She Thought the Russians Was Coming

She Thought the Russians Was Coming

I first went down to Brooklyn to see the gang on a bone cold February afternoon this year. They were waiting for Bruce Davidson and me in a candy store about a half mile from their turf, a parlor they had begun to use lately because their own was too small. The new place had a juke box, and three booths to the rear, and when we entered five or six girls and a dozen boys were milling around in the back.

For the first minute, a bit of tension: nothing all-out hostile, more an air of stony curiosity, studied on their part, studied on mine. One cannot get around it—there are situations which belong more to the movies than to life, and all of us were obeying an archetypal scene in a gangster movie or a Western—a stranger had come to visit.

This mood shifted quickly enough. Bruce had already told the Royal Dealers, which is the fictitious name we might as well use, that Esquire magazine had bought his pictures. (For a year he had been friendly with these kids and the sight of him with the Leica up to his face had come to seem as natural as lighting a cigarette.) Now a few of them had been let in on the new information that a writer was here today to write them up, and this explanation for my presence passed around quickly. They were picked up by it. Conversation began to go, and before fifteen minutes we had found a common ground; we were passing back and forth our prescriptions for odd kicks.