Thursday, June 24, 2021

Graduation Blog/Life Goes On


Before we all left for her high school graduation, we found ourselves singing along with “Life Goes On,” a song by the Damned from their 1982 album, Strawberries. It begins with the words:


Life goes on and on and on
If you think it's al gone wrong
Go on and on and on

But always remember
This is the happiest day of your life…”

And so we made our way to the teenager’s high school graduation.

“What’s your favorite Damned song?” I asked the younger teenager, in a suit, on the subway.

“Dad, you need to think of a new topic.”

All week, we got notifications about the graduation at NYICE auditorium.

Just off 16th and 2nd Ave, we walked up stairs into and then down to find a seat. The wooden chairs in the auditorium look like they are from the second world war.

“That’s why Stuyvesant High school left,” says Caroline.

The principle comes to talk with us.

I’m sorry he seems to say, as if acknowledging the last year and a half have been a bomb.

She only enrolled in the school two years prior.

Most of being there was obliterated by the pandemic.

And now those kids she met there are floating into parts unknown.

Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” triggers a lump in the throat as the kids walk up to the stage.

Parents cheering for their high schoolers who’ve endured their whole lives coming to a halt, a cavalcade of teenagers walk down the aisle their white or black caps and gown.

We all have masks on.

“I don’t know about you but I had a really shitty year,” says Principal Pete.

“I haven’t seen most of you in over a year.

I’m sorry I didn’t give you the senior year you deserved.

I’m sorry if you experienced isolation or loss.

There were so many things we didn’t see coming.

We didn’t see the hospitals being overmatched.

We didn’t see the people pouring into the streets to protest injustice and police brutality experienced by African Americans.

We didn’t anticipate you being cut off from your friends and family all year long.

I haven’t much of you for a year.

I missed that connection, where you know you’ve connected with each other. 

I’m so glad to be here together.

I’m gonna miss you.”

He paused, looked at everyone and said,

“Isn’t it incredible what has been done…?”

“When I started counting my blessings my whole life turned around,” said the next speaker, paraphrasing Willie Nelson.

“NYICE taught us to question authority” said one student.  

Listening to the student speakers, I find myself flashing back.

From climate strikes to punk shows, suicide and global pandemic, it was a high school run.

Like none other. These kids participated in city wide global climate walk outs.

And then their schools shuttered.


Some lost their grip.

And others joked about it.  


“Friendship is magic,” said another student speaker, paraphrasing My Little Pony.


Speaker after speaker, in jeans, sneakers, caps and gowns.
“When I arrived six years ago, walking up those stairs, I thought how big those senior boys were.

Last week, when we came for our graduation rehearsal, I looked at the sixth graders arriving for their orientation and thought, how little they look,” said another before quoting Joni Mitchell.

“’The seasons, they go round and round, painted ponies go up and down.’”


“Look back and see beyond the sadness.

See you family.

See your friends.

We changed from ICE, the multicultural Institute for Collaborative Education in the Lower East Side, that people mistook for the lethal government agency Immigration Customs Enforcement

 to NYICE,” said another student laughing.

You are irreplaceable.

Keep contributing” said another senior.


Teacher after teacher offered tributes to individual students.

And so we move forward.


Principal Pete offered a final tribute and bid everyone adieu.

Caps flew through the air.


A conversation with dad from three decades prior,

“Don’t sentimental Ben.”


Grandparents and friends dropped by afterward.

Al told stories about rock and roll and his sister getting me out of jail.

We snapped some shots and cheered her on, like we’ve done for 18 years.  

A few bottles of bubbly and oysters enjoyed by all.


Onward gorgeous. Dodi S on the move

Don’t look back. 

Tuesday Social At Greg’s.
Photo by Erik McGregor.

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