My Road to Damascus

Brooklyn College
Harvard, eat ya heart out!

It happened on a bright June day in 1967. I was walking across the surprisingly bucolic campus of Brooklyn College nestled inside the decidedly un-bucolic Flatbush. Many of the campus buildings were ivy-covered brick so who needed the Ivy League? I was a recent Catholic high school graduate there for a day of testing and orientation. I was unaware that I was in the epicenter of Jewish communist activism. 

Brooklyn College was so radical it was called “the little red school house” but not to be confused with The Little Red School House in Greenwich Village. Both institutions graduated a spectacularly disproportionate number of Levantines who were moaning-Marxists of dubious sexuality and (worst of all) folk singers. 

The co-eds at Brooklyn College were evenly divided into two opposing camps. 

Nothing’s too good for Daddy’s little princess.
  • The “JAPs” (Jewish American Princesses) had been gifted nose jobs as high school graduation presents and came to class loaded for bear i.e. they were out to land a nice Jewish boy preferably in pre-med or pre-law. I had never been in close proximity to such exotic creatures and gazed open-mouthed at them in class as they simultaneously adjusted their hair, stockings and bra while filing their nails and applying lipstick. I was a goy so I was invisible to them. They were brainless and harmless and at least afforded me a chubby or two.    
Vintage bearded lady
I think she sat behind me in Psych 101.
  • The “Rachels” and “Ruths” bore their Hebraic-honkers like a badge of honor. Their wiry hair was left to nature and they favored sandals, folk skirts and unshaven legs. Their moustaches were unshaven, too. They scurried around campus clutching to their peasant-blouse covered bosoms Joan Baez LPs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti poetry books and Wilhelm Reich’s The Function of the Orgasm. (I wouldn’t fuck these hectoring yentas with your dick.)    

So… I was strolling across campus feeling like Joe College when a Rachel ran up to me screaming like a banshee, slavering like a bronco and demanding that I boycott class because LBJ was bombing Vietnam. She shoved a flyer into my hand and her unshaven face into mine and ranted about nukes, napalm and negroes. I thanked her and promised to read the flyer but she screamed into my face, “Nazi” and ran to her next target. I tried to proceed but was forced to walk a gauntlet of Rachels, Ruths and their male counterparts – the Bruces and Barrys. All screaming. All slavering. All thrusting flyers. All demanding that Brooklyn College be brought to a standstill because LBJ was bombing Vietnam.       

The very next day the Six Day War broke out between Israel and Egypt and I was back on campus for more testing. 

So… I was strolling across campus feeling like Joe College when the very same Rachel ran up to me screaming like a banshee, slavering like a bronco and demanding that I boycott class because LBJ was not bombing Cairo. She shoved a flyer into my hand and her unshaven face into mine and ranted about Auschwitz, Anne Frank and Arabs. I thanked her and promised to read the flyer but she screamed into my face, “Nazi” and ran to her next target. I tried to proceed but was forced to walk a gauntlet of Rachels, Ruths and their male counterparts – the Bruces and Barrys. All screaming. All slavering. All thrusting flyers. All demanding that Brooklyn College be brought to a standstill because LBJ was not bombing Cairo. 

In fact, these leftist humanitarians wanted Cairo nuked!       

Cairo – I figure 10 million dead before the Soviet retaliation.

Suddenly and e’en like Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, I was knocked to the ground by a blinding light of revelation. I then picked myself up and stood in the center of Brooklyn College, in the center of Flatbush, in the center of Brooklyn and knew in the center of my Catholic, Italian-American soul that I was in enemy territory. The scales had fallen from my eyes! I knew that the Rachels, Ruths, Bruces, Barrys and, yes, even the JAPs were not me. Not mine. Not American. All their supposedly selfless political activism was all about them. (And, they have done nothing to dissuade me of that conclusion in the more than fifty years since my Damascene conversion.)

  
 

St. Paul on the road to Damascus
You think it was easy getting that horse on campus?

Day of Infamy

During the Six Day War, Israel, our supposed ally, deliberately attacked and attempted to sink the USS Liberty an intelligence ship observing the war from the Mediterranean. In order to prevent the Liberty from reporting Israeli war crimes, Israel killed 34 U.S. sailors and wounded 171 more. Israeli planes even machine-gunned U.S. sailors attempting to escape in life rafts.

Meanwhile, Israeli dupes inside the White House almost gave my Brooklyn College classmates their dream. They almost tricked LBJ into nuking Cairo. (Take a minute to imagine that scenario.) Then, the dupes and LBJ conducted a massive cover up. The surviving sailors were ordered and threatened into silence. 

