Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Under the EL

I was reading BOBBIE’S post about getting stuck in a part of Brooklyn under the EL train, she mentioned that it was the same area as shown in the opening credits from the old TV show 'Welcome Back Kotter' - she also said that no one spoke English - Hah!! they were speaking Brooklyn.

Bobbie does this wonderful series called 'Misadventures On the Road' - check it out.

As I read her post I realized I had some photos of the area Bobbie is talking about. I took these in January when I was in Brooklyn for a birthday party.

All of these photos are in the neighborhood called Bensonhurst.

This is 18th Avenue. Commonly referred to as 'Da Avenue' - it is full of shops. My office was on 'da avenue'. Here we're facing the EL.

If you turn right under the EL you are on New Utrecht Avenue. I can't even begin to list for you the way 'Utrecht' is pronounced in the hood. I couldn't decide it I liked this shot in color or B&W ...

The car in front of me kept trying to back up. There was an open spot behind that white truck and the driver of that car wanted to go through me to get to it. Meanwhile the car behind me was leaning on the horn wanting me to move up. Home sweet home - where the asshats and the morons roam.

Speaking of driving in Brooklyn I'm so glad I took this photo.

Here I'm waiting at a red light on a single lane street. The car to my right was originally behind me - he rode my tail for several blocks - tooting his horn. I was already doing 50 in a 35 zone but that wasn't fast enough for him. At one point he nearly crashed into me when I slowed for pedestrians. At the light he squeezed his car in between me and parked cars and shoved himself into the intersection. All this to be one car length ahead of me. At the next corner - another view of the EL - he nearly mowed down several people crossing the street.

Another graduate of the Hooray For Me - The Hell With You school of driving.

This is the view of New Utrecht High School made famous in 'Welcome Back Kotter'.

I went to New Utrecht for a few days. I was at Lafayette High School but got thrown out for hitting the Dean of Girls. She grabbed my arm and tried to throw me against a wall so I hit her. They told my mother I could either go to another school or face disciplinary action which would involve the police. I wanted to fight but Mom heard police and panicked. So off to New U I went. I hated it there. The school was run by hoodlums. There was a group of girls who specialized in sneaking out to the football field to get high and give their boyfriends uh - oral pleasure. I called them the BJ Bimbos. Once satisfied they would return to the halls to terrorize the rest of us. I was a favorite target for them. Although I had a tough girl exterior I was really a very good girl. I took all the underdogs under my wing, I loved classes, I read several books a week. I just wanted to learn and be left alone. After a few weeks of trying to make it work I refused to go back. The Board of Ed. said my parents could home school me which was hilarious. My father was always drunk and my mother asked me to read things for her. WTF!? If I had been home schooled I would have spent my days taking care of my siblings and my parents - it was enough that I did that all night and all weekend. School was the only place I had to escape to. A friend went to Lincoln High and I got special permission to go out of the district. I took 2 trains and walked a mile to get to Lincoln and I didn't mind at all. The principal there soon figured me out, he was one of the only people to ever believe me about what a horror my parents were. I became his student assistant. He was one of the finest people I ever knew and a perfect example of how a caring educator can save a child's life.

Wow! I hadn't planned on spilling all that. I guess the photos just brought it out.

Hope you enjoyed the little photo tour of the hood.


OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh I did indeed enjoy the Photo Tour....And I LOVE seeing all those Birds in that first [icture, Dianne...What a "moment" yiu caught....!
You must write a book, my dear--ALL about your life! It is fascinating....!
Your experiences and all the people and things that inspired you and saved you as a child....I want to read it right now!

Kay said...

"Another graduate of the Hooray For Me - The Hell With You school of driving."

I know these drivers! They like to pick off us walking types for sport!

Great shots... I really like the bridge ones!

kenju said...

This was fun to read. Thanks for spilling it....LOL

bobbie said...

Thanks for the link, and thanks for the tour and the insight into a little more of you.

No, they weren't speaking Brooklynese
- not that day. It may have been a Brooklynese brand of Spanish, but I didn't really hear the latin sound. I really couldn't figure it out. Just wish I had spoken some kind of 2nd language myself. I might have happened to hit it.

Your pictures are great, but not nearly so crowded as it was that hot summer day.

Jay said...

I loved "Welcome Back Kotter!"

And I loved the pictures and the stories.

Well, not the story about your parents. That was sad. But, I'm glad you found that principal at Lincoln High.

Cloudia said...

Move the location to Philly, change the el into the Frankford el, and my story is close enough to yours that I wanna call you my Sistah! Love your blog. aloha-

Travis said...

