I love living in the Las Vegas area. Wouldn’t trade it for anything that didn’t involve a time machine. I may not LOVE when it’s 112 degrees, but it doesn’t really bother me, and I like it much more than rain, snow, humidity or dark clouds. This past week, we had the good fortune to visit family and friends in Florida, and then in New York – on Long Island, and back in our hometown of Brooklyn. I’m going to touch on our visit to that Borough of Churches – population 2.5 million – and break it up with the titles of some of the songs that enriched our visit (thanks mostly to Sirius XM’s “Rewind” “Vinyl” and “70s” stations).
The weather was great – much better than our prior stop in rainy, humid Florida. Loved seeing our family there, but every time we journey to the self-proclaimed “Sunshine State” we are drenched. The Brooklyn weather was perfect and we saw none of the event-ruining precipitation that played a large part in sending us out west.
“Walk Away” – James Gang (Heard while driving up Gerritsen Avenue).
I’ll admit it right now; I ate like a pig. There’s Brennan & Carr, L&B Spumoni Gardens, Drakes Cakes and Entenmann’s (which are like black market contraband in Las Vegas) – not to mention a trip out to East Islip to Yong Wang Kitchen, which has the best Chinese takeout I’ve ever had. The Chinese food here in Sin City leaves a lot to be desired – even in our Chinatown. So as a result of my adventure in gluttony, I expect to be living at Fitness 19 for some time now.
“Rosalita” – Bruce Springsteen (Heard on Belt Parkway toward Brooklyn)
Not 30 minutes after hearing that Springsteen classic, my buddy Chris informed me that he would be seeing the Boss live for the 4th time on this tour. I tried to hide my jealousy as I have STILL never seen Bruce in concert.
We went to Brennan & Carr twice. Sunday night just myself, my wife, and our two daughters. I ordered what I always order: Cheese Beefs, Cheese Fries and a Cheese Coke (okay, not that last one). Beefs double dipped. The following afternoon we had lunch there with about 15 of the greatest people I have ever known – our childhood friends. It was one of the happiest days I’ve had in years. Oh, and I steered away from my usual Cheese Beefs to try a Gargiulo Burger. It was fantastic. You may have seen it on “Man Vs. Food”.
“Livin’ Thing” – Electric Light Orchestra (Heard on Southern State Parkway)
The cool thing about hearing that song was that I was wearing my ELO shirt at the time. Las Vegas connection: Brandon Flowers of LV’s The Killers once said that “Livin’ Thing” was his favorite song ever.
Our daughters are always amazed at how my wife and I might see an old friend for the first time in 20 or even 30 years, and there is never any awkwardness. It all just picks up very naturally. Never fails. We tell the girls that is what true, lifelong friendship is all about. As they get older, they’re starting to understand.
“Hello Goodbye” – Beatles (Heard on Avenue U)
When that Fab 4 song was on I reminded the girls to listen to the clever backing vocals.
After our lunch we all headed over to spend some time at the childhood home of four of the nicest girls on the planet. As kids, we’d be there – at least on the front stoop – just about every day. This turned out to be the best part of the afternoon!
Then it was time to go out back and visit The Alley. Known to many adults back then as the Community Driveway, The Alley runs the length of the block between two streets and a pair of avenues. Though, as kids, we’d all go to the park or the beach, the movies, bowling etc, The Alley was basically home base. It was really our world. Wiffle Ball, softball, football, basketball, boxing, soccer, and even hockey were played in The Alley. Sometimes all in the same day. Then there were non-traditional “sports” such as Manhunt and Hide-The-Belt. Meals were eaten there on laps or album covers. Sometimes it was just nice to sit in The Alley sun and listen to music on someone’s boombox. Could be rock, soul, or disco – depending on who had control of the radio, but it was always a nice mix. It always involved laughter, and sometimes tears. Each day could bring maybe a surprise kiss, a brand new friend, or an unwanted nickname. I’ve seen windows, bones and hearts broken there. I’ve learned of births and deaths in The Alley. Mostly, I learned about friendship. I have a hard time making friends these days, because the bar has been set too high.
“Brown Eyed Girl” – Van Morrison (Heard on Knapp Street)
I’m not sure how The Alley wound up with most of the nicest and prettiest girls in New York, but I’m not complaining. Hey, I was lucky enough to marry one of them! You know how guys are always searching through so many girls who are kinda fun to be around but probably not marriage material? Somehow, every single girl from The Alley was, and is, a keeper.
Why do I consider Brooklyn and its nearly 3 million people to be a “small town”?
Let me put it this way – I recently wrote a novel (setting: Brooklyn) that will soon be released by a small, but excellent publishing company called Blood Bound Books. It’s not a blockbuster with a load of publicity by a major conglomerate, but I know it is heartfelt and suspenseful, and some highly respected professionals have told me that it ain’t chopped liver. Not one person in the communal development in which we live in Nevada knows I’ve written this thing. Most don’t know my name, or if I am a butcher, baker or candlestick maker. That’s just fine with me. But I went back to that small town of Brooklyn and my old pals, and their moms, acted as if I (Dan, Danny, DOC, O’Connor, even Johan or Kippy Pratt – don’t ask) was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The book isn’t out yet, none of them have read it, they don’t know if it stinks (I promise it doesn’t), but they don’t care. They feel that one of them has made good on a dream. That’s all that matters. A couple of the moms have been talking about my book in their church group! We have another friend who is truly a Hollywood big shot now and all we want to do is support him in all he does. He’s someone who came from humble beginnings and is living his dream. That makes us all happy. The best part – he’ s still the same guy. I want all of those friends to make good on their dreams, no matter what they are. My dreams? The real ones that I have when I’m sleeping? They are usually populated by the people we visited last Monday in Brooklyn.
As we were heading back to the rental car, after that wonderful visit, we saw an older man walking his dog. His name is Bill and I hadn’t seen him in many, many years.
“Is that you, Danny?” he asked with a smile, “I heard you’re an author now!”
“Small Town” – John Mellencamp (Heard while leaving Brooklyn).
Sons of the Pope will be released in December
The Binding will appear in the anthology Blood Rites in January