Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bricks n.

1. the city streets, esp. seen from a prison cell.

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 235: the bricks Freedom from prison.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 34/2: Bricks, the, n. The free world outside prison.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]C. Shafer ‘Catheads [...] and Cho-Cho Sticks’ in Abernethy Bounty of Texas (1990) 199: bricks, n. – the outside or free world: to be on the bricks.
[US]Maledicta V:1+2 (Summer + Winter) 267: Other terms commonly heard in prison life are [...] bricks for the street.
[US]C. Heath A-Team 2 (1984) 23: We’re off the bricks again, gents.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 39: The city street — or more exactly the sidewalk — was symbolized in urban vernaculars of itinerants by the synecdoches bricks, pavement, and very slangily, rocks.
[US]Rebennack & Rummel Under A Hoodoo Moon 120: No free man (no warden) runs nothing at all. They run it in name only—the big chingodas are the cats with the cash; they and the kites to the bricks (the links to outside) have clout. [Ibid.] 125: Back in New Orleans before I was put off the bricks.
[US]J. Ellroy ‘Hollywood Fuck Pad’ in Destination: Morgue! (2004) 206: A flamboyant appearance will help me on the bricks.

2. the urban environment in general.

[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 159: Moonpie shuddered at the mere thought of the parlous bricks.

3. a street prostitute’s beat.

[US]Milner & Milner Black Players 40: The process of taking a square broad (one who is not a prostitute) and teaching her the game is called turning her out. This term is also used as a noun, as in ‘she was my second turn-out.’ Apparently the expression derives from turning someone out into the street or the bricks.

In phrases

beat the bricks (v.)

(US) to walk the streets, esp. when in search of work.

[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 23: Soon as the club closes I’ll beat the night bricks.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 40: To enter on the street and to walk on the sidewalk, especially when looking for something to do, in the logic of slang, is to hit, to pad, to pound, or to beat the bricks, the pavement, or sometimes the macadam.
hit the bricks (v.) (also pad…, pound…)(orig. US)

1. to exit, to leave for the street, to start walking.

[US]Phila. Inquirer 22 May part II 3/5–6: I don’t want any excuses. Next time this happens you hit the bricks for yours – that’s the answer.
[US]Wash. Times (DC) 1 Oct. 46/6: When I see the bill [...] I hit the bricks.
[US]Rigney & Smith Real Bohemia 62: I hit the bricks soon afterwards, and headed back to Frisco.
[US]J. Wambaugh Choirboys (1976) 44: Come on, goddamnit, let’s hit the bricks.
[US]J. Wambaugh Glitter Dome (1982) 50: Schultz even let the Weasel rub his crewcut for luck before hitting the bricks.
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 17: Then they grabbed their dog-eared Bibles [...] and hit the bricks.
[US]J. Stahl Permanent Midnight 101: Hitting the bricks without even cleaning up his desk.
[US]F.X. Toole Pound for Pound 228: Once somebody takes a shine to you, I’m hittin the bricks, get me?

2. to be discharged from a prison sentence.

[US]G. Milburn ‘Convicts’ Jargon’ in AS VI:6 439: hit the bricks, to. To be released from prison.
[US]J. Spenser Limey 10: Well, what would it be worth to you to ‘hit the bricks?’ (be turned loose).
[US]Mencken Amer. Lang. (4th edn) 581: In virtually all American prisons [...] To be released is to spring or to hit the bricks.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 34/2: Bricks, the, n. The free world outside prison. ‘That ghee found a home (fits admirably) in stir (prison). He’ll be out trying to get himself a new bit (another sentence) as soon as he hits the bricks.’.
[US]T. Runyon In For Life 93: Training to steal more efficiently once they hit the bricks again.
[US]G. Cuomo Among Thieves 62: When you hit the bricks, you know, you gotta work, you gotta find a job.
[US]T. Thackrey Thief 421: Finally, I hit the bricks again.
[US]C. Shafer ‘Catheads [...] and Cho-Cho Sticks’ in Abernethy Bounty of Texas (1990) 206: hit the bricks, v. – to return to the free-world.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 55: You hit the bricks shaky, very shaky.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 40: To hit the bricks, one of the more enduring variations, has had several meanings. The phrase has meant to [...] be released from prison, to go on strike, and to walk the streets all night because of homelessness.
[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July [Internet] Hit the Bricks: To be released to the streets. (MI).

3. to go on strike.

[US]R.O. Boyer Dark Ship 153: Old-timers are constantly talking about ‘hitting the bricks’ and ‘pulling the pin’ and ‘sitting her down,’ expressions indicating strikes.
[US]Phila. Bulletin 3 Sept. 6: It is obvious that any union always hitting the bricks and calling showdowns cannot get what it asks for at the end of the year [W&F].
see sense 2.

