Take the Road less Traveled…please
Take the Road Less Traveled…please By Frank Vespe After I dropped off my daughter Elizabeth at LIU Post Monday morning, my right turn south on Route 107 was brutally interrupted by a weaving asphalt truck, eerily similar to one that cut me off in front of now defunct Highway Diner, so to avoid an almost certain obituary and bumper to bumper traffic passed Ikea, Sears and Theresa Caputo’s house, I split-second decided to take the road less travelled and stayed the course east along Northern Boulevard for a lazy ride back to the Springs along Route 25A, a road I haven’t travelled in twenty-five years. Certainly, the drive on 495 would shave an hour off my trip, I felt a sense of nostalgia along 25A back to a time when I courted my wife all those years ago stopping in shops on Main Street in Cold Spring and Huntington Harbor holding hands, sipping cappuccino, her laughing at my jokes; all three evaporating like a rainbow over Maidstone Beach. The drive through Laurel Hollow was quite pleasant, a long winding road quite like Stephen Hands Path, sans the mile high bark utility poles, but then came our old haunt, Main Street, Cold Spring Harbor and the shoebox-size pastel colored connected shops I remember oh so well. The memories of me and my wife together before four kids rushed through me like an effervescent explosion of oxygen, perking me up quickly, expecting the fragrance of her Giorgio perfume to awake me like the ammonium carbonate my football coach pushed under my nose so many times when I got slammed in Astoria Park; but alas, no Giorgio, no smelling salts, just the pleasant aroma of fresh baked bread and cherry blossoms in bloom. Surprisingly, I found a spot in front of The Gourmet Whaler, a place I remember as Gourmet Delights for its croissants, aromatic sweet coffee, all reminiscent of an English Tea Shoppe on Front Street in Bermuda, and so I parked across the street in a toll free lot, strolled inside, struck up a conversation with the striking blonde haired, green-eyed Connie Stevens look-a-like owner who introduced herself as Connie, coincidentally growing up a few blocks from me in Queens.. “A small world,” I said as I dropped two dollars on the counter for a cup of freshly brewed Hazelnut international coffee. “That one’s on me,” Connie said as her green eyes twinkled like a Hollywood special effect. “Thanks, but next time,” I said as I left the cash on the counter and returned to the Summer of ’87. Time stood still as I strolled ever so lazily along Main Street, sipping my coffee through an imperfectly torn white plastic coffee lid, finding myself magically within a Billy Joel tune; happy, content, at peace. I was so thankful to stumble upon such wonderful moments, smiling at passersby’s, chatting with people I didn’t know and might never see again, blessed to avoid the highway traffic and rediscover a part of Long Island perhaps not granted to many. Leaving Cold Spring harbor, I needn’t play my daughter’s Katy Perry CD, or should I admit my Katy Perry CD, my euphoria of a trip back in time was stimulating enough for the ride home, but then suddenly, like a spin through the Time Tunnel TV series, all that changed when I drove through Selden and Coram and saw endless For Rent signs, vacant stores, blocks and blocks of plighted empty buildings, images you might see in mid-west ghost towns or nuclear blast test zones, but here on Long Island in areas I never expected to see such hopelessness, so many lost jobs, so many ruined families, so much sadness, perhaps results of the encroachment of huge box stores, my neck still hurts twisting side to side scanning the heartache. Upon my return home, I read with angst the story allowing large formula stores to invade our community, a community much like Cold Spring Harbor, with history, with character, with so much life, free of the compassionless highway mindset. I realized had I not taken Route 25A, I would’ve been like thousands of others on 495 hurried to close another deal, sell another product, paint another wall, catch a rerun of Family Feud, but rather found solitude along a simple two lane street with bushy pink trees among simple stores free of web-designers and websites who survive on people like me making a deliberate turn down a road ancient to some but the road of choice to many. Perhaps our future, perhaps our demise, lies in huge orange hardware stores, or a red bull’s-eye logo, or a massive block-long blue “W” discounter, but as for me, my wrong turn down the road less travelled reminded me I prefer simple shoebox pastel colored stores on two lane roads filled with bushy pink trees.