Living Under the Sword of Damocles
Preparations for the Pocky’ Clipse
by Thomas Luongo
I have memories of being aware that the society we were living within was unsustainable that I place between 9 and 11 years old. They may be earlier than that, but we studied Rome in either 5th or 6th grade so that seems a reasonable assumption. I grew up during the last depression of the 1970’s in safe, suburban New York. Dad was NYPD, mom was a nurse at a local psychiatric hospital and I was the youngest of four in a house full of type-A, lower-middle class pragmatics of Italian descent. The memories of note revolve around holidays; driving into “The City” to visit the Luongo family demesne in Brooklyn where my grandparents (who died nearly a generation before I was born) raised 11 children, my mother’s parents in Little Neck and seemingly everyone else in between. These trips, with the soundtrack of my parents discussing the financial woes of a bankrupt NYC, opened my eyes to the enormity of the problems facing my generation and beyond.
The West Side Highway fell down in 1976, never to be rebuilt. I distinctly remember the left lane of the East River Drive being closed as the sea wall was being reclaimed by the river. The city was broke, there was the Blackout, Son of Sam, the NYPD forking over some of their pensions to fund City operations and the infrastructure was failing. Wages were stagnant but price inflation was rampant. To a naïve 10-year-old (who was very good at math) I kept thinking to myself, “If they can’t pay for these things now, how am I going to pay for them later?” I grew up with a real fear of bridges and over-passes, expecting them to fail at any moment. I would have silent panic attacks whenever we crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge. This fear of bridges persists, but I’m much better at controlling it, mostly by avoidance.