(NOTE I DID NOT REREAD THIS SIMPLY WROTE IT AND PUBLISHED IT)
In these days of truly desperate times and daily if not hourly reports of senseless killings – i try and take a step back to a time when the news did not travel as fast and far. When reality was the evening news or the headline of the newspaper in the morning (or the night owl edition).
Growing up in the 1970’s, I would come home from school right on time to watch “The 430 Movie” which would segway into the Eyewitness News on channel 7 at 6 o’clock.
I would also spend a lot of time out of the house – on the porch, or playing wiffle ball in the space between the house we lived in and the house next door. It was roughly 10 to 15 feet wide and around 40 feet long. At the end of the driveway there was a gate which we would close to signify a homerun. Behind the “home plate” would be a fence which separated the homes on east 2nd street, where I lived and east 3rd street. If we hit a foul ball in back of us – there were times the ball would go over the fence and into the backyard of the other house. One of the homes had a hole in the fence which we could fit through to retrieve the ball. The other side which had honeysuckles growing out of it was closed with the lady living there quite serious and not so obliging or forgiving. We would need to distract her as she sat on her back porch or to hope that she wasn’t there. One time one of us rang her doorbell, which made her get up to answer the door while another one of us climbed the fence to get the ball. It was a close call but after getting pants stuck on the top of the fence, a bee staring him down – he got down and made it before the bee stung him or the lady returned.
Romanticizing the past is easy when the present can be so overwhelming. We know deep down that the old days weren’t always so good. But we choose to focus on the times that we remember with a smile.
I lived between Kings Highway and Avenue S; I spent a lot of time riding my bicycle around and around the block. Using the roots of the trees as ramps so I could do my Evel Knievel impressions. Walking to John’s Pizza next door to Jerry’s Auction Outlet where we used to buy baseball cards, wiffle balls and clinchers. The cards cost 25 cents for a pack and it came with a deliciously hard piece of gum, who’s taste lasted for around 32 seconds or so. On that same block was Joe’s Variety Store and then Robert Hall Men’s clothing store.
I always talk about these places and these streets because, well, that was home. Each store we went into was an extension of our homes and each one had a purpose. A grocery store, fruit store, bedding, delicatessen (two of them), travel agency (my second home) and an insurance company. Carvel, Bagels, Israeli Restaurant, laundry mat and lingerie store. Each owned by mom and pop and catered to the neighborhood.
Again, the news was delivered in delayed increments – when there was a “Special Report” interrupting our shows – we knew something terrible had happened. They didn’t interrupt for just any breaking news occurrence.
Was it simpler times? I can say that I remember the summers on my block and romanticize the really exciting times which were far and few between but now reside in my heart and in my mind as the stuff of summers.
Block parties with car rides and police barricades to stop cars from driving down the block. On really smoldering days someone on the block would open the fire hydrant and the freezing cold water would cool us all down and bring smiles to our previous grimy, sweaty and frowning stares. We barbecued on charcoal barbecues; hot dogs and hamburgers. At times we would go to Manhattan Beach and sit in the sun – pausing to eat fried chicken from the kosher place on Kings Highway off of east 10th street. Along with coleslaw and potato salad. We would get into our Chevrolet Impala, a 1966 model which had seen it’s better days and begin to argue in the car about one thing or another. Imagine five kids and my mother – how she didn’t drive off a cliff was in part thanks to the fact there were no cliffs in Brooklyn.
At night, in the summer, it was hot. The windows were all opened and some mosquitos managed to squeeze between the screen’s openings. They would glide around our ears and avoid any slaps or claps in attempts to kill them. I would wake up and stare at the ceilings until I fell asleep again.
In the morning to be met with my father and mother, in their room drinking coffee in bed, talking and reading the newspaper.
We take so much for granted in life and we wonder why time flies so quickly. Maybe it’s because the stuff that the time is made of is not as pleasant and we wish to simply pass the time until it has passed on by. Lonely days I spent on my own waiting for the Met’s game to start so I could spend the next two or three hours immersed in the game. Broken hearts when the girls would pass me by for the kid standing next to me. Report cards where I could never make the grades of my siblings and simply decided to just give up. We tend to permit ourselves to have selective amnesia so we can move on and possibly be loved, manage some achievements or simply to stand tall. Is it the love or the acceptance of others or the love and acceptance of ourselves we keep reaching for only to fall short in frustration?
The news alerts me on my phone; another school shooting – here we go again watching as parents who should be getting ready for a great summer – mourning and wondering where humanity has gone.
I turn off my phones alerts and then I am met by silence and I realize the silence can be soothing even if deceiving of realities that exist beyond my reach. The world is in pain and there needs to be a response from above from our cries of assistance. As the thunder crawls upon the lands of milk and honey and the land of the free – I wonder if the answers are indeed blowing in the wind for us to see.