‘such a pretty pretty boy!’

dear friends…a short story in three parts,
while i continue working on the 3 co write poems.
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‘such a pretty pretty boy!’
part 1
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I would soon find out as my back glued tight against the living room wall, right next to the tall bird cage where a too close crowd waited in narrow eyed but hushed anticipation, I had the best seat in the house.

‘Oh, you’re such a pretty boy. Pretty Boy… Pretty Boy…
you’re such a pretty pretty boy!’

In her familiar sing song melody, my mom chirped her song to our blue and white, precocious and quite talkative parakeet Pretty Boy. I’d heard him repeat the words plenty of times, his head bobbing and weaving as he scuttled from side to side along his wooden perch. That a bird could talk as clearly as Pretty Boy did, was an endless source of fascination to this 5 year old.

‘Pretty Boy..Pretty Boy…such a pretty pretty boy!’

On queue and just as mom had promised, Pretty Boy rattled off his happy monologue to the delight of everyone,

‘Ohhhh’
‘Isn’t that cute?’
‘I’ve never heard a bird talk like that!’

With all the oohs and ahhs from the crowd and staring at his little round mirror, Pretty Boy was very animated and quite taken with himself,

‘Pretty Boy..Pretty Boy…such a pretty pretty boy!’

“Does he say anything else?’

And mom who was beaming now,

“Oh sure, he says lots of things!’

This was no easy crowd to please. It was the first time all my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents on my father’s Italian side of our family had en masse descended upon our suddenly smallish house,
and smiling seemed to be a foreign concept to them.

Leaning forward and stacked three deep in a semi circle around the cage…and me, I was suffocating and beginning to hyper ventilate. I needed to escape but there was simply no escaping this wall of largish, olive skinned humans with their dark eyes and darker hair. It was my first experience of a claustrophobia I still suffer from today.

Then suddenly, unprompted and as if on queue to save me, Pretty Boy still preening from the attention squawked an unmistakeable string of,

“God damn shit…God damn shit…God damn shit!’

I’d never seen so many people move simultaneously like this group did, as if the epicenter of an 8.2 earthquake shuddered just below our little dining room jolting everyone backwards and off the floor. And no one jumped higher than my wide hipped grandmother. She landed with such a thud, her low black heels left divots in the pine floor.

I caught my breath as there was instantly more air to breath, but I was certainly the only person experiencing any sense of relief in the sudden vacuum of silence, in that improbable, unforeseeable and unforgettable moment. And with the best seat in the house, I watched the ensuing family drama all unfold.

‘such a pretty pretty boy!’ pt.2

I stood there as confused as a kid could be.

My uncles rushed to the aid of my grandfather while he struggled in vain to steady the still listing ship that was my grandmother’s bulky frame; like asking a stalk of corn to brace a tipping fire hydrant.

The science of leverage was awkwardly defining itself in real time.

He was all of 6’4″, kind and gentle as any person you’d ever meet, she was a wide stump of a woman with an iced grey, evil dead eyed stare that could bend an I-beam and bring concrete to tears. And when she narrowed that laser like gaze occasionally turning her brand of affection towards me, the overly potent mixture of her rose scented perfume and stinging pain screaming from my cheek as she twisted it with a little too much pleasure….well, this kid learned early to keep a safe distance from that thumb and forefinger.

With the men shoring up the aft, pocketbooks snapped open and out came the doily edged hankies dotting the sweat now appearing on my grandmother’s brow and rouged cheeks. Dumfounded, I watched as my aunts dutifully smoothed away the upset in her rose printed sundress, surrounding her like handmaidens to a queen. I still didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. On the receiving end of my father’s own icy dead eyed stare, mom was admonishing Pretty Boy but she seemed as confused as I was. Neither of us had ever heard Pretty Boy say those words before.

I had no clue know what they even meant.

And there we all stood, suspended in an uncomfortable void of inaction, afraid to move or say a single word hoping this unpleasant catastrophe had finally subsided, hoping we could move on to the buffet to fill our bellies and forget it ever happened.

“God damn shit…God damn shit…God damn shit!’

Pretty Boy, still bobbing and weaving along his perch and clear as day suddenly pierced the silence and proudly squawked another string of expletives to the crowd. But if the huge gasp that heaved deep from my grandmother’s innards were any clue as to how this all would end, you would have thought those three words like three poisoned arrows…. were aimed directly at her.

