Buckets

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic


My name is Adam Roberts. I am 55 years old, born and raised in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn. The story I’m uploading is titled “Buckets”, a somewhat fictional account of the horrors of
the pedophiliac homosexuality that permeated parks and basketball gyms in New York, and how it negatively affected the lives of innocent young men. It’s also a story of the unconditional love,
loyalty, and respect a mentor and his protégé grew to have for each other. Though I am mentioned in “Buckets”, I am not the narrator of the piece. The narrator and lead character’s name is Alan
Lubin, who also grew up in Brighton Beach in an earlier era. Alan attended the legendary Abraham Lincoln High School and was a star basketball player there. He went on to play varsity ball at New
York University, and professionally in Israel. Alan then returned home and became the Director of Basketball Operations at a local YMHA in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. It was there he met Barry
Funches, an Orthodox Jewish ballplayer, who was attending nearby Yeshiva of Flatbush High School. Alan became a mentor to Barry and enhanced his growth and maturity both on and off the basketball
court. Barry then enrolled at Brooklyn College, which had just moved up to the NCAA Division 1 category for their basketball program. Unbeknownst to Alan, it was around this time that Barry’s
problems began. Though Alan tries his best to rectify them, he is unable to, leading to unfortunate consequences. The main characters in “Buckets”: • Alan Lubin – See above • Marty Reinhart – The
basketball coach of Brooklyn College, who also had grown up in Brighton Beach, attended and played ball at Lincoln High School and New York University • Uncle Leo – A martial arts instructor and
mercenary, who Alan trained with • Barry Funches – See above • Alfred “The Butcher” Funches – Barry’s father • Irwin Bernitzky – A pedophiliac homosexual and the Director of Basketball Operation at
a nearby YMHA, who tries to blackmail Barry

Submitted: August 05, 2018

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Submitted: August 05, 2018

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This work of fiction was registered for Copyright with the U.S. Library of Congress on 11/21/17

 

*****

 

Cover illustration by Albert R. Lola

 

Special thanks to Scott Byron and Steven Lowy, ESQ.

 

*****

In Memory of Allen Loonin 1946-2002. Zichrono livracha...

 

*****

 

 

 

“BA-rry FUN-ches, BA-rry FUN-ches”…

 

It seemed like that chant continued throughout the whole ballgame, and certainly after Barry would score yet another basket.

 

The people doing these battle cries started out as students, but adults joined in as each home game progressed.

 

The ones yelling “BA-rry” would wear gold colored shirts and sit it one section. The ones yelling “FUN-ches” wore maroon colored shirts and sat across from each other in the neighboring section, right over the half court line. That assured being close to their beloved home team whose jerseys had the same color scheme.

 

It was quite remarkable having so many people stating this phrase with such synchronicity and enthusiasm for so long.

 

The escapade grew to where one of the revelers with a gold shirt would then stand and yell (with right arm raised overhead), “The points come in bunches”, and immediately after, another reveler with a maroon shirt in the neighboring section finishing (with left arm raised overhead), “When the ball goes to Funches!”

 

It didn’t matter when Barry would miss a shot, the few times that would happen. His supporters would not be deterred.

 

The tiny and claustrophobic Brooklyn College gym was rockin’…

 

*****

 

This phenomenon was occurring during the 1982-1983 basketball season, the first that Brooklyn College had been placed into the Division 1 category where they were huge underdogs every game, whether at home or on the road. That ignominy was deserved, since the team was not qualified to be in Division 1, the highest level of competition on the collegiate level. This only happened because of the delusional and egotistical mind of their coach, Marty Reinhart.

 

Reinhart had taken over the Men’s varsity basketball program two years prior when it had been competing in Division 3, which is where they belonged due to the skill and athleticism of their ballplayers.

 

Within two short years, Reinhart turned that team from an annual also-ran in their conference and advanced them to the Division 3 level National Final Four.

 

Because of that achievement, along with Reinhart’s previous failure to secure a Division 1 head coaching job, he somehow coerced the president of Brooklyn College to lobby for placement in Division 1. Their team continued to recruit many of the same quality of ballplayers, meaning no chance of success at that pinnacle.

 

Of course that didn’t deter Reinhart. In fact, he stooped so low as to allow some of his student/athletes to remain eligible by not matriculating at the required pace, and therefore very few graduating.

 

This didn’t surprise me since I had known of Reinhart from the Brighton Beach neighborhood we both grew up many years before. He was born in 1939, and my birth year was 1946.

 

Although we didn’t know each other due to our age disparity, I did know a lot about Reinhart since both he and I attended nearby Abraham Lincoln High School and then New York University, where we had successful careers while playing for some excellent teams.

 

The other similarity we had was growing up during the heyday of Brighton Beach on social, academic, creative, and basketball levels. Many famous and eminent people were born and raised in that geographic area during those years, which wasn’t the case anymore.

 

After college our parallels diverged somewhat, although we both did remain in basketball. Reinhart played semi-pro ball in the U.S. and then had success coaching at local Canarsie High School. I went to Israel for six seasons to play professionally in that country’s fledgling league.

 

Our paths did cross a couple of times during the early 1960s at the 2nd Street Park in Brighton Beach, as well as the more talented and competitive basketball that was played at the bigger courts in nearby Manhattan Beach.

 

Although I respected Reinhart’s basketball ability and intelligence, I (along with many others) found him to be arrogant, loudmouthed, nasty, boorish, and disrespectful. I later found out from some of his peers that those characteristics manifested themselves after Reinhart was supposedly molested during adolescence. The pedophile was named Herbie “the Chickenwinger”, a rotund, middle-aged Jewish man who used to hang around the 2nd Street Park in those days.

 

After Reinhart’s success at Canarsie, he accepted an assistant coaching job at a high-level Division 1 university in the Midwest, which was like placing “a fish out of water.” Reinhart expected to garner the head coaching job there when the current one retired, but that never happened, so he returned to Brooklyn to coach at our high school Alma Mater for two seasons before moving on to Brooklyn College.

 

Out of curiosity, I attended some of those games at Lincoln, as there was a resurgence in prominence on the court since I had graduated. That seemed somewhat odd to occur in such a short time period, so I asked around and found out that Reinhart had hired a bevy of unqualified assistants just so that some ballplayers could say they lived at their residences. Those student/athletes weren’t zoned to attend Lincoln with the addresses they were actually residing.

