"ANGIES 212"

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
"ANGIES 212" relives the true tales of one of the most infamous corner crews to rule the Bronx during the 70's.
Some still remain today!

Submitted: August 13, 2012

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Submitted: August 13, 2012

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A A A


 

 

 

“Angies 212”

 

 

“THE STREETS WERE REAL

THE STORIES ARE TRUE”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The sounds of the club rang through the smoke filled air like a circus carnival as Tony Jr. served up drinks to this distinguished crew gathered at the card table. Their laughter deafening as they tormented each other with exploits of the good old days.

“Junior, bring me Chivas on the rocks,” bellowed Ronnie.  This was Ronnie Wheels, probably the most respected member of the old crew.  Any problem, he was your man, and from the stories, that’s the way it always had been.  Ronnie was a short, distinguished man, a muscular five-foot six or so; graying hair slicked straight back and meticulously cut.  He always dressed to the nines, sporting an expensive watch, bracelet, gold Christ head on a rope chain around his neck and a pinky ring.  Most of the characters at the table had a similar look.  No matter what the details, from dress pants and a buttoned shirt or jeans and a silk tee to a sweat suit, they all looked like they were stepping out.  They had a style all their own and it was appealing, as though straight out of Goodfellas.  In this neighborhood they were like clergy.  These guys ran this place and the neighborhood belonged to them.  That’s why it is one of the last small strongholds of the Bronx, untouched by the outside elements of crime and cruelty.

Tony Jr. worked at the club as the coffee boy and waiter.  His dad had never been a part of this crew; however, was a respected neighborhood guy.  Unfortunately, he had had a stroke and times were tough, so Ronnie gave Tony Jr. a job in the club to help out.  He could make a buck here, $200 on a good night.  Tony Jr. was a good kid, 18 and on his way to Fordham University in the spring.  He was a big boy, with black hair and piercing blue eyes.  He was a football player and it showed.  He also hated to be called Junior, and Ronnie knew it.

He walked slowly to the table with his tray of drinks and proceeded to put a coaster under each glass as he served up the drinks.  As Tony Jr. placed the Chivas down, Ronnie piped up. “This round is mine.”  He slipped Tony Jr. a twenty.  “Thanks, Junior.”

Junior stepped back and growled, “You know I hate that name.  I’m Tony.”

Ronnie growled back, “Yeah, and what is your father’s name?”

“You know what it is,” Junior replied. 

“Well, there you have it.  If he is Tony, then, unfortunately, you are Tony Jr. Just the way it is.”

Junior banged back, “What if I have a son and name him Tony?  What will you call him?”

Ronnie quickly replied, “We’ll call him Sorry.”

“Sorry?” Tony questioned, confused.

“Yeah, Sorry.  Cause we’d feel sorry for him having you as a dad!”  The old gang roared.  “Now get the rest of the drinks, Junior.”

“That’s it.  I don’t care if you never let me back in here again; I am going to kick your ass.”

Silence came over the room.  Everyone but Tony Jr. knew he had just made a monumental mistake.

Ronnie turned with a stone cold stare piercing from his brown hazel eyes, the lines in his face deeply magnified with tension.

“Kick my ass?” as he stood up, pushing the green felt card table abruptly, his chair slamming to the floor.

All the guys jumped to their feet and stepped between them.  Tony Jr., backing down a little in a respectful way, said, “I just want to be called Tony, that’s all.”

Ronnie replied, “Do you hear our nicknames and what we call each other in here?  We’re not degrading each other!  It is our type of respect, a street respect you kids may never understand.  But I guess it’s time for you to learn how it works.  So you are Tony until we come back inside.  Okay, Tony. Here is the deal, you and me out in the street.  You win, it’s Tony.  I win, it is Junior on your tombstone and we never hear you complain about it again.  Deal?”

“Deal,” said Tony.

Out they went, with all the guys following. 

The young guys, Tony’s, friends were all telling him frantically he could not do this, Ronnie’s crew doing the same.  Ronnie shouted, “We are going to end this here and now, and there will be no repercussions, no matter what happens.  And when it is over it’s over, period!”

