Category Archives: early years

Float like a butterfly…

“…sting like a bee.”

–Muhamad Ali

A lot of times when we were bored or something, we’d box or slap-box. We’d put on the gloves and fight a few rounds in the house. Not that I wanted to fight my brother, but only because he thought it’d be fun. (He knew he was gonna kick my a** and I knew he was gonna kick my a**, so other than getting an a**-kicking I never really saw the point.)

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Man overboard

“… it hits you like a thousand knives stabbing you all over your body. You can’t breathe. You can’t think. At least, not about anything but the pain. Which is why I’m not looking forward to jumping in there after you.” — Jack to Rose, in Titanic

I remember we were in the back at the river. If you know anything about it in the back of Section 5 in Co-op City, besides the fact that the water is filthy, there are a couple of pillars on either side of the bridge. We often fished and/or swam from one of them. This particular time it was high tide and our friends were jumping in the water. I watched, while my brother was just casting his rod and reeling it in. It was a good time. Next thing I knew, I was in the water. Those who know me now know that I love the water – I’m a fish. I’m the first one in and the last one out; I’m the one that suggests a swim out to ‘the deep part’. I could stay in the water all day and not get bored. It wasn’t always so. So normally I wouldn’t care too much about having been pushed-in in 10-ft water given my feeling toward it now, but back then I couldn’t swim.

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Hair today, gone tomorrow

“I did it my way.”
–My Way, song by Frank Sinatra

Back in the late eighties, long hair was somewhat in style among men. I knew this, of course, because my brother had let his hair grow long. All of his friends did. “The longness,” they called it. Well, you guessed it, us little guys grew ours too. So from about the 7th to the 8th grade, I had long hair (think mullet – very eighties). My hair always curled up and I could never get it past my neck (I blame the barber.). But my bro had long straight hair. I wished I had hair like his. A few years later, we both cut it off. And a few years later after that he starting balding: a receding hairline. “Crap,” I thought, “he wore glasses, and then I had to wear glasses. He’s going bald, so I probably will too.” I never asked him about it, but it must’ve been difficult for him. At least that’s what I thought by empathizing and putting myself in his shoes.

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Body art

“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”  –Bruce Lee

Just before my 13th birthday, my brother and I went down to 42nd St to get my ear pierced. The older guys had their’s pierced and I wanted an earring too. My mom knew about it, so no big deal.

“Is it gonna hurt?” I asked.
“Nah. They’ll use a gun and you’ll just feel a click,” he said. And so it was.

A few years later, my bro wanted a tattoo. Back then it wasn’t as popular as it is today – it was a big deal. He was the first to get a tattoo out of any of us. We all thought it was cool. He hid it from my mom at first. Then he started walking around without a shirt or with sleeveless shirts so she could see it.

First day went by – she didn’t say anything. Second day – she didn’t say anything. Third day… Days turned to weeks.

“Mommy see your tat?”
“How you know?”
“She had to’ve,” he said.
“Sure she saw it?”
“She must’ve, I’ve been walking around all summer without a shirt.”
“What if she didn’t see it?”
“She saw it.”
I’m thinking, “She couldn’t have seen it. I mean, she woulda went nuts, right? But it’s been right in her face for over a month already. She had to’ve seen it, right? Maybe she saw it and doesn’t care?” Yeah, right.

A few days later, my bro is walking around the house with a tank top on, and my mom says:
“Louis, what’s that on your arm?”
“Uh, oh,” I thought.
“That? That’s my tatoo.”
Then I saw my mom do what she always did when she was pissed: the infamous ‘lean back against the wall’. “You got a tattoo?” she asked. And there it was. They got into it.

One not-so-fine summer’s day

“For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

–Galatians 7

What had started as a fine summer’s day was now one full of peril. The boat is now less than a couple hundred feet from them. I remember feeling very panicked about it all. I couldn’t believe they would risk life and limb just for those things. All of us are yelling for them to get out of the water, even the crewmen of the ship – its horn blaring. The only way out now was to swim out of the channel.

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One fine summer’s day

“They’re all gonna laugh at you!”

–Margaret to Carrie, in Carrie

It’s deep water there in the middle of the bridge; it has to be deep enough for the boats to get through. As usual, we were all jumping in, including Johnny (who along with the Junkyard Dog and Rowdy Roddy Piper had tagged along uninvited.). Everyone’s having a good time, but after a while he notices something’s amiss:

“Where’s my clothes?” he asks.

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