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.
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.
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?
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.