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980 Simpson Strret was Milty's home sixty years ago

980 Simpson Strret was Milty's home sixty years ago

Bronx Stardust

A tome

By Barie Fez-Barringten

Three Chapter excerpt

http://www.bariefez-barringten.com

The complete Table of Contents:

  1. Family: 8,693
  2. Identity/Medical: 4,483
  3. Members: 9,443
  4. Mom: 11,951
  5. Dad: 7,703
  6. Brother: 5,116
  7. People: 8,932

As stardust is the particles in the environment so is
Bronx Stardust
about the bits and pieces that are falling from bigger bodies. These are the fragments of and left overs from main issues, bodies and lives of the times. These are the crumbs from the table where you can only imagine the weight, substance and ingredients of the main dish. The real story has already been lived, the real place is already remodeled and reconfigured so all that remains is the stardust left behind and un-noticed by the the ebb and flow of social forces. If these are the crumbs we can only wonder what was the meal. If this is the stardust what was the heavenly body. As science gathers the stardust I have gathered my recollections of the details of time, place and a space labeled the Bronx.

Chapter 1 Family (8,693 words) Mid-twentieth century Bronx Stardust was a family-centered metaphor. We saw our context through the eyes of our family. The metaphor of the Bronx and Bronx Stardust was connected to each person by family and family traditions, culture and distinctives. Families realized they were unique, but that there were other unique and peculiar families as well. We knew that it was our differences that we had in common and that shaped our view of what made the Bronx special. The Bronx was special because so many families were different – from those who resided on the same floor of a building, in a whole building, on a block or in a neighborhood. It was our family sameness and our differences that made Bronx Stardust. We celebrated and boasted about our differences. We defended our rights to be unique and blast the others who opposed what were our cultural differences. Yet we rejoiced over the contrasts and relished foreign tastes and desires. Bronx Stardust often resulted in gang violence, feuds, shootings and abusive behavior. All of this churned the environment, making our families huddle together and yet find ways to relate and connect with other clans. As we fought and defended, we gained tolerance while strengthening our own identity and uniqueness amongst other unique and special personas. My parents emphasized their respective families, and as a result our family made “family” a basic part of our metaphorical and human vocabulary. In doing so, I memorized each and every member of our families’ name and relation to whom, as well as their relative rank and age in each family. I knew my aunts and uncles and their children and each child and relation they had and could connect them and tell you about them in detail. To this day, I describe them in detail as the context of my childhood. Later, my dad would give me daily reports of my cousin’s whereabouts, marriages, births and condition of children. It was the legacy and imprints my parents passed on to me and that I am now able to pass on to others. It also gave me a great sense of being part of a context much greater than our clan and myself. It was a sense of familiarity, vocabulary and recognizable traits that confirmed my identity and rightness with this world order. I had it and I assumed others had it as well. What I soon discovered is what I had in a great quantity, most had in a very small amount. I also learned that some had “wealth in the family” and assumed stature, while others had only a meager and paltry family. Others, I was surprised, never would talk about their families or would speak with disdain of their families. However, my family is a noteworthy family, having one street named after one of its members. Another member ran for president of the United States; another was a well-known political journalist; and another assisted a Supreme Court justice and authored a law textbook that is used in many law schools. Families are what we remember about how we became who we are. They are the collective memory of our formation and the formation that preceded us. Family is the mnemonic recalling of who I was with anyone or another person from the very beginning. By mentioning any one of them, I remember my own feelings and relationships.

Christina's Collage

Christina's Collage

Family bonding The bond to my parents that my brother and I had was good and strong. That bond may have explained the tolerance my brother and I had to our dysfunctional home. The bond between my brother and I only strengthened as children, when I’d care for him at night when both our parents were out, or in the morning when I’d dress him and take him to school. As the saying goes, blood is thicker than water. The members of one’s family are themselves the experiences that shape our vocabulary, behavior, emotions and knowledge. At some point, they were the world and everything revolved around what they said and did. What we thought, they thought, and our interpretation of what they said was the building blocks for our future. They provided the voices, landmarks, visions and lessons for future non-family interactions. It is our family in whose image we are framed and often judged by society. If you can tell a person by his friends, it is even more so with the family. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” it is said. Yes, society definitely makes intuitive judgments about us from their impressions of the family. So in that way it is important that we know and understand the family against whom we are measured and the model and mold in which we are cast. For me, the extended family overcame the daily training at low self-esteem. I still did not do well at school, but I did strive to develop a persona and self-character modeled after the best members of my family. They would challenge and lovingly encourage me to go beyond the limitations of where I was. My mom was the best at this!!! She would listen and react to every word I spoke and knew the motive behind it. She was quick and insightful. The urban family is selective versus the rural family, where everyone is with you; there is nowhere to hide. Urban cities are vast and families can easily find themselves in different neighborhoods and paths that will never cross. Family is any group gathered under one leader. I was very fortunate to spend the time and know my father’s parents very well. Unlike most of my cousins, I have a sense of being from them and reference my identity and the culture of all their offspring back to their identity and culture.  I also got to visit with their offspring and their clans for the first 20 years of my life and therefore know the details of each clan. I can liken the diverse beliefs and differences between our family’s clan to a country like Iraq, Lebanon, Yugoslavia, etc., who seek to surrender their individual differences to a single identity. It is a very metaphoric process and concept: the family has its own identity at the highest level, which consists of sub-identities at the clan level. We are a family under God spiritually and in the flesh under nations and parents and their parent’s ancestors and heirs. We have one vocabulary, one history, one covenant and one Bible. This experience is the foundation of all the links I make to all other ethnic, national and linguistic cultures throughout the world. I can relate to any family by the memory and lessons from my family. I can see my uncles and aunts and cousins in the Saudis, Lebanese, Syrians, Greeks, Puerto Rican, Spanish, French, German, etc. I can hear my grandmother’s music and see her dance in her folk dances. The strange becomes familiar. My family is my metaphor. They are the people who are there for you when everyone leaves. They are the idea of what is valuable and precious and for whom everyone is measured and counted.  They are the profit from all our toils and efforts and the amorphic context with which we gauge our identify location in the cosmos and the measure of our physical vessel. In a family is where you learn consequences, values and behavioral patterns. Members criticize, encourage, judge, gossip, accept and reject. Families have characteristic appearances, behavioral patterns and traditions. In my family, I learned that there were consequences for the behavior or misbehavior of myself, parents or relatives. My parents would inevitably review the activities of their brothers and sisters. My father gave me a detailed account of each aunt, uncle and cousin. My mother’s account was less tedious because her family was smaller.  My mother would report that she had heard gossip from others about any visit or event we had with one another. Often complaints and judgments were not overt and direct, but reported to one as gossip and then passed back to my mother.  My father was reticent about any of these kinds of conversations and I would not hear from him about this. Such complaints from my father, rather, had to do with my misbehavior and my mother’s notorious passion for cleaning her house. There was a definite love that my mother had for her sister, Clara, that recalculated back to my brother and me from that family. She also was very close to Sylvia and Julie. No doubt our family valued their homes, but less to the extent of location and status. Rather, the furniture and furnishings, maintenance and order were greatly noticed and discussed. The depression, unemployment, lack of education and street savvy was our family’s common denominators, so no one was able to show off. However, there were still those who managed to find themes to vent their pride and snub one another. These included the manner of speaking (either talking too much or about others), overly caring about one’s new acquisitions, touting the accomplishments of one’s children, and slandering others for there idiosyncrasies of which each family has many. My Uncle Jack laughed too loud and harshly, Uncle Irving searched your house when visiting while Mom’s Uncle Irving was a political subversive, Aunt Pauline was a recluse, and to many all my father’s brothers were vulgar and not to be trusted, and Aunt Evelyn was too good for everyone else. The cultural aspects of our family were embodied in the distinctive look of all the my grandparent’s children and their siblings. I was thought to be a look alike for my father. I was called “little Joe”. The behavior of the clan was all predicated on their jovial life growing up amongst blacks in Harlem.  This culture of jazz, Zoot suits, cursing, vulgarities, sexual innuendos and so forth plagued all of them. It was the only thing all the wives could agree on. After awhile, it drove them apart, hoping that by disassociation they could etch out some unique improvements for them and their clan. But while it lasted, it was a cultural ideal focusing on my grandparent’s dining table and weddings for the first 10 years of my life. The culture oozed and manifest in dance, songs and language. There were expressions and words used only in the presence of each other. The love and passion between my father’s families was powerful and exciting. They carried with them the expressions learned in Harlem, as well as Latino and Spanish from Esther and Orvadio. My mother’s side was much more restrained and clouded by her sisters and sister-in-laws sympathy for my mother’s plight with her unfaithful husband. However, ethnic jokes, expressions and food passed between them. My mother was not an inherently good cook and learned from her sisters. She read Redbook and prepared recipes she’d learned. Indeed, we were a distinctive family with peculiar characteristics. Our characteristics were not always compatible with others, however, and as a consequence, when involved with others we tended to keep our mouths shut to surprise family nuances. These nuances included many nonsense expressions, prejudicial opinions and silly sayings. Since cursing was absolutely forbidden, we were never criticized for our bad language (because there wasn’t any). Our differences included celebrating Christmas;; working mother; father living with another women; being richer than many; me working; my tenacity; our mixed friends; our huge family; many automobiles; and so on. My mother would say, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your relatives.” It was a fatalistic view of the inevitable reality of whom and what we were. Friends, she would say, would not be there when the going gets tough, but you can count on family. The years of evil and dark realities wore away my dear mother’s perspective. Finally, she was alone while I was traveling to so many places and died while I was in Saudi Arabia. This is, I guess, the final lesson of family. The one that is with me these days, I’ve realized, needs work and commitment.  It is not automatic nor did to be taken for grant. Family is precious and full of change and crisis requiring a mature and hearty spirit. I have always savored the spirit and blessing of my family’s peculiarities and wished for a kinder world that would accept my family with their peculiarities and specialness. My mother was very open and culturally neutral. My dad’s business required him to be receptive to a variety of types. But our family had its own peculiarities and culture.

Evidence: I look and hear myself When I am with members of my family and I look and hear them, My mind tells me we, they and myself, are of the same flesh, religion, culture, context, genes ancestry, etc. So, when I perceive their facial expressions, speech, demeanor, attitude, passions, intuitions, reactions, etc., I see my own values, attitudes and style. It is not a mirror, nor is it a twin or a clone; it is rather a fulfillment of an imaginary sense of the other person’s likeness and potential genetic similarity to make the connection seem likely. Everything that is the best and worst incarnates in those conversations and interactions. Longings to be accepted for being one’s natural self are fulfilled. We two are alike and match. We have many similarities and significant differences. But there are important natural similarities. Some of the similarities may be favorable and others dissonant and one’s worth overcoming and burying. However, they exist in a unique reality distinct from other realities I have experienced in the real world. I can see distinctions about them, as I must appear to them and to others. I see my unique characteristics and because of what I see, I come to better know who and what I am.  It is a revaluing and intimate experience. Family as metaphor/origin The family metaphor provides the identity of my origin, because the metaphor contains the origin. It is not the origin but contains the remnants, characteristics and information about the origin. By metaphor, it is the link to the origin without being the origin. It prevails over time and space, but links me to a past and potential future containing the seeds and essence of the genetic, generic and DNA birth. It is worldly valid. The metaphor tests and confirms physical, psychological, inherited and environmental effects of the same blood, similar environment, common parents, grandparents and ancestors, while environmental contexts tells us something about ourselves and reflects our persona.  Family gives us clues to our own genetic, blood and behavior code. It is a metaphor about which we are innately curious; seduced to assimilate and know the metaphor in a way we cannot know other metaphors.  It defines the way we will know other metaphors because it so primary an experience. It by this experience, the experience of knowing our family that we authenticate our experience of not only who we are by our first name but what we are; so, that we can become who we are by overwhelming our shortcomings and developing our strengths with both new and learned behaviors and spiritual rebirth. Family; culture; relationship seeking nature; cataclysmic change Vincent Scully, one of my former Yale professors, once described the American cultural distinctive, regarding its treatment of artistic movements, neighborhoods, landmarks and institutions as “cataclysmic,” by which he meant a violent upheaval that causes great destruction that brings about a fundamental change.  In any case, it is this that triggers anomie and alienation and the end for most of the displaced persons of this world. I liken his descriptive label to the way my father and mother shrugged off their cultural heritage for that of the context in which they were raised. My father adopted Harlem, my mother the Brooklyn Navy Yard neighborhood while Christina adopted America as her home of preference, she never lost her love and view of all things through a German perspective. In a like manner, I did the same by changing my prenatally given cultural identity. I did the same as my parents insofar as they took on their environmental context, but kept some of their family cultural vocabulary and trimmings. The distinctive characteristic they wore on their sleeve was not Rhodes, Romania or Poland, but the U.S.A. Their personality was American. Christina is remarkably different. Christina carries her Germanic language and cultural. However, she, too, has adapted to America’s normative with joy. However convenient and functional, she still maintains her German citizenship and has not become an American. She is in every way a European.  In this way, she and I have a great deal in common. It is the basis of my love of radio and music.  It is that neither of us really believed our parents did not love us very deeply, nor we had to do something to relate. In my case, I learned my father’s and mother’s love of music, special words and dress. In reflection, I believe that I memorized the music and words in order to win favor and contact with them.  Later, I just extended this modus-operendi to others. It became a relationship tool, a way to meet and converse. Christina believes that for whatever reason, European composers, writers, actors and movie producers so prolific in my childhood shaped my personality. It was to them that I escaped, learned, and found advantage and benefit. When I visit, recall and perceive metaphors about my origin, I see past the metaphor and link to what the metaphor recalls. Photographs, smells, sounds, words, persons and references bring the origin to the present and the present to the origin. My identity, which was isolated and connected spatially, is grounded and linked to its mortal and physical beginnings. Likewise, too, when I recall my spiritual origin, my physical context vanishes and is replaced with an unseen and holy context. This context is made real by the Bible’s words, to my mind reasoning the reality of my spiritual being. However, there was a rift between my father’s family and the others. My mother would discuss this between Rose, Helen, Sylvia and even Pauline. They complained that the family was rude, laughed too much, and were uneducated and liked nightclubs and raucous living. I believe they were “spooked” by the authenticity of Esther and Orvadio’s belief in God, language, illiteracy, cuisine, nationality, culture, dress code and national peculiarities and friends. It was very intimidating to people trying to be American and fit in with America’s emerging cardboard modernism. Later, I was to see this between westerners who married Arabs. Their metaphors were inherently incompatible and as they tolerated and made do, so does Christina with me via her European German culture to my different ways.

Family as metaphor: Where? In the case of my father’s family and the many others that married my grandparent’s  children, these metaphors had to be resolved. As any metaphor, the family metaphor exists outside ourselves as an objective reality witnessed and known by others as both an idea and reality. They hear the name and associate it with others having the same name. If unique, they presume there is a family and others sharing the name and family body. The family name conjures a tribal body of persons great in number and having a history, legacy and context in the world. However, in the case of the family, we are ourselves part of the idea as well as the reality. What the family is and represents is both separate and independent of its members, while at the same time dependent and shaped by each of the personas of the family. Both sides of all the families constantly struggled to understand their own feelings and their relationship to their common American culture. It is in this dual consciousness that we enjoy and participate, perceive and contribute to the shape and form of the metaphor. We enjoy the whole while being one of its parts. In this way, our family is both a vision of what metaphors we may be, as known by others, as well as whom we could manifest as an aspect of our own identity. We are not all of the family, but the part that is the family becomes apparent and prevails. My grandparent’s family was both individuals, couples with differences, and part of each other’s metaphors. It is a way to authenticate the metaphor of which we are.  The very process of confronting the differences, and seeking commonalities made the strange familiar and kept the family idea alive. We are constantly comparing and jostling between our first and last name (as it were) in a niche described as the dialectic process. By this, we authenticate the metaphor of which we are. It is a constant state of tension and conflict. It is rarely symmetric where the individual only gains equipoise by affection, kindness and love. While the family metaphor is not who we are, it is the context of what we are.  It is the second battlefield of where our identity is fought out. It is where we are nurtured and fed vocabulary and antecedents that will measure all other realities.

Who? In myself, I am not remarkable The demise of the role and importance of the family is rooted in the mobility of the family and its replacement by institutions and large corporate employers. Affluence amongst the young and the increase of access to information from other sources than parents has made the parents seem redundant and obsolete.  Only the few and fortunate cherish and benefit from loving parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents. The inevitable and last earthly connection we have is to our family.  It is they with whom we share standards and values that compose our identity and with whom we can still share them in the face of anomie of times, ages, contexts, venues, governments and threats. It is also the demise of family as a metaphor and family metaphors in our time. The Bronx family metaphor dominated the period with the Bronx metaphor on par with the family metaphor. Neighborhood and ethnic metaphors were a close second.

