07/27/13 8:00am
07/27/2013 8:00 AM

FILE PHOTO | A dog chases his owner in Orient during last week’s heat wave. They ended up swimming together under the causeway with the man’s two daughters close behind.

My son sent me a text the other day. As usual, he employed an amazing economy of words.

“I don’t remember this.”

“This” refers to summer weather in Washington, D.C., which he apparently does not recollect, although we lived there during his preschool years. He’d come into the townhouse after racing around the courtyard with his little buddies, face flushed, breathing like a racehorse, with T-shirt and shorts looking like they were spray-painted on.



His folks were wise enough to keep to the front door’s air-conditioned side and wise enough to move north. Much later, he and our lovely daughter-in-law’s career paths took them back to our nation’s capital, covered each July and August by a dome of equatorial heat and rain forest humidity. At this time of year the place is a swamp, infested not with gators, but guys in Brooks Brothers suits and Cole-Haan shoes, especially on Capitol Hill, a swamp in the non-meterological sense as well. Those creatures can be just as ill-tempered, and far more dangerous.

Last week we might as well have been back on the Potomac’s sodden shores — where the temps reached 98 with a heat index of 105 — what with the week-long heat wave and the back and forth dash from AC’d vehicles to AC’d buildings. And that makes me cross, vexed even.

As much as I’m not on speaking terms with the sun, it’s usually quite effective to slather up or cover up or simply wait for sundown. Except when you slather up and the stinging, burning sunscreen drips into your eyes. I’ve piped in many a parade where folks wondered why I looked like I’d just downed a glass of month-old milk.

You can dress in layers when it’s cold, but when Herr Heat comes to town there’s only so much you can take off — for legal and aesthetic reasons, that is.

Been to Florida twice, and if there’s never a third time that’s fine by me. Well, unless one of the offspring springs for a trip to Disney or the Universal theme parks. Wouldn’t mind seeing that Harry Potter thing, but not in July or August.

Perhaps there’s a genetic component to this aversion to heat. Some years back, at the beginning of an anniversary bus tour through Ireland, the guide intoned, “See that bright yellow thing in the sky? Take a good look now, for you may never see it again.” It being June, the weather ’twas grand altogether, as they say over there. Sunny and in the 70s when we rolled into Dublin, which is as far north as Newfoundland. In St. Stephen’s Green, not far from Trinity College, young people dotted the grass like dandelions in May. That’s hot for Ireland, where the highest temperature ever recorded was just under 92 degrees.

Ninety-two? Get outta here, will ya?

Over the years I’ve had to employ a number of heat-deterring strategies. During high school, my room had a 1920s radiator stuck in the full open position. You could pan fry a two-inch-thick T-bone on that thing during cold snaps. The answer? Grab a sleeping bag and head up to the attic.

Had a summer job at the Bohack’s (yes, that’s a real name) supermarket in Westhampton Beach and, walking back from lunch one day, spied this guy on an empty lot selling water bed mattresses — just the mattress — for 20 bucks each. He had me at “Hello.”

I unfolded it in the back yard ’neath a venerable Norway maple’s spreading canopy and stuck a garden hose in it. In no time we had a poor man’s trampoline for the nieces and nephews and a usually cool place to sleep for Uncle Tim. Since it was chlorine-free, the water tended to get a little gross late in the season, but as the plastic grew more opaque with age, who cared? You just didn’t want to be standing there in the fall when it was time to unscrew the cap.

My preoccupation with the State of Maine is based in part on the Pine Tree State’s summer climate, which can get hot, but not D.C. hot. It always seems to cool off at night, especially near the water. January to April? Don’t want to talk about it.

So what’s the answer? Sit by the AC tuned into the Cartoon Network until the pumpkin-pickers’ eastward migration heralds autumn’s arrival? Not a bad idea, actually.

Note to the Mrs.: If you catch me watching C-SPAN, grab the remote, turn to anything other than the Lifetime or Oxygen channels and throw it out the window. Certainly won’t be goin’ outside to get it.

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07/14/13 8:00am
07/14/2013 8:00 AM

SCREENSHOT | In 2009, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart ran a sketch on whether Long Island should secede, a comedic take on some of Long Island’s stereotypes.

Several weeks back the Kellys made their annual trip up to Boothbay Harbor, Maine, a place we fell in love with 15 or so years ago. On one sunny afternoon me Mrs. and daughter-in-law went into town looking for something or other. (I find it best not to ask.) That freed me son and me to, um, cool ourselves with a nice beverage at a little harborside joint called McSeagulls.


