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It's time to take your kid crabbin' ... and you won't regret it

East Lyme — We begin with the premise that if ESPN and NESN can air shows about fishing, then, ipso fatso (as Archie Bunker once said), we can extend the privilege to crabbing.

So there.

And now you can meet one of the most fascinating gents here in our corner of the world: Gene Wasicki, the brains behind the upcoming third annual "Take Your Kid Crabbin'" on Sunday at McCook's Park.

"I've seen 'Take a Kid Fishing,' but never crabbing," Wasicki, 75, living now in Norwich said last week. "I figured, why not crabbing, too? It's a chance for the family to do something together. Leave your cell phones at home, pick a favorite spot, catch a few crabs, go home and cook them and do something together as a family. Plus, you're passing something on where the kids enjoy it."

Clearly, we met through kismet. Because crabbing is how I spent the best days of my childhood. Our happenstance meeting one sunny day at The Dock in Waterford reiterated something I've learned: Times and moments in your life eventually come around again, perhaps to form a balance, perhaps to illustrate that life imparts answers at its own pace.

Gene Wasicki brought my childhood back to me on some random Thursday when I never saw it coming.

I grew up in Middletown, a haven for Italians, who believe crabs are a delicacy. Crab sauce — red sauce over spaghetti — hearkens Bogart's line about beating roast beef at the Ritz.

My family didn't venture out of Middletown much. I still don't know how my grandmother (we called her Doll), great uncle (Joe) and great aunt (Angie) found Jordan's Cove in Waterford — or this lovely woman named Lorraine, who owned a house on Route 156 overlooking the cove.

Lorraine's backyard ended at a stone wall, from which we could throw lines into the water. We used chicken necks for bait, brought lunch, lawn chairs and a transistor radio so we could listen to the Yankees. The best days of my childhood (except for the day we caught a rather ferocious snapping turtle that chased me. Uncle Joe called me "deceptively slow" that day.)

We'd bring the crabs home, gently step on their shell to de-claw them — carefully — hose them out and freeze them to make sauce later.

I never knew back in those days — mostly the early 80s — I'd end up living here, not far from Lorraine's house.

And so now Sunday under the McCook's Pavilion, a $20 registration fee gets you a post-crabbing cookout, t-shirt, crab tongs, five-gallon bucket, lines and membership card into the Connecticut Crabinators. It begins at 11.

All proceeds benefit the Lighthouse Voc-Ed Center in Niantic which helps individuals with disabilities throughout the region. Wasicki raised more than $1,000 last year which resulted in three iPads for the school.

"I grew up in Stamford," Wasicki said. "As a young boy, I lived near the water and watched the old timers with the car headlights crabbing. That got me going."

Wasicki, who worked for the highway department and owned his own painting business, is retired. Except that he likes making cannolis (and is really good at it). He had a few with him during his last foray at The Dock, much to the delight of everyone there.

"Even though I'm Polish I eat 90 percent Italian food," he said. "For my birthday one day, a friend gave me a cannoli package with shells and directions. Had to be 10 years ago. That's how I started. I don't use ricotta. I use mascarpone and whipped cream.

"I've met people who grew up on Federal Hill (Providence) and in Boston. They had a shop there called the Cannoli Lady. I ran into a salesman one day with a heavy Boston accent. I asked him if he wanted a cannoli. I went to the car. I had the pastry bag. I filled one, brought it to the guy and he says, 'holy (cow) these are better than the Cannoli Lady. That's when I knew I made it."

Get there if you can on Sunday. Leave your phones home. And if you've never had crab sauce, find the closest Italian to you. You won't regret it.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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