I know it has been awhile posting new stories, and believe me, I have many more to share. But I am going to go back and visit the past once again. This time, I am going to share with you my experience this past summer visiting the homes where I grew up.
Starting from the projects on the Westside of Manhattan in Chelsea, St. Michael’s Orphanage Home on Staten Island, what’s left of it, and the very Foster Home where I lived for eight years that haunt me the most…even to this very day.
The reason why I visited these places was because I wanted, no, I needed to go back in time and see if I can smell the past. I know that sounds kind of weird, so let me explain further.
Did you ever experience a surprised aroma, scent or a particular smell that brought you back to when you were a little boy or girl, and actually remember that day like it was yesterday?
For instance. On any sunny, hot and humid summer day, the smell of weeds in the woods baked by the sun all day where I live, brings back memories when I was living in the orphanage as a little boy.
St. Michael’s Home was surrounded by many weeds, ponds, hills, grass and trees…lots of trees. The scent will send me back in time, and I find myself standing on top of a hill at St. Michael’s known as Donkey Hill.
I close my eye’s and can actually see and hear the other kids roll down the hill while screaming and laughing as they work their way back up the hill just to do it again. I remember doing that countless times myself with my brothers.
Just thinking about it now has brought a pleasant smile to my face. Now, that you get the idea what I am talking about, I am going to share with you a moment I had standing on a porch that I stood and sat many times growing up.
A porch that holds good memories but unfortunately, the bad memories over shadows the good ones. This porch is attached to a house where I was supposed to feel safe, and enjoy a true family life that I never experience in my ever so young life as a little boy living in New York City…..the Foster Home.
After so many years gone by, and the family I once knew were long gone, I needed to visit this house alone, for a reason. I wanted to ask the owners now living there, permission to let me take photos of their kitchen.
I know that sound like a very strange request, I mean really. How would you react if someone rang your doorbell and said ” Hello, I was tormented growing up in this house and I would like to take pictures of your kitchen?”.
I don’t know about you, but I would have closed the door, hoping you got the hint and just leave, or pick up the phone and dial 911. But I was determine to get inside that house one way or another. Even if it meant risking getting locked up for trespassing.
I pulled up and my car parked across the street from where this house sits, going over what I was going to say. I almost backed out. I kept making excuses not to go through with this. But there was only one reason why I should…why I had to.
So I took a deep breath, open the door, got out of the car, walked over to the gate and opened it like I’ve done so many times before as a young boy and teenager. With my hands trembling, and sweat dripping off my face from more being more nervous than hot, I finally got the courage to ring the doorbell.
It has been a few weeks since I actually wrote a story. I’ve taken a break not only clear my mind, but needed to deal with new challenges and small crisis that needed my attention without any distractions. Now that many of them have been resolved with positive results, I am happy to say that I will be on my laptop every morning to share many new stories, thoughts and just some motivational tips to kick you all into high gear!
There are some stories that I need to leave you hanging with but not without reason. I am working on many projects and I need to save certain stories for these projects. But make no mistakes, I will not be leaving you hanging all the time…just enough to keep you following my life, and what a life it is. In the near future, my blog will have a fresh new look including some videos!
Recently, I have been pressured to recognized people who were part of my teenage years when I was living homeless. But if I started doing that then I have to make an endless list of the many who were there throughout my life and I just can’t do that. In the future I will write a nice story thanking them all at once, but I will not be going to be naming them all. I just want to get on with my stories and share my life hoping to help so many overcome their own demons of their past.
So with all that being said, my next story will be about something that means the world to me. I will share with everyone how I got to live out my childhood dream of becoming a Police Officer. Not only that, but will share many stories that will keep you at the edge of your seat begging for me to write the next one faster than I would like. But that’s the name of the game…to keep you wanting more from me.
I will also share with you the day that not only changed our Country but my Life as well… and not in a good way. I will share with you my thirty days beginning on 9-11-2001 at The World Trade Center site also known as Ground Zero. If you haven’t already, follow me on Facebook called Mike’s Kitchen Stories and put me on notification and there you will get all updates of my new stories (post) and personal interaction. Feel free to LIKE my page and share any of your thoughts and stories as well. Hope to see you there!!!!
