Culture Clash on the Streets of New York
October 12, 2011 - 12:59 pm
Long before Occupy Wall Street, New York has been known for its rather strident culture wars.
I grew up in a very happy household, or so I thought. Apparently my parents were able to make it appear to be so for my sake.
But even at its happiest, there is no doubt that our home was a battle of cultures. My mother came from an upper-middle class background, interrupted when she was about 16 by her father’s death and resulting loss of his income, followed almost immediately by the depression. But she had been brought up with a full time maid, and had always been taught about and been interested in Culture, with a capital C. As a young adult she studied modern dance, and went to museums and concerts.
My father’s family didn’t suffer during the Great Depression. Their finances were already depressed, thankyouverymuch. My paternal grandfather was a failed rabbinical student, skeptic, philosopher, poet who operated a series of failed grocery stores when my father was growing up. My father would tell me that he would occasionally come home from school to an empty apartment, from which he parents had fled right before the sheriff served eviction papers. By the time the depression hit with full force my father was in college on a football scholarship, earning extra money playing poker with the students who were not on scholarship.
My father excelled in college football, being named an All American and playing in the East-West Shrine Game. After college he went on to play professional football for two seasons, at a time when playing football did not offer a living wage, never the less the riches it offers today. And since by all reports he was “ineffective” as a professional player, he hedged his bets by going to law school. But he never lost his college football star bravado or big man on campus appeal to women. By the time he met my mother he had been married and divorced twice and was living with a third woman in her very luxurious suite in the DelMonico Hotel on Park Avenue.
My mother, at that same time was still taking her dancing lessons, still going to concerns, working hard as a wage and hour investigator for the US Labor Department, and seemingly destined to remain single at the ripe age of 35.
My parents met when my mother was investigating one of my father’s clients. A scumbag client to hear my mother tell the story, a label about which my father didn’t quite disagree. My father, in spite of living with another woman, hit on my mother and was persistent enough that after a short courtship he asked my mother to marry him. I believe his biological clock was ticking and his then current girl friend was not the child-bearing type. My mother was cultured, attractive and had family that embraced him.