It used to be that generations lived their entire lives in the same neighborhood. That's changed considerably and today, friends and family are scattered all over the world. Weekly Sunday dinners are few and far between, replaced by FaceTime and zoom calls. So it got me thinking. I wonder where everyone landed? I had an ideal childhood. I grew up on Long Island in New York. We moved a couple of times during my years in grades K through 12. I attended two elementary schools, junior high school, and one high school, and was homeschooled. Yeah, there was a thing even before it became fashionable. In my senior year, my family traveled throughout the United States in an RV visiting landmarks and historical sites, and purely experiencing North America firsthand.
With this said, I lost touch with many of my schoolmates over the years. And while researching for the article that I was writing gave me an opportunity to see where they were now, the roads that their lives had taken and if somehow I could find them and we could reconnect.
My name is Sandi McKenna, and this is Unforgettable Conversations. The podcast that is your roadmap to resilience, sharing, extraordinary stories from people, just like you and me who have weathered life's storms. You'll find inspiration and motivation in every episode. Today's conversation is between friends. Yep. Just me talking to you. I've been a talker most of my life. As a young girl, this often got me into trouble. I was the outspoken one, always challenging the status quo. As I got older, I learned to control the impulse to blurt out exactly what was on my mind. Take a breath and softened my often unfiltered thoughts. Eventually I channeled this into writing. And over the years, I had a variety of careers where I was able to write for a paycheck. I once had an assignment that combined two of my very favorite things, nostalgia and investigation. If I hadn't become a writer, I wanted to be an investigator. And eventually I did adding PI to my very eclectic resume. I love the art of discovery. My family calls it being nosy. The article I wrote, took me on a journey down memory lane. It was about reconnecting with childhood friends who many of us lose touch with. It used to be the generations lived their entire lives in the same neighborhood. That's changed considerably and today, friends and family are scattered all over the world. Weekly Sunday dinners are few and far between, replaced by FaceTime and zoom calls. So it got me thinking. I wonder where everyone landed? I had an ideal childhood. I grew up on long island in New York. And we moved a couple of times during my years in grades K through 12. I attended two elementary schools, junior high school, one high school and was homeschooled. Yeah, there was a thing even before it became fashionable. In my senior year, my family traveled throughout the United States in an RV visiting landmarks, historical sites, and purely experiencing north America firsthand. With this said, I lost touch with many of my schoolmates over the years. And while researching for the article that I was writing it gave me an opportunity to see where they were now, the roads that their lives had taken and if somehow I could find them and we could reconnect. I contemplated where to begin at first, I was All over the place. I don't know whether it was excitement or ADD that got the best of me and I was rifling through one digital yearbook after another scouring, Facebook and all the socials. Recollections of my formidable decades, the sixties and seventies came flooding back. There were great memories of friends and flashbacks from moments of my adolescence and it left me asking myself where had all this time gone? Songs played my head from the Beatles in the sixties, to the Allman brothers in the seventies. And, really, this was the soundtrack of my youth. I thought back on my straight A ass, walking into Birch lane elementary school in Massapequa, carrying a French horn that felt like it weighed as much as I did. I remember candid camera of favorite television show of ours back then coming to our school and interviewing all of us and our friend and neighbor, Don DiFiore who's quick wit secured him a slot on the television segment, the rest of us, not so much. He was and remains hilarious to this day. I remember putting together an annual carnival with my friend, Mary Hilton, next door, raising money for muscular dystrophy, block parties with the neighbors, 4th of July parades, campfire girls and directing plays in the Rydberg's back yard. We were outside kids. We never played indoors even in the dead of winter. We'd skate and sled. In the summer we'd climb trees, walk to the candy store, hold lemonade stands on the corner in the late afternoon so we could get the traffic from the guys walking home from the long island railroad. Looking back. I remember how frightened I was every time we had to, you know, duck under our desks for the air raid drills. I mean, it was, it was horrifying. And I look back now and I think that's probably where all my anxiety started. And then I recall the really, really sad day back in November of 1963, we were sent home early from school. Teachers and parents, they were numb and in tears, because that was the day that John F. Kennedy or president at the time had been assassinated. I loved my elementary school, my neighborhood friends and my schoolmates, but where was everybody now? My family moved away from Massapequa during the summer of the sixth grade. So I decided to search the high school year book for what would have been my graduating class. And as always i got sidetracked. Had we not moved the infamous Joey Buttafuoco and his eventual wife, mary Jo would have been in my graduating class of 1974. In case you haven't heard the story, here's the condensed version. Joey AKA the long island Lethario grew up owned an autobody shop and married his Massapequa high school, sweetheart, Mary Jo. Fast forward to 1992 and Joey is carrying on this illicit affair with the then 17 year old Amy Fisher. AKA the long island Lolita. Amy in a jealous stupor knocks on the Buttafucco's front door and when wife and mother of two, Mary Jo answers the door, Amy shoots her right in the face. Amy was arrested. Sentenced and served seven years in prison Mary Jo eventually divorced the scoundrel who scandalous antics have seemed to follow his every move and have been his constant companion ever since, but I digress. The Massapequa high