There’s Nothing Humdrum About Her Life
Linda Marie Macchia, eldest daughter of Thomas and Mary Macchia, first saw the light of day on May 22, 1955, and you could say she’s been exploring what life has to offer ever since then.
Her father was a Protestant of Scottish/Italian heritage, her mother an Irish Catholic, which could explain why she bounced back and forth between Catholic and public schools in South River, N.J. as a youngster. The Catholic schools were strict and their grading standards high, whereas in the public schools, discipline was lax and the performance standards not too high. Accordingly, Linda was a straight A’s student in the Catholic schools and in the public schools, not so much. She could be as disciplined and smart as she needed to be.
“I wanted to be a veterinarian, but my dad had no interest in having any of us kids go on to college,” she says. “He thought all the professors were Communists. And I knew that six years or more of college training were required for becoming a veterinarian, so I could see that college was not in the cards for me. I didn’t really understand the importance of education back then.” In her senior year, she majored in business and worked at the local Sears, Roebuck store as a sales clerk under their work release program. So she went to work at Sears when she graduated from South River High School in 1973.
She stayed with her job at Sears until she got married in 1978. “My parents didn’t exactly approve of my living with my boyfriend, Tom. So we flew to Hawaii to get married, and on the way back we stopped in Santa Barbara, California. It’s a beautiful place. We loved it, and we decided to stay.” Linda landed a job managing a Hawaiian clothing store, which fit in well with her experience as a retailer at Sears. She and Tom stayed on in Santa Barbara for two years, until she got pregnant and they came back to New Jersey. Daughter Lisa was born in October of that year.
When Linda went back to work at the Jersey Shore, “I never really knew what I wanted to do,” she admits. She signed on with Mary Kay, the cosmetics distributor that sells primarily through sales parties at private homes, and she tried selling other products as well, but that lasted for only a year or so. “I never really got comfortable doing that,” she remembers. “I was going through some personal problems. I went to live with my parents and took a job waitressing and bartending. Mom would watch my Lisa for me while I was doing my shift.” For the next 21 years, Linda was to spend her time primarily as a bartender, first briefly at Beefsteak Charlie’s and then for TGI Fridays, two of the largest restaurant chains in the country.
Bartending is really a profession, and you can go to bartending school to learn it. You have to learn the names and makeup of drinks, proper glassware for each drink, liquor brands, liqueurs, drink presentation, handling payments and dealing with customers – especially aggressive customers, underage drinkers and alcoholics. You must know the liquor laws and requirements. You have to learn setup and cleanup and be familiar with bartending equipment. And at TGI Fridays, Linda had to learn how to throw and catch liquor bottles – part of their “performance” for bar customers.
Linda would work at either the main bar or in the service bar, where drinks were made up for the waiting staff. And she was good at it. “The waitresses always wanted me at the service bar, because I was fast,” she notes. As to the good and the bad of bartending: “It was my social life,” she says. “I worked long hours and didn’t have a chance to go out like most people do. My colleagues and customers were my friends and my main contacts with the world.” Flexibility in working different shifts was also a plus. The bad was primarily the lawsuits. “If someone gets in an accident on the way home from your bar, their lawyers will come after the owner and the bartenders,” Linda points out. “No matter how careful you are, there’s always a risk” that you’ll be involved in litigation.
In 1992 Linda moved from New Jersey to Naples. “My parents were moving down here, and I wanted to be near them. Dad and my brother Tom had a condo in Naples that they weren’t using, and TGI Fridays was opening a new restaurant in Naples. So I had family, a place to live and a job.”
She was to stay there for ten more years, and her life took on an entirely new look. “I was always interested in things Irish,” she says. “That was my mom’s influence, and in 2002 I opened an Irish gift shop in Naples called ‘Celtic Cottage.’ I also joined the Irish American Club and later became its president. I brought musicians to the Celtic Cottage to teach classes in the tin whistle, bagpipes, the snare drum and other Irish instruments, and that led me to learn to play the bodhran, an Irish frame drum, and to form an Irish band called ‘West of Galway’ in 2003.” That band, started just for fun, eventually won a talent show, earned a free trip to Ireland, cut three CDs and has since been getting regular
gigs around the local area.
“I was a class junkie, too,” she admits. “I loved to take dancing lessons: hula, tap dancing, Irish step dancing, belly dancing, anything.” Why not? What else was there to do with all that spare time she didn’t have?
Five years later Linda married again, became a massage therapist and moved to Englewood. The massage business didn’t last long, but in 2012 she went all in: She opened a studio in Englewood called “Dance, Etc.” “I had hula dancing, tap, belly dancing, ballroom dancing, Latin, Zumba, folk dancing, whatever I could find,” she avers. “I wasn’t a teacher. I’m a perpetual dance student. I had teachers for all of those dances.” And at the time she was also taking drum lessons in Nokomis. “I took about every class they had,” she says. “I’ve never met a drum I didn’t like.” That list includes the djembe, dunumba, bodhran, tar and tambourine.
Linda was part of the group that formed the Englewood drum circle that gets together every Sunday evening. “At the time we were just a bunch of students who had no idea how to do a drum circle.” Even today their rhythms are fairly basic, mostly African. “We play what we know. We’re not there to show off. It’s a community activity, and we want people to participate.” Linda is there on most Sundays, and some of her students can be found there as well.
Dance Etc. and Linda’s drum studio, “The Beat Goes On,” operated here in town for seven years, until the coronavirus epidemic shut them down this past April. “Drumming and teaching are my passions,” she says, and she has taken space at The Open Studio on Old Englewood Road (and also the Ann & Chuck Dever Regional Park), where she will continue to offer both in-person and virtual classes.
Want to learn djembe, tambourine or bodhran drumming? Or find out more about hula, belly dancing, Irish step dancing or Zumba? Maybe even discourse about the fine art of bartending? Just get in touch with Linda Marie Macchi at The Open Studio. You can bet it won’t be a humdrum experience.
Dean Laux is exploring interesting folks living in our community. If you know of anyone with an interesting background please send an email to: email@example.com. Include the person’s name, contact info and give a brief description of the person’s background.