 

That was typical Marty Reinhart behavior.

 

This really sickened me, since it no doubt negatively affected some of the ballplayers who were truly zoned to attend Lincoln and would have been members of the basketball team. Never investigated, those legitimate student/athletes didn’t get to play for their local high school.

 

Lincoln didn’t win any championships during Reinhart’s tenure, though I did enjoy watching them play, especially a short, skinny, point guard named Adam Schwartz. Schwartz reminded me of myself in height, weight, and the fact that we were both left-handed.

 

It disgusted me that Reinhart constantly and consistently berated Schwartz no matter how well he performed. I asked around about that, and was told by reliable sources that Reinhart had become a bitter, self-hating Jew once he had returned to Brooklyn. The same abuse had been heaped on him when Reinhart played for a Jewish coach while attending Lincoln 23 years prior.

 

By the time Reinhart was coaching at Lincoln, I was running the basketball program at The Goldstein YMHA in Midwood, a neighborhood approximately five miles away. I ended up there after deciding to finish my basketball career abroad in 1974, when I was 28.

 

At the time, I wasn’t sure what to do for a career. I could have played a few more years professionally in Israel, but was tired of having to live in a small apartment there for eight months and then back in my parents’ small apartment the other four.

 

I pondered staying in Israel to coach, do something else like working in the psychology field I had earned my undergraduate degree in, or pursue one of those careers back in Brooklyn. I even considered moving to Los Angeles or Ft. Lauderdale, since so many Brooklyn Jews I had known growing up or met through the years had migrated to those cities.

 

I was well known and respected wherever I had lived, schooled, or worked, and knew I’d be able to secure something worthwhile. I was truly torn as to which direction to take.

 

My father was a junior high school teacher for 30 years, and had just retired. He practically begged me to not get into that profession because of how it had devolved in salary and otherwise. I took that into consideration, especially after witnessing the decline of numerous neighborhoods and public education on all levels when the demographics started changing in most areas of Brooklyn.

 

What ended up happening was a rich family surnamed Goldstein contacted me during the fall of 1974 and told me they had just opened a new YMHA and wanted me to run their basketball program. That job sounded great since its days and hours were Sunday-Thursday from 3:30-10pm. The salary was more than sufficient, plus the offer included a 401(k) plan, pension, medical benefits, 10 days annual paid sick leave, and three weeks annual paid vacation time.

 

It was perfect for my lifestyle since I enjoyed staying up late, going to the racetrack on weekend evenings (where I consistently won money to supplement my income), getting my own early workouts on weekdays, and playing basketball with my peers on weekend mornings.

 

The workouts I’m referring to were a combination of weight training and various styles of self-defense, both empty-handed and with weapons. I was one of the few ballplayers during that time period doing either of those. The weight training and stretching programs were helping me remain strong and flexible since I was neither without constant and consistent diligence.

 

I got exposed to self-defense instruction in Israel, when befriended by teammates and other men close to my age with extensive training from their army and Israeli Defense Force experience.

 

Upon returning to Brooklyn I wanted to continue that discipline as well. I was referred to a small group who were working out somewhat underground, literally. We’d practice in the basement of a warehouse where the guys laid down rubber mats and scattered the room with various punching dummies and self-defense weapons such as sticks, knives, guns, etc., along with empty-hand protective gear. The basement was dimly lit and either too hot or cold depending on the weather outside. Its ceiling leaked when it rained or snowed.

 

Our group was consistently 5-10 in number, mostly my age and older and of varied ethnicities, among them White, White ethnic, and Asian. Some worked in law enforcement, military, or other forms of security, personal and otherwise.

 

Regardless, everyone was in excellent physical condition and had some experience in various forms of self-defense.

 

The person who stood out in our group was Leo, or as we called him, “Uncle Leo”, mostly because of his easy-going and relaxed outward persona.

 

I want to make that clear, since Uncle Leo worked as a hired killer.

 

Though my height (5’9”), he weighed 155 lbs., which was 25 lbs. lighter than me. While I had worked hard to become muscular and stocky, Uncle Leo was much more lithe and sinewy, which was more typical of his Filipino ethnicity.

 

I got along well with Uncle Leo and we used to eat lunch together sometimes after workouts. Since the building was located in the East Village of Manhattan, Uncle Leo and I walked to the small, family-owned Filipino restaurant nearby which served excellent food.

 

Our group training sessions were held twice weekly between 10am-noon, which fit perfectly with my work schedule.

 

On one of our regular days the weather was inclement with two feet of snow falling. For me that was no deterrent, even though I had to drive my car into Manhattan. In fact, I didn’t even think to call any of the guys to see if we were still scheduled. I just showed up, as did Uncle Leo. However, we were the only two who were able to get there.

 

Instead of leaving, Uncle Leo showed me something I found quite amazing, how to kill someone with an icepick without drawing blood. Furthermore, the victim wouldn’t even feel the incision or any pain, and death wouldn’t happen for 10 seconds after being stabbed.

 

The trick was to thrust the icepick into a specific part and angle of a person’s kidney. We worked on this for a couple of hours that day, but obviously could not definitively prove its success. I would just have to take Uncle Leo’s word for its effectiveness and efficiency. He claimed to have utilized this skill six separate times to kill people, all on crowded trains, which seemed like the perfect venue for the technique.

 

*****

 

Once I got underway with my job, I moved into an apartment in Manhattan Beach which was only a 15-minute car ride away. In fact, when the weather was nice enough I used to ride my bicycle to and from work.

 

Other than going to self-defense workouts in Manhattan, I almost never travelled there except to see a concert or when I drove through the city’s highways to get to the racetrack on a weekend evening.

 

The rest of my time was spent within 20 minutes of where I lived and worked, either playing ball or eating at the many delicious and varied restaurants the southwest part of Brooklyn had to offer.

 

The Goldsteins and their investors wanted me to cultivate a vibrant basketball program like some of the other local YHMAs were providing. The Midwood neighborhood that our YMHA was located in consisted mostly of Jews, either observant, religious, or otherwise. By the mid-‘70s, most Jews were no longer able to compete at the highest levels of basketball, struggling to make even the weaker varsity public high school teams. However, we still had a tremendous love and understanding of the game and were happy competing recreationally, whether as teenagers or adults.

