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
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.