Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Monday, July 22, 2013


While we were visiting with Eli (hizzownself) at the Long Island State Veterans Home yesterday, he recounted a hair-raising little story.  I had heard it before - in fact, I had written about it before at my old site - but I never got tired of hearing it.

To set the scene, let’s wind the clock back to sometime around 1976 or ’77.  I had, by that time, moved away to Houston, there to work for the Great Corporate Salt Mine; the rest of the family was still living in Massapequa, New York, in a quiet part of Nassau Shores hard by the local nine-hole golf course.

The house in which we were living was one of fewer than a half-dozen low-slung contemporary ranches that had been built by a fellow by the name of Abbott.  Our second residence in the neighborhood, we had moved there in the summer of 1967.  (For some, it may have been the Summer of Love, but for me, it was the Summer of Schlepping All My Crap to the New House Three Blocks Away.)  The street - West Pocahontas Street - was short, extending from West Shore Drive on one end to Sunset Drive on the other.  Beyond Sunset Drive lay the third hole of the golf course.

Alec Baldwin and his numerous siblings lived one block north, at the corner of Iroquois and Sunset, but for some reason they and their friends preferred to congregate at the corner of Pocahontas and Sunset - the end of our street.  (Alec - Zander to his Berner High School compatriots - had been class president in his senior year; by this time he was away at school and no longer hanging around with the rest of his siblings.)

I had never had many dealings with the Baldwins while I was living in Massapequa, mainly because Alec, the eldest of the boys, was a full six years younger than me and thus not on my radar screen. But sometime in the mid-1970’s, his brother Danny - possibly along with some of the other Baldwins and their friends - discovered that, with little effort, they could hoist themselves up on the roof of our house.  Said roof was gently sloped and was a mere seven feet above ground on the eastern side of the house.  Once on the roof, Danny would run around, a source of profound amusement to him and his friends - and a source of intense irritation to my parents, who would (presumably) run outside and chase him away.

This went on, intermittently, for months... until the day when Eli decided that he had Had Enough.

Here’s the story, as he tells it:

“I couldn’t take him any more... and one day, I remember I had that red Cadillac with the white top, the Coupe de Ville... anyway, I got in that car, and I noticed at the end of the street, on Sunset Drive where the fence was for the golf course, there were about fifteen kids in a little mob, standing around together.  And out of the fifteen kids, most of them were Baldwins.  And I said, ‘Aha!  In a fell swoop, I’d rid myself of the Baldwins!’

“Really!  This is a true story - I’m not proud of it, but it’s true!

“I put my foot on the accelerator - you know how short that street was from our house to the fence? - I floored the accelerator, and I’m going, like sixty miles an hour right at those kids, and I said to myself, ‘Holy shit, do you know what you’re doing?  You’ll spend the rest of your life in jail, and these little bastards will still be playing golf!  That’s so dumb,’ I said, ‘for Christ’s sake, stop it!’

“I took my foot off [the gas] and stepped on the brake - I went slamming... sliding... the brake pads were locked and I was sliding towards them, and thankfully I stopped - inches from their quaking little bodies, which had little touches of specially designed underwear - what we call the ‘Peanut Butter’ design.”

Me: “You scared the shit out of them.”

“That’s exactly right.  They looked at me, and they looked at the car, and they saw what had happened, and they said, ‘Holy shit!  This whacko is gonna do it one day!  We better cut it out - we can’t fool around with him any more!’  And that was the end of the running on the roof.”  

Years later, Danny got a job with a local landscaping operation, and, as fate would have it, they were doing a job at our house.  He rang the doorbell, and when my mother came out, he introduced himself... and apologized for all of that roof-running mischief.  Nary a mention was made of Dad’s automotive exploit - perhaps, by then, he had forgotten it.  But one can only imagine the unpleasant consequences had Eli not had that last-minute attack of conscience that kept him from turning most of the Baldwin brothers into a grease spot at the end of Pocahontas Street West.

As he says, it’s not a story he’s proud of, but it is true, nonetheless!

Postscriptum: I was surprised to discover that Danny Baldwin, for a time, had dated the youngest sister of one of my long-term classmates (I was also surprised to discover that this sister, fully ten years younger than my friend, actually existed). She characterized him as prone to doing foolish things, but possessing a good heart. So there’s that.

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