Sunday, July 23, 2017


Dad was a softy, he never liked to see people unhappy or struggle. When it came to his own family, he was particularly diligent and aware of everyone's aches and pains. In the early 1950's, Dad decided to book a little fishing trip, with me and Grandpa.
Captain of the ship

Getting grandpa out of the house on Fulton Street in Brooklyn was a major effort, Grandpa didn't like to go anywhere that required his traveling for more than 15 minutes, and that had to be round trip.

Being how we were living on Long Island, Dad decided one summer to get grandpa out of the house in Brooklyn and take him fishing; "We have to get Grandpa out of the house!" We went to Mastic Beach on a Saturday and rented a row boat, got a few rods and reels and bait, and set out to fish. Oh, Captain, my Captain!

Fisherman and thinker
My thinking was that that was all the equipment we would need since we were fishing we would eat what we caught. Build a fire on the beach and cook our catch. Dad and Grandpa both seemed perplexed by my plan, and since I was only 11-years old, what the Hell did I know. The problem with the plan was there was a huge package coming on board the ride to the beach, it consisted of three Italian heroes, packed with peppers and eggs, and a chunk of provolone cheese and a Genoa salami, along with a gallon of Grandpa's homemade wine, courtesy of grandfather's bride, Grandma Francesca.

Being the ‘city type', both Dad and Grandpa dressed for the occasion. Dad wore his shorts, sandals and black dress socks, while Grandpa never changed. Grandpa wore his work pants, brown unpolished shoes, and white shirt, along with his fedora, which he camped under come rain or shine, baptism or wake.

Dad became the grand admiral, directing me, the only crew member that showed up that day to man the oar, bait the hooks and full steam ahead.

As we set ‘sail', we each had our position on the boat, Dad sat up front with his rod, tossing it in into the drink (literally), and I trying to get the hook that caught me in the neck was sitting mid-ship so to speak, while Grandpa sat in the back, legs crossed serenely holding his rod, eyes closed, dreaming of home.

Suddenly Grandpa caught a fish, then another, then still another! Dad was still fishing with his rod, and I was almost done getting the hook out of my neck and ready to fish.

After a while with Grandpa's success, I asked him how he was able to catch so many fish.

Grandpa looks at me, squinting in the sun and says: "SSSHHH".

I looked at him and he says, "SSSHHH, thatsa how you catcha da fish!!"

As we floated along the Great South Bay, Dad and Grandpa had their wine, and it seemed fine until we reached the shore to unload the boat. When Dad stepped off the boat, he suddenly looked like he saw a ghost, stopping in mid-tracks to catch himself. Sitting at the edge of the dock he just sat there with his head in his hands. Dad had too much wine! Grandpa, however, stepped from the boat onto the dock and fish in hand looked at Dad and said: "Tony, prendi il tuo tempo." (Tony, take your time.)

As we floated along the Great South Bay, Dad and Grandpa had their wine, and it seemed fine until we reached the shore to unload the boat. When Dad stepped off the boat, he suddenly looked like he saw a ghost, stopping in mid-tracks to catch himself. Sitting at the edge of the dock he just sat there with his head in his hands. Dad had too much wine! Grandpa, however, stepped from the boat onto the dock and fish in hand looked at Dad and said: "Tony, prendi il tuo tempo." (Tony, take your time.)

Apparently drinking on the water didn’t make you drunk because of the movement of the rowboat, but step on land and goodbye.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


I never like to give one. My opinion is what I like and my experiences are what they are that lead me to conclusions. I don't like to recommend movies or even books. I have made exceptions to my rule on occasions especially here on this blog. Shoot me.

But (I love that word) I also don't like to not recommend things either.

However, recent experience with a certain company leads me to suggest that if you do order from this mail-order company that has existed for many years, you may be disappointed based on its reputation. I am talking about Omaha Steaks, a great advertiser, package, and disappointment.

Recently TLW (The Little Woman) and I ordered from their catalog they sent to my mailbox. As we skimmed through the catalog we decided to order 4 steaks and 4 pork chops. We figured, how bad could it be for the price. What we got was a disappointment.

The steaks were so skinny and lean that they were tasteless, as were the pork chops, thin and tasteless. Pork chops should be tasty, with a little bit of fat for flavor as should a steak.

Buy at your own risk, things might be very lean in Omaha.

