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”

You’re Never Too Old to Learn

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duck-with-ducklings-1543709For some reason, I never felt part of my high school peers. Actually, I know the reason. I never fully accepted moving from the comfort of the community where I was born to this strange new place. Mind you, the non-acceptance didn’t start with me. It was quite mutual. But that’s another story.

This story is about psychology. I can’t remember what interested me in the subject, but it had to be something very early in my life. By ninth grade, I had psycho-analyzed the entire high school population, separating them into nine distinct demographic groups based on their psychological profile as determined by their observed behavior. I never showed it to anyone, but I’m pretty sure I Continue Reading “You’re Never Too Old to Learn”

Life is a (Small Town) Carnival

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Like any kid growing up in the snowbelt otherwise known as Blasdell, I looked forward to three things each summer. The beginning of summer would signal going to IMG_0016_Mendon_Carnival_Twilight_300Fantasy Island to celebrate a good report card, ride the steamboat and watch the live shootouts. The end of summer meant going to the Erie County Fair to see the vast array of other-worldly side shows on the Midway, the acrid smell of burnt oil and rubber at the demolition derby and the taste of my grandfather’s sumptuous pizza. Sandwiched in between, both chronologically and geographically was the Big Tree Fireman’s Carnival. I think it was actually called the Big Tree Firemen’s Annual Field Days. But for kids (and headline writers short on space) it was the Big Tree Carnival.

Here’s the real difference between Fantasy Island, the Erie County Fair and the Big Tree Continue Reading “Life is a (Small Town) Carnival”

The Magician Reveals His Real Trick

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One by one the hockey heroes skate up towards the camera from the far blue line, stop with a spray of ice just missing the lens, then announce their name and team. Finally, the last professional pumps his legs forward with the smooth motion of the others and stops in the same controlled fashion. But when he announces his name, I’m shocked to discover he’s no hockey player.

“Bill Shatner. Loblaws,” states the confident former Captain Kirk.

For those not familiar, Loblaws is a Canadian grocery chain. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s they had stores in Buffalo (primarily) and Rochester (maybe just one, but I lived next to it). It was an era before Wegmans went on supermarket steroids and totally dominated the market. Loblaws was Canada’s pride but eventually sold out to Bells Markets.

In 1975 Loblaws was a player – at least in my neighborhood – and no more so because Continue Reading “The Magician Reveals His Real Trick”

Back at the Old Pizza Stand

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In the opening scene of 1962’s The Music Man, Harold Hill, con man extraordinaire, unexpectedly bumps into his old friend and accomplice Marcellus Washburn. Marcellus has since married a “nice comfortable girl” and settled down in the idyllic Midwestern town of River City (“Gone legitimate, huh? I knew you’d come to no good,” laments Hill). When he asks Harold if he’s still pitching steam automobiles, Hill shakes his head “No” and says, “I’m back at the old stand” whereupon he pantomimes conducting a band.

I can’t say Hamburg had the stubbornness of River City, Iowa, (after all, Hamburg is the “Town that Friendship built”), but I can attest to an idyllic feeling growing up off South Park when it had only two lanes. And like the magical concluding scene of The Music Man, my brother and I (and maybe even my mother and father, too), couldn’t wait to Continue Reading “Back at the Old Pizza Stand”

Size Doesn’t Matter

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It may have been my father’s greatest embarrassment, but it was my greatest loss, a loss erased only by 25 years and a chance plumbing mishap.

How my family sees my long lost 1970 trophy.

It all started on a day which lives in “famy” (as opposed to“infamy”). No, I’m not exaggerating. It really was a famous day. On Saturday, March 7, 1970, I found myself bowling three games at Leisure Lanes in Hamburg, New York, among several dozen participants in the first Bowling Tournament my Cub Scout Pack ever had. The rest of the Northern Hemisphere spent the bulk of that sunny midday experiencing the greatest total eclipse of the sun our corner of the Earth will have until April 8, 2024.

I had won the Cub Scout Pack Bowling Tournament that day. My father, the Pack’s Cubmaster, bought a nice bowling trophy and a brass plate to etch the name of the winner. He didn’t expect Continue Reading “Size Doesn’t Matter”

What Popular Fast Food Item was Invented In Western New York?

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Here’s a quick question: What popular fast food was invented right here in Western New York? Think you know the answer? I’ll give you a hint – it’s not chicken wings. OK, smarty-pants, with apologies to Frank and Teresa, “chicken wings” Erie_County_Fair_Historical_Trolley_Head_On_300is a correct answer, but too obvious and not the correct answer. I’ll give you another hint – it was invented at the Erie County Fair in the mid-1880’s. If you know Western New York, then you may think you already know the answer. If you’re not sure, you’ll have to read on.

On Friday afternoon, I had the pleasure of making my annual visit to “America’s Fair” – the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, New York. I can tell you stories about the Fair dating from my youthful days when I helped my grandparents hawk slices from the family’s pizza stand, but I’ll save that for later. Suffice it to say, all I ever needed to know in life I learned while working in my grandfather’s pizza Continue Reading “What Popular Fast Food Item was Invented In Western New York?”

Bring Back Crispy M&M’s®!

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They disappeared without much fanfare in 2005. I barely noticed it, but, then again, I don’t often buy M&M’s®.IMG00010-20100719-2030_orange_M&Ms_300 When I did, I usually did it only to fill treat bowls for the holidays. But Crispy M&M’s® Crispy remained my favorite of the brand. You’d think they might have been the favorite of the manufacturer, since, according to the Wikipedia entry (as of July 18, 2010), they brought in more profit than any other M&M® variety (caveat emptor, Wikipedia contains no reference for this “fact”).

Just in time for Christmas – is that why I first noticed them? – Crispy M&M’s® came into being in December 1998, the company’s first new flavor since 1954, when it introduced Peanut M&M’s®. Most folks, though, probably remember the debut of the paranoid “Orange” character in an ad that Continue Reading “Bring Back Crispy M&M’s®!”

The Search for the Slice

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the July 6, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259It rains an awful lot in New Haven. It even rains in the winter. Of course, any amount of snow makes it worse. They don’t use salt in New Haven. They use sand. The snow melts (with the help of rain), leaving the sidewalks a puddle of a gritty mud. Over the years, though, one builds an immunity of sorts and learns to cope with the constant precipitation. (Maybe that’s why I rarely Continue Reading “The Search for the Slice”