While sipping our dark and stormys we happened to chat up a gent several seats down as he labored at something on his laptop. He’d stopped for a bite on his way to East Boothbay, and asked if the road he planned to take would get him there. Nope, we said, and set him straight. He thanked us and said he was up from Massachusetts to meet up with his family. Where are you from? he asked us. D.C., me son said. EASTERN Long Island, said I.

Yes indeed, I put a great deal of emphasis on the word “eastern,” which judging from the gent’s lack of reaction carried absolutely no meaning to him. I’m guessing he thinks Long Island is Long Island, east, west or whatever. And that’s the problem.

I may be way oversensitive on this and really shouldn’t give a hoot, but I just hate the idea of being lumped in with what I fear is the less-than-admirable popular perception of Long Island by non-islanders. That’s not without some justification.

A little over 20 years ago the whole country was talking about a nearly 40-year-old Nassau County auto body shop owner — Joey Buttafuoco, of course — who was sleeping with a 16-year-old named Amy Fisher. As bad as that was, it got worse when Ms. Fisher went to the Buttafuocos’ Massapequa home and shot Joe’s wife, Mary Jo, in the side of the head. The media, those SOBs, dubbed her “The Long Island Lolita” and after she got out of jail became a porn star, or so I’ve heard.

OK, I was born on Long Island, in Nassau County, but, hey, not all Long Islanders have big hair and small morals.

Sure, that was a long time ago and I should let it go, but I just can’t. Maybe it’s a case of Irish Alzheimer’s; I’ve forgotten everything but the grudge.

Fortunately, these days the cable TV channel guide is largely a Buttafuoco-free zone. Ah, but then several years ago came the discovery of several bodies, believed to be of people who once worked in the sex trade, apparently dumped not far from the ocean, apparently by a serial killer, near Gilgo Beach in Babylon. Another wonderful reflection on our island home.

Ever watch “The Long Island Medium” TV show? It’s about this woman with hair a flock of chimney swifts could call home without her knowing it and a thicker than tar “Lawng Guyland” accent who claims she can communicate with the dead. Just great. Now “Long Island” is also associated with a person whose daily hairspray usage may be seriously depleting the ozone layer and who takes advantage of emotionally fragile people when they’re most vulnerable.

Now, I’m not a snob, far from it. As I’ve said before, my parents grew up in Yonkers (hardly a hotbed of snobbery, although it was the setting for “Hello, Dolly”) and migrated to Levittown after the war. Later we wandered east to a southeast Brookhaven community where Norman Rockwell would have felt right at home. My current abode is a three-bedroom ranch and in the driveway is a Ford pickup in which I carry my own trash to the dump.

If between bites of his lobster roll our friend from Massachusetts had offered, “You mean you guys are from Lawng Guyland?” No doubt I would have launched into a monologue about living amid wineries and farms, ospreys and egrets, a vacation paradise summer and fall without serial killers or porn stars — none that come to mind, anyway. No doubt he would have signaled to the barkeep “check, please” and me son would have hung his head in shame.

Let it go, pal, let it go. Relax and watch some TV. Wait, what’s this show? “Princesses: Long Island.” What’s this? “Chanel and Ashlee drive into the city to meet up with Casey. Joey confronts Amanda after the altercation at the pool party. Casey reveals her past with Erica, and is now trying to put the past behind her for the girls’ upcoming Hamptons trip.”

Heaven help us. Wonder what a three-bedroom ranch goes for in Maine.

05/05/13 8:00am
05/05/2013 8:00 AM

It’s a clear indication that you’ve reached a certain age when your social calendar, usually based on trips to the dump or the supermarket, now includes reunions.

By definition, a reunion is a gathering of people who haven’t seen each other for an extended period of time, hence if you attend one you’ve either moseyed on through or are banging on the door of geezerhood.


And so it was that I found meself at a very nice home in suburban D.C. last weekend, there to mix and mingle with others once in the employ of former congressman William Carney (R-C-Hauppauge), who represented this fair community from 1979 to 1986. In the summer of ’83 I became the last press secretary of his congressional career (press aide actually, but, hey, press secretary sounds way cooler) and moved up from D.C. to the North Fork just before he retired.

You’ve already heard me wax nostalgic about a 20-something’s life on Capitol Hill so I won’t bore you will all that again. But since the face in the mirror now bears little resemblance to picture on the ol’ House ID, a certain amount of living in the past is to be expected.

