“The choices you make will shape your life forever.”
As I sit here on a sunny Saturday afternoon enjoying life, something occurred to me while I was reading, ‘A Drinking Life’ by Pete Hamill.
I miss my old neighborhood. To be specific, I miss the boys schoolyard at Holy Name of Jesus grammar school.
Saturday’s were the best. No doubt it was my favorite day of the week. Wake up early, have a bowl of Frosted Flakes, watch cartoons, get dressed and head out the door.
My energy level on Saturday mornings was a lot higher than Monday through Friday. Don’t get me started about Sunday morning…
After my cereal I grab my basketball, walk down the two flights of stairs in our second floor railroad-apartment on the corner of Ninth and Windsor Place.
Crossing ninth avenue heading down Windsor Place there were days I didn’t stop for the red light. If the coast was clear, I was jetting across the avenue. No Crossing Guard needed, only during the week, 8am-3pm.
As I approached Howard Place I hang a right and walk alongside the picket fence that wrapped around the school building. Changing direction at Howard, I would imitate Earl “The Pearl’ Monroe and spin dribble, avoiding an imaginary defender.
A good thing about the 202 steps walk from my apartment to the yard was I had enough time to work on your dribbling skills with both hands. Along with my spin dribble I worked on the cross-over and hesitation. You got your reps in.
As I get closer to the entrance of the yard, my pace quickened. Going from a speedy walk to a light jog. I was anxious to play.
Some days I would listen for the sound of a bouncing ball or voices coming from the yard. If I heard them, I’d get excited knowing there were games going on and kids to play against. Even though I enjoyed my alone time in the yard, having a friend or stranger to play against was the ultimate feeling. Competition in the schoolyard helped shape you for the better.
If by chance you didn’t own a basketball and no one was around, you could always walk across Howard Place and look down the Trapp’s basement steps; there was always extra basketballs waiting to be borrowed. And you better bring it back. We went on the honor system, for the most part.
Walking into the schoolyard felt like paradise. It was another world. Free from all the bullshit.
There was always a special feeling when you were in the yard, a feeling like no other.
When I first discovered the boys schoolyard at the age of 6, I spent most of my time dribbling on the side watching the older guys like Gerard Trapp, Cadge and Jimmy Routhier play three-on-three. I studied their styles. Between games when the players took a quick break before running it back, I would run on the court and get up a few shots.
“Good shot Red,” I heard someone say.
On Saturday we would spend all day in the schoolyard, only to go home for lunch but always returning for the afternoon. After playing in the sun all day you went back home at five o’clock for dinner and on many occasions you returned and played before it got dark. When it did get dark, the priests at Holy Name kicked you out.
“GET OUT OF THE SCHOOLYARD!” They liked to shout.
On average if you loved the game you spent 8 hours on a Saturday playing the game you loved.
Those were the days my friend…