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Rebellious Heights Childhood

The web-posted account, “The Queens of Montague Street,” by Heights native Nancy Rommelmann was excerpted and published by the Feb. 5 New York Times Magazine under the heading “Dazed and Confused.” In it, Rommelmann, who now lives in California, told of being “asked to leave” a progressive private school (Saint Ann’s not named) after consistently playing hooky.

Feeling she and her family didn’t fully belong, Rommelmann rebelled against the local elitism she perceived. “By 13,” she writes in the original account, “I’d had it with the tennis-club bulls__t, the moralizing Old Guard of the neighborhood who’d been there forever and made sure you knew it.” This was in the mid-1970s. She and a friend smoked cigarettes and pot, occasionally dropped acid, did petty shoplifting, and began hanging out with “boys from across the cultural divide, i.e. the south side of Atlantic Avenue, starting when three I’d never seen whistled at a school friend and me.”

The street life was only one side. Rommelmann and her girlfriend also baby-sat and went to art events in SoHo with the friend’s parents. They went to summer camp. Yet, as some of the street adventures turned ugly — she learned how brutal some boys could be to the girls and to gays — Rommleman’s behavior and acquaintances helped lead to a split between her parents, both of whom she was fond of.

Enrolled in a school that “was the last stop for truants, miscreants, freaks and any other kid who couldn’t cut it in regular school,” she actually began doing really well in her courses.

One day a tough-affecting Puerto Rican boy surprised her with a confession: he and two companions had killed two men in the Bronx, one the owner of a bodega. Rommelmann writes that she didn’t know what to say, but suggested he talk to a particularly sympathetic teacher. However, he was very quickly arrested and a picture of him in the Daily News made her “convulsively sad.” His acting tough had gone beyond what he intended.

Soon after, Rommelmann decided she’d like to go back to her old school, and was accepted. She has since become a writer.

— HK

February 8, 2012 - 2:11pm


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