Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, Harry

It's a good thing Harry Chapin and Billy Joel never got into the habit of carpooling, or worse, following one another anywhere, or there might be two graves up on this hill. Billy somehow survives to late middle age though, while poor Harry never got past exit 40 on the Long Island Expressway one rainy summer afternoon in 1981 on his way to a concert in Eisenhower Park. I remember hearing the initial traffic reports about the accident on WLIR-FM, before we knew who it involved.

(It seems now that my memories of first hearing many of the major events of the late 1970's and early 1980's involved staring at a radio speaker. Elvis, Bing Crosby, Reagan, the Pope, the USA Olympic hockey team, the Pope. All staring at a radio speaker.)

Nassau County eventually named the theater in the park after Harry, though the Interstate Highway Commission opted to keep the designation of 'Exit 40E - Jericho Tnpke' for the highway ramp.

Harry spends his days and nights now just below the top of the highest point in Huntington Rural Cemetery, on the quiet side of the hill, insulated from the from the sound of traffic on Route 110. The hills on this part of the island form the Harbor Hill Moraine; detritus left behind by the retreating glaciers from the last ice age. Appropriately, a glacial boulder serves as his headstone, embraced by box evergreen bushes and flanked by two young pines.

The stone is covered by other stones, dozens of rocks and pebbles, left by visitors, some with painted messages, and keys, and coins. Lots of coins, and I'm sure many of the visitors to this windswept hill pull a few hits off a joint as well, before dropping off some quarters and dimes, beckoning Harry to keep the change.

December 2, 2009

Harry Chapin would have turned 67 years old today.


Sharon said...

Nice piece.

Sharon said...

Howcome whyfor the FB link to this post shows text that doesn't appear here, about taking a light reading from a ladder?

dan said...

thanks for the pictures and all Neil, and for bringing Harry memories back! I've been back on L.I. alot lately and i can never drive the L.I.E. without thinking of Harry. This may sound morbid to those who never saw him, but Harry's bad driving was a constant source for his truly funny self-depricating humor. And nobody would have appreciated the irony of his death more than him.

Harry lives on in those of us who had the priveleage to see him in school gyms, county parks or anywhere a dozen or more people were getting together for a good cause.

Happy Birthday Harry!

francisco said...

To the Chapin family

miss You Mr.Harry Chapin