Every year my brother, Charlie his two adult son’s Jon and Kenny, me, and my two adult sons Brad and Daniel,go on a trip for two days. The purpose of the trip is to simply be with each other and relate to each other without wives, kids or other distractions. The trip is always a wonderful bonding experience as well as intellectually stimulating. I believe we each learn something from each other and about the others' dreams and goals. I have always said if you do not have goals you cannot score baskets.
In recent years we’ve gone to spring training baseball games. Last year we went to Fenway Park. This year we decided to go to Wrigley Field and the Cubs, but the plans changed and we decided to go to a game at Yankee Stadium in its last season.
Brad was in charge of getting the tickets. He polled everyone in March 2008 for a weekend. With our schedules and the Yankee schedule plus sellouts he could only get tickets to the Yankee game on September 13 th. The Yankees were to play the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (The Rays). I was disappointed because Tampa Bay was the worst team in baseball in March 2008.
It turned out last weekend was the last homestand in the “House that Ruth Built”. It also turned out that Tampa Bay is currently the best team in baseball. Brad is a genius. Tampa Bay slaughtered the Yankees 7-1. As we watched the first two innings Jon noted that Derek Jeter did not jump after balls hit that he could have easily gotten. We also noticed lethargy in the stands. A-Rod and Pugh Rodriguez were not in the Yankee starting lineup. The crowd was not in the game. Mike Mussina stunk. We left in the fifth inning.
The terrible game hardly ruined the weekend. First stop on Friday night was Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center. On Saturday my brother hired a car ( a great big Suburban) driven by a great big guy (Frank) to take us to the neighborhoods we grew up in.
Frank drove us from the New York Palace via the East River Drive to Buckner Boulevard. I had never seen Buckner Boulevard completed as a highway. It was being built for over 20 years. He connected with the Bronx River Parkway and exited on Gun Hill Road.
Kenny commented that it looked like a neighborhood somewhere in Europe. We passed the site of the pizza place I took Cecelia on our first date. It was gone. It was replaced by a shiny stainless steel Diner. I told the boys what clothing Cecelia was wearing on our first date. They immediately called her to see if I was making it up. She confirmed my description. She was wearing bermuda shorts and a blue button down man tailored shirt. I fell in love with her at first sight and we have remained in love for 50 years so far.
Our house in the Bronx was smaller than I remembered. The basketball court across the street was still there. I played endless hours of pickup street basketball with the kids in the NYC Projects. I learned to use my elbows to survive. Next we passed Cecelia’s house. It brought back memories of our fabulous courtship.
Frank then drove down Allerton Avenue. I made him stop at the White Castle for old times sake. It was still in the same spot for at least 65 years. The facade had been modernized. Everyone thought I was crazy when I jumped out of the car to take a picture and get a White Castle hamburger.
As a kid we would clip the 5 for twenty-five cent coupons out of the New York Daily News on Mondays. My brother and I would eat 10 at a time. My mother’s friends would clip extra coupon for us. My hamburger cost 75 cent now.
We then passed Columbus High School (my brother went there) and then down Moshula Parkway to Kingsbridge Road. Kingsbridge Road to the Grand Concourse to Mount Eden Avenue. We lived in an apartment building on the corner of Mount Eden Avenue and Topping Avenue from 1945 to 1954. It had been torn down, replaced by a parking lot and presently a row of three story apartments.
Claremont Park as not the same. The playground where we played punch ball was gone. Our baseball field was gone. The “rocks” which always seemed monstrous to me as a kid were only about 4 feet high. My stepping stone good luck rock on the rock wall border of the park was still there. It was a thrill to see it once again even if it was a little worn.
Geller’s Candy Store was gone. The only store left in the neighborhood was a little grocery store. It has not been updated.
Saturday night we had dinner and walked around Broadway and Times Square. It was hot, muggy, rainy and wall to wall with people. When we got to 42 nd St and 6 th Ave. we finally got to some peace and quiet.
As usual there was stimulating political discussions. And as usual no one changed the other guys' mind. The weekend gave us a chance to hang out and feel each others progress.
We laughed and talked endlessly. I recommend this kind of experience with siblings and your siblings' children. The togetherness is inspiring, educational and therapeutic.
Next year’s trip will/might be to Chicago in May. Chicago Cubs will play the Chicago White Sox in interleague play. I assume it will be another cold and rainy weekend in May because it always seems to be cold and rainy in Chicago in May.
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