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Thu Jan 30, 2020, 09:39 AM

Fake Book, Snowflakes, and the CB Radio

Fake Book, Snowflakes, and the CB Radio

Where I grew up in North Side Pittsburgh was a pretty tough place. As a young teen and alongside adults, we would hang out on North Avenue and Federal Street. This was our corner, we owned it. Whatever you want to call it, it was our turf, our tribe and the cops knew it. The cops then had no problem allowing us at the time to police our own backyard as our parents and grandparents lived in the alleyways just behind us. With a left hand throw of rocks you could hit three white bars, then shift to your right hand and hit a black bar a little further up the street. Our parents, elders, and others in the hood had the comfort of knowing we would protect them to come out from the alleys to buy groceries, go to the bakery, drug store, or you would find wives looking for their husbands maybe having a little too much fun at the bars drinking Iron City Beer. I know, rot gut but you had to acquire the taste just like you had to swallow the conditions that brought your meat sack to this rough and tumble place. We were about an eight minute walk from the parking lots of Three Rivers Stadium. So close, that when we were in the pool hall, below the hot dog shop, and we heard a loud cheer, we would look up at the TV to see the replay to see what happened in the game. This was usually in the Summer during baseball season when the door was open. During football season, well, that was religion in all of Western PA and everyone was glued to the TV.

During the riots in the late sixties, there were curfews and only the bravest of men would occupy the corner. I remember seeing the National Guard on one side of the street and Black Panthers on the other side. Business owners stood out in front with shotguns. I never saw anyone fire or get shot but there was this serious standoff and fear that shit was about to go down. My dad was an Army vet a little too young for the Korean war and too old for the Vietnam war. We lived in tenant housing in a row house called Rafferty Court. He used to say be proud itís an Irish name and we spent many weekends sweeping the court with the heavy duty street brooms that he brought home from work. When things looked bleak he would push the couch up against the door and sit there with a pistol because there were some kick ins going on at the time. He was even involved in a shoot out one time but thatís another story. Back then you didnít talk about your guns. There was no bravado in bragging about guns. In fact, you had a strategic advantage because word spreads fast on whether you are packing or not so you were less likely to get accosted. My dad taught me to not carry a wallet and put my money in my front pocket. If I was to be robbed, the move was to pretend like I was pulling out my cash and out came a sucker punch. You walked down the center of an alleyway just in case you needed a few seconds to see to your left and right to defend from a would be attacker.

During election season as a kid, it was our duty to pass out flyers supporting democratic candidates as many of us were children of unionized steel workers, boilermakers, iron workers, and even the teamsters that hauled the steel. I went to grade school at Saint Peters next to Allegheny get high school. I was slated to go the Catholic high school but when mum and dad separated all bets were off and I was forced to go to AHS. Iím still bitter about it to this day. I sat up front and wanted to learn only to find that the bad kids smoked cigarettes in the back rows of the class and smoked reefer in the bathrooms. You could readily by speed and pot back then. I donít know how the teachers endured their jobs and even felt sorry for them. I think thatís why I admire teachers to this day.

My dad first worked for the city as a street sweeper and sewer man. When the trucks were automated he rode the truck as a helper, he bartended at night and when the bar closed he was sober, the doors were locked, then he became a card dealer in the backroom. In the mornings, mum and dad would drag us kids to the bars on East Ohio street to clean up from the night before. We were allowed to keep any change we found on the floor as we swept up the peanut shells and cigarette butts. I remember that I could barely see the balls on the pool table at the time. On Sundays, dad would take me to the YMCA where we would have a three to four hour workout and my introduction to boxing. The idea then was to stay in shape and know how to through your hands. Not so much wanting to become a pro, just learning how to defend yourself was the order of the day.

Mum and dad saved up enough money to buy a house just two miles up the hill in Fineview aptly named by George Washington when he peered out over the city. The escape from the hood didnít last long and they separated forcing us kids to go to public school. I rebelled and became a truant and spent time in the Juvie (Juvenile Court system) as we called it. I would skip school and read esoteric books that I was not allowed to read in Catholic school and listen to rock albums wearing head phones. My mum couldnít handle me but a neighbor two doors down on Rising Main adopted me. The state pretty much paid their mortgage and I had a place to stay out of the Juvie. My foster dad had a CB radio. We didnít have cell phones back then, but the CB radio was the tech thingy that many wanted. It was a way to Broadcast your presence and if you had a good voice and could articulate a sentence or two you were somebody. Living up on the hill of Fineview, you could reach someone five or ten miles away. You had chatty channels, but everyone stayed off the trucker channel because that was their turf and they were professionals. A thing about the CB radio included an artificiality that even though you had a good voice and could speak well, you really didnít know who was behind the microphone unless they revealed who they were.

Much like today on Fake Book. Most of you really donít know me, but to play the game, I allow you to peer into my life like a voyeur. You create a vision in your mind of what tribe Iím from and if you want to impress your dudes and women you may want to readily call me a Snowflake, a special somebody not like any other. A term which I laugh at, because itís really a simpleton tag and I just roll with it. So here we are many in this fake artificial room hiding behind tech and screens where we can say anything we want to, to somebody and get away with it broadcasting our positions on politics, life, and cheese cake pictures. What we donít realize is that our hunger to be known, heard, and be somebody is at the expense of taking risk of losing an organic friend that you once knew in person maybe quickly lost because many have devoted their energy and emotions to their broadcasting network. Their own TV channel, their presence, existence and even acting as part of their being like itís a personality attached to their hip that they canít live without. Did you ever think about how many kids committed suicide because they were bullied on Fake Book?

That just goes to show how the power of this faÁade, this tech, can affect someone. The younger the mind, the greater the impact. You can be an adult and still have a very young mind unless you have been hardened in some way. Just think you can pretend to be any one you want and if it tightens your tribe and youíre into ďgroup thinkĒ this may be the perfect place for you or not. I choose the not. I still play the game but Iím not gonna call you stupid or try to offend you while your tribe waits for your response. I like posting facts, love to debate, and when I see bullshit, Iím gonna call it out. Sorry, thatís me! I like exercising my rights too!

Remember, I grew up with the CB radio when that was the tech means at the time to be a broadcast hero. If you want to play in this voyeuristic tech world, there are certain channels you stay off of. Youíre either scrolling, posting or clickbating a cheese cake picture for a little hit of dopamine to feel like youíre somebody. Back in my day, in real life hanging out on the corner you didnít call someone a name or you got your ass kicked right there, right now. There was this thing called respect but a lot of that is gone now as people are hiding behind these fragile silicone screens a little too easy to be offended, but many widely shouting hey look how I beat up this Snowflake. Unless you have been hardened, maybe a near bleed out, a serious accident or health condition, or been in battle as many of my friends were, you have no idea. This Fake Book is an addictive game and in no way represents life, living and how to deal socially with people. Donít take any of this personally especially the young ones. Be smarter that the tech and donít stay on here too long each day. Itís really a big waste of living time and until this tech expands to being able to express emotions take it with a grain of salt. Itís not really you and itís not really them because when you see that person or persons face-to-face, then you see the real them and you. In the meantime, donít let the tribe-ing and bullying get to you. This is not real, itís synthetic. Be human! Good Day!

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