Fuckin’ “A ” Bomb

Newspaper headline: Truman says Russia set off atom blast
“Bring it on, ya commie creeps, ya!

On the stoops of 1950s Brooklyn, the subjects debated included sex, race, sex, religion, sex, baseball, sex, politics, sex and the price of pork bellies on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. But, once the Russkies got the “H” Bomb and thus trumped our “A” Bomb the most hotly debated topic was nuclear proliferation – 

“Lissen kid, when World War Three breaks out, Brooklyn goes first.” 

“How come?” I gulped.  

“How come? Ya kiddin’ me? The Navy Yard!” 

Aerial view of the Brooklyn Navy yard
What ya call your “WW2” was won right here?
Ya got a problem wit dat?

Now, it must be said that the Brooklyn Navy Yard played a major, nay, indispensable role in the victory of World War Two. Brooklyn was/is justly proud of its contribution. But, with hindsight and considerable regret, I confess I’m not convinced that by 1955 Brooklyn would have been #1 on Moscow’s hit list. In 1945? You bet yer ass. 1955? Mmm… maybe not. 

Brooklyn Bridge after nuclear attack
As long as “trendy” Brooklyn goes first, I’ll take it.

Today, I would consider it a boon to humanity if Moscow nuked Brooklyn. I long to see its galleries of ironic art incinerated; its ubiquitous nannies and au pairs obliterated; the yummy mummies who employ them turned to dust; the metrosexual soyboys of Williamsburg and Bushwick reduced to atoms and Brooklyn’s stoops and vestibules left standing naked against the angry sky – the buildings to which they’d been attached blown all the way to Canarsie. Then, out of the rubble, tiny antennae will feel, push and emerge as King Cockroach reclaims the county of Kings.

children hiding under school desks in 1950s nuclear drill
Hey, commies, duck & cover this!

Like most kids in Cold War Brooklyn, I spent a considerable amount of time cowering inside a “fallout shelter” i.e. stuffed under my school desk. Our nuns at St. John the Pederast School took these survival drills deadly seriously. They demanded fingers on lips and hands on rosary beads until the all clear. (These sirens were a major part of the soundscape of my Brooklyn childhood but, for the life of me, I can’t remember when their blaring stopped.)

In October of 1962, during the darkest days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I was only twelve but already a political junkie so I was understandably scared shitless.  The morning after JFK’s famous speech to the nation when nuclear holocaust seemed moments away, my mother called her six children into the kitchen and explained that we might not ever see each other again but that we shouldn’t worry coz we’d all be “going together in a flash” – she at home, we at school and our father in his Wall Street office. Then in the throaty melodramatic tone she’d learned as a wannabe actress, she read a poem to us. It described New York City under nuclear attack. I found the description of the waters of New York harbor flooding into the canyons of Wall Street particularly harrowing and was glad that my father worked on a high floor there. Then I crawled to school sure that I’d never see lunch again let alone my siblings. I took some solace in the fact that the Yankees had just beaten the Giants in the World Series and would (like Cagney in White Heat) go out “top of the world, Ma!”  

New York City ablaze after nuclear attack
There goes the Navy Yard.
Oh well, looks like Bayonne is safe!

I’ve since learned that the world wasn’t as close to nuclear Armageddon as I thought at the time. Various back channel assets and deep state actors on both sides of the standoff had agreed to not blow each other to smithereens. So, as JFK and Khrushchev blustered and bluffed, the fate of the world had already been taken from their hands, sealed and saved.

Oh sure, now ya tell me! Thanks a fuckin’ lot.

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

Hell in Hell’s Kitchen

Vintage movie poster for Hell's Kitchen
The scene of the crime

I told the cop who was interrogating me that a few days after seeing Carrie walk through Needle Park in a trance, I learned that she and her roommate’s possessions had been stolen. They had packed their car for the move from tenement, roach-infested Hell’s Kitchen to toney, roach-infested Brooklyn Heights. But, they’d committed a cardinal sin. They had loaded their car full of their stuff. I imagined a portable TV with a mouse-ear aerial wrapped in aluminum foil sitting on the back seat next to a hair dryer with the cord wound around it. I saw a bag of hair curlers. I saw Earth Shoes, sandals, magazines. I saw hangers. Everything they owned safely stowed and ready for transit, the girls laughed up the stoop, through the vestibule and up the five tenement flights to check they’d left nothing behind. 

Audrey Hepburn singing Moon River in Breakfast at Tiffany's
Young actresses come to New York still see themselves this way

I’ll bet they felt like they were in one of those “kooky girls come to New York” movies – My Sister Eileen or Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But, when they came back downstairs, their car was empty, the trunk wide-open like the maw of a hippopotamus. When I learned of this theft a dizzying dread crept up my spine. Did my hair stand on end? It may have. I know that I felt helpless against some deadly force, some irresistible undertow, some relentless riptide pulling Carrie under.   

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

Bottled-Water Pimp

Bottle of Evian water
America’s magical elixir of choice in the 1980s

In the 1980s, Evian was the #1 bottled water in New York. #2 wasn’t even close. But, #2’s new Sales Manager was determined to kick Evian’s ass – maybe since Evian had just fired his ass. I was hired as one of his ass-kickers. My job was to visit delis and bodegas all over Manhattan and persuade the owners to give #2 more shelf-space. (In the retail food racket, shelf-space is the name of the game!) 

In every store I visited, the enormity of my task became apparent. Evian bottles were prominently displayed at eye-level on the shelves while my brand wasn’t. 

Oh, wait, here they are, way down here at back-breaking, floor level.

My brand’s bottles were buried down in the cockroach graveyard. 

Dad cockroaches

There is no more stomach-turning sight in a food store than flies and roaches pushing up daisies.  A Londoner asked me why I always washed the top of soda cans before opening them. “Ah, the survival behavior of a native New Yorker,” I explained. “You see, cockroaches lay their eggs on can tops – don’t ask me why – and their eggs roll into that small depression around the can top. If I swallow a roach egg, it will grow inside me like the Alien. I have never seen a cockroach in my many years in London but I still wash my can tops.”

Runners and empty plastic water bottles

Evian was a big moneymaker for the storeowners and #2 was a big waste of time. How welcome do you think I was on a scorching summer day? How much time do you think they wanted to devote to my tedious survey questions when they had a long line of impatient joggers waiting to pay for their Evian? 

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
 

The Roach Motel

American, Oriental, German and Brown-banded ockroaches
My roommates

“Safety” is an over-heated, fifth-floor walk-up with hot-and-cold running cockroaches. They are everywhere. When I turn on the lights, the entire room moves. I often can’t face the scurrying brown multitude and leave the room in darkness. Then in a demonstration of the Darwinian principle of adaptation, the brown multitude mutates to albino making it easier for the roaches to conceal themselves on the white porcelain of our sink and tub. Their white camouflage is most effective in the bristles of our toothbrushes. The only give away is the barely detectable movement of the tiny, black, roach eyes. I want to believe that I always spot these albino interlopers before sticking my toothbrush into my mouth. I desperately want to believe that.

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