Happy Birthday to Cameron Oliver.
Cam chased an attractive American girl named Susan from his native Scotland to Oneonta 18 years ago. They were married at St. James' Episcopal Church following a bachelor party at that quintessential American gathering spot, the 6th Ward Athletic Club. They now have two sons and have lived here ever since.
I remember the first time I met him. I had no clue what he was saying. His Scottish brogue was so thick, he might just as well have been speaking Chinese. Still, I persevered through long discussions with him about life, dreams for the future and both of our homelands.
Cam is a son of the Borders, that fluid area that has given map makers fits over the last 10 centuries. Literally, it's the border between Scotland and England. Cameron's town, Hawick, is one of the largest towns in the region. Ten years ago, I went to Hawick with my new friend for a visit to the auld sod.
Hawick was a mill town, known throughout the world for its fine woolen products. Kind of like an Oneonta. With wool instead of a railroad. Now it is a shadow of its former industrious self, and most Hawickies work in the big cities, like Edinburgh, located 60 miles up the old Waverly Line.
My visit to the Borders ended with a three-day weekend in Edinburgh. Cameron was an excellent host to this Yankee so far from home. He clearly has a deep love for the history of his homeland, and we crawled all over this glorious city.
From booming Mons Meg high atop the city's castle mount, to the back alley no-name pubs where poets and anarchists hatched their story lines, it was an unforgettable trip.
I have seen my friend get teary-eyed at the sound of a bagpipe and get apoplectic at the mention of Margaret Thatcher. And we've discussed it all in our monthly "boys night out."
This "MIE" (named after a particularly comfortable pub in Hawick) has to be one of the longest-standing traditions around. Do the math. Cameron and I have met in a pub once a month for 12 years. Without fail. We only missed it once, and that was the day my father died. And in hindsight, I think my dear old Dad would have whispered to me: "Don't let me keep you from your tradition, Chuck. Go out with your buddy and have one for me." But miss it I did. So our streak stands at 143 Fridays out of a possible 144. Not bad.
Cam works at SUNY Oneonta in its computer department. I've watched him become "Americanized" in his ways and habits, but still he has a lot of the Flower of Scotland growing in him.
For example, he bleeds soccer. He has no clue about baseball. None. To him, a Dodger is a kid who picks pockets. A Royal is Prince Philip. A Met is a museum in New York City. The Reds were the Cold War bad guys. The Colorado Rockies could only be a mountain range. And a Mariner is an old salt who sails out of the Water of Leith each morning.
During one long conversation, I asked Cameron to name a striking difference between our two countries. His answer has stuck with me.
"America is still so young. Even though it is a couple hundred years old, it still feels fresh and exciting. Remember, there are park benches in Edinburgh that are as old as your country," he said with a laugh.
"But what really struck me when I arrived here was the display of pride in your country. It is everywhere. People fly flags over here all the time. It's what they do. At work, in front of public buildings, in the middle of fields and in front of almost every home in Oneonta. The American flag is everywhere, and I think it is a wonderful tribute to this great country that has been so good to me."
Just before I attended a birthday barbecue in Cameron's honor a week ago, I found myself climbing up and placing my own American flag in its holder off our porch. It was Memorial Day weekend. I looked around and saw Old Glory flapping in the breeze from almost every house within my sight.
It was then that the words my friend from the Borders said to me so long ago really registered with me.
It is what we do.
Now, if I can only get him to a baseball game.
I'll catch you in two ...
"Big Chuck" D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.
Happy Birthday to Cameron Oliver.
- Big Chuck
1965 Oscars? Thanks for the memories
Well, the 86th Academy Awards are over. And for the record, I did a pretty good job in my Daily Star Oscar picks. I got them all right except one. Cate Blanchett was the spoiler in my clean sweep. Not bad, if I do say so myself.
There was just no telling about snow days
Winters get harder as we get older. Things change. It snows more. It snows less. It gets colder. It's a lot milder. It all changes as our knees start to creak and the thought of shoveling a foot of snow seems positively daunting.
And the music goes round and round
The day has finally arrived.
When did pranks turn into vandalism?
I was a teenage vandal.
Happy and sad memories of Jan. 7, 1966
Jan. 7 is always a big celebration day in the D'Imperio family. My twin sisters, Teri and Mary, plus my youngest daughter, Katie, all share it as a birthday. The date, however, is not without a dark significance.
- Monday, December 30, 2013
Lesser known greats that passed away in 2013
The year 2013 is drawing to a close and as it does I would like to give a tip of the hat and a fond goodbye to a group of famous people who left the world stage. Their departures will be noted here in this column although they may have missed a final adios in the major media outlets. Letâ€™s give them their moment in the sun.
- Monday, December 16, 2013
Reunions all the sweeter amid WWII
There is nothing like running into old friends in the most unexpected places. Like on a vacation, or in a mall or even in the supermarket. It is always a time for a â€œHail and how are you?â€� moment.
- Monday, December 2, 2013
There's no tough sledding when you're a youngster|
Winter weather is here. And so are outdoor winter activities.
- Monday, November 18, 2013
Vroman's Nose hike is no walk in the park
I haven't gone on a hike since 1961 when President Kennedy asked all Americans to take a 50-mile hike for physical fitness. I did it then. With a large group of my schoolmates and friends. We walked from Sidney to Oneonta and back.
- Monday, November 4, 2013
Being a grandpa will be better than just OK
I am going to be a grandfather.
- Monday, October 21, 2013
Some hits from the soundtrack of my life
As most people know, I wear two hats at my radio station.
- Monday, October 7, 2013
Some book picks from an avid reader
I came to reading begrudgingly. I was an impatient student easily bored with books. Finally an eighth-grade English teacher in Sidney, Kay Jester, figured out my problem. She told me that I had an inquisitive mind and had an affinity for storytelling. She also told me I was reading the wrong books.
- Monday, September 23, 2013
Swapping stories with a sweet centenarian
Marge Mathews is one very special lady.
- Monday, September 9, 2013
Farm honor system can grow on you
What a difference the flip of a calendar makes. I love September and the produce stands!
- Monday, August 26, 2013
My brush with a future president
President Obama came to town!
- Monday, August 12, 2013
Colonoscopy isn't much of a pain in the ...
When a professional looks you in the eye and says, "Sit down, I have something I want to talk to you about," your normal reaction is a flexing of the gluteus maximus and the appearance of sweat drops on the palms of your hands.
- Monday, July 29, 2013
An easy way â€¨to be a hero
It is not much to ask. Plus they give you a cookie and a glass of juice!
- Monday, July 15, 2013
Digging up memories, one box at a time
My Dad kept everything.
- Monday, July 1, 2013
Moms, girlfriends and wives of TV history
I recently saw on TV a birthday salute to actress Betty White. It included many archival videos, celebrity interviews and reminisces from her early days on television. There is no doubt that Betty has found the magic pill. Into her nineties she is still starring in a hit sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland!"
- Monday, June 17, 2013
Upstate theme parks offered affordable thrills
I saw in the news last week that Disney theme parks are raising admission prices to almost $100 a person. Children (who Uncle Walt considers 10 and under) are now $86 a day.
- 1965 Oscars? Thanks for the memories