4. to be homeless, walking the streets at night.

[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
see sense 2.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) Décharné Straight from the Fridge Dad.
like bricks (adv.)

1. energetically, noisily (cf. like beans and bricks under beans n.3 ).

[UK] ‘Bill Hart and Kitty Miles’ in Icky-Wickey Songster 21: He cocked his tail, and vos off like bricks.
[UK]T. Hood ‘Masonic Secret’ Works (1862) VII 19: Pitch into him, like bricks.
[UK]F.E. Smedley Frank Fairlegh (1878) 147: Don’t stand there winking and blinking like an owl; pull away like bricks, or I’ll break your neck for you. [Ibid.] 411: He’s upstairs, sir; in his room, sir; a-going it like bricks, if you please, sir; you can hear him down here.

2. unreservedly.

[UK]‘Paul Pry’ Oddities of London Life I 37: ‘Vot I’ve said is true, an’ I’ll stick to it like bricks’.

3. in the best possible manner.

[UK]E. de la Bédollière Londres et les Anglais 313/1: like bricks, expression admirative. I have dined like bricks, j’ai dîné à merveille. He sings like bricks, il chante comme un rossignol. He does every thing like bricks, il excelle dans tout ce qu’il fait.
on the bricks (also on the pavement, on the sidewalk)

1. (US) on the street after being released from prison or hospital.

[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 200: My mouthpiece talked like three men at once, and got me bail at five grand, and I was out on the bricks again.
[US]Ersine Und. and Prison Sl.
[US]C. Himes ‘Money Don’t Spend in the Stir’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 194: He can put you on the bricks just like that.
[US]J. Blake letter 15 July in Joint (1972) 103: Too tough for you on the bricks, old partner?
[US]J. Blake letter 24 July in Joint (1972) 186: This particular maneuver will wind itself up this week, then I’m on the bricks.
[US]C. Shafer ‘Catheads [...] and Cho-Cho Sticks’ in Abernethy Bounty of Texas (1990) 199: bricks, n. – the outside or free world: to be on the bricks.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 44: His most compelling reason for staying on the bricks.
[US]K. Scott Monster (1994) 214: Somebody got killed on the bricks?
[US]Rebennack & Rummel Under A Hoodoo Moon 1: U.S. Public Health Hospital, Fort Worth [...] In the bat of an eye, I’m out on the bricks of the fonky streets of Fort Worth.
[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July [Internet] Bricks: The outside, on the outside, as in ‘on the bricks.’.
[US]Prison Slang Mommyblogger mydogharriet.blogspot.com 26 Sept. [Internet] If she makes jackrabbit parole and gets on the bricks again, calmly place her back in her crib.

2. (drugs) walking the streets searching for drugs.

[US]H.S. Thompson letter 5 Jan. in Proud Highway (1997) 603: The article naturally bombed, and Lionel was back on the bricks where he’d spent the last half of his forty-odd years.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 16: On the bricks — Walking the streets.

3. working as a street prostitute.

[US](con. 1949) J.G. Dunne True Confessions (1979) 230: ‘She works Lower Sunset now.’ [...] ‘Lower Sunset,’ Tom Spellacy said. ‘On the bricks?’.
[US]A.K. Shulman On the Stroll 20: Before you know what’s happenin they got you out on the bricks.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 40: To be on the pavement, on the sidewalks, or on the street meant to hustle, especially as a prostitute.
press the bricks (v.) (also press brick)(US)

1. to stand around in the street, loafing and gossiping.

[UK]Taunton Courier 23 July 3/6: American slang [...] ‘In the pinochle season we press the bricks, tapped out, ready for Freddie’.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 40: Merely to press the bricks, however, is to stand loafing in the streets.

2. to walk the streets in search of work.

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 182: press brick (v) To wander about town.
to the bricks (adv.)

(US black) to the limit, to the furthest extent.

Eliason ‘Some Negro Terms’ in AS XIII:2 152/1: on down to the bricks. As excellently as possible.
[US]R. Russell Sound 218: All the studs in fancy duds and foxy chicks togged to the bricks is gonna be there.
walk the bricks (v.) [metonymy]

1. to wander around; to walk up and down.

Utility Workers Union of America Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention 195: [...] any section of labor which has to get out and walk the bricks to fight for those things we are seeking.
[US](con. 1949) J.G. Dunne True Confessions (1979) 110: You open your face about this [...] you’ll be walking the bricks out of 77th Street.

2. (US police) to patrol on foot.

[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.