Please Don't Blame Queens for That Guy
As we write post-mortems of this failed presidency, may I ask a favor of everybody, including media people I admire?
Please, in trying to explain the roots of this dangerously flawed man, stop referring to him as being from an “outer borough.”
Also, please, stop the automatic segue into Archie Bunker and the grand old TV show, “All In The Family,” as if everybody in the borough of Queens sat around on a front step in a sleeveless undershirt and reminisced about the good old days of Herbert Hoover (or George Wallace, or Jefferson Davis, or Adolf Hitler.)
As it happens, I grew up half a mile from the Trumps, although blessedly unaware of them for a long time. Friends of mine knew Fred Trump, his older brother, at PS 131, and said he was a lovely guy, but with learning disabilities. I met him a few times in the late ‘70s, and totally agree.
That neighborhood is not exactly Bunkeresque. It is Jamaica Estates, an enclave of large homes, many of them on glacial hills just north of Hillside Avenue.
When I was a kid, my parents would pack all five kids in the family sedan and drive around Jamaica Estates looking at the lavish Christmas decorations.
My parents were Newspaper Guild activists, real lefties from the ‘30s. After the War, they helped form a discussion group, expressly 50 per cent black, 50 per cent white – idealistic bootstrappers from Queens, who talked about books and politics and life, sometimes in our living room. My parents loved Eleanor and Franklin, and praised Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson and Jackie Robinson.
In later years, my parents voted at the same polling station as that lovely couple that had moved into Holliswood, Mario and Matilda Cuomo. Not exactly Archie Bunker country.
I just looked it up: In milestone elections, Queens voted decisively for John F. Kennedy in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1980, Bill Clinton in 1992, Al Gore in 2000, Barack Obama in 2008 – and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
That’s right. The people who, theoretically knew their home boy best voted for Clinton, 75.4% to 21.8%.
Queens has been consistent politically, even with all the changes. In the early 50’s, Jewish families were moving out from Brooklyn and the Bronx -- my new friends, settling into Tudor homes, reminisced about stickball games and six-story apartments in their old neighborhoods. There were few, or no, traces of Muslim or African-American or Asian families, part of the picture today.
It was an enclave, but the nasty middle Trump brother missed it -- sent to private school in Kew Gardens (until he was caught packing a knife, and was shipped to boarding school, where goodness knows what transpired.)
Most kids in Jamaica Estates went to Jamaica High – for me, a one-mile walk, via Henley Road, near the future TrumpHaus.
Jamaica High was a bastion of academics but a mixed bag for equality. My friend Al Gibson recalls having to badger the “counselor” so he could take academic classes. (PS: He has advanced college degrees and a good career.)
The nasty Trump boy missed this part of growing up: side-by-side with blacks. I served detentions with a black guy (college-bound) after we both thought it was fun to pester a young sub teacher. I shoved back at a black guy who constantly backed into me at the “good” basket in gym class. I also tried to guard Teddy Jackson, with that great first step, later a star at Hofstra – and still my lunch pal.
Our yearbook advisor, Irma Rhodes (who rescued me in English class), held soirées for her staff at her home a few blocks from TrumpHaus; afterward I took the Q-17 bus with a young African-American woman, an art editor on the yearbook. All of this was superficial, of course, but part of the de-mythicizing of race.
But the most integrated part of Jamaica was the choir/chorus of Jean Gollobin (one of the great leaders I have ever encountered in any discipline) who always had mature helpers like Carole Gardner, also a class officer.
Five guys (P.A.L. basketball players from the 103rd Precinct) formed that early doo-wop group, The Cleftones, and would harmonize out in the hall, as if singing under the proverbial streetlamp.
One of my classmates, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, has been a major force in the feminist movement; another, Sid Davidoff, has been a stalwart of Democratic politics; a third, Herb London, has been a conservative candidate. We all gained from the crowded halls and classrooms of a thriving public school. (The city gave up on Jamaica High a few years ago. Some of us keep thinking it will come back.)
Life in the Jamaica area was and remains complex. The middle son of a builder was soon conniving with his father to exclude minorities from their buildings. He’d be doing it today, if he could get away with it. But please don’t tag all of us from Jamaica with the Bunker label.
