I never go too long to find inspiration for a blog entry.
A topic can come from an e-mail, a phone call, a newspaper article or a memory that just pops inside my dome.
Maybe I’m listening to my i-pod and a song from back in the day comes on or I can be looking through some old Kodak pictures in a photo album.
On the strength, Social media has taken over. I love Facebook and Twitter; I’m all over it. So getting in touch with friends from back in the day has become rather simple.
Think about this, have you every wondered about people you haven’t seen in 20, 25 or even 30 years?
At 9 a.m. this past Sunday on Facebook, while reading a friend’s post, I saw Suzann Bassil respond to the post. (If you’re not familiar with how Facebook operates, you need to check it out)
Suzann and I lived on the same block as kids. I lived at 665 10th street between 8th avenue and the Park.
I believe Suzann had two brothers, George and Joey. The Bassil’s lived closer to 8th avenue. I recall hanging out in front of their house often. That’s all I remember though, I moved from 10th street when I was 5.
In my 20’s, I would see her on 7th avenue every now and then but I never said anything to her. During my short tenure at John Jay as a teenager, I might have seen her in the hallway a few times.
Her one brother George is a cool dude, we’d hang out by Pino’s Pizza in the summer time and rap about the good old days.
I’m not sure why I didn’t nurture my friendship with Suzann. She had a bubbly personality, she was very outgoing and most of all, she was beautiful.
As teenagers you hung out with your friends from your neighborhood. Down on 7th avenue there was a huge group of guys and girls that probably attended St. Saviour’s. The guys were good people, I knew a few of them but I was never really that close with them. The girls were also very cool. I recall seeing a few of them hanging outside John Jay or by the public school on 1st street. It wasn’t until my 20’s did I become friends with some of them through what else? Sports.
To this day, when I look back at my days as a teen, I wish I had been friends with the “7th avenue” crew. But how could I? We’d compete with them in baseball, basketball and of course that ‘macho-bullshit’ of being a tough guy. Who was cooler? Who was tougher? You know, typical teenage stuff. (See the movie, ‘The Outsiders’.)
Chalk it up to my ignorance…A trait I excelled at as a teen.
Thanks to Facebook though, it’s not too late because somewhere out there those same kids that hung out on 7th avenue are lurking. And I’m glad I have re-connected with Suzann. Hey, take it easy, it’s just conversation on Facebook, that’s all.
I received some sad news this afternoon; Gregory ‘Rocky’ Palazzo passed away Thursday morning.
Rocky was one of the good guys from the neighborhood.
The wake will be held at Bedell – Pizzo Funeral Home, (718) 984-0913
7447 Amboy Road, Staten Island 10307
Sunday March 25 from 2-4 and 7-10
If anyone has any more details, please e-mail me.
Today’s blog entry was inspired by a chat I recently had with a friend and something disturbing that took place during the Kansas State-Southern Miss men’s college basketball game.
Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in Windsor Terrace I was exposed to many ethnic groups.
The majority of my friends I hung out with were White but I had Black friends, Puerto Rican friends, Cuban friends, Dominican friends, Asian, and Jewish friends.
One night in August, when I was 12 years old, I found myself in the boys schoolyard at Holy Name all alone. It must have been close to Midnight. Oftentimes in the summer if it got boring around our apartment or if my mother was fighting with her boyfriend, I’d grab my basketball and head to the yard located on Howard Place.
As I made my way into the empty schoolyard I clutched my ball tight. When it reached 10PM you were forbidden to hang out in the yard, as the noise would disrupt not only the residents but the priests too. I stood on the pavement and faced the basket on the middle court closest to Howard Place. There were three full courts in the yard but the middle court was the most popular and besides, from the street light on Howard, you could actually see the rim a lot easier. I looked all around to make sure no one could see me. The key was not to let the ball hit the ground. If any of the priests heard you in the yard, they’d throw you out.
Standing in front of the basket, in the middle of the key I began to warm-up. I’d move to both the left box and right, always using the backboard. We had half-moon shaped boards, so banking your shot was difficult. On the left side, I made sure to use my left hand, just like Danny Pisselli had taught us. After making 10 shots from both sides I sat against the fence and rested. No make that, I began to dream that I was in Madison Square Garden. I looked out onto the empty court and saw the Knicks and the Bullets. I imagined Walt Frazier and Phil Chenier going head-to-head.
It was getting late so I figured I better get home, not that anyone would miss me.
But before I left, a bunch of kids came walking in through the entrance on Howard Place.
I glanced over and didn’t recognize them as it was pretty dark. I did know one thing, they were a mix of Black and Puerto Rican.
The group came walking in, there must have been 6 or 7 of them and boy were they loud. I wanted to remind them to keep their voices down but I’m sure they would have just told me to shut up. I began to make my way past them, but not until one kid said something to me.
