Fall 1963

It was the warmest Oct. day out that I ever saw today, so we skipped practice (Tony and Yogi and I) and we decided to take a little ride down to the ferry and over to Staten Island. After polishing off a hero at LUCY’S we hopped on the back fender of the 2nd Ave. bus and rode down to the ferry basin. Once I fell off a bus like that on a sharp turn and almost got my balls crushed under the back wheel but this ride was smooth enough and we got off and deposited our nickels in the turnstiles and were off. Just as the boat is pulling out of the dock, Tony takes out a bottle of CARBONA cleaning fluid and a few rags and suggests that we do a little sniffing to get high. I was up for this idea because Carbona is one of the finest cheap highs you can get, even stronger than model glue. We slipped up to the top deck of the ship and wet our rags and raised them to our faces. After about four deep whiffs we were sailing someplace else, bells ringing through my ears and little lights flashing through my eyes. I pictured myself paddling across a river with black water, only the canoe was going backwards instead of forwards, with clouds that were faces laughing spooky fun house laughs which wouldn’t stop echoing. More sniffs and more freaky visions, the ringing bell sound always getting louder the more I breathe the stuff into my lungs. I kept it up for about ten minutes, but by then I was getting too dizzy to handle it and I had to fling down the rag and make it to the side rail, sick as possible. I began puking wildly. My eyes felt like bowling balls and they were watering like mad. Tony and Yogi had done themselves in too and they ran over to join in the ceremony. Then we recovered enough to hear shouts coming from the bottom deck and wiping off our eyes we realized that we had zeroed in over the head of some dude. More unfortunate was the fact that the guy was fantastically huge, and man, did he look pissed off. We wasted no time in making it to the nearest hiding spot, knowing that guy would be up after us any second. We got to the other side of the boat and did a quick Steve MacQueen act, over the rail and down to the lowest deck. Then we ducked into the bathroom and into the last toilet stall, locking the door and sweating our balls off. We hung on in there, reading the little penciled-in obscenities until the boat docked. After about ten minutes more waiting, we sent Yogi out to see if the coast was clear. He came back and signaled us out and we ran our asses off the boat, through the terminal and onto the nearest bus. We came to a nice park somewhere in the middle of the island and played ball with the local weaklings all day, taking on everyone, even guys as old as 16 or so. It was almost dark when we caught our ferry back to the city again, keeping a sharp lookout for our friend and vowing we’d never sniff that stuff on any ferry again.

Fall 1963

They finally took away old Mrs. McNulty today. She was the incredibly nutty lady who lived right across the alley from our window in the building. She had a very scary habit of going to her sink every night in her bra and panties and offering Mass over it as if it were her altar. She knew the Mass inside out, but she would interject incredible obscenities whenever the Virgin Mary’s name came up, or Christ’s name too, for that matter. She had all the standard equipment for the Mass, like a gold chalice and all that, but at the part that appeared to be what the Catholics considered the consecration or whatever, she would shove the thing between her legs and yell, “Suck me, eat my puss, God.” Things like that, you know. The things she said about Mary were the worst always, and I would watch everything quite clearly and really shudder; not that I was ever really religious (not since I was eight actually, when one day I went into a church for the first time and tried to make friends with God by asking him to come home with me so we could watch the World Series together) but because I couldn’t understand at all what the fuck could ever possess someone to do something as fruity as that. Man, she really let fly some nights, yelling so that everyone in the building almost could hear her. When I told some friends about her, a lot of them wanted to come over to see her, thinking the scene was really sexy or something. But she was an old lady, about 65 or so, so the sight of her dressed like that and freaking like she did was too much disgust, I always had to turn away. I guess someone complained once too often lately and I saw her being tucked into an ambulance, very calm about it, while I was coming back from school today.

Summer 1964

Every crowd of young guys has its little games to prove if you’re punk or not. My cousin in Newark plays “chickie,” which is two cars heading toward each other at about 80 m.p.h. and the first driver to swerve out of the way is, of course, the chicken. On the lower East Side they’d make you press a lit cigarette onto your arm and have it bum all the way to the filter without the slightest flinch. Up here in upper Manhattan, guys jump off cliffs into the Harlem River, where the water is literally shitty because right nearby are the giant sewer deposits where about 1/2 million toilets empty their goods daily. You had to time each jump, in fact, with the “shit lines” as they flowed by. That is, there were these lines of water crammed with shit along the surface about five feet long that would come by about once every forty seconds. So you had to time your jump in between the lines just like those jitterbugs down in Acapulco got to time their jumps so they hit the water just as the wave is beginning its break.

