Monday, June 15, 2015
The Alley Gang: Where it All Began
Life itself began here for me, but it's also where I met the first group of people I hung out with.
A few houses away were the "Whites", Margie, Eddie and their 4 daughters who covered a lot of the ground as far as neighborhood crushes went (my very first crush was the White that I went to school with).
Almost directly across from my house in the alley was the Loperina house, where Ernie and Richie (geeky) lived. Those two covered a lot of ground on the crush circuit for the girls.
The "middle alley" featured a friend, later more friends, and a nemesis. The nemesis was Phyllis...just a nut job. The first friend was Dan. Dan is the closest I'll ever have to a second brother and was a significant inspiration on the importance of music in my life. Dan later moved out of that house and while he remained in the neighborhood, the Bernowitz/Stutman gang moved in and quickly became a part of the gang.
I could go on for paragraphs dropping names, there are so many that both lived in the confines of the two block and others that came from nearby.
Some of\ the activities/events we all shared growing up together:
The block parties: we close off the street, set up picnic tables and everyone just has an entire block long party together.
That alley you see in that picture, it was long and narrow and could not be less practical for just about any sports you can think of; that didn't stop us - name a sport, it was played in that alley.
The fireworks: we lit that place up on the fourth of July!
The beach: I don't recall the year other than it was the 1970's and the summer time and we would all gather by the Loperina's garbage pails early in the morning, wall to Ocean avenue and Avenue U and grab the B49 to Manhattan Beach...pretty much every day.
The Muscular Dystrophy Carnivals: The White's were philanthropic from an early age - they held these very elaborate carnivals to raise money and awareness for the MDA.
The brown paper sack of sunflower seeds and a little bottle of RC cola was a popular thing to kick around with in that alley.
Wiffle Ball: we even had leagues, stats, and two main fields (the middle alley and the Horowitz's yard).
As life takes us all in different directions, people came in an out of the neighborhood, and in and out of "the gang". I found myself drifting out somewhat once I began high school for a number of reasons: I went kind of out of the way to high school and it just made it a bit trickier to hang out regularly in the crowd. As I got into my teens, I was really awkward and had no self-esteem, I felt so out of my league, even among the people I was life long friends with. Also, my folks were a bit on the strict side and I wasn't really allowed to go out as much, but I was still around at least a little until I started college. Once college began, my whole scheduled changed and I met a lot of new people and I was all over the place. The alley gang was always where I began, was always in my heart, but I was just in another place during those years.
I feel so privileged to have had the experiences I did in that alley and in that neighborhood but mostly, to have had all those wonderful people in my life, All these years later, I write this as a 50 year old man and I am even prouder that so many of those people are still in my life. Like I said earlier, life has it's own path for everyone, we drift apart and float back in, but the bonds that were formed in those early years, the ones that formed who I am today, they all came from those people.
I went on the meet so many more amazing people, another very special group of people are a group I've lovingly referred to as "the reunion gang' and while it's less frequent than it once was, we all still keep in touch as well - they too are all so much a part of my life.
This past Saturday, The Alley Gang got together, some of us did at least. It's amazing how you can together and start talking and all of a sudden, decades of memories come pouring back. I have always cherished maintaining these connections and I love that we can all find the time to be together every so often;
I feel like I am getting less coherent as I get more emotional - so perhaps I will wrap up and just express my gratitude, my joy and my love for all of my friends.