Life Back East (Chapter One) Ignominous Elwood Street Corner

Wesley’s dad was about 6’1″ and fairly athletic. With his large hands and muscular body, he could throw a football as good as the guys in the pros. The days when he wasn’t exhausted he would grab the football from inside the shop and tell us to go long. ‘Going long’ simply meant that we needed to run as far away from him as possible. Since the auto body shop wasn’t very large, ‘going long’ forced us to run out into the street. Gordon’s Auto Body was located on the corner of Plymouth and Elwood Street. I lived on Watson Ave, which intersected these two streets. Bristol is a borough in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It was first incorporated in 1720 and a better part of the city planning has not changed since. Bristol is a pretty old township where the street names can suddenly change at any moment. Right outside the metal fencing that enclosed Gordon’s auto body shop was the infamous Elwood street corner. My mother detested this corner for many reasons. For starters most of the addicts that she dealt with received their fix on this corner. The minute she would get them off the street and into her office, Elwood Street corners magnetic pull would place them right back where they felt most comfortable. Crack pipes and small capsules with assorted color tops were always littered across the ground. My friends and I were children of Bristol, but we did our best to avoid this corner. Nothing good ever happened there. The stench of pee and fermenting alcohol was constantly present. This place was the jungle, where lions micturated in order to mark their territory. There were no sidewalks in Bristol, so little children were often hit by cars cutting the corners at high speeds. During the day Elwood street was a bad dream, when the sky turned black it became a nightmare. Most nights I was in inside my house getting ready for bed before Elwood street came to life. At night this was the corner where prostitutes offered their bodies to men willing to fork out a few bucks. It was an awfully dark and dirty spot. The bulbs in the street lights overhead always needed to be replaced. Salt used to melt icy roads from previous winters left seven inch pit holes on the roads. Overgrown vegetation burgeoning from the forest concealed years of human waste left here by the towns residents. Every now and again my mother would organize a clean up day. On these days she hoped to fix the community up and give life back to an area that needed a boost. My mother was very involved in the community. She was very well known and respected. Because of her stature in the area, the Department of Waste Management always donated large rakes, shovels, trash bags and anything she needed in order to pick the community up. Sometimes she even managed to receive these large metal dumpsters. On these clean up days, the city would deliver all the supplies, including the large metal dumpster and deposit it right on Elwood Street. We were given 24 hours to put as much crap into these oversized metal bins as possible. Once our 24 hours was up, the city would return back to Elwood street and haul away the dumpsters. Clean up days were always interesting because my mother had so many doubters. Not a single person believed that we could fill these bottomless bins up. “You just watch and see,” my mother would always say.  Twenty-four hours later my mother confidently stood in front of the dumpster. Not too far behind her stood the same doubters now gawking at a completely full dumpster.  Mattresses, couches and full bodied refrigerators took up the bulk of the space. Branches from trimmed trees, wooden 2×4 planks with nails sticking out of them, plastic bags, shoes with mud caked up inside of them. Anything and everything that needed to be picked up off the ground was now in the dumpster. Everything except for the soda, beer and malt liquor cans. They were ours. Image

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