SI Prep for Life Arthur Anderson Art artnscience-(at)-yahoo.com
I started writing my huzzahs at home but got bumped off the 'puter by some homework...otherwise I would have taken rs spot as "first fool." Actually the barrister is no fool as we all recognize and I love his words and thoughts as much as most of us do, so I won't begrudge him gettin dere foist.
I actually loved being a kid on Staten Island as I grew up. I spent as much time as I could outside of my house and not a little time wandering around vacant lots, brooks, woods and swamps like you did. Since I lived on the Nawth Shore, in Westerleigh, not far from hizzoner rs, it was a major commitment for me to get to the beach but I did spend a lot of the hot summers at Great Kills and Midland beaches. I probably even got yelled at by rs for flinging at my sister the "whitefish" we often found in the surf.
I had a secret at home, my parents drank a lot but were always sober when they were out in public. It caused me pain despite the fact that it took me almost 46 years to accept that I was an adult child of alcoholic parents. Fah-chrissakes, they died before even they realized it. My achievements were often a shield of pride preventing friends and neighbors from realizing the private shame that we had. This feeling that my life did not belong to me was one of the things that drove me off Staten Island. I said that I left to go to Medical School in Baltimore, actually I was so happy being that far away I secretly planned never to come back. I even felt uncomfortable returning to visit or even to travel over to NYC for a show.
My parents loved me a lot and they were great parents when sobriety reigned. However,I look to several other StatNislanders for the courage to continue to achieve on my own, for myself even when I didn't need to do it to make the folks proud.
At PS30, Mrs. Loeffler my art teacher was the first to recognize that I wasn't mentally retarded because of my dyslexia. I couldn't read until fourth grade. Mrs. Loeffler and Mr. Attinson my science teacher managed to get me out of the 4 class and into the 2 class by the 4th grade. If you recall, PS30 was set up according to the Dewey progressive education system and the kids with the smartest IQs were in the 1 class (in 4th grade that would be 4-1) and the dumbest kids were in the 4 class. For those who also shared with me the honor of being in the 4 class, I apologize for using the word dumb, but it was how the teachers regarded us back then. My 8th grade teacher Mrs. Jones really thought I had no future and believed that I shudda gone back to the 4 class.
My next influential StatNislander was Mr. Daniel Driscoll. He was my sophomore English teacher at PRHS. I had gotten embarrassed about being labeled an "egg head" as a freshman and was determined to disrupt all my sophomore classes so the "hoods" in back would be impressed with me. I got pretty good at chewing the ends of matches and flicking them up on the ceiling so the would "time release" drop onto the teachers head when he/she least expected. This was joyfully received by da guys in back.
Well, Mr. Driscoll ignored all that. He also found something good to say about what I wrote in his classes. I thought that was pretty amazing considering I couldn't spell or write grammatically. He did like my descriptions, though. What he didn't know was that I remembered things as pictures and not words....that is one of the "gifts" of being dyslexic (or retarded as I had been called). All I had to do was "look" at the picture in my mind and the details poured out onto the page. Putting them in order and spelling them correctly is taking me the rest of my life to get under control.
Then, in my junior and senior year at PRHS, I came under the influence of Mr. Lef LaHuta. I was one of the Footlighters and acted in some situation comedies and Shakespeare. Most importantly, I took Mr. LaHuta's Speech and Discussion class in 1961 (~*Donna*~ also took it in the 1970's, so he mustah had a good run). That class was the first time any teacher asked me to go beyond the syllabus, beyond what ya had tuh know fo da regents. I was asked to give a discussion of everything you would want to know about Prejudice. Well in 1961 there wasn't much in the branch libraries about Prejudice. We had just gotten through the 50's and everyone knows how highly prejudice was regarded then. They even used "You've got to be carefully taught to fear....." as a lyric in a musical to illustrate how subtly we were practicing prejudice back then.
Mr. LaHuta never told me where to stop for my discussion so the questions I was asking caused the branch librarians to tell me I had to go to the 42nd street library in NYC for those answers. I went.
After looking up everything I could find that had the word prejudice in it I started filling out those little call slips you give the librarian to get the book. I gave them to her and watched as she put them in a cylinder and whoosh off it went to the stacks in a pneumatic tube. Then, I went to one of the beautiful massive tables in this huge reading room. When my numbers came up, I went to get the books. I can still remember the respectful way the lady treated me when I asked for and received these books. Geeesh, she treated me like I imagined she treated a scholar. I wonder what she would have done if I asked for all the past issues of Captain Marvel comics...well, anyway she did treat me with respect and that taught me to begin to respect myself.
At Immanuel Union Church, the youth minister, Pastor Yogi encouraged me to reach beyond myself through activities of the Christian Youth Fellowship. The late 50's and early 60's weren't a time when activism was prevalent, but one day I found myself leading members of CYF to join with other church groups in forming a "protective" ring around Daytop Lodge when local NIMBY residents were aiming to torch the place 'cause there were former drug addicts there. The practices they were experimenting with are now used by AA and virtually all other programs for overcoming addictive behavior.
I never forgot those lessons and to this day I am thankful for these folks from StatNisland to spontaneously praised me, respected me and asked me to reach deep down inside and find the resources I needed to get where I am today.
After my folks died and I got some treatment for being an adult child of alcoholic parents....my love for Staten Island and NYC has come back and I enjoy visiting virtually and actually as often as I can. Listen to my voice greeting fellow StatNislanders.
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