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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

A bad experience at the YMCA

As I was walking the streets I noticed a policeman. I walked over to him and asked him if he knew any reasonable hotels in the neighborhood. He said: "why don't you go to YMCA on 42nd street?" I had never heard about YMCA and didn't know what kind of organization it was. When I got there and I walked over to the front desk, the clerk told me that the rooms a night would be six dollars, and if I wanted to eat in their cafeteria I paid one dollar fifty for lunch and a dollar fifty for dinner. This was not a bad price at all, especially in New York City. The building and rooms were much better that the place I had stayed the night before. The cafeteria was right in the building but I ate out most of the time. What I didn't know was that the YMCA was loaded with homosexuals. One night, I already was asleep, about two o'clock in the morning, somebody was knocking on my door and calling me, Joe please open the door. I told him behind the door that I was not Joe and he must have the wrong room, but the man in front of my door kept saying that I was the Joe he wanted to see, and he kept asking me please open the door. I never opened my door and he left.


When in the morning I got up and went to the shower room I found out what this was all about. I noticed something strange in some of the shower rooms. From underneath I could see the legs of people who were taking a shower. In some shower rooms I noticed four legs. I knew something was going on in there as it was funny to me that two men had to shower together. I could hear the noises and the funny things that were going on. I had never witnessed homosexuals in my life, and I felt very funny about it. For about a week I stayed in the YMCA before I contacted my girlfriend. I was glad when I left the YMCA but I found out where all the homosexuals stay together. Thank God I never opened my door that night, who knows what they would have done with me. Era lived in a very small, efficiency apartment and arranged things so that I could stay there for a couple of weeks. It felt good to stay with somebody you know, especially in a big city like New York. Era came to America as I did and was sponsored by a family in Syracuse under a contract agreement that she would look after the children. After her contract rant out she applied for a job with KLM airlines. For that reason she moved to New York City.

The weeks I spent with Era went very fast. Our friendship was very close and affectionate because both of us were lonely in a strange city with no friends or any relatives. We enjoyed each other and both of us needed a warm and affectionate relationship. We knew that it wouldn't last as each of us was going a different way in life. Especially now as I was alone and very uncertain what the future was going to be. There was nothing I could offer Era for a good life, I didn't even have a job. I know she liked me very much, but she wanted something better with more security in life. We went out in New York City to all kinds of places. New York is a melting pot of all kinds of races. I always love to visit that city as it is such an interesting place. It has so many kinds of restaurants representing so many different countries. Any kind of food or drinks from any part of the world is there. It's the music city of the world, and so many other interesting things.

One night Era and I went to the movies. We were standing in line to get our tickets and we were conversing in Dutch when a man turned around and said, "boy, it stinks here from Dutch people".

As we rode in a taxi, the driver of the taxi was a very dark Negro man. I said to Era in Dutch, look at this man how black he is. The taxi driver turned around and said, "I can't help it that I am so black, that's the way I was born". I was so embarrassed that I didn't know what to say to the driver. As it turned out the taxi driver was a native of the Dutch Antilles from the West Indies.

Another taxi driver came form India. As I entered his taxi I said to him, "please could you bring me to Central station". The Indian taxi driver turned around and said, "Sir, I can bring you nothing, I have to take you". In my mind I was still translating the Dutch language into the English, and it always doesn't work that way. The Indian taxi driver taught me a lecture in English I'll never forget. The first few weeks I spent in New York was an education in itself.

I tried to find a job in New York City but my chances were very slim due to my poor English and no background of any technical experience. My money started to get low, and the only money I had left was my savings account in a bank in Syracuse. I knew I couldn't stay with Era forever, so the best thing to do was to go back to Syracuse.

As I said goodbye to Era, I was wondering where my next home would be. I knew things between Era and me never would work out. We corresponded for a little while and then for years we lost contact, until I found out from my mother that she had visited her in Holland. What had happened over the years was that Era was married to a KLM pilot and moved back to Holland. She got a divorce and after so many years she wanted to know what had happened to me. I received a card from Era but never replied. It was a strange feeling when I received her card, but love fades away as friends do.

CONTINUED: Working at the Dairy Plant
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

- Book Index