Unsteady again as one hand reached instinctively for the rosary beads in one of her two side pockets while the other found a gaudy gold crucifix on the heavy chain around her neck, up rolled her eyeballs as my grandmother began to breathlessly recite a mournful monologue of Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s in her native Italian. She held the crucifix in such a white knuckle grip pointing it at Pretty Boy as if Lucifer himself, sat on that perch cloaked in blue and white feathers.

Oh, it was quite the dramatic scene as she turned on her heels and thumped towards the door with my poor grandfather behind her gesticulating, endlessly apologizing with that familiar expression
on his face,

whattamigonnado,’youknowhowsheis, howdidiendupwiththiswoman’

the helplessness that was forever creased in his forehead.

This act mercifully came to its conclusion as the rest of the family followed the mighty matriarch, heads down and mumbling as they corralled their children and shuffled out the door.

It was the last time any of them would ever visit our house.
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Being the early riser it was my chore to remove the cover from Pretty Boy’s cage. I’d fill his seed and water containers and begin his daily chatter while teaching him some of my own sing song phrases.

‘Here comes the sun…here comes the sun….here comes the sun’,

lifted from the title of my favorite Richie Haven’s song playing constantly on the AM radio station that summer of ’67. Leaning close to the cage, I would let my waist length hair sift through the cage until it covered his head. Nibbling the ends a little. he waited for me to lift his veil of hair and repeat,

‘Here comes the sun …here comes the sun…here comes the sun.’

Our silly version of peekaboo. But Pretty Boy wasn’t waiting for me on the familiar perch near his little mirror that morning.

‘such a pretty pretty boy’ Conclusion

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for Mom
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And for that entire summer Pretty Boy’s empty cage remained where it had always been, aside one of the two near floor to ceiling, lead glass windows at the rear of our narrow railroad apartment.

The low sills provided an easy view of the wall of four story tenements and scruffy yards, and easier access to the wrought iron fire escapes dangling off the rear of every building. This view, even on the sunniest of days in monotone brown tar shingles, the imposing black painted, zigzagging iron bars and early shadows left little to be hopeful about; like the Escher engraving of the steps to nowhere.

Divorce changes lives in a hurry. But this neighborhood we moved to, tucked away in a forgotten corner of Brooklyn was lifetimes removed from the wide open and manicured green lawns and the single family life we once lived.

The dimming memories felt like someone else’s lucky dreams.

Yet looking back now, sitting on that window sill visiting with Pretty Boy is where I spent much of my time when I was home. Studying the blue intricate beauty of his feathers was such a refreshing anomaly to eyes aching for color, his endless banter one of the few cheerful constants in my already unsteady life. So it really shouldn’t have surprised me that seeing those blue feathers lying so still and quiet, nestled amongst the thin strips of Daily News lining the tray of his cage was enough to bring this 15 year old man boy to tears.

But it did. I struggled to keep my crying quiet, trying to decipher the unwelcome silence from his cage, wrestling with another inexplicable, here one day not here the next, loss. Yet another loss I was unprepared to absorb.

Mom and I sat at the kitchen table and reminisced about Pretty Boy, reminding each other of memories we had forgotten while she breathed in long slow drags of BelAir smokes and longer purposeful chugs of her favorite Schaefer beer. Cradling Pretty Boy in her hands, her chest rising in deep exhales and her lips trembling a little she recalled that fateful day Pretty Boy came home.

Back in the day, in the Long Island town of Hempstead where we lived then, all the shopping centers had a Woolworth store, nicknamed the five and dime. It was a huge place that had miles of aisles filled with toys, cards, tape, ribbons and all the handy little daily items, and right in the middle of the store was their popular pet department.

Mom and I always made a bee line there to see the rabbits, hamsters and turtles and take in the songs and squawks of the yellow canaries and various colored parakeets for sale. All these cute, first kid pets had a high turnover rate, but mom had her eye on one blue parakeet that lingered for months. And despite his cheerleading, the salesman could never convince anyone to take this one bird home.

Pretty Boy was not a very pretty bird, despite his eventual name.

Smaller than the other birds his age, he was missing feathers and wore a pronounced scar on the white crown of his forehead. So mom, ever the devoted animal lover and champion of underdogs decided that day this unloved orphan was coming home with us. The salesman was so ecstatic, he discounted everything we needed to bring him home.

The sales receipt read Parakeet…..99 cents.

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It was only 10am as I watched the ashtray overflow with spent buts and another can of Schaefer bit the dust too. It became clear as I got older that Mom had quite the potty mouth. Pretty Boy only repeated what he heard, a loyal confidant when no one else was there to listen.

