What is the Squieu? A jokey reference to Montesquieu Volvestre, a nearby village to where we live. The village has a large Halle, which is quite common in this part of the world which gives coverage from the sun in summer and rain in winter so the weekly markets can continue to trade – rain or shine.
The Halle in Montesquieu Volvestre.
A few days ago I turned 52 years old and when I think back 35 or so years I have fond memories of hanging out in the Northeast corner of The Bronx. So an idea was born when I discovered a small Pizza Parlor right off the Halle in Montesquieu.
The pizza shop above is from The Bronx in the 70’s as you can see by the price in the window.
Hanging out was quite the norm in the days of yore and hopefully continues to be done on the streets of the boros of New York City till this day.
Hanging out was the ultimate way to live in the moment. Before any of us turned into our philosophical older selves phrases like ‘Living in the moment’ wouldn’t have reverberated with our seventeen year-old selves just looking to have a good time and be with friends.
Hanging out was like having an impromptu party nearly every night of the week not knowing what would present itself as the darkness engulfed and the festivities unfolded.
Some nights it might be music from Grec’s boom box, others maybe George or John on their guitars. Hanging out was a large part of growing up in my part of The Bronx – 235th street, Burger King, Grace Ave, Wickham Ave, P.S. 16 & 87 – to name just a few popular hang outs.
The best thing about hanging out was how every night would be something different. Other sections of the wider neighborhood would converge, merge and re-emerge with new friendships, girlfriends/boyfriends, and musical influences.
The art of hanging out was just done anywhere; street corners, stoops, schoolyards, and when you hit the illegal drinking age of sixteen you’d hang out in some of the bars on ‘The Avenue’, which was what White plains Road was commonly known as. Though the freedom of hanging on the streets playing any music you wanted to hear, drinking quarts of beer, or other mind-altering substances as time went on, was something me and many people of my generation have deeply burned into our brain synapses.
Things weren’t always perfect and I also remember a drug dealer being shot in P.S. 87 schoolyard moments after my friends and I walked by coming from the Deli with our beer. Overdoses happened, and the occasional fights as well, but the overriding memory is of many nights passed listening to music, stealing some time with my girlfriend, and the days spent playing stickball, paddle or handball. We didn’t need to go far and friends were always close.
I remember the day Keith Moon of The Who died and we all held our breath before Grec arrived as he was a huge Who fan. Then we heard the primal scream, “KEITH!!!!!!” and Grec’s boombox bedecked with the British Flag blasted ‘Baba O’Reilly’ as he sauntered onto Grace Avenue head hung low. The night became an impromptu ode to The Who, or the nights George came with his guitar and we passed the time making up Blues songs as he strummed the chords.
Doo-wop started on the streets, as did rap and break dancing which have all had world-wide influence. So hanging out has had its impact.
This wasn’t us, but others were hangin’ playing guitar!
That was then and this is now. So as I find myself in a small village in southern France, far from those days of youth in The Bronx an idea was born a few days before my 52nd birthday. What about just hanging out under the Halle in Montesquieu Volvestre, buying some pizza and drinking some beer?
So on Wednesday October 30th, 2013 the Halle in “The Squieu” saw friends slowing filtering in. The night thankfully wasn’t freezing cold. As the impromptu crowd of friends were not used to hangin’ in the hood, a few were unsure of what a good idea it all was. I had to let go of my 52 year-old self and have faith that all would be well. I needed to fight the urge, after some suggestions, to say, “Let’s go back to my house.” We didn’t have that option back in 1977, so why fall back on that option now? The night would unfold as it should.
As it worked out Angie, my wife, bought some candles from a local shop and the pizza boxes were spread out on the ledge of one of the pillars under the Halle. An acquaintance passing through from Belgium later pulled up with his camping car to add some music. The local supermarket supplied some peanuts, potato chips and beer. Other friends from Italy and Scotland had their camping stove and made some hot-spiced wine. The crowd included some young travelers from Norway, more good friends from Belgium, a smattering of people from England, Germany, America, and of course France. A local guy also joined in. He enjoyed hanging out and meeting some new people.
All the kids from two to thirteen year olds ran around in the cool evening air, littler ones just slept in their carriages, but all had a good night just hanging out with their friends.
Grec never showed up with his boombox, but to be honest I hadn’t heard from him in over 30 years, so he wasn’t expected. As a matter of fact not much was expected, but the night unfolded nicely. We all hung out and with just a few pizza boxes to clean up and bottles to take to the recycling bin so there was no stress involved for anyone.
The art of hanging out was introduced to southern France, and Gaia, a friend from Italy, said she loved it as it reminded her of her student days in Rome.
Long live the simple things in life, and I highly recommend an impromptu hang out party in your near future, wherever you live. Although I was informed that laws in Europe actually made what we did illegal, it just felt even more correct to flout such silly laws – how rebellious to be outlaws just celebrating with friends – quite ridiculous. Sometimes we just need to take back the communal spaces of the streets, the parks, or in this case the Halle.
Pizza and beer are pretty much an easy combination to find in most places. The most important ingredient is the good friends and I hope all of you have some of those around.