"MY FRIEND PAUL"
Adolescence is a time for development and troublesome adjustment. The worries of an eighth grader are scoffed at later in life but are no less devastating at the time. Coming to terms with puberty, the opposite sex and communication thereof can be a rocky trail. As if these tests of life weren’t enough, fate places a large pimple on your nose or chin when you think you’ve mustered the nerve to ask a girl to the junior high dance. For most, this is as bad as it gets but troubles are relative and can be much worse.
My friend Paul was a good lookin’ kid who was also a tough guy and navigated eight grade as well as anyone. If I remember correctly he may have had a year on most of us. One evening sleeping, he was awakened by a loud bang and then another. He ran down stairs to see a bald headed man running out the front door. In the kitchen his mother lay dead and his father wounded. His father, a local steel union boss, recovered only to be found a short time later in a frozen ravine, victim of, this time fatal gunshots.
Not related but a personal memory I cherish:At fifteen years old I was quite naturally a regular at a neighborhood bar, the Flamingo. As were the times in the 60’s, staring at someone was tantamount to dropping the gauntlets for battle and I responded accordingly. To my dismay, my opponent brought six chums outside with him and the seven proceeded to pummel me. The police car with two officers across the street in another city did not feel compelled to intervene. I conferred with my friend Dave who was living a couple doors away in an apartment. His strategy of driving his motorcycle through the bar, me on the back with his shotgun shooting my assailants was brilliant. However, after realizing he may be drunker than me, I promised I would get back with him.
Paul happened by, minutes later and we devised a plan that would not include murder. We would walk into the bar nonchalantly, sit down and have a beer and identify the perpetrators for future justice. We did walk in and as if on cue the music stopped, not a sound could be heard and of course all eyes on us. Standing back to back Paul yelled, “we’re callin’ ass on every mother fucker in the bar.” No one spoke or moved for that matter. The owner and bartender Andy, came from behind the bar, “Bill, could you two leave for now, I don’t want any trouble.” We did just that after delivering a couple sneers to the packed tavern.
A couple years later Paul, not so quietly, vowed to avenge the murders of his parents. Paul was pulling out of a parking place at W117th and Clifton at the Tastyburger diner. A man in another car in the passenger seat had a pistol aimed at Paul. Paul locked eyes with the man as he raised his own handgun and pointed it at him. At a standoff of sorts, both cars slowly pulled away. A couple weeks later Paul disappeared, and to my knowledge was never seen again.