Big Ron is proud of the tattoo of John L. Sullivan on his arm, and demonstrates a deep and softly strong connection to the ideal of that past age when men who stood up and fought were respected for it.
Even at that young age I seen the world as fucked up, I was raised to be suspicious of organized religion and government—basically you’ve got to take care of yourself or somebody’s going to fuck you over, that anything the government touches they’re going to fuck it up. My mom used to get the hell beat out of her in catholic school for being a southpaw—nuns beating her for being lefthanded—and I had fantasies of going down there and avenging her and wasting a bunch of nuns with a machine gun. Think with your own mind and don’t be a follower—trust and respect is something you earned. It was men like Tattoo Rick, pretty big personalities, that taught me the ways of life.
One time this kid was picking on me—fists coming at me all kind of ways—he was bigger and older, held my ground, just got the shit beat out of me. I just didn’t like being bullied. I don’t remember that fuckin’ asshole’s name, just the beating.
The second time, at the end of my street where the school I went to was, this older boy picked on me. I attracted attention from these older boys, for being big for my age. I wasn’t having it, so I got the shit beat out of me. I remember my father putting a steak on my eye. It ended with me laying on the ground bleeding. Then I got up and walked home—but walked home tall after that.
There was a couple more bullying incidents that didn’t really turn into a fight. I stood up for myself like I was told to do.
We used to play at the turn arounds at the end of the rows of housing—it was mostly all brick. Of course, down at the dead end behind the metal yard, down over the hill in the woods, we played down there. You could walk across the train trestle over the Gwyn’s Falls. But some bad shit went on back there: prostitution, drugs, rape, murder. The homeless men camped down there—still do, hiding from the cops and the neighborhood people. They used to sell sheet metal that they stole back to the scarp yard. Now, there was the legend of the Pink Bunny Man. Different people, mostly hookers and dope users, saw a man down there dressed in a pink bunny suit. He always seemed to be down there around the time that the homeless men would be killed. One by one homeless guys would turn up dead. Nothing ever came of it as far as I knew.
My father already had some family up here. But the crack epidemic hit down there in the 80s and the working men moved their families out. Eddie Van Kirk stayed and tried to keep order on the street. It was called Pig Town originally, ‘cause they used to run the pigs down Washington Boulevard and they would have head busters to knock people in the head who tried to drag a stray pig into their basement. I liked it there. Once in Hamilton we lived up on Hairview Avenue at first, then moved down to Hamilton and McClean.
I had one incident after we moved up here, at age 8 or 9. I had a great book my mother gave me for Christmas the Audubon Society’s book of reptiles and amphibians. I was waiting for my mother after school and this kid slapped the book out of my hand. This kid was maybe 12. I wanted to kill that motherfucker ‘cause I loved that book. I kicked him square in the nuts and he was laying on the ground crying, snot running out of his nose. I ran into him years later. Nothing happened, he gave me some dirty looks.
Tony and I had a pushing and punching thing—a tussle—and then ended up becoming lifelong friends. We played baseball, football, rode bikes, had snowball fights, smashing pumpkins until a cop gets you. We had a good, athletic life in Hamilton. I didn’t hang with smokers, drug users or any of that. I know almost nobody that didn’t get sucked into the Baltimore drug hell—it’s hell, hell on earth, doesn’t leave much room to consider the hell nuns taught my mother about when they were beating her for being a lefty. I had a good childhood, have friends from back then that I’m close to to this day. Of course there are those who got sucked into the drug vortex—gone.