Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats Too noble to neglect Deceived me into thinking I had something to protect Good and bad, i define these terms Quite clear, no doubt, somehow. Ah, but i was so much older then, I’m younger than that now” Bob Dylan, “My Back Pages
In 1983 my grandmother sold our side yard. Well, we didn’t really need it anymore – I was up and out, brother was just about up and out…and Nana needed the money. It was sold to a builder and build he did – by the beginning of 1984 our side yard was now 412 Buckingham Road. For the first time in fifty or more years our house, 406 Buckingham Road, was not the only house on our side of the street to actually FACE Buckingham Road.
My grandparents bought 406 Buckingham Road in 1946 or 1947 – and along with it the lot next door. For the next 38 years that lot served as a large side lawn where kids would play, barbeques would be held and beautiful flowers would grow.
There was nothing like that yard in the summer. Nana had the most awesome gardener. Towards the back was a patch of heirloom roses – along the side the hedge shimmered with wisteria. And down below, not far from the Weeping Willow Tree that my father and grandfather had planted was a patch of Lilly of the Valley. The yard itself was big and green, like a carpet you can run barefoot through in the spring and summer – rake leaves and jump in the piles in the fall – fresh tracks with the first snow of winter.
A year later Nana sold 406 Buckingham Road and moved into a sweet apartment in Woodmere across from the train station. She lived there for ten years.
In the spring of 1995 it was decided that Nana could no longer live by herself. She was deaf as a stone and her eye-sight was failing. So my Aunt and I took charge, moved Nana to the city to live with my aunty and her husband David and cleaned out the apartment – no easy task. My booty, as per my sainted Nana’s wishes – a set of China, the holiday “silver” and the bronze candlesticks that came with my great-grandmother from Russia.
I closed the apartment door and made my way down to the train platform, booty on my back. As I stood there waiting for the next train into New York City it dawned on me that I would never again have to visit the Five Towns – ever. I felt I needed something to mark this occasion, but what?
So I leaned over the rail at the train station and spit.
Fourteen years later I found myself boarding a train bound for that same destination. It’s funny how certain sights, sounds and smells stick with you – it seemed like only yesterday I was getting on that train, the grubby smells of the lower tracks of Penn Station filling my airways – and the announcer on the loudspeaker….”This is the train bound for Babylon…making stops at Woodside, Jamaica, Valley Stream, Lynbrook, Baldwin, Freeport, Merrick, Wantagh, Seaford, Massapequa, Massapequa Park, Amityville, Copaigue, Lindenhurst AND Babylon…change at Jamaica for the Far Rockaway train…”
Here I sat on the train to Babylon – dutifully changing trains and headed to my own personal Babylon…Cedarhurst was to be my stop. That train would go on to Lawrence, Inwood and Far Rockaway – but I’d get off at the Cedarhurst station just as I did so many years before.
As I sat on the train, it’s rocking back and forth, staring blankly through the window at the landscape below me I reflected on my spitting incident. I’d always thought I’d had this horrible upbringing in this most horrible place – the Five Towns had a reputation for its ostentatious Jewish wealth and had been dubbed on more than one occasion as the “Golden Ghetto”. In school I was surrounded by the dreaded Jewish American Princess everywhere I looked – I sat behind a girl in homeroom who wore practically couture pants suits each day and looked more 30 than 16 because of it. Everyone seemed to sport a Dr. Diamond nose – their necks, wrists and fingers gilded with high priced valuable jewels – gold, diamonds, rubies and the such. This is how they went to high school – dressed to the nines, sporting the latest and greatest Calvin Klein jeans, Hukapoos and Wayne Rodger shirts, everything clinging to their skinny to slim figures, showing off the itty-bitty-titties pumped up by designer push-up bras.
These girls were mean, snooty and daddy bailed them out of everything. The flocked like sheep – they followed fad after fad, trend after trend and seemed almost devoid of personality. There were a handful of us though that were “real” – once the horror of Junior High was over we all felt free enough to be ourselves…torn jeans, concert t-shirts, deadheads. The official Senior T-Shirt was this egg shaped Ziggy-esque character on bright yellow – the official Senior Motto, ironically enough, was “Don’t follow a Trend – Start One…” For us, the few and the famous stoners, band folks, drama department folks, for us who smoked dope under the tree in the parking lot – we had our own shirt and our own motto – the shirt was blue, it was a simple line drawing of the Uncle Sam character found in the Grateful Dead movie and it sported a lyric: “What A Long Strange Trip Its Been – Lawrence High School Class of ‘79”.
