This is an underpass. It’s on 167th St in the Bronx and runs under the Grand Concourse. We lived in a block of 6-storey red-brick apartment buildings a few blocks away and this was where we shopped. It really hasn’t changed much since I lived there back in the early 60’s. Deep discount shops, fast food, bars, second run movie houses – chain link fences, barbed wire, guard dogs, alarms. Not a very nice place to gow up to be honest – but I didn’t really know that then.
My movie theatre was there – The Kent Theatre – full of dreams and all the other places in the world. My pizza joint, where the jukebox had the Beatles and Herman’s Hermits and The Supremes and my Chinese Restaurant with real Chinese people – all of which totally directed me to exactly where I am now. Fortunately, I left when I was 7-going-on-8 and didn’t go back until November last year – so I didn’t notice all the drugs and related violence also going on there.
But back to this tunnel… you can see that the sidewalks have been sealed off and there is no pedestrian access. Not so 50 years ago, when my mother would give me a dollar to walk up to her favourite bakery on the other side of the Concourse to buy her favourite cake. It was a six block walk to get to the other side, 4 of them in the underpass. Dark, filthy, smelt of urine and and vomit and rotting food. Sometimes I had to walk around a sleeping drunk or bum (back before they were renamed homeless). I was terrified of everyone coming toward me or coming up behind me. Frightened of the rats and the cars careening past and of losing the money or dropping the cake… I walked tough, with clenched fists, totally ready to take on anyone that messed with me. No one ever did…
I’ve walked through a few tunnels in my life that later proved to be metaphorical and utterly transforming… This was the first.