The shot goes up and rims out, spelling out H-O-R-S. The sun is down by now, it must be at least 8:45 p.m. The bats are out, feeding on the mosquitoes caught in the sticky Boston dog day air. Most everyone has gone home. Only the four of us remain: I’m 16, they’re all young in their own right, but through my lens 27 might as well be 65. If only everything could stay this simple.
Remember when the dad from 7th Heaven was all like: “There’s always going to be somebody who’ll try to take your dignity and self-esteem. Just never let them take your voice,”
And we were all like: “I wish Eric Camden was in my life; he’d know what to do when the foreign kid who sits next to me in 7th grade history starts drawing naked people again.”
Little did we know at the time that the dude who played Rev. Camden, Stephen Collins, was a serial child molester.
Of course, this all came out during my people’s High Holiday season — nothing spoils the kugel faster than the tarnishing of 90’s pop culture (I’ll never be able to enjoy Melissa Joan Hart and her wonky eye falling in love with Vince from Entourage in Drive Me Crazy again).
What’s next? Did the voice of Hey Arnold do something terrible back in the day?
Seemingly, if it’s not Ebola, the Ukraine, or Malaysian Airlines, it’s typecast, middling actors from 20-year-old crap sitcoms — the Stephen Collinses, Kirk Camerons, Victoria Jacksons and the Stacey Dashes — making the world a worse place. Movies like Clueless are supposed to take my mind off of the world, not remind me of how horrible it is. (Side note: Alicia Silverstone once fed her son via regurgitation, you know, like a mama bird. Side note two: Alicia Silverstone named said child Bear Blue Jarecki).
Basketball is how I make sense of things. Unfortunately, given the soul crushing nature of adulthood, run as of late has come few and far between.
At least I have the memories of anatomical oddities, head of broccoli eating homeless jump shooters and New York City trash talkers to keep me company while I sift through spread-sheets and navigate the high powered world of… honestly, I’m not even sure what my job title stands for.
With the retirement of Israeli superstar David Blu and the passing of Yom Kippur, my mind has been wandering back a few years to summer days spent in Washington D.C. — a trip highlighted by the former student body president of Columbia University chasing a pack of deer; unloading a stomach full of Eritrean food into the bathroom of a half-bar-half-bookstore; and playing a lot of ball at Rose Park on 26th and O street.
The first thing I noticed abut the court was that the majority of the players shared certain physical traits. They all kind of looked like they enjoyed washing the taste of Gefilte Fish out of their mouths with a tall glass of Manischewitz. I don’t have an answer for why Jews flocked to Rose Park — after all, it’s located in Georgetown, not Newton, Massachusetts.
Whatever the reason, it was like Tel Aviv East — to quote the aforementioned deer chaser “the whole orthodox shul definitely showed up.”
Playing there again six or so weeks later, the Ashkenazi were still out in full force. This Dude Donnie ran with us the first go round; upon our return, he was sitting in the same spot like we never left, rocking his Hebrew school basketball jersey — weekend warriors’ rep a lot of eclectic gear; that was the first time I ever saw a guy playing in rabbinical apparel.
The Boston crew plus Donnie ran the court that day, despite the blue-top soaking up the 90 degree D.C. heat. At the time I was a pastier, heavier, post operative, Peanut-Butter-Pie, as such my need for Central Air was far greater.
Have you ever heard old school Blacks and Jews talk about the unofficial alliance between racial minorities and the Jewish? Now I’m not about to go all self-aggrandizing, self-riotous Jew, but what I am saying is that I’ve played on segregated courts (Corporal Burns in Boston) and with players who only divide up along cultural/ethnic lines (too many Mexicans in L.A. to count), and in my experiences, Rose Park was one of the better examples of racially diverse players peacefully coexisting. The court is found in a mega city with an urban backdrop and as such draws players with varying backgrounds. I remember ballers from Howard University and George Washington, not to mention the local riff-raff that showed up. I got into a tiff with another white guy, but that was it in the way of drama.
The non-segregated on court conduct was perhaps surprising given the reputation D.C. has as a city that funnels its resources into White Yuppie areas such as Dupont Circle, while letting the rest of its urban sprawl decay. A buddy of mine who lived in D.C. once told me that it’s “a city that no one takes ownership of, people are there and then they leave.”
Truth be told, I like D.C.: My eighth grade trip left a sentimental mark on my being. While the Fonze’s Jacket and Jumbo Slices are nice, the gap between those who have and those who don’t cannot be overlooked. Gentrification pushes people out while catering to the children of DMDs, making Rose Park an all the more welcoming oddity.
Noah Perkins graduated magna cum laude from the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 2012. He’s a philosopher, sociologist, explorer and world traveler who spends far too much of his time roaming cracked concrete courts and deadwood floorboards across the country. He also happens to be the younger brother of OBW creator Sam Perkins. Noah currently resides in San Diego, where he lives the life of “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski, except instead of bowling, he plays far too much basketball.