 

Once I accepted that job, I contacted Israel “Izzy” Orenstein, who had been a varsity ballplayer at the legendary Boys High. I had known Izzy from my childhood days when he officiated some of the league games I competed in. Izzy did good work, and had an interesting way of saying “vio-LAY-shun.” He used to come watch some of my games when I played for Lincoln, and was also somewhat of a mentor to me. I think Izzy followed my career since both of his sons ended up lousy ballplayers, which disappointed him. By now, Izzy was running the basketball program at a rec center in Brownsville, and I wanted to get his advice and expertise, both of which he gladly gave.

 

Our basketball schedule at the Y was as follows:

 

Open the courts from 4-6pm for free play.

 

The teenage league’s game went from 6:30-8pm.

 

The adult league’s game went from 8-9:30pm.

 

They were both 20 minutes per half with a stop time clock.

 

I ran a winter and summer league, with the teenage championship team and runner-up receiving shirts and trophies. The adult championship team and runner-up received monetary prizes from the total entry fee.

 

The summer league tended to be played (and officiated) at a higher level because the better ballplayers were playing in an organized setting, i.e., high school, college, and professionally abroad during the winter. My being well known with a solid reputation enabled me to attract some good players who lived in the area.

 

The court and locker rooms were kept in excellent condition, and there was car parking both onsite and close by. There were also buses and trains that stopped within walking distance.

 

Since I was still competing regularly at a high level, I would sometimes join in pick-up games during free time, play with a league team if they were short a player, or officiate a game if a referee didn’t show.

 

The tedious parts of this job were collecting money from the teams, making sure teams had enough ballplayers, making sure I had enough high-quality officials, and breaking up fights between players against each other and the officials.

 

However, since my gym was made up of mostly White ethnics I didn’t have much trouble. In fact, the basketball that was played was of excellent caliber because it was Brooklyn White ethnic (especially Jewish and Irish) ball, the best in the world.

 

I would take my vacations three times per year, in one-week durations. My destinations were either Los Angeles, Ft. Lauderdale, or Israel. I had numerous friends and ex-teammates living in those places, so I’d get in some ball and soak in the sites and activities they offered.

 

Those vacations were planned when my leagues were on hiatus, which would be during holidays or between seasons. I’d get home in time to start setting up the upcoming schedule, and during that week or so our gym would be open until 10pm for free play.

 

It was one of those nights in April 1982 that I met Barry Funches.

 

*****

 

I remember it being between 9-10pm on a cold and rainy weeknight after most of the guys playing pick-up ball had already left.

 

Barry was 5’11”, 150 lbs., a gangly teenager with a disheveled shock of thick and coarse black hair, black-rimmed eyeglasses, a pockmarked face with a bit of stubble, and large feet that walked like a duck. He was also wearing track shoes. Barry had the court to himself, and I watched him work on his shooting, ball handling, driving to the basket, etc. Though hardly an athletic specimen, there was undeniable rhythm in his moves and skill to his game.

 

I chose not to approach Barry the first time I saw him, but he kept coming back every night that week and stayed until closing doing the same workouts by his lonesome.

 

By the third night, I went to him and introduced myself. “Hi, my name is Alan Lubin.” Barry looked up and the lenses of his eyeglasses started fogging as he said, “Nice to meet you Coach Lubin.”

 

I said, “Nice to meet you too, but I am not your coach. What’s your name?”

 

Barry replied, “I’m sorry, Mr. Lubin. My name is Barry.”

 

Me: “My father’s name is Mr. Lubin. You can call me Alan.”

 

Barry: “Ok, Coach Alan.”

 

Me: “Fair enough, suit yourself.”

 

I began asking Barry various basketball questions. He was a senior at Yeshiva of Flatbush High School, and been a bench player for their basketball team. Since I had attended a Yeshiva for elementary school and knew classmates who ended up going to the same high school as Barry, I started speaking Hebrew. I had that in my background from both my childhood and playing ball in Israel for six years. We conversed for 15 minutes about basketball, academics, and Judaism, and I then invited Barry to work out with me the next evening, which he agreed to.

 

Before we left, I asked Barry if he owned any other sneakers, which he said “No.” I then asked him what size he wore, and he replied “11 ½.” I said “Great, you’ll have some basketball shoes tomorrow night.” That was my size and I had an extra pair which I was going to give Barry providing he showed up the next evening.

 

Right on time, there he was, wearing his what now seemed customary white t-shirt, plaid four-pocket shorts, high white socks, and track shoes. I gave him a second pair of socks and the sneakers I had promised him. He put those on and we were ready to roll.

 

Although I chose to not go into coaching, I did have numerous drills that were applicable to ballplayers at all levels and ages. I started doing those with Barry and he was very receptive. I could swear he was improving by the minute.

 

I didn’t bombard Barry with too many concepts initially; I chose to compartmentalize. Jump shots standing, off the pick/screen, and off the dribble. Ball handling with me putting defensive pressure on him. Dribble/drive using a strong first step to the basket. I also made sure to incorporate the intellectual precepts of basketball, along with suggesting which players to watch for their various strong points.

 

As time progressed, I gave Barry some basketball-related books to read, ones that had had a positive influence on me. I also got him some basketball shorts, jerseys, and jockstraps. The latter confused Barry on how to wear, I supposed because he’d never seen one.

 

What was a bit odd and somewhat funny was when Barry asked me how to put on a jockstrap his glasses fogged up again. In fact, Barry’s glasses would fog whenever we’d discuss any type of social issues.

 

Our relationship grew from that first night and we trained together regularly. He was improving greatly, ended up growing to 6’1”, and with my weight training, conditioning, and stretching programs filled out to 170 lbs.

 

Within a couple of weeks, I took him to the Brownsville Recreation Center, where Izzy directed its basketball program. I wanted Barry to compete against the athleticism of the Black ballplayers on their turf.

 

Izzy got him into a game immediately. Barry held his own and was not intimidated in any way. In fact, they started giving him the ball once he showed that confidence, especially after Barry sank a few jump shots and dribble drives.

