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The Boogie Down

Why is it that every time I tell someone that I grew up in the Bronx, they give me this sad sideways glance?

The media has made people afraid of the Bronx. Sure, it is a tough place and sometimes bad things happen. However, bad things happen everywhere. For the entire time that I live in the Bronx I was never robbed or mugged. Yet here in suburbia my car was broken into while it sat in my driveway and my son's bicycle was stolen from the garage. My neighborhood is a great neighborhood and these random acts will probably never reoccur, but the point is that bad things happen everywhere.

I loved growing up in the Bronx. My childhood was happy and carefree. My fondest memories were made in the Bronx, at a time when life was so simple and growing up there was fun.

I grew up mostly in an apartment building. No, I didn't have a white picket fenced backyard. What I had was an entire block to enjoy with the neighborhood kids. The boys loved to play stickball on the street, while we girls played hopscotch or double-dutch on the sidewalk. All ethnicities (Puerto Rican, Domincan, Irish, Chinese, Blacks) played together on many warm summer days. It was the most fun when we all played together, boys and girls. Manhunt, tag, or waterguns were always a crowd favorite. Running around the block, laughing and giggling. Our elders kept an eye on us. Back then there was no shame in putting someone else's kid in their place. Trust me, if our playing turned into rough-housing we got a finger wagged at us and a good yelling.

No, I didn't have a porch, but I had two great windows in my bedroom that faced a busy street. Many days I'd perched a pillow on my sill and let the city be my entertainment - TV was not necessary. After dinner my dad would pull a chair by one of my windows and sit there having his cafe con leche. My mom would join him, pulling another chair by the window, and they would talk . It was very comforting to see their shadows by the window. Many times I would also join them. I'd lean out the other window and converse with them, while we looked at pedestrians walking by. It was funny because at times the entire family ended up in my room, either right by the window or just hanging out with the windows open, so that the city creeped in. Back then my family consisted of my Mami, Papi, my sister, two brothers, and all the stray kids that eventually became part of our family.

Growing up in the Bronx we didn't have backyard barbeques, but we had neighborhood block parties. Good Ole Sam would get a city permit so that our street was shut down from car traffic, and we would party from noon 'till about midnight, sometimes longer if the cops weren't called. My brothers or one of our friends would DJ while the rest of us did our thing. These block parties were jammed packed. People from all over the Bronx would come to party because some of our friends were famous DJ's like, Grand Wizard Theodore. While the music blaired children were playing, running around, and being pains in the butts. However, we got away with it because during a block party most everyone was in a great mood. The teens were usually dancing and checking each other out, and the grown ups were perched on the trunk of a car talking to one another. Oh, and most of the men were either playing dominos or drinking It was all so carefree, man those were good times.

These are just some of the reasons that I love the Bronx. I will be writing more about living there in future entries. However, for now this is enough to let you know that the next time I say I am from the Bronx you don't pity me.


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