As they walked out into the crisp night air, a cold fog rising from their breath, you could hear the older guys whispering, “This poor kid.” 

This was kind of confusing, as Tony was a monster, and even though Ronnie seemed to be in pretty good shape for an older guy, he looked like no match for the youngster.

As a circle formed around them under the glimmer of the street light, Tony cracked his neck as he began throwing punches in the air, warming up, dancing in a circle. Then off came his shirt revealing 220 pounds of pure muscle.

Ronnie just stood in the shadow of the street light, still and calm, smoking a Marlboro in his velour sweat suit.  He slowly took off his jacket, and handed it to one of the guys, showing a pretty fit physique.  Tony looked over and shouted, “Not bad for an old man.”  Ronnie gave half a grin and a look like the fight was already over. 

Ronnie sported a tattoo of a cross on his right arm with the inscription DAD, another on his left shoulder, a banner with three roses, IN MEMORY, MOM.

Tony looked over and said, “They’re both gone.”

“Never gone,” Ronnie replied.

Then he noticed a scar on Ronnie’s chest peeking out from his wife-beater tee shirt.

“What is that,” he asked, moving in for a closer look.

“Battle scars from a bad ticker.  All fixed now.  The pipes are cleared.”

“I guess I’ll have to take it easy on you, then,” Tony mumbled in a low tone.

“Not a good idea in a street fight,” Ronnie replied.  “You ready?”

They walked toward each other, both in boxing stance, heads bobbing, fists closed and hands high.

Ronnie kissed the Christ-head hanging around his neck, made the sign of the cross walked forward two steps and, in a flash too quick to see, punched Tony straight in the nuts with a violent uppercut!  Everyone cringed.  Junior crumbled to his knees, moaning breathlessly in agony.

Ronnie slowly walked over to him, knelt down beside him and said quietly in his ear, “Take short breaths, in and out quickly, my name was Shorty until I earned the name Wheels.  Your day will come, it just wasn’t today.  Now come on short breaths.”  Softly patting him on the back Ronnie stated crisply, “You’ve just been in your first street fight, and you’re 0 and 1, Junior.”

He slowly turned back to the guys, put his jacket on like a boxer his robe, and in a confident swagger, walked back into the club.  He never even broke a sweat.  Everyone was quiet except for the chuckling of a couple of the older guys.  “These kids have to learn somehow.” Ronnie said as he walked back into the club.  “Now I guess I can drink my scotch in peace.”

After fifteen minutes or so Junior came back inside with the rest of his crew.  He began to speak about the fight.  Ronnie quickly yelled, “IT’S OVER, got it.  Now come sit down until the pain goes.  It will take a while.”

Junior looked at Ronnie like a kid at a new bike.  Ronnie knew just what he was thinking and feeling.  He had a great talent for that.  Junior looked at Ronnie now with adoring eyes and, in a sheepish voice, asked, “How you get started in this crew anyway?”

“Do you really want to hear these old war stories?”

“Yes sir, I do.”

“So be it.”

 

 

THE INDUCTION

 

It was a cutting night in February.  I can remember the cold wind ripping through my short black leather jacket and straight through all 125 pounds of me. But I couldn’t wear anything else if I ever intended to be one of them.

This was the Angie’s crew, as big a set of misfits as ever assembled.  They were the most notorious and feared street corner crew in all of the Bronx.  Angies was the name of the grocery store the crew inhabited.  A small grocery type store with a soda counter, servicing the immediate neighborhood with the essentials, bread, milk, soda and some grocery items.  Not meant to be anything more than a quick fix for keeping from going to the supermarket, and the home of the crew.  The owner knew he owned the business and building, but the crew ran the show.  The rules were clear and everyone was fine with the arrangement.  Vince, the owner, understood that this neighborhood belonged to them.  They set the rules, and enforced them.  At the same time there was a mutual respect.  The crew had their spot, and Vince had all the neighborhood customers.  He also had the peace of mind knowing his store, his family, and his customers could not be touched.  It was a trade off of sorts, one of many these guys negotiated.

