Friday, July 1, 2016

An ode to the Bronx, the best neighborhood you could grow up in



It's always humorous to tell someone I'm from the Bronx and watch as their faces turn from curious to mortified. "How many times have you been shot?" None. "Are you in a gang?" No. "You must be hood/ratchet/ghetto." There's so much more to the borough than its violent history, something only natives will understand. Growing up in the Bronx is an experience unlike any other. It's exciting, weird, and just scary enough to keep you on your toes.

The Bronx molded me and every other Bronxite into someone ready to take on the world.

You woke up when the neighborhood did
It just isn't a logical investment to purchase an alarm clock when the neighborhood is up and loud just when you need it to be (or not). Sounds of construction, roosters, and fights are just some recurring sounds of the morning. There isn't a resting moment in the Bronx, not even for the gifted neighborhood gospel singer.

Waking up to the most wonderful praises imaginable gave the sense of waking up into a dream. I would always run to the window searching for the person responsible for the voice to no avail. If you live close enough to a church, you can hear the praises of a choir on an early Sunday morning. People with no regard for who's listening made waking up much more bearable.

Arizona and BEC is a coveted breakfast combo
Breakfast was of the most treasured time for students on their way to school. It meant visiting the bodega and getting the best food combination to start your morning right: Arizona juice with a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese (BEC) sandwich. It was cheap, fulfilling, and delicious. Try making it at home and it just isn't the same. There's something magical about bodega deli workers.

You're thankful for the diversity and cultural presence everywhere you go
I'm amazed when meeting people who have never experienced any culture but their own for their entire lives. Going to school meant having friends from a variety of cultures, languages, and personas. Walking through any neighborhood meant seeing a mixture of flags, smelling a blend of delicious foods, and hearing any and all genres of music.
You've probably visited The Christmas House more than once
Every Christmas, houses are moderately decked out with lights and small signs, but The Christmas House on Pelham Parkway does not do basic decorating. In fact, every day is Christmas at that house. It has become a tradition for many to visit the house on holidays to see the animatronic statues of cherubs, celebrities, popular cartoon characters and much more.

Commuting always introduced you to someone you'll never forget
In the journey between home and school, you are guaranteed to run into someone begging for your money, attention, and time. Yet, there are those precious moments where you meet people that have you wondering if they're an angel in disguise.
In my own experience, I've met a woman, physically battered and emotionally disturbed, who clipped one of my neighbor's sunflowers and gave it to me just because. There was another occasion where I was struggling to get a cart of groceries off the curb at night when a giant man carrying a glow-in-the-dark boombox came and helped me. These hidden treasures teach you some of the most valuable lessons about humankind.

You know to never look at a stranger for more than 3 seconds
Making eye contact or smiling at a stranger is a huge mistake. From a very young age, we learn to keep to ourselves when in public. This means no eye contact, no smiling, no polite greetings. It's no wonder that we are often a contender (and winner) for the meanest city in the U.S.
In the streets, you never know who you're provoking. It's an unspoken rule that if someone looks at you for more than 3 seconds, there's a problem. While it may be seen as something rude, for us, it's a means of respect.

There's no need to visit art museums when your neighborhood is adorned in graffiti
Graffiti has come a long way since I was a kid. What once used to be illegible tags is now beautiful murals of abstract or realistic designs. You can't go far without seeing a mural in memory of a fallen Bronx native, Jesus, or still illegible yet skillful tags. It brings life to our neighborhoods, serving as true modern art.

It's hard to fall asleep without background noise
Whenever I would sleepover someone's house in a quiet area, I could never fall asleep due to the overbearing silence. The roaring hum of the buses, piercing yet muted sounds of firetrucks and police cars all give me the peace of mind I needed to fall asleep.

You can take the person out of the Bronx…

…but you can never take the Bronx out of the person. No matter where a Bronxite goes, the pride, charisma, and strength of the borough always stays with them.

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