Published on The Doomstead Diner May 24, 2017
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Stage 4 – The High School Years
In the middle of my 9th Grade year in JHS, they gave us another standardized test to see if we qualified for any of the Magnet schools that the NY Shity public schools were running at the time, Sutyvesant, Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Technical High School, the High School for Art & Design and the Highs School of the Performing Arts (The FAME School). As usual I aced this test and had my choice of schools and picked Stuyvesant, because it was a Science & Math skule and I was a nerd.I picked it over Bronx HS of Science and Brooklyn Tech because from where I lived it was much easier to get there by Subway, although still a pretty long trip of around 1.5 hours every day. For the other two schools, the only way to get there was by buses which weren't all that dependable or EXTREMELY long subway commutes.
Stuyvesant turned out to be a great choice on the academic level. The best teachers vied for positions at Stuy High, and I got some really good ones. Frank McCourt who went on to write Angela's Ashes was my Journalism teacher and main mentor as in a teacher I went to for advice and just to talk. Later when I went to college I would meet up with Frank at McSorley' Old Ale House, an Irish bar in downtown Manhattan not far from where Stuy was located. I had a great Organic Chemistry teacher in Mr. Price (don't remember his first name), and because I had done Orgo already once in HS, it was easy for me to Ace in college while it gives a lot of people fits. They weren't all stars though, my History teacher Mr. Lowenthal was ANCIENT, probably in his 70s and boring as all hell.
I also had some great classmates. Eric Lander who sat right in front of me in many classes because of the spelling order of our last names and in gym class was a real genius who won the Westinghouse and eventually went on to founded the Whitehead Institute at MIT and did major work on the Human Genome Project. In sophomore year, we were partners in biology lab.
Gym and athletics though took a real hit during the HS years, Stuy had a really crappy gym space in the downtown NY Shity building it was housed in, and a school packed with nerds doesn't field very good sports teams. lol. So I didn't do any organized sports during my HS years. My main after school clubs were the Chess Club and the Debating Team. There we were VERY competitive, and the finals for the NYC Public School System nearly always came down to a battle between Stuy, Brooklyn Tech and Bronx HS of Science.
Stuy also was not very good for my incipient love life, as it had only gone co-ed 3 years before I got there, and only with a sprinkling of girls, not 50-50. More like 80-20. All the new girls were snapped up by the Seniors, leaving not much for Sophomore and Junior boys. I did manage to get a date for the Prom though at least.
However, I made up for this lack of Amour during the HS years from school in a few ways. First off, there was summer camp where I met girls who lived in the general NYC broad metro area, and I would take the train to see them for dates once in a while. Then I also got flown down to Oz twice a year to be with my Dad the Pigman for his court ordered visitation rights, and being an Exotic Amerikan, Aussie girls found me interesting. Finally, in my local neighborhood of Flushing, there were still girls I knew from Junior High around, so I wasn't totally bereft of female companionship for those years.
The other main aspect of this period of my life was it was the Pirate Radio years with my friend Randy which I wrote about in Pump Up the Volume, so I won't rehash the story again here. Just to encapsulate though, that period represented my main political awakening period.
The Bacchanalian Years
This was about a 6-7 year Era in my life, which included the College Years at Columbia and the first 3 years after college working on Wall Street.
While studying in school was the ostensible reason for being there, the REAL reason that consumed most of my time was PARTYING! I got to college at the ripe old age of 16, and even then you weren't supposed to be able to legally drink alcohol until you were 18, but nobody at bars or liquors stores ever checked your ID, and if they did any old ID you whipped up with a fake birthdate would work. We ran "Happy Hours" in the social room of the Dorm on the ground floor every week, and about every night one floor or another in the dorm would run a "Floor Party". I remember one floor party where I got the job of rolling joints from a quarter pound of Ganja, which took me quite a few hours during the week to get done. I got real good at rolling joints though as a result of this. By the time I was done, they were almost as uniform looking as smokes out of a pack of Camels! lol.
