Cools ~ The Boop ~ Joe Fatz

Recently my father Joe has learned how to use FaceBook.  You know him he is the guy THAT WRITES IN ALL CAPS-POP.  He is enjoying catching up with the day to day Alexander Adventures as well as catching up with old friends.  He recently found his old friend John Swift on FaceBook and a few weeks ago John found me through a thread my father had started on motorcycles.

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Me and my Aunt Annie Marvullo-Himmler 1982 ish.

John writes on the thread “Hey Cools” and I was instantly transported to 8 Maple Street in Glenwood Landing.  Cools that was my name my father gave me as a little girl.  Mostly because I apparently enjoyed running around in my diaper or with nothing on and my “coolie” was hanging out.  I have no idea how he could have even remembered that but boy did it bring a smile to my face.  John or “Jackie” as I remember was the son Mr. and Mrs. Swift who lived a few houses away.  He would be often found at my house visiting on his motorcycle and chatting with Mom and Dad while they were outside doing yard work.  After I closed my computer for the night after hearing from Jackie I began to tell the boys stories of my child hood at 8 Maple and the great times that we had with our neighbors and friends.

The boys asked me more about why my name was Cools and I explained to them how we all got names from Dad.  Dad and I were best buds for years, I was his fishing buddy, his gardening buddy, his lets watched a baseball game buddy and lets go to the store for a pack of cigarettes and drink a six pack at the beach parking lot buddy.  Laura was the most girly of girls “The Boop” she was nicknamed after the sassy Betty Boop.  I can just see little Laura running around all dressed up in Mom’s heals flipping her hair all around and putting on Moms makeup.  She was always a girly girl and me not so much.   Then came the Prince, the apple of my Fathers and Mothers eye Joseph Christian.  Well Joey was dubbed  “Joe Fatz” cause till this day the kid is so filled with hot air and gas.  He stunk up a room then and can clear a room now.

Some of my favorite memories of 8 Maple was summers doing yard work as a family.  The front of our home had a brick wall at street level.  We lived on a very steep hill and our home was just at the top of the hill.  Boy that hill killed me and my friend Kelli so many times as we ran after baseballs down the hill scratched up our knees and went home bleeding from playing stickball.  The wall in front was a great place to hang out with your friends and share a homemade tupper wear ice pop made by Janice.  Dad had perfectly trimmed bushes along that wall and our job as kids would be to pick up all the trimmings when he would cut them several times a year.  We had a beautiful half wrap around porch on our home with beautiful old style spindles that Mom would paint what seemed like every year.  In front of the porch was a large patch of pachysandra a low growing groundcover plant that seemed to cover a large portion of the yard. The back yard was just beautiful, plant after plant filled the parameter of the rear yard.  Dad built a shed next to his garden but this was no normal shed.  Dad had running water in there, a telephone and cable TV.  He wanted his man cave to be a escape location from us crazy kids.  Dad built a railroad tie box next to his shed it had to be twenty feet long and fifteen feet wide for his beloved garden.  Summers were simply awesome with the fresh Roma, beefsteak  and cherry tomato’s, green beans, peppers (sweet and hot), basil, zucchini, eggplant, lettuce and the list goes on and on.  Mom would go out and pick fresh veggies for dinner every night.  In August all the neighbors were happy because there was simply too much and Mom was giving away what she could not freeze.  August was my favorite time also because with all the veggies Mom would make ciambotta an Italian vegetable stew, I can sill see the pot steaming and smell the garlic roasting.  Dad had a huge compost pile that we would bring the veggie scraps, coffee grinds, egg shells and newspaper too.  Dad would turn it every few days and he made the most amazing soil for his plants.  The plant’s that he began to grow in the winter in the basement under the lights in ice cube trays.

Mom and Dad made a good team, well at least most of the time they did.  Funny how I see DJ and I working together in the yard just like they did.  I have my little Town of North Hempstead composter and my little corner next to my Home Depot shed where today I grow a pretty good Roma and some killer cherry tomatoes.

Thanks Mr. Jackie Swift for remembering Cools, The Boop and Joe Fatz…. The memories will live in my heart forever.

 

Joseph SR

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The original Joe the Plumber….Here is a photo of my Father “post” Janice.  Ya see Janice would never allow the Harley and certainly not the pony tail.  Practically children themselves when I was born — they were both 23 — they were thrust into adulthood while still, in many ways they were kids.  I believe my father’s midlife crisis missed all the typical marks. There was no Rogaine, no convertible, and unfortunately for me, no round-the-world family cruise. His path to middle age can be summed up all by the sudden loss of his teenage love Janice Vesloski.

Dad was a hard worker, spending my younger years as a business owner – J and J Heating (Janice and Joe).  A plumber by trade he later worked for Pall Corporation in East Hills.  The business went under sometime in my Elementary school years.  Mostly because or at least I think Dad’s love of Miller beer.

Dad’s drinking got worse and worse and came to a head sometime my freshman year of High School .  I was told many times that “Your father has to want to do it for himself. When he hits rock bottom, he’ll make changes.”  Well Rock bottom hit and Mom sat us all down and said “Daddy’s going away for a little while.”  And she sent him to a rehab program in Upstate New York.  I still have the letters he sent me from there.  He asked me to take care of my Mother and my siblings and that he was getting better for us.  Shortly after he came home his new passion was educating himself on  Employee Assistance programs for those with drug and alcohol addictions in the workplace.  He started a counseling center in Sea Cliff to help those who were trying to become sober and his life’s work after that surrounded the AA program, the 12 steps and taking it one day at a time.

Through the years I watched my dad throw himself (compulsively, I may add) into many passions. Once, he invented a new product he called “the chum buddy” in our basement, a fishing lure that he and my Mother would drive around the Island and sell (I can still smell the plastic being drilled out).   He had tee shirts made and even got some vanity plates for his Chevy van.

Some may call him Cosmo Kramer…though eccentric, Kramer was friendly and kind-hearted and filled with quirkiness – Pretty much sums up Joe M.  Unfortunately what I often saw was his inability to transform those passions into a measurable result.  I always wished my dad given more time to his purpose — why he did what he did, why he wanted what he wanted — his passions may have resulted in a more favorable and desired outcome. There was something he was always looking for… I think he still is still looking…..

Dad always taught us very important lessons here are just a few:

  • How to make a mean clam chowder and english muffin pizzas.
  • A fresh unwashed tomato from the garden is best shared with your Dad.
  • Farting is always funny. Even at the dinner table. Actually, especially at the dinner table.
  • You can be mad at someone and still love them at the same time. This can be very confusing.
  • Marry your best friend.
  • Religion was praying to God the Yankees would get the win.
  • Swiss cheese is to be eaten on wonder bread with mayo and fresh tomato.
  • My father taught me about JUSTICE.  “One day you’ll have to teach someone, and I hope they give you grief, just like you did me.” and I did.
  • When you turn 18 and your eligible to vote – Vote for the vowel.  If the man’s name running for office ends in a vowel its likely he is Italian and he is the one you should pick.  
  • Listen to your Mother.

While my childhood was often filled with anxiety and tension, there were nevertheless some beautiful times with my father. Looking back, what I can be most thankful for are the lessons I’ve carried with me.

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