Last night I was talking to my wife and telling her all about the great clubs from back in the day. Boy did we have fun. I highly doubt the club-scene is still rocking like back in the day.
My Top 6 NYC Clubs of All-Time
1-Peppermint Lounge (The new one on 15th and 5th)
“What did you do there?”
In my teens I began to spend time over in the city, especially when I would play hooky from school. Hop the turnstile (or rush the gate) at 15th street-Prospect Park; catch the F-Train and ride to a place that seemed like a different world.
Here’s a story from the New York Post on Washington Square Park in the Village. Been there many times.
Winter of 1980, late December to be exact. I’m sixteen years-old.
Girlfriend and I just broke up. I feel free now but lonely at the same time. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. Or does it?
We always fight. I think I’m a jerk to her. Sometimes that is…
It’s Saturday night, we’re all hanging out by Prospect Park. My ex is talking to a boy; I’m jealous, jealous as fuck. They keep laughing with each other. They’re having fun. I’m pissed. He’s an asshole to tell you the truth.
I decide to split. I have had enough. Loud music, drinking, smoking and everyone seems to be having a good time…except me. No one says good-bye.
It’s cold anyway, real cold. My feet are frozen. My fingers feel like they will fall off any minute. I need to warm up.
I decide to jump on the train and head over to the city. It’s always warm on the train. At times during the winter we hang out down in the subway but the transit cops always kick us upstairs.
Walking across ninth avenue I hang a left down 16th street. There’s a few guys hanging outside of Farrell’s drinking containers.
Walking down the stairs I hear the train rolling into the station. I begin to sprint towards the token booth.
Fuck it, no time to buy a token.
I rush the gate (hopping the turnstile), sprint down the stairs and take a seat on the Manhattan-bound F-train. It’s empty. Thank God there wasn’t any cops. I was like Pete Rose scoring from second base on a single. I was booking!
When I leave my friends I usually go up to the schoolyard to play ball or I head over to the city. I don’t like going home. When I am in Manhattan I feel like I am in a different world. There’s so much to do. I started hanging out in the city in the summer. I met some kids at West 4th street while I was playing ball. They were cool. We stayed in touch and have hung out a few times.
Four days days ago I met a pretty hispanic girl on the F-train. Her name is Evelyn. She lives in the Lower East Side. I was cutting out of school that day. Evelyn was sitting across from me on an empty train. I caught her smiling at me. I smiled back. We had a nice conversation.
When she got off at Delancey Street I was bummed. Evelyn was tall with long dark hair. Her eyes were beautiful. I’m sure she had a boyfriend. We chatted from 14th street. I was shocked she wrote her number down on a piece of paper before the doors opened.
“You better call me,” she said as she stepped off the train. As the train pulled away, we looked at each other and Evelyn waved good-bye.
It’s a little after ten as the F-train pulls into the Second Avenue station. I walk up the stairs that lead to the street. There’s junkies, winos and whores all over the place.
“Suck your dick for a fin,” a dirty looking woman says to me as I walk over a bum sleeping at the top of the stairs. She’s nasty.
I begin my walk uptown. I need a chocolate egg cream from St. Mark’s Place. Plus I want to pick-up the January issue of Basketball Digest. I love the newsstand there. Anytime I am in the city I make sure to make a pit stop there.
There’s a pay phone on the corner of East 4th and second avenue. I pull out the slip of paper with Evelyn’s number on it and a dime. I begin to dial.
The phone rings three times. Damn, hope she’s home.
“Hi is Evelyn there?” I ask.
The person who answered the phone just says, “hola,” and that was it.
“Hi this is Evelyn,” the voice said.
“Evelyn, this is Steven.”
“Oh hi, how you doin’?” She asks, sounding excited.
“I’m in the city, what are you doing?” I ask.
“Nothing, I’m just chillin’ with my cousins,” she says,
“Come out and meet me.”
“Okay, where ya wanna meet?” she asks.
“Meet me at Katz’s.”
“Okay, I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” she says.
Click, she hangs up. I hang up with a smile.
I make my way over to Katz’s. I have a few dollars on me. Standing outside on the corner of East Houston and Ludlow the wind is picking up and it starts to snow.
Can’t wait until she gets here. We’ll sit down and have a knish and drink Cream soda until they close.
This is going to be a great night.
As we roll into Manhattan I peek down on the floor and see newspapers all over the place.
The train is hot, I’m talking “August” hot.
Out on the street the temperature is 80 degrees, down below in the subway it has to be close to a hundred!
It’s muggy and sticky. I’m good though despite wearing a long sleeve, button down dress shirt and a pair of jeans. Not sure why I wore my black dress shoes, my feet are killing me.
