BY Mike Gramajo
New York is the greatest place on Planet Earth. Now, there's a lot to tell about my life in New York, and I pretty much can't tell it all. However, I will try to put as much depth into this story once I start. I lived there for about 13 years, and spent those years playing one thing or the other. But like many boys my age soccer was king. New York is more than just the skyscrapers, landmarks and the touristy type places. But to be completely honest, everywhere you turn and look, the panorama never gets old.
Migrating to Florida at age 13, I go back occasionally 2-3 times a year. Like most of my conversational "former New York Residents" in Florida, is to visit my family that's still there. A majority of my family live in Westchester, Queens(notably Far Rock away) and Long Island. I always make sure I visit my friends who are found pretty much everywhere in New York, whether they're chillin' in front of a bodega, park or in front of their apartment building/actual home. And of coarse, squeeze an even amount of time to visit my love who lives in Long Island.
The place, itself, is a melting pot of mixed cultures, which as a result, forms New York's identity. The identity, most certainly, is defined by the deeply rooted mix of cultures that live in the area. When I was growing up in New York, the daily life would be how most people say it is, "fast." Patience was, or still isn't, a "virtue," and I might get bashed for saying this, but New Yorkers don't take their life for granted. I too, am a victim of this regard because the minute I say "I hate New York and I want to leave," then eventually leave, I miss the life I had in the Empire State. Now, when I'm back in town, I can never get enough. And when I leave back to Florida, I leave more inspired than the last time.
I hope whoever reads this can somewhat relate to it, as for me, this is a living testimonial of my life growing up in New York.
Like Rice & Beans
Futbol, Football, Soccer is a sport that I love and will forever follow. My father introduced me to this sport when I was barely a year old. "He was born to kick a ball," my father would always tell my aunts and uncles. I remember being 6 years old, and my father would take my younger brother and I to the park just to kick the ball around. Blissful memories that still stay stored in my mind.
I was raised in a red brick shabby building in the skirts of New York City, and an alley that laid in front of the building was my venue to continue playing soccer. I would end up establishing forever lasting friendships with many of the kids I grew up with in the building.
"El Callejon", which we refer to as the alley, was the mecca of playing soccer in my town. Blood and tears were shed in that alley, but in a humorous way. Whether I kicked the ball straight into someones face, or someone just busting their ass because of a failed trick, which by the way was always hilarious, the ambiance in the alley was just innocent.
On hot summer afternoons, my friends and I would run across the street just to devour Italian ices. This routine would occur mostly every afternoon after we played a game or two of soccer. I grew up with three best friends: Bill, Erick and Edgar. We would play until we heard a window opening. which after the opening one of our mothers would yell, "ya es hora para entrar!". The next day, we were back at it again.
A local flower shop had its distribution factory at the end of the alley, and every weekend morning, we would just piss them off because the ball would usually hit their parked trucks and vans.
However, there was more than soccer growing up in New York. When my mom didn't feel like cooking breakfast she would give me about $5 dollars to go to the Avenue Bagel Shop and buy a bacon, egg and cheese bagel. Yes, those bagels were out of this world. True New York continuity I like to call it because if somehow New York was to get nuked, just like cockroaches, the bagels were bound to survive. And I don't mean to sound disgusting, but its true!. New York has the best food PERIOD! Save money, and instead of going around the world, try the world in New York. Its a melting pot like I mentioned before, and I mean that in every good way. You want Irish?, New York has it. You want Mexican? Yup, you'll find it there too. Any race, culture, ethnicity and a mix of all of the above can be found in New York.
Now you're probably heard this before a lot, but New York has the best pizza. However, my town, yes my town, has the best pizza slices in the world. "But Mike that's sounds so opinionated," you may say. Well when it comes to pizza, I'm a proud pizza fascist. Mamaroneck Ave, the avenue where my building resides holds the best cuisine in the Tri-State area. However, when it comes to pizza in Mamaroneck Avenue, there is a big debate on which pizzeria has the best pizza. I personally love both of the disputed pizza champions on the Ave. because besides the large clientele they have, they're unique in their ways.
Let me break it down, Sal's Pizzeria, which I'll admit has the popular vote, is forever busy. I remember going there with my friends after a game of soccer, and I would order a regular cheese slice and a Sicilian Slice. The slices there have an equal amount of cheese, however, its tomato sauce has a sweet die-for taste. As soon as I would fold the slice, the oily grease would make its way down to the bottom tip of the slice, and that, to me, makes it a true Sal's pizza slice.
However, Joe's Pizza, which is just down the street, has a more in depth Italian cuisine menu, not that Sal's Pizzeria doesn't because they do. But if you walk into Joe's Pizza, looking for a Sicilian slice, then you came to the right place. "Grande Cheese," which is the cheese mostly every pizzeria in New York uses is a plus to a pizza. Joe's Pizza, however, somehow uses its "Grande Cheese" with steroids(there cheese is mostly thick). Along with its tomato sauce, Joe's Pizza makes a tough opponent towards Sal's.
Still, everywhere I went, soccer came along. The constant juggling of the soccer ball in front of a pizzeria with the daily life of a New Yorker was, in stereotypical terms, my rice and beans.
Sadly, those day's are now gone. I mean that is what life is about. Nothing really lasts forever. Even when I go back, and I come across the symbol of New York(The Empire Sate Building), I am reminded that what I once had is still there and always will be there waiting for me to come back.