Saturday, December 1, 2012

Revisiting Nostalgic Bullies of Yesteryear

Not too long ago in the scheme of things, people from the old neighborhood and classmates had, by and large, dropped off the radar. Then along came the Internet and a thing called social networking to upend so many of the “Whatever became of?” mysteries. Folks whom we had largely forgotten—or only thought about when we perused a school yearbook or came upon an old photo—materialized in the virtual ether.

Always a curious sort, I was especially interested in what the bullies from the past were up to in the twenty-first century. Outside of the occasional incident, I wasn’t, thankfully, bullied in any kind of systematic way. But there were a lot of bullies, and bully cliques—they don't merit being called gangs—in the neighborhood while I was growing up. One particular motley crew from a couple of blocks to the east of where I called home were—what I would deem—textbook bullies.

Like me, they’ve grown up now and are leading adult lives—chronologically at least. Courtesy of Facebook, I’ve discovered the whereabouts of a few of these former Bronx bully boys. They are rather respectable citizens—pillars of the community—in nearby suburban communities like Hastings-on-Hudson, Pearl River, and Woodbridge, New Jersey. Funny, though, while they are not gut punching kids in the stomach anymore and stealing their basketballs and spare change, they are nonetheless nostalgic about all those good times they had. Evidently, breaking into area mom-and-pop businesses in the wee hours of the morning, and robbing them blind, was a real hoot in Kingsbridge, and remembered with great fondness by these law-abiding adults. I get the impression they would like to do that in Hastings-on-Hudson, Pearl River, and Woodbridge, too, but just don’t have the nerve anymore.

I have come up short on a couple of my favorite local bullies from the past. Apparently, they aren’t computer literate and into social networking—or maybe they’re no longer of this world, who knows? And perhaps this is for the best. One missing-in-action bully was the quintessential sadist. Forgive me for wondering what became of a kid who derived pleasure in blowing up pigeons with firecrackers. The other fellow who piques my curiosity was the Incredible Hulk’s evil doppelganger—a truly scary, callous leviathan. As I recall, though, he had a soft spot for cats, so I guess there's a little bit of good in everyone.

In my innocent youth in the simper times of the 1970s, I could never fully comprehend what made these bullies the awful oafs they were. And while I welcome them into adulthood and can forgive their youthful cruelties and boorish behaviors, I just wish they weren’t so nostalgic for all those fun times from their pasts. I'd hate to think their bullying days were their heydays.

(Photo from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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