Solar Eclipse, 1970 – A True Story

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Saturday, March 7, 1970 – Leisure Lanes, Camp Road, Hamburg, New York. I’ll never forget that day. It was the first time I remember having to make a very difficult choice. It was a wrenching choice. It was an agonizing choice. It was the kind of choice no one ever expects a nine-year old boy to have to face.

Yet I did. And I can blame no one for it except for myself, the expectations I had placed on myself, and the subsequent expectations I had encouraged others to, well, expect of me. Nonetheless, the way I approached the decision appears, in retrospect, to have become the template I have since used for all such future conundrums.

By that point in the latter half of fourth grade, I had become the de facto astronomer of the class. Yes, there was actually a competition of this exalted position, and I was determined Continue Reading “Solar Eclipse, 1970 – A True Story”

The Virtues (and Vices) of Deadlines

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What kind of student were you? The kind that got all your homework done before school ended so you could play guilt-free the whole weekend, or the kind that played all weekend and crammed your homework assignment in that space of time between Sunday dinner and bedtime?

Sorry if I just caused tonight’s nightmare for you. No doubt these questions bring up horrible memories for those who the phrase “no more pencils, no more books…” was last uttered decades ago. Similarly, those still subject to the school bell probably wish to avoid these questions the same way they want to avert their eyes from the coming weeks’ advertising circulars trumpeting all their “back to school” sales.

It could be worse folks. I could write just another ad nauseum piece on the latest hearsay Continue Reading “The Virtues (and Vices) of Deadlines”

The Man Who Refused to be a Victim

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In the fall of 1959, Warren Sutton did something that got him in a lot of trouble. A star collegiate athlete entering his junior year, he began dating the 18-year old daughter of an official of the university he attended. Her age wasn’t the thing that got him in a lot of trouble. The fact her father was bursar wasn’t the thing that got him in a lot of trouble. No. the trouble came about for the most superficial of reasons. You might even call them “skin-deep.” Specifically, his was black and hers was white.

While not prohibited in New York State, interracial marriages were not granted constitutional protection until 1967 when the Supreme Court struck down a Virginia statute banning such arrangements. Warren Sutton merely dated a white woman. He didn’t marry her. Still, he was hounded out of Alfred University that year, eventually finishing his stellar college basketball career at Acadia University in Canada. How good was he? He was good enough to be drafted by the NBA St. Louis Hawks. He opted for a more promising career in Continue Reading “The Man Who Refused to be a Victim”

A Lament for All the Nobody’s Out There

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I showed up unannounced (and a day early) at Chris Collins’ office at 1117 Longworth. Actually, I was under the mistaken impression the “11” of “1117” represented the floor. There is no 11th floor in the Longworth building, which I discovered only after the elevator doors closed. Fortunately, a kind lady told me the first “1” represented the building and the second “1” represented the floor.

When I arrived at his office, Collins wasn’t there. He was on the House floor voting on, as near as I can tell from the daily record of July 18, 2017, a series of otherwise mundane amendments. Somebody probably thinks they are important. Maybe even Collins. I didn’t bother to ask. Ironically, I didn’t think it was any of my business.

I say it’s “ironic” because everything Congress does is, quite literally, “the people’s business.” It’s just that I’m so accustomed to thinking of myself as a nobody that Continue Reading “A Lament for All the Nobody’s Out There”

Breadcrumbs of Unfinished Symphonies

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This is the fourth and final part of an older brother’s eulogy to a beloved younger brother.

LEGACY [leg-uh-see]

Merriam-Webster: 1: “a gift by will especially of money or other personal property” 2: “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”

The gift seemed rather small for the usual Christmas gift. Still, my brother tended towards the creative in his gift giving, so I unwrapped the present in anticipation of experiencing one of those “big things come in small packages” moments. As I tore and crumpled the colored paper, I could only guess what was inside. Opening the tiny box revealed… a generic Christmas tree ornament.

I could see Kenny smiling broadly, as if this was the gift I had always wanted. My somewhat tentative “thank you” only made his grin grow larger. As I looked at him, something struck me about his beaming face. It seemed more of a “I know something you don’t” kind of smirk. Or rather, a “But, don’t you get it?” smile of self-satisfaction.

This was confirmed when he plaintively said, “But, don’t you get it?”

I didn’t. But now I suspected I should have gotten it. I looked again at the ornament and couldn’t figure it out. I failed to come up with anything in our shared life that the sled referenced.

Seeing my consternation, Kenny’s face returned to the “I know something you don’t” smirk. “Read it,” he said.

I looked once more at the sled. Though a standard-issue mass-produced Christmas decoration, I suddenly noticed a carefully handwritten addition printed on the faux wood Continue Reading “Breadcrumbs of Unfinished Symphonies”

Kenny Discovers the Birds & the Bees… and the Mice (Content for Family and Friends Only)

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This is the third of four parts of an older brother’s eulogy to a beloved younger brother.

