|Mural done by LEE Quinones on Allent St. 1982|
In the summer of 1984, me & a friend took a ride from our neighborhood in Queens to the shopping mecca known as Delancey St on the lower east side of Manhattan. We were both starting high school that fall & wanted to pick up the flyest back to school gear. Delancey or D Street as it was called, was a B-Boy's dream retail emporium. One could pick up sheepskin coats in just about every color, custom made belt buckle name tags, creased lee jeans, le tigre shirts, leather bomber jackets, black or white gloves used for popping/breakdancing & of course; every shade of shell top Adidas sneakers under the sun with the fat laces already intertwined in checker board patterns if so desired. We could have probably found the same stuff around our way, if we looked hard enough, but it was somehow more legitimate to get your essential B-boy accessories from D Street.
We had both saved up our allowance & birthday gifts money for this day, wishing we could take 2 of everything we saw, but the reality being that we could only afford a couple of items each at best. He picked up a fresh burgundy sheepskin coat & a pair of gold rimmed Gazelle sunglasses. I settled for a matching grey BVD mesh shirt & shorts combo plus a sweatshirt with my crew's name stenciled on it.
As we were about to depart the last store we visited, someone that just walked in said: "Yo, you better watch your backs, the Allen St boys are out to tax today". We nonchalantly ignored his warning, in that invincible 14 year old way & proceeded to head back to the subway. Sure enough, as we made it halfway up the block, we saw a group of tough looking hard rocks running, not walking, straight toward us from Orchard St. They certainly didn't look like they were up for some friendly banter. Not in the mood to get housed today, we were like "Oh dip!" & jetted like Jesse Owens running a mile in under a minute, wolf pack at our heels. No small feat, as back in those days, in order to give the Adidas shell toe sneaker w/the fat laces a cooler, bulkier look; we would double up a rolled up sock on the front part of the inside of the sneaker. This would look cool when doing a B-boy stance at the local skating rink, but not too practical when running from a pack of marauding thugs.
It must have made quite a scene, us half running & half hopping down the block but we miraculously made it to the subway station, jumped the turnstile & got on the F train just as the doors were about to close. The Allen St boys were left to hurl obscenities at us as we safely pulled away from the station.
We told our getting chased story with some measure of pride the next day. All part & parcel of growing up in NYC during the early 80's: getting chased by rival crews, stick up kids or the police. An urban rite of passage. I sincerely hope the kids today do not go through the same trials & tribulations while shopping for their preferred outfits at places like Hot Topic or Abercrombie & Fitch!