I'm old enough to remember New York City before it became a haven for big box stores, chain restaurants and tourists willing to drop a mortgage payment on fancified candies.
I remember neighborhoods you don't go near.
Bars that would stay open round the clock.
And peep shows that would escort you to a world of fascinating seediness for the price of a quarter.
As suburban kids from Northern NJ and bordering Rockland County on the NY side, we made it a point to visit "the City" as often as we could.
More times than not it was a function of whose car was actually running.
When no cars were available we counted on Big Jim.
His father ran a Lawn Doctor franchise and had full use of a working Lawn Doctor van, equipped with two bucket seats in the front. And enough cargo space in the back for a couple of lawn mowers, a grass seed dispenser and 100 lbs. of fresh horse manure.
To accommodate the four of us however, we simply removed the gardening accoutrement and replaced it with two folding chaise chairs.
Not sure these would pass muster with the OSHA folks, but they also would have taken a dim view of the pony keg of beer we often had handy.
This is what you get when you grow up with a bunch of Irish guys.
Come hell or green water, we always made it into the City for St. Patrick's Day.
These were monumental drinking occasions. That often started as early as 8:00 AM on March 17th. And sometimes did not end until March 18th.
We covered the city from the north side, not exactly the north, we stayed below 125th street, to the south. From the East Side to the West Side. And we'd park that Lawn Doctor van anywhere we damn well wanted thanks to the parking sticker in the window identifying Jim's dad as an active member of the NYPD.
Everywhere we went, we marked our territory. I will never forget the look on the face of the security guard at Rockefeller Center who caught us midday, generously irrigating the bushes near the skating rink.
"What are you boys doing?"
We zipped up and ran away laughing. And we're still laughing.
But it's probably a safe bet we won't be doing that, or anything like that, today.
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