So this is why I spit on Woodmere that day. The whole place reeked of materialism to me, went so against my grain as to who I’d become as a person. Yet – when I thought about it, REALLY thought about it…it wasn’t such a sucky place to grow up after all.
I was unique in that I was second generation Five-Towner…my Father and Aunt grew up there, went to Number 5 school and subsequently Lawrence High School. We were not amongst the “nouveau riche” who bought their houses of ticky-tacky in North Woodmere which sat on a swamp – we were not even all that “riche”. I rebelled against the designer clothing not because I wanted to – but because I had to…long gone were the charge accounts at Sisteen and other cute clothing boutiques that lined Central Avenue.
As a teenager I’d hang out in that park with the “bad boys” by the handball courts, perched on that wall, looking oh so cute.Eventually some of these “bad boys” – Dennis McBride (RIP), Russel Terramo et al would rent a house on Clinton Avenue which would be our hang-out, party place point of freedom and of course the motivation we all needed and wanted to get a place of our own.
The Village of Cedarhurst dubbed itself a “Unique Shopping Village”. People from each of the Five Towns would flock there on Saturdays to do their shopping. Yes, there were tons of clothing boutiques but there were also the favored eateries – Bea’s Tearoom for the hands-down BEST hamburger, macaroni salad and “Coffee Freeze” – Pies Plus for a shrimp salad sandwich and a tab – and of course, Mother Kelly’s for a slice and a coke.
There was “Missy Weiss”…Weiss’ Stationery Store which was always a hit for us kids – toys! There was Jildor for shoes – Trees for handbags and hats – oh, you needed a NICE hat to go to shul on the high holy days!!! Eventually Toddy’s moved from Far Rockaway to Cedarhurst Avenue in Cedarhurst – we were there every Sunday morning with my Dad and Grandfather, noshing samples and spending tons of money on lox, whitefish, bagels and such. Occassionally my brother and I would be dispatched to the other end of town to pick up the deli order at Wilshire – we learned well, sampling the corned beef and walking away with the order AND a kosher hot dog wrapped in rye bread and topped with mustard and potato salad.
The parents and grandparents eventually learned not to send me for the Hallah from Cedarhurst Bakery – it would be handed to me warm and on the way home I’d have nibbled into more than one-quarter of it.
There was Oz Rock for record albums and concert tickets….they were the only Ticketmaster outlet in the area…there was Associated Market where my mother and grandmother did all their food shopping, often by phone…there was Roberts Drugs for prescription, lotions and potions.
On Wednesday nights in the summer the village would close off Central Avenue to traffic, creating not so much a “mall” but a big block party all in the spirit of consumerism – but it was much more. Everyone knew everyone…it WAS small town USA.
As far as school, our Junior High was a classic building used in TV commercials and film shoots –but our High School was some Mafia job built on a dump, next door to the sewage treatment plan and looked more like a prison than a school. But we had something that schools these days strive, no beg for – we had true diversity.
Some of the wealthiest families in the area sent their kids to Lawrence High School – as did some of the poorest. Cedarhurst and Inwood bordered the NYC borough of Queens and the more ambitious families of Far Rockaway and neighboring towns in that borough arranged for addresses with friends and family in Inwood so that they could send their kids to LHS. And why not? Property taxes were and still are through the roof in the Five Towns which meant that the school received lots of money…and it was reputedly one of the best high schools on Long Island.
While most of our student population was white, rich and Jewish we most definitely had more than the token African American…I’d venture to say that one-third of our class were kids of color. The socio-economic diversity was stunning as well – working class Irish, Italian and Jewish families from Cedarhurst and Inwood mixed with the obnoxiously rich Episcopalians and Jews from Lawrence, Woodmere and North Woodmere. The high school had a high standard of academics but that was balanced with the marvelous vocational program BOCES – as well as the non-college track courses offered with the school itself. We had a large TESOL (Teaching English to Students of Other Languages) as we had a small but significant population of immigrant students from Italy, Russia and Puerto Rico.
I was the director of the Senior Play – Cabaret – and I had the great honor of casting a black Sally with a white Cliff. Controversy? You bet. It was my proudest moment as a Senior.
