Jackson Hole & Other Places

First impressions — the city center plaza of Jackson Hole reminded me of Santa Fe. Western art galleries, shops ’til you drop, and restaurants line the square and trail along the side streets. Tourists love the place. In winter elk do, too. They live outside of town on the vast National Elk Refuge. To get started we drove straight to the visitor’s center for information and maps. Our list of places to see — National Museum of Wildlife Art, Grand Teton National Park, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, Teton Village tram ride, and the byways that took us away from the main road.

Snowmelt cut our Snake River float trip time in half. The water raced along carrying logs, branches, and debris. Eagles, herons, pelicans, and beavers didn’t seem to notice the high water and flooded riverbanks. On our fifth and final day we returned to an old favorite, Yellowstone and the Hayden Valley.

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Memories of First Grade

How many of us remember our First Grade? Luckily, I have newspaper clippings, report cards, and letters. I decided to post a photo and text from the Winfield Park (NJ) annual school report. The school is gone. Destroyed in a fire years ago.  Where am I in the photo? I’m in the second row from the top – bows and braids atop my head. I’m standing next to Carol Simon. The cute kid behind me is Robert Peters. Marie Lupo is in front of me. I loved school and, amazingly, I remember the names of so many kids.

FirstGrade.Best

Miss Beck

How exciting First Grade has been. At first we studied about the dairy farm. We made a large frieze with cows, chickens, ducks, and other farm animals. One day we visited the Walker-Gordon farm. We saw real baby calves and big cows. Miss Pietrowski and Mrs. Lulic ( Mary, my mother) took pictures of us at the farm.

We enjoyed very nice parties at Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. Miss Holton helped us make Jell-O for one of our parties.

Playing in our grocery store was fun, too! Our own churned butter made a big hit and was pictured in the Newark News. We had real cans, all kinds of groceries, a register for money, and a telephone in our store. Each day two children were storekeepers.

In March we studied about the wind and airplanes. Our kites and windmills were very gay. In April, we took a trip to the Newark Airport. It was thrilling to see the big airplanes land and take off.

Spring came and we studied about the circus and the zoo. Our frieze of lions, monkeys, tigers, and giraffes made our room look like a real zoo.

Our best trip was to the Bronx Zoo. We talked about this trip for days and days. Then along came the great day for our May Festival. Will you ever forget our Tom Thumb Wedding with Miss Pietrowski’s First Grade?

It’s been lots of fun this year! We hope that Second Grade will be just as exciting next September.

Miss Pietrowski

This was the very first year we attended school both in the morning and in the afternoon. This was the first year we became such good actors and actresses. Just read on and you shall see what many different roles we played.

First of all, we were farmers who took good care of their farm animals. And since we like farms so much we went all the way down to the Walker and Gordon Milk Farm to see the cows and calves as well as the Rotolactor machine.

Next we were Indians who lived in wigwams and beat upon tom-toms. We made feather headdresses and painted our faces for our program.

Right before Christmas we decided to stop acting for awhile and be as good as we could –for Santa Claus was coming.

Santa was very good to us and so we decided to resume our acting. This time we were Eskimos who made igloos and loved the Northern Lights.

Last of all we were animal keepers at the zoo. We got to know all these strange animals quite well, especially when we visited the Bronx Zoo.

For the May Festival we helped Miss Beck’s first grade with a Tom Thumb Wedding but no one really got married.

Actors and actresses must be kept busy. We learned to read, to write, to count, and to work together cooperatively.

We are really very good at our play-acting and since school must go on, we are ready now for Second Grade.


Barnegat Beach

Barnegat Beach

Barnegat

A clacking seagull
Raised his scissor beak to the sky.
His shrill cut the silence of the sea.
You and I stood beneath the blue and saw
A sunny bank across the bay.
The sea lapped a wooden pier,
Green foam circled, then vanished.

Hooks were baited, lines were tossed
Flounder ran and fishermen waited.
Hopes were high as flat
Brown-speckled fish swallowed hooks.
Along the sandy pebbled beach,
Colored stones and shells hid beneath
The crush of booted feet.

You and I stood watching the silent scene,
As if intruding, we stepped into another’s dream.
The scene seemed done in black and white,
A woodcut carved by crafty hands.
Yet we knew the hues were plainly there.
A deceiving trick hung over us.
The sassy gull cried again,
Announcing intruders to the group
Of silent, patient men.
Life’s second-hand paused a moment
To let us pass.

