You don’t know Jack! (Or DO you?)
You don’t know, JACK! (Or DO you?) A biography. By Anne Henry Do you know Jack Henry? No? Actually, I think you might. Let me tell you a little about him. I bet you will find that you know him very well, indeed. Jack worked the night shift as a motorman for what was then the Transit Authority of New York in the City. One of his passions was train travel and he chose Transit simply for the joy of the rails. He would leave home around 4 PM for the City and return around 2 AM to Long Island, usually with a cache of many interesting stories of the varied & eclectic subway that is NY. He knew the City and the subway like it was the back of his hand and was proud to serve and be part of Manhattan. But this isn’t why you know Jack. On his days off, another passion was to venture out on the island. “Annie, we’re going out east!” he would say to his wife. That’s it. Nothing more needed than to travel to the east end. Where to? The south shore? Quogue? The Hamptons? Montauk? Or north shore? Jamesport? Southold? Orient? It didn’t really matter where, as long as it was “out east.” And though he enjoyed navigating NY’s underground, so surreal yet peaceful after midnight, he also anticipated these daytime car trips, wherever east the roads may lead. It was one of his greatest pleasures. So Jack & Annie journeyed east, usually with their youngest in tow. The only question was: Route 25 to the north or 27 to the south? Either decision proved to be correct, actually. No plans, no itineraries, no worries. The only caveats were: a good sandwich on rye, a cold Schaefer beer, and, well, the essence of east end itself! The excursions might include stopping at a beach in Flanders or picking potatoes in Cutchogue. Or, depending on the season, a bushel of peaches may be had from an orchard on the north shore or fresh corn from a local farm further out near Peconic Bay. Sometimes they might stop and fish in Shinnecock or buy freshly caught clams somewhere else on the south shore. It didn’t really matter what they did. Jack always said the same thing, “Annie, it doesn’t get any better than this!” And they always brought a little east end home with them. If clams were especially plentiful from the south shore, then (Manhattan!) clam chowder was enjoyed that night. If peaches were in season, then one could be sure that peach pie and peach turnovers would be the fare that evening. You see, it wasn’t only physically being out east that brought pleasure to Jack. His enjoyment was also in bringing the east end state of mind home with him, long after the sun set on Tiana Bay. He would then wax eloquently about the day’s adventure. Maybe he would comment on the roadside stand discoveries on the north shore or the friendly people he met in the villages. He might tell stories about fishing on the south shore, where the fishing wasn’t as important as being on the south shore was. And, often he would just reflect on the drive itself! “It just doesn’t get any better,” he’d say. One of his favorite things to do was to go to the beach in Flanders. Oh, not to swim or even go near the water! “It was too wet!” he would remark. Well, he did have a point. So he would sit in the shade, enjoy that cold beer and sandwich on rye while Annie and her youngest had a swim and just…enjoyed the moment. And when it was time to go, he would say, “You know, Annie, it doesn’t get any better than this!” And it didn’t, really. So, do you know my father, Jack Henry? If you have a passion for anything east end and embrace eastern Long Island in your heart and soul, well, I think you do. For, isn’t there a little Jack in us all?