To the editor:
In 1951, my mother and I used to meet every Friday night at Nick Meola's Rialto Restaurant for dinner. On one Friday night, I noticed two young ladies on the other side of the dining room. As our waitress was also their waitress, I wanted to find out who they were. They were sisters. One was a cook at the Maxwell House Diner and the other was a drop-dead good looking waitress at a place called Al's Pizzeria.
For the next two weeks, I was at Al's Pizzeria. The woman never gave me a look. One day I tapped her on the shoulder and I said, "Hi, I'm Jim Sheridan." She looked me in the eye and said, "I'm not." This was the first of a series of wet blankets.
But, within two weeks, I finally got her to agree to go out with me. That's the good news. The bad news was that I got laid off from Mohawk Carpets. Our date was for 6 p.m. on a Friday night. At 4 p.m. I was standing in Louie Allen's pool room on Market Street. My shoes were shined, pants pressed, shirt and tie, cardigan sweater and 40 cents to my name. I was going to call her up and tell her that we had a death in the family, or that I got hit by a truck, anything to get off the hook.
In the pool room, for a nickel, I bought a package of peanut butter nabs and for a dime, I bought a soda that they don't make anymore, TruAde. I heard some noise from the back of the pool room and I looked through a peep hole and saw 10 to 12 guys shooting dice.
I walked down the alley, between Larrabee's and the pool hall, knocked on the door and they let me in. There was Harold Weissman, "Dunk" Baia, Mike Pacillo, Kenny House, Danny Gugliemelli, "Cheech" Farina, and a couple guys that I didn't know. As I was putting my empty soda bottle in the case, Mike Pacillo yelled, "Your dice, Sheridan." I put the remaining quarter on the table and made the sign of the cross. If you believe in miracles, this is what happened.
I held the dice for 12 minutes. I threw five passes and three numbers. The quarter was now $64. I picked up the money and headed for the door. Harold Weissman grabbed me and said, "You're not leaving here with that kind of money." Kenny House said, "Let him go." In those days, people had a tendency to listen to Kenny House. He was in training. His stomach looked like a washboard and if he hit you in the jaw, he'd probably break both of your ankles.
I went down to the Amsterdam Hotel, where the cab stand was, and picked this young lady up at 67 Bridge St. up over the Armory Grill. When we got out of the cab at Isabel's, there was a young kid in a pedal car, five to six years old, who almost knocked us down. It was Joey Isabel. The man who waited on us had been in my room at SMI; it was Pup Isabel.
After dinner, I called another cab which took us to the Rialto Theater where we saw "Shane" with Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, Jean Arthur and Jack Palance. When we left the theater, I did what all young men would do on a first date. I took this woman by cab to meet my mother. It was 11 p.m., but the next day was Saturday, nobody was working and I had lost my job.
My mother talked to this young lady for 15 minutes. I still had over $25 in my pocket, but I didn't call a cab because in the theater, she had let me hold her hand. That was a "home run" in 1951. I figured maybe she would let me hold her hand for the one mile walk back to the Armory Grill, and that's the way it turned out.
When we reached her place, I started to go up the stairs. She said, "No, this is as far as you go." I said, "Could we do this again sometime?" Her reply was, "We'll see." I was living at the YMCA at that time and as I checked in, the man at the desk said, "Your mother called; she wants to talk to you." It still wasn't midnight, so I walked up to my mother's place and the first thing that my mother said to me was, "You're going to grab that girl, aren't you?" "No, it's our first date and I don't even know her."
My mother looked me in the eye and said, "She's going to say 'no' to a lot nicer guys than you." And every so often, the blind pig stumbles into the acorn. Five months later, we were married.
She gave up restaurant work, got an education and taught for 33 years in the Head Start Program. We have five children, two of whom are deceased. The remaining three are married and provide us with all our basic needs in excess. We raised three beagles, one 14-year-old black cat whose name is Snowball, and we're not hurting for anything.
On Feb. 12 we will be married 61 years and I've got to tell you, I still get a big bang out of holding her hand. I'm 86, my wife is 83, and I'm still waiting for my first bad meal, but it will never come.
James J. Sheridan,
You can count on the crows
To the editor:
Every night as I drive into Amsterdam to pick up my son from wrestling practice, I'm travelling the same route as about 10,000 other commuters. Every night, they fly overhead, going the same way I am -- but unlike me, they're never late. You can set your watch by them. It's 4:45 p.m. -- they're right on schedule. The crows are coming into town.
Rush hour is starting. Traffic is getting heavier. The crows fly north up Route 30. Some peel off after crossing the bridge and bed down for the night in the scattering of trees near the river. Others fly on north up Route 30 and bear left at Route 67, heading for the cemetery. And some of them prefer the area near the old factory on the top of the steep Main Street hill. All they need is a tree or two. They settle in for the night, loudly telling each other about their day.
The crows are incredibly punctual. Many of them range far from the city during the day, flying 10 miles out or more. So they must begin to return to the roosting area about 3 o'clock. It's amazing how they manage to stay on schedule.
They're considered to be among the most intelligent birds in the world, capable of remarkable feats. For instance, it's been well proven that they can recognize individual humans by facial characteristics. They can design and use tools. They can even grasp basic math concepts, which is more than I can do. They've figured out that cities are perfect places to roost in. Cities have fewer owls and other predators to prey on the crows while they're trying to get a good night's sleep. Cities are warmer, with nice tall buildings to block the wind. Crows prefer to roost in lighted areas, perhaps because well-lit streets mean less danger from predators.
In a few weeks, as the days get longer, the increasing amount of daylight will prompt the crows to start pairing off in couples and setting up nesting territories. They'll abandon the winter urban roosts and head for the rural areas to bring up the kids.
So enjoy the crows while they're here, swirling around the city like a scene from a vampire movie, every evening at 4:45. And if you're anxious to be rid of such noisy neighbors, they won't be here much longer.