Posts Tagged ‘Suffolk County’

Excerpt from the book A Dose of Reality:

I was the last person who thought I’d ever be involved in politics – at least, not as a Republican.  However, there I stood in front of a packed room, preparing to give a speech at the Suffolk County Republican convention accepting the nomination to run in Suffolk’s 14th Legislative District.

Just a few years earlier, I had returned home to Long Island from the Big Sky country after studying Wildlife biology at the University of Montana in Missoula, a place – sort of.  

My lone goal in life was to continue my studies, this time in film, so I could fulfill my childhood dream of becoming the next host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

So, how did I get from there to joining the Grand Ole Party?  Two words: Creative curiosity.

 It happened like this:  One day, I was the passenger in the car of Anthony Pancella III, a larger than life Italian American.  

“Big Tony” had taken me under his wing, when I was in high school, after the death of my dad and the exodus of my biological big brother, his pal, to Florida as he pursued his dream to be a Major League infielder.   At the time, Big Tony was the Vice Chairman of the Town of Babylon’s Republican Party in Long Island, New York – or as we locals commonly say on Long Island.

“How does someone get involved in politics?” I asked.

“Are you interested?” he asked in reply.

“I don’t think so, but I might want to write about it one day.”

“There’s a Committee meeting tonight,” he added, with a hint of irony. “Why don’t you come down?”

So, I went – and continued going.

A few weeks later, I was again in Big Tony’s car driving somewhere – problem looking for a place to eat.

“How do you become a Committee person?” I asked.

“Are you interested,” Big Tony again asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “But I might want to write about it one day.”

“Come to the next Committee meeting and I’ll sign you up,” he replied.

So, after recruiting my buddy Jerry, I joined!  

I was a Committee person for a few months, knocking on doors, collecting signatures and again found myself driving with Big Tony – maybe to a committee meeting.  I don’t recall.  I do recall, however, that it was at the start of the next election season.

“How does someone get nominated to run for office?”

“Are you interested?” Big Tony asked once again.

“Not really,” I replied, “but I might want to write about it….”  Sure enough, interviews for candidates were taking place that week. 

A few days later, I was in front of a boardroom of Chairmen – and women (or should I say woman.)  Old school party bosses.   Most of the people in the room looked like my dad’s old pals from South Ozone.   They were all dressed like they were going to the racetrack, except for Mr. Wrieth, the GOP chairman of my hometown.  He was dressed in a suit.

I went to school with Mr. Wrieth’s sons.  He was also my insurance agent.  So, he most likely came to the meeting straight from work, which is why he was still well-dressed. 

There was nothing intimidating about any of these people – until it was time to ask questions, then you could see the fire in their eyes and sense the passion they all had for politics.

I interviewed, went home, and didn’t think anything else about it.

A few days later, I received a phone call.  I didn’t recognize the phone number, so I let it go to the answering machine. 

Full disclosure, I was in the middle of a Nintendo PlayStation Major League baseball game with my buddy Dave. 

Dave was always the Yankees and I was my beloved Mets.  At the time, my Mets were somehow beating Dave’s Yankees, so I wasn’t about to jinx it by answering the phone!

The voice was not familiar.  Nor was the name. 

“Hi, this is Chairman Frank Aprea, you’ve been nominated for Suffolk County Legislature in the 14th District.  Give me a call back when you can.  My number is….”

I remember trying to figure out which friend was trying to prank me.  After several failed attempts, I erased the message.

Several days later, my phone rang.  This time, I recognized the name and number.

“Hey, Ton,” I cheerily answered.  However, Big Tony was livid.

“The Chairman calls you and you don’t give him any respect and call him back!” he shouted.

“Chairman? What are you taking about?” 

“He said he left a message,” a kinder, gentler Tony replied. That’s when I discovered that it wasn’t a prank call.  I was truly nominated for the Suffolk County Legislature. 