I hadn’t seen most of these folks for over 25 years, including the former congressman, the guy who, with the exception of some gray hair and glasses, looks very much like the guy whose image graced the corner of the special paper used in printing — yes, you heard right, printing, as in batted out on a typewriter and run through a copy machine — the various press releases, columns and such mailed out through the U.S. Postal Service.

Tweet? Dude, that’s what a bird does.

I’d attended only one other reunion, that of me high school class. But we’re talkin’ two very different past experiences here. In D.C. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. OK, that was just like high school. In D.C., I was surrounded by great gals, all pretty much off limits. Ah, well, ditto. Was forced to wear a jacket, tie and even socks for pity’s sake. Damn. OK, on second thought, it was exactly like high school, minus the nuns but with Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill.

Ah, remember the fun we had? Like the time the staff counsel and I were having a water pistol duel when a lobbyist came through the office door and I swung around, planted my feet and took aim like a “Law & Order” detective bursting into a suspect’s apartment and the guy threw his hands up in surrender and muttered, “I don’t want to die”?

Or when the congressman would bring all the males into his office, make us each drop a dollar on the credenza for a putting competition that he always — and I mean, always — won?

Then there were the tapeball games; you’d crumple up a piece of copy paper, wrap it like a mummy in tape and swing away with a cardboard mailing tube filling in for a Louisville Slugger. A home run required walloping it past the appointment secretary and out the window onto South Capitol Street. Not as easy as it sounds.

On second thought, this was not at all like high school. Sister Mary Whoever would have cleaned our clocks, and these incidents would have made for unfortunate entries in our permanent records.

OK, it wasn’t always like that. Congressional staffers work long, hard hours, some assisting the member on legislative affairs and others providing constituent service, no small tasks when your district includes over a half-million people. Can’t help it if the wacky times are the most memorable. Unlike the representative, we don’t get smacked around by political foes or friends looking for favors.

As the reunion wore on, it was as if close to 30 years had melted away and we all had gathered at a Capitol Hill watering hole after work on a Friday night. Except, for some, Saturday morning might be a little more uncomfortable than it was 30 years ago.

Like my recent — gulp — 40th high school reunion, a great time was had by all. Except that a hellish ride back north on I-95 followed this gathering.

Recounting the tapeball story during Saturday’s party, I left out the part about one afternoon when the congressman was pitching and I was calling balls and strikes, and I made the strike zone about the size of a business envelope.

“You just won’t give me a break, will you?” he complained.

I thought to myself, keep me late last week before giving me the OK for the friggin’ column, will ya? I’ll show you.

“Nope,” said I, “not at all.”

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03/17/13 7:00am
03/17/2013 7:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Bagpipers march during last week’s Cutchogue St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

St. Patrick’s Day just isn’t the same anymore.

For over a decade the annual celebration of all things Irish — and unfortunately things that have nothing to do Mother Eire (pronounced air-uh, not ear-ree) — meant riding a bus to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and onto Manhattan’s manic streets for THE parade. The granddaddy of ‘em all, the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade up 5th Avenue in front of hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom are actually not conversing on a cellphone.

That’s the parade any piper worth his salt dreams of. It dates back to 1762 when some homesick Micks and fellow countrymen serving in the British colonial military reconnected to the land of saints and scholars by staging their own March 17 march through lower Manhattan’s narrow streets.

The view from the street is at turns awe-inspiring and terrifying. I played and marched in fair weather and foul, passing St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s imposing Gothic spires, Tiffany’s and other tony shops, the Plaza Hotel and Central Park up to 79th Street. We used to play all the way up to 89th, right to the Guggenheim Museum, but then the city decided it was spending too much on police overtime.

While I think the city looks foolish in its current role as the Sugar Nazi, they heard no complaint from me about loping off those last 10 blocks. Believe me, 30 blocks, much of it uphill, is more than enough.

But I didn’t pipe there last year, nor will I make the march this year. Not sure where I’ll be when this year’s parade steps off on Saturday, on the 16th because the parade is never, ever held on a Sunday, but it’s a safe bet me pipes will remain out in the garage.

The reason is simple. Last year my group, the Peconic Warpipes, fell apart, the victim of internal strife and a lack of interest by many of the senior members. Of course there are other bands out there, including one connected to a Riverhead brewery that rose out of the Warpipes’ ashes, but I have to admit my heart just isn’t in it.

