WHENIPAINTMYMASTERSPIECE

When I Paint My Masters Piece or The Great American Shovel By Crackedbackeddiscus Shots

Growing up in the Bronx in the 60s and 70s

Get your boots on it’s gonna get deep.

CASH/or/CLASH

 
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1981 was the year I believe. WNEW the NY rock station I listened to most of the time had just made the big announcement. They always pumped it up a bit….”stay tuned we have a big concert announcement coming up at so and so a time”… So tuned in I was, when it was announced that THE Clash would be playing several shows at Bonds International Casino in Times Square. Now you have to understand that rock concerts were really my thing back then. It was not that unusual for me to go to Madison Square Garden to see a show even if it was by myself, I could have a blast anyhow. So with the few dollars I had I headed to catch the 6 train downtown and get me the 2 tickets I could afford. When on my way I ran into Joe Mac. from Archer St. I always liked Joe, we went to HS together at Christopher Columbus HS, a block or so off Pelham Parkway. We both liked the same sorta stuff back then…if ya know what I mean?….
Any way Joe decides to go downtown with me cause I guess he figured he didn’t have anything better to do that day. Well we hop off the train a 42 St. and climb the stairs to the street. Hmmmm? no body around, maybe we are gonna be the only ones get here this early, so we go around the corner toward where the ticket booth would be and can’t believe what we see, hundreds, no a thousand at least, people on the street, cops putting up barricades, I mean pandemonium! So over the course of the next several hours me and Joe, through some slick maneuvering had managed to get pretty close to the front when they began selling tickets. Now the police had the barricades set up like a funnel so as you got closer to the ticket window you worked down from about 20 people wide to 1 or 2 wide.
Several minutes before we got to the window the scalpers were asking how many tickets each person was getting, as they were in line also. I can’t remember what the limit was for sure, but it may have been around 8. When we got asked and said we were only getting one each, dude peels off a bunch of bills to each of us and tells us get the limit and he will give us a little something for it when he gets through the line also. Slowly as things tightened up this dude is further and further back from us jammed in 20 deep and way back there when I hit the window. I get my limit and see that he is stuck in the crowd so being the sinner I was and having my little bit of money left I take off toward the train hit the corner and book it. About 2 blocks later I ditch into a bar grab a beer and sit by the window. Low and behold here comes Joe with the same trot, I put my beer on the bar, ok I downed it first, and catch up to him just as we hit the station, jump the turnstile and catch the train heading back to the Bronx as, the doors are shutting. Not one of my proudest moments now but then, sticking to a scalper seemed the right and noble thing to do. One more thing I forgot, while in line I opened the case that had the big poster in it, like a movie poster at the Theater, pulled out that bright yellow and red Clash poster rolled it up and had it on my wall for years. If you remember anything about those shows, you know that the first night the Fire Marshall shut them down because they had sold like 7 times the amount of tickets for each night, instead of just that total for all the nights they were scheduled for. So in the end we wound up having like 7X as many tickets, because the Clash said they wound honor all sales and wound up playing shows for a lot longer than expected……true Rockers that they were….loyal to the fans. Sometimes I miss those days, but at least I can still give a shout out to Joe on Facebook wherever the thought arises and Joe..he’s always ready to say hey man , Love ya Joe!
 
 
 

