When I was a kid, my whole world was Hell’s Kitchen. Heck, it was my whole universe too – because that part of New York City was all I needed, and to be honest it was all I ever wanted.
I was about ten years old when my brother, Archie took the photo. He had swapped one of his medal from the war for a color camera. He said it was worth it but my daddy thought he was a fool.
“You can’t eat the medal, Pa. So, what am I supposed to do with it?” Archie would say when my father tutted or cussed every time he saw the camera.
I guess he was right.
Jeez, in just writing this down I’ve just had a sad wave come over me – I’m realizing how much I miss my brother. Wishing he could come back from that place he went to, but it’s a one way ticket. That’s the bad part.
Anyways, the three girls at the back of the photo are my sisters, then there’s my cousin Irene, who you can’t see and standing next to her is Mary-Lou her best friend.
That photo was taken in that real hot summer of 1950, and everyone on our street tried their best to keep cool. I did it the only way I knew how, using the hydrant like my brother and my pa, had done before me.
Usually my eldest sister, Becky, would give me a dime for keeping them watered down, but since she found me smoking one of my brother’s cigarettes in the back yard, she was blackmailing me into doing everything.
“See if I don’t tell Pa about your smoking and all, see if I don’t”.
I couldn’t take the chance, so I had to believe her, which meant a Saturday watering was theirs for free.1950 was a lifetime ago, and I can still smell those summer days in the best city in the world.
A couple of years after the photo was taken, Mary-Lou and Irene moved into a cold-water apartment down near Washington Square. My Ma said she thought it strange that they never had any gentlemen callers around their place – but me, I like to think that the two of them were happy in their own company. Weren’t no one’s business, anyhow.
Becky went off and married a guy from the navy and they ended up living in Alaska. She keeps saying she’ll make it down one day, but I haven’t laid eyes on her in over fifty years.
My other two sisters followed my brother to that undiscovered country, and I guess I miss them all just as much.
I hung around the city doing all kinds of work, until one night I walked into a bar and heard a kid singing and then my life changed. The boy was Robert Zimmerman, and he could speak for a thousand angels. The way he used words ain’t worth thinking about. He changed his name to Dylan – after the poet – and I held on to his coat tails and followed him to the Catskills, where I still live today.
If you’ve read my writing, then you know that I’m always harping on about the perfect moments in your life. The real problem is you never get to realize what they are, until they are gone. Now ain’t that the kicker?
But that photo, that color photo taken on a camera worth a man’s medal, was probably the most perfect moment of my life – everyone I knew was laughing and healthy and as for me – well I was going to live forever.
bobby stevenson 2017