HANOCH THE GREAT- PART II

It was a warm July evening in 1960 when Hanoch  called and asked if I wanted to go to a party. It was kind of a mopey day and I wasn’t really in the mood to party that night. Hanoch insisted that I go to a going away party for Eileen ( whom I had never heard of, much less met) and Stan, her boy friend wanted us to go with him. As a favor to him, would I please go and help make the evening a bit less dull. I acquiesced.

Stan picked me up and we arrived at a part of Queens that I had never been to. The house was in a modest development in a residential area. We knocked on the door and a tall red headed young woman opened it and greeted us warmly. It was Eileen, and she was about to go to Israel. Stan was happy to see her and we made our way into the home and introduced ourselves to the young men and women.
Music began and many of them got up to dance. I kind of eyed the crowd probably looking as bored as I felt. Hanoch was doing his usual shtick, entertaining a small group of seemingly interested people. There was a great deal of laughter and a great deal of Hanoch’s voice. He was in his milieu and I was at a point where I wanted nothing more than to get out of there.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small group of young women conversing with each other. One of them kind of looked over my way. I took a full look at her and was instantly intrigued. She was unbelievably cute in a quiet way. She looked away just long enough for me to saunter over and ask her to dance. She agreed and we spend the next few hours just dancing and talking. She was so easy to talk to and had a refreshing way of asking questions that made me feel pretty important. Here was this young lady interested in my years in the service and what I was majoring in and more.

It wasn’t long after the party was winding down that Hanoch came over and said that he and Stan were leaving. They were my ride, but I did not want to leave. I wanted to continue to dance and talk to this young lady. Hanoch came over every few minutes until he lost his patience and told me that they were leaving without me. The young lady asked if I would walk her home. I readily agreed and told Hanoch and Stan to take off.

She told me that she did not live far away and she could tell me how to get home by bus. I was entranced and did not want to leave her. We left at about 11:30. We walked for a while and when we came to a large puddle in middle of the street, I picked her up ( as any gentleman would do) and carried her over. We probably walked about 4 miles to get to her house. We talked all the way there and the time just flew by.

We arrived at her house and sat on the porch for a while talking and smooching. I told her that I would call her over the weekend. What I forgot was that I was going away for a weekend with the Army Reserve. That is a story for another time. When I left, she directed me to the bus that would take me to Main St. in Flushing. From there I took a bus to Kissena Boulevard and boarded the Jewel Avenue bus and then walked about ¾ of a mile to my house.

It was about 2:30 when I got home. If I say that I knew that I was going to marry this young lady that night, you will tell me that I am crazy. However, it is absolutely true. I have Hanoch McCarty to thank for allowing me to meet Carol who has been my wife for the past forty seven years and my constant companion for the last fifty.

HANOCH THE GREAT

There is no one in the world like Hanoch McCarty. Truly, there really is no one at all. He is an all time singular person with attributes found only, either in scripture, a Homeric poem or in a cheap novella. There is not a soul living who could describe him accurately. I have known him for almost fifty two years and can only look at him awestruck and maybe with a quizzical look on my face. Hanoch (  when he was the son of a New York City police detective) has been background noise for the majority of my life.

His affect on me is multi-dimensional. He is at once kind, boisterous, brilliant
(witness his famous tapes known to my generation as “ Sounds of the Human Body Parts 1 through 13”) offhanded, clever, comical, outrageous, contrary and eloquent, schmaltzy ( see his Chicken Soup for the Soul stuff) and so many other adjectives. I have seen him at his best and also at his low points. He has still not forgiven Beverly, the girl of his dreams, for not reciprocating his advances. That happened about fifty years ago. He speaks to me about her as if it were yesterday.

If you get the idea that he is a talented fellow, you are correct. At one point in his college years, he decided that he was going to emulate Kandinsky and painted copies of his most famous paintings. In a Luddite moment, he decided to job the system by getting F’s in all of his semester’s classes. I was present when he took issue with Dr. Hortense Powdermaker, second to Margaret Meade ( at that time) in the arena of anthropology and sociology, in her specialty. The rest of the class was aghast. My own view was, “ There he goes again.”

I met him in 1959 when I came back from the Army in the Spring semester. I am not sure if he was in one of my classes, but we immediately started, “doing the dozens.” He was good enough to go on stage as a stand up comedian. He was quick witted enough, and still is, to match wits with anyone. His ability to converse with almost anyone on any subject ( especially ones in which he was totally non-compos mentis) was astounding. He was like Sid Caesar speaking Italian and German and not knowing the language. At a point when I was teaching at Haaren High School in Manhattan, I invited   Hanoch to come visit my class to speak with them about future occupations. He showed up in an Australian Bush hat and claimed that he was an Alaskan explorer and scrimshaw artist. He was so convincing that other teachers wanted him to come into their rooms.

