BULLIES

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Red Hook Projects where the author lived during his teenage years.

I remember that even as children, we kids in Brooklyn, New York acted democratically and the majority always ruled, not the bullies. Only when we got older did we see bullies in charge. The question then is how and why did we get to this in a country founded on democratic principles. One of the things I saw among my young classmates was that one of them always cheated at almost everything and I thought this to be odd, but of course, I didn’t know what to do about it. We had been raised by our ”society”, teachers, the clergy, our parents, almost everyone taught us kids that “fair play” and honesty was the only way to go, and of course, threatening and then beating people up, which is what bullies do, is certainly not fair play.

When I was a kid (Late 50’s & Early 60’s) things were very different from today, including kids which were different too, of course. No two people are or were alike, same as today. Just like the kid I mentioned that always cheated, we had one guy that was the school bully. I knew him well and I refused to let him get re-involved in my life when he knocked on my door in 1975. I just didn’t want to put up with his crap anymore. Being around him was to be constantly humiliated and demeaned. He often wrapped it in humor since he knew a lot of jokes and raunchy stories but it caused pain, some of which I still feel today. I think bullies are sadists. He never apologized for any of his actions. Apologizing is like saying he didn’t mean to hurt you but hurting you is what he intended to do. Apologizing removes some of the pain and he doesn’t want to do that. He was trying to make us all feel like we had no value and I laughed along with everyone else until I got older.

Our relationship started in grade school when he picked a fight with me for absolutely no reason. He just started threatening me during class and it was right out of the blue. We hadn’t even been talking to each other. It made no sense. I didn’t win the fight but he found out that I would fight him every time, that I could not be push around. Again, making no sense, but following what often happens after a war between countries, to prevent further conflict, we became friends. We both ended up in the street gang so we had to get along.

So my first lesson about bullies, at least in this case, is that they do things that make no sense. As we got older, I understood him better, even as his actions became even stranger. First, he often smelled of feces and this was odd to say the least, but a lot of kids had a distinctive odor. One always smelled like a popular breakfast cereal almost all of the time. Another,who lived across the court from me had a foul odor like unwashed armpits. If someone had given him a bar of soap, I don’t think he would have known what to do with it. The surprise was that he had a girlfriend but she was no fun. She really gave life to the often heard phrase: “There’s no accounting for taste.”

Later, I began to understand why the bully smelled the way he did but at the time, we as a group never even questioned it. We just put up with it. Another thing that was odd is that he almost never shared his food or drink with any of us, but the one thing he would share was wine.

As kids will do, we would put our money together and get an older person to get us a flask or a bottle. If you are old enough, you might fondly remember the old commercial: “What’s the price? Thirty twice.” Meaning that for sixty cents, we could get a pint of Thunderbird wine. That, he would share and the circumstances again were odd, at least for me. He was on his way to becoming a career criminal, so by this time, he had already served some time in jail. And he made sure that we always poured Libation before we drank. He used to say: “This is for all the fellas’ upstate”.

I always took this as some kind of commemoration, meaning to me at least, that these guys, these convicts, these criminals, were always on his mind. Later I understood that he seemed to look forward to being arrested and sent up. My long relationship with him taught me a lot about bullies and about criminals as well.

When we performed this ritual of Libation, somehow an ancient memory seemed to kicked in which I didn’t recognize at the time. Libation is an African tradition. To bless what we are about to do, or about to celebrate, we would pour out a bit of a liquid, usually water, but we kids thought that to sacrifice, it must be at least a little bit of wine, (a sacred elixir?) usually in a dark or dimly lit alley.

One of the many beautiful things about African culture is what I call “Community Memory” where we as a group seem to remember or practice something which is not, to the best of my knowledge, taught in the schools or churches. Where did he learn about Libation? I’ve wondered but never got the chance to ask him. Other “Community Memories” are “Playing the Dozens”, calling each other “Brother and Sister” and saying “Amen” in church or at the dinner table. All of these things Africans have said and done, as the Ancient Egyptians always said, for millions of years. There is not space for me to explain the details here, so please forgive.

Later, we both wound up in the same Calvary Baptist Church of Red Hook, and through the Church, probably, the Boy Scouts as well. This was a pretty good move for me. I learned a lot. I earned enough Merit Badges to eventually became an Explorer. The Scoutmaster and his family were rooted in the church, as I was. It was in the Scouts that I discovered that the bully was an entrepreneur. He brought dozens of canned sodas on one of our visits to a camp grounds and roping them all together, and tying one end to a tree, he tossed them into the lake to get cold. While we sat around a campfire that evening eating hotdogs and toasted marshmallows, he went to the lake and retrieved them. He started selling them at a nice profit. He extended his business enterprise later by becoming the first person to sell marijuana in the projects. True or not, that is the rumor.

Now, on to what else I learned from this man. He was fond of saying: “You got to bring ass to get ass.” At the time “I knew not of what he spoke”. Another thing he often said was “I want cock” but I was so naive that I just couldn’t believe that he was demanding access to someone’s male sex organ. But he was, and here is what all of this taught me: When you go after a man’s butt-hole you have to bring your own to the possible fight. Regardless of the outcome, you both learn. The cops that were always Stopping & Frisking (Fondling) me, often at gunpoint, learned from me just as I learned from them.

It was very rare at that time to hear rumors from the prison where he was kept quite often. All we really knew was that it was “upstate”, but where upstate we really didn’t know or really care. One of the rumors that came down was that he was setting records for the amount of homosexual involvements he was having and that he called it “packing sh…” (aka: feces). So it seems that this was the attraction for him. Was it why he was always getting arrested – so he could be sent back upstate for a good time with his “boyfriends” or cell mates? What happened between him and the cops who must have gotten to know him well over time? One of our gang members had become a cop and the two of them, although both were bisexual never got along after that.

So this bully was a violent homosexual and he attacked me trying to humiliate and dominate me in the hope that he could force me to make my butt-hole available to him. This was a rape attempt which I was much too young to understand at the time. He was not the only one of the guys I grew up with to try this. Another one, just mentioned, who retired as a N. Y. City police officer, attempted while still on duty, to rape me at gun point. He also failed. I wonder if you see any similarities? The odor of feces I talked about earlier was due to the fact that it smelled good to the bully so he didn’t feel the need to wash up after anal sex. Whether he was having it with males and females, I don’t know and don’t much care. Eventually, he learned to wash, but it was a lesson it took him much too long to learn.

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