A Neighborhood Improvement Journal - Summer 2017

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Summer Nights on 187 th Street

 

Arthur Avenue Neighborhood - Bronx

 

 

We may not have had trees or lawns or fancy houses with two car garages but I would not trade my childhood for any of those in the suburbs. We may not have had much money but our lives were rich in culture, rich in character, and rich in friendships.

 

At night in the suburbs you hear crickets, frogs or rustle of leaves in the breeze. At night in the “burbs” all was quiet. The nights on 187 th street had different sounds. The voices of old men playing cards on the sidewalk, or groups like Dion and the Belmonts practicing for their big chance. Three or four men standing in a circle yelling out numbers in Italian as they displayed one, two, three, or four fingers, a small argument always breaking out that always ended in laughter. The sounds of kid’s, dozens of them, running and playing. Occasionally you’d hear screams such as “Ring-a-leevio 123” or “freeze” or “buck buck how many fingers I got up”. At night on 187 th St. there was a cacophony of sounds. During the feasts you would hear opera all night long.

 

We’d lay out on our fire escape and listen, caught up in the sounds, and in our souls we knew, this is music, this is soothing, this is art, this is the way things are and are supposed to be. It touched our core, so that now it evokes memories and reminds us of our roots. The singers were unknowns but could have been Pavroti, Caruso or any of the best. To us they were the best. As a child it never occurred to me that this was unique. It was only when I moved out of New York did I understand the true gift we were given as children and adults.

 

The opera stand would be put up next to Nate’s on Crescent and 187 th. At night there would be hundreds of people crowded around, sitting on wooden vegetable boxes, folding chairs, or just standing for hours listening to this great music. As kids we would chase each other through the crowds, playing tag. The older people would swipe at us and laugh. We’d beg for money from the local bookies to buy zeppole’s or a calzone. They were always very generous.

 

When it got hot in the burb’s they’d open their back door and jump in their pool. Or they’d go to the community pool. When we got hot “Johnny pump here we come.” Someone always had a wrench and if there was no wrench we’d wrap a piece of wire around a stick and open the hydrant that way, we were very creative. No, we could not dive in our pool nor could we float around on an air mattress, but man did we have fun. Break the bottom out of a garbage can, slip the whole thing over the hydrant and you got instant showers. Even the adults would join us on hot summer nights. We’d stay under that torrent of ice cold water all day and night until our skin was shriveled and we shivered.

 

 

 

A walk from Arthur Avenue to Southern Blvd was always an adventure. Each street you’d pass was alive with people. It seemed almost everyone had some kind of food in their hand. Lemon ices (for some reason we called them that even thought they were chocolate, spumoni, and other great flavors), a slice of pizza, you’d even see people with whole loaves of fresh baked Italian bread breaking pieces off and munching. There was always a mob in front of Artuso’s, cars double parked, horns honking, people giving hand gestures at the honkers.

 

Looking up towards 183 rd and there were what seemed like hundreds of people and kids entertaining themselves with cards, games, even little makeshift tables with homemade red wine, chunks of sharp provolone, bread, olives and other goodies. You’d see people you knew and start yelling, “hey Bingo, Nicky Red, Little Joe, Tuby, what you guys doin?” Keep walking and come to Crotona Ave. This was the “big” street, again people enjoying themselves, life spilling out of the buildings onto the street. Walk one more block to Prospect and you came across a very large group of kids. Again you yell “hey Charlie, Antoinette, Butchy, Joann, Paula what you guys doin?” And on it went, each block a living thing in itself, each block with a thousand stories, each block teeming with life, all connecting this little slice of Italy. All the small parts sharing one common thing; the love of life.

 

 

Author Unknown

From arthuravenuebronx.com

 

 

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