A Harrowing Experience

A HARROWING EXPERIENCE

I attended Pels School of Art from 1970 to 1972 and made a few friends while learning more about commercial art. One, however, became a life-long friend while the others faded away after my time there. Tracey was one of a kind. I’m sad to say that when she first came to classes, sometime after the rest of us had started, none of us embraced her. Instead, there were some who played tricks on her just for meanness. Kids, even ones old enough to know better, can be cruel.

Tracey & Marcia at Riverside Park on the Hudson River

Tracey was a few years younger than most of us and 2 years younger than me. She had her hair dyed blond and all scraggly like she just got out of bed. Her huge brown eyes were highly accentuated with dark liner and mascara, but were her most attractive feature. She had fairly large breasts and did not think a bra was necessary (at least it looked that way). Actually, she had such a shapely figure that she attracted male attention everywhere she went and seemed oblivious to it. I noticed one day that when walking the streets of New York with her that every, and I do mean every, man who saw her turned and stared she was so exotic! I felt that I could have been naked on the street and they wouldn’t have noticed me if Tracey was there. She just had that effect on men. If anything, the other girls in school were jealous of that.

 She also had talent and a flair for fashion which is why she was at the school. I was there because I was sick of academic classes and so dropped out of Queens College after one year, worked to save up my money for art school. So I was happy to be there.

 It was difficult to make friends at first. Everyone was wary and no one spoke to anyone else for weeks at first. One day, I was on the subway platform to go home and one of my classmates, Ray, spoke to me. I realized he was not the devil and we became friendly in class too. We sat together, talked and laughed. I guess this became contagious and soon others began to warm up. Many people gravitated to others like themselves and formed little groups. We had a group of hard core druggies who were into bad drugs, we had a hippie group and then there were the nerds who were very naïve and had never tried anything like drugs and were still very high school. I was in that group.

One day, I was on the subway going home and who should I bump into but Tracey. At this time, no one really wanted to be her friend, but I couldn’t avoid her right there so we talked. She lived in Jackson Heights which was not far from my apartment in Elmhurst.  Tracey was very outgoing while I’m more quiet and shy, but it worked for us and we did become fast friends and still are to this day. While we lost touch a few times over the years, eventually we found each other again even though we have lived far apart – her in New York and then Pennsylvania while I moved to North Carolina.

 Moving forward in the story, I got married and had a son, Adam, in 1979. He is my only child. Later, Tracey got married and after a lot of trials and tribulations, finally had her daughter, Nina Rose. Nina is the light of her life and Tracey has been a devoted mother.

 I was very honored when Tracey picked me as Godmother to her precious bundle and when she wanted me to be at Nina’s christening, I knew I wanted to be there desperately. I made flight arrangements to New York and could stay with my sister while there, but that left another problem. Tracey lived in Pennsylvania somewhere and how was I going to get there?

 To fully understand my dilemma about this, I need to explain why this was such a problem. I’m “directionally challenged” which is to say I get lost. A lot. All the time. Even in places I know well. I have a slight dyslexic problem that causes me to have an extremely hard time remembering left from right, east from west, no matter how many times I try. I’m also not comfortable with highway driving or long distance driving. I like staying on side roads and only go close to home. I hate to go places I’ve never been because I know I’ll screw it up and get lost. My husband always does the driving when possible. Even my son is better at getting around than I am.

 I only drove enough in New York to get my license and most of that was with a driving school. Once I had a license, I didn’t drive a car again until I had to drive my brand new Pinto off the lot in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I was so scared! But I managed and had to actually practice getting on and off the highways, usually on a Sunday morning when there was almost no traffic. I still liked to find side roads when possible, but did okay when I had to on the Big Roads.

 So I asked Tracey about getting to her house for the christening and she said her dad was going to drive there with his girlfriend and it would be okay if I tagged along. I was so relieved! This was perfect. Lynn was going to take me from her place to his so no problem.

 Until I realized that her dad was in his eighties and I had no idea how his driving was. I also found out that he had never driven there before and had only taken a bus in the past. Somehow this was very distressing and I decided that I would rather trust my fate to myself than this old man. Now mind you, he was very sweet and I liked him…I just preferred to drive myself hoping that I could do it, but very unsure of myself. Still, I offered to drive and he was glad. As it turned out, it was a good thing I did drive. You’ll see why.

 Before attempting this trip, I had to study a map to see how to get from Flushing, through Manhattan to the George Washington Bridge. From there, it was supposed to be easy. Hah! Not for poor, pitiful Hopelessly Lost me!

 So I studied the roads on the map over and over and tried to drum it into my febrile brain hoping for the best.

 My sister dropped me off at his place and I got in the front seat of a small Toyota, I think it was, that had certainly had more than its fair share of mileage and to top it off, the air conditioning wasn’t working. This was going to be a very long, hot trip! His girlfriend had never driven and was useless as far as navigation was concerned and Philip wasn’t any better. I was on my own with only some directions from Tracey which weren’t all that clear.

 I had a few scares on the way to the bridge when my exit came up suddenly and I was in the wrong lane, but I managed to move over without hitting any one. The traffic at the bridge was backed up but we finally got through the toll booth and on our way.

 I wasn’t exactly sure where to get off the highway and saw an exit that I thought was correct and so got off. My passengers were clueless and no help. However, when I got off, I realized the area didn’t look anything like Tracey had described and so I got very panicky. Fortunately, I had a phone, called her and told her where we were which was somewhere in New Jersey.

 “Not even close”, she said. “Keep going until you pass some water thingy and get into Pennsylvania.”

 I got back in the car and looked for a way back onto the interstate. Philip thought it was one place, but I realized, even with my issues, that that way would take us back to New York (East) so I kept going until I found an entrance going West and it seemed to be about 10 miles from where we had been and I was really sweating it out. I felt like a wandering Jew in the desert.

 Remember: no air conditioning, so I had to have the windows open which creates a lot of wind noise which is annoying and distracting. Also, this car had absolutely no get-up-and-go no matter how hard I hit the gas pedal. Basically, I cruised along however fast it would go (much slower than everyone else) and kept my eyes on my lane and let them all pass me by. I didn’t care. I was determined to get there matter how long it took.

 Finally, we found the right exit and got off. We parked in a large bus parking lot and Tim (if I remember correctly, but probably not) came to meet us there so we could follow him to the house as it would be almost impossible to find any other way. I was grateful for that!! I was an absolute wreck by the time we arrived. My nerves were shot, as I guess you can imagine.

 We made it there and had such a great time with all of the other guests Tracey had for the christening of Nina Rose. We all shared so many memories of Jackson Heights and the area. I was so pleased when I found out many of them had been into my family’s luncheonette, Singer’s.

 We all attended the beautiful christening at a church and feasted afterward. It was a great time for all. Tracey was a wreck trying to make sure everything was perfect and it was!

 Somehow the drive home was not as bad for me. I had made it there it one piece and now I just had to do the same on the return trip. This time, though, I drove to LaGuardia Airport where I was taking a flight home and relinquished the car to Philip at that point. Whew! It was actually a major undertaking for me, but I was very proud that I did it in spite of my fears.

 I’ve found that when you have something you really want to do, you’ll find a way no matter what obstacles are seemingly in the way.

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