Wednesday, May 14, 2008

'hood six

Bobby gave me bus fare to Boston.

So it happens while I’m working with the Brothers in the hay fields that Joey got his wish. That Sputnik satellite now has competition courtesy of American Telephone and Telegraph Company and NASA; they call it Telstar and they send signals to it and it sends phone calls to your phone. So JFK and Kruschev each had ‘1’ in the satellite race but Nikki was up one cosmonaut. The U.S. almost got creamed two years ago when Nikki sent two rockets to Mars but both missions failed. There was a rumor that the martians on Mars sabotaged what looked like an invasion, so in 1961 he sent up two more rockets but this time to Venus; they failed, too. I’m pretty sure we told a lotta lies to Nikki about what else this Telstar could do ‘cause AT&T designed it, built it and paid for the launch and he got real paranoid about who was in control. Industry and military were now working together and that created a new found fear of the U.S.A. for Nikki.
Dominic, of course, told everyone that the Alderman helped JFK get the satellite up; I think he was going a little too far with his stories – maybe the whack to the side of his head from D is makin him nuts.
# # # # # # # # #
It’s over a thousand miles to Boston and all I knew was she was at the school and living in the Back Bay area. Boston is kinda like my ‘hood because almost everyone in Bean Town (something about beans baked in molasses) is either Italian or Irish and they live on opposite sides of a river. Being on a bus for two days gives you a lot of downtime and my mind really needed some peace. Marie’s father disappointed me – hurt me, bad – when Marie went off while I was on the farm. He told me he would keep me informed of stuff – instead, his daughter left for school and he told me nothing.

Marie gave a slip of paper to Bobby and I asked him over and over if there was a message from her but no; just an address. Her dad must have told her to not talk to me or something. We didn't talk while I was on the farm but I know she missed me as hard as I missed her.

‘breakin up is hard to do’

And who am I? A searcher; out of the ‘hood and in pain because either I've changed or at least I've changed the way I see the ‘hood and my life. Like basketball with guys from the ‘hood or at Marillac house or on the high school team was important to me ‘cause it’s the kind of sport where you learn trust. Making a basket by yourself counts no more (maybe even less to the game) than if you make a good pass to a streaking team mate and he lays it in for an easy shot. When I played ball, I never asked who was playing with me – only that he pass the ball and then everyone looks good. Yeah, there was occasional hot-dogging, but that usually happened when there’s a blow out or when your girl is lookin at you or when some opponent is ‘in your face’. But this is a game where all five cylinders gotta be tuned up and tuned in – it takes five guys to win at hoops; and you’re always lookin for the open man.

the open man – who can he trust?

He works the hardest to break away and uses his shrewdness to stay loose until that moment of discovery - then the ball doesn't come
...... and he changes into the man he’ll be for the rest of his life.

‘juice’ and Tee were not playing ball. The game had changed – I could see it – but I could not recognize the playing field. I don't know the rules. Theirs was a game I chose not to play. I would give it up. I ran to the open spaces.

or “..…............a time to grow

What else would I be forced to choose?
where else would I come up short
Lot’s was coming.

Joey was so sick from the pneumonia that he came close to dying; so close that out of town relatives came to see him before he went away. A cousin came up from Cairo in Southern Illinois that he was very close to until they were like thirteen and he had to move ‘cause his father opened a bakery down there. I always thought of Cairo as a south city in a north state and sure enough the stories he told Joey made it true.
His cousin was away for three years and changed a lot. He even talked different; but the biggest thing was the way he felt about the Negroes who lived in the south. He said that the white people always felt they needed to help them out – like people who couldn't help themselves - but always kept them to the other side of town and they couldn't eat at the same places and the kids went to different schools and even had to use different bathrooms. But things were changing across the south just the opposite of the way Joey’s cousin changed. It’s not like MLK cared about the problems in Cairo – he had to stay in Atlanta and Chicago and Birmingham and jail. Cairo people were experiencing local freedom movements just like many small cities all through the south. Couldn't be a TV cameraman or newspaper reporter in every town so, the quiet, small town uprisings that supported the national movement were un-reported and un-important to the world compared to Supreme Court rulings and newsreels of tear gas and police dogs and crowds of angry and confused people. These small town protests represented a sea change to the whole of America; the anger and now defiance of those so long suppressed was obvious. MLKing needed that support the same way he needed John and Bobby.
Joey’s cousin saw his dad separate himself from the other white men who did stuff like dress in white outfits and burn crosses. They were not going to let Negroes change their lives. His cousin told him about the time a small group of Negroes marched down the main street when a pick-up truck turned a corner and came right at them. Every one of them moved except for a thirteen year old girl who stood defiantly in front of her enemy and got knocked down.

but what were the white people so afraid of?

I think we still ask those questions; as did our fathers and will our sons.
# # # # # # # # #
The Greyhound drops me at the centre city terminal. I've got no clue where I am or what a Back Bay looks like. What I do have is a slip of paper that says 85 Mount Vernon Street. I've got a return ticket for the bus and not much cash, so I don’t know if I should take a cab or not. I ask one of those porters and he flashes me a grin and says “Very nice neighborhood, it is”. Yeah, but how much does it cost to get there? “Well”, he says, “a man who lives up there on Beacon Hill shouldn't’ worry ‘bout that too much”.
You know I just walked away from him a little pissed because he just thought I was being a smart ass rich kid or something and I looked for another person to help me. Where's that open man?

who I can trust
and I caught myself
‘don’t ask a negro’!

…..............fathers and will our sons

# # # # # # # # #

Tee and ‘juice’ had to meet one day and it was at night right under the viaduct of the railroad tracks that seperated our 'hood by a thousand miles. Cars were lined up at either end as the two eye-balled each other for what seemed like a life's time. These two men were here because Bobby couldn't help but get turned on by one of the prettiest black ladies at our school. He was good-lookin himself and they liked to laugh together so it all seemed to have the right reasons any guy and girl would get together…..except.
That night at the Christmas Eve party, they clutched each other right in a hallway where everybody there saw them with their faces pressed together. If ‘juice’ had been there himself, he might have had someway to cool off the now over-heating situation. Well, he wasn't there and now he was in front of Tee, each looking to protect their kind. Born under the same sun – in the same way – by a man and woman – to sustain and nourish the growth of their kind. These were the men of the ’hood.

Darryl’s dad breaks the headlights and the long shadow of a tall man fell at Tee’s feet. “Stop” was the word that rang out and reverberated against the concrete walls of the overpass. Tee’s first reaction was to intensify his readiness for a confrontation. ‘juice’ didn't take his eyes off of Tee, relying on other men for back-up. Dominic stepped forward, totally mis-reading the tall man’s intent. Dom was a boy from the ‘hood, full of swagger and everyone went on-guard with his second step. He didn't know what he was getting in to.
‘juice’ said to Tee “Are you gonna take care of that boy”.
Tee stepped back and risked his life when turning away, but somehow he knew this was not a time to hate or a time to kill. Dominic’s vision of satisfaction meant all out gang war at a time when relations were already mean-spirited. Men needed to reign in the boys and with one short jab, Dom went down with a bleeding face. Darryl’s father came between ‘juice’ and Tee and the defiant stare yielded to Tee’s revelation of their manhood.
was Tee goin soft
or was Tee in change
A time to cast away stones


bobK said...

this was hard!

Jerry said...

This style is both comforting and irritating. Like a blanket with burdocks. It's edgy; yet you feel like you are in his skin at some level. This is good writing. I keep looking forward to a new installment... or the book!