Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Snowy Walk Through Hunter College, A Long Time Ago

I attended kindergarten, grammar school, high school and college in Manhattan. It was natural.

September 1972, I entered Hunter College with 16,000 other matriculating students.
I was way in the back of the line when they gave me my first class schedule. I had little choice in picking five classes and the guy who put my schedule together handed me a card and shook my hand, "This is the worst schedule I've ever seen."
Monday, Thursday 8-11am; 3-5pm ~ Wed 8-10am; Friday 8-10am; 4-5pm.
I played football for the Bronx Warriors, and broke my fibula a week before my first Hunter class. My first two weeks I was on crutches. Most kids avoided the slow elevators. I took one to the 10th floor then went back and forth hopping the staircase from 7th to 10th floor to class. I held the crutches in one arm and took one step at a time on my good foot while a thousand kids ran around and through me. It was impossible to hold the giant heavy door open alone and get through it before it closed back on me. I needed help and usually slid through when a gang of kids went through, or sometimes...
late for a class, I was on the stairs with a few stragglers. At the 9th floor door, a very pleasant Chinese student smiled towards me, and apparently was holding the door for me. He appeared happy. I said, "thank you," and put my crutches in place under my arms and put my head down to go through the doorway. The pleasant smiling student let the door go, it whacked me in the head, and with my arms locked to the crutches I moon-walked backward quickly across the landing, slammed into the huge radiator and fell into a heap.
That first semester, I took a course, "Probabilities & Statistics," for two purposes: improve my weak gambling skill and satisfy my Math & Science requirement. 8am, Mon & Thurs, I dreaded the first class, I don't wake well. Got there late, opened the door, and saw a tall thirtish teacher, one goofy guy and forty nursing students, half of them Irish with those cute little noses. I was never late again.

My last year at Hunter, I hung around with Susan. We met in a Flemish Art class, Susan looked like The Girl with a Pearl Earring, this made absolute sense to me. Museum guards at the Met threatened us three times with expulsion. On a class trip, our teacher scolded us, "Seriously, you two, need to grow up." Susan and I took this as a compliment. We bought 25 cent bagel sandwiches in the High School building and put a ton of free Mayo on the one slice of Swiss or Bologna. We went to the Zoo when we should have been in class, and went to class when we should have gone to the Zoo. Susan made Hunter better.

My favorite teachers: Robert J. White, Classics, he imitated a werewolf and launched tribal mating calls in class, Dr. White turned me onto Edward Albee and Pasolini films. Professor Richard Barickman taught me: Poetry, Hardy, Elliot, Thackeray, Dickens and Henry James. He always wore riding boots like Heathcliff with the pants tucked in and taught me critical literary analysis.
Professors White & Barickman led me to a rich appreciation for ancient civilizations, and in literature: D.H. Lawrence, Mann, James, Romantic and Victorian poetry (I still own my Washington Square Press paperbacks edited by William H. Marshall). These two men loved language with all their hearts and we soaked it up.

building on 65th Street and Park Avenue, just looked pretty against the sky

No comments: