Monday, July 2, 2012

Maujer Boys

The drill when we visited my grandmother was always the same. Dad would drop us off, and mom, Bobby, and me would start the visit while dad searched Williamsburg for a parking spot.  Fifteen minutes after we arrived, dad would ring the bell.  When we left, the procedure happened in reverse.  Dad left early, told us to wait about ten-fifteen minutes depending on how far away he had parked, and then the three of us would walk to the curb where he'd pick us up.

The first family car we had is the first one I remember. It was a 1950 black Ford, two door sedan.  It was a standard with the shift on the wheel.  You started the car by pushing a button near the radio.  For 11 years it was the family car. When I was 11, the Ford was losing it.  We took it in the summers up to the Poconos which was, for it, a long haul.  In 1959 dad drove to a new job which was a daily 70 mile trip. The Ford was getting long in the tooth, so we splurged and my folks bought a brand new spanking white Rambler.

The Rambler was a big deal.  We had just moved bought a house in the suburbs and money was not raining down on us.  Still, it was time to replace the Ford and the Rambler looked so fresh and new.

We visit my grandmother sometime after we bought the new car. Dad goes to get the car. We wait by the curb and it is taking an awful long time for dad to come and get us. Finally, we see him, but he doesn't have the car.  He tells us to come with him. We walk a few blocks and see the Rambler.

Mom lets out a yelp when she sees the car.  Dad just stares at it.  On the brand spanking new we just paid a fortune for it Rambler, words are scrawled with black magic marker.  "The Maujer Boys, Joe, Tony, Ace, ..."  I don't actually remember the specific names, but I remember the Maujer Boys being scrawled on the car. Maujer Street or Avenue was near where my grandmother lived.  Some street toughs had gotten a kick out of spray painting or magic marking the new car.

The ride back was an hour in good times and this ride back was a real long hour.  As soon as we pulled in the driveway, my mother went into the little laundry room adjacent to the garage. She got a rag and some Ajax like cleaner and started scrubbing the scrawl.  I cannot relay how the knot in my stomach went away when the paint came off the car.

Williamsburg was a tough neighborhood. Kids who lived there were often in trouble.  When I was in college I took a course that dealt with urban delinquents that discussed why kids who were bereft naturally committed random acts of vandalism.  The message seemed to be that it was understandable given the poverty.

I can't recall how I felt at the time I read the articles in college, but I know how I have felt for several years now, if not then. I have no sympathy for the Maujer boys.  None.  I have no sympathy for them for several reasons.  One is that what they damaged was not theirs nor was it owned by someone who had done any disservice. Second, and more significantly, for every one of the Maujer boys who was disillusioned with life and committed the vandalism,  there were as many if not five times as many kids who were similarly disillusioned, but knew it was not their right to take out their bitterness on someone else.

Is this related to the world of sports? Well just peripherally.  On a regular basis those who follow sports read about one athlete or another who has been arrested, because of some illicit behavior. We read about a draft pick who is talented, but the team is taking the risk because the player has been a discipline problem. Discipline problem does not mean here that they come late to meetings. Discipline problem means they robbed someone, or beat up their spouse, or waved a knife at someone who challenged their masculinity.Excuses are often provided for these miscreants.  The offender grew up poor. The offender's family members were all hoodlums.

Not much sympathy coming from this quarter. For every poor kid that waved a knife at a roommate or a girlfriend, there are one hundred poor kids who never would, because it is wrong to wave a knife at a roommate.

Sure, it is possible if I were to meet a Maujer boy today, he would express remorse, and be genuinely contrite.  And I would accept such a genuine apology. We all do things we are ashamed of.  However, we should never condone reprehensible behavior because of a litany of bogus explanations. We have all taken our hits. Every reader of this blog, can list a dozen times when some event created real pain, physical or emotional. How many of you have ever, with or without a sense of justification, beaten up a stranger or waved a knife at a frightened spouse, or felt entitled to announce that you were a Maujer Boy--on someone else's property.

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