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Aisle Seat: Fifty Shades of Grey Hair

By Naomi Serviss / New York City


Cheltenham High School Class of  '71 Pre-Covid Reunion. David is second from right, back row, wearing glasses and trademark smile.
Cheltenham High School Class of '71 pre-Covid reunion. David is second from right, back row, wearing glasses and trademark smile.


My 50th high school reunion celebration


was Covid-aborted in 2021.

Wait.


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?


It’s rhetorical.


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


(Mrs. Goldberg),


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?


It’s complicated.


What isn’t?


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.


Huzzah!


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.


No need.


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


fudge brownies.


David and Jane had been tight for decades,


and had a little email side hustle


into which I was soon pledged.


Sorority humor.


Like I would have been in a sorority.



David cajoled me


into watching The Americans


despite my reservations.


When I watched the gruesome


body-stuffed-in-the-suitcase episode,


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


for nothing.

The series was exceptional from soup to nuts,


the acting, story lines, characters.


The whole big.


Frank Langella


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


virtually palpable.


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


Dear Diary:


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 laughed.


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?”


he said.


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

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