Richard Krager was one in a series of “best friends” in high school. He’s the guy who said that I was the only one he could have a real conversation with. As my account of that incident reports, the conversation in question may have been the only “real” conversation Dick and I ever had! Meantime, he went out of his way to date my cast off girlfriends …
But the thing about Dick was: he was older, he had a senior, not a junior, drivers license: Dick could drive at night! a year ahead of any of the rest of us. Dick drove for our many double dates. Dick could drive us to Manhattan for midnight concerts at Carnegie Hall. Dick could buy the beer and not get arrested. Dick drove us to the beach to neck in the dark dunes. (But my favorite memory is Dick and me, dressed in light blue suits, with dark blue shirts, light blue knit ties, blue suede shoes, four foot long window counterbalance chain as key chains, and Doralee, my date, wearing her diamond tiarra, on the Jones Beach Boardwalk!
pk with Doralee early 1950s
I just thought of Dick for the first time in a long time as an offshoot of reading Thomas diLorenzo’s book on Lincoln. He was making the point that blacks in ante-bellum US were treated worse in non-slave states than in slave states. I’d been recently seeing details in a book not specifically on that subject: Gangs of New York: a black orphanage on NY’s Fifth Avenue got burned to the ground, the children slaughtered in the mid-19th C.
One day in school Dick announces to a bunch of us: “Hey, let’s go drive around and look for somebody to beat up!” I backed away. Others gravitated foward.
Next day Dick appeared in school wearing a bandaid on his face: proof of his valor. But the story that followed was pathetic, almost as pathetic as inspecting of his “wound” proved: there was no wound, only a bandaid: like a third grade girl with a stuffed bra. The guys got in Dick’s rod, drove specifically to Hempstead following Hempstead Avenue, and, in the neighborhood of Hempstead High School, found a lone black kid, skinny, about eighty pounds of him, and my half-dozen friends Jumped out and beat the crap out of the poor kid!
1954? 1955? Hey! That was America at its best! Eisenhower!
One day in grade school a pair of identical twin girls appeared, cute little black girls, with zillions of little pigtails. I was fascinated! I loved them! One of them, when she wrote, with a pencil, had her finger bend backwards against the joint in a way that horrified me: I’ll never forget her. But: two days later those girls disappeared, never to appear again. What did they do with them? Where were they hiding them?
In high school there was one black guy, big guy, DJ. He appeared from nowhere, then dropped out at 16: after playing football for a couple of years. Where did he come from? Where did he go? There were no blacks in Rockville Centre. Zero. You could drive and drive, month after year, and never see one.
I found out when I worked for the town, starting 1956. That summer I worked for the village parks department, wacking weeds, painting fences. The next summer they asked if I wanted to make more money over shorter hours: as a garbage man. Now I saw blacks, several black worked for the sanitation dept. One black guy drove a garbage truck.
I was a swing guy: one day I’d help of this route, another day on that route. Midsummer they finally put me on the truck with the black guy, Joe, driving. He he took us into a part of Rockville Centre I hadn’t known existed: where, how, had they hidden it? It was a black ghetto! There were lots of black people there, and lots of black children!
Joe ate lunch at home! I got to sit on his front step and eat my own sandwich! staring at the neighborhood!
My mother’s boyfriend, a gynecologist, had told stories of black pregnancies, always insulting stories. Now I knew where the obese ignoramuses he told of could have lived.
If I went back to Rockville Centre today, I’m not sure I could find that neighborhood. I doubt that a single one of my friends had ever heard of it, let alone stumbled onto it.
So: a black kid could walk in the ghetto and not get assaulted by white kids, there were no white kids, the ghetto wasn’t on the map. Somehow they’d hidden it in plain sight! The roads didn’t turn that way.
Ah, but in Hempstead they’d set it up so that some poor skinny schmuck was walking on Hempstead Avenue just when my friends wanted some cheap stomp fodder.
2011 06 25 NYS just approved gay marriage! Boy, are these two themes related. I remember driving to the city to visit Greenwich Village with the same group of high school friends: before I was myself a familiar denizen of the Village: I’d been there, but I didn’t yet know it, I wasn’t yet a fixture. My friends announced their purpose only after we were there: they wanted to find some faggots, and stomp on them. I radiated disapproval, non-cooperation at them. But they normally didn’t give much of a shit what I thought. Sometimes they were courteous enough to not invite me, then go ahead and steal or stomp or whatever the plan was. in this case though we were all already there, the purpose announed, or at least proposed. But I don’t think my high schools mates identified a single fairy! Or, they did, but had chickened out!
Many another time though I’ve been in the Village when a car or two full of NJ or LI rednecks showed up, ready to rumble, suburban Nazis.
Plenty another time though I’ve been in the Village when a fag or two put themselves unmistakably on display: one guy, looking like his lips were chapped from too much jissom, stood weaving with a long stemmed rose in his hand: right in front of the 3rd Street Park on Sixth Avenue!