Showing posts with label LIU. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LIU. Show all posts

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Visiting the Past to See the Future



I just finished reading Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters which is set in Brooklyn in the late 1960s.  More on that in another entry whenever I can get to it, but the novel  unfolds not only in the Borough of my past, Brooklyn, but mostly bordering the downtown section which is my old home and haunt, beginning with my student days at Long Island University.  For years my friend Bruce and I have talked about revisiting the university together as Alumni, but we’ve never been able to coordinate the days.  He’s not around the corner, living in Massachusetts so I forgive him.  But as I closed the Fox book last Monday the urge was strong to revisit and I was compelled to act on the urge as planning never seems to go right so I turned to Ann and asked her whether she wants to go with me the next day.  Why not give me a little advance notice (she had an appointment) she asked, but she promptly cancelled that appointment, agreeing to join me on my impromptu adventure.  I emailed my son Jonathan to ask whether he might want to meet us at Juniors in downtown Brooklyn that day for lunch (revisiting would not be complete without sitting in that landmark once again).

He was surprised by our plans and asked whether we’d be driving in.  No, I said, Metro North to Grand Central and then the IRT #5 train to Nevins Street – needed to experience it all (after all I commuted to the school by subway from Queens for the first semester in 1960).  We’re crazy he said, too much to negotiate, too many stairs, the jostling crowds, etc.  Crazy I am I guess but the trip to and from was as meaningful as the visit itself, and less stress than driving and quicker too.  All part of the “fun.”

So we emerged from the Nevins Street station and were greeted by a Brooklyn I hardly recognized.  Looking east and west on Flatbush Avenue revealed a skyline of a different place although some of the same tired buildings were standing.  I seem to remember a Bickford’s (or was it a Horn & Hardart?) there, long gone.  Walking west towards the Manhattan Bridge there was the LIU I remembered, the old Brooklyn Paramount building and adjacent Metcalf Hall where all of our classrooms were.

The door to the Paramount was open, a guard manning the desk, so we went in and showed him my “student ID card” – the last one I carried during the 1963-64 semester year. 

He looked at it in disbelief as If I was a Martian but good naturedly directed us to the Admissions Office.  As I student I worked there part-time, processing applications and I worked in the library as well.  The Admissions office is essentially in the same place, but the entrance is no longer on Flatbush, but inside the campus gates so we entered there and I presented my ID card to the receptionist. “Oh my God,” was her response.  “I have to show this to the Associate Director,” which she did. 

We were told there is a tour at 2 PM so before lunch we had some time on our own to visit my old dormitory.  Again, my card was greeted by disbelief but that allowed me to look around at the cafeteria and the student lounge there, all changed of course.  I told the guard at reception – pointing at the three elevators – that when I lived there they were segregated.  “Segregated?” he was obviously surprised by the implication.  Yes, I replied, two of the elevators went to the men’s floors and one was for the women.  “Huh” he said, “there were separate floors for men and women?”  Yes, in the early 60s, that is how it was.  Times have changed.

Then I couldn’t resist getting a photo of myself in front of 175 Willoughby Street, that old apartment house being my second residence after graduating and the one I lived in with our young son, Chris, until I was divorced.  The building has been refurbished and looks better than when I lived there some 50 years ago.  Our apartment had a clear view of the New York City skyline, but that is now blocked by a new apartment house.

So after these two nostalgic visits, off to Juniors.  Same as I remember it, and the same late 50s early 60s music playing, displays of Brooklyn landmarks, in particular the Brooklyn Dodgers, or “dem bums.”  There we met Jonathan who was born long after I left Brooklyn.  As in the past, Juniors serves way too much food but even so we couldn’t resist capping off our lunch with a shared piece of their famous cheesecake.  Yum!

So, Jonathan went back to work and we walked back across the street, way too early for the 2pm tour, hoping for a brief private tour.  They were waiting for me. “Here he is!”   

They had already planned a private tour for an “old” alumnus, so were lucky enough that Tiarra, a student admissions assistant, the same position I had, was available to take us around.  The change and additions to the school were striking.

What impressed me most about the LIU of today is its forward-looking, and application-results-oriented strategy, intended to give its students the best opportunities for employment after graduation.  It’s the hands on direction the school has taken, with its life-sciences and entrepreneurship focus as well as the facilities that students now have to maintain their health (what a gym facility!) and their social lives (i.e. social media and the numerous caf├ęs), that really overwhelmed me, facilities which were unimaginable in my time. 

Nonetheless it was nice to see the humanities thriving there as well, including its own theatre (in my day the theatre department produced plays at the Brooklyn Academy of Music).  It was quite a trip down memory lane seeing the old Metcalf building, the Paramount, and my dormitory, but so impressive to see the new campus and its flourishing multicultural student population getting ready for the real world.  I think LIU is really in sync with the times and Brooklyn itself. It’s reinvented itself many times during its nearly 100 years in the Borough, a resilient survivor and innovator in the competitive world of higher education.   

The facilities as I noted are phenomenal.  A new gym, Olympic size swimming pool and endless exercise machines beckon.   

I was wondering about the need for a second gym but Tiarra said the old Paramount (above) was going to be restored to its former splendor in conjunction with the Barclay’s Center as a theatre for events, the students getting discounts.  Smart strategy for income methinks, sort of functioning as an endowment for the university.

Still the past has not been forgotten as the gym pays tribute to athletes of years gone by.  I liked the billboard sized poster of some of the basketball stars I saw play, including Ed “Cornflakes” Johnson, Luther Green, and Albie Grant.  Albie was a small center / power forward who I grew close to in my senior year.  A wonderful person  -- a great optimistic personality – who died way too early in life.  To watch him play was among the more significant moments in LIU athletic history.

