Five Things

  1. In a few weeks, my work schedule will change. It’s bittersweet but I’m glad that it’s changing in the new year. New beginnings and all that.
  2. I fell asleep early yesterday and woke up entirely too early. If I don’t take a nap before it’s time to head to work I’m going to feel it.
  3. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions but I am working towards making things simpler in my life. Part of that includes the following:
    • Less worrying about work, both when there and when I’m not. I take things too seriously there and it effects my health and mental well being.
    • Put the damn phone down! I’ve done some research that offered suggestions on how to disconnect. I downloaded apps that make it fun to disconnect, too. I improved and I hope to continue improving.
    • Listen to my body. I’ve concentrated on my mental health with some success. What I need to do is hit the gym and visit my doctor for my yearly physical. None of this five-minute-visit-and-go; an honest-to-goodness physical that involves a blood test, and whatever else they do. And follow up. I never follow up.
  4. I’ve been on top of my TV/Movie viewing lately. I’ve got Sabrina and The Haunting of Hill House going on Netflix, and revisiting Batman The Animated Series and The Adventures of Superman on DC Universe. I saw the new Russell Brand special on Netflix the other day too. I like Russell Brand. Oh, and The Christmas Chronicles starring Kurt Russell is an instant classic! At some point I need to knock out the Netflix/Marvel stuff. I’m wayyyy behind on those.
  5. I’m looking forward to the Christmas holiday. I don’t have much planned but what I have on the list is worthwhile. It will be simple but memorable.

Rabbit Hole

A few days ago, a rabbit’s hole. This time I feel into an internet rabbit’s hole filled with high school memories and the desire to look up some of the people that I came across back then. What started this fall? Curiosity.

A Pennsylvania grand jury released decades and decades worth of information filled with the names of people of the clergy who had done the unthinkable: betrayed the trust of their flock through manipulation and sexual abuse.

I did not go to school in PA. College. That was about it. But I was curious to see if more information was available in these reports that would run me into priests who I had contact with in my youth. I was very lucky. Most of my experiences with the Catholic Church were positive. In fact, I ran into more priest who encouraged my independence rather than patronize me by giving me the kool-aid. Instead I had healthy debates and, in the end, I left the Catholic Church and now describe myself as an atheist.

Out of the hundreds of the clergy that I was taught by and counselled, there was one on “the list.” I had one class with him. Science. He was a science teacher. He stands out for me because he was a throwback to a time when priests smoked and cursed and talked trash. Every other priest I met at the time were very holy. It was scandalous to see or hear them speak any other way. But according to some vague reporting, he was implicated in some sort of sexual abuse that led to his bankruptcy.

The report read that he did not admit to wrong doing but he accepted his punishment. He taught science in my high school a few years after those events. Not a single thing was heard about his past when I was his pupil. Not even a rumor. Not a peep. No warnings.

After learning these things, I thought it best to equalize it by searching for the teachers and members of the clergy that made a positive  impact on my life. It’s been thirty years since my high school graduation and my one regret is that I’ve only returned once to my old high school. That one time was to collect my high school diploma in the summer of ’88. I wish I was more engaged. So this search was bittersweet.

Sean Sullivan, Principal

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He was my math teacher in my freshman year. He taught my cousin and one of my best friend’s too. He was a former pupil at the school too which means he’s been there for most of his life. Now he’s the principal of the school and teaches math. Tough but fair.

 

Paul Krebbs, Principal

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He was the principal when I attended. He was Brother Krebbs then. Shortly after I graduated, he left the clergy, married and became the president of the school.

I was never a trouble maker but when I was (i.e. caught drunk/hungover, arguing with a teacher when he ripped a note I was writing out of my hands), he was fair.

When I was caught drunk/hungover, he helped my mother find a counsellor and a rehab. When I had my disagreement with the teacher, he removed me from the class, brought me assignments that the teacher had assigned to the rest of the class and challenged me to take the final without taking a single class for half the semester. I passed. It was Spanish. I’m Puerto Rican. It’s my second language.

A few years after he was honored at the Obama White House for being one of ten educators who excelled in their craft, he retired.

Brother Daniel Lauber, Biology

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When I broke up with a girl I was despondent. I drank lots of liquor at a time when I could had gotten drunk on a teaspoon of cough syrup. I felt like I was going to die. I don’t even know if I was serious or not but, at fifteen, it felt serious enough. I had no one to turned to so I called my high school’s direct dial. Brother Lauber answered. He was a young, cherubic man of about thirty. He told me to come over to the school in a shaky voice. From a few blocks away, I could see the front door of the high school building open and there he was waving me in.

