My father was a very uncomplicated man. He was a janitor. He went no further than the fourth grade, but he could read, write, (meaning he didn’t print everything, the way today’s high school graduates do). He could do long division, multiplication, addition and subtraction, and yes, he did this without benefit of a calculator. (We couldn’t have afforded a calculator anyway.)
My dad liked to come home from work every day, have a beer and read the evening paper (Remember those—evening papers?) He did like his beer. But he hated going out on New Year’s Eve. Being Italian, he sometimes used words that I didn’t know, but understood nonetheless. He said he didn’t like to go out on New Year’s Eve because that’s when all the gavones were out.
You can find that word in the back of Lorraine Ranalli’s book, “Gravy Wars,” in the Italian-American glossary. She describes gavones as, “lacking in culture.” My dad would have been less kind, but then again, he wasn’t putting his definition in writing.
No, Dad and Mom weren’t party people. They just preferred staying at home. Of course, they had to, with four kids running around a household supported by a janitor’s salary.
So New Year’s Eve was more of a family night, with us watching Guy Lombardo on TV, then watching the ball descend at Times Square, after which, we kids would be given pots and pans, so we could go outside with all the other non-gavones and bang them as imitation noisemakers, bringing the row-house streets of Philadelphia to momentary life on a cold January morning. And by about 12:45 a.m., we all—kids and adults—would be out cold in bed.
Yeah, we could really party back in those “good, ole days.” Those good, ole, days for me were called the 1950s, and, since I majored in history, I always like to examine the past—My past on the streets of Philadelphia, My past during my years in Minot, North Dakota, My past as a cop, and yes, even my past as a writer. And I think Dad had a lot to do with molding that outlook.
We would always watch those old, black-and-white movies together—the ones that were being shown on early television in those days. He was especially instructive whenever we watched a war movie. You see, I was born while my dad was overseas with the Ninth Infantry Division in Normandy during World War Two, and he was always correcting those old war movies.
“No, that’s not the way it was at all,” he would often say. “We were a lot more scared than that!” So I sort of grew up looking at things “historically.” That’s what the narrator does in my New Year’s Eve story—One More Round, which is available at Untreed Reads.com, or Amazon, Barns & Noble, or any other outlet for downloadable books. Or you could just visit my Web site, www.jimvanore.com.
And—what else—it’s a story about how one particular family rings in the New Year.
So let me give all of you a New Year’s greeting by saying that I hope 2012 is your best year ever, but may it pale in comparison to all those that follow.
Happy New Year, everyone.