After a couple hours of touring, we were beat, but happy, and headed back to the IRT just as the #5 train pulled in, nearly full but we managed a seat until Grand Central, and then back “home” to our boat.  I’m proud to be a LIU graduate, a school which has managed to adapt to and change with the times, giving its students an opportunity to succeed in the 21st century world, as I like to think I did in the 20th.

I’ve written several pieces about my Brooklyn years in this blog, but the one which is most relevant to LIU is this link.  Included there is a piece I wrote for Confrontation Magazine about 10 years after graduating.  It still says it all about my experience then, and for convenience sake I repeat it below.

L.I.U.-My World in the Early'60s

Downtown Brooklyn sandwiched between the placid decade of the 50s and the Vietnam War was not unlike other communities in having a sense of optimism about its future. A thriving commercial center for small merchants, it had major islands in the same sea: the New York Telephone Company headquarters, the Brooklyn Hospital, Abraham and Straus department store, the Fox and Paramount movie theatres, the Board of Education, Fort Greene Park, and Long Island University.

It was September 1960 when I emerged from the DeKalb Avenue subway stop and made my way for the first time to L.I.U. Standing at the comer of Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue, waiting for the light to change, Junior's and the Dime Savings Bank behind me, I faced a drab office building rising above the ornate but faded Brooklyn Paramount movie palace.

Farther behind me was a middle-class Queens community, my universe until this moment: a community of hard-working people imbued with the conviction that all things were possible in this society if one tried hard enough; it was with this sense I was going to college to learn business. But this seeming past eternity of punch ball; the Bungalow Bar man; picture-card trading; piano and guitar lessons; grammar school report cards that included grades for penmanship, neatness and posture; the Bunny Hop, Elvis ("a-wop-bom-a-lu-bop ... "); Ike; and high school (" ... if you don't take Latin, you won't be able to get into college .. ") was possibly fading, for I stood on the border between two lives, two cultures: was my background going to be my future, could I emerge out of this bland and benign landscape into myself? Brooklyn would have much to do with the answer.

Sitting in my first class on the 8th floor, becoming a regular occupant of that same seat, I could see the digital clock on top of the Dime Savings Bank blinking at me. This and another clock on top of the Williamsburg Savings Bank farther up Flatbush Avenue became lighthouses in my Brooklyn experience. When, the following year, I lived in the dormitory, returning late in the evening from a night in Manhattan in a blinding snowstorm, I sensed these silent timepieces watching me scurrying home.

In later years I lived in downtown Brooklyn, worked in Manhattan for a publishing firm, and regularly flew to the mid-west. Coming into LaGuardia Airport, we would sweep over Brooklyn and see the downtown area reaching out to Prospect Park while the fingers of the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges bound Brooklyn to Manhattan. Below was the beacon of the Williamsburg Savings Bank clock. Then, as now, I am drawn to that unique community I once called home.

I remember the student union on the ground floor of the small building adjacent to the Paramount building. Smoke hung in the stagnant air, bodies slumped on worn lounge chairs and elbows rested on Formica tables. Nixon versus Kennedy was the subject of heated discussion. These students, mostly from Brooklyn, seemed confident in their belief that politics could remake society. Eventually I found myself caught up in political causes as my apathy of the past waned.

With John F. Kennedy our new President-elect, the campus had a new vibrancy. A professor, delayed by listening to Beethoven's Eighth Symphony in his office, entered the classroom gesticulating those glorious rhythms. One professor challenged us to an exam: think of a question and answer it, the grade being as dependent on the nature of the question as on the answer. Another accepted a twisted pretzel from a student on the school quadrangle and published a poem on the experience.

Meanwhile I moved into the dormitory, severing remaining ties with a prior somnambulistic life. My room faced the front of the campus, with the monolithic slab of a factory that would become the shell of the architecturally renowned Humanities Building to be constructed a short time later. Behind the factory stood downtown Brooklyn, my microcosm of the real world.

The lack of classroom space mandated that the university rent space at Brooklyn Polytechnic, a neighboring institution where some of my classes were held. We made our way there along Myrtle Avenue, the elevator line rumbling over our heads, past furniture stores and shells of buildings. Decay was evident, but it was defiant decay: people stubbornly made their homes and pursued their lives here.

The return trip was frequently along Fulton Street, connecting the City Hall area with Flatbush Avenue and downtown Brooklyn. There, the cacophony of tiny record stores blurted out" ... baby, baby, baby, baby don't you leave me ... " merging with" ... be-bop-a-lu-la, she's my baby ... " The Chinese restaurant on the second floor beckoned, but I moved on toward the Dime Savings Bank, past shoe, appliance, fabric and other stores.

Across from the Dime Savings Bank was McCrory's, which embodied most of the merchant's downtown Brooklyn expectations. Here I was greeted at the door by the aroma of newly manufactured goods mixed with those of different foods cooking in various sections of the store. In the basement was a grocery where we bought food to supplement the fare in the dormitory. Shoppers would scrutinize the merchandise with almost-total seriousness as the IND subway loudspeaker announced, through corridors connecting to McCrory's, a train's arrival.

Opposite Junior's restaurant, then as now the neighborhood's most famous food emporium, was another restaurant, Soloway's, a luncheonette run by a Greek family. Hamburgers sizzled in grease while french fries were bathing in deep fat. Students gathered around most of the tables and at the counter while strains of "Run Around Sue" thumped from the jukebox.