A guy seated directly across from me is sipping on a can of beer covered by a brown paper bag. Before he takes a swig he looks around the train. Probably checking for a cop. He looks at me and I at him, I quickly glance in another direction.
At each stop on the Coney Island-bound F-train in Manhattan a handful of people get on. It gets crazy crowded. I do not miss these awkward times, trust me.
I need my space.
It used to bug me out when someone would shimmy up to me and I was able to smell his cologne.
Back up yo!
We pull into 57th street and I have a flashback…it’s the station I used to get off when I worked at Planet Hollywood in the early 90’s.
The train is like a can of sardines. To be honest I have never seen a can of sardines. Let’s just say it’s packed, back to back like the Limelight back in the day.
One thing that stood out to me when we reached Brooklyn; As the train stopped and the doors opened at the Smith and Ninth stop, a lot of people got off. Years ago I don’t recall many people getting off there. Same for York Street. I saw a ton of people get off there too.
“Watch the closing doors please…”
I get off at the 7th avenue station along with many others. Seems like my bag is getting heavier and heavier as I climb the stairs to the streets.
First thing I did was stop off at Smiley’s Pizza on the corner of 9th street and 7th avenue.
I order two slices and a small coke. The guys behind the counter are cool and very efficient. I doubt there’s free refills, the fountain is behind the counter.
As I take a squat in a booth I notice three guys, probably in their early 20’s sitting in front of me. All they do is complain about society. I felt like saying, ‘SHUT THE FUCK UP’!
Complain, Complain, Complain…
To my right is a Smiley’s employee gobbling up some pasta. Must have been on his break. How cool is that? Go on break and eat some pasta.
“Yo, can you watch my bags?” I asked him as I ran next door to grab a newspaper.
“Sure, no problem…”
They tell you to keep an eye on your personal belongings in New York City but I felt it was safe to let my man watch my stuff.
Two stores over is a newsstand. I buy the Daily News and head back to my spot. My pizza is ready. I’m officially “New York” now, eating and reading the newspaper.
Customers come and go; they order pizza and pasta. The place is busy as ever. It’s in a nice location. Right at the top of the subway station. Location, location, location…
I make my way across 7th avenue and head to my destination; 13th and 8th. But first I have to stop in Johnny Mack’s to pick up the keys. I’m staying at Joe’s apartment; he and I go way back. Thanks Joe!
Johnny Mack’s has a few people sitting at the bar. I walk in, talk to the bartender Sarah while she hands me the keys.
“Wanna drink?” she asks politely.
“Nah, I’m good…”
I take the keys and head to the apartment. After dropping off my bags I make my way up to the avenue.
Sanders is closed, I mean the Pavilion Theater. There’s not a soul around.
Curling around the circle, walking past Connecticut Muffin there are a few people sitting outside chatting. I thought of cutting across through the circle but the traffic was like the Indy 500.
I cross the avenue and walk past Farrell’s; it’s packed inside. No one is hanging outside My man Duffer is at the stick. I pop in and chat with one of the good guys from the neighborhood.
Duffer’s been behind the bar at Farrell’s for 33 years.
Bars are part of the neighborhood. So far in 15 minutes I have been in more bars than I have been in the past five years.
It’s starts to rain so of course that fucks everything up. I had planned on walking around the hood to check things out.
I take shelter under Red’s Shoe Store awning. Next door at Rae and Otto’s there’s a party going on. But Rae’s isn’t a candy store anymore. It’s a restaurant and they call it “Krupa’s Grocery.” They kept the sign and everything.
“Good morning luv…”
Yo Ricky, what up kid?
Looks like they are getting ready for a grand opening. I have thoughts of crashing. Maybe when I was in my twenties, not now.
I chill out on the corner for about thirty minutes watching people walk by…I don’t recognize anyone. When someone walks past me they look at me and I look at them.
“What the fuck is this nut doing standing on the corner?” they must be thinking…
I have to focus in and do a double take. We used to hang out on the corner every night. There’s not a single person on any corner on the avenue.
Across the street in front of my old apartment there’s a lady sitting on a milk crate with three little dogs.
The rain stops. I hang a left on Windsor Place and make my way to the boys schoolyard at Holy Name…
Bishop Ford High School is closing its doors in June. No doubt it’s a sad day at 500 19th street. Growing up in the neighborhood and having many friends attend Ford, I have so many memories of the Falcons. Let me take you back 34 years ago…
On a warm Friday afternoon in May, I was shooting all alone in my paved paradise; the boys schoolyard at Holy Name.
It was a little after three. Students from Bishop Ford were making their way to the F-train down on Windsor Place. Their route was simple. Exit the school up on nineteenth street, stroll a few short blocks across ninth avenue, hang a right at Joe’s Pizza down Prospect Avenue and make a quick left on Howard Place.