Conformity vs. anarchy Additional differences came about when family clans determined to prosper and succeed in post-war America heard the call to conformity and repression and signed on to the programs offered in education, clubs, neighborhoods and society. They relocated, got new jobs, and sent their children to schools, which would train them to conform and be trained to fit in to the new commercial and political society emerging. Some became politically active, while others immersed themselves into the activities heretofore foreign to our family, such as golf and tennis. They adapted to whatever would work to bring them to the place where they and their children could succeed and develop. Others took a different path and likewise succeeded, but in a different way. They became professors of universities, teachers, school principals, agency heads, school district superintendents, architects, photographers and artists. Their neighborhoods, homes and friends with whom they associated were unique and different. It was not how much money they had in their bank accounts but the ideals and ideologies that caused the rifts. They were all delightful and interesting.  In addition, the rifts were not a separation as much as an attachment by necessity to a way of thinking and living that, at the moment, seemed right and proper.

Bronx social handicap {4,148 total words} How I’ve been handicapped by alienation is well portrayed in the film Wild Strawberries made in 1957, which captures the thoughtful and compassionate side of Ingmar Bergman. Having become alienated from his family, he was therefore denied his skills, life and legacy. Lost in Translation is another film that portrays how people relate when alienated by a common phenomenon. Alienated in the city led me to have relationships with both men and women likewise alienated. Alienation was all we had in common. I had such relationships with Eileen, Selma and many in my travels and life abroad. Metaphoric thoughts were eclipsed by momentary feelings. Most of the relationships I had with women were fantasies where they imagined me to be someone whom I’m not and vice versa. Often it led to rude awakenings or mysterious endings. Alienated as a child, I would stare and daydream in class of being somewhere else. Most of the schools alienated me by typecasting and cliques in new neighborhoods in which I had no connections. My parents were not connected to the neighborhood and lent me no connections and trusts. It was rather hostile. My mother was somewhat hostile to family and most in the neighborhoods. I had no sense of familiarity and “inclusiveness.” I never sensed our rightness and belonging. Worse than originating from the Bronx, declaring ones origins was even more of a social handicap. It symbolized a lifestyle, people and class well below and outside of respectable society. It was an inferior identity to any other borough or place in the United States and carried every story of unsocial behavior norms and ideals. Could any good come out of Nazareth, they asked about Jesus.  It was the same question about the Bronx and its citizens. Societal ignorance Aside from the abuse, the lack of information limited my options and chances. My parents had an evolutionary view of their own and the life of their children. Whatever I discovered or came to do was uncovered and discovered circumstantially and accidentally. I cannot blame my parents, because neither of them was educated nor appreciated the value of education. My father simply wanted to give me all the things he never had and my mother wanted to discipline me. The bills were always paid and we were never poor. I never had the fear of abject poverty and what comes with poverty, yet I knew frugality and living with bare necessities. Yes, the bills were always paid and I never can recall any arguments about the lack of money.  My mother just nagged about saving for the future and not spending anything on recreation. My father totally disagreed. She knew that I needed more than she did and her husband could give, but was very nonchalant about education. My father could only witness what a few of his brothers were doing with their children, but he was not so inclined. This lack of motivation and vision was at the heart of the limited information and scope of the possibilities open and available to me. At school, there were few discussions that I understood or related to; most of my fellow students in high school, I later learned, were very career and education oriented. I was too concerned with overcoming my handicaps, my parent’s relationship and low self-esteem that an education and career was not an important part of my life. I recall meeting with the high school guidance counselor who tried matching my lack of scholarship and interest with real life careers and opportunities. Since I was employed by a decorating store, she recommended I pursue interior decorating. She then solicited the assistance of Dr. Kurzband, who helped me put a portfolio together to apply for NYSofID. What more could have been done, I do not know. I do know I had a natural love of music; I later turned out to have an aptitude for medicine. I remember not even knowing what interior decorators and designers do. I did not know what it meant to design. I did not know the difference between an architect or engineer. I did not know what either an architect or engineer actually did. My cousin was studying to become a lawyer and was a scholar. Perhaps I, too, could have chosen law; I even taught quasi law as part of professional practice courses later in life. But I had no idea about, nor did anyone explain the law or its profession to me. I was terrible at math and arithmetic, so I could not do anything involving math; for that, I was grateful the profession of accounting was never offered. Of course, it was not just the information, but the interest and enthusiasm of my parents and their friends about any profession or career. It was just chauffeuring, hanging drapes, sewing – mostly labor related.  Even construction trades were not offered, nor did I know anyone who could guide me. I was limited by the information that I had and the information I did not have. Had I more information and adults to walk me through, I believe things would have been somewhat different. It is neither with regret nor with malice, but I do know that information played a part in the decisions I made and the opportunities I grasped. Had we been able to earn more, I could have drawn more drawings, played in bands, sang, acted, and done more in the arts. But I could not. I had to earn an income, so I let myself be employed by others to work at jobs utilizing architectural, management and business skills. I believed that a person could not only be anything he wanted, but also could be that thing at the highest standard in our society because society would reward accomplishment in skill, knowledge and accomplishment by placing such a person above the rest or, at the very least, accepting such persons into the highest realms of society. I often voiced this with employers, teachers, friends and family. They all thought that these things were preposterous. I felt alienated from them. They had a vision of a reality that I did not share. They were supposedly grown up and mature, while I was merely unrealistic and impractical and a childish dreamer. I also saw the world on a global scale, believing that whatever I could learn and do I could carry out anywhere on the planet and if something I was doing did not bring success in one place, it would in another. I had all the makings of a globalized, affluent brat! The more I think about post-war America in this period, the less I am convinced that the clash between conformity and rebellion understood as culturally distinct attitudes is sufficient to explain its peculiarities. “Conformity” shouldn’t be a dirty word – it’s just “belonging.” They’re people who want to belong. Yes, all of us, all of America, conformist, beatnik, etc., were suffering from alienation, anomie and change. Jewish writers, in particular, were specialists in alienation and virtuosos of moral anguish. The comedy, drama, and theatre of the time tried to explain the rifts and tears and help us through the choices. It was biblical! Righteousness and being amongst the “right” and “it” of our society seemed to make us choose sides and compete, when in fact that was all a diversion from the life we were living despite our circumstances. This period looks very different if we take “belonging” and not “conforming” as the imperative. “Alienation” – such a hip word among critics of the 1950s and 1960s. The Bronx seemed to be the center of alienation, codependence and angst. One only had to go on the streets to meet anyone and they would share their hostility, anger and depression. It is why I could befriend and circulate, because I knew we were all feeling the same need and missed the boat. Belonging is not the monopoly of ethnic minorities. It is the “rightness” that Paul explains in the Bible. I came to understand that all people in all walks of life, whatever their status, were overwhelmed by the same underlying need. That was the need to be a citizen of the “right” inner circle of security, common protection and shared values. “It not what you know, but who you know,” is a colloquial that has dominated my relations in work, ministry and social life. It is biblical and helpful in achieving success and viability in most contexts. I could see it repeating itself in school, on the street and at work. There was segregation, discrimination and minority identification on Faile and Simpson streets.

PS 48 Muster Hall sixty years later

PS 48 Muster Hall sixty years later

Communications and other maladies (5,714 words) I believe that many of the bullies and the beatings I received from them was because I’d say something in anger to “kids” I should not. The first really good lessons I received were from Mr. and Mrs. Silverman, who taught me what to say to customers and workroom people. It worked and I was able to perform the duties of sales in the store. Later, Mr. Silverman taught me what to say when we visited customers about the problems and the remedies. My best teacher, though, was Stanley Sommers, who taught me exactly what to say from when I entered until I left the house.  Keep in mind I visited on average seven apartments daily, six days a week for about three years. At the beginning, it was very rough, but as time went on with Stanley’s and Herman’s patience, I really became quite polished at engaging customers and dealing with the worst problems in a polite, friendly and graceful manner.  People asked for me, gave me huge tips, and complemented Stanley on sending me to do the work. Later my father gave me lessons in chauffeuring people to the mountains and Asbury Park. Eventually, I learned and again the customers were so happy. I learned to care and keep my “cool” under stress and handle their questions and criticisms with grace and charm. You will notice the reticence of dialogue running throughout this autobiography because most of the human contact I had did not include a great deal of dialogue. My earliest metaphoric works were on a miniature stage of silence, with two-dimensional figures going from side to side without speaking, only gesturing with one facial expression. I could speak to a dysfunctional personality. From this, I rationalized throughout my life that God led me and directed me with my handicapped to where he wanted me to be. It is all part of my persona and contributes to my peculiarity and significant difference. It has contributed to the changes and readjustments as well as the way in which we returned and departed contexts. It has kept us apart from many and involved with some. I also realized that for my family, I had become an irritant too caustic to be tolerated and better known at a distance. I believed that this was eventually true for both my parents and brother. It was probably true for many of my aunts and uncles and most of my cousins as well. It wasn’t my humor; it was my reactions to their comments and concerns. I always knew they loved me in their own way, but found my beliefs and manner of expressing myself foreign and difficult. Introduction My knowledge differs from others because of the different combination my teachers, experiences and interests. Furthermore, I did not accept things as they were and I had trouble adjusting to the status quo. By my trying to find a way to adjust, I discovered things that others missed. My peers were in the same place, but experiencing things differently. This was true in the South Bronx as it was in Brooklyn or New Haven. It was certainly true in Saudi Arabia. My curiosity differed from others. I was also motivated differently than others to learn things at different times and about different things than others. For example, in Saudi Arabia and India, I really did not care much about the culture and historical artifacts. I cared about winning souls, trade and commerce. Unlike others, I was brave and had the courage to learn and experience the unknown. I could not learn things that others found interesting and was left with what others avoided. The crumbs and leftovers of mainstream interest struck my curiosity. Why wasn’t anyone interested in this or that? I have always found myself delving and exploring unpopular themes. I just couldn’t imagine that my questions hadn’t already been asked and already answered. Why did I first have to be the one to open the subject and expose the truth. Where were the others and those that came before me? Many of my contemporaries found me daft. Being of low esteem and a vague and ubiquitous identity, it was easy for me to engage those bigoted persons who bust with pride and intolerance at their own, family and tribal identity. I was inherently inquisitive – showing all the signs of an intellect, prophet, teacher and scholar. I am not saying I had more or less intelligence than the next, nor that I was superior in any way; as a matter of fact, I have never believed, thought, or nearly imagined myself to be above or superior to anyone’s class nor above reproach. I had early in life learned the difference between discussion, debate, argument or encircling. I had also learned about rebuking, rejecting and shutting off communications with an adversary or one who is totally and completely wrong, one whose primary beliefs are evil, destructive, anarchical, irresponsible, capricious and maliciously harmful. God equipped me to have the capacity to care and pray for the souls of others so that when I see someone or I am asked to preach, I ask God what is needed by these people or by the one person. I was free to choose my subjects and learned early that freedom is real and not something imagined. It means to be free from the fear and obedience to sin, Satan and evil, As Galatians 5:1 says, Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. My vague, complex and contradictory identity became an asset at a very early age both exacerbating my peers, as well as engaging their occasional acceptance into their bigoted world. It, too, was ambient in the Bronx Stardust and something I had to reckon with regularly. The numbers of persons and ideas that ruled and reigned in my life over time and beyond have been innumerable.  They are, in fact, timeless and many not even in this time, but long dead.  They are the many intellects, prophets, writers, playwrights, artists and thinkers that have left remnants of their life to impact my life. However, on a more personal and intimate note relative to those who lived amongst us during my lifetime, I wish to acknowledge the following for their significant contribution to the building of the metaphor of my life. These are some of the people God provided to enable and encourage me in His will. These are the special people who affected my life and made a significant difference. They were unique and made my life special. Many other these people shared their intolerance and prejudice, while others silently discriminated by not openly joining us in out of context activities. Bigotry My earliest introduction to intolerance and prejudicial behavior came on Faile Street at school, where kids jeered and called each other by derisionary slang terms to define their religion, sex or nationality. We had to learn them and try to remember to call each other that name and especially to respond when called in either anger or acknowledgment. Kike, Guinea, Pollock, Spic – these were just some of the terms. Cliques and gangs emerged that were ethnocentric and led by the chief trainer. The older I got, the more these gangs became lethal and dangerous. I did try to fit in, but could not; I just did not have the hate, anger and violent passion for rage and violence. So I was the outsider and the only friends I had were the few that enjoyed knowing me and sheltered me from the rest as a guest and visitor. It is this that Billy on Faile Street and John on Simpson Street did for me. It was from these experiences that I learned to be in, but not of the world as a practical matter. I was in the neighborhood context, but not in the gangs and cliques. It was here that I found I always did love the enemy and could not discriminate against him because he beat me to it, and I therefore respected him for that. It was another trait that carried me through many corporations, school and Saudi Arabia. It lasted with me all my life. On the other hand, I have been as much of a bigot being the victim and separating from the others. My happiest life moments have come when I could relate to the bigots and know in my mind and with God that I was sanctified and set apart. So I walked on 42nd Street at 2 a.m., ministered in LaPearla, Saudi, India, Philippines and gave international bible studies. Being in God’s love in the danger zones is my birthplace. The Bible is replete with urgings against intolerance and bigotry, including Galatians 5:15, But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. Both the bigot and the victim are bigots with our love. Even spiritual bigotry is loving God’s creations more than God does. We do this when we covet his creations and out-own fleshly identity when we choose and judge. Bigotry is also the people who stick to one or another procedure and will not change because he believes his ways is better. I do this in English language, drafting, marriage, following Christ, politics and nationality. The below persons I have know in one or another context and have not challenged them beyond the narrow framework of our relationship.

Truth and hypocrisy It was somewhere during this “stardust” period that I wanted the truth. I wanted the truth and wanted to know the truth about someone and that they should know the truth about me. Hide nothing and keep nothing back was my motto. It was only with a few that this was possible and particularly before sin entered into my life or before I was aware that I was sinning. It seemed that sin prevented such total candor. However, before this, I was able to be open with several and they were my friends – friends for a lifetime. It is hypocrisy that changed this attitude and my relations with most people.

