Christmas 1977

L-R: Tommy, Me

North Bellmore is less than thirty miles away, but I go into Manhattan exactly twice in the 1970’s: one in a class trip to the United Nations in 1979 and other is for THE. BEST. CHRISTMAS EVE. EVER. Mom, my brothers and I take a train into New York City to see my dad in his natural habitat. (Mom wears open-toed heels that I accidentally step on a lot during the train-ride.) Before this, what did I think dad did all day? Answer unclear, try again later. When he was home he’d often work on these inscrutable feats of number-crunching with a HUGE ten-digit Texas Instruments calculator (mine now) and paper spreadsheets with grids in green and white; if I gave any thought to it, I probably assumed he did much the same at work, only wearing a suit. The visit to his offices didn’t clarify much, though it did reveal to me that he worked with computers, too, as one of his co-workers took us aside to show some print-outs of ASCII art. Looking out of someone’s private office (or maybe it was a computer room, if they were putting such things in windowed building perimeter rooms back then), I could see another tall building, part of a cavern of buildings causing darkness on a sunny afternoon.

Then we all went to the World Trade Center. Up to this day, the tallest building I’ve been in couldn’t have been more than a few stories — the tallest building in Nassau County (both in 1977 and 2004) is the Nassau University Medical Center, a mere 19 and I don’t think ever been in that monster. Going up in the elevators is an alarming experience, as I have to pop my ears much as I did on the airplane ride to Florida earlier this year (in the picture above I’m wearing Disneyworld PJs my parents bought there). When we’re up there I was told I just wasn’t going to fall out of the window, and encouraged to get nearer, but the windows extended from the floor to the ceiling and when I was too close it looked too much like my feet was right at the edge of a mile-high drop. A month or two before 9/11, my boss took the marketing department to an informal breakfast at Windows on the World, and when we left, we all passed by a foot-to-ceiling window to get a better view of Manhattan looking uptown, and when I got too close, when I could see the buildings directly under us, there was that same terrified feeling in the knees again and I just had to get away. In 1977, down where the World Financial Center will be, I can see landfill but assume it’s a beach; some time later, misunderstanding a comment by my one of my grandparents, I assume that this landfill is also the site of one my very earliest memories, me and my brothers on a beach, climbing a wooden structure.

Speaking of falling into voids, this photo is amazing because save for a floating piece of wire, it looks as if reality trails off into nothingness right behind. It’s also slightly blurry, indicating that my mom took this. She’s a long-time sufferer of arthritis — probably had it when she was a kid, even — but it’s after the age of thirty that it starts getting really acute, and in light of this, I’m rather amazed she soldiered on as she did, taking really hammy photos of Christmas photos of us even though her hands would seize up in pain.

I’m six-and-a-half in this photo. When Tommy was six-and-change in 1972, he got way much more crap for his stocking-stuffer thing AND a sleeping bag, too. But I get Kermit and Grover, a gift-pack of Life Savers I eat in one sitting, crayons for the third year in a row, and two Richard Scarry books, one of which features cut-and-paste Christmas ornaments you’ll see later. I think that one was Richard Scarry’s Best Make-It Book Ever, and the other one was Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever…and suddenly I get some insight where a certain music anthology series might’ve gotten its name.