Nov 4, 2007

Captains From Past Ships

The Harvard of the city's high schools is on Washington Street, just up from the old firehouse where Jerry Brown used to live. And where Danielle Steele used to live and Linda Ronstandt, and the Austrian woman who died a few months ago, I forget her name, who sat in her livingroom every afternoon nursing a magnum of champagne?

The school is just a few blocks from the Presidio, where nannies from the neighborhood stroll up and down, where everything is just so. The school is also just a few blocks from where L used to live, in a tall brick house on Jackson Street, where I arranged for one of her lovers to come and speak on behalf of the homeless. Where the attic was so full of outrageous toys that even FAO Schwartz in his heyday seemed less by comparison.

Meanwhile, at UHS the students are talking about the challenges of going to such a school and teachers are talking about all the efforts they make to insure that their subject is as interesting as can be. And in the gym the captain of each sport and several of the coaches are seated in a long row of perhaps 30 chairs facing a bleacher full of parents and prospective students.

The captains talk glibly about their sports, about their Sports Illustrated moments, about arch rivals, about how they manage to play and study at the same time. One captain, who appeared overweight and would the very last person to play the sport he did, much less be the captain, recounted the time his team went to play outside the city and was greeted with skepticism. "They thought we were just academic kids, but we showed 'em, we put 'em down, something like 20 points."

Later, I found out that this boy went to a middle school a few blocks away. His family had bought the building the school was in. In fact, they owned several of the buildings in the neighbhorhood.

After the captains had spoken and the athletic director had made his pitch to join the unbeatens and unbeatables, parents milled around the gym. One man you couldn't help but notice. He was towering and portly, a great gourd of a man. He wore a loud cologne and a blue blazer with four brass buttons on the cuff. His shirt was red striped. He spoke with a loud voice and his nose was matted and mapped with tiny blue veins. He talked about the old days at the school, about 'his' day, when they always beat the other school, and how they still live right around the corner, and his good friend, Eli recently retired from Goldman Sachs, and how this son is going to this Ivy League school and that daughter is going to that Ivy League school, and how isn't life grand after you've been here.

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