The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes: New York 1963
Hip & Cool
OF A FAMILY MAN
New York Memory
Olive-skinned Olga Simonette standing in the middle of the living
room of her Manhattan apartment in white bikini panties. Her round
breasts, curve of her hips, firm thighs, lights from the one lamp
glinting off her body. Her dark hair falling over her shoulders.
The music from the radio, the traffic noises from the street, the
chatter from a party somewhere in the building, all audible a moment
before, now unheard. A moment outside of time.
We'd gone to a
movie on Lexington Avenue; a foreign film, Bergman or Fellini, whatever
was in that year, 1963; bad print, fluctuating sound, barely legible
subtitles, sagging seats, stale smell. It was our second date.
I was 23, out of college two years, working in an advertising agency.
She worked for one of the networks, a production assistant, something
like that, Hunter graduate, well-off parents, a trip to Europe for her
graduation present. Also, her own apartment. I still lived with my parents
in the Bronx.
After the movie she'd invited me to her place, in upper Manhattan, just
a few blocks from the theater. She'd made coffee and I'd started a disquisition
on Bergman (or maybe Fellini), calculated to impress. But she was a
girl of the sixties. She'd leaned over, kissed me, reached for the zipper
of my pants; I put a hand underneath her short skirt, ran it up her
smooth thigh. Then she'd stood up and stepped out of her dress. Olga
Simonette in white bikini panties. Thirty years ago. A New York memory.
Afterward, walking back to the subway, I looked up at the building I'd
just left, one of those tall apartment buildings which seemed to have
sprung up overnight all over Manhattan. Apartment upon apartment, each
with its own little balcony, stretching up to the dark New York sky,
built for the young people of the city.
I was feeling good; I felt that I'd deserved this night. I'd just gotten
my first promotion at the agency. The night with Olga Simonette was
by way of being my celebration. I was one of those young people of the
city. Sexual adventures were my due. When I got my next paycheck, with
the raise that came with my promotion, I'd start looking for my own
A Conversation with
My Mother: I don't understand.
Me: It's simple, Ma. I'm 23 years old. I want my own place.
My Mother: Why? We persecute you here? You don't have your own room?
You can't come and go as you please?
Me: That's not the point, Ma.
My Father: Maybe he wants to have a girl over.
My Mother: So he can't bring a girl over here? I wish he would. He's
right, he's 23 years old. It's time he met a nice girl and got married.
Me: Who said anything about getting married?
My Mother: You got that raise. Now you can afford it. You can start
having a family.
Me: A family? I'm just talking about getting my own place. Now you're
getting me married and having children. Give me a break.
My Mother: So, you have it so bad here? You get good meals. I wash your
clothes. I clean up your room. Who's going to take care of you if you
Me: I'll manage.
My Mother: He'll manage? Sure. You leave your clothes all over the place.
What will you do, get a maid? My Father: Don't forget the money you
save by living here. You can save up, have some money in the bank.
My Mother: Yes, have some money for when you start raising a family.
Me: Look, there's no use arguing about this. I'm leaving.
My Mother: You'll leave when you get married. Then your wife can take
care of you. Then you can leave.
My grandparents had come to the United States from Russia, Jews escaping
from the Czar. My grandfather worked in the garment district, a tailor.
My father was first generation American. He worked for the city, some
office job. An only child, I was the first one in the family to go to
college. They would have preferred me to become a lawyer or a doctor
but accepted my job in an advertising agency; their son, the adman.
Now they wanted me to marry a nice Jewish girl and start to raise a
family. This is what good Jewish sons did. But it was the sixties. Nice
Jewish girls who'd gone to Hunter College no longer withheld their favors
until they were safely married. My parents didn't understand me. They
couldn't understand why I wanted my own apartment. They didn't realize
that I didn't want to marry and start a family, that what I wanted was
. . . What was it I wanted? If I had to say it in one word, it was freedom.
A Dream of New York
During the first few years after I married, I'd have recurring dreams
in which I was still living in New York. In most of these dreams, I'd
be leaving the office in the evening and walking down one of the downtown
avenues. I'd be pleased, looking at all the pretty well-dressed women
passing by, because I was on my way to a bar where I was meeting my
own girl. The scene would then switch, as it does in dreams, and I'd
be in the bar. My girl would be sitting next to me, young, pretty, sexy,
her leg pressed up against mine. But then the dream would become confusing.
I'd been going out with several other girls and I'd realize I couldn't
remember which one this was. She'd ask questions and I'd answer evasively
to avoid giving myself away. Then I'd see one of my other girls headed
our way and know that now I was really in trouble. Here, fortunately,
the dream would usually end.
