I AIN’T WASTING NO MORE TIME

When I was a teenager I hated school.

Most felt the same way, I think? 

Difference between you and me? I didn’t persevere. Just gave up.

School?

Ha!

I’d rather hang out, do my own thing. Know what I mean?

Didn’t know the importance of an education. Had no idea. No clue. Who needs school? I’m going to be an Ironworker when I’m 18.  That was the mind-set. That was the wrong mind-set.

Father, mother and older brother all dropped out of school. I followed their lead.

“For a boy to become a man, he must first see a man,” said J.R. Moeringher.

It started with Power Memorial. I was 14. The year was 1978. I lasted three days. Same high school as Dick Bavetta, Ed Klimkowski, Eddie Moss, Larry Petty, Jessie Fong, Mario Elie and Jerry Coles. I recall Jerry poking his head in my classroom first day of school asking how things were going? I looked at him and said to myself, “I hate it.

Dreams of playing for their basketball team. Saw them play two years before. Said I wanted to be a Panther. Would go around telling everyone. All that was over. Two trains to the city. Too much. Had to wake up way too early.

What next? What do I tell my mother? She’ll be pissed. Ticked off.

Fear not young man. Enroll in John Jay. Seventh avenue. John Corrar. Patty Byrnes. Joe Pepitone. Freshmen and Sophomores in the afternoon. Juniors and seniors in the morning. I can sleep in.

Started skipping classes on the second day; few days later I was history.

Running.

Hiding.

Afraid.

At 15 you have no idea why you fear. (“Hey, get back in school, you can do this…) That’s all I needed. 

Sure they tried to tell me to get back in school. I didn’t listen. An all important attribute. “Listening.”Older guys from the neighborhood preached. Lectured. Some even begged me. My girlfriend Maureen tried to convince me. My ears were closed.

Few weeks later I try LaSalle Academy down on the Lower East Side. Catholic school. Went 8 years to Holy Name. “The Big Lie,” but that’s a story for another time. Nuns, priests, discipline, wooden paddles, uniforms…

LaSalle is The Candy Man’s alma mater. John Roache. Tom Owens. Ron Artest.

The Cullen’s from 175 Windsor Place told me all about LaSalle.Good friends of mine growing up. Jimmy a year older, Frankie two years on me.

Said I would like it. They sure did.

Jerome Washington was a star player at the time. He was cool.Kid could really ball. Had hops too. Saw him one day shooting jumpers in their tiny gym. Thought to myself maybe I can play in the back-court with him?  Poor son of a bitch passed away a few years ago. Think he was 48. Sad.

The LaSalle experiment lasted two months. Sorta. Maybe a month and a half.  On the second day mom gave me $100 cash to buy a few required text books; I spent the money on cokes and buttered rolls every morning before school. On the weekends I would buy a bottle of Wild Irish Rose. The money was gone in 14 days.

Poor Mom, she and I tried John Jay a second time. Things didn’t work out. I lasted two weeks. I was petrified. There seemed to be like 10,000 kids in that school. The hallways were spooky. I didn’t know anyone. I was like a zombie walking the halls. Saw a few kids sneaking out a window in the stairwell. I jumped out with them. Ran up the block to Prospect Park. Walked around thinking this was so cool. Little did I know, I was fucking up.

Tried John Jay one more time.

Fall of 1980. Sixteen year-old freshman. But now a member of the the basketball team. Me, Ron Hardy, Keith Grady, Ed Saunders, Gary Phillips, whom we called ‘Doc’ because boy could he sky. I remember throwing him an ally-oop in practice. He was up so high he was talking to the Lord.  And we had a really cool Hispanic kid from Bay Ridge, Merchado was his last night. One day him and I had two hours to kill before practice so we spent it watching a performance by some dancers in the auditorium. Pete Coakley was the coach; reminded me of the White Shadow. I was having a ball. Not going to class but going to practice. The day we got our uniforms, #30, I wore it outside. That night I slept in it.

Early December we played a few games; I got some playing time. My girlfriend Maureen bought me brand new Nike high-tops.  But it hit me again; I quit the team. Dropped out of school. WTF?

Now what?

Winter of 1981 I start coaching a seventh grade basketball team at Holy Name.

Took a liking to it. Never went back to school. But the game did something for me. Believe it was the Basketball Gods who sent the message.