I often wondered if Tony ever realized that his daughter’s name, Angie, would become a Bronx legend.

I was sort of an outsider.  I had made friends with one of the crew, Nuzzi, Dominick Nuzzio.  I would pick him up and we would go to the corner.  Although I was Nuzzi’s friend, that meant absolutely nothing to the rest of the crew.  Most of them went about their business as though I wasn't even there.  That was, until tonight.  Tuesday night, nothing much going on.  Only a few of the regulars working.  This was the greatest deal ever made in the Bronx.

Angies was exactly two blocks form the 45th precinct police department.  The founders of this crew were the two- or three-times removed brothers and cousins of the current crew.  That is how you got in, by blood ties.  Their business?  Selling nickel and dime bags of pot.

The top guys bought pounds and chopped it up into five and ten-dollar bags.  They had their runners who would greet the cars as they pulled up.  All in order, each runner got an equal share.  This was the hottest corner in the city.  On the weekends, the car lines would back up past the police department.  Everyone made a fortune.  Nice cars, expensive clothes, jewelry and fine women.  That’s what made it so hard to get in.  They only trusted their own.  Unfortunately, my older brother was never involved in corner antics; instead he played in a rock band and went to school.  I knew I had to somehow earn my way in; I wanted that more than anything.

I could never understand how they got away with it, being so close to the police station.  This night as I watched the runners move from car to car I asked the question.  This was a question I could only ask Nuzzi.  The answer made sense.  Another trade-off, only this one with the police.  The deal was the chief of police would let the marijuana sales go unnoticed as long as no other drugs got into the neighborhood.  And that meant none.  No coke, no heroin, no pills, nothing.  The first time it should happen the chief assured the crew everyone would go to jail.

So that’s how it worked.  The crew obtained the rights to sell their pot and they protected the neighborhood from the bad stuff.  It actually made sense in a twisted way.

 I can tell you this; nobody dared sell or use any other drugs in this neighborhood.  The crew made sure of that, and the neighborhood guys all knew it.  Anyone interested in anything harder than pot went somewhere else to play.

On this freezing Tuesday night, business was slow and only a couple of the crew were out.  Frankie Bep and Nuzzi worked the cars as I sat on the steps of the store.  Suddenly out of nowhere a big, white, beat-up van came to a screeching stop in the middle of the street.  It was Sally the Moron.  This seemed a degrading name; however it was actually a form of reverence for those allowed to call him that.  I was not one.  Sally was the son of an immigrant Italian bricklayer who had opened a small construction company.  Sally was neither part of the corner business nor very bright.  He was simply a member of the crew and the enforcer.  For that the top earners all threw him money from time to time.  He was intimidating, six foot three and two hundred and eighty pounds of muscle.  The stories of the beatings he had given throughout the years were infamous.

On this night, Sally was crazed, like I had never seen him before.  Sally was the kind that said nothing and knocked you out with one punch.

“Get in the fucking van, NOW,” he yelled.  Frankie Bep and Nuzzi ran to the van and opened the door.  Before they closed it, Nuzzi looked back at me sitting there and asked Sally, “What about him?”

“Fuck it, we can use him, take him.”

“Come on Shorty.”  Sally growled.

We dove into the van.  The inside looked like a construction site: only two front seats and a wide variety of junk.  Signs, cones and all sorts of tools.  Frankie got the front seat and Nuzzi and I sat on top of a pile of tools as Sally screeched away.

“What the fuck is up?”  Asked Nuzzi.

Sally was screaming, “That fucking red headed prick. I’m going to kill him.”

I had never heard Sally even raise his voice.  Tonight he was really pissed.  I was afraid I was going to be witness to a murder.

Sally was referring to Big Red, a tall, skinny, member of the Waterberry Park Crew.  Big Red was always doing something stupid, but today he must have crossed the line.

