The following blog post is a love story. But it’s not a love story about a boy and a girl, or a man and a woman, or a girl and a girl, or a woman and a woman, or a boy and a boy, or a man and a man. It’s a love story between a man (me) and a borough, the Bronx.
Following my arrival at Our Lady of Mercy Hospital back in 1993, I began my early days in the townhouse area of Co-Op City’s Section 5. I lived there until I was five, and I ran around having fun and creating havoc in the three-bedroom house I shared with my mom, aunt, and maternal grandparents.
Co-Op City, a community with its own parks, playgrounds, and shopping centers, holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I went to elementary school, P.S. 160, and middle school, M.S. 181 – the same schools that my mother and aunt attended before me, and my cousin after me. (There’s continuity here.) It’s where my family and I go to the movies at the local AMC theater, where I had my first date. It’s where I get my haircuts at Kenny’s Barbershop (R.I.P. Kenny and Big Dog). Co-Op is even home to the Mall at Bay Plaza, New York City’s first enclosed shopping mall in 40 years, where I’m constantly shopping for new clothes and occasionally gracing the gym with my presence (thanks, weight gain).
My love for the Bronx doesn’t end with Co-Op City. Pelham Bay Park, New York City’s largest park, is where Bronxites spend their summers barbecuing, sunning themselves at Orchard Beach, and biking; it’s where I played basketball; and it’s directly across the street from the 6 train station of the same name. On both school and family outings, in the central part of the Bronx, I spent time at the Bronx Zoo, where I enjoyed Boo at the Zoo, an annual Halloween event, and the Botanical Gardens, where I learned it’s actually not corny to look at flowers. My Saturdays for most of my middle school years were spent on the west side of the Bronx, in Riverdale, at the Fieldston School, for the Fieldston Enrichment Program (F.E.P.).
During the summer of 2008 I plunged back into the world of the West Bronx for my first job at Van Cortlandt Park – a summer in which I caught a shovel to the face, in the eyebrow in particular, by accident. I walked among the many weeds and spent hours pulling them while getting to know the cast of characters who would be my coworkers, including Lisa, a lovely young lady I had a major crush on; Eric, a cool cat and talented singer; and Kino, who was unfortunately fatally shot years later (R.I.P.).
As a teen, I ventured up Baychester Avenue to Cardinal Spellman High School. I spent the next four years eating at the local pizzeria, KFC, and Wendy’s, usually after our weekly Spoken Word Poetry Club meetings. Urban Word poetry workshops escorted me to The Point on Garrison Avenue, near Hunts Point Avenue on the 6 train line. It was at The Point that I honed my spoken word poetry skills.
High school brought me some of my closest friends, and showed me new locations of my beloved borough. My friend Keith had me walking to Dyre Avenue, where his house was located and the walk was picturesque with lovely tree and foliage; my dear pal Evin lived on Hoe Avenue, a neighborhood adorned in bright lights and plenty stores to shop and get food – Chinese was our drug of choice. Another close friend, Dizzy, had us riding the 6 train down to 3rd Avenue and 138th Street, where she lived on Morrison Avenue, introducing me to the South Bronx, a full-circle journey that took me not too far from where my maternal grandparents lived when they first got married, on 3rd Avenue and 169th Street.