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To: friedmsa@UCBEH.SAN.UC.EDU, abcdunlimited@hotmail.com
Subject: Re: Past Memories
From: lance2@juno.com (Lance Martin)  Save Address Block Sender 
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 22:36:56 EST
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Red Hook Swimming

	From my kitchen, in our home, an apartment over a laundry, I
could see Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty.  A block away were
the bulkheads that extended along the Red Hook waterfront, and the nearby
piers and shipyards that were the main features of this waterfront area. 
I was ten, when it was necessary for me to learn to swim.  My first
lesson is emblazoned in my mind.  A persistent tormentor of mine, Mike,
and four of his cronies, saw me sitting on the pier.  Mike, at twelve
years of age, had established himself as the local Dykman Street bully,
and the leader of a handful of followers. On Mike’s command, they spread
out fanwise,. as they neared me.  I tried to escape but they dragged me
to the edge of the bulkhead.   With a cigarette dangling from his
clenched teeth, Mike snarled, “Swim, Jewboy.”   They pushed me off the
bulkhead into the bay.

	Swallowing water and thrashing about, I heard their laughs and
caught blurry visions of their faces watching me.  My frantic yells,
“Help me! I can’t swim,”  only provoked more of their laughter.   I was
under water when the current swept me against a piling.  In grateful
desperation, I hugged it, and moved myself around it, and where they
could not see me, under the pier.  They would not help me.  I knew that
there were some pilings that had large, telephone pole type, nails
hammered in them, that acted as a ladder to climb to and from the top of
the bulkhead.  The next to the one I was holding had such a means for my
escape.  I waited, as I caught my breath and my senses.

	I heard their voices,  “Where is he?  Maybe he drowned.”  After a
while I heard Mike giving orders and instructions.  “Let’s get away from
here.  Remember, we don’t know nothing, if we’re asked.  We haven’t seen
him.”  After their voices diminished in the distance, I pushed myself
from the piling and with the current helping me, I slashed and kicked
myself to the piling with nails.  Despite the chill of the water, I
waited some more before I cautiously climbed up and looked over the edge
of the wharf.  No one was about as I climbed over the edge, and taking a
roundabout way, I went home.

	I did learn to swim, mostly by myself, in the early mornings, or
when no one was about, I would climb down a dock ladder or piling with
nails, and swim from piling to piling, and in time I could swim fairly
well.  In Broad Channel Hall, a Turn Verein outpost, and on Brighton and
Coney Island Beaches, my swimming ability improved. At times, some
friends and I would  swim from Brighton Beach, along the Coney Island
Beaches, and come ashore in Sea Gate.  This community was surrounded by a
wall, and entrance guards protected the residents frfxom unwanted
visitors driving there from elsewhere. The ocean approach was unguarded,
and offered some of the more daring swimmers to come ashore and mingle
with the areas elite.  After some time, we would swim back to Brighton
Beach. The swim of a few miles seemed a feat of endurance and daring, but
it was not difficult.  We would start our swim with the incoming tide,
and even if one only floated, the current, would carry us the distance. 
We would only return by swimming with the outgoing tide.  In Boys High
School, I was on their swimming team.  

Red Hook Swimming

	Of the graduating class of Red Hook’s Public School 30, only five
went to high school.  I had little contact with any of the area youth, in
fact I avoided them.  My academic and physical goals did not conform to
those in Red Hook.  By sixteen, I was active with physical development; 
gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, and track.  One late fall afternoon, I
finished my homework and went to sit on the wharf and watch the
activities in the harbor.  Coming from the back of the wharf were four,
past acquaintances.  Mike, a cigarette dangling from his leering lips,
quickened his pace when he saw me. It had been a long time since I had
seen, or had contact with him. Whenever possible, I had avoided him and
his ilk.  Mike approached with an active and aggressive stride and look,
but I was no longer the frightened, timid youngster.  He was older and
larger than me, but I knew that I was in much better physical condition, 
With calmness and composure, I moved along the wharf  to a location where
I could cope with the needs and demands of a possible coming conflict. 
Suddenly I felt an abominably perverse desire for revenge and
retribution, for the past ignominies Mike made me suffer.  Turning to
face him,  I stood on the edge of the wharf and goad him into thinking I
was docile and compliant as I pleaded, “Please, let me alone.”  

	“Long time no see.  Where were you hiding, Jewboy?” he snickered,
and with vacant stupidity his pals followed with snickers of their own. 
“How about going for a swim?” he spat and with outstretched arms he
lunged to push me off the pier.  At the auspicious moment, I grabbed his
wrists and pulled him with me off the wharf and into the water.   I had
taken and held a big breath.  He had not, since had not expected my move.
 As we hit the water, I pulled him under and twisting him around, I
hugged his chest violently and heard the remnants of his breath escaping.
Swimming and pulling him under water, I reached an inner piling, under
the dock, where I knew where nails protruded.  Grabbing his belt, I
fought his thrashing arms and body, until I twisted his belt around an
underwater nail.  Taking an unseen breath under the dock, I dove under
water and surfaced a few feet from the wharf and looked up at the
surprised faces of Mike’s three cronies.  

	Climbing on the wharf, I faced them.  “Where’s Mike?”  one of
them said.

	“I recognize two of you that were with Mike years ago, when you
threw me in the water.  Remember?”  The abrupt transition from a abject
submission, unnerved them.  I grabbed the two by their throats. The third
one did not try to help them.  He raced away.  I marched them backwards
to the edge of the wharf, and punched each one hard in the solar plexus,
in order to remove any aggression from them.  They were now whimpering
and cringing.  “Now, find Mike.  He’s stuck under the dock.”  I ordered
as I grabbed one by his belt, and twisting the arm of the other one,  I
forced them to the edge and shoved them overboard.   I watched until they
found an inert and almost dead, Mike.  I even helped bring him up onto
the wharf, and waited for an ambulance to arrive.  I was never annoyed be
them again.  Mike, may have even suffered some brain damage.  He lost
status among his peers, and ran whenever he saw me.


Special note to Sara - Have not received your poem or writings - Uncle

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