Junior's itself was reserved for special occasions when only the most obscene dessert would suffice. Also, late at night, when we could study no more, some of us went across to Junior's bar to chat with Pete, the bartender, who offered a different education: would Maris hit 60 home runs? Mickey Mantle was the better ballplayer, Pete opined. Pete had a thick neck with a trim gray crew cut. He was a kindly father to us, probably not realizing the important role he played in our student lives.

Manhattan was a short shuttle over the Manhattan Bridge via the BMT, and occasionally we went there. Perhaps on a date, sitting at the back of St. Patrick's Cathedral until dawn to beat the curfew for female residents of the dorm; or to Greenwich Village for a Black Russian or to see a production at Cafe LaMama or on the second floor of Max's Kansas City restaurant, where the Theatre of the Absurd played; but Brooklyn seemed to be all the world we generally needed and that was where we usually stayed. We sat on the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights, and took in the vista of the Brooklyn Bridge, downtown Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and further up, the spire of the Empire State.

During club hours we crowded into the auditorium to hear Malcolm X speak. Or we listened to local political candidates, heated debate overflowing the classroom after the speaker left.

The Cuban Missile crisis brought us back to days when, as schoolchildren, shades were lowered, lights turned out, and we were instructed to get down on our knees below our desks and cover our heads. Our mortality, and civilization's could be ended by design or by caprice. We frantically darted about the dormitory, discussing whether we might soon be drafted.

I remember other areas I did not know until those days in Brooklyn. Working as a receptionist at the Brooklyn Tuberculosis Center several evenings a week, I participated in a too-common side of Brooklyn life: poverty. Sick, helpless people came, seeking assistance. I processed forms and offered reassurance, but felt ineffectual.

As a dormitory counselor I sometime had to accompany students to the emergency room at the Brooklyn Hospital behind the university. I spent a week there myself, with pleurisy, in a ward. The squalor and the human tragedy I witnessed are echoed in the works of Theodore Dreiser which I read in the hospital for a term paper, seeing Frank Cowperwood's lobster and squid locked in deadly combat as symbolic of our struggle with life in this land of Brooklyn.

Next to the hospital was a prison. There, from the upper floors of the dormitory, the prisoners could be seen endlessly marching in circles. The prison was later destroyed to make room for a bigger hospital, the demolition ball pounding the 19th-century slabs into rubble, crushing the infinitely trodden steps in the courtyard.

Walking past the Admissions Office one Friday afternoon, a friend came running toward me. "Did you hear, Kennedy was shot?" Incredulous, I rushed to my dorm to listen to the radio. It was true.

I had tickets for a concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music that night, one of the few cultural events in New York City that was not cancelled. An unrehearsed version of Beethoven's Egmont Overture was performed rather than the regular program. We filed out, silent, stunned, weeping openly. In quick succession Oswald was apprehended, and while we watched it on TV, Jack Ruby assassinated him.

With the advent of these acts, in particular as the Vietnam War encroached on all our lives, I knew the life I had known in Brooklyn could not remain the same. What changed, some years later, was often for the better for me. But whatever the benefits and the sad moments, I shall remember Brooklyn most as the place that allowed me to change into myself.








Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963



Fifty years ago.  Can it be?   There are few moments of our lives that are indelibly etched in our memories.  9/11 was such a day .  But there only those of a certain age who can remember that horrid day of Nov. 22, 1963.  Two years ago I briefly wrote about my own recollection and I quote that entry as it is a suitable opening for a more detailed account:

People our age remember certain moments with such clarity they seem like yesterday. Noon, November 22, 1963 was such a moment as I was passing the Student Union building on Flatbush Avenue, hurrying to class. It was a clear, crisp day. Suddenly, a friend came running toward me. "Did you hear, Kennedy was shot?" Incredulous, I rushed to my dorm to listen to the radio. It was true.

We had tickets for a concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music that night, one of the few cultural events in New York City that was not cancelled. An unrehearsed version of Beethoven's Egmont Overture was performed rather than the regular program. We filed out, silent, stunned, weeping openly. In quick succession Oswald was apprehended, and while we watched it on TV with others, Jack Ruby assassinated him.

It was a horrific weekend of anxiety, bewilderment, and profound sorrow. Such high hopes for our young President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. These hopes were dashed by what would become the first of other assassinations in the turbulent 1960s, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy.

To have borne witness to them all is almost dreamlike, but Friday, November 22, 1963 is emblazoned in my mind's eye.

One would have had to live through the Kennedy era to fully appreciate the anguish of that day, and the subsequent weekend, and ultimately what that day symbolized.  My first real awareness of Jack Kennedy (other than his being a Senator and a war hero), was when he ran for President in 1960.  I was not eligible to vote as an 18 year old (21 was the age then and it was not lowered to 18 until eleven years later), but as a freshman in a predominately Democratic-leaning college, I was caught up in the Kennedy message.  He talked about the future and just did not seem to be content with politics as usual. 

My parents were staunch Republicans.  Nixon all the way.  My father was horrified by my views.  And, as I was in the process of breaking from my parent's home, his reaction only reinforced my support of Kennedy.  The other tripping mechanism was the Congregational church I used to attend (my parents sent me there for religious training and expected me to go to Sunday service, which they rarely attended).  The minister at the time warned his parishioners of the dangers of electing a Catholic, inviting the Pope into American politics.  That was the last time I was in a church other than for a wedding or a funeral or to visit one that had historic significance.  Anti-Catholicism was as big an issue in that election as racial / birthplace issues were in Obama's.