Fast forward 35 years; took and passed the G.E.D. exam. Enrolled in college. Got my college degree. These days I coach varsity basketball and substitute teach. Right now I have a long-term substitute job until Thanksgiving teaching English 3 and Anthropology/Sociology.

Should have been a teacher. I love being in the classroom with these wonderful kids.

-Red

Hoops135@hotmail.com

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This entry was posted in Bishop Ford High School, John Jay, Lafayette High School, New Utrecht High School, Pete Hamill and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to I AIN’T WASTING NO MORE TIME

  1. J Stan says:

    We all have a journey-at least yours became a success and you are in the position to help others. We all have to grow. We all have to figure it all out and make sense of our existence. There is much pain and many questions along the way. (And there still are…)
    Glad you made it to this point in life…

  2. bob terry says:

    It’s not about how you started; it’s all about how you finish. I have a clock on my desk that reads: My greatest accomplishments are still to be achieved. I truly believe this & I believe yours are too.

  3. Jim casey says:

    It is never too late to do the right thing.

  4. You are not entirely to blame. The NYC Public School system does little in the way of teaching kids about the social and emotional obstacles they will face in life. They are more concerned with the kids being obedient to authority. Add puberty and racing hormones and the school’s mechanical approach to sex education and you can have a runaway train to deal with. I would estimate that the majority of kids in city schools face make much the same choices as you did. These schools are designed to fail. Some students seem to have a emotional makeup to overcome these obstacles. Other more middle and upper class kids will manage to have better schools and better surroundings, and may succeed at a higher rate. But their schools may still be lacking in many areas. Children did not create, nor do they operate or manage the schools. If so many students are failing, where does the buck stop? We are obviously doing something wrong in the way we are approaching education.

  5. George Farrell says:

    Often wondered why you did not give Bishop Ford a try. Five minute walk to a new school and lots of kids you knew. Good hoop program as well.

    • Steve says:

      George,

      That is the million dollar question. I wanted to go to Ford; my best friend at the time, John Godfrey was going there as was Mary Kawas, another good friend. SMH. Live and learn I guess. Hope all is well.

      • George Farrell says:

        I remember when Bishop Ford was the location for the trolley car barn before they built the Prospect Expressway. Trolleys would come into the barn and get turned around on a huge turntable and then out again. Straight shot on 9th Ave to Bartel Pritchard Square and then all the way to Coney Island. Then the trolleys were replaced by electric buses for a short while and then regular buses. No more tracks or overhead wires. I graduated Holy Name in 1955 and high schools were hard to come by in that part of Brooklyn. Manual was a trade/vocational school but I cannot remember any other public high school in the area. Brooklyn Tech was for the really bright STEM guys but Catholic high schools were hard to find. The really smart guys went to the Diocesan HS on 43rd Street in Sunset Park (St Michael’s) and the rest of us scattered to the four winds. Some guys went to Loughlin, St Francis Prep, St. John’s Prep, Brooklyn Prep and other guys wound up in Manhattan high schools like St. Ann’s, Power, LaSalle, St. Agnes. The baby boomers who began to overload the parish grammar schools forced the Diocese to begin building high schools to accomodate all the kids. Bishop Molloy, Holy Cross, Monsignor McClancy sprung up in the late 50’s and then finally Bishop Ford in the early 60’s.

      • Steve says:

        George,

        Great history lesson. Hope your Monday is going well.

  6. Gerard clifford says:

    Red your story sounds all-too-familiar sounds like my biography I had the same feeling about school especially John jay The first two weeks I was there some One was shot to death outside of the classroom I was in ,we had to wait hours to go around the body.didn’t actually encourage you to show up to class so I cut school for the first two years.I Wish I had spent more time with you red when we were younger I can relate to a lot of what you say. I too went on to get my high school diploma but John jay back in the late 70s and early 80s was as bad as what’s going on in the schools across the country now.going there was an education in itself.

    • Steve says:

      GC,

      No doubt bro. Back then, we were lost, trying to find our way, scared to reveal our feelings. I loved my girlfriend, she was the best. She was always there for me; stupid me was too blind to see it. Hope your Monday is going well.

  7. Jim casey says:

    George,
    You may be forgetting Erasmus Hall HS, not too far away.

  8. George Farrell says:

    Never any doubt that I would be attending a Catholic HS. I had heard of Erasmus, but we had already moved to Queens in May of 1955. I actually took the subway my last month at Holy Name.

  9. Mudge says:

    You should have stayed at Power they had 2 hall of famers. Dick Bavetta and Lew Alcinder

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