At five-thirty on a summer Sunday afternoon, I take a walk down Riverside Drive, past the children’s pocket parks, the time-worn benches, the golden sun shining through the giant elm trees, the couples, families, loners sitting on the green (the sign says don’t sit on it,)—nah and I invariably walk over to the Muslim ice-cream man who automatically hands me my favorite, the giant ice-cream sandwich wrapped in silver foil, which I unwrap to give me a lift. I know I have a limited time before the sun begins to melt it—and the three dinky napkins the ice-cream man has gave me is barely good for daintily dabbing my shirt, shorts and Merrills.
I do this as the light traffic of buses, cars, bicyclists, cyclists stream back and forth as the lights give their warning signs, changing from red to a grayish figure, which indicates it’s safe to cross. It is almost impossible to describe the beauty of it all, the aged, the young, the children, the lone walkers with their doggies, this human family of various colors being so peaceful the birds sing extra loud for them. But by now, my $3 Good Humor Bar has melted down to nothing melting like the candle wax of the sun, or interest from the Fed.
I think of my days as a boy when the Bungalow Bar white ice cream trucks with roof-shaped shingled roofs came ringing through my Williamsburg Brooklyn neighborhood and the driver, dressed all in white, brought it to a halt, got out, and met with the flood of ragamuffin kids flying down their stoops from the dinner tables with their change or a loose dollar bill in hand, for one or two of them. The Bungalow Bar man could barely meet up with the demand, depleting the depths of his truck. A vanilla, orange-ice coated bar on a stick was my favorite then. After I finished it, I’d keep just the stick in my mouth, savoring the last juices of it.
The Bungalow Bar Truck also sold Good Humor Bars, so I felt like I was in a time warp, in which a sandwich cost about a quarter, and the ring-a-long of the bells on the top of the small white truck with its white suited driver was iconic, those bells calling me back to a rougher, tougher, not so genteel neighborhood as the upper West Side. But in any case, I thank life for giving me its memory, especially in the summer when the heat could be ferocious, but is at this point deliciously cool. Someone always had a stashed wrench open a fire hydrant, sliding a piece of wood beneath it to raise the gushing water into a brilliant spray that trapped a rainbow, even on those tough streets.
All of my urchin friends, unlike the privileged kids in the park sprays would frolic in our crime. That is, until somebody said, “The cops are coming. Let’s get out of here.” And some one or two of us got a slap in the face from the brave men in blue. I’d wonder if they treated their kids like that; actually Bay Ridge and other posh Brooklyn neighborhoods was generally where they lived, so they didn’t get polluted by the kids in Williamsburg which, parenthetically, in the intervening fifty or sixty years or more from today, has made a fabulous comeback, given the real estate crunch that ensued from the 50’s on. It still exists, except now the co-ops in these beautiful old buildings go for seven figures and feature 24-hour doormen and (all the amenities) which sound like a word from Greek mythology.
I remember forgetting to give our landlord back then both who built and lived in the same three story brick house our rent check (one of my chores) $60 for one month, and he in a gentlemanly manor had to remind my father, who was furious that I had forgotten but wrote him another check on the spot. Among the then working class of Williamsburg then, we were considered rich. My father owned a glove shop and drove a Buick Roadmaster, dressed very well, unlike those of our neighborhood kids who never let me forget that we were “rich” (an illusion) unlike them, whose fathers had to labor at real jobs, like driving trucks, and came home looking sweaty and needing a shower.
So it’s all behind me now packed in a carton in the basement space of my memory. A poor cousin of mine came to visit me once at my present residence and said to me, “This is a long way from Brooklyn, isn’t it, Jerry,” and I said, “I guess it is, Dominic,” May time rest his gone soul gone for good into some public “rest home” I can’t find. But my dad’s work ethic prepared me well for the future world,. Then came Brooklyn College, a Bachelor’s and Masters’ Degree, a career in advertising, leaving it at last, to be a writer on my own terms, so that I could enjoy my life, like this Good Humor Bar, and not be a face in the crowd, but a name on a page that stood for something—not just a spoiled “rich kid,” but one who understood the poor, the struggling, the have-nots from previous jobs as a Welfare Investigator, a school teacher in Bensonhurst Brooklyn, and finally a step up, a P.R. person in the publishing business.
It was here I met with some of the best writers in the world, and read their books, and finished my education in life, love, upward mobility, how to dress, speak, go to museums, study music, and realize the depth of life and beauty. But, reader, I have held you too long over a walk in the park and an ice cream sandwich. You have your own life, your ups and down, kudos and critiques. My own wish is that you appreciate, beyond the many wars we are sucked into, the indestructible beauty of life, and the way that crippled old man in a wheel chair holds the hand of his black nurse, staring longingly at me and the world.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.