“If you want something bad enough, go out and fight for it, work day and night for it, give up your time, peace and sleep for it.” -Les Brown
WE CAN DO THIS…
9TH AVENUE FOREVER!
When I was a teenager I hated school.
Most felt the same way, I think?
Difference between you and me? I didn’t persevere. Just gave up.
I’d rather hang out, do my own thing. Know what I mean?
Didn’t know the importance of an education. Had no idea. No clue. Who needs school? I’m going to be an Ironworker when I’m 18. That was the mind-set. That was the wrong mind-set.
Father, mother and older brother all dropped out of school. I followed their lead.
“For a boy to become a man, he must first see a man,” said J.R. Moeringher.
It started with Power Memorial. I was 14. The year was 1978. I lasted three days. Same high school as Dick Bavetta, Ed Klimkowski, Eddie Moss, Larry Petty, Jessie Fong, Mario Elie and Jerry Coles. I recall Jerry poking his head in my classroom first day of school asking how things were going? I looked at him and said to myself, “I hate it.“
Dreams of playing for their basketball team. Saw them play two years before. Said I wanted to be a Panther. Would go around telling everyone. All that was over. Two trains to the city. Too much. Had to wake up way too early.
What next? What do I tell my mother? She’ll be pissed. Ticked off.
Fear not young man. Enroll in John Jay. Seventh avenue. John Corrar. Patty Byrnes. Joe Pepitone. Freshmen and Sophomores in the afternoon. Juniors and seniors in the morning. I can sleep in.
Started skipping classes on the second day; few days later I was history.
At 15 you have no idea why you fear. (“Hey, get back in school, you can do this…) That’s all I needed.
Sure they tried to tell me to get back in school. I didn’t listen. An all important attribute. “Listening.”Older guys from the neighborhood preached. Lectured. Some even begged me. My girlfriend Maureen tried to convince me. My ears were closed.
Few weeks later I try LaSalle Academy down on the Lower East Side. Catholic school. Went 8 years to Holy Name. “The Big Lie,” but that’s a story for another time. Nuns, priests, discipline, wooden paddles, uniforms…
LaSalle is The Candy Man’s alma mater. John Roache. Tom Owens. Ron Artest.
The Cullen’s from 175 Windsor Place told me all about LaSalle.Good friends of mine growing up. Jimmy a year older, Frankie two years on me.
Said I would like it. They sure did.
Jerome Washington was a star player at the time. He was cool.Kid could really ball. Had hops too. Saw him one day shooting jumpers in their tiny gym. Thought to myself maybe I can play in the back-court with him? Poor son of a bitch passed away a few years ago. Think he was 48. Sad.
The LaSalle experiment lasted two months. Sorta. Maybe a month and a half. On the second day mom gave me $100 cash to buy a few required text books; I spent the money on cokes and buttered rolls every morning before school. On the weekends I would buy a bottle of Wild Irish Rose. The money was gone in 14 days.
Poor Mom, she and I tried John Jay a second time. Things didn’t work out. I lasted two weeks. I was petrified. There seemed to be like 10,000 kids in that school. The hallways were spooky. I didn’t know anyone. I was like a zombie walking the halls. Saw a few kids sneaking out a window in the stairwell. I jumped out with them. Ran up the block to Prospect Park. Walked around thinking this was so cool. Little did I know, I was fucking up.
Tried John Jay one more time.
Fall of 1980. Sixteen year-old freshman. But now a member of the the basketball team. Me, Ron Hardy, Keith Grady, Ed Saunders, Gary Phillips, whom we called ‘Doc’ because boy could he sky. I remember throwing him an ally-oop in practice. He was up so high he was talking to the Lord. And we had a really cool Hispanic kid from Bay Ridge, Merchado was his last night. One day him and I had two hours to kill before practice so we spent it watching a performance by some dancers in the auditorium. Pete Coakley was the coach; reminded me of the White Shadow. I was having a ball. Not going to class but going to practice. The day we got our uniforms, #30, I wore it outside. That night I slept in it.
Early December we played a few games; I got some playing time. My girlfriend Maureen bought me brand new Nike high-tops. But it hit me again; I quit the team. Dropped out of school. WTF?
Winter of 1981 I start coaching a seventh grade basketball team at Holy Name.