school, yearbook reads like a who's who of notable alumni. Jerry Seinfeld was the class of 1972 and probably by far the biggest success story. Other notables or the Baldwin brothers, Alec. Billy Daniel and Stephen. And Jessica Hahn another infamous personality Jessica is best remembered for her. Liaison with televangelist jim baker and that whole scandal the football, playing Baldinger brothers and rocking and rolling Dee Snyder from twisted sister. But let's get back to the task at hand. I found my best friend Delythe from elementary school and found her on classmates.com, which is searchable by maiden names. She was really easy to find. After graduation, she went on to college, became a nurse practitioner, married, had children and moved to Connecticut. Now, that's what I call the success story. My neighbor, Don and I reconnected. Um, the beauty of the internet. And he keeps me laughing to this day. He also resides in connecticut and is a very successful entrepreneur. Former next door neighbor, Mary. She lives upstate New York now with her husband. Just before starting the sixth grade, we moved to Dix Hills out in Suffolk county on long island to live across the street from my mom's sister and family. My aunt had five kids, my cousin Sharon, and I were just months apart. The good part about this was instant friends. The downside was everyone on the block was related in some form or fashion. And this meant someone always had eyes on you. Of course, me being the bold and outspoken one, I often took the hit for the sins of the others. We're now heading into the seventies. My decade, Neil Armstrong had just landed on the moon, floppy disks, pocket calculators, and VCRs were introduced. The Beatles, broke up. The world trade center was just completed. Disney world opened up in orlando and apple computer was launched. The average annual income was just under $10,000. We drove Vegas, Pintos and Gremlins. Gas was just 36 cents a gallon. We wore jeans t-shirts and platform shoes. We saw a Taxi Driver, Rocky and Star Wars in the theater. M.A.S.H. and All in the Family were on everyone's television. And we listened to Crosby Stills, Nash, and Young, Stevie Wonder, Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin on eight track cassettes. The times were changing. From A'int No Mountain High Enough to Love Will Keep Us Together song lyrics mesmerized and motivated us. My high school Half Hollow Hills high had a domed planetarium. And the Eugene Orloff auditorium, which was a two level theater. A Full Broadway size stage, three stories tall, including an orchestra pit with a seating capacity of 2200 making it the second largest not-for-profit auditorium on long island. I loved theater and it was a big part of my high school experience. That and my morning, hot chocolate and hard roll with butter in the cafeteria. It hasn't alluded me that this was a very privileged public school education. One I appreciate fully now, but at the time totally took it for granted. My best friend in high school was SandI Friedland and like me, she moved the year before graduation. We lost touch, but I always thought about her. We had so many great times together, mostly spent driving around in SandI's mustard, colored Mustang, discussing our boy crushes and typical teen angst. But where did she go? Where had the journey of life taken her? My beautiful friend landed in the golden state, California where she had been settled for decades. I can't remember which one of us reached out to the other one first, but our connection was immediate and it was like, time had stood still. We were still giddy, teenagers catching up and talking on the phone for hours on end. We were finally able to meet again this time in Los Angeles, when I was out there on business, she hadn't changed a bit. Years had passed, but she looked exactly the same as my teenage friend. We laughed, we lunched, we never missed a beat. I've seen her several times since we still talk on the phone since our initial meeting. Every time I'm out in LA. I make sure that I take some extra time so that SandI and I can get together. Life has a way of kicking you in the butt when you least expect it. Illness, heartbreak, even death. You can get sucked up in grief and despair, but it is moments of connection and memories of happier times that become your lifeline and the light in your darker hours. Uh, reconnecting with friends is what's kept me young at heart. As a travel and lifestyle writer. I often focused on where I'd been and how I got there. The journey is absolutely part of the adventure. During the pandemic, one of the things I missed most aside from seeing friends, family, and traveling, was having something to look forward to. It was the lack of something to anticipate, something to get excited about, that has led me to the next chapter, Sandy 3.0. So I've come full circle again to my food and travel roots. I'm excited for this latest venture, a new podcast called Another Great Place. It's a travel and lifestyle podcast for travelers by travelers. Whether we're flying, driving, sailing or railing, it's going to be your first class ticket for destination inspiration. What's hot. What's not. And all the latest in the world of travel. Every week, my cohost, Josh Anderson and I will tell you where to go. And what to eat and what to do. Throughout my travel writing, I celebrated the bucket list. Dream it build it. Do it. So I'm building it and hoping you will come along for the ride. It's amazing how many places I've already been. Or how many things I've already done over the years. That were on my original bucket list from paddleboarding and Tahiti to hiking on glaciers in Alaska. or riding mules down the highest sea cliffs in the world on Molokai. My list is ever-growing and ever-evolving the one thing that never changes is my desire to connect with people around the globe. Breaking bread over meaningful conversation is what makes my cup runneth over. I'd love to hear about what you're looking forward to. And I hope our paths cross someday. I'd love to connect with you on social. You can find me at Sandi mcKenna. On all the socials, I'll put the links below. And I'd love to chat. Like I said, I'm a talk or I'm a chatter. And I really love to hear what you're up to. You can also go to unforgettable conversations.com and you can leave me a voice message, or you can write me a note. Whatever works best for you. Anyway, love to hear from you until next time. have a great week