The Northside Boys’ Club was an old three story house. On the first floor, the wrestling room, ping pong, the director’s office and snack bar. On the second, a pool room with two full sized tables that always had a long line waiting to play. On the third floor, at the top of the stairs was a catch-all storage area that also had a couple of chairs set up in front of an old wooden table on which sat a Hallicrafters shortwave radio and a headset.
I was 13, big for my age and had just gotten into the first of many fights to come in that hardscrapple pool room on the second floor. Bruised and bloodied, I retreated to the third floor, which was always empty, to collect my thoughts.
Idlly, I turned on the radio, twisted the dial and found a song.
Puff the Magic Dragon Lived by the sea . . .
The lyrics were haunting, the melody was as lonely as I felt.
A dragon lives forever, not so little boys. . .
It was true. My voice was changing; I was growing up.
I’ll always remember that day. It changed my life.