And Boston the biggest determent to a real drop in the crime rate was the weather. And it happened annually. And during those frigid months kids weren’t outside shooting at each other. And some of this rolled over to even Astori, “incidents” became more prevalent in the summer. And since the Red Paint, incidents were everything I was trying to avoid. I didn’t want to go through that again, I’d already been run over by a lawnmower and just wanted to play basketball and have cash for the occasional trip to Legal Seafood’s in a neighboring mall town.
My sister Brook was now sixteen, this would be a dangerous summer for her. She’d drifted away from figure skating albeit the Haydenett’s, she’d broke up with the Justin, great guy, in the end the age gap we prove too much conquer. She had it all allot to lose. And she was me I was her. She was extremely athletic and above all, funny. There were very strict rules with the gang when speaking of Brooke. The girl had back and crazy friends too, often I thought crazier, certainly whiter. One thing I was certain of was this, there were fucked up people everywhere I looked. And I was one of them, but I wasn’t, it was a big conspiracy I had to believe my own lies to justify my own complete disregard of all laws in Astori. Brooke always held down a job, skated and studied, but this last year had rattled us all a bit more off course. She’s hold it down, but the one consistent grip in the mayhem was slipping. Of course I thought we’d both be fine. In my mind we were crushing high school. Summer was here – I’d made it to the 10th grade, this expectation I could count as an accomplishment, the mantra of a conniving child, set the bar so low you get credit for the smallest shit.
Summer League (Basketball): 9-1, as freshmen, I had to work hard this summer, because Coach Farias told Wells, Santo and me, he thought we could help him next year. It would kick save my mothers depression. It would wash all of these incidents and allegations aside, it was pure, my heart & Soul. Plus it was the way into college accomplishing the bare minimum academically in high school. Basketball, basketball, state title, Dreams in Astori. Getting back to ball with the scratching atoms of summer and hyperactivity anxious to burst there’s only one thing above all that now dominated my thoughts. Getting UNLV into the famed Astori men’s summer basketball league. We were in high school now and they had to let us play, I thought they just had to, we were ready. Back then the town came out for summer league games in the basketball bastion, the revolutionary hamlet of Astori, it was fantastic run. It was made up of current and former college players, D1, 2 and 3, highly competitive league. All scholastics from the 70’s still played, guys that played pro overseas, played @ big time college programs spanning all decades. Or smaller schools, local schools, here, there, it happened all of the time. Each team was comprised of people in the same or closely held years, and it reached back. If you won the summer league, crowed champs amongst the former players that propelled the powerhouse locally when it was there time. It was the ultimate nod of respect. Sometimes we’d even joke about wanting a summer league title in high school instead of a state. It was something that had only ever been done once before. A team of current high school kids winning the summer league. The college and older guys were just too big and strong, it’s not that those current varsity men would not make ru7ns, they just never certainly as long as magic and I been watching could close the door. There was tremendous pride, especially on the older side. And that’s what made it special. What the town was able to watch outside underneath the lights on a summer evening after a winter of thrills inside the gym a couple hundred yards down the street.
And we saw the greats and all’s we ever truly wanted was a stab at this league, our crew our grade all together. Of course we were tiny, no one had grown out, we’d look like midgets in the circus against some of these teams. They’d always told me hanging around as a kid that you had to be in high school to be able to play.
Letter I wrote with my dad who seemed just as excited about this as me. Dear aspiring Young Gun,
Congratulations, you have been pre-selected to be apart of the inaugural Young Guns summer league basketball squad. Although we have not yet been approved for participation by the town I’m confident that this matter will resolve itself shortly. A small fee will be due and unfortunately at this time I cannot furnish you with any actual numbers, keep you posted. By signing beneath you will enter into a contract. A contract that states as a Young Gun you will be responsible for upholding all of that which we stand for. To play solely for us, to play as we’ve been born. Sign below if you have the love and are ready to show this entire town what we’re really about. Thank you and with regards, Charlie Paradise Team leader
Everybody’s come back within days except one, Magic who last summer became the youngest player to ever win an Astori Men’s summer basketball league championship. Before he knew what I had planned to start he signed a one year deal at the league minimum. He was looking to become the youngest player to win back to back summer league championships. In character to the fullest Magic’s game hyped fodder into the Dream vs. Magic discussion. His championship made me excited for the spotlight, a forum, a year of high school ball behind me and I was prepared for the whole town to finally meet us on the floor. Even though he had a good reason I was still pissed at Mike and used it as a platform for my “Mike’s a sell out speech.”
