When I was a teenager I attended Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, from 1979 through 1982. It was not the stereotypical high school in many ways, and many students found their own niches or even carved them out. One of the boys was a skinny punk rocker with spiky hair. He was not in any of my classes but I saw him around the hallways and first dubbed him "White Riot" because he usually wore a button on his trench coat with that Clash song title. At some point I heard his name was Adam so I referred to him as "Adam Punk" or "Punk Adam."

My final memory of him in high school (because he transferred out after junior year) was of him sitting on the floor near the south elevator on the second floor, his legs sprawled out, quietly eating a hero sandwich. It was during or near the end of the spring semester.

Flash forward to December 1985. I was a college student intern at the music-pop culture periodical Spin Magazine, and I was invited to a holiday party at Nicky Guccione's apartment in lower midtown Manhattan. Bob Guccione Jr. owned Spin so I figured heck, the party should be interesting. I felt a bit awkward at first but then I saw someone I knew, sort of: none other than Punk Adam from Murrow. By then he was known as MCA and a member of this punk-rap group called the Beastie Boys. They had a few minor hits that I'd heard on the radio,

He was drinking a beer and I went over to chat with him. We talked about school and he told me how much he had hated a particular social studies teacher, Mr. H. (I had thought the teacher was okay, and he was a relative of my next-door-neighbor.) MCA also began pitching Hershey's kisses at a drum set in the apartment, the chocolates making a "ding" each time they struck a cymbal. We talked a little more, he gave me a cheeky autograph and not long afterward I left the party.

The Beastie Boys became much more famous in the years to come and I saw them perform a few times, once at the Manhattan club the Ritz (now called Webster Hall), another time during the Lollapalooza tour when it was at Randalls Island, and perhaps one other time. They were among the many bands I enjoyed listening to.

Sadly, Punk Adam, whose real name was Adam Yauch, died of cancer when we were just 47. And the day after I was at work, teaching at a high school in Brooklyn (not our alma mater) when my rather annoying and yes, unprofessional assistant principal made a snide comment to me. I don't recall what it was exactly, but it was related to Adam Yauch. I grew upset and began to cry, a rarity at work. I yelled at my AP and mentioned that I had known the just-deceased musician, so couldn't he just lighten up and not bother me now? Uncharacteristically, the assistant principal backed off and my colleagues just stared at me, murmuring apologies.

Fast forward again; a playground in Brooklyn, near the western end of the large artery Atlantic Avenue, was renamed for Yauch (in 2013). And a few days ago some creep or creeps spray painted two swastikas and the words "Go Trump" on a piece of playground equipment. Horrified, angry and demanding action, several hundred people congregated at the Playground this past Sunday, two days after the offensive graffiti was removed.

I was one of the people in attendance. Perhaps I was the lone former high school connection at this rally urging peace, and action against anti-Semitism, racism and other societal ills, Adam Yauch, as you may know, was Jewish (and also a practicing Buddhist) and he touched upon his religion and culture in some of his songs (as did his two band mates who were also Jewish). In fact, his former band mate Adam Horovitz, "Ad Rock" spoke at the rally.

Despite the overcast sky and whipping winds, Ad Rock, hundreds of average citizens of various ages and creeds, a handful of politicians and a good number of media people came out to this rally. I admit that I parked next to a fire hydrant so I only stayed for about 20 minutes. (I didn't receive a parking ticket.) As awful as anti-Semitic graffiti and sentiments are, it was very heartening to see all these people gathered, some with signs reading "Racism Is Not Welcome Here" and "No Sleep Til Justice!" (a nod to the Beastie Boys song "No Sleep Til Brooklyn.")

It is so frightening and angering for me, for all of us good and sane people, to see a rise in anti-Semitic activity in the United States and around the globe. However it is encouraging to see so many people banding together and shouting it down. The most recent US election has elevated greatly the number of such incidents but more Americans are cognizant and fighting back.

And here is a frightening note as well: I have read media coverage of the graffiti incident and rally in Brooklyn, and while most of the social media comments are sympathetic, there is a fringe of paranoid, unhinged angry people who decry this rally and call it a liberal plot, and other insipid things. Where is the proof in your assertions, people who claim this? And no matter what, why would you even think to write these things? Aren't you more upset about the rise in anti-Semitism and other attacks against various groups? Do you really enjoy seeing a rise in violence and anger? I do not. Most of us do not.

I still tip my hat to my old school mate, who was more interested in making music and making people think about life, and how he inspired lots of us. RIP Punk Adam. In your way you were a mensch.

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