I heard a few, very choice words about my grandmother that morning.

Time has a way of dulling the sharp edges of our pain, and karma…well, it has it’s own mysterious timetable administering our just rewards. My grandmother was a hateful woman whose own psychosis and prejudice eventually alienated most of her sons too, there were very few tears shed from the few people that attended her funeral when she died.

It was hard not to notice that familiar warm spark return to her sienna brown eyes the more mom and I talked, that free spirited Irish spunk that was so much of her charm, and despite all she would eventually overcome in a life that never resembled her early romantic dreams, she always retained an empathy for all things living. Mom was a survivor, she persevered, she always did the right thing as best she could.

I’m grateful for inheriting the very best of who she was.

I watched her meticulously wrap Pretty Boy’s blue body in Saran Wrap, tearing thin strips of Daily News to line the cardboard match box he would be buried in. We would have a proper funeral for our little friend. And as she finished taping the edges with her usual care, she looked up mischievously making sure she caught my eye and whispered,

‘God damn shit…God damn shit… God damn shit.’

We both howled with laughter at the image of Pretty Boy thankfully chasing the wicked witch out of our lives that day, shaking our heads in awe that a little .99 bird had so much say in so many lives.

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As much as this piece was intended to be written about Pretty Boy, the deeper I delved into the writing I realized the story was as much about my mom. So it only seemed fitting on this of all days, unplanned as it was to devote this conclusion to her. Somethings work out the way they should, somewhere mom is reading this story about our Pretty Boy, and

somewhere she’s flashing that impish grin….

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Happy Mother’s Day to all moms today!

The Bridge of Time and Promise

dear friends.. i felt the need to write some prose while i worked on the co write poems i mentioned in my last post, the song was chosen not for the title or video but for the close your eyes experience.
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The Bridge of Time and Promise
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Chaos was the default setting in my family. The earliest memory of my uncertain future, was me sitting in the sturdy chrome legged high chair that provided a perfect mezzanine level view of the kitchen table. From the relative safety of that private perch sitting plush as a prince behind my oversized formica tray, I could hear and see everything.

It was a cruel foreshadowing of how I would eventually view the world.

Wednesday meant spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, and not ’50’s style Americanized Chef Boyardee spaghetti either. No, not in our house. I can remember watching for hours while my mom made the meatballs, prepared the ingredients and slow cooked the deep red fragrant sauce on the stove. With her large spoon disappearing into the open topped aluminum pressure cooker to take a sip then dolloping some into my plastic bowl, I was a red saucy mess by dinnertime

Though I was much too young and preoccupied as curious kids are,
to understand exactly what all the words I heard actually meant, I knew something was amiss that night. Kids learn by repetition and it wasn’t until my personal spaghetti feast was suddenly interrupted by a very loud thwack followed by my father yelling at the top of his lungs, did I realize the words ‘not good enough’ was…uhm, not good.

From what I could gather, his ‘not good enough wife’ had once again tried to cook a ‘not good enough sauce’, not like his mother would make it and said sauce and spaghetti ended up on the ceiling in so furious a motion, my mom and I sat in stunned mouth agape awe.

Lost in my kid reverie of seeing something new for the very first time,
I don’t recall hearing the plate crash down on the table but the white porcelain shards were everywhere. The inevitable commotion and chaos trailed quickly down the hallway without so much as a glance from me, I just couldn’t take my eyes off that Rorschach red splatter on the low ceiling.

So there I sat in our little kitchen alone in my high chair, howling with laughter as one by one a spaghetti strand would peel away from the ceiling only to flutter and plop on the linoleum floor.

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Apparently the spaghetti was cooked to perfection, al dente pasta will cling if you toss a strand on the ceiling; an old school trick I learned from my few years as a chef. The recipe is memorized now I’ve made it so many times though I wish just once, mom could have slow cooked
it for her grandchild. Shining that red saucy face grin, my daughter has been happily wearing that sauce since she was in her own high chair.

Mom deserved to live that memory… the world and our lives are less that she didn’t but the regret has tempered with time, and knowing mom would have been tickled that her recipe was still being savored.

