It was a very bad week for me; my right knee wouldn’t bend, causing me excruciating pain when I tried to get into bed. The bad boo-boo necessitated my having to cancel going to Lou Powsner’s surprise 90th birthday party at the Mirage Diner on Kings Highway. I wasn’t going anywhere soon and, even if I could, how would I get there with my right leg extended? — I couldn’t get into any car.
Not only did I send my regrets to Lou’s family, I called our editor, Vince DiMiceli, to get coverage for his only nonagenarian columnist. Vinny called me back and asked if I could write a column on it and I regretfully declined, stating the condition of my knees. However, if he couldn’t get a reporter at this late date, then I would.
But, how does one write a column on a living legend?
During the three decades of close association with Lou, I had written several columns about “The Mouth That Roared” and his flawless integrity that demanded truthful answers from whomever — be it giant corporations, public utilities, mayors, governors and even Tojo— who he personally attacked during World War II with his bombardier buddies.
Before the Internet and the information highway, before there were search engines like Google, there was Lou Powsner with his photogenic memory and instant recall ability. Lou Powsner, with his determination to get answers, never hesitated to travel anywhere to speak out at public hearings, fight a wrongful $15 parking ticket or battle against anyone trying to infringe upon his rights, the community’s welfare or the small businesses he championed. Only equipped with a mouth spewing fact upon fact, based on accurate historic reference, Lou Powsner doesn’t know how to answer a question with a simple yes or no; he replies with a non-stop fact-based soliloquy, stunning those that dare question this living, breathing, human answer machine. And if Lou doesn’t speak out against you verbally in public, then he uses his Speak Out column with devastatingly accurate information.
I contacted the family telling them that I felt better and would be able to make the party after all, via my handicap scooter. Sunday July 18 was a brutal, muggy, hot sunny day and traveling to the Mirage Diner on Kings Highway was no picnic. It was like driving three miles through a sauna. Choosing and picking streets with some shade versus sidewalks with cracks that could jar a tank, I finally made it to the Mirage parking lot, whizzing by Lou, accompanied by his granddaughter, Lori. Wouldn’t you know, that this frail gentlemen hanging onto his granddaughter for support, spotted me, calling out, “Carmine?”
I didn’t know what to do, what to say and by the time I made a u-turn he was already climbing the stairs into the diner. Too late! I scooted to the handicap ramp at the other end of the parking lot and arrived in the party room and was sort of stunned by his family and friends standing there to greet him. I got there just in time and stated singing “Happy Birthday” in my loud, booming voice, and the guests quickly joined in. I boomed out my usual “YEEAAAAHHH” that echoed throughout the diner. On my scooter waiting to be seated at a table, this little boy came over to me and asked “Are you Alexa’s grandfather?”
After 32 years of civic activism, writing a column for 32 years, lauded with awards and titles, serving on the school boards for 22 years and my only claim to fame for this generation is… I’m Alexa’s grandfather. Apparently the six degrees of separation theory proved it when 11-year-old Alex Dash, Lou’s great, second cousin and my 11-year-old granddaughter perform in the same plays at CAP theater group in Long Island. Alex, smiling, said he recognized my “YEAH” and made the connection. Small world isn’t it?
Ninety years is too much for only one column … to be continued!
Screech at you next week!