If you are like me you grew up in the hood. There was a bodega and the owner knew everyone. It was at this store that you got stuff on credit. Meaning when mom or dad didn’t have money they got a few supplies till pay day. There was a corner and on that corner were the boys. The so called hoodlums that though they weren’t the type of boys mom wanted you to be seen with let alone mess around with, they protected the block with a loyalty. There was the viejitos that played dominoes on a make shift table made from a piece of cardboard and a milk crate. There were the mothers that chilled out on the stoops watching everything that happened on the block all the while bochinchando to each other. They didn’t miss a beat.
It was a time when us kids would draw hopscotch and skelzzies boards with chalk and play into the wee hours. Sometimes the double-dutch rope came out or a great game of manhunt or cocoleevio brought all of us together. Stick ball was played in the street and cars actually took their time to drive through the block. You were the shit if you knew how to play handball and execute a killer when you wanted.
Fighting was simple- you both went fist for fist, punch for punch and after shook hands and that was it. The funny fights included faces full of Vaseline and nails rubbed with garlic, earrings were taken off and hair put in a ponytail. Guys had a good old fashion fist-a-cuff. Lol. I laugh just thinking of it.
Battles existed. I mean dance crews (what they call B-Boys now) went for it on a huge piece of cardboard, break dancing while ghetto blasters (radios with 8 DD batteries) played mixes on TDK tapes. It was the birth of hip-hop where lyrics weren’t full of coochie and banging backs. It was about staying up and dancing the night away, it was full of block parties where DJ’s on turntables mixed the night away while using electricity from the lamppost. Dances like The Webo and The Smurf were the trend.
This was a time where the worst you did as a youngin was get drunk or smoke a joint (yes potheads I see you). The ritual of meeting a guy was a paper passed with the 3 choices- yes, no, maybe, please check one. You usually chilled with a guy and it involved kisses and petting. Not like now where little girls with no menstruation are talking about fellatio and riding. The guys were gentlemen. When guys walked with you they placed you on the inside of the sidewalk, held doors and even paid a cab if a girl stood a bit late to make sure she got home safely.
There was family. That though as dysfunctional it was, that no matter how much sibling rivalry or fights it was ingrained that family is family. You don’t sell it, fight it or mess with it. Blood was always thicker than water. This was not up for discussion at all.
You had pride in your hood because it gave you resilience, unity, a sense of cultura and above everything a sisterhood and brotherhood that didn’t break even when people left or moved away.
I will always love my hood. Though those streets have seen the worst of me it has also seen the best of me. I wouldn’t change a thing in the era I grew up in.