On second thought, I decided that I will not be writing about any ex girlfriends who were in my life during my teen years. While I was happy I had them, and grateful they were there and helped me in their own way…I’m not going to go through a list of them just to make any of them feel good that I mentioned them. So if any of you are reading…thank you for being in my life during those hard times, but this blog is about me and the life that I lived, and I will not feel guilty not mentioning any of them or their names. (Why, so you can sue me?). I was in and out of so many lives and that’s how I lived till I met my Queen of 31 years. So with that being said, I will not ne acknowledging anyone by name, specially any of my ex girlfriends…Just not doing this.
On my way home from a hard days work at the auto wrecking yard, I started thinking about the boss’s daughter. I know, I know…I already have a girlfriend and I did say earlier that this was the last thing I needed when I only been working at this place for less than 3 weeks, But I did find myself wondering when Donna’s birthday was, so I figure that the first thing Monday morning I would ask her, but in a cool way when I see her at the coffee truck.
That same evening, my girlfriend at the time, who I was only with for about 4 month, surprised me for my Birthday by telling me she was going to take me to her best friends brother in law’s tattoo shop in Jersey to get my first tattoo. I already had my ear pierced and my hair was growing long that I always wore a bandana, and got into so many fights in and about the neighborhood, so the tattoo will only add-on to my reputation as a bad ass.
So we went to the tattoo shop that following morning and got my tattoo. I didn’t go with any skulls or snakes…everybody had those. I didn’t get any hearts or my girlfriend’s name like she thought I would do because I wasn’t an idiot. As mean as it sounds, I knew my relationship with her wasn’t going to go to distance because I had this disease called ” Cheating” and knew it was a matter of time before it flares up again. So I had to play this one safe.
So, I told her that I wanted my first tattoo to be different and promised her that the second one I would do the heart thing with our names in them. That made her happy and I picked out a horse on top of the mountain and added wings to it instead. Why I picked a horse on top of the mountain you ask? Because it looked cool and it was different. After it was done, I looked in the mirror to see the art and was pretty excited that I got my first tattoo and hugged my girlfriend to thank her.
Now, let me tell you something I don’t even think I even told my Queen., or maybe I did. During the time that I was getting my tattoo done, I was thinking about Donna and playing out many scenarios in my head how I was going to approach her at the coffee truck the following Monday morning and ask her when her birthday was. So she was freshly in my head and just when I hugged my girlfriend to thank her……I accidently called her Donna.
Let me tell you…that didn’t go to well for me. She pushes me off of her and asked me who the fk was Donna? I had to think fast now…I wasn’t ready for that question because I was still in shock myself that I called her Donna myself. I felt the blood drain out of my head and was seconds away from pretending to pass out. But, as always, I knew how to cover my ass….and cover my ass I did. I told her I was thinking about our mutual friend’s sister who loves horses and she was going to like my tattoo.
Well, that worked. She started to smile when I held her again to thank her and reassured her how much I loved her and that I would never cheat on her. Yep…I can’t tell you how many times I used that line before to all my ex girlfriends. You have to remember that I was just 19 years old and I’m not supposed to be in any serious relationships with any girl. I knew what I wanted in life at that age. I wanted to become a cop, buy my own home, have a new car and date… date… date!!!
We left the shop and headed back to Staten Island where I showed off my new Tattoo to my friends. That Saturday night I went to one of my favorite Rocks in Brooklyn called “Lamoure’s…The Rock Capital Of Brooklyn” to see a great cover band called T.T Quick. My girlfriend didn’t come with me because she wasn’t into the bands, but I was fine with that as well as my friends. That meant I could flirt with my fellow “Head Bangers” of the opposite sex by the stage and the bar as well. But that night I didn’t…I had someone else on my mind.