Kenny used football to teach a lot of things, even how to deal with celebrities with respect. Whether it was about when to get excited (like the moment he and Pat saw Al Davis riding in the next car over on the Thruway while driving home after a Raiders game) or when to contain excitement (which was pretty much every time Sam saw Marv Levy at Ilio’s).

But don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t as if Kenny wasn’t into fun. He was very good at doing fun. And when he found a gag that worked, you could be sure he’d use it – over and over again. For instance, at every baptism, without fail, when the time came for the godfather to hold the baby, Uncle Kenny would lean into Cesidia and whisper, “This is when I dropped you on your head.” Of course, sometimes he forgot his audience. One year – a different year from our opening story – his Christmas tree nearly fell on young Catarina. He caught the tree before it hit her, but he could tell she was scared. So he tried to make light of the situation by saying, “Catarina, you knocked down the tree!” Well, that was too much and Catarina started crying. He did his best to comfort her, but, well, you know, girls.

He didn’t limit his repartee to one-liners, either. He could out-slapstick the Three Stooges, but only when it came to the birds and the bees… and the occasional mouse. Yes, it’s true he and Betsy would pay their young innocent daughter Teresa a dollar every time she Continue Reading “Kenny Discovers the Birds & the Bees… and the Mice (Content for Family and Friends Only)”

Twins Never Part

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This is the second of four parts of an older brother’s eulogy to a beloved younger brother.

I was barely a year old when I first met Kenny. My parents brought this bundle home from the hospital. I saw a small foot poking through the blanket. Elated, I tugged the tiny toes. Still grasping the diminutive digits, I smiled broadly and looked up at my parents. “Goggie!” I said.

Yes, I had thought my parents got me a new puppy. Instead, I got something better – a baby brother. Had I been more eloquent then and as versed in classic cinema as I am today, I might have more aptly said, “Kenny, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

You may know him as “Ken,” “Kenny,” or even, as he signed every greeting card he ever signed beginning at age – I don’t know, 7? – Kenneth P. Carosa. To me, he’ll always be Continue Reading “Twins Never Part”

Strawberry Fields Forever – An Ode to Kenny

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Kenneth P. Carosa
11/2/1961 – 6/18/2017

This is the first of four parts of an older brother’s eulogy to a beloved younger brother.

I remember a bright summer day in late June. The sweet smell of acres upon acres of Queen Anne’s Lace, daisies, and the occasional black-eyed Susan surrounded us as we ventured into the bountiful fields of wild strawberries. The broad undeveloped lots just to the south of Highland Parkway rolled as far as the eye could see.

And with the weed trees then mere young saplings, the eye could see pretty far. We often tested our vision on clear August days. Me, Kenny, Angelo and Markie would hike deep into these virgin woods, being careful to remain within sight of civilization as we knew it. We walked just far enough so we could see the Hamburg Fair’s Double Ferris Wheel spin silently just on the edge of the horizon.

But while those late summer days were for friends, the first days of summer meant the strawberries were ripening. No one cared more about this abundant fruit except for my mother, me, and Kenny… and perhaps a few small animals. Each summer my mother would Continue Reading “Strawberry Fields Forever – An Ode to Kenny”

Exploring New Personal Characters

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College isn’t so much about learning as it is about discovering. Sure, we explore a particular field of study because we find it intellectually stimulating. The true exploration, however, is the journey we embark upon within our very souls. The newfound freedom that comes with the college experience and the attendant releasing of inhibitions allows us to realize – and, if we are fortunate enough, become – the character we’ve always wanted to become. And if it turns out we don’t like that character (or simply grow out of it), we can shed it immediately upon graduation. (Of course, we always retain the option to dust it off and put that cloak back on come reunion time.)

For a variety of good and not-so-good reasons, high school presents itself more as a Continue Reading “Exploring New Personal Characters”

What is the “Content Economy” and Why are We Headed There?

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A classmate of mine recently posted the following on Facebook along with a picture of one of those new order kiosks popping up across the county: “Greeting the future of fast food at McDonald’s on River Road in Bethesda. Sure hope the whole ‘coal’ thing works out for everyone, since there won’t be any jobs here before too long.”

Now, before you get started, yes, this is a liberal friend (I proudly remain friends with those of all political persuasions). But let’s ignore the “coal” comment and focus on the “future of fast food” statement. The evolution to the fast food kiosk was predicted when states started raising the minimum wage. It would have happened sooner or later (just like the auto-attendant has replaced the receptionist). The higher minimum wage just hastened the inevitable. It starts with the front of the counter with order takers. For fast food places, expect to see automation in the kitchen, too. This is Continue Reading “What is the “Content Economy” and Why are We Headed There?”