Not long ago I happened to pass through the Preston Hollow area for the first time in perhaps a decade, a period I spent mostly in Brooklyn, Uptown, and federal prison, three places where it’s easy to forget that Preston Hollow exists. I see that the dramatic gentrification of the neighborhood has continued apace since those days in the early ’90s when, despite a rather sudden spate of mini-mansion development, a few single-story houses could still be found on the blocks running off of Hillcrest, between construction sites. As a child I lived in one of them before my family was priced out of the rental market. Following are descriptions of the kids who dwelt in the others. Bear with me; I have a point.
Shortly after we managed to obtain a VHS copy of Reservoir Dogs, Billy pulled us aside one day and announced that henceforth he wanted us to address him as Mr. Pink, after Steve Buscemi’s bank robber character. When we continued to refer to him as Billy, he would respond, “Who’s Billy?” He skipped school on Mortal Monday, the 1993 console release date of Mortal Kombat. When asked how to do a particular move in a video game, he would refuse to answer, responding only that it was “an old family recipe.” In the midst of any four-player fighting game, whether it be GoldenEye 007 or Super Smash Bros. or WWF Raw, he would keep his character away from the actual fighting until everyone else had low health, and even then you would have to go after him. On one occasion, when we were 15 and this other kid Caleb refused to go with us to someone’s house party out of sheer negativity, Billy gave him a pep talk in the form of a parable about a Native American boy who had always been afraid of buffaloes and would never go on any buffalo hunts until one night when buffaloes attacked his village and he was forced to fight them, thereby conquering his fears.
Whitney worked at a pizza place at Preston and Royal when he was 14 until being fired or quitting or some combination of the two. Whenever the owner saw him afterward, she would accuse him of having stolen a set of keys to the restaurant, something he consistently denied. Years later, he admitted that he had indeed stolen the keys.
Gibbs was allowed to shoot BB guns in the house but could only set off Black Cats in his own bedroom. While driving us over country roads to the little ranch house the family had somehow inherited, his dad suggested that we stand outside on the running board. One time Gibbs fell off and his dad drove back to where he’d fallen, and told him, “You didn’t hold on tight enough!” and advised him to be more careful next time. Another time, Gibbs’ dad sat in the living room smoking marijuana and announced, bizarrely, “This weed ain’t shit! I’m callin’ it ‘tweed’!” Gibbs also skipped school on Mortal Monday, an operation in which his parents were entirely complicit.
Chris was a hyper-papist who held that the world should be ruled by the pope. He would sell low-end weed that he’d soaked in water to make it come out to a full ounce, and if you smoked it, you’d get headaches. He once argued that Hulk Hogan could beat Bruce Lee in a fight, which is patently false. When we came upon a stray marijuana plant behind Dan’s Cafe one night, he tried to claim possession of it on highly dubious legal grounds. Chris actually didn’t live anywhere near Preston Hollow.
Extraordinarily negative kid whose mom was a drunk.
Caleb’s Mom’s Homeless Boyfriend Mike
One day Caleb’s mom’s purse was stolen out of her car while she was at her office; presumably the car door was unlocked because she was drunk. When she walked over to the park across the street, a homeless guy named Mike told her he’d get the purse back. The next day, he actually did manage to do this, and somehow this led to Caleb’s mom letting Mike move in with them and setting him up as a day trader in the back room, where they had a computer. That was also where Caleb’s Nintendo 64 was kept, so we learned a lot about day trading in those days.
This concludes my argument in favor of gentrification.