Tuesday, January 26, 2016

It's Only Me- Chapter 5- Friends and Adventures

Bicycle was the main means of transportation for me and most of my friends. This, coupled with a massive public transit system meant that there was virtually no place off limits to us.

Seth Herman and I were fast companions between 1969 and 1974 when he moved out of town for school and other adventures. But growing up in Brooklyn provided many small adventures which still give us both pleasure in the recounting.

We spent a lot of time together so we got into some mischievous things that are kind of comical and innocent to look back upon; especially when compared to the standards of today. But it is safe to say that we annoyed everyone in our paths. And I mean EVERYONE. We rode our bikes up onto the sidewalk and bore down on one poor old man with the brazen cry of “Move over old man, it’s a new generation!” (Seth’s idea- though I’m sure he will place the whole thing on my shoulders.)

We waited on the roof of my parents building at 1310 Avenue R on a cold January Sunday in 1969, with a 6 transistor radio tuned into the football game- I think it was the Jets- and at the appropriate signal from Seth- who knew about football- I cut the wire to the Master Antenna for the entire building. We then dashed down 2 flights of stairs to the 6th floor where we joined the mob surging to the roof to see what had blacked out their TV’s at the end of the 4th Quarter. If they had been carrying pitchforks and torches it would have been a scene right out of “Frankenstein.”

Another example of our ingenuity was riding the Long Island Railroad tracks at Brooklyn College off Flatbush Avenue. We actually would ride through the tunnel beneath Flatbush Avenue, reasoning that if a train were coming we would see the headlight and get out of the way. A foolproof plan- sure…. Again, this was entirely Seth’s idea though I’m sure he will tell you differently.

If we weren’t being a nuisance in the street we were at the movies. I believe that Seth and I saw every movie released between 1969 and 1974. One memorable occasion still stands out. We were at the Avenue U Theater watching I don’t remember- maybe “The Wild Bunch” with Ernest Borgnine and William Holden. A couple was seated in front of us and became very annoyed at our constant laughing, cursing and general antics. The woman said, “Bernie, make them stop.” Bernie turned around in his seat and said, “Shut the hell up.” Or something to that effect. We were both shocked into silence for a moment before Seth elbowed me saying, “You don’t have to take that crap.” He was right, so I said some thing like “What are you gonna do about it, Bernie?” as sarcastically as I could. Bernie turned around and smacked me in the head! That’s why I remember his name 40 years later.

We would take the subway to Battery Park and the boat to Liberty Island and climb the Staue of Liberty. 35 cents was the price of the boat and unlimited access to the island and statue. One day we were climbing those close, narrow, winding spiral stairs to the top. In front of me was a guy with an attaché case- who would probably be searched today- and the case kept hitting me on the backswing as we climbed each step. As if that wasn’t bad enough I had Seth behind me- pushing me up into the swinging attaché case- urging me to go faster. When we got to the top and looked back down that spiral stairway we could only imagine a bowling ball going down against the flow of people ascending. Oh and by the way the view was nice.

We answered public phones when they rang as we walked by. One day we were in the subway at Chinatown, don’t know why we were there, but we were. The phone rings and I answer it. Some Oriental voice asks for Chung Fung and I say, “Hold on” passing the receiver to Seth. All I heard was Seth going (in a Chinese accent) “You no get money from me- you fuck yourself!” and he hangs up. Next day they’re fishing a Chinese guy out of the river. I suppose it was Chung Fung.

There are almost no pictures to support any of these stories- cameras were not our main priorities back then. There were no cell phones or cameras to distract us from our daily fun of ruining other peolples days. The photo of Liberty Island was taken by Seth many years later and the brochure below is from my personal collection.

Seth was not the only one I traveled about with. John DiStefano and his brother Jimmy used to like to go to the Empire State Building. Aside from the great view they had a record machine up there- you could make a record in a booth- much like the photo booths of the time. We also liked to throw things off the 82nd floor observatory. Pennies, paper planes, bottle rockets. Didn’t matter. 82 stories is a long way and provided a lot of entertainment. The best part was walking back to the subway and seeing the dents in some of the parked cars and wondering “Did we do that?”

Mostly we just had fun, riding the subway and stradling the cars (one foot on one car and the other on the next produced a bouncy ride.) Walking the tracks from Kelley Park to the Kings Highway Station and climbing the platform to catch the train for free. (Saved 15 cents that way!)

We meant no harm and as far as I can remember we hurt no one. But a lifetime of memories were stored up during these years.

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