BOYZ IN THE HOOD

Distance, be it time or space, yields not only perspective, but understanding.

My sight line in high school was skewed. The only kid on the block attending Hebrew School thrice weekly, I was also the product of what was then termed a “broken home”. Evaporating every other weekend for time with my dad, I was a part-time player in the social world, a cut below.

Perhaps it’s the upcoming reunion, but I’m thinking today not just of my core friends from grade school, but of the expanse of pals —the larger circle—that pushed me through adolescence.

We grew up a cocoon of “nice Jewish boys”. There were sixteen of us in the day—sometimes more. (Final count depended on whether Myers was in or out that minute). We were buddies all, at some level, and in an era no one spoke of “diversity”, we were its poster child.

There were the guys with whom I easily bonded, like Alan and Stuart and Bobby—- and the polar opposites: those whom in varying degrees I was never quite sure liked me. Adhesive though different, bonded by roots sowed at Rowland, each of us, not just the Bobby’s and Stuart’s and Alan’s, trudged parallel roads of happy destiny. Running in teams, laughing as groups, we wore madras and smiles sharing interchangeable friendships.

So here’s to the rest of the best!

Whether they know it or not…indeed—whether they care or not, each is a pixel on the canvas of my past, and, ensemble, these boys of my summer left an indelible image.

I saw them as risk-takers, the other guys.  Clean-cut rogues, in a way. Heck, they blazed trails I feared to tread: from basement steps down Wally’s Cleveland Heights pool hall to hitchhiking Lee Road to wasted nights at the Chagrin Armory.

To this day, each of the morsels in my memory, leave a great taste in my mouth.  Anecdotal, of course, but I remember so much:

Like seventh grade: Auerbach, hearing I liked this girl Cindy, pointed out her nice body. Naive me?  I hadn’t noticed.  (Stuart confirmed it though; Ricky was right).

And years later, when Ermine was first to fix me up on a date. ‘ Can’t recall her name but Mark said I should “try something”. (We were in her Stilmore basement when I leaned in, only to have her recoil with words that still ring in my ears. “Get off of me,” she said. “I’ve got asthma.” Between that and seeing Aunt Helen naked at 12, is it any wonder I was virginal at twenty?

Just as fondly I recall the nonsense…

Like that I had Adam and Joel had Patches, but Gaffin had a monkey.

And speaking of Dennis, why was it his parents had two cars and no garage on Harwood yet streets away on Stonehaven, Julius had no wheels, but a beautiful two-car garage?

And why, for that matter did Fischer’s Ellison home have a flag pole on the front lawn?

Why was Herman’s pool table tan? (I never did win on that surface, faring much better in tackle football played one-on-one with Codgie at Bexley. Bobby used to say he’d look out the window from across the street, see us beating the crap out of each other and never quite get it. Perhaps he was right. With one on a side there was no passing; it was just “Hike” and tackle).

Euphoric hindsight?  Perhaps.

There were vicious mockfights–no feelings spared –and car chases often ending with a group of us sitting at a house on Elmdale.There were timeless nicknames. Some were short, (think Erv), others long (Chico Santa Anna Guadelahari Gomez, Jr.). Most, however, just were. Like Kraut, Blackie, Desert Flower and Goddam Will—not to mention Randy.  Ah Randy. Only with love could we name him: “Raisin”, “Raisinbrain”. “Fool”.

Only with love.

And it’s only with love that I look back—to the backroom of Himmel’s Boarding House, Mayfield and Euclid—decades ago. We were all there, some years out of high school…smiling.

Let’s get real.  Clear it’s not whether we’d have friended had we not met young. But we’re “grandfathered in”. All of us.  Time may have distanced our lives, but if we’re lucky, it hasn’t distilled our hearts.  Lucky ones, and I think I’m one, accept.  From Ermine’s volume to Arthur’s neurosis to YES, my mishigos (fill in the blank) to even the way Fenton’s passionate clutch the 19th century. We accept.

More importantly, though, we love each other today not for people we are, but for paths that we’ve shared.  And that’s enough.

4 Responses to “BOYZ IN THE HOOD”

  1. Bobby says:

    I think we all knew that when we took that picture on Stu’s deck 20 years ago it was the last time that many would all be together at one time in one place. I hope we can do it for the 50′th and see how many return to the scene of the crime, so to speak. This year will be a small number but thank God it isn’t because of health reasons REN’s are going to be limited for this reunion.

  2. Stuart says:

    Very well done! Don’t forget Codgie and the car that would only go in reverse. It was a magical time.

  3. Mark Ermine says:

    I have been trying to come up with a snappy, spot on retort to this blog, truth is I cant. Our Rowland, Greenview and Brush days were magical. Lots of highs and lows, but thru it all, it is amazing, with all having such different personalities, we have remained friends. Looking forward to seeing “most” of you this weekend.

  4. Hal Bogart says:

    Mark’s comment was spot on. It also speaks to the guys in my Rowland/Greenview/Brush classes as well. Similar feelings, etc. It was a unique time.

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