Tony informed be about the odds of getting elected as a no-name candidate against a popular incumbent.  “However, you’re going to be on Line A,” he added, “and right below Pataki.”   Pataki, as in George Pataki, the popular Republican governor. 

So, after I got off the phone with Tony, I quickly put together a few words, gave a short speech, and started my campaign.

Though I was well-aware of the odds against me, I ran a solid campaign, knocked on doors, hand a fundraiser with the help of my buddy, Jerry; Anthony Manetta, a teenage political Whiz Kid; and Michael Lavorata, my campaign manager – all of whom are part of the present Long Island political scene, in one form of another.

We did, in fact, lose.  However, we gained over 4000 votes with a campaign purse of a little over $3000. More importantly, we gained the respect of leadership. 

Unlike politics today, my opponent, David Bishop, and I became friends.  After the election, I discovered that I was nominated because no one else wanted the job of running against the popular incumbent; and it was, in fact, Mr. Wrieth, who suggested nominating me.

A few months later, I would receive a phone call at work from Big Tony.   It would come a few weeks before my planned move to California to pursue my dream of becoming a Hollywood screenwriter.

“How sure are you on moving to California?” he hesitantly asked.

“Very sure,” I quickly replied.  However, there was a long pause and Big Tony rarely paused.  There was something in that pause that made me ask, “Why?”

“There’s an opening for Press Secretary at the Suffolk County Legislature,” he continued. “I thought of you.”

I didn’t say yes and I didn’t say no; I told him that I would have to pray on it – which I did.

Long story short, I got the job. 

Later, I discovered that it was Dave Bishop who green-lit my hiring.  

At the time, he was the Democratic Party Minority Leader at the Suffolk County Legislature and my boss, the Presiding Officer and a Republican, did not want to upset the apple cart by hiring his most recent opponent.

“If he was a Democrat, I’d hire him” Dave Bishop reportedly stated.

I loved being the Press Secretary of the Suffolk County Legislature.   I loved the excitement.  I loved the influence.  I loved the people I worked with – especially our Chief of Chief, Ralph Rienzo.

It would all come to an end in 2002 when the Suffolk County GOP colluded with the Dems to break-up the Bi-partisan coalition that operated county government for the three years I worked at the Legislature, placing power back in the hands of the party bosses.

I was asked to stay on by the new presiding officer.  In fact, the entire Democrat Coalition voted for me to remain, but one – and that vote was cast by my friend, Legislator Dave Bishop.

When I asked him later why he didn’t vote for me, he told me that he knew that I really wanted to be a screenplay writer – and he was right.

So, in 2002, I left behind a bright future in politics to pursue a screenplay writing career.  Though I promised never again to write on or for politics, I was swayed by the 2004 Presidential election to put pen to paper. (Who thought things could get even worse?)

That’s when I wrote the script A Dose of Reality.  Simply, it’s about two television producers –  tired of politics as usual – who create a new reality show that will put the election process back in the hands of the people and help elect America’s next President.   

Though the script was a Semi-Finalist at the 5th Annual Scriptapalooza Screenplay Contest, no one who read the script believed, at the time, that America would ever pick a Reality Show contestant to be the President of the United States; or that the a Deep State would collude with the media to affect the outcome of an election; or there would be a Russian influence on an election; let alone having a candidate who would say something like “I know it’s hard when you’re up to your armpits in alligators to remember you came here to drain the swamp”. 

Fortuitously, I even singled out a future United States President because I found his line about his father “raising goats” to be humorously refreshing.   

Except for a few typos, I have not changed a single word of this political satire!  So, some of the real-life characters mentioned in the story may be dated. However, you’ll find the events to be original, fresh, and surprisingly real.

I left it in script format, as well. (Though, it’s not in screenplay format.)  I also included an APPENDIX in the back of the book with film terms, so you can better understand the action taking place.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did writing it almost 15 years ago!  


