Thursday, February 10, 2005

Savta, Frank and Me: Part Two

Smartmom did deliver Savtadotty's opus to Frank McCourt. But not before she ran five and half miles in a mostly empty Prospect Park with her half-marathon group. This meant missing the reading part of Mr. McCourt's event. So be it.

After her run, Smartmom went back to her apartment and absolutely HAD to take a shower. Then she dressed up in a tailored tweed jacket, new jeans and a lovely yellow print shirt (she wanted to look nice for Mr. McCourt). She asked Hepcat to put "The Stuyvesant Story" into a manila envelope. The two then decided that Mr. McCourt wouldn't want to carry a big envelope around. So Hepcat suggested folding it into a white business envelope, which is exactly what they did.

Smartmom got to MS 51 just as the Parent Coordinator was locking up the building. She told Smartmom that Mr. McCourt's reading was fabulous: "He is such a funny person." They walked together to the Old Stone House, which is in the JJ Byrne Park right next to the school. The meet-the-author reception was in full swing.

Smartmom spotted Mr. McCourt right away. He is a small, thin man with white hair and a kind, gentle face. The room was full of Park Slope machers, MS 51 parents and grown-up Stuyvesant students from Mr. McCourt's days at Stuy.

Turns out that Mr. McCourt's daughter recently moved to Park Slope from California. She has one child at PS 321 and another at MS 51, which explains his connection to MS 51. He is currently writing a book about the teachers at Stuyvesant High School.

In the back of the room, Mr. McCourt was signing books and reminicing with former students. Smartmom got on line and waited to talk to him. "I have a story for you from someone I've never met." she told him. "Oh really," he said. Then she asked him if he knew what a blog was. He said yes but he may have been humoring Smartmom (probably not. He seems like a really decent fellow). "The woman who wrote this is in Israel," Smartmom said. "Israel, eh?" Mr. McCourt has a lovely brogue. He smiled and took the envelope and put it in his breast pocket. "I will read it then."

Smartmom thanked him and walked away.

That was it. Smartmom felt a little funny -- it's so unlike her to do something like that. But she did it.

The whole thing is like a giant folk dance (a cyber doe-si-doe).

It starts in the 1940's with Mr. Calitri's english class in a Queens high school, to Mr. McCourt's studies with Mr. Calitri at NYU night school, to Savta's son's English classes with Mr. McCourt at Stuy in the 1980's, to Savta's discovery while reading "Tis" in her Tel Aviv kitchen that McCourt studied with Calitri and taught at Stuy, and then later reading Smartmom's blog about the McCourt event at MS 51.

The final dance steps: Smartmom handing Mr. McCourt the envelope and the graceful way he put it in his breast pocket.

The dance complete, everyone steps away and waits for the music to begin again. Life is like that.


At 1:47 PM, Blogger Savtadotty said...

Thank you for the lovely whirl. I love the part about you and Hepcat discussing what kind of envelope Frank McCourt would prefer: that's just the kind of thing I would think about. Now it's Frank McCourt's turn to take a spin. Or something to do with MS 51. We'll just keep readin', writin' and see what happens next.

At 7:48 PM, Blogger mamainwaiting said...

It is such a nice story - the way in which we are all slightly connected to one another. This reminds me a little bit of the time I was at a book signing for different writers, including Erica Jong. It was at that cool, dilapidated synagogue on the lower eastside that has become very hip due to it's distressed condition - it has a lot of personality, so to speak.Anyway, It was a discussion organized by Harper Collins on immigrants and Erica Jong was there for some odd reason ( I thought she grew up on the upper westside) - afterwards all the writers sat down at tables and sold and signed books. I was kind of thrilled to meet Erica Jong since I had avidly read "Fear of Flying in the 9th grade in a special "feminist" reading group. I was one of the youngest participants and I was a little bit in awe of the other girls in the group who I thought were very cool. Anyway, I went up to ask Erica Jong to sign her book and told her that I had read FOF when I was 15 years old or so .She looked visibly annoyed by this information as she didn't seem to appreciate me, this 30 something woman, acknowledging, in a sense, the disparity in our ages. Oh well. A long story. Anyway, Frank McCourt is obviously a more gracious writer.

At 3:17 AM, Blogger Third Street said...

That's a funny story

At 4:30 AM, Blogger jonesy said...

What you did for Savta is really comforting. I mean, that you did a beautiful thing for her and it's comforting to know that there are people who still do nice things - instead of thinking how insane it would be to give Mr. McCourt a story from someone he doesn't know, from someone who you connected to via a blog. Instead of thinking about how this would place you out of your comfort zone, you looked at the whole story, and decided to do it. Not many would. Very commendable!

At 4:32 AM, Blogger Savtadotty said...

During my New Jersey years I went to a poetry reading by Erica Jong at a neighbor's house. It was shortly after the publication of FOF. All I remember about it was that she was accompanied by her mother and did not socialize, just read poems. Frank McCourt does sound more gracious, but maybe he just has more of the performer's sensibility.


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