Sunday, MEMORIAL DAY-1962
A warm, early and sun drenched morning.
Dead end Street, East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Oak trees in full bloom, shading the roller-skate rink, we called home.
The end of the WW11 boom. Change is about to encompass this enclave of cops, firemen, Daily News print stained workmen, along with their wives and families. Stick ball, block parties, card games and alcohol scented evening laughter were about to come to an abrupt and impolite end. A twilight zone for so long for so many blue collar moms with so many children. This Sunday morning was aglow with pastels of women’s dresses coupled to brown suited, straight striding dads, juniors in tow, devout with their trek toward a noontime spire of faith.
My Dad…ahh well, his crusade was the NY Times crossword. Pencil in one hand, Bloody Mary in another! Having recently orchestrated the print ads for Jack Kennedy’s “err” successful election. Jack’s father had MANY friends. Jack himself, a man who would unwittingly change and almost end the world as we knew it; fractionalizing entire concepts of urban neighborhoods, to the day he died. His “second” would embark on the removal of half of this neighborhoods youth, forcing their transplant to an ongoing Asian experience of rice and misery, only to be summarily discarded into a new world order on their old turf dozens of months later. Without any reason for losing their chance at the American Dream of adolescence, they sit on their stoops; vacuous, haplessly viewing siblings repeat what they’re desperately trying to forget as they conceal a toke on the smoke of Saigon.
At this age, I’ve been endowed with a Grand Garage replete with enough “stuff” to create my first Empire of the Formula. I pedal my Schwinn to Ebingers on Flatbush Avenue for MY religious host, devilishly tasty crumb cake!
Summer heat waves reveal a somewhat distorted mirage. My bike’s rapid pace creates a quick disappearance of illusion though, allowing a vision that to this day, burns bright. A silver streamlined dome with two stick figures planted within, parked right in front of MY bakery. The scenario and its players were resoundingly out of character with my perception of what “older people” represented to this kid.
“His” descriptive lingo (“I’m a hip cat”) and “her” lengthy, statuesque, almost porcelain quality set against the dark glass, wrapping her sculpted face, successfully hid her secrets from gawking onlookers. Both figures were clad in tight, black cloth and leather. Their vehicle exuded the same persona. Contrasting the blackness and flesh were the colors of deep German silver in the jewelry that adorned them and their machine, a ’58 Porsche Speedster.
Leaning on the fender of their magnificent endangered,hump-backed species, “him” and “Her” sipped coffee, drawing on cigarettes they rolled themselves! ON THIS SIDE OF TOWN? I positioned MY ride against the bakery window and allowed my eyes and ears to draw it all in. The local natives were restless though, having rarely experienced “hipsters” in their midst. “His” clean-lined silhouette was a page torn from GQ. Arrogantly leaning against his ride, he looked in my direction. “Hey man, you dig my wheels?” “WHAT?” I stammered to say. The fluid, yet disfunctional eloquence of his approach was another bolt of lightning to an already heady encounter with “alien” beings along with their spaceship.
I mused, “What kinda car is THAT?” Smiles overcame their somewhat demure coolness. “She” rolled off the fender and approached me like a supermodel, gliding down Coco Chanel's Paris runway. Softly, with an accent, she introduced herself as Genevieve. A virtual art form. “Mon Ami, iz name iz Bobby D. Ee azk hyou iv hyou lak ze carr. Yes? Hyou wood lak a drive, yes?”
At 12 years of age and having a bit of the street in vocabulary, the words fell out of my mouth too fast….”Holy…..er, YEA! Take me to your leader, even if you guys fell off another planet!” The two Village People promised to wait as my somewhat routine disaappearance would undoubtedly raise several questions by my “authorities”. I rode home and lied about something”. Several minutes later the jump seat of this lithe speedster was filled with my lack of worldly experience…..Hell…..on my way to the beach with beatniks….in a machine “he” referred to as a “bathtub”. The playground was filled by the sound of 1600 cc’s of tuned explosions ensconced in a sliver skin, singing songs all the way over the Marine Park Bridge.
We spent this early morning as lounge lizards do, sunning on a salt aired stone jetty. Atlantic around us, European stories in front; perfume mixing with the salty tone of Bobby D. Transistorized jazz and sumptuous foods I had never tasted before were in sync with the ideas of a world unknown to this lad. Bobby D and Genevieve were fervent advocates and professed the virtues of Porsche, jazz, coffeehouses and understanding the essence of being “totally cool”. With this newfound language and the new freedoms of speech; Genevieve, wrapped in Parisian charm along with Bobby the beatnik, I found more of what life was about. “He” was a Porsche mechanic par excellence and a man with whom I would work with in later years; most important, they were both “hipsters. These two cosmopolitans revealed another way, a cool life of not just driving a hip bathtub, but driving into a hip world. As bobby D would say to me that afternoon when dropped off, “When I drive, man, it’s like taking a bath…..It cleans your soul, you dig it?” Yea, I did, “I do!”
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