January 27, 1978
It’s a little after nine.
I have until ten to get some shots up before a priest throws me out of the yard.
It’s getting colder by the minute.
But I don’t care.
People are walking by the yard looking at me like I’m crazy. It snowed earlier tonight so there’s a little snow on the court. I dribble around it. If I had a shovel I would scoop it up and toss it to the side.
All of a sudden, I see someone walk in.
Holy shit. It’s her!
Haven’t seen her in three weeks.
What is she doing here?
It’s a school night. Well for her it is, not me.
She lives way down on Church Avenue.
She must have taken the F-train two stops.
I act like I don’t she her.
Finally I glance over towards the entrance of the yard.
“Oh hi, how you doing?”
I take a couple of dribbles then shoot a back shot from the right corner. While I release the ball, I take a quick peek over at her. My coach always said to keep my eyes on the goal.
“I knew you would be here,” Maria says as she gets closer to the court.
I don’t respond.
What the hell is she doing here?
“You been here long?” Maria asks.
“Since about eight,” I respond.
“Eight? WOW!” she answers in amazement.
I see those snow white teeth.
“Ain’t you freezing?” she asks.
The moon is shining down and I can see her beautiful eyes sparkling.
“How was school today?” she asks.
“It was okay,” I answer. Damn she asks a lot of questions. But I love her voice. It’s soft and sweet.
I take a few jump shots as Maria stands under the basket rebounding and passing it back to me. She’s a good passer.
“Meet any new friends at school?”
Maria has no idea I stopped going to school.
I take a few more shots. Then without warning I dribble down court towards the church wall and pull up for a long jumper.
“Hey, you don’t like me or something?” Maria shouts from the other end of the court.
All I can do is look down at her and admire how good she looks.
She is wearing jeans, black boots and a black coat.
Maria jogs down to my end and starts to play defense. Just like she did at East 5th street a few weeks ago.
I stand there with the ball and watch her.
“Come on Red, try to score.”
I shake my head and dribble past her to the basket, making a lay-up with ease.
Looking back at her she’s standing by the foul-line.
“Hey, that’s not fair,” Maria says.
I’m thinking it’s getting close to ten. The priests will be throwing us out soon.
She’ll probably leave and then I won’t see her for another three weeks.
“You wanna go over to the park?” Maria asks.
I stop dribbling.
I don’t even think about shooting.
“The park? Sure,” I answer.
We walk out of the schoolyard and head down Howard Place.
January 25, 1978
The noise outside my apartment is driving me crazy.
My head is pounding.
Feels like someone is whacking me with a fuckin’ hammer.
BOOM, BOOM BOOM!
I hate headaches. There’s nothing worse.
I want to sleep-in but the cars, trucks, and busses on ninth avenue make it impossible. My bedroom faces the avenue. About ten minutes ago there was a guy downstairs on the pay phone screaming at someone on the end.
SHUT THE FUCK UP ASSHOLE!
I place my pillow over my head.
Fuck it, that doesn’t work too well. I get out of bed.
No one is home. The apartment is empty.
Is the fuckin’ heat even on?
Jesus Christ it’s like twenty below in here. Landlord tends to shut the heat off. But I’ll tell you about that shit another time.
My sister slept at her friends house last night. She does that a lot.
My brother hasn’t been home since Friday.
Mom? She’s probably still working her after-hours job out in Bay Ridge. On Sunday’s she usually gets home close to noon.
What about my father?
That fuck left about ten years ago.
Feeling like shit, I walk into the kitchen and open the fridge. The kitchen window is covered with frost. I’m starving like Marvin.
The light is out in the fridge. Nothing looks good. It’s actually empty. No milk, means no cereal. Frosted Flakes is my favorite. The box sits atop the fridge. I look at it.
I get dressed and walk downstairs. Heading across the avenue to get a buttered roll and coffee at the deli.
Can’t beat that combo for a buck.
Starting to snow and my head is killing me.
I got so drunk last night. You should have seen me.
Worst part of drinking is the following morning.
I get my roll and coffee and head over to Rae’s for the Daily News.
