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MORE SINS OF MY YOUTH

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Desire Derailed

When I was in junior high, I found a way to enjoy myself on the MTA. Whenever the train was extremely crowded, I would sit next to an attractive young lady. As the train took an abrupt turn, I’d make sure to gently push my knee against hers. When the track evened out, I’d keep my knee in place as long as the young lady didn’t move hers away. I was euphoric. That was the extent of my sexual experimentation beginning with puberty.

Getting my jollies on the MTA lasted for a few more years until one day my strategy boomeranged. My prey got so upset with me that she not only removed her knee from mine, she got up and sat on the other side of the aisle, glaring at me. I was mortified. My face reddened, and my heart sank. I never again dared to squeeze next to a cute female on the train. Although the memory of those intimate moments on the MTA still lingers, my wife abundantly satisfies my amorous leanings whenever we are on a train—or bus, boat, funicular, or airplane.

 

PLAGIARISM

During my last year in junior high school, I signed up for a writing contest entitled "What Does Patriotism Mean to me?" My father, a high school English teacher, asked me to show him my rough draft. Obviously thinking that my paper was mediocre, he dictated to me his rendition of patriotism. It sure sounded better than mine. I ripped up what I had written and passed in his version. I had always faithfully carried out what my father asked me to do—he was my god as I was growing up. Never had I questioned his authority, even when he did something unscrupulous.

 

What If?

I have never been much of a risk taker. On a bus from Boston to Iowa City, where I was to begin my graduate work at the University of Iowa, I sat next to a sexy young lady. She and I made some small talk and then not-too-discretely made out at the back of the bus until we got to Chicago, her destination. At that moment, she asked me to stay overnight with her. Boy was I tempted. I had never had the opportunity to lose my virginity: now it was freely given to me, unconditionally. But I was too scared to accommodate her. I said that I had to be in Iowa City that night. She couldn't believe that I refused her offer. Regretfully, she left the bus and left me wondering for hours if I had made the right decision.

 

Beware of the Farmer in the Dell

When I was in grad school, I bought my first car, a used Pontiac Tempest.  It had two initially appealing new features—a four-cylinder engine (achieved by cutting the eight-cylinder engine in half) that offered good gas mileage, and a transmission underneath the back seats that allowed lots of make-out room in the front seats.

The four-cylinder engine was a flop. All too often, the car vibrated uncontrollably, fitfully stalled, and sometimes conked out altogether. Every mechanic whom I enlisted cursed me for bringing them the Tempest:  Pontiac emasculated the eight-cylinder model, producing a four-cylinder monstrosity with endemic carburetor and timing belt problems that could only be temporarily corrected. I spent much more money trying to get that fickle car to run than I saved at the pump.

Having untrammeled front seats wasn’t a plus either—as I found out one misty night with my date. I decided to park off a dirt road in the middle of a huge field. Except for a dim light far away in a farm house, the area was deserted. My date and I stripped off our clothes and began to embrace. We were in no rush: there was abundant room and no one nearby to interrupt us.

Suddenly, we heard a terrifying bang against the driver’s side window. As we dared to look up, we saw the butt of a shotgun in the hands of an enraged old man in bib overalls. He demanded that I open the window. As I did, he whipped out a flashlight that was almost as long as the shotgun. When he noticed that we were naked, he calmed down. We evidently were not a threat. He muttered that some equipment from his barn had recently been stolen: but from now on, he—with his loaded weapon—would take care of any more thieving trespassers. He then ordered us to scoot. And we did, not bothering to put our clothes back on until we reached the main road.

After that, I truly had no use for the Tempest. It gave me nothing but a whirlwind of worry.

 

 

 

A Lesson in Remorse

I cheated only once in high school. For three years, I sat behind the most gifted student in the 9th grade junior high class, Sheldon Kovitz. During objective tests, whenever he failed to hunch over his test booklet, I could have gotten a glance at his answers. I never did so until I struggled in vain with some baffling reading comprehension questions. Stretching my neck, I noticed that Kovitz hadn’t sufficiently shielded his test sheet and that my English teacher, Mr. Dawson, was looking elsewhere. Furtively, I copied down as many of Sheldon’s answers as I dared. Suddenly, Mr. Dawson riveted his attention on me.  He inwardly curled his lips and gravely shook his head at my unexpected lapse. His face then became flushed; and my ears reddened with shame.

I figured that I was in a lot of trouble. He would certainly upbraid me and expose me to my father, who was the head of the Revere High English Department. However, Mr. Dawson didn’t say anything to me; in fact, he gave me a 100 on the test, the grade I usually received. And he never mentioned anything to my father. If he had, I’m sure my father would have confronted me.

Perhaps Tommy Dawson was so reticent because he knew my father pretty well—he moonlighted as a chummy bartender at my father’s favorite after-hours haunt—and didn’t want to spoil the good cheer and the good tips.

In any case, although I received no punishment, I never cheated again. If I ever were tempted to do so, just conjuring up Mr. Dawson’s look of utter disappointment at one of his prized students would have been enough to stop me.

