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Ship of Fools

April 23, 2021

It was a Saturday in the fall of 1965. I was 10, without friends, at home, as usual. My father was sorting stamps and coins for his collection upstairs, my mother was ironing, brother working at a per store, and a year ago, my sister had driven her VW Bug to California.

It was like any other Saturday.

I was on no sports team (we did not do sports), not in the Boy Scouts (my brother had done that), had no instrument to practice (piano was 3 months, at 6), no homework. The Saturday cartoon shows were over. So like other Saturdays I asked my mother if I could go to the movies.

“Sure.” She handed me a dollar (it would be the 1pm matinee).

As on many other Saturdays I walked to downtown Dobbs Ferry. Along the crazy busy Rt. 9/Broadway, then across to Cedar Street, then to the little movie house. A 15 minute walk to spend two hours away from whatever home was.

I had no idea what the movie was, it did not matter. But it did.

The movie was the dark, complicated, violent, sexually active “Ship of Fools”. There was no movie rating system in 1965, no parental interest in where I was going or what I was seeing, so I just took my ticket and was, well, aghast.

I really did not know what sex was. But this was sex, clothed. I had no idea that there was rape, or even hard violence. But protracted scenes revealed them to me. It was disturbing. It was the world outside of my Mad Men Suburban family in mid-denial mid-sixties – in my face for two hours.

The walk home was long, slow, silent.

What is this, where women are beaten and beat back, and men push themselves in their faces and on their bodies? At home, I was there when the yelling happened every night, booze was a ritual, my siblings were absent. I was there on that ship. But this ship was complicated.

And painful to watch. But I watched it. And understood little except how much anger and pain there was.

It was a long walk home.

“How was the movie?” Asked my mother.

“Fine.” I went to my room.

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