“Where ya going white boy?”
I didn’t say anything back.
“Yo, I’m talking to you!”
I stopped and looked at the kid.
He was taller than me, as were all his friends. They came up Howard Place probably from the subway.
Before I could start to walk away, one of the kids slapped the basketball out of my hands.
“GIMME THE BALL FAGGOT!”
It was my fault the kid was able to rip the ball from my hands – you were always taught to hold onto the ball as tight as possible. Maybe it was that I was nervous and my palms were sweaty?
I stood there and did nothing as the kid who slapped the ball away went in for a lay-up. His dribble was awkward. You can tell he wasn’t a baller. As he jogged to the basket, he double-dribbled. I looked over towards the red brick Brother’s House where the priests lived and I’m sure with the dribbling of the ball and the kids loud voices, Father Shine would poke his head out the window and yell at them.
For the first time in my life I was praying for that to happen. It seemed like that was my only hope, a priest chasing us out.
For the next few minutes these kids ran up and down the court shooting the ball. Neither of them were any good, matter of fact I thought I knew all the hispanic and black kids from the neighborhood but to my surprise I didn’t recognize any of them.
After a few minutes of out of control play I heard one of the kids yell, “Yo let’s break out.”
As they started walking out of the yard, I looked at the tall, skinny kid who was carrying my basketball.
“Yo, give me back my ball.” I said rather sheepishly
“Fuck you white boy.”
I didn’t answer.
What could I do? There was 1 of me and a lot of them. If I made an attempt to retrieve my ball and fight for it, they would have killed me right there.
But maybe I should have stepped up and fought for my ball?
Not giving it much thought, the ball wasn’t worth it. I had a few others at home anyway.
I figured my ball was gone.
As the group of kids made their way out of the schoolyard I heard someone yell, “YO, GIVE ‘EM HIS BALL BACK!”
The group came to a halt.
I glanced over my right shoulder through the chain-linked fence and there was a tall black guy. I didn’t notice this guy as I was nervous about my ball.
“YOU HEARD ME, GIVE RED BACK HIS BALL!” He said again but this time a bit louder.
Holy shit I thought to myself, this guy knows my name?
I watched as this guy who was wearing blue jeans, white Chuck Taylor hi-tops and a white t-shirt snatched the ball away from the kid and toss it to me while he passed the entrance to the yard.
He was like Superman coming to my rescue.
The guy didn’t say a word to me, he walked down Howard Place probably on the way to the train.
Glancing at the group of kids to see what their next move was going to be, I noticed they had started walking up Howard Place towards Prospect Avenue. I could hear them saying stuff to me, but I didn’t care, I had my basketball back. I jogged down Howard hoping to catch up to my hero, but he was long gone down the subway stairs.
To this day I never knew who the guy was that helped me get my basketball back. And to this day I never knew who those kids were that tried to steal my it.
Over the years, my street education in race relations from growing up in New York City has helped me get along with all races. My classroom for this area was the schoolyard, we didn’t see the color of someone’s skin. We saw an opportunity to get along with one another. It pains me when I see or hear of a situation that involves some sort of race-hate.
What makes another individual display bigotry?
As a youngster I had outstanding coaches at Holy Name. It didn’t matter which sport. Track, Cross-Country, Baseball and of course Basketball. My coaches were knowledgeable, motivating, caring and most of all, always accountable. Traits you want in a coach.
My first experience up close and personal with an NBA coach was with Red Holzman, the legendary head coach of the New York Knicks. Holzman was able to bring 2 championships to 33rd and 8th, 1970 and 1973. We haven’t had one since.
One Saturday afternoon in October the Knicks held an open practice for season ticket holders. Someone from school had season tickets so they invited me, it was one of those memory makers.
I sat there in the stands memorized and watched the Knicks run drills and then scrimmage against each other.
There was Walt Frazier, Dean Meminger, Bill Bradley, Earl Monroe, Willis Reed, and Phil Jackson.
Throughout the 2 hour practice, Holzman was bouncing around the floor shouting instructions. At one point he was sitting on the scorer’s table at half-court on the sidelines, microphone in hands shouting out Jackson’s name accusing him of cheating during the shooting drills.
Holzman’s defensive mantra was, “SEE THE BALL, SEE THE BALL!” His offensive philosophy was simple; ”HIT THE OPEN MAN, HIT THE OPEN MAN!”
Today as a high school boys coach those words still ring in my ears and words I always use in my practice.
It’s a coach’s job to educate their players.
Red was a great teacher of the game.
Another great education I received from the game of basketball was when Danny Pisselli took a few of us on a weekend trip to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. There was Jimmy Cullen, Ricky Ferro, Glenn Thomas and myself. Also along on the trip was Edgar Dela-Rosa, Forte Bellino and Tom Brady.