Lets see…I shared with you many stories of my life after the foster home, but I can’t share everything because I am working on a book version of my blog and there is lot more to write about to fill in gaps between my stories, but also there some things in my life I rather keep just to myself. It’s not that easy putting your whole life out there for all to see, but I also feel that my stories must be told to not only help myself except things in my past I can never change, but help those who feel the same as I do.
By the time I reached nine-teen years old, I pretty much was responsible, well, more than the average teen at that age. I was living with my childhood best friend’s family who by the way, lived across the street from the very foster home I grew up in which was awkward at first, but I got over it after I knew that I’ve finally had a stable residence for the first time since I was six-teen. I wasn’t complaining and I gave money for food, and pulled my weight around by cleaning and taking care of the lawn…and I was just fine with that.
I had a real good job working in South Amboy New Jersey called K.T. Marines, cleaning Oil Tankers, and trust me when I say, it was the dirtiest job I ever done in my entire life even to this day, but never once complained, specially after getting paid nine dollars an hour. I worked with a young crew all about the same age as me and we got along fine. We all had some good laughs, but at the same time, we all worked our asses off and we became the number one crew to be called upon when the Big Boys docked.
Well, sad to say after working for K.T marines for over six months, they lost the contract with Exxon and before I knew it, I found myself on the unemployment line. It bothered me at first because the money I have saved in the bank was drying up, as well the pockets. I was getting a check but still looking for a new job, just not aggressively. It was the summer of 82, and I ended up getting hooked on soap operas with my friend called All My Children and Young and The Restless. We could not start our day till after we watched it, which came on at one in the afternoon…it was a sickness we both shared
One day, my younger brother Tim who lived across the street always came over to visit me and we always yapped up a storm about everything. I really missed him more than anyone in my life when I was gone, so to be together again was one of the greatest feeling in the world. We just picked up where we left off the day I left back in 79. He was working in an auto wrecking yard which was a family business and told me that the owner was looking to hire more help. He tells me the pay is pretty good and he was sure I would get hired.
On top of that, the owner has two pretty daughters and my brother really believed that one of them had the HOTS for him. I told him I would think about it, but to be honest, I never gave it thought. I wasn’t ready to go back to work. It has been only two months and Victor Newman was about to find out that he might not be the father of his child from his ex prostitute of a wife and I wasn’t about to miss any of that just to work in an auto wrecking yard as a yard monkey during the greatest drama in my life…well, not just yet.
But, my friends mother and father got sick of us playing football games on T.V. and watching soap operas all day and she didn’t take it to kindly when I reminded her that it was only one show…”Don’t you be a Wise Ass” she would bark at me. My friend’s mom, who I refer as Mrs. S, was the last person I wanted to piss off and his father, who I always called “Boss” would remind me of just that. So, I asked my brother Timmy if the job was still available at this auto wrecking yard and to hook me up, which he did just that.
My brother set up the interview for me to meet with the owner, and that August of 82, I found myself working in this auto wrecking yard and became a yard monkey like my brother, making one hundred and fifty dollars a week. I also got to see the owner’s daughter Donna, pulling up in a black Trans-Am with T-tops, you know, the one my brother believed had the “Hot’s” for him… I really never talked to her when working, but every morning she would be at the coffee truck in the morning to get tea with her aunt and they both always wore tight jeans.
Like teens in high school, the guys would describe what they would do to them if they had the chance, but mostly they wanted to see the bosses daughter and his sister, her aunt, mud wrestle in the back pit, then have their way with them…a fantasy was all they had to cling too. To be honest, I wasn’t interested. I already had a girlfriend and she was a handful as it was. The last thing on my mind was the owner’s daughter. I wasn’t about to get fired for flirting with her. I just worked and worked hard I did.
But on September 1st, just three weeks working down the yard, Donna was standing in front of the main doorway to the office talking with my brother, when she blurted out three words to me just as I was passing them both in my car on my way home that would change the course of our lives…Happy Birthday Mike! I rolled down my window and remember telling her that it has been awhile that anyone had ever wished me a Happy Birthday and thanked her…then drove off. But that wasn’t the end of it…nope…I found myself thinking about her on my way home. I was about to do something that once I did it, there was no way turning back.
