‘The Cape’ – Contents

(part 1 of 'The Cape')

1. ‘The Cape’ – Contents

2. ‘The Cape’ – Dedication

3. Coney Island Dreams

4. Macho Man

5. Eden

6. Summer Nights

7. Childlike Joy

8. Passed Angel

9. Doo Wop Heart

10. Junk Eyes

11. Neighborhood Man

12. Faded Cap

13. The Cape

14. ‘The Cape’ – Epilogue

– niz

‘The Cape’ – Dedication

(part 2 of 'The Cape')

This work is dedicated to my wife, my family, and my best friend Boo:
The inspiration for what I write, and why I write.


Che Gelida Manina
from La Boheme
What am I? I am a poet.
What do I do? I write.
And how do I live? I live.
In my beloved poetry
Like my great lord
I squander rhymes and poems
In dreams and fantasies
In castles in the air
I’m a millionaire in spirit

– niz

Coney Island Dreams

(part 3 of 'The Cape')

Taking the train just a few stops to end up in Coney Island was like a magic carpet ride for a 5-year old. Spending summers in Bay Ridge with my grandparents is what made that ride a possibility. There were trees in Bay Ridge and to a little kid from Williamsburg it was like being in the country. Waking up to birds singing through the open window was like heaven. The kids were the same, the games were the same, stick ball, stoop ball, punch ball, same rituals, same pastimes, just two different worlds.

The older guys and men playing stick ball on Sunday afternoons in their suit pants and t-shirts was part of the neighborhood mystique. I couldn’t wait to grow up and put on a suit on a Sunday just so I could take off my jacket and my shirt: Suspenders over my t-shirt, full uniform for a Sunday afternoon game. Pure joy!

Broken English speaking Italian immigrants ran most of the stores on the avenue. Grandma was the Queen of Thirteenth Avenue. Nothing but respect and special praise for the queen; gray hair in a bun, big blue eyes behind glasses that made here eyes as big as quarters, really big for her. She stood five-foot-nothing in her big black grandma shoes. Her heart was five-one. That is what got her the respect and made her so easy to love.

Tuesday night on the roof of the four-floor walk up you could watch the fireworks at Coney Island. The glow in the eyes and faces were the same on the grown-ups as it was on the kids. A wonderful world in a wonder filled time.

Naturally I had many cousins to be with because the custom was you marry a neighborhood boy or girl and move within a five block radius of where you grew up. I felt lucky to have cousins for friends, friends that were cousins. It made that trip to Coney Island that much more fun. Coney Island, now that was a whole other world; a beautiful beach back then loaded with families with baskets full of food. Lovingly wrapped sandwiches, cold potatoes and some kind kool-aid or slightly warm soda. The day never seemed to end. After a stay on the beach there was the boardwalk to walk with a zillion games to play, sights to see, prizes to be won. Thinking back it was almost too much for a little kid. It had to be, to leave a five year old speechless. If we were lucky, we would stay till it got dark and the different lights and music would take over. The Ferris wheel, the carousel, the aroma of all the different foods, hot dogs, corn on the cob, cotton candy was a little kid’s high. We were getting high way before the 60’s. Oh, and I remember the parachute jump being much bigger then and our world much smaller.

I remember the glow of the sand
Sunlight shimmering, touch of mom’s hand
The smell of cotton candy, sounds of the carousel
Jelly apples, sledgehammer’s prizewinning bell
Corn on the cob, roller coaster so high
Ocean filled breeze, parachute jump that touched the sky
Arcades filled with children, haunted house with only those who dare,
Steeplechase horse race, clowns with yellow hair
Hand in hand with my cousin, still warm from the sun
Bay Ridge rooftop, Tuesday fireworks have begun
The joy of being a child in retrospect seems
The treasure filled magic moments of Coney Island dreams

– niz

Macho Man

(part 4 of 'The Cape')

Moving to East New York from Williamsburg was like moving to the country. Tree lined streets, no tenements, most people either sweeping or hosing in front of their houses. Waking up and hearing birds chirping, and what it was windy hearing the rustle of trees made it seem like paradise. Of course just four blocks away the sound of trucks and factories in production took away from this paradise effect. Life was still good. What could be bad for a nine year old?

Summertime was two months of Saturdays for kids. Open fire hydrants (Johnny pumps), short rests under the cooling shade of store front awnings, lemon ice, unending energy for everything except errands. They were way too far; it was way too hot, etcetera. Skelsy was a game played with bottle caps on the sidewalk on a make shift chalk board of numbered boxes. Almost every kid had his own personalized cap in his pocket just in case. Games were endless. You could do or be anything you wanted because the mind of a kid was a computer game way before computer games.

The summer nights, everyone was out. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, all the kids doing everything they did only the cover of a magical Brooklyn summer night sky. People sharing lemonade, stories, recipes, gossip, sports arguments; who was better Mantle, Snider, or Mays (Mantle of course), and sharing plans for the future in the neighborhood. The dreaded exodus to the suburbs had not begun so the neighborhoods remained intact. Grandpa would be sitting on a kitchen chair on the stoop, not some chaise lounge on the patio. I would remain a kid with more Brooklyn summers ahead.

Remember playing in front of an imaginary grandstand
When the whole crowd rose and gave you a hand,
Or your third grade sweet heart, a damsel in distress
When you swooped in and saved her with daring finesse
A bandana around your neck, six shooter at your side
Fixing your cowboy hat, the banister your ride
The open hydrant becomes a wild rapids stream
Watching the game on T.V., being everyone on the team
Walking through the corner lot, like discovering the giant redwoods
Coming to the rescue, catching the bad guys with the goods
Looking down from your porch, as if in a plane ready to land
Walking on the beach, as if on uncharted exotic sand
Imaginary and youth becomes a memory if you give in to age
You should enjoy the book, but be slow to turn the page
In spite of being that grown up, slightly graying macho man
With every year that passes, open your heart let out a little more Peter Pan

– niz


(part 5 of 'The Cape')

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