Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ducks Out Of Water

"I was the goddam manager of the fencing team. Very big deal. We'd gone in to New York that morning for the fencing me
et with McBurney School. Only, we didn't make the meet. I left all the foils and equipment and stuff on the goddam subway." Catcher in the Rye

McBurney event isn't for another month (if I decide to attend), but with a day off yesterday and a Knicks-76ers game in the hopper for the evening, nostalgia was the order of the day as my fellow "Highlander" Johnny Starr and I decided to hold our own mini reunion-slash-J.D. Salinger tribute a little ahead of time. So with that in mind, we met in front of the old landmark facade (all that's left of the grounds) on West 63rd Street at 2:30 and hit Central Park with plenty o' time to take in the sights and sounds on a summer-like pre-spring afternoon.

If you really want to know the truth of it, the school itself closed shop in 1988 -- a piece of New York history gone forever after 72 years. Ten years later they announced plans for a condo tower to be built over the original five-floor building, and sure enough in 2000 there she rose 40 floors up. There's your progress in action, yes sir.

The old YMCA is still next door, where we had our locker rooms and shared the pool, gym, etc., with everyone else. We couldn't remember if the pool was on the 3rd or 4th floor, but we did manage to walk right past the front desk and wander about, trying unsuccessfully to find the cafeteria, the barbershop where me and 3 other members of the wrestling team shaved our heads one fateful morning, the cramped stairwell all the teams ran up and down as a punishment drill for whatever infraction or shortcoming the coaches came up with...

Right across the park wall is the rock where all the heads in high school would congregate and do their thing. Beyond was the rough patch of green between softball fields where we held football practice every day. The whole field was fenced off on this day, probably being resodded, and as we later discovered, so was the entire Sheeps Meadow.

The ducks were indeed alive and well and seemingly content in the Duck Pond, perhaps distant relatives to the ones the real Holden Caulfield would have ruminated about while spending 9th and 10th grade at McBurney in the '30s. Much later in the day we stumbled on the Carousel, still a New York bargain at only 2 bucks a ride, where Catcher's pivotal scene plays out: Holden for once totally in the moment, at peace with himself, watching his sister Phoebe on the Merry Go Round.

GOT TO THE GARDEN at about 7:00, then hung out at the Play by Play watching the start of the game on the bar's big screen until John's friends showed up, which was well into the first half. We didn't actually get to our seats until well into the second half. Which was just as well, because my pathetic 76ers, clad on this night in their eyesore all-red uni's, couldn't get it done yet again, losing 92-88 -- even with the Knicks missing their two best players in David Lee and Wilson Chandler.


justin said...

This made a pretty good read. Haven't checked the references yet but it kind of reminded me of one of your posts. I'm so tired of politics but the GOP and ordinary (maybe not) people who blinded accept their slogans. Hope is good man.

The Warden said...

Good to see you here, Just. Politics gets more ugly and deranged by the hour. It's the mean season. You'd think the so-called Christian right would welcome the chance to help the sick, the poor, the dying, but maybe there's another way to read the Sermon on the Mount. Funny kind of way these people read the Bible.

justin said...

Warden I like your reply, but read my initial comment again and...damn! I have been sober for almost five years and reading my initial comment, I could have sworn I was drunk. Yes I did get into your post and actually it made me think that I need to read Catcher in the Rye again, it's been over 20 years. What I was hinting at making a good read and not having checked the references yet, was this,
Definitely reminded me of something you would write.
Whatever makes people ordinary is something I'm starting to like less and less. Those who maintain the status quo, that is. In my comment it was not supposed to be "blinded", but instead "blindly". You got the point though as you summed it up, dictionary perfect, with "ugly and deranged". The GOP sells themselves as Christian and patriotic (conflicting terms when you think about it) when in reality it is about big business. It is so blatantly obvious it's like watching a bad magician, while everyone around you is impressed. Can't quote specific verses all too well, but somewhere in the gospels it talks about the wealthy going to heaven is like sticking a camel through a needle's eye. I don't have an orthodox view of heaven or even the gospels in general, but even I get the point of that one. Greedy materialism is Superman's bizzaro world to righteousness. Speaking of "the sick, the poor, the dying", I just read Ralph Nadar's take on the newest incarnation of the health care bill, vey interesting. Any thought on old Ralph Nadar? In my opinion one of the few, dare I say, the only, incorruptable man in politics. That probably makes hime even more out of it. I could go on and on, but I need to reread this comment for fear of coming off drunk again. At the end there it was supposed to read, "hope all is good man". Take it easy.

jimithegreek said...

Now you are cookin bro! Well done!
Knicks lost cause...Dolan gotta go!

The Warden said...

Bring back Isiah Thomas!

BTW, Jim, when's our next Astoria reunion?