Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Flashback

You ever have a flashback moment? You see or hear or smell something that takes you back to days gone by? I think we have all had these moments from time to time. I had one while in Brunswick Georgia rolling through town on a bicycle. The scene looked familiar to me and it triggered a memory. A good one. After giving it some thought and smiling to myself, I wondered at the the life I was now living and just how the heck I got here. From a kid riding his bike all over the streets of Buffalo NY to the retired guy riding a bike around the town of Brunswick GA. From a factory nerd at a mega corporation with a house in the burbs to a scruffy old guy with all his possessions stuffed into a boat. It baffles me some days when I think too much about it. It really is amazing how life's little twists and turns can take you to unexpected places if you allow it to.  

I was pedaling through a neighborhood where you might say I stuck out like a tumbleweed rolling through Manhattan. Here I am, an old guy on a borrowed bike with a backpack waving and nodding to people who probably wonder if I’m lost or just goofy. I was totally comfortable with my surroundings. Debra and I bike through here all the time. No one ever bothered us and all we ever got were smiles and a hello from most people.

I stopped at an intersection for a school bus. Some kids down the street were joking around and tossing a football. Some little kid hops off the bus and yells, “You too old to be riding that bike. Let me have it!” He had a serious look on his face until I smiled and then his big grin showed up. In that moment I was taken back to my childhood in the late 60’s in the city of Buffalo NY.

I had a friend named Ray who was a classmate at St. Matthew's School. He was a member of “The Three”, the nuns called us. The Three caused most of the problems in class. Myself, Ray and Dave were constantly looking for laughs and we thought everything was funny. We were also constantly in trouble and held after class. Getting your knuckles rapped with a ruler or a garden hose to the ass together made for a friendship that lasted all summer. We lived streets away form each other but we biked back and forth between houses and everywhere in between.

Ray lived in a “bad” section of our old neighborhood. The area was changing and some people didn’t like it much. I was told not to ride my bike to Ray's else I would get beat up and left on the street to die. Most likely my Mom told me I would get stabbed. She must not like knives. Ray was my best friend and he had all the cool stuff at his house like comic books, cap pistols, records, slot cars, etc. Ray also had the hottest Mom I had ever seen. She was a blond hippie chic who made awesome lunches and then lounged in the Sun to work on her tan. To hell with the bad neighborhood! Stab me if you want as long as I get another look at Ray’s mom lounging in the Sun in that bikini. 

“Hey Mrs S can Ray come out to play?” Most times I just raced into his driveway and left a squealing skid mark and shouted, “Ray Ray Oh Ray Ray!” We never rang doorbells or knocked. Windows were always open and someone was usually outside if it was a nice day.

One sunny afternoon I was riding my bike over to Ray’s and there were a bunch of kids in the street yelling and shoving each other. Big kids. It looked like a touch football game was getting underway. I tried to avoid the crowd by jumping a driveway and continuing along the sidewalk when I was grabbed by the arm! My bike spun around and I almost ditched. “Gimme your bike!”. A kid about my size had me by the arm and my bike by the handlebars. He tried to wrestle me off but we’re talking about my prize possession here, a metallic gold Huffy Stingray type bike with a gold flecked banana seat and sissy bar with chromed fenders. I had a death grip and took a beating but I was not letting go of my ride. I got a few punches in when a large arm came up behind me and whacked my assailant in the head. “Leave him alone! Peanut!, Leave him be!” The little shithead named Peanut let me go. The big kid asked me if I was OK. He told me they were playing a game of touch and asked me if I played. Uh. Yea, but…  Peanut was glaring at me at this point when the bigger dude says, “I need you on D. What’s your name? OK Paul, Peanut is going to watch your bike and give it back to you when the game is over.” My eyeballs went wide and I tried to peel out of there but Peanut had a hold of me again. “Don’t worry. Peanut will bring it back else I beat his ass.” I watched Peanut ride away with a smirk on his pudgy face while I took up the cornerback position. I knew football. I played in the Kensington 90 pound painters division. We kicked ass. Unfortunately 90 lbs was about where I stayed until I became a teen so my football days were numbered.

I had a good game. Two blocked passes and one interception with a run back. I got some nasty looks and some unique new names but the big dude laughed and asked me who my favorite player was. At the time it was Lem Barney for the Detroit Lions. The big kid laughed and from then on in that section of my old neighborhood I was known as Lem. Peanut brought my bike back and let it fall against a tree. This got him another punch and I was told to come back again. For the next month or so I played football in the street and Peanut rode my bike around until he got bored with this and joined the game. My parents assumed I was at Ray's house reading comic books and not playing football in the streets as a potential stabbing victim. Peanut and I became friends. I can't remember his real name but I remember the fun and the competition we always had with one another. Every now and then Ray and his Mom would pass by in their station wagon. Ray would see me and just wave a little. Ray was not allowed to play in the streets I was told. At the time I didn’t really get what was going on but I assumed Mrs S probably thought Ray would get stabbed.

Eventually we moved to the suburbs. I still had the Huffy. I road it all the way back to Ray’s one day. There was no football game. Nobody took my bike. The street was absent of kids. Peanut didn't live there anymore. The neighborhood had changed. Ray had changed too. His Mom was still hot. I never returned.

On the way back from Winn Dixie on this hot day in Brunswick I pass a guy mowing his lawn. I get a wave. Guy crossing the street smiles, “Alright alright”. A woman on a porch waves hello. I see the little kid from the bus sitting on some porch steps. He looks up and yells, “Old man you tired yet?!” I laugh as I peddle past his wise guy smirk. 
Not yet Peanut. Not yet.

Cheers!
PJ






5 comments:

  1. Hmmmm. Teared me up just a little. Good story.

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  2. Great writing, Paul! Took me back to the early seventies and a couple of Jamaican kids in our neighborhood who told my brothers the could build go-karts from their bikes for five dollars. Turns out they were quite good at completely disassembling the bikes - making go carts, not so much, mon!

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  3. Beautiful! Brings back memories of "borrowing" my brother's grasshopper green bike with the banana seat. Rode it with no seat (he took it off for some silly reason which I no longer recall - maybe his little sis riding it) rather than not riding it at all. Next thing you know will hunt down a pogo stick....

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