When I was growing up, my dad had a terrible drug addiction. In addition to that, he was a gipsy cab driver, as well as a super on occasion. In other words, his cash stream was very dependent upon how a day went. Of course, the heroine addiction also factored into that.
On particularly bad days that my dad didn’t have any customers, he’d have a hard time getting his “fix.” On those days, anything that he could get his hands on was fair game.
My freestyle bike became subject to one of his “sales” on a particularly bad work day. He never admitted it to me, and though I kind of had suspicions back then, I was too naive to fully comprehend things.
So yeah, my pops sold my bike for a quick heroine fix. Then on a particularly good day, he went and bought me this amazing light blue BMX bike. It had saucers, power brakes, I mean the bike was dope! I definitely had the coolest bike on the block, and probably the whole neighborhood.
There were several times that some kids tried to steal my bike from me. One day we were riding on the Grand Concourse while it was closed off for the summer. They’d close it on certain days so that the kids could ride their bikes and scooters. They tried to catch me on the underpass in Fordham road.
The little jerks threw rocks and sticks at our bike tires to make us fall. What I find particularly troubling is that we were going at very high speeds. Back then we didn’t wear helmets or other gear, so we could have been severely injured. But those criminals didn’t care, they wanted our bikes. We were outnumbered, and in their neighborhood, so we fled the scene as opposed to retaliating.
The next time that an attempt to steal my bike was made, I wasn’t so lucky. These criminals were smarter, and I was as naive as ever. There was a group of young men at Crotona Park, and they approached me and started talking to me. They invited me to hang out with them and race our bikes.
Being the naive young man that I was at that age, I agreed and followed them. Once they separated me from my group, their energy changed. They surrounded me, and one of them directed me to get off the bike. It hadn’t quite registered with me yet, I was being robbed.
I said “let’s race guys, come on.” That’s when one of them came and attempted to remove me from the bike, I fought him off, as I was stronger. Then one of the older guys signaled, and two attacked me, again, they couldn’t get me off the bike. I’ve always been pretty strong, and these young punks didn’t have anything on me.
The act was being prolonged, and I wasn’t going to comply with these punks. The older guy who appeared to be the ring leader pulled out the most pathetic, rusty knife that I have ever seen. However, that changed things. Even though the knife was pretty sad, it had a pointed edge and could still harm me. At that point I got off the bike, the thief picked it up with one hand and rode off on his other bike. They said if I followed them they would slash my neck.
My replacement bike was now gone.
After a few minutes, my family realized something was wrong. I think one of my cousins may have seen the scuffle. So a bunch of them showed up with our cooking knives, but it was too late, the juvenile delinquents were gone.
We called the cops, and drove around for awhile trying to find these losers, but they’d have to be awfully stupid to stick around the park after robbing someone. They were gone, and so was my bike.
After that I don’t really remember riding too much. I can’t quite remember, but I did have a scooter for awhile, I had spray painted it and made it look pretty damn ugly.
That wasn’t the last time I was robbed or assaulted Growing Up Bronx, but it was the last time that I was caught off guard like that. The experience definitely made me more cautious and less trusting. My Bronx upbringing gave me lessons that I carry to this day! Good luck trying to set me up today!