Aisle Seat: Fifty Shades of Grey Hair
By Naomi Serviss / New York City
My 50th high school reunion celebration
was Covid-aborted in 2021.
It’s been 50 years since high school?
How’d that happen?
It’s bad enough
that we’ve been consciously Covid-tethered
for two years.
But half a century ago,
I was the long-haired
Joni Mitchell worshipper.
Where’d she disappear?
My since-second-grade friend Nona
is heavy-duty involved
with Cheltenham High School’s
Class of 1971 reunion plans.
Not technically a ’71 CHS grad,
I was not eligible for admittance
to the esteemed Facebook page.
I’m not a big Facebook fan.
Only joined to keep up with
my daughter Emmy’s shenanigans.
As for my CHS legitimacy,
I spent 10 years in the school system.
Kindergarten at Shoemaker
first-through-third grades at Myers,
(Miss Rich, Mrs. Whitney)
back to Shoemaker
for fourth-through-sixth grades,
followed by Ogontz Junior High,
then three high schools. Same district.
Shouldn’t that count a little?
I actually graduated
from the first “School Without Walls”
in Philadelphia, the Parkway Program.
Nona pleaded my CHS case.
I was swiftly deigned entrée into
the Class of 1971’s Facebook page.
Nona reconnected me to Jane,
a bosom pal before we had bosoms.
Jane’s whippet smart, funny and sharp
as aged cheddar.
That reconnection segued
into my passing the audition
for a ’71 Zoom group
of unfamiliar classmates.
Pre-Covid, they had in-person reunions.
“Mini-Chill” is how Jane described them.
This past Covid year
hasn’t had many highlights.
I was psyched to spend time
with this gifted and talented
batch o’ Boomers.
We share not-so-fond school memories,
current event perspectives,
Netflix intel, family updates
and career insight.
Every second Tuesday at 5:00 pm
we gather laptops, get comfy
and spend the next hour-and-a-half
with our esteemed,
albeit long-in-the-tooth, crew.
My well-educated peers
are unique and successful.
I was a little intimidated at first,
feeling like a party crasher.
They were my personal Welcome Wagon.
Our shared childhood streams
created moving collective memories.
More precious now than ever.
David had a wry sense of humor.
With a schmear.
His Warrior strength carried him
through five hellacious cancer years.
Plans B through Z had failed.
His last surgery was cancelled.
David was so committed to the group
he joined with audio
during chemo infusions
at New York’s
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
David was an exceptionally active listener.
Jane and I had reignited
our friendship over email.
We shared shiny historical tidbits
such as starter husbands (one each)
and swoon-worthy devotion
to Cheltenham’s divinely decadent
David and Jane had been tight for decades,
and had a little email side hustle
into which I was soon pledged.
Like I would have been in a sorority.
David cajoled me
into watching The Americans
despite my reservations.
When I watched the gruesome
I told David,
“No way am I watching
any more of that violent show.
I don’t care how amazing the acting is.”
David wasn’t a retired general counsel
The series was exceptional from soup to nuts,
the acting, story lines, characters.
The whole big.
as a diabolically father figure-y Russian spy!
Kerri Russell! Broadway actors!
X-rated ingenuity! Poison!
What’s not to love?
The ending was starkly bittersweet,
moving me to tears.
David, a University of Pennsylvania
and Yale Law School grad,
was a pragmatic idealist
and money-where-your-mouth-is mensch
for all seasons.
We Broadway fans shared a willingness
to suspend disbelief
at magic shows virtual and in person.
David passed away January 22.
January 23rd would have been his 68th birthday
He was most proud of a winning entry
in the New York Times’ Metropolitan Diary.
Hilarious, brilliant, loving and self-effacing,
David’s presence was a joy.
His affection for the group
Generosity was second nature.
He and Sheryl have gifted numerous nonprofits
throughout their lives.
Sometimes in friends’ names.
He would have been tickled
to read the comments
written on our class Facebook page.
Mitchell Schwartz expressed his:
“This is awful news…
Dave was blessed with a brilliant intellect,
but was never arrogant or treated anyone
with anything other than respect.
As down to earth as anyone I have known,
You could consider yourself very lucky
to have him as a friend.
I was so hoping to see him at our 50th Reunion.
May his memory be a blessing
to all who knew him.”
David’s brilliance shines in Warrior,
a moving play written during his treatment.
A Broadway actor portrayed the scribe:
His Metropolitan Diary’s
public love letter to Sheryl
was published February 9, 2020.
Two years ago this week:
In the Park
I was in Carl Schurz Park
facing the East River
after playing basketball
when a guy stumbled by.
“Please buy my last beer,” he yelled drunkenly.
I noticed that a woman near me was laughing too.
We began to talk.
Just then, a friend of mine walked by
and said hello.
Then another friend walked by.
”Are you picking up girls in the park again?”
I didn’t think that would help my cause.
But the woman did not object
when I offered to walk her home.
We chatted outside her building.
Eventually she gave me her number
I proposed exactly two years later,
in the exact same spot in the park
where we first met,
without a beer drinker
or my friends interrupting.
We have now been together for 37 years.
I wish I could buy that guy a beer.
— David Machlowitz
Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com