From my old apartment on the corner of Windsor and Ninth to the boys schoolyard it’s 212 steps.
Don’t believe me?
When the rain finally stopped I crossed ninth avenue, stood in front of my old door and actually counted how many steps it took me to go from my old corner to the yard.
It was quiet… scary quiet if you really want to know. To some, it was probably peaceful quiet.
Not a parking spot to be had on Howard Place. I even saw a few cars kissing each other; bumper pressed against bumper.
As I walked alongside Holy Name I looked at the black picket fence on my right. Then I glanced up at the school windows. It’s still the same.
I remember dribbling my basketball up Howard Place. I could feel each dribble. I’m sure the residents of Howard Place hated that noise; especially at night.
Boy what I would do for a basketball right now. I’m like a junkie feenin’ for a fix.
Crossing the wet street I walked over to where the Trapp’s used to live.
Down their basement steps they kept a bunch of basketballs. If you didn’t have one, you were free to grab one, use it and return it when you were done. I’m sure if the current residents are looking out their front window, they’re probably wondering what I’m doing looking down their steps.
Just think about the cash the Trapp’s could have made by renting those balls to kids? But wait, I was always broke.
But that wasn’t what the Trapp’s or the neighborhood was about when it came to basketball.
I walk back up the block towards the yard.
Passing Tommy Houck’s house, I think back to all the whiffle ball games we played in front of his house.
Crossing Howard Place to my surprise the gate to the yard is open. I step into my “paved paradise.”
Standing on the pavement on the first court I look around. There’s an empty feeling inside of me, almost surreal.
I think back to this place when kids actually hung out here at night. I glance over at the rectory where the priests would stick their heads out the window and scream at me.
“GET OUT OF THE SCHOOLYARD!”
That thought sends chills down my spine. They scared me big-time!
Thinking back to the good old days I see John Corrar shooting his left-handed jumper from the right corner.
There’s Jimmy Rauthier getting the ball in the post and drop stepping on someone for a bucket.
How about Gerard Trapp whipping a behind the back pass to a cutting teammate?
Or, the three guys playing on the taps court, six of us playing Around the World, 21 or even one-on-one.
I start taking imaginary shots; sorta like a boxer shadow boxing in the ring but I am shadow shooting. I just made that up. Go ahead and use it. But wait, no one does that anymore.
The guy passing the yard on Howard Place must think I’m crazy. As I watch him make a right turn on Prospect Avenue, I think of all the guys who used to line the silver fence and watch the summer league games. Some nights they were two deep.
Come to think of it, back in the day when people saw me in the yard so much, they must have thought I was nuts.
Nothing’s changed. My love for the game has grown.
I head out of the yard, up Prospect Avenue and cross ninth avenue. A couple of guys are shutting the gate at Joe’s Pizza. I see they now have a Dunkin’s Donuts on the avenue. I’m sure if my mother Carol was still alive she’d be spending a lot of time here.
The place is empty, I order an iced coffee and two donuts. That’s a lot of sugar for this time of night. But who cares? I’m on vacation.
Sitting at a small table by the window, I pull out my newspaper and begin to read.
“We close in five minutes,” the nice man with a middle east accent, mopping the floor says to me.
After I polish off my late night treats I walk back across the avenue and down Windsor Place towards tenth avenue.
It’s amazing how empty the streets are, sure it’s a little after eleven on a Thursday night but back in the day you always saw someone out on the streets, in the city that never sleeps. Or is that Manhattan?
I get down to eleventh avenue and bump into Buzzy getting out of his car, he works the 12-4 shift. Buzzy has lived on Sherman Street since we were kids. To my surprise he recognizes me and we chat for over thirty minutes. He gives me the rundown on PS 154…boy has that yard changed.
We have a few laughs talking about the past.
Headed back up to the avenue via Windsor Place. I’m hoping to run into the actress Debi Mazar; but she’s probably sound asleep. She had a role in Goodfella’s and was seen on HBO’s Entourage from time to time. I thought they should have given her more love on the HBO series.
I pass Farrell’s once again. I stop in to see Duffer and we chat about old times.
Ten minutes later I head over to the circle, then to the parkside.
I sit on the totem pole and notice a few people walk by but again, I don’t recognize anyone.
My friends and I spent many nights hanging out in this area. Tonight though, it’s a ghost town.
“Where’d everyone go?”
Close to 1 a.m. I head back over to Joe’s apartment where I crash for the night. Gotta love my childhood friend allowing me to stay in his apartment for the weekend.
Hard to get that offer these days.
Well it’s getting late, I have to be up early in morning. Have a lot of people to see and places to go. Plus, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a Sesame bagel with cream cheese from Terrace Bagels.
And, tomorrow night is the Old Timers Dinner out in Bensonhurst; I am looking forward to seeing some good friends from back in the day.