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How could thirty years slide by so quickly?

One soft infested summer
Me and Terry became friends
Trying in vain to breath the fire
we was born in
Catching rides to the outskirts
Tying faith between out teeth
Sleeping in that old abandoned beach house
And getting wasted in the heat.

They say that New York City is a melting pot. It’s a place where people from all over the globe come together and struggle through the daily grind in the quest for the American Dream. If there’s even a smidgen of truth to that, then my little neighborhood known as Bay Ridge, Brooklyn was some kind of cauldron.

Summers in New York are hot. It isn’t the “dry heat” that I hear so much about either. I’ve been to a lot of places during my life but the heat in New York City is some kinda different. It seems to rise from the asphalt and the air feels so thick that you can almost chew on it. I don’t care how many fire hydrants you open or how much time you spent up on the roof of some apartment building in that place we referred to as “tar beach” sucking down underage beers, there was just no escaping it.

Not that we didn’t try. Sometimes when it got really bad we’d climb down to the stairs to the subway where it was even hotter and the air didn’t move unless it was being pushed along by an oncoming train. We’d wait at the station and hop on the “N” or the “B” train and make our way to Coney Island to dip our asses in the Atlantic and maybe try and meet and make some girls along the way. If memory serves, our hit to miss ratio had a lot more misses than hits. Still soaking wet, we’d climb back on the subway and make our way home with sand stuck to us and our hair smelling of salt water. That was what us working class people did to try and beat the heat.

There’s a little place on the edge of Queens that also touches the Atlantic Ocean. It’s place called Breezy Point and it’s where the people with money went to escape the heat. It was like some kinda country club that you needed a membership or had to know somebody to even get in. It was dotted with cabanas and beach houses and had its own private swimming pool and for us it was a pain in the ass to get to.

We’d sneak in every chance we got to see how the other side lives.

Endless juke joints in Valentino drag
Where dancers scraped the tears up
off the street dressed down in rags
Running into the darkness
Some hurt bad
some really dying
At night sometimes it seemed
You could hear the whole damn city crying
Blame it on the lies that killed us
Blame it on the truth that ran us down
You can blame it all on me Terry
It don't matter to me now
When the breakdown hit at midnight
There was nothing left to say
But I hated him
And I hated you when you went away

I remember the first time when we somehow managed to avoid the guards at the gate. We knew if we got caught it was a hell of long ride home and the trip would be wasted. I felt like I had just broken into Fort Knox and when we got there it was like being on another planet. Somehow the air smelled sweeter and felt lighter and the beach wasn’t crowded like Coney Island and there was nothing but miles of sand and ocean to get lost in. It got easier and easier to avoid the man every time after that.

In our cut off blue jeans and raggedy ass tank tops, we knew we were out of place from the start but during the day the locals didn’t seem to mind. We’d pick up some primo real estate on the beach and talked up some of the girls and before you knew it night was falling.

And that’s where the story changes…

There was really only one place to go and that was the place that served as a private swim club during the day and a private bar and party central at night. You either had to have a pass or land an invite from a member to get in. Some of us were lucky and managed to score an invitation from some girls and some of us weren’t.

But unlike that freakin’ reality show “Survivor” ,our tribe stuck together. We didn’t travel all this way and take the risk of getting caught just to abandon one of our brothers at the gates to paradise. Fuck that, if we did that, we’d never be able to look each other in the eye again.

But all it takes is once…

I guess one time the prospect of getting laid as a sixteen or seventeen year old kid was just too strong for a couple of guys and they made their way in. Betrayal isn’t a strong enough word to describe how the rest of us felt. Being on the outside looking in isn’t a very happy place to be.

Layin’ here in the dark
You're like an angel on my chest
Just another tramp of hearts
Crying tears of faithlessness
Remember all the movies Terry
we'd go see?
Trying to learn how to walk like the heroes
We thought we had to be
And after all this time
To find we're just like all the rest
Stranded in the park
And forced to confess
To hiding on the backstreets
Hiding on the backstreets
We swore forever friends
On the backstreets until the end

Things were never quite the same after that. Oh, we’d still go out there and try and make our way in but somehow the enthusiasm was at times diminished and at other times gone entirely. Friendships that were at one time as strong as steel were stretched and snapped like rubber bands.

Thirty years later, I can still feel the sting.

Maybe I should take the time to look up the old crowd that I used to run with. You know, let bygones be bygones and all that. It’d be nice to visit and share a beer or two and see how everybody was doing with their lives. I’m sure we’d laugh about our exploits from those days gone by and recall with fondness the assholes that we were.

And maybe even laugh about the assholes that we’ve become.

I miss those guys.

{Selected passages from the song Backstreets copyright by Bruce Springsteen and recorded on the album Born to Run which just celebrated its thirtieth birthday)

CST Approved

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