Wendell: Caps off to this year’s grad class and teachers

As we hurtle into June I want to offer congratulations to all graduating students of the Class of 2022. The past few years have been unlike any other years and you will have plenty of stories to tell years from now.

And what a badge of honor – to complete so much of your work from home, under duress and all kinds of stress; not only are congratulations in order, you deserve a hearty well done!

And thank you to all the teachers that stuck with it, especially in those early days as the bugs were being ironed out. Thank you for being there for these students during these difficult times.

Miss Roth, Miss Beckerman, and Miss Linser of PS 60 as they appeared in the Leader-Observer upon winning awards as Outstanding Teachers.

It’s amazing how the names of your teachers stick with you. Someday I’ll be a very old man, but if someone were to ask I would be able to rattle off their names as if they were lifelong friends instead of grade school teachers that I haven’t laid eyes on in decades.

Epstein, Vogel, Werber, Beckerman, Linser and Roth…my grade school teachers from first through sixth grade at P.S. 60.

Epstein, Vogel, Werber, Beckerman, Linser and Roth. Their names come as easily to me as the everyday lineup of the 1986 Mets. The memories of those six ladies, my first teachers, are still with me more than 40 years later.

Miss Epstein was my first grade teacher, and the way I remember it she was a kind old lady who taught us how to sing “Do Re Mi.” But when I look at our class picture, she couldn’t have been more than 30 at the time.

But to a six year old, 30 seems really old. And to a scared little kid who didn’t want to leave home, Miss Epstein taught me that school was a fun place to be.

Miss Vogel was my first crush. She wore mini-skirts and had long black hair. She was the teacher that said I needed “extra work writing original sentences and compositions.” As a result, my parents encouraged me to write every day; what started as an exercise turned into a career.

Miss Werber frightened me. I always seemed to be on the wrong side of discipline in third grade. Every time I acted up, Miss Werber was there to scold me. If she taught me one lesson, it was that there are consequences for your actions, especially when you get caught sticking paste in a classmate’s hair.

Miss Beckerman introduced me to an entirely different world when she encouraged me to expand my reading. At her recommendation, I bought my very first “non-children’s” book through the Scholastic Books program, a World War II novel called “The Survivor” by Robb White.

Children’s books never interested me again, and I now own thousands of paperbacks. Over 45 years later, that first book is still in my collection.

Miss Linser helped me learn math. Up until fifth Grade, mathematics was a dirty word to me. Math lessons frightened me.

She took the time, keeping me and a few other kids after school, and took all of the fear out of math. To this day when I have to multiply something, I can hear Miss Linser doing the “times table.”

And then there was Miss Eleanor Roth. We had moved away from Woodhaven in the middle of sixth grade when I was 11, and I didn’t handle the move well.

I was lonely in my new neighborhood and I felt scared and alone, and as a result my work suffered.

They let me finish out the year at P.S. 60 even though I had to be dropped off and picked up every day. In the afternoons, Miss Roth sat with me on a bench in the playground. She didn’t have to; I was old enough to wait on my own. But she did it to be kind.

And on that bench she would just talk to me. Not so much about school, but about the things I liked to do, such as reading and drawing and playing baseball.

And so she ended my education at P.S. 60 by tying up all the other lessons I learned there. And when I left P.S. 60 for the last time, on Graduation Day in June 1976, I never saw the inside of that building, nor Miss Roth, again.

But they are all still with me. Epstein, Vogel, Werber, Beckerman, Linser and Roth. It may be overdue, and in some cases too late, but I want to let them know that they made a difference. The lessons they taught a little boy over nearly half a century later are still paying dividends, and for that I am forever grateful.

Ruhling: The Bargain-Basement Buyer

Digging through the big, brimming bins, Sam Kirby – “that’s Kirby like the pink Nintendo character,” he likes to say — unearths a treasure.

Sam’s the manager of Bingers Bargain Bins.

It’s the Funko Pops doll modeled after Pam Beesley, the level-headed receptionist at Dunder Mifflin on the iconic TV comedy series, The Office.