 

I then invited Barry to my private game with my peers. This was a high-level brand of ball with men in their 30s who were in shape. We had a rule to not allow anyone under 25 into our group, but I asked my guys to waive that requirement and they agreed. Barry’s basketball intelligence quotient grew both playing with us and watching when he sat out.

 

It was around this time when I asked Barry what his college plans were, to which he said, “I’m going to attend Brooklyn College.”

 

Hearing this had me concerned for many reasons. While I didn’t think Barry was ready to leave home, I wasn’t sure that playing for Marty Reinhart would be a good idea knowing the contempt he had for Jews. I also felt that Marty would try to mentally and emotionally pick Barry apart.

 

I was uncertain Marty would even take Barry on the team since he never saw him play, and would think little of Barry having been a bench player at a lowly basketball high-school such as Yeshiva of Flatbush.

 

However, Brooklyn College was an excellent academic school and it would give his father (who was an avid basketball fan) the opportunity to watch Barry play if he made the team. Even if that happened, I doubted Marty would ever put him into a game.

 

I also questioned if Barry could even be a bench player at the Division 1 level regardless of his accelerated progress during that spring. I was confident this growth would continue through the summer especially with me working with him so frequently and Barry competing in high-level pickup games and our adult summer league.

 

By this point I wanted to speak with Barry’s parents, and asked to see if that would be possible. The next day Barry said I was invited to Shabbat dinner, which I was honored to accept. Donning the one suit I owned, I bought some mandel bread as a gift, and drove to the Funches’ (nee’ Feinschuss) apartment, which was small and located in a six-story tenement in Midwood.

 

Barry’s father, Alfred, was a butcher. In fact, his nickname was “The Butcher”. He was a bit shorter than me, balding, of stocky build with big hands and forearms. The Butcher wasn’t dressed as formally as I was, instead wearing a t-shirt (now I saw where Barry got that custom from), jeans, socks, and slippers.

 

Muriel, Barry’s mother, was a regular Ashkenazi-looking Jewish woman and wearing a house dress and flats.

 

The Butcher seemed very happy to see me. In fact, he knew who I was before even Barry telling him about me. The Butcher knew so much that he rattled off my high school and college career stats and the success my teams had. He also remembered I had gone to Ha’Aretz to play pro ball.

 

The Butcher understood a lot about basketball in general, especially NYC ball and the great players that came from our city throughout the years. He was only a few years older than me so we had some stimulating conversations about many different topics, among them sports, music, Judaism, culture, and NYC history.

 

Muriel cooked us a delicious Shabbat dinner and we all had an enjoyable time. The Butcher then wanted us to take a walk outside, just he and I. I agreed, and we strolled through the streets of Midwood on a beautiful spring evening.

 

The Butcher heard of Marty Reinhart and asked lots of questions about him since he wanted Barry to make the team at Brooklyn College. I gave The Butcher my honest opinion and suggested Barry attend a different CUNY or SUNY Division 3 school instead, with the caveat it might be too late to get accepted since we were already in early June.

 

The Butcher quoted some scripture to the effect of “This is what is planned, let’s see how it goes.”

 

I went along and assured The Butcher I would do everything possible to ensure Barry was prepared to give his best at the Brooklyn College tryouts when school started in the fall. I also agreed to speak with Marty Reinhart to put in “a good word” about Barry, although that task was a bit more daunting for me.

 

The summer wore on and Barry kept getting better and better. The Butcher came to some of his summer league games and we both kvelled.

 

*****

 

When the fall ‘82 semester started, I waited one week and then visited Reinhart in his office. I knocked on his door, and without knowing who it was, said in his gruff, raspy voice, “Come in.” When Reinhart saw me, he looked happy and said, “Well, well, well, Alan Lubin.”

 

It was only a 2 ½ years since I went to a couple of Reinhart’s Lincoln games, where we spoke briefly before tipoff. Since then, Reinhart had gotten infected with Bell’s palsy, which left one side of his face permanently paralyzed and caused him to speak out of only one side of his mouth.

 

Reinhart and I never had any issues, so I really didn't expect any at this meeting, even knowing his difficult personality. We made some small talk and I congratulated him for advancing Brooklyn College to the Division 1 level. I then brought up Barry’s name, telling him everything I knew, and my feeling that Barry could be a contributing member to his team. Reinhart’s initial reply was, “Just great. Another Jew. I thought I was done with them after Schwartz (referring to Adam from Lincoln). I don’t need any more doctors or lawyers, I need ballplayers.”

 

I laughed, though I was seething inside having witnessed the emotional abuse Reinhart caused Schwartz for no reason. This made me further concerned for Barry’s chances of making the team, or especially playing any minutes. However, I was persistent and said, “Marty, please give Barry an extra look. I think he can help you, and he’s a great kid who will do what you ask.” I then wished him luck again and left.

 

Barry and I kept working hard, and I gave him all the time I could. I also made sure he was competing against as many good ballplayers his age who were living in Brooklyn.

 

School started, and tryouts were about to commence. I asked Barry to call me after each day’s scrimmage, knowing he could be cut after any of them. Barry wouldn’t be assured a roster spot until after Day 3, which was the last workout before Reinhart’s team was fully chosen.

 

I had a phone in my office at the Y and made sure to be close to it at the time tryouts were over on Day 1. Barry called as planned and the first thing he said was, “Coach Reinhart says hello.” I took that as a good sign, but asked Barry how Reinhart knew who he was. Barry said he went up to Reinhart and told him. I laughed, thinking I had taught Barry more than basketball.

 

Barry also called me the next morning to let me know he made the first cut. This went on for two more days, and lo and behold, Barry made the team as a walk on, with no scholarship. That was fine since tuition for an in-state student was negligible, especially with Barry living at home.

 

I then got a call from The Butcher who was all giddy and must have been smiling ear to ear when reiterating the good news. He said, “Let’s celebrate. We’ll to go Adelman’s on King’s Highway and have some knadel soup, a steak they’ll cook from my own shop, some kasha varnishkes, and kugel. And, after all you did for Barry, I’m buying.” I said, “You’re on,” and met the Funches (Barry was an only child like me) for a very enjoyable and delicious meal and time well spent.