I think if the Kennedy - Nixon election had taken place before television finally established a major role in elections, Kennedy would not have had a chance.  But TV made the difference as Nixon came off looking like a perspiring used car salesman with a cool Kennedy sitting beside him, at home in front of the camera.

And so a new era of politics ensued, but that quickly went downhill as Kennedy had one test after another, first the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which merely foreshadowed the more serious confrontation over Russian missiles placed in Cuba two years later, and then taking on the steel industry over price increases they had promised not to implement.  These were headline topics and both diminished, somewhat, the Kennedy mystique. 

But nothing prepared us for what happened in October, 1962, the Cuban Missile crisis.  This made the Cold War more than a theoretical event, as Kennedy took the calculated risk that a blockade (actually a "quarantine") of Cuba would give Russia an opportunity to back down, probably the most important decision of his Presidency.  We were on the brink of nuclear war and living in a college dormitory in NYC the anxiety ran especially high.  Had such a war broken out, Washington and New York would have been first targets.  Alternatively, there was talk about an invasion of Cuba and we wondered whether we would soon be enlisting in the Army.

But through skillful behind-the-scenes diplomatic negotiating, the crisis was ended and the following year was relatively placid (except for the occasional mention of Vietnam), with improving diplomatic relations with Russia, a veritable Camelot era the Kennedy mystique had so often suggested.  At the end of my Junior year, I was married (June 1963 -- to my first wife, also a Junior at college) and we moved into faculty / married student apartment facilities in the dormitory, working part time and summer jobs to pay for rent, utilities, and food. So, we were married only four months when the momentous day of Kennedy's assassination took place.

We did not own a TV, but we were friends of a Drama professor, Barbara Pasternak, who also lived in the faculty apartments with her husband, Mel.  Barbara treated us almost as colleagues as my wife was acting in the university's theatre department and I was a student in Barbara's Drama-as-literature course.

They had a TV so we spent most of that gloomy aftermath of Kennedy's assassination in her apartment, frequently with other faculty members, watching, stunned, at the turn of events, from Jack Ruby's assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald to sadly watching Kennedy's flag-draped coffin as it moved through Washington on an open carriage.  Little did we know what this horrible event would presage, such as the assassinations of Kennedy's brother Bobby, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X.  Or, now from the prospective of 50 years later, add the commonplace local shootings, slaughterings in malls, movie theatres, schools, not to mention wars and terrorism.

Many years later, sometime in the late 1980's my current wife, Ann, and I were sitting on our boat in Block Island and a large yacht was approaching Payne's Dock.  The word quickly spread, that it was owned by a friend of Jacqueline Kennedy, and she was aboard (this long after her second husband, Aristotle Onassis, had died).  Naturally, everyone was hoping that she would step off the yacht and perhaps walk on the dock, but she did not.  Instead, I thought I caught a glimpse of her in the salon through thin curtains, almost like a cameo profile.  I'm sure she had wondered, as I have all these years, what could have been.  What kind of alternative history would have been written had Nov 22, 1963 been just another, forgettable, day?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Reflection Beyond His Telling

My friend, Martin Tucker, is retiring, again. I’ll let him explain this redundancy and the occasion itself in the essay he wrote, How Difficult It Is To Say Goodbye (see below), from the 107th issue of Confrontation, a literary magazine he helped to found more than 40 years ago and has edited since. How many literary magazines can boast such longevity? Martin got things done through the force of his unique personality, a scholar/poet with an easygoing persona and playful sense of humor. Simply put, he is one of the kindest people I’ve ever known, compassionate and understanding. I count him among my few, but dear, life-long friends.

He was my teacher in college and I was his enthusiastic student in the courses he taught on contemporary literature. When I graduated and began working for a publishing company in New York I asked him whether he would edit a reprint series on English Literature, selecting the titles, commissioning the introductions and soon we were no longer student/teacher, but colleagues, trying to resurrect some of the best, forgotten literature.

And, indeed, in Martin’s usual modest way explaining his own success, he gives full attribution to his contributors, the writers: “without the writer, there is no book, no theater to open its door, no newspaper to appear at a doorstep and even in an impersonal age of communication like the web of the Internet, no summary to spread wireless reverberation.” So our friendship was founded on a love of literature and over the years, we worked on a multitude of projects, including the publication of his unique reference work on expatriate writers, Literary Exile in the Twentieth Century: An Analysis and Biographical Dictionary.

I like stories of serendipity and I can tell you one involving Martin. When my first marriage was ending, I was staying with my friend Jim in his East Village pad. To put it in temporal perspective, Janis Joplin was playing at the Fillmore East. Jim had a motorcycle and we decided to go to Fire Island for an early summer weekend, hoping to find a place to stay, but prepared to deploy our sleeping bags, someplace, anyplace. I knew a young woman in my office who had a house-share there and asked whether she might be there that weekend, hoping to crash at her place. She said it was not her weekend, although she was planning to arrive on Sunday as she was staying the following week for vacation.

As it turned out, Jim and I slept on the beach on Saturday night. Before we left the next day, I walked the beach looking for that young woman, Ann, who would later become my wife. I could not find her, but I found Martin on the beach with the woman who would later become his wife! After I was remarried, we saw them frequently until, sadly, they too were divorced. But over the years Martin and I always found the time to get together, in NY, Westport, or on our boat, and finally, we both found ourselves living in Florida, he on the west coast and we on the east, with still the opportunity for occasional visits.

The tables turned when I retired, as I became a consultant for Confrontation’s book publication program. Now I worked for him! But while our relationship will no longer be one of colleagues, I look forward to years and years of continuing friendship.