On their way down Howard they would pass the yard. I had seen them for years. Most would be walking pretty fast to catch their train. Some would walk slow and watch us play ball. I would see some kids smoking cigarettes and at times catch a boy and girl holding hands. The girls were pretty.
At times I was envious. Jealous too. I always wanted to go to Ford. Many of my friends attended the catholic school up by the cemetery.
The Ford kids had a habit of breaking balls.
“GET A JOB YA BUM”! I heard a kid shout.
I stood there motionless on the middle court. The kid kept walking but I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was a wise-ass punk.
I was hurt inside, embarrassed and ashamed. I wanted to run out and rip this kid’s fucking heart out. The only problem was I was alone and he was with a bunch of his classmates who were all laughing.
I let it go but deep down, it was building up inside of me. “It” was the rage.
“Hey man, you ever go to school,” another kid called out. I glanced up from my dribbling drill.
Boy, these kids love to fuck with me, I thought to myself.
This was actually the first time I had ever heard any comments from them.
Ignoring the jerk I dribbled through my legs, crossed over, and stutter stepped like Earl Monroe, down to the other end of the court against the church wall pulling up for a mid-range jump shot.
“Yeah man, you’re always here!” another kid barked.
Now I was pissed.
This was my yard. Of course I was here all the time.
I felt like going out there and fighting them but they were in large groups. On other days in the past some of them would stare at me and call out, “nice shot!” after I made a jumper. The girls would be watching too. When I’d catch one of them out of the corner of my eye I would try to show off by going behind my back with the dribble, just like Walt Frazier avoiding a defender.
One afternoon a tall white kid walked into the yard. He was wearing black slacks, a dark dress shirt and black shoes that were shiny and pointy. We called them, “cockroach killers.”
This kid must have been about six-foot-five. He had three expensive, looking gold chains hanging from his neck. He resembled a football player, but Ford didn’t have a football team.
“Hey can I take a few shots with you?” he asked.
“Yeah sure,” I replied, as I threw him a crisp, two-handed chest pass.
“Nice shoes.” I uttered to him. He didn’t hear me, he was too excited about having the ball in his hands.
I watched him as he shot the ball from twenty feet away and missed everything.
“Airball!” came a cry from outside the fence.
A bunch of kids paused to watch him.
There they go breaking balls again.
I chased the ball down and threw it back to the tall kid. He caught it and placed it down on the concrete. Looking at me he said, “Here we go.”
He we go? I thought to myself? This kid was clearly an inside player, he had no right stepping out and trying to make a long jump shot.
As he rolled up his sleeves he looked like someone who was about to have a fist fight. That’s what the tough guys did in the old days.
“Here we go,” he proclaimed.
Picking up the ball he attempted another shot from the same distance.
As the ball was on it’s way to the netless rim; another comment came from the peanut gallery.
“Hey Tony, give it up man, you suck!”
The ball sailed through the air and ended up being another airball.
It didn’t hit a thing.
No rim or backboard. It just landed on the ground and bounced away.
This kid sucks, I thought to myself. I chased the ball down again and listened to some more kids ridicule him.
“Tony, you suck man, that kid will school you!”
“Yeah Tony, go home and study!” another kid screamed. They all laughed.
I looked at Tony and shrugged my shoulders.
“Later for them man, they probably suck anyway.” I pointed out to him.
Tony looked at me and asked, “You wanna play one on one?”
This kid was kidding, right? I thought to myself. How the fuck was he going to guard me wearing shoes?
I started dribbling the ball between my legs and said “your ball first.”
I zipped another crisp chest pass to him catching him by surprise as he fumbled the ball.
Tony took the ball out first and couldn’t buy a basket for the next five minutes. I scored with ease every time I touched the ball. I took it right by the uncoordinated kid. His first problem was trying to shoot from deep. I was waiting for him to back me down into the post. He had me by at least a hundred pounds.
When I had the ball and he tried to get close to me on defense, I would back him up with a few pump fakes and jab steps, and launch my jumper. A crowd had gathered outside the fence, and after enough of taking it to him, the tall fella called it quits.
Tony was like a defeated boxer in the ring throwing in the towel, he had enough.
“Hey man, you’re good, what school you go to?” He asked me.
I looked at the kid, thought about the question and tossed up a long jumper that went straight though the rim.
“I go to Jay.”
“What year you in?” He asked
“Wow! You’re fuckin’ good, you play varsity?”
I chased the ball down and didn’t answer him.
“I gotta get home, take care. It was nice playing with you,” he said.
The kid extended his hand. He told me he was the center on the freshmen team at Ford.
“Nice meeting you,” I answered.
Tony took off out of the yard and down Howard Place.
I continued to shoot…alone.