People grow up in their little towns and then many of them move to greener pastures. They follow jobs; they seek better weather; they settle in the area of their university; they go to an area that they saw during military service; there are many ways to find yourself far from your point of origin. For better or worse, my point of origin was College Point, in the Borough of Queens, in the city of New York. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, then or now, but it was, at least, an interesting place, and not without its attractions.
I’ll wager that I’m as far from College Point as anyone by this time. In fact, I’m certain of it. I’m twelve time-zones away, almost directly on the other side of the globe. The only way to be further away than I am would be to move to the same longitude as Bangkok at some point about a thousand miles south of the equator. That’s open ocean, and southern Indonesia would be more of a toss-up, so I’m claiming the record.
We were the Baby Boomer generation of College Point, which means that there were a lot of us running around meeting each other, or playing ball together, or just hearing stories about one another, or trying actively to avoid one another. We were a big group, with diverse interests and personalities. Most of us lost track over the years, as will happen, but many of us have reconnected on social media. As a group, we seem to enjoy reminiscing, but there are a lot of no-shows. I find myself wondering what ever became of some of my old friends.
Would it be polite of me to mention names? I don’t think so. It’s better to respect the privacy of those who may not wish to be included in a social media extravaganza that they might find to be cartoonish, insincere and foolish. Better to wish them well in absentia and leave them in peace.
Mentioning names could just scratch old wounds. Some, for instance, are by now dead, perhaps long dead, dead, perhaps in unusual or disagreeable ways. I wish that I could only remember a certain friend from high school as the tall, handsome, cheerful, if slightly reckless teenager of our time together, instead of imaging his awful death by misadventure. He got into a fight on a Long Island Railroad commuter train and was thrown from the train to his death. He was about fifty years old at the time. Oh, John, what the fuck were you thinking?
Some of our fellows may be in prison, in fact the odds are pretty good that there are a few up the river somewhere. Some are no doubt right now in the process of dying from one thing or another. There is no shortage of things to die from, and we’re not getting any younger. In either of those situations, I think that I would only seek a time of quiet contemplation in which to make my peace with God, outside of the glare of Facebook.
There is one group that would definitely prefer to be left alone. Some of those wonderful young people that we recall so fondly actually hated College Point with a passion, truth be told, and couldn’t wait to get out. They got out at the first opportunity, and they have never wished to look back or be reminded.
Some of the girls did, I can tell you. Their opinion was that College Point was the very epitome of Nowheresville. To them, it was full of empty headed girls and violent boys with no futures. There was nothing worth doing and no one worth talking to. It was the dark side of the cultural moon. They thought that College Point was ugly, remote, and dangerous. Worse, they thought that it was boring.
I knew a couple of these girls, and I am thinking in particular of a girl that lived across the street from me. She was the oldest in a family with three beautiful daughters, and she was as smart as a whip. As fate would have it, we both returned to College Point temporarily in 1984, me to finish my degree at Queens College and her for reasons that were never completely clear to me. We set out every morning at about the same time on the good old Q-25/34. (I’ve always wondered what it meant that the bus line to northern College Point was designated with a fraction.) We sat together on the bus sometimes and talked together. She had done pretty well for herself in Manhattan, and when she spoke of that place her eyes rolled up to heaven and her face began to glow. She had an Austin-Healy that she really loved stashed in Connecticut or someplace. She was back at home because of some setback, and she felt sheepish about it. Thinking of it now, I hope that the glitch in her happiness was brief and forgettable, and I hope that her life after that was full of success and happiness. She had always been nice to me in the years when she was present in the neighborhood as an unobtainable dream. She tolerated me pretty well, and we sometimes walked together when returning to our homes. She’d even stop and talk for a while on the corner between our houses. I’d ask her out to a movie about once a year, and her answer was always a smile and a gentle laugh with a “no” in it. I still appreciate those small kindnesses.
She, and many others, are absent from our new Facebook family. Maybe they are up on the Twitter or something, Instagram, what else is there? Linkedin? Maybe they are up on hipper platforms wondering what happened to me, but somehow I find that unlikely. Not that I know anything about what’s hip these days. For that information you must ask a young person.
Let me take the opportunity in closing to say a sincere thank you to all of my Internet friends and all of the wonderful people who take the time to read this blog. Your company, your time, and your kindness are deeply appreciated. I should also wish all of our absent friends not only from College Point, but also from the past in general, bon chance, mes amis! Health and happiness all around! I hope that all of your dreams have come true.
And to the dead, may your peace be total and undisturbed, or may you forever enjoy the paradise of your choice, whichever you prefer. You know more about that situation than I do.