Where did we leave off….that’s right, Mr. Wall Street getting caught. Like I was saying, I would let the male prostitutes go free because to be honest, I wasn’t going to save them from the life they already chosen, and I sure wasn’t going to bring them back to the command just to write a summons and release them. They never show up in court and to be honest, they were a waste of my time. I wanted to lock up bad guys with guns and drugs.
But when it came to dealing with Mr. Wall Street, I had some real fun with them. Picture this…they get up in the morning all showered and shaved, kiss little Johnny and Suzy on the forehead, than head down stairs to make coffee or tea with their croissant that his stay at home wife made the night before, and rushes out the door to make it to the bus stop in time to head to the city for another day at the office.
He works all day inside some cubicle the size of a prison cell staring at a computer screen filled with numbers and abbreviations of business we have no idea even exist while chugging down his third cup of caffeine. After the end of his stressful day he packs up his briefcase and heads back to the bus stop where the same bus picks him up and drops him off wherever he lives. But wait…he has something else in mind. You see, Mr. Wall Street has all this tension all bottled up inside and he needs to get his fix on….
So where does he go? You guessed it….The Bus Terminal on 42nd street between 8th and 9th ave. He heads straight to the men’s room and lingers about inside till a young male prostitute walks in. They stand by the urinals while exchanging peeks back and forth than make the move inside a stall when no one is looking and the rest is history. The biggest help we always got was the cleaners cleaning inside the bathrooms just about every hour. They would come to us and let us know what has gone on…and show time!
I would lower my two-way radio before I entered inside the Men’s room so not to give myself up and walk over to the stall the cleaners pointed out where the dirty deed is taken place…than I step back and kick the door open. I would find Mr. Wall Street sitting on the toilet while the male prostitute would be standing inside of a shopping bag. They do that because if we looked under the stall, we would only see just two legs from whoever is on the toilet, and a bag next to them to throw us off. The extent they go through not to get caught.
I tell the prostitute to get lost and detained Mr. Wall Street. The look on their faces is priceless. Their worst nightmare has come true…getting caught by the Police right in the middle of…how should I word this…giving some eight teen year old male prostitute fellatio…(a blow job for those who don’t know what fellatio is). First, they tell you that they never did that before…yeah right. Than they try to convince you that they never done this before….yawning now…than they beg you to let them go.
But what I would always do is this…I ask them for their wallets which they hand to me faster than I could finish my request. I open it up and would search for pictures of his wife and children which most did have. Than I would put a scenario inside his head hoping to scare the shit out of him. I would tell him that if I locked him up, I would have to call his wife and tell her he’s been placed under arrest for having sex with a prostitute inside the men’s bathroom at the bus terminal. That’s when silence sets in for a few seconds.
Than I tell him that there is a hidden camera inside the men’s room and point to a water sprinkler on the ceiling and so easily convince him that a camera is hidden inside. They do look up, but all they see is an object on the ceiling, they really can’t concentrate because of the shock of being caught, so they believe it’s really a camera. Than I tell him that I would have to call his wife to identify that he’s her husband. By now the shakes sets in followed by begging me not to call her as they start to cry and I don’t mean whining…real fn tears.
But that’s not even the end of it. I tell him (them) that I have to tell his wife why he’s under arrest and that her husband was caught having sex with a young male prostitute. Than I explain to him that when he goes to court it becomes public record, so it will than be in his local newspaper. By then, they are peeing all over themselves because they all are playing this out in side their heads. What’s worst, I have to tell him that his children will find out because they will hear it from their classmates…
Now, this all may sound cruel, but you have to understand something. It is never their first time doing this. They been doing this for years…it’s just the first time getting caught. What really gets their attention more than anything is that I tell him that the prostitute that he was blowing is H.I.V. positive and he has to check he’s not effected every six months for ten years…than I give him back his wallet with a warning.
If I see him again inside the terminal under the same condition, I will lock his ass up and the scenario I put forth will come true. They always leave thanking me a million times while gathering their personal belongings while crying of relief. I let them clean themselves up than escort them out of the building never to see them again during my time working at the Bus Terminal.
