The closest beach to New York City where they allow dogs to swim is about two miles from where I grew up. My wife and I have taken to driving up to this beach on early weekend mornings so our golden retriever can have a couple hours a week of fun in the surf. As a consequence, I get to visit some places from my youth, or at least drive by them.
Of course in the almost 40 years that have elapsed since I left Westchester for Manhattan, things have changed in both places. Still, seeing my childhood haunts often brings back a flood of memories. Not all of them rose-colored.
This Sunday as we were driving my wife remarked that a liquor store we were driving by was, in her words, “huge.”
My memories went back to 1967 or so when the liquor store was a Gristedes, a local supermarket. I was running home from Johnnie Auletta’s house one cold Sunday afternoon and a kid named Glen Hall tried to mug me.
Hall was one of the tougher kids in town and for whatever reason—it couldn’t have been money because, well, how much could I be carrying? decided he wanted to beat the shit out of me. He was a tough kid, Glen Hall, one of the few black kids in town.
I was cutting across the Gristedes’ parking lot which was enclosed by a four-foot-high chain link fence, and he charged at me. I was hemmed in by the fence and not looking forward to my beating. Suddenly, something clicked, and instead of playing the victim, I grabbed at a shopping cart that had been left unattended in the parking lot. Maybe someone had wheeled their groceries home and returned the cart after Gristedes had closed.
In any event, I ran full-tilt at Hall with the cart as a battering ram and scared the shit out of him. He looked at me like I was absolutely out of my mind.
I suppose he said ‘fuck you’ to me, or something of that ilk and then he high-tailed it out of the parking lot.
I recounted the story, briefly, to my wife. And then said, “I’ll tell you what I learned from this.
“When you’re in a fight with someone, it makes sense, it’s smart in fact, if they think you’re a little bit crazy.
“Chances are, they’ll give you wide berth.”