The neighborhood on Gerard Ave, The South Bronx, was like nothing that I had experienced before. I had lived in Seattle, Portland, Salem, Las Vegas, Spokane, and had spent time in LA, but this was different. The sights were different. The smells were certainly different, and the people, well, it was like being on another planet, and I loved every minute of it.
Scary? Oh my, yes! Most assuredly it was scary, and more. I look back at my time there in the eighties, and wonder why I was not at least mugged, if not murdered. My roommate and I were the only two white people for blocks and blocks. Yes, we were noticed, not only because of the color, or lack of color, of our skin, but because we were also from the West Coast. New Yorkers can spot you in a ,well, New York minute, when someone is from out west. How? It is the clothes, dummy, always a dead give away, those West Coast clothes.
I remember so well the evening when I ventured across the street to the little corner grocery to get something that I needed, or needed at that time in my life, a pack of Kool Kings, Anyway, I always kind of checked the street first before I would leave the friendly confines of our stoop ,I saw the car parked there, and I saw the young men loitering around the store and leaning up against the car, but I wanted those Kools, so I went anyway. I had on new shirt that I had purchased in Spokane shortly before I moved to NY. Like a chameleon, I was trying to be unnoticed as I scurried across Gerard Ave., but if didn't work this time.
Nope, calling me over to the front of the car in no uncertain terms was one of the street people that I had seen before, and was quite hoping to never meet in person. I had little choice but to go over to his car. I was sure that I was about to be robbed, knifed, or something when he spoke to me and said" Nice shirt. West Coast?" I nodded shakily in the affirmative, and then stood there while three or four of his associates looked me over. I either was amusing to them, or they actually approved of me, because they all smiled. The leader, whom I found out "controlled' that area of the S Bronx, then told me that if I needed anything at all, to just let him know. Wow, a new friend. Yea, right. That was one offer that I had no intention following up on, but at least I would not die that night.
Ah, yes, welcome to the South Bronx of the eighties.