Strangers

chased

“Who is this strange woman?” I thought as my heart was beating and beating at a frightening pace. I didn’t know this strange woman accompanied by a doubly strange-looking man who had just jolted me high into the air. I struggled, tugging to get away from him. After a minute, I managed to slip both my arms out from my jacket.

Then clawing myself away, I hurled from his arms, tumbled to the floor, leaving my jacket hanging over his shoulder and halfway down his chest. I took off running full speed down the hall to our apartment, scurrying straight into our back bedroom. Then I slid right under my bed, panting and sweating as I listened bewildered to what sounded like a most joyous occasion inside the living room.

Only later did I discover the mystery woman was my Mom’s sister and her husband, who had come to visit because Mom was pregnant with my soon-to-arrive sister, Peggy.

God Verses 7

Mommies Dearest

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Only months later, I watched in confusion and with tears dripping down my cheeks as two men dressed in white coats strapped my mom’s hands together. Echoes bolted through my little body with every scream that screeched from Mom’s mouth in protest as she was involuntarily being dragged down the hall. Mom was committed to the psychiatric ward of Jacobi Hospital because of her drinking problem. Dad became an on-and-off again single parent with eight children because Mom would now spend weeks and frequently months in the psychiatricward.

One day, I was sitting in the last bedroom at the end of the long hallway in our five-bedroom apartment, which was the largest apartment in the building. Besides being the largest apartment, we also had two bathrooms; the other apartments had only one. In years to come, my friends envied our two bathroom luxury. Straining my eardrums from my bedroom down the hall, I could hear Dad’s words as he greeted a stranger at the front door. The stranger was a woman who Dad immediately invited into our apartment, and they continued to chat as they both headed in the direction of my room. Instinctively, I knew that Dad was scheming something.

I started to tremble in fear of the unknown and the inevitable that I knew was coming. As Dad came into my bedroom, I was in full-blown, out-of-control rage as I jumped up and down on the bed, screaming and hollering. After a few strong whacks to my behind, my tantrum immediately stopped. Dad introduced me to the lady with him. “Johnny, this is Anna.” Anna was a social worker from the city who would help care for us while Dad was at work. I began where I left off with my tantrum, screaming and yelling at the top of my lungs. But it was vital for Dad to get to his job being the sole provider for eight children, so he walked right out the door. I just crouched up on my bed sobbing in tears.

God Verses 6

tortured goldfish

dead goldfish

When I was old enough for kindergarten, my parents prepared me for my first day of school. To fancy me up and make a handsome boy out of me, they spread and combed gobs of Vaseline throughout my hair. My head felt as if I was wearing a bronze metal helmet weighing ten pounds, but they accomplished their task. My hair stayed in place and wouldn’t move. But once I was at school, they didn’t bargain for my less-than-enthusiastic response!

As my parents took me into the kindergarten class, my heart was pumping with a mixture of fear and anticipation. Right then and there, I decided that school was not for me. I began screaming, kicking, and yelling, not wanting to be left alone with a bunch of strangers. Then in one motion, I jerked my desk into the teacher’s, causing a fishbowl to come flying off her desk and crash onto the floor. As the goldfish were flipping and flopping on the floor, I momentarily stopped and watched as they struggled and gasped for air. Snapping out from my daydream about the goldfish, I continued my tantrum, until at last the teacher had no choice but to send me home with my parents.

God Verses 5

the Bad Eye

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A couple of three-hundred ton dump trucks were parked right across the street from our building, along with a few fifty-ton bulldozers. The magnetic attraction those big rigs had on me, my older brothers, and friends was overwhelming. We ran across the street, all knowing the last one to the dump trucks and bulldozers was a “rotten egg”! We pushed, pulled, kicked, punched, and tried to hold each other back in order to get up on the driver’s seat first.

After slipping past a few of the older guys, I made it first to the top of a bulldozer and onto the driver’s seat. Being excited and proud of myself, I boasted of my accomplishment to the boys below screaming loudly, “I’m King of The Hill!”. Then, in all of the commotion and excitement, my attention was diverted and I slipped off the driver’s seat.