 

It was at this point I started seeing Barry less, since he was now practicing with the Brooklyn College team and then going home to sleep after a long day of classes. However, Barry would call every few days to update me how things were going and ask specific questions about the concepts Reinhart was teaching his team. We’d speak on the phone for an hour or so and Barry would come by the Y on Sundays to talk further and go over some stuff on the court.

 

I appreciated his diligence and desire to learn and improve, which was still progressing with alacrity. Barry wasn’t scrimmaging with the first unit, which upset him, but I told Barry to be patient with the adage, “You’ll never know what can happen.”

 

Barry also seemed to be doing well in classwork, and enjoyed being in college though I was unsure how socially adjusted he was outside of basketball. In fact, Barry seemed to prefer being alone as opposed to with his teammates and peers.

 

Regardless, I was happy with Barry’s progress, and was looking forward to watching Brooklyn College’s home games even if he wasn’t playing much.

 

*****

 

Two weeks before the season started, I dropped off clothes at the dry cleaners located on Kings Highway between Ocean Parkway and Coney Island Avenue. The owner said she’d have them ready within the hour if I wanted to wait. That seemed reasonable, so I walked across the street to the Kingsway Diner to get some food.

 

I was sitting in a booth facing the street and ordered a bowl of kreplach soup. While eating and looking out the window, I noticed someone who looked like Barry walking out of the movie theatre next to the diner. At first it wasn’t easy to know for certain if it was Barry since he was wearing a hoodie, but I had to be sure. That was imperative since the theatre showed porn, although that wasn't the issue. The real issue was that locale was a known haven for clandestine homosexual activity.

 

I got so shook up I almost regurgitated my kreplach and went outside to get some fresh air. By now the person was walking down the street away from me, but looking at his gait and build it was clearly Barry, even with a hoodie covering his hair and face.

 

I returned to the restaurant, threw a few dollars on the table and left. Initially, I was going to run after Barry to confront him right then and there, but acted otherwise since I wanted to gather my thoughts first. I went home and called Dr. Burt Pomerantz, a psychologist who was one of the regulars in our private game. He knew Barry from the summer after I allowed him into our group, so I told Dr. Pomerantz what I saw. He suggested I confront Barry but in a gentle way. I was going to see Barry that Sunday when he came to our gym, and decided to speak to him about it then.

 

That day I just said, “Barry, I don’t want you to think I was spying on you, but I was eating at the Kingsway Diner and saw you walking out of the theatre next door.”

 

Right away, Barry’s eyeglasses fogged up. He seemed distraught and replied that he wanted to see what movie was playing and left after only a few minutes.

 

I said, “Is that all?”

 

He said, “Yes, what else would there be?”

 

Me: “Well, to my understanding there is homosexual activity going on in that place. Did you know that?”

 

Barry (with his glasses getting foggier): “No, I just watched some of the movie and left.”

 

I wasn’t sure if the films shown were hetero or homo, but didn’t press the issue and was somewhat embarrassed to have confronted him. Though not completely sold on his responses, I tried to be positive and said, “Ok, well I know guys your age are curious about certain things, but if you ever have any questions or want me to get you magazines to look at, feel free to ask.” These were the days before videos and VHS recorders, so I couldn’t offer that option to him.

 

Barry’s reply was, “No, I’m okay. I was just curious.”

 

I let it go, but our basketball workout wasn’t the same that day, so I cut it short. Barry just didn't seem focused or comfortable, and I didn't push it.

 

*****

 

Brooklyn College’s first two games were on the road and they got blown out (as expected). Barry didn’t play any minutes (also as expected).

 

Their first home game was a bit closer, but another loss. Barry didn’t play in that one either. The Butcher and I attended and visited Reinhart prior to tip off. He was very pre-occupied which was understandable, so I just said a quick hello and left his office. I didn't think it was smart for us to visit Reinhart again after another loss, so The Butcher and I went straight home.

 

Game four was another home game -- I again went with The Butcher -- and yet another blowout was in the making. Surprisingly, Reinhart inserted Barry into the game late in the first half. Barry immediately got into the flow with his non-stop movement on offense (I had already nicknamed him “Hondo” in honor of Celtics great, John Havlicek), and overall hustle on the defensive end.

 

With Barry in the game, Brooklyn College’s deficit got cut from 18 to 7 by halftime. Barry hit two jumpers, taking only three shots, and it was clear he had made a positive difference with the crowd taking notice.

 

Barry didn’t start the second half and Brooklyn College lost their momentum getting down again by 15. Reinhart was smart enough to insert Barry again which was a big boost to his team as it was in the first half. Barry had another excellent showing and finished out the game with Brooklyn College only losing by 6 points, Barry making 5 of 8 shots and 2-2 on free throws. He got a couple of rebounds too.

 

We were all very happy, and this time I visited Reinhart’s office after the game even with the results being on the losing end. I said, “Marty, like it or not, you might have another good Jewish ballplayer!” Without missing a beat, Reinhart replied, “Oh yeah, who was the first?”

 

His comment again reminded me what a surly son-of-a-bitch Reinhart was, and instead of saying “Adam Schwartz, you piece of shit,” I again let it go and left, not wanting to jeopardize Barry’s opportunity to get more quality playing time.

 

Things started really flourishing after that, with the same expediency as eight months prior when I started working with Barry.

 

Though he didn’t start the next game, Barry did get a lot of minutes and finished with 18 efficient points, with Brooklyn College earning their first win.

 

The next five games, three of them at home with The Butcher and me attending, were all stunners for Barry. He scored a total of 82 points on 62% field goal shooting and 85% free throw shooting. His defense was solid, got some steals and rebounds, and even a couple of assists.

 

By then, Barry was becoming known throughout the campus, and the chants during the games, which I mentioned at the beginning of this story, were going strong. Brooklyn College was more competitive than anticipated, and the enthusiasm was growing around the campus and among Barry’s teammates.

 

The fall semester ended and Barry’s grades were high as well. There was a weeklong break from ballgames, and that’s when I received a troubling phone call from him. He said (in a low volume voice), “Alan, I have to talk to you.” This was the first time Barry ever addressed me as Alan.

 

I replied, “Ok, when and where?”

