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You can't go home again.... - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
You can't go home again....

One reason, in this case, is I finally succumbed to Teh Sick, after avoiding it all winter up until now.  The throat started scratching two nights ago, with an intermittent cough; it hasn't really gotten out of that gear, but I'm feeling generally crappy and am glad, in hindsight, that I didn't try to cram an 800-plus mile trip into what is proving to be an intense week of court and udda thingza.  So instead of what happened in Airplane! with Captain Oveur-

- I'm getting the Mayo on five and holding the Hamilton....

Days like yesterday didn't help.  I'd expected an in-and-out 9 a.m. hearing in Buffalo before heading for a client appointment in Rochester that I'd planned when I thought I'd be Ham-ming it up in NY today.  Both went way longer than expected; the first, because the assigned judge held my case to the end of his calendar, only to tell us that he'd done it because he knew my client and would have to recuse himself. Fortunately, there was another qualified judge in the building, who handles things expeditiously once he gets going, but we had to wait for him to become available. Then the Rochester appointment took way longer than they usually do because I didn't get documents in advance and went through about eight drafts in order to get them right.  Eleanor's still sick herself, and is working later than  usual every day this week, so all I wanted to do when I got home was eat some comfort food and crawl under a blanket; I rebounded enough to finish a film with her after she got home, and slept pretty well last night, but today I'm mostly working from home, hoping to carve out one quick route of mostly banking errands before coming back here to hydrate and hopefully head off worse things before more work fun awaits the next two days.


Over the weekend, I began thinking along the "can't go home again" line, all due to somebody posting the wrong picture.

I left the town of my birth and upbringing over 40 years ago, but I somehow retain so many brain cells from back then. This all came up over the weekend, inspired by, of all things, a picture of this strip shopping plaza being posted on an East Meadow Facebook page:


I knew right away it was not from East Meadow- our best guess is a not-far place called Herricks. But a lot of people were commenting on it, thinking it was a plaza that my mother walked to, little pullable shopping cart behind her, many times a week for the first 17 years of my life.

It was the A&P in the picture that caught me. This was one of the first nationwide, even into Canada, supermarket chains and one of the longest to hold on in the business.  There was still one in Ithaca when I lived there, and even briefly one in Buffalo's University Plaza in the chain's dying days in upstate New York when I first moved here. But the one in East Meadow that we walked to, so many times, was on the southern half of an odd little strip plaza called Lakeville- divided by a dangerous blind driveway into two sections.

I last laid eyes on it last August, during my high school reunion weekend, and none of the stores from back then, except maybe one or two, have stood the test of time. But I can remember so many of them from 40, even 50 years ago. At the northern end, the pharmacy: not a cookie cutter chain, but the old-timey kind, smelling of cloves and with a raised platform in the back. Then the cleaners, which I probably never set foot in but my father surely did, because they were still probably 100 wire hangers (sorry, Joan) with Abner Weber paper covers on them when mom finally moved out of that house 26 years ago. Next, the card shop: for me, that meant baseball cards, and especially this time of year, it meant the first arrival of the new season's first series, about as big deal as it got for me. A couple doors down, the Bambi bakery. This was a special treat, to get one of their big fancy cookies or a cake for a special occasion. In the middle of that side, whole different supermarket: Waldbaums.  This would usually be our destination, where mom spent most of her pin money- with dirty floors, cramped aisles, and a lifer named Mary Lou running what would usually the only one of three registers that was actually open.

Beyond that, more memories. The Ding Dong Chinese kitchen, an early bowlderizer of Asian cuisine, where chow mein and chop suey were the main things on offer. A few doors down, the local Stride Rite kid's shoe store, where I no doubt had my feet x-rayed 20 times in my first 10 years. Nearby, the old fashioned hardware store- long before Loweses and Depots, when only a local chain named Pergament came anywhere close to the big boxes that would someday follow. But this is the store where we got our small tools, and I would duly report with my junior high lock to get the replacement key or the forgotten combination which the Master company would not mail out to anyone other than a licensed hardware dealer.

Next to that was Harry’s, the first place to cut my hair that wasn’t a barbershop with a pole.. Harry was Greek, and obnoxious, and charged extra for long hair. Hey, these were the 70s; the man had to eat.  Near that, a luncheonette; I've mentioned these creatures of Long Island living before, the closest thing our generation had to fast food in the days before national chains took over, where you could sit at a counter and get breakfast or a bad burger but wash it down with an egg cream that made it all right.  This one (people this time remembered it as Moe's) also had a newsstand where the surly proprietor would stare you down if you tried to read without buying.  On the end of this half of the plaza was a bar, which of course, being six, I didn't have much use for, but I remember motorcycles being parked outside it and marveling at the genius idea of putting a cut-through traffic lane in the middle of the whole plaza and then planting the one place with drunks at the end of it closest to moving cars.

On the other side of it was the aforementioned A&P. We didn't go in there as often, but if Mom had her nose on a deal, or had plaid stamps to cash in, or wanted to buy me the latest 99 cent first volume of some encyclopedia-ish book set (we never bought the more expensive ones, which is why I became an attorney because it begins with "A"), we'd make the detour.  We weren't down at that end as much, so the memories are fuzzier, but there was definitely a kosher butcher (the one that appears to be still there), a deli that might also have been kosher, and a bank on the end that was the home of my first-ever passbook savings account.

All that flooding back because somebody took a picture of an A&P in Herricks. (I don't even remember where Herricks, exactly, is.)

But wait.... there's more.


In the middle of all these cranky old people trying to remember names of long-gone places, somebody asked me something I am rarely asked these days:

Are you Sandy and Donna's brother?

It came from a woman named Susan, of a last name I didn't recognize, and we eventually got to what her maiden name was. It didn't hit me at first, but finally, the brain cells fired: OMG, Henny and Jerry!

This was a couple out of our social stratum. I never did ever get the word on how my parents became friends with them- apparently, Susan said, it was because her mom and mine worked together as lunch ladies at our elementary school. (My mom, at least, had long retired from this important civic duty by the time I came along.)  I remember Jerry being affable, and Henny being elegant, and probably Susan baby-sat me at some point, as she was Sandy's age.  As with so many from those years, eventually we lost touch with them, and Susan let me know that both of her folks have now passed, as well. 

Within an hour of these discussions and recollections, I did a quick shopping run to a Tarjay before retreating to the standalone comfort of the nearby Wegmans.  The former is in an even bigger, far glitzier modern strip plaza.  Could I even name as many stores an hour later from the ones I can remember from 40 years ago and 400 miles away? Of course not.  Now my Boulevard Square is the same as your Eastway Plaza and as his Orange Blossom Center and as her Clearview Commons. And they're all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same.

Which rhymes with "shame."


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