From Divorce to Hofstra – Harry Baya
15_ny_1978_1994.doc,  15_ny_1978_1994.html
Last update May 12, 2020

Chapter 15:  From Divorce to Hofstra (1978 - 2004)

John Hickey’s Apartment

Bonnie and I had a rough year or two after I found out about her involvement with Gil Hart in December of 1976.  She eventually decided to divorce me, probably in late 1977.  I accepted that I could not stop that from happening but I refused to move out of my house and leave my kids.  This went on for about a year.  My lawyer finally convinced me that I had to move into an Apartment that another member of the couples group ( John Hickey), who had gotten divorced, was vacating in Hastings.  If I did not move, he said, Bonnie would move there with our sons and it would work against me in divorce court.  I moved, hating everything about leaving my sons.

I was in this apartment for a year or so before moving to a studio apartment next to the A&P in Hastings.  I hope to get the addresses of these two buildings.  Both were on Broadway (the same street that went all the way down to the Wall Street area in NYC and all the way North to Albany).  One building was South of the Main street intersection with Broadway, the location of the A&P,  and the other was about a block North of that intersection. 

I had a number of interesting experiences during this time and hope to write about them eventually.

Christmas Revels

In 1979 John Langstaff decided to start (actually restart I think) an annual Christmas musical show in New York city.   He chose Jerry Epstein, a leading member of the Pinewoods Folk Music club, as musical director.  I auditioned for and got into the volunteer chorus.  That year we performed in an old chapel on the grounds of Columbia University.

There were around 20 singers like me and we would be on stage, in period costumes for most of the show.  I loved it.  Every year after that the show was held in the Symphony Space Theater at the intersection of 95th street and Broadway. 

We rehearsed weekly for months before the performance, and then more frequently as the show got closer.  We usually had at least three performances, and I think sometimes as many as five.

I was in the show for about 8 years and loved it all. I have many stories.  Many of the other chorus members were friends of mine from the Pinewoods club. 

During the first year of the show another cast member was Patty Parmalee, a divorced mother with a daughter, China, about Paul’s age.  I liked her and we dated for about 6 months.  She lived around 102nd st, just off of Broadway, and I was disappointed when she decided our relationship was over.

I have a number of interesting memories from the Christmas revels and may write up some of them. 


In 1981 I heard of the Earhard Seminar Training (EST).  By this time I was working at American Express.  EST was a two weekend “training” that was, I had heard, transformational in a Zen/Spiritual way.  I went.  It was one of the best things I ever did.  I actually went three times, a second time for graduates and a third time with Werner Earhard leading the training live over video.

Over the years many of my friends went.  This includes Fred Brownson,  Jean Farley, my sister Madge, and, coincidentally my 3rd, and I assume last, wife, Phyllis Haile.  I believe Andy Stokes and Barbara Chirse also went to EST.

I don’t know where to start.   Google it.   I may write up some of my memories some day.  In addition to helping me get over my divorce from Bonnie, and, I think, significantly enhancing the way I deal with life, it was also a very interesting experience.

American Express

After leaving Merrill Lynch I ended up taking a job I had at first refused at American Express.  I was in computer group and was the leader of a project to introduce an IBM based international time sharing network to all American Express offices.   The project never really got rolling, partly because it turned out that the IBM could not deliver the network technology which was to be the primary basis.   I was there for about a year and somehow never really got any traction with the context.  I did have some interesting experiences.   We were in the American Express building overlooking the East River in lower Manhattan.

I remember bringing Matt into the office with me on a weekend and having him play the original adventure game on a computer.  It was a great experience for both of us.

The job ended when I asked my boss to consider whether we were really making any progress on our goals.  I was discouraged and was not surprised when he decided that I should leave American Express.

Ex Machina

I was having difficulty finding a full time job and ended up working in what I knew was a temporary position for a man named  David  Rose.  David was a very bright Yale Graduate and one of the leading young men of his generation in a very wealthy Jewish family that owned a lot of real estate in New York city.  Ex Machina was one several startups he ran.   Its goal was to build a successful company based on software and products related to the Macintosh computer.   Our main product was a watch called the “Wristmac”.   It was quite innovative but not all that successful.  I was there about a year.  The company was in Brooklyn.  I took the train and subway to get there for about 6 months and then ended up driving there and back every day.  I was disappointed when David let me go as I had hoped this would become a full time job.  I don’t know that I every really had any opportunity to do anything there.  I needed the job and did the best I could in a confused and, I think, dysfunctional environment.

