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I'm a "boomer," who was born in Brooklyn, NY, as World War II was ending. My earliest memories are of an idyllic time in Old Flatbush, where the other children would pull me in their red wagons and let me pet their dogs and cats. However, after my father was demobilized and my grandfather (who came from Lithuania to open a brewery, which closed for Prohibition in 1920) died of cancer, my orphaned parents moved to a housing project in one of Brooklyn's most notorious neighborhoods. It ensured a roof over our heads for, ultimately, my brother and sister and me. My favorite childhood hobby was searching for "good places," which ultimately led me into Staten Island. But there are chunks of Brooklyn deep in my heart, reflected in my sci-fantasy-comedy novel, "Venus Crossing."
Sometimes things are so bad, they're good. Such was my alma mater, P.S. 125 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Later it was not just closed down, but torn down. We elementary students were taught very little. However, the 4th-, 5th-, and 6th-grade sewing lessons stand out as a particular highlight, and I enjoy sewing to this day. The school did not clutter up my head with excessive knowledge, which left enough room to do better in college.
Down the street from P.S. 125 was an old but splendid public library, and it fulfilled all my criteria of a "good place," so I was there very often. My high school was Thomas Jefferson H.S. in East New York, once famous as the alma mater of Danny Kaye, but later infamous for behavior problems. Still, I was lucky to be there: my art teacher, Don Fabricant, and creative-writing teacher, Benjamin Goodman, both attained national reputation for their original work, and their colleagues in other subjects also had high aspirations. The family moved out of Brownsville in time for my senior year, so I transferred to S.J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn, and the Tilden faculty made sure that I applied for the City University of New York. Being only fifteen, I was thinking of slipping away after graduation, but had no option except to accept my acceptance at tuition-free Hunter College. The summer course at Hunter that looked fun and had no requirements was Intensive Russian. So began my careers in translating, researching, and ultimately teaching, which fulfilled my hopes of encouraging struggling youth and helping them to see literature as a lifesaver, as it was for me.
To acquire the broadest background that I could for teaching, I remained in graduate school at the Russian (now Harriman) Institute and the Department of Slavic Languages at Columbia University for seven years.
I have taught at William Paterson College (NJ), Pace University (NYC), and Yeshiva University (NYC), starting up Russian-related programs in each. Free at last! I am now retired.