Chapter 2. Misspent Yoot

Peter became My Big Fat Greek-American Baby to a big, close family that ate well and laughed hard — doting uncles and aunts, lots of younger cousins to play with. Each year his dad took him to the Greek Independence Day ceremony in New York City. (In the photo at the top right, Peter is the uneasy-looking kid holding onto the pamphlet for dear life. John Vliet Lindsay, the very non-Greek Mayor of NYC, is in the center.)

Sensing Brooklyn was no place for young writers, Peter’s parents moved the family to 800600,_New_YorkFreeport, New York. His first two experiences with fiction: playing a dog in a production of “Jack and the Beanstalk” while wearing a penguin suit … and trying to convince his parents that four consecutive report card grades of “U” in Self-Control meant Useful instead of Unsatisfactory. He began writing novels during math class, in little notebooks tucked into his textbook.

400570In high school, Peter was a band kid — marching band, jazz band, concert band — until a friend told him 605 300the girls in the chorus were better looking. He thus discovered singing, an affliction that was to last the rest of his life. He performed in 465 321plays and musicals (to stay out of trouble) and on the school radio station (to stay out of home room). But he didn’t think much about writing until he was asked to contribute to the April Fools issue of the school newspaper (its name, Flashings, was changed to Flushings for the occasion). Peter’s piece (left) started a long tradition of writing under false names.