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Sights and Sounds of The Bronx

September 28, 2012

The tennis courts absorb the sounds of The Bronx. Like the borough itself, they’re cracked and torn in places, but it makes for all the more personality. And The Bronx has plenty of personality. Situated in the South Bronx, these courts have seen it all. We play to an almost constant stream of hip-hop music, snippets of songs floating out of passing cars and into our ears. Behind me, three men sit on benches, watching us play a sport seldom seen in these areas. It’s basketball, not tennis, that is the game of choice and it’s played on nearly every corner. Those courts move along to the music, the ball thumping with every beat. It’s a loud game, a game more suited to the neighbourhood. Tennis is too silent here, but it’s all the better for soaking up the sights and sounds of The Bronx.

 

I’m waiting in line in a corner store cramped for space, its air is musty and its cans covered with dust. A boy no more than 14 stands behind me, talking loudly to the back of an older woman.

“She can’t work because she has to look after him,” he almost shouts. “And if she can’t work, there won’t be no money. And if there’s no money, she can’t keep the house.” The older woman turns.

“She won’t lose the house,” she says, a tinge of boredom to her tone.

“But she ain’t got no money. You gots to work to get money and she can’t work. That’s just the way of it, isn’t it?”  The boy folds his arms, defeated by the woman’s silence. He’s got bigger worries at 14 than I hopefully ever will.

 

It’s almost midnight but the streets of The Bronx are still alive. People sit on plastic chairs outside corner stores and on the stairs of their apartments, socialising with their neighbours. For once, there’s no music playing. We walk past a girl who’s about 10 years old. She’s dancing to a beat only playing inside her head. Her body jolts and her hips move with an easy energy. It’s captivating and I’m jealous of her rhythm. I wish I could watch for longer.

 

We’re on the number six line, coming from Manhattan and heading back to The Bronx. It’s nearing five in the evening and a well-dressed work crowd dominates the train. Women with carefully shaped eyebrows and sky-high heels sit while men stand with stern expressions to match their briefcases. As we heard north the business types slowly disembark until there’s none left. For a while the carriage is empty save for us, until a new demographic begins to emerge. These people favour low-slung jeans, their boxers showing but faces hidden by hoods and caps. They carry backpacks and listen to music, some are mumbling the words as the train rumbles on. By the time we reach our station, we’re the odd ones out. But nobody bats an eyelid. Heads down, hoods up, they carry on their way.

Image credits: Joe Conzo Jr.

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