Martin once wrote a poem about a student offering him a New York street pretzel while crossing the campus to a class. I’ve forgotten the words, but never the feeling of the poignant relationship between eager student and admired teacher. Poetry has its way of capturing such truths and Martin has more to write in the future. His most recent poem in Confrontation, selected by him for this, his last issue as Editor, says it all:

A Chip off a Block, by Martin Tucker

A piece of stone
I chip at
and find a face
that is my own
yet distant like an object
held in hand
at arm’s length
telling me
to look.
but I cannot see
till the shape
overtakes me
my hand
my arm
my face
and the thing becomes
not me
but a reflection
beyond my telling.
A stone
The meaning of
within the stone
and I the onlooker
like anyone else.

Copyright © 2010 by Long Island University

***

How Difficult It Is to Say Goodbye by Martin Tucker

FORTY-TWO YEARS IS a long time to say goodbye to. It's probably the reason I've put off writing my "farewell" till the last minute, or the last minute before the printing press gulps down my words. Of course it hasn't been forty-two years that I've been saying goodbye, maybe two at the most. Forty years at a helm is a signal to pull into port. That's what I thought two years ago.

It takes time to slow down. Even the machines in a fitness room have a "cool-down" warning. Perhaps then it is a fitness-occasion now to say farewell.

Confrontation began, as many of its readers know, in 1968, the year of several confrontations that rocked the country. The editorial board of this magazine chose the name because it wanted to be a part of the country's spirit - the word was zeitgeist then -and to be inside the whirl of activities illustrating it. Our mission was less to choose sides, announce a winner of a contest, than to show the pluralities of life's arguments. There are always plenty of life's arguments to take issue with (which we did in assigning whole issues of the magazine to one blazing issue of the moment). Perhaps there were more confrontations in that momentous year than in the present moment. Such arguments with time and about the times can rarely be settled by figures, even of personal and mammoth size, but such figures are the stuff around which time takes its shape. And so we took up this banner called Confrontation.

Yet from the beginning - from its founding editors' approach to its most recent stance-we were more concerned with a two-faced look, a presentation of at least two ways at looking at a blackbird (or Hartford or poetry or even life insurance, for that matter). I suggested the name Confrontation after wanting to call the magazine Prism –initially. I thought our magazine, though it had firebrands on the staff, should be prismatic rather than confrontational. Fortunately or unfortunately, there was already a magazine called Prism, and so we opted for a second-choice title.

The history of a magazine is determined by its editors, for they select the good (or bad) writing that will distinguish it. When the magazine started, it had editors from the then-three campuses of Long Island University -the Brooklyn Center, C.W. Post, and Southampton College. Robert Donald Spector and I were chosen from the Brooklyn campus (I came to L.I.U. as adjunct instructor in 1956 in the English Department at the Brooklyn Center and rose to Professor and Chair of the English Department before moving to the C.W. Post campus 23 years later). Eugene Arden and Dan Levin were the editors from the Post campus, and Robert Umphreys and Steve Levinson represented the Southampton campus. Leading all of us with her vision was the founding patron of the magazine, Winthrop Palmer. Winthrop, who made the magazine possible through her generous financial contributions, and later endowment, possessed vast enthusiasm for all the arts, but particularly literature. Often meetings were held in her elegant apartment in Manhattan or her grand mansion in Center Island on Long Island's North Shore, where she fed us with substantial dinners and talk about the power of culture. Sometimes we engaged as well in discussion of the culture of power, and the discussions led to one of the thematic issues of the magazine - the morality of prize giving.

Like Mr. Chips, I watched as the editors of the founding moved on. Winthrop died in 1988 at age 88; her death-day is a quartet of eights, a rare date for a rare person. Robert Donald Spector, an important force in the history of Long Island University, as an educator, a representative of faculty interest, a writer, and as Chairman of the George Polk Journalism Awards, died last year. Eugene Arden, Steve Levinson, Bob Umphreys all moved away. The only remaining member of the original board, Dan Levin, remains teaching at the Post campus; he is now in his ninth decade.

Winthrop endowed the magazine and made possible its continuation without concern for financial exigency. A generous patron, a published writer of several poetry books and one volume of dance criticism as well as journalism and dramatic work, and a dedicated educator, she became for me a guiding light and a close friend. In one way, I said goodbye to Winthrop in her Center Island home the day before she died; in another way, I am saying goodbye to her now with this recounting, for her spirit has animated the magazine and guided me in my role as editor.

***

IT IS DIFFICULT TO say goodbye to all the other editors, assistants, consultants, student interns, and the administrators of the university who have contributed to Confrontation along the years. The history of the magazine should recognize the aid of Mary Lai, Cathy Seringer, Peggy Riggs, Virginia De Francesco, and others who steered the wheel of bureaucratic reports no less lively than the editorial matter of the magazine. I would like to say goodbye to two late good friends, Jeanne Welcher Kleinfield and Edythe Cecil; they were ladies of distinction whose efforts for the magazine need to be heralded, as well as the continuing support of Winthrop's daughter, Rosalind Palmer Walter.

