Barry is one of my oldest friends from New York. We’ve known each other since elementary school. Recently, he took on a job which requires him to travel a lot. This week brought him to Los Angeles. I decided to meet him at Canter’s Deli, one of the oldest restaurants in town. I thought it would remind him of our days hanging out in coffee shops back in Queens. Sophia adores Barry, too, so she braved the rain to come along.
On the way there, Sophia and I got stuck in traffic. Barry called from the deli:
"What’s going on here? There’s a line around the corner like at a movie opening."
"Are you sure you’re at the right place?" I asked. "Canter’s Deli?"
"I’m right in front. The line’s enormous. And half of the people on line look like they’re homeless."
"Homeless? At Canter’s?" asked Sophia. "He must be jet-lagged."
"You have to see this place. Are you sure Canter’s hasn’t been turned into a soup kitchen?"
Barry made no sense. But when we got to Canter’s, and we saw what he was talking about. There was a indeed a huge line for take-out and the local news was filming the crowd.
What the hell was going on?
It turns out that Canter’s was celebrating their 75th Anniversary with old-school prices: a hot corned beef sandwich, pickle, potato salad, and chocolate rugala for 75 cents!
I’m not sure why everyone was waiting for take-out, because we got the same deal sitting in the restaurant — without the wait. What a deal!
Sophia, Barry, and I chatted for a couple of hours about all sort of topics. It was sort of like blogging without the computer… and with better coffee.
Barry and I told Sophia stories about our school days together. Sophia asked if we ever have been back to any of our old schools.
Barry and I laughed. A few years ago, during a trip to New York, I met with Barry. We were in a sentimental mood and decided to drive by all our old schools — Jamaica High School, Parsons Junior High School, and P.S. 154. The school looked pretty much the same — except much smaller. What seemed like a massive structure back then, just looked tiny now. We talked about how life seemed so much easier back then, with nothing to worry about except doing your homework. We found a hole in the fence surrounding the school playground and crawled inside. We sat on one of the benches (with the same initials still cut in!) and remembered the exciting games of Ringolevio that we used to play during lunchtime.
How did we learn how to play Ringolevio? Who remembers. Does anyone play it anymore? It was actually a very complicated game, with all sorts of teamwork and strategy required. According to Wikipedia:
Ringolevio (also known as Ringolario) is a game which may be played anywhere but which originates in the teeming streets of Depression era New York City. It one of the many variations of tag. It requires close team work and near-military strategy. In some quarters this game is known as Manhunt which is really another game with different rules.
Two sides are drawn up, roughly of even number. One side goes out. The other counts to some number like 300 and then goes looking for them.
Anyone on the pursuing side can catch anyone on the pursued side by grabbing hold of them and chanting "Ring-O-Levio 1-2-3" three times in a row. If the person pursued breaks free at any point during this brief recitation, the person is not caught. If caught, the pursuer takes the pursued to an area called the jail (the area was called the base in some variations).
Jail is any confined area, typically between two parked cars or bushes where members of the pursued team are accumulated. Any free member of the team that is out can at any time free all team members in jail by barging into the jail without being caught and shouting "Free all!" This means that all members of the team in jail are now free and have to be recaught.
As we sat there, we wondered how many of the guys we used to play it with are now REALLY in jail?
We were also glad to see that kids never really change, because near the "monkey-bars" were two Asian girls playing "catch" with a big ball. It was great to see the old playground still being used. We got all sentimental and watched the girls play, big smiles on our faces.
Then, Barry turned to me and said:
"You know, I’m looking at you grinning and I’m thinking – if anyone passes by and sees us sitting here, it’s going to look like we’re two pedophiles."
"Boy, I think you’re right. Let’s get out of here, before the police pass by."
As our Ringolevio days quickly faded in our minds, we hurriedly left the school grounds, never to return to our old elementary school.
I guess it was time to grow up.