Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wish You Were Here

By B.E. Earl

Hey kiddies! Earl again with some mindless musings, musical mayhem, misty memories and magical mushrooms. Ok, no mind-altering substances here, but I was on an alliteration roll. Thought I’d contribute a little some-some for my buddy’s blog here on the first day of summer (OK…it’s the first day of summer as I am typing. Let’s see when Slyde gets around to posting it). (Editor's Note: Bite Me, Earl. I got it posted same day! So There! - Slyde)

It couldn’t be a more glorious day here on Long Island. I finished up some work around 3ish in the afternoon and took a walk down to the beach where my sister had taken my nephew, Cavan. Not the most normal of names, huh? But it’s actually the county in Ireland where my mother’s side of the family came from, and my sister was kinda sold on it. My father’s side of the family came from County Cork, and I’m glad she didn’t go for that. Corky would almost be too much for me to bear as an uncle. I mean I’m rapidly approaching 40, but that doesn’t mean that I’m too old to laugh at a kid named Corky. Funny is funny.

Back to the beach in our story. Our local beach is right down the block from my mother’s house in Blue Point, NY. It’s affectionately known as Mommy Beach by the locals because of the preponderance of moms and their kids. There must have been a sign posted today, however, because Mommy Beach turned into Hot Mommy Beach! When I was growing up, I can’t recall actually thinking that any of my friend’s moms were attractive at all. These women today…whoa! Way to go, ladies!

I mentioned that my mother lives in Blue Point. This is also where I grew up, although I’ve been on the north shore of Long Island for about 8 years now. For those wondering why the name sounds familiar, it may be because of its’ relation to Blue Point Oysters. Back in the early part of the previous century, Blue Point Oysters were the best oysters in the world and they were harvested from the waters surrounding our little town on the bay. Sometime in the 1920’s or 30’s, however, salinity levels in the Great South Bay rose to a level that became toxic to our poor oyster population. Some say that this was caused by a hurricane that swept over our barrier beach (Fire Island), flooding the bay and neighboring beaches. Any time you see Blue Point Oysters on a menu today they are most likely from the north shore out of the Long Island Sound.

Now all that lives in our bay are clams, and the harvesting of those are strictly regulated due to over-harvesting and pollution. When I was growing up, it seemed like everyone had a relative who was a clammer. My brother and my brother-in-law each made some money by clamming. I heard that last year only five or six clamming licenses were even applied for on the Great South Bay. Its amazing how quickly man’s influences on our surroundings can get out of hand. It’s too late for our oyster population, but maybe one day we can see a resurgence of the clam population in the Bay.

As for the musical mayhem portion of our program, I heard a couple of songs on the radio today that I hadn’t heard in a million years. OK…at least since I was in college. Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins, and Summer’s Cauldron by XTC. It’s absolutely amazing to me that good, rare music like this is still played on the radio someplace. The station that was playing them was WFUV 90.7 here in New York which is a member-supported public radio station, of course. I guess that non-commercial radio is the only way we are going to hear these gems outside of our iPods.

Finally, this past weekend was Father’s Day here in the US. I qualified that because I’m not sure if it is on the same date in other countries. I know from a friend of mine that Mother’s Day is located elsewhere on the calendar in the UK, so maybe it’s the same with Dad’s Day.
It was a bit of a somber day for me as in two weeks it will be three years since my father passed away from a long battle with heart disease. The last time that I saw him before his final heart attack (and subsequent hospital stay) was when I took him out for dinner the Wednesday after Father’s Day three years ago. He was watching what he ate because of his condition, but boy did he enjoy himself. He always said that his favorite times in his life were having a meal with his family. He always began each meal with smile and a soft-spoken “good to be together” when his children were around. We still do that on the occasions that the whole family gets together for a nice meal like we do on Thanksgiving Day or other holidays.

Three days later I got a call at home from my sister telling me that Dad was in the hospital again, and it really didn’t look good this time. He hung on for a few weeks, but it was still a shock when he passed. It’s still hard for me to believe that it has been three years.
At his gravesite on Sunday, I found myself wishing that our first 26 years together were a lot more like our last 10. We were always close, but we really became friends in that last decade, and I find myself missing my friend more and more as the years pass on. I think about the trip I took him on down to the Florida Keys and I wish that we had done that more often. He said it was the best vacation he ever had been on. To quote Morgan Freeman from The Shawshank Redemption “I guess, I just miss my friend.”

With that in mind, I would like to wish a belated Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads and Grandpas out there, as well as to everyone else who has or had a father who was an important part of their lives like my father was. Cheers!

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