2 March 2013

Oh, man. I was going to get to bed at a decent hour, but I just did a quick check of the TV line-up, and West Side Story just came on TCM. I'm doomed! I saw it when it first came out in 1961. I was all of 12 years old, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was playing at the Hartford Loew's; Hartford was very much the big city to me back them. I was with my mom and her sister Shirley (my favorite aunt). We were all raised on musicals, and none of us had ever seen anything like this before. It was stunning. And both the music and the dancing still hold up today. The dialogue not so much. Interesting little-known fact: the original play was supposed to be about Jews and Gentiles. I kid you not. It was decided that it wouldn't play outside of a Jewish audience, so they changed the main adversaries.

The movie was a huge, huge hit. I played the soundtrack so often that my dad got pissed at me. Then he decided to go see the movie himself, and the next thing I know he's playing the album. The movie was a big hit with my classmates at St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran School. We broke into two groups: the boys were the Jets and the girls were the Sharks. Because obviously the Sharks were much cooler. We'd "rumble" with big old wooden rulers during recess. It was a simpler time.

Our class got a rare trip to NYC to visit a Lutheran missionary school in Chinatown. On the way we passed through real NYC neighborhoods like in the movie. We were stopped at a light when we spied a "hood" just a little older than us lounging against a building. All eyes were glued on him in awe. He reached into the pocket of his jacket. We held our collective breath as he pulled out a … yoyo. To give him his due, he was pretty good with it. I'll lay you even odds that none of us remember anything about that missionary school, but we all remember our first New York hood.

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