James is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, The Christmas Save and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL 

As a writer, James has been featured on The Inside Success Show, Bob Salter (CBS Radio),  Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.  

While in government, James participated in groundbreaking non-smoking legislation; innovative programs focused on eliminating child poverty and homelessness including a County-wide Anti-Hunger initiative; legislation designed to elevate the standard of living for all Suffolk County residents; and innovative programs to protect open space, farmlands, and parklands.  

He was also involved with the events depicted in the 2003 award‐winning film Farmingville, a documentary that chronicled the lives of Day Labor immigrants working and living on Long Island. 

During his time in government, James worked closely with Republicans and Democrats on issues involving all branches of local, state, and federal government, including U.S. Senators, local members of the House of Representatives, and the Bush Administration.  

Beyond writing, James worked with At-Risk youth in Southern California for over six years.  His contributions to the classroom — featured on local television and in the LA Daily News and the Los Angeles Times’ Burbank Leader — earned him the honors of “Teacher of the Year”.    James was also twice honored by a CASDA Scholar as the teacher who had the greatest influenced that student.   As an educator, James also appeared twice on America Live with Megyn Kelly. 

Outside from writing Dose of Reality, James returned to politics only once.   In 2010, he assisted his friend, John Gomez, in his run for the House of Representatives in New York’s 2nd Congressional District.   Following the campaign, James returned to teaching. 

James, however, still remains politically connected.   

He has a sister-in-law who is a small-town mayor and one of his nieces works as a congressional aide. Through his friends and associates, James has maintained a one-degree separation from President Obama, President Trump, and President-Elect Joe Biden.  He also met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and worked closely with her office when Mrs. Clinton was New York’s junior Senator.   

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.   Besides his books, you can follow his musing on this blog Corporation You.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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road-to-heaven-608763_640 (1)

Image by PixArc from Pixabay

It was kind of an amazing sight — if anything about being part of a funeral procession could be amazing.

Minutes before, we had just viewed the wake of a close friend for the last time.

For me, she was a friend, a sister, someone I knew since high school.  To my wife, she was a close confidant.  To my boys, she was an aunt-figure who lavished them with love, gifts, and hand-me-downs — bags and bags of hand-me-downs.

She was the stand-in for our first-born’s Godmother, who couldn’t make it north from Nashville — a role that she would voluntarily play on a permanent basis.

After saying goodbye, we left the funeral home with heavy hearts, gathered in our minivan, and joined a long line of cars that followed her hearse from the funeral home down Montauk Highway to Wellwood Avenue, the main street of my home town of Lindenhurst, Long Island.

As we pulled up to the Church, our cars were stopped in the middle of the road by a traffic officer.   Second in this seemingly mile-long procession, we quietly watched and waited as the officer spoke to the driver of the car in front of us.

Shortly after, he slowly approached.

“Good morning,” I greeted him, believing that he was going to point us to an area set-aside to park.

“Just leave your keys in the car,” he politely commanded, seemingly in disbelief.  Then added, “… just in case we have to move your car.”

Park here?  In the middle of Wellwood Avenue? 

Wellwood Avenue is the main artery in and out of my hometown.  When our parents asked where we were heading after school, we would often say “Into town” which meant we were going to Wellwood Avenue.

It’s where we got pizza, ate ice cream, saw a movie.  It was the home to our restaurants, our Church, our local theater.

Only one street went from the shore line of our community to the very end of our town, and that was Wellwood Avenue!  It was, in more ways than one, our main street.

We did as he asked, as did the rest of us in the procession, and slowly exited, leaving our vehicles parked along the double yellow line.

That’s when it hit us all — and we moved forward, like zombies, in perpetual disbelief.

The streets were lined with bystanders.  Elected officials and police officers in dress uniforms stood at attention.  There wasn’t a parking — or standing — spot in sight.

Wellwood Avenue — Main Street — was shut down!

“You only see something like this if a President dies,” I whispered in the ear of my eldest.

