I became acquainted with Ezekiel Berg after smelling alcohol on his breath during class at Walter Cronkite high school. ” I thought vodka didn’t smell,” he told me, only half believing what he said.
Ezekiel: son of a Jewish Veterinarian and a mother of indeterminate European origin. Zeke had recently transferred out of St. Ann’s Prep in Brooklyn Heights and into public school. I believe he had lost his scholarship because of grades. Who could blame him? We would get together after class; sometimes before. He’d be drinking a forty ounce of St. Ides and I’d be puffing on a Dutch Master blunt.
“Come with me to see my peeps.”
It was funny to hear Zeke, a metal head refugee from a snobby private school speak in street slang. A Canarsie native, he had a healthy Brooklyn accent but it was obvious by the way he dressed and spoke that a schoolyard/corner dweller he was not. Zeke knew this. I liked Zeke.
We met that Friday outside of the Sheepshead Bay Road stop of what was then the D train. The old Russian man in the liquor store didn’t card us. We took the D to 7th Ave in Park Slope where we met Zeke’s friends at a house party. We walked into the doorman building on Prospect Park West and took the elevator to the Fifth floor. We entered the apartment and walked into a dense marijuana fog.
The host was sitting back in a lazy boy and smoking mid-grade out of a Sherlock pipe. I shook the hand of Zeke’s friend Drew. I looked around at the apartment’s beautiful pre-war details, then at the mild party buzz of bored teenagers. I turned to the door: I had the need for weed. I walked out into the night and down to Seventh Avenue.
I met up with three neighborhood kids; a black kid, a Hispanic and a white kid that acted like he wished he was black. They took me to a local spot; a deteriorating tenement building down by 5th Ave. It was alright. I got better shit back in the Bay but I figured that with such short notice I would have to make due. While my size and street smarts were able to get my young, white ass through the transaction with no trouble, I wasn’t prepared to give them anything for steering me. When it looked like they wanted to smoke I decided to bring them back to the party. I figured they would be too busy smoking and drinking everyone else’s shit to fuck with mine.
We walked into the party. Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ was playing. A bunch of girls that might be described as “wannabe raver” were dancing around the stereo. Just then the song ended. The party-goers looked at my new hood friends with a combination of shock and dread.
“Damn, yo.” said one hood kid.
“I think they called the cops.” said another.
They said peace and left. They didn’t want to stay. Who could blame them?
A few more hours of the so-so party and we were ready to leave. We proceeded up Flatbush Avenue toward Brooklyn Heights. We sat on the promenade, glazed eyes fixed on the Manhattan skyline while smoking weed and drinking cans of Meister Brau. I began to feel the chill in the air and noticed the others shiver once or twice in the space of five minutes.
“It’s pretty cold out here on the water” I observed.
Zeke’s friend Drew had an idea:
” Let’s go to M_’s house.”
“Not a bad idea, her dad should be in a drinking mood.” replied Zeke.
We were standing in front of a gorgeous Brooklyn Heights townhouse. Apparently M_’s father was put on a strict allowance by the family to discourage his drinking. What this meant for us was that any person bearing alcoholic gifts would be welcomed at any time of the day or night. A middle-aged man who seemed to be in a drunken stupor opened the door.
“Is M_ home?” Drew asked.
The man looked confused; as if he wasn’t sure it was a question or a statement. We handed him a couple of cans of beer and he motioned us in the door.
“She’s in her room.”
We went to M_’s ground floor bedroom and opened the door.