Saturday, July 23, 2011

Down These Mean Streets

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In the autobiography 'Down These Mean Streets' written by Piri Thomas, has three hundred and thirty five pages. Piri was born on September 30, 1928, in New York City. He grew up during the depression of the 1930’s in Spanish Harlem. Experiencing discrimination as a dark skinned Puerto Rican. As a child, he face poverty in the ghetto which led him into drugs, youth gangs, and a series of criminal activities.

Living in Harlem was no easy task to do. Harlem were spit into different territories; Italians, Puerto Rican and Minorities. He really couldn’t find really where he belongs. For example, when he goes to a certain part of town, he was so claim “Too black.” and in other parts “Too white.” The negative feedback he was receiving left him in a state of mind of which no matter where he goes, he felt rejection and also that he never belonged. This left him in a mental block and soon enough will lead to a barricade to his heart. Piri would hang out on the steps of his apartment building talking to his friends and try to enjoy life as a child of his age should.

When Piri was around the age of twelve, his family moved to a mostly dominant Italian neighborhood. The kids there really didn’t like him because of the pigmentation of his skin. The ordeals he went through; teasing, beating and getting jumped. But there was one kid and there is anyways one, but this was the one that change him dramatically. This was the boy that taught him one of life’s most important rules. The boy’s name was Rocky and he really didn’t like Piri. One day Piri went into the deep part of the neighborhood where Rocky and his crew lived to get food for his mother.

When he was returning from the store, he meet up with Rocky and his crew. Rocky’s crew encircled him and Rocky came up to him. Rocky wanted to fight so that Piri will move out of the neighborhood. Rocky threw the first punch and all the items Piri was holding fell unto the floor. Piri fought back and slug him in his jaw. Rocky jerk his body but that wasn’t going to take him down. Piri got punched, bashed and the entire crew laugh as Piri fell to the ground meanwhile Rocky kicking him. Piri came to a reverence and decided that he will fight but now he will show that he has heart. With the new attitude, Piri was pulverizing him. Rocky fell to the ground and Piri said,”Take that you sonava! and screw all you mother jumpers!”

While on the ground, Rocky took a pile of loose gravel and tossed it into Piri’s eyes. He went to the hospital later that day to get surgery but who was the one that took him to the hospital? It was Rocky’s crew; they held down Rocky and helped Piri to the hospital. They knew what Rocky done was wrong and that why they help him. After a couple of days in the hospital. Rocky’s crew came by the hospital and told Piri that they respected him because he showed heart even when he was down, he showed that he wasn’t scared. After that day, Piri earned respect and learned that the best weapon to have during a fight is to show that you have heart and brass knuckles.

When Piri was older his family moved to Long Island. There Piri had a new school to work with but he got in a tiff with a teacher and students. Piri had trouble copping with the new environment. The kids there was worst than Rocky and his gang. They wouldn’t leave him alone, but he could handle it but it got too far when one of the boys tried to fondle his sister. That’s when he decided to go back to Harlem by himself to get a job and then move everyone back to Harlem.

His mother couldn’t come because she was dying and she couldn’t take anymore anguish. He hugged his mother and wave to his brothers and sisters as he departed to go back to Harlem. When he reach there he had no where to stay. He called some friends, relatives and old girlfriends but after he passed his welcome, there was no one else. He was homeless, broke, and hungry. The only thing he had was his rep that was still with him. He used it to get with his old gang. This lead to criminal behavior and an addiction to drugs. When the gang was in real need of drugs, they will do anything. One of members knows this place that they can get it free but there would have to be an exchange of services.

When Piri knock on the door, a women’s voice answered but when the door was opened it was really men. When Piri entered with his crew, the shady characters with interesting lifestyle, welcome them warmly. The characters offered Piri and his crew liquor and pot. Piri gladly accepted the gifts as a nice gesture on their behalf. Later on, everyone that was guests in the apartment was stoned high. That’s when Piri and his crew were taken advantage by the guys. Piri was awake when it was happening but he couldn’t move his body due to the effects of the pot they took and the liquor they drunk.

After that night the whole gang robbed a store and was caught in the heat of the action. Everyone went to jail, some killed themselves, some were married off to other guys but not Piri he stood his ground and no one messed with him. After a couple of years, he realized that his major problem is that he takes his problems and tries to run from them but now he realizes that he is seventeen years old and in jail for a fifth teen years. Piri started helping himself by going to rehabilitation.

After Piri began his life of rehabilitation. He became a street worker in Spanish Harlem working with street gangs. Subsequently, he went to Puerto Rico where he became an assistant to Dr. Efren Ramirez. The director of the hospital of Psychiatry in Rio Pirdras, Puerto Rico. Piri Thomas an ex-addict developed a program of rehabilitation for addicts. After getting his act clean, he felt that he did the impossible. All of his accomplishments were very important because he went to a sex toy junky to a man with redemption and integrity. His work in Spanish Harlem was the subject of the film Petey and Johnny, in which he both appeared and provided the narration.



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