Southern Boulevard under the El

Southern Boulevard under the El

In my parents home What did I do? Sociological handicap (4,683 words) How I dealt with my shortcomings and my  parents’ role in shaping my persona I carried boxes, bolts of fabric, curtain rods and cornices and drilled up into ceilings for several years, which caused me to have painful bursitis in both of my shoulders. I carried these things in ice and snow and sometimes for several New York City blocks. To tell the story of the Bronx without examples of the affects of the context would be two-dimensional. Like many other communities of the time, the Bronx had its share of dysfunctionals and grief. It is a grief normalized in the 21st century, but in the mid-20th century, infidelity was unacceptable and male chauvinism was very acceptable. Our context, family and especially allegiance, must be focused and not divided. My family had to become those that shared what God was dispensing. I urged my family to join me on this journey, but they refused. I missed them and longed for them to come with me. I’d write when I did not see them and cajole when we were together. However, my father later converted and I always suspected that my mother did as well. Math12:30 says, He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. So, I, too, believed I must be consequent and clear with “them.” People in my context considered me Pollyanna, impractical and out of touch as I was going through the eye of the needle. I was the epitome of stardust and its affects. I considered them irrelevant, uncommitted, drifting, victims of flesh, world and circumstance. I was preparing to be a knight. I needed a king and a kingdom. Recently Barbara-Anne, the Klee’s daughter, asked my advice to encourage her son in his commitment to anything, including his studies and life itself. I suggested she not press him on any one thing except to support him to become a “knight.” If he does, he will somehow find his king and kingdom. In this way, I am very grateful to God for leading me so that I could become a knight and find Him, my King. Perhaps they were caught up in the moment of an American fantasy, ideal and dream. I surely did not seem to last very long. I cannot recollect bright moments – only flashes of being together, but no affection and happy lives.  Sometime in the early years, there are some recollections of laughter, doing things together. These were the years before my brother Saul was born, while we lived on Hoe Avenue and Home Street. I was less than four years old; I hardly remember, but it was very mixed.  I clearly remember arguments and harsh words as I lie in bed in the living room on Home Street. Then very early on, something went wrong. My mother was about 15 years my father’s senior, from a European/German work-ethic culture, while my father came from a Mediterranean and romantic culture. Both were distracted away from raising me by a failing economy and no business between them to earn. It was a dysfunctional family where there was neither intention, motivation, discipline nor will to behave. What they did was stay together hating, fighting, and avoiding each other. My mother would rant and rave and my father would escape. My mother would take out her hostilities on the “weakest link” – me. Otherwise, she was loving and caring. One could not have a mother who was always there; mine was always cooking, cleaning, shopping, and taking me to doctors, school, beach, park. Her European work ethic and strong sense of duty and learned obedience made her the best caretaker that a child could ever have. The house was immaculate; I was totally clean, overdressed, and fed the most nutritious foods that God produced. She changed the sheets and towels daily. Our clothes were washed and cleaned; we never wore dirty and/or unwashed clothes. Her reaction to anomic stress was to hold on to the status quo of the concept and fact of her marriage and work as hard as she could to create the form, if not the substance, of a marriage. And she did! At what a cost to her life’s happiness and well being, she gave her life for her children. Her sense of responsibility overwhelmed her to the point of nagging and venting her frustrations. She was trying to do the right thing and for that I loved and worshipped her. She loved us and let us know that she loved us by telling us that she loved us and making sure our underwear was washed and ironed and all our clothes were in perfect condition. When I was old enough and before I met Christina, my mother was my best friend. She was intelligent and quick; we liked the same things – Chinese food, classical music, radio programs. She was such fun, but not in these early years! Yet, there must have been a closeness and warm relationship between us, because I can only recall a kind and loving presence. I can recall being nurtured and cared for and surely I was dressed, weaned and bathed. My mother was there attentive and caring. In my mother’s anomie, my father was immature, irresponsible, innocent and other directed. I assume she based her values on the standards and values of her parents and the norms of the day. It was an unwholesome combination that left us all separated and relieved to be separated. My father was the most loving, kind and gentle man I have ever known. He was very diplomatic and wanted the best for his children. My brother Saul seemed to know that he was amongst the wrong combination and soon found a way out in his early marriage to Francine. I did get married early, but under protest. It was Dorothy, not me, who wanted to get married. My father and mother told me the story of how they met and his proposal of marriage, “Two can live as cheaply as one.” She was living in the Brooklyn shipyard district of Brooklyn, adjacent to Bedford Stuyvesant where Pratt Institute was located (in the building of an abandoned shoe factory); and my father lived in Harlem. They met and dated in a very popular dance hall called the Palladium (near Roseland and Birdland). At 12, I learned at school that I needed to prepare myself. My parents were temporary; so I started to prepare myself. I needed discipline and I thought my parents did not realize this; I believed they only knew I misbehaved.  My mother said I talked too much; I did. I asked too many questions; I did.  I delved; I did. She predicted this would give me the most trouble in my life. After I stopped smoking in 1977 (at age 40) and would enter a restaurant before smoking was banned in restaurants and the maitre’d would ask, “Do you smoke?” (implying, would you like to sit in the smoking or non-smoking section of the restaurant), I would answer, “I only smoke when I’m on fire.” I know, neither did anyone else laugh; however, I always thought it was very funny. I started smoking in 1951 (at age 14), the first year I started attending high school, when I met Leon Goldstein on the bus commuting from our apartment on Simpson Street. He taught me how to smoke sitting on the black iron rail at the bus stop at Pelham Parkway at our destination before walking to school. After a long while of choking and coughing, I learned. Then I began what was years of taking a few cigarettes from my mother’s red pack of Pall Mall until I graduated, and then with the money I earned, I could buy my own. As much as I smoked, I never exceeded one pack per day. When my mother found out that I smoked I urged her not to tell my dad because I did not want to grow up. To me, smoking was growing up and I enjoyed being my father’s son. I thought that would all end once he knew I smoked. After a while, I would do the usual smoke after every meal, while driving, after sex and especially with coffee. My mother never missed the few cigarettes I took and in this way, I felt my mother and I bonded in a way I can never explain. We shared and she did keep a secret. After smoking regularly for several years, Stanley Sommers bet me on one New Year’s Eve that I could not stop smoking and that whoever of us started first would pay the other $100. I won and Stanley paid me $100. I am cosmopolitan and not rural or suburban. I don’t have any interest in baseball, football, soccer, popular rock stars, political candidates or fishing. Man can say that I’m not from around here. Even as a child, we moved often. I am overly traveled and am articulate, glib and conversant. I delve and invade subjects or withdraw and keep silent, concerned that I may overwhelm and offend.

The period in a nutshell The Bronx is in revival and growing and Bronx Stardust is the bridge to the reader’s metaphor of the potential life and joys of the Bronx. Current residents can ask themselves: As I walk the streets now, as I drive through the streets now, as I play on the streets now, as I live in the tenements now, can I model myself to the same hopes and dreams of Barie and his family who came before me? I am part of a history of people in the Bronx, of people who lived in the same places and circumstances and they succeeded in their life. If Barie could do it, so can I. Old residents will see the potential of a neighbor, while new residents will find a kindred spirit upon which to move forward. The below schedule shows my life up until I was 21 in 1958 and living in my parent’s home.

PERIOD PLACE AGE SCHOOL 1937-1939 Hoe Ave                                 1-2 1939-1942 Home Street                           2-5                   Pre-Kinder 1942-1945 Faile Street                             5-9                   Ps 48 1946-1952 1012 Simpson Street              9-15                 Ps 20,Ps 75,Cc 1952-1958 2351 Holland Ave                  15-21               CCHS; NYSID; Columbia

2351 Holland Avenue

2351 Holland Avenue

These were the early years; from the time I was born until student days at Pratt Institute. The sociological character of the neighborhoods I lived in with my family was all urban. Although I wanted to move to Long Island, my mother refused. My father and brother were in agreement, but my mother wanted to be in the city. The suburbs seemed a fatal exile that she detested.  Hoe, Home, Faile, Simpson and finally Holland Avenue were where we moved instead of the suburbs, because it was close to CCHS, had trees and nice European people.

My Mother's last Apartment on Holland Ave

My Mother's last Apartment on Holland Ave

My mother lived here until she died in 1985. The move to Holland Avenue did change the culture of our family because in coincided with my high school days, my mother’s accelerated work schedule, and my father’s increased time with his new family. But there was more – radio was replaced by television, the stage shows ceased, ethnic music moved into the background in favor of modernism. There was a mood of disdain for the past. The city and its context had an all-consuming aura and finality, as though it were where everything was and that there was no point to visit any other place because New York had it all. And it all was the best there was. However, within that context I always yearned to get up and out of the Bronx and Simpson Street and that dismal environment – the environment of evil, chaos and violence. I associated all of this with the Family, Bronx, and people with certain slangs and accents. I wanted to getaway from all of this. It was not poverty, race, religion or nationality, but the evil lurking and permeating that motivated me to get up and out.

Mom’s home initially featured a three-piece sofa living room set covered in velveteen of burgundy red, yellow ocher and dark blue with slipcovers. The master bedroom was a dark, burled wood bedroom set including headboard and wooden bed with slats that always seemed to fall down, a chiffarobe with closet and chest of drawer, a vanity and vanity chair covered with dark brown velvet and a side chair and a wide dresser. When we moved to Holland Avenue, I had the entire house redecorated my Debrose in modern chartreuse prints, blond oak side tables and lamps with fiberglass shades and a three-way light. Also added were a blond oak floor model television made by Dumont with a ceramic green and brown TV lamp shining up to the ceiling, And a chartreuse wall-to-wall carpet and wall-to-wall drapes. For my bedroom, I had a special print made for casement windows and I designed and had built wrought iron brackets so as to install my air conditioner in the casement window and the curtains way out in front of the carrier air conditioner inside the room.

The below has four sub-chapters targeting  7,000+- words per chapter History Sub-Chapter 1.1: Tom Sawyer Days (11,151 words) (Hoe, Home and Faile streets)

I can remember each place we lived for different things, such as the very shiny wooden floors on Hoe Avenue, the corner of the building outside our window, the empty rooms before my parents bought their furniture, and the peace we had as a family. On September 10-22, 1938, the great hurricane hit Long Island and southern New England. Many people were killed and nearly $4 billion of damage was made (by today’s values). In 1939, the Depression officially ended, but few knew the difference because everyone was poor. The ’40s were when America was recovering from the Depression, led by the construction of everything including housing. When it began, I was two and 12 when it ended. In real estate, it was a renter’s or buyer’s market. You could live for six months free and then relocate without paying anything and those without steady jobs had to do this. As a child, this was amazing how we kept changing and moving. I learned to expect this and somehow understood the benefit to us as a family. Phonographs were not electric, but manually wound with a crank and a heavy spindle also containing the speaker held the needle. You placed your 78-rpm wax record on the turntable and the speaker’s spindle arm on the record and listened. There were record stores and the stars of the day of the early ’40s were Al Jolson, Eddy Cantor, Mae West, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, the Andrew sisters, Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Helen O’Connell, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, the Barry sisters, and television begun with John Daily and the news, Milton Berle, the Show of Shows and Howdy Doody. This, along with great movies and stage shows at Radio City Music Hall, the Strand, the Paramount Theatre, the Roxy and even local shows at the Boulevard, were just great. Home Street In 1941, I attended kindergarten while we lived on Home Street and Pearl Harbor was invaded on December 8. I was four when my brother was born on December 4. We then moved to Faile Street and World War II started; the Bronx Zoo opened its African Plains with no cages and we started using Drake Park and the East River for recreation. There were great block parties on Faile Street.

Faile Street across the street from our house

Faile Street across the street from our house

On Home Street at night, I lay in my bed in the living room between my parent’s room and the kitchen. I could remember the sleepless nights having nightmares and the announcement made by President Roosevelt about the Japanese attacking on Pearl Harbor. I remember the sirens and the searchlights in the sky and then lying in bed listening to airplanes in the sky. I dreamt of thousands of flocklike teams of flying wings moving through the skies. Several years later, I actually saw a similar vision in a black and white movie by H.G. Wells called “The Shape of Things to Come”.

Home Street with the site of my building on the right

Home Street with the site of my building on the right

This one-bedroom apartment had a long entry hall with a door opening to a small kitchen with an small eating area kitchen to one side, followed by the living room spanning the width of the apartment, and followed by a small hall with a bathroom and then my parent’s bedroom. It was furnished with a mohair living set, royal blue high fan chair, crimson red club chair and a large sofa sitting on a large, square, machine-made Oriental rug. My parent’s bedroom had a suite of wood bedroom furniture with mahogany and birch inlay. All of these pieces of furniture my mother had with her until she abandoned them at Holland Avenue.

View form Southern Boulevard to the corner of Home Street

View form Southern Boulevard to the corner of Home Street

Across the street from my building was an enclosed garage where cars were stored and light repairs were made, and down the street where Westchester Avenue led under the elevated Pelham train line was a huge garage for gas and repairs. Up the street was an auto junkyard and further down a house with an open coal chute we could crawl in and play in the coal.


Several blocks away were wooden one-family houses where one was converted into the kindergarten I attended. The location was such that we could walk several very long blocks to visit my grandparents and shop at the Simpson market. My aunt Jean and Uncle Charles lived with their daughter, Carol, across the street and down the corner and my mother’s friend, Lily and her husband, Morris, lived upstairs. I got to know him very well. Here is where I saw many men returning from the war without their limbs…especially Morris with one leg. He was very sad and quiet. It was in this apartment that my brother Saul was born on December 4, 1941, nearly four years after I was born and just days before the invasion of Pearl Harbor. It was also here that my mother’s father visited, and where I heard President Roosevelt’s radio announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Here I had my most vivid nightmares, as I’d lie in my bed in the living room where I listened to the earliest hushed arguments between my parents. Here was where I remember my mother making baby food from scratch and feeding us little children, especially my little brother in his high chair. The only special feature of this apartment was the nightly wartime blackouts, the air raid sirens and the wardens on the steps outside of our apartment. It was here I dreamt of the black flying wings clouding the skies. It was on the steps leading to the rear alley that I fell and opened a big cut over my eye. These were the first stitches I received. I later fell again on these steps and cut my knee, which also required stitches. The stairs were made of cement and had a curved metal edge strip. The stair led to the alley, which led to a court, and in this court was the entrance to the super’s apartment and another alley leading to the backyard of the building. I recall this area because it was then one of my favorite places around the building to explore. This was the time of the “food ration” books and so I recall my mother pasting her rations in the books and us going to stores waiting in lines to buy food. Of course, she and her friends would talk about where to go and what to buy. The metaphors I recall were less symbolic but more special, textural and pictorial. Sills, steps, iron rails, coal bins, all icons and images without much use…I was a child. But they made up the landmarks of my nest and place. They were to be explored and discovered and understood. Not for their use, but for the meaning they represented. I was looking for why things were the way they were. I needed to know the meanings and purposes of everything. In fact, I was rarely satisfied with men’s answers but looked to science, and later to God’s word, for the answers. I had nothing to which to compare them, and yet they demanded understanding. As a daily routine, my parents had to deal with rationing, which permeated everyone’s lives.  I asked thousands of questions, whose answers lied in my future mind and God’s dispensations. In 1941, shortly after I sat and listened in front of our floor model radio with the green eye and short-wave band settings, black outs and air raid sirens began their nightly howl. We had to turn off the lights in our apartment. The fist night, I heard something outside our door and opened it to find a tall man with a helmet climbing up the stairs. He introduced himself as our warden. “Warden?” I asked, “What’s that?” I asked and he explained. As he spoke, he took off his helmet and placed it on my head. He told me his name and duties. I became his deputy and felt I was part of something special. I was very happy and full of joy. I went into our apartment and told my mother and she, too, was very happy. I would roam the streets finding tires to hand over to my teacher at school and my mother complimented me on my efforts to help in the war effort. She mentioned that when I got older I might have to go to war and be a soldier. During this period, I built small hiding places and shadow boxes in which to take refuge. There were coupon racketeers and savvy filling station proprietors who were exploiting the OPA gasoline system that the “average motorist,” such as my father, was ignorant and innocent of. Or were they? It was a very complex and insidious process, where dad and his friends exchanged coupons between them as they needed. It was these events and these people that clouded my mind and reference points to determine that I did not want to dwell in these neighborhoods and with these people. I knows now that my opinions were wrongly placed, but that’s what it seemed at the moment. It was a compromising and shameful mess. I just felt that my father’s dignity and righteousness was being compromised over trivialities. It was all so petty and trivial. It was mundane and often unnecessary. If  I felt that way then and I was in America, I can imagine what young people in other countries, such as India, Philippines, Pakistan and Persia, think and feel about their contexts and generations. We have observed that corruption, crime and terrorism have no borders nor nationalities. We have known the same kind of people and conditions to one or another extent in most countries and cities in which we have lived. The only difference is that when you first get there, you may not notice it until you learn to see and hear what’s actually taking place. This has been a reason why we have decided to return to the U.S.A. where I am a citizen, have rights, and understand the context, language and political complexities and operations. Other places may offer one or another advantage, but the life itself is in the place in which God has birthed and placed us. It was the time when I learned, invented, and made metaphors. I had none. I had to make them up. The metaphors of my parents and their friends were the only metaphors I knew. I had none of my own. My play was like the Orientals who make silhouettes with light and shadow on curtains. I hid in fantasy and acted out my fears and anxiety. Shadow theatre is one of the world’s oldest art forms, linked with traditional storytelling and mythology. In countries like Turkey or Indonesia, the shadow puppets were projected onto a white screen by the flickering light of an oil lamp. While manipulating the set of puppets, a sole puppet-master chanted all the roles in the unfolding of the narrative. I used hand puppets, stages and props. I made my own story, used various flashlights, and played music from the radio. When God ordained our different languages, he did so that we would be kept dependent upon Him and not strengthened with unholy alliances and power over each other and between each other. The idea was to stay put and be different, depending and relying upon Him. In the name of pride, vanity, greed and self-righteousness, the world continues to rebel and disobey, and stretch our influence to rebuild the tower of Babel, but “horizontally.” We’re concerned with increasing our power by increasing our network and holdings and globalizing our influence and power base. It is the propensity of the world, but the Christian’s duty to bring light and salvation. The news, gossip and talk of the times revolved around these coupons, the black market, mobs and gangsters. We lived in the Bronx. Many of the gangsters were Jewish and lived in the Bronx. My father never mentioned any of this to me, but this was the environment in which he had to do business. His business and livelihood depended on being able to use his vehicles and complete service.

Because I was a baby who could turn its head to only one side, my mother had special problems caring for me. This and the fact that I was hyperactive with sinus and hearing problems gave my mother an undue burden. Called congenital torticollis, understanding what causes it takes a quick anatomy lesson. There is a muscle located on each side of the neck called the sternocleidomastoid muscle (pronounced STER-no-KLY-do-MAST-oid). It is somewhat of a strange muscle because it attaches in three separate places, namely at the sternum (the breastbone), the clavicle (the collarbone) and the mastoid (the jawbone). It allows us to turn the neck. As the muscles develop in the baby while inside the mother, there is an influence the baby’s position has on that development. Usually, the baby has some room for movement, which allows the muscles to stretch and contract. This stretching and contracting is necessary to allow for the muscles to grow to the proper length. My neck may have gotten tilted to one side for an extended period of time. This was due to unusual positioning within my mother’s uterus.  When the neck remains tilted, the muscles on one side of the neck get stretched while the other side never receives this stretching. Therefore, the sternocleidomastoid muscle develops in a position of contraction. Consequently, I was unable to turn my head to one side because the contracted sternocleidomastoid muscles wouldn’t allow it. It is like being on a long trip in a compact car that has very little leg room. When you first get out, you have to stretch a bit before you can walk normally. This is essentially what occurred while I was developing torticollis. The muscles were all there; they just hadn’t been used much. And because this process occurs over several months during pregnancy, getting the muscles to work properly takes a stretching regimen that took months to fix.

