I can't remember where I took this photo but it reminds me of the time I used to live on a street called Harvard. I always thought the name was ironic because Harvard University is the symbol of wealth. Harvard Rd, in Cleveland, Ohio, was quite the opposite. Although it was not the projects, it was still a neighborhood full of people struggling to make ends meet. Somehow, during our time in that area, we had moved into a house with a missing porch. The city bus driver had lost control and rammed into it. I have no idea how we ended up in that house. If I think about it from this point in time, I can only surmise that my mom had somehow gotten an excellent deal on the rent because we moved there from the house just across the street. My memory is a bit fuzzy because we moved several times, so my description of some events may trigger a few phone calls from my sister, who often reads these posts and will undoubtedly demand that I get the details correct.
Now, if memory serves, we also lived in a house at the intersection of Harvard and Miles that had lots of fruit trees. There was a large mulberry tree in the front yard and several plum trees in the backyard. Every summer, my siblings and I would climb the trees and pick their fruits. Mulberries are sweetest when they're nice and dark, but we also ate them when they were tangy and less than ripe. I don't know why my mom never harvested the mulberries to make jam. We were too young to do it ourselves. I am sure the mulberry jam would have been amazing.
The plum trees in the backyard were Italian prune plums. They had an oblong shape and a deep purple hue. We had to share those with the bugs and the birds. When eating a plum picked fresh from the tree, it was imperative to break open the flesh and check it first for worms. They were small maggot looking larvae. If you randomly bit into a plum without checking, it might have ruined your day.
I think this was the house we lived in right after we moved from the projects. Sometime before the move, we had gotten a dog. It was a German Shepherd Husky mix. We loved playing with him in the yard and taking him for walks around the neighborhood. Sadly, he ran away. He wasn't the bravest of dogs. He was quite frightened of strangers even though he had run outside just long enough to bite a girl when we lived in the projects. Maybe he remembered the men I talked about in a previous post who had climbed in our window and forced us to escape. We took the dog with us to a convenience store one day, but we hadn't tied him up properly. While we were in the shop, a group of assholes chased him off for no reason. That was a tough day for me. I loved that dog. He was the first pet I remember having. After six months or so, he eventually came back, but his story is a sad one that I will save for another post.
Soon after the dog disappeared, we got a pair of kittens. Maybe my mom felt bad about the fact that our dog had been run off. The kittens did not live very long, though. They had suddenly fallen ill, and we're barely able to move. It was as if they had eaten poison or suddenly caught some horrible feline disease. I never found out what happened to them until about 30 years later. I'll save that story for another post too.
I don't know how many years had passed since we moved to the mulberry house before we were robbed again. We had come back to find all of the furniture gone and our refrigerator in the backyard. Either we had returned too early and interrupted the thieves, or the fridge was too heavy to carry, so they just left it in the yard. It must have been someone who lived in the neighborhood because I think the furniture was relatively new. They must have seen us bringing it into the house. I used to hide cash inside the cushions of the sofa. It was my secret place to accumulate enough money to buy whatever I needed. There must have been $20 inside the cushions when the thieves took it away. That was a lot of money for a boy back then. I wonder if they ever found it.
Despite the robbery, we had some good times in that neighborhood. My younger brother and I had different fathers. His father's children lived within walking distance of the mulberry house. We often went to their street to play. One of our favorite games was Manhunt. A group of kids from the neighborhood would split up into two teams. One team would run and hide while the other counted to 100. When the count finished, they would search for each member of the hiding team. When someone was found, that person would join the search party until, one by one, all the hidden folk had joined except the last man, thus the name Manhunt. If the person was skilled at hiding, the game could last all day. It was the perfect activity for getting lots of exercise and learning the neighborhood's nooks and crannies. That would come in handy later when a disgruntled man decided to chase us through the hood for playing on his property.
When the man scolded us, my brother's brothers cursed him into anger. Suddenly we were thrown into a game of reverse Manhunt. The guy drove through the neighborhood, chasing us from house to house as we jumped over fences and ran through backyards. At one point, we ran up on a porch to hide, but the man caught us before we could crouch out of sight. He got out of his car, looked at us, and said, "Is this your house?" I remember one of the brothers responding by saying, "Yeah, go ahead. Tell our mother we don't care." The man rang the doorbell, and as soon as someone opened the door, we bolted while laughing our heads off. That just pissed the man off even more. He got back in his car and continued the chase. Eventually, we were able to ditch him and win that round of Manhunt, or so we thought.
We went back to the brothers' house and continue playing in the yard. I am not sure how much time had passed before we heard the screech of tires on the pavement. It was the angry man. He had found us. He Rang the doorbell and told the brothers' mother everything that had happened…how rude we were, and how he had to chase us around the neighborhood for hours. Of course, we got scolded. I think the brothers got a whooping. My brother and I were sent home. My mom never found out about it, so we were safe. That was the first time I had to run from someone. Unfortunately, it wasn't the last.