A My Private Coney project Flash non-fiction, brief moments and old memories of a city and mother's emotional and physical real estate disappearing at the speed of heartbreak.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Forty years ago, I got sent to Philadelphia.
It's not the first place that comes to mind when I think oh gee where should a 15 year old girl be sent for her last year of high school so she doesn't do any more running around 1970's New York night streets.
But Philadelphia it was, with family who must have been nuts to take in a teenager, but who also paid a lot of money for me to go to this Quaker school right down the street.
From a New York City public high school with a billion kids, no sports, lots of art and academics only pretending to teach us stuff...
...to this teeny tiny carpet-on-the-floors, full-length lockers CLEAN building with modern toilets that flushed. And the bathroom stalls even had DOORS and the senior class was about maybe 32 kids - give or take. It also had lots of sports and some arts and academics that you were actually expected to learn.
The thing about New York is everybody knows what street you're from and everybody knows what you know from that street. So I assumed all these new kids knew what I knew.
The thing about kids who have been attending the same small Quaker school together for years and years and years is they all thought I knew what street they were from and what they knew from that street.
Lemme tell you we didn't know jack shit what the other was saying, including any word that had an 'R' in it. I remember having to spell out 'furry'. They swore I said 'fuhvrwee'. I swore that I had to like dig a tunnel with my mouth in order to say 'ferrrrrrrreerrrrrreeeee'.
Learning to sound like an American was a skill that has paid off handsomely and I thank each and every one of them for that. I do hope that the favor was returned by my teaching them the proper way to say fuck, fucking, fuck you and motherfucker and I do hope it helped them in their own endeavors
Still, across the abyss of language and culture something happened. I became friends with people who may have not known anything about the lower east side, but they knew a lot about heart and soul. And they became friends with me - not the girl who might have been maybe running a bit too wild on 1970's New York night streets but with the beginnings of a self that was preparing to go write the world a story.
It's forty years later.
Let me rephrase that. It's fucking forty years later.
And I swear looking into each face - no matter some of us have more hair or less hair (mostly less hair), or if we are bigger or smaller (maybe a little bit of both) - there still is this indomitable aliveness and I see the place I became my own beginning.
MY PRIVATE CONEY presents IT WAS HER NEW YORK, the short stories that accompany the work-in-progress video and photo collection of the same name (myprivateconey.com - media link - IT WAS HER NEW YORK). The stories and the media explore the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification. All are real observations and/or experiences with very little tall-tale telling.
Except when it makes the story better.
Please visit myprivateconey.com for additional information and sample works.