Nothing is really the same anymore. The old town is still the old town and the exit off the parkway still takes me down the same road. A lot of the neighborhood has changed though. Different landmarks have had a facelift and some are just gone. Some of the stores have closed. New ones have opened. The streets are the same but most of everyone I knew has either grown older or moved away. Some of us lost touch and some have grown so distant that we would be unrecognizable to each other now.
The baseball fields are still there on Merrick Avenue. They look so different now. I wonder if the field house is different too. I remember the hotdogs and the pretzels and the White Rock soda cans. I remember the baseball cards and the gum that came with the packages. We were little then. All dressed up in our uniform. And hell, the hat I wore was bugger than my head.
I remember a catch I had with The Old Man in the empty field. He was young then. And me, I was at the beginning of my life and playing little league tee-ball for the first time. He was trying to teach me how to catch and throw.
I dream of this place sometimes. I dream of my old home and that I’m walking around but no one else is there.
Maybe I’m looking for my family. Maybe they’re there too and I just don’t see them. Or, maybe this is simpler than I think. Perhaps this could be nothing more than energy firing off in my brain and my subconscious is thinking about a memory, like say, the way my living room looked back when I was a kid in 1978.
I had a dream that I was trying to climb a ladder once. This was to get to my bedroom. And The Old Man was there. He was in my room which was empty and sitting in a chair. He was clean is the best way I can describe him. He was purified by the afterlife, but yet, something was wrong. He welcomed me in but I could tell he was disappointed about something, — and to me, my interpretation was he was disappointed about something I did.
Then again, this could be nothing more than subconscious thinking, firing off about an unresolved tension, and leading me through a dream that seemed so real and defined. This is the strange part about our dreams,. We can dream about something so detailed and it seems like a long idea, but in reality, our dreams only last a couple of seconds.
I do remember the simpler times though. I remember when music was music and the television showed actual television shows. I remember when we would all gather in the den and watch some of the sitcoms. Families used to eat together back then. The phone could ring but dinnertime was dinnertime, which meant no one got up and nothing was so important that it had the right to interrupt our mealtime.
After dinner, we would go to the den and watch a show together. Maybe not always but still, there were nights like this which I appreciate more and more.
Besides, they don’t really have sitcoms like they used to. They don’t even have television shows like they used to. All there is are reality shows, which aren’t reality to begin with. And then again, even the reality shows aren’t what they used to be.
They have shows named Dr. Pimple Popper or Real Housewives but I say to hell with them. Give me an episode of M.A.S.H. or All In The Family. Let me watch an episode of One Day At A Time or even Different Strokes or The Facts of Life. Or better yet, I suppose the real nostalgia was the idea of everyone in the family room. Everyone was together. Family meant something different than what it seems to mean now.
Take away all the cell phones and all the technology and talk to me about board games like trivial Pursuit or Monopoly. See, now that’s nostalgia.
Let’s talk about what life was like when people used to actually talk on the phone instead of texting — or better yet, let’s talk about a time when we were not so traceable.
I swear, there is something so eerie to me about the fact that I can have a conversation about a trip or an idea and that somehow, all too mysteriously, a related advertisement will pop up on my social media feds.
I suppose not all my dreams about my hometown are good ones. I had an old dream last night and thought to myself, “It’s been a while.”
I found myself heading down the junkie pathways. I was on a trip with the white horse and moving through the sands of an old familiar territory. I thought to myself, “How did this happen?”
What am I gonna do now?
I thought to myself, “Everyone is gonna find out.”
The dream usually begins in a familiar place. I am in an old building, which I know I’ve been to before. It’s an old brownstone, beat up and filthy.
I know why I was there and what I came for.
Only, I’m never sure how I got there. I’m not high yet. I’m just about to blast off, so to speak, and then I wake up. I set up. I can see the needle at my skin. And then I wake up.
Sometimes I dream that I’m dreaming and I wake up, only to realize that I’m still dreaming, which was the case last night.