Hanoch’s family had lots of dark sides. His background is still kind of unknown to me, but I did know his mother. She was as outspoken as Fred and a bit more garrulous ( if you can believe that). When she met Carol, she gave her a hug and sort of cupped her hands on Carol’s boobs and said, “ Looks like at 34C.” We were all astonished. We should not have been. She was in the brassiere business and was showing us how skilled she was. That’s why I never for a moment doubted that Hanoch was putting people on. He was, and still is a sincere kind of person with bizarre habits.

His classic shtick occurred on a day that stands out for me as his zenith in having fun. My mom was a very plain person who took people and life at face value. She was very forward and directive, but believed that t.v. wrestling was real and strange phone calls had some purpose. I was living at home prior to my marriage to Carol. I was teaching and coming home at about 9:00 o’clock at night ( I was taking 9 credits a semester at the New School for Social Research). My mom, god rest her soul, used to have some sort of dinner ready for me. As she talked to me about her day, she casually mentioned that the time had called her at 3:00 o’clock. I kind of looked at her strangely. If you were old enough to remember, you could call the phone company and get the correct time.

I said to mom, “ Mom are you telling me that the phone rang, you picked it up and the voice on the other end of the phone told you the exact time?” She nodded in the affirmative. I said, “ Mom, the phone company does not call you to tell the time, you call the phone company.” She looked at me and said her usual, “Finish your supper and relax.”

Before I went to bed that night, I could not get the time phone call out of my mind. How had that occurred? It wasn’t long before I figured it out. Someone had called the time at the exact 3:00 o’clock moment the day before and had recorded the message. They then called my mom’s phone and played it for her at exactly the same time. What kind of putz would do something like . . . . . Of course, only one answer came to mind.

Whoever wrote the script for Animal House had to have been a student at Queens College in 1959. Hanoch had great leadership qualities and could talk you out of house and home before you knew it. The food was not especially good in the cafeteria and there were constant rumblings about doing something about it. Hanoch moved to the head of the rumbling and gathered forces. One day the rumbling got louder and the entire cafeteria erupted in a storm of mashed potatoes peas and stringed beans, with applesauce as a chaser. I am not sure that I ever knew whether Hanoch got into trouble.

Hanoch has had many iterations in his 70 years. He was born Jewish, kind of became Irish, was Cuban for a while, African American during a brief dispute about low cost housing, and is now an Orthodox Jew. He left Queens College to become a teacher and wound up at University of Massachusets studying under an innovative educator, Dwight Allen. Allen was looking for unusual kinds of people to be in his dissertation cohort and he found them . I believe that Bill Cosby got his doctorate under Dwight Allen. Hanoch’s real public personna was sharpened when he worked with Dr. Sidney Simon of Temple University. Simon’s expertise was in the area of values clarification. It was a 1960’s kind of thing that viewed people in a novel way. The things that are most important to you are those things that drive you to act in the way you live your life. To know your values, is to know how you are living.

Seemed like a good idea at the time. Sid Simon did not like the grading system at Temple University, where he taught, so he gave everyone an A. I believe that he left Temple soon afterward. However, Hanoch was not really involved in that activity. He wound up teaching at Cleveland State University. By that time, he had divorced his first wife and married his current wife Meladee ( with whom he writes his Chicken Soup books).

More to come about Hanoch!!!!

NEITHER RED NOR BLUE

Who comes up with these declinations? Who decided that these two colors represent certain political philosophies? Who created this dichotomous view of the United States and what was the purpose in doing it? I think that many of us have been fooled into believing that there are just two kinds of people in our country and that the “others” are just plain wrong about almost everything. We are now trained to hate the red people or the blue people because they are intent on killing our way of life.
May I offer this rejoinder, “It’s all just a piece of crap.” There are as many views about the things we do as a nation, as there are people. If you scratch the surface, you will find that the overwhelming number of people in our land love their children and grandchildren and want what is the best for them. They are neither members of the far blue nor the far red. They are mostly just people who are trying to get along in their lives. They have their problems which they try to solve on their own and sometimes need help with. The are neither haters, not bomb throwing Bakuninites.

Go to you local supermarket and walk around with your cart and just listen to what they say. They are no more interested in who is in charge of our government than a man in the moon. Don’t we understand that most people do not vote. Why is that? You can call it apathy or a lack of civic pride, or anything of that sort. We try to get them to the polls and are chagrined that with our best efforts only about 50% trudge to the polls on a cold and rainy or snowy November evening ( yes, evening, unless you are retired). They either don’t have the time, are working long hours, must take care of their children, are too far away for the polls ( in many rural areas), or really think that voting is not a priority in their workaday lives.

