Merlino & Gonzalez - February 2021

Take a look at this month's edition of In a Manor of Speaking!

February 2021





This month, I asked Captain Thomas Morkan to write a letter to all of our readers. A 28-year veteran of the Coast Guard, Captain Morkan has an interesting take on many things. I was lucky enough to help him as he sold his old house and bought a new one. At the end of the process, he presented me with a challenge coin, a military tradition that I asked him to explain here. Thank you, Captain Morkan!

most “senior” coin on you in case of a “coin check.” Failing to produce a coin during a check carries a similar penalty as walking into a base bar with your hat on — you buy the other person a drink of their choice.

I hope you readers will enjoy this special edition of the newsletter as much as I have.

I collected many such coins during my time with the Coast Guard. They were passed to me in a handshake (as is tradition) over a

variety of occasions. When I was in Command, we had a unit coin that I would present to crewmembers as a form of quick recognition for a job well done. When I retired, I made up my own coins and have given them out to friends, family, and people I have served with. Pictures of the coin accompany this article, and as you can see each part of the coin reflects a different aspect of my time in service. It’s funny because writing down my service history in the limited space of this letter is difficult, but I’ve managed to get all of it on two sides of a coin! It all started back in 1991, after I graduated from college. I quickly knew my plan to become a stock broker wasn’t going to make me happy, and although my father told me that “a job is not necessarily something you like to do, it’s what you do to support your family,” I still thought I might be able to find something which provided me both, if not even more. So, I enlisted into the Coast Guard, completed basic training

I was flattered when Ken asked me to be featured in the newsletter. My experience with his firm was a very positive one, especially compared to other times I’ve bought or sold a home. Ken was always willing to take my calls and answer my questions through both the selling and buying process, and the entire office team was mindful of health and safety concerns. To recognize those efforts, I gave Ken a challenge coin that I designed myself to commemorate my time in the Service. In the military, challenge coins are given to recognize achievements, especially ones where a medal isn’t possible or warranted. One origin story says they began in World War I, when an Army Lieutenant made a group of medallions for the men in his unit. When he was captured by the Germans, his medallion was all he managed to keep with him, and after he escaped the prison, it was how the French recognized him as an ally and not a German spy to be executed. Today you might be given a challenge coin for all kinds of things, and you’re expected to keep your

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The Original Death by Chocolate 17TH CENTURY CHOCOHOLICS GET REVENGE

How much do you love chocolate? Would you be willing to die for a taste of your favorite candy bar? Would you kill for one? You’ve probably never thought to ask yourself these questions, but if tall tales can be believed, arguments over chocolate have, in fact, turned deadly. National Dark Chocolate Day and National Chocolate Fondue Day both fall this month (on Feb. 1 and Feb. 5, respectively), and in honor of those tasty holidays, we investigated the original “death by chocolate” — an act of legendary revenge. Rumor has it that the controversy started in the 1600s in Chiapas, Mexico, when a group of chocoholic churchgoers started bringing their favorite sweet snack to services. This annoyed the bishop, who resorted to banning parishioners from eating chocolate during church. As an article in Indian Country Today tells it, the chocoholics got back at the bishop by poisoning his daily cup of chocolatl , an Aztec chocolate drink. Who knew the ancestor of hot cocoa could be so deadly? Surprisingly, this crazy story isn’t the origin of the “death by chocolate” cake we love today. That dessert was created in 1993 by Chef Marcel Desaulniers, then-owner of The Trellis restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. Here’s the restaurant’s mouthwatering description of the seven- layer confection, which takes three days to make:

“The decadence begins with layers of moist chocolate cake, dark chocolate ganache, crunchy chocolate meringue, and an airy chocolate mousse. The cake is then coated in a glaze of dark chocolate and served on a pool of chocolate sauce with house-made milk chocolate ice cream, topped with a hand-rolled white chocolate truffle, and finally dusted with white chocolate powder.” Is your mouth watering yet? The original version of death by chocolate might be a bit complex for the average chef, but if you’re craving a slice, you can find more accessible recipes at and Just remember that when you pull it out of the oven, we don’t live in the 1600s, so you should probably restrain yourself from poisoning anyone who steals a bite!


There are few things we love more than seeing people in love. But we also know that love doesn’t always last and many relationships that end have a lot in common. One of the biggest factors is not knowing your partner’s financial situation or habits before getting married, only to have the surprise bring the marriage crashing down.

Fortunately, this surprise is easy to avoid. You and your betrothed need to sit down and talk honestly with each other about the state of your finances. Start with the easy stuff, like how much money you each make every month and how much you will each contribute to your joint bills. Then talk about what standard of living you expect to have. Will you each pay a certain percentage of your income or split costs down the middle? Also take into consideration if one of you is planning to make a big change after getting married — like leaving a job to go back to school — and whether you plan to buy a home after marriage. Finally, do you intend to share or merge your bank accounts? If you already live together, you probably know the answers to some of those questions, but it doesn’t hurt to sit down and make sure. And there are other important details you probably

don’t know, even if you’ve been together for a long time, such as your individual credit scores, the kind of debt you each have, how that debt is expected to be repaid, and if any bills are currently in collections. Discuss what kind of debt is acceptable and how much you’re willing to accumulate. This is also the time to discuss plans for starting a family, including how those expenses will be paid for, and whether either of you plan to stay at home to raise the children instead of returning to the working world. We know that many of these questions may seem redundant or even silly, but trust us — there’s nothing worse than watching a marriage fail due to issues that could have been avoided with the right prenuptial agreement and a little honesty. Have “the talk” with your partner this Valentine’s Day and take a big step toward a bright future.


