Drums Along the Gowanus

Henry Fonda as Gil Martin in Drums Along the Mohawk directed by John Ford.

“Kickin’ British butt in Brooklyn”

The Battle of Brooklyn, the crucial battle of the Revolutionary War, takes place in Green-Wood Cemetery. George Washington loses but manages to escape across the East River while soldiers from Maryland fight a desperate retreating action across the cemetery and down into the swamps of Gowanus, where I will later work. The Marylanders are slaughtered on Third Street, where I will later live. Thus, my personal battles in Brooklyn trace the course of the Battle of Brooklyn. 

The Old Stone House on 3rd street in Brooklyn where the American Revolution was saved.
The American Revolution was saved here in Brooklyn.

As a child, long before I know this bloody history, I feel a kinship with the fallen rebels. Oh, I like Westerns but I love “Easterns” – movies set in Early America. I am instinctively drawn to them. I know every frame in John Ford’s Drums Along the Mohawk. I want to live in that time and I’m sure that in a former life, I did. So, I devour everything in my history textbooks about Early America. And, when I walk on the dirt paths in Prospect Park, or hide in a weedy vacant lot, or merely jump over blades of grass sprouting through the sidewalk, I am transported to 1776 and have a musket in my hand and a powder horn on my hip. All this emotional connection, spanning centuries, is forged before I know that I am living on sacred, blood-soaked battleground. It is a psychic mystery of Brooklyn. 

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: The smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook amazon.com
amazon.co.uk
And as an eBook here
https://books2read.com/The-Boy-Outa-Brooklyn
 

Brooklyn Boy

Stickball in Brooklyn in the 1950s and 1960s.
Hittin’ a Spaldeen three sewers with a broom handle.

I’m a Brooklyn boy. Born dead center in the 20th century – 1950 A.B. That’s Anno Brooklyn. In my Brooklyn, green canvas awnings shade the storefront windows and a glass globe filled with blue water swings over the pharmacy door. The butcher has sawdust on his floor and the grocer has a straw boater on his head. Kids are nicknamed Butch, Spike and Bruiser. (And, these are the girls!) Red and white striped poles twirl in front of the competing barbershops of Angelo and Nick. Angelo is humorless, maybe because he has a concentration-camp tattoo on his arm. But, Nick   has a devil-may-care manner and sports the pencil-thin mustache of a gigolo. 

It is in the mirrored, macho salons of Nick and Angelo that I learn how to be Homo Brooklyn. No, not that type of homo. (Whata you a wiseguy?) I mean a real Homo. A man’s man. A mensch. It’s where I learn the hard-but-fair rule of life – “If you leave, you lose your turn.” It’s where I learn to dismiss all current baseball players as overpaid pussies not worthy of carrying the jockstrap of Saint Joe DiMaggio. It’s where I learn the permitted hairstyles for Homo Brooklyn– Baldy, Flat Top and Elvis. It’s where I learn to distinguish between the after-shaves Bay Rum, Old Spice and Aqua Velva; and learn the proper application of Dixie Pomade – a hair goop thicker than axle grease.  In Angelo’s and Nick’s, I ogle true-crime magazines –

I Escaped the Vampire-Nympho of Newark! 

And Hollywood gossip-rags –  

I Escaped Tinseltown’s Nympho Pajama Party!

And men’s-adventure journals – 

I Escaped the Lair of the Lesbian Nazi-Nympho!

Most importantly, I learn how to hide “dirty” magazines like Gent, Dude and Dapper inside the covers of The Saturday Evening Post. When Nick and Angelo catch me, they threaten to tell my mother and give me a Baldy. But, I always spot a twinkle in their eyes as they shake their razor strops at me. 

Vintage men's magazine cover
Brooklyn barbershop literature
Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: The smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk
And as an eBook here
https://books2read.com/The-Boy-Outa-Brooklyn