I marched in 10 city parades, in Boston and in dozens of others from the Rockaways to Montauk, but in me sixth decade on this planet the idea of standing in the snow, or rain, waiting for three hours to step off has lost its luster. I am soooooo done with this.

Or so I thought.

That’s not what I was thinking on Saturday as me and the Mrs. watched local dignitaries, Girl Scouts, antique cars, fire trucks, school bands, even a helicopter on a flatbed truck and pipers, of course the pipers, pass us by during Cutchogue’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Now I know how a professional athlete must feel when playing days have passed and the view is from the sidelines or the stands. Well, except that I never drew a seven- or eight-figure salary, had multitudes screaming for my autograph, appeared on Letterman or drove a Lamborghini. Other than that, it’s the exact same thing.

The skirl of the pipes grew louder as the bands marched west on Main Road toward the reviewing stand where they stopped, their tartans gleaming in the sunshine of a glorious pre-spring afternoon. They played for the dignitaries and marched off again. That could have been/should have been me up there. Why am I on the outside looking in? Why am I wearing pants? (Knock it off. You know what I mean.)

Then a couple of former bandmates came up to say hi. Great to see ‘em, but boy did it feel awkward.

Soon the horses clip-clopped by, signaling, for obvious reasons, the parade’s end. The crowd dispersed and we walked the short distance home and into the garage. Just before opening the kitchen door I glanced over at the pipes, lying on a cluttered table by the far wall.

Damn, damn, damn.

01/12/13 8:00am
01/12/2013 8:00 AM

There’s a chance you may no longer spot yours truly at the post office, dump or supermarket, all the hot spots that provide most of my opportunities for social interaction, for the next year. I’ll explain.

A few months ago a financial planner I know was waxing knowledgeable about individual retirement investments, particularly how the risk vs. reward ratio should change as the blaze from the candles on one’s birthday grows in intensity. The closer you are to retirement and the more candles on your cake, he proffered, the less risk you should carry in your portfolio.

I have a question: What’s this “retirement” stuff you hear so much about? I’m part of an age class where “retirement” is something other people do when their birthday cake can set off a smoke detector. We, however, will work until we drop or until the Publishers Clearing House prize van, or whatever the heck it’s called, shows up, whichever comes first.

So why might I forgo all my usual haunts? It’s because this investment fellow said he has observed that people who live to 60 have a good chance of making it to 80.

And on New Year’s Day 2013, yours truly hit the big 5-9. I figure that if I don’t venture outdoors for the next 355 days or so, my chances of hitting the big 6-0 will be greatly enhanced. True, that doesn’t take into account a tsunami slamming into the East Coast or a piece of the International Space Station smashing through the roof. Then again, after a year of “Judge Judy,” “The Price is Right” and “Dancing With the Stars” those might be welcome occurrences.

The big 6-0. Damn, Sam. Perhaps its time to expand my portfolio to include stock in Ben Gay, Icy Hot Patches, Extra-Strength Tylenol and that “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” gizmo. Do they still market “The Clapper”?

Of course this whole age business is relative. First, I have four relatives — siblings, that is — currently in their 60s with one fast approaching 70. And, of course, out here, you’re still a punk kid at 59. A senior discount at the movies or a cheaper cup of McDonald’s coffee? Fuggedaboutit.

Still, I’ve passed several thresholds to old age, perhaps the most startling being the first time a local police officer began his greeting with “Mr.” While many, many years have passed, I still can’t shake the feeling of being a young man in his 20s during the 1970s, driving a rust-bucket worth no more than $150 with questionable tires and a slightly out-of-date inspection sticker, always keeping a sharp eye out for “the fuzz,” who didn’t much like kids with hair to their shoulders.

Then there’s coming across one of the gazillion show biz “news” programs on cable profiling stars I ain’t never heard of — that is, until they get arrested or put out a sex tape. Or so I’ve heard.

Speaking of cable, the kids are grown and out of the house so there’s no one around to hear me wax pedantic about how we only had a 19-inch black & white TV when I was growing up and it only got channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 13 and you’d watch crappy shows for hours because no one wanted to get up and turn the channel and if one of the large vacuum tubes blew out, your old man would take it down to the hardware store and …

You damn kids with your 50-foot flat screens connected to the Interweb don’t know what it was like!