He thrusts it aloft like a trophy.

 Would you buy it for $10.99?

How about $8.49?

Or better yet, how about a pair of Pams for $2.99?

At any price, it’s just so cute that it’s hard to resist.

(Sam didn’t – he has a collection of The Office characters in his own office.)

At Bingers Bargain Bins, the price of Pam and all the other prizes keep going down until they hit rock bottom and are replaced by next week’s shipment of stuff.

Bingers Bargain Bins, which is in an old warehouse that Sam painted bright blue, is a no-frills fun place to shop for big-name brands – you never know what you’re going to find, and that’s the whole point.

Sam, who was a diehard Bingers shopper before he was put on the payroll, recently was seduced by the Angry Mama Microwave Cleaner, a product he didn’t know he couldn’t live without but now wonders how he ever did.

You fill the plastic female figure (its “dress” comes in several colors) with water and vinegar, and pop it in the microwave for 7 minutes. Steam comes out of her head (remember, she’s a mad mama) and softens all the dirt and stains so you can easily clean the appliance.

Bingers Bargain Bins opened at the end of 2020, about six months after Sam arrived in Astoria.

Sam, who was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and grew up in Daphne, Alabama, didn’t expect to buy the Angry Mama.

Nor did he anticipate that he would end up living in the Big Apple.

After attending Louisiana State University for a year, he moved back home and got a job as a customer service representative at a car dealership.

“It was my first real job,” he says, adding that he didn’t know anything about cars. “But I learned a lot – about cars and about people.”

Shopping is like digging for treasure.

Five years later, when his sister vacated her apartment to study abroad for a year, he took her place in Auburn, Alabama, rooming with her best friend, Jackie Goff, who became his girlfriend.

“I went there without a job,” he says, “and I worked in the restocking department of a vending machine company. It was neat because the warehouse was like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – I got to snack on Snickers bars and Coca-Cola all the time.”

Sam might still be there had Jackie, a kindergarten teacher, not gotten a job offer in the South Bronx, where she had done a year-long internship.

“We kicked the idea around for about a week,” he says. “I told her moving to New York sounded like it could be fun.”

For the first year, Sam, sitting on his couch with a laptop, devoted himself to finishing his community college degree online.

“I kept delaying things because I really didn’t know what I was interested in majoring in,” he says. “I chose science because it was the most general thing offered.”

He fell in love with Bingers Bargain Bins, which probably is the only discount store in the world that has a disco ball hanging from the ceiling, and when there was a job opening in August 2021, he applied.

“I was shopping there one to two times a week, and the manager recognized me in the interview,” he says.

Sam, who is 28, became the manager in February, and a couple of months later, he proposed to Jackie at the Central Park Reservoir.

Living in the city has been a great adventure for Sam, a tall man with a sliver of a Southern accent that surfaces when he’s smiling, which is pretty much all the time.

 “We love it here,” he says. “And I love Bingers Bargain Bins – it’s a fascinating concept.”

Bingers Bargain Bins buys pallets of merchandise returned to major retailers, including Amazon.com.

Some of the items are repackaged by Bingers into so-called “mystery boxes” that sell for $99.99.

“They are a collection of everything in the bins – we go by what we think is fun, not by what we have in excess,” he says. “The retail value always exceeds the price paid.”

Sam is still a frequent shopper at Bingers Bargain Bins.

He looks around his office – his computer mouse, computer stand and paper shredder – yup, they are all from BBB.

“I’ve become the perfect gift giver,” he says, grinning. “I’m always finding little doodads.”

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at [email protected];  @nancyruhling; nruhling on Instagram, nancyruhling.com,  astoriacharacters.com.

Jastremski: A New Fab 5 in the Boogie Down

In the middle of Rangers fever, Instagram and the nature of the new Yankee Stadium, it’s tough to get a June crowd rocking the way you would an October crowd.

