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It was late in the day for school to let out and as I examined the clock, I know my life was
about to change. My life, up to that point in time had been very restricted. Growing up in
New York, I knew one kind of lifestyle in Westchester County and that was the WASP
ethic. I belonged to one of several Jewish families but growing up in that wealthy
community, with the property tax rate and unwritten laws that discriminated against Jews
made me a social outcast. There were no other cultures, classes or influences. I was the
Jew and they weren’t. Every time I heard the word Jew, there was always the sharp
tingling up and down my spine and overwhelming feelings of self-consciousness. Years
before in Little League baseball, I was persecuted so much I couldn’t bear any kind of
attention that would single me out.
Ten minutes to go as my eyes remain fixed on the clock. How do you say goodbye to
your school and your teachers? I spent a lot of time in that school. Too much time in the
principal’s office and detention. In eight more minutes it will all be over, I’m moving to
Florida. My old man was already there, getting a place for us to live. He had just retired
by selling his restaurant business in New York City and we were bound for the Jewish
Alps, St. Petersburg.
It was like my life flashing by in front of me. I remembered the pre-game huddles on the
football team. Everyone would gather around, hold hands, and from heart would murmur
The Lord’s Prayer. Since I wasn’t a member of their church, I didn’t know the Lord’s
Prayer, so all I could do was mumble while everyone else was murmuring? It tends to
make you feel isolated and very much alone. I was the class clown that everyone laughed
at but I figured I really had to outdo myself. Back in those days we used to walk into the
woods before school and smoke a cigarette. In the era of James Dean, smoking a butt was
a heavy thing that had to be hidden from parents and teachers. In school we used to go to
the boy’s room, stand on top of the john and smoke your butt in front of the air vents.
One afternoon while I was up there. I got busted by one of the football coaches. Words
weren’t needed, the whole story was written on my face and I was so embarrassed to be
up there, he just turned around and walked out.
Five minutes to go and it’s time for me to say goodbye in my own little way. As I lit the
match before lighting my cigarette, the smell of sulphur and sound of the match going off
had to parallel any shot heard „round the world. I didn’t have time to see the class’
reaction, all I could focus on was the finger pointing to the door.
sure, teach, this sixteen year old was headed out the door and I didn’t look back.
It was the middle of the night and I was sleeping on the couch in the living room and I
woke up to the sound of my mother crying. Nobody said anything, they didn’t have to. I
knew my dad had died. After a week of driving from New York to Florida, he died the
first night we were there. It had only been two days and I was headed back to New York
and the same high school I never looked back at. The year after my father died we moved
to Long Island and a new school system. It seemed like this school taught everything in
reverse chronologically from my other school so I was learning the same thing over again
or else I had no idea what they were talking about because I had missed the basics. I
remember my last high school attendance recordout of the first quarter session I missed