Polishing The Pleasure, Plus: Rob And Dodd

When I was a kid my father drove me across the wooden bridge that connected the East End to Pleasure Beach–clank, clank, clank–to fish the t-shaped pier for snapper blues. A bamboo pole, line, hook, minnow and bang, nothing like hauling in a snapper when you’re a kid.

But watch it, those little bastards feature teeth so sharp you can cut your lawn with them. Skippy Rastas, with that sly Lithuanian smile, operated the Harbor Hut at the edge of the pier. He had this sign–The Pleasure Is Back–to remind immigrants such as my dad that Pleasure Beach was still an oasis to escape the stress of life on Barnum Avenue where my parents had lived.

My father arrived here in 1953, hopping a train in Messina, Sicily that fit the tracks of a ferry that transported him to Calabria on the mainland of Italy that took him to Naples. From there he was escorted across the Atlantic by the Andrea Doria to New York Harbor where he met my mother who didn’t really know him. My parents were matched. My maternal grandmother had grabbed my mother–born in Harrison, NY and raised in Bridgeport–by the hand: we’re going to Sicily to meet a nice boy. Within 10 days of meeting Emilio and Emily were engaged, within two weeks they were married. My parents did not consummate the marriage then.

It took about eight months before my father could arrive here, legally sponsored by my mother for marriage in St. Raphael’s Church in the Hollow, and then a reception at Lenny’s Wagon Wheel (Yahooy and Wondering would remember that place).

Pleasure Beach was one of the places they’d hang out in those early days of marriage. John Burgeson of the Connecticut Post wrote a nice piece on Sunday regarding what Pleasure Beach represents to folks like my parents and what it could mean to the people of the East End longing for the warm sun and cool breeze. Pleasure Beach is a safety valve for the inner city.

With any luck water taxis could transport folks to Pleasure Beach in 2010 as a result of dough initially secured by Chris Shays in his final months in Congress last year. The bridge that burned in 1996 has blocked off the peninsula from the mainland. The nearly $2 million for Pleasure Beach could also include recreational improvements for bathers, ballfields and tennis players.

When I did public relations for Donald Trump in the mid- and late-1990s he had an interest in the city. The piece of turf he raved about the most was  Pleasure Beach. From the view of his helicopter it was a jewel. Maybe, after all these years, the stone will be polished.

This should be an interesting week. St. Paddy’s Day on Tuesday. I’m going to check out the parade. Watch out for the drunks! On Thursday Mayor Bill Finch will host his first fundraiser for reelection in 2011 at Testo’s Restaurant. Hey, why wait until the last minute? I’d be raising it too. The mayor and Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa seem to be working at improving their relationship.

I don’t know if I’m going to crash the mayor’s gig at Mario’s restaurant, but for sure I’m going to the Art Garfunkel concert at The Klein that night. Grab a ticket and join us.

Dodd Droppings

We have a new feature–actually it’s a tag cloud–called Name Droppings located top right below the banner ads. The more a subject name is dropped in my OIB posts the larger the name appears, hence Mayor Bill Finch’s name explodes from the page. (We’re not including names of commentators, Yahooy, Bridgeport Kid, etc.) I get the feeling U.S. Senator Chris Dodd’s name in size will experience growing pains.

Former Congressman Rob Simmons announced on Sunday that he’ll challenge Dodd in 2010. The Republican represented eastern Connecticut in the U.S. House of Representatives for three terms. He had worked for the CIA. This should be fun: the CIA versus AIG and any other (paging Countrywide) financial institution that benefited Dodd by virtue of his powerful chairmanship of Banking.



  1. Lennie the memories. I had my wedding reception at Lenny’s wagon wheel. Went to pleasure beach as a kid. I remember the funhouse and the wheel. We would all pile on the wheel and it would spin around spewing kids left and right; the object was to see who could stay on the wheel the longest.
    I remember when my kids were younger we went fishing for snappers. Pleasure Beach was a great place to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July. I hope the taxi works out and that the people of Bridgeport have access to this great park.

    1. Pleasure Beach could be a resort area again. Arsonists are doing advance work for any future developer, burning down the remnants of cottages and outbuildings at annual intervals. The firebugs showed some forethought, torching the place at low tide.

      The water taxis are a good idea; the Turks have been employing them as commuter transportation for quite some time, shuttling people and goods across the Bosporus for nearly a century. The Greeks too, getting from one island to another.