We pulled up to Waterberry Park, a small basketball park on the other side of town.  This was, naturally, the home of the Waterberry Crew.  There were only about a half dozen guys hanging out in the park this night.  Sally pulled right up to the cut hole in the fence everyone used as the entrance. “Let’s go.”

The van doors opened and we all got out.  Sally turned to me and said, “Shorty, you stay with the van.”

Sally, Frankie and Nuzzi slowly walked into the park like they owned the place.  Even though this was Waterberry Park and there were six of the crew, none of them even moved.  They knew better.  All except Big Red.  When he saw Sally he took off like a cheetah.  The fence around the park was twenty feet high, and there was only one way in or out at night when the gates were locked.  That entrance was blocked by Sally’s van, so Big Red decided to try to climb out.  Not a good idea.  Sally yelled to Nuzzi, “Get his stupid ass off that fence so I can teach him a lesson.”  Nuzzi gladly obliged, scurrying up the fence and grabbing Big Red by the back of his coat. 

They hung there for a moment and then the two of them hit the pavement.  Nuzzi gave Big Red a light slap in the head for the drop to the ground.  At the same time, Sally grabbed Red by his long scraggly red hair and dragged him back to the van.  Big Red looked like a floundering fish as Sally pulled him along.

As they approached the van Sally told me to get in and drive.  “You can drive, can’t you?”

I was so nervous I don’t even remember if I answered.  I just got in the driver’s seat.

Sally threw Big Red into the back of the van like a sack of potatoes.  I still remember the sound of his head hitting the tools.  Frankie got back in the passenger seat and Nuzzi stayed in the back with Sally.

“Tie his hands,” Sally told Nuzzi as he put an old rag around Big Reds face to cover his eyes.

“Sally, what did I do?” exclaimed Big Red in a fearful voice.

“I’ll tell you just before I drop you, you piece of shit.”

The van went silent for a few moments, other than the whimpering coming from Big Red.

“I didn’t do anything to you guys.”

With a heavy smack to the head Sally replied, “Shut the fuck up.”

Although I really did not wish to speak, I did have to ask where to drive to.  I mustered up the courage and said, “So, Sally, where the fuck are we going?”

“Head to the bridge,” he replied.  The Throgs Neck, a long-spanning bridge over our part of the Atlantic that linked the Bronx with Queens.  I followed orders.  I paid the toll and we began crossing the bridge.  I assumed we were going to Queens.  I was wrong!

Halfway over the bridge, Sally came up to the front seat and told me to pull to the right lane, stop the van and put the flashers on.  I looked at him, and I guess he could see the question in my eyes.

“Just pull over and stop.”  Although I thought we were all going to go to jail, I asked no questions and made no argument.  I pulled into the right lane dead center of the bridge, put my blinkers on and stopped the van.

Sally immediately got out and opened the rear door of the van.  He took out four orange cones, the ones you see when road work is in progress, and a MEN WORKING sign.  He placed the cones and the sign behind the van.  He then proceeded to grab Big Red by the hair again and drag him out of the van.  Frankie and Nuzzi got out.  I was about to as well, but Sally told me to stay put.

On each side of the bridge was a catwalk and railing.  At this point of the bridge it had to be at least 200 feet to the pitch-black water below.

What I witnessed next I will never forget.

Nuzzi grabbed the back of Big Red’s belt as Sally and Frankie grabbed a leg each.  You know it; they hung him over the side of the bridge by his feet.  From the van I could only see Big Red’s giant feet twisting about.  I still don’t think Big Red knew where he was as his eyes were covered and his hands were tied behind his back.

Sally took off the blindfold, and I could hear Big Red scream in a tone of fear I had never heard before.  Again Big Red pleaded, “Sally, what did I do?”

Big Red was 19, but still in high school and a junior.  Just a bit slow, and today a lot stupid.

In school, Big Red was sort of a tough guy.  The Waterberry Crew was, not a bad crew, decent reputation for being tough, and he was the oldest junior in the school.  So, naturally, with his fantastic mentality he abused everyone he could.  Until today.

“You like to harass little girls in school you dumb fuck?”asked Sally.