He sat me down at the exclusive teacher’s lounge, made me a cup of tea and talked with me for an hour or so. His hands trembled while he talked. I will always remember him as one of the people during my life’s travels who have saved my life.

In 2014, Brother Lauber passed away from bacterial meningitis at the age of 60.

Tom Borgioli, American History

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Mr. Borgioli taught American History. Here he is with his sons.

Before I attended his class, we were told that he would stop for about week at 1963 and teach us every JFK assassination conspiracy under the sun. It was entertaining and educational. Mr. Borgioli was also a Varsity Baseball coach and a baseball scout for the Baltimore Orioles.

He instilled in me my love for American History to this very day. I went to college for it and I self-teach as much as I can. Learning history, particularly American History is a hobby of mine and its all thanks to him.

Mr. Borgioli passed away last year at the age of 64.

 

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Two bars, side by side, in the West Village. Arthur’s is a place where you can wind down and have a conversation or two. The place on the right, well, when I’ve visited I’ve had a rip-roaring good time. Live bands, beer and whiskey flowing all over the place, and a  bathroom down a flight of stairs that made for some adventure when you’re drunk.

I think I’ve been to both places twice and both times I already had more than a few.

Blanca

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When I was sixteen years old I volunteered at a youth crisis center that was in that building over that closed “Turned Up” store. The building is condemned now and it probably should had been condemned when I was sixteen but it was what it was.

The other volunteers were around my age so it was basically a free-for-all. Everyone was a kid with the exception of the director and the secretary. And, as kids do, we were perpetually crushing on each other.

There was this girl named Blanca. She was so good lookin’ that I remember her to this very day. And that was thirty-plus years ago. Olive skin, long curly black hair, dark eyes and a body shaped like an hour glass. She was only fourteen years of age. My friend Martin and I crushed on her at the same time and we were in a friendly competition for her affection.

One day she was missing. Just like that. Poof. Her mother was frantic, the entire center was frantic. Where the hell could she be? My friend and I were sitting at the crisis center worrying when the phone rang. It was Blanca. She was crying. I got on one phone and he got on another to hear in. She said she was on a street corner a mile and half away. Martin and I started running. We ran down Third Avenue, him on one side and me on the other.

Periodically I’d look over and there he was, keeping pace. At some point we crossed over to Second Avenue because that’s where she said she was. It occurred to me years later, “Why we didn’t just take the train or bus?” We were kids and that’s what kids did when they needed to go somewhere; they ran.

He reached her first and put her in a huge bear hug. I lost. I was beside myself. I didn’t want to look like a douche so I accompanied them to her house. When we arrived, her mother grabbed her and shouted, “Where were you?!”

Then the cops and some kid came out of the kitchen. The boy looked scared. Turns out Blanca lied to everyone. She was with this guy all day. Her boyfriend, apparently. She knew she’d get in trouble if her mother found out that she was with him so she concocted the story that she was abducted.

Martin and I left. I don’t think anyone noticed that we left. Everyone was bickering, crying, etc. We went back to the youth crisis center and quietly went about our business.

As for Blanca, we never saw her again.

The Swings

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When I was a kid I saw a girl get hit in the head by one of those swings (which, for some reason back then, were made of metal and on hot sunny days they became as hot as a stove top).

Someone was standing on the seat doing some crazy swingin’ and she walked too close to the swing and it took her out. The person doing the swingin’ flew off the thing but was uninjured. The girl who was hit in the head, however, was bleeding profusely from a large gash on her forehead.

It effected me so much that I never ever got on a swing again.

My Old Bedroom

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I lived in this building from 1975-1980. That arrow points to my old bedroom. My old bedroom had a small bed, and a black and white TV that sat on a rickety, wooden cabinet made by my dad. It was basically a few slabs of wood nailed together. I’m being kind when I call it a “cabinet.” It eventually crashed to the ground.

Those buildings on the left weren’t there back then. There were buildings there up until the mid-70′s when they burned down. For most of my youth, the buildings stood there, damaged by fire, filled with garbage and dead animals.

Working Papers

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In 1984, I was eligible to get my working papers. Here is the public school that I visited to achieve this milestone.

I stood in line with a bunch of people my age armed with my medical records and a desire to earn a buck. It took all morning but I got them. A few weeks later I started working in the produce department of a Midtown supermarket. The hourly rate was $3.75. I was on my way.