Farewell, Gene

Gene McCarthy told me a couple of week's ago that he was taking a "change-of-scenery" assignment in Fleetwood after serving at the Hastings-on-Hudson post office for 16 years (minus a couple of years misspent elsewhere). I thought at the time that I ought to take his picture and write a little something about it, but ideas like that fly through my head all the time. Something, however, drew me to the P.O., out of the blue, a few minutes ago.



I waited until Gene's line was clear and showed him my camera.  He nodded. The first shot was more of a grimace than a grin, I thought. 

"Smile," I said.

"I don't smile," he replied. 

Well, I know differently, I thought, based on a lot of witty, if always professional and efficient, banter with Gene over the years. I saw his lips move and took another shot thinking I'd captured a grin. But looking at the two photographs side by side, he's right. He doesn't really smile. Like my Irish father-in-law, Bill Drohan, the good cheer is mostly in the eyes. And in his bon mots.


I told Gene I was "inclined" to blog about him, got his email address in tacit approval, shook his hand, wished him luck and walked away with the lachrymose feeling that you get after the last game of the softball season. As I approached the front door, I heard Gene say to his colleague, Tim, "That's it. I'm out of here." 

I turned on my heels. 

"What!" That's your last official act?" I said. "What timing!"

"That's it. I'm done. And as long as my picture's not up over there," he said, pointing to the felons that still quaintly grace the wall,  "I'm a happy man." 

I don't know how many proposals, manuscripts and business plans passed through Gene's hands over the years. I do know that it was not enough, but that's no fault of his (and has equally to do with sloth as Internet growth). In any event, I will miss his quips and good cheer, as many a patron will, and wish him nothing but grumpy customers with sacks full of pennies until he again returns to Hastings, where all of the residents are ...

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