Sometimes home can really get that stuff out of you.

And I think that NY is one of the cities that looks best in black & white.

Bond said...

ah da hood!

cool shots and those a**hat drivers are not limited to Brooklyn!

Queen-Size funny bone said...

Thanks for the tour.

Sylvia K said...

Always love it when you rant! You are woman after my heart, I decided early on that I was among those that had a shitty childhood and figured it was my own fault for a long time. I wised up before I got too far down the road though. Great tour of Brooklyn!

Linda Reeder said...

After reading a bit of your life story here, I am more inspired by you than ever. I have poverty and alchohalism in my family story too, but nothing like what you dealt with. But as a teacher I saw many troubled kids. I'm so glad someone took the time to understand and support you.

Reb said...

Bravo for you, getting on with your schooling and finding that principal! Beating the odds, just one more reason to like you.

Love the shots of the hood and I like the b&w better.

Frank Baron said...

I know that driver. He follows me around too - the rat basset.

I'm very glad you hooked up with that principal. I had a teacher who made a huge difference in my life too. An awful lot of them are unsung heroes.

Jeff B said...

Your description of the drivers there makes the ones around here seem pretty meek and mild.

Dianne said...

oldold lady of the hills - will you be my agent!? thank you for always being so supportive

kay - walking is quite dangerous thanks to these jerks

kenju - I'm glad you enjoyed, thanks!!

bobbie - you're welcome :) you inspired me
it was so cold that day, the streets were pretty empty

jay - I loved that show too. It was on classic cable for a bit but I haven't seen it lately.

cloudia - I'll gladly call you sistah :)

travis - that does happen to me a lot lately
I agree about NY and B&W

bond - yes da hood ;)

queen size funny bone - thanks :)

sylvia - I think I'm still learning that
Brooklyn is very photogenic :)

linda - I always feel we have a lot in common :)

reb - thanks, I like the b&w too

frank - they're everywhere!! lol
and yes - they are unsung heroes - we only hear the complaints, not the success stories

Dianne said...

jeff - I think it is made worse by the sheer volume of cars and the small amount of space
they're are lots of aggressive drivers here in NJ too but it never feels as bad as when I'm in Brooklyn

the walking man said...

Back in '73/'74 My ship was home ported at Nassau and Flushing the Brooklyn Ship Yards.

My fondest NY memory is when I was lost in Queens and stopped to ask a cop how to get back to the yard...he laughed like a demon, rolled his window up and drove away.

I learned how to use a street guide after that.

Matt-Man said...

Loved the photo tour and the slice of Dianne history. Cheers Di!!

Mrs. C said...

LOL schools like that are *WHY* we homeschool. Bless your heart, I had no idea what BJ was until I was something like ... old. THEN I felt rather betrayed that they named the Barney character that.

And Baby BOP? These tv shows, there is always some deeper sinister meaning. :p

PS "Patrick" had to care for his siblings last summer after my surgery and I think he learned that he doesn't want to be a teenage parent of five children. At all.

Deb said...

Well. So much to take in here. After reading about your driving adventures I have decided that if I ever go to the big city I will NOT be driving! The town I live in has no traffic lights and few stop signs!

Too bad we didn't know each other back in the day - we could have had each other's back! I was a good girl with a tough exterior - survival technique. And the school principal understood. Father was an alcoholic and I was mom's fierce protector. Okay, now my comment has turned into a post. Sorry. Your post stirred things up for me - which means your writing is powerful, effective and from the heart. Thank you.

Dianne said...

mark - NYPD in the 70s was a freakin' disaster!! the budget cuts had them with an even greater chip on their shoulders. In 73 thru 76 I was with my husband and baby in Crown Heights - a semi slum at that point - by that I mean you could still walk the streets at night and there was only a few shootings a week. After the blackout in 77 (I think) that area really fell apart. anyway - my husband was just like my father - talk about me being a psychological cliche - and I needed to call the police many times to "calm" him. they rarely responded and when they did they had such an air of disdain for a white girl with a baby in a black neighborhood - guess I "deserved it". when I finally left I had to go back to get my stuff. had an order of protection and everything but waited 3 hours for the police escort I was promised - so - I called the local fire house, asked if they were busy and explained what I needed. they came!! a gang of giant firefighters with axes and all!!! bless their hearts - all I wanted was my clothes and my son's favorite stuffed animal. they told my husband he looked like he needed some "chopping down" and the piece of crap slinked away - they even helped me pack. FDNY has a place in my heart.

