Warning: The blog you are about to read is X-rated No, make that an R rating. Well, let’s say PG-14. At any rate, it’s about my losing my …….. No, not that. What’s the right word? My ideals? My expectations? My innocence? For once I’m at a loss for words, so let’s just get on with it.
I’ve been meaning to write about this day since I came upon this feature article in the New York Times last Spring.
There were personal accounts of people who’d had their lives changed by attending.
My memories of the Fair aren’t quite so dramatic. In fact I found the whole experience a let down. You see, as long as I could remember I’d heard my mother waxing poetic about her repeated trips to The World’s Fair of 1939, also held in Flushing Meadows Park. To hear her tell it, it was the most exciting, awe-inspiring experience she’d ever had so I had great expectations. My mom, a Brooklyn girl, had been 24 years, fresh out of college, with the high expectations of The Greatest Generation when she visited. When it had its second coming 25 years later, I was a 17-year-old streetwise Manhattan baby boomer, but still I was willing to give it a chance – especially since we got a day off from school and didn’t have to pay the two bucks
The catch? We had to wear our school uniforms. It was Catholic School Day at the Fair. Fifty years have passed so I’m a little fuzzy on whether it was just high schools or elementary schools too. I guess if younger kids were included, they went with their classes as a field trip. But high school students were on our own as long as we could figure out how to get from Manhattan (the center of the universe) all the way out to (what we viewed as) God-forsaken Queens. (More on this later – it’s the X-rated part)
As for the Fair, itself, I have only boring memories. I remember the lines being terribly long, and we just couldn’t be bothered standing and waiting. (As if we had better things to do?) We did stand on line to see Michelangelo’s The Pieta, and it was truly breath-taking, bathed in blue light.
But that was it, as far as exhibits went. We visited a lot of bathrooms to comb our hair. I’d soon go for the hippie look but this was 1964’s pre-hippie world and our idea of looking good translated to teased hair, black eyeliner, and white lipstick, and did I mention hair – teased hair. And don’t forget the rolled up skirts (a practice I’ve noticed today’s Catholic school girls still hold near and dear)
Oh yes, we did consider one line worth joining – a log jam ride. I rode in front and saw the splashdown coming, so did everyone else except Susan who was wedged in at the rear, and didn’t see it coming.
So no, the world’s fair was not exciting and did not live up to my expectations. I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought upon reading the commemorative article, had it not been for the trip there.
As I said we were left to our own devices to get there so of course I went with, as kids would say today, my four homies. Grace, Tina, and I were coming from different ends of Manhattan, and Suzanne from the Bronx, so we met at the Time Square subway station. Susan’s family had recently moved to Queens so we were to meet her at the Queens Plaza subway station. But when we got there, she was nowhere to be found. As it turned out she was waiting at Queensborough Plaza – where we were supposed to be.
I’m not sure how we figured this out. No cell phones back then so we couldn’t call her. Although we’d never heard of either plaza, we learned that Queens Plaza was, and I guess still is, a hub where different subway lines come and go. Somehow we figured out what train to take next. So there we were – from left to right – me, Suzanne, Tina, & Gracie, standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the platform. We felt the rumble and saw the lights of the approaching train still in the distance, far down the tunnel. We still weren’t 100 percent certain so we decided to confirm that this was indeed our train. A business-type (banker?) man was standing next to me. I still remember he had on a pinstripe suit.
“Is this the train to take to Queensborough Plaza?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “But don’t take this one. Another one will be coming.”
I related his answer to everyone – still shoulder-to shoulder. ( Can I take back my earlier comment about us being street-smart? We decided to wait for the next train.) As this train rumbled in, however, another noise distracted me – the rattle of a newspaper, a newspaper he held in front of his fly. I looked from the corner of my eye and saw his fly was open, and he was beating his front and muttering in its direction.
Well, maybe I wasn’t street-smart but I was a cool New Yorker. I wordlessly scooted behind my friends to stand at the far end of our formation – leaving poor Suzanne, dare I say, in the line of fire. Only when I was safely positioned, did I lean forward and point. Well, I won’t get graphic, but let’s say he finished the act – just as the doors of the soon-to-depart train began to close. Somehow, four screaming girls managed to wedge themselves in, still shoulder to shoulder, still screaming.
And when we’d calmed down – you know what bothered us most? Not that he’d done what he did, but that we’d picked him to ask because he was wearing a business suit. Who’d expect a business man in a pinstripe suit to be a pervert?