 

Barry: “At the gym in 15 minutes.”

 

Me: “Make it 30 and I’ll see you there”.

 

I remember it being cold outside and snow having fallen for two days prior making the driving difficult, which is why I requested the additional 15 minutes. I got to the gym, which was closed, with Barry already waiting. I opened the door, turned on the light, and we went into my office. I sat in the chair behind my desk and Barry sat in the one in front of it.

 

Me: “Okay, Barry, what’s on your mind?”

 

Barry: (Looking down towards the floor) “I have a real problem.”

 

Me: “Whatever it is, we can handle it.”

 

Barry: “Not this one.”

 

Me: “Just tell me what it is, and it will remain confidential.”

 

Barry: “I received a phone call from a man named Irwin Bernitzky telling me that unless I pay him $5,000, he’s going to tell everyone that he saw me at the movie theatre.”

 

Me: “You mean that one time that I saw you walking out of there?”

 

Barry: “No, I went a few more times.”

 

I was now concerned, but had to press the issue to get as many details as possible. “Well, it’s no crime for a man of legal age to enjoy watching porn, even if it is a bit aberrant and unacceptable in mainstream society.”

 

Barry: “He saw me doing more than watching.”

 

Me: “How much more?”

 

Barry: “He saw me sucking cock.”

 

I was speechless, but after a few tense seconds said, “Whose cock? Whose cock did you suck”?

 

Barry: “His, and other guys too.”

 

I slumped back into my chair, not knowing what to say. Now it was Barry’s turn to wait a few seconds to continue, which he did by stating, “And swallowed their cum… buckets of it.”

 

By now Barry was sobbing, and I was flabbergasted. I’m sure you’ve been there too, when you just don’t know how to react. Foolishly or otherwise, I tried to use levity to break the tension and said, “Barry, when I told you to make buckets I meant jump shots.”

 

My attempt at humor didn’t succeed and Barry picked up his head. With his glasses now totally fogged and lying crooked on his face, cried out, “I know, I’m SO-rry,” and kept sobbing.

 

Now I really had a dilemma, and it wasn’t only how to deal with Barry’s behavior. I had to figure out how to handle Bernitzky.

 

*****

 

Irwin Bernitzky, nicknamed “Nitz”, was an older, small-time Jewish bookmaker with Italian mob ties. And he was a big time pedophiliac homosexual. Nitz also worked the same type of job as me at the YMHA in Brighton Beach. I had played ball there in the summertime during my last two years at Lincoln. By then, Nitz had other homosexual pedophiles employed and they all preyed on the 13-17 year-old boys by giving them money and gifts in return for sexual favors.

 

Nitz always looked clean cut, with a slim build, short hair, smoothly shaved face, and neatly pressed clothes that fit two sizes too small. He was the most despicable man I ever met, and I vowed to never return to that YMHA again even though it was located so close to where I was then living.

 

Although neither Nitz nor his crew overtly approached me, he used to greet me with an odd yet foretelling limp-wristed, reverse palm handshake. Nitz was also always offering me half of one of the bananas he was perpetually eating when I used to get to the gym early prior to summer league games.

 

Nitz also took bets on those games, then fixed them to his monetary needs by paying off referees to alter the games’ outcomes.

 

Nitz wasn’t the issue. I could handle him. It was the fact that he was so hooked up with the Mafia which concerned me. I had to think this through to ensure I made the correct decision. I told Barry as such, and told him to relax and give me a couple of days to work it out. I also ordered Barry to never go back to that theatre or any other one, and to certainly not suck any more cock.

 

After two sleepless nights, I figured out how to deal with this. I did that by myself since I didn’t want anyone to know. Not Dr. Pomerantz, and not Corey Callaway, who was a detective and lifetime friend, and also sometimes played in our private game.

 

I called Barry on the phone and asked how he was doing. He still sounded shaken up, but seemed okay otherwise. Luckily, school (along with basketball practice and games) was still on hiatus for another few days. I asked Barry to meet me at the gym in 30 minutes.

 

We again went into my office and I told him what my plan was. I instructed Barry to call Nitz and let him know that he is willing to pay the amount of money Nitz is asking. Barry would then tell Nitz to meet him on the B train in the third car from the front, 5:30-6pm on Tuesday between the Kings Highway and Brighton Beach station stops.

 

I said, “Tell Nitz that when you see him, you will walk over and hand him an envelope with fifty $100 bills, and then walk out of the car at the next stop.” Barry was doubtful this would work, but willing to try.

 

Nitz had given Barry his home phone number, so Barry and I walked to a nearby payphone and he made the call while I stood there in silence. Barry was convincing on the phone and Nitz agreed to those terms. I told Barry not to tell anyone about this or anything else related to it and that I would handle everything. It was Sunday and I had two days to get this done, and knew exactly how to proceed.

 

On Tuesday, I got dressed and made sure to be on the correct train in the right car waiting for Nitz to show up without him seeing me.

 

It was cold, dark, and during rush hour, so I knew it would be crowded, with Nitz having to stand and hold one of the poles in the middle of the car. I also figured Nitz would remove his jacket and drape it over one of his shoulders or by his side. I knew that, since the trains were heated during the frigid weather of January. In fact, they’d be so hot the passengers had to remove their coats or would sweat too much, especially when having to return outside once they exited.

 

For this to work, I’d have to remember to bring the most important item, the icepick that Uncle Leo showed me how to use and generously gave to me. I kept that weapon never knowing if and when I’d ever have to employ it. This was the time and place. I also packed a rolled-up newspaper and put the icepick in there facing forward.

 

I walked up the stairs to enter the train, waited on the platform, checked the time on my watch, and entered the third car from the front at Kings Highway.

 

I immediately saw the back of Nitz’s head, but he was on the other side of the car. That meant it might not be possible for me to get close enough to him by the time the train arrived at the nearby Brighton Beach station. I had to carefully navigate without pissing off the passengers by bumping into them, since they were already annoyed being crammed into a small, crowded hotbox after a stressful day at work.

 

I also had to make sure that I didn’t drop the icepick, stab someone inadvertently, or let it be seen as I was sauntering over to Nitz. I was making my way ever-so-carefully when the train lurched, which almost made me drop the weapon. I gathered myself and got close enough to Nitz’s rear left side without him seeing me.