Israel claims its act of treachery carried out on a U.S. ship clearly flying the Stars and Stripes was a tragic mistake.  

 If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I wanna talk to you about. 

USS Liberty

POSTSCRIPT

In the 1970s, I learned that a former classmate at Brooklyn College had machine gunned many Palestinian women and children to death. When I knew this particular Bruce, he was a “peace & granola” hippie-dippie-trippie type. Then he got that Old Time Religion. Its a sad fact that from Meyer Kahane and the Jewish Defense League on, Brooklyn has been the breeding ground of Israel’s most violent fundamentalist lunatics.

Whenever I hear wild-eyed, wiry-haired women living on illegal Jewish settlements being interviewed with a baby on one hip and an uzi on the other their Brooklyn accents are those of the Rachels and Ruths I first encountered on that bright June day in 1967 on the surprisingly bucolic campus of Brooklyn College.

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio 
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
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Roadmap to Blog Outa Brooklyn

Thanks for visiting my blog. It is a sampler of my murder-memoir Boy Outa Brooklyn. The best way to enjoy it is to start at the first post and read chronologically. I hope you’ll find it both hilarious and horrifying.

I will also be posting about the best books, movies and songs about Brooklyn. And, sharing my practical and off-beat travel tips.

Welcome to my Brooklyn,

Jack Antonio

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Thanatopsis

Gravestones in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York
The view from my childhood bedroom and stoop

So many of those who shaped my life are dead – dead as the airline passengers who fell to earth one Brooklyn Christmas; dead as the woman I saw speared by a falling window pole on 42nd street. Dead. And, so many of the other souls who merely touched my life – they must also surely be dead. They could not have survived their fragile, reckless lives ’til now. I want to gather them all to me and bury them all in Green-Wood Cemetery – there to find eternal rest in a plot guarded by weeping Protestant angels, ivy-covered Civil War soldiers and by me. Their graves, a stone’s throw across the street from my boyhood stoop, will be dug in the sacred soil where Washington’s troops were slaughtered and the American Revolution saved.

I will spend my final days on that stoop staring into Green-Wood, staring into eternity. I will daily tend their graves while intoning Carrie’s poem – “What is death?” Maybe one of my dead will have the answer. 

Angle weeping on gravestone
I know just how she feels.
Drummer Boy atop grave in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
An earlier Boy Outa Brooklyn
Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
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Calling Mr. and Mrs. Mainstreet

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
Woodward & Bernstein – pin-up boys for crypto-commie journos everywhere.
Uh… Carl… the hair… can we talk?

Since my rock career had died aborning, I decided to turn my hand to politics. And, since 1976 was a presidential election year, I found ready employment with The New York Times-CBS News poll. Both of these legendary news outlets were and are notoriously slanted Left. The man running their poll “war room” was a recent graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism – a hotbed of Cultural Marxism. Barry was prematurely balding, preternaturally sweaty and hell-bent on becoming the next Woodward or Bernstein. Preferably, Bernstein. (America was still obsessed with Watergate.) This pushy prick saw polling as a necessary step up the media ladder to his heroic, muckraking future. At worst, he might be the next Geraldo Rivera. 

Barry was drawn from the “rootless cosmopolitan” class so he had nothing in common with and nothing but contempt for anyone who lived west of the Hudson River, i.e. most Americans. He radiated disdain for what he held were the pinhead opinions of Mr. & Mrs. Mainstreet. And, all of Barry’s minions shared his belief that, parts of Manhattan aside, America was populated by knuckle-dragging nitwits. The office mantra was – “Don’t forget, Tricky Dick won the last election in a fucking landslide, man!” 

Senator George McGovern
George McGovern the only presidential candidate who could make Dukakis look dynamic.
Uh… George… the comb-over… can we talk?

Barry’s polling posse consisted of Columbia School of Journalism undergrads, grudge-bearing McGovern voters, Hadassah hags and lifetime members of the Fist Fuckers of America who gloried in being refugees from that “other America” – a land bereft of beauty, culture and glory holes. There is nothing so haughty and censorious as regional queens come to Gotham – unless it’s their balding, sweaty boss. I did my level best to man-up against them, stand-up for America and screw-up the poll results. 

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
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The Dummies Guide to Guardian Angels

Guardian Angel protecting two  children
Guardian Angel for sissies

I’ve mentioned Guardian Angels several times so, for you latecomers, I better explain who they are. I have to remind myself that not every boy had hanging over his bed a painting of a Guardian Angel escorting a little boy through a dark wood while the horned, hoofed Devil lurked behind a tree. Not every boy prayed at bedtime –  

Angel of God, my guardian dear, To whom God’s love commits me here,

Ever this day be at my side, To light and guard, to rule and guide.