It is becoming even more difficult, with both parents working. When in the 12 or 13 hours that are available to vote would you get to the polls if both parents are working? Most people are not off on election day and if they were might they just try and be with their families, go shopping, or just rest?

The Red/Blue media harp on the divisions in our country- the cultural elite
(whoever they are),the urban poor, the blue collars workers, the white collar workers, the bureaucrats, the no collar workers, the right, the left, the Tea Partyiers, the socialists, the Democrats, the Republicans, and on and on and on. These are all artificial constructs. People can belong to so many different groups. Their desires are primarily are to make a decent income, have a good and safe place to live, put food on the table and have some free time to do some fun things.

For some reason we have accepted all of these divisions. Somehow, they are calculated to give someone a victory in a combat zone. It ain’t like that folks. Dig deep into your psyche and see that we are all part of the same group- humanity. In the end that’s all it really is. If you go to a convalescent home, see how all of those folks get along. That’s what’s there at the end of the road.

THE WOMEN OF BEAVER -PART II

Mrs. Poole was an 88 year old chain smoking devout Presbyterian who operated a rooming house in Jenkintown in the early 1960’s. I stayed with Pooley when I came down to visit Carol at the old Beaver campus in Jenkintown. My visits were straight out of a 1940’s B movie. Carol and I would go out to a party or to dinner on Friday or Saturday night and I would wake up in the morning to a gentle knock on my door. “Arnold, it’s time to come down and have breakfast.”

Usually, I was the only boarder in the house when I came down. Pooley would be there at the kiltchen table smoking here cork tipped Raleigh cigarettes and drinking a cup of coffee. Her breakfasts were wonderful and we had many a fine discussion about world events and religion. Pooley was concerned about me. She knew that I was Jewish and always referred to me as a nice boy. How was it that I did not accept the savior and didn’t I know that I was condemned to the fires of hell for not believing.

I appreciated Pooley’s concerns for me in the afterlife and told her that in my religion there was little discussion about hell or heaven and we were still waiting for the Messiah. She was pleased that we had that in common and that all would be straightened out then. She was curious about my background and knew that Carol and I were getting serious. She approved. She had been living close to the Beaver Campus for many years and had been involved with many of the women who had gone there. I lost track of Mrs. Poole when Carol moved to the Glenside Campus in her sophomore year.

Carolyn was the fifth of Carol’s friends at Beaver. She was a very tall blonde young woman from the Frankford part of Philly. She was a very quiet person with a twinkle in her eye, an impish laugh ( which she still has ), and a shy way about here. Carolyn was on the archery and basketball teams. She was someone who sometimes participated in outrageous pranks on campus and was constantly concerned that everyone would get caught.

A few years after graduation in 1964, Carolyn took a vacation to Bermuda and met Delano, who worked at one of the largest hotels on the island. He eventually became a big wheel at the hotel before he retired. It was hard to explain to her family that she loved this man and wanted to marry him. Carolyn and Delano visited us in our apartment in Cheltenham soon after they met. Caroloyn’s family had threatened to disown her if she married Delano and eventually they did. Sometime very much later there was a reconciliation.

Carolyn and Delano spent their lives in Bermuda and raised two sons. Carol and I have had the privilege of meeting both of them. They are both in the hotel business. Delano passed away a few years ago. It was a shock to us, he was relatively young. Carolyn had continued her love of children by being a teacher and eventually became a principal in Bermuda. She has since retired and creates jewelry which she now sells at various events on the island.

The women are all now in their late 60’s. Carol does get together with Norma, Sara, and Elsa on a regular basis. They have recombined after all of these years. Norma’s husband had passed away a number of years ago. It was a bad time for her and she and Carol became even closer. We had not heard from Sara for a long while. She turned up living in Washington D.C. Sara is suffering from cancer and has been battling it for about 8 years. We are not sure how long she has, but Carol and the Women of Beaver see each other almost every month. They even allow me to come sometimes, but mostly it’s just them. Elsa flies in from California to be with them.

There is a strong connection between them all. Even if Patti and Carolyn are not part of the group, they always are part of the discussions. Somehow, through the years, those four years at college created a strong bond. It has even spurred me to contact some of those guys I used to hang around with. For me, Carol will always be part of the Women of Beaver.