New York Law May Provide Relief It’s smart to draw up a will at any stage in life, even if someone is quite young. But if that Were You Born After a Will Was Written?

can advise on the best way to disinherit a child to minimize the chances of a successful will contest down the line.) This very scenario happened in the state of the famous director John Singleton, whose outdated will from 1993 reportedly left everything to his first-born child and did not mention intentions regarding his six other children. However, over $31 million is reportedly “unaccounted for” and is speculated to have been placed in a trust. If Singleton did use the trust, whether he provided for his other six children is something the public may never know. If you need assistance with an estate plan — or find yourself accidentally “disinherited” by an incomplete will — we can help you. We represent clients in both New York and New Jersey in all aspects of estate planning and estate administration.

will isn’t regularly updated, complications can arise when their youngest children try to inherit and realize they aren’t in the will at all! This is especially common if parents die before a child turns 18. In such cases, that first-born child is often named as a beneficiary of the estate. But what happens if the parent has additional children who were born after the will was executed — children who are not named in the earlier will because they did not exist? State laws differ, but usually, if the other children were not specifically disinherited in the language of the last will, they may have a claim to part of the estate for accidentally not being included. (As an aside, it’s important to make it clear in your will if you intend to disinherit your children, something you legally can do in virtually every state. A skilled estate attorney

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in May, and went on to electronic technician school. After a few years, I submitted an application to Officer Candidate School, was accepted, and received my commission. My career took me many places, and I had the privilege of rising in the ranks in a military branch that’s charged with countering drug traffickers and human smugglers, inspecting fishing boats to cruise ships, conducting search and rescue, and much, much more. I even trained Coasties sent to Afghanistan to help pack U.S. Army equipment in marine shipping containers for safe transit back home. I retired from the Coast Guard after 28 years, at the rank of Captain (equivalent to a Full Bird Colonel in the non-maritime service branches). Today, I work for the Department of Homeland Security, devising testing procedures for equipment used by national first responders. Like many, I work from home at the moment, in the house that Ken helped me buy. While I do miss some things from my time in the Coast Guard, working from home certainly beats watching the rivets work themselves out of the bulkhead of a ship that’s doing 60-degree rolls in the North Atlantic in January! Thank you, Ken, for giving me this space, and I hope you all enjoy the pictures of the coin (and don’t forget to thank your active and reserve service members, Veterans, and their families).

Inspired by


• 3 tbsp olive oil, divided • 1 tbsp garlic, minced • 1/2 cup onions, diced small • 1 lb ground turkey • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes • 2 tbsp tomato paste

• 1 tsp salt • 1/2 tsp pepper • 2 tsp sugar • 3 medium zucchini • Parmesan cheese, for garnish


1. In a large sauté pan over medium-low heat, warm 2 tbsp olive oil. 2. Add garlic and onions and stir constantly until garlic is golden and onions are translucent. 3. Increase heat to medium and add ground turkey, break apart, and cook thoroughly. 4. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and sugar. Reduce heat to low. Stir occasionally.

5. Using a spiralizer, mandolin, or vegetable peeler, cut the zucchini into noodles. 6. In another large sauté pan over medium-low heat, add remaining olive oil and zucchini noodles, tossing constantly for 2 minutes until slightly wilted. 7. Plate the zucchini noodles, top with the turkey Bolognese,

P.S. If Ken doesn’t have this coin on him the next time I see him, he’ll owe me a Sam Adams! –Thomas Morkan

and garnish with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.



394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314



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From the Captain’s Chair Page 1

The Deadly Revenge of 17th Century Chocoholics What Relationships That End Have in Common Page 2 Can You Be Born Too Late for a Will? Zucchini Noodles With Turkey Bolognese Page 3 What’s the Deal With Valentine’s Day Cards? Page 4


This may be the first year in a long time that kids don’t pass out Valentine’s Day cards at school. Going in to the new year, the seasonal section of most stores is lined with cards featuring fun characters from superheroes to unicorns. Handing out cards is now a well-loved tradition, but have you ever wondered how Valentine’s Day became one of the biggest card-giving holidays of the year?

the originator of this holiday tradition was Saint Valentine himself. One story says that on the night before he was set to be executed, Valentine wrote a small letter to a jailer’s daughter. He ended the note with “Your Valentine.”

It’s unknown whether that story is true, but to 18th century Europeans and Americans, it was inspiring! So inspiring, in fact, that the entire Valentine’s Day industry began to gain traction. A guidebook called “The Young Man’s Valentine” was

Like many holiday traditions, the convention of handing out Valentine’s Day cards goes back centuries. During the 1700s, it became fashionable to trade Valentine’s Day cards with a short poem or verse. The popularity of swapping cards only increased throughout the 1800s. Sometimes, people would go as far as to paint or draw spring-like images on the cards. They were much more elaborate than what we typically see today, though they were still usually very small. But where did those folks get the idea? People of that era were likely inspired by stories that go back even further. There are legends that

published in 1797 to help suitors garner the attention of their love interests through the written word. Eventually, books aimed at women were also published, including “The Lady’s Own Valentine Writer,” which served much the same goal. These publications, along with young people writing notes to one another every February, have made Valentine’s Day cards an ingrained tradition, and now people can’t get enough of them! 4

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