Friday, July 21, 2017


Stephen the birthday stealer
It seems I lost my identity long ago, one July morning when someone called me to tell me her new born grandson was sharing my birthday! Once that happened my individualism ceased and I was no longer known as Joe, Uncle Joe or even Hey you.

Sharing a birthday wasn’t so bad until one day my son was hired by my company, and impressed them so much that I became Anthony’s father. To add to the downgrading of my identity, I am now referred to as: Darby Shea’s grandpa.
Anthony's father's son, Anthony

I was given a T-shirt for a present three years ago with a picture of Darby on the front, she got instant recognition, I got: “Hey, Mister! Way to goooo! Love da shirt!”

I’ve put so many posts up of Ms. Darby that people think she has her own account, and wonder whatever happened to you know, what’s is name - me. I wonder myself.

Darby Shea, looking for What's his name
It would be so easy to do something illegal in front of a room filled with people and Darby present, no one would remember it or even see it with that little sunshine present.

So, I ordered an inscription for my headstone that reads: “Here lies Darby Shea’s grandpa, what’s his name.”

Thursday, July 20, 2017


In my career in NYC where I worked as a young and up and coming designer, I had the opportunity of meeting many interesting people. These people came from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds that made life so much more interesting than the drabness of my hometown of Bellport. Bellport was a kind of purification or sifting if you will of what I grew up with in Brooklyn and there wasn't a whole lot of people that I met that even matched the color and flavors of Brooklyn.

When I graduated from college I took on the task of fulfilling my ambition of becoming a designer and creating things as a job to make a living from. Entering the field in the early 70's introduced me to many interesting people and opinions, all coming out of the Great Depression, expressing their points of view from their life experiences, this was a treasure trove for me.

Once such individual was a gentleman named Saul. Saul was the Executive Vice President of the ad agency I started with. He laid the groundwork for what I thought to this day the advertising world was all about.

Saul was a very fine artist, a painter who could also draw with his eyes closed and one-handed. Working during the Great Depression for the government painting murals for large public buildings like the one in Rockefeller Center. He received what is called a government commission. Having painted a mural or two I know how physically difficult that can be.

Saul married the boss's sister and was very influential in the decision making on a creative level. Saul spoke in short and to the point sentences, always cheerful and well-spoken. He carried a patrician air about him, with a white shock of hair, starched shirts and tailor made suits as well as a well-trimmed mustache. Saul was a very handsome man.

Saul would arrive every morning at 10:30 a.m. punctually. By 11:00 a.m. Saul had a full cocktail glass of vodka on his desk, as he would scan through or read a magazine on art, both fine and commercial. By 12:30 Saul was out the door visiting his mistress who had a lovely apartment around the corner from the office that he paid for. She was a beautiful girl, and lived in a very expensive place, well-furnished and stocked with all kinds of booze, particularly vodka. They would lunch together, and Saul would return to the office about 3:30 p.m. He would sleep off the booze at his desk until 5:00 p.m. Some days, before he went off to lunch as early as 11:30 a.m., Saul would pull out some reference material in the art department, take an empty drawing table and would draw sketches for cowboy novel dust jackets. The sketches would later be published as the cover art for the book jackets. The amazing thing about Saul was he was one-handed. His other arm and hand were badly deformed from birth.

Saul was a guy who broke all conventional rules, then rewrote them, and everyone loved him. I feel guilty because I should have been prissy and despised his lifestyle, especially his cheating on his wife, but I couldn't help myself but like him. Maybe I felt that I didn't live in his shoes, so what did I know, and what business was it to me.

Here was a man who could quote the best writers, discuss the movie industry from its inception and make a great recommendation for a restaurant.

When I left the agency for another job, I got a phone call from Saul, asking to meet me for lunch. We went to this little restaurant on one of the side streets along Second Avenue and he asked for a chance to do some artwork for me, which I gave him in a New York heartbeat. Pulling out a cigarette and holder, he had a European Dandy-like air that made me feel like I was in old Vienna or Paris as we discussed details and money. Here was a man who knew the likes of Picasso, Hemingway and other such luminaries, talking to me, a country boy from Bellport!

He is beyond a doubt, one of the most interesting characters I ever met. He made my life interesting, and I will always remember the great Saul.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Way back in the 20’s and 30’ there was a huge influx of Italians who came to America to start a new life. Life was hard in Italy, but if you had a family member or friend who would sponsor you here in America, you got on the boat and came.

