Bronx Born – Yankee Raised
Boy, was I a geek! I had it all – the coke bottle glasses and being short and skinny. On top of all that I was born at the end of the year and my parents saw fit to put me in school anyway before I actually turned 5 so I was already at a disadvantage with the other kids.
Back in the day, walking to school on your own was the norm. I remember crossing over the Major Deegan Expressway on the Kingsbridge overpass as I headed to my school - PS 122 in the Bronx. Life then growing up in the projects during the 50s was so uncomplicated. I was bullied of course but I stood my ground and defended myself. I won't say how but suffice it to say the kid never bothered me again.
But then suddenly things changed when we moved to Connecticut. What did a city boy know about suburban life? We were living in a transitional place for a year before moving to a more permanent residence. So here I am, a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx moving into an all-Catholic neighborhood. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.
I wasn't particularly religious although my mother was duty bound to make sure I had some sort of Jewish upbringing and was Bar Mitzvahed. Unfortunately, the neighbors saw things a bit differently. The upside of it all was in the end they were responsible for making me a stronger, more determined person. I somehow got beyond the broken windows, egging and religious taunts.
One moment of truth that stands out in my mind came when my adrenalin kick in and the city boy began to learn, albeit in bits and pieces, how to survive suburban living. As much of a geek as I was back then, I remember beating the crap out of a neighborhood bully who called me the most vulgar religious slur I had heard up to that point. Religiously speaking I didn't know exactly what I was defending only that I felt I had to defend it. And like I said, it made me a stronger person for it. Many years later I found out that this bully had died of cancer and I sat on the edge of my bed and cried.
Elementary school was also a hoot. There was no way to hide my inability to fit in. It had to be those coke bottle glasses or maybe because I was so lanky and too young for that grade. I really think it was the fact that I didn't have a clue about anything. I would get picked last for dodgeball or not at all when my schoolmates were choosing sides. Basketball was a disaster. Anything having to do with sports or moving around other than walking was not in the cards for me. My classmates demonstrated that for me constantly. But like I keep saying, they were responsible for making me a stronger, more determined person.
I made it through high school like most of my classmates. The first two years were a waste. The third started to peak my interest and by my senior year I finally blossomed. Fortunately, ever since elementary school, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an artist. Not a fine art painter but something to do with advertising.
I attended Butera School of Art in Boston and spent half my life either in class or protesting the war in Vietnam. Boston was a walking town and I walked everywhere. I did find a broken down bike and used that to pedal my way from my apartment to school and back. Trust me when I say that bike wasn't the catalyst for getting me into cycling years later. It was just a short-lived transportation solution. I graduated up on Beacon Hill and my graduation present was a letter from Uncle Sam to appear for my physical. The one thing I was happy to fail was that physical and I thank those coke bottle glasses for helping me convince the army I was not their guy, even though the army was taking anybody they could.
From there I moved forward with my life and have not looked back since, although I do have a philosophy and often say, "If you want to see where you're going, you some times have to turn around to see where you've been."
So far I'm pretty happy with the way things turned out. My career went in the exact direction I wanted it to go and I've made a decent living at do it and enjoying every minute. My geekiness faded away and I found my beautiful wife who provided me with three great children. They in turn have provided me with grandchildren and it seems things are coming full circle.
Remember all those people who made life tough for me? Well, here's a shout-out of thanks to them. I might not be great at dodgeball but I'd sure like to see them skiing or cycling along side me to see if they can keep up. Now retired, I work out in my home fitness room most days of the week or meet up with friends to ride or ski during the week or on the weekend.
I live a healthy lifestyle and I'm feeling really good. I get to play most days or read or work around the house or indulge every so often – like with my Jeep. I've driven Jeeps for years but not "the" official jeep – a Wrangler. Finally after putting it off for years I final got a Wrangler. And like most CJ, YJ, TJ and JK jeep owners do, you get your hands dirty and modify.
You can see the difference between the "as purchased" look and the visual modifications I put into my JK by watching the slowly changing image below. The "mods" keep me busy and young at heart. I plan to have a fun time riding it – with the roof and doors off or on. Speaking about riding, my intentions for cycling remain the same – keep on going for as long as I can, which is pretty much the same way I feel about my skiing.