2006.10.04 Listen, Stuart, I really should write a book

By COLLEEN LEDDY

Remember Stuart Krichevsky?

How could you forget a name like that? My husband can’t. He loves the names of my high school classmates. Barry Chanofsky. Steve Rotterdam. Bob Bonavida. Hi-ll Na. Fang Kiang Ng. Fei-Fei Chang. Chee-Haw Cheung. Mariusz Wrzesniewski. Fuh-Lin Hsin. And ranking right up there in the top ten of his favorite names among the 822 kids in my graduating class is Stuart Krichevsky.

I mentioned Stuart in a column this summer. I had been reading the acknowledgments in Steven Sorrentino’s memoir, “Luncheonette,” and nearly fell off the couch when Sorrentino thanked his literary agent, Stuart Krichevsky.

I don’t recall communicating with Stuart since we were Aggies—members of the agriculture program at John Bowne High School in Queens, New York. I think I might have mentioned before that there’s all kinds of high schools in New York City. I still remember reading about John Bowne in a book, a directory of sorts, that described all the different programs and schools kids could apply to when they were in junior high. When I read I’d be expected to spend my summers on farms, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I never wanted anything as much as I wanted to get into John Bowne.

I passed up Bronx High School of Science for the chance to collect eggs in the chicken house on the 3.8-acre land laboratory behind the school. Instead of a football field, we had crops like asparagus and tomatoes, individual garden plots and a big white chicken house with 500 White Leghorns. We were members of the largest Future Farmers of America chapter in the United States and we spent our summers on farms and other agricultural establishments.  Many of the kids in the program wanted to be veterinarians and many of them had been advised in junior high that enrolling in John Bowne’s ag program was a ticket into Cornell University. I had no advice. I simply hated New York City and wanted to be a farmer. 

Stuart wanted to be a vet. I don’t know how he ended up in the literary field, but he said he spent a couple summers in his old neighborhood in Queens, working at a luncheonette counter “with a clientele almost as colorful as [Sorrentino’s].” So he could relate to Sorrentino’s story.

I had emailed Stuart a way-too-long letter following his enthusiastic response to my first email. And for a long time he didn’t write back. I would have just let it go, but I want Sorrentino to give a presentation at the library and I thought Stuart could help make that happen. Stuart’s a busy guy, not the best at responding to email or all the content in an email. He finally connected me to Sorrentino, but he had made no comment about my suggestion for a book:

“Hey, all of us should collaborate on a book about our experiences as Aggies working on farms and our involvement in the FFA,” I had written. “I saw Steve at Adrienne's when I was home in April and I was hysterical hearing about his and your farm escapades. People out here are always amazed about my FFA and farm experiences.”

So I brought it up again, asking if he had missed it in my long email or if he had dismissed it altogether.

“Thought you were kidding!” he said. “No, I don't think it's viable commercially. It's more the kind of thing you'd just do for fun (maybe as a website).”

“Kidding!?” I responded. “You always did have a warped sense of humor! Oh well, it's too much work to think about doing it anyway.…"

But then, David and I were having a business meeting with Renée Collins who used to work for the Heritage newspaper chain and now works for Lenawee United Way. In getting acquainted, she asked how I ended up in Michigan.

I gave her the short answer first: My friend Sondra had an application to Michigan State that she wasn’t using—and then the long version. The long version is pretty much outlined above—the FFA/farm life/ag program—and includes the encouragement we received to apply to out of state colleges with agriculture programs and how we were mistaken for gang members when we wore our FFA jackets on the subway.

Renée said something like, “That’s fascinating! I didn’t know there was an FFA in New York City! You should write a book about your experiences!”

If only Stuart could relate.

  - Oct. 4, 2006

 

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