Home Street is on the left

Home Street is on the left

We had special relationships with neighbors like Ethel and Morris. Ethel and Morris were a young couple who lived upstairs in our building on Home Street. They had no children and Ethel was ga ga over me.  Her husband, Morris, had just been drafted and she needed a second family.  The fit was perfect.  She would care for me all the time so my mother could go shopping, visit friends, and take care of the house. Ethel would dress me, bathe me, and hold me close in her bed.  One day she made the terrible error of taking me to a movie. The name of the movie was The Mummy.  It was the first movie I had ever been to. When we came into the dark theatre, I thought the theatre was moving.  After she assured me it was not, we began seeing the mummy, who had been lying still, begin to rise.  I let out a scream, and with supernatural animal strength climbed over everyone in our row, screaming shrieks of death as I then ran up the aisle and on to the street and toward our house, which was many blocks from the theatre.  I knew exactly where Home Street was and where I was headed.  Well, poor Ethel finally caught up with me and made it all go away somehow – mostly by telling me it was not real and that to look around and notice that there was no mummies here. It was just in that theatre. I cannot say that I never again went to another movie, but some time did pass before the second movie experience. Some while later, Morris returned from the Army with a missing leg.  He was so quiet and I was ridiculous. I just could not understand what happened to his leg. He was so kind to me and really appreciated my stupid questions, which seemed to reflect his own heart. He, too, could not understand what happened. In any case, our friendships continued until they moved away. They needed to change to go back to their parents. I always will love and miss them both.

During this time, the local county board of the Office of Price Administration issued every man, woman and child a ration book during the war. The book held stamps, which Americans used to buy rationed foods. Government officials rationed some food because of limited supply. So much food needed to be set aside for military use that the government restricted civilian purchases. County boards rationed sugar, coffee, meat, butter, margarine, cheese, canned milk, canned fish, canned fruits and vegetables, soups and fruit juices. Shortages of rubber led to the rationing of tires and gasoline. The government also prohibited the making of many household appliances because of a lack of metals. We could not buy hot water heaters, refrigerators, stoves, lawn mowers, vacuums, irons, radios and toasters. The government needed rubber and metals to make airplanes, trucks, tanks, ships and rifles. We had to ration food and materials to help win the war. American responses to rationing varied from cheerful compliance to resigned grumbling to instances of black market subversion and profiteering. We were cajoled into giving over to the government all our spare tires except one, many going along with this gambit. These were almost never used, but accumulated in mountainous piles all over the country and spent the war rotting in these junk yards instead of helping to “win the war.” The kindergarten I attended was at a house near Home Street run by volunteer ladies and containing various rooms where I learned to identify and arrange blocks. Finally, my mother was asked not to bring me anymore because I was building very large structures which eventually toppled and could  (but did not) hurt the other children. They said I was too advanced and individualistic. This did not make my mom happy and she complained. It was a shame because it was one of those things that gave my mom a sense of normalcy and contact with other nice women. I knew she was very disappointed and irate about their rejection. She, indeed, took it personally and was insulted. How dare they! I am sure this added to her already well-formed disdain of society and its wiles. My brother was not yet born and the war was on; everything worked off of ration stamps and long lines. The kindergarten building was red brick and had a backyard.

Hunts Point Avenue bridge over railroad with shops like the Ponte Vecchio

Hunts Point Avenue bridge over railroad with shops like the Ponte Vecchio

Faille Street The southernmost extant station of the NY, NH & H is the Hunts Point station, on Hunts Point Avenue near the Bruckner Expressway. Most of the station is intact, including many of its peculiar architectural traits. The Hunts Point station today is home to a variety of businesses – a deli, a pizza place, a travel agency and a topless joint. Hunts Point received passengers until about 1931. It had dormer windows and a crenellated roof. The roof spires and crenellation are now gone.

Faile Street: poor white Italians, Armenians, Jews and Germans

I was a skinny, adventurous child on Faile Street. It was where I learned to play on the street. It was not a typical urban tenement area. It was the mid-point of Hunts Point – a  real Tom Sawyer paradise.

PS48 Drake Public school

PS48 Drake Public school

PS48, a six-story public school, stood on a hill and I could wander for 50 streets and never get lost because I could always see my school and the street on which I lived.

PS 48 as seen from Hunts Point Boulevard

PS 48 as seen from Hunts Point Boulevard

At the time, landlords competed for your tenancy, giving free months rent up to six months, as well as free electric, water, etc. I remember us visiting the house for the first time and meeting the owners of this two-story house. It was three stories in the rear where the lower story was for the garages and the front was two stories. To the right side of the house was a hill and to the left the alley for the auto driveway to the rear.

633 Faile Bronx Hunts Point

633 Faile Bronx Hunts Point

I have photos of my mother and brother sitting on chairs in front of the garage sunning themselves. The side alley had a door to the stairs up to our landlord with an interior door from the kitchen also leading to the stairs.  Before we even moved in, the owners made us a dresser of drawers with red-orange round screw-on knobs, which I cherished for as long as I could remember. He had a son who went to war and never returned. There were two entrances at the front of the house a top a few steps to both the lower and upper floors. Ours was to the left and opened into the sun parlor.  It was in this room that my brother and I would play. It was here I divided the room in half so that he would have his, and, I, my area to play.  Mine was the half furthest from the door so that I could build out of boxes and cloth my own little house with rooms and shelves and places to hide.  Of course, I’d invite my brother in to visit. My parent’s master bedroom was just adjacent to this parlor, separated by a wall with a big double window, which they kept closed and curtained.  Across from the front door and leading into a long hall way to the living room and the rear of the house was a multi-paned glass door.  It was through this door that my brother one day in one of our sliding in the hallway games slide and but his arm though and cut himself so badly we had to rush him to a hospital. As the living room, the kitchen spanned the width of the house, with windows on both sides and next to the window on the left was the community stair connecting from the garage below to the apartment of the owner above. Continuing to the rear of the house was the bathroom on the left and the pantry to the right, and then finally a spare room on the right and the bedroom shared by my brother and I on the left.  Both the spare and our bedroom had windows facing the backyard where below was the entrance to the garage where my father parked his car. Hunts Point Boulevard actually began at the end of Hunts Point at the East River port of Hunts Point and ended at southern boulevard and 163 Street. It had a cobblestone surface embedded with steel trolley tracks. Because I was so little, I remember it being huge and the way it bowed up in the center and was low at the curbs for sewer drainage. We walked this boulevard often to shop at the Simpson market, visit my grandma, or shop at the Hunts Point market on the steel bridge where there were a variety of shops, especially a cheese shop where my mother was served by a very handsome and kind gentleman. Also on Hunts Point Boulevard lived a little handicapped girl named Theresa from my class in public school. Also, my father’s accountant, Jimmy, lived in big apartment building next to the Wonder Bread factory. We would often stop at this factory late at night to buy fresh baked bread. We’d always smell the bread being baked every time we drove, trollied, or walked by. There were shops under the building along the way. Some were closed with their glass painted black. Faille Street began at a 45-degree angle off of Hunts Point Boulevard, having some shops and especially our corner grocery owned by Mr. Teitlebaum and across the street from him a corner candy store/luncheonette. It was in this store that I’d buy those sugar dots on paper and for a penny you could watch flip card movies by placing your eyes at a steel view finder and cranking the handle fast or slow as you wish to see a train with smoke coming out, Charlie chaplain running around, etc. When I was four and half Billy, Ralph and his brother, Johnny, took me every Saturday on the trolley to the YMCA. We’d transfer several times. The trolleys were painted red and yellow with wooden seats and brass bars to prevent falling. On other occasions, we’d hitch a ride on the back of the trolley holding on to the electric cable and spool. We’d ride from the swing park down to the end of trolley line, which was only several blocks east.  From that point on, hunts Point Boulevard ended because it was not paved.  Also, the rest of Hunts Point was industrial, with factories, military storage and auto repair. At the lower corner, there was an empty lot and a bush under which I dug a big hole and this place was my hiding place. There was an empty lot across from this on Faile Street next to the Italian family’s house. They built a hut there and I would go and eat and play there. This same Italian family’s house had a basement and I was invited there occasionally to watch the women cook in giant black vats. They were dressed in black dresses and black stockings. In the morning, they would walk along sidewalk green areas and pick up green growing leafy vegetables, which they used in their recipes. It was here that my love and passion for Italy was planted. I was well known to the old lady and her husband who owned the Italian store across from the cemetery. I could sense their loneliness for their homeland and they could sense my affection for their dialect, dress and food smells. They encouraged me to play with their goats, which prepared me well for my encounter with goats on the little bridges in Amsterdam 20 years later. As the neighbors on my street, she wore black dresses and stockings. Later when I visited Italy, the only time I saw such dresses was in the southern provinces of Positano, Pompeii, etc. I remember that when my father returned from the war he was in his uniform; and I did not immediately jump into his arms. My mother had to prompt me.  I depended a lot on my mother. My father understood. There was a fire, a big fire, on the next cross street.  A big warehouse garage building burned down.  I stood with others and watched it. In Saudi Arabia, there was a similar fire of a warehouse the next night after we moved in to Rahima. It was so similar to this fire. The building burned and we watched.  Little was done to put out the fire. I remember the size and mass of the blaze.  Eventually, firemen did come and being how it was the first time I’d seen a building on fire, it was an important event.

Drake Park

Drake Park

This neighborhood was filled with special features having great significance to me: ¨      A factory making pickled peppers; a pepper factory where we took a very hot pepper and ate it.  I thought I was going to die from the burning sensation in my mouth. I ran from factory to factory until some nice man gave me something sweet that put the fire out in my mouth. ¨      Lumberyard, with its pile of sawdust where we would go and play inside the sawdust mound – one day, the yardman found and chased us along with his very noisy dog. We never went back there. ¨

Cemetary in Drake Park

Cemetary in Drake Park

Drake Cemetery surrounded by a park with a giant tree in the middle: It was here that lightning struck a big oak tree and killed one of my friends. ¨      Abandoned hut with porcelain toilet and marbles ¨      Italian grocery with goats and lady with black dress and stockings ¨      Abandoned military trucks with searchlight trucks and tanks ¨      East River pier with big war and merchant ships where we could swim amongst human fishes.  This is a far cry from the cornice of Saudi Arabia and the Philippine beaches. ¨      Apple tree on neighbor’s property ¨     

Townhouses painted black with wooden stairs and wood and glass doors ¨      German family living on the next block ¨      Corner brick two-family house ¨      Auto repair junkyard ¨      Mission soda factory where Joe Nuzzi worked ¨      PS48 on a hill and the tallest structure as a landmark on my street ¨      The bush and hut at the end of the block ¨      The Italian family living across and down the street with their hut and cellar caldron kitchen ¨     

The block parties held on Faille Street during the war ¨      The swing park on the opposite corner ¨      The steep hill on which I scooted down with my red wagon ¨      The steep hill next to my house where we rode our sleighs and I broke my foot by stopping my ride with my left foot and where I had my foot broken by mischievous boys with a crow bar as I put my foot out to stop them from smashing something and where I saw myself as I was when I was older. ¨      The chicken factory where you could get fresh chickens by selecting the one you wanted, watch it get its head chopped off, and then for an extra five cents they would burn off the feathers. ¨      The many cross and lateral streets, which I would later discover connected to other neighborhoods and thoroughfares. ¨

My side of the street

My side of the street

I used my little red wagon to emulate the other boys who had made wagons out of wooden crates and iron skates and raced down the big hill by the school.  They had fitted brakes on their wagons but I did not and as the speed picked up, I realized I had no way of stopping. Through a miracle when I reached the bottom, my mother was at the bottom telling me to turn the wagon, which I did and on Faile Street, it slowed and finally stooped at the park benches. ¨      Another time I sled down the hill on the lot next to our house planning to break my run by crashing into the snow hill on the opposite side of the street when a car came and stopped there as I was coming down.  I had no choice but to put my right foot out to stop my run, which broke my leg.  My mother was very angry and yelled at a male neighbor for not preventing this from happening. The man said later that he did not feel it was his responsibility. My father, in one of his rare moments of anger, threatened a fight with the man to warn him to be a better neighbor. ¨      My broken leg kept me out of school for about eight weeks, at which time I listened to all the radio programs, ate, and got lovely cards and letters from my classmates and visits from them with toys and cards. Children came and visited me to see my cast, which was put on my whole leg.  Eventually they began to sign my cast and write nice sayings on my cast.  It was one of the nicest times in my entire childhood. ¨      Several months later, I was with some boys on the lot on top of the hill nest to my house and they were banging and breaking things in a fire and for some reason, I just wanted them to stop and go away. They refuse and I insisted. They still refused and as they were banging, I put my foot in the midst of the fire, thinking that would somehow make them stop the banging. Most stopped, except one who brought his stick crashing on my foot and broke it. Again, I was back in a cast and getting visitors.


My Faille Street fantasy

I dreamt of a village of brick one- and two-story houses and friendly people living in this small village. Later we were to see a village of similar size on the Mississippi.  I was tempted to open a bank account in the local bank to tie my memory to this village prototype. I met the current owner of this building while test driving a Lexus in Fort Myers. He was the salesman trying to sell me the car. Though most commonly identified as a center for food distribution and commercial activity, Hunts Point is also an area with a rich cultural and architectural history. Often overlooked by residents, employees and visitors, Hunts Points landmarks provide valuable clues to the community’s diverse historical background. Standing tall at the intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Tiffany Street, the Bronx Apparel Center serves as a monument to New York’s industrial past. Built in 1911, this mammoth brick structure once housed the American Bank Note Company. Serving as a mint for such countries as Mexico and Haiti, the Bank Note Company not only issued currency, but also printed travelers’ checks and lottery tickets. Today the building is home to the Bronx Apparel Center. With nearly 148,000 square feet of commercial space, the Apparel Center is host to a number of corporations, specializing in a diverse array of products and services from apparel and food to construction and security services.

Townhouses Adjacent to the Hunts Point Peninsula, the Longwood Historic District is another area of historical interest in the South Bronx. Situated on the opposite side of the Bruckner Expressway in the Longwood section of the Bronx, the Historic District is a community of elaborately embellished turn-of-the-century row houses. Built by architect Warren C. Dickerson between 1897 and 1901, these colorful two- and three-story houses have been designated landmarks by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. In an effort to restore their historic beauty, the Longwood Historic Society has initiated a plan to renovate the homes within the district. Today, these row houses serve as homes to many of Hunts Point’s employees.

There were houses built in this style on my block as well, and my father’s cousin lived on the street where many of these houses were. I once meet my future cousin, Dorothy, walking on this street.

Drake Park is laid out through the former estates of Barretto, Spofford, Dickey, Faile and Hoe, which were subdivisions of the earlier Leggett and Hunt lands of Revolutionary times. The street is named for the poet Joseph Rodman Drake, and this led to the naming of adjoining avenues for Halleck, Longfellow and Whittier. Joseph Rodman Drake was born in New York City on August 17, 1795, and died there on September 21, 1820.

In the midst of the concrete, steel and brick that dominate Hunts Point sits a patch of parkland that contrasts the area’s industrial flavor. Drake Park, located between Hunts Point and Oak Point avenues, is another reminder of the community’s history. Within the park is a small graveyard. Aged stone monuments mark the resting place of some of Hunts Point’s earliest settlers. Among those buried, there are Poet Joseph Rodman Drake and members of the Hunt family, who once framed the peninsula. This experience was just two years later and after my brother was born, my father was away at war, and, we had moved to Faile Street. The school building was on the very same block on which we lived, so I could walk to school without crossing the street. The classroom was large and the very first day, a little girl made friends with me.  Everyone was very nice in the room; the teacher taught us the normal things.

PS 48

PS 48

PS48 was the tallest building for miles and it was on a hill which made it “a lighthouse” to guide me home from wherever I would roam. It had a yard and whenever we had fire drills, we’d be led to the street behind the school to where there were really nice houses. It had a caged-in area on the roof where we would be taken to play.  There were bullies in this school who would gang up and threaten me. I only attended the school a short time, but never would forget the building, the adjacent hill and the park just across the street from the school. I remember when I broke my left foot from stopping my self against a car on a sleigh riding down the hill next to my house; my classmates signed cards and brought them to me. Wow, did that make me feel good. They came and sang for me and asked practically every day how I felt. It was the closest thing to a small town that I ever knew. I had tonsillitis and the doctor in the school was able to operate on me. After the operation, I was kept for a few hours in a bed in the school and given ice cream. I was a very happy person.

I found that it is associations that bigots and hypocrites find neutrality and are able to subordinate their pride and peculiarities for some mutually beneficial purpose. It could be an association of sports, politics, education, religion, entertainment, recreation and social. From the 15th century on, old French bigot meant, “an excessively devoted or hypocritical person.” Bigot is first recorded in English in 1598 with the sense “a superstitious hypocrite.” I have been in associations that flaunted their bigotry, calling it identity, peculiarity and distinction. The Yale Club comes to mind. Engineering societies tend to shun architects and architects shun engineers. But it is in the association where personal distinctives are kept at bay for the association’s stated aims and objectives. The same may be said for business and large companies, except I have found that most bigotry about spiritual and moral values is excused by trying to maintain a neutral place.

Cub Scouts

In 1943, when we lived on Faile Street, my father took me to my first meeting of the Cub Scouts in a gigantic mansion on a hill in our neighborhood. The significance of belonging to the scouts was the building and the children I met from nearby neighborhoods. I often recall this hill and this mansion being the place my father parked the car and we listened on the radio to Lionel Hampton and Ink Spots.