Just as important as Partying though was GETTING LAID, and I bounced through a few one night or one week stands before I finally met my first true love in Sophomore year, who I refer to nowadays as the Illuminati Spawn. She was a transfer student in Sophomore Year from Bennington College in Vermont to Barnard College, the women's school associated with Columbia before they went Co-Ed, but I think both schools still exist as separate entities to this day even so. She was a brilliant polyglot, could speak fluently in a good dozen languages and could read Ancient Greek, Latin and Sanskrit. Her dad was a math professor at MIT, and actually he and I got on better most of the time than I did with his spawn, except when we were fucking. She was pretty unstable overall, and dishes would fly if she got mad. lol. Still we mostly stayed together through Senior year, though with a number of episodes of cheating by both of us. We broke up on graduation though, when she went to Washington to pursue a career in the State Department and I took my first job on Wall Street at Merrill Lynch, courtesy of connections from Dad the Pigman (a pal of his from the Executive Training Program at Chase in the 1950's had ended up as CEO of Merrill).
In terms of getting laid, this was even better than college! I was making gobs of money, hitting clubs like CBGBs and Max's Kansas City and fucking half the dancers in the Joffrey Ballet Company! There were mile long lines of Coke laid out on mirrors at every party and the food wasn't potato chips and dip like in college. It was caviar, canapes, smoked salmon and fresh sushi and sashimi. Afternoon lunches were picked up by Merrill Lynch as long as I got myself invited to sit at the table with the big wigs, which I usually was able to do because my dad's buddy who got me the job was the CEO! What's not to like about this life?
The JOB and the people I worked with, that's what was not to like. A bigger bunch of assholes gathered together in one skyscraper could not be imagined. Everybody was out to fuck everybody else, especially "low hanging fruit" investors, but also each other as they tried to climb the corporate ladder. I also couldn't stand dressing up in the Monkey Suit every day, getting my shoes shined and bringing my costume to the Dry Cleaners every week. So one fine clear September morning I just couldn't walk through the door and into the lobby, and took the subway back home. Thus ended my short years as a rich and privileged scion destined to someday become a Master of the Universe.
The Medical Technologist, Chef, Part-time Gymnastics Coach & Marriage Years
I did have some savings after the Bachannalian Years, but not much since I spent most of the income on blow and booze at the clubs. Expenses were pretty high too, it's not cheap to get all your suits dry cleaned and your shirts washed & pressed at the Chinese Laundry every week you know. I also still had a good 8 years left to go on my college loans.
However, I quickly hooked on as a Medical Techologist in a lab at a Hospital I had done some Research Assistant work in the Cardiology Department as a Work-Study job during the college years, and this met most of the basic bills fairly well. I had a very interesting schedule of 2 16 hour shifts over the weekend, starting at 4PM on Saturday and 4PM on Sunday, separated out by 8 hours where I caught some sleep.
I also caught a good deal of sleep on the job as well, since my lab was independent and isolated from the rest of the Chemistry Labs in the hospital, it was in the Cardiology Department, closed and locked down for the night other than the Blood Gas lab.During the Midnight-8 shift, few samples came in usually, maybe 5-10 a night on average, and they would take about 5 minutes to run, record in a log and report the results to whoever it was that sent you the sample. Samples came from the ER, SICU, MICU and NICU. If you don't know what these medical acronyms mean, look them up on Google. lol. There were even nights I got no samples at all and could sleep straight through the whole shift and get paid for it!
Although it was paying around enough to cover all my bills, first off I was bored the other 5 days a week and second did not have enough spare income to go out doing too much else. So I looked around for a 2nd job to take and found a job as a Sous Chef at Capsuto Freres, a very classy restaurant in Chelsea which I had frequented during the Bacchanalian years and knew the Head Chef.
I also used my free time to work out at a Y in Westchester where they had a Trampoline and an incipient Gymnastics Program starting up run by my eventually to become wife and then ex-wife. I met her initially working out in the weight room pumping iron, getting myself back into shape after years of neglect since High School Daze, and found out she was Head of the Gymnastics Program they were starting up. She was an ex-Elite gymnast whose dad had been on the Hungarian gymnastics team in the 1940s or 1950s not sure and had trained here under Muriel Grossfeld for a while. So I asked her if I could use the Tramp while it was set up for practice. The gym at this time was similar to many, a "set-up & take-down" gym that was in the normal Basketball gym space in this Y. This was before there were many dedicated Private Gymnastics Clubs with permanent setups around. That didn't start exploding until after Mary Lou Retton won the All-Around Gold Medal in 1984 (an Olympics boycotted by the Ruskies).
