The Vernon

Heavy’s death made me think on my hometown…

For the longest time, I had beef with where I grew up. I suppose it has more to do with the fact that I was an outsider mostly and didn’t much fit in. I always ended up befriending people much older than me because my peers often teased me for being a goody two shoes or a nerd. It didn’t help much though…I ended up being teased for being the younger, more sensitive one.

I DO have memories that were pure and beautiful…

Living in the “projects” when it was still clean, respectable, and safe. How us kids were watched by the adults in the park and not preyed on. We were timed by the street lights, but not limited to them. If there were adults on the park bench, my grandmother would just holla out of her 2nd floor window and ask someone to keep an eye on me. “No problem, Mrs. Gunn…”

I remember playing in the grassy “quartered fields” of the PJ’s park. The five buildings faced three different blocks. The back of the buildings was connected by a round concrete walk, where the five buildings’ paths connected. In the middle of it all was four parts of grass, fenced off into triangles. Two big ones, two smaller ones…which made for football, baseball, kickball, dodge ball fields for us kids. The girls made up cheers on the side while the guys played ball of whatever nature…but don’t get it twisted. Us girls got involved! We played “touch” football *lmao* with the guys. Sheesh…I can remember going hard…trying to score a touchdown (thinking this was the object of the game) when all of the older kids are on the field kinda…well, rolling around and flirting. Here I am, spiking a football…when the “cute” girls are fighting off tickles and hugs. ~sigh~ Always the quarterback never the hot cheerleader…lol

I remember when Halloween was safe. When we played “ladder”…a game where we started at the 10th floor and systematically went down floor to floor ringing doorbells and running. HAHA! I remember when we all had monkey bar races (the iron “skeleton” house familiar to older parks) where we’d do “TEN FLIPS HERE…RUN TO THE OTHER SIDE, DO FIVE THERE, COME BACK AND DO TEN!” …lawd…we ended up dizzy mostly. I’ve won plenty of them. (Might be why I ain’t right, lol) I remember playing “Red Devil“…wow. I just had a flashback. ::pausing for some emotion:: I remember my “cousin” Abdrice (Ab-dreece) ~Rest In Peace~…we called him Drice…used to hate to play that game with me. I was a pretty fast runner. Red Devil is when a bunch of kids sit on the bench (ready to run) having picked a color…as the main person yells, “RED DEVIL, RED DEVIL, WHAT COLOR ARE YOU?” …then they’d yell out a color. If they yelled your color…you had to run around a quarter of the grass (described above) and if you got caught…you became the Red Devil and had to chase folks until you caught someone. I ALWAYS caught Drice…I caught MOST, but HE hated it. lol. I remember how the city’s recreational department would come through during the summer, set up a stage and put on a production for us. We had a good time…we really did.

I had WONDERFUL memories as a kid…but my adolescence sucked a little. From unrequited love to rumors of me being a big ass liar (It is NEVER fun for a boy to deny being with you…especially when he’s supposed to be your best friend AND your first). I wasn’t a Gucci/Fendi bag-carrying, Guess jean-having, Owning every color of the rainbow Reebok-wearing, Fly girl. I was your average kid whose parents worked and gave me decent clothes. Add being what now is considered “thick” to the mix and that geek shit and you have a tortured kid. I couldn’t stand folks at times. You never knew who your friend was because EVERY thing you said got reported and contorted. Most of the stuff folks said I said, I didn’t say…and honestly…what I did say went over a lot of folks’ heads. Being smart is lonely….no one ever gets you. I’m sure I had my moments where I said something wrong, but shit…we all did…we were kids. I always seem to be the scapegoat. Not much has changed either…except, well…I call you on your shit now. I’m surely not 14 anymore.

I had my light moments…my shining points of growing up. I had my darker moments, too. I suppose such is life, ya know? What I do love about where I grew up is that there are things indigenous to JUST Mt. Vernon and the small townships surrounding it that make it special. No one knows about Shabazz’ Philly Burgers or their fish sandwiches. How my mom made their banana pudding for the longest time. No one knows what “Ronelle’s”and “Chamber’s” was. Or H & L Greens. I dare you to say you know something about one of the best donut shops in the COUNTY (the name is escaping me right now). How shopping on 4th Ave. was everyone’s bright spot come the new school year and summer. We had one of THE best marching bands for our high school. The parades were HOT! *reminiscing on the MLK band*. Still to this day, Mt. Vernon High School has the boss basketball team and the Razorbacks (football) still kicks major ass!!

Yea…Hev put us on the map. No doubt. He gave us pride…yet, there was always SOME thing to be proud of. I pray there still is. I’m allergic to Mt. Vernon these days. LOL I have no desire to return for any reason other than to see my one remaining grandmother or my dad, uncles, etc. Hanging there isn’t my thing. Perhaps I’ll always be an outsider *shrugs*…one thing is for sure…I will remember those days when Mt. Vernon made being a kid the BOMB!

It’s where I’m from…you know?