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- Growing Up Bronx
My pops was a straight-up survivor. As I share some of his stories, you’ll come to see that. In this world, some of us go to school; we get an education, and earn our degrees. We then take these degrees and go on to make better lives for ourselves and our families. But what happens to those that did not have these opportunities? The older, uneducated generation from the streets, the ones that had to work, and become men and women long before they were done being children?
These stories I will tell of my dad will share some of the experiences that he had. Some good, some not so good. But all will be true, raw, and as real as it gets. I will do my best to recall the details, and accurately share his stories. Bear in mind, that when we last spoke, he was in his final days, and my mind was flooded with emotions. As I look back, I really wished that I recorded our last conversation, but here we are, reliant on my flaky, aching memory for the details. All that being said, I’m glad we shared that last talk. I don’t think I could live with myself if we hadn’t.
My father’s dad passed away when he was very young. He didn’t recall much about him, nor did he talk about him often. All I know is that he used to climb palm trees for coconuts, and the story goes that he fell from one and died. So it goes without saying that my dad pretty much grew up without a father figure. This was already stacking the cards against my old man. Being born in the 40s, in Puerto Rico, my dad’s generation didn’t have much going for them.
You’ll then not be surprised where we are headed.
As I mentioned in the beginning, my dad was a survivor. He was for all intents and purposes, a straight-up hustler. He was involved in all sorts of street rackets, ranging from drugs, to petty crimes. His primary skill though, was stealing cars. If there was one thing, my dad was good at, it was leaving your butt walking to the bus or train station. I know this is not something to be proud of. However, as we sat and spoke about it, he made it clear to me that he was among the best at this “trade.” Hey, if you are going to do something, you may as well be the best at it. That’s what I always say.
While he shared this with me, I thought of my good friend, Lemon Andersen. In his play, County of Kings, he talks about how good his step dad was at hot-wiring and stealing a car. He claimed to be able to jack a car in seconds. I wonder who was faster, Lemon’s dad, or my dad?
With a soft laughter in his voice, breathing heavily because of the water retention in his stomach, he told me about this one time that he attempted to steal some sort of food truck or something. “Chacho, hijo mio, esa vez si que meti la pata!” He said that he really screwed up that time stealing that truck. Yes, this dude attempted to jack a vegetable truck. Like one of those delivery trucks or something. My dad was a trip, you have to agree. Who the hell steals a vegetable delivery truck?
In any case, he said he got into the truck, hot wired it and took off within seconds. However, he didn’t calculate how damn slow the truck would run. So he said that he wasn’t very far from it’s place of origin before the owners noticed it was gone down the block. He said they grabbed some bats, got in another car and gave chase. My dad realized that he couldn’t outrun these people in that beast. So he abandoned the slow truck and took off running on foot.
He was afraid that these guys would catch him and kill him or best case scenario, beat him down. See, where we come from, at least in those days, you didn’t call the cops. You handled your business yourself, especially in the streets. So they eventually caught up with the truck, and saw my dad run into a building. They thought that he probably lived there, so they waited around for him. My dad said that he made his way up to the rooftop and watched them. He waited hours and hours hoping they would leave, but those men were persistent, and they continued to wait hoping he came back out for the truck. He said that eventually they took off, with the car they drove up in, and also the stolen truck.
My dad ended up waiting several hours more as he suspected that some of them stuck around waiting, and then nearly eight hours later he came back downstairs and made his way home. Luckily for him, they didn’t catch him. I understand that they staked out the area for some days after, but my dad was no fool. This was nowhere near where he lived, he knew that coming to his own neighborhood would get him caught eventually.
So what is the moral of this story, besides don’t steal cars? Well, if you are going to steal a car, make sure it’s not some slow vegetable delivery truck! Also, if you are being followed for whatever reason, don’t go home. Take a different path, and then try to evade the person following you. Best they not know where you live. To this day, if I suspect someone is following me, I’ll keep walking in a different direction, and go out of my way to ensure they don’t know my destination. If something were to go down, and I had to lay the person out, they won’t know where to find me because I took a different route. See, you get it all here, some humorous stories, and some street survival lessons.
Growing Up Bronx