Did I tell you I like my coffee light and sweet?
I tuck the bulky newspaper under my arm and go back home.
Passing people on their way to church. I see some kids with their moms and dads. I could care less. I stopped going to church last year when I graduated from Holy Name. Who needs it.
But the families walking together sure look cute.
After church they’ll walk over to the Parkhouse for breakfast. Or they’ll wait in line at L&J bakery to get donuts.
Sitting at the kitchen table, I scan the sports section. I sip my coffee. It warms me up.
Mets made a trade.
My brother is a Steelers fan, they beat the Cowboys last week in the Super Bowl, 35-31.
I feel like going back to bed but the java has me amped up. Ever since I started drinking coffee I seem to have much more energy.
Keep in mind I am 15.
Yeah, yeah, I can’t hear you know; 15 and you’re drinking coffee? Yep, I also drink alcohol. What else you wanna know?
Sunday mornings suck. Can’t go to the yard to play ball. Last mass ends at one. The priests hate it when I am in there. I get thrown out often. Come on Father Shine, I’m just working on my jump-shot.
“GET OUTTA THE SCHOOLYARD!”
Wish I could remember what happened last night. Details are cloudy.
All I recall is hanging out in Prospect Park drinking. There were so many people. All my friends and some kids I didn’t recognize. We get kids from other neighborhoods who come around to hang with us on Saturday nights.
Kids from Xaverian, OLPH, Kearney and some come as far away as Grady.
I once had the chance to rap to this pretty girl who plays for Kearney. She was real cool. Told me she plays center for their varsity. Her height was amazing. She was like five-ten.
She had short hair and a beautiful smile.
I started with a few cans of beer at about six, then by eight I switched up to Wild Irish Rose.
By nine I was wasted.
Ninty-nine cents a bottle for the wine. Even I can afford that. I think I had four bottles. Maybe five?
My girlfriend and I spent a little time together last night. But I wish I could tell you more.
Not sure why I drink to tell you the truth. But I enjoy it. I feel so good when I have a few drinks. Throwing up sucks. It gets messy.
After reading the newspaper I walk out of the apartment and head over to the park.
I pass Farrell’s and it’s empty. They don’t open until twelve. Looking through the front window, there’s a guy behind the bar wiping off the bottles of booze. Can’t wait until I turn eighteen. Hooley can finally serve me.
Turning the corner at the circle, I see a few of my friends sitting on the bench.
All of a sudden, I feel better.
These guys are all I care about.
Love being with them. The girls too. We have a ton of girls who hang with us. It’s really a great group.
We’re all from the neighborhood.
Went to Holy Name together. Some went to 107’s and P.S. 10’s. Even have a couple of friends who went to Saint Saviour’s.
I can tell my friends anything. Well, almost anything.
“Yo fella’s what’s up?”
January 21 1978
Great, it’s snowing again. What the fuck is the deal?
Maybe I should grab a shovel and see if anyone needs their sidewalk cleared. It’s a good way to make some money. At least it’s not too cold out. The temp is about twenty-eight degrees.
Mom left for work about about an hour ago, my sister is at school, she’s in the 7th grade at Holy Name and my older brother is still sleeping. He stays out late, comes home and sleeps in.
Fuck it, I’m headed over to the city.
Hopping on the F-train I head over to Times Square. I rush the gate because I don’t pay to get on the train. Thank God no cops are around. The guy in the token booth is to busy with the line of people waiting to buy a token.
I’m starting to get a little pissed off about life.
Everyone around me seems to be fucked up.
My mother is getting on my case.
“Lower that Music.”
“Take the garbage out.”
“Make your bed.”
“Be home by nine.”
My brother is always yelling at me. Just the other day he got mad at me for wearing his shirt.
“What the fuck ya think you’re doin’ wearing my shirt?”
The shirt was really nice. What sucked is that he yelled at me right on Windsor Place. I was with my girlfriend. He embarrassed the shit out of me.
