Being Jersey

I dwell on the past just often enough to not lose myself in it. My two years at Bayonne High School were formative ones. I fell into a crowd several years older than me – but I still thought of them as peers. Ronnie, Dave D, Eric, James P, Lester, Jimmy. Others I could name. I still have the uniform, this frat jacket. Still fits. In almost perfect condition. I have my pledge book too. The fraternity was a thread than ran through us. Connected us. If only for a brief moment.

Phi Sigma Pi’s origins were never clear to me. By the time I arrived it was equal parts gang, Cool Kids’ Club, secret society, a holding tank for likeminded inner city cats. Most importantly, it was a net that caught maybe at most 12 or 13 guys and allowed a bond to form. A code. An alliance. Everlasting trust. Weekly meetings at Massa’s Bar & Grill reinforced this. To this day, these traits are embedded.

My memory regarding what we actually did has eroded. But Saturdays were important. Wearing our brown and tan colors, we’d meet on Broadway and 23rd and spend hours hanging out in front of A.S. Beck’s. Maybe a sojourn or two over to the lunch counter at Woolworth’s. And often on weekends, end up at the dances at St. Andrews or Holy Family Academy or even the Jewish Community Center. And of course, most dates ended up in a booth at The Bayonne Diner on 8th Street.

Why do we save what we save? Remember what we do? The further I get from some things in my life, the more powerful they become. But just some things.

All This By Hand
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