 

 

A MINUS BECOMES A PLUS

During my last year in junior high school, I signed up for a writing contest entitled "What Does Patriotism Mean to me?" My father, a high school English teacher, asked me to show him my rough draft. Obviously thinking that my paper was mediocre, he dictated to me his rendition of patriotism. It sure sounded better than mine. I ripped up what I had written and passed in his version. I had always faithfully carried out what my father asked me to do—he was my god as I was growing up. Never had I questioned his authority, even when he did something unscrupulous.
Well, I tied for first prize. To formally commemorate this achievement, I and my co-winner were to read our compositions to a school assembly packed with students and their parents. Having to speak in front of so many people would normally give me the shakes, but knowing that I was about to read a paper that my father wrote for me added extra layers of apprehension. Nonetheless, I did remarkably well, not faltering once in my presentation.

The next day, however, I began to feel ashamed, especially when I heard a classmate whisper to his friend that I had most likely plagiarized my paper and that my father was probably behind the deception. But I didn't let guilt get the best of me. Instead of confessing to anyone about my cheating, I accepted my ill-gotten fame. What I did vow, though, was this: never would I let my father help me with any of my other English assignments.

The following year, I was selected to be in the first Accelerated Class at the high school. All fifteen of the most scholastically outstanding students were to take the same classes with the same teachers for our three years of high school. And guess who was to be my English instructor for that period of time? My father! To our mutual credit, not once in those three years did I and my father conspire in helping me write any of the compositions for his class or for any other ones. Although some students complained that I received high grades because of my father's influence, I didn't care because I kept a constant vigil over my integrity.

In my senior year, however, my resolve was tested when I entered a writing contest about "Changes I Would Make." This time, I vowed not to let my father look at my work. Nor would I give him any information about how I was going to approach the subject. To his credit, he didn't interrogate me or even ask me how I was doing, although he might have been tempted to do so. At the assembly, my father watched anxiously as I got up to the podium. He was even more nervous than I was. My speech, which actually predated many of the initiatives in Kennedy's New Frontier, was flawless. I won first place, all on my own. I reveled in my accomplishment.

Twenty-five years later, I had my own son. Every time he had a writing project in middle or high school, I was itching to help him make it better. But remembering my father's misguided intervention in my first writing contest, I, at the most, made minor grammatical revisions—and only when my son asked for my aid. By successfully fighting against my father's undue influence on me, I was able to let my son make his own mistakes and earn his own recognition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desire Derailed

When I was in junior high, I found a way to enjoy myself on the MTA. Whenever the train was extremely crowded, I would sit next to an attractive young lady. As the train took an abrupt turn, I’d make sure to gently push my knee against hers. When the track evened out, I’d keep my knee in place as long as the young lady didn’t move hers away. I was euphoric. That was the extent of my sexual experimentation beginning with puberty.

Getting my jollies on the MTA lasted for a few more years until one day my strategy boomeranged. My prey got so upset with me that she not only removed her knee from mine, she got up and sat on the other side of the aisle, glaring at me. I was mortified. My face reddened, and my heart sank. I never again dared to squeeze next to a cute female on the train. Although the memory of those intimate moments on the MTA still lingers, my wife abundantly satisfies my amorous leanings whenever we are on a train—or bus, boat, funicular, or airplane.

 

PLAGIARISM

During my last year in junior high school, I signed up for a writing contest entitled "What Does Patriotism Mean to me?" My father, a high school English teacher, asked me to show him my rough draft. Obviously thinking that my paper was mediocre, he dictated to me his rendition of patriotism. It sure sounded better than mine. I ripped up what I had written and passed in his version. I had always faithfully carried out what my father asked me to do—he was my god as I was growing up. Never had I questioned his authority, even when he did something unscrupulous.

 

What If?

I have never been much of a risk taker. On a bus from Boston to Iowa City, where I was to begin my graduate work at the University of Iowa, I sat next to a sexy young lady. She and I made some small talk and then not-too-discretely made out at the back of the bus until we got to Chicago, her destination. At that moment, she asked me to stay overnight with her. Boy was I tempted. I had never had the opportunity to lose my virginity: now it was freely given to me, unconditionally. But I was too scared to accommodate her. I said that I had to be in Iowa City that night. She couldn't believe that I refused her offer. Regretfully, she left the bus and left me wondering for hours if I had made the right decision.

 

Beware of the Farmer in the Dell

When I was in grad school, I bought my first car, a used Pontiac Tempest.  It had two initially appealing new features—a four-cylinder engine (achieved by cutting the eight-cylinder engine in half) that offered good gas mileage, and a transmission underneath the back seats that allowed lots of make-out room in the front seats.

The four-cylinder engine was a flop. All too often, the car vibrated uncontrollably, fitfully stalled, and sometimes conked out altogether. Every mechanic whom I enlisted cursed me for bringing them the Tempest:  Pontiac emasculated the eight-cylinder model, producing a four-cylinder monstrosity with endemic carburetor and timing belt problems that could only be temporarily corrected. I spent much more money trying to get that fickle car to run than I saved at the pump.