Speaking of my girlfriend, we broke up again. She gets me mad when she talks to other boys. From my bedroom window I watched her catch the 69 bus for school. At times I think of going over and apologizing to her. I know I can be a pain in the ass sometimes. She stands there every morning. Every morning I sit at my window watching her.
As for me, school is the last thing on my mind. I know I should go back, but I’m embarrassed.
Bless me Father for I have sinned, it’s been two weeks since I last attended school.
The secretary at school is always calling my house in the morning wondering where I am. I pick it up when it rings.
“Hello can I speak to Mrs. Moore?”
CLICK! I hang up.
School tried sending letters home but when the mailman comes, I grab the mail before mom. I open it, read it and throw it in the garbage.
On the Manhattan-bound train I’m standing against the door. I look around at all the people headed to work. They look tired and miserable. Suckers if you ask me.
At Jay Street Boro-Hall I get off, grab a Daily News on the newsstand and hop back on the F. How cool is that? A newsstand on the platform. When I’m with my friends and we’re riding the trains we steal candy from the newsstand on 4th avenue. It’s easy.
I’m read about the Knicks, my favorite team. What the fuck is up with these guys? They can’t win a game. They suck.
As we pull into West 4th street I think of getting off, heading upstairs and checking out who’s hanging around the courts. I love the village. I started coming here last summer. It happened right after I met this pretty girl at Manhattan Beach; her father lives on 16th street and 6th avenue. Her parents are divorced, like mine.
Often times I dream of living in the city. What I thought was so cool is that her father has cable TV. She told me her dad watches Knicks games live from the Garden. Her and I hung out a few nights in the summer just walking around. We had pizza at Ray’s and even walked down to the East Village for an egg cream. But that’s all I’m going to tell you.
I also love watching basketball at West 4th. There’s been some great players come through here. I’m too young to get out there and play with these guys, but I do try to get some shots up when no one is around. One night, about two in the morning I hopped on the train with my basketball and came out here to shoot. I had the court to myself.
I decide to stay on the F-train and go a few more stops to forty-second street.
As we get to 34th street I think of getting off and walking past the Garden. I could go in and look for Red Holzman.
“Yo Red, what’s up with the team?”
I stay on the train. Holzman would probably laugh at me anyway.
The next stop I get off and as I walk up the stairs with the crowd of people I roll up the newspaper and stick it in my back pocket. I learned that from my father and all the ironoworkers down Timboo’s.
Out on the street I’m relieved it stopped snowing. Standing on sixth avenue I look up to see a building going up. I see a few ironworkers walking across the beams. I wanna be an ironworker in a few years. My uncle says I have to be 18. I still have three more years to go.
Walking down forty-second I stop in a coffee shop. The take-out line is long, out the door onto the sidewalk. People are grabbing their coffee and breakfast to go. I notice an open table by the window and take a seat.
The waitress comes over with a glass of water. She’s an older lady. Probably about forty. She looks excited.
“Coffee hun?” she asks. She looks like Linda Lavin on that show “Alice.”
“No, can I have a coke please?”
The Linda Lavin look-a-like writes it down and walks away.
I grab a menu and check out their breakfast.
It starts snowing again.
Thanks to Rob Langton for putting me up on this story via the New York Times about an old-timer from the neighborhood.
Windsor Terrace, long an Irish-American stronghold, is a blue-collar, gentrifying and diversifying neighborhood between Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery, with low crime, an old bar (77-year-old Farrell’s Bar and Grill) and an even older church (132-year-old Holy Name of Jesus). Mr. Maloney is harder to define.
He is an Army veteran and a retired Teamster. As a teenager, he was a member of a Brooklyn street gang called the Jokers. In his golden years, he plays Santa Claus for children in group homes and raises money every year so the neighborhood and the Knights of Columbus can serve hundreds of free Thanksgiving meals. His primary objective, besides staying active with the Knights of Columbus, is to spoil his five grandchildren.
January 2, 1978
So here I am face-to-face with this pretty girl who I don’t even know.
I told you my heart is racing, right? Well if you’ve been keeping up, you know from my last journal entry what’s going on.
