Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Bronx Revisited

The Bronx Revisited

25 years ago I turned to my wife and said, “Sell everything, we’re getting the hell out of the Bronx once and for all!”

This was NO knee jerk reaction. It had been coming for some time. It’s just that when change occurs slowly you don’t notice until something horrifying happens and the rose colored glasses are knocked from your face.

The teen two house up from ours was dead. Shot through the chest in a drive–by in broad daylight. He bled out on the sidewalk. The sidewalk where my wife strolled with my daughters in their baby carriages.

Turns out they shot the wrong guy. The person they were looking for lived two blocks down.

Not that it mattered to me. I was seeing clearly now. The Bronx had become a war zone.

Sometimes people ask me why I waited so long. The answer is simple. The Bronx of my youth was a great place to grow up. There were parks and playgrounds, beaches and roller-rinks, great restaurants and a subway and elevated trains that took you anywhere in the city you wanted to go for a single fare.

I remember ditching school and going to the World’s Fair in Queens when I was only eleven. Started playing clubs in Greenwich Village when I was sixteen. Went to mixers at Fordham College and sat out on the stoop on hot summer nights drinking beer and hanging with my friends.

Then crack cocaine showed up and everything went to hell!

And it went to hell so quickly I wasn’t able to grasp how much danger we were in until it was almost too late.

The crack-heads were a desperate group. They’d say anything, and DO anything to get money for crack. I had my car stolen twice even though I had alarms and crook locks on the steering wheel. I was held up at gunpoint for a lousy $27.00. Even caught a guy trying to break into my house.

And it kept getting worse. Every business was locked down like a bank vault at night. There were armed guards at supermarkets. Shoplifting was rampant and driving the local businesses into bankruptcy.

Hollywood began making movies on just how bad the Bronx had become. One was called The Bronx is Burning and the other, Fort Apache the Bronx which was about a police precinct in the South Bronx which at the time was the most dangerous area in America.

Within 2 years following the crack epidemic, all of my family and friends had moved away, with the exception of my brother. My brother, whom I have referred to in previous posts as Beerculees, was not the type to been driven off by anyone.

So he and his lovely wife Linda, remained in the Bronx and made a life for themselves.
I was happy for them but made it clear that if they wanted to see me, they would have to come to the North Country because there was no way in hell we were coming to the Bronx.

Then last week I received a call. My brother told me that Linda had lost her battle against lung cancer and wasn’t expected to last the weekend. He asked me to come down and stay with him until the burial.

So I did.

The burial is tomorrow and I have been in the Bronx for the last 6 days. It’s a VERY different place than the one I left 25 years ago. The streets are clean, people are polite and local businesses seem to be doing well. VERY well apparently because I have seen more BMW’s here in the Bronx in a day than I see in a month up north.

Roads still suck though.

Just a note. If you’ve ever wanted to see a Yankee game, or visit the Botanical Gardens or the Bronx Zoo but were concerned about coming to the Bronx, don’t be. The Bronx is once again the fun place of my youth and even Golden Balls has returned to Rice Stadium.

If you’re from the Bronx you know who Golden Balls is. And if not, stay tuned to this blog and find out who he is and how he got that name. 

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