EXCERPT FROM-RAISED BY WOLVES: INSIDE THE LIFE & MIND OF A GUERRILLA HUSTLER -Chapter 5: Harlem’s Home
Most every summer day, I’d ‘hop’ a cab, pass by Yankee Stadium, then cross the Macombs Dam Bridge. When I saw Tony Marenda’s Flash Inn Bar & Restaurant on the other side, I knew I was home. I was still young enough to have trouble telling one Avenue from another, so I memorized the landmarks. The Roosevelt theater on 145th Street, Renney lounge on 138th Street, and Small’s Paradise at 135th, meant I was on the 7th Avenue. If I was on 8th Avenue, I’d see the Third Planet bar on 153rd Street, the Continental bar on 145th, Harlem Prep on 135th, St. Nicholas projects, and then finally Shabazz, the Muslim “take-out” near the corner of 116th, a few feet from J. Horn department store. One day, one of the brothers greeted me with “Salaam Alaikum, little brother,” I answered “Oh, hi. I select-my-bacon too.” I was a bad little-ass. J. Horn had been around for untold decades but in the Blackout of July ’77 it was looted out of existence.
When I got out of the cab I’d quickly pick up one of my bikes and hit the bricks. I’d go down 115th, through a parade of “pitchers” and “fiends,” then I’d ride up 116th, to 8th Ave, where I’d see the old dopefiend named “Claw.” They say scientists wanted his hand. According to legend, he’d shot so much dope into it, causing it to swell up to the size of a bear’s paw, that it was essentially dead. Even so, Claw was still walking around, his rotting limb wrapped in a clear plastic bag. As he meandered slowly across the Ave., I could see puss and other juices squishing around inside. After jetting past Claw, I would continue my trek down 114th Street, dodging the shorties that were out playing on the chalk-drawn loadies and hop-scotch boards they’d scribbled onto the asphalt.