My niece is starting High School in Queens today & that led me to reminisce about my 1st day of school back in September of '84. I went to Aviation HS in Long Island City, Queens. I vividly remember seeing a swarm of kids massed outside the school as the #7 train pulled into the 33rd St station. As I got down from the elevated track to the street, chaos & bedlam was in full swing. It seems that some wannabe Zulu nation fakers were being exposed by the Gestapo division of the real Zulu Nation, hunted down by their leader named Gorilla, inquisition style. Zulu beads of impostors were being snatched with fights breaking out left & right. Aviation was a magnet school for kids from all over the city so rival graffiti crews were finally meeting face to face, long simmering beefs were being played out under the subway tracks next to Queens Boulevard. I only knew a couple of people from my neighborhood, that were starting the same day, but we got separated during the ensuing melee. Cop cars started arriving & things settled down after a fashion.
We finally got into the school & were shepherded into the cafeteria that had be converted into a makeshift processing center. As I stood around waiting for directions, I'll never forget the 1st 2 kids I met that day. One was a guy named Dwayne, who would drop out of school by the following year to be a backup dancer for Lisa Lisa & The Cult Jam, really nice guy. I hope he got a chance to fulfill his passion & is in a good place now. The other was a kid named Luis who seemed way older than he looked, no wonder being that he was already a father with another kid on the way, all at the ripe age of 15. Boggles the mind how he's probably a grandfather now or soon to be great-grandfather!
After a long delay, my schedule was printed out & I made my way to my first classes. I think I only made it to the 2nd classroom before I decided to ditch everything & go play handball & do some graffiti, a harbinger of things to come for my subsequent high school career.
I know times have drastically changed for the better, my niece will not encounter the same scenario I faced. I wish her the very best, she's a smart cookie. I can't help but think of ghosts of the past whenever I pass on the train & see the old Aviation sign in the distance.
|Me on the left in 1985|