Boy Scouts In 1950, I bought the entire uniform in the Army and Navy store near Wishnas on Southern Boulevard. My mother was concerned that I was buying the uniform and that I wouldn’t wear and keep going to the meetings. Did I? I went to all the meetings, on hikes and even to their summer camp for three weeks. Milton recalls the times I took him to meetings where he agonized learning how to tie knots. In summer, I spent several weeks learning canoeing, which meant I tipped over my canoe and had to get back in again (I failed). I also learned how to keep warm when late at night you are sitting in your stark wooden cabin freezing (you hug some other boy and exchange body heart without becoming romantic); to take gigantic vitamin pills without keeping them in your mouth to melt and taste sour and awful; and how to become at one with every allergic growing thing on the planet. I learned to tie knots and remain an expert in this field to this day. I never went on to become an Eagle Scout, though, because I was rescued by my interest to work instead.

Trolley: (173 words)

The model of the trolley I rode in and upon since I can first remember. It was our primary means of public transpiration living on Faile and Spofford from the time I was four until nine. It was the trolley that took us to see grandma on Simpson Street and Ralph, Johnny, Billy and me to the YMCA way on the other side of the Bronx near Webster Avenue. We’d ride on the back holding onto the string. And on Saturday morning when we’d ride to the Y, I’d steer the trolley holding onto its controls that were dormant when the conductor was operating the trolley at the other end. I clanged the bell and rang the buzzer. The seats were cane and always shiny. We live real close to the last stop so we could watch the trolley turn. We knew when the trolley was coming because we saw it pass us and could see the conductor go into the bar at the end to take his break. Most of the time, we’d walk down Hunts Point Boulevard to see grandma because it was a great walk and we could save the money.

I am so grateful to Billy Parks for being my big brother and protecting me, and bringing joy and adventure into my life. Besides my father, Billy was my first hero and “good guy.” He was a typical urban Tom Sawyer whose non-reasoned use of the city kept him active and exploring. We were too young to relate as urban or rural, but when ever I think of Billy, rural comes to mind because other than the Y, the places he took me were rural, even if they were the junkyards and factories of Hunts Point. We explored and discovered. It could have been the Mississippi and Billy, Tom Sawyer. When I later read and saw the Tom Sawyer movies, I thought of my time with Billy.

The Nuzzi's Home adjacent to the park

The Nuzzi's Home adjacent to the park

The first Christmas tree I ever saw was at the Nuzzi’s home on Faile Street. On the radio and later black and white TV was the mass from the Vatican and in the kitchen was Jean Nuzzi cooking. I remember the first Christmas I did not even know what was happening, but my mother hung a felt stocking, which had a distinctive musty smell that I always felt singularly belonged to Christmas. She would hang them on the door and tell me to open it the next morning. I did, and I recall the thrill and hers when I would open my presents. Later, this custom was elaborated on when mom would take us to Alexander’s to see Santa Claus and he would give us presents. Christmas was always a special time for mom to give us presents. Later, when I grew up, I could not give my mother enough. We bought her grills, musical ballerinas and more. But it never was with the same joy and excitement as when she gave on Christmas. Because Aunt Shirley was a Christian and designed toys, visiting Aunt Shirley and receiving gifts from her and singing Christmas carols was very special.

Bronx Radio: (8,099 total words)

Radio is the ultimate one-way communicator. Someone talks nicely to me, whether it is Christian or secular, and, in whatever language. I have always kept a radio near by and listened. Now when I lay down to sleep, I listen to God and His message without the radio. But, when I’m in the car traveling, I listen to the news and commentary, preaching and teaching, and stories. Often it is the tone and steady chatter that appeals; while other times it is the familiar character and its mantra of persona whom I could worship and adore. Yes, I said worship and adore because that is exactly what it amounts to when you listen with rapt attention to the sounds of another soul. Rarely is it edifying and turning heart and soul to God. However, when it does, that radio is a blessing. Radio taught me to believe, imagine and perceive the “unseen.” With these gifts, I am able to receive the Holy Spirit. Later, while listening to late night TV, Charles Stanley taught me that the Bible was the word of God because so many in so many different times so testified and God’s words harmonized in the whole and detail of the Bible. In that same sermon, he likewise dispelled my overt anger at Jesus for Him to become my best friend as God come to earth to personally walk me toward eternity away from evil flesh. Christina and my father both learned to know God in a special because of the TV evangelism of Oral Roberts. The music, theatre, radio and television programs have portrayed public truth about who we were. The arts have been used to sell clothes, fashion, furniture, food and real estate; used to fight wars, establish family values, marriage and procreation. Radio especially reaffirms self and clan; context and life’s opportunities. Radio was also my urban connector in feeding me the mantras of urbanity and teaching me what it meant to be a city boy, cosmopolitan and urban. It combined music with drama and information with myth. It stimulated my intellect and my ability to imagine and picture what words and music were “saying.” I learned about the places and sounds and myths of the metropolis and was introduced to the heroes of the city.  These heroes included the sound effects men, actors, actresses, musicians, studio directors and bandleaders.  They were all my heroes. Of course, the characters in the programs were also urban heroes and I learned that a city isn’t complete without them. It is for that reason that I have meticulously listed their names, themes and sponsors below. As an intellect with a very vivid imagination, they were as much a part of my history and what shaped and filled my life as real family, neighbors, school chums, etc. Between the characters and places in radio, movies and records, my urban landscape was full and bubbly. I lived in media and balanced it with the experience on the streets, boulevards, subways, downtown, theaters and shops. Life was full and rich with personas so colorful and functional that the dysfunctionals of my own family were eclipsed and dimmed. I had friends and neighbors who were very pleasing and would let me focus on their good will, charm and stories of peace and kindness. The below are just a few of the key players of this period. Of course, I pictured all of them as living in the Bronx. Arthur Godfrey ranks as one of the important on-air stars of the first decade of American television. Indeed, prior to 1959, there was no bigger TV luminary than this freckle-faced, ukulele playing host/pitchman. It was from him that I ordered my first ukulele and sheet music. By listening to him, I learned to play. He demonstrated how to finger the chords and strum the strings. When I sang, I mimicked his style and voice tone. I learned to resonate the lower tones of my voice from him and Vaughn Monroe. Radio was my connection with downtown, intelligence and coherence. My soul identified, authenticated, and was built by what I heard on the radio. Radio and the characters with their dialogue spoiled me for the rest of the world because it became my standard. My early year favorite was Ethel and Albert, a program where a couple would talk to each other about life, neighbors and current events. In 1947, Marie Wilson starred in the radio sitcom, My Friend Irma. Throughout its radio run, in a 1952-54 television series and in two films, the new comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis was introduced. Wilson’s open, grinning face belied her age. Irma spoiled me for the rest of the girls that would follow. Duffy’s Tavern was a place on Third Avenue and 23rd Street in New York City, where the “elite meet to eat, Duffy ain’t here, Archie the manager speakin’…” Anyone who loved old time radio probably knows that phone patter by heart! Ed Gardner played Archie, the manager of Duffy’s Tavern, and he was as real sounding as any character on radio, as he had grown up in the Big Apple. His use and abuse of language was exemplary – the same type of local “parlese” that made The Damon Runyan Theater a favorite with New Yorkers everywhere. Gardner was a theatrical veteran, whose wife, Shirley Booth, the well-known stage and screen actress, began on the show with him. William Bendix, who played Riley, was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1906. The Life of Riley radio show starred the wonderful William Bendix and aired from 1944-1951(ABC, NBC). The airplane riveter with a heart of gold, Chester A. Riley got himself and his family into the funniest craziest misunderstandings. (Bendix ran a grocery store until the business failed. He was a batboy for the New York Giants and New York Yankees when he was a child. He saw Babe Ruth hit more than 100 home runs. He later played Babe Ruth in the 1948 movie, The Babe Ruth Story. Also, he was nominated in 1942 for best supporting actor in the movie Wake Island). He’d often say on the show, “What a revoltin’ development this is!” This show led into the television version that started in 1949 and ended in 1958. Numerous actors played the radio characters over the years, including Rosemary DeCamp (born November 14, 1910, in Prescott, Arizona), Peg Riley (Riley’s wife) and John Brown as Digby “Digger O’Dell (the undertaker). Digger’s Quotes “It is I, indeed, Digby O’Dell, the friendly undertaker.” “A new calendar, have a happy year.” “You’re looking fine, very natural.” “I’ve covered a lot of ground today.” Riley: “Take a few minutes out, stretch out some place.” Digger: “Oh, I don’t dare. You see, I have a nearsighted assistant.” “Cheerio, I’d better be shoveling off.” Life with Luigi Originating on radio as The Little Immigrant, Life with Luigi is the story of a gentle Italian and other immigrants from Germany and Scandinavia taking U.S. citizenship night school classes. Their new home is Chicago, and their heartwarming encounters with American ways makes this show as contemporary now as it was post WWII, or at any time in the 19th or 20th centuries. J. Carroll Naish, veteran character actor of stage and screen, makes Luigi Basco come to life in each and every show. He is a perfect Luigi! The cast is stellar. Hans Conreid is Schultz, a German with more of an upright and straightforward manner. Alan Reed is Pasquale, Luigi’s friend and sponsor who has already made a success of himself in America as a restaurateur. Jody Gilbert plays Pasquali’s chubby daughter, Rosa. Mary Shipp is Miss Spaulding, the teacher of the night class. Joe Forte is Horowitz, and Ken Peters is Olsen, Luigi’s classmates. Gil Straton is Jimmy, who is Luigi’s partner in a small antique business that Luigi has opened, as he grew up on the outskirts of Rome and has always loved the past and its glories. But his eyes were on the New World, and now, that New World is his own. Baby Snooks Baby Snooks came about through bad dentistry. Fanny Brice had had teeth problems for years, and before one particular radio rehearsal, her dentist let her come away without her dentures. Fanny was unable to speak properly. Frantic, the producer suddenly remembered a cute baby act Fanny would do at parties and in front of friends. It was the only thing she could do in her current condition. “What do you call her?” the producer cried. “Schnooks,” lisped Fanny. But she needed material – instantly. Rapp and David Freedman (his writing partner at the time) frantically searched the nearest bookcase and came up with an out-of-print (public domain) collection of sketches by Robert James Burdette titled Chimes From a Jester’s Bells. Finding a humorous piece about a kid and his uncle called “The Simple Story of George Washington,” the kid was switched to a girl, Rapp changed “Schnooks” to “Snooks,” and history was made. Fanny Brice was born on October 29, 1891, and found early fame starring in the Ziegfield Follies from 1911 to 1923. And it was on Ziegfield Follies of the Air (which Phil Rapp wrote and directed from 1936-37) that Baby Snooks took her first hilarious step. The Snooks sketches began as a regular feature in 1937 on the variety show Good News, and became the main attraction on Maxwell House Coffee Time in 1940. In 1944, the impish problem child began her own radio program, The Baby Snooks Show. The series dealt with the childish innocence and constant questioning from little baby Snooks, which clashed with considerable force against the long-suffering “Daddy,” first played by film actor Frank Morgan. Alan Reed next took over the adult role. But it is Hanley Stafford who is best remembered as Daddy, with his incredibly painful line readings of, “Oooooh……. Snooooooks!” Listening to the radio as a child on Home Street, I thought that when we’d return the program to which we were listening would resume and we would not miss anything.  I could not understand that it continued without us being there to listen.  Why would it continue? I believed entertainment was a means by which we focused on God’s peace, joy and righteousness, per Romans 14:17. The radio was always an anathema; on one hand, it extolled the myths and virtues of urbanism while itself providing relief from the infrastructure and woes involved in living in the city. It lifted the city off its stark reality and opened it up to another and more polite view of our darkest and dirtiest corners. I enjoyed listening to late night, up-all-night radio, just to leave it on as I went to sleep. As a child I’d listen to static, and tune into remote and hard-to-hear stations from far away.  I did the same thing in Saudi, listening to so many foreign stations from around the world. As a child on Simpson street, I enjoyed sounds and the din of the trains coming and going from the station, the sirens of the police and fire trucks, the sounds of people passing in front of our ground floor window, and, of course, the endless sound of traffic, no matter where we lived. Big Joe, whose theme song was “Somebody cares.” could be heard only on NYC radio from midnight until 2 a.m. weeknights. It was a call-in program. Most of his guests were chiropractors. I called in many times and listened often. Nobody that I knew listened to this program. And nobody I knew then nor now ever heard of him. I loved him! So who was “Big Joe” Rosenfeld(courtesy of Don Browne)? I was too young then to know all the details, but Don Browne writes that Big Joe’s Happiness Exchange was a time-brokered program that first appeared on WABC in 1959. David Fentress wrote that he may have read in a paperback book about him, entitled The Happiness Exchange, that he ran this street-front social services agency until one day a little old lady died and left him a million bucks in her will and he disappeared. Others say that The Happiness Exchange was funded by The Salvationists (the Salvation Army folks). I recall he’d been a big drinker and on the air in New Orleans before he came to NYC. David Fentress writes that “Big Joe” Rosenfeld (sometimes spelled Rosenfield) is one of those New York radio personalities who has been surrounded by a culture of mystery. The fact that he was usually heard after midnight in that radio “no man’s land” dedicated to time-brokered shows (as an alternative to “sign-off”) adds to his mystique. Said Fentress, “I personally listened to his unusual program on several occasions in the late ’50s/early ’60s. As a ‘radio person,’ the program was difficult to listen to. There was plenty of ‘dead air’ during which times the audio processing of the period (Gates Level-Devil and Sta-Level) would bring up the studio ‘room tone’ to a point where you could hear a creaking chair or paper rustling.” I just loved all that and would listen to him every night. Both my mother and father were out working and I was all alone with my brother. Big Joe hosted one of the first telephone talk shows in early New York City radio. But you only heard his side of the conversation, then dead air while he alone heard the caller speaking, then he would paraphrase the caller. Bob Donnelly, a transmitter engineer at WHBI (105.9 Mhz, Newark, NJ) in 1962, reported that Big Joe time-brokered at that station for a time, but originated the program by landline from his Manhattan (storefront) office. After that, Big Joe became a mythological radio figure. Here is Joe’s song, remembered by Donald S. Browne: “Somebody cares if your blue and ever little thing that you do, so believe me my friends in case you didn’t know it, somebody cares.” Big Joe had a “street name” that was the complete opposite of his actual size. Big Joe was diminutive in stature – about five feet tall without lifts. Perhaps the big referred to the size of his heart. The success of Big Joe’s Happiness Exchange on a New Orleans radio station, probably WNOE (1060 kHz), brought Big Joe’s brokered radio program to NYC. There were many urban legends about Big Joe during his long career on time-brokered NYC radio. One persistent story, that Big Joe’s Happiness Exchange was bequeathed a million dollars from the estate of a loyal female listener is absolutely true! In 1959, the Happiness Exchange received a bequest of 22,060 shares of General Motor’s stock, then worth $1,213,300, in the will of Mrs. May Rockwell Page of Bristol, CT, widow of a General Motors vice president. She had been a loyal Happiness Exchange listener on WMGM. I remember that Joe would always say: “Have no fear, Big Joe is here. I don’t wanna be rich, I can’t be good looking. All I wanna be is happy, and what do you want to be. You do, well good, until four o’clock in the morning, Let’s be happy together, because somebody cares.” “Somebody cares about you And every little thing that you might do Somebody cares if you sleep well at night If your dreams have gone wrong Or your day has gone right Somebody cares if you’re blue And worries ’til the sun comes shining thru Please believe me it’s so But in case you didn’t know Somebody cares.

