Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: Looking back, looking ahead

So here we are, beginning another year.

I think that I join with the rest of the population hoping we get a handle on this disease and that it goes the way of other sicknesses that have ravaged civilization in the past.

I spent New Year’s Day taking all the ornaments and lights off the Christmas tree. Always a sad event, marking the end of the happiest time of the year. I will leave the wreathes hanging on each window for a while longer. At least until 12th Night.

I never did like celebrating New Year’s, even as a kid. It signified the end of Christmas vacation and going back to school. And the dark cold days of January, February and March still to come.

I remember the New Year starting in 1966 when I was a college student in New York. The subways had gone on strike. I learned all about the city from the seat of my 10-speed. Thinking back, I believe that the strike lasted almost two weeks.

But I did find that I could get places quicker by bike than I could on public transportation. So even after the strike was settled, I rode my bicycle much more.

That was more than half a century ago. I pretty much stay away from bicycles now. Without the keen senses and reflexes of a 20-year-old, this septuagenarian is asking for trouble bicycling.

I did however spend my late teens and early 20’s bicycling on trips with The American Youth Hostel. This organization which had a center on Eighth Street in the Village promoted bicycle trips all over the city, from midnight trips around the financial district to afternoon jaunts through Staten Island.

And I remember an annual “bike train” trip that left the city early and went non-stop to Bridgehampton. We all got off and pedaled to Montauk and back.

My big trip, however, was a self organized trip with two friends. We biked from a bit north of Albany up to Montreal. We stayed in Youth Hostels.

These were fairly rustic accommodations that cost very little per night. Like a dollar or two. Sometimes they were empty farmhouses where one just left the fee on the honor system.

Another New Year that sticks out in my mind was driving out here to the Island on the day before New Year’s Eve of 1971.

I came here with my uncle who had decided to sell “the bungalow.” It was a cold and bleak day. The first thing we had to do upon disembarking the ferry was stop at the home of Uncle Ed’s friends in the Heights.

After a couple of Wilson’s, Uncle Ed took us to the house. It had been closed up with sheets over all the furniture and it smelled like mothballs. I remember not liking it and telling my wife that we could acquire a bungalow such as this for next to nothing Upstate (where we lived at the time).

She found it charming, saying it reminded her of the family’s lake house in northern Indiana. We bought it and the rest is history.

So the naked Christmas tree has been taken outside leaving a trail of pine needles. It has done its job well being a symbol of love and peace and well being for another year.