This week offered a more tangible reminder of the passage of time. It occurred while I was fulfilling my assignment to photograph the debate between county Legislature hopefuls Sean Walter and Al Krupski Monday night at Martha Clara Vineyards. People tend to get really ticked off if you stand in front of them as motionless as a mannequin, so a photographer has to hop around all evening. That’s not a problem; what is, though, is sitting on the floor — to keep out of the line of sight — across from the candidates. Sitting wasn’t the problem, actually. It was the getting up, a lengthy process played out in front of 200 people. In my defense, I did keep the groaning and grunting to a minimum and the mics didn’t pick up the snap, crackle and pop from various joints.

Oh, well, ’tis the natural order of things and it’s not all bad. With age comes wisdom, right? Or as the poet Robert Frost said, “The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”

Unless, of course, you find yourself saying to your spouse, “Whaddaya mean I just slathered both knees with Crest Whitening rather than Ben Gay?”

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09/14/12 8:00am
09/14/2012 8:00 AM

Sailors have ’em, tough guys have ’em, bikers have ’em and I have one. Not being a sailor or a biker, by the process of elimination that means that I’m a, well, you know.

I’m talking tattoos or, as the cool kids call ’em, tats. By definition, then, I must be tough and cool. Well, we all knew that, right?

My tat came to mind earlier this week with the news that a Greenport bartender plans to open a tattoo parlor just off Main Street next spring. If I remember correctly — and for some reason that can no longer be taken for granted, go figure — Mattituck was home to just such a parlor in the late ’80s. Nowadays if you want to ink up the closest parlor is in Rocky Point.

I didn’t always bear the mark of a badass, of course. None of my siblings is so marked, nor was my dad, a ball turret gunner in an Army Air Corps B-24 during World War II. Or my maternal granddad, who served in the Navy submarine corps during World War I.

It became an extension of my midlife crisis of learning the bagpipes, wearing a kilt and all that Celtic camaraderie jazz. Well, not jazz, but you know what I mean. Some people I know think jazz would have been preferable. “What’s the definition of a gentleman? Someone who can play the bagpipes, but doesn’t.”

Many pipers and drummers have at least one tattoo, often on the thin band of exposed skin between the bottom of the kilt and the top of the wool sock. In addition to providing culturally appropriate ornamentation, it also helps cut down on the glare from chalk-white skin.

Back when me daughter was young and had yet to reach the age where being seen in public with her ol’ dad was an unendurable embarrassment, we’d often take in the Mattituck Strawberry Festival over Father’s Day weekend. There was always a booth selling temporary tattoos and I’d search for a winged fairy or other other-worldly female form in diaphanous attire. She’d be given a place of honor on the inside of my right forearm and a name. Gladys one year, Lucy another.

And by squeezing my fist I’d make her dance. She didn’t actually dance, but kind of pulsed a bit. Drove my daughter nuts. Her mother just shook her head and sighed.

Whaddaya want from me? I never crewed a clipper rounding Cape Horn or exchanged fire in the South China Sea. Did take the Staten Island Ferry once, but no one else thought that experience warranted adding a burning skull with vipers slithering out the eye sockets to my shoulder. Again, go figure.

A few years back I figured I’d go for it and get a tattoo on the outside of me right leg. After a visit to Tattoo Lou’s in Selden, I think it was, I came home with an ornate gold Celtic cross with a green shamrock in the center just below the knee. Try as I might, can’t get that to dance either. My wife just shakes her head and sighs.

Earlier this year we ran a story about the East End Seaport Museum’s exhibition on body ornamentation, “Tattoo: Art of the Sailor.”
Actually, the show highlighted the rich history of art on a sailor or, to be more precise, in a sailor. Well, the image actually resides under the sailor’s dermis, the top layer of skin, in the epidermis, the second layer.

Anyhoo, as the story was a preview, initially we didn’t have any of show’s images and so had to improvise.
Who do I know with a tattoo that we could photograph? The first name that came to mind was former Southold supervisor Josh Horton, a one-time tugboat captain with colorful images all over his arms, but he wasn’t immediately available. The second name that came to mind was, well, mine.

So I rolled up me right pant leg and snapped the shot, thinking nothing of it until some on-staff wag commenting on the website post said, “The tattoo’s OK, but what’s the deal with all those freckles?”

I think it’s time for another. Maybe the Irish and American flags crossed and underneath the words, “American by birth, Irish by the grace of God.” That would be totally awesome!

She just shakes her head and sighs.

