"The Wall," was a huge teenage hang-out, (six short blocks and three long blocks from my house). This long concrete barrier separated busy Rockaway Parkway (just before the Belt Parkway entrance) and the el-shaped Shoreview Shopping Center's parking lot.
|THE SHOREVIEW SHOPPING CENTER OPENED IN THE FALL OF 1963. BY THE TIME THIS 1971 PHOTO WAS TAKEN, THE NAME HAD BEEN CHANGED TO THE SEAVIEW SHOPPING CENTER. IN THE FOREGROUND, A CAR TURNS OFF SKIDMORE AVENUE WHERE "THE WALL" BEGINS. IN THE BACKGROUND, JAMAICA BAY IS CANARSIE'S EASTERN-MOST BOUNDARY.|
The wall itself was low enough to easily hop on and the perfect width to sit on. So on an (SRO) Saturday night, you can imagine what a colossal target of pretty clay pigeons all in a row, these peace-loving, hippie, sitting ducks made...for some gun-wielding asshole.
Two kids were shot. One was a fifteen-year old girl from two blocks away from my house (same street). She was hospitalized and survived the serious wound and of course (like everyone in the vicinity) was traumatized.
Coincidentally, another girl from my immediate street was confused with the shooting victim. Both girls were the same age and their names (first and last) were both a letter or two away from being the same, (something like Maddie Rosen and Maggie Rogen). Adding to the oddball circumstances, the last two digits of both girl's house numbers was the same, (something like 1113 and 1313). Therefore, my neighbor received several (highly unwanted) get well cards.
|INCREDIBLY, NEARLY EVERY MEMORY I HAVE OF THAT STRIP MALL IS NEGATIVE. (Above) MY 1976 PHOTO, OF ROCKAWAY PARKWAY, LOOKING WEST, WAS TAKEN FROM THE ROOF OF THE BAYVIEW HOUSES, (HIGHLIGHTED BY THE WORLD TRADE CENTER, IN THE EXTREME BACKGROUND). PLEASE NOTE THAT THE BULK OF THE STORES (FAR LEFT) ARE OFF-CAMERA BUT IN THE FOREGROUND, YOU CAN SEE, "THE WALL."|
When I was seven, a year before Shoreview opened, the omen of what was to come appropriately happened on Halloween. At a time when getting two or three pennies instead of candy was the highlight of trick-or-treating, older kids on my street, played off the naivete of my friends and I. They told us that a bank, (six short blocks and one long block away) was giving trick-or-treaters...money. These little bastards made their prank more tempting by describing their windfall as a handful of mostly pennies with silver nuggets of nickels and dimes and the occasional gem in the rough, a quarter.
My friends and I wasted a lot of sweet door-to-door panhandling time. But we justified the marathon march, as sugarplum fairies danced in our mind and helped count our imagined cool, hard, coins of the realm. When we reached nirvana, our fantasy was burst...the bank was closed.
The onion-like layers of our bad situation worsened after trudging home without a cent or even a single "pity-lollipop." That's when our moms went off on us for straying so far without permission. If that scolding wasn't enough, we were also teased by our adolescent tormentors who sent us on our gallant quest to begin with.
This episode in my life would haunt me the following year when the strip mall opened. The anchor store Kress (a miniature department store...which in a short time was replaced in name by Star Value City) had several OPENING DAY give-aways...one of which was a live goldfish, in a water-filled baggie. Unlike being lied to about the bank giving away cash, I could see other kids getting out of their parents cars with their glittering, gilded prize...and I was green with envy. I was so jealous that I soloed, (two long blocks further), only to find out that they had run out of goldfish. I was so dejected that I refused the rent-a-clown's balloon animal offer and a Dixie cup full of free popcorn.
When I look back at my Shoreview/Seaview experiences, nothing inside that wall, turned out well.
The mall had a little restaurant, Charcoal Chef. Even as a ten-year, I knew that the greasy stairway down to the filthy restroom was disgusting. So maybe I shouldn't have been petrified when the first rat I ever encountered, scurried up from behind and passed me.
