The Scary Streets of Kensington
I’m walking down a dreary concrete pathway with a large dirty red brick factory to each side. The buildings are old and exude the feeling of a dank castle in medieval times. At any moment, I think Dracula will jump out and drain me of my blood. Oh, and it is dark, very dark. There are no lights from the building and just a single dim streetlamp far down the path. Ash-colored snow clouds have devoured the azure night sky, and they are blocking out any light the moon provides. I pull my coat collar higher to keep out the icy cold.
It’s after midnight, and the street is empty as usual. Not even a stray cat or dog dares to walk this street at this time of night in the fall or winter. If there are rats, which is likely, they don’t show themselves. Occasionally a lone flying roach buzzes overhead, no doubt trying to find a warm house to raise its babies.
What’s that noise? Did I hear footsteps? I’m sure I did. Is it a werewolf? Who is it? Oh crap, is that a shadow near the streetlamp? Who is it? It’s big. Could it be Frankenstein’s monster? My heart beats a little faster, making my feet do the same. As I walk quickly down the street, images of every Hollywood monster torment my already fragile mind.
Finally, I reach Allegheny Avenue. I see a sign across the street that says Hamburgers 17 cents and start to feel less nervous. It’s familiar territory. As I turn to walk towards Howard Street, the Art Loom building is on my Left. It’s a long block, and I’m not out of the “woods” yet.
With a startle, I remember that during Hurricane Hazel in 1954, I saw a piece of flashing the size of a Hudson car blow off the Art Loom roof. I say a prayer, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Damn it. I forgot the rest. It’s something about delivering me from evil. I can’t think. What’s wrong with me?
Finally, I see the Olympia Restaurant. Now it’s even more familiar. My friends and I would pass on mass and go there most Sundays for the French fries. I should have gone to mass more. I wonder what hell’s like.
I’m almost there. A quick crossing of Allegheny Avenue at Howard Street and a short walk past Naylor’s Garage. I wonder, is it safe to have underground gas tanks in a residential area? It must be, or they wouldn’t allow it. I turn left on Wishart Street. Finally, I’m on safe hallowed ground. I’m home.
Damn, I loved that walk.
How many times have I walked the dark and scary path down Mascher from Westmoreland Street to Allegheny Avenue late at night? Too many to count, I’m sure. After all, I hung out in several places along Westmoreland from Mascher to Front Street. The stupidest hang out was across from the police station. I got to see the inside of the new building a few times.
Because I lived on the 100 block of West Wishart Street, the best two paths to home from Westmoreland Street were Howard or Mascher. Howard Street had the Art Loom Building (it’s gone now) on the right and rows of homes on the Left. It was a much more pleasant walk because some houses would have their porch lights on, and in the summer, people were sitting on the steps or porch complaining about the heat. The monsters were less likely to strike on Howard Street.
Mascher Street was much more frightening, so why did I take that route most of the time. To be honest, I’m not sure. Maybe it was because I was stupid. Or perhaps it was some type of self-imposed rite of passage. You know, like jumping from a bridge onto a moving train or trying to kill a 600-pound bear in the wilderness. Nah, I’m not that brave.
Or just maybe, I think it was for the feeling of safety and love I sensed when I entered my house at 125 West Wishart after a scary walk.
Nobody ran up to me and said, “Thank God you’re home safe. We were worried a monster got you,” but I could be sure that my grandmother and mother would be asleep in the living room, one on a couch and the other on her chair. The TV would be on, but there was just “snow” on the screen. Their empty ice cream bowls were resting on the side tables, and my mom would have a bag of Hershey Kisses on her lap. Neither of them would go to their beds until my brother and I were home and safe and sound. That made me feel very wanted, not that I fully understood that as a teenager.
Life has a way of paying one back for their transgressions. I got that payback when my kids were in their teens. Karma’s a bitch.
Originally posted on The Kensington Neighborhood Alumni Group on Facebook.