matt-man - thanks matty - I got slices all over the place - I'm trying to weave them together. would be so nice to make sense and peace of this all before I'm 60

mrs c - In a right world that dean would have been dealt with and I would have been given someone to talk to. we are talking about the early 70s though - child abuse was still something swept under the rug. I truly understand your motives for homeschooling but for me it would have been a disastrous solution - as I believe it is today for many children. this little piece of history is part of why that last post I commented on pushed so many of my buttons - some of the people who scorned gov't intervention and care in the lives of at risk children have no business having children - let alone being allowed to be that child's only role model. my parents - as many do today - would have simply held me hostage and I would have had no points of reference and no access to other views and other ways of life. as it was I was buried in alcohol and crazy - and became pregnant at 17 - just when I could have been going to college. I jumped from the frying pan into the fire - as many lost children do. thank goodness I broke the cycle with my own child - the deck was so stacked against that - and that school principal had so much to do with that - he helped me get my GED and he helped me be a Mom in college.
on a way lighter note!!!! - I never got the Barney and Baby Bop reference!! imagine that - I can be so naive.

deb - if you come to NY I'll be your driver - I'm really good at crisis driving and being assertive yet safe.
and many hugs to you and your memories of being a protector as a child - I know them well - here's to suriviving and thriving my friend.

Linda said...

Of course, now I have the theme from "Welcome Back, Kotter" stuck in my head but that's okay! What a great photo journey and trip down a rocky Memory Lane for you. I am so glad that you were able to find not only a school but a person who understood you and was able to give you guidance and hope. That had to be such a relief for you!

As for the asshat drivers, I am afraid they have moved from Brooklyn and infiltrated almost all of the rest of the roads in the country, too!

Daryl said...

I wish I had taken pix when I was up in the Bronx last week ... Bobbie's post and now your's has made me nostaligic ..PS 104, JHS 82, Taft HS (except I got lucky and went to Art & Design)

Mrs. C said...

I hope you "hear" I wasn't trying to be critical of moms who send their kids to public school (what with doing that myself and all, I know I am a heathen less-than-good parent in some circles).

But overall, I guess I don't believe that schools have changed much in light of my own experiences with my children. The same sorts of abusers are still there, but now there are all kinds of lawyers and fancy vocabulary words out there to justify the abuse. (It isn't a "closet," it's a "safe room.")

Thank God for your school principal. (Big time!) I know there are some good folks still out there. My older children are educated by some of them. I would like to take my friends where I find them. People like you that I have friendly spars with, but beneath is a genuine caring and concern for the children who so desperately need us.

HEY, BTW, have you read The Chosen by Chaim Potok? My son "Patrick" started reading this in public school and came home to tell me that the book deals with the issues of religion and education. Of course I squawked and had to read it *right then,* but it really is (I think) a treasure of a book that deals sensitively with the issue of ethnicity, education, sheltering children vs. giving them "worldly" opinions, etc.

AND, it seems to be set in Brooklyn LOL.

Deborah Godin said...

Love the tour and the rant!! How did we all ever manage to grow up?! And those underneath shots remind me of that hairy car chase in The French Connection!!

gabrielle said...

you were taking pitchas? while driving the cah? Tru bruckln? Fing awesome, Diane!!!

My childhood was a nightmare that I am still waking up from. Because we were so isolated, I believed what was going on to be the norm. It took a roommate at age 19 to name it “abuse”.

I’m so glad that you had Nana and this principal to reinforce your natural resilience in the face of all the chaos swirling around you.

Back to present time: I love the El photo!!! My vote is for black and white.

I am so intrigued by your stories and photos about Brooklyn. The last dozen trips to New York have been for “family business” which never seems to end, even though the major players are dead.
For years I’ve wanted to explore Brooklyn. If the saga ever ends I’d love to rely on your material as a primer.

Ivanhoe said...

It looks like the pics opened up a skeleton in the closet, didn't they? Writing is a therapy and I love reading you :o)

Sparkling Red said...

Thank goodness for that principal.
And I'm glad that you didn't turn out to be an incorrigible hooligan, you girl-hitter, you! ;-)

Border Explorer said...

Beautiful post on so many levels! Seems like you've always had a tilt toward the underdog. I love that about you.

I vote for the black and white photo.

CG said...

What a great post...I got really absorbed!

Sleepypete said...

Great post :-)

[chuckle] I think I must have had a really sheltered upbringing compared to that school ...

We had three secondary schools in the town. Carre's for boys at one end, with the girl's High School at the other. In the middle was the "Zoo", which was mixed.

My lunchtimes were usually spent on the school playing field though, trying to not look too awful when attempting to play football :-) So I didn't see much of what happened to give the Zoo its name.