My face slammed full force onto the pool ball-sized stick shift. My right eye took the brunt of the fall, and, to make matters worse, the gobs of grease on the handle of the stick shift filled my watery eye. I ran home screaming and crying in pain, with an excited trail of onlookers following right behind me into our apartment. The injury certainly put an exclamation point on my day, but I survived!

God Verses 4

 

Eating Pigeon Slime

pidgeonsThe sun was warm on my face, and I watched the birds gliding from tree to tree, and the squirrels chasing each other across the grass and up the tree trunks.  Life was exciting, and the only thing on my mind was that moment in time!  I could only think about what was in front of me. What I was to do next or what had happened a few minutes before did not exist in my mind. Anna, looking down at me  with a big smile on her face, pulled four slices of white bread out of a brown paper bag she had in a pocketbook and said, “Johnny, would you like to feed the pigeons? “ She tossed the bread on my lap, and within seconds, hundreds of dirty New York pigeons swarmed around me.

I could no longer see the large fountain,  Anna, the squirrels, or the birds:  only pigeons. The pigeons were all over my body. Quickly, Anna grabbed the slices from me and threw the bread towards the fountains. The pigeons scurried in that direction and away from us. Laughing almost hysterically, Anna reached into her pocketbook and pulled  out some tissues to wipe slimy pigeon poop from my head,  arms,  and  legs.  During the ride home, I could feel the vibration of the road underneath the large soft cushions, and all I could think about at the time was the coins being sucked down through the machine into the bus floor and the taste of  a salty flavor in my mouth from the slimy pigeon poop.

God Verses 3

Beatlemania

Bad boy stairsThe three of us took off down the stairs, laughing and giggling like little girls, while we sang another Beatles’ song, “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah…” Between floors, each staircase had fourteen steps until the next floor then, a sharp turn and another fourteen steps.This pattern continued all the way to the first floor.

As we reached the eighth floor, my sneaker came untied, and as we rounded the turn going from the eighth floor to the seventh floor, Gumby stepped on my loose shoelace, sending me tripping head first at the top of the stairs. Gumby fell on top of me, and Billy followed in turn falling on top of Gumby.

All of us fell down the stairs together, banging our heads, legs and arms until we reached the landing on the seventh floor. We came to a stop bunched up together in the corner next to the exit door. We laid there moaning and groaning, no longer singing delightful Beatle songs. Screeching in pain, we decided, at that moment, as we crawled into the seventh floor hallway, the elevator was the better choice to the lobby.

God Verses 2

 

the Making of a Bad Boy

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Although we weren’t present during the times when God created the universe, we have the book of Genesis to fill us in on the details. This is very much like life. While most don’t remember their actual birth, we know it happened and have evidence to prove it occurred (photos, stories, and a birth certificate). My earliest memory of life, however, goes as far back as remembering the feeling of pressure and the tight squeeze as I was being pushed down, along with a slow-motion sensation of being driven forward wrapped in a cocoon and drenched in complete darkness. Now, I already know what you’re thinking.

“There is no way you could possibly remember this monumental event.”

But I do… I could hear only sounds of silence as I drifted into an abyss. Then suddenly I felt what could only be described as a veil being lifted from my entire body. As my eyes opened, I saw a bright-white screen, and I heard voices all around me. The commotion and excitement was due to the fact that I had finally arrived…Yes!

There I was on the inside of an early 1960s station wagon, squashed tightly together with eight other uniquely created individuals who were all related to me by blood: my mom, my dad, my brothers, and my sisters. The experience I just described was at the Bronx Whitestone Drive-In Movie Theater.

(What? Did you really think I remembered my own birth?!)

I was tucked tightly under a blanket with my siblings on the floor of our station wagon. We were hiding from the attendant who collected a fee for each passenger inside your car. As I tried to lift myself from under the blanket, my brothers and sisters pushed me back under and told me to be silent as the gentleman poked his head into our car for a headcount to charge the appropriate fee for entrance.

God Verses 1