Thursday, May 01, 2008

Nightlife: Domestic Turmoil on Long Island

VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. – Vincent Guarino is an early riser. By 5:00 AM, he’s already showered, dressed, caffeinated and driving on the Cross Island Parkway, headed to one of the several jobsites he supervises as a senior member of one of the city’s Operating Engineers Union locals.

Mr. Guarino, 58, started with the union as an apprentice in 1973, learning to operate the heavy equipment used to construct high-rise building projects all over New York. “I’ve done everything in this business by now,” he said. “I could tell you more about how these buildings go up than the engineers and architects who design the things.”

His enduring love for the work is seemingly commensurate with the speed at which he cruises up the parkway, his 2004 Ford F250 often exceeding seventy-five miles per hour on the road’s straightaway sections. “Thirty-five years later and I still can’t wait to get to work every day. It still gets me excited to see what kind of progress we can make in getting these things built.”

In 1979, Mr. Guarino and his wife Marie closed on the house in which they still live, a modest two-story brick affair in a breezy, tree-lined section of Valley Stream, in western Nassau County. The next six years brought advancement in the union, along with three children – two boys and a girl. “Vinny came first, in ’81, I believe, and Lynne was born a year later,” he said. “We took a couple of years off, and then Marie had Michael in ’85. We might’ve wanted to put some more thought into that one.”

Mr. Guarino’s first two children, Vincent, Jr. and Lynne, have long since left home. Vincent, Jr., 27, was graduated from St. John’s University in 2003 and works in Manhattan as an equities trader. Lynne, 25, earned an associate degree from Nassau Community College and currently attends Hofstra University while working full time in medical billing. Both are married.

“They’re great kids,” he said. “They’re exactly what we were praying for when we decided to settle down and start a family. That’s all you want out of life, right? That you can get yourself a nice house somewhere in a nice town and send your kids out to have an easier, better life than you did. It’s Michael who threw a wrench into everything, you know?”

The first signs of long-simmering discontent were evident in a darkening of Mr. Guarino’s face as he backed his truck out of his driveway. “The little fucker’s not home yet,” he said. “It’s a fucking Wednesday morning and God only knows where the fuck he is.”

Michael Guarino’s troubles began in 2002, as a junior at Valley Stream Central High School. “That’s when I think he started getting into all the drugs and everything else,” Mr. Guarino said. “He was in all kinds of trouble, every week, until we finally had to pull him out and send him to a school upstate. Now he’s mixed up in all this nightclub garbage, and I have no fucking idea what to do with him.”

The nightclub business, said Mr. Guarino, is something with which he never wanted his children to be involved. “I used to go to some of these places back when I was younger,” he said, “but nothing like he does. I cut that shit out when I realized I had to go out and work for a living. He thinks he can make a living off this stuff, but I don’t see how it’s possible. When people ask me what my son does for work, I don’t even know what to tell them.”

Michael Guarino’s MySpace page identifies his nom-de-nightclub as “Mikey 420,” a pop culture reference to the frequent use of marijuana. It also lists his occupation as “club promoter,” a distinction of which Mr. Guarino doesn’t think much. “He’s a fucking embarrassment, to be perfectly honest,” he said. “He’s so far gone I don’t even want to call him my son anymore, but Marie won’t let me throw him out of the fucking house.”

Unlike her husband, Marie Guarino sees cause for optimism in Michael’s case. “He’s a good kid most of the time,” she said. “Sure, he can get a little abusive once in a while, and I’m not too thrilled with the tattoos or the way he dresses, but he’s our son and we have to support whatever he does.”

Mrs. Guarino, a pediatric nurse at Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream, is saddened by her husband’s disapproval of Michael’s lifestyle. “Kids go through phases,” she said. “Vince doesn’t understand that, because all he ever did was go to work and because Vincent and Lynne went right to college after high school. I think Michael just needs some time to hit his stride.”

“Fuck that,” said Mr. Guarino. “The fucking kid’s useless. You know what kills me? He came up to me a couple of months ago and told me he couldn’t come up with his rent money for the month. We charge him two-hundred a month, just to cover some utilities. I heard that and I backhanded the little prick.”

Mr. Guarino said he objected to Michael’s non-payment of rent because of his knowledge of where his son’s money actually goes. “He’s at these fucking clubs every night throwing his money away on shit. Any dime the kid makes goes back to those places, and for what? So he can walk around like a twenty-three year old big spender while he’s living in my basement and leasing a car that my wife fucking co-signed? I should’ve taken his fucking head off.”