Well…after going through the double glass doors the next thing I remember was waking up on the floor between the food court and the main entrance. I remember looking down and all I saw was red. At first I thought it was the carpet because the color was red, but as I looked closer…nope…wasn’t the carpet…it was my blood after all. I remember seeing the other employees putting paper towels under my chin and a couple of the girls I work with crying and upset. Something didn’t feel right.
I tried to feel my face but it was all numb and I couldn’t feel a thing. When I tried to touch my chin one of my friends started telling me not to touch it and that my jaw was broken. He even described it right than and there what I looked like. He leans over and tells me that my jaw is hanging down and that was the reason I couldn’t close my mouth. He also reassured me that they called the ambulance and they were on their way.
That was the last thing I heard and before you know it, I woke up inside the ambulance headed to the hospital just five minutes down the road from the roller rink. As I was being rolled inside the emergency room, a couple of nurses came over to me asking what happened to me. Really…my jaw is hanging down and could hardly talk, and she getting all annoyed that I was responding back. I remember that, because they wheeled me inside a room that looked like they do surgery in… and get this…….left me there!!!
I was laying on a stretcher for over 45 minutes and no one bothered to check up on me. In extreme pain, I was yelling for someone to help me when that same nurse who was annoyed walks in telling me to suck it up and continued her verbal onslaught how she was sick of us kids fighting and filling up the ER on the weekends and walks out. I laid there for what seemed like hours when they wheeled me in for x rays. After that, I was taken to a room, given meds for the pain and lights out. Woke up a few hours later and they were prepping me for surgery.
His name was Dr. Sherman and he informed me that my jaw was broken in three places and he was going to wire it shut and take three months to heal. Next thing I knew I was being wheeled in a bright room with a bunch of nurses moving about. I was giving a local anesthesia and told to count from 100 backwards…I only remember 98. The next memory was laying inside the recovery room and Dr. Sherman told me that all went well and reminded me that I will be on a liquid diet for the next four months, so expect to lose a few pounds.
I was in the hospital for about five days, so my friends from the rink was always visiting me before their sessions started at the rink. I had lots of stuff bears and cards to fill my side of the room while balloons floated above the foot of my bed. I would always covering my mouth cause I didn’t want the girls to see the way I looked. My neck was swollen and had over seventy stitches to close the gash outside and inside my mouth. I even had two large veins popping out on both sides of my neck…it was an ugly site for sure.
But I was released on the fifth day and took the bus to the hotel where I was renting a room, wondering how what was I going to do for money because I couldn’t skate till my jaw healed.I waited till the desk manager from the hotel turned his back and I snuck by him. I opened the door to my room no bigger than eight by twelve. I walked over to the mirror above the dresser and really looked at myself for the first time. My face was still swollen but not as bad as it was the first few days and the black and blue started to fade some.
But I did notice something strange about my chin, it was different then what it use to look like and friends noticed that also. I went to the rink to visit everyone when a friend who also worked there also, takes one look at me and shouted out…Hey, It’s Dick Tracy! That name stuck me even after the wires were removed. The manager’s at the rink told me I could still work there, but wasn’t allowed on skates till the wires were removed. So I worked behind the counter handing out roller skates and I was fine with that, I still had a job and that meant I wasn’t getting kicked out of my hotel room…well…not just yet.
When I reached the front entrance and looked through the door to the parking lot, not only were there fights inside the rink, there were fights outside as well. I have no idea what started any of this but I know we didn’t have enough employees to control what was going on all around us. I did what I do best at that time…I just looked to see who were the aggressive ones and started swinging away.
I knew who the good guys were so it was pretty safe to say that anyone I was hitting were the trouble makers. The funny part to this all was we were all fighting while wearing skates. There was no time to take them off, so we were rolling towards anyone fighting the employees and get in the middle and we started swinging away. I had the advantage because we towered over them because of our skates and some of the skate guards were pretty big boys.