CRAZYMIKEONIONS

/or/
TATTOME
 
A day that humanity will never forget, or at least a few of us. I don’t remember all the facts concerning this next tale. But the story is not hurt by that and memories are always a little different and changeable. Especially as time goes by. Regardless the story must be told. So It must have been around 1978/79 and a kid who had been hanging around, can’t remember who first brought him around. Micheal Garlick was a bit tall and quite a bit slim really skinny to be honest. Sometimes if we would see him coming everyone would take off to ditch him. No one really didn’t like him, just that’s what kids do. I sorta took a liking to Mikey though. Especially after I found him sleeping at the hole in the wall one morning. I would bring him home for dinner to our apartment and he would eat and tell story’s. The whole family kinda got attached to him.
So one day here comes Mikey strutting his way to the Wall in the South. he has his cut off jean jacket like we all wore back then. Mikey liked to wear his with no t-shirt. And there it was, ink, colors, right in the middle of his bicep. A thin flower and vine something, it was bad, but it was a tattoo.We all stared for a moment, then the questions. Did it hurt? Where did you get it? What is it supposed to be?
Well after all the questions and back slapping, and things had calmed, then Mikey blurts out anyone wanna go get one! Boom, it was out there. And before I could stop myself, without thinking, and at the same time me and Schirmer blurted out……me! That was it we were committed or should have been. Lucky for me I had no money on me, Schirmer, ditto. Thinking maybe we had dodged one there Mikey says no problem, I gotcha covered. AH? AH? ok lets go.
We head out and head to some apartment outside our neighborhood…truthfully I could not tell you where it was. All I know is when we got there I knew this was a bad idea. Mikey struts us in and this big burly biker dude says..So you kids want a tattoo? I hadn’t barely got in the door let alone looked at all the designs posted on the walls when this dude, did I mention he was big, and burly? I’m not really sure what burly is but this guy was it, grabs my arm and says ….”so you like that eagle? I stuttered for a second and nodded my head as he grabbed my arm and started inking away. When I came to I had this eagle on my arm and Johnny had Yosemite Sam on his. I think Mikey got another one also. School the next morning was great, everyone talking about tattoos, me showing my fresh ink, I was flying. Of course two days later when Andrea told Mom and Dad dinner wasn’t as fun. Well good times hey/ Wasn’t long after that I see Mikey and say “hey Mikey” he turns and says ” Don’t call mr that. My name is Crazy Mike Onions!” Ok and that’s what we called him from then on. Which wasn’t long since shortly there after he was arrested and got 5 to 15 for manslaughter. and I moved away before he got out. But won’t ever forget those days.
 
 

 

THE PEOPLE THAT YOU MEET WHEN YOUR WALKING DOWN THE STREET

 Very early, not much past dawn, Me and my cousin just finished our paper route in the Parkchester area of the Bronx. It was Sunday and the paper was huge. Every other day during the week the trucks would drop a section for the Sunday paper along with the days issue. When the section for Sunday came all of the sections would have to be collated before deliver could begin. When we had completed or last building Johnny ,that’s my cousin, pulled a huge marker out of his pocket. I had never seen such a marker it was wide and thin, a strange site indeed. He said that he “bogarted” it from his older brother. Then he took a turn off our usual route home and when I saw where we ended up I was surprised. All around me were mail trucks, we were in the lot behind the post office where they park the mail trucks overnight, and on Sunday morning at this hour nobody could be seen or heard back there.I can’t recall his name, or “tag” but { knew it was my turn to use that ‘Miniwide” in a minute and I needed a graffiti name quick or he would think I was sqUare, or a wimp. The smell of that ink as he handed me the marker is a memory that lingers to this day some 43 years later. without skipping a beat I wrote Z I G Zig that was it , that was my graffiti name, blurted out in a mere moment on a Sunday morning behind the post office. We hit a few more trucks, and jumping back and forth across the big flat rear bumpers mail trucks had those days, almost like an Army vehicle if you ask me, we were gone.
In 1971 in the Bronx, or maybe in my mind, graffiti was in it’s infancy, pornography was a toddler, Vietnam raged across the sea in a place I couldn’t have pointed out on any map or globe. Dying was easy, happened all the time but living, despite our pleasant memories now of that time. Living was hard and soon to get harder.It would not be long before, us and our vices would all seem to hit puberty at the exact same time, and booze and drugs had already joined in. Our gang took it all in stride and rode that wave as far as it would go. And looking back I’m amazed there are still so many of us alive. Well mail trucks turned to trains, inside,outside, layups. the yards. And you can just imagine how all the other stuff went?
Most of my friends growing up went to one of the three Catholic schools close by, St. Anthony’s, St. Raymond’s, or my grade school St. Helena’s. There are a millions stories that go along with that part of our lives also, as you can imagine. I’m tired now, seems that way a lot these days. Think I’ll just rest a bit before I get into some of the real stories. Stories that would hurt your dear Mother if she knew about it.
 
 
 
 
 
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The shuffle board courts and what we used as the punch-ball field in the south

 
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Tie your laces or you are going to fall and crack your head open.

