Stumbled across this video. Pretty cool.
Hope everyone does the right thing during these difficult times. Stay safe and wash your hands. Practice social-distancing.
Me? I’m chillin’ in the crib. Only go out for Starbucks drive-thru. To be honest, I could go for a slice from Joe’s on ninth avenue…
Slept in today.
Don’t care. I don’t go to Holy Name anymore so they can’t say anything if I don’t go.
Been going to church every Sunday since I was eight years old. I’m 14 now.
Mom never came home last night.
Younger sister slept at her friend’s house.
Older brother never made it home. Haven’t seen him since Friday.
Head out to the kitchen and open the fridge, it’s pretty empty.
Guess that means no cereal.
It’s cold in our apartment. I swear sometimes I think the landlord shuts the heat off. Mom would turn on the burners on the stove to warm us up. One night a couple of years ago I slept with my coat.
Slide my jeans on, slip on my sneakers and throw a coat on. Don’t need socks.
Forget to brush my teeth.
Walk down the two flights of stairs out onto ninth avenue.
It’s cold. Snow still on the ground from Saturday. See a few people walking on the avenue. Some coming from church. Some kids are wearing nice clothes.
Cross ninth avenue and walk over to Pynn’s Deli on the corner of 16th street.
See a few older guys outside Farrell’s. Two guys are holding containers. One guy is smoking and talking politics. One guy is complaining about the Giants. They missed the playoffs. Some day I’ll be able to get into Farrell’s, buy a container and hang out.
Walk into the deli and there’s a long line. I hate waiting on line.
Pull out my money and count it. I have six bucks. Had twenty last night but I spent it on some booze. Saturday night is a drinking night for us.
“Coffee light and sweet and a buttered roll,” I tell the guy behind the counter. He doesn’t seem to enthused about working. He has a white apron on. Looks perturbed.
My order is made in a flash. Gotta admit, the line goes fast. I look through the glass showcase and see the rice pudding isn’t out yet. I love it. You should try it some day. I usually get a dollar’s worth. Fills me up.
The guy behind the counter puts my order in a brown paper bag. No “thank you,” and no “have a nice day.”It’s okay though. I’m used to it.
The owner of the joint Billy, is a good guy, he sees me and say’s hi. In the summer we talk about the Mets.
Walk past Farrell’s and over to the parkside where I take a seat on the wooden bench straight across from Lefrak. The snow is cleaned off. The bench is dry. There’s a 68 bus idle.
“Yo Red, Knicks need Melo!”
That’s Mickey, he’s a former teacher and basketball coach at Holy Name. Really knows the game. He’s more of a college guy than NBA. But he knows I love the Knicks. He’s talking about Carmelo Anthony; he sat out last night, Knicks lost.
“NOT A FAN OF MELO!” I shout across Prospect Park Southwest.
Mickey smiles and keeps walking up towards the avenue.
“Matter of fact, maybe they should trade him!” I add.
Doubt Mickey heard me. He walks fast.
I sip my coffee. It’s hot. A few people are walking into the park carrying their sleds.
The buttered roll looks delicious.
Wonder where all my friends are?
Apartment, Basketball, Black Belt, Bookie, Coffee, Cube Steak, Dee-Dee, Father, Gambling, Georgia Tech, Girlfriend, Karate, Marquette, Money, Mother, Ninth Avenue, Ninth street, Thanksgiving, Windsor Place, YMCA
Day After Thanksgiving…
“Can I have ten dollars?” I ask my mother as she sits on the couch watching television, sipping a cup of black coffee.
Without looking at me, she asks, “For what?”
Every time I ask her for money, she always questions me.
“There’s a basketball clinic tonight at the YMCA,” I replied.
“No, I don’t have it.” She barked as her eyes never left the screen.
I don’t even know why I ask anymore? Just once I want to hear, “Sure, here you go sweetie. Have a good time.”
I mumble something under my breath as I walk away.
Mom ignored me.
Usually after I mumble something she’ll say, “WHAT DID YOU SAY MISTER?”
As I walk out of our apartment she shouts, “GO DOWN TO TIMBOO’S AND ASK YOUR FATHER!”
I haven’t seen that prick in weeks.
He doesn’t give a shit about me but it’s a worth a try.
I remember he used to come by on Saturday mornings to get me. We’d head down to Timboo’s and I would spend the whole afternoon there. But before we got to Timboo’s we’d stop off at the Cube Steak on ninth street for breakfast.
Walking out of our apartment, I hang a left on Windsor Place, down the block, past my girl’s house and across seventh avenue.
For late November, it’s actually a nice day. The sun is out and it has to be at least fifty degrees.