It’s gotta be close to eleven by now, but who knows, I don’t own a watch. Been out here for a while though. I had no idea that this shit was going to happen.
When you go out to work on your shooting at night, in the dark, early January, you don’t think about running into a pretty girl. Especially in a different neighborhood. Did you think I just shoot in Holy Name’s schoolyard? Hell no. Some nights, in the summer I hop on my ten-speed bike and ride down to Tillary Park. It’s on Jay Street, downtown Brooklyn. Yeah I know, it’s dangerous and all but I don’t care. I’m there to play ball. You ever been to Tillary Park at night? My friend Pit once told me, “Red, hope you carry a pistol when you go there.”
Anyway, wonder what time Maria has to go home?
Church Avenue is not that far away. That’s where she lives.
But it’s Friday night, everyone hangs out later on the weekends. Shit, sometimes I am out until three in the morning. Actually broke night a few times.
It’s getting colder and colder though. Usually we hang out in the subway station or even someone’s basement in the winter.
I’m nervous, real nervous. Almost to a point I am shivering from being cold, frightened, and excited.
This girl is gorgeous. Dark hair, great body, awesome smile. Don’t tell anyone but she’s prettier than my girlfriend.
Maria sits on top of the stone table, there’s a few of them actually. The old men play checkers on them during the day.
Her feet are resting on the wooden bench in front of her. She’s facing East 5th street. Her Chuck’s are wet from the snow. Her jeans look great. She’s looking at me. She looks real happy. Wonder what she’s thinking? The sparkle in her eye is incredible. It’s like there’s a diamond in one of them. The streetlight outside on East 5th street lights up our little area. The shine helps with my late night shooting.
“So, where ya live?” Maria asks.
Like an idiot I’m sitting on the wooden bench, so I am below her, she is looking down on me. She looks cool sitting on the table. I should hop up on the table next to her.
“Up the hill,” I answer.
“Holy Name boy, huh?”
“Yeah, you can say that,” I answer as again, I look over my shoulder out towards East 5th street.
“I did say that,” she says and she also giggles.
I love her personality. I could see her breath come out of her mouth. Her lips are incredible.
But you know what? I just know there’s a guy coming by to meet her.
Why me? I gotta come up with something and get the fuck out of here.
“Why do you keep looking out there?”
Oh shit, she caught me looking out onto the street. Embarrassing.
“I don’t know, just lookin’ I guess.”
“What school you go to?” Maria asks.
Now I was stuck. She’s asking a million questions. Why does she wanna know all this? What do I tell her?
If I tell her I dropped out and I don’t go to school she’ll get up and walk away.
She’ll laugh at me.
She’ll want nothing to do with me.
Girls don’t want to hang out with drop-outs.
So I bullshit.
“I go to Jay.”
“Oh cool, I have some friends that go there.”
We’re staring at each other. Not saying a word.
“Where do you go?” I ask as I surprise myself with the question.
I’m thinking to myself, Dewey?
Where the fuck is that?
Do they have a basketball team?
“It’s down by Coney Island,” Maria says.
Gotta be honest, I’ve never heard of it.
Couple of kids walk by us.
“Yo Maria, what’s up?” a kid shouts.
There’s about four of them. I don’t recognize them.
They all look at me. One kid can’t stop staring at me.
“Hey what’s up!” Maria shouts back as they walk out of the park, down East 5th towards Ft. Hamilton Parkway. I can hear them laughing. One kid looks back at us.
I feel like saying, “What the fuck you lookin’ at?”
Here’s the deal; I can feel it. They’re going to go tell her boyfriend. Tell him that she’s hanging out with some kid from Holy Name up at the park.
I gotta get outta here. I’m sure they’ll be pulling up soon, ready to kick my ass.
“I gotta go,” I say to Maria.
“Oh really, well okay then.”
I stand up, she stays seated on the table.
“Nice meeting you,” she says.
I reach down to pick up my ball, walk on the court to take one more shot. Whenever I leave a court I always have to make my last shot.
