Friday, September 3, 2010


Jimmy McGlynn and The Greek came over this week.

I used to see Jimmy McGlynn every three-to-five years. This is from going back 35 years ago, in Al Ubert’s Ubie’s OTJ (OTJ meant On The Job, which Al Ubert let patrons believe was his pride his in his Suffolk County Police Department younger brother, Jack, when it was really a flat-out attempt to influence the police) in West Islip, where The Good Rats used to play once a week.

And, then, whenever they didn’t have a regular gig.

Al Ubert loved the Good Rats.

Seeing McGlynn has always been a mixed blessing. It was always an accident, but, it was always in a good bar. Then it was always irresistible, but always inconvenient to somebody. Mostly, me.

Jimmy would start talking and I would strain to listen, trying (in vain) to tell if he were on speed, LSD, or far too much natural energy for one man to even stand near without getting into some kind of trouble.
He would talk faster, and that would make him breathe faster, and that would make him rub his face with his hands and, somehow, that would make him talk faster.

I would know that I was going to be tired, going home.

I would allow myself to get caught up in watching—well, first it was watching Jimmy McGylnn’s magic tricks and the mysterious spells he would have worked over girls; then it was observing the uncanny memory he had for mixing a dozen or more exotic drinks rapid-fire; and then the barely credible speed, accuracy, and panache he had in serving them; and then the laser-beam accuracy his hands would perform in the cash register making change for four people at a time.

It would have been a neat show if it were not so unbelievable, but it most certainly was unbelievable, to the degree that I would wonder several times the next day whether it happened or was I dreaming it.

But, I wouldn’t see him for five years, so I would cherish the memory, whether it really happened or not. I used to say, “He put a spell on me,” and leave it at that.

The Greek and I both saw him, years ago, at separate times and in separate places. (Mine was my only visit to Chevy’s, on Sunrise Highway, in West Islip, which had a red, 1957 Chevy in it, center stage.). He would ring up ten times the totals of the other registers—hear me: ten times the totals of all the other registers—and still perform the magic tricks to keep the pretty girls at his, “station,” rather than roaming around the club.

Then, around the early 1980’s, I learned that Jimmy McGlynn was a track coach. I overheard him telling somebody about Bay Shore High School.
He coached for years there. Seventeen years, I just learned, with a 205-2 dual meet record, at one point going on a 96-0 winning streak with the boys team, and, of course, championship after championship after championship. He bought kids their track shoes when they couldn’t afford them. He visited their homes, made friend with their parents.
I suppose heard lots of stories about Jimmy McGylnn and track. I wasn’t interested in track.

I do remember listening to him telling about his younger team members, and how he told them to hold the line, or something, so their senior teammate would win, and earn a scholarship. Evidently, there was a science to competing at track. “Your year is next year,” he told his younger track team members, as if to say, “I’ve got plans for you.”

I never thought a thing about it, until this week, when somebody congratulated him for coming in 2nd in the country.

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” I said. “He is a fanatic. I’m not surprised that his team came in second in the County.”

“No. You didn’t hear me right. Country. His teams come in first in the county all the time. That’s nothing. He’s been doing that for decades. His team came second in the country. Fifty states. The second best team in the United States of America.”

I can’t take notes any more. But I wanted to hear it from him. So he and The Greek came over.

He brought the trophy to the house, a little one: 2nd Place in the country.

He’s coaching East Meadow, which never had won anything. Never had a winning season. Not one.

The last three years, they won two County Championships. They’re ranked No. 1 on Long Island. And, oh yeah, they got second best in the country. East Meadow.

“I love bartending,” Jimmy McGlynn says, “and I love coaching track.”

Catch up on the post-stroke year columns with

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