When we got home from church my sister and my dad set up the kitchen table for our afternoon dinner. It’s such a beautiful day and my sister opens all our windows to let the fresh air into our apartment. The radio is playing music from an Italian radio station and the sauce with meatballs is cooking on the stove. The Lasagna is in the oven and it will be ready to eat around 1PM. The wonderful smell of all the cooking is getting me hungry. I just can’t wait, so I ripped off the heel of the fresh Italian bread that was on the kitchen table. I walk over to the stove and dip the bread into the sauce pot. I then crawl out our window and sit on the fire escape eating my bread coated with warm sauce. It’s such a great feeling to enjoy the bright warm sun on my face, with the smell of all the cooking along with the Italian music. I close my eyes and imagine that this is how it is in Italy when all my relatives get together for a Sunday afternoon dinner.
I doze off for a while and hear my mom call out “Pepino!” Which means dinner is on the table. So I rush in and sit at the kitchen table with my family. The dinner was perfect; my Mom is such a great cook. After dinner me and my dad go out to visit with his friends from the old country. Every Sunday my Dad gets all dress up with a suit, polished shoes, white shirt, tie and dress hat to hang out with a bunch of men who smoke Lucky Strike cigarettes. They all talk to each other in Italian. This is all going on while my sister and mother are cleaning up the kitchen and putting away the leftover food. They will meet their friends after the kitchen and the apartment is all clean. My dad turns to me and says that all the men are making plans to meet at St Stephens at Summit and Hicks Street later this week for the procession of Mola Di Bari St. Maria Addolorata and three day street festival. Wow! I can’t wait to tell my friends about the plans for the parade and feast. The day came to an end after my dad and his cousin’s family met at our apartment for espresso, bisciotti and cookies. They sat in the living room and talked over me late into the night, while I slept on my cot.
The next morning I met Roger to start sprucing up my old bike. Roger told me that he happend to find a leftover can of black paint that we can use for the bike frame and fenders. So I took the bike from behind the stairs of the first floor hallway and rolled it out next to side of our building on Columbia Street. Roger just stood there with his hands on his hips looking at the bike.
It was a sad site to see this broken down old bike leaning against the building. Roger says, “Okay we have a lot of work to do to whip this bike into shape. First we have to take it completely apart.” Roger had his tool box and we turned the bike upside down and started to take off the wheels, then the fenders, handle bars, peddles, drive chain and seat. Roger had a patch kit to fix the flat tires. He showed me how to use a screw driver to separate the tire from the rim so I could pull out the inner tube. After I took out the inner tubes we walked over to the gas station across the street. The guys at the Gulf gas station were very nice to us they let us use the air pump to fill the tire tubes and test them for leaks in a bucket of water. We found two slow leaks in each tire tub and we used Roger’s patch kit to fix the leaks.
We went back to the unassembled old bike and started to work on putting the bike wheels together again. Roger deflated the inner tubes of all the air we pumped into them. He then pushed the inner tube back into the tire and told me to take the assembled bike wheels back to the gas station and fill them with air. Roger the opened the old paint can and stated to paint the bike frame and fenders black. He gave the parts one coat and he then told me that we have to wait a day for a the first coat to dry before we give it a second coat. I stood back and looked at the painted frame, fenders and inflated bike wheels and much to my surprise they started to look pretty good. While Roger and I were working on the old bike a tall skinny teenage guy walked up to us. He has long, dirty, black curly hair down to his shoulders and some of his hair fell over his face. He has dark skin and green eyes, he looked like he came straight out of a horror movie. I couldn’t take my eyes off his face when Roger suddenly said. “Hi Moon Face, this is my friend Keyno. Where are you heading?” “Hey Professor, what ya doing? Fixing this piece of shit bike? You guys are going to be here for days.” Roger says, “Yeah, I know there is a lot of work to do but when we get this thing put together it will look pretty good.”
“Well I’m going to the railroad freight yards down the docks to flatten a bunch of pennies for my girl friend. She likes to make girl stuff, like jewelry with them.” Rogers says, “Is it okay if we go with you? I have a bunch of pennies I would like to flatten too.” Yeah, yeah, it’s no big deal; I’m not going to rob the freight train.” I have no idea who this guy is and how they plan to flatten a bunch of pennies and why.
All I know is that this is one ugly dude. Roger directs me to put the painted bike frame into the back yard and all the other bike parts and tools down our cellar. When we were down the cellar, away from Moon Face, Roger tells me to be careful because this guy is crazy. He goes on to say “His whole name is Charlie Moon Face. He’s a member of a street gang called the Dukes. Charlie and his gang are always fighting the Black Panthers from the Red Hook Projects. The project teenagers are new to the neighborhood and they want to keep Moon Face and his gang out of their territory. One night during a gang war Charlie tries to throw a fire bomb at the Panthers but the flaming rag that was stuck in the gasoline bottle came loose.
As Moon Face went to throw it, the gasoline spilled on his face and back and the fire was all over him. The Dukes jumped on him and put the flames out but his face and back have all kinds of ugly pock marks on them, now you know why Moon Face looks the way he does. So don’t mess with him.” Wow, I heard about these gang wars but I never met a guy who was in one.
It was a long walk to the freight yard at the docks. When we got there, ships were being unloaded, trucks and rail cars moving all over the place. We didn’t go into the restricted areas, we just stayed back outside the gates right along the railroad tracks. Roger and Moon Face kneel by the railroad tracks and lay a bunch of pennies with scotch tape on each rail.
We all sat on the ground to wait for the freight train to come out of the dock area and crush our pennies under the wheels of the train. The trains were coming out every half hour. Now it was time to collect the pennies and see if the train wheels crushed the pennies flat. Charlie found about twenty flatten pennies and Roger found about a dozen.
They were happy with the results and Moon Face took off to find his girlfriend while Roger and I walked back Home