As I get out onto the court, I notice she followed me. I dribble out to the right wing. Maria is standing under the basket. I look at her then at the rim. Thinking to myself, I better make this jumper and get my ass back up the hill before those kids come back with Maria’s boyfriend. They’ll probably come back with bats. I heard the Ft. Hamilton boys don’t mess everyone.
“Go ahead, let it fly,” Maria says as she turns her back to me, in rebounding position.
I rise up, shoot the ball and it goes through the netless rim.
Maria tracks the ball down and tosses it back to me.
“Nice shot, Red.”
She puts the emphasis on Red.
I feel so good now. Better than i thought a few minutes ago. Someone actually said nice shot to me. I don’t get that often.
Now I feel like staying with her.
But there’s no way that’s happening.
Maria passes the ball and I say good-bye.
“Hope we see each other again,” she shouts as I walk out of the park and towards the bridge.
She must think I’m an idiot.
As I head up the street, walking through the snow and make my way onto the overpass, I don’t dare look back. I even walked a little faster.
With my luck those kids will chase me, and kick my ass.
Recieved some sad news from my Ft. Hamilton people; Leanne McKeon Doonan has passed away.
Thoughts and prayers go out to the McKeon family.
Leanne was the sister of Bobby, Shawn, Kerry and Neal. Kerry is a friend and I feel for my main man.
Visitation is today and tonight at Leone Funeral Home Inc.
696 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11232
2:00pm to 5:00pm and 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Mass is set for Saturday 9:00 AM…
Immaculate Heart Of Mary RC Church
2805 Ft. Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn, New York 11218
January 2, 1978
It’s a little after nine and man it’s freezing outside… but I don’t care.
I stayed in all day yesterday watching college football. You know, the Bowl games; Cotton, Orange, Rose and Sugar. I was tempted to place a few bets but the bookie down on fifth avenue would laugh at me. I’m only 15. Sorry, I can’t mention him by name; don’t wanna get pinched.
In all honesty, I was hung-over from all the drinking we did on New Year’s Eve. I know, I know. I can hear you know. You’re drinking at fifteen?
Yeah, we drink, handle it.
You ever try Wild Irish Rose?
That shit is amazing.
Ninty-nine cents a bottle.
Not gonna tell you how many bottles I drank, so don’t bother asking.
To make matters worse, my girlfriend is pissed at me. Not sure what I did though. Come to think of it, she’s always pissed at me.
So I grab my basketball and head to the schoolyard.
“About time you get your ass out of this house!” My mother says to me as I walk past her in the living room.
“Yeah, Happy New Year to you too…”
Mom has been getting on my case lately.
Heading out of our apartment, I cross ninth avenue and walk down Windsor Place. Hanging a right at Howard Place I dribble the ball through my legs. No one dribbles the ball like me. I don’t have gloves on either. My fingers are cold.
Howard Place is a quiet block. I’m sure someone is pissed at me for making noise. The sound of the bouncing ball is probably annoying. Who cares!
Entering the yard I walk straight to the first basket and start to shoot. I start in close.
After the third shot a priest from the second floor window of the rectory screams, “GET OUT OF THE SCHOOLYARD!”
Damn it, I’m screwed now.
I’m always getting tossed out of the yard at night. It’s bullshit if you ask me. It’s nine o’clock for crying out loud.
But hold up. I know where I can go and no one will bother me. Good-bye Father.
East 5th street park is a hike, but fuck it. It beats going home and having to listen to my mother.
I head down Prospect Avenue and walk over the bridge. As I walk into the playground I hear a few kids messing around over by the swings. Probably a few teens from I.H.M.
Believe it or not, there’s a lot of kids down here I know; we play ball against each other often. But it’s too dark to see who’s on the swings. They leave me alone.
No one is out on the court. I have it all to myself. What do you expect, it’s ten at night. Only someone crazy like me would be out here where it’s like twenty degrees. There’s a little snow on the ground too. But that doesn’t bother me.
As I take a few shots, I notice someone walking into the park.
I zoom in on them and see that it’s a girl.
She starts to walk over towards me, right onto the court.