Diversity usually means “groovy” but you couldn’t find a larger pack of racists as you would in the Five Towns. Nobody trusted anybody outside of their circle – blacks against whites, Italians beating up Jews – stereotyping prevailed – the Italians were the thugs, the Jews were the soft, rich kids. Even in my Father and Aunt’s day the school was diverse but not happily – there is no pool at Lawrence High School because the community did not want the black kids swimming with the white kids. No lie.
Then there was Kennedy Airport. When my grandparent bought their house there was no Kennedy Airport – Idlewild Airport was a tiny little thing smack in the community/town of Idlewild. Once the conception of building a huge international airport came about the city of New York picked up, literally, the houses in that small community and moved them out of the way. Before long, there you had one of the country’s largest and busiest airports and the Boeing 707s roaring overhead. Our house (and our high school) were in a landing pattern from Europe – essentially, on a runway. The planes would clear the roof of my house looking like there were going to land right on it – landing gear down. About every ninety seconds we’d hear the deafening roar – conversation would stop…the house would shake and then it would be over. As a little kid, whenever that happened I’d throw myself face down on the floor which really used to freak my mother out. One of our neighbors once got on the roof of his house with a gun – it was the kind of noise that would make you crazy if you let it. Me…I grew up with it and essentially stopped hearing it after a while. As a teen we’d lie in that grand side yard, stoned out of our gourds and wave to the people who’s faces we could see in the windows of approaching aircraft.
With the advent of the SST came protests from all over the five-towns but to no avail. In 1978 the first SST flight from Europe approached Kennedy at 8:00am – and all of us, our entire high school, hung out of the windows facing the courtyard and gazed up as this sleek bird made its final approach…silently. With all this commotion of sonic boom that plane NEVER made nearly the noise the 707’s and the 747’s did back then.
OK so there’s mixed emotions as the train pulls into Gibson (I never really knew anyone who LIVED in Gibson) and I started to prepare myself…I had spit on that Woodmere platform fourteen years prior – but it had to have been at least 20 years since I’d been in Cedarhurst.
I’d been warned of the changes – starting in the early 1980’s “swarms” of ultra-orthodox and Hassidic Jews began to move from Far Rockaway and Brooklyn into Cedarhurst and Woodmere. Both towns boast a natural Eruv is what I was told the allure was…but a generation was turning, houses were up for sale and entire congregations were re-creating themselves, Jonestown Style, into these hamlets. By the time my grandmother moved to the city they had “taken over”…the stores on Central Avenue all closed on Saturday, INCLUDING Toddy’s – rumor had it that the “Black Hat Mafia” went store to store “requesting” that they close…for if they did not, they would be put out of business.
“Cedarhurst…Cedarhurst, next stop…” I was prepared, I stood up, swayed with the train and when it stopped at Cedarhurst station – I got off.
From the moment I stepped on the platform the familiar and the not so familiar hit me straight in the face. There was the Al Steiners building – a Cedarhurst landmark for eons and eons, the type of restaurant where they made the men wear jackets – even if it was from their own closet…but it wasn’t Al Steiners. La Viola, an Italian restaurant that once sat on an alley behind Central Avenue now took its place. Right next door was the famed Mother Kelley’s – grown to five times the size it was when it was on Chestnut street and a storefront pizzeria. Now a full blown Italian restaurant – though more casual than La Viola the popularity of the place for its pizza and cute cuisine seems to have validated the much larger space. As I walked by, almost instinctively I noticed that they were also doing evening events such as a comedy night and live music. I took note and walked on – Mother Kelley’s would be a stop for sure but not until later.
My mission here was to see the house where I grew up. It was a Friday so I was kind of playing beat the clock – I certainly did not want to disturb the occupants while they were preparing for Shabbat. Still…my plan was to walk Central Avenue as I did as a kid to see what changes have really taken place.
My feet carried me in the direction of Cedarhurst Avenue so my plan was to cross the tracks, walk Central Avenue, cross back, head through the park and ultimately up to my former house.