My father’s name was Joe, which made listening to Joe even more attractive. Joe made urbanity a small family, He was the clear communicator, especially educating me about chiropractic, which my father depended upon to ease his back pain. What I learned about that profession still is with me today. In addition to NBC, the radio stations playing music were: ¨      WPAT (music only) in Patterson: Paul diSovino was the radio engineer, then he hired me in Hartford to be his voice on WLAE. 93.7 FM ¨      WMGM: Ted Brown and the Redhead in the AM WINS: “Listen to Lacy” ¨      WNEW: “William B. Williams”: Good evening world, this is William B. Williams.” Theme: “You are the One” ¨

WNEW (see Page 3) and re-established the “Make Believe Ballroom” at WABC on January 4, 1954. The pioneer DJ filled more than four hours, starting at 2:35 on weekdays and in morning and evening slots on Saturdays. ¨      Announcer Martin Block was the first radio disc jockey to become a star in his own right. Late in 1934, WNEW/New York hired Block, where he played music while the station awaited developments in the trial of accused kidnapper Bruno Richard Hauptmann. Block created the illusion that he was broadcasting from a ballroom with the nation’s top dance bands performing live. Block appropriated the name Make Believe Ballroom and the show was an instant hit. Make Believe Ballroom became so popular that when WNEW moved to a new studio on Fifth Avenue, they constructed a simulated ballroom – complete with chandelier and black linoleum – for Block’s broadcasts. Block left Make Believe Ballroom on January 1, 1954, to host The Martin Block Show for ABC Radio. Towards the end of his career, he was heard on WOR/New York. At the time, I was a drape hanger driving and one day under the Bronx EL Martin Block bemoaned the onslaught of the vulgarities and dissonance of rock. Of course, I agreed and sympathized with Block. One day he announced that his station, due to its ratings brought on by the alternates in taste and style, was taking Make Believe Ballroom off the air. I remember listening to the last broadcast as he played the songs and signed off for the last time. My heart broke. Martin Block died September 18, 1967. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988. Of course, I could think of nothing I’d like to do more than be a disc jockey. What I did not count on is that things change. It was devastating and important because my link to the future with all the values I cherished was failing, falling, and disintegrating and I was being abandoned to be alone and a ship at sea with an anchor. All my anchors were being abolished and with it my easy inclinations and intuition for career and potential applications of natural talent. Ethel And Albert, which was also titled The Private Lives Of Ethel And Albert, began life on American ABC radio (1944-1950), then transferred to TV (1953-56, first for NBC then CBS and finally ABC) before returning to radio as The Couple Next Door. The TV version starred Peg Lynch (also the series’ author) and Alan Bunce as the Arbuckles, who lived in Sandy Harbor. Before finding fame as a film actor, Richard Widmark played Albert when the series first aired on radio. One of the earliest forces for women in American radio and TV, Lynch, born in 1917, continued to perform Ethel And Albert scripts at U.S. universities up to the 1990s. Peg’s voice and the candor between the two presented conversation and communication between a married couple that I could not hear in my own home. It was revealing and demonstrated a functional relationship. Morey Amsterdam was an early face on television and my father said he grew up with Morey. It turns out that my father must have mistaken Morey for someone else. At the time, entertainers did not tell all the details of their background, so I assumed my father’s story was correct. A comedian and actor, Morey was born in Chicago on Dec. 14, 1908. The wisecracking television writer of the Dick Van Dyke Show started his career in vaudeville and on the nightclub circuit in the 1930s and made the move to television in the 1940s. Remembered for his corny jokes, Amsterdam also appeared on television’s Broadway Open House, Keep Talking and Hollywood Squares.

Simpson Street Elevated Train Station

Simpson Street Elevated Train Station

BronxTV Programs: (1,605 words)

(1,605  total words) ( 917 words text only)(688 words in three footnotes

All of TV was a kind of awesome experience for our family and friends. We believed that we would save money because “we won’t go out so much to the movies” and “we can see what our friends are seeing” and “everyone else that is anybody is getting one.” Seeing characters and personalities we grew up imagining on radio and experiencing the transformation from radio to movies or TV was like seeing gods. Seeing superman, the Lone Ranger, Jack Benny, Fred Allen and others was such a thrill. I can remember the theatres all competing by offering lower prices and air-conditioning and extra shows. I remember the stage shows that lured one and all to pack the theatres. You could not beat seeing your favorite personality in person.  Oh yes, there was then getting tickets and seeing live broadcasts. As we did with radio, so we did with TV. We saw Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason and others. Part of the excitement was starting to finally see some of our most beloved radio personalities in person, on TV. It was very odd.  In person on TV – real to see, but not actually there. Just like radio. To hear, but not to see. Somehow, the visual was more dramatic. When TV went from black and white to color, it was very dramatic and exciting. It seemed wonderful. Eventually, we fond watching TV to be an inexpensive pacifier while living in places where we needed inexpensive ways to pass the time as well and satisfy our need for entertainment and contact with the world we knew. This was particularly true in Puerto Rico and Saudia Arabia.

Bronx Comedy:( 2,990 words in text only)

(502 words in One Footnote)

Humor is a social confirmation of metaphors. Secular humor diverts us from our spiritual inclinations while allying us to our fleshly world. While humor is my favorite way of communicating, I am mindful that it diverts as James 4:9 says, Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. God encourages us to be sober in these perilous times – times where evil lurks in our midst. The urban persona avoids God by satire. In their rebellion, they attack rather than acknowledge sin. They are a hairline away from being evangelists, where the word of God exposes folly, vice and stupidity and man is led to eternal life. Rebellious souls attack and expose folly, vice and stupidity with irony, sarcasm or cosmetic wit to acknowledge and accept to lead to eternal death. This humor desensitizes and inhibits maturity and spiritual growth. Jesus says blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted and the truth shall set you free. He wants us to face ourselves with Him and let Him and His Holy Spirit transform and redeem us not to acknowledge and accept, laughing our way to eternal damnation. However, humor and comic relief works well in preaching and personal evangelism. It’s all in the timing and knowing when to shift and close with an altar call. A preacher named John Warneke is an expert in such humor. My contemporary and fellow Bronxite, Earl Carlin, does the same. He even is as blunt about it as I am. I attack human vice and folly through irony, derision and, hopefully, wit. Like comics, I hope to expose the folly, vice and stupidity. My art is satiric, in the tradition of The National Lampoon (between 1973 and 1974) and the Fire Sign Theatre. From the time I can remember, there were comics and humor. Most of their humor seemed so relevant and gauged for people like us. We listened to them on the radio, then on television and in the movies. There were the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Sid Caesar, Henny Youngman, Mort Saul, etc.  But those were the famous media-related comics. There were so many others that entertained at ShoreHaven and the hotels in the Adirondack Mountains and Yiddish Theater. Ed Sullivan had stand-up comics on once per week and the other variety shows on radio and TV also had stand-up comics. People liked to laugh. There was vaudeville and the comics that appeared on the stage shows at the Roxy, Radio City, the Strand, etc. They defined the culture and explained our urban dilemmas. They called our attention to the heart and passion of cross and multi-culturalism in the confines of our city. They gave our world a voice and characterized us. We could see ourselves, friends, children and parents in their humor, jokes and comedies. Most of the humor was about urban and common conditions such as marriage, relationships, driving, the police, army life, politics and political leaders, and our jobs. Other jokes were about life in the city and relations with neighbors and relatives. Many comedians made us aware of the clashes and farce of mixing cultures and the nonsense that conflicting behaviors present. People suffering from sometimes frustrating language, meaning, vocabulary and behavioral differences could only derive this kind of observation and presentation in urban contexts. There were lots of mother-in-law jokes and many jokes about wives’ cooking and husbands’ quirks. Fibber Magee and Molly, Archie, Ethel and Albert, My Friend Irma, and others poked fun at married life and how we say and do things that are ridiculous. The writers of these programs were comic writers and famous in their own right. TV’s Milton Berle did it all by totally making a fool out of himself every Tuesday night.  Martin and Lewis were latecomers, mostly seen in the movies. Feigned ignorance as irony in humor has prevailed much of my adult life. I am particularly alert to the incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs and will resort to the use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning. I will try to make a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning. Between sarcasm and irony, many around me find themselves off guard but favoring my compassion and concern. Irony and noticing ironic situations seems to have prevailed in my persona and self-expression. In his explanation of Ironic Detachment as an Escape from Routine, Christopher Lasch explains that anxious self-scrutiny not only serves to regulate information signaled to others and to interpret signals received; it also establishes an ironic distance from the deadly routine of daily life. On the one hand, the degradation of work makes skill and competence increasingly irrelevant to material success and thus encourages the presentation of the self as a commodity; on the other hand, it discourages commitment to the job and drives people, as the only alternative to boredom and despair, to view work with self-critical detachment. It is a way of framing the circumstance and thereby making is it a metaphor with oneself as the subject. When jobs consist of little more than meaningless motions, and when social routines, formerly dignified as ritual, degenerate into role playing, the worker – whether he toils on an assembly line or holds down a high-paying job in a large bureaucracy – seeks to escape from the resulting sense of inauthenticity by creating an ironic distance from his daily routine. I attempt to transform role playing into a symbolic elevation of daily life. I take refuge in jokes, mockery and cynicism. When I  go to a party, I  show by my actions that it’s all a game – false, artificial, insincere; a grotesque travesty of sociability. In this way, I attempt to make myself invulnerable to the pressures of the situation. By refusing to take seriously the routines I have to perform, I deny their capacity to injure. Although I assume that it is impossible to alter the iron limits imposed by society, a detached awareness of those limits seem to make them matter less. By demystifying daily life, I convey to myself and others the impression that I have risen beyond it, even as I go through the motions and do what is expected. I also read and find humor in books. When I attended public school, we were taught to read and appreciated books. One of the books we read for several years was The Good Earth. We found it funny that when, after the settlers stopped, prayed, and read the bible, they always ate porridge. It was reported with such clarify and simplicity. The predictability and mundane nature of the report and their diet seemed funny to us little children. Other favorites on the screen were Charlie Chaplin, Marx Brothers, Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Edgar Bergen, Martin and Lewis, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar, Gene Wilder, Zero Mostel, Jackie Mason, etc. Broadway shows and music of the time included New York, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. All urban jazz taught us the virtues of urbanity. They lamented, personified, portrayed, pictured, and overlayed the sticks and stones with emotion, color, tone, attitude and personality. They personified the cosmopolitan urban mind. It was the content and subject of their humor. They would observe and reveal our obvious behaviors and help us see them and agree by our laughter that our behavior was at variance with good sense and logic. It was always hilarious. The key to their success was their writers for the material and the timing of their delivery of the material. Some of them dared to point out the absurdity and bedlam of our choices to perpetrate urbanity and its inevitable pitfalls. I was able to see parallels to our home life and my parent’s situation. I realized that my parents were preparing me for the foul play and farce of much of life’s challenges. The late ’50s and early ’60s brought the humor of Henry Morgan, Lenny Bruce and Nat Hentoff. Lenny was a metaphysical philosopher whose method of expressions defied the first amendment and got him ruled off limits, so ruining his career. Others and I enjoyed his insights and revelations, but not his use of vulgar language. It was this language that caused the problems. In December 2003, the governor of New York pardoned Lenny Bruce, who died at age 37 so many years before. I have come up with a number of humorous and occasionally funny lines, such as: I only smoke when I’m burning. The real world – where nothing makes sense like nonsense. My own experience with using Indian and Pakistani vocabulary and accents mirrors those of the actor and comedian Peter Sellers. In so doing, I gained an identity and manner that is comfortable and clear. In this guise and accent, I use such expressions as “very terrible,” “namis de,” etc. I also find it very easy to wag my head in compliance and acceptance during a conversation.

Loew's Paradise Movie Theatre on the Grand Concourse

Loews's Paradise Movie Theater on the Grand Concourse

Look of the Endtimes by Barie Fez-Barringten

Look of the Endtimes by Barie Fez-Barringten

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“The Urban Metropolitan City” (text with images)

by

Barie Fez-Barringten

http://www.bariefez-barringten.com

When I was less than four even before moving to the South Bronx’s Hunts Point,
I’d explore the coal filled cellars and especially the underground grease pits
below the street’s parking garage which were accessible from our Home Street apartment building.
It was in this apartment I heard Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” “broadcast;and, nightly the
roar of overhead planes policed the Bronx skies. Beams of lights searched the skies and
illuminated our planes and I’d go out to the stairs before our apartment and greet the air
raid warden. He and I got to be buddies and he’d let me try on his helmet. A year or two
later, in my pajamas, and long before dawn I’d open the door to our two-family Faille
Street house on the last street before industrial Hunts Point. I’d put my bare foot onto the
red brick steps to descend to the glittering cement side walk. This was my first urban act
when I touched the city and I could feel it under my feet.

My house on Faile Street

One morning I’d go into one street and the next I would go the other direction circling the
block and seeing every detail that could be seen by the lamp lights on our dimly lit street.
In the day, with my few and chosen older-best-friends Billy and Ralph I would explore
the factories, abandoned huts, Drake Park’s graveyard, shacks inside sawdust piles, and
those now warehoused WW2 searchlights, tanks and Jeeps.

One day we found a barrel and I ate a hot pickle which seemed to burn within my whole body, I felt like I was going to die, and ran to every factory till one kind worker gave me some sugar to relieve my
suffering.

Five years later, we moved to a tenement in the Morrisania Fort Apache neighborhood
where I continued my practice of exploring the urban streets to discover sewers, cellars,
iron guardrails, and the alleys behind buildings. My explorations were solo missions and
since our block was very long there were many building stoops, cellar stairs, tunnels,
alleys, and secret storage rooms I could enter and explore.
When, that was not enough I’d explore the roof tops, fire escapes and chimneys; all that without crossing the street or leaving my block. These were the earliest manifestations of my urban passion.
Music and urban ethnic diversity was supplied by my Mediterranean grandmother (from
Rhodes) as she taught me how to dance to her Greek music played on her manual wind-up
Victrola. I also had Italian, European, Black, and Puerto Rican best friends from whom I
learned many colloquial, food and customs so that when we later lived in Puerto Rico,
Saudi Arabia, European, and Asian cities, I was right at home.

In the same way, before I was ten, when I stuttered and stammered; and after my father
had bought me a phonograph, I bought records with my allowance money which I’d play
and then write and memorize the words of all the songs.

It was the day of radio, so I likewise memorized the soapbox, serial jingles and program introduction’ classical musical themes and words. It was in this way that I learned to read and write and soon I
was able to overcome my stuttering by reciting what I had memorized. I learned to first
picture my words and then read them aloud when I sang or spoke. I also could not tie my
shoelaces until an older blind girl taught me.

I knew I was emotionally compelled to make these urban explorations because no human
being was whispering in my ear. All of these explorations were coupled with my building
miniature rooms in the sun parlor of our Hunts Point house. I built them out of cardboard
boxes, orange crates, and egg boxes from the corner grocery.
The roof was made out of rope and spare blankets my Mom permitted me to use. Later, in
the tenement on Simpson Street, I’d build miniature stages and scenery out of “Marcel”
tissue boxes and exhibit them on our oriental curio cabinet. A cabinet, which we inherited
from my grandmother. This was all my idea of playing and exploring.
As I matured, I found that I had a plethora of visual and graphic vocabulary, which now
needed explanations. I did not stop asking adults at school or on the streets about
each and every detail. So were the seeds planted of my passion for the city and its’ bits
and pieces.

About 45 years later, I shared this story with my Turkish friend, a professor and
colleague at King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia. After which he explained how these
experiences, made me an extraordinary architect. He said that I was “called” to be an
urban architect, and that this calling made me very passionate about my profession which was
becoming very real. He said this was very rare and lucky for me for my whole life.
Indeed, he was correct, because as I matured it seems that the only jobs and hobbies I had
revolved around urban buildings, streets, interiors, furniture and decoration.
At twelve, I became a store helper, boy salesman, and later made cornices and hung
drapes in thousands of apartments in hundreds of neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn
and the emerging suburbs of both Long Island and Westchester County. I even hung
drapes in Manhattan’s richest luxury apartments such as the multi-story apartments on
Fifth Ave and the owner of the new credit card company called the “Diners Club” on
Central Park South off of Columbus Circle. Even in this, I was passionate and got paid top dollar at one dollar
per foot. With what I earned from this job I was able to pay my tuition and fare to travel
Europe and other American cities.

While I attended college, I worked full time during one summer as a Good Humor man
and also for my father, who owned a limousine rental business. I drove his limousine
where I again was able to memorize the many streets, traffic patterns and neighborhoods
of the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. Other urban jobs included delivering newspapers
into tenement buildings.
I still was asking questions and getting few answers until I became a student at New York
School of Interior Design. My grades went from high schools “just barely passing” to
straight “A’s” in all subjects. My vocabulary was expanding and my hungry heart could
not fully describe what I was seeing and doing.

I over-achieved on every assignment and was going to every museum, and reading every
book on every fabric, porcelain, carpet, furniture and doorknob.
I knew then I needed more to satisfy my passion so I requested the name of the best
school with the smartest and most knowledgeable teachers, ones who would really know
the answers to my hundreds of questions.
One teacher told me that “Pratt” was the best. When I applied, I was scoffed at because of
my dismal public and high school grades. They sent me to a local junior college where
some special teacher came up with a solution and appealed to the Pratt registrar, who
agreed that if I could get great grades at Columbia’s School of General Studies they
would admit me. Surely, they thought that was the end of me. Well, not only did I get
great grades but also I savored my courses in sociology, behavioral psychology, and
especially Art History.

The Art History class culminated in a lecture commemorating the Christmas holidays
showing stunning slides of the Vatican and St. Peters’. Ten years later when the train
pulled into the Rome train station I stood gazing out of the window at the front of the car
as I had done for years with my uncle David in New York subways. Only this time to see
the Rome station getting larger and larger. When the train stopped and chills over my
body subsided and after stashing my suitcase in a locker, (I) made my way to St Peters’.
My every fantasy came true as I saw the over-scaled marble floors, gigantic Baldacchino,
great Bernini statues, and Michael Angelo’s sculptures. It is from this experience and my
fascination with Giovanni Batista Piranesi’s surreal romantic 16 prints of “Imaginary
Prisons” that I urged myself to draw pen and inks of the variations in scale and contexts
for my “midnight in the oasis” fantasy collection.