      1. Some of my brethren in the homeless community have discussed squatting at Pleasure Beach, but the work involved (scrounging a boat, bringing supplies and groceries across the water, etc.) soured them on the idea. I thought about it myself, an option to consider if the living situation didn’t improve at the same pace the weather did. It worked out for the best when I reached out to the private social-welfare agencies and said, “I’m homeless, and I need your help to get out of this situation.” There have been a few postings from others that don’t see it that way. We live in a civilized society, or at least it’s s’posed to be. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we are judged on how well we treat our less fortunate. All of us are created equal. Before criticizing anyone for panhandling (or posing the rhetorical question to the beggar, “Why should I give YOU money?!”) I will remember where I’ve been. This experience has made me a better person.

  2. Lenny’s Wagon Wheel was too classy a place for my budget. My reception was held at the “Windmill”. Better Food.

    That’s great!!! Mario and the shithead have reached detente. Which simply means Dopey has agreed to do whatever Mario wants him to do. Sissy Sassy has no pull in Bridgeport politics. Birdie picks his friends who can do him the most good. It looks like the next mayoral will be same ole same ole.

    Has anyone asked Bruce Hubler to run for Mayor yet?


    Yahooy is noticeably absent from the roll of OIB name droppers.

  3. I nominate Pat Paulsen for Mayor of Bridgeport. If he won the primary and the election, the voters would know up front that he is a comedian and no one would feel that their intelligence was being insulted.

    Do I hear a seconding motion?

  4. It’s been a few weeks now and I still haven’t found out what Paul Timpanelli does to earn $ 125,000.00 per year; can anyone help me with this question while he helps himself to $ 2,400.00 per week of my TAX dollars?

  5. Ah, Lennie … a short detour down memory lane before rushing off to Court this morning … Messina in Bella Sicilia/Italia … the year was 1979, December 10 … I left home to fight for the Homeland against the Evil Empire and to hunt down Russky submarines in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea.

    I got off a Navy transport plane from Rota, Spain to a muddy and damp, newly established Navy Air Station in Catania, Sicily (for P-3 submarine hunter planes) … within a couple of hours I was on a train bound for Messina with 6 other bright-eyed and equally clueless like me, young sailors fresh from boot camp in Great Lakes, Ill. The guys were impressed with my limited Italian and ability to buy our tickets from the nice lady in the booth.

    We waited for a couple of hours on the pier in Messina, trying to hide our anxieties and excitement about real Navy life (It’s not just a job. It’s an adventure.) for a hydrofoil ride across the Straits of Messina to Reggio di Calabria to report aboard our ship, the USS CAPODANNO (FF-1093), named after the second Catholic Chaplain to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, Father Vincent R. Capodanno of Staten Island who died while ministering the Marines on the battlefield in Vietnam.

    When we arrived in Reggio, there were only two cabs at the pier, I squeezed the 6 sailors and their gear in and told the drivers, per favore, alla navi americani con la luce alla altro lato delle molo … then I took the only mode of transport left, a horse-driven carriage with all my uniforms, winter blues, summer whites, working khakis … and got up to the quarterdeck … saluted the officer of the deck and said, “Ensign Salcedo reporting for duty, Sir!” It can bring tears to an old sailor’s eyes … I haven’t thought about that day in Messina, Catania and Reggio di Calabria, and that horse-drawn carriage ride in 30 years … until you mentioned your Dad being from Messina … okay, it’s back to work!

  6. Jeeze, I missed out. Growing up in Simsbury was a dreadful bore. One of the few high points was meeting Brad Delp, the lead vocalist for Boston, in early ’77. He was wandering about the Hartford Civic Center Mall looking for something to eat. We saw the show that night at the civic center, that reverberant hockey arena. The band played their greatest hits, which is more or less every cut on their first album. “Foreplay/Long Time” is, along with Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” the song that launched a thousand bong hits.

  7. Is that the same Skip Rastas that they ran out of Steel Point to make way for all those great improvements nine years ago?

    How’d that one turn out?

  8. Does anybody care about the upcoming council races? What a waste of time. There will be no change so why bother? 2010 is where the action is at. Will Tom McCarthy run for probate? Will Andres Ayala run for Senate? Will he run for Mayor? Will Don Clemons run for Mayor? I can see the jockeying already. Finch may be raising $$ (so that he can buy off Ford and Robles and Scinto) but his eyes are clearly fixated on DC working on some sort of green endeavor.

    What do you think Lennie?


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