As I walked I did notice that all the buildings were the same – but the storefronts somewhat different. Gone was Pies Plus and Beas Tearoom – Toddy’s had moved from its location on Cedarhurst Avenue now to a prominent location on Central Avenue. Mrs. Weiss’ toy store was still there but now more a stationery store…Pik-A-Pak had just closed its doors. Amazingly enough, Bib n’ Tucker was still there – the couture boutique for the very young. There was Mary Lerner, the place I’d gotten my first bra – there was Jildor, now sporting four locations in some of the hautiest neighborhoods on Long Island. Trees as a stand alone store closed way back when their space was overcome by a fire but they now had a “space” in the back of each of the Jildor stores. In the places of some of the cute eateries and clothing boutiques now stood cellular phone stores, electronic game shops and tons of banks. More banks than I could ever remember. Where Cedarhurst was at one time that unique shopping village which to me meant no franchises or chain stores – now the high end chains had taken their rightful place on what was once called the “Rodeo Drive of Long Island”…the Gap, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and Williams Sonoma.
Still – the place didn’t feel all that different. Less busy for sure but it was Friday afternoon. Evidence of the change in population could be seen pretty predominantly – glaat kosher food shops and butchers in stead of the generic Associated Market…a sign in a salon window boasted that they do “Shabbos Makeup”. There were mostly women walking the streets – each with a stroller and two to three small children in tow – Mama wearing the requisite head covering, the boys with yarmulkes. I noticed these women to be so young and more importantly – dressed to the absolute nines. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I walked into Toddy’s first. The store was much smaller and there were more sit-down, eat here tables than I could remember. The place was full of these ladies that lunch – getting in a hearty kosher bagel and whatever before having to go home and get the Shabbat thing going. I walked up to the counter and tentatively asked if there were any Todmans still working at the place. Jay Todman was presented to me front and center.
“My name is Nikki Barrett – I’m not sure if you remember my family….? My grandfather was a friend and customer to your dad back when you guys were in Far Rockaway…”
At first Jay looked at me like he was trying to place me but that would be impossible – I don’t think I’d seen or talked to the man since I was a pre-teen. But he soon warmed up with memories – my grandfather had given him a really nice pen for his bar mitzvah – Toddy’s catered my Grandfather’s shiva in the style he would’ve most enjoyed. There was a funny incident with flying pot cheese while my dad was in the store back in the ‘70s….I could remember sitting on the counter at the store in Far Rockaway as my grandfather sampled and shopped and Aaron, Jay’s father, would feed me those gummy “Red Herrings” right out of the candy jar. Jay spoke of their move from Cedarhurst Avenue to Central Avenue back in ’94 after his brother died – he didn’t mention but I knew that Jay had found his brother in the basement of the store swinging from a rope. He asked for my dad – I related the sad news of Pa’s passing last July. Jay’s mom still comes into the store all the time. Despite being forced by the Black Hat Mafia to close on what used to be their busiest day, business was more than booming. Jay turned to greet the Hassidic rabbi as he exited the kitchen – sign of the times. Then he asked if I wanted anything. Of course, I ordered a plain bagel with lox and it was produced for me immediately.
“That’ll be nine dollars”. We parted, shaking hands and I left with my bagel. There were no tables available to sit anyway and I wanted to continue on my journey of my past.
I decided to eat my bagel in Cedarhurst Park. The park had changed pretty dramatically. There was now an archway facing the train tracks that more than welcomed you to both the village and its little park. It had always been a park of monuments – I remember climbing on those stones and pedestals as a young child but never reading them. I read them now – many were memorials to World War I veterans, quite a few to the vets of World War II. That flag post was still there and in great condition. Then there were the new monuments, the new memorials. A large black granite slab stood not too far way honoring those children of Cedarhurst lost in the attacks on September 11, 2001.
A small memorial fountain fountain was built not too far away and the walkway leading up to these memorials was paved in bricks placed by the loving families and businesses of Cedarhurst…some in memory of, some in honor and quite of few of “shop here…”. I took my place on a bench and studied the 9/11 memorial. Not too many people on it…but I did learn that Neil Levin, the Executive Director of the Port Authority, went to school at Lawrence High School – Kevin O’Rourke, a New York City fire-fighter also perished and had Washington Avenue named for him. Mr. Levin as it turns out had not even been with the Port Authority for six months at the time of his death – Governor Pataki named a Graduate school after him.
Both men were older than me but in the same graduating classes as some of my friends.
