By Bob Gaydos
At heart, Chris Farlekas, my longtime colleague at the Times Herald-Record, is a producer/director. Through a lifetime of writing articles about thousands of people, many of whom he regards as friends or neighbors or both, what has always stood out to me about Chris is the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland in him: Let’s put on a show.
Throw in a little Ethel Merman the show must go on stuff and you realize that it takes more than a couple of strokes to shut Chris down. Slow him down, sure, but not totally stop his endless quest to find someone who can sing or dance or deliver a line. New talent. And to hear Chris tell it, there’s going be a show soon — a music review — and he’s the producer/director.
Chris is currently living at the Park Manor Rehabilitation Center in the Town of Wallkill, across the road from Orange Plaza, which gives him an excellent view of the holiday traffic crawling by. His room looks like his desk did at the Record — newspapers and magazines and books everywhere. Also flowers, stuffed animals and sundry other gifts from friends.
But Chris, a rapid two-finger typist who gets around now in a wheel chair, has also embraced technology. He’s got a Nook to read any book he wants. And a laptop is being fitted for voice commands so he can dictate copy into it instead of typing. He confesses that, although he is used to public speaking, he’s not sure he can master this new form of writing. I fully understand his uncertainty. He also misses movies.
What is he up to in this corner room on the second floor? “I’m going to put on a show. There are a lot of talented people here and there was a story the other day about how the food pantries are short on supplies because of the economy.”
This is Chris in a nutshell. He says he’s found all kinds of new talent among staff at Park Manor and on trips outside to church, etc. He also says he’s heard from local show biz friends that they will help and contacts is one thing Chris has.
There’s no date or time or place for this show yet, although Chris would like to do it before winter is over. In the meantime though, he is not at all averse to receiving visitors. He says the staff told him he has broken the record for most cards received. He’s got a phone, but when I was there recently he didn’t know the number, which is typical Chris.
I spent a little time with him just before Christmas right after a party at the center. The candy was still flowing, but Chris told the nurse who escorted me to his room that he probably shouldn’t have any more: “It will probably mess up my sugar.”
“It’s Christmas,” she answered with a smile, “that’s what insulin is for.”
Even in a rehab center, Chris can find people who know how to deliver a great line.
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A footnote: Lest anyone be concerned about violating Chris’ privacy, I asked Chris if he minded me writing a little something about our visit and he said not at all. And I told him I’d use the nurse’s line before he did.