Monday, August 30, 2010

Sent Away (Part 2)

For me, entrance into 7th grade at Great Neck South Jr. High, in 1968, was a demoralizing, dehumanizing, soul-killing nightmare. There were almost a thousand kids per grade, each one a peon in this industrialized fascist institution. I collapsed in my room after the first day of school, facing a six-year prison sentence which I didn’t believe I could survive.

But, as I had discovered Bobo in first grade (see Black Cracker), after a few weeks, I made the acquaintance of Billy Bloom. Bloom was self-liberated from academic chores, breaking out in fits of existential laughter. I was the only other student who found this contagious. He molded a realistic clay figurine in art class. As with King Kong, showcasing genitalia was unacceptable. But Bloom molded on an enormous pecker, making it seem like an afterthought. Since the rest of the figure was done skillfully, in the style of Michelangelo’s David, the art teacher was perplexed as to whether to accept or destroy the sculpture. The teacher critiqued that it was excellent—but would Bloom, who kept a straight face throughout, perhaps consider making the offending protrusion a bit smaller. Which of course was Bloom’s whole point—to sculpt as big a dick as he could get away with.

Bloom and I were often reprimanded to the assistant principal for laughing. Biting our tongues before Mr. Lipari’s desk, the harder we tried to remain silent, the more the laughs would swell until we literally collapsed to the floor in hysterics, while Lipari called our mothers to have us suspended. At that point, our school careers, and thus our lives, were fucked, so we had nothing more to lose. Amazingly, the gym coach was the only faculty member to beat us up. But Billy Bloom kept me sane that year.

Before the start of 8th grade, Bloom was sent away. Every few weeks, I eagerly anticipated another envelope from Vermont. Vermont seemed to be the preferred destination for disturbed white teenagers from Long Island. His letters were like Zap comics, before Zap was even available. I planned to write comic strips for him to illustrate whenever he returned. When he finally emerged about two years later, he turned serene. As if he had been defanged, emasculated or lobotomized. He stopped drawing and doing schtick. Frustrated by mental images I couldn’t draw myself, I eventually opted to collaborate with my second choice—my younger brother, Drew. Yet I still wonder at what might have been, had Billy Bloom remained a lunatic.

From some tranquil Vermont facility for boys, in 1969:

click letters to enlarge

© 2010 Josh Alan Friedman


  1. Yes indeed. "What an unique experience."

  2. Love it! Are we seeing the beginnings of Black Cracker II?