Monday, July 14, 2014

Irish eyes are smiling

Last week I received a text from home -- home being that suburban corridor of land surrounding the border of Northern New Jersey and Lower New York State, including Suffern, Mahwah, Spring Valley, Ramsey, Upper Saddle River and Nanuet.

The text reminded me to mark the day as the anniversary of the passing of our good friend, Jim.

That day brought on a flood of memories. And in thinking of Jim, one word always comes to mind -- Gusto.

It's a rare attribute.

You see it in some people, in glimpses or flashes. Or raucous Polish weddings. But Jim had gusto that simply would not quit. If there was a gathering of people and there was laughing and drinking and carousing and making the most of every breath of oxygen, Jim had to be there.

Unlike anyone I've ever met, Jim was always committed to being fully in the moment.

His voracious appetite for life could never be satisfied in the 'burbs. And explains why, on so many occasions, he'd urge us all to jump in his sea-foam green Dodge Dart, with the push-button transmission, and make the 45 minute trek into The City.

His father was a NYC cop and so, with his dad's special parking permit affixed to the dashboard, Manhattan was our own personal playground.

Did you know there's usually ample parking spaces next to all the fire hydrants?

The Big Apple in the late 70's had everything Suffern, NY did not. Hustle, bustle, grit, grime, an infinite cast of amazing characters, many of whom wrote and starred in their own personal performance theater right on the street.

And of course, there was Brew Burger.

For $6.95 you could get a cheeseburger, fries and an endless supply of Michelob beer. Jim didn't like Michelob beer, but he loved the word endless. Four of us would pile into a booth and wouldn't leave until the chairs were being put on top of the other tables or the manager would throw us out…

"No, no, no, this no very good. You boys go now. I call the police."

"Ok, you call the midtown precinct and ask for Sgt. Murphy," Jim replied.

A City trip always included a stop in the Village. There, we'd make fun of hippies, or the remnants of hippies. Stroll around Washington Square. And laugh loud enough to wake up the people in Staten Island.

The nights would never end.

And we'd often find ourselves crossing the GW bridge guided by the stinging rays of the morning sun. Back on home turf, Jim would often 'Shanghai' us to the Stateline Diner. Or Don Len's on Route 59.  Not because any of us were starving for breakfast but because that's how much he enjoyed the camaraderie of his friends.

Because he wanted to bust balls.
Flirt with waitresses.
Bellow with laughter, until every fiber of his 6'3" 230 lbs. body convulsed with joy.
He wanted -- as my wife would say -- to be out among them.

Three of us commiserated last week and spoke of how much we missed Big Jim. But it's safe to say he misses us more.

Jim had Gusto.

Enough to last two lifetimes.
Sadly, he packed it into 26 years of one.

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