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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Not These Fools Again, Part 2 (Vacation Day Five: Marine Park, Brooklyn, NYC and JFK airport: 8/8/2015)

I'm a little late for posting.  Sorry about that.  Where was I...?

Oh, right.

After a night of revelry and memories and drinks and bro-hugs, I was due to fly to London the next evening.  I was to meet my girlfriend's father and cousins who for two years, I have heard plenty about.  However, there was still a bit of unfinished business.

My friends were the inspiration for my first novel.  We're a tight-knit crew that can number anywhere between 4 and 12 depending on the day.  Well, this beautifully warm Brooklyn Saturday morning, there were to be four of us, Eric, Mikey, LeAnder and myself.  We used to gather together and hang out all the time.  The awkward times of childhood were spent with these guys,

I made my way across Brooklyn to LeAnder's place.  He still lived in the old neighborhood, and it was the closest I felt to actually being home since forever.  I hadn't spoken to him in quite some time, life getting in the way and all that, but it was like we never missed a beat. Thirty years of friendship will do that.  He caught me up on the happenings in the old neighborhood, who died, who moved and such.

Mikey drove up from North Carolina to join us.  He'd been there for the last few years, having grown weary of the crucible that is New York City.  Obviously, I can't blame him.  We had a few jokes, the three of us, and after a quick detour to Modell's to buy a basketball, we were off to Marine Park to meet up with Eric and do something we hadn't done in forever.  Playground ball, king of the court style.

Well, eventually.  We were all various degrees of rusty.  I hadn't played in a few weeks, and the rest of those guys hadn't played in much longer.  Eric was recovering from knee injuries.  LeAnder hadn't touched his ball shoes in the last two summers.  Mikey hadn't been on a basketball court in who knows how long.  We decided to warm up with a game of Utah.  Short explanation: one-on-all, score by fives, first to 100 wins.  We rarely ever made it to 100 when we played together back in the day because there were usually enough people on the sideline waiting to play, and we usually looked good enough on the court to make people think we'd play a good game.

Not the case this time.  This time, we all looked old.

It took me about 20 minutes to get my wind up, but the rest of my friends never quite got there.  LeAnder used to be the best all-around athlete of all of us, and he was gassed.  Eric used to be an And-1 quality street point guard, but his knee problems kept him from getting into second gear.  And Mikey, who used to be Mr. Indestructible, hurt his back before we even finished.  It used to be we'd display our skills bad get a game from the stragglers.  Today, we were just a bunch of old guys.  We laughed at that.

I called next for a game on another court for those of us that were able to play.  Mikey was incapacitated, but the Eric and Lee were good to go.  We picked up a fourth and we gave it a good go, but we lost 13-9.  And then we left.  On the way home we remarked about how we went from 6 hours a day on the court in the summer to one-and-done.

Our next stop in the nostalgia tour was our favorite Chinese restaurant, Cam Tak Express on Flatbush Avenue and Cortelyou Road.  It had long ago earned legendary status for being something kids like us could afford on a five-dollar bill, as well as for the Garlic Chicken.  They don't capitalize it on the menu, but dammit, it needs to be immortalized.  We went and we ordered Garlic Chicken and Pork Fried Rice.  It was greasy and crispy and spicy and bad for us, but dammit, we were all thrilled.

We lingered in the restaurant as long as we could but we couldn't escape the reality that this little reunion had to end soon.  I had a plane to catch, people had responsibilities.  Mikey was kind enough to give me a lift to my sister's and then to the airport, prolonging our chat, but all good things must come to an end.

All that was left was a  seven hour flight to London.

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