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117th Street

W.117th, the street I grew up on, was the borderline between Cleveland and it’s western suburb, Lakewood, Ohio.  A lot went on in that neighborhood and sometimes it takes fifty years, other generations and changing of the guard to appreciate some of those things.  No matter your age you’ve got to be on your game, top of the world, nothin’ to learn here, keep it movin’, you’ve got this. As early as ten years old, I was establishing myself as a player, man of the world if you will.  When I kissed Toni, my first girlfriend, it was next to an old Chinaman’s house next to the Pontiac auto repair garage. I don’t know if an asian ever owned the house or even lived there but it was a building, epic legends were made of.  


Luckily, we were all goin’ through growing pains together and lies and other fabrications and/or embellishments were routinely honored across the board.  The school of thought was, one couldn’t expect his or her bullshit story to be validated if you were scrutinizing another’s. “Ever kissed a girl? “Hell, yeah.”  “Ever had sex?” Hell, yeah.” There were limits of course and when such a case arose, we credited a cousin no one knew or had ever met, including ourselves. “Ever kill someone?”  “No, but my cousin did. Big gang fight on 114th.” This is where some horse’s ass would try to call you out, without violating the code. “What was his name?” “Joey, my cousin Joey.”  At this point, you would nod to your most loyal confederate, “you remember Joey.” He or she surely would remember Joey and you both would happily recall a memory that included the three of you.  As a last ditch effort, the horse’s ass would challenge, “oh yeah, can we see Joey?” “Sure, if you can get in the Mansfield Penitentiary.” The horse’s ass quietly accepted defeat and the group moved on to other tales.  Thank God the street lights came on and we had to run home. Given another fifteen minutes, someone’s cousin would have been responsible the notorious mass murders of public square of 1947. Editor’s note:There were no mass murders of public square in 1947, ever, didn’t happen.


I visited my street a couple years ago and  Fisher Foods grocery store building was still there.  In my mind, I could see my old pal Glenn Lucas and myself at fifteen years old.  I don’t recall if we cut school or it was summer vacation but we were up to our ass in doin’ nothin’.  We sat on the bench in front of the store and spent the afternoon, with Glenn teaching me the words to, The Game of Love, by Wayne Fontana.  “The purpose of a man is to love a woman and the purpose of a woman is to love a man.” Later in the day, while practicing a dance step, the Temptations or Four Tops could only hope to achieve, we reached our goal, of which we hadn’t many and I learned the song.  


If a pessimist were to finish this story, it would be of  millenials and on, not having these memories and only remember staring at their Iphones.  I would describe myself as neither a pessimist or optimist. It is not our job to determine what’s important to this or any generation. .  Hell, sometimes it takes fifty years to remember you’ve even got a memory. What is certain, is that their memories will be as important to them as what blew our hair back.

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