East New York. Brooklyn to some but Eden to many: as a kid growing up with a big imagination, living in my neighborhood was like growing up in a movie. Kids have a knack of making the best of almost any situation. Playing stick ball in the street was as good as Yankee Stadium, Ebbet’s Field to just about all my other friends. Life would have been a living hell if the Yankees, God bless them, didn’t win all the time. Getting back to Eden: stick ball played on the smoldering street had a certain smell that hot asphalt gives off, well it had a certain euphoric smell that couldn’t be replaced. Oh, and the small of a brand new Spalding ball mixed with freshly sawed wood, a broomstick that someone’s mother was looking for at that very moment. Ah and then ice-cold lemon ice from Sal’s Italian Ices after the game. Life truly could not get any better than that.

Hot summer mornings, the noise of the sanitation truck washing the streets blending with rock and roll, big bands, and Sinatra on the radios coming from open windows was a symphony: a symphony created in kitchens and living rooms of blue collar workers and their families as they started their day.

I don’t remember any one of my friends being any better off than anyone else, which is why I was never embarrassed to put a piece of cardboard in my sneaker to cover the hole, usually a Dodger baseball card. My friends used Yankees, though somewhere one of those guys agonizes, probably once a day, over the memory of that Mantle rookie card going into his sneaker. Poor Dodger fan: serves him right. The toe of the sneaker was another weak spot; the constant rubbing from throwing and hitting would wear them out. It was not an unusual sight to see a bunch of us running around with one toe wrapped in tape.

Summer camp begins at Johnny Pump Falls
Play till it’s dark or until Mom calls
Punch ball, stick ball, all played on the same field of dreams
A sudden cloudburst, pouring rain, the asphalt steams
Once cent candy, any comic book just a dime
Twenty-five cartoons, same day, one at a time
Ice cold lemonade sold from home made stands
Summer time radio, battle of the bands
Little boy and girl artists with chalk in the street
Pipe smoking old man on the sidewalk, kitchen chair for his seat
On the radio the Duke hits a homer, the Mick hits two
Little boy on the stoop, fixes the cardboard in his shoe
Night falls on Eden, come in from the fire escape
He removes his high top sneakers, one toe wrapped in tape.

– niz

Comments are closed.