It didn’t cross my mind to ask my girlfriend to walk down to Timboo’s with me. All I thought about was getting the money from my father for the clinic. Besides, I was just with her last night until midnight. She’s probably still sleeping.
When I get to 11th street I make a left and head towards fifth avenue.
Outside Timboo’s there’s a few guys standing on the corner shooting the breeze.
Red D. has a cup of coffee in his right hand. Roger C. is leaning against the lamp post reading the New York Post and Dee-Dee is checking out a hot girl across the avenue.
“Wow, look at that honey over there,” Dee-Dee muttered.
We all look over at her. Even Roger interrupts his reading to take a peek.
“She’s young enough to be your daughter,” Red implied.
“Shit, if there’s grass on the field, let’s play ball!” Dee-Dee insisted.
All three guys laugh. Even I had to smile. And Dee-Dee was right, he was fine.
There’s always hot babes on fifth avenue.
I turn around and look through the front window of Timboo’s to see if my father is in there. He’s always in the same spot at the bar. If he’s not in his spot, he’s on the pay phone by the window.
There’s three guys in there, including the bartender.
Dad’s not there.
“Stevie, what’s up kid?” Red D. asks as he looks over at me.
“Hey Red, you see my father?”
“He’s not here yet, should be here soon though. I’m waiting for him too, he owes me some money.”
Roger picks his head up from the paper. Red smiles at him.
“That was some bet last night,” Roger noted.
“I knew Georgia Tech wouldn’t cover,” Red bragged.
That was some game. I watched the whole thing.
Dee-Dee walks over to me and puts both fists up like a boxer and gets down in a stance.
“Come on Stevie, put ’em up baby!”
I stand there and watch him bob and weave.
Dee-Dee is a black belt and is always looking to get me to learn Karate. Every time I see him, he wants to spar.
He scares me. Not in a bad way but now he starts jumping around and kicking into the air like Bruce Lee.
What the fuck?
I think to myself.
He’ll kill me if one of those kicks land at my head.
Dee-Dee taps me on the head with an open palm and walks into the bar.
I could never learn Karate, I’d get my ass kicked but it would be cool to be able to karate chop someone and peg someone with a flying drop kick.
Plus, no one would fuck with me if I knew Karate.
“Hey kid,” Roger says as he walks past me, stuffing his newspaper in the back of his pants.
“Who you like today?” he adds.
Before I could answer, he’s inside the bar.
Roger is always asking me who I like?
He doesn’t mean which girls I like either. He wants to know which teams I like to win or which ones will cover the spread?
Red’s alone on the corner now, sipping at his coffee as he continues to look around the empty streets.
I’m sure he’s keeping an eye out for my father. Red’s head is on a swivel. Looking left, then right.
My father’s a bookie.
Red bet Marquette last night, he was getting five points. They won the game outright by two.
I have given serious thoughts to placing bets on basketball games. I read the betting lines every morning. I circle who I think will cover. I usually get a lot of games right when I check the scores the following day.
But my father would probably never let me gamble.
Wonder how much Red had on the game?
I hope my father can give me the ten dollars for the clinic.
Every Sunday morning I gotta get up early and attend nine o’clock mass over at Holy Name Church. It’s been the same routine for the past five or six years. Just so you know, I hung out late last night. I’m not in the mood to go to church.
Besides, I’m fourteen now, no longer am I a student at Holy Name. I go to John Jay down on seventh avenue; why do I still have to go to church?
“Get up or you’ll be late for church,” mom screams through our five-room, railroad apartment on Ninth Avenue and Windsor Place.
“I’m not goin’,” I shout from under my warm blanket.
“Get your ass up!” she shouts.
Damn she’s angry.
After a few more attempts to get me up, I finally give in. Her yelling is pissing me off.
It’s annoying to tell the truth.
“Get off my case!” I mumble.
Not too happy about this situation, I throw on the jeans I wore last night, a blue-hooded sweatshirt and my white, Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars. There’s a scuff mark on the side of my left sneaker. And some grass stains from hanging out in Prospect park last night.
“You can’t go to church lookin’ like that!” mom shouts at me right before I am walking out the door.
I give her a look, not a mean look, just a look like, ‘don’t tell me how to dress’.
“And take a shower,” she adds.
One reason I don’t like going to mass is because I never have any money for the collection box.
When they pass around the straw box attached to the long broom handle, and it gets to me, I just look at the money in it.
“Sorry, I’m broke,” I say to myself.
Walking up ninth avenue, alongside the stores I see some of my friends walking with their families. They’re all dressed up, shiny black shoes and everything. Sometimes I wish I was in their shoes
As I get up by Smith’s, I look across the street and see a ton of people walking up the church steps.
I’m having second thoughts.
No way in the world mom will know I didn’t go.
She never asks me any questions afterwards.
