The years on Bay 14th Street were not particularly happy years for me, except for having two more beautiful, healthy babies. Life wrenched me from the fairy tale of, get married and live happily ever after, to you made your bed now sleep in it. Unfortunately, I had no support system and no confidante. Those years and the years growing up in East Harlem without a father during those dangerous teenage times, more than anything, made me who I am today. There were a few wild happenings in the time we lived on Bay 14. Actually more than a few, but so many are unbelievable I won’t attempt to relate all of them.
Jim had a motorcycle which was kept chained to the requisite wrought iron fence surrounding our concrete front yard. Many of the Brooklyn Brownstones had a small front yard fenced off from the public sidewalk. In the years prior to our purchasing the two family house someone had cemented it over. This was common practice at that time and it was where the front entrance to the basement was. Our bedroom windows faced this front yard and they were a little higher than street level. If you know Brownstones you know there are about five steps leading up to the front door to the building.
I was lying in bed alone that night as my husband worked from 8PM to 4AM when I heard some unusual noises coming from the front. The noise seemed to be coming from directly outside. It was about 2AM. I looked out the window and sure enough there were two guys trying to cut the heavy chain with bolt cutters. I yelled out the window, “Hey get away from there.”
Brazen and with no fear of a woman, they yelled back, “mind your own business, lady.” Boy did that piss me off, I was just about 22 years old and the jerk had called me lady. He wasn’t going to get away with that or with stealing our bike.
That’s when I stuck the off duty gun out of the window, a 38 snub nose, “Get away or I’ll blow your fucken head off.” A loaded gun makes one very brave, and at 22 you really don’t think of the consequences had I actually blown his head off.
I guess they believed me, because they took off running. I went back to bed and fell into an uneasy sleep. About one hour later I sat up with a start and ran to the window. Sure enough the bike was gone. The chain lying limp on the ground. I called my friend, Delores, who lived down the block. She immediately came running over with another good friend, John, who I happened to know was sleeping with her that night. Delores stayed to watch my children while John and I jumped into his car, I clad still in a night-gown with the 38 in my lap. We toured the local streets looking for the thieves. In and out of blocks stopping to ask a few guys still hanging on the corners if they had seen anything. It was a warm summer night. Fortunately, we did not find the bike or the crooks. Remember, I was still carrying the gun.
I forgot to mention that John was a one man crime wave himself, and knew many of the local punks and thugs. He was a bit older and more into white-collar crime, but he had risen from the street activities. He was respected by the up and comers, and he loved drama. Besides he owed me some favors, but that is another story.
The next day John and Jim, who was not at all happy that his bike was stolen, went back searching some of the haunts and clubs of likely suspects. They dropped a few threats, sat on some punks. It was to our benefit that they did not know Jim was a cop. You would be surprised how much more scary that is to some people, when they are being rousted. They know better than anyone that the police must play by the rules.
That night while we slept our motorcycle magically appeared chained in the front yard beneath our bedroom window.
I must have dreamed the whole thing!