remember whenHappy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well, for sure! It seems that folks wait for the weekend, even some who don’t have to work each day, and it rockets by so quickly!! I usually try to make different plans each weekend, though my plans usually revolve around similar places. This weekend was special because two childhood friends, though one I was closer to in age than the other, were here in town and I was able to get together with one Friday evening after work, and the other Saturday from lunchtime until he departed in the evening.

Those of you who know me know how much I acknowledge those of us who grew up in the Projects in White Plains. Now, I have had people comment to me on different occasions things like: 1) “I didn’t know there were “projects” in a suburban city like White Plains!”, and, 2) “Those weren’t really projects because they were not as big or as ghetto-like like the typical projects in bigger cities like Brooklyn and the Bronx”! It was like it was something exceptional to have projects in a progressive “model” city like White Plains, NY. Well, we did! They were pretty clean in comparison but there were “Five Units” or buildings with maybe a hundred families living in each building of 9 floors and approximately 10 families on each floor. I mean, sometimes people urinated on the elevators, or threw trash on the stairways in spite of the efforts of progressive families like my own who “kept an eye” on the kids … ALL of the kids … whether they were their sons or daughters or not!!! Do you remember when that sense of community existed in neighborhoods like mine? We all felt a certain bond and the concept of a “common village”, so to speak, was alive and well!

So, one of the guys from one of the other “Units” in the Winbrook, Mr. Al “Chip” Ephraim who does engineering work on bridges to alleviate the build up of water on the bridges was in town this past week. The company that contracts him sends he and a crew to different locations to do maintenance and upkeep on bridges in different cities across the USA, so he gets to travel. He and I hung out on Friday night at my favorite club, “Capone’s”, in downtown Fort Lauderdale. We had a blast! I got him back to his hotel in time for him to get some rest to report to work Saturday morning, during which he said they had a short day! I had to be up early to take care of some errands, take a yoga class and then get back home by lunchtime to meet another childhood friend from White Plains, “Bobby” Schulman, and, an energy saver technician to put a device in my flat to keep my utility bill at a standard level, especially with the summer months coming so quickly here in SoFlo.

As I was finished with yoga by noon, I checked my cell phone and, sure enough, Bobby aka Robert Andrew Schulman, had left me a text saying he was waiting across the street from the apartment complex where my flat is located! I hustled over, since the gym is five minutes away, and he was there waiting when I arrived. We hadn’t seen each other in many many years formally since 6th grade at Ridgeway Elementary school where some of the kids from the Winbrook Projects were bused to the upper income neighborhood’s elementary school to end somewhat segregated schools in White Plains. Rochambeau school where I attended from first through fourth grades was closed down and we were bused to different predominantly white elementary schools in neighborhoods NOT so close to our beloved Projects. I remember mornings getting on the buses to go to maybe three different elementary schools, including Rosedale and Ridgeway Elementary Schools, and playing bongos and singing all the way to these well to do suburban neighborhoods to integrate with the white kids whose schools had seen few, if any, African American kids like me.

Bobby went to a private school for 7th through 12th grades, Hackley as it was called, and we hadn’t seen each other since then except for a brief lunch after we had both graduated from our perspective colleges, he from Carnegie Mellon and me from Princeton University. So, this reunion was beyond typical, since he, too had come to visit me at “The Projects” as he reached outside of his comfort zone to get to know the other kids from The Projects, and, even our parents in some cases. He knew and loved my mother, Marietta Dolores, so very very much … in fact … he still says she holds a special place in his heart. Can you remember when stuff like that may have happened in your childhood? So, the time we spent together included hanging out at my flat for a few hours reconnecting, then we headed to Hooter’s at the touristy Beach Place on the Fort Lauderdale “Strip”! We walked around a bit after enjoying salads and chicken wings and then I asked him if he wanted to visit the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and Hotel/Resort in Hollywood, FL … and we did that one, too! We had a great time, and, hopefully, as we have planned, these reconnections will continue!

In closing today, I would like to remind each of us that this month is Autism Awareness Month and many people, including myself, have been sporting something in the color of blue in our attire this month. Be well … and try to remember those “whens” in your life … reconnect, if you can! Those are empowering reconnections which may rejuvenate a fine friendship with wonderful memories and even future plans!


John I. Cook, Director

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