Andy’s first guitar he found in the garbage. It had a hole in the back, like someone had kicked it in disgust, and all of the strings were missing. He brought it home and used different weight fishing line to re-string it. That reclaimed guitar — even if it had to be tuned often — was good enough for Andy to teach himself some songs. The old acoustic kept Andy company for a good part of his teenage years. On most summer nights you could find the two of them hanging out and making music with their friends on the corner of Troy Avenue & Avenue D in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, just outside of Olga’s German Delicatessen.
The love of music led Andy to join a couple of local bands. Saxophone and guitar were his instruments. He bought his first guitar around that time and began playing weekend gigs, covering the rocking soundtrack of the Sixties. For music lovers and practitioners, that decade was the Garden of Plenty, musically speaking. And the 3 Days of Peace and Music festival in Bethel closing the decade, was the banquet at the end of the harvest.
“I was working all weekend. Never made it!” Andy told me recently. “I was working in the Taystee Bread Bakery in the heart of Bed Sty. I worked my way through college (School of Visual Arts). I worked side by side with lots of pretty colorful characters, a few of them on parole. That weekend I was on the “make up-shift” 4:00 am to 2:30 pm. Mandatory 2 hours of overtime. This is where the dough gets plopped into 1000’s of greased baking pans. It’s then wheeled into steam rooms where it rises up to a fat bubble. Then, carefully, by hand (and lots of sweat), it’s slid into huge (fuckin’ hot) mechanized ovens.
“I remember going to the lunch room on Sunday morning at about 8 am for my 1/2 hour lunch break and thinking of how it must be to be at Woodstock today. I had two friends who were there and I thought of them, never quite comprehending what I would be missing.”
Neither did most of our generation. Even some of those at the festival didn’t understand, at the time, the mythical place that Woodstock would come to occupy in our collective consciousness.
After my conversation with Andy, I imagined him that Sunday night — the last night of music and peace in upstate New York – meeting up with his friends on the corner of Troy Avenue & Avenue D. I pictured them sitting in a circle, on empty milk crates, talking about rock-and-roll and girls and the upstate festival. And playing music in the Brooklyn night.
Andy Marino’s eyes light up when the subject turns to music. He becomes that teenager when playing with friends still. He’s composing and recording and making music, through the good times and the trying ones. He still owns, and treasures, that guitar he bought back then.
Some really wonderful things were born in — and managed to survive — the Sixties. Among them, music and friends and sometimes peace.