I also attended New York City’s Hunter College for Physics, so all of my studies also
took me to the very best urban schools where I could additionally experience more urban
culture. Before I was to leave New York City in 1973 at the age of thirty six, I had been
immersed in urban economics, politics, and government; I was street and office savvy
and knew the ins and outs of education and institutions. I definitely had an urban attitude
and multiple urban identities evolved from the street, school, culture, institutions,
business and professional practice.I had even founded a New York not-for-profit corporation and tried to raise funds,write proposals and run programs.

Disciplined Passion
Through Pratt, my urban passion compelled me to befriend my Contemporary Theories
professor, Gerald Popiel, who had been a writer in England for the Voice of America and
was a member of the Polish intelligentsia. He mentored me in urbanity, “urbaness”, and
the significance of cities, civilization, and architecture. At the same time, I read Ayn
Rand, and most of the great books under the guide of Mr. Fjelde, my great books teacher.
I was blessed to have the Hollywood actor John McGiver as my high school English
teacher who taught me to read and appreciate Shakespeare and off-Broadway theater. I
myself acted in the Pratt play shop and romanced a gifted artist, poet, and intellect named
“Barbara Allen”.

The Elevated Tracks turn.

With the encouragement of New York’s most famous radio disc jockey, Ted Brown, and
his wife, I became a radio announcer and when they divorced, we had extravagant “la
dolce vita” “parties and good times in the streets and theaters. She was my first interior
design client and I not only hung all the drapes in their former residence but also now
furnished her new house. At the opening of the movie, “Never on Sunday”, she,her
actor friends and I sang and danced in the isles.

During the height of the sixties my Cousin Louis Abolofia and Christina’s close friend,
Max Waldman, ushered us through the most artistic, fantastic theater and “happenings” in
Manhattan. Max’s’ work finally wound up in the New York’s Museum of Modern Art,
(MOMA) exhibiting his photographs of actors, opera singers, and ballet dancers.
At Pratt, I found the school’s radio station and when I later studied architecture at Yale, I
worked at night as a broadcaster at a Waterbury radio station. The owner of the station
was none other than the chief engineer for the then famous all music station, WPAT, in
Paterson, New Jersey. With the encouragement of Dean Charles Moore; I created a
lecture series called “Architecture the Making of Metaphors”, which had many of the
period’s most creative urban architects and scholars including Robert Venturi, John Cage,
and Christopher Tunnard.

The architectural historian, Vincent Scully was my Yale student- adviser and I got to
know New Haven’s Mayor Richard Lee over many personal conversations about this
wonderful program of planning and selecting the world’s best architects for many
buildings in his city. We also discussed the “black” riots. All of these people contributed to
adding discipline and content to my urban passion. During this time the extraordinarily talented,
former Designs for Business supervisor and now one of my best friends visited. I even
invited my former Pratt professor, then screen writer and Chef Editor of Progressive
Architecture magazine, and author of many children’s books about architecture. He came to New
Haven to present his ideas about metaphors at my lecture series.
I wasn’t the only member of my family with a passion for urbanism. During this same
time, my cousin Owen, who was working as a clerk for Thrurgood Marshal went to Watts
to mitigate the rioters while other rioters marched right past our Orchard Street window
in New Haven. Today, after serving as vice dean at Yale law school and occupying one
of its prestigious chairs, Owen’s law text book is widely used in law schools and he
advised Eritrea about its constitution.

We traveled with very short notice. For example, our trip to the western states from
College Station was arranged and planned in twenty-four hours. We did this when I heard the
temperature forecast would reach 104 degrees. We used this as an excuse to go to the
mountains of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
But, neither Christina nor I were traveling to be adventurous or part of a class of people. We were caught up in the opportunity to change environments, habitats, venues, and contexts and decided that to do
so was healthy and worth while. Such an attitude kept our passport always in order and
our minds unglued from our current context. What ever it was in prior years. I had
detailed hand-lettered text describing each and every city that I visited. I wrote them in carbon
copy letters.

One of my father’s clients was so impressed with my efforts she sponsored my writing by
giving me several thousand dollars toward the publication of the book.
The book I lettered is filled with descriptions and characterizations of the feeling and
ambiance of each city. I was struck by the way the scale, building form, and volumes
made the streets and the experience of the city aesthetic, beautiful, and exciting.
In this way, my life has been a kind of prototype or model of an urban person. Perhaps I did
more than most and what I did exaggerated the diversity of an urban person.
I found that, as each person was unique each place had its own identity and character.
I remember many details of buildings and streets, but I also recall some special events
and people, which still linger in my mind. For example, because there were no other
available pensions, the city of Dubrovnik’s tourist bureau assigned me to a girl’s
dormitory for my entire stay. One of its residents told me that because of the care for her
and the people, President Tito was like her father.

Additionally, I spent an entire day with a young female gypsy who welcomed me into her
family camp. They only visited cites and urban areas but preferred to live in clusters and
had no agreements with any one or another nation. Later, in Saudi Arabia, I was to meet
Bedouins with similar points of view. In fact, many urbanized Saudis still prefer their
own tribes to any allegiance to a city or the kingdom.

Both the gypsy and Bedouin are inherently anti-urban. Yet they both work and live well
in dense groups. However when they live in cities, the Saudis surround there house’ with
walls while the Bedouins keep their tents separated and shielded with hanging carpets.
I enjoyed many of Italy’s formerly royal and natural cities including the one month I
spent in Florence filled with many adventures including the welcome surprise of meeting
a former Pratt classmate on the other side of the Ponte Veccio, by the time I left, I felt
like I personally knew the Medici family, Machiavelli, and Michelangelo. In Milan, I
welcomed architect Geo Pontes’ kindness and hospitality. But nothing could compare to
my hostess and her Capri pension with its view over the Mediterranean, where I entered
the glowing Blue Grotto and the mountain high flight of stairs I had to ascend to come
home. In Salerno, my pension’s hostess, who when we met was pleased to meet and
accommodate an American who she happily called a gangster. This characterization became my Salerno
nickname. Her charm made me overlook her presumptuous generalizations. Perhaps that
explains why the neighboring towns-people were so extra-welcoming.

In Italy, I enjoyed eating spaghetti every day while enjoying the plazas and campaniles of
so many cities and villages including a cafe rendezvous with an American female
stranger in Verona. In these circumstances, I pictured people like the character played by
Deborah Kerr in the 1957 David Lean movie with Cary Grant called An Affair to
Remember.

In Paris, on the French Independence Day (Bastille Day) I drove in an the open-top car down the Champs ‘Elise while we shot guns into the air. My first visit to the Montmarte and the Moulin Rouge in Paris led me down all its mysterious and tantalizing streets until I met a high school buddy, Frank Bozzo and together we visited thje palaces of Fontainebleau, Versailles, and the Blois Valley. My sketches of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and San Marco in Venice looked like the commercial picture postcards being sold around the world and expressing my love affair with cities.

Like the actor, Gene Kelly in an “American in Paris” , my urban passion combined with
my romantic-mind as when I guided a young Danish girl though her own city of
Copenhagen. She finally told me that I knew her city better than the natives.
I also enjoyed professional ballroom dancers and lantern shows in Tivoli Gardens. And,
in Milan, I had a backstage view of a performance at La Scalla, followed by a cup of
coffee with Van Clyburn, in a café, in the nearby Galleria.
Nothing was more urban than a chance meeting followed by a brief but platonic romance
with a female student in Toledo. Packing a picnic lunch, she took me up a small mountain
overlooking her city for me to draw while she sang:” coo co ru co coo” and when I we
reviewed my completed sketches and noted their familiar appearance she coyly told
me that we were sitting on the very spot where El Greco sat when he painted
“Views of Toledo”. I had many other spectacular experiences in Spain including a scalper
selling bullfight tickets in Madrid and the one week I ran with the bulls in Pamplona
during the festival of St. Fermin.

On a ship to Holland, I met another like-minded world traveler, this time from Lapland
with whom I went to East Germany; who assured me that if she were to marry, her
communist father world probably kill us both.

In contrast, and on another ship, I met Dutch Henny d’Munch who zealously took me
back to stay with her parents in the world’s windmill capital of KinderDyke. Since
growing up in New Amsterdam, now New York, I always had a great affection for
everything Dutch.

It seems that as a traveling bachelor I was able to meet many lovely ladies including the
daughter of a British couple in Vienna, who invited me to entertain their daughter since
we all shared a pension in the outer ring. In our tours, the Englishman taught me a great
deal about the Roman’s settlement of this and many other European cities. I partially
enjoyed seeing Vienna before it was later covered up, remodeled, and modernized.

Europe had its many special and peculiar customs, which first hit me when in
Luxembourg, the first time I slept in a down bed and after awaking the next morning visited a bakery and for breakfast ate a whole apple pie. I didn’t know what else to ask for so I just
pointed. Of course, in every city I ever visited, I never could pass a church and I built my
vocabulary of these buildings including noticing the details of fountains, statues,
minarets, pediments, and building’s decorative features.

I particularly relished meeting and talking to old ladies, gentleman, and priests who could
lovingly tell me of each detail of their neighborhood. Between these conversations and
the ones on trains between one and another city, I learned the vocabulary of many
languages. Horay for the famous “Euroail Pass”, But nothing more defined my urban
prowess than the time I left my sunglasses in a restaurant at the top on the village
mountain of old Niece and then was able to meander back up, find the place, and get my
glasses.

This part of Niece was built on a mountain and had a myriad of side and winding streets,
which crossed and intersected. But most of the Mediterranean cites streets skirted the
hilly terrain. even the spectacular Amalphi with its back walks, water falls and
breathtaking views. It is here in the adjacent city of Positano that the German composer,
Wagner wrote “the ring”.

In England, I met Christine Keeler at the House of Lords and saw her fate being disputed,
while I drew a very detailed sketch of the House of Lords. In 1963, the Conservative
Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, suddenly resigned as an indirect result of the Profumo
scandal involving Christine Keeler. Of course, England has other great cities where I had
exciting adventures including Oxford; where I spent the night roaming the streets with
Oscar Brown Junior after his outrageous performance of “Wam Bam, Thank You Mam”.
However, nothing beats the English breakfasts lavished upon me by the Themes inn-keeper’s wife. Like most big old cities, London has a large number of distinctly different neighborhoods resulting from waves of migration, development, and trade over a long period of time. At that time, I particularly enjoyed
visiting Soho before it was made popular by the creation of the mini skirts and the
Beatles. In London, I drew St. Paul Cathedral and every different town-house building
type. I particularly enjoyed the elegant and stately townhouses facing elegant parks. You
know the ones you see in Sherlock Holmes’ movies.

On a train from Amsterdam, I teamed up with three Jewish boys, who as art students
were going to Arles to discover the source of Van Gogh’s genius. They proudly showed
me the numbers on their arms, which proclaimed their identity. After one week, they
announced that the place had nothing infectious nor contagious that would have emanated
to them or the great artist.

This observation about this small and ancient city was a profound comment about the
difference between urbanism, cities, and opportunities they afford the individual. Yet
there are cites where great art movements have thrived. Some say that urbanism begets the movement called Liberalism ,or is it vice versa.

In Hamburg, while traveling as a bachelor, I met a religious man and philosophized about
our place in the world. I also saw women displayed in store windows on the notorious
Raperbahn. Also, in Germany, with my wife on New Years Eve in Berchdesgarten, a
man’s wrist had been cut open by a bottle in which he had inserted and exploded a flare
to add to the fire work festivities. The women accompanying him called me in and I
immediately lifted his arm, told the women to call the Green Crescent, put a Tourniquet
on his lower arm, sat him down and gave him lots of water to drink.

The whole crowd were German tourist their for the holidays who had been many times to this place and
because we were new and outsiders they had given us the silent treatment. Well, the next
morning and at every meal thereafter we were treated like honored guests and in the most
loving way. Of course, the Green Crescent was very pleased and commended me on my
correct treatment, and the man’s life and arm were saved. There was a little four year old
girl with blond curls and blue eyes that they would send over to our table to greet and
give us a lovely little kiss. She was so precious.

Before and after I attended Columbia’s classes in behavior psychology and perception by
Dr. Hefferline and Pratt’s, Ara Ignatius little about cities escaped my attention.
So much so, that on one four month trip visiting seventy-two cities all I did was pen and drawings
of most every thing I saw, I took no photographs. I thrived on perceiving and recalling
the images, building a vocabulary of vignettes, fountains, statues, plazas, pavement,
marbles, porcelain, gold leaf, embroidery, silks, stained glass, and columns.
I saw the figure of Mercury attached to building’s corners in Leipzig, gargoyles on New
York and Paris buildings, water gushing onto fountains on the sides of buildings and in
the middle of backyard plazas in Italy, Spain, and practically every European city.
I saw the spaces, shades, and shadows cast by the volumes. I drew the relationships
between the buildings and the buildings that define plazas, campanile, walkways, and
gutters.

I cultivated this skill on both the streets of the city and the many long rides I made on the
New York subway. I’d continuously sketch the people, car, and platform details.
Especially impressive, was the easy walk from the center of cities like Florence to its
gardens in Fiesole. And, the easy walks in Capri and Ana Capri built by Mussolini filled
with walks and benches with spectacular views; and, the short trip from Vienna to
Grinsing. In their way, they were similar to Rye, Palisades, Orchard Beach, Long Beach,
Brighton, and Coney Island, where I noticed the architecture and colors of the mid-east.
In every city all over Europe, there are the cafes; especially memorable are the open cafes
in the Italian central plazas and the elegant cafés in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany.
For example, Vienna’s coffee houses of Sacher and Zurich’s Springli and, others to zip coffee
while a man plays a zither. And, after the closing the inner ring to traffic at Vienna’s St.
Stephan’s square we also enjoy imbis (snack shops); operettas; pensions, and small hotels
including a night’s stay in our friends beautiful in-city villa and wine tasting in the
evenings the in nearby Grinsing suburb. Vienna is a wonderful place to window-shop in
any weather including the rain. One always goes by foot to shop for food, dine out, or
perform some business. I always enjoyed hunting and discovering the personal and
artistic place in any city I lived or visited.

Even in Manhattan, one block from my bachelor apartment I found a small Hungarian
restaurant with burgundy colored velvet wall paper where a violinist serenades the tables. What a
great place it was to bring some one special. But nothing was more spectacular than being
entertained by a gypsy group of fifteen or so violinist in the city of Budapest.
In many old cities, which thrived long before the auto, but had admitted vehicular traffic
they decided to again accommodate the pedestrian and close their streets to automobile
traffic. They were the ultimate in co-dependence.

In Munich, we were able to see such an undertaking from the “underground up” when we
visited Munich to make a report to the Mayor of the city of New York about the many
things Germany was doing to improve its urban centers.

One such visit was a complete inspection where I photographed the underground
construction of the Munich subways and the world famous architect Frei Otto’s Olympic
Stadiums. We walked the tunnels and the newly constructed shells for the stations. The
architects and engineers toured us through their offices and reviewed their plans to
describe the details on how they were shoring up all the old existing building on the street
level. Later we were to use the underground subway shopping malls when we lived in
Kitsbuhel and made shopping trips to Munich. Ultimately, the entire central business
district in side the old wall called “Marian Platz” and its connecting network of sidestreets
was closed to traffic and became a pedestrian boulevard, wide and free for vendors,
individuals and groups to meander and stroll. I recall a chill winters day when I stood
under a cover of a shed serving “Grog” in a sub-freezing winter blizzard while my wife
looked down upon me from the second floor optometrist office she was visiting. She
could see the smoke being emitted out of the hut’s chimney filling the cold winter air
while the fumes of heated cinnamon and rum filled my senses.

The occasion of the Olympics gave the city of Munich the chance to build a complex
public transportation system connecting the Olympic complex and all the city suburbs
with this mass transit. We particularly enjoyed seeing the very modern design of the
stadiums, dormitories and support building that comprised this Olympic Village. It was a
good example of a quasi-government and private enterprise to synthesize a combined
urban renovation, urban cluster, and mass transit system. The organization, agreements,
and management of programming, contracting, and planning of all this was in itself a
demonstration of Europe’s version of “new urbanism”, except this took place in about
1971.

In Leipzig, I particularly enjoyed photographing the largest terminal railway station in
Europe, Leipzig’s “Hauptbahnhof”, Europe’s largest. I admired the steel and glass long
span beams and many rail tracks and trains. Likewise, the Budapest station and the many
other stations I traveled. The Budapest Station was particularly authentic and urban; it still
had the turn of the century decorations and had not yet been cleaned and scrubbed from
the last one hundred years of use. Like Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina 1940’s movie version starring Greta Garbo, steam billowed from old locomotives as they came and went in the covered Paxton-like green
house-like steel and glass enclosure.


Urbanizing and urban acculturation is a matter of making connections when one city is
linked to another; where one place conveys the memory to another. I call these transfers
metaphors, as they not only link each other but “Space, Time, and Architecture”: “The
Growth of a New Tradition”, the title of a great modern book written by Siegfried
Giedion. Giedion was born in Prague in 1888, and died in Zurich in 1968, and was a
Bohemia-born Swiss historian and critic of architecture.


