At the age of four
, I was grateful to be allowed to tag along with the neighborhood boys
, who were all much older than me. (One unfortunate side effect
was that by the age of six, I knew far more four-letter words
elementary school classmates). But there was a problem: I rode a tricycle
, and couldn't keep up when the others were on their bikes - my radius of hang
was severely limited.
The parental unit took me to the local bicycle shop, and we decided on a two-wheeler, one with training wheels. So I became more fully a member of the group. On a vacation Down South, the only bikes around were without training wheels, so I was forced to learn to ride a bike for real. I did, though with some ongoing trepidation.
Upon returning to New York, I resumed riding my comfortable training-wheel bike.
One day, a conspiracy was afoot amongst the kids, but I wasn't included at first. Richie and Dougie, David and Footie, and Glenn and the rest were talking about stuff, but I couldn't catch much of it. There was something about a "banana seat". What's a banana seat? Then they went their separate ways.
A half-hour later, everyone reconvened, and piled a pile of miscellany on a spot on the sidewalk; someone brought a toolbox. "Get your bike", someone told me. I got my bike. They took my training wheels off ("Noooooo!", I thought). Then they took off the seat, replacing it with the "banana seat" I'd been hearing about. Then they added numerous non-functional tchotchkes from the miscellany: a speedometer, a headlight, a stick shift. I had a real bike now! Now I really belong!
My first full biked day, I was bringing up the rear in a convoy headed up the sidewalk. I lost my balance, and fell on a patch of grass that separated the sidewalk from the curb. I let out my little four-year-old yell, and the convoy
stopped; everyone came over to see what was the matter. I then noticed that my right arm had landed in a pile of canine feces. What were the odds of that? I went home to wash up and change shirts.
Upon returning outside, I quickly acquired a new nickname: "Doo Doo Boy". That's not good. "Doo Doo Boy! Doo Doo Boy!", they taunted. There went my hangfulness; I can't be around these guys, calling me that all the time.
Late in the afternoon, we were sitting around, at the garage entrance to the cookie factory. Shootin' the breeze. There were still the
occasional taunts, plus Glenn's variation: "Shitty Boy!" - being the eldest of us, he had the bigger vocabulary and the coolness to use it. Here's where my memory becomes fuzzy. I think some of us were throwing stuff onto the street; a car goes by, and one of the thrown foreign objects - a small rock, maybe? - bounces, and hits the side of the passing car. The car screeches to a halt and backs up half-a-block to where we're seated. The owner gets out and raises a fuss at us delinquents; we stand up to him - we've got the numbers. It's a standoff; the guy drives off, still in a huff.
My Doo Doo Boy phase had ended. Apparently with the focus on the irate driver instead of me, the Doo Doo Boy agenda item was finished. The taunting was over, and I regained my name. It was good to hear it again. On to whatever was next on the agenda.
Dinner was next, actually, as the sun began setting ("like a big bald head") behind the rolling plains, buffalo herds, and log cabins of the Bronx-as-it-was-then.