hangin on the corner across form where i lived as a kid was a confectionary - that's what they called little neighborhood stores that sold like milk, bread, candy, soda and just all kinds of sundry shit you could need in the neighborhood. First it was called, "Millie's" and then it was "Uncle Frank's" cause it was bought by some dago from some big family down the block and everybody got to callin him uncle frank- next door was a barber shop and between'em was a phone booth - the barber, al, drove a big black 63 Desoto which looked like some kind of gangster ride, he had to be doin' pretty well - this was pre-beatles and long hair...Next door to that was a family with a kid who couldnt play cause he was "a bleeder". my mom set me down and explained that the reason he couldnt come out was cause he was sick and if he even just fell down he'd bleed to death and it'd be all my fault! I didnt even know there WAS a kid there, i mean, i never saw him. but that was probably cause he was a bleeder and didnt come out - him knowin' i was waitin out there to kill him.
so anyway, this little store was a natural enough place to hang out there on the corner. the street was made out of bricks and there was this one little spot where the bricks had kinda sank down cause there was like a water pipe broke or somethin' and there was always a little puddle there where the pigeons and stray dogs could drink no matter what the weather. I used to think it was maybe built on a spring but the broken pipe theory seems to (forgive me) hold more water.
So you could go to this store any school day round seven in the morning and see jimmy sisco eatin his breakfast of powdered donnuts and an orange sodie. Jimmy's mom was a hair dresser who always wore high heels and she left before him so she'd give him the money to buy breakfast. Cross he street was this big ol'bean pole of a guy named dennis who lived with his aunt and gramma - a fuckin hillbilly, looked like a goofy ass six foot howdy doody and he played guitar out on the front steps - an electric with a little bout ten inch amp. he only played parts of country songs. he had a cousin though who came and stayed sometimes, his name was lenny, he was a good lookin greaser of the james dean variety and all the teenage girls had crushes on him. all he had to do was drive a fast car. one summer night the news came down that he died in an auto accident somewhere out in the country. there were two girls with him when it happened but only lenny died. details were few and i dont think we knew the girls anyway so that was kind of the end of that.
There was this kid, little ricky who'd come up to the confectionary from like three blocks away. he was about six and kind of cute, always wore a brown leather bomber pilot jacket with a pink rabbit's foot hangin from the zipper. he was a charismatic little fuck and the older guys would teach him dirty songs. a couple even had little dances that went with'em. One was like, ricky would do this little walking in place move and sing at the top of his lungs,
"well i'm goin out west where i belong" then he'd swing one arm up over his head like he was about to lasso somethin and with the other hand he'd grab his dick and go.
"daw daw daw daw daw daw! duh daw daw daw!!" for the little guitar part
"where the girls are horny all night long -
daw daw daw daw daw daw duh daw daw daw!!" and he'd repeat the dick grabbin and throwin the invisable rope. the song just kind of stopped there. his big number though was this one was like a finger snappin beatnick rap that went,
"well i was walkin through the jungle with my dick in my hand
i'm a real cool fucker from the congo land, i looked up a tree and wha'did i see
a big ole nigger pissed on me, i picked up a rock, hit'em in the cock, and he fell
down on an elephant rock!!"
That was his money number. people'd throw him change. the kid was a charmer. problem with bein a charming little kid is that you get good at it and ya get lazy - your drive to learn and work hard kinda dwindels to nothin'. I mean i dont know for sure cause i never been all that charmin, least not back then but that's the way it looks to me from a distance.
now back behind or place, across the alley was a a big old place - used to be a mother and her three daughters lived there. I dont know, it was two floors and I'm thinking maybe eight rooms. Well niether the mother or her three daughters had been all that bright to start with and one by one they all died cept for edna. edna was a scary ass freak show, least to us kids, her face was all twisted and retarded she was kind of fat and wore all these, what they called house dresses - looked like they were from the thirties or forties. some of'em were patched an'shit. edna wasnt so bright and didnt exactly draw friends. when we'd be playing ball in the alley she'd throw open her side window stick her spooky ass head out and yell in a screachy voice.
"YOUSE kids quit throwin that ball - ya wanna break a winda r'somethin and it'll be all your fault??!!"