Amen

Here’s the straight skinny, straight out of the catechism: Catholics believe that we are all assigned a Guardian Angel at birth. These invisible, winged creatures are not dimple-buttocked cherubs but flaming-sword waving bruisers who have our backs from “Womb to Tomb.” It’s their mission to keep us out of trouble and out of live sexxx shows. But, they don’t always do a good job. I don’t know if mine was sitting next to me watching Babysitters In Bondage with his head in his hands or if he waited outside smoking a cigarette. But, supposedly, where I go, he goes. 

Orthodox St. Michael
Guardian Angel for He-men

Some Catholics find having an angelic shadow comforting. It makes my flesh crawl. Always has. And, what perplexes me no end is why these heavenly bodyguards let so many kids get hit by cars and fall off fire escapes. Why didn’t Carrie’s Guardian Angel tell her not to go into that vestibule? And, if my murdered friend Carrie wasn’t a Catholic maybe her murderer was and why didn’t his Guardian Angel warn her? You expect me to believe that Carrie didn’t pass a single Guardian Angel the night she was slaughtered?

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
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Some Entertained Angels Unawares

Vintage Archie comic book cover
Uncle Sam even got Jughead’s ass!

Place: Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn

Time: Early morning. November. 1969

Weather: Fareezzing fucking cold.

I am standing in a long line of young men, all in our underwear, all shivering and all ascared to be in a long hallway waiting for our physicals, waiting for our fates. 

  • So, this is the Army, I muse.
  • Shivering before I die, I muse.
  • Nixon can shove it up Kissinger’s ass, I muse.

Then, I hear a voice. Faint. It comes from mid-air just above and to the left of my head. The voice says, “Walk out.” The voice repeats, “Walk out.” Like a good soldier, I obey orders. I get dressed. I walk out. No one says, “Hey, you.” No sentry shouts, “Stop or I’ll shoot.” I go home. I wait for another letter pushed under my door. I wait for the knock of the MPs. Nothing. Then, a week later, the Lottery brings deliverance in the form of a life-saving high number. And, just like that, it’s over. Over. I have slipped through the cracks. I have avoided Vietnam – avoided the Draft, dismemberment, death. I feel joy, of course, but it’s tempered by survivor’s guilt – I know young men who have lost the Lottery. Most of all I give thanks to that Voice. How? What? Why? Who was that Voice? Was it the voice of my Guardian Angel? I didn’t believe I had a Guardian Angel but I’d been hedging my Catholic bets and sorta-kinda hoping he was there. 

Guardian Angel walking with little boy
“Walk out.”
Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio 
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
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Mongolian Porn Conquers Milwaukee

Billboard - Beautify America - Get a Haircut
Everyone was after my scalp!

Dilemma: I viewed the citizens of Milwaukee as my tribe – transplanted, Brooklyn stoop-sitters. But, they viewed me as a recruiting officer for the Viet Cong. 

Solution: I had to change how Milwaukee saw me. I had to shave my beard. I had to cut my hair. 

I loved my shaggy self, but I was hungry, broke and beaten. So, when a movie theater offered me work as an usher, but only if I took a haircut, I took a haircut. The barber howled with glee as he hacked away at my freaky flag while his waiting customers pointed and giggled at my humiliation. It was the most painful haircut I have ever taken and the worst. But, it worked. It made me invisible.

The duplex movie house that hired me was in downtown Milwaukee. Downstairs it ran Julie Andrews musicals while upstairs it screened what passed for porn in Catholic Milwaukee. Back in Sheboygan, I had seen the movie Goodbye, Columbus. When Ali McGraw dove naked into a swimming pool a celluloid covered the entire screen. Nude scene over – the disappeared. I was one shocked New Yorker. The locals didn’t even blink. But, Milwaukee was more sophisticated than Sheboygan. In fact, we screened the world’s only Mongolian soft-core porn film and that classic was held over for weeks. 

Vintage photo of Mongolian women in traditional dress

So, downstairs it was all little old ladies in hats and upstairs it all was dirty old men in trench coats. Oh, and the Vice Squad. They were upstairs a lot, especially for the Mongolian porn. They needed multiple viewings to fully grasp the depth of the film’s decadence. They’d push past me with a quick flash of the badge and a quick grunt of “Vice.” When I was bored, I’d tear the cinemagoers tickets and send the cinemagoers to the wrong cinema. I did so enjoy imagining their confused faces as they waited for Julie Andrews to break out of her bra and the naked Mongolians to break into song. 

