Summer Fun

Summer is the best time of year!

Our most favorite thing to do in the hot days of summer is to play stickball. Stickball, as the inner-city equivalent of baseball is played with what was available to us. A broomstick without the head and a blue racketball ball – stolen from the YMCA that one of the guys works in during the summer.

The sewer manhole is our home plate. First and third base are the door handle of parked cars. Second base is a flattened Coke can that must be stepped on in order to be safe. Our playing field, not manicured in grass, is paved in asphalt – which is sweltering hot in the summer. The playing field is narrow, in our case two car lanes wide, but is long in order to get a good run. What passes as a foul ball is if the ball lands on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the parked cars. The only time-out that we ever called was when cars double park and blocked our playing field.

I began my career when I finally got picked to be on the team. Up until that day I was the small kid who was never considered for the pick. I just hung around and was sent chasing that blue ball down, when it got away. I have moved up! Now I have gained a new life experience. I learned the joy of being picked early but also the humiliation of being the last guy picked. Either way I got to play ball – and boy do I enjoy the game.

I am a member of a team. I now have a dream to excel at something I like. Maybe one day I may play baseball at Yankee Stadium.

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Hidden Agenda

I was sitting on my stoop today. Just admiring the clear blue summer sky, which is pretty rare given the usual fires and burning buildings. My dog starts barking, startling me out of my stupor. What’s the matter boy? His barks cuts thru the air and I can feel the intensity of his bark bouncing off of me. I turn to look in his direction. Instantly I yell at him to stop.

I see what the dog sensed. This strange, lanky guy with long greasy hair that covered his eyes was walking in my direction. He starts to cross the street at midblock and the cars approaching honk at him – he just responds with the finger. Nothing phases him, nothing matters! As he steps up onto my sidewalk, the air gets this strange chill. Even the people walking on the sidewalk feel the tension and step aside. I keep staring at him and he continues his approach towards me. I am frozen, like a deer – stopped dead in its track by the headlights approaching. I could not react and could not move. The only movement on my body are the salty sweat droplets running off my forehead.

As he comes closer to the front of my brownstone, he makes direct eye contact with me. I cannot turn my gaze away and we keep the eye contact as he approaches. Whaz the matta kid? – Whacha lookin’ at? I didn’t know what to say and just uttered the first words that spilled out of my open mouth. I asked him why is he wearing a trenchcoat in the middle of summer. He does not say a word and just stops in front of me. He turns to face me as I stand up. All the while we continue the chicken stare. Who is going to give in first – who is going to look away? At the instant, he gestures with his eyes down to his side and allows me to break formation. I take this chance and turn my gaze away, taking only a quick glance.

That is the first time I have ever seen a 12-gauge Model 88 shotgun.

The kids wanting to get into a gang talk about it all the time! But I’ve never physically seen a sawed-off shotgun, even less – one that is sawed-off at both the barrel and stock.

Perfect size for easy concealment. The black steel barrels glisten from the sun shining on it. The wood handle, chipped and worn, looks as if this gun has seen pleanty of action. Instantly he tucks the gun down to his side, closes his coat and gestures with the index finger up against his lips. Then he extends his thumb out and signals as slicing across his throat. He did not make a sound – did not need to – I heard clearly every word!

As he turns and walks away, I am clear that his future is set for him. We are no longer foes. His gesture and poise was of warning me not of threathening me. With his back towards me now, I cannot help but stare at the Savage Skull insignia on the back of his long coat.

Years from now, when I’m a teenager, I guess I will realize that I should have been scared shitless, but I hate to admit that I was in awe! He commands attention. That gun and insignia gives him power – he’s a tough guy (MOV – video link) and the world knows it!

But deep down inside, that gesture gave me the feeling that he was telling me to stay away – or his future will become mine. I respect that.

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Bittersweet Fourth of July

I finally got my birthday present!

My birthday was back in May, but my parents could not afford to get me what I wanted – that is until today. I got a great surprise! Coolest Chopper in Town

A Chopper bike! It was nice! The sissy bar; the ape-hanger handlebars; the shifter; the tiny wheel upfront; the lean-and-mean slope it had; even the Kermit-the-frog green to match the family car. This bike was moving – even standing still!

The first thing my brother and I did was modify it. We leaned those ape-hangers as far forward as I could possibly reach. I barely had my butt on the edge of the seat, but I was hanging – out at the outskirts of my dreams!

It really was cool! My parents planned the whole day. We went to the park for a picnic by Indian Pond. The sky was a beautiful shade of azure with those little puffy clouds that slide into place every once in a while just to give us a burst of shade. I had all the hot dogs I could eat and spent the whole day riding. Everything was incredible and this was the best day of my life.

I even learned to ride a bike today. My brother, running out of patience in teaching me, wanted to ride it more often and would not let me have a turn riding my bike. “They got it for US!” was his reply, but I know it was mine – right? They didn’t get me anything for my birthday so this must be a way to make up for it – isn’t it?

At about 5pm, my brother and I got into a fight. He would not give up the bike and I ended pushing him off. My parents have had enough and loaded us back into the family wagon “the green machine” for the trip back home.

When we got home everybody was tired and all my brother and I did was argue – like brothers are supposed to do. We pull into the perfect parking space right in front of our brownstone – right in front of our basement gate.Home_ :: New York Brownstone

We unload the car but my brother and I argue over who will put the bike away. In the morning we woke up all excited about how wonderful our 4th-of-July had been. I run down to the basement just to feel the bike – after all, it could have been only a dream. I get there and no bike. Was it really a dream?

At the moment my brother comes up behind me and says – where’s the bike!? Didn’t you bring it in, fool? We look at each other with that little-kid-in-trouble look of – ooh-ooohh!

Running outside in our pajamas, we are struck by the glaring heat of a July morning in New York. Our eyes, adjusting to the brightness, start to focus on the green machine. Only to realize that the side-rear window, of the wagon, was shattered – like my dreams – into small bits, all splattered out on to the sidewalk.

I should have just put the bike away, but I guess it does not matter, at some point someone would have stolen it anyway.

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