Photo by Joshua Kristal
Red’s been hanging out in Boerum Hill since he was a kid, when he moved here from Puerto Rico. He used to live on Dean Street, near Hoyt. He’s got 13 gold teeth, emblazoned with a playboy symbol, and a little sparkle.
A lot’s changed since Smith Street was a Puerto Rican hangout. “It changed because the white people have to buy houses, and stores,” Red says. “People sell and move to Florida. I like New York, I like it here. There’s everything you need handy. My friends are here, good music.”
Red’s got a bullet in his left shoulder, and a big scar on his left hand, from when he was attacked by a crazed guy with a machete, and shot, on Smith Street, at Bergen. But that was a long time ago.
“It happened right over there,” Red tells me, pointing to the corner of Smith Street and Bergen. We’re standing in front of Serenity Hair Plus on Smith. Red lives with hair stylist Pepsi, now, an old friend (Pepsi is an awesome haircutter). “I fought people in the street. Boxing. I knocked him out. Later, he came back with a machete. Said, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ Are you crazy? I said.”
I asked what the fight was about. “He was supposed to give me $300. He wouldn’t pay. So I had to knock him out. Then he comes and says he’s going to kill me.”
Same happened with a guy with a gun, who shot Red.
“Why’d they owe you money?” I ask. For some reason, we both start cracking up.
Now Red’s on disability for his injuries.
Red is 65. His daughter begged him, “Poppy, don’t fight in the street. Don’t fight anymore.” So, he stopped. “I don’t fight nobody no more,” he says.
He hangs around Smith doing odd jobs, plumbing, fixing the sidewalk, hanging with friends, listening to music. Always with a big smile.
If you see him, say Hi.