As I was going through a couple of file boxes containing old tax returns and medical records. I came across a copy of the school newspaper that featured the article they asked me to write about my experiences and observations of my days, weeks and months as a terminal inpatient at an uptown Manhattan hospital.
Though I was unaware that the school even had a student based newspaper at the time. I agreed and proceeded to pour my heart out about the most trying and challenging experience I had been through in my somewhat short life. After penning and handing it off to visiting teacher. It was delivered to the forces that be and sent to the newspapers staff to be printed and distributed.
Imagine my shock when upon delivery when I realized that my words were not only edited, but rewritten to fit in with the dogma our schools faculty were forced to teach.
While I’m pretty sure my 7th grade English could benefit from a little grammarly love. But having what was being interpreted as my own words, twisted and fabricated to describe my recovery as a result of prayer, faith and God’s mercy. It would seem or be suggested that my becoming ill was part of God’s will to make me a stronger, better Christian. An act on their part was a fabrication and flat out lie. I had no idea the sisters, priests or clergy would go as far as committing libel to spread their message of fear, control and suppression of free speech or thought. While it wasn’t the first time the school or church committed one of the many sins they instructed us to abstain from and swiftly punished us for acting out. It found their avenue of doing so, rather tasteless.
Looking back, it’s hard to remember exactly why I didn’t take my case up with the schools principle, Sister Mary Patrick, or even threaten to take them to court. Maybe it had something to do with the fear of retribution on the schools part. Perhaps being just twelve years old trying to survive a terminal prognosis brought on by a non operable brain tumor. I don’t know why such a predictable action on the part of those put in charge of indoctrinating so many young minds to believe in half truths, fairy tales and flat out lies would warrant one’s anger, but it did.
After my Father wrecked or sold ever car he owned. He began using his Mother Veronica’s decade old, beat up car to get from A to B and not much further. The trunk was so dirty that your hands would instantly turn black once you unlocked it. The seats were torn and tattered and the floorboards were often covered with debris and weeks worth of empty fast food containers. Regardless, we were able to fit my Father’s 6’4 frame, our dog, myself and up to eight kids piled up in the backseat. The Hawkins brothers Keith, Petey and M.J., Glen, Tommy and whoever else would risk the trip on that day. (Aside from those named. The cast would always change depending on the day and who was willing to brave the back seat.
Once there, we would often disperse into two separate tribes or war parties as my Dad would set up camp and build a fire to roast hot dogs, marsh mellows or whatever supplies we manged to gather before our voyage. In the few hours we’d stay we’d play war, burn tires and grab whatever we could from the abandoned cars and the nearby railroad tracks. In truth, there was no Tarzan or nearby water to be found. For the life of me, I may never learn how or why it came to be called “Tarzan Island.” But as I would come to learn at the time and many years later. It was what everybody called it. Year later, I’m talking decades. I returned to Sunnyside Queens to seek out the area. The train yard itself was still there, but it had been closed off and closely patrolled. Whoever said, “You can’t go back.” was probably speaking from countless heartbreaking attempts.
As I’ve returned to many of my original stomping grounds, I find that most things are best left to memory and the mystique many things and places held when we were young impressionable and somewhat fearless. Things definitely felt a lot bigger back then. Something that helped us grow up and mature. And while there’s no diminishing the risks we took and the element of danger we were always drawn to. I feel very lucky to have taken chances and not letting those fears get the best of me. In the end, I’m happy to be able to recall so many adventures from younger years. Like my wife always says. “Maybe one day you’ll write that book.”
We headed out to Queens this afternoon to do some exploring in Long Island City and Astoria. Our first stop was 5 Pointz where we checked in to see what new pieces had gone up and which ones had survived since our last visit. The more often I go the more I find myself talking to both the visitors and artists. Talking about art, paint and the spots I might have missed or perhaps would like to share. Today I met up with Slone (That’s him posing in front of his latest piece) and talked a bit. We exchanged info and if things go as planned I’ll be tagging along one day to shoot a piece in the making.