Here's Why Growing Up in the Bronx Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

Recently, there have been many articles written about New York City and what it was like to grow up here.

It's been discussed on social media, time and time again, what it's been like for others who have moved here, and even what it's been like for some who would love to move out (but haven't yet... or won't).

New Yorkers can agree that growing up in this city is a very different experience from anywhere else in the entire country. But here's the real kicker: did you know that growing up in each borough is a very unique, very different experience in and of itself?

As a a white kid who was born and raised in the heart of the Bronx, I can tell you that my borough was and still is a very different experience from growing up in, let's say, Manhattan (that's obvious, right?).

And even though my hometown has the highest poverty rate in this city (in fact, it has the highest poverty rate of any county in the entire country), growing up in the Bronx was still the best thing that ever happened to me.

And here's why.


BBQs & block parties

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To me, barbecue grills being handled by old Spanish men with their shirts off is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of growing up in the Bronx.

It never mattered what time of the day it was, you'd always find some Spanish dude with a reptile on his shoulder and cerveza in his hand, grilling up hot dogs and hamburgers for everyone on the block.

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And when all was said and done, the folding chairs and small tables came out, so that the other Spanish guys from up the block could join in and play dominos until the wee hours of the night.

All summer long, there are people outside grilling, cooking, blasting salsa music (or maybe a lil' Big Pun), and having all sorts of fun.

During those dog days of summer, there was always a block party going down in the Bronx. But that's just how it was.


Playing in the street

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For kids growing up in the Bronx, baseball, sewer-to-sewer wiffle ball, stickball, and manhunt were a hell of a lot more fun than staying inside and playing video games.

I can't even count on two hands the amount of broken windows my friends and I were responsible for... I'm talking car windows, house windows, apartment building windows. You name the window, and we broke it.

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Or how many strangers' backyards and apartment building garbage rooms I've hidden in during a game of manhunt at 1 in the afternoon. Or even 1 in the morning. For me growing up in the Bronx, time didn't matter much.

But one thing definitely did: the sound of my dad screaming at the top of his lungs after I shattered yet another window.

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Fire hydrants: the great summer pastime in NYC

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I mean really, why travel to public pools or walk to the park for the sprinklers when you can play in those open fire hydrants on the block?

Sure, you had to be careful not to get hit by a car or bus, but that's all part of the fun. How do you think I learned to cross the street?

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Honestly, there was nothing like walking around on a hot summer day in the Bronx and seeing an open hydrant.

To me, that was like hitting a gold mine.


Hanging out on the stoop 

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Obviously as I got older, the ways in which I had fun started to change a little bit.

There was no brunch in the Bronx. We had day drinking on the stoop and walking to the corner store for a bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll.

If I had enough quarters on me later on, I'd throw back a vanilla cone with sprinkles from Mister Softee.

And if I was really lucky, I'd go buy some cold 40 ounces, or maybe go in on a bottle of Hennessy with my friends and just hang out.

So yeah, that was brunch, Bronx style, and it was more fun. And a hell of a lot more real.

But I'd have to be extra careful if the cops rolled by. The last thing I wanted was to catch a ticket and then a mouthful from my father about what a bunch of idiots my friends and I were.


Everyone was like your mother

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Mothers everywhere are the absolute best, but every mother I know from the Bronx will treat every kid as their own. It was like one huge family.

It broke down like this: your mother was your friend's mother, and your friend's mom was also your mom.

They'd cook for you and let you stay in their house without invitation, but they also wouldn't hesitate to slap you if you got out of line.

My Italian mother is the nicest woman on the planet, but she never thought twice about slapping me with a wooden spoon if I cursed in front of her.

Or there was my boy's mother Jenny (who I consider my Puerto Rican mother), who would yell at me for drinking too much. Then later that night, if everyone was still hanging out on the stoop, she would slip me an almost empty bottle of coquito and laugh. But that's just how it was.

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Growing up in the Bronx was a blast. Did I get in my fair share of trouble? Of course. But at that age, who didn't? Most of us were not rich growing up in the Bronx, but we didn't need to be. That was the greatest part of it all.

The bottom line is this: New York can keep all of its gentrification, their overpriced brunch spots, and yuppie wine tastings in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

You know where I'll be? Uptown. The Bronx. You can't miss me. I'm the white kid drinking cervezas with old Spanish men on the block.

If you enjoyed this article, check out 5 Things You Don’t Know About The UES (Unless You Live There)!

[Featured Image Courtesy: Leroy H. Woodson, National Geographic]

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