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03/30/11 9:51pm
03/30/2011 9:51 PM

On my way to a Saturday afternoon haircut, my 11-year-old world was knocked off kilter, turned topsy-turvy, thrown for a loop and all that I thought I knew and held dear was suddenly, cruelly stripped away.

It’s a day I’ll never forget.

It’s the day I learned the Beatles weren’t Catholic.

A year or so later, I returned from a Boy Scout meeting with a question for my folks: “The pastor [of the Methodist Church, which graciously gave the scouts the use of his church’s meeting room] asked us all to a special service next Sunday. Can I go?” The word “ecumenical” was not part of my everyday speech back then, but that’s what the pastor, good man that he was, had in mind.

The answer was quick and unequivocal: “Of course not! It’s not Catholic!”

My purpose here is not to claim the credentials of a consistent and conscientious Catholic. Y’all know me better than that. I’m trying to set the stage for what was going through my head two Saturdays ago when I walked into Congregation Tifereth Israel synagogue in Greenport to take part in its Purim observance.

You heard me right. A guy who stands neck-deep in a sea of Irishness — gimme a break, you know what I mean ­— suddenly finds himself entering hitherto unknown cultural and religious territory.

Why? Because fellow Thursday night Irish music jammer and synagogue member Dave Berson asked. Since Purim observations can be boisterous and fun, why not have some cross-cultural pollination?

But that’s not what I was thinking as I took off my jacket. What are these people doing in masks and costumes? Hoo boy, what have I gotten myself into?

“Boy, you should have seen the look on your face,” the aforementioned Mr. Berson said some days later.

Purim, by the way, recounts the story in the Book of Esther about this guy Haman, one nasty character, who planned to kill the Jews. Queen Esther would have none of that and foiled his plot. It’s a day of deliverance involving feasting and rejoicing. And every time the name Haman is mentioned, the congregants drown out the sound with noisemakers.
And what’s more noisy than a bunch of guys singing pub songs?

It was a blast and, indications are, well received. Ah, another barrier torn down.

During the evening Rabbi Myron Fenster, good man that he is, named our group The Trombeniks. OK, never saw that name in the Baltimore Catechism.

It means a ne’er-do-well or, in the pre-PC era, a bum.

Wasn’t sure how I felt about that at first, but what the heck. I’ve been called worse and it was all good fun, right?

How about The Merry Trombeniks? The Traveling Trombeniks? The Fabulous Trombeniks? We’ll need some really kickin’ album cover art and better get crackin’ on  scheduling our world tour.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice.

I stepped outside the Celtic circle again this past Friday night at the invitation of North Fork Italian American Club president Don Russo. Their gathering at the town rec center on Peconic Lane in Peconic was devoted to the Feast of St. Joseph. Now this I knew something about.

Deacon Jeff Sykes of Sacred Heart Parish blesses the traditional St. Joseph's table during the North Fork Italian-American Club's St. Joseph's Day celebration at the town recreation center in Peconic on Friday, March 25.

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Deacon Jeff Sykes of Sacred Heart Parish blesses the traditional St. Joseph's table during the North Fork Italian-American Club's St. Joseph's Day celebration at the town recreation center in Peconic on Friday, March 25.

Me Ma’s very best friend, Delores Carlone — obviously not Irish, but a good person nonetheless — could be counted on to bring over traditional homemade St. Joseph’s Day pastries. St. Joseph’s Day falls on March 19, two days after you-know-what. In the U.S., honoring the spouse of Mary is far more solemn and rooted in religious tradition than what unfortunately often passes for remembering this Patrick fellow.

I witnessed the blessing of the St. Joseph’s table, on which they placed a statue of the saint, candles, flowers and zeppola, a Sicilian pastry. (St. Joseph is the patron saint of pastry chiefs? Who knew?)

According to tradition, Sicily was hit by a severe drought in the Middle Ages and the people prayed to their patron saint, San Guiseppe, to bring them rain, promising a large feast in return. The rain came, as did the banquet. Hence Mrs. Carlone’s zeppola — great stuff by the way.

This wasn’t as big a cultural diversion as going to the synagogue, since the Irish and Italians have much in common. There’s Catholicism, of course, coming to America dirt poor, settling in New York, finding strength in keeping the old traditions alive, bugging the hell out of each other but also marrying each other.

I didn’t wear red Friday night (again, who knew?) but I did have a zeppola or two and thoroughly enjoyed their convivial hospitality.

You know, I could get used to this.

When’s the Polish Town Festival again?

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