MY HOMETOWN

BULLYING
It’s hard for me to put a date on it, though I do know that we still lived in the East at the time. Our apartment had a window which kinda faced toward the East playground. Third floor if I am recalling correctly. The playgrounds in Parkchester in those days were a wonderful and also horrific site. What I’m saying is the slides, the monkey bars, the swings, scully boards were a child’s dream. Two sets of swings, the kiddie swings, and the big swings. Two slides also. The small slide, and the big slide. The whole thing, and here is the semi horrific thing, was surrounded by what at the time, to a boy of 6 or 7 seemed to be 10 foot high iron fences. The tops of which were a point, which resembled, no actually was a spear point. Anyway, on the particular day in question, 1969 ish, my sister Andrea and myself, were out there having a great time. If Mom needed us to come home she could just yell out the window like Ralph Cramden calling “hey Norton” on the Honeymooners. Did I forget to mention there was no rubber mats on the ground, or soft stuff under the equipment, we had asphalt or cement maybe. This I do know, it was hard as a brick. So here we are playing away and some kid is giving my sister a hard time on the big slide. So little brother decides it’s time to make a move. Chin up chest out all 35 or 40 pounds of me goes up the ladder to the big slide and I stay there. Now this kid is not gonna be able to have any fun either. Now if you grew up in the area you know about the Rec officers, they were older teens who would keep an eye on things run little games and crafts, and of course The Indian Pageant. Of which, I can’t speak at this point, but which will amaze the uninitiated. Aright back to the day in question, it was summer I suppose because the ping-pong tables were out, just past the slides to the left. Well, here I am standing on the platform at the top of the big slide, and bully guy is trying to get me to go down so he can be king of the mountain. I was feeling quite proud of myself, defending my sister, holding my ground at the top when all of a sudden……The next thing I remember I was sitting on the ping pong table and the Rec girl was trying desperately to put my canvas keds sneakers (the ones that had the small blue and red stripe on the side of the rubber sole) back on my feet. I wiped the tears away and Andrea and I headed home. No tattling, no parents called, no police. Took my lumps, and good ones at that, hope I don’t go too bald or lots of scars will be visible, learned a bit about the rules of playground etiquette. I also learned what a concussion was and most of all, the biggest lesson, if you fall headfirst after being pushed off the big slide and hit the cement headfirst you better have your Keds or Chuck Taylor’s tied right and tight, Mom was right , “if you dont tie those laces you are going to fall and crack your head open. There’s one more for mothers everywhere!
 

THE LEGEND OF THE HUNDRED HALLS

Where have all the children gone?
Now growing up in Parkchester had a lot of wondrous and exciting advantages to many other neighborhoods in the Bronx. One which stirs up childhood fantasies, and memories is the Hundred Halls as they were referred to by almost every kid in the neighborhood and many adults. According to a paper found online, “Parkchester is comprised of 51 buildings with a modular system of varied cores and wings. 12,273 units house 42,000 people. Building range in height from 8 to 13 stories,” What this means is that most buildings were connected to other buildings. For the record if you lived there you know that we called them 7 story and 12 story buildings And while there were not direct pathways from one lobby to another there were ways to cut through if you ventured down a flight from the lobby. You see back then we had things called carriage rooms. You could walk down a flight from the lobby and go down the long hallways below to enter these rooms. most were long with metal railings on opposite walls. Generally there was a ramp access on the outer side to the lower level for easy access. The women of the buildings would keep the large baby carriages of the era there, some would lock them I guess with a chain to the bar, though I can’t remember anyone doing that. Some people would keep their bikes and store other things in these rooms , before crime got to be such a problem…..
Ok, so back to the legend. While travel between certain buildings was simple to achieve, it was the idea of being able to go to any building in the complex that drew our young minds to adventure. But to do so would require the help of another legend of Parkchester “The Master Master Key”. Master keys were held by the porters who kept the buildings clean and all the things in working order. These master keys were good for one or two buildings but the” Master Master” would access those doors that led to the very secret hundred halls.
Several times in my misspent youth I or a friend would take it upon ourselves to rid a lax porter of his key ring, he may have left on his jacket, hanging on a doorknob while he worked.
This is where the adventure began. the basement halls could be long and dark, with lots of doors that were unmarked except the fallout shelter rooms with those yellow and black signs. And kids, well we loved drama and would try to keep each other on edge and scared as we wandered underground trying keys in doors and going through different rooms to other halls. Feeling like we had gone miles and been down there for hours we would have to ultimately emerge only to find out we were still just a building or two away.
Today it may not seem like much to you, but to us who grew up there and lived these adventures, to us it was more than even Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn could have survived. And I’m sure if there are still kids living there that somehow, by someone, the legend has passed down. And with it the stories of the kids who went looking and never came back.
 
