June 15, 1987
Here I am. 23 year old white kid from The Bronx standing at roll call in a place called Harlem, a place for me as foreign for me as as can be. For a white kid young as I was the misconceptions were boundless. My knees shook, I perspired freely, a true as heel deer-in-the -headlights as you'll ever find.
Lt.Martin starts roll call, welcomes me and three other "provisionals" to the station and then starts to give out our assignments. Mine was to ride on 17Charlie with S---. S was about 6 feet tale, sure of himself, loud as a son of a bitch. I overheard him relate to himself as a 'traumatologist and I don't need to be working with no fucking rookie". Hearing that my knees started to shake so bad you'd think you were listening to Kieth Moon performing a solo for the who the way they were knocking together. I pick up my equipment and follow S-- to the bus. I put my equipment in the side and proceed to check the bus for equipment. S-- calls out loudly from the front seat:
" Yo rookie, what the fuck yo doing back there"
"Um, um, I'm checking out the bus"
S-- yells back " Yo rookie, this is my fucking bus, you think I don't know what's on it?
Not feeling the slightest inclination to argue I drop whatever it is I'm doing, stumble out the side door and, like a lamb entering a lion's cage, I plant my ass gingerly in the passenger seat.
S-- turns and looks at me. He's got these thick rimmed glasses like, I'm not sure if it was Run or DMC used to wear:
"Ok, listen motherfucker. These are the rules. I drive, I talk on the radio, I do what the fuck I want. All you got to do is take care of the patient. Understand?".
I nod my head in the affirmative because my mouth is so dry the words would have gotten stuck.
"Oh, yeah. Were you from?
I meekly answer "the Bronx"
"Well on more rule I got. Don't come to Harlem like those dumb motherfuckers from Long Island and start trying to speak jive! Don't even try that shit!".
More furiously I nod my head in the affirmative. S-- begins to pull out into the street muttering "motherfucker. Gotta work with a rookie can't even speak".
S-- goes up the wrong way on 136 Street and hangs a quick right on Lenox Avenue. We ride north past 137st, 138st up to 145st and Lenox Avenue. S-- hangs a.right and begins to drive over a bridge. "Welcome To The Bronx' the sign says. To scared to perspire I'm not even asking why we're going into the Bronx. S-- drives about 3 blocks and hangs a quick u-turn stopping right in front of what appears to be a bar so old I was expecting to see a plaque proclaiming "George Washington drank here". A rel hole in the wall if there ever was one.
S-- is has a foot on the street before he puts the bus in park.
"Wait here" he tells me as he disappears into this place whose sign reads " Glackens". Heh, where the fuck am I going? So I sit and wait looking to my right at a group of buildings I would soon discover is called the Polo Grounds. About 5 minutes later s-- comes strolling back out. In each hand he holds what looks like a Carvel Cup.he comes over to my open window and passes me one of the cups. He proceeds to walk around to the front and slides into the driver's seat. He looks at me and says "yo man , drink up. That shit cost me 5 dollars" "What is it", I ask. S-- starts laughing out loud, " the first word out of the rookie's mouth is a question. What the fuck you give a shit, drink it". Intimidated as hell and swearing that tomorrow I would go back to the Botanical Gardens and ask for my janitor back I took a small sip. About 5 seconds later my ears started to burn. But it was good! I had a little more, and a little more and soon I felt the anxiety begin to ebb away. The neighborhood became softer, almost like a melody. Soon I was even smiling. I looked at S-- feeling much less anxious, "Hey, what is this". S-- starts laughing, "man that's called a VC. Enough liquor in there to knock someone out. Why you like it" S-- asks me with a quizzical look on his face. "Yeah', I answer "can we go back later and get another one?". S-- pulls the bus over to the curb, extends his hand to me and says, "you passed the test. Welcome to Harlem".