My knees weakened as the bagpipes waled, seemingly guiding us all inside Our Lady of Perpetual Church, my childhood parish.

Like outside, the Church was adorned, wall-to-wall, with people from all walks of life.  Elected officials.  Teachers. Parents. Loved ones.  Relatives and friends.

Every parish priest and every deacon was present.  In fact, the officiant of the Mass came all the way from Virginia to serve and honor the deceased.

Absent, however, were news reporters.

You see, on paper, my dear friend wasn’t someone “special”.  She was just a mom, a housewife, and a friend.

She never sought higher office beyond the PTA.  She never sought fame or riches.

All she did was love and love large; so much so, that at news of her passing, a multitude came to pay homage. So many, in fact, that they had to shut down Main Street.

Seeing all this, I struggled, as a Christian, how someone so faithful to Our Lord could be taken so early and so painfully?

Finally, the priest approached the podium to give his homily.  He shared with us all an event that only he and her husband knew:  After being diagnosed with brain cancer, the doctor asked this couple if they had any questions.

“Can you give me three years?” she asked.

“One of my patients lived 20 years,” the doctor professed. “Most live four to 15 months.”

After leaving the doctor’s office, her husband turned to her and asked. “Why did you ask for three years?”

“You and the kids aren’t ready now, but you’ll be ready in three years,” she answered, and three years was the time she was granted.

Jesus, the priest reminded us, only had three years to prepare His family, the world.  Comparing my friend’s mission to that of The Christ, the priest defined Jesus’ mission as Love.

The priest then spoke directly to her husband, “Your marriage presented that Love to all who witnessed it.”

I was a groomsman in their wedding. I witnessed that Love first hand.   In fact, I wanted that same Love in my life, in my relationship with my wife.

I also knew that my dear friend had slipped into a coma only days after her wedding anniversary.

Suddenly, the yoke of my sadness was lifted.

You see, she knew, as the priest explained, that God didn’t make her sick.  She also knew that He can take a tragedy and use it to send a clear message of his Real Presence — and often He uses His most loyal followers to communicate this message of His Love.

Take the death of His Son, for example!

Soon, everyone in the Church and all the people lining the streets, would know what I had just realized…

“And like Jesus’ life,” the priest added, “your marriage, your Love-on-display, lasted 33 years.”

Of course, I’m paraphrasing.  An Irish funeral followed the Catholic funeral at the cemetery, so things might not be exactly as I remember them.

But for all those listening on that day, in that holy place, the veil was lifted and His message was clearly received.

therese-giganteTherese M. Gigante, beloved wife of Gerard; cherished mother of Christina, Gerard, Joseph, Annemarie, and Matthew; loving daughter of Margaret and the late Vincent Moran, caring sister of Ann Massetti, Vincent Moran, Mary Cramer, Margaret Cronin, Elizabeth Lovizio, Bernadette Haffner and Joseph Moran; adoring aunt to many nieces, nephews and, endearing friend to many more, died on November 15, 2019 exactly as she lived her life, sharing the gift of Christ’s Love to everyone she encountered.

Always a giver, she only asked for three things:

  • A Church funeral where we could all pray together.
  • An after-party where we could all drink, love, and laugh together.
  • And for us all to move on.

Well, we did our best and gave her two out of three!  Enjoy the video of her life.  You’ll quickly understand why it won’t be that easy for many of us to move on.

In the end, keeping true to herself, she gave us all a very clear and lasting message:  The only road that matters is the road you take to Heaven!

Rest in Peace, Reese, and may the perpetual light shine upon you!



ON A PERSONAL NOTE:  There will soon be a scholarship in Theresa’s name.  To honor Reese’s life in a special way, all my profits from the 2020 sales of my book:  Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, an inspirational novella, will go to that scholarship.  You can find the book on Amazon. com.  God bless.


James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul,and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL
James Dobkowski
Today, James lives in UpState New York where he continues to teach.


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