I am the world’s most willing virtual traveler. I will happily go anywhere on a page!
I come from an immigrant family that fled Hungary for Brooklyn and stopped there forever. There I grew up, never going farther than the Catskill Mountains summers.
When I was twenty-two, I set off for graduate school at the Writers Workshop in Iowa City. My whole family came to see me off. My father bought me a lavish corsage. My teary mother kept telling strangers I was “going west”.
I married an anthropologist whose interest in religion and ritual took us all over the world. Now I’m old and no longer taking long journeys, but I beat the system with the help of the New York subways. I’m that white-haired octagenarian, nearly blind, with irrevocable wrinkles, carrying her stuffed briefcase downtown twice a week and returning during rush hour. What drives me? Power? Money? Fame? Hah, none of those, obviously. I go because I’m a teacher and the hours spent in the classroom are the happiest hours of my week.
To be so old is lucky; to be so old is tiring and tiresome. And yet, and yet if there is some pleasurable task that one can do and do well – and enjoy – it seems to me to be a major reason for living.
For more than half a century, I’ve been teaching college English, and most of the last years were devoted to creating fiction in an undergraduate Writing Workshop at Borough of Manhattan Community College, currently on Chambers Street.
The college started in 1963 in rented office space in the West Fiftieth Street area, and originally offered business courses, making them easily accessible to workers nearby.
BMCC has grown exponentially. It now has its own handsome campus on Chambers Street and is already renting additional space nearby to contain its burgeoning, incredibly heterogeneous student body.
With the right “papers”, I travel anywhere – FREE – I just blasted through outer space effortlessly, piloted by a friendly, savvy space alien, in a terrific science fiction tale filled with natural and unnatural wonders. Literally, another world.
I recently visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum in the first city destroyed by an atomic bomb. And I saw the Genbaku Dome marking the single structure left standing in the city of Hiroshima after the disaster. And I identified with an older student who, having seven years in graduate school in Germany studying psychology and doing what his family thought was right for him, decided to cut loose and start fresh, so he emigrated! Here he was happy in my class and he absolutely convinced me it was the right move. Seven years notwithstanding.
I cowered in a closet with a scared little girl while police searched her grandma’s house, pulling things apart as they sought her criminal uncle-and after an interminable time, they found him. She was not sorry!
I accompanied a South African teenager and his outlaw uncles on a perilous errand and happily, I went along with a child and her gentle, prosperous parents on their annual trip back to Costa Rica to visit grandparents, an idyllic family reunion.
Et cetera. I am so pleased when my students take me along with them. I don’t mind the heavy briefcase. I dote on it!