Creating fiction has always been crucial. Imperative, really, to keep my mother from slamming my ass with the telephone or frat paddle. To juke the rabbis in the Brooklyn Mirrer Yeshiva when they’d catch me in Greenwich Village or reading Playboy (just for the interviews, of course). Unfortunately my verbal dancing wasn’t always successful since I got thrown out before high school graduation. But no serious damage. I’d done well on the New York State Regents and had been accepted at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, before the toss. (Actually, everyone from the yeshiva did well. They made sure the collective marks were always high enough to keep their accreditation.)
Still, I talked the school into letting me attend graduation albeit with an empty envelope. Which left me to explain to my mother and stepfather that the missing diploma had to do with unpaid library fees. Hell, even though I no longer lived at home, that fucking paddle still hung by the back door.
Sometimes my best barbs backfired. The year I quit Wisconsin had something to do with a challenge to the prof in a political sociology lecture about the use of twenty-five dollar words for twenty-five cent concepts. I felt the eyes of a hundred and fifty classmates on my back as I trudged out of the large hall at the professor’s demand. Back then 25 dollars to 25 cents was significant economic disparity. Pissed him off.
The real irony of leaving Wisconsin and joining Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) was my assignment to the YWCA’s storefront outpost in Uptown, Chicago. My job was to create a night school for high school dropouts. I’m an ironic guy but it took a serious do to get my head around that one.
More to come…