His ideas and books, “Space Time and Architecture”, and “Mechanization Takes
Command”
, had an important conceptual influence on the members of the “Independent
Group at the Institute of Contemporary Arts” in the 1950’s era. He has also taught at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, where he became
chairman of the graduate school of design. MIT’s school of architecture was the first in
the United States and the American Institute of Architects claims to have had something
to do with its founding.

When Alfred Roth hosted us at the University of Zurich, we were not only aware of
Roth’s own architectural achievements, his world class Mondrian collection, but also the
role of the school in furthering urban thinking. As the Bauhaus in Deseau, Germany
housed the foundation of modern architecture, so did Zurich and Giedion for urbanism.
In Zurich, we enjoyed the Sprungli Cafe on bahn Hofstr for chocolate cake and coffee.
We often slept in an inner city hotel and on a street with great sausages sold on an open
cart. Christina likened this city to the way she remembers Leipzig before the war because
of its size, design of buildings, commercial development, and scale.


At the airport, you can both board the train to Kitsbuhel, or take the shuttle into town. The
Zurich airport is a terminal for both its inter-city railroad and inner city shuttle trains. It
was so convenient to fly from Khobar to Zurich and spend a few days before taking a six hour
mini- “cho-cho” train rides to Kitzbuhel. The Airport has a shuttle, which takes you to the inner city in a jiffy.


The muti-level terminal also has lockers and showers and I often left our bags at the station, and with a small overnight bag walked across the bridge over Lake Zurich seeing many white swans as I made my way to our special little hotel.

Because musical culture celebrates urbanity, I enjoyed the small cameo opera theaters in
Italy’s villages such as Lucca and Sienna where I saw performances played in the same
costumes and same theaters as when composers such as Puccini first played their musical
stories about the pomp, pageantry, and vulgarity of cities and the people that rule. I think they saw the politics of urbanity more than most.

Such theaters were intimate, smelly, and seated less than 150 people. Often the audience would
sing or hum along with the players and converse with the players as they recited or sang
their well known lines. It was the predictability, familiarity, and social aspects of the
gathering that the audience came to see. Each of the players was well known, as were the
members of the crowd that gathered. Once again, it was like a café, plaza, or boulevard
where one came to “see” and “be seen”, it was co-dependence in mass.

I had no less joy for the Franz Lehar operettas in Vienna. These quality events hearken
me back to the breathtaking performances I enjoyed at New York’s “Radio City”
especially Ravel’s Bolero and the Nutcracker preformed at the “City Center” during
Christmas. My childhood in New York was filled with stage shows and big screen
movies at the Rialto, Strand, and Paramount theaters.

These were inevitably coupled with spending pennies in the penny arcades on forty
second street, which were filled with Ripley’s “Believe-it-or-not” , pin-ball, shooting, and
fortune teller scoping machines. On Faile Street, my favorite was the peep show card
flick for a penny, which stood in front of the corner candy store and ice cream parlor.

As for recreation, in Amsterdam, I savored the hundreds of doors, door hardware and
steps, which articulated one from another building and the 700 plus parks designed and
built between 1947 and 1986 by architect Aldo van Eyck. The parks and the way they
integrate into the neighborhoods of the city’s surroundings well befits the superb canal
area downtown. As I had in the yard of the little Italian general store across from Drake’s
Park in Hunt’s Point, I enjoyed playing with the goats on one of the canal bridges.


My urban passion was able to make metaphoric connections between perceptions to make
the strange seem familiar. Not only details, but also whole plans would mentally transfer
and enhance my urban understandings. It is no wonder that I was fascinated with the very
essence and application of the metaphor. Like urbanism, the metaphor was universal,
synaptic, and instrumental to my maturity.

In the Philippines, we would visit the hotels in the evening, including the gargantuan and
opulent Shangri-La hotel. Adjacent to the lobby was a very large lounge where musicians
would play while the most well dressed beautiful young ladies served drinks and
refreshments. In the evening a marvelous elderly gentlemen in a very well designed suit
would sit and chat with visitors like myself who would find him conversing with the
waitresses. He would play a remote control hand held electronic musical organ, which
electronically signaled the house speakers. He was the anchor of the room giving it, its
style and panache, like the old men I had talked to on Los Ramblas in Barcelona, I too
asked him why he was doing all this and he said it is “his life”. That’s urban!
In South Africa’s Johannesburg called Jo’burg I visited SOWETO (South Western
Townships) and the homes of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Mandela’s was filled
with books containing thousands of letters from universities throughout the world
awarding him honorary doctorates and commendations.

In SOWETO, I visited a lady in a restaurant and the homes of several people in the
villages, such visits were reminiscent of my visits to the gravity built shacks in Puerto
Rico’s La Pearla.
My Saudi Arabia colleague and I ate well at various restaurants in Sandton’s
Mark’s Plaza (now named Nelson Mandela Square) district and resided at the Intercontinental Hotel. This was another synthetic urban cluster built away from the dangerous big city of Jo’burg. A female Africana agent was our guest at a Greek restaurant in Marks Plaza where they played Greek, and Arabic
music while we ate and broke plates. Breaking plates while dancing to Greek music was a
custom my grandmother never taught me.

The name Sandton comes from the combination of two suburbs, Sandown and Bryanston,
both of which were places in the United Kingdom. It had its own modern and trendy
character. All the buildings were new and well away from the poverty of the rest of the
country. Most had well announced security systems of each building. Theft was rampant
and one day we came upon an exhibit in the shopping center connected to our hotel
containing an exhibit of our of two gated and guarded communities into which white
south Africans were buying shares.

Rustenburg was in the heart of Cape Town’s “wine country” and the headquarters for The
South African Christian Church with a university and College campus integrated into the
fabric of the city. It was another rather bland city surrounded by the agriculture of wine
growers. The area had the most amounts of tundra species on the planet, many baby seals
and chimps on the road. A line of many connecting hillside white stucco urban villages
spectacularly frames Cape Town’s Pacific Ocean shores where one is more beautiful than
some other. They themselves, like many Mediterranean fishing villages, are themselves
urban clusters.

Ambulating in the Urban World
Ambulating is the essence of the urban experience where ones own bodily motion
controls the pace and direction as well as the selection of the surrounding sights and
sounds. I thought of my body as the carriage of a television station’s camera and I the camera
man. Less technically, I was formally introduced to the concept of “ambulating” in Spain
where “Ambulatoria” is a custom people perform at night before dinner following the
after noon rest or work. It is what we did on in the Bronx Southern Boulevard and similar
to Fifth Avenue “window shopping”. Except in Spain and other European cities you don’t
shop you walk, talk and look at each, say hello, nod, and wink, perhaps flirt, or perhaps
gossip. Ambulating in this way is not walking to get some where or necessarily see
things. I regard ambulating as a crossover behavior connecting rural and urban
populations.

Arabs and Orientals ambulate within souks and shopping streets while Europeans ambulate in
Plazas and commercial boulevards and Americans on shopping streets and now Malls (an
invention of Austrian Architect: Victor Gruen).
It is however, what I have done in hundreds of Cities I have visited, and what Baedeker
calls “walking tours”: where you purposefully plan or randomly walk the streets seeing,
finding and discovering building, details, statues, stairs, alleys, doors, gateways,
fountains, etc., yes, the features of buildings. And, the features of streets, the pavement,
cobble stones, tiles, patterns, street furniture, benches, carvings in stones, walls,
monuments, facades of buildings lanterns, and light posts. Indeed, such walking and
ambulating has been my life’s recreation and access to experiencing the “art form” of my
choice: architecture. Interior design has to be seen inside of the buildings and in all my
walks; I’d try to enter wherever I could. Like music, theater, ballet, and writing,
ambulating is also an art and a way of experiencing the world’s built arts.
For example, the sidewalks of New York are made up of cement insitu-formed from
naturally deformed quartzofeldspathic rocks, such as the highest finite strain as a
mylonite, in which quartz is completely recrystallized or present as ribbon-grains forming
continuous and almost planar layers over large distances; which is not unlike today’s
fiberglass reinforced concrete. The sidewalks are therefore strong and even, they glitter
and gleam, if you wear taps on your shoes, you can hear them click as you walk.
Ambulating has allowed me to walk the streets and get lost in cities. I know… I’d loose
my self in the streets and find my way back to reality by somehow seeing a landmark or
following the grid. I‘d enjoy seeing the lights, window displays, street people, facades,
etc. I’d especially enjoy winding up someplace strange. Before I was married,
occasionally, I’d meet some one like the time I followed and met a lovely model. In
Manhattan, I’d walk in the rain and snow, day and night. I’d some times find a bar and
have my maximum of one drink or after a party; I’d walk and feel the combined rush of
the alcohol, cold night air, and the glitter and gleam of the city. On such occasions, I’d
particularly relish the design and width of the familiar sidewalks.
Taking advantage of the multiple paths afforded by the Manhattan street grid. I’d walk to
and from work, to my garage, shopping in different ways on one combination of
contiguous streets then by turning a corner another street and then yet another.
The grid made such walks exciting and adventurous.

On the weekends, I’d bus to the “Y” and later in life the Yale club. On a Saturday afternoon, I’d go to a movie and walk Broadway. I particularly found it thrilling to walk the dangerous streets of 42 Street between sixth and eighth Avenues where 25 years earlier my little brother, friends and I would go to the “laugh” theaters to see the Marx Brothers, Abbot and Costello, Three Stooges, Eddie Cantor, AL Jolson and Laurel, and Hardy. Now these streets were lined with dope peddlers and prostitutes. The police are right there watching and monitoring the activities and limiting their arrests by the availability of courts and jails. In Saudi Arabia, I’d often calm my fellow westerners and Midwestern Americans that we see more crime in one day than Saudi sees in year.

I’d ambulate in Europe, using maps, classified ads; I’d perambulate the cities streets,
seeing its’ landmarks, rivers, bridges, public transportation, restaurants, CBD, residential
and private zones and then in the evening investigate the other side of the city’s night and
cosmopolitan life. Within a short while, even local residents did not know their city as
well as I did. I’d look for the local candy store, grocer and music shop. Yes, using my
childhood street-models I try to find the cultural anchors in the neighborhoods I visited. I
understood and enjoyed the hierarchies of building neighborhood, section, borough, city,
and country.

Simpson Street Fire Escapes


I could see the metroplex and understand the inner connections of people to their
artifacts, modes of transportation, and resources. It was always as lovely to me as a
symphony and an especial work of art, the city is a work of art and to me shall always be
one of mankind’s finest achievements. I had this point of view partly because I walked in
immunity to the potential and unknown dangers around me as my urban thick-skin had
made such encounters part of the experience, Yes, I had fought and been beaten in
enough urban alleys to be selective, so I was bold but wise….this is called “street savvy”.
Knowing who to look in the eye, and who to avoid, and when. As I learned to overcome
my childhood fears as a mature urbanest, I looked forward to the occasional dark and
mysterious courtyards and alleys.

In hilly and foggy San Francisco, we enjoyed the side streets staying at either the
Fairmont or Mark Hopkins Hotels at the very top of Nob Hill. In the morning, I’d order
breakfast delivered to my room onto a table in front of my window so I could view the
city as the sun’s rays evaporated the dense fog.

The same fog I experienced in Castine Maine where I’d walk amongst the rocks guided
by a lonely lighthouse. As in the villages of Italy, France, and Spain, one is compelled to
walk in search of views and vistas one street after another. I made it a habit to make a
free hand sketch of the city plan of each city I visited with the help of my memory of my
walks and a city map. I noted the streets I walked noting the streets pattern and curvatures
graphically showing the grid, circles, plaza, landmarks and neighborhoods. These plans
and my sketches filled my book of these cites.

However, sensuous, romantic and artistic are the aesthetics of cities there is the more
mature and technical side, which is equally as thrilling. It was introduced to me by my
father as he perennially reiterated the traffic flow and structure of New York City’s
streets. Later when I’d visit any city, it was the first concept I‘d grasp to orient and direct
my way. In Europe, I used Baedekers street guide and walking tours and when we settle or visit
any American city the AAA map would give me the major North South and East West
axial streets. Manhattan has a perfect compass grid while Houston’s I10 and Westheimer’s East west
axial orients everything else. In the Bronx, I oriented myself on major boulevards, and
avenues and according to the elevated and subway stops.

Most spectacular was Amalphi, beginning at its rear base where the last street meets the
looming mountain and the water falling into an open central basin carrying the water to
feed the city. Every alley, street, window and door way leads to another open space and
vista. The same can be said of Venice except with more opulence and surprise as one
ambulates along and across canals and observes the distinct design of each bridge and
building.

Always recalling the classic music symphonies especially Raspegi, Massenet and Debussy.
Dubrovnik’s main street was to be my life-time model of the perfectly scaled commercial
street because of the width of the street and the height of the enclosing building on either
side. The people dressed in traditional garb would openly feast there eyes upon each
other and I did the same. I had good practice in los Ramblas in Barcelona and on
Southern Boulevard in the Bronx.

By the time, I learned more about architecture at Yale, I had already visited, mapped, and
written about many cities, so my perception was at its peak. I was eager to learn and
develop my abilities to design not only interiors, furniture, and buildings; but also to
design cultural centers, stadiums, airports, medical centers, commercial centers, and
whole cities. By the time, I reached Yale I had worked in New York City professional
design offices designing commercial interiors, the State University of New York (SUNY) in Albany, Israel
National Bank, James Talcott Factorers, High-rise apartments, and Hotel buildings.
While at Yale, I not only worked part time for some of the leading architectural and
engineering companies in the New Haven area, but also started my own design and
drafting company in which I employed some of my fellow students as apprentices.

Later years, in Mexico, I could not stop photographing the excellent views through one
and another portico, small tunnels, and side streets that opens on to the town’s plazas and
courtyards. As in Europe, many of the Mexican city’s courtyards are behind their streets and
connected by a system of alleys and walkways that take you from one to another without
going to the major streets and away from vehicular traffic. The excitement and enjoyment
of discovering the difference of each inner city is furthered by meandering on straight
side streets to major avenues and boulevards. Whether through alleys, tunnels, or
gateways each vista and turn leads to something interesting, informative, and wonderful.
Wonders which sometime are mysterious and other times informative but very often
works of art and craft.

The intercity relationship we enjoyed between Washington to Reston was similar to
between Munich and Kitsbuhel; when Munich was our big city to shop and have an urban
experience. It was as necessary as when we lived in Puerto Rico we just had to relive our
“island syndrome” by a short weekend trip to the big apple.

A view of Park Ave with Gregory and Barie


On the other hand, when I visited Washington, D.C. from New York City, I regarded
D.C. as a small but formidable town. However, when we lived in RESTON, Virginia it
was the converse. My final impression of DC was when I came for a one week
conference from Saudi to be a guest at the Willard hotel and was driven to and from the
airport in a black Lincoln limousine and I spent some the evenings with my Saudi
colleagues showing them the streets and buildings in Georgetown.

Years earlier when I was a child on one visit to Washington, I stayed in a small hotel with
my family. The tree lined streets were dimly lit by street lights which cast wonderful
leafy shadows across the pavement which when ever I left my building in Saudi Arabia’s
Al-Khobar the street light above would similarly shine its light through the trees and cast
a shadow on the sidewalk, just like the one I recalled from my childhood with my father
in Washington.

During our twenty years in Saudi Arabia, I drove on streets devoid of pedestrian traffic as
though I was in a suburb, while being in the middle of a big city. Pedestrians could be
found in Malls and souks but not ambulating on the streets. I recall being in the city of
Bari in Italy and noticing the same thing. I also noticed this in East Berlin before the wall
fell. Most people go to and from their destinations by car and the few who travel by foot
do not linger. They usually were restricted by a combination of harsh governments and
anti-social cultures, which discourage public exchanges and intercourse.
In contrast, I can recall how I felt in Dubrovnik in 1963 when I’d walk down the streets,
the men and women who filled the streets looked me over up and down and sideways.
Women looked you in the eye, smiled, and welcomed me. The street language was open,
communal, and very friendly. I only mention this to note the difference in Saudi Arabia; I
am not the first person to notice this difference.

This difference both defines the essence of urbanity and its’ passion, not to mention utility grids and infrastructure. As the child who woke before morning’s light, who without shoes walked the empty
streets, exploring the alleys, stairs, fire escapes, sewer’s, manholes, back alleys, and
streets, I now continued my explorations to see, know, and understand the details of my
surroundings.

In America, I continue my love affair with the city to have a personal experience with my
surrounding context while living through my urban passion.Blog Flux Local - Florida,Blog Flux Local – Florida,,,,,


My best freind Milty standing in front of his tenement building.

My best freind Milty standing in front of his tenement building.

Fort Apache our 14 Precint Police Station

Fort Apache our 14 Precint Police Station


The gateway to my street

The gateway to my street


Stairs leading up to the station

Stairs leading up to the station


The Loew's Paradise Theatre on the Grand Concourse

The Loew's Paradise Theatre on the Grand Concourse

Claire Gallion and Christina having a nice day

Claire Gallion and Christina having a nice day

International House 2008 Reunion

International House 2008 Reunion

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