And there is solace in knowing the weight of her life has lifted some,

that the generational abuse in our family finally ended with me…

a promise I whispered in my daughter’s ear

the miracle night she was born.

in whatever I have or may succeed,

I find joy in the vast and

tranquil oceans of her innocence.

and my life’s full reward

witnessing the budding dreams

of clean and open sky…

of song and flights of angels soaring…

of pure… in her adolescent eyes.
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as the Universe intended.
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Sunday Prose: The Walk Away

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The Walk Away
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Even a casual observer watching me on that last day of high school in 1972, might have easily surmised from my body language alone as I hid in the shadows on that bright sunny morning, awkwardly standing there feeling insecure and listening to classmates talk about their college plans, plans I didn’t have, that my journey from that day forward was going to be a difficult one.

I lingered well after most everyone else left, so I doubt anyone noticed my hippy hating English teacher grabbing my yearbook and flashing me an evil, little double eyed wink after she scribbled ‘good luck’ under the ‘least likely to succeed’ heading.

That was my final high school memory and as
little enthusiasm as I had walking into that
dreary building during those four years,
I wasn’t in much of a hurry to leave either.
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Bushwick High School and The Public Library
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That long, slow walk home was nothing more than a detour to somehow delay the inevitable, an aimless but purposeful distraction from the yawning unknown. I do remember tossing the cap and scratchy maroon gown in a corner trash can somewhere along the way but not much else, not the route or what time it was when I finally looked up and saw the familiar Roman font, the peeling, two thirty two handpainted in faux gold leaf and outlined in black on the inside of the thick leaded glass above the entry doors.

The graduation ceremony ended around 11am and it was dark when I finally, reluctantly put my key in the glitchy lock of the heavy oak door to our four story, walkup tenement building that breezeless summer night, standing there motionless, not really wanting to turn the key.

I was a 17 year old, long haired, half stoned hippy who wanted nothing more than to be an artist, trying to survive in a nowheresville neighborhood buried somewhere deep in the bowels of Brooklyn with no prospects, no plans, no money and not much of an education either.

Opening that door was the last thing I wanted to do.

I wasn’t given much to work with as a kid, on Welfare after a traumatic divorce when I was twelve and as hungry as we were the last week of every month, survival until the next check arrived was our sudden priority.

A decent student before my parents divorced, I never really recovered, not from the shocking move from our tidy, two cars in the driveway middle class life on Long Island and not from the shame that we were now on Public Assistance, which was polite talk for Welfare then. Trauma and hunger are a toxic burden for a kid, a terrible way to begin class in a brand new school in a neighborhood that bore absolutely no resemblance to anything I’d known.
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Everything around me, the dirty, dilapidated neighborhood, the drugs, the alchohol and violence I and everyone else lived with, only confirmed a life most likely destined for failure. No one who knew me then at 17, my parents, classmates, friends or my English teacher would have been at all surprised if I joined most of my neighborhood friends who were either drug dealers, street addicts, in jail or dead by the end of that first summer following graduation.

Even Lola who was the valedictorian of our class and my loving soulsister during that last year, even Lola, the poet priestess who I wrote about in summer of sorrow, who recieved a full scholarship to Vassar took up with an alchoholic and never did attend Vassar or any college, breaking my heart twice by summer’s end.

There was not a single reason to,
but I had dreams of better days even then. Why?

I can’t explain why there was a spark, any spark at all in a soul that absorbed and witnessed as much I did or why I dared to believe my life might possibly be any different than anyone else I knew. Maybe it was the artist in me who dwelled in the imaginary, maybe it was the hallucenogins still in my system or maybe it was just plain fear seeding visions in my head after spending six years with a half empty belly, the fear of watching so many people with so much promise disappear into the muck.

People I knew daydreamed about becoming rich, I just wanted to escape my neighborhood alive.

Of course, this would have been a perfect time for a serious sitdown with a caring father, for a heart to heart talk between a dad and his son to pass on some wisdom, maybe some advice to put his rudderless kid on the right path. But I was already one year removed from deciding in court,not to ever see my father again.

He was happily, already long gone by graduation day.

The year prior, the Family Court judge mandated I spend a summer vacation with him in the house that still contained all our furniture he wouldn’t send us, the house he could somehow afford yet could never pay child support, the house we had to escape his death threats from, the house that reminded me of everything I never wanted to remember. I spent the entire summer walking as far away as possible from that house from the moment I woke up until late at night, when I would tiptoe back to my old bedroom.

He noticed my boots were completely worn out,
the soles had come loose so we went to a
local shoe store and he bought me a new pair,
and he complained about how expensive they
were as we drove home in his blue Cadillac
Coupe with them still in the box on my lap,
as I sank deeper into the white leather seat
with every word.
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When I left quietly the next morning, the unopened box and my old boots were next to each other on the floor beside my bed. I walked barefoot that day, my first act of defiance in a life of submission and constant fear.

