One day I dropped in on Richard Nixon's attorney, Len Garment, in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Seeing a football in the backyard, I reached over, picked it up, and heaved it at a crowd of people.
After it bounced around a bit, the football eventually dribbled back to me and that evolved into a touch football game. Being a street game, it immediately came back to me how one adapts to tight quarters.
In the huddle, the quarterback would point to someone and say Plymouth out, or Dodge up. That is, the vehicles parked in the street would be the defensive players and everything would be based on where they were positioned. The key people in the play that developed were in the huddle and had fingers pointed to them with motions that indicated their route.
After enough scabs had been created, the game drifted back into Len’s backyard, where his wife, Grace, worked feverishly on a tree she had planted. In Brooklyn, that meant hosing it to the point of drowning. One corner of the backyard was devoted to the tree and continually feeding water to it.
The huge mud pie that resulted had the virtue of reducing the scab population. That pretty much closed out the football season until the game moved to Key Biscayne, Nixon’s getaway that was the home of Bebe Rebozo.
The one picture I have left in my mind from those good old football days is Len demonstrating his All-Pro pass catching technique. He would run full speed toward a defensive player, pivot, and then take the pass in mid air while doing a maneuver straight out of "Swan Lake."
I was right at home in Brooklyn. It was not too different from my own hometown of Indiana Harbor. Everything was made up.
I didn’t think of it at the time, but we were developing a philosophy. That is, take what you find and make something out of it.
You could go into a neighborhood surrounding the high school and while the best basketball players in the state were politely shooting baskets, walk a half block away and find these same basketball players at a different time locked in mortal combat against each other.
One of our great street projects was to appropriate a huge hole in the ground and begin to fill it. The idea was that, when it was close to being filled, we would pour used crank case oil on the surface and play softball on it. After filling it to its known depths, we had a breakout softball game that involved the entire neighborhood.
The entire neighborhood eventually sunk, so we played on different levels on different days, depending on the weather.