Edmund’s Schoolyard

9th grade finally fuckin ended and summer arrived. It was glorious. I hated high school even more than I hated grade school, so the liberation I felt was tremendous. My good friend Brian ended up going to Frankford High School, the nearby public school that was the “rival” to my school, Northeast Catholic High School (for boys). The only official rivalry I knew about was an annual Thanksgiving day football game which was preceded by a homophobic/erotic pep rally in the gymnasium. One year, that rally led to a race battle in which the football team and their goony friends kicked the living shit out of the school’s super small black population. The Unofficial Rivalry between North and Frankford was an ongoing public transit gang war. The mostly black and Puerto Rican students from Frankford would fill the El(evated transit trains) at the station next to their school and head toward their Kensington and North Philly homes. 2 stops later, the mostly white North kids would get on, all headed to their Kensington and south Port Richmond homes. Both groups would wait until the other school’s numbers diminished as kids got off and headed home. Then the larger gang would mug the smaller gang, pouncing, kicking, and stomping, stealing starter jackets, money, sneakers, etc. Occasionally a piece would be flashed and the cops would come to the school and talk to us about transit safety tactics. What the fuck was I doing there, I asked myself. Luckily, I lived in the opposite direction as everybody else. I went home on a mostly empty train with a few friends.

Anyway, my friend Brian ended up at Frankford High, so I didn’t see a whole lot of him during that school year. During 9th grade, his transition from scrawny, vaguely preppy kid into long haired “head” had become complete. He now smoked cigarettes all the time, drank beer and booze, smoked pot whenever he could (even in school in the fire escapes!!!), and fingered a bunch of girls.  I on the other hand, had started 9th grade as a skater, and had become a punk, and very quickly grew tired of the harassment that generated in the urban hillbilly community of lower northeast Philly in the late 80s, so I started dressing like Otto from Repo Man-Punk but not punk. I didn’t smoke cigarettes, or pot, I didn’t drink, and I had yet to finger anybody.

As the summer of 88 began to unfold, Brian and I started right up where we left off. We would hang out and listen to records and I started showing him some things I was learning on the guitar. It was good to be hangin out again. He told me to come up to Edmund’s with him. Edmund’s was a large public grade school 1 neighborhood over, in Northwood. Every day, just before dusk, a bunch of guys and girls of the hessian persuasian would begin to gather on the Chichen Itza-like staircase and hang out long into the evening, smokin and drinkin and listening to cassettes on boom boxes until the batteries ran out. This crew were all friends of Brian’s from Frankford High. I said “hell yeah!”.

It took about 20 minutes to walk from me and Brian’s houses over to the schoolyard. On the way over, I asked him if there’d be anybody there I already knew. He said “Yeah! Wayne and Robin and Judy hang out there a lot. They might be there tonight.” I was happy to hear that. Wayne was the older brother of a girl named Jackie that we used to hang with. He was a cool dude. A little older than us, but never gave any static. That was the cool thing about the metal heads. You could be yourself and generally speaking, they wouldn’t fuck with you. The dickheads at my school and the jock assholes on my block were just sitting around waiting for somebody to do or wear something that deviated from right down the middle, just waiting to fuck with you. The heads were like, ‘if nobody’s fuckin with me, I aint fuckin with nobody.” real Libertarians. ha! Robin and Judy was good news too. They were 2 beautiful longhair girls who wore tight jeans and loved rock and roll. I had met them earlier in the year one night when Bri and I ended up at the Devon movie theater with them and a pair of unruly drunks named Kevin and Andre and Andre’s girlfriend Lisa, another heavy metal beauty. We had snuck a bottle of booze into the theater with us and as we sat watching The Hidden, a Sci-fi thriller that starred Kyle McLaughlin as an extra terrestrial detective, Andre got more and more drunk and loud and eventually we had to leave. As we left the second run theater, where all seats were 99 cents, Andre ran into the street screaming, “I am the walking dude!” then he broke a shoe store window with the back of his head and sat crying in the broken glass because he thought Lisa was gonna dump him.  A week or so later, Lisa dumped him. Somehow, I ended up hooking up with her in my parents bed. It never went anywhere serious, but I was grateful for the opportunity, she was really lovely!  “Andre’s not gonna be at Edmund’s is he?” I asked nervously. “Andre’s in jail, I think!” Brian replied. I was somehow relieved and more worried at the same time.

As we arrived at the schoolyard’s entrance, I got anxious butterflies. I was in foreign territory. The schoolyard was HUGE. a whole blank city block surrounded by a wrought iron fence. As we entered the yard, we could see the massive marble staircase in the twilight distance. I could vaguely make out some movement and sound up ahead. There were basketball nets right by where we entered the yard, and a few lackluster one on ones were dwindling as the day faded. “WHAT’S UP MOTHERFUCKER YOU WANNA GO!?!?” somebody shouted right by my ear as a huge body flew right into my line of vision from the left and behind. A huge jock landed on Brian’s back and adrenaline shot into my hands from my spine making them sweat. Alright, here it was, we’re in the middle of a fight with some assholes from who knows where. “Hahahaha!” the big doofus laughed just as Brian unclenched his fist mid-cock. “You dick.” Brian said, obviously annoyed, but happy not to be getting jumped. He knew the dude. His name was Craig. Brian introduced us and we all walked together towards the gathering on the stairs.

As we got to where the heads had assembled, I started to hear Led Zeppelin playing from a jam box held by a guy I would soon meet who’s name was Mark. “HeeYoewHoho (Yo)!, I know that deuuhude(dude)” I heard from out of the quasi darkness.  It was Wayne with a big smile on his face, genuinely happy to see me. “You’re just in time!” he said passing Brian a freshly lit joint. Brian hit it. He passed it to me and I hit it lightly, and did a big inhale afterwards to pretend that I’d hit it harder than I had. Robin and Judy were, in fact, there. Both in the tightest jeans available, one pair white, one pair blue/bleached. There were a couple other cuties there too that I hadn’t met but looked forward to meeting.  Looking around, I noticed that among the group, Brian and I were the youngest. Everybody else was like 18 or 19 or older, but nobody seemed to mind us being there. I climbed the staircase and faded into a new scene.

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