If our punches didn’t stop them, a kick in the shins did the trick. They manage to clear out the inside of the rink and everything spilled out onto the parking lot. By now there were fights everywhere. The only thing missing were swords and shields. I have to admit, this could have been a lot worst had someone had a knife or gun. But this was a real fight… Old School Style.
After some of the fights seem to stop, there was still one more that was taking place right in front of the main entrance. The few private security officers we had were all N.Y.P.D. cops off duty working part-time. They were holding their own just fine till I went over and grabbed one of the guys fighting one of the cops. I ended up knowing him from high school. He was telling me that he didn’t want to hit me but I didn’t give a shit and I just grabbed him and threw him to the ground.
He wasn’t much of a fighter specially against me, and I think he knew it because he was talking more than anything. One thing I learned in the group home was this….fighters don’t talk, they fight! He was actually trying to explain what started the fights and I knew right than and there he didn’t really want to fight at all and I was fine with that. I let him go and told him to take off before the cops came. I went over to where the last fight was taken place right by the double glass doors by the main entrance.
I pulled one kid off of a friend of mine and I thought that was going to be the end of it. I looked around and saw the other skate guards skating around and all seem to be alright. Including one of my brothers who was working at the rink also. But before you know it, all I heard was a voice from a girl screaming LOOK OUT and I saw this kid holding what seemed to be a long piece of concrete and tossed it in my direction. It happened so fast, before I could even put my hands up to block it, it hit me right in my face and I went through the glass doors and DOWN GOES FRAZIER!
As I mentioned in my earlier post, I worked two jobs…the Hess gas station during the midnight shift and a roller rink working a couple of sessions in the morning for the moms (the original MILFS), after they dropped their rug rats off at school and worked on the weekends. The name of this rink was Skate Odyssey and I worked as a skate guard for just about a year. While my friends were going to school and goofing off, I was a commuter paying bills. I was pretty responsible for a seventeen year old.
One of the first nights working there was an all night skating session. Its started from 10 pm till 7 am in the morning. Lets see any roller rink do that in today’s world. Let me tell you, back in the early eighties everyone and their moms were roller skating back then. What was the best part being a skate guard was the girls. We all had a girlfriend just about for every session and it was all fun and games till we get busted.
The worst part was when a couple of them would show up on a Friday night at the same time and it would get crazy trying to sneak kisses by the pinball machines or we go to the back of the rink where it was dark and roped off to make out. But when we got busted by the girls, it was funny in a way to watch them argue and fight over us…and all this while on skates. They never seem to hit each other like they do now. But they had the pulling hair thing down to the science. Yep…we were Romeo on Wheels.
We had an all night session one Friday night, and it seemed that every girl from Staten Island showed up for this particular night session. It was so hard to get around that all the skate guards had to stay on the floor because it took so long to move through the crowd standing around the rink and the bathrooms. Ah yes…the bathroom. This is what I remember about the bathrooms. The girls were pigs!!! Holy shit, I couldn’t believe the mess and water all over the place. What the hell were they doing in there…having water balloon fights?
This all night session I was assigned to clean up both bathrooms by mopping and making sure their were toilet paper inside all the stalls in between my shift on the skate floor. Yep, there weren’t any cleaners back then…we had to do that ourselves. Surprisingly the guys bathroom wasn’t that bad at all, but the girls were out of their minds…but that didn’t stop me from flirting with them and I had no shame making out inside with one of my girlfriend either…then it happened.
I could hear lots of yelling and screaming outside the bathroom, so I rushed out into a large crowd in a panic state and a massive brawl was taking place…and all hell broke loose and this was getting bad…really bad. I had to help break this one up with the other skate guards but there were fights breaking out all over the place, so I just went towards the main entrance where the biggest fight was taken place…and I got involved.
I might just be the first person ever to shut down a 24 hour 7 days a week famous gas station back in 1980 just to get a cup of coffee from Dunkin Donuts across the street. It was about 2 am on this cold brisk wintry Wednesday morning and I needed a cup of petro to keep me up. So I decided to just turn off the lights inside the lobby and the outside lights over the pumps to make it look like we were closed and walked across the street to get my caffeine fix.
