Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Morning Calls Remembered

A loud shout on the streets of the Bronx in the early morning hours is the wind beneath the wings of this blog. Awoken from a sound sleep, my brain—sans any couching on my part—retrieved two words lodged in its vast memory bank: morning call. I don't exactly know why, but in my groggy state, I recalled my maternal grandmother’s daily newspaper, The Morning Call—the one she found on her front porch every morning on Miller Street and then on South Second Street in Bangor, Pennsylvania. As a youth, I always thought that was such a great name for a newspaper, and I’m happy to report this Allentown-based daily is still in business. But my brain wasn’t done yet. It returned to the Bronx and dredged up one more morning call—my own.

Some forty years ago, it was not unusual to find me in a neighboring alleyway at around seven o’clock in the morning and calling on my best friend “Johnny Boy.” Considering all the advances in technology and the colossal cultural shift, it seems kind of strange to envision a youngster arising so bright and early, before anybody else in the household, and venturing out onto the mean streets of the Bronx without first alerting Ma and Pa. After all, local crime statistics were even more cause for concern back then, and the nine- and ten-year-old me didn’t even have a cell phone to communicate with the home office.

But it’s just the way it was. Roaring at the top of my lungs, “Johnny Boy!” when most everybody in earshot was asleep on a weekend, or on an early summer’s morning, was commonplace. My friend would often respond to my bellow with the logical rejoinder, “What?” I would then say, “You coming out?” Occasionally, one of his sisters would answer for him and shout, “He’s sleeping!” Looking back these many years later, I can understand why some others might not have appreciated this morning call—not too long after the sunrise—of “Johnny Boy!” It was, however, a different and, I daresay, simpler time—completely uninhibited and not remotely technologically driven. It was also more annoying to those who didn’t get up with the roosters.

While I rue all that has been lost to the youth of today transfixed with their latest electronic gadgets and, above all else, impatience with everything and anything that doesn’t move at the speed of light, I take great solace in the contemporary quietude. There are no little people anymore waking up at daybreak, going out to play, and disturbing formerly young persons like myself. Nowadays, when the legions of youth arise from their slumbers, they reach, foremost, for their iPads and iPhones. Venturing out into the great outdoors—the urban jungle—and calling on their best buds is unheard of. When a text message or tweet will suffice, why wake up the wider world anyway? And now, too, I can read the The Morning Call online.

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