• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Don’t Look Too Close Into the Palm of My Hand

When I was nineteen, I was a sophomore at NYU. I had gotten kicked out of film school and took my refuge in the school of arts & sciences where I entered the leagues of lost English majors. I know I lived in a dorm, but I can’t remember any of my roommates. I can remember my favorite bench in Washington Square Park where I spent hours smoking cigarettes and reading and people watching. New York is was and always will the great parade of humanity and I its humble bystander. When I was nineteen, I hadn’t yet fallen in love, I hadn’t found a friend to share my writing with. Much of what I did was secretive: secret eating, secret writing, secret crushes, secret depressive episodes.

Friends, it’s Day 19 and I’m still typing.

What were you like when you were 19?

20 Responses

  1. I was a wanna-be artist at Syracuse University. I missed my boyfriend, so I tranferred to the college he was attending and became a teacher. Boyfriend didn’t last. I taught second grade for thirty-three years.

  2. in the 80s, i drove a 1970 Ford F100 step-side, short box, half-ton truck called Blue. the previous owner blew his brains out in the cab one dark January morning. dad neglected to pass this information along when he brought the truck home. it was the neighbour who filled me in.

    i drove many miles in that truck. at most, i filled the gas tank halfway; there was a recession in the 80s.

    i listened to music on a 8-track tapes even though cassettes were popular. The Pretender’s “Learning to Crawl” cycled continuously for months at time in the truck.

    i wore tight jeans and white high heels and cropped tops.


  3. I was living in southern Indiana, attending college. I drank too much, treated people badly, acted like I knew more than I did and had no idea what love was about. I started smoking pot and was the editor of the school newspaper, so I could publish whatever I wrote, which got me in trouble a few times. I did have a few fans, though.
    One time I was playing softball and I misjudged a fly ball. I said FUCK! and a married woman said, okay. She changed my life.

  4. I was a college student writing terrible plays and smoking way too much weed in a room with a blue lightbulb and two shoeboxes of homemade cassette tapes of radio station WFMU.

  5. At nineteen I was a freshman in college (Forestry). I lived in a dorm on Lower St. Regis Lake in the Adirondacks surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. Some great friendships were made there and my roommate (Sue) and I stay loosely in touch. I learned how to snowshoe and cross-country ski–the former being required for some of the labs in the winter. I spent a lot of Friday evenings alone in the dorm, as it was the only solitude I could get. When I was 19, it was a very good year…

    • I’m sitting in the Paul Smiths Post Office right now, looking toward lower St. Regis Lake, although the view is blocked by a library on what used to be the quad
      . First significant snowfall of the season, Carol, and many students are walking by in shorts.

      • That’s my Alma Mater! Class of ’77! And what, pray tell, are you doing at Paul Smith’s? Are you lucky enough to live close by? I’m intrigued! I sure do miss that place! I’d probably be walking around–maybe not in shorts–but no jacket and flip-flops!

        • Oh, wait. You work for the postal service, yes?

          • Yes, I’m covering the office here due to staff shortages. I live about 5 miles away, in Rainbow Lake. There are still a lot of alumni up here from the Class of 77.

            • Wow! You live in some of the best scenery I’ve ever seen. I love my little ten acres here in Georgia, but I sure miss the fall colors, the mountains, the people! I do still have friends and classmates who live up in that area. I think Debbie Neighbor teaches there now. I haven’t seen her in forty-four years! Forty-fifth reunion next year. 12970-here I come! Thanks for that trip down memory lane Mike!

              • Deb lives about a 100 yards up the road from me. She is teaching at Smitty’s and I just saw her earlier today. Every body is complaining about the weather (cold and snow), but Deb said her dogs (husky and malamute, I think) love it.

                • I’ll bet they do!

                  I remember Deb and I filling our pockets with sawdust from the old timey sawmill we went to at the beginning or our Sawmill class because the next one was all modern with a plexiglass both and a push-button operation. It was too clean and too safe and lacking in personality.

                  Tell her I said hi if you will. I live across the road from one of those old timey sawmills and when they’re cutting pine, I think of her!

                  P.S. My maiden name is Lester. Maybe she’ll remember me!

              • I think it’s Naybor…

  6. “What were you like when you were 19?”

    When I turned 19, I was living with my parents in a small town in Colorado, in that half of the state referred to as the Western Slope. I worked as a lot attendant at a car dealership, washing cars and occasionally driving them. I was recovering from my first serious affair, my first attempt to be independent, and my first attempt to be a college student. I had crashed and needed to put things back together. I wrote occasional poetry and had great dreams of literary success.

    Almost a year later, as 19 was about to be 20, I was living with a good friend from high school days in an apartment in El Paso, the city where I had done some growing up and was set to do more. My friend and I worked tending bar at a gay disco, where the music was loud and the action was hot, where I would occasionally meet a straight woman and she and I would go home together. One of those women I still know, here at the other end of our lives, still friends after all these years. I smoked an amazing amount of marijuana and collected every Beatles or Stones album I could find. I was too high to write, and had turned to photography to be creative. But mostly I just wanted to feel good.

    But what was I like? Sometimes, now, I barely recognize that kid. I was determined, I remember that. Determined not to be hurt. Determined to have a good time. Determined to do whatever I needed to do to keep from ever being hungry and homeless again. Determined to stay high. Determined to return to creative writing when I knew the time was right, and maybe even go back to school. Determined to live my version of some Keith Richards Ernest Hemingway mash-up of a life.

  7. Age 19: SEX

  8. At nineteen I was preparing for, and then living in, Johannesburg, South Africa. My parents gave me a choice, go to college or Jo’burg. I packed my allowed 44lbs of luggage. I would be living with my aunt and uncle. He was appointed the lead of a Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Moon-Watch team In Oliphant’s Fountaine.) I went for what I thought would be a two year stay. I would write a book, fall in love, and travel the world after my two years were up.

    I wrote two chapters (only). Got a job selling Revlon cosmetics and fell (deeply) in love with a descendant of a Swedish King. He was gay. (The boyfriend not the king). When I left (after only one year) I went home to Connecticut. No book. Broken heart. I committed my presence to rolling hills of New England for the rest of my life, (so far).

    If I could go back and speak to my nineteen year old self I would tell her, “open your eyes wider and take in the broader picture. Great things happen on the periphery.”

    To all nineteen or ninety, a bit of wisdom from this old broad:
    Reach beyond the ends of your own fingertips. Arm’s length is too close.

  9. At 19, I was a sophomore in engineering school, living on $100 a month (rent, food, clothes… no dates), and determined I was going to get a rocket into space before I was 30. Had to write operating instructions ‘How to Boil Water’ for an English class assignment. Meticulous: equipment list, step-by-step procedures, lab safety, energy balance equations… 3 pages. Loved it.

  10. Like so many of us, in college, a sophomore, torn between my double major in journalism and English—writing for the college paper and doing poems and stories on the side… since my English professors disdained journalism, and the journalism folks wondered, “Why an English major, too?” It took me years to come out of the literary closet and embrace both!

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