When I'd wake up, it would took me a while to realize I wasn't still
in New York. I'd reach over and touch my wife. I was in California,
in Sacramento. I was married. I had two sons. I lived in a house in
the suburbs. I had a mortgage, a lawn with crabgrass, an air conditioner
that always broke down in the summer. But in my dream life I was still
a young man on the town back in New York.
A Conversation with My Son Gene
When my son Gene was 18 years old he wanted to drive from Sacramento
to Corvallis, Oregon, to pick up his friend Andy, a student at the University
of Oregon, at Christmas time and drive him back home.
Me: It's not a good time to be driving to Oregon. It's liable to snow
and there's the danger of black ice, especially around Grant's Pass.
Gene: I have chains, Dad. There won't be any problem.
My Wife: What about Andy's parents? Can't they can't drive up to get
Gene: I told you, Ma. They're both working. Anyway, I want to spend
a few days up there at the frat house.
Me: The frat house?
Gene: Yeah, where Andy lives. It'll be a blast.
My wife: Will there be girls there?
Me: How's your car running?
Gene: Good. Remember, I just got the brakes fixed.
Me: I hope nothing else needs to be fixed.
Gene: Dad, there's no problem.
Me: Look, we'll leave it that if the weather's okay, you can go. But
if there's a storm forecast then Andy can get back by himself.
Gene: Okay, Dad. We'll see what the forecast is. When Chris goes back
to his room, we can hear him picking up his phone. He's undoubtedly
calling his friend Andy to tell him how foolish his parents are. My
wife and I look at each other and know we can't win.
A Visit From Zee
The other day I came across a picture of myself and Paul Zimmerman,
Zee, two skinny young men standing in front of a New York City apartment
building, goofy smiles on their faces, clowning around, feeling good.
I worked with Paul at the ad agency and, if I remember correctly, it
was through Paul that I'd met Olga Simonette; she was a cousin of his
or something. It was also Paul who'd gotten his own place first, in
upper Manhattan; that picture might have been taken in front of his
building just after he'd moved in.
About five years after I'd come out to California and had moved to Sacramento,
Paul, who'd been in Los Angeles on agency business, came up to visit.
It was a hot day in July and, the air conditioner being out, we sat
on lawn chairs in the shade under the one tree of our little back yard.
My first son, Alan, was two years old then, and my wife was pregnant
with our second son, who'd be named Gene.
We tried to talk while Alan ran around the yard getting into trouble,
chasing Floofer, our cat, stubbing his toe on our patio step and screaming
as if being tortured, spilling soda all over his playsuit. Finally,
I dragged him into the house and ordered him to take a nap. "The
terrible twos," I said to Paul when I got back.
Paul had to leave at six. I walked with him to his rented car in front
of the house. He looked around at our suburban street, the neat little
lawns, and said, "So, is this it?"
I gave him a New York shrug. "I guess so," I said.
He didn't say anything but gave a little nod.
"Say, do you ever see anything of Olga Simonette?" I asked.
"Olga? I think she got married and then divorced. She drinks a
"Oh, yeah. You went out with her, didn't you?"
"A couple of times."
We shook hands and Paul got into his car to drive to San Francisco and
then get a plane back to New York and I returned to the backyard. My
wife was asleep in a lawn chair, the cat Floofer perched high on her
stomach. I sat in the chair next to her and looked out at a stand of
trees in the nearby field where two hawks circled overhead in the hot
heavy Sacramento air.
A Walk in the Snow
A few months after he'd moved in, Zee gave a big New Year's Eve party
in his new apartment. The place was filled with young people, a lot
of them from our agency, moving from room to room, drinking, talking
loudly above the music that was blaring from somewhere, trying to make
out. "Hey," Zee called out to me, "This is great, isn't
it?" He seemed pretty well sloshed to me. So, I guess, was I. "Yeah,
Zee," I said. "Great."
Just before midnight, I spotted Olga Simonette. We hadn't seen each
other in six months. As we moved toward each other, Zee yelled, "This
is it. Happy New Year everyone." While everyone screamed and balloons
floated in the air, Olga and I kissed. Without a word and still clinging
together, we moved into one of the bedrooms. I looked around. The room
was empty. "Do you think we should?" I asked. But I knew what
the answer would be. Some time later, in the gray dawn, I walked back
to the subway, just as I'd done months before when I'd left Olga Simonette's
apartment. Just as I'd done then, I looked up at the buildings, all
with their little balconies, stretching up above me. It was snowing.
White flakes floated gently down, to melt on the hard sidewalk. How
can anyone raise a family, I thought, in those tall apartment buildings?
How can anyone raise a family in New York? Enjoy the snow, I told myself.
I knew that later that the next year I'd be going to California.
© Martin Green October 2004
Stories in Dreamscapes
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