There is a true story that happened in the ‘30s when there was an influx of Italian immigrants that came to this country. My grandmother Francesca was a sponsor of a few people from her hometown in Naples, and they came to live with her. One day one of them, her name was Italia,  decided to apply for citizenship and needed to know how to get to the government courthouse to apply. This meant going into Manhattan on the subway. Not being able to read English, my grandmother had an idea. She took Italia to the subway station and gave her 14 pennies to hold in her hand. The14 pennies were for going and then the 14 pennies again for coming back. Each penny would represent a station. She was told by grandma to put a penny in her pocket after each stop. When she ran out of pennies, that would be the stop, go upstairs and you will see the courthouse. On the way home, the same process should begin, where the last penny is her home station.

Off goes Italia with 14 pennies in her hand, when suddenly about half way into the ride; she gets shoved by someone and drops the pennies from the excitement of the crowd boarding at that station! The pennies scatter all over the car and she loses some of the pennies. It was very late the evening when she finally showed up with a policeman at my grandmother’s door. To this day, we wonder if she ever got her citizenship papers?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


And other collectibles.

As a youngster, like all my friends my age, collecting baseball cards was a big part of growing up. You bought the Topps chewing gum packets, a slab of gum and 5 baseball players featured separately on a card. You usually threw out the gum as you eagerly searched through the cards for your favorite player. You traded away those players you hated on the other team, in my case the Yankees and Giants of New York and treasured the Brooklyn Dodger players.
It was like we were miniature General Managers.

But when it came to collections, Grandma Frances had me beat, but her collection was more of a religious experience than mine could ever be.

When you visited Grandma, the one thing you would notice was her hookup with the saints and Jesus, which was displayed like a Coke sign at a ballpark, big frequent and sometimes even flashy. Going into her bedroom, dark and mysterious as it was, was an experience with the holy, supernatural and mysterious. The bedroom has little light, and the numerous votive candles would make the walls flicker and dance, drawing attention to the sacred heart picture of Jesus looking carefully to the side as if watching some interruption that was presently occurring.
 Jesus wasn’t the only holy picture to be mounted on the walls of the semi-Vatican, there was of course Mary, standing on a small globe with clouds at her feet as she wore a crown on her head.

Grandma’s collection consisted of medals, pictures and small altars on bureau venerations to various saints. There were pictures of the old world, and in them a spire or two of the ever-present churches that populate and dominate the landscapes and Italian country sides of Italia.

But the single most thing that caught my attention was of one of her brothers who had died in Italy and someone sent a picture of him in his shiny new coffin being assisted sitting up and facing the camera. Add that to the shimmering walls and solemnity of the room, fueled by my imagination and you had a major moment of creepiness.

Grandma wore her religion on her chest, in the guise of medals with little ribbons, rosaries that rested in her hands and an occasional movement from one finger to the other. What was she praying for? Maybe one of her children, maybe a friend or family member from the other side of the pond.

Even her music was religious, with a small 45 rpm she gave my father, ‘Santa Maria dell Arco.’
The cover had a picture of a sunny day and a church with a steeple and somewhere was Saint Mary overlaid on everything.

I’ll trade you two Saint Anthony 2”x 3” for a 4”x 6” Saint Joseph and I’ll throw in a tiny St. Christopher medal.

Monday, July 17, 2017


St. Ellen and one of her projects.
If you are wondering who Freddy is, he is the patron saint of the deaf. His saint day is July 18, and he died in 838. He is starting to gather ear wax and needs to be removed. Not for anything, but no one listens to him!

But who do we replace him with? How about a woman? And I know just the woman, St. Ellen of Holbrook, the new patron saint of the deaf. Yes, it has a nice ring to it and I think it might fly, I mean we do have a progressive Pope, don't we?

Now you are wondering why I make this recommendation, and it is because she has extensive experience with the deaf and audio challenged since she is married to me for 46 years!

But it doesn't end there! At the Wanna-Be-Bank and Trust Co., people come from miles around to seek out her advice and listen to her scream at them. Often deaf members of the bank ask for St. Ellen specifically, knowing she will communicate with them to the best of her ability.

She goes out of her way to soothe people and make them feel good knowing she is patient and caring.

But the Wanna-Be-Bank and trust company wonder has not only taken members under her wing but friends, friends that she finds through her good heart, mainly one lady who was so deaf she screamed at herself so she could hear herself think!

So, when you think you didn't hear it right, don't be afraid of whipping out a prayer to St. Ellen of Holbrook.