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December 09, 2014
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Love and hate growing up on James Street

In this corner…

In this Corner…

In the summer of 1974 we moved to a new neighborhood that had many athletic children. Our first new friends were Tony and Rita Frazier. They were reknowned for their dark skin, jet-black hair and the savagery of their fights. It was not uncommon for Tony to hurl Rita down a flight of stairs, whereupon she would spring to her feet and lunge for the nearest butter knife. The announcement “Tony and Rita are fighting!” could be heard several houses away. It’s allure pulled all the kids on James Street away from Wonderama as we dashed over to see blood, sweat and tears.

When Tony commented innocently on Rita’s new breasts she spun to a fury, grabbed the dog’s chain and, wielding it like a fevered rodeo clown, whipped outward in all directions, sending Tony running for cover into the bathroom. Whack! Whip! Smash! The bathroom door cracked from frame to frame.

Rita was subdued by Nadya Pryzblo - an unnaturally strong Pole.

We smiled broadly as our hunger for live violence has been satisfied. Rita cried, Tony sweat, and they both bled a little. Saturday was complete. Tony later covered the crack in the door with peanut butter.

Next to the Fraziers lived the Speranzanellis, Vito and Gina. It was a well-known fact that Vito was the fastest boy on James Street; which I couldn’t understand since he only wore hard-soled dress shoes and at age 10 he already had a paunch hanging over his polyester slacks.

“My brother is faster than Vito” croaked my sister. I’d had plenty of experience running from bullies. A foot race up James Street was announced and on a glorious Sunday afternoon…“on your mark, get set, GO!” I sprang forward leaving the clickety-clack of Vito’s heels in the dust. Vito, sweaty with defeat, waddled home and was heard saying to his parents in Italian “blah blah blah…ICE CREMA!”

My new-found notoriety came with spoils. When Indian summer came, an unusually hot day caused the manly Nadya to pin me against the sticky tar shingles of our house and ask, “Have you ever kissed a girl?” I was 10 so, no. She closed her eyes, tilted her pimply face and kissed me on the mouth. I stared at her receding hairline. She pulled away and ran home.

I had become the fastest boy on James Street.

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