Anyway I had collected $40 from everyone from the league fee as well as uniforms I ordered. We were naturally 2 be, the Young Guns. I had a check in hand and a filled out application, my father drove me down. And I was nicely rejected. I was furious I couldn’t believe it I started to cry and then kick saved exhaling my cheeks and turned that inside out into anger. I went death state as if to convey if I match up that face to an address I will break your windows. In the middle of the night and I will never get caught. And always come back. We turned and left.
Arriving home the hits kept coming. Adding insult to injury my dad now back on the scene full time delivered another bone crushing unforeseen gargantuan bombshell. Apprently I had a job downtown Boston fourty hours a week all summer long. At fourteen I was astonished this was suggested, much less put into action..
“But dad I’m only fourteen?” “In East Germany they start em at five, your lucky bunky.” Always with a smart answer I feel like he feels like I should be ecstatic about this. “How much am I going to make?” Since nothing surprised me I always had to ask general questions.
“Why yes! Bunk you could make a thousand dollars a month and start savings young like I did. I saved.” “I know dad.” Hand motioning, “you saved 20 thousand before you were 21 delivering papers.” “It’s a great country.” “I know. OK” Like Rick Moranis agreeing to let Egon take a sample of his brain tissue in Ghostbusters I’d agree to anything, I had no choice. Besides the money sounded good in a sentence but quickly made no sense in execution.
“Mom its summer vacation, I’m just a kid!” I would yell after three weeks of getting up at seven AM and getting back into Astori at 6:30 via the bus from the subway in Cambridge. My best friends parents all applauded me wondering, I’m sure how creative and forceful they need to be to get their son to be productive for at least one summer. My first week I probably gave all my money to bums typical of a suburban kid spending his first real whole days lost in the combat zone. In Astori if a homeless drifter had made his way to us the wonderful police department put him in the car and took him back to Alewife (the nearest city subway) and kicked the problem back in the bean. The fact that most of the homeless were black strengthened a festering hatred of the white man. My dream was to be assassinated by clan. It would make me famous. I liked downtown crossing, Boston downtown hurried a love for the city. The best part were the politics behind it. A quickly learned how powerful that could be, something like having a job. I’d never received so many compliments in my life, Monster assured me I wasn’t missing much. I loved a couple of women walking around the law firm. I always flirted.
The next day
My mother had come into my room right before my X-wing was about to crash and help buttress me to see this summer job through. It was touching until she said, “And Carl Eric” very serious eyes signal the nourishing of my excitement during this “session” had skidded to a halt. “This is where dad works, your not going to steal anything, right?” Getting around the next day and news of my summer job had already hit the Cajun ticker that swallowed Astori. “Congratulations on the job Dream.” Deaded in my tracks my jaw drops wearing some hoody baggy ass sweats with the tags still on them. It was the school nurse Ms. Kennedy. I hadn’t even worked a day. It was distracting which was good. I was nervous to ask the Big Guy for help, it was our only hope. Bumping into Scully I was relieved he found me, I thought he was going to “puss” out. No way I was walking up there alone. “Dude I’m having a heart attack, I’m not going up there to talk to him.” “Why not” thinking that I wanted to say something more I barfed out, “fucken homo is it always going to be like this?”
“Listen Carl, it was terrifying enough last time. You know I think I might have those” waxing on and off with his hands while circling his neck, “those panic attack things too.” The kids up there are crazy. ACE is where they send you if you get thrown out of other public high schools in the area.” ”So?” “I don’t know, I don’t think he likes us especially, you know?” “Me?” “yeah” “Great, What about the Young Guns!” I snap angry and very much wanting to throw his head into a machine that turns tree stumps into mulch. “You’re the” now I want to make a scene and begin yelling to the sell out, “biggest fucking pussy on the planet” Scully cut me off. “But you’re the team leader! This is you know the stuff that leaders have to do” “Fuck your right, good point Scully” I was silenced.
