Going to Stuyvesant High School was an honor I didn’t know I had achieved in 1963.  I knew it was a top school along with Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and Hunter but I was not sophisticated enough to understand what it meant to be accepted and attend.

I chose Stuyvesant because even at thirteen going on fourteen I knew that girls would be a serious distraction in classes as they already were so in junior high.

I was not alone in going from JHS 44 to Stuyvesant.  I’m still good friends, almost sixty years later, with one of the guys.  

Stuyvesant did not bring out the best in me in many respects.  While I excelled in chemistry and biology, one of my english teachers had the chutzpah to tell my father, a writer, that his son could not write.  I did okay in math and physics.  I loved photography where I learned darkroom techniques.  

I did not hang out after school.  Hang time was at Danny’s, right next door on 15th Street, for breakfast in the morning and then outside Danny’s luncheonette until it was time to go in. 

I loved chemistry; I took as much as I could.  The lab was great place.  I even went on to start college as a chemistry major.

I became a sort of mascot for the football team.  I was small so I felt safe with the big guys and quickly became a bully.  It brought out the worst in me to hang with them.  I almost injured a lower classman on the stairs.  Lucky for us both he landed on his feet.

We had a pretty poor performing football team but a great cheer, “Retain it, retain it, retain the elliptical spheroid”.  Our cheerleaders came from Hunter College High School, our sister school on the East Side in the 60s..  As I recall we would have preferred Julia Richmond, an all girls high school not far from Hunter but not for the intellectually gifted.  The football rival was DeWitt Clinton, a team we never beat, but we tried. Clinton was a ruff and tumble typical NYC High School.

The Clinton game was scheduled for November 23rd, 1963.  We marched up Second Avenue (that would  be against traffic), the morning before, a rally turned “riot”.  We were showered with coffee cups from construction sites, and were photographed for the Daily News.  The game never happened, as events of that fateful November 22nd, 1963 in Dallas certainly took precedence.  Of course, that photo, which I was in (it was staged) also did not happen that Saturday.

The NYC Transit strike of January 1966 made getting to school on East 15th Street close to impossible.  The three train trek was unavailable for two weeks.  My friend Billy, a football player, drove a mustang, so I walked across central park from West 83rd Street and he picked me up on Fifth Avenue.  He was a chick magnet in that car.  Didn’t do me any good but the ride to school was important.

My social life was never better than when I was Stuyvesant.  I have always believed that  because I was going to an all boys school I had to work at it.  I only remember that there were gatherings with girls from Franklin (a West Side private school) but I’m sure there were other sources.

My academic success was nothing to write home about.  I graduated 507th in a class of 715 with an 87 average (or was it 83).  Almost anywhere else either average would have ranked much higher than the bottom third.  I was given a passing grade in calculus because I was senior.  I took it again in college and dropped it there too.

I loved Stuyvesant; I have been a member of the Stuyvesant Alumni Association for as long as I can remember; and that’s the only such association I have joined.  I went back to the building on numerous occasions and have visited the new building as an alum. (The escalators were such an improvement over those narrow stairwells.)

Although I have few fond memories, I cherish this “credential” more than any other.

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I’ve been bad about writing with my mother as a focus. I suppose that’s because I don’t think we had much of a relationship until later in her life and by then it was unwell mother and helper son. I may be denying stuff but I’m not so sure. As this week contains both the anniversary of her birth (12/1) and the anniversary of her death (12/5), I thought it was time to write this piece of life at 222.

Mom was one of “the three weird sisters:” Eleanor was the beautiful one, my mom, Edith was the smart one and Lillian was the youngest.  Aunt Lil always laughed as she told that.  I knew my aunt Lil as a professional success and a leader of a national Jewish organization.

Edith was actually mom’s middle name.  Irene was her first name but she switched them.  I don’t know if it had anything to do with my father’s mother’s name being Irene.

In the fifties and sixties a working mother was not typical.  Mom was the office manager of a very successful dental practice on Madison Avenue. When the senior dentist passed away in 1971, less than a year after my dad, she moved on. She became executive secretary to a vice president at Group Health Incorporated.

I don’t remember doing things alone with Mom while growing up, but I do remember things with the family.  Mom lit the shabbat candles and the four of us ate together; whether the table was in the dining room or in the living room depended on the year. 

I’m not even sure mom came to school plays and things.  I know that dad was at the Mikado in sixth grade at PS9 because he was the director but whether mom attended is unknown.

I remember going to the theater as a family.  I remember those parties around the Thanksgiving day parade on Central Park West in her boss’ friend’s apartment.

Liquor always flowed freely at home.  I remember living room gatherings where mom drank gin. Dad drank scotch. Mom smoked Kents.  Dad smoked Chesterfield Kings.

While dad did not believe in corporal punishment, mom felt differently.  I only remember being struck that one time when dad was in California on business in the 60s and she smacked me.  You may recall that I went directly to the phone and ratted her out.  The only other incident of physical violence that I recall occurred between mother and daughter at the dinner table.  It was over in a flash of anger.

I remember clearly in 1970 when Dad was in the hospital my mother and her boss took me out for dinner and taught me how to eat a lobster.  We were almost alone that time.

My parents had moved into apartment 9E at 222 in the very early 1940s. It was always home to her.  She was confined in the bedroom with TB in 1950 and from then on she always had an air conditioner. It was in fact the only room in the apartment that had one for a very long time!

My parents both used taxi cabs.  I don’t remember either saying they rode a bus or the subway. I don’t know how I learned mass transit.  Cabs were fine except for the time mom smashed her thumb in the door of one that had just delivered her home.

The engagement ring that Mom wore was the one that my father’s mother had worn. Grandma died in childbirth. It was always known in the family that this ring would go to the woman I chose to marry. 

I came home one day in 1978 and said, I’d like the ring now please. She was a bit surprised.  The diamond has now passed to the next generation, going to my son’s wife.

When she was discharged from a hospital stay in the early 90s mom insisted on going back to 9E. She really needed to be in structured care but she insisted. Mom always got her way. It didn’t last long, but I learned a lot about how to get Medicaid so that she could move into a nursing home which she then needed. I was married by then and had children, it was the early ’90s. She had lived in apartment 9E for close to 50 years.

Mom died in a nursing home accident.  It had been a sad journey for her and one I’ll never forget. I had been gone from 222 for fifteen years when she passed.

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