Ringolevio: Life Played for Keeps by Emmett Grogan

Burcu Harbert
Student, MFA

Ringolevio: name of a game kids played in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen district in the ’50 and ’60s, a kind of gang slanted hide & seek. The word is possibly from Italian orgins.

What’s interesting to me is the transformation of the main character from a heroine addict and thief to political activist who works firstly with the Diggers of San Fransciso, an underground group (because the food given away is stolen) that feeds people three times a day in Golden Gate Park, and then with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, doing political performances.

Why is this book memorable to me? I was about thirteen when I found it in my dad’s library, among many
other classics. I found it so compelling that I took it back to boarding school where it was forbidden to read anything but required text; not even a newspaper could be read without punishment. Ringolevio was confiscated.

Before either begging for its return or stealing the book back, I was left with nothing to occupy my weekend so I ran away from school, failing to visit the bathroom before escaping. When I reached the bookstore, where I planned to hide out, my bladder failed me! Hence the indelible imprint around this book.

Despite the harrowing memories around this book, I call it my Bible because it is possibly the most inspiring book, along with Lao Tzu’s, Tao Te Ching, that I have ever read.
“The Free-Fall Chronicles: Playing For Keeps,” Peter Coyote
Review, New York Review of Book
“Retropop Scene: Emmett, Mac and Peter Coyote,” Column 9, The Blacklisted Journalist

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