Thursday, July 1, 2010


The parking lot was known for its ruts.

You wouldn’t suppose a parking lot along such an up-and-coming commercial-industrial major boulevard would be rutty, let alone characteristically rutty, but Route 110 wasn’t quite so up and coming yet. Tradesmen and commercial truck drivers still had a few front row seats in the bars along the already exceedingly trafficked road, especially the one with the most ruts.

The little lot on the corner of 110 and Gazza Boulevard looked as if God had allowed his nephews to dump out their boxes of trucks and cars in Farmingdale, in the ruts, in front of, beside, and behind an old, green farmhouse named Garrity’s.

Four of those bars would disappear in a decade, replaced by, first, gourmet delicatessens and pizza places; and then, by bank branches and chain restaurants, all with meticulously paved parking lots; nary a rut in sight.

But as the 1970’s grew into the 1980’s, there still were a few lots made of ruts, populated by the bumpier, ostensibly unsophisticated members of the social order that accompanied the ruts; people rather used to ruts.

The vehicles at Garrity’s looked rather individually arranged—seemingly haphazardly, so to speak—according to the depth and breadth of the prevailing ruts and the prevailing mood of the operator. A Volkswagen Rabbit might straddle one big rut on a diagonal, while a nearby pickup truck took three or four ruts; a large truck, five; and a tractor trailer, eight.

The place was intentionally not-named for its proprietor, Joe Gavitt, although it appeared to be named for him. It bore his wife, Jean’s, maiden name, “Garrity.” The choice was Gavitt’s not-so-subtle way of telling his father what he thought of his refusal to lend Gavitt the last $8,000 to buy the place.

When Gavitt eventually invited his father out from Gerretson Beach, Brooklyn, to celebrate his payment of loans and witness his success, the father heard dozens of patrons calling Joe Gavitt, “Joe Garrity,” and him, “Mister Garrity.”

Gavitt would answer without correcting them. But for a few neighbors from his home in Farmingdale, patrons thought his name was Joe Garrity.

At Garrty’s, even the stories had stories.

I was very comfortable there. Very comfortable.

I wore a jacket and sometimes a tie, true—and in the winter, a cap—but I could have been literally surrounded by shirts of flannel, chamois, canvas, and denim, and be as comfortable as a puppy.

Even more so than in Garden City, where the tradesmen and deliverymen and I sometimes felt overwhelmed at Leo’s by the proliferation of insurance salesmen and stockholders…well, especially the stockholders.

Nobody who didn’t do whatever they did understood what stockholders did, if anything, or what they fabricated, or traded, or made. Yet, they had been catapulted from a job as a barback out of college to a role of global currency expert on Wall Street, two years later.

They conversed with each other, mostly, and sometimes talked about each other mockingly—when the subject was out of earshot. I talked to them, even entertained them, but I did not understand what their expertise was, or gain any knowledge for the conversational exercise. They were foreign.
Still, I got two stories, maybe three a year out of Leo’s.

Garrity’s? Two newspaper stories was a slow January.

Warren Berry, formerly of the former Herald Tribune, discovered the place while researching the environs of the new Newsday location, which was tough, because it overlooked the National Cemetery on one side and the new Pergament warehouse—acres of warehouse—on the other.

However, a determined Berry worried that we wouldn’t have a place to eat, free of pretension and members of management, and he found Garrity’s. But the following autumn of 1979, when Newsday moved, I might just as well have parked a desk at Garritty’s.

There were drivers, mostly, Drake’s Cake and Met Food Drivers, and independent drivers that went out of their way to lunch at Garrity’s when they visited Long Island.

Then, well, employees of Black Angus Meats (with special guest, Sal The Butcher); a gym teacher from Uniondale; the Contract Renewal Guy and the Payroll Department Head of Republic Aviation; Gerry Cesspool; Tom Horan, the president and founder of a boiler dealership; two or three firemen; one steadily employed lather; and teams, ever-changing teams, of, first, operating engineers, to dig the hole for, say, the Royce Carlin Hotel, under construction up the road; then, the union concrete workers and lathers, who made the footing for the hotel; then waves of steel workers, framers, bricklayers, carpenters, sheet metal guys, plumbers, electricians, finishers; all to spend a half year, and then start over again when, say, the giant postal center project got cranked up, and they all came back.

Once, a fearfully massive, impossibly-tall, old-Buick-broad-shouldered, 19-year-old, ironworker confided in me—as if it weren’t already clear from his pained expression—that he hated, hated, drinking boilermakers (a shot of Four Roses whiskey, washed down by a 7 ounce beer). The taste was killing him.

“Okay,” I said, after hesitating a bit. “I’ll ask this, as long as you promise not to cripple me or dismember me: why do you do it, then? I mean, what? Do ironworkers have a rule?”

He looked at me, puzzled. I mean, stunned, baffled, befuddled, like I didn’t know which way North was. He said, “Yes, ironworkers have a rule. Are you serious?”

If you liked stories, Garrity’s was as close as you could get to heaven.

Joe Gavitt and Eddie Siscaretti presided over the lunch-crowded bar, Eddie absent three fingers that he’d left inside a New York City Sanitation hopper. Each of them traded insults with the patrons served full restaurant dinners at the bar. They had about a half-hour to get down a heaping plate of pot roast and mashed potatoes and corn and a hot pepper and two boilermakers, before they went back to work. Then, they came back after work, to see if everyone was all right with their day.

I made only one mistake in all that time at Garrity’s. Somehow, I got away with it. But I scared myself good.

Next: The Choice

1 comment:

  1. arrgghhhh! a cliff hanger...! always keep us wanting for more,edlowe*