***

IF A MAGAZINE CANNOT survive without an editor and Editorial Board and a Business Staff (or harried volunteer individuals trying to master the subscription list and sales data and Receipts Accountable), it can only survive on the base of its writers. It is, I admit, a tautological error to talk of quantitative survival. No one survives partway; we are all equal in survival, unless we don't survive, no matter how different we are after survival. Still, there is meaning in talking about qualitative differences of survival. Without the writer, there is no book, no theater to open its door, no newspaper to appear at a doorstep and even in an impersonal age of communication like the web of the Internet, no summary to spread wireless reverberation. Confrontation has been fortunate in having the support of writers, many of them famous and prize-winning, many of them unknown at the time of their publication in our pages, and all of them willing to accept our modest fees. We paid our contributors for their work from our first issue; the recompense was moderate, it has remained moderate, and it appears it will be doing so for the foreseeable future (of course the future is not so seeable, so such statements of measure should be taken with a measure of uncertainty). Some of the writers who have appeared in our pages since 1968 include eight Nobel laureates, among them LB. Singer, Nadine Gordimer, John Steinbeck, W.H. Auden, and Derek Walcott; some have been Pulitzer Prize and other Award winners, among them Arthur Miller, Cynthia Ozick, Joyce Carol Oates, Jerzy Kosinski, Iris Murdoch, James Jones, William Styron, and Jean Stafford; and some have been aspiring high school and college students. All of them graciously accepted our fees and some of them either refused to be paid or returned the fees as gifts to the magazine.

It is hard to say goodbye to that kind of giving.

We did say a kind of goodbye a few years ago to a policy that downsized big names and capitalized on lesser-known ones. We decided to try to discover new or unknown talent and emphasize such work unfolding from their pens and computers. The well-known did not need us; it was a gamble to see how much we need them on our covers. The gamble has worked well enough- attention is still paid to the magazine as it has paid attention to lesser-known writers. Certainly, any magazine is graced with the likes of an Isaac Bashevis Singer and Joyce Carol Oates fiction or a Cynthia Ozick essay, and occasionally we still publish a work by a talent of that size and recognition, but it is equally gratifying to know we have played a part in the burgeoning of a career.

Like many magazines that have become old –and 40-plus is old age in the literary journal field - we sometimes indulge in the memory of our youthful forays. I've said "goodbye" to the “scoop” method. We have had our share of them - we were the first literary journal to suggest, if not fully weigh, claims against the mistreatment of his wife by T.S. Eliot. I knew Eliot's secretary long after she resigned from her job at Faber & Faber, where Eliot was a senior editor. She still harbored affection for the great poet. Nevertheless, she revealed (after much argument from me) that Eliot’s behavior toward his first wife might be construed as unkind, if not hurtful. Such knowledge, while peripheral, was important, I urged on her, for gaining the fullest picture of the dominant poet of the modern age in the English-speaking world. Her memoir printed in our pages ignited both anger and applause, exactly the kind of prismatic – and confrontational -- look we were bent on achieving.

***

IT WILL BE SOMEWHAT hard to say goodbye to those familiar faces over the years who have stared at me in wonder as I passed through faculty halls and the university cafeteria. "But you retired fourteen years ago," they have said. "We gave you a big party. Everybody came." They do not say, "What are you doing here?" but I hear the words in my inner ear. It is hard to explain that I've been here these past 14 years after my retirement as a professor; that I've been working with a loyal and active staff - a skeleton staff if measured by the enormous body of work it performs. Sometimes these wondering souls have recognized me by the shopping bags I carry in one or both hands, the bags containing manuscripts to be read or letters to be answered. Sometimes, we smile at each other and sometimes the quizzical look does not leave their bemused faces.

I will miss those looks - they are a sign of good regards in my way of thinking - but I will not miss the weight of the shopping bags.

I will miss too the support of the administration, which for 40 years has not interfered with the editorial content of the magazine. I want to thank the present administration, and particularly David Steinberg, for its firm support. Other administrators over the years come to mind: Jeffrey Kane, Mary Lai, Edward Cook, Gail Stevens, Katherine Hill-Miller. And I will miss the friendship and aid of our Executive Director of the Books Program, Robert Hagelstein, whose advice was essential for our modest Press operations. In addition to being a colleague, Bob was once my student at the Brooklyn Center of L.I. U. Later he became President of Greenwood Press, which he helped to make the largest scholarly reprint publishing company in the U.S. I will miss too the close working association with our compositor/ designer John Beck, and our printing company, Thomson-Shore, each demanding deadlines of me as I demanded deadlines of them.

***

I AM SAYING GOODBYE to an ordered life which of course is disordered some of the time, but has recognizable time tables and furniture of many designs to remind one of his obligations. What awaits may be a less ordered life, one where the touchstones are seen more in the desire to find them and in the knowledge that they are to be constructed by self-discipline. Or what may await may be just as tempting - a landscape against which memory moves its moods into a basket for plucking all the things it has been hard to say goodbye to.

***

AND NOW I WOULD like to say hello to the new editor, Jonna Semeiks, who will take the reins with the next issue. Jonna has served on the magazine for close to a decade and comes with a background of magazine experience and a rich knowledge of modern and contemporary literature. She will be assisted by the new Poetry Editor, Belinda Kremer, and a new resource for our Internet age, Terry Kattleman, who will serve as Director of Publicity and Technical Information. It is a wonderful team, one I don't have to say goodbye to, at least for a year. I'll be staying on as consultant for the coming year.
- Martin Tucker

P.S. In writing this, I realize - suddenly - this is the last time I will have the last word on something I write. I will have to say goodbye to that, too.

Copyright © 2010 by Long Island University
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Sunday, June 1, 2008

College Years

As mentioned before in these pages, I was totally unprepared for college, having squandered most of my time in high school, and lacking the encouragement of my parents. They did not want to see me go out of state and so I was accepted on probation by Long Island University. To make matters worse, that first year I lived at home and had more than a one-hour subway commute to Brooklyn from Queens. (http://lacunaemusing.blogspot.com/2008/01/before-consciousness.html).