THE WOMEN OF BEAVER- PART I

It’s hard for me to think of Elsa, Norma, Sara, Carolyn and Patti Zoe, as women. I have known each of them since they were eighteen years old. Fifty years later, they are still as they were then in the Fall of 1960 in my mind. Carol had decided that she wanted to go to an all women’s college and applied to three of those schools in Pennsylvania. She was accepted at all of them. Beaver was the closest to New York City, where her parents lived.

To her, the advantage of an all girls’ school was that there were a number of leadership positions in all phases of the college that would be filled by young women. Today, Beaver ( or as it now called Arcadia) is a co-educational institution. Carol had come from a massive high school in N.Y.C. with over 5,000 students and three sessions. Beaver was a respite from the unfriendly halls of the massive edifice in Flushing. It was small, friendly and personal.

I had met Carol in July of 1960 and knew from the moment that I met her that I was going to marry her. I never felt like that about any other woman that I had dated or gone with. Carol was it. The fact that she was going to be one hundred miles away for the next four years was not even a stumbling block to my ardor. Carol and I had an understanding that she was free to go out with anyone that she wanted while she was at Beaver. I remained constant.

I must have seemed overanxious to Carol’s friends at Beaver. I was always coming down on the weekends and taking her out, accompanying here to various events and sort of becoming part of the student body. I was teaching at Haaren High School in New York City. It was on 59th St. and 10th Avenue. I would drive my 1956 Hillman Minx into town, park it by the school and leave via the Lincoln Tunnel towards the Jersey Turnpike. I would cross over the Delaware River on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and arrive in Jenkintown an hour and one half later.

Beaver was established by the Methodist Episcopal Church and followed its principles in establishing Beaver in the Western part of Pennsylvania in the town of Beaver . It moved to the suburban Philadelphia, Jenkintown Campus in 1928. It also acquired a Glenside Campus which it operated at the same time. From 1872 to 1907 it did admit men, but from 1907 to 1972 it was all women. In 1962, in Carol’s junior year, it consolidated all of its activities to the Glenside Campus, home of Grey Towers.

For Carol’s first semester, she roomed with a young woman whose ideas and values were antithetical to her. By the second semester, she acquired Norma, a Long Island person from Rockville Center who believed that most of the world was Jewish. She grew up in a community and went to a high school where most of the kids were Jewish. She came from German American stock. That fact was important to her parents, but not important to Norma. Norma was a free spirit with a winning smile and an offbeat sense of humor. To this day, Norma can weather through the worst of situations and shrug them off with that smile and she has had some real down times in her life.

Sara was raised in Morrisville, Pennsylvania in a Quaker Family. In the early part of her college, she lost her younger sister, Nancy. We all went to the Quaker service. I had never seen a funeral where people played the guitar and were so eloquent in their description of this young person. It has stayed with me for all of these years. Sara was and still is a wise guy, in the most flattering translation of those words. She is quick on the uptake and brooks no interference. She has worked through her life with some pretty stringent rules, one of which is, don’t let anyone take advantage of you. She is also a very giving person who has worked in the social service area for most of her life.

That is a string that goes through most of these women. Norma, Sara and Elsa were heavily involved in the social movements of the 1960’s. They were closely associated with Dr. Norman Johnston, an expert in the field of prison life. They were constantly visiting Eastern State Prison in Philly on field trips for their Sociology courses and working in the area of rehabilitation. From those experiences and from their backgrounds, they all gravitated to the helping professions.

Elsa is now a well known activist in the area of crimes against children. She is well authored and if you look her up on the net, her name appears many times. She was one of the first people to describe the “battered woman syndrome.” She is still involved in many organizations attending to the needs of children and women.

Norma has worked at Penn State near Philly with students from low income surroundings. Her object is to get them to see the rest of the world, develop their skills and academics, so that they may finish school and continue to help other people do the same. Her program has been exceptionally successful. She is now retired and is still involved in her community.

Patti Zoe is a horse of a different color. She was born and raised in Sayreville, New Jersey. She is and was a bright eyed peppy person, a cheerleader in high school with a magnetic way about her. She met a good friend of mine at our wedding and married John six months later. It was a marriage made in heaven. John was a studious kind of guy, just the opposite of Patti and each filled in where the other was different. Patti and John were the executors of our will well into the early 1970’s, at which time they moved to Michigan and disappeared from our lives. Patti had been a teacher in Sayreville and John had worked at a social service agency in New Jersey. We get cards from them on birthdays and nothing else. We have no idea what has happened.

In 1990, our son Marc, was trying to get a job in the car industry. He was promised a job at General Motors in Tarrytown, New York and when the time came for him to go to work, the entire plant was closed, leaving him with no connections. That is a story for another time. He went to Flint, Michigan to meet with the Vice President for personnel at GM. He stayed at Patti and John’s house for 5 days. He could not make heads nor tails of their lives. They did not offer any explanation of their disappearance from our lives.John worked as head of a social service organization and Patti stayed home. They have no children. To this day, it remains a mystery.

