July 2017




On Class Reunions: Musings & Memories & A Fiftieth



I’ve always disliked the idea of class reunions, as I suspect many do. Try it. Ask someone you know if they go to reunions. See the response you get. Though reasons for their apprehension or disdain may vary, ranging from the general to the specific. As has been the case for me. Therefore, I had never attended a high school or college reunion. Until last month. More on that, shortly.


It appears that attendance at class reunions has dropped substantially over the years. Facebook and other social media have rendered them less necessary. And in so doing, killing one major cat of curiosity: “I wonder what so-and-so looks like now?”


Other catty curiosities, would of course include, measuring how one’s life achievements have stacked up against one’s peers. A homeless person, or one whose life has taken a very bad turn, is unlikely to show up at such events. (“Yes, I’ve been a total failure, and have been contemplating suicide. What about you?”).


A Google search further indicates, that high school reunions are much more discussed and dissected, than their college counterparts. I suppose that for students at a more tender age, in which hormonal changes and wending one’s way through the social maze are of paramount importance, memories of those years can be especially vivid. An outbreak of zits can ruin a life! Therefore, why would one want to risk rebooting an unpleasantry, that may have taken years in analysis to delete?


In my particular case at an all-boys school, the esteemed Brooklyn Tech (now co-ed and in the news the last few years for a variety of sex-related scandals), it wasn’t my smallish stature that cowered me. Nor did I suffer the trauma of acne.


But for starters, it was the prison-like atmosphere of the building itself, housing 6,000 inmates. Not to mention the post-war industrial curriculum, that left me in a quandary (and often in a foundry). I was out of my element, and not cut out to be an engineer. Though I hung in there for four years, almost to spite the Principal.


He was a man (who shall remain nameless and heartless, having no doubt arrived from his previous post at Dachau), who welcomed us with these warm words on the first day of a student orientation, in an auditorium the size of Delaware: “Look to the left of you. Look to the right of you. One of you three will not graduate.” Thank you for that uplifting introduction. You bastard.


Nor can I ever forget that I once almost killed a fellow student in machine shop, when a sizable circular saw I was using to cut through a stubborn slab of metal, shattered and flew across the room. A deafening silence followed. Ah yes, “Tech alma mater, molder of men. Proudly we rise to salute you again.”


If Brooklyn Tech was the Wicked Witch of the West (to mix metaphors), Manhattan College was Glinda.


Though another all-boys school, a Catholic one this time, it was run in the tradition of the LaSallian Brothers: firm… but caring. And four years of theology. (“The Pope is infallible when speaking ex cathedra”). Here, I felt at home.


Smoking Tarreytons in the lunch room in my shark skin suit, and making college football bets through a classmate—a runner for a bookie—I still managed a Dean’s-list worthy GPA. And while serving a couple of terms as president of Alpha Delta Sigma (an advertising fraternity) to boot. Still, I vowed never to return.


Those salad days of my youth by the final semester, were now mixed with the vinegar of the Viet Nam war, peppered by political and sexual re-awakenings. And a bad taste in mouth from one day in particular, returned.


A lit professor (a lay person and an exception to all that Christian caring), moments after we learned of the assassination of JFK, went on with the lesson as though nothing had happened. And I sat there like a good little boy, instead of getting up and walking out of the room. I have always regretted not acting on an impulse that would have amounted to very little, really. But would have meant much to me. It’s funny what we can’t remember… and what we can’t forget.


And the years went by. And they turned into decades. And I lived far away. But with the arrival of the new millennium, which struck me as something transformative— and now getting up there in age (or what I perceived at the time to be “age”)— I felt a visceral need to make reconnections. Though I could not locate the many I had be-friended in those college days.

Cut to 2017.


When notice first arrived of an upcoming 50th reunion weekend at Manhattan College that would include a boat ride/dinner on New York’s waterways, and a luncheon the following day, through which I’d surly I’d reconnect with old friends and frat brothers— I was in.


I couldn’t wait to play the game of “Is that….what’s his name?” before checking a name tag complete with graduation head shot. And as our class of 1967 was to be honored— with each of us receiving a medal in recognition of a half of century gone by— now I was really jazzed. Longevity seems as good a reason as any for getting a medal. At this point, life is not a guarantee.

This would be re-enforced in learning that 77 members of our class (in so far as the college was aware), had died. And though a relatively small fraction of an 835 total, that number was still eye-opening. Especially, as I remembered more than a few names on an in memorium list which included a great guy and fraternity brother. (Donnie Butler, rest in peace).


