The legs were fucked from about twenty miles of biking all over the west set of hills, not sure if there's a name for the whole deck of trashy mountains, but I cruised the West End, also the South Side, then did the crack pot of side walks along Route 51. There, too, were other crazy quilts of bad road, when I stumbled onto Boggs Ave.
Boggs is in no way ugly, unless you are too analytical to live there. That's likely, but it's a good place to see while walking the jangly touring bike 50 degrees up the cracks and pot holes. Even, and I say especially, if there are little kids are out in a stunted front lawn, working on their futures like Harvard freshmen.
The ancient Hebrews were aware that there was an advantage in stationing high on the hill side. The mob of brats was aware of it too. Not that they planned to be where they were, they just knew my legs were cooked because I was walking my bike straight up the hill, like the last poor asshole they saw doing likewise, looking too weak to out run a coyote pack of rotten kids.
It's trade offs in life, like the black eye for the team, that keeps the legs some hurting spaghetti for the true runner's high. Bike riding heightens the senses. The gangster babies were all working together on something, on someone's sloping stump of lawn between a house and Boggs with it's pot holes. They were enunciating the phrase, "Hey Asshole."
None of the brats was more than three feet tall, yet they were organized and orderly in front of the shitty ranch house, with no grown ups around to tell them to shut up or to teach them something even filthier than what they already mastered.
Just the term 'ranch style' brings out the worst in my thoughts when it has to do with shitty frame houses glued into rock and more little brick and shingle dumps. It's still no reason not to like this particular part of town. I'd be proud to march down the street any day with the locals carrying rakes and torches. The kids could help by throwing rocks at people from out of town.
They were taking turns saying, "hey asshole," all smiling like mindless adult convicts who thrived on boiled cabbage and kielbasa. Most of them would be aquiescing to exactly that, but this scene was so fucking adorable it almost took my mind off how bad my legs hurt.
One of my former girl friends from when I was in college came from this part of town. She told me once that her mother taught her to take her earings off before getting into a cat fight in a bar, and her mother taught her how to call someone an asshole. Mom said to emphasize the second syllable if you really want it to hurt the other cat. The phrase 'hey asshole' is almost always used to convey authority, like saying 'attention' over a loud speaker. There ain't no fucking loud speakers, if I may sort particulars with the brats. 'Hey asshole' is used like a Crescent wrench in the tool box of pranks and intimidation. It's used a lot all around town, so I had to see the kids as being off to a good start in the whole mess. Somewhere about the tenth time one of the brats staightened shoulders and said, 'hey asshole,' a little girl who had been showing top drawer leadership in the excercise took notice of me, the bike, and two fucked up legs not liking to push the bike. I could see she hatched an idea.
This kid had the genes that made the place what it was and probably still is. She picked up this hard thin tree branch about as long as her height, and ran at me with it raised, stopping just short of me. Looking up, smiling, she said directly, "Hey asshole," and then tried to whack me with the stick. I caught the end of it with my hand and held onto it for a few seconds. While she pulled on her end, leaning back and still smiling victory and the kill, she said like Edith Wharton, "let go of my stick, you asshole." It's what Edith might have said to someone if she grew up on Boggs.
With my legs hurting again by this this time, pained patellas in red Jello, runner's high running thin, I was getting a wee bit demoralized by the vitality of a she-thug the size of Thumbellina. I let go of my end of the stick, and she fell on her ass on the pavement, but she got the better of the fight. I kept walking my bike up hill, with all the kids together reminding me how I was perceived by them.
At that point in the afters, they were yelling at me together, Hey Asshole. Been losing most of the fights I've been in, last twenty years in Pittsburgh. Not a good place to outsiders.