I turned sixteen years old on September 16, 1975, during the disco era when Gerald R. Ford was president. I lived in Lindenhurst, New York. Back then, as during most of my lifetime, I was quite shy with people I didn’t know, but upon having gotten to know someone I could be quite the quick-witted obnoxious character. In my yearbook, when I graduated, people wrote several comments about my distinctive sense of humor, and complaints about how I let people get away with too much. A junior at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip, on suburban Long Island, I got along very well with all my teachers and the other kids in school. As a teenage boy, I could never help noticing how exceptionally lovely so many of the girls were. Fortunately most of the people on the faculty, and in the administration and guidance department were quite impressive. My favorite class that year was Mr. Brian Clancy’s seventh period American History class. History’s always been one of my favorite subjects anyway and Mr. Clancy really knew how to keep things interesting in a classroom. The single most distinctive memory I have of Mr. Clancy is that throughout the year, he kept trying to get each of us kids to recite, in order, the name of each president from George Washington to Ford. He always seemed to have been especially determined to drill it into my head. Not a day went by that he didn’t stop me at some random time and try to get me to name them all. Unlike my adult persona, in those days it could never have occurred to me to think of life as one big theology and philosophy classroom, or as a cultural battlefield between the forces of good and those of evil. I just tried to be a good kid and to have a few laughs. When my tenth grade theology teacher, Mr. Jerry Di Noto, now on my Facebook friend list, found out what kind of adult I’ve turned into, he was genuinely shocked because, according to him, I was always simply such a nice guy as a kid. Then, as now, I was never even the least bit interested in, sports, nor was I the least bit competent at anything athletic, so whatever references other guys in my crowd made to that kind of thing were all entirely over my head. Having always been very interested in chess as a youngster, I joined Mr. Nagy’s chess club. For some strange reason, though, that group fell apart after only a very short time. When I was a freshman, my homeroom classmates, who were among the most colorful, obnoxious characters I’ve ever met, made me their representative on the student council. I stuck with it throughout school. After I got home from school each day I spent most of my time hanging around with the Copiague public school kids in my neighborhood. Things were about the same with them as with my friends from school. I virtually always avoided sports except for something that vaguely approximated basketball in the street. No description any part of my lifetime could possibly be complete without a reference to my musical tastes. Maybe it’s because of my total lack of a connection to sports, but I’ve always been quite inordinately interested in music, especially the Beatles and everything else from the 1960’s. Disco, though it now might just as well not even exist, was an omnipresent curse in those days for those of us who didn’t like it. I used always to try to convince my friends that the music of the 1960’s was infinitely superior to even the best of what our era had to offer. On July 3, 1976, my cousin Larry, five years older than I, got married. I was an usher in his wedding party. Although I was still only a kid, it was a bit of a reminder that adulthood wasn’t extremely far away. Unfortunately my parents never let me get a driver’s license, or even a permit, until I was nineteen years old. At sixteen, unless someone was willing to give me a ride, I could never go anyplace that was any farther than either my feet or a bicycle could take me. I like to think I was quite a gentleman in those days. As far as I know I must have been at least reasonably decent because whenever I meet someone who remembers me from that part of my life, I get a nice friendly reaction and a reminder of what a very good time it was.
Ten year old Harold and his eight year old sister Margret were good kids but Harold was quite lazy about doing his homework. Mrs. Zgura, his mother’s Romanian friend, often teased him about it: “Herrald”, she’d say, “eef you dun’t do humvork, Jeepsies veell keednep littell seester, iven vonce you forrrget”. He did his homework daily for a while. One day, though, he got distracted by friends so he never bothered. The next morning he went into Margret’s room to greet her. Chills ran up and down the boy’s spine.