This is the link if you never lived there that will show you how buildings were connected around the complex.
 
 
 
 
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This was base, where you were supposed to be safe…….The Wall in the South.

HOTBEANSANDBUTTER

/OR/

HOTPEASANDBUTTER

 
Along time ago in a land far far away. Or so it seems these days. Enough of that back to the serious matter at hand. A game whose origin must stretch back to the days betore man was civilized. At the least as far back as the 50’s or 60’s, maybe further.
Who came up with this sadistic form of fun is also another of the great mysteries of growing up in Parkchester, and it’s surrounding neighborhoods. This much I think, everyone who is familiar with this game can agree on, It had to have been devised by one of our older brothers or sisters. How do I know this?,cause they were always the person that suggested the playing of the game.
My first run at this childhood game was at the Wall in the South. I don’t recall all the faces on that illfated day, “oh the humaity”! I am quite sure that I was with my cousin Johnny, strange he pops up alot in these tales?! or #@$%&##…others included Mary Jane, Tommy, Albie, Patricia, and Patricia, possibly Georgie and Andy.
Regardless this is how the game went. One of the older kids says. “hey lets play hot beans and butter” and all the younger kids say, “Yeah, Yeah, how do we play?” Was Margaret there that day? I think so. Anyway, at this point the rules are spelled out for the uninitiated……..”ok who has a good belt on? great that will do, now the first person, that will be me since me and Tommy are the only ones who have played before, hides the belt…then after it hid, yous guys have to try and find it..if someone is close, I’ll say you’re gettin warm, if you start to get further away , I say something like “Johnny’s getting cold”. Now this spot here is base, if you make it here you are safe, Then all us little kids say….”safe from what?” …”Well when someone finds the belt then they get to whip anyone who has not made it to base yet until they do”..”AHHH? OK?” says our little minds.
At that point the rest of the rules were spelled out:
  • no hitting with the buckle
  • no hitting above the waist
  • no hitting in the front
  • blah..blah..blah
  • penalties were imposed for infractions
  • 1 lash, 3 lashes, and on to the gauntlet!
Now I may be a paranoid, tinfoil hat wearing conspiracist, but I am pretty sure that at least that first round was rigged and Tommy and Johnny knew that Johnny was going to find that belt. And then the game was on!First round, Tommy hides the belt, Johnny finds it and several of us get a good little whipping. Johnny was great at finding that belt, he would be standing right over it and couldn’t see it until almost everyone had made there way close, and bam! he would pull it out of no where and be on us.
Several rounds and several red welts and arguments about penalties later, after a few tears here or there (mostly here) an event took place that ended the game for that day. Now we all knew that Bronx girls were tough, I had lost a fight or two to several already by this almost grown up age of nine or ten. But, I don’t think any of us had any idea exactly how tough, until Mary Jane got whipped in a fashion that did not apply to the rules. I kinda think she was already upset after Patricia got two big ole welts on her back the round before, that were above the zone deemed legal. Well in a flash as the next swing came at her, she had the belt and was swinging like a Yankee in the World Series. Most all of us got a lashing and the game ended on that round, until next week when we gave it another go. At least thats the way I remember it happening, you may have a different memory of the day and that’s ok.
So whether you call it hot beans and butter, or hot peas and butter, that’s not important to me or to the story of that day. To me, and I saw it myself in the eyes of the older boys..I was a little young at the time…,in Parkchester boys love a tough girl, and the girls in our neighborhood, in the neighborhoods around us, the girls in our gang, they were tough.
 
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stairs down from the Wall

 
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How tough were those girls? these are the roller-skates they went down those stairs on.

 
The names used in the story are not the important thing (though the people are}..you see we were all guilty in our own way, but also so, so innocent and young. Time moves by, and we moved on here and there, but somehow I always felt like these were special times, and though my memory is not what it was…memories like this are special, and people like those in my story, are special and always will be to me. Thanks for listening. Yous guys know who you are! But seriously if you think its you in my story and would like your name removed let me know.
A walk through the South from 2009 I think?
 
 
 
 
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