Took a liking to it. Never went back to school. But the game did something for me. Believe it was the Basketball Gods who sent the message.
Fast forward 35 years; took and passed the G.E.D. exam. Enrolled in college. Got my college degree. These days I coach varsity basketball and substitute teach. Right now I have a long-term substitute job until Thanksgiving teaching English 3 and Anthropology/Sociology.
Should have been a teacher. I love being in the classroom with these wonderful kids.
Nice story from the New York Times on our very own Pete Hamill.
“It’s recognizable Brooklyn,” Mr. Hamill said. “I’ve just been wandering around, pushing the walker. There’s still neighborhoods. And after 30 years of the disappearing sky in Manhattan, to be able to walk out and be drowned by the sun and see real green trees and not paintings of them is just exhilarating.”
As a writer, I am always looking for inspiration.
Growing up in Windsor Terrace it’s not hard to find material to write about. And it helps to have other writers to read (both good and bad) to be inspired to write.
Have a look at some outstanding work by our guy Pat Fenton.
Click the link below for a wonderful piece in the Irish Echo on a documentary they are putting together about Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin.
Outstanding read from our guy Pete Hamill on the change in NYC:
Tremendous, tremendous interview with legendary writer Pete Hamill by our guy Pat Fenton.
Step inside Farrell’s.
Make your way to the bar.
Order a container and listen to the stories.
Compelling…to say the least. By the way, Pete clears up the story of Shirley MacLaine being the first woman served at the bar.
Love this explanation from Pete on the name of the neighborhood:
“Did you call the neighborhood Park Slope when you were growing up in Brooklyn?” I ask him. “A lot of people who came from Windsor Terrace always just called the whole neighborhood the
“Where I lived on 7th Avenue and 12th Street we really didn’t call it anything,” he says. “What I loved about the South Brooklyn Boys, as they called themselves, Junior Persico and those guys, they lived in North Brooklyn. When you looked at the map you realized that. But they called themselves the South Brooklyn Boys. Geography was not one of their strong suits,” he says smiling, as he talks about a neighborhood street gang, many who went on to become part of the Mafia. Junior, aka, Carmine the Snake Persico, would become the Boss of the Colombo crime family.
“So my neighborhood was this unnamed place, between Park Slope and Windsor Terrace. But now it’s been re-named by the real-estate guys as the South Slope.”
Short update on the health of our guy, Pete Hamill.
(Image taken from mcbrooklyn.blogspot. com)
“My legs are getting better, thanks to a noble wife, a very good physical therapist, and a platoon of superb doctors from NYU Langone. But I’m still not walking, so I will do no tap-dancing.”
In every neighborhood there’s one spot you know as “the hangout.”
That one place you go to take a load off your mind.
It’s that sacred place you find mostly men, but make no mistake you will see the occasional female or two hanging tough. I’ve known a few ladies to drink a few of the guys under the table. They are always welcomed, matter of fact, they are embraced.
I’m talking about the bar. The Saloon. A Gin Mill. The Tavern. Watering hole. Whatever you may call it…it’s all good.
There’s been articles written about them. Movies made and of course commercials shot inside of them. There has also been legendary fights inside and outside of them.
Farrell’s Bar & Grill was the popular spot in our neighborhood. Located on the corner of 16th street and ninth avenue. The official address is 215 Prospect Park West. They first opened the doors in the early 30’s.
At one time, back in the day women were discouraged from standing at the bar, they had to sit at a table located way in the back. Legend has it that the actress Shirley McClain once walked in with the writer Pete Hamill and marched right to the bar and ordered a drink.
I first noticed Farrell’s when I was a young boy. Coming from the 11th street playground over in Prospect Park with my mother on my way home to our five-room, railroad apartment on the corner of Windsor and ninth.
“Ma, what are all those people doing outside?”
As my mother holds my hand crossing the street she says they’re hanging out.
“Can we hangout?” I ask.
“No, we have to go home,” she answers
“Hanging out” was an everyday occurrence for the regulars. Some are leaning against parked cars, some are blocking the sidewalk chatting away as they smoke a cigarette. Look inside the huge window in front you notice a ton of people inside, standing at the bar. Some are looking out the window watching the world go by.
