The Supplicant

As I step forward, I glance at the six other people who comprise our standing semi-circle, four on my right, two on my left. We are positioned evenly, about three feet from each other. We had been told to dress in formal garb, as befits members of the academy. The three other men are adorned in tuxedos with peak lapels. The women are dressed in gray peg leg jersey jumpsuits. (This is formal attire?). I am wearing straight leg black jeans and a flowing white silk shirt with a few random streaks of color, like Jackson Pollack was just getting started on a canvass. (Not exactly black tie on my part, I suppose.)

I don’t recall putting on these clothes. I was sitting in the dressing room, looking like the other penguin males and, the next thing I know, I am standing alongside my fellow petitioners in garments that look like they were acquired at Mary Quant’s King’s Road boutique in the early 1960s. Continue reading “The Supplicant”

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Coming of Age in America

I was twelve years old before I knew my relatives had owned a clothing business or that I even had an Uncle Sol. And yet within seconds of being introduced to him at my cousin Douglas’ bar mitzvah, he was denying that he was to be blamed for running off with the family business. But it was clear to me that he wouldn’t be bending my ear for twenty minutes if he hadn’t done some dirty deed all those years ago.

Uncle Sol wasn’t the only member of my extended family I was meeting for the first time inside this sprawling Long Island suburban house on a sunny spring afternoon in 1964. Maybe my lack of contact was purposeful, the choice my parents made to keep me and my brothers as far as possible from the “materialistic bullshit” of the suburbs. Or perhaps it was because of their political beliefs that we were ostracized. Maybe it was a bit of both. Continue reading “Coming of Age in America”

David Lerner: One for the Holidaze

Backstory

 My parents had a circle of political friends, all Jewish communist couples with children: the Lerners, the Kelmans, the Kreuters. All the families lived in Queens. We lived in Astoria, right across the river from Manhattan, while the Lerners (Flushing), Kelmans and Kreuters (Bayside) lived further out, closer to Long Island.  All the families had three children with the oldest (all boys) being born within nine months of each other in 1951/52.

I am the oldest Belmont child, David was the oldest Lerner child. I looked up to him as a kind of unreachable, not totally desirable role model through the 1960s. He was big (eventually grew to about 6’ 3”), lanky and brusque. He sported a biting wit and a sardonic sense of humor, both well beyond his years. He turned me on to Bob Dylan, whom we idolized. Continue reading “David Lerner: One for the Holidaze”