Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Paying It Forward

Yesterday, Monday, October 28, 2013, was better than a good day, was an Excellent Day. First, meeting up with two of the WMSC (at the time we started it - WVMS) founding members. George Steinmetz, who was a fellow senior and classmate in our major, Industrial Arts, became our Chief Engineer. George's commitment and specialty in electronics were his qualifications and he did a great job of getting the first station up and running and "on the air." Since he didn't leave the immediate area, he was instrumental in keep the station running and upgrading it after our graduation. Les Anderson was a sophomore and took over the reins as Chairman of the station and The Voice of Montclair State." It was under his leadership and with the support of the remaining core group of students who launched the dream that the station carried on for the next couple years.

It's a good thing those two guys were there (with the rest of the team) because I left the region for Syracuse, NY to attend graduate school and from there into the Air Force. So, I wasn't available any longer to keep things going, keep the dream alive and the troops motivated and inspired.

Lunch was great! We met at the Six Brothers Diner (formerly West's Diner, a Montclair State hangout). We covered a lot of territory (46 years of territory) in a couple hours. So much to talk about and so little time to do it. I look forward to our next encounter. But, I do want to say to both of you. THANK YOU! Thanks for seeing my vision and buying into it. Thanks for being there when I couldn't. Thanks for just being who you are. It is with no doubt that WVMS/WMSC might not have continued to exist and grow through its infancy had it not been for your commitments.

The "Twofer"

And things got better after I parted company with George and Les. I headed for the home of another fellow Industrial Arts major classmate from my Class of '67, Bob Hinck. Bob was another of the "Good Guys." He roomed at my house for a while during our senior year.

As it turned out, I wasn't only going to have the opportunity to spend some time with Bob and his, lovely wife, Helene, but also another fellow Industrial Arts classmate from '67, Norman Steines and his (also) lovely wife, Mimi. Wow! What a grand afternoon and evening it turned out to be. The stories flowed never endingly. There was lots laughter and aha moments. Interestingly, the three of us had very diverse lives after college even though we were all trained to be Industrial Arts teachers. Bob was the only one of the three of us who followed the "calling" and pursued a full career teaching. Norman was drafted into the U.S. Army (with wonderful stories of his experiences) during the Vietnam War. He was the only one of the three of us who went to Vietnam. I, of course, pursued an entrepreneurial career and volunteered for four years in the U.S. Air Force and avoided Vietnam. Bob was fortunate enough to forego military service.

We had a delicious dinner and the conversation continued. Norman brought his Class of  '67 Yearbook with him and we pawed through it pointed out the girls we dated, ogling the one we hadn't dated . . . but would have loved to and checking out all our fellow Industrial Arts classmates. Thanks Bob and Helene for being such gracious hosts. Thanks Norman and Mimi for being there and making it so much fuller and richer an experience. And thanks for Bob and Norman for being part of the Class of '67 and my life. And, I should also acknowledge that both Helene and Mimi were both career schoolteachers and my hat is off to both of you for your commitment to the calling - and also for being the flowers among three thorns. I don't know, Bob and Norman. It seems like you robbed the cradle, because the "girls" sure made the three of us look like "old men" (dirty old men, might be more accurate).

It couldn't have been a better day. As I said it was an Excellent Day.

Capping An Excellent Day

Well, as if I hadn't had enough of a great day, just as I was leaving Bob Hinck's house to head back to the Garfield, New Jersey Walmart "Motor Inn," my phone rang. It was none other than my favorite person in the world, my one and only son, Pete, calling me from Los Angeles, his current base of operations. He caught me at an inopportune time as my GPS was attempting to guide me back to Garfield and I wasn't able to focus on what Pete was saying and the directions the GPS kept spouting out. So, I realized that I was missing turns and driving in circles. So, I begged for the call and told him I'd call him back in a half-hour or so when I was safely back at the "motor inn" and parked for the night.

After rolling in and getting set up for the night at the Walmart, I called Pete back and we managed to chat for about two hours until nearly 2 AM. There is always so much to catch up on and talk about. I'm mainly interested in his career and advancement and he's interested in what I'm up to and where I am at that particular moment. He has located a new apartment within walking distance of the office he's currently working in. He described it and said it's small, but very adequate for in immediate needs. Indeed! He sounded excited (especially since he's been looking for a place for at least four to six weeks).

I couldn't have capped off an Excellent Day any better. That call was the icing on a very rich cake.

Paying It Forward

This morning as I was preparing for my first day of this trip when I didn't have something of significance planned, a "relaxation day" of sorts, I had an inspiring experience right off the bat. I walked through the Walmart, visiting their restrooms on the way and walking out the other end of the store where there is a free standing McDonalds. I went in an ordered a "Senior Hot Tea." I'm truly the last of the big spenders in this regard. Total expenditure was $.63. I hadn't noticed the man standing behind me. I'll call him Joe the Cop. Joe stepped up to the counter clerk after I stepped aside and handed her a $5.00 (or maybe more) bill. He told her that she should use that money to pay for the breakfast of the next senior citizen and just tell them at someone who appreciates them paid for their meal.

