Reunions Stake Out Past From Next– and Which Memories to Keep Alive

Alex Chrys (L) raises Arabian show horses, Scott Grayman (M) is the epitome of reunion attendance, myself (R) in tuxedo
Alex Chrys (L) raises Arabian show horses, Scott Grayman (M) is the epitome of reunion attendance, myself (R) in tuxedo

With all due respect to George Alper for bringing a tableful of pictures (and still remembering his best half-mile and relay times), and the ladies who were at the core of getting the Linton HS 40th reunion done in such a satisfying way (Yay! Janelle Richardson, Belle W., Anna Casillo (Gelman), Allyson T., with an attaboy! for advisor Don Lang), being back in Charlotte this fantastic Wednesday morning is a start on the Next I had the opportunity to discuss with several classmates along the way. NEVER giving up on the writing, that is a piece of all I am, but real estate is in my future—talk to me if you’re coming to Charlotte!

To say I practiced my talking and journalistic habit of inquiry mightily over five days—many would say that’s essentially what I’m remembered for and wouldn’t need *practice* (right Scott?)— was quite affirming. Beyond the reunion, my always-a-sportswriter persona felt extra alive when brother David took me to a meet-great for this year’s Siena basketball teams directly from the airport. I was also glad to have several hours with my cousin Doug, wife Cindy, and their two girls, one of which I quizzed on her continents and oceans. I always appreciate time with my Blackhawk-flying nephew, Curtiss, who was back from Ft. Drumm this weekend, and his fiancée, Stephanie. Hearing he is promotable and will be an Army captain by the time they get married in June is a good thing.

For those who didn’t make it to this reunion– or other readers who missed their last/recent or are considering missing an opportunity– the chance to share and/or compare notes at this juncture in life is legitimate. The day a book of mine wins a Pulitzer, or a 7-figure check hits my bank account for a movie script, I’ll probably still be a million or more behind Vic Mazzotti (Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP) or Alex Chrys, but so it goes. Al seemed slightly affronted about my having Googled the idea he raised Arabian show horses, because Saturday morning it seemed like he juuuust might be seeing what stuck to the proverbial wall Friday night at our Clinton’s Ditch gathering. FYI—for anyone who remembers the spray-painted note ‘Susan is a pinhead’ on a downtown wall, ‘Pinhead Susan’s’ is where we had final drinks Saturday.

That guys I played Pop Warner football with even before high school were there: Jim Schemerhorn, a prosperous looking NY lawyer now, and Bob Massaroni– who I also graduated from Brockport with– looking forward to a few more years of teaching before retirement, and thankfully past some long time physical problems, was fine. That Joe Genovesi, who also played Pop Warner, didn’t make it, but told Bob to remind me of his 1-1 basketball victories on my court, brought a small smile. So did my brother David (Class of ’78) relating how all the gym classes were made to stand at attention one particular Monday while teachers demanded to know who knew what about a torn up football field from a bunch of us in college who played football in slushy snow the Sunday before the annual Election Day Linton-MP football game. Ahh, memories! (and I *swear* we thought the season was already over.)

Steve Lussier didn’t make it either, nor hoops buddy Danny Smith, who I double-dated with for Senior Prom. No Pryzblo, Dave Karowe, Karen Cioffi, Schein twins, or Robert Relyea, who gave the use of his legs for his country in the Gulf War even before our 10th reunion. There was a Memorial Tree for classmates who died, and while everyone is a loss, I’m sure Tim Easley’s smile was missed.

That several people were just as well-preserved as Don Lang kept crediting me with—I’m talking about Belle Waddington (Freedgood), Pete Zimandonis, Karen Korniak (Johnson?), John Zampella, Linda Noonan (Leary), John Notar, Joe Litz, Cindy Bush, Jayne Binzer, Kathy Riemer (Corso), Ken Bascue, Jean Tafler, and Anna Casillo (Gelman) for starters—is why anyone who said, “I’ll make it to the next one!” missed the boat. Oh, can’t forget Mini Acevedo (Hoffman) or Patti Barbeau (Egan), who explained how a medical condition caused some bulging in her very pretty eyes when she asked if I recognized her. Patti, knees were a concern for many of the guys, but those eyes weren’t a problem, even when they were hurting you Saturday night. Of course there are names missing from this list, so I’ll ask for forgiveness in advance, but even with glasses now, Pete Z. is still a studly 6’1” with shoulders that looked awesome in a plaid jacket. Linda, tell those puppy-aged nurses to shut up! about 40 as real old, especially in YOUR fine-for-58 presence.

People are doing interesting things: Chris Boehm, who I’ve known since summers at Sacandaga Lake with the GE Alumni crew our fathers were, was right on top of the dredging of PCBs from Hudson River project (even if he sub-texted the effort as many years and billions of dollars of ‘dog and pony show’ for the EPA), and deals with “30 of the deadliest gases you could ever imagine” regarding atoms 500 layers thick on silicon wafers (tough to explain); really really smart former-cheerleader (I’m smiling, Cin) Cindy Bush *swears* her financial derivatives weren’t the sort of irresponsible crap of the too-crazy-for-own-good numbers people that helped cause the recession; Jim Thackery is doing brainy stuff, I think also involving silicon wafers—-they were starting to hustle us out of Malozzi’s about the time we talked. Hope to talk to more people about such things (my movie?) when we attempt this again in five years.