“What are you talking about?” Big Red replied.

“You know that pretty little brunette you told you would like to slip it into in the stairwell today?  Well, she’s my sister, and we’re dropping your dumb ass in the ocean.”

Suddenly I could hear Nuzzi yell, “That’s disgusting. He shit himself, and I’m not holding him anymore.”  And he didn’t, he let go of the belt and got back in the van.  I was scared to death that they were actually going to drop him.  Nuzzi told me not to worry. “We use this trick all the time.”

They let Big Red dangle for a few more minutes and then pulled him up.

He looked like a soiled ghost.

Sally told him this was his one pardon.  Still tied, they threw Big Red back in the van with another thump.  He had shit all over himself, had lost a shoe and looked like he had just been embalmed.

Sally picked up the cones and sign and threw them back in the van, naturally hitting Big Red.

All in and the doors shut, Sally in a panting voice; “Get back to the 212, other side of the bridge and turn around on the left.” I stopped him in the middle of his instructions.  “I know the area and the best route back, okay?”  I knew he meant get back home, but what was the 212?

“The wheel is yours, Shorty,” he replied.

At that moment, my heart stopped as I could see flashing lights behind us.  It was the police.  Although my heart jumped I figured they were headed to Queens.  Think again. They were stopping us.  Holy shit!

Sally told me he had a taillight out.  This would normally not be such a big deal if we didn't’have three guys dressed to the nines in a beat-up construction van with a tied up hostage covered in shit.  Sally told me just to take it easy and give the officer my license and the registration slowly so they could untie Big Red.

As the officer approached the van I turned to Sally and asked, “Can I do this my way?”

“Go for it, Shorty; let’s see what you’re made of.”

I could see he was riding solo, so I waited until he was almost to the driver’s window and I took off.

“Holy shit,” Sally yelled. “The kid’s got balls.”

By the time the officer got back to the squad car we were already on the Queens side of the bridge.  I knew a little dirt road that went under the end of the bridge and back up on the other side.  There was no formal entrance to the return side of the bridge on my road, but that didn’t stop me.

“Hold on!”

Over one big curb and down an embankment and we were home free.

The cops were looking for us in Queens and we were on our way back to the Bronx.
“Not bad,” said Sally.

“Are you nuts?” Nuzzi chimed in.  “That was beautiful!”

Sally’s orders were back to Waterberry.  Thank God.

The park was barren when we returned.  Not a soul around and it must have been 10 degrees outside.

Sally opened the door and again dragged Big Red by his hair.  Frankie and Nuzzi followed.  I was completely drained and just slumped in my seat.

They proceeded to tie Big Red to one of the basketball poles.  I could hear him pleading for them not to do it.  They tied him to the pole and left him in the cold for his crew to find him the next morning in his pretty soiled jeans.  This would go over big with them.

They jumped back in the van, and Sally told me to head back to the corner.  I was so drained that I didn’t know if I could make it, but I couldn’t let them see that.  Not after what I had just done.  To these guys it was routine; to me it was a movie.

Back at Angies, we exited the van.  As we walked to the store Sally put his arm around me, which was like being held by a gorilla. “You’re one of us now.  You hear that, guys?  “He’s with us now.”

I could see Nuzzi smile, as he knew what this meant to me.

Sally turned to us.  “Come on let’s get a beer, on me.”

I could not resist, I had to know. “Sally what the hell is the 212?” 

“How long you been coming down to this corner, a year?  You blind?  You never look at the side of Angies, our handball wall?  212 is that twenty-foot high mural.  It means our safe zone, the place we own, our area code!” 

As we climbed the steps to the store, Sally looked at me with a grin and said, “Someday I’ll explain to you why I let them call me Sally the Moron.  You’re not there yet, so don’t try.  Good job tonight.  From now on you’re our wheelman.  Hear that, guys?  Shorty’s out from now on he’s Wheels, yeah, Ronnie Wheels!”

 


© Copyright 2017 Ronnie Wheels. All rights reserved.

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