Well, the young girl at the counter was not a native born American citizen. She neither spoke nor understood English very well. So, she looked dumbfounded. As Joe left the store, she took the money in her hand and went back seeking the shift manager to figure out what to do with the money. She totally didn't get the gesture. After I received my hot tea (which he offered to have her refund the purchase price to me), I went outside where he was standing next to his very sharp looking fairly recent model year Mustang fastback. I went up to Joe the Cop and said "Thank you for that very nice and generous gesture. There just aren't enough people doing simple things like he did that really make a difference in someone's life."

He told me that he was an Iraq veteran and a cop (hence, Joe the Cop) and when he knows he's going to have a difficult day for whatever reason, he would make such a gesture. He said it made him feel good to know that someone was going to benefit from his simple act and that knowing that would carry him through his own difficult day knowing that someone was feeling better even though they didn't know who made the gesture. WOW! What a great way for me to start off another day. There was no way I wasn't going to have a great day today, AGAIN, after that inspiration.

Young is Old and Old is Young

Joe said he was married and had several small children and they kept him and his wife busy. He said there were a lot days that he felt like he was 70 years old even though he was only 35. HA! I told him. I'm nearly 70 and I feel like I'm 35. I told him I could relate to his feeling old at 35. When I was his age, I had a toddler son, a wife, several businesses, an extended family who had moved to the east coast from the west coast that I was assisting in getting along through some difficulties and two other employees who each had difficulties they brought with them to my life.

Yep! There were times I felt 70 when I was 35. But, now as I really approach 70 I've learned that life is too short to let difficulties prematurely age me. Oh sure! Younger people might say, "That's easy for you to say, you're old, you don't have anymore challenges. Those of you in my age bracket know that is "NOT SO!" If anything, the challenges and difficulties at this age may equal or even surpass those of the 35 year old. But, no matter what our age, if we let them, difficulties and challenges can take over our lives and drag us down. I'm thankful that Joe the Cop has found a very positive and productive way to lighten his load and lift his spirits. I've chosen to adopt my "living free" philosophy and lifestyle to carry me over the "minefields." And, yes, like everyone, there are potholes, pit falls and large sinkholes to deal with at this age. I just choose to not let them control my life. I hope you're doing the same.

The Rest Of The Story . . .

 The rest of my day was terrific. I drove along the Palisades and shot some photos across the Hudson River at the various New York skylines including the new World Trade Center. I took pictures of a couple young couples with their iPhones. I had a delightful conversation with one young couple. Then as I continued up the Palisades Interstate Parkway I saw the Armstrong tower, a huge structure built back in the 1930's and knew I'd have to locate a good vantage point for a shot of that tower for a future Photo-of-the-Week. I'll explain the significance at that time.

I also found myself at the road leading to the Alpine Boat Basis on the Hudson River. So, I wound my way down the face of the Palisades, probably 400 to 500 feet to the water level. There I found myself in, yet, another place I haven't been in 40 years or so. This was were my very close grad school buddy, Dudley Carpenter's (and his brother Al's) parents, Gil and Gertie Carpenter kept the mighty "Pegasus." Dudley is the father of the bride whose wedding I attended on Long Island last week, as you may recall. We had at least a couple great summers of boating on the 40', wooden hull, twin engine, floating playground. So, I took some photos, of course, which I'll send to both Dudley and Al since I don't know that either of them has been back there since that time in our lives, either.

I then headed back to Clifton where I decided that pizza was on my menu for dinner. I headed for Baralari's Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria on Van Houten Avenue, within sight of Mario's restaurant that I wrote about in a previous post from my last trip to my hometown a few weeks ago. Baralari is the surname of the family that owned Mario's until sold to Alfredo, the new owner from Spain. Baralari's is owned by the grandson of the original owners of Mario's. He wanted to take over the original Mario's and he wasn't able to work anything out with the family. So, he opened a new restaurant just down the street about two blocks.

It was a very positive experience. I'm going to do a write up about Baralari's for a future post, but I enjoyed my pizza (and have the leftovers here in the van with me). I also met Kenny Baralari, the owner and had a long conversation with him. What a way to end another great day.

Now, it's time to make some notes and prepare for my last day in northern New Jersey tomorrow as I spend it at Montclair State University (where I pre-arranged for parking tomorrow so I don't run into head room challenges as I did the last time I was there). I also have a few quick emails to get out. So, I hope you're having Excellent Days like I'm having, if not, change something and jump on board with me.

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