We piled in two cars and made the drive from Brooklyn to Springfield, Massachusetts. We left on a Friday evening, checked into a hotel, and looked forward to the Hall of Fame the next day.
I made this trip two years in a row with the group. Danny was a strict disciplinarian. I was scared of him. If I had only listened to him and bought into what he was trying to teach me, I probably would’ve turned into a better person during my teens and 20’s; and probably a better basketball player.
I roomed with Edgar Dela-Rosa
Edgar, who is originally from the Dominican Republic but grew up on Prospect Avenue between 8th and 9th avenues was an outstanding point guard at Bishop Ford and later went on to star at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. Edgar was on of the best Bishop Ford teams ever to take the court. They had Paul Daly, Chris Logan, Frank Giglioli and Danny Leary. People today talk of that being the best Falcon team in the history of the school.
Our trip took place in May; the temperature that Friday night in Springfield was close to seventy degrees and before going to bed, I was going to crack the window but Edgar had already turned up the heat, and had the covers up to his neck.
“Edgar, come on man, it’s hot as hell in here!” I said to him.
Edgar wanted to get to sleep a bit earlier than me so I took a walk to see Jimmy Cullen and Glen Thomas, who had joined us on the trip. I found them all in Danny’s room. I had explained to everyone the situation in the room with Edgar and they all laughed. Tom Brady, one of the funniest guys from the neighborhood telephoned up to the room mocking a clerk from the front desk.
“Red, what room are you in?’ he asked.
“315” I answered. Brady walked over to the phone and began to dial.
“This is hotel management we’re on our way up with some mango’s and palm trees.”
There was laughter throughout the room.
Yeah, yeah, I know, I can hear ya know;
“I missed my Container Diaries fix Red, where ya been?”
Well I’m back.
Been getting some great e-mails from loyal readers. Appreciate them all.
The NCAA tournament is here so I’ll be busy the next few weeks breaking down and watching the games.
I’m actually researching a late game situation in basketball games…but I know a lot of people who visit Container Diaries don’t like to hear me talk about basketball.
So this morning, I got nothing for ya!
Spring is right around the corner, enjoy the day…
Do kids still jump on their bikes, ride around the neighborhood and hang out?
I was informed by a long time reader of the blog and good friend that the folks over at the Pavillion Movie Theater are not doing the right thing.
Someone in charge is dropping the ball.
The United States Flag is being disrespected.
What a disgrace!
You mean to tell me someone can’t get out on the roof and fix ‘Stars and Stripes’?
Click on the above image to enlarge.
Here’s my guy with his take.
For the last 2 weeks I have noticed from my terrace that the US Flag was not flying properly from the Pavilion Theater. I am attaching a picture taken this morning from my terrace. I have gone to the theater on 5 occasions and asked the management to bring in the US Flag since it is not being flown properly, it is dragging on the roof of the marquee, it is not on the staff flying properly. Even when flown at night it should be taken in, or a light is supposed to be shining at the flag if left out, and that is not the case when left out. I was told every time by management, the staff is broken and the flag cannot be flown properly. I ask then simply take the flag in and show the flag its proper respect. They say I should mind my business and they will hang it when the flag pole is fixed.This is a theater that is on a street that was renamed this past year, the name is right in front of the theater, as “Julian Brennan Way.” Lance Corporal Brennan (USMC), 25 died on January 25, 2009, while supporting combat operations in Farah province in Afghanistan, he lived on Prospect Park West down the street from the theater. Also, Bartel Pritchard Square across the street from the theater holds in the middle of the circle a monument from the VFW P.J. Devaney Post #964, which was placed there in 1965. It reads “In memory of the men of this community who gave their lives in wartime service to their community” on the other side it states “For valor and sacrifice.”The laziness of the management of the Pavilion Theater is an embarrassment that they will not open a window and take in the US Flag and show its proper respect while we have brave men and woman still overseas fighting and protecting our freedom. In a few weeks will be the Brooklyn Irish American parade that will start and finish in front of this same theater, a wreath will be placed at the circle honoring those lost from our community from the tragedy of 9/11. With all this around them they still do not show the respect for our US flag.I hope that people will Boycott this theater until they get their act together and learn what respect is. Simply opening a window and taking in the flag is just too simple. They also have no problem having the marquee changed when the movies change but bringing in the flag seems to be below these individuals.
On Monday, a high school student outside Cleveland, Ohio went to a local high school and pulled out a gun and shot at the students.
In all my years at Holy Name, going back to school after lunch with a gun and killing my fellow classmates never crossed my mind.
I might have been mad at certain students (and teachers) but wanting to shoot them was out of the question.
I might have been an angry kid but not once did I ever want to go “postal” in our schoolyard while we had recess.