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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.


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.


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

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