Years later, in front of Charcoal Chef, I had a drunken escapade, ( I was fifteen). The incident went from bad...when a neighbor found me there...to worse when he dragged me home at 2:AM and woke up my folks. For that full story, check out my blog from January 9, 2012 called, "BABY OTT, MAN OF A THOUSAND NICKNAMES."
The next storefront was a Carvel franchise. When I was twelve, an older kid on my block worked there and bragged that he gave free ice cream to his friends...after another long walk over there, I found out the hard way that he didn't consider me a friend.
When I was fourteen, I was hanging out in the Bayview Houses. I temporarily broke away from my friends (11:PM). Despite the drive-by-shooting the summer before, the hordes at "the wall" never diminished. But to get to my destination, I had to navigate through the sea of older teens to buy a Pepsi.
Inside the bagel store, I was surprised to see that the clerk was "Fat" Marty, (a former teammate from my Junior High's softball team). This fifteen-year old was working alone and offered my drink for free, if I kept him company. Then he said it was his neighbor's store and if I stayed till closing, (midnight), I could take home everything I could carry. I thought I was living large but it turned out bad.
Within twenty minutes, while Marty was goofing off, (eating) I worked the cash register (under his supervision) and restocked shelves. It was like he was Tom Sawyer and I was white-washing the fence...I was having a ball. But WAIT ! Here's a scary thought...in that hour, he showed me the bagel-making process...and I actually took part, in the whole assembly line procedure, (oopsies, I can't swear I washed my hands).
Just before I left, an enormous woman with a folding four-wheel shopping cart came in. She started buying out the store; two dozen bagels, butter, cream cheese, lox spread, doughnuts, potato chips, orange juice and two, six-packs of Fresca.
|WHEN MANY HOUSEHOLDS HAD ONE CAR AND FEW WOMEN WORKED OUTSIDE THE HOME, SHOPPING CARTS LIKE THIS WERE THE MAIN WAY FOR THEM TO GET GROCERIES HOME.|
Marty totalled her up and said, "You want that in a bag or you'll eat it here?" The woman didn't react but I held my hand over my smirk and hustled to the sanctuary of the back room.
When she left, Marty helped me prepare my "pay." So when the overnight baker banged on the back door to close-up, I took my loot and went out the front.
Our arrangement was so good, I came back the next Saturday night at ten (for a two-hour shift). On that second night, I would be rewarded again...with a memory that has stayed fresh for forty-five years. That's when my eyes bugged out of my head because a teenager came in...on horseback...did I just say on horseback...YES!
The stoned rider had to duck down to fit through the door. I knew the situation was wrong for a million reasons, but I was so flabbergasted, I probably couldn't have thought of one. Once I got over the shock, I laughed as Marty waited on him (them) like a regular customer.
So if you were nauseated that I made bagels or that a horse was sniffing around all that food...you'll be pleased to know that the board of health closed the store before I worked the following Saturday because a customer discovered a mouse paw in an "everything" bagel.
The owner was heavily fined after several health code violations were discovered plus he faced civil litigation. The store closed temporarily but there were too many financial obstacles to overcome, so it never reopened. Come to think of it, I made "everything" bagels that first night...YUCK! That explains why I shy away from them.
The Abundanza Pizzeria was another thorn in my side. When my friends and I played roller hockey, (across the street in the barrel park of the Bayview Houses), they frequently went for a post-game slice. One time, (I was fifteen), I made sure I had enough money to join them in this perceived Utopia.
At a time when two slices, a medium soda and small lemon ices totaled under a dollar, I felt like an adult as we dined...until the nasty owner ordered us out. We questioned his decision and he said, "You're too loud, you use too many straws, waste garlic salt and littered the floor with torn bits of napkins," (spitball residue).
Due to this misconduct penalty, I bad-rapped his place by telling other friends that we saw cockroaches and waterbugs there, (I probably wasn't lying, that disease-carrying rodent I saw in Charcoal Chef's cellar was only two doors away).