But with my sophomore year I achieved my objective of living on campus, settling into my new life in the dormitory. I also switched my major from advertising/business to psychology rationalizing that motivational research is best learned from that perspective. I was persuaded to make the switch because Gustave Gilbert http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Gilbert was then Chairman of the department and as a psychology major I would be able to take his popular course the The Psychology of Dictatorship. Later in my career I reprinted his book of the same title. Gilbert was the author of the Nuremberg Diary and was the American Military Chief Psychologist at the trials.

However, thanks to the influence of my friend, Bruce, I again switched my major to literature during my junior year (http://lacunaemusing.blogspot.com/2008/02/old-friends.html). This is where my heart took me. That same year I became a dormitory counselor, which provided free room and board, and at that time I met Carol, who was to become my first wife.

I think we were drawn together because we were both lost souls (although at the time I did not see that). She too came from an emotionally “broken” home. We adopted one another and my mother saw in her a “daughter,” whom she hoped to mold and influence. Before long, we were planning our marriage. We dove into that commitment without any doubts, especially me as I saw an opportunity to “teach” my parents how to have a marriage and it was a permanent ticket out of my home.

So, in June 1963 we were married in the Church in the Gardens in Forest Hills. Only a few people attended the wedding, my immediate family, my Uncle Phil, and my friends Bud and Ed. Even her mother did not go to the wedding.

That day started ominously. Carol was staying with my family in Queens and I was in our new apartment in Brooklyn. I decided to cook myself some bacon and eggs that morning before getting on the subway. We had one frying pan in which I first cooked the bacon and when that was finished I nonchalantly discarded the grease into a wax water cup that promptly melted around my thumb. The Brooklyn Hospital was across the street and I rushed there, trying to get someone’s attention in the emergency room. My story of having to make my own wedding in a few hours was met with, “Oh, yeah.” Finally, between a couple of gunshot wound victims I was seen, treated for 2rd degree burns and my right thumb was bandaged so it was twice it’s size. Nice “touch” for the wedding night I thought.

That summer we moved into the section of the dormitory for faculty and married students and we both worked full time. The following year we maintained part time jobs to support ourselves while we finished our senior years, me at the university library and she in a variety of jobs.

By this time I was taking mostly English courses and had several with Prof. Martin Tucker who is still my friend to this day. Martin was more than a teacher. He was a mentor who gave me confidence in my abilities. And, today, more than 40 years later, I work with him as executive director of Confrontation Press. He just turned 80 and is still going strong, as a poet, as a playwright, and as the Editor of the literary journal, Confrontation, that has just published its 100th issue. About twenty years ago he asked me to write a piece about my LIU student experience for a special issue of Confrontation, "Brooklyn and the World." This was intended to be more of an evocative portrayal than a history, and I include the essay below.

When the time came for graduation, I found I lacked the necessary credits, with too many credits from too many majors (Business, Psychology, English) and too many minors (Education and Music), but not enough required courses. So during the summer of 1964 I had to take those courses to graduate while Carol worked for Dell Publishing. Upon graduation, she became pregnant, thus changing my thought of going to graduate school, either to pursue teaching or library science.

So life had other plans for me and I began my working career, but that is another story.

L.I.U.-My World in the Early'60s

Downtown Brooklyn sandwiched between the placid decade of the 50s and the Vietnam War was not unlike other communities in having a sense of optimism about its future. A thriving commercial center for small merchants, it had major islands in the same sea: the New York Telephone Company headquarters, the Brooklyn Hospital, Abraham and Straus department store, the Fox and Paramount movie theatres, the Board of Education, Fort Greene Park, and Long Island University.

It was September 1960 when I emerged from the DeKalb Avenue subway stop and made my way for the first time to L.I.U. Standing at the comer of Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue, waiting for the light to change, Junior's and the Dime Savings Bank behind me, I faced a drab office building rising above the ornate but faded Brooklyn Paramount movie palace.

Farther behind me was a middle-class Queens community, my universe until this moment: a community of hard-working people imbued with the conviction that all things were possible in this society if one tried hard enough; it was with this sense I was going to college to learn business. But this seeming past eternity of punch ball; the Bungalow Bar man; picture-card trading; piano and guitar lessons; grammar school report cards that included grades for penmanship, neatness and posture; the Bunny Hop, Elvis ("a-wop-bom-a-lu-bop ... "); Ike; and high school (" ... if you don't take Latin, you won't be able to get into college .. ") was possibly fading, for I stood on the border between two lives, two cultures: was my background going to be my future, could I emerge out of this bland and benign landscape into myself? Brooklyn would have much to do with the answer.

Sitting in my first class on the 8th floor, becoming a regular occupant of that same seat, I could see the digital clock on top of the Dime Savings Bank blinking at me. This and another clock on top of the Williamsburg Savings Bank farther up Flatbush Avenue became lighthouses in my Brooklyn experience. When, the following year, I lived in the dormitory, returning late in the evening from a night in Manhattan in a blinding snowstorm, I sensed these silent timepieces watching me scurrying home.

In later years I lived in downtown Brooklyn, worked in Manhattan for a publishing firm, and regularly flew to the mid-west. Coming into LaGuardia Airport, we would sweep over Brooklyn and see the downtown area reaching out to Prospect Park while the fingers of the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges bound Brooklyn to Manhattan. Below was the beacon of the Williamsburg Savings Bank clock. Then, as now, I am drawn to that unique community I once called home.

