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Sometimes I thought of going back to NYU, or to another of the excellent institutions for higher learning in the downtown Manhattan area.  I was often tempted, but never did it.  I had what I considered a healthy antischolastic instinct.  To study what I was already successfully doing seemed to me a mistake.  I was afraid of tampering with the mechanism, of destroying what I had in an attempt to gain more.  I was filled with a simple wisdom learned from the pulps.  My early instructional influences were from Jack Woodford, Mark Twain, one or two others.  I was interested in the Higher Criticism, but not to the extent of learning it, just as I was interested in Kafka, but not to the extent of studying him formally.

I loved Greenwich Village in those days.  I was surprised to see them pass away.  But I did it myself.  Ziva and I were going to have a baby.  our two-room Village apartment wasn't big enough for the two of us, much less for three.  Through my then-brother-in-law, Larry Klein, I had a chance to rent a large seven-room apartment on West End Avenue between 99th and 100th Streets.  It seemed a no-lose proposition.

But, as soon as I got up there, I was lost in a city very different from the West Village I had known for so many years.  This was a dirty and somewhat dangerous part of New York.  Broadway was ugly, filled with whores and dangerous-looking men.  It was a slummy Latin-looking area, of high-rise apartments where people, many of them seemingly characters from Isaac Bashevis Singer's short stories, tried to stay aloof from the life around them.  I adored Singer's work, still reread it often.  But then, as now, I had no desire to mingle with his people.  Jewishness interested me, but in much the same way as Kafka -- something to read and admire, but not make a formal study of.  Jewishness was always a problem for me, as it seems to be for almost all Jews.  I was interested but not involved.

I had the same desire to stay uninvolved from whatever didn't impinge on me and which represented none of my desires.  This part of New York looked and smelled different.  The food was different and the people I saw on the streets were different.  I never got used to it, and I never fell in love with it. I had to travel the better part of an hour on the subway to get back into familiar surroundings.  Laptop computers hadn't been invented yet, and I never accustomed myself to working in longhand, in a coffee shop.  I had cleverly moved myself from being at home in the West Village to being a stranger on the Upper West Side.

During this time, I bought a cruising 32-foot sailboat, called Windsong.  I sailed it for a season or two on Long Island Sound, then cruised to Florida in it along the Intracoastal Waterway.  Barbara and I wintered in Fort Lauderdale, and I sailed it back in the spring.  I sold the boat -- it represented a very different lifestyle, and it was not my idea of how a freelance writer should live.

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Robert Sheckley's Autobiography

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