8/19/2017 01:46:49 pm
Dear George, thanks for the brief history of Queens. Just as you can't pick you relatives, you can't choose who shares your community. Actually when I think of the Trump family, the lyrics of Woody Guthrie sum it up.
8/19/2017 04:12:33 pm
Rick, I don't know the song. Thanks for your comments.
Edwin W Martin
8/19/2017 07:26:50 pm
The driver in Charlottesville was almost assuredly an emotionally or behaviorally disturbed youth, who appears to have had no special educational or mental health assistance. A professional friend of mine wrote, commenting on how much harm comes to our society from failing to provide assistance to troubled youth. Your comments about the knife incident makes me wonder if he was shipped off to a boarding, (military?) School or whether he received any therapy. He shows signs of significant emotional problems and, evidently, always has.
8/19/2017 08:45:40 pm
Ed: good to hear from you. The father said he found a knife at home. There are versions in which he had a dispute with a teacher. Apparently, he tried to push a classmate out of a window at boarding school. Impulse control? Hope you are having a good summer. G
8/19/2017 09:28:10 pm
Do NOT allow this comment to interrupt the flow. It’s only a parenthesis, an alert to something you’d want to know but might have missed if, like me, you often go straight to George’s blog without checking out the rest of his webpage. Up top, in the right-hand column of the page, George has added the link for a really fine piece he did last week. https://nationalsportsmedia.org/news/injuries-get-around-fast-these-days
8/19/2017 10:56:05 pm
Gene: thanks for the plug.
8/19/2017 11:57:53 pm
FYI: I just checked: Sid Davidoff appears at 23:45 in the documentary.
8/20/2017 11:49:15 am
My experience in Brooklyn, rich with people of different backgrounds, was similar. It informed my values and my wife and I instilled these values in our boys, despite their more mundane Massapequa environment.
8/20/2017 12:17:18 pm
Dear Mr. Bach: Thank you for your comment., Massapequa. I know it well. Home of Peggy Noonan,Jerry Seinfeld, Alec Baldwin. Joey Buttafuoco. I once heard Noonan refer to it as "Matzoh-Pizza." I've lived in western Nassau since I went to Hofstra.... about as far from NYC as I can stand. Best, GV
8/20/2017 02:03:15 pm
You reminded me, GV, coming home from Ebbets on the LIRR,
8/20/2017 03:41:22 pm
8/21/2017 08:16:57 pm
Jah don't change in Jamaica.
8/24/2017 12:21:35 pm
I have been riding the F train to work from one Brooklyn location or another for most of the last 30 years. For quite some time, there was a conductor with a deep voice and a rich caribbean accent, if not actual patios (think Geoffrey Holder). Whenever he announced "this is the F train to Jamaica," you couldn't help but believe it, every time.
8/24/2017 02:03:00 pm
I mean patois (wish I could blame that on autocorrect).
8/21/2017 10:14:38 am
Ed, I too attended P.S. 131, K-8 from the mid-1930s to the early 40s. I have nothing but fond memories of this period in my life and.in fact, it has been a lifeline. I am sure we have had many shared experiences but will spare you the reminisces of an older person. I will say I deplore your readers personal attacks on the Trumps.
8/21/2017 12:23:56 pm
Dear Mr. Kolk: Thank you for your presence. I believe this is the first time I have seen a comment by you., Welcome.
8/21/2017 01:22:40 pm
8/21/2017 02:01:31 pm
Bruce: waiting for 2/3 eclipse here. (How many kilowatts is that?)
8/21/2017 02:43:02 pm
8/21/2017 04:25:11 pm
8/21/2017 05:34:35 pm
Absolutely! Some also stopped at Springfield Gardens. Amityville, Lindenhurst, Copaige and Babylon.. change for GreenPort and For Montauk lined. Springfield Gardens fits next to St. Albans.
8/21/2017 05:38:12 pm
Did I compound the error, my memory just said, Amityville, COPAIGE, Lindenhurst and Babylon!
8/24/2017 04:16:52 pm
Despite your guidance, Mendel, I spelled Copiague wrong, twice. I should have been sent to military school. 😱
8/21/2017 09:51:51 pm
Both my folks were New Yorkers. Dad born in 27 and mom(still around) born in 35. She worked at Schumacher and my grandfather was a dentist on Madison Ave.
8/25/2017 02:04:50 am
Comments are closed.
“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.