While Woody Allen once said that “Ninety percent of life is just showing up,” among we the living, only 12% did. And within that group, I personally knew only three people, who along with me had gotten a BBA. (The college is more driven by its engineers, so to speak). But this should not have been surprising given the aforementioned queasiness for such occasions. But this was after all, a “Once-in-a-lifetimer”! A celebration of a BIG 5-0! How could so many resist?


In reality, few from ’67 now live anywhere near the college. I appeared to be the only New York City resident in captivity. So that was no doubt a factor. And then too, some no-shows might not be in the best of health. Still. No old friends? Nor frat brothers? No. Just a lot of old faces bearing no resemblance to photos dangling from wrinkled necks.


Many were out of shape. Some would be hobbling up to the podium to receive their medals. And yes, I have looked in the mirror recently. And yes, my hair has receded to the point, where the top of my head resembles a beach at low tide. And I’ve had my share senior citizen “discomforts.” But are these my contemporaries? So many, so seemingly, so fuddy-duddy? I mean, I’m still a kid. No? I play games. I play catch with my son whenever he’s in town and— “Your honor, I still perform in public. I rest my case.”


OMG. Enough. Jump in and join the dance. Metaphorically and literally. And hope the paramedics don’t have to be called in.



But a reunion is not only about people, but about place. Both in terms of brick-and-mortar, and dare I say, “vibes.”


Mingling in with lay of the land as I had remembered it, were new buildings and facilities (and yes, a Starbucks), reflecting expansion and modernization. Cool.



But more telling, in speaking with a campus tour guide and in noticing other far younger reunion classes represented that day as well, was the diversity in today’s student body. One which had gone from once all-white male (in dorky haircuts, stuffy jackets, corporate-trainer ties), and of a predominant political persuasion— guess which? —to one now, that has been turned upside down in terms of gender, ethnicity and a variety of viewpoints. The bookstore even carried a book entitled The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Which must have many a LaSallian Brother turning over in his grave. (One more reason to opt for cremation). No, this was not my Manhattan College. And at that commemorative mass that was part of the proceedings, I thanked God for that.


The ultimate takeaway as I departed from this odyssey through time, was that a class reunion need not be just an outer directed exercise; a sizing up of aging peers. It can also serve as an expedition of sorts; the distance travelled within one’s self. I had never looked it that way. But as I once expressed in a couple of lines from a poem I wrote about keeping a journal, that might be applicable here…


I do this to remind me not so much of where I’ve been
But what was on my mind while I was there.







Quote of the Month








The Poetry of Cometry



It’s ancient news by now, having happened over three weeks ago. I’m talking about James Comey’s sworn testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8th, and the transcript he had provided the evening before. So I’m not going to rehash what has been said many times over, regarding the substance of his remarks.


Doug Mills/The New York Times


Rather what struck me beyond the content, was the style. The manner in which he meticulously wrote down his recollections for the record.


At times, it bordered on the literary; having a poetic feel to it. At least for me, one who tends to dabble in such stuff. So much so, that I could find four short poems within his intriguing, haunting, lyrical testimony—some almost haiku-like in nature—that I have extracted without so much as changing a single word. And though skipping lines in the process, I have stayed true to his chronology. And in taking some license, I have added a couple of epigraphs where they seem apropos, in the course of rearranging his words into stanzas.


I can’t imagine any poetry coming out of any testimony given by that legendary bulldog of an FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover. He was said to have something on everyone, which included the most powerful figures in Washington. More the likely, it would be the Senate raising its collective right hand and testifying before him.


In any case, and without further “I do,” I offer under the collective title, Comey Quartet


1. The Sound of Silence


          Hello darkness my old friend


               —Paul Simon


It turned out to be just the two of us
seated at a small oval table
in the center of the Green Room.
        Two Navy stewards
waited on us
only entering the room
to serve food and drinks. I didn’t move,


speak, or change my facial expression
        in any way
during the awkward silence that followed.


We simply looked at each other in silence.


He              then said,


“That’s what I want, honest loyalty.”


I                 then said,


“You will get that from me.”




2. The Chair


He sat behind the desk
        and a group of us
sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs.


                                      I stayed in my chair.
The Attorney General lingered by my chair.
Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair,
exchanged pleasantries with me.





