Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Kensington Driveway…. Priceless

I remember driving my next-door neighbor Mrs. Michaels crazy when I put up the basketball hoop. As soon as I’d start to dribble there she was, banging on the window with a quarter, “tap, tap, tap”, “you know you should really go to the playground if you’re going to play basketball”. “The sound of that ball just goes right through my house.”
And of course not being the type to start trouble, I’d just listen and carry the ball out of my driveway and sit on my front stoop. Leaving my plywood backboard and rusted hoop behind, all alone on my garage roof
in the back of my driveway.

And then there was “box ball”; we’d hit a Spaulding against the side of my house trying to get it into someone else’s concrete box. Just a gentle tap with the palm of you hand is all you’d need. The sound of the ball was nothing compare to a basketball, but nevertheless ………“tap, tap, tap”, “you know you should really go to the playground if you’re going to play that game”. “The sound of that ball just goes right through my house.”

And again as my Mom always taught me, respect your elders, even if they’re "crazy".

Then there was ice hockey with a real rubber puck, we’d bank it off the sides of my house, 399 and Mr. Blank’s house 403 East 4th. Pieces of that fake “red brick” stuff would usually flake off with every shot that hit either house. Not to mention the basement windows that we occasionally shattered. “Hey Ronnie, you gotta be careful with my house, that pucks going break one of my windows” said Mr. Blank.

“Oh, I’ll be careful Mr. Blank, don’t worry”. After he went inside I made a snow bank with my foot against the shattered window, hoping he wouldn’t see it till spring.

But then in 1990 I bought my house from my Aunt, and my driveway became more “Me”.

Lets see, auto repair work, dead car storage, a place to safely sleep in my car when I was locked out. A place where my Mom’s Christmas tree landed when she chucked it out the window and hit the hood of my Buick. A place to keep a dumpster without the city being up you ass. Oh, right, and a place where the current tenant next door still screams at me when I start my 70 Cuda and smoke up the driveway. And yes, of course, a place where my daughter learned how to ride her tricycle.

Ok, Ok, I know what you’re going to say, I should be lucky to have a place to park my car at night. A guaranteed spot every day, an added 100,000 to the value of my house. Yes, I know, and It’s the only “bonus” that keeps my wife sane every day when she does her round trips to Bay Ridge to my kid’s schools. The “straw” that broke the camel’s back when we decided to move back here from Fort Greene. Yes, I know, you don't have to tell me, it's hell finding a parking spot on the street sometimes. I lived in Fort Greene for five years you know, and I share your pain. Because most Brownstones don't have driveways, including my wife's.

I have been reading all the RPP stuff too, and to me it’s just another way for the city to squeeze a buck out of us all. Sure it will make some folks happy, but it’s just going to be another “cost” associated with living here in New York. Yeah, 35 bucks today, but how about 10 years from now?

And as for my driveway?
Well, I know the city’s going to catch up to me someday, some tax or fee probably. Just another “cost” on top of every other “cost” we have to pay. Because we all pay for everyone else in some way or another you know. So don’t think I’ll be getting away with my eight-car driveway forever while you folks pay 35 dollars a year for a spot on the street. No, don’t worry I’ll be paying along with everyone else too. And besides, like they say in Brooklyn “what comes around, goes around”. And that includes the broken basement window that I still see every day, and never paid for. Feeling guilty about it 30 years later, because I never told Mr. Blank, that I did it.
And I know I'll have to pay for it someday,
one way or another.

Ron Lopez

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