My father wasn’t educated but he was perceptive, perceptive enough to know when he turned on the flourescent light in the kitchen that night as I tried to slip into my bedroom unnoticed, as his veins began their slow bulge in his forehead. He knew when he looked at me with those raging eyes, as I held his gaze like I never did before unflinching as I stood my ground in my bare feet on the cool linoleum floor. He knew in that stare that seemed to last forever, that this encounter would alter the trajectory of our lives, that whatever was before was not to be again.

I was prepared to get pounded, he saw the determination in my eyes and that I was absolutely going to get back up and get back up again, if that’s what it took. How ever this was going to end, it was going to end that night with me being free from his tyranny, one way or another.

There was a tranquility that washed through me as l let go of the fear, I was there but not quite and I’m not sure if I would have felt pain in the state I was in, a lightness that I had never experienced before and it was evident, evident in my eyes and his that he knew I was already free.

He turned, flipped off the light and left me standing there in the dark as he walked away.

Sunday Prose: The Farm

the farm 026.
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The Farm will be random posting of a
little storytelling, oral history and updates
on the renovation of our family farm.
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Silver Dollars
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The sun finally slipped behind the ten foot leafy corn tops, our first full day at our family farm almost complete at eight forty, the entire western sky a warm tangerine. It is serenity still here on this late summer night, no breeze brushing across the grass, not a single leaf in transit, only the fireflies momentarily dotting the darkness silently leaving their slow motion, crisscrossing phosphorescent trails.

It is quiet enough to hear my own breathing sitting on the small steps to the 130 year old farm house, white and wood framed that sits on 3 tidy acres, an almost square parcel, a postage stamp carved into a 100 acre plot, surrounded, fort like by an impenetrable closely planted wall of crops on all four sides.

From these well worn concrete steps through the densely planted century old trees you can spy the gravel road, a quarter mile long canal like passage through a double sided wall of corn plants standing sentry to the county road, our entry is unmarked except for the house directly across the road.

There is one landline phone, no internet service
and an old t.v. and all of us consider this place
our private slice of the universe.
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the farm 016
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There is a quiet and humble history on this property, in the trees that were climbed by the children who grew up on this farm, in the still visible foundation outline of the once huge barn, in every dented and gouged pine door casing, the ancestry of Scout’s family is explained in these details and always further illuminated in our post dinner conversations. Country folk love telling stories and with very little fanfare and a matter of fact manner that belies the profound humanity, the empathy like a ribbon that runs through this family, tales were told tonight too.

Scout and her younger brother spent their summers on this farm, it was a working farm then with a huge pasture for the steer that her granpa Pap butchered, chickens and horses, the crops were soybeans, corn, hay and peony plants. The multistory post and beam constructed barn was enormous by all accounts, the heart of any farm and this barn served as the center of activity and endless hours of discovery for the kids too.

The horses and ponies were a favorite, Sccout spent her time learning to care, feed, walk and eventually ride these horses so much so that Gram ordered Pap to build her a racetrack behind the barn. This was no small affair, the size of this track would take out a significant portion of the pasture and there were conversations between Gram and Pap about the wisdom of this idea but as so many of the stories are indicative of the strength and conviction of the women in this family, Gram prevailed.

She always did.

Gram and Pap grew up during the Great Depression and talked often about being ‘dirt poor’, their families barely survived, scratching out a living however they could in this farming town in southern Indiana just outside Evansville and it’s doubtful that they would have described this same piece of land as a slice of the universe then, as we do now. She learned to cook at a very early age, her scribbled recipes, a shaky penciled script written on stained and wrinkled, blue lined loose leaf pages are coveted by the women in this family, every family had but a few until Scout compiled them into a book and each family then received their own copy one Christmas.

Gram set aside her Avon side business in 1970, took her cooking talents and became the head lunchroom cook at the local elementary school, always adding an extra helping of whatever was on the menu that day to the plates of the very poor among the students. There were four kids in particular, 2 brothers and 2 sisters whose family was considered ‘poorer than dirt poor’ even then, lunch was their only nutritious meal of the day.

Gram invited these children to the farm every day on the pretense of playing in the barn with my wife and her brother and play they did. The boys built an enclosed fort from the hay bales behind the barn and when they all felt very adventurous and were sure no adults were looking, climbed to the second story rafters of the barn and jumped, one by one into the huge 12’ high pile of shelled feed corn below.