 

I was correct that Nitz would be holding his jacket, and luckily was doing so under his right arm, which was also the arm that he was holding onto the pole. That meant Nitz’s left kidney was ripe for me to attack, which I did just before we pulled into the Brighton Beach station.

 

When I say attack, I mean that I was holding the rolled-up newspaper in my right hand with the icepick inside held with my left hand. I thrust the instrument into Nitz’s left kidney and removed it just as fast.

 

Nitz didn’t even flinch, which meant it would work without him even knowing he was going to die within ten seconds. There would also be no blood, save for a small mark where the icepick entered Nitz’s body.

 

Once I finished my task, I joined the flow of many other passengers from that car, left the train and never looked back. I briskly walked a few blocks, icepick and rolled up newspaper still under my arm. I then tossed them both into a dumpster and kept walking home, which was only another couple of blocks away.

 

Approximately two hours later my phone rang. It was someone who knew both Nitz and me, informing me about the tragedy that just happened, specifically Nitz dying of a heart attack while riding the train only two stops from his apartment.

 

“No kidding,” I said, “that’s a shame.”

 

After some small talk I hung up. I distinctly remember bursting out laughing afterwards. The phone rang another three times that night with more people telling me the bad news, and me laughing every time I hung up the phone.

 

The next day’s newspapers had an even bigger story; how Nitz was killed by the Mafia because he owed so much back taxes to the government and was about to turn state’s evidence. Those reports did say Nitz had been stabbed, but had no definitive description of any assailant or when the attack actually happened.

 

The punchline to this story is the next time our self-defense crew got together in our abandoned basement, all the guys were enthralled by Uncle Leo since they assumed he was the person who performed this caper. Some of them actually brought the newspaper clipping for him to autograph. Uncle Leo was dumbfounded as to what they were talking about, but the guys just felt he was denying it out of necessity.

 

After our workout, I offered to buy Uncle Leo lunch, which he accepted. We visited the regular local Filipino restaurant and while eating our food, I said, “Uncle Leo, let ME sign that newspaper article.”

 

Uncle Leo looked at me with the most wide-eyed, open-mouthed, dumbfounded look, which lasted for about five seconds. Then he broke out laughing, with me joining in a second or so later.

 

*****

 

With the Nitz problem out of the way, I now had to figure out how to deal with Barry.

 

I still chose not to confide with Dr. Pomerantz, and preferred attempting it on my own even though that didn’t work the first time I went that route. I had no experience with homosexuality and didn’t know what to say. Still, I called Barry and we again met at the gym.

 

I told him the Nitz problem was taken care of. Barry already knew that from reading the newspapers, although he didn't realize it was me who actually resolved it. Barry didn’t ask, but was certainly relieved to be rid of Nitz.  He was concerned that Nitz had told other people who would also attempt to blackmail him. I told Barry that was unlikely, which turned out to be accurate.

 

I asked Barry about his homosexuality and he said it was just a phase and really liked women, but watching straight porn got him horny enough to “do almost anything with anyone.”

 

I again told Barry he could never return to that movie theatre or any other venue that showed porn, and should just jerk off to dirty magazines or photos. I also suggested he start asking some of his female classmates out on dates, and “start eating pussy instead of sucking cock.” Barry said he had tried asking women out but always got turned down. He said that didn’t happen with men.

 

I tried explaining to Barry that those men are not interested in him, they just want to get their cock sucked to completion.

 

I also started advising Barry on how to approach women and act when together with one. While I never married and had limited experience with long-term relationships, I’d already been with enough women both socially and sexually and at least knew what I was talking about on that end.

 

I never paid for sex which meant I didn’t know of any hookers to set Barry up with. Since I didn't want my friends, Barry’s teammates, or his family to know about this, wouldn’t ask them to find him women either.

 

I was hoping this was a phase and would go away… immediately.

 

*****

 

Both the spring semester and basketball practice resumed in a couple of days and I trusted that Barry would immerse himself in those activities again, especially considering his success in them.

 

I went to the first game which was at home, and Barry played lousy. He just didn’t seem like himself, missed a lot of easy shots, and was generally lethargic. I chalked it up to the pressure Barry was under during this stressful and burdensome experience, but the same thing happened over the next two games.

 

I received a phone call from The Butcher who seemed worried about Barry on every level.

 

I then received an unexpected call from Marty Reinhart who asked me, “What the hell is wrong with your boy?”

 

I didn't make an issue of Reinhart’s approach, and just said that Barry had recently been through some tough personal issues and confident he would snap out of it.

 

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

 

Three days later Barry went missing. He stopped showing up for practice, games, or classes, and then stopped coming home.

 

The Butcher and Muriel were frantic. Even Reinhart seemed concerned. I called Detective Callaway to see what could be done, and he suggested waiting another couple of days before proceeding with our options.

 

Callaway was right, since Barry called home on the third day after he disappeared. Barry told his parents that he was okay, needed some time to think, and not to worry. However, Barry didn’t tell them where he was, who he was with, or give them any contact phone number. He said he would call them again within a week or so.

 

Once that happened, Detective Callaway said this was no longer a missing person issue and foul play would be ruled out. Callaway also said there was nothing he could do at this point.

 

Barry called his parents again twice more one week apart, and that was the last any of us heard or saw him.

 

The Funches were frantic and started putting up posters of Barry’s face and physical description on every street corner and storefront to no avail. I too was distraught, but never told anyone Barry’s secrets.

 

I paid Detective Callaway out of my own pocket to investigate this as a private matter. He contacted detectives he knew in various other precincts around the city, provided photos and descriptions of Barry, but no one came up with any leads. It was like Barry just disappeared.

 

We all had to continue with our lives, heavy-hearted as we were.

 

Initially, I would call the Funches every week, but they seemed too upset to speak with me, and their responses got shorter and shorter until I realized it was detrimental to keep contacting them. While I didn't think the Funches blamed me in any way, I felt they wanted to cut ties with everyone who knew Barry.

 

My leagues were going strong and my lifestyle was fulfilling, but I’d often think of Barry especially while watching a ballgame or when at work. His disappearance was still eating away at me, and I started wondering whether I could have done something different to have changed his actions.