TEACHING

In the forty-nine years that I have been in education, I have wrestled with the conflict between whether great teachers are born or made. As of yet, I have not come to a definitive conclusion. I have waffled over the years and have become even more uncertain about where I stand.

I have seen teachers who have acted in a completely antithetical way to the way I taught or was taught to teach, yet succeeded with the students. I have watched good teachers fail with very bright and articulate children and seen mediocre teachers (in my estimation) succeed with children with few skills.

I do know that great teachers not only communicate in one direction, but have exceptional listening and observational skills. I have seen teachers see things in their classrooms that I might have spent weeks discovering. There is something there that defies common logic. Or is it something genetic? Is there a gene for observational skills, a la Sherlock Holmes?

Great teachers certainly have a grasp of the subject content. Helping youngsters to discover the joy of learning, to use their higher order thinking skills is a massive task. There has to be great interaction. There is an interaction analysis scale invented by a professor of education. It works well in observational mode.

At some point in your teaching career, you must be able to step out of your own mind and see yourself teaching. It is an epiphany of sorts. If you can talk about that instant, you have become a great teacher. The list of qualities is magnified by the students that you have in your class. You must pay attention to the different learning styles. Great teachers seem to have that down pat. I am an auditory learning. My wife is a visual. We are at both ends of the spectrum. My wife is the best teacher I have ever seen. She can ditch her own learning style and teach to kids with many different skills and those with handicaps.

Within the framework of teaching, you must love what you are doing and have respect for the students and have a handle on child development. Without these things, there is no reason for you to step into the classroom.

TWEETS FACEBOOK AND FALL OF CIVILIZATION

The old people are really frightened. They are always frightened when new stuff comes along to muddy the waters in their “golden years.” Not sure you ever saw, or heard of the panic when motion pictures began and folks ran out of the theaters screaming when a train seemed to come through the screen. There were condemnations from the pulpit about this insertion of the devil’s into our daily lives.

The automobile was also one of these beasts from hell that would destroy communities and render us all zombies and wastrels. Who would dare to drive to church in anything other than a horse drawn conveyance. What would happen to us if we all had these horseless carriages? It would most certainly be the end of civilization.

Any cultural shift comes with antagonism from parts and sometimes a majority of the population. In our current time, there is a movement to go back to a simpler way of life, when we all lived in Mayberry RFD. We could buy our foodstuffs from the local Piggly Wiggly, see all of our friends at the barber shop or hair salon and know everyone there was to know in town.

Would that was all true and things were really like that. The only way we could return to a time like that is if we were directed by someone like in the Truman movie with Jim Carrey. There was a perfect place in which to live. Everything was perfect and no one really had any worries. Everything went on as before, just as in Pleasantville. When things began to crop up that did not suit the authorities, they would clamp down, dismiss it and things would go on as before, or would they?

That’s how we came to this point in our universe. Changes are inevitable. Humans are a curious and restless lot. There are always new worlds to conquer, new inventions, new ways of looking at old things, new people to meet and to discover. The newest things, the Ipods, touchphones, Ipads, 4g, satellite phones, and the social networks are all part of that restlessness, the quest to find out, to investigate.

Sure, there are problems with all of these new things, as there were with all of the old things. We have cyber bullying, cyber predators, filth and perversion on the net, hackers and terrorists.

Those are not the only things on the net. There is much beauty and solace and spiritual things. It is a matter of choice. Most folks treat the net well and introduce their children to he joys of the rest of the world.Yet, these things spread far and wide across the globe these days. People who never before would have understood other cultures have access to the most intimate secrets of those cultures. Social networks spawn even more curiousity. Colleges are hotbeds of colliquoy between teachers and students via sites and email.

What about the physical threats to our way of living? If you were alive during World War II, the real threat of invasion was always on the table. When we were cold warring with the Soviets, we were a number of times on the brink of nuclear annihilation. Are the threats worse today than those days? I am not sure.

The Roman Empire did not fall because of new inventions or forward thinking. They fell because they became placid and satisfied with themselves. I don’t believe that we will ever be that way. We are too ornery, too curious, too questioning and a bunch of other toos. We may look back sometimes, but are constantly dealing with the future. Let it ever be thus for our children and grandchildren. Sorry, I have to go now, I have a couple of text messages and need to answer a tweet. I have to close my computer now and download some songs from the 1950’s on my Ipod shuffle.