[Seeing as how he don’t have any new photos to post, though he did manage to get out and walk around with the camera, and how he didn’t find anything worth shooting, and how it was a beautiful spring day – finally – the blogger decides to post another installment of his so-called memoirs. And how he calls ’em memoirs, but they’re just clips snapped of things that had meaning to him, both as a kid and later and in no particular chronology. ]
The imp with me is middle sister who did nothing but get me into trouble.
We were raised to be brave. Our fathers had returned from winning World War Roman Numerals One Twice That, as far as we kids were concerned, was the best use of Roman Numerals which they were still forcing us to learn in public school at the time. World War II. That, I can tell you, had a ring to it for us kids born after it was finished. World War I – that didn’t even get a numeral without World War II. We discussed these things with dead seriousness between class. We did, grow up in it’s shadow. And our parents became parents in it’s shadow.
We still made model planes of Mustangs and Corvairs and the British Spitfires. When they were stuck together properly, we held mock dog fights. We knew the climbing rate of these planes; where the machine guns were located. We had our favorites, mine was the Mustang because of that unusual shape at the front. We made enemy planes as well, like the Zero.
We had our non-WWII heroes as well: Davey Crockett was a real person for us. He killed Grizzley bears (b’ars) with his bare hands. Our fathers had been through a lot. Whatever they could do – we could do as well, though we did turn out to be the Peace Generation. That makes sense now as a rebellion against the previous generation which had almost destroyed the world, and did manage to get pretty close.
As the oldest boy in my household with two younger sisters, I was treated by my father, not as a boy, but as a small man. Although, looking back on myself – I see a quiet, and timid boy – we were taught by our dads to never back down from a fight. And by fight, I mean a physical fist-fight.
There was a kid: Fat Junior. He wasn’t fat, not like the Cosby character – but supersized for his age. Just plain big. Big bones. A head like a block of granite. And Fat Junior all through the second and into the third grades had only one thing on his wee-small mind, and that was to launch himself onto me and knock me to the sidewalk.
And of course, the fates, just to make it all interesting – decided that I would be the shortest boy in my second grade class. Maybe they sit up there uhm – actually musing. Ah, you know what would be good? Let’s setup Fat Junior to prey on that David kid – yeah, like in the old days. Remember?. I think it’s in the bible.
Fat Junior lived in the building across the alley from me. A good Irish Catholic family. I knew all of them: Fat-Junior, Fat-Linda (his fat sister), and Mickie (the oldest boy). At night, from my kitchen window, you could look across the alley into their window and see Mickie hunched over his books for Catholic School.
I don’t remember the parents. Fat-Linda, it was said, had been hit by a bus, and not even knocked down. I didn’t see that. But everyone had heard about it.
Junior’s idea of fun was to simply run, full-tilt at me, whenever he saw me, and knock me to the sidewalk, sit on me, and while slapping me around, giggle and ask: D’ya give? D’ya give? Or other variations: had ’nuff? Had’nuff?
All of which were along the lines of: “surrender?” a lot of us even knew at that age, the famous General’s reply of “Nuts” – though we may not have known where that happened until later.
If I said that I did give – he would usually slap me in the face again and then get up, and go after someone else. He didn’t have it out for me in particular. Just any boy his own age who was smaller, and that meant any boy on the block.
Sometimes – if he was really mad – I might end up with a bloody nose. I didn’t fight back very hard because he would just squeeze the wind out of me if I did. And once, I did run back into our house crying to my father and hugging his legs. He immediately turned me around and forced me to go back out to confront Junior. This was the main thing to learn as a boy kid. To be brave.
It never occurred to dad (as I suspect it does today) that maybe he could chat with the parents of the launch-weapon and put an end to my daily tribulation. You simply did not reward cowardice. You didn’t run from a fight.
I found ways around Junior. You could go down to the basement and leave the building from the supers exit and he might see you but you had a start on him, and his fatal weakness was that he couldn’t run very fast. I was much faster.
* * *
EXCERPT FROM MY INTERVIEW WITH DR. NOITAWL
Q: Isn’t there some “fight or flight” reflex they talk about.
Q: So to flee from danger – is a built in reflex.
A: Part of what kept us alive, as a species.
Q: And it doesn’t mean that I was a coward to run away?
A: Of course not.. Learn how to run. Any popular sport is made of the two survival reflexes: flight and fight. Hit and run. Slap and Tumble…
* * *
You had to show yourself on the street eventually and the longest struggle went from the University Avenue sidewalk -> up the courtyard steps -> to the courtyard <- back down the courtyard steps -> up the steps -> into the lobby -> through two doors. Somehow at the end of it I had put the death grip on him with my legs (the scissor lock) and he had passed out and peed on himself to boot (I found out later that was common when you were knocked out).
And there I was atop the monster, at the foot of our front door since we lived in apartment 1A.
As I was jotting down these memories it struck me that bravery was so much simpler when you were ten years old. It got way more complex later.
Postscript: years later, I met Junior, though I never knew his real name. And he was going to Fordham Law School. The same school his older brother had graduated from. Junior was still big as a house, but now he was in a suit outside of Alexanders. How we recognized each other, I can’t fathom since I only knew him as an object hurtling towards me, but I do remember that he said something with that giggle that brought me back to the old days, though I didn’t mention them. )
(to be continued)