In the winter of 1968, I applied to one of New York City's then-many specialized vocational schools, The High School of Art & Design, located on Second Avenue and 57th Street, a distance of 21 miles and a million light years from my Brooklyn home.
To my great surprise, I was accepted. This fact was announced during my 9th Grade Junior High art class, to the great chagrin of the very same boys and girls who had so enjoyed torturing me and calling me fag for the past six or seven years. I was unprepared and totally surprised when they expressed disappointment at the fact that we would not all be going on together through High School; all I felt was relief at the thought of getting away from them. Call it an early life lesson.
I had always been a restless child. At the age of 11 or 12, I would cadge some change from my mom, hop on a train and travel to Coney Island or Prospect Park. I enrolled myself in the Brooklyn Museum Art School at the age of 11, spending mornings sketching and painting in the galleries, and afternoons wandering the Botanic Gardens or haunting the dusky dells and hidden glades of Prospect Park. Just who were those men traversing the Vale of Kashmir, and why were they staring at me? Call it another early life lesson.
The opportunity to go to school in Manhattan was mind-expanding in many ways; the city was to become my Wonderland. It seems I spent more of the next three years wandering the streets than in classrooms. In the early, early morning I'd fall asleep on the Lexington Avenue express, only to miss my stop at 59th Street and awaken as the train pulled into 86th Street. This was usually taken as an invitation to write off the school day and spend the morning at the Metropolitan Museum and the rest of the day gadding about with friends in Central Park.
The photograph above was taken by my dear old friend Mark Horowitz on one such day. Judging by our clothes, it's early spring, 1970. We've reconnoitered at one of our favorite spots, the Alice Statue, to commune with some of our current literary favorites. There may have been refreshments consumed, which would account for my perplexed expression, and the general amusement of all concerned.
I was to have many such adventures in the thirty seven years to follow. Some have faded, some have disappeared, just like the New York City that existing in 1970.
Why is it that I can remember the moment this picture was taken, exactly?