Tag Archives: 12th Street

Girl Alone

Girl on the block alone.

One friend.

One brother.

I want to be a superhero. Really, ever since I was seven.

Share it with Milton Spivey. Trade stories.

He is cool because his letter to the editor is published in an issue of Spiderman.

Girl alone on 12th Street.

I love to read. To understand the world at large.

I sneak passages in my mother’s paperback copy of William L. Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” The pages thin, already starting to yellow, with that old paperback smell even though it is fairly new.

Love that I know his full name. The importance the author places on it.

I read about concentration camps and the number of Jews murdered from this and that European country. Some in the hundreds of thousands. Some in the millions. Going back to the table listing the number of deaths over and over again.

She keeps hiding the book and I keep finding it.

She needn’t worry. I already know the world is mad. Have known since I was five and learned about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I am forever scorched.

Trying to imagine my superhero self, going back in time to smash the crematoria. To get the Jews out from behind the German lines. To make the shadows of the disappeared in the ruins of Japan come back to life again.

Girl alone.

I listen to Mom’s Coltrane, and my Chopin, and my Songs of the Negev on the portable record player Grandma gave me.

“I could be a soldier there,” I think, “the equal to everyone.”

Know that of anyone I know in the world, it is Grandma who would understand.

Girl alone. Springtime.

I like the silence of my thoughts. The feel of my hair in a plait down my back.

My beige jeans.

Worn-out Hush Puppies with my toes starting to poke out.

Myself. Nine years old.

Going somewhere as swift as the wind.

Cool Jerk

Cool Jerk

I went to my first dance when I graduated from the sixth grade. It was 1966 and, in and of itself, the dance with its steady stream of soul music was pretty amazing as a punctuation mark on my childhood.

Coming out of my school in the early evening, I felt the power of what embarking on a new road meant. Okay, not exactly how I would describe 7th Grade at I.S. 44 on West 77th Street — or the move from my beloved downtown to the upper west side of Manhattan, but I didn’t know that at the time and as tears stung my eyes, I felt elated by the prospect of engaging the unknown.

The next morning, I remember coming downstairs early and sitting on the stoop with my brand new AM/FM transistor radio in hand — a birthday present from my grandmother.

By then I had discovered jazz on WLIB-FM and the other stations on each end of the dial. Those were the cool stations, the ones that played jazz and soul 24-7.

Sitting there watching the world unfold in the light breeze of the early morning air I felt invincible.

It’s a feeling I get from boxing sometimes, when going through my paces I feel completely in tune.  I have it traveling too; walking down a back street in a town, listening to the refrains of life as I pass my, a walking spirit through countless unseen lives.

Later that day, the song Cool Jerk by the group The Capitals came on.  That song was like a hyped-up tonic to me and seemed to optimize the feeling I had of beginning a new journey. Every time I listened to it that summer I felt the thrill of it – and even now if I want a giant pick-me-up I’ll just play that song and something will kick-in to bring on a great big smile.

Yep, I felt like the heaviest cat, the world had ever seen.