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Thursday, February 16, 2017

OH SNOOOOOW!

Living in the midst of a snow storm takes me back to my college days when I used to take the train to school in Old Westbury, NY at the New York Institute of Technology. I was dirt poor and going to an expensive school because I dared to dream. My dream was to become the first educated male with a college degree.

Usually, I would get on a train from Bellport, NY to Jamaica Station in Queens, transfer to another line and out to Westbury. Once I got off the train, I would then have to hitch-hike into the countryside and hope I got a ride. Usually, someone would pick me up and then I would reverse the procedure going home at night.

It was a true hardship, one that I never regret going through. Carrying art supplies, sometimes a painting 30" x 40", maybe a large portfolio case, books and notebooks and struggling through carrying a camera around my neck for Photography class. It was a lonely and sad existence. I would be working at night after school, come home do my homework and catch the 5:14 in the morning to go to school.

When the snow came, it was deadly. Hitch-hiking through the sometimes knee deep snow, on poorly plowed roads, no gloves or hat, I struggled. Arriving often to find out a class was canceled or delayed.

Traveling the long winding road of Westbury as you entered the interior of Old Westbury, all too often the wind was blowing into my face, the frosty bites of snow stinging my face and burning it, the wind penetrating my coat and my feet were frozen to the bones of my toes, was an ordeal, but I wanted that education.

I used to buy my train ticket when I got on the train since I didn't have the money to py for a weekly ticket. Sometimes the trainman would come by to collect my ticket, especially in the morning where everyone was going to work, but at night they often didn't. Tickets would be collected at Penn Station or Jamaica, but after that, they never came by. If things were really bad, I would ‘go to the toilet' as they collected and they would pass me by, thus saving for another ride at a later date. I know I was a thief, but I wasn't spending anything, just saving for when they asked me for it.

Commuter colleges are unpredictable when it comes to scheduled classes. An instructor might not be able to make it in during the morning hours, but might be there for the afternoon and evening hours. This meant that every effort was needed to get to school no matter what, and so the hard and arduous journey would begin. Getting there in time for an afternoon class be leaving early would pay off, especially when the morning class was canceled.

And so now I sit in my chair, in retirement and watch the weather unfold before me and relax, remember what was and feel the comfort of life as it should be, not like it was. In all that I went through, I remember making a promise to myself that my kids would not have to do this like I did, and I kept my promise, thanks to my sacrifice!


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