17 October 2007

When your nemeses grow old

I did most of my growing up on a particular street in Brooklyn; a few blocks from my parents apartment. Most of my friends lived in this one sort of cluster of co-op's, so we'd corral there and do whatever we did; play street hockey, manhunt, football, tennis baseball, throw stuff off the roof; whatever it was.

So naturally our archrival was the superintendent of the building. He made for a great adversary. He looked like the main boss you'd have to beat at the end of a video game.

He was sorta ugly and fat; had a few Lemmy from Motorhead moles on his face; hair always greased back; looked like he always woke up dirty and slept in his navy blue Dickies jumpsuit; when he spoke it was a garble like Jabba the Hut, that sorta thing. He was a comic book villian come to life; the quintessential exemplar of authority for our adolescent angst.

We would feud with him, constantly. Naturally he didn't enjoy us using his grounds for our personal playground; especially with a giant park a few yards away. His presence came to mean the end of fun for us. For if he caught us playing baseball in the parking lot or football on his little patch of green grass, he would surely tell us to fuck off and threaten to ring everyones mom's doorbell.

Looking back now, sure, we were the assholes; we were the kids tearing up his grounds, digging up his grass, running across his roof and tearing through the buildings like banshees. He had every right to yell at us and scare us off; but this is learned through hindsight.

I see him now and he's older. He's lost weight. He still has the Lemmy moles and the garbage man green Dickies uniform but he's slight; he's aged. He wears thick Coke-bottle glasses now and walks a little slower; he's still the groundskeeper for this maze of buildings but he moves at a different pace. Sort of like Robert DeNiro at the end of Casino; gray hair, giant glasses. You sorta feel bad for him.

Sometimes when I see him I wonder how many generations of young assholes he's had to deal with in those buildings. I'm sure we weren't the first and I doubt we were the last.

Did he have to chase other kids off the grass after we'd moved on to high school and college? Does he still have to chase kids? Is there a new lot of young punks terrorizing his grounds and throwing water balloons at each other in the courtyard? Did we age him? Does he know the game like I do now? Did he understand we were just young punks growing up and running wild?

This is the kind of shit I think about.

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