03 January 2016

Staten Island Stories

Moravian Cemetery: The resting place of my grandparents.
Below: The Todt Hill home they lived in for 40 years (1959 - 1999).

Below: splitscreen: 1959 / Present.
(From left to right): My Aunt Karen, Uncle Kevin and Mom.

Below: More images of Moravian Cemetery

Below: The home my parents and I lived in from 1982 - 1986:

Below: The apartment building my parents and I lived in from 1973 - 1982:

The photo above shows what was once our latticed vestibule  
window, living room window and the windows of my bedroom. 
To say the condition of the yard is saddening would be putting it mildly.
The space that is now "decorated" with wire-mesh deer, mud, stepping stones
 and an empty grotto was once occupied by grass and voluminous azalea bushes.

From the bedroom windows above, I used to be able to see across the street
to the side entryway of Edwin Markham Junior High (I.S. 51) and the playground:

On summer nights in the late 70s and early 80s, the dumpsters would frequently 
catch fire... Set ablaze, no doubt, by the packs of kids that would roam the park.
 In the age before infrared surveillance cameras, this playground was a hotbed
 of arson and its walls (like subway cars of this storied era) a showcase for bomb
   graffiti murals, which would change frequently. It was actually quite a thrill to 
enter the grounds each day to see what mischief the "night shift" had gotten up to.

Despite many coats of paint, some more recent (and less inspired) works are still visible.

On these same summer evenings, Markham Junior High
would hold dances for the neighborhood teens and pre-teens.
 I have vivid memories of riding my Superman Big Wheel
 up and down the sidewalk on my side of the street and
hearing music pouring from the open gymnasium
 windows (which transomed out onto Willowbrook Road). 

It must have been very loud in that gym because the music
 was clearly audible to my young ears, each note rising above 
the scraping sound of my large, hollow plastic wheels on the 
sandpaper-like sidewalk. It was from these open windows
(and under the streetlamps of Willowbrook Road) that I heard 
"Rapture" and "The Tide Is High" by Blondie for the very first time.

The playground behind the school, which backs up on a service road that 
approaches the Bayonne bridge, is very much the same as it was 35 years ago.

Same basic layout, but with more kid-friendly swings 
and jungle gyms. One memorable detail remains, however...

I can't even estimate the number of times I drank from this fountain.
I was almost aghast, yet somehow charmed, to find that the large concrete  
chunk missing from the front of the basin (where my little hands rested as 
other kids and I sipped cool water on hot summer days) still remains unrepaired. 

Parting Glance: The quirky copper relief on the school's corner.
Having gained a beautiful patina, it continues to stand the test of time.