I mean we'd just freak! and dont EVEN let her come waddelin down the alley cause, i dont know what we thought she was gonna do but no one wanted to find out! on the other side of edna's back yard was some r. crumb lookin mother fucker livin in a little house completely over run with vegitation- grass and weeds - shit was just everywhere with no reason or rhyme, his whole yard was edged with honeysuckles which drew bees and wasps an shit - we called the guy "jungle jim" kids'd always be edged along the outside of his yard in the summer catchin bees in jars and suckin the stems of honeysuckles - i remember my sister havin a mason jar with no lid so she figured to make do with using her other hand -what she found out was that bees must sting them metal lids cause that's what they did to her hand and it swole all up till they had to run her to the doctor.
One time jungle jim, who rarely ever showed his face outside his little house, was out in the alley smashin up a porcelin toilet bowl with a sledge hammer. he had it smashed into some big old pieces and was gonna just leave'em there like that when my grampa came out and read him the riot act for gonna blow out somebody's auto tires when they rolled over his toilet hunks! well ol'jim went nuts and started screamin how every body already knew my grampa was a known nigger lover and a catholic marrier and he better keep his mouth shut. grampa stood firm and jim eventually hauled the toilet chunks away. i dont think anybody ever really understood exatcly why jim had called grampa a nigger lover but i do know i felt pretty proud to be his grandson for a good while after that even though grampa never did speak to me all that much and never seemed to really understand what it was that made me seem stranger than most of the other boys in the neighborhood.
Yeah that was a time - they had these big water tank trucks that would come down the streets onece a week and shoot water out into both gutters while a team of men swept the trash and leaves stream down towards the sewers. we'd all sit on the curbs with our shoes off and let it splash us like our own little city swim party - when it was hot in the summer the milk man would come round and we'd all grab a rag and he'd break us each off a little chunk of ice to lick while we sat on the curb - would i shit you??!! christ i actually remember junk wagons driven by crabby old men and there big ass draft horses wearing blinders -
"dont try and pet the fuckin horse or he'll trample and kill ya and it'll be all your own damn fault!!!"
anyway the beatles came out one year and a bunch of us got guitars and started letting our hair grow longer - Al the barber with his stacks of orange "confidential magazines" and old boys tellin dirty stories just stopped talking to us altogether as though we were conspiring against him on a personal account. across the street, the guitar playing fool, dennis had gone nuts and got thrown out of his aunts house and word was he was doing drugs and stopped takin baths. sometimes he'd go over to the barber shop and play harmonica or dance then ask the men to throw him change. Roger the teen age boy next door, was shootin some kind of speed, livin in the row apartments with a dancer gal and dyed his hair bright orange - nobody did crazy shit like that in 1966 - not in north st. louis anyway.
Well round about then the Blacks started moving in and marking out their new turf. seemed like they'd move in during the winter but you wouldnt really notice till it got warm out - civil rights was heatin up and the streets were a war zone. i kept spending more and more time at the band house down off broadway near the river and only touched down back home on occasion. One of the last things i remember is hearing a big commotion over cross the alley - old edna had gone blind and for several years would just sit on the her front steps waiting to hear somebody pass at which point she'd screech.
"HEY YOU!! watt TIME is it???!!!" if you gave her that, she'd ask could you go to the store for her then before you could answer she'd cry out about the time again - moslty folks'd just shuffle off. so this one week i hadnt seen her out for a while and when i asked about her i was told,
"aintcha heard? you heard about that aintcha??!!" i'd say i handt and they'd say
"'member little ricky??? cute kid with the dirty songs??! well, he'd heard stories bout edna and her mother's money and broke in over there sayin he'd go to the store if she wanted, then when she went to her purse he beat'er with a rubber hose he had. anyway, she's in the hoepital, nah she aint dead or nothin and littel ricky, they took him away - the cops!
I'm all like "Rickey??!"
and they were like, "oh yeah, thart little fucker got mean!"
"he get anything?!"
"few bucks, nothin really."
"to old edna... for a few bucks???!! Ricky??!!
"tha's what they say."
"Damn. little ricky."
Things change, ya know? I guess i always knew but that was the day it really hit me. damn.
"well i was walkin through the jungle with my dick in my hand..."