Sunday, April 23, 2006

1964: It was a very good year

Last night we continued our high school reunion activities at an American Legion Hall where we had dances every friday nite while we were in high school. The dance was officially called Rec-O-Teen. I know it sounds questionable but it meant recreational activities that didn't include drugs or alcohol-- well not drugs and the alcohol was reserved for the peach orchard down the street after the dance. The evening opened with a rousing rendition of “There is a banner in the sky of streaming red and black and under it all Boonton’s foes are gallantly turned back.” All but David Chase, the creator HBO’s The Sopranos. Yes,if you watch the Sopranos you have heard of Boonton. Here's a reminder of why...

When the Soprano’s premiered and Meadow had one of her two credit cards taken away she blamed her problems on “those bad kids from Boonton.” We all thought that was cute -- we were, afterall the bad kids from Boonton, all grown up and fine upstanding citizens. And for those of us who remain Boontonites, Boontonaires, or Boontonians, in our heads, (we could never quite figure out a name that didn’t sound like a rock group), when Jackie Jr. got shot in the head in the Boonton Housing Projects we knew the truth. Hello!? Boonton? Housing Projects? I don’t think so. There is one small very nice public housing apartment building that is located next to a sweet old Baptist church, parallel to and one block removed from Main Street. It is hardly a dangerous teaming hotbed of crime.

Boonton is a really nice town. There is a long and curving one lane commercial thoroughfare (about one mile) with three traffic lights. This main street is lined with small antique stores, assorted restaurants, hardware stores a colorful old library, some funky and one fine clothing shop (Bobs Mens' Shop), a number of crafts stores, and an historic movie theatre—one of three in the world where you walk in under the screen and have to turn around to see the picture. (The latest Sopranos, which in part took place in New Hampshire was actually filmed on this main street.) At one end of Main Street is the town hall, and the volunteer fire department. At the other is a small park, where Santa greets the children every year, and a large park, called the Tourne, where people hike and climb. We have two small shopping malls, one with an upscale King’s supermarket, a terrific deli, and a great newspaper store. The other has a gourmet A&P, a great big video store very close to McDonalds, and a new Wal-Mart.

There are a few elementary schools and one regional high school all small and situated so that no one in town has to take a bus to get there. There is the Reservoir Tavern, one of the great eating places in the entire metropolitan area and there are the people, blue collar, white collar, pink collar and no collar, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Moslems, Irish, Polish, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Indian, Pakistani, and Chinese. A wonderful mix of cultures, colors and religions.

If you are looking for a Soprano kind of danger you are looking in the wrong place. The most danger you’ll find here is an occasional traffic delay caused by the elderly gentlemen from the fabulously beautiful incredibly manicured retired fireman’s home who, acting as elementary school crossing guard, may have a problem with a reluctant child.

David and I moved back to Boonton for a year and we didn’t buy machine guns, dawn our bullet proof vests, purchase military gear or take our lives in our hands to do it. I don't know exactly what David Chase has against Boonton but maybe he and his up-scale West Caldwell friends had a run in with some Boontonites, onians, aires, whatever, when he was in high school. Maybe they got "beat up" as we used to say. If we didn’t do it when he was 16, we should take probably take him uptown (to the projects)and do it now. But that's not what I wanted to blob about.

Last night, when I walked back into the past, the first thing I thought was "Who are all these old people?" Then I took a breath. Luckily I was with Andy Hurwitz (who admittedly did carry a hammer when we went to Pauls' diner but only as a prop when singing "If I Had a Hammer"). Andy, is a lifelong friend and confidante. But most importantly he was another Jewish kid. There we only a few of us and we had to stand in the back of the room when the class sang Christmas songs, and I mean every year from the time we were six. It does forge a bond never broken. Anyway, Andy, who is now a Supreme Court Justice in Arizona, held my hand and together we confronted the mass of elderly folks with whom we used to have fun. And you know what? Once we got through the initial surprise of added pounds and graying locks, and we identified who everyone was, we had a great time. We danced non-stop for five hours then we went to Paul’s Diner and danced our way home in the rain. At the party we talked about what was, and what was to be. We laughed about silly things and cried about the loss of people we loved. We talked and talked and for the first time, talked about Viet Nam. So many of my friends served in Viet Nam, while some of us were on the streets as protesters. It had always been a subject much too painful to approach. I wanted to say "Welcome Home" to the vets, because my dear friend Clay -- not a classmate -– who was a helicopter gunner in the war and explained to me that when Viet Nam vets meet they always say "Welcome Home" to one another. You see, shamefully, when the war ended the United States never officially welcomed them home. But I felt that was an intrusion so I merely welcomed them back into my heart. It was a terrific one evening event that actually went on for three days. It ended this morning over breakfast and the yearbook. We said sad goodbyes and agreed we were all exactly as we had been 40 years ago + 2, and that 1964 had indeed, been a very good year...We're just sayin.

1 comment:

Walt said...

Red and Black!

Since when did Boonton steal the fighting colors of the Hunterdon Central Red Devils?

Hey, I don't have to watch the Soprano's to know where Boonton is. We from central Jersey know it from traveling north when 287 hits 80. There was never a reason to stop. GRIN.

The real distinguishing bit of Jersey trivia is "Do you know where Hacklebarney State Park is?" Come on I mean really!

Now for fun, go to Sparta to see the "Blue Sparks from Hell" crank up the amps!