I trudged forward and up. Up the stairs into the ACE program ACE was like the desert in Casino, “you never knew if you were going to come back alive.” Just entering was unsettling you had to walk down a dimly lit thirty foot long dark hall. It was actually right above our grades lockers in the G house main hall. The upstairs sport a fascist like line of classrooms that stretch across the main building. Everything was the same, door, little classroom, door, little classroom and they all looked the same besides ones with doors that UNLV still hadn’t come off of. We just had to clean C House which like New Orleans and hurricane Katrina was the hardest hit. Then you came to the door of ACE. No classroom if you were cavalier enough to risk even looking down the corridor. The door was all knifed up chalk full of pure juvenile delinquency. The kids that inhabited ACE we saw seldom, some had visible behavioral disorders, my favorite definition of what I “had” but most were simply outcasts. No one hung out or knew them and down this hall with its maze like unknown collection of classes and secret doors designed to keep them away from the “main stream” of normal high school kids in Astori I approached. ACE was equipped for survival all just through that door. Kids went in and would disappear for days months, years or we’d see them only a couple times and never again. A few weeks ago when my and the boys got a possible clue about our varsity status next year I noticed a sink, couches old Zenith TV’S and like I said empty doughnut boxes. Coach Throbashke had a grand desk separated from the tables and couches next to a corner window that looked directly out over the entire student parking lot, internal shrill. “He must know everything.” Thinking that he sat up there eating doughnuts all day screaming at his subordinates watching the student parking lot freaked me out. Unguarded walking up Han Solo I pray to Jesus and find confidence only through the pureness of my requisition.
Walking towards ACE I’m looking for a life raft or a favor from Jesus, I can hear the Big Guy, I wanted to turn around. I needed him, this was crucial. Inching closer I almost fainted and wiped the slave like sweat from my “facial torso.” Reminding myself to not say things like facial torso I remind myself to approach it like a free throw simple and easy.
“Yo look its Mr. big shot! Carl, what the hell did you do? You in trouble? I hope not cause I can’t help you.” Before I’ve even said anything and just when I’m about to now nervously speak, “Gibbsy call the police I don’t want to be involved, not dragging me in.” “ah nah, nah, nah, I mean why ya’ll think of me like that.”
“Congratulations on the job this summer Carl.” The last man to win a state championship in Astori and also my hero Coach Sullivan said. “Thank you Coach I’m excited about it” Coach Gibbs my coach last year who I adore jumps aboard with a warm inspiring smile in the middle of a gum chew says, “Yeah Carl that’s great your going to be working in Boston, that’s awesome hey Bob did you hear about it?” Feeling all of sudden very comfortable Coach Gibbs has just called him by his first name, “Shut up Gibbsy, don’t call me Bob.” I’m devoured by panic. “Yeah I heard about.” Repositioning himself on the bigger of the two couches in his office he said indifferently, “Yeah so what?” I’m finally given a second to speak and inform him angrily but coherently about my situation. Asking for his help he can’t believe it In a good way, ☺
He begun laughing which paved the way for anger which then steam rolled “You know what Gibbsy it blows my mind.” Coach Gibbs essentially up there to ask “what?” to his flood of unusual questions, “What?” Sitting up which is a brief struggle for him he’s laughing audaciously however controlled, “I started this league twenty years ago for high school kids, I started it, me. That’s why I through my weight, (winks at Coach Sullivan) behind it. Astori, what the hells wrong with everybody? I started this league twenty years ago for the kids and now they’re telling one of my own they can’t play?” Ending with his patented “it’s unbelievable.” Watching my former basketball camp proprietor Broadway, comedian and head coach in his natural element was instantly overwhelming and beyond expectation. “You know what Sully?” “What?” Coach Sullivan in fact every adult up in ACE was up there for this purpose. He pondered saometghing a second later and nodded his chin profusely saying, “Gibbsy get me the town rec department on the horn, tell em its me.”
And as fate would state or have it the Big Guy made a call and just like that the Young Guns were formally accepted into the 1991 edition of the men’s summer league in Astori. The only dissenter as earlier reported was Magic. Or “cock rider Magic” as I said in the moment. And as June came, I had a job and team.