Actually, this story was just revealed to Scout’s parents tonight, to their rolled eyes and ‘Oh, no you didn’ts!’, and we all had a great big laugh at the secrets kids can keep.

But the real reason Gram brought those 4 hungry kids to their farm after school was to feed them, they all shared dinner together and whenever she could, unbeknownst to Pap or anyone else, she would slip them each a silver dollar and send them back home.

Decades later when Gram died, the 4 grown adults who all still lived in the area, all successful now, came to Gram’s funeral and told the whole family this story, the story the they were all learning about as they listened, the tale of a woman quietly sharing what she had with those less fortunate. The 2 sisters and 2 brothers then asked if they could place a small suede pouch they had brought with them, into Grams casket to honor her memory.

The small, hand stitched suede pouch cinched
tight with thin leather roping the family learned,
was filled with silver dollars.
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Friday Prose: The Brooklyn I Knew

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. my eyes have difficulty reading prose these days, my own included and i find myself curiously detached from these stories i once felt so invested in. (i’m not sure why that is )

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 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.
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I Was a Poor, Pimpled, Uncool Sulker.
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My new neighborhood bore no resemblance to the manicured fenceless grassed yards, single family house 2 cars in every driveway, ethnicity free Long Island town where I spent the first 12 years of my life. There were languages here and English spoken thick with Italian and German accents by old, crabby grey haired woman in black mourning dresses and rolled down black stockings who promptly at 7am bent at the hip, were scrubbing their stoops and sidewalks in front of their buildings.

Everyday and all day delivery trucks roared down the narrow one way, steamy asphalt streets blaring their big horns, belching exhaust and rustling litter along the curbs, barely missing kids darting between parked cars chasing balls and playing tag. Young mothers pushed big wheeled baby carriages and old ladies lugged shopping carts, choking the already narrow sidewalks. Heavy doors slammed behind people slithering past other people bunched on stairways listening to songs scratched out on small transistor radios.

Like a gargoyle I watched all the comings and goings, the backwards and forwards of incessant car and human traffic, scared of everything that moved. Unfortunately for me, absolutely nothing stood still on this unfamiliar Brooklyn street, this continuous canyon wall of four story buildings that swallowed whatever thankful breeze there might have been, choking everything but the noise, the noise that never stopped.

This was not a particularly human friendly environment, there were no trees along the straight line of streets that you could view for miles.

Not a single one.

The small concrete ‘yards’ that fronted the four story, continously connected buildings on either side of the stoop were just wide enough for four steel garbage cans, the other side was empty. That empty space was handy when it snowed but not for much else except wind blown leaves and garbage, it was walled off from the sidewalk by thick, foreboding wrought iron black painted fencing. Each building had their own scrolled designs, each topped by tri corner spears that if you accidently rubbed the palm of your hand against a tip you’d get a nasty scrape for your stupidity, as intended. The stoops were lined on either side by wrought iron railings, uncomfortably wide for a kids hand.
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My tomboy sister found this out the hard way, slipping off one the railings monkey climbing, losing her balance she was impaled on one of the spears. Folded and in shocked silence she lay there motionless as adults came to help but the aid proved difficult, the fences were over four feet high and it was impossible to remove her without causing further damage. Some wooden milk crates were found, placed front and back to gain leverage and she was eventually lifted off.

She was lucky, she needed only a few stitches to repair the three inch tear in her belly.

I was a poor pimpled uncool sulker at 13, an emotionally mixed up mess of a kid spending the first weeks after school ended that year in ’68, sitting alone on the top step of the 10 foot high stoop to my building at 232 Jefferson Street scrunched in the shadowed corner of the doorway, day after airless day. I sat in the same spot and in the same position, long arms looped around my legs, acned face resting between my knees just hoping that no one would notice and praying hard to be ignored.

I sat, shaken to the core scared; yeah, divorce does that to a kid.

From my perspective the best place to take all this in was from my third floor window. It felt safe there hidden behind the flimsy white curtains and the view from that vantage point allowed me to eventually recognize daily patterns, things people did each day. I was thankful perched there, thankful that at least something began to make some sense because so much had changed so quickly for this kid.

Divorce is a tragically shared family trauma and my mom, desperate for some privacy of her own in our cramped railroad style apartment filled with cheap mismatched Salvation Army furniture, decided that I needed to be outside, you know to soak up some sun and meet some other nice kids my age.

So of course I sat there on the stoop alone for weeks.
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Written April 2012, edited March 2013