In 1990 I had a chance at real retribution with the Pizza Nazi. I recognized him in the casino but couldn't place his face. When he opened his mouth and started talking down to the staff, I guessed right. But to confirm my suspicions, I asked my supervisor for his name...it was Nunzio Abundanza. I never thought the pizzeria's name was a family name, I thought it was an Italian word suggesting big portions of food. So once I realized that I had this prick right where I wanted him, I became frustrated because I couldn't figure a way to get even without jeopardizing my job. So I stifled my need for revenge.
I was seventeen when my neighbor hooked me up with a job interview at the men's clothes store, "THE HOUSE OF JACKS." I was dressed like a schlump and all the other workers looked sharp. I couldn't picture myself buying all those duds just to work there, so I walked out.
I have only three distinct recollections from the Seaview Theater and none were good. First, my friend's older brother, Timmy "Trenchmouth" Monteleone worked the candy counter. Whether or not he suffered from an actual malady is not important...what is important is, it was completely unappetizing to look at his misshapen lips when my parents bought me Bon-Bons.
|BILLED AS THE FIRST NEW MOVIE HOUSE BUILT IN BROOKLYN IN FOURTEEN YEARS, THE SEAVIEW DEBUTED WITH THE DOUBLE FEATURE (above), ON DECEMBER 19, 1963.|
My next Seaview Theater incident occurred in 1965, (I was in fifth grade). I walked all the way to the theater to meet SK (a.k.a. Cap'n Krunch). The film, "DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS," was about to start. So when he didn't show up, I assumed he was already inside...I was wrong.
|THIS IS THE ONLY MOVIE I EVER SAW IN A THEATER...ALONE. AND AT TEN YEARS OLD, IT WASN'T SUCH A GOOD IDEA. PRETTY SILLY STUFF BY TODAY'S STANDARDS, BUT THE CREEPING HAND, LEFT AN INDELIBLE MARK ON MY PSYCHE.|
Another movie I saw at the Seaview was 1977's, "STAR WARS." What could I possibly say against this four-star, smash hit...NOTHING! But when we left the theater, our smiles of fulfillment vanished as the sirens of zooming police cars, ambulances and fire trucks left a dust trail, as they headed toward Canarsie Pier. An usher stepped into the crowd and cried out, "Some kid fell into the bay!" Like the Oklahoma land rush, everyone from the theater ran to their cars and sped two blocks away, to the scene. We were just getting out of the car when we heard that they dredged the water and recovered the corpse.
My last memory of the Seaview Shopping Center happened in March 1978, at Off-Track Betting (OTB). If you've never had the displeasure of going into one of these horse betting parlors then you missed seeing the dregs, that the dregs of society complain about...in an environment that smells worse than a New York City subway alcove.
|OFF-TRACK BETTING WAS A LEGAL FORM OF HORSE RACE GAMBLING IN NYC FROM 1970-2010. AT THE HEIGHT OF ITS POPULARITY THERE WERE OVER 200 OTB's SCATTERED THROUGH THE FIVE BOROUGHS.|
On August 19, 2009, I wrote this story as a separate blog called, "POWER JUDGE IN THE FOURTH AT AQUEDUCT." In order for you to get the full impact of that experience's negativity, which involved my friends and I being threatened with police intervention, you're going to have to read the whole story. Just go to the archives on the right hand side of the MGTP cover page. It's easy, just click on 2009, then August and scroll down to the date or find the title.
It's been about thirty-five years since I broke my cycle of tumult with the Shoreview/Seaview Shopping Center...because I stopped going there. The mom and pop stores couldn't compete with the malls, the giant club stores and Internet shopping...so the last time I drove by (three years ago), only a handful of stout-hearted businesses remain.
|(photo credit to SHELLYBASEBALLKING) "THE WALL" TODAY, IN THE SPOT WHERE THE TWO YOUTHS WERE SHOT. THE CVS IS WHERE THE THEATER WAS, THE CONVENIENCE STORE WAS WHERE THE PIZZERIA WAS AND HIDDEN BY THE TREE WAS WHERE CARVEL AND CHARCOAL CHEF WERE.|
I wasn't tempted to stop in, even for the sake of nostalgia because every brick in Canarsie's Great Wall of Negativity was still intact.