Looking out my third floor window when I was a kid was like peering down at some Felini-esque circus on acid. No surrealist painter could ever reach the heights of bizarreness that I witnessed. Nor can the deftest poet match the subtleties of wonder, strange pleasures and absurdities that existed in East Harlem during my peak years of impressionability. I can’t say anyone else ever looked twice, but for me it was better than cartoons, and impacted me more than anything I ever saw on TV. It was heaven and hell rolled in a wad of Bazooka bubble gum. With comic.
I lived in a two-bedroom walk up on 118th street between First and Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem, New York City. It was the 70s – a pre-digital era when spam was a gelatinous square of meat. With two parents, three sisters, and a dog in our apartment, plus a gaggle of imaginary friends in my head, sometimes I needed to peer out to wider and more open spaces. Inevitably, I would discover even more characters to add to the pantheon of my wackadoo six-year- old imagination.
Boobie Coolie. Door Locker. Charlie Ding Ding. Bar Beasley. The Red Headed Hunchback. Babaif Zoom. Rhyming Ralph. Window Window. To this day they seem interchangeable. The apostles of Pleasant. Related. Some imaginary. Some very real. All unique. And strangely, all very normal. It is not until I reflect back do I get the vibes of oddness.
Want more? Pick up the latest issue of Our USA.