In May 2016, I embarked on a “Walkabout” tour of a portion of the Northeastern US in order to visit relatives and friends I had not seen in way too long. Part of the justification for the trip was to bring closure to some past relationships as dictated in my bucket list. This endeavor peaked Rudy’s interest and brought him closer to the surface of my personality. During the New York Metro segment of the visit, he insisted on spending a day in Brooklyn and his old stomping grounds. Having nothing better to do, I decided to indulge his wishes. Rudy was ecstatic as we embarked on this trip down memory lane, As we left the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway near Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park, the level of excitement rose exponentially. We drove towards Prospect Park with high hopes and directly into a traffic jam. Seems almost every school in Brooklyn had chosen this day for a field trip to the Botanical Gardens. This was to set the tone for the rest of the day. We proceeded to weave our way towards The Parade Grounds, an old favorite hang out of the mid 60’s gang that we hung around with. No, say it isn’t so. They’ve put a fence around my Parade Grounds, thought Rudy in horror. But this was only the beginning of the shocks that were to greet us today. We decided to visit our old Alma Maters.
We approached the site of Walt Whitman JHS only to find that the property had been reduced to just the school building itself, The remembered basketball courts and fenced in yard were gone and the school was surrounded by an NYPD precinct with squad cars all over the place. From there we proceeded to the site of Erasmus Hall High School. This at least appeared unchanged, but there was no place to park, so we could not visit the grounds and in any case school was in session. Halfheartedly, we proceeded to depart from Brooklyn driving through the old hangouts at St. Paul’s place and E 22nd St. They remained much unchanged, but not very navigable choked up with traffic as they were. I did not have the heart to revisit Beverly Road where Rudy’s love Gypsy had lived. We left Brooklyn and attempted to find the park in Jamaica where Rudy had proposed to Betsy, but were unable to find it. On the trip back to Long Island, Rudy’s thoughts surfaced. It’s all gone, Brooklyn is lost to me. Farewell to the days of the Seven Sinners. Maybe I will have better luck when we move on to Lansing. With those heavy thoughts, Rudy faded back into the background.
Lansing, Michigan 3 days later. As we approached the city limits of Lansing, Rudy stirred and came fully awake. Lansing, home to Johnny Valentine, Penny Cornell and….. Mary! At last Understandable reaction as Lansing was where Rudy Valentine was first conceived and came to life as an alter ego, The morning after our arrival we were off on a guided tour of Lansing and the old hangouts with Johnny driving. First up, River Street where we had lived so long ago. Totally changed by the building of the modern highways that had cropped up to handle the increased traffic. Gone was the Roller Rink where Rudy had spent so many hours. Gone was the A&W Root Beer stand where we had downed so many Root Beer floats. Even the bridge across the river was gone. River St itself looked pretty much the same, except that the house we lived in was gone. Next was a visit to the neighborhood where Rudy had spent 70% of his time. The Gravel pit had been filled in and moved across the road. But surprise, in this town of severe change, Mary’s house was still there! Then came that awful revelation as Johnny said quietly “You know, Mary Harmon died a few years back.” This statement was greeted with stunned silence. Rudy’s hopes and dreams had been crushed. Even though she had been the first to break his heart, he had never given up hope of a reconciliation someday. Rudy submerged into the background until we reached the former site of Lake Lansing Amusement Park, Though we knew it had been demolished years earlier, still the area invoked strong and fond memories. We saw the sole remaining building from the former park, the pavilion building that had housed the carousel. Then we strolled along the lake shore. The beach where Rudy met Mary and Penny had been reduced to a 20 foot strip of meager beach. This was the final blow for Rudy. He had been uprooted from his precious Brooklyn and now he had lost his birthplace. The place where love had first bloomed and died. Rudy closed his eyes and uttered a final “Goodbye.” He has not been heard from since!
Updated February 156, 2021 11:29pm
Originally published Jan 28, 2017, 4:32 PM