I finished my bagel and walked through the park, taking notice of the old and the new…the new gazebo, the new snack shed, the new playground…much bigger and fenced in. The old ball field that I crossed to take a look at the old handball court…the court itself long gone, that corner of the park neglected and torn up save for an old tool shed which I somewhat recall being there through my youth…that wall that we would sit on, passing joints to one another and talking smack about the princes and princesses we were subjected to on each and every school day – it was still there, moss creeping up the sides and the corners crumbling into the pavement below.
I walked up Washington Avenue in furtherance of my quest. Each crack in the sidewalk seemed familiar and probably was – it didn’t look like the village had done much to restore the pavement. It was a warm spring day and the smells of the green, green lawns and the bursting maple trees filled my being….I was eight years old again walking that sidewalk with my Grandfather, kicking the fallen leaves on our way to shul for Rosh Hashana services. I was sixteen again, walking home from hanging out in the park…I was eighteen again, going to vote with my dad for me the very first time – and stopping a Carl’s for an eggcream.
The building was there but Carl’s was long gone. That building, that used to not only house Carls but also a little market and a butcher shop had been turned into one large brown brick monstrosity and called itself a health club…long closed.
I stood on the corner of Washington Avenue and West Broadway about the cross what was always the most dangerous street of my childhood. There was still no light at that corner and anxiety filled me as it did when I was a kid, waiting for a break in the traffic to scramble across the two lane thoroughfare.
Once I did, I was in my neighborhood. Rolling lawns, blooming flowers, the maple trees canopying Albermarle Road. Across the street – Colleen Feeney’s house….on the corner, the Friedman’s. I was looking forward to seeing Nancy Soloman’s house – we’d spent many a good time there but the place was torn apart, down to the framing….then, I turned on Buckingham Road.
I had my first glimpse of my side yard, now 412 Buckingham Road. Lanscaping, little that there was, had grown in and the house looked like it had been there forever. It appeared huge to me….they had built to every inch of the property line. The wisteria, lilies of the valley – all gone, sadly. Just aluminum siding and concrete.
I very quickly found myself in front of the most familiar place on earth to me…406 Buckingham Road. I stood in stunned silence. Aside from a huge and imposing front door the house – now easily over 100 years old looked just as it had when I was a child….the slate walkway, the brick steps – the shape…only now in the shadow of 412 Buckingham Road it looked dwarfed, smaller than I ever thought it was – more the size of the little “starter” houses across the street than the huge and imposing place I’d grown up in. I didn’t need to build my courage for long – I checked my watch and deemed it a reasonable time to impose on the current inhabitants. So I rang the bell.
The voice on the intercom greeted me, not a person at the door. I explained who I was and a young man answered the door. I asked to come in – he was hesitant but let me in.
This was not my grandmother’s house. The front entry way had been opened up to one grand entryway – with marble tile. The icky green carpet was gone, in its place resplendent hard wood, probably Oak. The kitchen was completely redone and it seemed wider – the kitchen of my childhood was way too narrow and the dishwasher when the place was sold in ’84 was the same as the one that was there when I was born in ’61…the den, my brother’s room, gone. In it’s place the back end of the house had been “opened” up to allow for a small deck, a normal sized dining area and a small den-like spot where the television and computer lived. I peered out the back window to see that the concrete patio had been replaced with lawn…and then I noticed the fence and its gate.
“A gate?” I said, “Where does the gate lead to?”
“Oh, “ he laughed, “Our friends bought the house there – our kids are all friends so we figured, easy access to each other’s homes…”
First choke-up of the day – that house was Su’s house. That fence used to be a bank of skinny trees and there was no gate – we’d freely go back and forth, never walking around the corner, always through the trees and down Elizabeth Mann’s driveway. I smiled and told him the story – about how my best girlfriend with whom I’d moved to California nearly 25 years ago lived in that house, yadda, yadda, yadda – I could tell he was getting bored. We walked back through the kitchen where I noticed the side door – did you finish the basement, I asked. He was very quick to answer:
“No, there’s just a whole bunch of stuff down there. No one is allowed down there. No one.” When I inquired about the laundry room he gave me a puzzled look – so either there are ancient washers and dryers there or the owners (there were two) previous to him took them out. He did say that there was some ugly paneling, some very old linoleum tiles….that basement had not only NOT been finished…it was exactly the same as it was when I was a child. My heart ached to go down there but I stopped myself quickly – its someone else’s shit, not ours – no old furnishings, dusty bottles of alcohol, no ancient and musty smelling National Geographics from the 1930’s. There was no darkroom. We moved on.