3. Clock and Dagger by the Door


When the door by the grandfather clock closed,
        and we were alone,
Reince Priebus leaned in through the door
        by the grandfather clock.
The President waved at him to close the door.
The door closed.


I got up and left out the door
by the grandfather clock.




4. Cloud


            It's cloud's illusions I recall
            I really don't know clouds at all.


                              —Joni Mitchell


He described the Russia investigation as “a cloud.”
He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.”
He finished by stressing “the cloud.”
He replied that “the cloud”
was getting in the way.


“We had that thing you know.”
I did not reply or ask him
what he meant by “that thing.”







Word of the Month






Used in a sentence:


Hillary’s campaign lacked a certain chatoyancy, much to the annoyancy of an eliticy, who in the main, have affluency.






Waiting for Gadot



The shattering of the ultimate glass ceiling— no not the presidency—but the first blockbuster/superhero film starring a woman, aye a Wonder Woman, has finally arrived! And as they might say in Variety lingo, it has been boffo at the box office!!!


As of this writing, this cross-over movie, having crossed over a $600 million worldwide sales mark, now ranks second of all time, to The Avengers in the action/adventure genre. Released in 2012, that movie totaled $623,279,000. But who’s counting.


It’s as if we have been waiting for Gal Gadot, an actress from seemingly out of nowhere (Israel actually), with an ironically sexist sounding given name (“oh, oh, oh whatta gal”), to bring this comely comic book character to her fullest potential on the big screen.


Of course, not hip to action hero cinema, I was unaware that Gadot had already appeared as this character in a supporting role, last year in the oddly premised film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. (“Can’t we all just get along?”). That was actually Wonder Woman’s feature film debut, after a 75 year history which began with publication in DC Comics in October of 1941.


As a quintessential shiksa Lynda Carter first brought this character to our Fat Screen TV’s in the ancient era of 1975-79, I can’t help but wondering now: what’s a nice Jewish girl doing in a role like this? (“Eat first, then you’ll save mankind from evil and destruction.”).


Like Ms. Carter, who was Miss World 1972, Ms. Gadot’s beauty has been pageant worthy as well, with her winning the Miss Israel crown in 2004 at the mere age of 18. But unlike Ms. Carter, Gadot was more prepared for the physicality required by the role. This owing to her having served two years as a soldier in the Israel Defense forces, where she was a combat trainer, and her array of skills in kickboxing, martial arts, kung fu, sword fighting and Jiu-Jitsu. And her early training as dancer could not have hurt either.


Lynda Carter has had nothing but high praise for Gadot’s performance, as did virtually all of the critics such as The New York Times’ A. O. Scott who gushed: “…a regal, effortlessly charismatic screen presence.” Though Carter did wax wistful when she first saw the costume, before actually seeing the film… “Well, I was missing the red, white and blue, I have to say….”


Which raises an interesting point about the backstory of Wonder Woman, created by William Marston a Harvard-educated psychologist, as costuming speaks to identity. Just ask Batman.


In the first episode of her introduction, Diana (her real name), rescues Steve Trevor, a U.S. Army Intelligence whose plane has been shot down off Paradise Island; home of the Amazons. And while accounts now vary, the goddesses Aphrodite and Athena command that Diana return Steve to America and remain there to defend the “last citadel of democracy, and the equal rights of women.”


Unlike Superman, a refugee who was raised from the time he was mere babe found in the wheat fields of Kansas, and therefore clearly an American, such is not the case for Diana. There’s really nothing American about her given her origins. And clearly producer Zack Snyder, hasn’t been interested in bringing a Carter-like portrayal to his film, what with his casting of Gal Gadot and her interesting and indistinguishable foreign accent.


But to make Lynda Carter happy, and with the 4th of July right around the corner, hail to Wonder Woman and the red, white and blue!





Where Gadot goes from here, remains to be sequel. A few, I would imagine.


She is nothing short of stunning in every fantastical move she makes, while deflecting bullets with the best of them. And when given scenes that call for reflection or introspection on the power of love, or the nature of humanity (is mankind inherently evil?), or the senselessness of war, she is ready for her close up. Which I would think would be rare for such explosive fare. Though not so rare, and as A.O. Scott points out, is the climax which “… reverts, inevitably and disappointingly, to dreary, overblown action clichés.” True. But when the dust settles, Gal Gadot in a breakout role, is still standing. Mazel tov!














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