I'm writing by book again and will be posting it here for any feed back, corrections and impute. If you have any interesting stories I can incorporate into the book please let me know.
I got to La Guardia Airport at about six o’clock. There was no welcome committee. There couldn’t be since nobody knew I was coming. I never had a taxi ride before and I was looking forward to it. I must have looked pretty confused on the curb in front of the airport. A nice older Italian guy pick up my bags and put them in his cab.
“What are you waiting for? Get in.” He said
I did and we were off.
“Where to.” He said.
I got out my letter. “124 Columbia Heights Brooklyn.”
“Ok have you ever been there before?” He asked.
“No.” I said.
“Have you ever been to Brooklyn before?”
“So where did you fly in from kid?”
“Kansas? Have you ever been to New York before?”
“Yes, but it’s been awhile.”
“Well, welcome. It’s going to be a little bit of a trip but I’ll get you there buddie.”
He did get me there too but it turned out to be the most expensive cab ride of my life. I saw most of Brooklyn and parts of Queens. I think I saw the Verrazano Bridge at least twice.
He talked about his family and his crazy wife. I talked about moving to the world headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He wasn’t impressed at all. He must have got tired of talking to me because two hours later he dropped me off in front of the 124 building. He got my bags out of the trunk and put them by the front door.
“How much do I owe you?” I asked.
$109.50” He said.
I gave him $110 and started walking towards my bags.
“Hey kid! What no tip? You’re in New York now, not Kansas anymore…you got to tip here!”
I turned around and gave him another $10. He never even said thank you. I had come to New York with only $300 and I was down to only $180. Thirty eight years later, I was a cab driver in Portland Oregon. I would have never dreamed of doing that to someone.
It didn’t matter. I was standing looking up at 124 building. This truly was one of the defining moments of my life. Everything before this was just preparation for what was on the other side of those to doors. I made it. The rest of my life would be gravy from here on out.
I grabbed by bags and went through the doors and up a couple of steps. I was standing in front of the 124 reception desk. There was a boy my age on the phone. I stood there as he looked up.
He put his hand over the receiver. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, I’m Keith… Keith Casarona.”
“Ok Keith, can I help you?”
“I’m here to report in for Bethel service.”
He got a disgruntle look on his face and went back to talking on the phone. “Hey, Tom I’ll call you back later. I got a new boy here I need to deal with.”
He hung up the phone and opened a desk draw. He got out a list and started looking at it.
“What’s your name again?”
“When were supposed to check in anyway?”
“Monday the 23nd.”
He gave me another disgruntled look. “This is Friday.”
“Yes, I know. I decided to come early.”
Shaking his head. “You decided to come early….great. Do me a favor and grab you bags and wait in the lounge.” He pointed straight ahead. “This could take a while.”
As I grabbed my bags and walked into the lounge I thought to myself ‘new boy’ what a strange term. I dropped my bags into a chair and looked out the picture windows at the million views of the New York harbor and the Brooklyn Bridge. There were thousands twinkling lights all over lower Manhattan. The lounge looked like something out of the nineteen forties art deco with its overstuffed couches. There was a big black piano in the corner begging for someone to play some George Gershwin melodies. There was a small group of “brothers” and young “sisters” talking in the corner. I thought I’m at home at last.
The society has owned some of the most expensive pieces of real estate in all of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Heights area is one of the most upscale neighborhoods in all of New York. Just below the 124 building is the world famous promenade where dozens of motion pictures have been made. In the early nineteen seventies you could watch them across the river as they built the World Trade Center. Years later the society would sell off some of these properties for hundreds of millions of dollars.
A few minutes later, the brother from the front desk came and got me.
This is Larry he’ll show you to your room. I grabbed my bags and we headed out the front door and across the street down about a hundred yards to an older kind of rundown apartment building. It was the 129 building. It was an older apartment building that still had some “worldly” people living in it.
All Larry said was. “Where you from?”
I said “California by way of Kansas.”
“Oh… don’t tell people you’re from California.”
“Why?” I said.
He smiled. “You’ll find out.”
We walked up two flights and walked to apartment 33. Larry knocked on the door.
Gilbert Turner opened the door.
Larry looked at Gilbert. “This is your new roommate.” He turned and walked away.
Gilbert always had a funny little smile on his face. “Welcome to the Ritz. Right this way.”
We were in a one bedroom one bath, eight hundred square feet apartment. There were three guys in the Livingroom, two guys in an alcove and two guys in the ten by ten bedroom. The bedroom had two beds, two desks and two dressers in it. It was so small you had to go outside to change your mind. They put me in the bedroom with a Mexican kid from Texas.
I threw my bags on the bed and looked at Gilbert “I’m starving any place to get some food around here?”
“Not really…breakfast tomorrow morning, I guess.”