Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Thinker

Smartmom, Hepcat, and Teen Spirt came out of the subway at Columbus Circle and stared straight up at the Time Warner Center, the tips of its towers hidden in fog. The sparkly lights of the skyscrapers blurred impressionistically in the rainy Manhattan night. From under their umbrellas, the energy of the west side at rush hour held the three Brooklynites in its thrall.

"Teen Spirt, I don't think we're in Brooklyn anymore," said Smartmom

Like tourists, they were all eyes. Craning their necks upward to take it in, they saw the spanking new Jazz at Lincoln Center in one direction, and the gloriously old Central Park South in the other. Lincoln Center was uptown, the neon of Times Square was down -- the throbbing metropolis all around them was positively intoxicating for these country bumpkins from the Slope.

And they walked westward in the rain. Past Fordham University and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Past Trump's luxury high rises and the projects on Amsterdam Avenue. Past what remains of the real far West Side -- half-demolished buildings, empty lots, garages covered in Keith Haring-like graffiti, schools and playgrounds. It's a strange and beautiful pre-gentrified landscape that reminded Smartmom of what the city was like in her youth.

And when the Westside Highway came into view, the three bumpkinds checked their piece of paper and wondered, "Could it really be this far from the subway?" The answer was yes, and they journeyed onward until they could see the Hudson River in the distance, even the wall of New Jersey that separates New York City from the rest of the United States.

And when they nearly lost all hope of ever finding the high school that they'd come for, there it was. Increasingly nearsighted, Smartmom could barely make out the sign. Luckily, a friendly security guard pointed the way. They'd found it, the place they had braved great distances to see. There it was like a beacon of light glowing in the distance.

At the entrance to the school, the three were greeted enthusiatically by a staff member who told them exactly what to do. Smartmom and Hepcat went to the lunchroom for a presentation and Teen Spirit joined the other kids in the gymnasium for a special tour of the school by students.

Smartmom will not bore you, dear reader, with her impressions of each and every high school she and Teen Spirit are considering. Suffice it to say, the school put on quite a show. Smartmom saw other Slopesters in the crowd and thought, "Drat, they're applying here too?" This is a system that pits parent against parent, teen against teen in the Darwinistic fight for a "seat" in a New York City public high school. It's downright embarassing to be reduced to such a cold, competitive state. But desperate she is. And tencacious. Smartmom is willing to slay all dragons to get Teen Spirit into the high school that is right for him.

ROAR.

Walking back toward the subway after the open house, Smartmom forced herself NOT to reveal her impressions. She could tell that Teen Spirit wanted to lead the way.

"So, what did you think?" he said matter-of-factly.

"It looked pretty good," Smartmom said trying hard not to convey any sign of enthusiasm.

"Dad?"

"It looked okay," said Hepcat with characteristic understatement.

"I liked it," Teen Spirit said simply.

On the way to the subway, the three stopped for a look at the new Borders Books, part of the Time Warner Center "mall." To his delight, Teen Spirit located the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" DVD in the shelves for just ten dollars. He actually bought an extra for Best Buddy, a fellow devotee of the cult movie classic.

On the crowded subway ride home, Teen Spirit sat far away from Hepcat and Smartmom. He seemed lost in thought, his mind probably racing with images of all he had seen and heard. Smartmom's heart leapt out to the young lad, who is dealing with this anxiety-inducing process with such aplomb. His future in the balance, Teen Spirit sat like Rodin's Thinker, hand on his chin, elbow on his knee, on the A-train bound for Brooklyn.

3 Comments:

At 10:44 AM, Blogger mamainwaiting said...

Hey, don't be so down on yourself. You're not such a country bumpkin. You were born and raised in the big city and took advantage of all it had to offer... Nice description of the new upper westside. Sounds like the school was a real hit with Teen Spirit. Will cross all fingers and toes. thoughtfully, GA

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger mamainwaiting said...

Hey, don't be so down on yourself. You're not such a country bumpkin. You were born and raised in the big city and took advantage of all it had to offer... Nice description of the new upper westside. Sounds like the school was a real hit with Teen Spirit. Will cross all fingers and toes. thoughtfully, GA

 
At 2:34 PM, Blogger brooklynfox said...

I barely know Teen Spirit but like him more each time SM tells me something about him. He's just such a "thinker". You are so right, as always. You're a good mom, Smart Mom. I know that feeling of the heart leaping out toward the kid you love. Ouch. You respected his right to think, on his own, just like a high school boy does but you were close enough, just on the other side of the subway car, in case he needed you. Lucky boy. RFJ

 

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