I also had to skulk around both cinemas, flashlight in hand, ensuring that no one had their feet on the seats or was smoking in the “No Smoking” section or jerking-off in the “No Jerking-off” section. You gotta watch those little old ladies every minute! 

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio 
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
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And as an eBook here
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Zorro Was Here

The template for scatological terror

Like most boys, certainly Brooklyn stoop-boys, I had an early fascination with excrement. I especially loved poo jokes – most boys do. It’s not pathological and it passes. (See, I’m an adult now and didn’t draw your attention to that cheap pun.) But, there are male children, mercifully few in number, who display early signs of an unhealthy fixation with the natural, nay, essential bodily function of evacuation. As example, allow me to present –  

The Case of the Catholic Coprophile

The Adventures of Zorro is the big TV hit of 1957-59. Zorro is the Robin Hood of Old California. Our hero uses his glistening rapier to carve his calling card – a large Z– into the bark of trees, the walls of haciendas and the bellies of his enemies. Every Brooklyn kid wants a Zorro mask, cape and sword. Spoiled kids have all three. The rest of us improvise or beat up the spoiled kids for their Zorro booty. 

One boy in St. John the Pederast Primary School is painting large Zs all over the school walls – with his excrement. (It must be a boy because girls and nuns would not do this.) When I say all over, I mean, all over. The young defacer is a genius of product placement. You cannot miss his mark. “Mr. Maximum Visibility.” On some walls, he writes a simple Z; on other walls ZORRO. But, time and quantity of material permitting, he writes Zorro Was Here adding a large, insouciant Z under that for good measure.

But, why? When? How? We students are almost never allowed out of our classrooms alone. Could the demented graffiti artist be our hunchback janitor who looks like Quasimodo and wears an immense, Johnny-Ray-style hearing aid? (Several years later, he is caught spying on little girls in the toilet – echoes of Quasimodo and Esmeralda.) Is he a secret coprophile using the Zorro brand as clever cover for his twisted desire to take revenge on the world by smearing his hunchback dung on school walls? Does he derive still more perverse pleasure from having to remove his own caked-on filth?  

Johnnie Ray aka The Prince of Wails
Charles Laughton as Quasimodo
Quasimodo wore his hearing aid in his right ear.
Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
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Attack of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Blessed Virgin Mary
Mary flies in to keep an eye on things.

“Catholics also believe that the Blessed Virgin appears to mere mortals in various times, places and languages. The most famous Marian apparitions, not counting her many miraculous appearances on moldy pizza, dried toast and wet cardboard, are –  

  • Our Lady of Lourdes (France) 
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico) 
  • Our Lady of Fatima (Portugal) 
  • Our Lady of Bayside (Queens) 

 “Like the Little Green Men who pilot flying saucers, Mary appears only to illiterate, poverty-stricken, scrofula-ridden peasants who sleep with their livestock. Hence, her appearance in Queens. There is a theory that the BVM is, in fact, the occupant of a UFO misinterpreted by Catholic shepherds in the only way that makes sense to them – ‘Hey, Esteban, look, up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the Virgin Mary.’

Movie poster of Invasion of the Saucer Men

BVM or BEM – coincidence? You decide.

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder memoir by Jack Antonio
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The Curse of Christine Keeler

Poster for Hammer horror film - The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Classic monstah pitchah

The Curse of Frankenstein jump started my interest in all things English, especially English knockers. Puerto Rican girls were sexy but I expected them to be since they wore hot socks and had hair on their cha-chas from birth. English girls were sexy coz they weren’t supposed to be but especially coz they talked good. The fact that a woman could speak like the Queen and fuck like a spic drove me and my friends crazy. 

Our obsession reached fever pitch with the Christine Keeler scandal in 1963. We were still sitting on the stoop but were now sitting atop fully descended testicles. We loitered there at night waiting for the next day’s tabloids to be delivered to Rocco’s Candy Store. We smelled the headlines coming over the Brooklyn Bridge then raced each other down the block to get our hands on the photos of Christine and her sidekick Mandy Rice-Davies. These two young women – English women, actually DID IT and didn’t think it was matter for Confession. We punched each other black and blue in debates about which of the pair was sexier. Most of us chose Mandy coz she was a blonde. No lie – no movie or documentary ever came close to capturing the level of interest the Profumo affair held for the pubescent boys of Brooklyn.

Mandy Rice Davies and Christine Keeler
Doity English girls who DID IT
Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
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