I could tell he wanted to escort me out but I looked over to the staircase and asked if I could go up. Again, he was hesitant but agreed. I giggled as we climbed the stairs – they sounded exactly the same as I’d remembered them.
What I hadn’t remembered was how SMALL it was up there. The two of us could barely fit in the tiny hallway that led to the three bedrooms. I asked if I could see the bedroom on the far end…my room, my aunt’s room. His young son was hesitant, warning me that it was a “mess”.
“Kid, “ I said, “It couldn’t possibly be more messy than when I was living there.”
He opened the door and I peered in. The room was tiny – he even had his desk and dresser set up the same as I did when I was a kid. I looked over to the window by the bed, the one that peered over the roof of the garage. I smiled as I remember how I would have learned it had snowed the night before – that roof top would be white – and how, when I couldn’t reach Su on the phone I’d yell out that window, much to my grandmother’s dismay. I looked towards the second window in that room and remembered how I had the best view in the whole house – my bedroom window looked out on that magnificent side yard – I was just about to mention it when I remembered that Junior here now had a view of the window of 412 Buckingham Road.
Mr. walked me out and we spoke about the neighborhood – my fond memories, his reasons for moving there – “so few houses on the block, much fewer than the others we’d looked at”. How his sons had gone to a private Jewish school in Hewlett but his older son had some issues that only Lawerence High School could attend to…and they were all very happy with that decision. We both gazed out upon the street, discussed his wife’s plans for the front yard (another deck? Yuk!) when his eyes perked up and he said, “Do you remember Carolyn and Richie? Were they living here when you were here?”
Of course I remembered Carolyn and Richie – my all too cool neighbors across the street! They were young and vibrant in the early ‘70s – they turned me on to Led Zeppelin. She was a gym teacher in Bedford Stuyvesant who became disabled (shoulder dislocation) while breaking up a fight in the girls locker room. I had great memories of those two….were they still living there?
Well, Carolyn was but Richie had died suddenly of a heart attack ten years earlier. She was probably home, he told me….recovering from recent hip replacement therapy. I made up my mind to ring her bell as well, prepared for the emotional outpouring that was bound to happen, especially when I would have to tell her of my father’s passing.
I wished him a Shabbot Shalom and just as I was about to cross the street I looked down the long narrow driveway and saw it – our garage, his garage. In one more desperate request I asked if I could go look at it – he was puzzled for sure but let me have my way…standing the whole time and observing me, still not quite sure what to make of this middle-aged woman with tears in her eyes. I walked up to the building and studied it…it was painted but the original shingles were still there. The little square windows were broken and the garage itself useless now as its intention – built over 100 years ago it could house a small model T but no car built after the 1930’s could fit in there. It was no more than a storage shed, an out-building but it was the one structure on the property that had not changed a wink. I stood on my tiptoes to try to peer in when I reminded myself once again – someone else’s shit. Long gone was its centerpiece of shit, an old Carousel Horse my grandfather had picked up in some antique auction upstate. I placed my hand on the building and felt its dying heartbeat – it’s a teardown for sure, had I bought the place now that’s what I would do with it, just so I could plant more grass! But for now, there it stood like an old friend and it seemed to almost yield to my touch.
I silently crossed the street and rang Carolyn’s bell. She wasn’t home – and its probably best. My eyes were filled and my lips quivering as it was – it was probably best not to have an emotional meltdown with a woman I had not seen in close to thrity years. As I left her stoop I saw it – propped next to a potted plant – a memorial brick that paves the memorial walk in the park – in memory of her late great husband Richie.
I walked around the block to take a look at Su’s house – it looked completely different save the old red brick in some places and of course, the large sundeck that graced the second floor. Oh, what a time we’d have on that sundeck for hours, sunning ourselves with an old T-Rex album cover that we coated in aluminum foil. I stood there and called Su immediately – I’m standing in front of your house – can I come in to play?
As I stood on the platform waiting for the next train to New York I took Cedarhurst in one more time. It wasn’t so bad a place to grow up and I had no need to mark what very well could be the last time I stood on that platform – no spitting. Instead, as the train pulled up I took my seat and gazed out the window as the five towns gently rolled by. The place was a part of me and always would be no matter how hard I tried to erase it – the good, the bad and the ugly Jewish Princesses.