It was also a big thrill and a standard joke whenever a really giant scumbag floated by. Man, did we see some whoppers; the people in this sewer district sure have big dicks. One time we even saw a dead pig float by (the animal, that is). He must have come off the Hudson from upstate, freed himself from a livestock barge and drowned maybe. It was scary white and jelly-like, bloated to double its normal size. I remember the sight of it cruising by and (really) no one swam for about three days.

So today we met in the park near the basketball courts, Johnny, Danny and I, played a few quick games, downed a couple of beers, and headed up the street (Seaman Ave. is the name of the street, in fact, pretty funny name, and I actually know a chick who lives on the corner of Seaman and Cumming Streets, who fucks her weight in guys. But living on a corner with names like that, who could blame her.) Well, we walked our way up to the 225th St. bridge, cross over into the Bronx, shimmy to get down to the railroad tracks to get down to the cut(which is the name of the huge rock you jump off.) Meanwhile, on the way, we’re chased by the huge watchdog, a ferocious German shepherd, and we had to run our balls off and climb over another fence to avoid it. So we made it for a change because sometimes we’re not so lucky with that mutt and it will tear the leg of your pants off in one chomp, perhaps a good part of your ass with it. Like one day we were with Sam McGiggle and he couldn’t make it to the fence in time so we told him to freeze perfectly still and the dog wouldn’t bother him. So he statued himself in some insane position and the mutt came up to him, sort of sniffed at him for a second or two, and just as old Sam felt relieved, it bit him accordingly right square in the bum-bum.

Well, we made it to the cut and poked around the bushes at the base to find our hidden swim suits and jocks. (Man, since there were no lockers this was the next best thing.) Then we buried our money in the safest spot, and began to change. Just down to our scivvies, we hear giggles shooting up from behind the bushes and wheel around to find three chicks standing there trying to dig on the show. No other solution, we saw, but to attack, so we whip off our underwear and charge after them, totally naked and slinging jocks around in our hands. Their true purity exposed, they were off in the breeze, giggling and peeking back now and then at our free swinging tools. On go our suits and we begin to ascend the cut. The cut is actually only about 12’ wide, with the Harlem River on one side, and the Hudson-Harlem Train Line tracks in the rear. It has a series of minor cliffs to jump off, and they gradually get higher until you reach the top, about 85’. Every plateau you jump has its own separate name like Suicide, and Hell’s Gate, Angel’s Toe and the top, the elite goal that all this bullshit is about. Hell’s Angel.

That’s where we were, the very top, flat solid rock which has been cracked in part so that small clover-like plants grow out of the crevices. We sat tense, waiting for the sightseeing boat. The Circle Line, to make the turn around the bend down near the bridge and head toward us. That was what really made the jump worthwhile, with all the lame couples like old tourists from Ohio, and nuns, and Japanese executives and other odd N.Y.C. visitors who got fished into paying five beans to sail around the island, watching us go down into the stinking water. Well, Danny was the first, Johnny and I peering over the edge as he made it clear over the first and only obstacle, a small tree that shot out of the rock about five feet below, then straight ahead, hands close at sides, body stiff, and feet locked tightly, hitting the surface missile-like. From up there, it seemed like 5008 feet to the bottom. But Danny had jumped Hell’s Angel before, so it was old hat to him, but now it was John’s turn, and he, like me, was a rookie at the top. Scared shit and mouth wide, he peeped one more time onto the river, waved at the waiting sightseers, took one step back, five hundred deep breaths, muttered, “Fuck it,” then yelled out the same thing, clutched his balls with both hands and jumped. Down he was going, legs spread far apart and jitterbugging like he was doing the Popeye or something, still firmly clutching his crotch. “Bad form,” I sighed, as he hit the water, and what a fucking understatement that was. It was pitiful, he hit the water like a fucking octopus, limbs flying everywhere, and the splash contained a smacking sound that hurt all the way up to me at the top of the cliff. When he came up to the surface he swam to the shore with one hand paddling and holding his sore, sore ass with the other, so that he was slow enough to get attacked by a fair sized shit line, the whole fucking scene having Danny in stitches over on the shore near the tracks. My turn now, the boat almost passed, all the people at attention yelling for me to do it, the sadistic bastards.

I didn’t really think, I didn’t even take my sneakers off, I just jumped into this jerky dream that lasted all the way down until I hit the bottom. The feeling isn’t movement anyway, but rather being suspended in front of the sheer cliff, mid-air, with the waters rising up sharp and fast at you. I hit water hard, but I didn’t go too deep, coming up to see all the sightseers applauding. Then I swam to shore to meet the others and we turned, pulled down our shorts and flashed our moons to the old sightseeing buggers as the boat pulled away and headed for the Hudson. We got dressed and went back (Eddie the old man queer guy peeking into the bushes as we changed, by the way.) I got back to the neighborhood and decided to go home to eat and write and sleep; I know I can always wait to tomorrow to go around and brag and let everyone know what big shit I am and all that.