Monday, July 12, 2010

Rant #296: Old Friends

There's nothing like seeing old friends. Even if you haven't seen them in ages, you can pick up a conversation as if you had been speaking with them continually for years.

This weekend, I finally had my Rochdale Village Reconnection Reunion. The weather was threatening the whole day, and some doubted me for even having it this past Saturday due to weather concerns, but I decided to have it, and boy, was I happy with my decision.

It was overcast the entire day, and there were a few drips and drops here and there, but my barbecue at my house went really well.

About 40 people from my old neighborhood showed up. I was friendly with many of them way back when, and some of them I was very friendly with. Others I knew by name.

But I will tell you, once I saw these people, it was as if we never left each other in the 1970s.

Conversations picked up seamlessly. We talked about everything, including way back when, our current situation, our old neighborhood, our kids, our parents, even baseball.

The guys have more of a presence now, and some of us have lost our hair and are a bit rounder in the gut. The girls are so much prettier than I remember them, but heck, I lived there from age seven to 14 (1964-1971), so what did I know back then?

It was very humid and I was sweating profusely, but the warm reception I got made me feel real good, even in the middle of a hot, hot day.

With the help of my wife and my parents, we got everything going. My wife is a Far Rockaway girl, so there is a connection, because if we swam in the ocean when we lived in the old neighborhood, a bus ride to the shores of Far Rockaway was the way to go.

I think the weather kept some people away, but otherwise, it was a perfect day.

The pictures you see here are some of the ones I took of the people from my old neighborhood. You probably don't know any of them, but they are the faces of the kids of the late 1950s who are in their 50s today.

We have been through a lot, a lot of changes (both good and bad), and we have probably lived two-thirds of our lifetimes right now. But we are all still young at heart, and that is what makes such a reunion so wonderful.

And as we talk about old friends, somebody I did not know personally, but was touched by my entire life, passed away this weekend.

Bob Sheppard, the venerable PA announcer voice of the Yankees for more than 50 years, died this weekend at the age of 99.

Nobody who ever heard his voice at the old Yankee Stadium would ever forget it.

"He is as much a part of this organization as any player," Yankee Captain Derek Jeter said. "He was the one constant at Yankee Stadium. He was part of the experience. He's going to be missed."

Jeter is right, as usual. And in tribute to Sheppard, Jeter will continue to use a recording Sheppard made several years ago to announce the Yankee captain every time he steps to the plate. He will also use it in the All Star Game tomorrow.

Sheppard was just about as important to the players as the players were to the team. He was Yankee Stadium.

And he died with dignity yesterday morning at his home in Baldwin, Long Island, a stone's throw away from where I live and where my own reunion took place this weekend.

Old friends, yes, they are the dearest friends we have in our lifetimes.

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