Monday, September 29, 2014


And those were the nice ones who yelled at me.

In the mid-fifties, there was a fad for young boys who played on the streets of Brooklyn. In those days, there were plenty of produce stores with empty wooden crates stacked somewhere where you could steal one. Being poor, we took what we could and improvised.

You took an empty crate and mounted it on a 2”X 4” or even a 4” X 4” board and then got an old pair of roller skates dismembering them and mounted the wheels on the front and back of the board.

This was our form of getting around, since it didn’t pay to own a bicycle with all the traffic and concrete that existed, plus the temptation of someone stealing your bike if you left it alone for a minute. This was the poor kids bike.

If you grew up in Brooklyn or the Bronx or even Queens, you heard the grating sound of roller skate wheels as they rolled by. It wasn’t a pleasant sound, and if you passed the same people enough times, they would respond some how.

On my grandmother’s street was a club for Italian men, called the Republican Club, and they played pinnacle all day long, drank coffee from demitasse cups drank shots of whiskey and smoked these old rope like stinky cigars called “DeNapoli”.

Dad was a great father in many ways. When he couldn’t afford to buy me something, he would look for an alternative instead of saying: “Sorry kid.” Since I didn’t have a bike that he could afford, and the fad on the streets was a wooden scooter, Dad built me one. I never in my life asked him for anything, knowing we were poor, and with the exception of Christmas, never verbalized what I wish I had, knowing with 3 other kids he just wasn’t going to afford it.

On Saturdays, during the spring and summer, I would go over to my grandmother’s house and in the front was a store, a novelty kind of gift shop that Dad owned and ran. I would go with him and keep him company and amuse myself when I could. Dad kept the scooter at my grandmother’s house in the basement so that I had it when I got there. There was no room in our 3-story apartment house, so grandma it was.

I would mount bottle caps or decals or paint things on the box and scoot up and down the street sidewalk. In front of the Republican Club sat some old geezers that sat on the sidewalk and chatted with each other. The first time I would go by, they would stare me down, the second time they would pull out their cigars and yell: “Get the hell outta here, you little a bastard!” or  “Basta, Madonna me!”

If I were bold enough to try a third time, they would yell: “A ma bafongul!”  a nice way of saying: “Kid, you coma by a one more-a time, I’m a gonna killa you, or tella you fatter!” Me personally would opt for death, because my “Fatter”, he no-a like a to hear that I was uh facema!

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