I knew I was still dreaming when I woke up in my old teenage bedroom. The window was slightly open and the tapestry I hung over my window was swaying in the breeze.
I have been thinking about my town a lot. Especially as of late. I was thinking about my old elementary school and the time I climbed up on the roof. I got up but couldn’t get down.
It was winter if I’m not mistaken. I was long haired and wild, drunk, and nothing more than a teenage kid. I was stuck in my own head and painfully trapped beneath the concept of how things are supposed to be.
I was thinking about the first time I ever tried to date a girl, which in fairness, I was never good at this. I was always too uncomfortable and awkward. I was always looking for the cool thing to say and never comfortable. Then again, I was a lot less about romance back then and more about losing my virginity. I tried. And I tried hard too. I laugh when I think about this because if I could, I would write a letter of apology to ever girl from back then.
The funny thing about insecurity is this restricts our way of thinking. This alters our view to a painful obscured version of self.
I swore I was the only one that thought the way I did. I suppose some of this has bled into what made me become the man I am now. I suppose much of this is why I went through what I went through but it wasn’t all bad.
I had the chance to sit in a field with a bunch of friends and listen to music. I have memories of nights at the park over on Prospect. We swore we knew what we were doing. Or, maybe we were just pretending. Yes, that’s it.
I remember the night when my friend Tommy came to the park with a cigarette lighter that looked like a gun. You pull the trigger and then a flame shoots out from the barrel. Safe to say, it was obvious that trouble was on its way.
Vinny was there. So was Pete. So was Anthony, Mikey L, Mikey A, Chris, Ricky S, Craig, Dorian, and of course, Tommy. There were more there too.
Somehow, someone gave me the cigarette lighter.
I walked onto the paddleball courts and towards a group of older, yuppie types. This was our place. Not theirs.
My eyes were red and watery for obvious reasons. All of my friends and then some were lined up at the fence behind me at the paddleball courts to watch my little show.
One of the yuppies was a balding man and proud of himself too. He was middle-aged and having fun. He was having himself a good time with a bunch of friends and me, I was high and a wise ass, which meant the two could not co-exist.
I approached the court and the yuppie smiled. I was wearing a black leather biker jacket. I had long hair with much of my face covered because my bangs were long and down passed my nose.
I reached in my jacket and pulled out the lighter. I was drooling and screamed like a lunatic. “Give me your money!”
I jumped up and down like a madman. “Give me your fuckin money! Now!”
I watched the smile on the somewhat balding, middle aged yuppie’s face go from proud, to awkward, to downright frightened in a matter of seconds. The park lights were on. It was nighttime in the summer of my chaotic youth.
The man, frightened as ever, was stunned by the gun in my hand. Then I when I pulled the trigger and the flame popped out, I swear he wanted to kill me. (In fairness, I would have killed me too. So I get it.)
And it’s not a proud moment for me but it is a memory. It’s a description or a little brief showcase of how we were. We were rough and crazy and stupid and mischievous.
This is an important memory of mine because the kids like Craig, Dorian, Tommy, Chris, and Mikey L are all gone now. Unfortunately, the list of people that are gone is much longer. But such is life and so it goes.
It would be nice to see everyone again. It would be nice to head over to the park and everyone was there. No one would ever want to leave or go home. It would be nice to head over to the carnival in my town, like the one that used to pop up in the big parking lot at St. Raphael’s. The town held this in the beginning of the summer. The lights from the rides would light up the sky. Everyone that was anyone from the town was at the carnival. I’d like this.
I could see my friends again. All of them. Each and every one . . .
God rest them —
Thought about you yesterday. Someone was smoking a Marlboro Red like we used to back in the day.
Wherever you are, I hope that you are well. And say hello to the boys for me. Let them know where my heart is and what I’m doing these days. Let them know I could use a few angels on my shoulder. If not, I could always use a good friend.
Sleep well Tommy