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Growing up in the Bronx back in the 80s and early 90s, we experienced our fair share of challenges. We were young kids, but old men and women at heart. The streets made us wiser beyond our years. This was the crack era, which gave us the “crack head.” Crack heads were drug addicts who were so strung out that they posed a danger not only to themselves, but to all those around them as well.
In my neighborhood, it was not a rare thing to find syringes on the street. You would often have to check the bottom of your sneakers for any stuck crack vials before entering your house. A person getting stabbed or shot was a common site for us. When it came to personal property, if you had it, and they wanted it, you could quite easily part with your belongings. At times, it would happen easily, others through extreme force and violence.
Among the many items that I had stolen from me, were a gold cap, and a BMX bicycle. The gold cap I gave up rather easily. I knew the thief, and I knew it was in my best interest to cooperate. When it came time to give up the bike, I fought the guys. However, after they put a rusty knife blade to my neck, I became more cooperative.
Our playgrounds were abandoned lots filled with broken glass, discarded mattresses, and burned down buildings. The fire hydrant, also known as “La Pompa,” provided a temporary escape from the punishing heat! The building rooftops provided a location for participating in all sorts of secret activities, from solo events, to others! Our basketball courts were made up of cut-up milk crates on the light posts, and our cardiovascular exercise came in the form of a game called man hunt and tag.
This may sound like a pretty terrible environment to be a child, doesn’t it? However, here’s the thing, I actually miss that at times. Let’s be clear; I don’t miss any of the violence, the drugs, or the danger, but the sense of community. I miss the friendships and bonds that we formed as children. I miss hanging out with my friends while playing tag, manhunt, video games, snapping, or simply watching TV all night.
I can still remember one warm, clear, summer night. We made a pickup truck into our wrestling ring. It was around midnight or so, and still many of us were inside of the bed of the truck, pretending to fly off of the top rope! We played there for hours and hours, then my mom came down and made me go up upstairs. Sure, it was a pickup truck, but you can’t imagine how much fun we had!
This is something that you could never experience unless you grew up under similar circumstances to how we did. Kids growing up in this day and age, or in different neighborhoods, they’ll never know. Someone like my son will never experience these things. Though admittedly they were hard times, but they were also the best of times! I will forever and ever cherish those days Growing Up Bronx!