When I was about eight years old, my father pointed out to me a headline in the London Evening Standard newspaper. It read: “Jewish Black Marketer arrested”. My father’s very valid point was that the race or religion of the culprit was irrelevant. An individual was arrested for a crime. Period! His religion had nothing to do with what he did. Or were they trying to smear a group? (No credit for the answer!)
I want to welcome you all back to another school year. If you are new to the school, I wish you a very special welcome. You may occasionally read these monthly essays on our website. They go back to 2004, and can be accessed in “archives” of “Headmaster’s Thoughts”. They began as a result of a student in my senior Ethics class commenting that while they had to write essays, we, the faculty, never had to show that we could write. In effect, we had no homework to show our students. So I started writing an essay every month and now, over 200 of them later, I find I enjoy the process. In reality, some were better than others. About three years ago, Jeremy Clarke’s wife put together a book compiling 60 of them, hopefully the better ones.
When I was seven, I swallowed a flying insect while riding my bike. How I did that, I cannot remember. All I do remember is that I came home on a Saturday afternoon, upset that I had swallowed a fly, and concerned what the fly would do to me.
This is my second major pandemic experience. My first was in the great flu pandemic (the Hong Kong Flu) of the winter of 1968-69. Then, like now, the vaccine was in short supply, and initially, was only given to priority groups. Fortunately, I got the vaccine early because I was in the middle of the Kray trial, a historic one by any measure, not least in that it was the longest murder trial ever in Britain.
Congratulations to the Class of 2021 in this appropriately spaced graduation.
Can you all see each other? Good! No one can pretend this has been an easy year to be a high school student, but particularly for seniors as you were, this last year has been one of disrupted relationships, new learning methods, the fear that someone close to you will suffer from COVID, and appropriate spacing. To all of you, I want to congratulate you on your grit, how you have functioned in sub-optimal conditions, and the way you have succeeded through it. I admire you as an exceptional class; we at York will remember you well.
I should start this piece by stating that I have always enjoyed bicycling. I cycled to my secondary school, I cycled around Oxford when I was a student there, and I still bicycle down Hudson River Park with Jayme. But I should also add, for the record, that one of my daughters was nearly killed by a hit-and-run food delivery man on an electric bicycle, while she was crossing the road at a traffic light, which was in her favor. Three days in an induced coma, fractured skull, blood in the brain. A nightmare!
All right, dear readers, let us get back to normal…the one where I get to be a curmudgeon. It has been too many months since I have been able to just complain through this wonderful vehicle of communication: my “Thoughts”. In the not so recent past, I have complained about the cost of a small bottle of water in airports ($4.08), indicated the fact that the British Royal Family are nothing but the heirs to warlords, and worried about signs over toilets in railroad cars. So let me catch up by moaning about the menus that companies make you go through, after you try a simple phone call for help.
The night after I received my first Moderna vaccine shot, I slept for nearly nine hours. There must be a correlation. I like consequences like this. In Australia, they found that eating ice cream substantially increased your chances of being bitten by a shark. In New York, the percentage of lung cancer increased for people who regularly had coffee in the mid-morning.
I believe that these next 12 months will be a good year at York Prep! The first shot of the vaccine has been given to the medical crews, first responders, over 65s, those with certain medical conditions….and (drum roll, please) virtually all of our teachers. Our students will, therefore, be in a safer school. We hope all eligible parents and grandparents have also secured a vaccine dose.
I want to wish all members of the York Community a Happy New Year. Let us wish for a better one than 2020; a future year of joy and companionship, when New York City returns to being the vibrant, exciting place it was before COVID.