Like riding a bicycle, once learned gymnastics tricks are not forgotten by your Reptilian Brain. You may lose the physical ability to do them, but the motor control is with you for most of your life, until the brain itself starts to decay. So after getting myself back in shape (I was still in my 20s at the time), I was able to throw fulls and double backs on the tramp, and she was impressed! We became an "item", and she asked me to help her coach tumbling, vault and bars skills, all of which I understood perfectly well even though I had no formal training as a gymnastics coach. There was in fact no such formal training available in those years, and there still is very little. It's something you learn as you grow up, from others who tried these things before you. I had additional background in Physics, Mechanics, Biology and Child Psychology which helped as well on the theoretical end for developing drills for learning the skills, and for training the mind to be fearless enough to try them.
RE with a future National Team member, Age 5
So I left the world of Haute Cuisine and took on as my part-time job coaching gymnastics. After 3 years of dating and living together, we married. After another 3 years, we divorced. Why?
Not long after getting married, things started to go south economically. My Union went on strike for 6 months, and I couldn't meet all the bills we had accumulated. We took a great and memorable Honeymoon in Europe for 6 weeks, we bought a Condo and the only new car I ever bought in my life, a Chevy Astro Van so we could ship our gymmies around in bulk periodically, sort of like a Soccer Mom & Dad on Steroids. I also still had college loans to pay off.
To cover this shortfall, I ran up my credit card bills, paying my Student Loan by taking cash advances on the CCs. The lack of money put a crimp in the lifestyle both of us liked, which was still a lot of partying. Arguments over money ensued, wife started cheating on me and I started cheating on her. We got to where we couldn't stand each other, so finally I left her a note on the Kitchen Table, a Music Mix on a Cassete Tape I recorded of breakup songs, and left her with the condo and took off in the Astro Van, which I lived in for about 6 months before quitting on that lifestyle and moving back in with my mom in the McMansion in Flushing, Queens in NY Shitty.
I got out of the marriage pretty cheap as those things go, we mutually agreed to end it and no lawyers involved. I filed all the paperwork myself and it was over for about $250 in filing fees. I agreed to pay my half of the mortgage payment on the condo until we could get it sold, which took about another 6 months.
Once the marriage was over, I found another part-time gym coaching job at a new private gym not far from my mom's house in Flushing, and then my Union finally settled the strike and I was back to full income and able to pay all my regular bills, although the credit card balance I had worked up did not come down very much. I plodded through another couple of years this way.
Then there was a re-organization in the Hospital, and my lab was moved in to be part of the regular Chemistry Lab. No more sleeping on the job and getting paid for it! I determined at this point this was not the way I wanted to spend the rest of my life, and determined to go back to school to get a Teaching degree. It was the Reagan Era and they were crying for Science and Math teachers to keep the FSoA "competitive" with the Chinese and other nations who were starting to surpass the education system here even back then. While I had all the undergrad credit hours in four different HS specialization areas necessary for certification (Math, Chemistry, Biology & Physica), I did not have the Education courses you are required to take for a teaching license. I also didn't really want to be a HS teacher, I wanted to teach Elementary School. However, my advisor in the Ed Dept in the Master's program at Queens College advised me that I was way over-qualified to be an Elementary School teacher and should go for a Secondary School license. Sadly, I followed that advice. I might have lasted a bit longer teaching elementary school.
The two years it took to get all my coursework and certifications in place were thoroughly exhausting. I was coaching from 4PM to 9PM at the gym, I was in the Lab from Midnight to 8AM, and then I was in class from around 10AM to 3PM, although not continuously every day. I got what little sleep I got during this time in the back of the Astro Van, between jobs and between classes.
Once finally fully Certified as a Public Skule Teacher, I made my applications and got a job in the Valley Stream Long Island school system, teaching Junior High through High School Science and Math, in two different schools. Thus ended this period of my life, which was the longest in one general paradigm, about 15 years.