It was a warm, Friday afternoon and my frat brother from Orlando was staying in the new dorms at Temple during his internship. His name was Mark: A tall, slender brown skinned Jamaican originally from North Jersey but now doing time in the Sunshine state. I had promised to hang out with him and it just happened the visit collided with the first night of the Greek picnic.
I had told all my friends and foes that attended the University of South Florida, during my undergraduate years, about the marvelous spectacle know as the Philly Greek Picnic. I described it in every glorious adjective that invaded my cocky, northeastern mind. Marc remembered these conversations and commanded I be the tour guide, during that weekend of colligate madness. The Greeks’ (as it was called) non-official start was the second Friday evening of July on South Street.
Before Facebook, E Harmony or any of the other cyber hook-up sites, when men actual had to approach women and wooed them: there was South Street. That was the place twenty something people from the Greater Philadelphia area, mixed and mingled in between a five to six block stretch of South Philly. That was before the area turned mainstream American and was consumed by the evil, international corporate brands.
During my younger days, my friends and I would purchase cheap beer to build our confidence with 40 ounces of liquid pleasure. We would park and then sip from the brown paper bag-covered bottle, while making our way to the insanity of the evening. By time we reached South Street, we were loose and ready to strike up conversation with the female pedestrians. It was a numbers game: who could get the most phone numbers. It was a Summer time ritual even spouted to the world from the lips of Will Smith.
It was now my duty to introduce my northern/southern friend to this famous landmark that equally carried the same cache’ of: Rodeo Blvd, Broadway or Ocean Avenue. I would be there by seven because it was risky to ride the subway by night. During the evening hours, all types of skullduggery appeared to find its way onto the underground trains.
I caught a bus to the subway, exited a few blocks south of Temple University and climbed the stairs to the trash-strewn sidewalk. I craned my neck towards a red flag hanging on a pole, moving in the July breeze. It had a big T in Roman font. I was safe while in the T’s.
I made my way to the New Dorms: I didn’t know the official name. The student housing was directly across the street from the hell spawned McDonald’s. I summoned the RA behind the bulletproof glass window and informed him of my purpose. The friendly, twenty something, brunette co-ed called Marc, who the escorted me inside. My eyes scanned the interior had that fresh virgin building feel. We entered his generic, bottom floor room decorated in septic wood and steel. I sat on the opposite, unoccupied twin from his.
“So what’s up Playboy? What’s the plan?”
Our mission was to eat and then catch the bus from Broad Street to downtown and walk to South Street. We ordered a pizza and tossed around small talk. I pumped him up for the nighttime festivities. The darkness approached and covered the Badlands. It was time to start our trek. After a couple of minutes of silent strolling, I took a gander at the sky. We were outside the T’s! Now I know how Adam felt standing naked outside the Garden of Eden. My criminal radar was turned to ten as I viewed the decline of the neighborhood. We found the bus stop and waited pensively. Across the street, I saw seven to eight young thuggish men standing across the street staring over in our direction. The Orlando boy was oblivious to them. I on the other hand heard about various victims of such jumps. Our attire and stance must have screamed Mass Comm. Majors, thus easy prey.
“Come on man. Lets go.” I whispered.
“What? What are you talking about?” He shot back quizzically.
I saw another bus stop sign down the street. The group of young thugs acted as if they didn’t see us but moved across the street stealthily. I ran and Mark followed. The pack of urban wolves sprinted across the street in our direction.
As if the Arch Angel Michael was driving, the bus drove across the street and cut them off. We were safe for the moment. The bus door opened as Marc climbed aboard and attempted to skip the fare. The light, brown skinned bus driver with the football build blocked his path,
Marc reached in his pocket and stuck the money in the slot. I paid and hoped on the crowded bus as it pulled away from the curb. We found two seats in front of a skinny, feminine, mahogany man and a very tall, brightly dressed woman. Both of them seemed to be absorbing us in their eyes. We sat silently as I stared at him shamefully. He sucked his teeth and dismissed me,
“Whatever man! What time is it?”
I heard a petite, beautiful voice and a gruff manly voice engaged in a peaceful conversation. I turned around and faced the attractive, tall woman with thick beautiful lips,
“Do you have the time?”
She shot back in a rough, manly voice, “Ten o’clock.”
I returned my head to the front gobsmacked. Marc whispered in my ear,
“Why didn’t you get the number?”
David Michael Joseph is an Alternative writer, poet, and filmmaker from the great state (tongue in check) of New Jersey, now living in Los Angeles, hoping to breath a breath of fresh air into the literary world. He has a passion for story telling and poetry. He also has written “Exodus from the River Town,” his first collection of short stories.
Many times he had infused the two elements into his films. He has made four short movies including Festival selections and winners Shadows of Sepulveda and C.A.k.E.