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Once Around

 

On this cold unforgiving February night shots ring out as the falling snow muffles the sounds of murder.  Two cousins scratching out lives living in Manhattan find their destinies knit together in this violent storm in 1961 in New York City.  Inside the bodega on the corner of 103rd street on Amsterdam Avenue Frank Prinze and Jose Graniela grapple with each other for $83.00; the price of Frank's next heroin fix.

 

We follow the days’ events seeing what life was in 1961 for Puerto Ricans in a city that couldn’t care a damn about them, their lives, hope or dreams.  Until this minute Jose, Maria, his wife, Butchie and Jimmy, his sons, went about their lives facing the bigotry, slight of hands, and every day events fending off challenges as they came.  Jim and Butchie are as different as night and day with the exception of their compassion for the ‘little guy’.  The two boys start their day coming to the rescue of a Rabbi being mugged on 99th street chasing away the bandit and saving the Rabbi from a beating too.  They go their separate ways.

 

While Butchie, the eldest, meets up with his friends who, after robbing a transistor radio from the five and dime, continue with girls in tow, to Riverside Drive park drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, pot and partying while Jimmy confronts two older bullies at his grammar school who decide to rough up the 'spic'.  To their surprise Jimmy lands one in the hospital.  All the while Jose is at his bodega feeding Frank and his friend who’s out on bail put up by Jose on a heroin possession charge.

 

Mary, Jose's wife, is in the downtown store and running around from one political meeting with Ted Weiss, Herman Badillo, Ramon Velez and Jacob Javits, attempting to start the careers of Herman and Ramon to another with Bobby Kennedy, Alex Rose, Ed Sullivan, and others on the formation of community centrers, to the formation of Penn South, (Mutual Redevelopment Houses, Inc.) a limited equity co-op that creates affordable housing in Chelsea’s then dying district suffering white flight.  From time to time she phones her husband to make sure all is well.  All the time the City continues on its relentless rhythm not stopping for anyone’s concerns.  Frank Prinze the father of Freddie Prinze, the popular comedian of the 1970’s who son Freddie Prinze Jr. is a movie producer today, is a cousin of Jose Graniela.  Although both are accustomed to the city’s indifference and callousness this time, their lives and that of their families are forever altered by the cold hand of fate.

The picture we see reminds us of what life and death were about in the age of the so-called renaissance.  While Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, John Kennedy, Tito Puente, The Young Lords changed the world, on the street of New York City grinds on and exacts its price.

 

In a long dark hallway lighted by the living room window at the other end Mary and the boys are awaken by a knock.  The low rumble of traffic and city sounds floats in. Everyone is asleep.  Bang, Bang, Bang!...A light comes from Marys’ bedroom next to the front door.  Another light comes on halfway down the hallway.  You can see both Jimmy and Butchie in their pj's step into the hallway.  Victor, “It’s me Papo.”  Mary, “Papo..que?” She opens the door. The stairwell's light illuminates her.  Jimmy says “Papi’s dead.”  Victor in shock; “That's right Mary.”  He turns to Jimmy...”Jimmy how do you know?”  Shock registers on Mary’s’ and Butchie’s faces.  Jimmy, “I just do.... Just do....”

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