By now you are probably thinking, “these stories can’t be true”, “no one could have had such an upbringing”? But let me assure you that despite my bad memory the stories that I have been relating to you are just that, true stories! I had to get that out of the way first because what I am about to share with you today may be one of the most unbelievable adventures yet. You see I grew up in the Bronx in the late 1960s to the early 1980s. And the Bronx at this time was quite an adventure land. So here goes.
After my short stint at Cardinal Spellman HS, I was doing time at Christopher Columbus HS, which was the Public High School that I was in the district for. You may remember me talking about Columbus as a cross between a day at Central Park and Woodstock. And that it was, to my little mind anyway. Now to reach my new school required riding two separate city buses. I would catch the first at Metropolitan Oval right by my house. The thirteen bus I think it was. And from there I would ride to Pelham Parkway and there was another bus that would carry us to or at least by the School. Most days me and the others who rode the thirteen would just hoof it from White Plains Rd and Pelham Parkway rather than catch the other bus. Most of the time I would ride along with those kids who had to be at school the same time as I did. So when I got on the bus each day, I could expect to see the same kids heading to school each day who had boarded earlier on the route, along with the regular citizens too. Now the year in question I’m gonna say was 1979 or 1980. It doesn’t really matter which , but it was one of those two. Every day I would ride the bus, go to first period, which was math, then homeroom, and then I was done. After that I would hang at the corner and do the stoner thing, or off to whose ever house had no parents home, or other assorted adventures. Well that’s what I did anyway. And I did that same thing, everyday, for about a year and a half. I think maybe the semester started out with me having six classes but by about the third week, as happened every semester, that had become my schedule.
In my homeroom class among others was a guy that I really only knew by the name Joe Cowboy. I think the teacher even had to refer to him like that for him to answer. Joe was big. I mean he was quite a bit taller than everyone else at school, even the adults. And he was also built strong. Joe wore the same outfit summer or winter. Leather biker Jacket, Motorcycle boots, white t-shirt levis (bootcut), and a big chain with a wallet attached. Every day no exceptions, ever. Joe didn’t talk much but we got along quite well. The only other thing I knew about Joe at this point was the rumor that he was in a biker gang, and that will straighten itself out later on in the adventure. The reason I mention home room will come up later but just wanted to clue you in a bit on it now.
Our friendship, for lack of a different term, blossomed one chilly morning as I was boarding the number thirteen bus at the Oval. Did I say this was a true story? Well it is. Anyhow, I go to get on the bus and as a student in those days we were issued a pass to ride the city busses to school. But in order to ride you were supposed to pay a nickle fare. So it was kinda a discount pass. Now generally the bus drivers didn’t say anything about the nickle, you would show your pass and if you had a nickel put it in. If not you would just kinda throw your hand over the collection machine like you were putting one in and keep walking. It was just the way it was done back then, an unspoken thing between us and the drivers. So, like every other morning I flip my pass and throw my hand out and start heading back when this bus driver starts yelling about my nickel. Well at first I was gonna ignore him but he seemed so persistent and I really didn’t wanna cause a problem. So I head back toward the front and he is looking right at me, and I dig in my pocket, and I dig, and no matter how hard or far I dug there was no change. Now at this point this fella is looking a bit upset. I mean this is a grown man. I’m a kid fifteen maybe, and he’s a grown fella. So I say “Excuse me, ah excuse me , Mr. Bus Driver Man I don’t seem to have a nickel would you happen to have change for a dollar bill”.
Now to me that is the way it went, very politely, I’m just a little fifteen year old kid trying to get to school, trying to get some education and I don’t have change. I guess the bus driver didn’t see it that way at all because he got all upset and started talking about kids these days, and spit was flying out of his mouth and sweat coming off his head. I’m not sure, and I don’t want to taint the truth of the story, but I think, his whole head may have turned all the way around like that girl in the Exorcist.
So being the nice person I am I decided I’ll just wait for the next bus. No use holding all these nice people up when another bus will be along in five or ten minutes. I turn and start heading back off the bus, and as I do my eye catches Cowboys who was always sitting in the back row. As you may know most buses have a back row of seats tat go all the way across. There is no need for the aisle so there is a seat there too. Well on our bus that was Joe’s seat. He would sit right there and his big legs would have room and people would stand rather than think about trying to scoot by him for any of the other back row seats. Anyway I look, and he is up and heading to the front. Well, I thought to myself, this can’t be good. But by that time he was there, and started telling the bus driver something about, he is gonna let me ride and that the bus driver wasn’t in charge of anything on this bus and a lot of others things that I really can’t say in public. But I think you get the drift of what was transpiring.
Again, you have to stay with me her because this is just to give you a little background on Joe Cowboy so that the real story I am trying to tell you will be better and make sense.
One thing leads to another and at that point I think the driver said something about not letting some punk little kids tell him how to run his bus, and he reached out to grab Joe… Now I told you this was a true story right?.. Well, everyone in the Bronx learned a good lesson that day. And top of the list was, never, never, try to put your hands on Joe Cowboy. I mean NEVER! Within about fifteen seconds after several dozen blows had been thrown and each one caught by the bus driver’s head, me and Joe were off and trotting to school. Who needs a bus anyway. It’s only about thirty blocks on a cold morning, it will be good to get a little exercise anyway. So we ran about ten blocks and walked the rest of the way, never seeing that bus come past us, so we just figured he had decided to call it a day or something, or took a short cut. Me and Joe never talked about that morning again afterward that day, though we did talk some. Which is what leads up to the original story I was trying to tell you. But I think that first part wore me out right now. Now don’t think I condone that kind of action either, no I don’t. It was wrong, that bus driver never should have tried to assault a teenager like that. Anyway I think I am going to just go up to the title and change this to part 1 and finish writing later tonight or in the morning after I’ve had a bit of time to rest and get over the trauma of that day again.
But hang tight this is a true story. And this story has it all. I mean bikers, and hippies, and acid, and high school, and the principle, and parents, and report cards, and the dentist. It’s killer really. ‘Til later.