Bay Ridge to Bensonhurst.
It's June of 1954, I'm sitting in the front seat of a moving van about to leave my home for the very last time on 5th Ave, going only god knows where. It took about 25 minutes to get to this dirt Street in Bensonhurst, I instantly knew this was some sort of punishment. As we pulled up to our new one family home, it had a front yard, side yard, back yard, and driveway, I felt very confused. There was 3 bedrooms, my old house had only one, now I would have one, and only have to share it with my Grandmother. In a couple of years she would move down to the porch.
As I got out of the van this blond headed kid about 2 years older than me came over and introduced himself, I asked who was the toughest kid on the block, he looked at me very strange and meekly said, I guess I am. I said next week when my father goes back to work we'll fight just to check it out, he just walked away shaking his head. The following week we fought to a draw, wrestling only, no punching or choking, we became best of friends. He was really a very strong mutt, half Irish and half Swede. I don't remember anything about that Summer, that's how boring it must have been.
My first day at my new school, PS 121 was a different story, The different grades were lined up in the school yard, I saw the sign that said 5th grade, walked over to some one on line and asked who was the toughest kid in the grade. This big kid was pointed out, even bigger than I was, and I was big for my age, I walked over to him, taped him on the shoulder, when he turned towards me, I cold cocked him. The following day I did the same thing with supposedly the toughest kid in the school, it went up to the sixth grade. My reputation was made, nobody messed with me, not even the teachers, they thought I was crazy.
Two years later I went to PS 226, I met a kid that made me look tame, Richie Pelser, he couldn't beat me in a fight, but could beat me at being bad, actually I had calmed down a lot by then, we became best of friends. The school also had a gym teacher Mr. Glassman, about 6ft 4, 275lbs, a big mouth, and nobody messed with him, including myself, except for Richie. Richie drove all the teaches crazy, his mother was at the school as much as he was, he would break in at night and fuck up the classrooms of the teaches he disliked the most.
We were like two mavericks, the main click was the Italians, they had some really bad dudes, but didn't screw with us until one day there head guy Artie started picking on Richie in the gym, Richie was scared and backed off. I walked over to Artie and told him Richie would meet him after school. Richie was really pissed at me, I told him loosing would be better than being a punk, somehow he finally agreed. The first thing Artie did was take off his garrison belt and wrap it around his hand, buckle out front. Richie didn't have one, I took off mine, which was my uncle's Marine garrison, it had a solid brass buckle with sharpened edges, a lethal weapon. Once Richie got started he took Artie, the cops were there and confiscated the belt, Richie got into a lot of trouble because of it, he never ratted me out.
My rep was cemented when during a softball game on the cement pavement, this gorilla sized guy named Garfine threw his glove at the back of my head when he missed tagging me out at second base, by the time the gym teacher Mr. Glassman dragged me off him, his face was a bloody mess from being scrapped viscously along the ground, it took weeks for him to recover.
The following year, Richie would do the same to one of the Italian guys named Paul, right outside the bowling alley, I was taking bets on Richie. I remember how much I respected Paul after the beating he got from Richie, he neverbacked down. He took it like a man and kept coming at Richie. We became best of friends after that and partners for life. Turns out that was Pauls biggest weakness, he's incapable of backing down to anyone.