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Kissing the Black Widow

The post below was written by Vincent Villagran.

My friend Vinny is turning 90 in July. I tell Vinny he looks amazing. He tells me, "You should see me in my speedos."

That's how Vinny talks...and writes. In fact, he has written a couple of books, in which he shares tales and reflections of growing up in Boyle Heights and New Mexico. Recently, Vinny gave me a copy of one of his self-published works, East of the River (L.A. River). I am enjoying the humor, rawness and lightness. Here's a chapter that made me chuckle. If you enjoy it and want to read more, glide over to Amazon.

Kissing the Black Widow - by Vincent Villagran

It was that magical time – confusing, mysterious and wondrous. We were thirteen years old and on the cusp of crossing into the world of puberty, our bodies beginning to fill with raging hormones and unveiling a new world which we could not fully understand.

It seemed that, not too long ago, girls were targets for teasing and objects of derision. Now we viewed them in ways we could not fully grasp and in a game of Spin the Bottle, a kiss on the lips was suddenly acceptable, even welcomed.

We chased girls to show off our speed, not unlike colts chasing and nipping at the flanks of fillies. It was the summer of 1947, and four of us, having just finished playing basketball at the Hollenbeck center, were riding our Schwinns aimlessly up and down St. Louis Street. We were bored and pondering what to do on this warm summer evening.

I think it was Eddie who had an idea, which was to risk our lives by riding down to the Aliso Village housing project which was in Flats, the turf of a notorious gang of the same name. During the 1930’S, Russian immigrants had settled there, and the area became known as the Russian Flats.

What would compel us to ride our bikes into the heart of danger? That is what we asked Eddie. His answer was that the Black Widow lived there. I asked him, “Who the hell is the Black Widow?”

He straddled his bike and said, “I know her, and she’ll let us kiss her.”

Joe spoke up and asked, “All of us?”

“That’s right” said Johnny, “I know guys who know her, and she can really kiss.”

Joe was practical and cautious. He set his bike down, put his hands in his pockets and in a low voice said, “You know we can get our butts kicked down there, and just for a kiss? Is it worth it?”

We debated the matter and finally decided that we would go, but via a route that would avoid Clarence Street, the main entrance to the projects. We would ride all the way to Mission Street and enter through the rear entrance.

So, Eddie, Joe, Johnny and I mounted up and rode west on First Street to Boyle Avenue. From there, First Street became a long incline. We careened down the hill, the warm summer breeze whipping our faces, and adrenaline coursing through our veins. Looking back, I understand how Custer felt riding into The Little Big Horn.

Eddie knew exactly where The Black Widow lived, and as we neared her unit we realized that none of us knew her real name. Eddie had told us that she was a Latina with a dark complexion, thus the nickname. In Latino neighborhoods and culture, nicknames are so common that one could befriend someone for decades, never knowing that person’s birth name. What we did discover was that she was very attractive.

Eddie approached her unit and emitted a loud piercing whistle. We waited. And waited. We were about to leave, when the door opened and she appeared. Eddie waved her over to a small playground area where we were gathered.

Eddie walked her over to us and introduced her to each of us. Eddie asked her, “Wanna make out?”

She looked each of us over, then said, “O.K.”

Eddie walked her over to the chin-up bars, where she leaned back against a low wall. He began to kiss her for what seemed like a long time.

We waited nervously. Finally, he stepped back, called Johnny over, and so it went until all of us had kissed her. These were not Spin the Bottle kisses; they were lingering kisses like we saw in movies. She had unleashed a tsunami of hormones and chemicals that thrust us into full-fledged puberty.

I suppose we were feeling indestructible, because we decided to ride back the short way, taking Clarence Street to the main entrance of the projects and back to First Street.

We rode like wild men, pedaling furiously with only the sound of our tires humming over the asphalt. It seemed like we would never reach First Street.

Finally, there it was. We would be safe. We turned left on First Street and headed up the hill to Boyle Heights.

After a short debriefing, we asked Eddie why we never saw the Black Widow at school. He told us she went to a Catholic school.



East of The River - Tales and Reflections, by Vincent 'Don' Villagran

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