During the winter of 1976 the YMCA down on ninth street between fifth and sixth avenues conducted a youth basketball clinic.
“Red, you signing up for the YBA tonight?” Jimmy Cullen asked me, as we sat on his stoop at 175 Windsor Place.
“Yeah, what time you going?”
“I’ll meet you on the corner at six,” he answered.
The corner was Windsor and Ninth, right outside Red’s Shoe store. It was our usual meeting spot.
We had been talking about the YBA for a few days. They even had a commercial about it. When I asked my mother if I could go she said no.
“How much does it cost?” was her first question.
“No, you can’t go,” she replied.
I was crushed.
For the next couple of nights I actually got down on my knees in front of my bed and prayed. I even thought of going to the church and lighting a candle. When I passed the Jesus Christ statue on the cross outside the church, I stopped, blessed myself and whispered to Jesus.
“Please, tell my mother to let me go to the YBA. I will be good, I Swear to God.”
Why did I say, “Swear?”
Now I was doomed! I had no shot…
After dinner, right at six o’clock I peeked out my bedroom window facing the avenue and saw Jimmy standing on the corner with a couple of other kids from the neighborhood. They were waiting on me I’m sure.
I sat on my bed, dying inside.
Mom was in the kitchen washing dishes, I asked her again. No make that, I pleaded with her. I felt like getting down on my hands and knees and begging.
“Can I please go to the Y?” I asked one final time.
“No, and that’s the last time I tell you, so stop asking me.”
Tears dripped out of my eyes as I turned and walked out of the kitchen, through our railroad apartment and back into my bedroom. The tears rolled down my cheeks and my eye lashes were soaked.
At 6:10 I looked out the window again, this time my friends were gone.
When you and your friends set a time to meet, you usually waited five or ten minutes for someone and if they didn’t show, you left.
Grabbing my basketball, I left the apartment crying and walked to the boys schoolyard on Howard Place.
Instead of playing ball with my friends at the YMCA that night, I spent the next couple of hours alone, in the schoolyard shooting hundreds of shots.