They all have one thing in common; they’re holding a glass filled with booze or a white container of beer.
Ironworkers, firemen, cops, mailmen, housewives, writers, musicians, the suits from Wall Street, a local business owner or two may pop their head in from time to time and the unemployed all are welcomed visitors. Doesn’t matter your occupation. I once saw two teachers from Holy Name stumble out after our lunch hour. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the unemployed, they’re hanging out too.
Jimmy Breslin, The Hamill brothers Pete and Denis have all drank and written about the bar on the corner. Click this link to read about the day Breslin bought the house a drink as told by Danny Mills via Denis Hamill of the New York Daily News.
There’s no music in the joint, just conversation.
“Let’s go to Farrell’s.”
“Meet you at Farrell’s.”
“Gimme a Container…”
The tables in the back are taken by groups of softball players talking about the game they had just played down at East fifth street field. The guys at the bar are looking up at the TV set watching the Yankees, as Pete the bartender yaps about the Mets and there’s a guy in the phone booth off to the right of the bar yelling at his wife who is home coking dinner for the family.
“I’LL BE HOME SOON!” he shouts into the receiver and slams it down. No one notices. It’s too loud. Plus, all the men go through the same shit.
Can’t forget about the guy walking out of the men’s room, pulling up his zipper. Employees are required to wash their hands, why not the patrons?
Head out the side door on 16th street and there’s a small group of guys sitting on the sidewalk playing Acey-Deucey. Each one of them has a container placed on the ground next to them.
A heavy-set girl, probably somewhere around twelve years old is walking back and forth past the group disrupting the game and breaking balls. John, who is not having any luck in the card game is clearly perturbed.
“Hey, stop walking by or you won’t get any cake.”
The group laughs. Keep in mind, if you break chops, expect to get yours broken into pieces too.
A few feet away leaning up against a parked station wagon are two females talking about a hot guy at work.
“Go ahead and ask him out, his divorce is official.”
They both laugh. Hook-ups at Farrell’s are popular too.
Laughs are common at the bar. So is arguing. It’s a spot most go to get away from their problems. A few even drown in their sorrows. Or, like JR Moehringer wrote in his memoir, “The Tender Bar, “Of course many bars in Manhasset, like bars everywhere, were nasty places, full of pickled people marinating in regret.”
It’s a place where you can meet up with your friends and realize your neighbor has the same problems as you. One thing is certain, in Farrell’s, everyone knows your name.
Bobby, a Local 40 Ironworker was down on his luck. He had been unemployed for a few months and had a few mouths to feed at him. Not to mention he was behind with his mortgage payment and he had tuition to pay for two kids; one at Holy Name, the other at Bishop Ford. Work was slow down at the Union Hall. Despite the weather being warm enough, there was no iron being set anywhere in the city.
“Thank God for unemployment,” he said to his buddy Billy as they stood on the corner checking out a female across the street.
“Yo honey, can I buy you a drink?” Jimmy calls out as Bobby punches him in the arm.
Before I hit eighteen, I would hang around the bar and talk sports with the bartenders and the locals. I’d stand outside, and at times walk inside to chat with Hoolie and Gerard.
“REDMAN!” is how Gerard would greet me as I walked through the doors. Some nights, when I couldn’t sleep, or there was a domestic dispute I’d get dressed and walk across the avenue to see Gerard who worked the late shift on Friday nights.
Gerard always placed a glass of coke on the bar for me. I felt like a king as i lifted the glass and slugged my drink like I was one of the fella’s.
“Knicks win tonight?” Gerard asked?
“Nah, they lost again.”
One night at last call, Gerard was about to close shop when someone appeared at the front door. Last call also meant closing time; the front door was locked and the only way in would be through the side door.
“GO AROUND THE SIDE!” Gerard shouted.
A couple of seconds later in walked Chris Mullin of the Golden State Warriors. It was just a few weeks until Mullin would report to his new team after playing four years at St. John’s University. Mullin was a schoolboy legend by way of St. Thomas Aquinas in Flatbush and later Power Memorial and Xaverian High School.
Mullin, standing six-feet, six inches tall came in the bar, said hi and ordered two containers.
Gerard made small talk while he filled the two white cartons and Mullin was on his way out the side door.
They come from all over the city to visit the mecca of beer drinking.