I grew up in middle class splendor in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, and Florida. In every new place, my family always landed at the intersection of love and confusion.
My favorite was upstate New York, where I walked to school in the snow, tromped through the creek in the woods, and rode my fancy Raleigh bicycle to the hilltops. In the back yard, gazing at the sky, and when the creek in the woods froze solid, I began my work in the family business: thinking about things, everything, trying to figure it all out, even stuff that Judaism doesn’t think about, and that’s saying something.
After high school in Jacksonville, Florida, I attended Emory University in Atlanta.
The best part of going to college was being thrown out for a semester, whereupon I worked my ass off as a cook, and bought a VW hippie van with a bed, stove, refrigerator and a roof deck. It carried me all around the country during the peak years of the late Sixties. But despite the boundless lure of the road, I did finish college, mainly because it was a smart way to avoid killing Vietnamese farmers with whom I had no significant problems.
Upon graduation, my draft deferment expired. But I wound up getting out of military service by a stroke of fate that’s barely believable. It’s in my memoir, along with my immersion in a semi-secret group which was supposed to hasten mastery of the family business. Which is what the memoir is mainly about. That plus sex and my grandfather. It’ll make sense when you read it.
A wide array of jobs followed, culminating in self-taught skills in carpentry sufficient to get me hired alongside country boys who’d never met a Jew and grew up with hammers in one hand, guns in the other. Self-taught skills in architecture followed. After a few more strokes of fate and some decades, I designed and built homes for urban pioneers in the downtown neighborhoods of Atlanta.
In 2013, itching to live somewhere besides Atlanta, I listened to my daughter Rose when she said, “You should look at Richmond.” The sign on the door of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art read “Open every day. Admission free.” I found a real estate agent who is a published memoirist. She showed me some houses in case I might move here one day in the remote, abstract future. Forty-three days later I moved into the third house she showed me.
Maybe I like my jobs in Richmond better than my other favorite jobs. I work for a non-profit that serves elderly homeowners who need help maintaining so they may age in place. Plus I became president of the neighborhood association, helped to form a coalition around a proposed city project and joined the Richmond chapter of the NAACP. This intersection is more love and less confusion.
I am still working in the family business, thinking about things, everything, trying to figure it all out. Gainfully employed, so to speak, and it’s going well. Stay tuned for updates.