Today I had a Dream…

Playground_ :: The BumToday I went down to the playground. Not St Mary’s park, it’s a battlefield between rival gangs and a drug haven, just the school playground. You know, the one around the corner where even the weeds have a hard time staying alive. As I walk there, I recalled the dream (MOV – Video Link) I had last night. I dreamt that the park was surrounded by low-cut grass – as far as the eye can fathom. I dreamt that the swing set would actually work & that the basketball court would not be covered in shards of glass & bullet shells. I also dreamt that one day this would be real.

When I get there I feel the humid and stale smelling air that surrounds the playground. The bum laying next to the gate stopped me from entering, not physically, but just from his presence. What’s the point anyway – I convince myself – no one to play with.

So I decided to head over to the Prospect Ave train station. I walked several long, dark blocks just wondering around. Walking under the shadow of the Westchester Ave EL staring to the top of the buildings, to see which one actually had it’s top up in the light. The dark, chaotic street with the blaring banners, that provided the only lights; and the blaring horns, that provide the life of the street; had a few scattered buildings that survive the chaos. These blocks,with the broken-brick facades, broke up the long blocks where tumbled-down building and empty lots loomed.

The dark streets do not get a ray of sun cutting thru. The only ray of sunshine is my destination. The tiny, red-bricked hole-in-the-wall novelty shop with the screaming yellow sign. This shop, where even just two persons standing makes the place look packed, was craving for attention. They changed the merchandise to see who will respond, who will keep them alive.

Lucky for me, they started carrying those new miniature, hot wheel toy cars with the bright red paint job, crazy header pipes and the big, exaggerated rear wheels.

I spent the afternoon hiding out there, living a new found dream.

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Our Fishing Hole

Hunts Point is the only place in the So Bronx that, despite it’s reputation, feels safe. During the day, at the point, forklifts move everything around; trucks haul by with their full loads; trains scream by with their deadlines, but everybody has a job to do and no one is willing to jeopardize that for anything or anybody.

By night the streetwalkers of the Point come out to work; the Homeless come out looking for a dark corner to call home; and the johns come looking for comfort. Each doing their own thing, none looking for trouble.

Maybe because of its anonymity or maybe because of the I-don’t-have-time-to-give-a-shit atmosphere, this place is not threatening to me.

Or maybe because it is the one place where my brother and I can go fishing. The other day we were there while a guy caught an eel. He kept yelling “I caught an eeeeeel!” I saw an innocence in his eyes – as if it was the first time he’s caught anything.

Usually while my mother does her early morning “Farmer’s Market” shopping, we go to the dock. As we are waiting for the fish to bite, we talk about nothing and everything. We watch the waves crash against the pilings and the sound it makes is the most soothing sound I’ve ever heard. The water of the Hudson is filthy and has a terrible stench. We would not dare keep the fish we caught – we knew better – but there is something about fishing on the pier that gives me hope…

Maybe we are just normal kids in spite of our circumstances.

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Too Close for Comfort

Gunfight_ :: Boy with Gun
It was a typical New York summer morning, you know, hot, muggy and the air had the thick charge of war. Last night was not a typical Friday night, though. The sounds of battle were louder than usual. The gunfight, the police sirens glaring and the urgency of the ambulance’s lights seemed closer. The popping of gunfire kept me sitting at the edge of the bed, curled up in a corner. It goes on for what seems like hours. The noise constantly going and the sounds of timber popping in the fire! I don’t know if I could go out there and do that.

Next morning, I head outside for some air. Sitting on the front stoop waiting for what – I don’t know – just staring off into space. My mother comes out a few minutes later sees me sitting there. What’s the matter? The sounds last night kept me up. Don’t worry, that was far away – it won’t affect you, she comforts me. With these words, I forget about the Skull’s battle last night.

The day goes by so quickly, my mind drifting. I don’t even remember what I did that day.

Sunday morning my mom quickly loads us kids into the Kermit-the-Frog green 1972 Chevy Station Wagon.

Every third Sunday of the month, always at six am, we would head down to Hunts Point market. The point, as it’s reputation precedes it, was an unusual sigh of relief from this war zone. It was full of activity and life, unlike this neighborhood.

As we pull away from the house & round the corner, the sights of the South Bronx come into view. Along Southern Blvd I see building after building burned to the ground. The unlucky ones that did not burn or collapse, stood like hollowed out skeletons with an empty stare. This created a field of ruble, among empty shells of the past, that my older brother and I would use as our playground. ThePoint_ :: Hollowed skeletons in the South Bronx

We were one of the lucky ones. Our block, on Dawson Street, was one of the few that were not destroyed from the usual fires.

Each of the houses on our block were owned by normal folks and as such did not suffer the demise of the ones owned by the slumlords. One of my friends, that lived on 163 St, lost his home this way.

Finally going under the Bruckner Expressway overpass, we entered the Hunt’s Point section of the Bronx. Proceeding along Hunt’s Point Ave, we arrive at the Point.

Fulton Fish Market Cooperative moves to Hunt's Point.I love this place! Here I see my mother’s true ability of negotiation. Her strongest virtue is her ability to haggle with the vendors to buy cases of carrots, oranges and tomatoes. She would work them down to the point where the guys would say, lady! I give up – I can’t go that low. At that instant, she would say, OK kids lets move on! She would take a small step forward and start walking away. Sure enough, the vendors would stop her and a strange thing would happen. Her eyes would light up and she would get this look on her face, she knew she’s got them. As she turns around, she would add, I will only take it, if you throw in two pint of strawberries. Sure enough she would get it and we would be satisfied for the rest of the day of shopping.

Eating berries and playing safe, innocent kids games on the loading dock of the Point.

Safety among the chaos of the city.

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