Wonder what she wants?
Maybe she’s lost?
Maybe she thinks I’m someone else?
I’m nervous. She looks to be about my age.
“Hi,” she says.
“How you doin’?” I respond.
“I’m good, what’s your name?” she asks.
“Steve, but my friends call me Red.”
It’s an awkward moment, her standing there and me holding the ball. What do I say next?
Wonder if she plays ball?
Wonder what she wants?
The street light and the moon shining down on us lights up the park.
She’s short with dark hair. She’s wearing jeans and a pair of high top black, Chuck Taylor all-stars. She has a black coat, and a scarf.
“You play ball?” I ask.
“What’s so funny?”
“Me, play ball?”
“Yeah what’s wrong with that?”
“Look how short I am!”
I look her up and down.
I have to say, she may be short but she’s gorgeous.
East 5th is a spot I visit often. Gotta be honest, I’ve never seen her before.
“You live around here?” I ask.
“Nah, I live down on Church Avenue,” she replies.
“What brings you around here?” I ask.
“Why, you writing a book?”
She laughs and reaches for the basketball, knocking it away from me. The ball rolls over by the fence. Maria chases it, picks it up and starts to dribble.
“D-up,” she says.
D-up? Holy shit, I think she does play. Either that or she watches a lot of ball.
I stand still watching her.
She’s cute with a beautiful smile. Her eyes are sparkling. She seems so happy, so full of spirit.
But hold up, I can just see her boyfriend pulling up in a car, running out and punching my lights out for talking to her. Pretty girls like Maria have a man.
Next thing I know Maria throws up a shot towards the rim.
The ball goes over the backboard.
“OOPS…” she says in a shy manner.
There’s no way she plays ball with a shot like that I think to myself.
“Nice shot,” I tell her. I’m messing with her.
I walk after the ball and retrieve it.
As I walk back on to the court Maria gets up close to me and attempts to play defense.
“Wanna play one-on-one?” she asks.
I’m so close to her I can smell her perfume.
“Sure,” I answer.
I give up my dribble and pass her the ball. I’m probably getting myself into deep shit.
“Your ball first.”
Maria smiles. God her smile is unbelievable! Her teeth are so white.
She dribbles around the top of the key. I’m a bit reluctant to get close to her, I keep looking over towards the street. With my luck someone will pull up, I can just feel it. Last summer down at Manhattan Beach I met this really pretty girl and she had a boyfriend. He got pissed at me and we got into a big fight right on the basketball court.
That’s one thing I am staying clear of; girls who have guys.
I should ask her if she has a boyfriend.
I’m not a fighter. I play ball and hang out.
Maria starts to drive in towards the basket. She double dribbles. I don’t say anything. She has so much enthusiasm. Plus, I’m not a referee.
As Maria gets close to the goal she misses the lay-up.
“Brick!” I say teasingly.
I rebound the ball, dribble out to the foul line and take a jump- shot. It swishes. But there’s no net on the rim.
Maria chases the ball down.
We go back and forth for the next five minutes.
This feels like a dream.
Very little is said between us but she’s so playful. My girlfriend never wants to play one-on-one.
I keep looking over at the street. You know what I’m thinking, right?
Someone please wake me up.
Maria seems to be out of breath.
“I need a break,” she says.
Watching her walk over to the benches, I shoot a left-handed layup high off the backboard.
My eyes glance at her butt.
She sits down while I get up a few more shots.
“Hey Red, come over here.”
I know I shouldn’t but I pick up my ball and start to walk over to the bench where Maria is sitting. These are the same benches we hang out on during the summer when we play pick up ball. East 5th has a great run in the summer. Some of the best players around come here to play ball. Never thought I’d be sitting here at night, with a pretty girl.
What I should do is be polite. Say something like:
Maria, it’s been a pleasure meeting you but I gotta go now.
Walk out the park, head back over the bridge and back up the hill to my neighborhood.
Instead I walk over and sit across from her. I put the ball down by my feet. I turn over my right shoulder looking through the fence for a car or a guy to show up.
My heart is racing…