Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Crack In The Floor


I don't know what made me think of this...Probably because I was driving through a blighted area of West Philly that I used to play in as a child. The sad fact of the matter is that this very neighborhood I'm talking about was beginning to show signs of "benign neglect" in 1971 or 1972 and here we are in 2011 and this same neighborhood has shown no sign of improvement at all...In fact it's gotten worse.

Like a lot of people..I lived two lives...The one in the house with my Grandparents and my parents and then that other life out in the streets. I was hanging out with this guy named Ricky Carnes (not his real name) when I was about 11 or 12. He used to like to break into abandoned houses and see what if anything was left behind...

He broke into quite a few on this block..and usually someone would go in with him. No one I knew ever found anything of value if anything at all...The people had moved out...The homes were usually completely empty! Usually when I went with him..We found that the electricity was still on...the water might have been still working....but outside of that..nothing. I found no fun in this after going with him about two or three times and had decided that I wasn't going to do this anymore.

Mind you...The fact that we were actually breaking the law didn't occur to either of us..(Well at least not to me!!) On this particular day...We broke into two homes...He was in one and I was in the one next to it...We were just running up and down the stairs ,turning the lights on and off and turning on the water..Stupid stuff that kids would do...When I slipped and fell...not down but into the floor!!! These were three story houses mind you..and here I was with my stupid behind..suspended between the third floor and whatever!!

See, there is a reason why these houses were locked up..Why some of them said condemned! Reasons that went past two stupid little boys on this day. I yelled out for help...but of course there was nobody to help me...Ricky was in the house next door and he couldn't hear me....I wiggled and wiggled and couldn't budge... plus the wood was scratching my sides and beginning to hurt!

I feared that if I slipped through the floor...I'd fall a distance and be seriously injured...maybe break a bone or two!! Nobody would hear me...nobody would know!! I'd lay there all alone for lord knows how long....I was beyond scared....
and ohhh the whipping I'd get when Nana or God forbid...My mother , found out!!!

They say that God aids babies and fools...I've been both! I stayed there stuck for I don't know how long...but I think I fell asleep, stuck in that hole....I woke up awhile later and I wiggled a little more and managed to free myself...I thanked God and every dead relative in my family that was maybe somewhere in the great beyond praying for my safety..

I'll tell you what else I did...I got the hell out of that house as fast as I could...My boy, Ricky Carnes didn't fare as well....The Police caught him coming out of the other house and just as I emerged on to the avenue..I saw him sitting in the back of the police car at the stop light looking more humble than I'd ever seen him before . The police car pulled off... Why is it that the biggest hell raisers always look so humble and contrite when they get arrested? Why aren't they continuing to raise hell?

I'd been lucky twice that day...One , I hadn't fallen through that hole and two, I hadn't gotten arrested. I still worried if Ricky would tell that I was with him, but after two days...It was apparent that he hadn't told. I was home free..Literally and figurtively!

I never ,ever went into another condemned or otherwise empty house again.
(This of course is not including the empty one I bought some years later.) As for Ricky??...Well, he graduated to bigger things and did a couple of turns as a "guest of the state." (Incarcerated in the State Correctional Facility) I guess some people never learn.

That neighborhood in particular was starting to empty then...Today...there isn't a single occupied house on the block...In fact, most of the homes on this block are gone...The two or three that are standing are empty...39 years and no improvemant to this urban area...Somebody failed us somewhere....Call it benign neglect or whatever..but it's a big fat fail if you ask me. The only thing good that came out of it was that I did at least learn a good life lesson.

1 comment:

Rich Fitzgerald said...

It's amazing how what we deem as a horrible circumstance (falling through the floor) is God protecting us from future disaster (a trip to the pokey).

Who knows how things would have turned out for you had you gotten a record in your youth for breaking and entering.




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