Alrighty, alrighty, don’t get your knickers in a knot! Ever hear that saying? No one uses the term “knickers” anymore, but in the “olden” days, it referred to your shorts, underwear that is. And the saying meant don’t get all excited and uptight…you know, like bunched up underwear, very uncomfortable.
My grand old father-in-law, Big Bill Stogey, used to say, “ok kids, go play in traffic.” Now before you get all politically correct on me, he was usually talking to the adults when he said that, not kids, and it was an old way of saying “why don’t you take a long walk off a short pier.” I kind of like both sayings, they truly get to the point quickly. Although when I use them these days, I am usually met with a blank stare, as if to say, what the hell are you talking about?
Another of Big Bill’s sayings was, “don’t get hit by a car, wait for the bus.” His way of saying, don’t do the job halfway, if you know what I mean! I miss the man with the shock of white hair and a broad smile on his face. Today, if you walked by a fire hydrant and called it a “johnny pump,” youngsters would wonder what planet you were from. You could tell them that you remembered playing “johnny on a pony,” but they would wonder who this guy Johnny was and why does he have a pump and a pony!
Of course, if you were sitting on your stoop while dreaming of these things, you might be from Queens, but more likely from Brooklyn. And anyone who wanted to know what a Brooklyn Dodger was, would have to know that it was someone trying their best to get out of the way of the trolleys that ran all over Brooklyn back in the day. I’m told my Uncle Joe was a trolley driver, until one day his trolley jumped the track and ran down the wrong end of Bedford Avenue. His trolley-driving days were short-lived.
Big Bill was also fond of giving directions. Typically, they included a long, convoluted description of a road rarely taken, followed by the family heirloom “don’t take that road.” And actually, looking back at that particular saying, it was very good life advice. Because if we knew ahead of time which roads not to take, we would all be better off. But as it was, Bill never could tell you which road you should take. And again, looking back, perhaps that was his strategy, to let the intrepid traveler find their own path. Ahh, the Irish, they are all poets and philosophers.
The saying “what’ye hear, what’ye say” comes from old James Cagney movie, but it captures the essence of old New York, when guys hung out on street corners. Yes, the world is certainly different today. This pandemic, the tropical storm, political correctness, protests, my, my, you’d think it was the ‘60s again. Old timers will tell you that they have seen it all, kid. The more things change, the more they stay the same. We have had bad politicians before; we’ve had good ones too. Athletes missed whole seasons due to wars, “been there, done that.”
But I have to say, living in Rockaway has been a blessing during these times. Fresh air, the ocean, open skies, a small semblance of normalcy before the fall comes. And the fall is coming, although I wouldn’t count my chickens before they are hatched. I have to admit, there really is no reason to get our knickers in any knots!
By Lou Pastina