I remember the student union on the ground floor of the small building adjacent to the Paramount building. Smoke hung in the stagnant air, bodies slumped on worn lounge chairs and elbows rested on Formica tables. Nixon versus Kennedy was the subject of heated discussion. These students, mostly from Brooklyn, seemed confident in their belief that politics could remake society. Eventually I found myself caught up in political causes as my apathy of the past waned.

With John F. Kennedy our new President-elect, the campus had a new vibrancy. A professor, delayed by listening to Beethoven's Eighth Symphony in his office, entered the classroom gesticulating those glorious rhythms. One professor challenged us to an exam: think of a question and answer it, the grade being as dependent on the nature of the question as on the answer. Another accepted a twisted pretzel from a student on the school quadrangle and published a poem on the experience.

Meanwhile I moved into the dormitory, severing remaining ties with a prior somnambulistic life. My room faced the front of the campus, with the monolithic slab of a factory that would become the shell of the architecturally renowned Humanities Building to be constructed a short time later. Behind the factory stood downtown Brooklyn, my microcosm of the real world.

The lack of classroom space mandated that the university rent space at Brooklyn Polytechnic, a neighboring institution where some of my classes were held. We made our way there along Myrtle Avenue, the elevator line rumbling over our heads, past furniture stores and shells of buildings. Decay was evident, but it was defiant decay: people stubbornly made their homes and pursued their lives here.

The return trip was frequently along Fulton Street, connecting the City Hall area with Flatbush Avenue and downtown Brooklyn. There, the cacophony of tiny record stores blurted out" ... baby, baby, baby, baby don't you leave me ... " merging with" ... be-bop-a-lu-la, she's my baby ... " The Chinese restaurant on the second floor beckoned, but I moved on toward the Dime Savings Bank, past shoe, appliance, fabric and other stores.

Across from the Dime Savings Bank was McCrory's, which embodied most of the merchant's downtown Brooklyn expectations. Here I was greeted at the door by the aroma of newly manufactured goods mixed with those of different foods cooking in various sections of the store. In the basement was a grocery where we bought food to supplement the fare in the dormitory. Shoppers would scrutinize the merchandise with almost-total seriousness as the IND subway loudspeaker announced, through corridors connecting to McCrory's, a train's arrival.

Opposite Junior's restaurant, then as now the neighborhood's most famous food emporium, was another restaurant, Soloway's, a luncheonette run by a Greek family. Hamburgers sizzled in grease while french fries were bathing in deep fat. Students gathered around most of the tables and at the counter while strains of "Run Around Sue" thumped from the jukebox.

Junior's itself was reserved for special occasions when only the most obscene dessert would suffice. Also, late at night, when we could study no more, some of us went across to Junior's bar to chat with Pete, the bartender, who offered a different education: would Maris hit 60 home runs? Mickey Mantle was the better ballplayer, Pete opined. Pete had a thick neck with a trim gray crew cut. He was a kindly father to us, probably not realizing the important role he played in our student lives.

Manhattan was a short shuttle over the Manhattan Bridge via the BMT, and occasionally we went there. Perhaps on a date, sitting at the back of St. Patrick's Cathedral until dawn to beat the curfew for female residents of the dorm; or to Greenwich Village for a Black Russian or to see a production at Cafe LaMama or on the second floor of Max's Kansas City restaurant, where the Theatre of the Absurd played; but Brooklyn seemed to be all the world we generally needed and that was where we usually stayed. We sat on the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights, and took in the vista of the Brooklyn Bridge, downtown Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and further up, the spire of the Empire State.

During club hours we crowded into the auditorium to hear Malcolm X speak. Or we listened to local political candidates, heated debate overflowing the classroom after the speaker left.

The Cuban Missile crisis brought us back to days when, as schoolchildren, shades were lowered, lights turned out, and we were instructed to get down on our knees below our desks and cover our heads. Our mortality, and civilization's could be ended by design or by caprice. We frantically darted about the dormitory, discussing whether we might soon be drafted.

I remember other areas I did not know until those days in Brooklyn. Working as a receptionist at the Brooklyn Tuberculosis Center several evenings a week, I participated in a too-common side of Brooklyn life: poverty. Sick, helpless people came, seeking assistance. I processed forms and offered reassurance, but felt ineffectual.

As a dormitory counselor I sometime had to accompany students to the emergency room at the Brooklyn Hospital behind the university. I spent a week there myself, with pleurisy, in a ward. The squalor and the human tragedy I witnessed are echoed in the works of Theodore Dreiser which I read in the hospital for a term paper, seeing Frank Cowperwood's lobster and squid locked in deadly combat as symbolic of our struggle with life in this land of Brooklyn.

Next to the hospital was a prison. There, from the upper floors of the dormitory, the prisoners could be seen endlessly marching in circles. The prison was later destroyed to make room for a bigger hospital, the demolition ball pounding the 19th-century slabs into rubble, crushing the infinitely trodden steps in the courtyard.

Walking past the Admissions Office one Friday afternoon, a friend came running toward me. "Did you hear, Kennedy was shot?" Incredulous, I rushed to my dorm to listen to the radio. It was true.

I had tickets for a concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music that night, one of the few cultural events in New York City that was not cancelled. An unrehearsed version of Beethoven's Egmont Overture was performed rather than the regular program. We filed out, silent, stunned, weeping openly. In quick succession Oswald was apprehended, and while we watched it on TV, Jack Ruby assassinated him.

With the advent of these acts, in particular as the Vietnam War encroached on all our lives, I knew the life I had known in Brooklyn could not remain the same. What changed, some years later, was often for the better for me. But whatever the benefits and the sad moments, I shall remember Brooklyn most as the place that allowed me to change into myself.