As I was standing there on a short line waiting for my coffee and a donut, I looked over to the gas station just to make sure no one was there when I saw two cars pull up to the pumps. They were there for a minute or so till one driver got out and walk toward the lobby and looked through the glass. He then went for the door and that’s when I realized…I didn’t lock it.
At first I thought I saw him go to the bathroom but the second driver from the other car got out and I knew what was going to happen next. He put the pump handle in his car and started pumping his own gas. I figure I be out of double D’s before they would leave, but before you know it, the guy inside started taking the Hess trucks by the boxes. The passenger got out and he ran inside and started grabbing them.
When I saw that, I ran out yelling “YO” really loud like that was going to stop them when two more guys got out of the car. As I got closer to them they seem to get bigger in size. I was only five feet 8 inches tall and one hundred and fifty pounds soak and wet at the time, and they looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno ready to do some serious ass kicking, and that’s when I did what any other responsible gas station attendant would do…did an about-face and ran back to Dunkin Donuts.
I wasn’t going to get my ass kicked over those toy trucks that’s for sure. So I just stood there inside the lobby of Double D’s when they not only took a bunch of trucks by the arm full, but had the balls to pump gas in their car. Then I realize something. I forgot about the second car that pulled up that pumped his own gas…and he was gone. Then it dawned on me… I was getting robbed…well I wasn’t… but Mr. Hess was!
After everybody got what they wanted they left. It was now safe to walk over and check out the damage. Over 20 trucks taken and about $30 of gas. I felt like Lucy Riccardo and had lots of explaining to do in the morning when the day shift manager shows up. You see, during the midnight shift all customers had to have the exact amount because we didn’t carry any change and there was a sign above the safe saying just that…then it hit me.
I knew I was going to get fired once the manager finds out that I single-handedly shut down a major 24 hour gas station franchise known throughout the country, and I needed money to get me by till I found another job, so I took whatever money was inside the safe. I called the cops and told them that thieves took a bunch of trucks, gas and $160.00 from inside the safe. When they asked me how they managed to get the money from the safe, I already had an answer for that.
There is a padlock under the safe and I always forgot to lock it…well not always but most of the time. They just got lucky when they checked to see if they could take any money…and they did. That was good enough for them and they left. But wasn’t good enough for the manager…4 hours later…I got fired. So there I was, standing at the bus stop in my Hess uniform heading back to my room I was renting out of a hotel, wondering how far will 160 dollars was going to take me…trust me…not very far at all.
I got a job working at a Hess gas station on Staten Island once I got situated at my sister Gracie’s apartment in New York City on the upper East side. It was a hike between taking two trains, a Ferry ride to Staten Island and then a 20 minute ride on the bus and it took me almost two hours every day for my afternoon shift…and I always late.
It got to the point that the manager asked me if I wanted to work the weekday midnight shift instead… I didn’t even hesitate to say no. In between my days off at the gas station, I was also working as a skate guard for a rolling skating rink called Skate Odyssey just ten minutes down the road.
What was great working there was that I had a girlfriend for every session I worked and ate for free at the snack counter. The guys were great and the girls working there were all prettier than the next. At seventeen with money in my pocket and a few girlfriends to hang with…who had it better than me?
It’s the Christmas season and as always Hess started their promotion for the infamous Hess trucks, so we were stocked up inside the lobby. Between pumping gas and selling the trucks, one can get distracted. What I mean by that is this…the public was ripping me off as I was pumping gas.
It’s after midnight now, so you have to remember that I was working alone. This is what they would do to me. They pull up and tell me to fill up and ask me where the bathroom was. I point to them the direction inside the lobby and continue to pump gas to at least two or three cars at a time.
I would never see them take any of them or walk out with them to pay me, but did noticed that trucks were missing when I would return inside to warm up. I had to figure out a way to make up for the missing trucks because in the morning, I had count how many were sold and the money needed to match.
So I rigged up the gas pumps. Back in the day, the old pumps were easy to do that. When I put back the nozzle I never lifted the lever and the pump was never turned off. So if you asked for 5 dollars and left, I would start from that when the next driver said to fill up. This was the coolest thing I thought of and I never got caught.
