Mickey Z. -- World News Trust
Oct. 11, 2016
Growing up where I grew up when I grew up there required the rapid acquisition of street smarts.
Even your own crew, if bored, could turn into enemies in a heartbeat. (I was reminded of this reality when I took the photo in the middle of this article below.) When I was 14 -- the height of my street crime days -- my friends and I would do almost anything to impress the older guys. They basically liked us but also took sadistic pleasure in fucking with us. #lesson
One night, we were all standing around. Probably high. About 5-6 guys, either 14 or 15 years old. Another 5-6 guys, 17 and up. Gary, maybe 19 and sort of a leader of the older dudes, spontaneously announced: “I’m gonna start counting and when I reach 30, all of you are getting your asses royally kicked.” He, of course, was looking at us.
Standing next to Gary was Pepino. He was the fastest runner I had ever met -- and I had met my share of fast runners. Me and my hooligan cohorts were not only juvenile delinquents, we were very good athletes. It took someone immensely fast to catch one of us if we didn’t wanna be caught. Pepino was the only human I had ever encountered who could catch me from behind, with me already running and him at a dead stop. Incredible. When he was around, you chose your mischief wisely. #lesson
(Side note: I can still see in my mind the day Pepino hatched a scheme to crash a car in the old Long Island City High School yard. He stole a car, drove it into the park, and lined it up at the far end, facing the giant school wall. He wanted to tie a brick to the gas pedal and send it off. Someone complained that we all played softball on that field. You call concrete parks “fields” when you live in a city. Pepino laughed and said we could go in the passenger door and out the driver’s door on our way to first base. The plot was ditched when someone called the cops and we all took off.)
Anyway, Gary continued: “That means you have a 30-second head start.” Trust me, we didn’t laugh or ask questions or even for him to say “one.” We took off. We knew the neighborhood. We were fast, agile, and resourceful. Thirty seconds can be a lot of time.
However, this time around, a 15-year-old dude name Kenny was with us. He was cool (his older brothers had the best album collection in the entire neighborhood) but he was a stoner, not an athlete. He soon fell behind and I worried for him. Then, I heard the sound of someone falling and howling in pain.
In the dark, Kenny hadn’t seen the thick, metal wiring coming down diagonally from the telephone pole (see photo). It caught him across his neck, “clothes-lining” him, as the cruel euphemism goes. I took a few steps back towards him and saw his neck was bleeding. My others friends yelled to me, “Fuck him! C’mon!” #lesson
I went back to see if I could get him up and running again. Speeding towards me like punk bullet was Pepino. I was caught. #lesson
Yeah, I pled my case and pointed at Kenny’s bleeding neck but they all just laughed hysterically at his plight. “Kenny’s fucked up enough,” said Gary, before turning to me. “So I guess you’ll have to take your beating and his beating.” This time, they focused on powerful punches to my thighs. I walked funny for a week while Kenny proudly showed off his neck scars. In the realm of macho conditioning, kindness is not rewarded. #lesson
Somehow, this kind of young life didn’t turn me into a sadist -- but my parents were wise enough to get me the hell out of that neighborhood by the time I was 15. We moved and I moved on and kept moving on. But no matter what, the memories and the lessons stay with me. If you’re wondering why I think this story matters, take a good look around. #lesson
Postscript: Many years later, I was reading on a non-rush hour subway ride. From behind me, I heard a man talking to his young daughter. The girl was maybe two or three years old. The man’s annoying voice was immediately recognizable as that of an old, unrecovered junkie. It was also recognizable as the voice of none other than Pepino. He was talking to two younger punk rock types who had just gotten on the train. Pepino was loudly and proudly bragging about his wild days (for which I can partially vouch). These stories ran the proverbial gamut from drugs to violence to sex, and the little girl was clearly oblivious to how much of an asshole her father was as she played hide and seek with me and a female passenger seated near me. I got to my station and stood to exit the train, making sure to walk towards the door that would give me a clear view of my old friend/nemesis. I was careful to turn away, of course, before Pepino had any chance of recognizing me. My life is work enough without bringing any ghosts from my past into it. #lesson
Mickey Z. is currently writing two books, a memoir called How to Lose Friends & Influence Nobody: My Life as an “Activist,” and a novel entitled stain red. In the meantime, he can be found here.
In male supremacist culture, kindness is not rewarded by Mickey Z. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://worldnewstrust.com/in-male-supremacist-culture-kindness-is-not-rewarded-mickey-z.