The park here in town is very different from the park I grew up visiting. When I was a kid in the Bronx, going to the park was an experience. We lived close to a huge park called Pelham Bay Park. It was like going to the Bronx Zoo without the animals. (in cages)
There were many different things to do and places to explore. But one of my favorite things to do was walk down to the water. When my Mom was young, they called it Cops Beach. I guess it’s because all the cops family’s went there.
Either way, I would walk down there with a friend, never alone for obvious reasons, and we would hang out by the rocks. If the water was warm enough, we would go into the water. We’d have to wear our sneakers because of the broken bottles and rocks but we would get wet and cool off.
Everything to a child is a wondrous discovery. What I thought were pieces of stained glass or fossils from the dinosaurs. We’re broken bottles and rocks. But everything was a mystery and I loved it.
The creatures we would see were awesome. There were these huge crabs, called Horse Shoe Crabs. My oldest brother told me that if I got stung by one, I would be paralyzed.
He told me a lot of things that weren’t true you probably know his that goes.
Back to the crabs. I remember there were a lot of them. And the bravest (or most stupid) kid would pick it up. The most annoying friend would chase you around with it.
We always had a path we followed. We could tell it was a path by the downed grass. I always worried about rats, but luckily, I would make a lot of noise so they’d leave me alone.
Sometimes, and this was really creepy, we would find traces of religious ceremonies. Now that I’m older, I know it was Santeria. I don’t know the in’s and the out’s of it but what I do know is that we would find decapitated chickens and heads. Freaky!
One time, we went exploring and peeked into an old bathroom. There was a dead goat hanging with Satanic stuff all around it.
As awful as it sounds, it was pretty normal for the park. Freaky and creepy, but it made a great story to tell.
So back to our fun filled beach day.
We would track out of Cops Beach through the woods. There was a homeless guy who lived back there. Seriously, he had a whole camp. We kept our distance because he would yell at us if we got too close.
Next stop up the path was the mounted police camp. I wasn’t very shy, so I would go in, ask if we could see the horses and/or play with the goat. Yep, the same goat we eventually found in the bathroom. Sad, but true.
After the Mountie‘s station, it was back to reality. We would come up to the gigantic stadium. It sort of resembled the stadium that Rocky runs up in the movies. And, yes, we did run up and would jump up and down, fists in the air. But thinking back as an adult, that stadium was a death trap. In certain spots, there were gaping holes. I could actually see inside of the stadium. It was a big storage facility for park “stuff.”. Yikes!
Then through the playground where we would have to stop and swing for a while, over the overpass (I95) and then home.
I have to say that growing up in the Bronx was pretty fun. Like I said in my last post about my Bronx Days, mom just expected me home at a certain time. If she actually knew I was walking down to the water, through woods with homeless people, finding sacrificed animals and bothering cops, I would have got a beating. Or at least punished. I always say I would have gotten a beating because that’s what she always said. But I don’t think she really would have beat me. My brothers, maybe. But not me.
Besides, I was always too smart to get caught.
That’s a trick you learn when you grow up in the city.
You never go anywhere, you’re not supposed to alone.
You never let anyone walk too close
Always look down at the ground because you never know what you might find.
And, you never, ever, get caught.
If you do get caught,
always say you were alone.
There’s nothing worse than being the rat in the neighborhood.
It was so important that when my kids were very little, and they would tattle on each other, I would say, “Don’t be a rat!”
They would look at me like I was crazy. I’d always follow it up with,
“There’s nothing worse than a rat!”
I don’t say that anymore.
At least not in front of anyone else:)
I would go to bed that night and dream of new adventures. Embellish my travels in my imagination and create them into even greater adventures than they were.
So, another day, another story about my adventures as a kid in the wonderful Bronx.