Having untrammeled front seats wasn’t a plus either—as I found out one misty night with my date. I decided to park off a dirt road in the middle of a huge field. Except for a dim light far away in a farm house, the area was deserted. My date and I stripped off our clothes and began to embrace. We were in no rush: there was abundant room and no one nearby to interrupt us.

Suddenly, we heard a terrifying bang against the driver’s side window. As we dared to look up, we saw the butt of a shotgun in the hands of an enraged old man in bib overalls. He demanded that I open the window. As I did, he whipped out a flashlight that was almost as long as the shotgun. When he noticed that we were naked, he calmed down. We evidently were not a threat. He muttered that some equipment from his barn had recently been stolen: but from now on, he—with his loaded weapon—would take care of any more thieving trespassers. He then ordered us to scoot. And we did, not bothering to put our clothes back on until we reached the main road.

After that, I truly had no use for the Tempest. It gave me nothing but a whirlwind of worry.

 

 

 

A Lesson in Remorse

I cheated only once in high school. For three years, I sat behind the most gifted student in the 9th grade junior high class, Sheldon Kovitz. During objective tests, whenever he failed to hunch over his test booklet, I could have gotten a glance at his answers. I never did so until I struggled in vain with some baffling reading comprehension questions. Stretching my neck, I noticed that Kovitz hadn’t sufficiently shielded his test sheet and that my English teacher, Mr. Dawson, was looking elsewhere. Furtively, I copied down as many of Sheldon’s answers as I dared. Suddenly, Mr. Dawson riveted his attention on me.  He inwardly curled his lips and gravely shook his head at my unexpected lapse. His face then became flushed; and my ears reddened with shame.

I figured that I was in a lot of trouble. He would certainly upbraid me and expose me to my father, who was the head of the Revere High English Department. However, Mr. Dawson didn’t say anything to me; in fact, he gave me a 100 on the test, the grade I usually received. And he never mentioned anything to my father. If he had, I’m sure my father would have confronted me.

Perhaps Tommy Dawson was so reticent because he knew my father pretty well—he moonlighted as a chummy bartender at my father’s favorite after-hours haunt—and didn’t want to spoil the good cheer and the good tips.

In any case, although I received no punishment, I never cheated again. If I ever were tempted to do so, just conjuring up Mr. Dawson’s look of utter disappointment at one of his prized students would have been enough to stop me.

 

 

A MINUS BECOMES A PLUS

During my last year in junior high school, I signed up for a writing contest entitled "What Does Patriotism Mean to me?" My father, a high school English teacher, asked me to show him my rough draft. Obviously thinking that my paper was mediocre, he dictated to me his rendition of patriotism. It sure sounded better than mine. I ripped up what I had written and passed in his version. I had always faithfully carried out what my father asked me to do—he was my god as I was growing up. Never had I questioned his authority, even when he did something unscrupulous.
Well, I tied for first prize. To formally commemorate this achievement, I and my co-winner were to read our compositions to a school assembly packed with students and their parents. Having to speak in front of so many people would normally give me the shakes, but knowing that I was about to read a paper that my father wrote for me added extra layers of apprehension. Nonetheless, I did remarkably well, not faltering once in my presentation.

The next day, however, I began to feel ashamed, especially when I heard a classmate whisper to his friend that I had most likely plagiarized my paper and that my father was probably behind the deception. But I didn't let guilt get the best of me. Instead of confessing to anyone about my cheating, I accepted my ill-gotten fame. What I did vow, though, was this: never would I let my father help me with any of my other English assignments.

The following year, I was selected to be in the first Accelerated Class at the high school. All fifteen of the most scholastically outstanding students were to take the same classes with the same teachers for our three years of high school. And guess who was to be my English instructor for that period of time? My father! To our mutual credit, not once in those three years did I and my father conspire in helping me write any of the compositions for his class or for any other ones. Although some students complained that I received high grades because of my father's influence, I didn't care because I kept a constant vigil over my integrity.

In my senior year, however, my resolve was tested when I entered a writing contest about "Changes I Would Make." This time, I vowed not to let my father look at my work. Nor would I give him any information about how I was going to approach the subject. To his credit, he didn't interrogate me or even ask me how I was doing, although he might have been tempted to do so. At the assembly, my father watched anxiously as I got up to the podium. He was even more nervous than I was. My speech, which actually predated many of the initiatives in Kennedy's New Frontier, was flawless. I won first place, all on my own. I reveled in my accomplishment.

Twenty-five years later, I had my own son. Every time he had a writing project in middle or high school, I was itching to help him make it better. But remembering my father's misguided intervention in my first writing contest, I, at the most, made minor grammatical revisions—and only when my son asked for my aid. By successfully fighting against my father's undue influence on me, I was able to let my son make his own mistakes and earn his own recognition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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