Sleepypete said...

PS Lincoln is where I'd have gone to school if my dad had chosen a house somewhere closer to his work ... An ocean away really but a spooky similarity all the same !

Zerilda The Superfluous Blogger said...

You took 2 trains and walked a mile to go to school.

I had three blocks, downhill both ways, and I still complained. Because I was the only one who didn't drive there.

You didn't mention if the Hooray for me guy was playing his music for you or not. I personally LOVE it when the dudes play music so loud it beats your heart for you. Their penises (penisae?) must be really big. I think that's what they're trying to say. Although I don't know for sure, they are going too fast for me to look closely enough.

Dianne said...

linda - I have had the song in my head for days now!! it's making me crazy - I also can hear Horshak's laugh - Oy!

daryl - they would have been cool to see - I can't picture you without a camera!! there will be more return visits I'm sure

mrs c - I always try to remember that what we have in common is far more important than our differences :)
I did read The Chosen at about the same age as Patrick is now - wow that was a million years ago
Nana used to say that any story worth telling was told in Brooklyn :)

deborah - the French Connection was shot in Brooklyn - this EL extends all the way through Boro Park and Bensonhurst into Coney Island - the movie was shot by the CI section

gabrielle - I would gladly - with glee!! - take you on a tour of the real Brooklyn. Could you imagine us? what a spree ;)

ivanhoe - it did! and I'm grateful that so many people liked reading it -

sparkling - I had my moments but it was never really me - I finally learned the act is too exhausting to maintain :)

border - we have that underdog thing in common don't we? :)

CG - thank you - I really appreciate that

sleepypete - one more spooky and cool coincidence - the New U school was often referred to as The Zoo !!!

zerilda - this particular asshat was music less - but I know exactly what you're talking about - there are many who have their sound systems mounted in the trunk with theater size speakers - talk about a cry for attention ;)

SnoopMurph said...

My son is looking forward to seeing Brooklyn or Broken as he has called it. I actually get a kick out of driving in NYC, so I hope that I get the chance, since it's been years.

So glad that you and the principal connected. Sometimes it takes awhile to find the right people who make a difference in your life, but I am convinced that we find them when they are meant to be there.

Hugs to you! Hope you are doing well.

Ron said...

BJ Bimbos!!!!!

OMG...I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!

And you know something? I have a feeling that if you and I had gone to school together, we would have been BEST BUDS!

I was so like you. I just wanted to be left ALONE and everyone picked on me. I was tortured all through my school years, with the exception of my Senior year. It was then that I finally learned two very effective words...FUCK YOU'S!


Oh...and your description of driving through NY brought back so many wonderful memories for me. But that's one of things that I love about New Yorkers. They move at a totally different speed than the rest of the world. I move more like a New Yorker, and unfortunately Philly moves more like it's severly constipated. I'm forever screaming at people...."GET THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY!!!!"

I truly should be living in NYC. I'm a maniac!

Thanks for sharing such wonderful post, dear lady!

And I love the shot of the Welcome Back Kotter school. I watched that show every week! aaaah, Travolta!


The Quiet Rage said...

You should have flicked a booger on his windshield;)

Seriously, one time coming back from a rock concert I had too much to drink (I was not driving). A car was tailgating us on a curvy, two-lane road. Guess what. I ended up getting sick and quickly stuck my head out the window. The car behind us skidded back and forth nearly ending up in the ditch. He stopped tailgating after that... heh heh

Raven said...

Wonderful post. I enjoyed the photos. I'm glad you got to go to the last school and that you found one of those teachers who change the world one kid at a time.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a post! Heroic educators are sadly a bit thin on the ground. I'm glad your history makes you who you are now, but sorry there was pain along the way.

Love the pics and that B&W shot is the best. Oh, and WHEN I visit, you can drive..... so I can take in the sights of course!

Chatty said...

For the record, I like that photo in black and white better. It gives it a stuck-in-time quality that goes with your words.
That was a beautiful post. You write well and vividly, and that story was not an easy one to tell. Thank you for doing so, and I'm so glad that principal at Lincoln Heights found you. I suppose it's what all GOOD educators dream of when they set out to teach.

Pagan Sphinx said...

I'm so sorry to be late for this! Cuz I could've used the laughs a long time ago!

I love your Brooklyn pictures. The area I was in a couple of weeks ago had its own distinctive character, for sure. Would've loved to roam around a bit more...

Anonymous said...

I read this and thought to myself, "you're one of the lucky ones." Did you get to kick the crap out of one of the BJ Bimbos?