dear friends, i thought i might use Friday to revive some of the stories i wrote in prose, before embarking on this poetic journey of mine.
i wrote these to to be read concurrently, each story informs the next, and the events seem unrelated until the end. it’s how it unfolded, as i lived it back in the 60′ and 70′ in Bushwick, Brooklyn. two of these are very early reposts, the last story was never posted and is quite long so it will be posted in two or three parts.
please don’t feel compelled to read these on your busy Friday morning, feel free to if you want to read them at all to take them into the weekend. thank you and i hope you enjoy them.
if you need to catch up….
I Was a Poor, Pimpled, Uncool Sulker.
The Parking Space
I would always listen for the click, the turn of the key and what resulted next, the sound that crashed and echoed for miles off the close canyon walls of this neighborhood every morning was the unique roar of American auto manufacturing in it’s heyday, the 425 cubic inch muscle car horsepower rumble that put me right square in the mouth of a mechanical lion, as it roared from deep within it’s empty belly.
Rhhhhuuuurrrmmmm, rhuuurrmm, rhhhhuuuurrrmmmm!
each time he gently pressured the accelerator to get the oil flowing slowly through all eight cylinders. He would sit in the car for the ten or so minutes it took for the engine to calm itself down. With the hood up and his driver’s door opened wide into the street, one foot planted on the asphalt and his beefy hand cupping the chrome eight ball that topped the shifter, Tony waited. He listened intently with his right ear cocked towards the dashboard glancing occasionaly at the rear view mirror for any sign of white, oil burning exhaust.
Sitting in the vinyl black bucket seat, Tony listened and waited for the engine to start it’s eventual purr as nonchalantly as you and I would blink our eyes, as though starting up a car this way at 7:15 in the morning was the most natural thing in the world.
He was oblivious, or at least it seemed that way.
Tony never looked around as he slowly went through his rehearsed routine, never met anyone’s gaze and he was never, ever in a hurry. The old women with their heads down, their worn faces covered by black kerchiefs busy scrubbing stains off the sidewalks, were equally nonplussed. I couldn’t vouch for the rest of the neighborhood who were woken up this way every single morning, whether they liked it or not.
Work days, Saturdays or Sundays were all the same to Tony.
And that’s just how it was.
It never crossed my mind to cover my ears, though I probably should have, the decibel level was that toxic. And it didn’t take long for this thirteen year old to fall in love with the sight, sound and smell of that black ’67 Chevy Nova, the chromed engine and the smell of the exhaust. I rushed through my bowl of Frosted Flakes every morning just to make sure I was there in my usual spot, when Tony turned the key.
My dad owned a Texaco station and was a master mechanic, so I’d seen my fair share of cars growing up but this car was no ordinary mother go to the marketmobile or dad’s everyday, train station driver.
No, not even close, not by a long shot.
This car was infinite black and the mirror finish in the triple lacquered paint was so perfect, I could see my pimpled reflection from the top of the stoop where I sat. On the hood were two chrome circles, with small horseshoe clasps for little padlocks that were meticulously unlocked, without leaving even a partial fingerprint on the dustless, black paint finish. In the low morning sun, looking into the engine compartment once the hood was raised, was like stealing a peek of a solar eclipse.
People might have and very quietly mumbled curses under their breath as Tony carefully let the hood down and drove away, but they didn’t let anyone but trusted family members hear the complaint because the word on the street whispered, that Tony was connected. He knew a guy who knew a guy, who’s brother was a made man. The quiet rumours then morphed into street corner legend, an unverifiable truth that Tony himself was a made man, attached somehow and no one knew exactly how, to the Mob.
And in this tight knit, everyone could see and hear what you were doing when you did it neighborhood, aye fhugettaboutit, that’s all you really needed to know to stay healthy and vertical.
Everyday and all day, that coveted parking space ramained empty, until Tony arrived back home from whatever it was that he did. No one ever parked there, even as you could see every parking space taken as far as your eyes could focus, along the up and down streets that were choked with parked cars.
That spot remained reserved and it was right in front of my stoop.
One hapless visitor from Queens unfamiliar with the rules, made the mistake of waving off all the warnings, arrogantly parking his Pontiac sedan where it should never have been. The informed knew what would happen and word got around the neighborhood pretty quick. It always did. We were all silent witnesses by late afternoon as crowds gathered throughout the day, bunched on stoops and poking out of windows. We waited for the roar to be heard from blocks away, the echoes of that engine that always signaled Tony’s return.
He drove up, stopped and returned a few short minutes later.
He parked his car right in the middle of the street, doors swung open and men piled out in wool knit shirts and shiny black shoes. Out of the trunk came bats, crowbars and sledge hammers and they proceeded to pummel that Pontiac into a shattered steel and glass corpse, as Tony sat waiting in his black bucket seat.
The Pontiac was unrecognizeable, rendered undriveable.
When they were finally finished, they all silently slithered back into Tony’s black ’67 Chevy Nova, rhhhhuuuurrrmmmm, and just very slowly drove away, leaving a message for the neighborhood to consider. That violent display, finally and undeniably verified all the whispered rumours about Tony, and during the next decade that i lived on that block, no one ever dared park there again.
Written April 2012, edited March 2013