Monday, July 26, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (x)

If you walked across the Grand Concourse towards Jerome Avenue, north past Lehman College and northwest of Lehman College, you'd eventually reach both Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. In the early 1970s, there were still a lot of Irish-American working-class families living in the houses around Jerome Avenue, north of Fordham Road. And the apartment buildings around Van Cortlandt Pak in the eary 1970s also still contained both Irish-American working-class families and the familes of office workers of Jewish religious background.

So when I walked around these neighborhoods a few times on weekends in the spring and summer of 1971, I'd often see young Irish-American high school working-class women returning to their then-culturally straight parents' houses or apartments, after going shopping, eating in restaurants, going to the movies or hanging out in the playgrounds or in Van Cortlandt Park. And in both the playgrounds and in Van Cortlandt Park, in the early 1970s, fairly large numbers of Irish American working-class guys and culturally assimilated guys of Jewish ethnic background in their 20s could still be seen playing basketball or handball in the playgrounds, just hanging out in the playgrounds and playing softball in Van Corlandt Park in early 1971. Yet compared to the Upper West Side, the Lower East Side or most campus towns of the early 1970s, the neighborhoods around Van Cortlandt Park and north of Fordham Road near Jerome Avenue seemed to have changed very little, culturally, from what they had been like during the early 1960s--except for the probability that more of the guys in their 20s who were hanging out in the playgrounds, besides still drinking beer, probably also smoked more joints now than did their counterparts in the early 1960s.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (ix)

Walking north and northwest from my East 189th Street apartment in the Bronx for a long time one afternoon in April 1971 eventually brought me into the southeastern area of Yonkers and the eastern side of McClean Avenue. Walking west on McClean Avenue, the neighborhood began to look familiar, since, when I was a child in the 1950s, my parents had often driven through the same neighborhood whenever we visited one of my uncles and his family, who owned a house whose backyard was adjacent to the New York Central (also now Conrail) railroad tracks. In the early 1970s, all the streets and houses looked a lot smaller to me than I had remembered them being during the 1950s. The circular drive on which the front of my uncle's house was located, for example, seemed to now have a much smaller circumference than it had had when I was a little kid.

Although I walked by my uncle's house where I had played around in as a child on numerous weekend visits, whenever my father chose to drag his wife and two kids to spend the afternoon with his older brother and sister-in-law, I did not ring the bell or knock on the door of my uncle and aunt to say "hello." By early 1971, my uncle and aunt in Yonkers realized that I had rejected nearly all of their culturally straight, materialistic, lower-middle-class values and, despite having gotten good marks in the public school system, I did not now look like I was going to become a lawyer, medical doctor or an accountant and become very rich in monetary terms. And by early 1971, I, in turn, felt very distant from them on a political, philosophical, cultural and personal level. On issues like white racism, they seemed very backward politically and morally; and they seemed like they would be very much opposed to the kind of revolutionary change in the United States that I was hoping to try to help create in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 21st century.

So despite the fond childhood memories from the 1950s that I had of my uncle and aunt who lived in Yonkers, I quickly walked by the 1920s-built house where they still lived that they had purchased and moved into from the South Bronx in 1949. And I only saw and spoke to them on two more occasions in the early 1970s when they were both still alive: once, when they visited my parents' apartment in Queens when I also happened to be visiting there; and on the day and evening of my mother's funeral. 

Aside from seeming smaller to me than it had seemed when I was a kid, Yonkers in the early 1970s still looked pretty much the same, on the surface, as it did in the 1950s. It did not seem to have been affected very much by any of the 1960s social, cultural, and political turbulence; and it still seemed culturally straight, although it's possible that there had been some kind of urban rebellion incidents and some kind of local Civil Rights Movement protests in the African-American section of the town at some point during the 1960s or summer of 1970.