Writing LeavingWest83rd has been a journey of its own. This being the 83rd post, I thought that I should make note of that fact and the number itself. I have asked around among my readers for suggestions for this post and have had several: photo essay on the block; comparison of yesterday with today, structurally; stories about some of the more colorful characters of the block; a reprise of one or more earlier posts; and what it all means to me. It has been difficult to choose but before that I want to again acknowledge my editor Alyse Marion Black. Alyse has helped immeasurably to bring LeavingWest83rdStreet to life. Her grammatical corrections and reorganizational suggestions have contributed to every post, making what I hope has been an enjoyable journey for you as she has made it for me.
LeavingWest83rdStreet has been quite a trip down memory lane and more than that it has been a joy to receive comments, make and remake connections, stick with something for almost five years, and just to write.
What is it about West 83rd Street that won’t let go of me? The fact that I grew up there? The buildings? The people? The stores? That part of the West Side?
Or, is this an opportunity to tell parts of my family story, father, mother, sister and maybe my friends too?
The boys of 222 were spread throughout the building, east side and west side, high floors like twelve and low floors like two. Their names included another Kenny, David, Danny, Joel, Larry, Leonard. Have I forgotten anyone? Both Kennys and Danny had older sisters and there were a few younger brothers in the building mix as well.
Few moms worked like mine. Dads had all types of jobs. There was a dentist for sure and at least one lawyer and my dad the writer.
These things certainly had impact on who we were to become. Events, past and present, clearly did too.
We lived in a building alongside of survivors of the horrors of World War II. This was more significant to some than it was to others but we all knew about the atrocities because our parents had lived through the war in one way or another. Some served, some volunteered state side, some served in the civil defense (like my dad.)
I don’t remember the war in Korea, we boys were all too young, but I’m sure it had it’s impact on our parents as did the “red menace”. I know that my father was effected as president of the Radio Writers’ Guild.
And then came the decade of the assassinations. Each of these molded the boys of 222. First the President and then his brother, Malcolm X and Dr. King. While I was already in my middle to late teens during the last three, the murder of JFK was the most profound as we had been taught about the presidency and about this president in school and at home. So young, Catholic and with great ideas and oratory.
The riots of the sixties and the anti-war movement came when several of the guys had left 222 for colleges across the country. I was home for all of it.
What we were taught about communism and the soviet union during those years for upheaval was biased and incomplete and sometimes deliberate misinformation I am sure. American history left out the racism of our government regarding Japanese internment and particularly absent was anything about administration after administration and court after court institutionalizing racism in housing across the country.
In these turbulent times I hope that the boys of 222 and their children and their children’s children have learned a lot and will do their best to clean up the mess.
Comments can’t also be sent directly to