We wandered on another path,
Passed wind-bent bony scrub
Crushing clam shells as we stepped
To reach the point of Barnegat Light.
Its splintered wooden doors shuttered
With metal bolts and bars, held secure
To a lock chained from within.
Did he know we stood waiting?
Only a speck on the horizon’s edge
Would stir the keeper’s curiosity.
A bronze bust faced the lighthouse doors.
A man who loved the sea, his face turned
Inward from wind, light, and distant bar.
He was guardian of the bolted doors.

Fresh winds blew the clouds away.
Shadows deepened in the bright,
As light dissolved to orange, blue, and gray.
You and I laughed and tossed in sandy folds
As the wind watched and waited,
Then quickly hid our scattered prints.
We did not sadden to see our traces taken.
Gusts of wind cannot claim
The gifts of joy from a summer sea.

                                 ♥

The Stranger

My story begins in the west elevator of 211 E. 18th Street. I shared a top-floor apartment with Lynea, a travel agent also in her twenties. The six-story building had an elevator on each side of the lobby. On an April Monday after work, a black teenager slipped  behind me as I turned my key to open the lobby door. The guy carried a delivery package and pushed the glass door open when the lock turned.

When we were in the building, I sensed his hesitation. He needed to know if I would walk across the lobby to the left or the right. I went to the left elevator and he followed. I pressed the Up button, the door opened, and we both got on. As soon as the elevator door closed, the two of us were locked in a small, soon to be dangerous space. He backed against the panel of buttons, and in one motion his right hand pulled a switchblade out of nowhere.

Of all nights, where the hell was Gus? The Cuban superintendent usually hung around the lobby to greet tenants as they came home. Since his wife left, Gus liked to make small talk and hint to the single women that he’d like a home-cooked meal.

I stupidly let a stranger follow me into the building. I stupidly did not turn around and walk back on to 18th Street. I never saw the kid outside. In fact, I only saw people walking closer to Second Avenue. Where did he come from? And, where the hell was Gus?

I stood in the elevator with an addict in need of a fix, that much I knew. I read those Daily News stories about women stabbed to death in basements or pushed off rooftops for a few dollars. I may have been stupid, but I had to stay smart enough not to be killed. Gus was probably shooting up in his basement apartment and getting high in his own druggie world.

       — Give me your money.

I looked at his dark skin, bloody-red eyes, white teeth, and determined expression. Werewolf, I thought. His knife looked keenly sharp. I did not want to see my blood on the blade. He pushed the tip into the shoulder strap of my bag and asked for money again.

       — Okay, okay. Just don’t cut my purse.

My hands trembled to slide the zipper open. I haggled for the bag on Orchard Street the day before. I’ve had the bag one day and this punk is looking to cut the strap. My left hand fished around at the bottom. I pulled up my wallet. I fumbled to open the bill section and took out some fives and a few singles.

       — Is that all you got?  He grabbed the wallet.

       — There’s a twenty in there. I’ll find it.

He pushed the wallet back into my hand. I found the twenty dollar bill in the secret compartment. My insurance money for emergencies came right to the fore. In an elevator at knifepoint, I had the unexpected need for twenty dollars. Good advice from my mother, I thought. Always have extra money tucked away, she said, money you only use when absolutely necessary.

       — Here. That’s all I have.

He grabbed the wallet again and opened the change pocket. The nickels and dimes were of no interest. My thoughts scrambled as he pushed the wallet toward me and pressed the Open Door button. As he stepped into the lobby, his left hand pressed all of the buttons and the door closed. I stood alone shaking and wimpering. I felt the upward motion of the car. What next?  My mind tried to sort things out. The car came to a stop somewhere between the lobby and the 6th floor. The door opened and I faced the two men and a woman who called for the elevator.

       — I’ve been robbed.

My hands shook and the loose change began to jump. Maybe from their own fright, nickels and dimes fell to the floor.  One of the men walked me out of the elevator. They talked in concerned voices and took me to their apartment. I didn’t know them, never saw them before. The scenes were blurry, but I knew that the kid was gone and I was mostly okay.

       — I’m calling the police. Would you like a drink?

       — Yes. Yes, I would. I was on my way up when a kid got in the elevator. I thought he was making a delivery.

I sat on the living room couch and starred back over the last few minutes. Fright and surprise began to creep in as an afterthought. Most of all, surprise that I came away unharmed.

      — You better let Gus know, too.

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