I would distract the drivers by asking if they wanted me to check their oil or wipe their windshield than walk back to the pump and actually start pumping their gas. This was my way to make up the difference if any trucks went missing and nothing ever came out of my paycheck…till one night I decided to shut down a 24 hour franchise and walk across the street to get coffee.
The stories I’m about to share will be many. Never did I believe that my childhood was actually preparing me for the life I was about to live as a teen and well into my adulthood. I lived in so many places since I left the foster home back in 1979 that I was turned down for my first civil servant interview at 20 because I had what they called “Unsteady Residence”.
At first, I moved in with my oldest sister Gloria in this tiny studio apartment (just a couple of blocks from the Fulton Projects where we grew up) for a few months, but she was living her life and not for nothing, the studio wasn’t made for two people to live in. So I moved in with my other sister Gracie and her live in boy friend on the upper east side for another few months.
One night after an argument we had over dinner, I smacked her across her face for constantly blaming our father for the hard life she lived as a teen and was told I had to leave by her boy friend. She always seem to blame everyone else around for the kind of life she had and never once took responsibility for the bad choices she made and the consequences that followed, so I moved in with my real mother Carmen for the first time back at the Fulton projects on the Westside that evening.
Trust me, that was the last place I wanted to live considering the last time I lived there was the day we were all removed by Child Services when I was five years old…but where else was I going to go? Well, it only took a few months before I had a fight with my younger brother who was living there also and, you guessed it was told to leave by my mother.
I was 17 years old and this was getting a bit crazy. In less than a year I lived with three members of my real family, some friends here and there, and rented a tiny room at a hotel on Staten Island till I could no longer pay the $45 a week rent. Let me tell you, before my 18th birthday I was on the Staten Island Ferry one night and thought about jumping off…..but something stopped me.
I’ve had many nightmare’s over the years, more than my share, but I always believed that sleeping should be peaceful and free of any demons or monsters from ever entering our dreams, but that has never been the case for me. Since I was a little boy, they always seems to find a way to hide inside my dreams and when ready, make their presence known.
Now it’s not like they are actually monsters and creatures of any kind chasing me down long endless hallways, but instead, would be in the form of moments in my childhood that haunts me even to this day. From reliving the beatings I received as a little boy to watching the death of people very close to me, always seemed to take place in the house that I grew to despise growing up.
For the life of me, I can not imagine what I did that was so bad as a child to deserve these nightmares. One of my recurring dreams that I’ve had for many years seemed to be multiple TORNADOES forming outside my bedroom window where I slept as a young boy. There’s’ always this one big tornado, surrounded by small ones, and would tear right through the garage and head straight towards my window with such loud force, the house would shake from its powerful breath.
Just as cracks would form on my window beside my bed, I wake up. To this day, I still have this dream. The creepy part of this dream is the color of the tornado. It’s always a dark navy blue…like the color of my foster-father’s work uniform he wore every day to work. He sometimes wore them even on his day off. I did go on-line a few times to interpret the meanings of some of my dreams.
What I learned about this one is only one thing…I feared my foster-father growing up….and I fear tornado’s just as much. This other dream I get once in a while started about 25 years ago. I am sharing a bedroom up in the attic with my foster-sister Sandy with a see through curtain dividing us. Her side had a bed and a dresser with a lamp on top of it with no shade, but couldn’t look directly at it because it was so bright.
I would be standing by the curtain talking with Sandy when she would than say to me she’s going to sleep and she would turn off the light. I would walk over to my side of the room in the dark and reach over to turn on the lamp on my end table only to find my bed looked like it was rotting away right before my eyes. I can see that I was no longer in the attic but inside my bedroom instead.
The radiator in front of the window felt very cold as the walls started to crumble apart landing on my bed, followed by a smell forming inside the bedroom as if something was rotting close by. I would look out the window only to see a distorted face looking back up at me. As I would turn away from it, I see a little boy laying in my bed under the covers rocking back and forth, but can never make out his face….I think the little boy is me.