When I was a student at Holy Name, if I skipped out on mass, the following morning I was called down to the office. They always knew if you weren’t there.
My decision has been made.
I’m not going.
Making a right turn on Prospect Avenue, walking past Regina Bakery, I can smell the bread they are baking, I walk down towards eighth avenue.
Hanging a right on eighth avenue, I walk towards Windsor Place hoping to see my girlfriend, she lives right off the corner of Windsor and eighth.
I glance over at the Bodega on the corner and there’s two guys outside sipping a can of beer which is covered by a brown paper bag. They’re passing it back and forth to each other.
They are arguing over something. It’s hard to tell though.
Standing on the corner, the sun is in my eyes. I look down Windsor Place and up at my girl’s window. There’s no one there. I have thoughts of walking over and ringing her bell. But I don’t think her parents like me very much.
I feel like a million dollars when I’m with her. She always has a smile on her pretty face. She’s tall, and most of all, she loves me.
Her family attends the ten o’clock mass. If I happen to see them, maybe we can walk up Windsor Place together and I can go to church with them?
We started holding hands in public, so I wonder if her father would be mad if I took her hand while we walked?
I’m going to sit right here on this stoop on the corner until she comes out. It’s our favorite stoop actually; the owner of the house never complains when we sit here together at night.
My mother loved music.
We had a stereo in the living room, a radio in the bathroom and it seemed like we had music rockin’ in every other room in our five-room, railroad apartment on Ninth Avenue. Our bathroom was right next to the living room. When we would take a shower we would take the left speaker and pull it into the bathroom and listen to the music while we showered.
Mom listened to all genres and it made a huge impression on this young boy.
Mom’s collection of music stretched from Rock-n-Roll to Soul Funk; she had a ton of albums, 45’s, cassettes and of course 8-Tracks. The Rolling Stones, Zeppelin, Frankie Vali, Boston, Beach Boys, CCR, Tina Turner, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Tom Jones…
One group of musicians I recall is Sly and the Family Stone.
Yesterday while listening to some old school music I came across a few of Sly’s songs on i-tunes (If mom was still alive today I wonder how she would handle downloading songs onto a phone and/or a computer?)
One album mom owned, and which I recall to this day was the Family Stone’s “Greatest Hits.”
We wore that black, piece of vinyl out by playing it over and over every day.
Songs like Stand, Everyday People, Family Affair, Dance to the Music and many more got my lazy ass up off the couch dancing in front of the mirror.
Listening to music from back in the day always takes me back, back into time.
As I work with teenagers on an every day basis I often ask myself if kids today are different from when we were growing up? At times I catch myself scratching my head at some of the things they say today or even do. Or things they will not do.
Growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s sure it was different, but just how different?
I do know that we played a lot of ball. Much more than they play today, that’s for sure. Maybe it’s because kids today have many more things to do than we did. I see schoolyards and baseball fields empty.
On Saturday mornings we spent time playing hardball in the lot. Or, we would be in the boys schoolyard playing basketball on a Saturday morning from nine until it got dark. Or until a priest threw us.
When we left the house in the morning and not come home for hours!
We spent a lot of time together too. Hanging out on the corner, sitting on a stoop and even riding the trains together in the winter just to stay warm.
Respect for elders? Fighting authority? Asking and not receiving?
Is the work ethic there with today’s kids? Most of us were working when we were fifteen, sixteen, and even seventeen. Some had paper routes, some delivered groceries and some worked behind the deli counter. My daughter, who is fourteen just started a baby-sitting job.
We shovelled snow when it was ankle-deep. We would go door-to-door walking up and down ninth avenue asking store owners if we could shovel their sidewalk. We waited outside Bohack for shoppers with bags of groceries; we pushed the cart to their car in the parking lot and loaded bags into their trunk. We rang door bells asking the elderly if they needed anything from the store? (There was an old lady on Fuller Place, we used to race each other after school to see if she needed anything from the store; she tipped well)
As far as courting the opposite sex; it’s not called ‘dating’, or, ‘going out with someone’ anymore. They don’t use those terms. They call it ‘talking to someone’. They don’t talk on the phone like we did either. They text or even tweet to each other.
As far as television goes, we had six stations to choose from. What do they have now with cable and all? Hundreds… Reality shows, music video stations, ten different ESPN stations, video games, i-pads, cell phones, text-messages, instant messages, DVD players, DVD players built-in the cars now so kids don’t have to talk to their parents or with each other on long road trips, laptops, Facebook and Twitter…wow!
So many choices, so little time. Who needs to be out in the schoolyard or on the streets playing ball, they can stay inside!
You know what though? Growing up on ninth avenue back in the day, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
I don’t know if kids are different today, but I do know the things around them are different.