Monday, February 16, 2009
A BROOKLYN TALE
Michael's 46 years old, Italian and born and raised in Brooklyn. When was 15, he was chased down and nearly killed by "The Crazy Homicides", a Coney Island and Park Slope based street gang of the 60's and 70's. They cornered him in a dark alley not far from his high school. Some of the toughs were armed with knives and chains. For years he had a beef with one of the teenagers in the gang. It went back to the second grade. Now, it was about to catch up with Michael on that fateful summer night in 1979 Brooklyn. This time the punk claims Michael had stolen his girl, Lydia,(who's Puerto Rican) and in order to get her back, they'd have to fight. Not a very fair fight, mind you. He was surrounded by his gang mates.
Well, instead of the "Warriors" rumbling with the "Gramercy Riffs", a Guardian Angel arrives, several of them, clad in white t-shirts and red berets. Michael knew the kids, most of them Puerto Rican, from the high school play. Young Michael played the lead. The Guardian Angels, a somewhat rag-tag group of nomads at the time, didn't just stop the fight, they started it. Or, so Michael says. But, this was good, because the Angels jumped "The Crazy Homicides," (The inspiration for the 1979 film, The Warriors" )from behind and the hoodlums ran off into the darkness of the night.
I'm listening intently as Michael tells his tale. He begins to recite the names of other big gangs at the time, "The Majestics," "The Ambassadors," "The Dirty Ones," "The Tomahawks," etc. I'm fascinated by this bit of nostalgia, not only because I've lived in Brooklyn for over a decade, but because many of the people he describes now have respectable lives and are my neighbors in Carroll Gardens. Not only that, the scene is unfolding the same year that Curtis Sliwa founded the Guardian Angels and "The Warriors" arrived in theaters.
Michael, now a yuppie looking fella with a full head of hair and button down shirt, laughs at the strange coincidence of his near death experience. When he began his story over at Angry Wade's, a local bar, he started with one fact, that I left out until now. Michael played Tony in his high school production of "West Side Story."