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Monday, June 24, 2024


Notes to my Neighbors 5.3.2006

By Rick Racela

My husband recently bought a new car.
That is such an understatement.
The truth is, it’s a brand-new, ultra-loaded, deeply iridescent blue Maxima.
It has enough gadgets to make Ethan Hunt jealous. Turn the key in the ignition and the seat, steering wheel, rear-view and side-view mirrors move into the position you’ve programmed to fit you precisely.
I hear you groaning as if to say some people have all the luck.
But let me tell you, our real “good luck” came in the form of our parents who taught us to work at what we love, and having cash to buy what we needed or wanted would follow.
So we were more absorbed in our careers as father/detective and mother/teacher, than things like cars.
Art had some fine cars when we were young. I especially liked the convertible Chevy, white with red interior. It stalled more often than not, but we sure looked good in it.
I never had a car myself, or even a license until I was 21.
To get to my job in Upper Darby, I took a bus, then the “El, ” from one end to the other, and then had a co-worker pick me up at the station to complete the trek.
(No, it wasn’t uphill both ways in the snow, but close.)
If I was headed downtown, I took the Broad Street subway.
The first few cars I drove were, well, less than opulent. There was the 1959 Valiant that had no first gear. We bought it for $100 and when it was hit from behind, the perpetrator gave us $100 to fix the trunk, which we pocketed and closed the trunk with a hanger instead.
Then there was the 1965 Volkswagen that was white except for the blue door on the driver’s side. Still, it ran well enough and had all the important gears, so we were definitely moving up.
For many years, we just didn’t put much money into vehicles. Even after we began to accumulate a few dollars, we spent them on other things.
While our friends were buying Lincolns and beach houses, we chose to send our kids to private schools. Through those years I drove a Taurus, which gave me the opportunity to make very good friends with the people at Triple A, who visited at least once a week with hot shots and the occasional tow truck.
So today, our fancy new car represents the latest stage in a process, a process of working and earning and socking away what we could, while spending what we wanted on things we truly value.
Kind of an old-fashioned idea, I suppose, one that Benjamin Franklin articulated this way: “I am a strong believer in luck and find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
The other day, I was delighted to see two young people in the early stages of the same process, who are undoubtedly in a very good place now and will be even better off very soon.
Over many months, Barbara and Michael Farrell have been putting all their energy into renovating Tony’s Island Grill at 26th and Delaware in North Wildwood.
They completely gutted the once-famous bar/restaurant, which had suffered an unsuccessful renovation last year. Their goal is to bring Tony’s back to being the
They removed the misplaced and too-small bar so they could recreate the huge, square much more conversation-friendly bar in the center of the room.
They’ve hired the best bartenders, chefs, and servers on the island.
No doubt, this will restore Tony’s to its previous glory as one of the hottest spots in the county.
On Friday, they’re celebrating their opening with a fabulous Cinco de Mayo party beginning at 11:30 a.m. They’ll have drink specials, radio station broadcasts, and a D.J.
I’ll be there, of course, wishing them well, taking some pictures, going way off my diet. 
As the season gets rolling, Tony’s will be offering specials like “wing night” and “steak night,” just like the old days. Sundays will be time for “Sunday Afternoon Jam.”
A few months from now, some people will look at the huge success of Tony’s Island Grill and think to themselves that the owners have it so easy.
But we’ll know that Barbara and Michael have earned it.

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