Friday, February 5, 2010

Beradette Castro

Bernadette Castro

I wondered, years ago, if I would ever get to do this.

To give credit where it’s due, I received an anonymous e-mail from a man about 4 or 5 years older than I. He convincingly revealed that he was successful at whatever it is that he did, and, he knew some things about…well…some things.

While reserved, for the sake of dignity, in his compliments, he wholeheartedly encouraged me to keep up a good spirit, and move forward. It was one of those letters from one of those people who rarely if ever do that sort of thing, and I appreciated the hell out of it.

He went on to say that we drank some beers at the same place, “just on the East side of Route 110.” Four occurred to me immediately. “Unfortunately,” he continued, “not together.” That left two. I knew everybody at the other two, right up until they closed.

He wrote, “I was also privileged to be at a luncheon at the Hilton on Rte. 110 when you were the ‘guest’ speaker. Our table was right up front,” he said, “and I believe Ms. Castro was at the same table.”

Bernadette Castro.

I don’t think Castro was at that December meeting, but she sure was at the November meeting.

I had agreed to do my, “thing,” at the organization’s Christmas…oops, sorry…Winter… Holiday meeting-party, in December. I forget the organization’s name (sorry), but it was like the much-larger Long Island Association or the Hauppauge Industrial Association. I planned to tell a story of one the many times I made an ass of myself—this one at Robert and Mary (The Second) Moses’ house. The audience would laugh and the party would be a success.

They booked me around September, which meant they hadn’t thought of anything better yet. But, it was a Friday, no deadline, because the Sunday column had to done by Thursday, which is more than you care to know.

A few days after I said I would do it, the same guy called me back. I thought that they’d had a better idea. But the guy said, “Ms. Castro is our speaker for November.” I waited, I guess, for his point. Then, to break the uncomfortable silence, I said, “Oh…uh…congratulations.” (What do I care about whatever you’re doing in November?). He said, “Will you be coming to hear Ms. Castro?”
(I thought: Will I be coming…are you nuts? I Just agreed to show up at your December Party, to entertain your members, for free.).

I said, “Uh…you know, I think I’m busy on that…what’s that date?” He hung up.

I think it was the Eighties when I first heard Bernadette Castro speak. I suppose it wasn’t until then that I realized I had never heard her as a child. I just assumed I did. I first heard her voice on the Don Imus radio show. It was a friendly voice, more innocent that I expected, and I didn’t yet know why I expected anything.

Imus would feign making fun of Castro’s naiveté, and Castro would get across whatever she wanted to get across, almost in spite of his mockery. Both got exactly what each knew the other wanted out of the exchange: Imus, a foil; and Castro, a few minutes on a hot radio program.

Depending on how he treated Castro, I stood poised to bitterly hate Imus. I didn’t know that at the time, either. She always did well in the exchanges.

During the 1980’s and 1990’s, one of the charities I did work for was the Long Island Arthritis Association, not because I had a particular aversion for arthritis, but a friend of mine from 1969 worked there. Once, when I was hosting five or six events a year for them, she invited me to be an honorary board member.

I reluctantly attended a board meeting, and wound up face-to-face with Bernadette Castro. Her daughter had arthritis and just had a second hip replacement. My daughters were about the same age. Bernadette said it killed her to walk behind her daughter in the supermarket, knowing by her gait she was in great pain.

I was feeling a strange empathy with Bernadette Castro. I realized around then that I had known her all my life, from maybe 3 or 4 years old, from the TV commercials. She was exactly the way I’d imagined she would be, grown up.

I saw her and her husband several times after that. It turned out that my Susan knew her, too, from St. Patrick’s in Huntington. It was one of those many, many good parts of a great life. I knew it, too.

I began to feel like I should not have been so short with the guy from the association. I decided to go. What the hell, it was a Friday.

“Come, come, your seat is up here,” the association guy said. “Table one.” I was lurking in the back. (Table One? I thought.). I followed him.

There was my name, at Table One.

But something was going wrong. The Suffolk County Republican Chairman, John Powell, had appeared, with an entourage, and without warning. He and the entourage were going to sit at Table One, with newly-named Commissioner of the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Places, Bernadette Castro.

I volunteered my seat, which was good, because it already had been volunteered. While not yet indicted for anything (like, oh-I-don’t-know, running a stolen truck chop-shop), Powell had, “that look,” that career criminals get. I didn’t want any pictures of myself and himself together in the same room.

The Association moved me to Table Two. I was about to refuse (Get me out of here!), when it occurred to me that the refusal might be misinterpreted as caring; or, worse, being insulted. I sat as told at Table Two.

Bernadette took the podium. She greeted The Association, the surprise visitors from the county GOP, and said she wanted to talk about the state, her department and where she planned to have maximum impact.

But first, she said, she wanted to acknowledge what she considered to be a treasure on Long Island: Ed Lowe.

Suddenly, I felt very disconnected. It was as if she were talking about me, which she was. She talked about…him…for, I don’t know, maybe two minutes, I’m not sure. I’m frankly not sure of anything after that, except that the rest of her speech was really good. She knew her parks and historical places.

Although, you can’t trust my judgment on that.

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