Sadly, the nature of the beast these days. However, Thursday night was one of those nights where you could tell the new Yankee Stadium was very much alive and well.

Jameson Taillon was two innings away from making history, but at the same time the outcome of the ballgame was very much in doubt.

The stadium crowd was living and dying on every strike, every pitch and every out.

Taillon lost the perfect game in the 8th inning and surrendered a run, but in many ways the Yankee crowd and Anthony Rizzo was not going to let the pitching performance go wasted.

The Yankees came back and won the game. Yankee Stadium was going bananas and I was in quite the good mood.

Little did I know, Taillon’s performance on Thursday night was just part one of a Yankee starter flirting with perfection.

Friday, the ace on paper Gerrit Cole was nothing short of brilliant against the Detroit Tigers.

Cole took a perfect game into the 7th inning.

Back to back starts with two guys seriously flirting with perfect games? I watch a whole lot of baseball, that simply doesn’t happen.

On Saturday, Luis Severino wasn’t flirting with a perfecto, but he delivered a 1 hit, 7 inning shutout masterpiece.

I know the Tigers lineup is nothing to write home about, but it will be tough to imagine three starts in a row from teammates being better than Taillon, Cole and Severino in 2022 throughout the sport.

The Yankees are rolling every which way so far this season and their starting pitching has hands down been the biggest reason.

Entering the 2022 season, I expected Gerritt Cole to be the ace of the staff and everything else would fall into place.

I didn’t expect that the highest era for a Yankee starter would be Jordan Montgomery’s 3.02, which is 14th amongst starters in the American League.

I thought this Yankee rotation would surprise people, because I expected a resurgent year from Severino and I believed in Cortes.

Could I have imagined this would be what the rotation would look like in the middle of June?

Not in a million years.

The last time the Yankees received high quality starting pitching like this, the end result was a parade down the Canyon of Heroes.

It’s premature to start thinking about that, but it’s not premature thinking about the possibility of multiple Yankee starters finding their way to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game.

I know the Fab 5 has branding rights, but the Yankees have a Fab 5 of their own.

A Fab 5 on the mound in the Boogie Down Bronx.

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York on The Ringer Podcast Network every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday nights on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. You can watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight after Mets postgame on SNY.

Teacher charged with forcibly touching student

A high school teacher at Jamaica Gateway to the Sciences was arrested by NYPD Police officers with the 107th Precinct last week after allegedly putting his hands on a female student.

Shannon Hall, 31, of Jamaica, has been charged with two counts of forcible touching, endangering the welfare of a child, aggravated harassment, and sexual abuse stemming from allegations he abused two female students, ages 14 and 16.

“As parents, each day we drop our children at school, and entrust their care and custody to teachers, whom we expect to be our surrogates in every regard. It shocks the conscience to believe that a person in a professional capacity, charged with a child’s welfare, would exploit his position of authority and trust, and as alleged, endanger a child’s welfare and engage in aggravated harassment and sexual abuse with students,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a statement to the press.

According to the charges, on May 24 and May 25, Hall allegedly sent inappropriate text messages to a 16-year-old female student, including one that read “I want to be with you,” followed by an apology the next day, explaining that he was drunk the night before.

While in school, Hall allegedly told the 16-year-old victim that he was jealous of her and a male student and that she should look out for him the way that he looks out for her. Later that evening the victim communicated with Hall via text, asking what he had meant. Hall allegedly responded that he wanted to kiss her, smoke with her and have sex with her.

After sending the texts, he allegedly threatened her via text saying that if she showed anyone the messages she would be dead.

In a separate incident, on May 25, Hall was inside his classroom with a 14-year-old student when he allegedly grabbed and squeezed her breast.

Hall was arraigned before Queens Criminal Court Judge Denise Johnson, on June 2, and has been charged with two counts of forcible touching, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, aggravated harassment, and sexual abuse.

Hall has been ordered to return to court on June 28, after press time. If convicted, he faces up to one year in jail and/or $1,000 fine for each of the two individual complaints.

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