By Frank Scarangello
Standing on the corner – 13th Avenue & 66th Street.
a long time ago. Â I lived on the right out of frame.
A three story brick walk-up with our
three rooms in the back
over looking a weedy yard
forbidden to us kids by Julia the landlady.
Everybody’s name ended in a vowel
except for Betty the Greek
and her two wild kids who had
no father cause he beat Betty in the street
and Josie Baxter who owned
the candy store where we could get sweets
momma could get Pall Mall
and daddy could place an occasional
bet on a horse
No trees grew on our concrete avenue
only on the side streets
near Doctor Greco’s house
where rich people owned their houses
and didnâ€™t have to deal
with Julia the landlady.
The corner grocery man Palomini
would take his ready pencil
from back o’ his ear
and write the price of what you bought
on the brown paper bag and quickly add it up
in his head while momma watched
so we didn’t get rooked.
Palomini would give credit till Friday paydays
if you needed it and
Henni would take bets on the sidewalk
outside Josie Baxterâ€™s sweet shop and
ziâ€™Antonio would snooze out front
on his kitchen chair turned round
so he could rest his ancient head
on his arms and dream of his fruit stand and
Nicky Sconzo was the neighborhood bully
till Rosie’s kid Doondy
and his big brother Tino came along and
threw silver paint on the new cowboy chaps
he got for Christmas and
Nickyâ€™s brother Eddie went to the seminary
to be a priest
but came home two years later cause
he didnâ€™t hear the calling no more
since he discovered girls and
Vinnie Ferrara moved to Arizona
cause his momma couldn’t breathe and
Julia land lady’s son Louie worked
for the red rag New York Post
and Charlieâ€™s wife Connie ran away
with the radio repair man across the street
where I first heard Heartbreak Hotel
while Charlie was in the Navy fightin Â Commies.
No one was surprised.
And Daddy said “Donâ€™t mention ’bout commies”
or talk about them in school and
Julius and Ethel were executed
and Ginsburg, Kerouac and Ferlinghetti
were howling but I never heard the noise.
Julia the land lady raised the rent to $30 so we moved
to Coney Island to our two bedroom bungalow
where we stayed poor
leaving behind Charlie, Henni, Louie and Julia
and meeting another Charlie, a Vinnie
and my B. F. F. Â Billy
and we walked the boardwalk on New Yearâ€™s Eve ’59
knowing things would get better
cause we were turning 18 next year
and we were gonna get cars and
meet girls cause we were young and strong
and John Kennedy was gonna be President
and he was gonna change the whole world.