 

*****

 

It was a warm, humid, overcast Saturday night during the summer of 1986. Thunder storms had already fallen periodically throughout the day, but I wanted to go to the Meadowlands Racetrack that evening anyway. It didn’t rain during the program, but resumed once the final contest ended.

 

I met some friends there and we decided to hang out and talk until the downpour let up. That took longer than expected, so I didn't get on the road until 1am. I took my usual route back home: Lincoln Tunnel, West Side Highway, Battery Tunnel, Gowanus Expressway, and Belt Parkway.

 

I got hungry while driving on the West Side Highway and pulled into a diner which was close to the West Village. I sat in a booth, and sitting in the one behind me were two guys dressed in all leather: boots, pants, and vests with no shirt. They both were approximately my age and height, with stocky and muscular builds, hairy chests, long sideburns, goatees, scruffy faces, and close-cropped short dark hair.

 

They were already eating when I ordered my meal, and talking about random things loudly enough for me to hear, especially since the restaurant was almost empty at that hour. I was still waiting for my food when their conversation took a turn.

 

Leather One: Remember that guy who used to suck our cocks on the pier by the West Side Highway?

 

Leather Two: You mean the young, tall, well-built one with thick dark hair, black rimmed eyeglasses, and acne marked face?

 

Leather One: Yes, he’d wear a white t-shirt, plaid four-pocket shorts, white socks, and track shoes. When the weather was nice he’d be out on the pier sucking off anyone who wanted head. It was funny how his glasses would always fog up while sucking cock.

 

Leather Two: That was in the early days, three years ago. He then started bending over and taking it up the ass.

 

Leather One: Right. At first his ass was really tight, but by the end it got loose, sloppy, and wide like the Hudson River running under the pier he performed on.

 

Leather Two: Yes, what a shame. Whatever happened to him?

 

Leather One: Oh, he died of AIDS a couple of months ago.

 

Leather Two: That’s too bad. He really sucked great cock. Do you remember his name?

 

Leather One: I don't think anyone knew his real name, but he called himself “Buckets”.

 

Leather Two: “Buckets”, that’s funny.

 

Then they burst out laughing.

 

By the time Barry’s nickname was mentioned, I already knew who they were referring too. I remember feeling my face was on fire and thought steam was literally coming out of my ears.

 

I also recollected driving home on the West Side Highway from the racetrack on weekend summer nights and always seeing a crowd of 200 or so men waiting on line for something on the pier but never knowing what for. Now I did.

 

I knew there had to be retribution, but how? I needed to get out of there to collect my thoughts. I threw down enough money to pay for my meal, left the restaurant and walked to my car.

 

I wanted to be out of sight when the Leather Guys exited, realizing they were the only ones remaining in that eatery. There was only one car parked next to mine in the lot, which meant there was a good chance it belonged to them.

 

I always kept a licensed and loaded gun under my front seat, along with an icepick and escrima sticks within arm’s reach. I knew I could utilize any of those weapons to take care of this, but instead chose to use my bare hands, simply because I believed the Leather Guys had never forced Barry into anything. But they would have to pay for disrespecting his memory.

 

The question was going to be how to lure these two guys close to me yet have enough of an element of surprise to attack. As usual, I figured it out. I got out of my car and removed jumper cables from the trunk. I then opened the hood and started looking under it.

 

The Leather Guys exited the restaurant and walked towards me. It turned out that it WAS their car parked next to mine. As they were about to get inside, I explained that my car needed a boost and asked them to help, with me supplying the cables.

 

They agreed, with Leather Two getting into the driver's seat and starting his engine, and Leather One taking one end of my cables and hooking it up to their car battery.

 

As I was doing the same to mine, Leather One said, “I don’t mind helping you, but it looks like rain so let’s make it quick.” I looked him in the eye and replied, “You’re right. It does look like it’s about to rain, and rain hard, like buckets.”

 

Hearing that, both the coloring and expression on Leather One’s face turned ashen as he realized what was about to happen.

 

Since Leather One was a bit shorter than me, I head-butted him directly on the top of his snot locker. This caused a loud crackling noise, which was a combination of his bones breaking and his blood squirting into my eyes and mouth, and onto my face.

 

He went down in a heap, unconscious.

 

Upon witnessing this, Leather Two put his vehicle into reverse gear and stepped on the gas pedal. This caused the jumper cables to dislodge from both our car batteries, but also enabled me to sprint a few steps to open his door and pull him out by his vest.

 

I threw Leather Two to the ground, mounted him, and started pummeling his face with my closed left fist. Six strikes were what it took to knock Leather Two unconscious, although his blood continued to spew onto my clothes, fingers, hands, and forearms. I got up, got into my car, and drove away.

 

That’s when it DID start raining hard.

 

I was so wound up I couldn’t go straight home. Instead, I drove to the gym, parked my car in front, opened the door, turned on the lights, and entered the basketball court. I put on a second pair of socks, my basketball shoes, and removed a ball from the rack.

 

I didn’t even stretch or change my bloody clothing. I just began doing full court drills at breakneck speed, all the while imagining it was Barry doing them with me, just like the old days.

 

My own life started flashing before me, starting with my childhood in Brighton Beach during such a wonderful time period for Brooklyn and the whole U.S.A., then witnessing such a devolvement in every way.

 

Should I have remained in Israel 12 years ago when I had the opportunity? Should I have gone into a career in teaching, coaching, or psychology?

 

Should I have migrated to Los Angeles or Ft. Lauderdale, as opposed to remaining in the hellhole NYC had become?

 

Maybe more importantly, should I make some of those changes now?

 

While contemplating all of this, I somehow made an inordinate amount of shots in a row, and did so for two straight hours non-stop. By then the gym reeked of blood and sweat.

 

I finally got tired, put the ball back on the rack and drove home.

 

Now truly exhausted, I laid down to sleep which lasted for 12 uninterrupted hours. That was the longest and most fulfilling rest I’d had for years, and certainly since Barry left us. Throughout that extended slumber, I kept dreaming about all the great times we had, and upon awakening found myself uttering, “The points come in bunches when the ball goes to Funches.”

 

Barry “Buckets” Funches.

 


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