253 WEST FIRST STREET

tom briggs

I remember there was a drug store on Thirteenth and West First, and the Argus had a great smell when the ink was still wet and I delivered it to old people in white painted houses with shiny porches on Thirteenth and the summer of ‘60 was hot, real hot, and they had dark hardwood banisters in their houses but it looked like a dull place to live: too orderly and shiny with the smell of furniture polish wafting through the air,  because I liked the smell of model glue and paint and the dope used to stretch the paper, and Mad Magazines laying around my room and I still like paint smell, then the bubble gum from the card pack stuck to my shoe and I got a Rocky Colavito finally, he looked confident in the shot taken at Yankee Stadium who wouldn’t be with 43 homers, and everyone knew Schwerger’s was the place for pastry and Silver’s for rolls and Joe’s Deli for those neat little Table Talk pies… then there was the Carvel near the Sunshine Biscuit garage where I once saw Robert Duncan, he had a marine’s neck like he was headed for Tulane or something, slap boxing with Tommy D’Nisco while the sun was setting beyond the New Haven tracks, where Robert & Willie Basciano and I used to lay large nails on the tracks and wait them it to become a knife and it was sad, real sad about Tommy, cause I saw him in uniform in Katherine’s Tavern on Fifth in ‘66, I think, before he left for ‘Nam… and me and my Irish cousin Johnny used to slap box too, reddening one another while the candy store guy’s father looked on approvingly and  of course we all did those boyish things before then like stealing tomatoes and apples, burning tall heaps of Christmas trees and the suicidal sleighing-while-standing rides down Pearl Street all the way to the casket factory on the street with no name while the branches glistened against the purplish night sky, then there was the parking meter straddling with the two hands, then over the top and do it right ‘cause your balls will squish like grapes if you don’t and the  Italian lemon ice melting on my arm after looking too long at Mareen, then there was the music that played forever like Del Shannon and the Ronnette’s and Cousin Brucie talking fast on ABC and the blizzards were fun, but adults hated them and we threw snowballs with rocks in them at buses and close friends, then water balloons off the roof in summer and we should’ve all been in reform school I swear if it weren’t for the Grace of God, I  don’t know how we came out of it alive, but many did in a good way, I’m sure, but I’m still unravelling and rewinding the ball of psychological and spiritual yarn that I’ve been intermittently trapped in for seven decades and the years and decades came and went like the flashing lighted windows of a fast night train that disappeared into a tunnel and the Spaldeen I hit off of Junior Poliaka is still bouncing on the roof of Ward Leonard’s Electric on South Street and  I swear the fish my big brother Russell caught in the Bronx river is getting bigger all the time, and Russell was one hell-of-a jokester who made everybody laugh and the sun went down and the moon went up twenty thousand times since but Sonny Liston is still staring at me balefully from the cover of Boxing Illustrated, the one I bought in ’61 on Ninth Avenue along First Street, the magazine I loved to read, though I couldn’t fight a lick…

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