Fred Putney

After I left Ex Machina I could not find another full time job.  I tried to start a consulting business ( I called it “The Pumpkin People”) assisting people with their computers in homes and small business.  I had some interesting experiences but I never made more than a few hundred dollars a month.

At this point Fred Putney, one of Fred Brownson’s partners in the original Brownson and Associates firm and still a partner in what was now called “Brownson, Rehmus and Foxworth”, approached me about working at home on a home computer to write a program that would replace the one that the firm was using.  I had helped write that program, though George Olsen had written the main code. 

I jumped at the chance.  We decided to use the Apple III computer which had just been released and was intended to be the next generation of the Apple II.  We chose this rather than the IBM PC, also just released, partly because the Apple III had a hierarchical file structure while the IBM’s structure was flat.

I would be programming in UCSD Pascal, a language I would have to learn.  As usual in this essay I could write volumes about my experience.  For now I will say that I continued writing and supporting this program from roughly 1981 to 1994.  During all this time I worked from home – three different homes – the second apartment on Broadway, in the floor of the house I shared with Elaine on Whitman street in Hastings, and in the co-op apartment I bought in Hastings. 

The firm I supported then had three offices, one in Darien, Connecticut, where Fred Putney worked, one in Chicago, where the lead partner was Bill Achenbach, and one in Palo Alto where the lead partner was Fred Rhemus.   I made at least two trips to Palo Alto and two or three to Chicago while I worked for Fred Putney. 

I was involved in a number of activities during those years.  I worked with the Hudson River Sloop group ( not sure of the name, but it was sponsored by Pete Seeger]  I met Pete Seeger a few times, having first met him at class weekend during my senior year at M.I.T.

I also met Shel Silversteen at a singing jam in a book store in Hastings.

A separate thread of events I could write about was my exposure to music during the years I was in New York.  This would include the two  I have already written about, the Pinewoods Club and the Christmas Revels.  It would also include singing Sacred Harp with Joe Beasly,  the performance is on the Hudoson River Pier, Bob Thayer’s induction, the rounds group, fiddle lessons with Kathleen Collins,  various workshops, classes and singing parties, and banjo lesson with Erik Darling.   I would also like to write about the Ashokan Fiddle week and some of my singing partners over the years.

Elaine Appleby

Elaine Appleby and her husband, Bob Blattman, were members of the Unitarian Church in Hastings and members of the couples group.  Bonnie and I were social friends with them.  I liked Bob and Elaine. Without going into detail (maybe I will some day), when the smoke cleared around 1983 Elaine and I were both divorced and became a couple.   We eventually decided to live together and rented the floor of a house on Whitman Street a block from the commercial center of Hastings.   I think we lived together there for about three years.  I was very happy with our relationship most of that time. 

I would like to write about Elaine, her beauty, her energy, her magic and her laugh among other things.  She was a complex interesting person.  During my time with her I got to know her brother, Nick, in Tornoto, and his first partner  (??), who died, and then his wife, Paula.   Elaine had a sister and a mother in Adelaide, Australia.  Her sister, Jane, and her mother, Betty, came to visit us. Betty came at least twice and we spent vacation days with her.  They also visited Nick in Toronto.  Elaine and I spent time on Nicks farm property outside of Toronto, on an island on a lake near Toronto, and in his houses in Toronto.   I would like to write up some of those experiences.

Elaine and I made to two trips to Adelaide, the second one with Elaine’s daughter Lisa.  I have some great memories from those trips.  I loved Australia and very much like most of the people I met.  

Jane came to visit Nick along with her friend, Paula.  Jane was a nurse and Paula was a doctor.  After Nick’s partner died, Nick and Paula became a couple and eventually married.  Paula was from Adelaide.  Small world.

