Monday, February 2, 2015

Queens County Revisited: The 1970s (8)

During the 1970s, a white guy named Manny was the only other person who had attended Flushing High School in the 1960s that I ever bumped into and recognized while commuting to work. I can't recall where we actually bumped into each other again in Queens. But Manny had attended a few meetings of the Flushing High School Human Relations Club that I was a member of during the 1964-65 academic year, when Manny was a junior and I was a senior; and he was also, I think, in my chemistry class during the same academic year. So we both looked vaguely familiar enough to each other to each recognize the other as a former fellow Flushing High School student, despite the fact that we were now in our 20s.

And when Manny invited me to go with him during one weekday evening after dinner to visit the apartment in a high-rise building near Hillside Avenue, south of Jamaica Estates, where his civil service job/government agency work supervisor and his supervisor's wife lived--who were each maybe just four or five years older than Manny and I--I thought to myself: "Why not?"

But by the end of the evening of chattering mostly about Manny and his work supervisor's workplace situation--which I now can't even recall anything about--I realized that neither Manny, Manny's supervisor, nor the wife of Manny's supervisor had shared the same late 1960s historical experiences or experienced the same consciousness shift that I had experienced. And I realized that Manny and I shared little in common other than the fact that we were each former Flushing High School students who, in our 20s, were each not then involved in any romantic relationships with anyone and each had to report to work each day to pick up a weekly paycheck.

To me, Manny seemed too culturally straight, apolitical, non-artistic, and conventional; and not dissatisfied enough with the life options the System then offered working-class white guys like ourselves after college for me to be interested in hanging out with him in Queens for more than that one evening when we visited his supervisor's apartment.

Being alienated and alone in Queens in the 1970s seemed to be preferable to being alienated and hanging out with another alienated guy in Queens whose concerns and aspirations and conversation struck me as too conventional to match my own concerns, aspirations and conversational interests. And I never bumped into Manny again in Queens or heard which direction he went during the rest of his life--although I assume he kept working as a civil servant/government agency worker for the next 40 years of his life and probably eventually married, had a few kids and settled into some suburban home or high-rise apartment building by his 30s, similar to the the high-rise apartment building his work supervisor lived in, without ever feeling the desire to revolt against the System.

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