This popular idea today of writing is something of a distraction. It is hard to escape it’s trappings. Form, style, punctuation, bow down to them and we will love you, publish you, sing your praises. But to write as art is different than all that. Telling you just where to stop and start, which words or syllables to emphasize would be like telling you what to see in a painting. Words have notes, and colors, and scents. They can be drum beats, or paintings, or melodies when put in a certain order. You can taste them, or smell them, even breath them. Sometimes they are sharp and loud and unsettling, other times smooth and flowing. Editors are looking for something that sells, the same ole same ole. I am looking for something that moves, that lives, or dies. Warhol didn’t need a canvas the size of the Sistine Chapel to reach into peoples soul, Jean-Michel Basquiat could intrigue an entire generation with a few letters on a wall, Patti Smith could move a whole city with just one set. But what my writing means to me is of little importance, what it means to the reader is what counts. All I hope, is that when I am done with one of my works it hits you like the opening riffs to Sweet Jane, or Honky Tonk Women. Or like Kevin Blanch saying “they’ll be calling you a radical”. Now that moves me!.
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Here we go again, another true adventure from years ago. As always the main thing to remember is that this is a true story.
The year was 1983, and this time I am sure about it. The radio station in New York that I listened to at the time announced this spectacular concert that was to take place in California. Something called the US Festival. It was being put on by some Apple computer guy, which to be honest I had no clue who he was back then. But who cared, a three day concert in California that had all the great bands of the day and David Bowie was gonna do a set. They told me it had been years since he had toured so I was in. Of course I also had about the same amount of knowledge of California as I did of Apple Computers so you can imagine how well this is going to come together.
Now I would go anywhere for a concert, but California was quite a distance from The Bronx. This was going to require some skillful planning. First up was securing tickets at the closest Ticketron outlet which just happened to be in the Travel Agency located on the ground floor of the building I was living in at that time. Dale, a bud of mine said he would go, and I figured we would be able to get another victim also so I went in and arranged for the tickets to the show along with the required round trip plane tickets. When to my surprise the agent asked if I would be needing a rental car at our destination. I had not even considered that since we just took the subway or busies around the city anywhere we need to go. Turns out it would have been impossible to get around where we needed to in California without a car. In fact it turned out even with the car we almost didn’t make the show, more on that later. But when asked of course I said ‘sure’, mind you now I barely ever drove, just the work van for deliveries, and also I didn’t even have a credit card. After asking all the questions and filling out some forms the kind lady asked for my credit card at which point I replied, I’ll just pay in cash if that is alright?”. Sure, she explained “we will put it on our card, but we will need to get a deposit in cash now also”. Fine, how much, three hundred no problem, but make sure I have the full insurance coverage with that, good another hundred no problem. And with that the deal was done notching to do but wait the two months until the concert took place.
So that’s the lead in, I will try to get the rest written tomorrow if there is some interest. But this one is a real killer adventure, airplane rides on acid, cops holding shotguns to our heads, bloods crips, magic mushrooms, Van Halen, David Bowie,and a rental car disaster. I mean mud and blood and beer, sunburn, lost in the desert, aliens, it’s like Prego…it’s all in there.
“The last couple of days have not made me very confident in the predictions of engineers associated with the Oroville Dam.
While I am a climate researcher, and not hydrologist, it took me less than an hour midday yesterday (see comments here) to estimate that the emergency spillway would be breached around 9 a.m. PST this morning. I was off by an hour…it was breached at 8 a.m.
The latest releases have caused even more damage widening the hole and cutting away at the side of the hill. The lake is at about 95% so they have to keep releasing I would suspect. This is an earthen dam and if this thing goes it will be a major catastrophe. If you live in California stay alert you do not want to have all that water and earth coming at you.
here is a short video:
A video posted on YouTube shows big trouble at the dam, as the spillway has developed an almost 200 ft. hole. For the earthen filled dam this may turn out to serious, though officials are saying there is no danger at this point. .
According to Wikipedia this is the most important water source for the California Department of Water Resources’ State Water Project.
“The Oroville-Thermalito Complex is a group of reservoirs, structures, and facilities located in and around the city of Oroville in Butte County, California. The complex serves not only as a regional water conveyance and storage system, but is the headwaters for, and therefore perhaps is the most vital part of, the California Department of Water Resources’ State Water Project, the world’s largest publicly built and operated water and power development and conveyance system.”
“Operators increased their water releases at the dam on Tuesday as a significant storm rolled through Northern California. However, as peak water releases started happening around noon, people started noticing some concerning signs”
In terms of a catastrophic failure besides the residents below who could lose everything and the immediate lose of life, there also could be major impacts throughout California in terms of water and power.
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? nobody 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.True story! 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!
If you are enjoying these stories pick up a copy of my book which has lots more of my writings by clicking here.
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.
One of those Master keys almost cost my friend George, or Tinki, his life when he got caught with it. Not by the police, or the judicial system, no after being informed by the police about the incident Tinki’s dad was the would be executioner, well not quite but it seemed that way in my youth.
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. of course there was the known fact, by all us kids, that there were many kids who nerve emerged from those halls. That was enough to keep you on edge the whole way through.
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 been passed down to.If you could just make it through all the way to come out say in the next quadrant, well you would be a hero for all time. Makes me think about going back and giving it a shot, even at 53 years old.
This is the link if you never lived there that will show you how buildings were connected around the complex.
My friends from the Bronx at Brewskies, playing some great music! Check them out, I know we are all getting older, but it happens. Might even see a few folks that are in my stories! And Tim, who probably played a game or two of Hot Beans and Butter, also bought the first copy of my book FolkWritings From The Future!
If you are enjoying these stories pick up a copy of my book which has lots more of my writings by clicking here.
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 before 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? Because 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 ill-fated day, “oh the humanity”! I am quite sure that I was with my cousin Johnny, strange he pops up a lot in these tales?! or #@$%&##…others included Mary Jane, Tommy, Albee, 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
penalties were imposed for infractions
1 lash, 3 lashes, and on to the gauntlet!
Now I may be a paranoid, tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, 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 that’s 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.