Eventually Elaine became upset that I was not more enthusiastic about buying a house with her and she bought a co-op apartment in Yonkers, about two miles South of Hastings.  I bought a co-op apartment in Hastings, near the line between Hastings and Dobbs Ferry.  However, Elaine and I continued to be a couple and spent most weekends together.   We would occasionally separate, perhaps to date someone else for a month or two, but were pretty much a couple all the time from around 1983 thru 2001 when we got married. .

When my programming for Fred Putney finally began to slow down around 2003, I again looked for a job and accepted a position at Hofstra University in 2004.  I was earning a lot less than I had working for Fred Putney and eventually found that I could not come close to paying my monthly mortgage payments on the co-op I had purchased in Hastings.   I consulted a lawyer who reviewed my financial situation and assured me that I would have no trouble declaring bankruptcy and walking away from the Co-op.  I think he charged me $300 for the service.   The judge, in Hastings, took only a few minutes to review the papers and approve the bankruptcy.  I moved in with Elaine in her Yonkers co-op apartment and lived with her till we moved to Virginia in 2004.

I was embarrassed and ashamed of the bankruptcy but I don’t think I had a choice.  I don’t think I would have ever been able to pay off the mortgage and credit card debt with the salary I was getting at Hofstra.   I was glad that my father had not lived to see me declare bankruptcy.  He would have hated to see that happen.

Elaine and I got married in December of 2001, a few months after the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center.  We had agreed to get married before that awful event happened.

Quaker Meeting

When Bonnie divorced me and married Gil Hart I left the Unitarian Church where we, and Elaine, were all members.  It was one of the many reasons the divorce was so painful for me.  I had many friends there and especially enjoyed working with the kids, many of whom I knew through the couples group. I was more or less “churchless” for a few years before a chance meeting led me to the Scarsdale Quaker meeting around 1981.  I became an active, happy member there and remained active in there until I moved away in 2004.  I could write a book about that experience also.

All things considered I would say I am more of a Quaker than anything else.  Most of the members of the Scarsdale meeting were, like me, not Christians.  Though most of had grown up Christians we no longer believed in a traditional God, or in miracles, or Jesus’s divinity.  Some did.  My view of the Quaker practice is that most of us believed that spirituality was a personal search and that each person must come to their own terms about what ever existed in relation to religion.  “What says thou”  rather than “What do the those you most trust say?”.

We were an “unprogrammed” meeting.   We did not have a minister. Our Sunday meeting ( Quakers called it “first day” meeting) at 11:00 AM consisted of an hour of silence.  During this silence anyone could stand up and speak.  I got into the silence.  It was a kind of self directed meditation.  No one ever told anyone else what they should do in the silence, though people would occasionally share what they did in the silence.   I don’t think I spoke in the silent meeting for over a year. I do wonder how long that period really was.   I had many friends in the Scarsdale meeting and would still be active there if I had not moved away.

One of the activities I was involved in with the Scarsdale meeting was our sponsoring of a Quaker meeting in the Sing Sing prison in nearby Ossining, New York.  I went into the prison to meet with the prisoners a number of times ( probably between 10 and 20) over the years I was an active Quaker.

We also had a fall weekend at the Powell House Retreat center in Old Chatham, NY.  I went nearly every year and it was always wonderful.  Matt went with me many years and Paul went one year.  We always had a big bonfire, with singing and marshmallows, and I was often in charge of that. I also helped with the children’s activities on those weekends.

One year I went to a week long Quaker conference in Silver Bay, NY.  I loved parts of that week.

I had many friends I would like to write about.  These included Norma Ellis, Bob Lohaus & Ann Wright,  Eva Mezei [I sang to in Coma], Bill Vickery (won Nobel prize in economics), Ciele Vickery,  Matt Scanlon and wife (?) wo adopted two kids…,  Dan and Olivisa Hewitt,  [ IBM, non-matched socks, wife, kids ],  Iceline Curtis [ look in directories.. find names ], Lloyd Baily and wife,  – my mentor at Sing Sing ],  women with Alzheimers, woman, others whose name escapes me now – Aunt and Niece,  Terry Arendel who ended up at Colby – Ron Rieder, psychiatrist at Columbia, , Sue,  …The Angels who lived next to the meeting,

Though my divorce hurt me deeply the Quaker meeting did a lot to help me move on with life. It was an imporfant part of my life.