Guess I shouldn’t be overly shy about plugging my book here: ‘CARDS & CONSEQUENCES: Return of Marlena the Magnificent’ ISBN# 9781493176571, e-ver. -76557. (There’s a link and first chapter at the top of this page, in black area. Story goes well with red or white wine…)

Two doors away neighborhood girl/’Class Venus’ Allyson Towler (Grayman) was part of the reunion committee, and special props to her for persuading long time best bud Scott Grayman to be there. He had pictures of a great looking bunch of kids (6), but the Orthodox Jewish belief against celebration, because his mother died in the last year, and fact he couldn’t drive until after sundown on the Sabbath (he also drove *back* to NJ right after) goes to the core of religious tenets. We hear about intolerance of what others do in that area constantly, but self-practice like that, the world would benefit from those who do it quietly and personally.

Those who didn’t come for lesser reasons, well, the reunion was small relative to 560 at graduation, but we enjoyed it muchly.

Panthers-Bucs Game Another Piece of Sportswriters Life

Sportswriter isn't at all like being Norwegian Green agent Bahnd Jens-Bahnd, .
“Sportswriter isn’t at all like being Norwegian Green agent Bahnd Jens-Bahnd”

As the Panthers prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today, this piece will be in homage to a venerable Tampa sportswriter, Tom McEwen, read often during the years while gaining my own muscles as a writer there in the early ‘80s. Mr. McEwen always began his columns discussing his breakfast fare, so:

With a second cup of post-church java in hand, sitting down to an awesome 3-egg omelet– filled with half a thigh of leftover grilled chicken, chopped up with a decent amount of firm Ruskin tomato for color, handful of baby spinach, plentiful shredded Parmesan, and laced with tabasco (as usual) on a less-rainy-than-predicted Sunday– feels righteous. Two pieces of buttered rye toast with honey and a perfectly ripened, juicy but not drippy, organic pear and the sports page, all is well with the immediate world around me.

Well, all is well now that a new $112 battery has been installed in Ol’ Blue, the PT Cruiser that required a jump this morning to get out of the driveway. As long as memories are running rampant in advance of Panthers-Bucs game—and very aware of that upcoming 40th reunion next weekend—one quick thought about hitches (like dead battery) and church. On the first day of a newbie 10 year old altar boys first 7:30am Mass long ago, Fr. O’Hara announced post-Gospel reading that he was too sick to continue. Walking through a swirling February snow to the rectory to get another priest is a memory that has obviously lasted longer than this mornings inconvenience will.

About the game: Well, the Panthers are now 4-0, tied with the Atlanta Falcons atop the NFC South. That they won the division with a 7-8-1 record last year shows just what hope every new season brings to fans. Unfortunately, even having #1 overall selection in the 2015 draft– Jameis Winston, ex- of Florida State, a Heisman Trophy and national championship winner like the Panthers Cam Newton– on their side doesn’t figure to raise the now 1-3 Bucs from the depths that having the opportunity to make such a selection indicates. It’s impossible not to think about interviewing a young, strong-armed black QB during those early Tampa sports writing days; Doug Williams was frequently running for his health behind a line not much better than Tampa’s current one.

On what turned out to be a brilliant, sun-shiny day in the second half, Winston threw four interceptions, balanced somewhat by a two TD, 26-of-43 for 287 yard effort that is his best overall game production early in a rookie year. His first INT became Panther cornerback Josh Norman’s second pick-six of the year, and Norman grabbed his fourth INT of the year a bit later. Winston might have had a worse day, but the Bucs fumbling a handoff was attributed to a running back. At least Jameis figures to still have a job on Monday—kicker Kyle Brindza missed three more FG attempts and an extra point– and coach Lovey Smith can’t protect that type of production much longer. On the other hand, Norman, Defensive Player of the Month for September, continues to make a strong case for a major cha-ching! improvement in his contract next year.

Cam Newton was average on the stat sheet, 11-22 for 124 yards, but with a pair of TD passes to Ted Ginn, Jr., the first such game of Ginn’s career. Cam’s 51 rushing yards– much like in his outstanding first year, and definitely a hoped for asset after a $103 million commitment by the team this off-season–kept the sticks moving, and have the Panthers back to ‘highly respectable’ if not feared status early. Freak plays like tight end Ed Dickson’s grabbing a Jon Stewart pop-up fumble and turning it into a 57-yard touchdown rumble seem to come through when teams are playing well overall.

While Panthers fans will continue to worry about the concussion protocols that have kept star linebacker, Luke Kuechly, out of three games since the opener against Jacksonville, they now have an off week before facing Seattle. Jared Allen, an $823,529 bargain added during the week, brings major experience (12 years, 134 sacks, 4 Pro Bowls) to a front four that lost sack-master Charles Johnson for eight weeks last week. Linebacker Thomas Davis’ final pick of Winston, and AJ Klein’s steady play replacing Kuechly, bode well for the defense, but even more than two December games vs. arch-rival Atlanta, the Panthers need to overcome a play-them-tough-but-lose history against the Seahawks. With a whiff of playoff fever already in the air, you can’t get back to any Super Bowls without expecting to see them along the way.