My Brooklyn was the endless summers in East New York. I was born on Watkins Street and Livonia Ave., but we soon moved to the Linden Houses on Cozine Ave. Went to 190, 306, Gershwin J.H.S. and Thomas Jefferson H.S. (class of '72). I remember as a youngster we would ride our bikes in the area were Starrett City now stands. At that time, it was all land fill, and it was made like sand dunes. We would act like the soldiers in the WWII television series "The Rat Patrol," fighting in the North African campaign! Friday evening, Dad would say "Don't cook tonight, call Chicken Delight," or he would bring home hot dogs from Coney Island Joe's! Gosh, I miss those days!
6 September 1999
My Brooklyn began at 1811 (?) Albermarle Road and four years later shifted to 201 East 18th Street (apartment 4C) between Albermarle and Beverly. I attended P.S. 139, Walt Whitman J.H.S. 246 and Erasmus (and yes, I also still have nightmares about getting lost and not knowing where my next class was). Some things I remember . . . going for "Chinks" (Chinese food) every Sunday . . . my toe being crushed by the door that fell off the base of the lamppost in front of my building (and my parents suing the city) . . . lunches at the coffee shop near P.S. 139 ("frank and french fries, please" ) . . . sneaking change (which he purposely left) from my grandfather's coat pocket for play money . . . playing punchball, stickball and football at the "dead end" of Albermarle and 17th Street . . . walking over to the Parade Grounds to play ball on a "real field" . . . running home from "playing war" with my friends in the vacant lot over the bridge 'cause I had to pee real bad (I still laugh over the line in the female version of The Odd Couple when Florence says "they'll think a dog did it" about the mess she left in the elevator) and then running back again because I left my uncle's really neat fake machine gun at the lot and it was gone . . . after school and weekend afternoons with the guys (Steve Rykus, Howie Mindek, et al.) at the bowling alley and learning how to smoke on Newports . . . bologna and mayo subs (I know, yuk!) . . . buying a pair of pants with my own money at Sid's for the first time and making sure the guy tapered them just right . . . cutting classes with Ellen at Garfield's, who had a boyfriend and a big ID bracelet (but was very friendly), and realizing too late that she really did like me (I still have the photo she gave me signed "All my love, Ellen") . . . finding out my mother was pregnant right before my bar mitzvah which I thought had something to do with wanting to quit Sharre Torah because it was "too conservative" and go to temple Beth Emeth instead . . . promising my mother I'd be "really good" if she decided to not be pregnant anymore . . . playing cards with my friends and starting up our gang "The Blades" (named after the steak knives from my mother's kitchen we used to threaten each other withsix Jewish boys in a gang, yeah right) . . . yelling out my bedroom (which was really a converted dining room) window into the courtyard for my friends Steve and Howie who lived in the apartment building next door . . . waking up in the morning and finding incinerator silt all over my night stand (which was really one of those black marble-looking snack tables) . . . going to my grandparents' on 53rd Street and Avenue D and playing ball with my cousins (Dan Stopfer, Howie Woolf). . . . my grandmother sending me to pick up deli at Cousins and having a "frank with" while waiting for the order . . . being chased by a bunch of guys from the pool hall on Flatbush back to our block and finding out how high and far you could leap over fences and walls when you're REALLY scared . . . telling my parents about it and their decision to move to New Jersey (fer crissakes!)... my parents telling me we were moving to NJ just before my senior year at Erasmus . . . FINALLY asking Ellen out and her saying yes and kissing in the balcony at the Loew's theater . . . meeting a girl (Paulette Meisner) while working at a summer camp in Albany during college and finding out she lived around the block from my grandparents . . . moving to Massachusetts and losing touch with everyone . . . going through Brooklyn to help my parents arrange my grandmother's funeral . . . driving through the old neighborhoods I remembered growing up and wanting to close my eyes because they weren't there anymore.
7 September 1999