon those cards would become for us), we hit the main roads for what was usually and supposed to be...a straight 20 minute shot to Jackson and Emory Road in Mineola, home of Chaminade High School.

And on Sept 2, 1969, that's when the fun, and more importantly, the 4 year Chaminade sponsored (unintentionally) Morley Bus Education began.

"HEY YOU FRESHMAN" came the deep dark Earl Jones manlike voice from the rear of the bus. "WE'RE HUNGRY...WHAT DID YOUR MOMMIES MAKES US FOR LUNCH?"

To be continued....

With revelations of a 4 year "Catholic education and foundation" highlighted by Morley Bus rides that featured hazings, bus hijackings, 60 MPH rumbles within a rocking bus, beer, booze, guns, hookers, "yams", petty theft, Dunkin' Donuts, a micro-business manufacturing fake draft cards, death threats from bus drivers, and other experiences that the panjandrum Bill O'Reilly neglected to write about (or was sheltered from, or avoided at all cost) when he extolled all the aspects of a Catholic and virtuous "Chaminade Education".

And The Morley Bus Company and it's drivers, and especially the fine young "Chaminade Men" got away without every bit of it. No one was suspended, no one was expelled, no one was arrested, no driver was fired, (well, maybe "Albert Green", the longest tenured pistol brandishing bus driver we ever had who often told us "I luvs yas all, but I'd just as soon sees ya all dead"), a few drivers, nay a lot of drivers, quit, but no one was ever seriously maimed or injured. An education and foundation like no other... uh-huh.

To be continued......as soon as a literary agent discovers me, we dazzle and bamboozle a publisher, and get these true stories out in a reasonably priced paperback.

And it not's just The Morley Bus Story....but it could be. As one of my old classmates/Morley Bus Confederates told me awhile back on Facebook...."Are you kidding me 505?, The Morley Bus Story has enough material to make a full length film....with one or two sequels!!

Indeed, at our 25th High School reunion, about 5 of "The Morley Bus" alumni sat together and as my own "hard to impress" spouse said to me as we left..... "THAT was some of the most incredible High School stories I have ever heard, and some of the other spouses were clearly shocked and were in a constant state of jawdrop throughout the entire dinner listening to you guys. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a divorce or two after this".


1 comment:

  1. i505, that's a lot of "bloviating"!

    John H

    ReplyDelete