Saturday, March 15, 2008

Only the Lucky Live on Top

I remember the walls of our apartment always seemed to be on very sharp angles. Like old trees in a forest they sometimes looked as though they were leaning on each other and ready to collapse. Just falling right on top of us and swallowing our little bodies inside their lathe and plaster bellies. Never to be found again, trapped inside the dirty dusty hallows above our ceiling.

And it all seemed quite normal to me too, especially the pitched wall above my bed in our bedroom. A wonderful angled wall that always gave me the opportunity to study my watercolor paintings and classroom drawings when I woke up each morning.

I always felt quite comfortable in our apartment too. It just offered this splendid sense of coziness that I could never find in the enormous square walled dwellings of my aunt and grandmother below us. No, our apartment was just “right”, and I was always glad get back to our “little cabin in the sky” each and every day.

You know you're sitting on the top of the world too. A bird’s eye view of every sunrise and sunset over Kensington Brooklyn. Those magnificent Ocean Parkway apartment buildings could have easily been the “Berkshires” if you squinted your eyes long enough. Old television antennas turned into pine trees and tiny yellow windows were wonderful little farmhouses that sprinkled the mountainside.

Oh, but those sunsets, they were just beautiful every day. And there was never any need to even imagine when it set. Just a magnificent orange ball setting over the house tops of East 3rd and East 2nd. Finally disappearing over the gigantic factory on 39th street in Boro Park. No, even from our attic apartment an old factory looked beautiful with the evening sun slowly fading behind it.

Then there were the storms, and let me tell you there could be nothing as breathtaking as a thunderstorm from our top floor apartment. When the Kensington winds howled loud and strong you could actually feel the house swaying and rocking back and forth. One hundred year old timber and nails never pretending to be stronger than Mother Nature. Like a tall oak in Prospect Park, she just let the gales wrap themselves around her old wooden body, and gently dance a tender waltz. As the torrid rain would beat hard against the large picture window that looked over the “sea of tar” below. We would just hold on to the couch for dear life as waves crashed against her sides. Sometimes being afraid, but always too excited to ever move from that big old picture window in our
living room.

Yeah, sometimes you really felt like you were in the wheelhouse of some old freighter at sea from that apartment. The helm of the good ship 399, and we were lucky enough to live there each and every day.

It’s strange but I still can’t get used to having a lot of space. I don’t know why, maybe I feel as though I’m not worthy and don’t deserve it for some reason. Don’t get me wrong, I love the apartment I live in now, but there’s something about a lot of space and perfectly square walls that still seems odd to me after all these years. Not to mention the “coziness” of a much smaller apartment that I still miss.

But that’s Ok, I know someday the kids will move out and maybe my wife will banish me to the basement. And boy is there a wonderful room down there I already have my eyes on. And it may all just work out fine; well except for the boiler and water heater I’d have to live with. But still, there’s enough room for a bed. And how much room does one need anyway to feel happy? Sure no views of the sunrise and sunsets over Kensington, but at least I’d have my
own fireplace.

So if you live in an attic apartment in Kensington,
remember to watch those sunrises and sunsets every day,
and never forget how lucky you really are.
Because only the lucky live on top.

Ron Lopez

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Cousin Pete said...

Great story Ronnie...just one reminder. Your Mom banished you to the basement for a short while, a very long time you already know what it's like to live with the boiler and water heater! And the basement wasn't half as habitable then as it is now....all you need to make life complete there are your Lionel trains, HO cars, ping-pong table and your old VCR & TV - I won't go into detail on the TV/VCR....oh, and maybe that red velvet couch!

Anonymous said...

Sorry if you get 2 of these. Think I might have made a mistake registering. Anyhow, my brother told me about your site. We grew up on E. 2nd off Ave C in 50s and 60s. Had friend named Joseph Giunti who lived on 4th or 5th and C. I also had friend, Anthony Lopez who lived somewhere on Cortelyou I think. He'd be around 58 now. Nice to know someone else remembers "Morris" the ice cream man!!!

Ginny said...

Love your site. It brings back so many fond memories. I grew up at 444 E. 5th Street in the 50s. We also lived in an attic apartment. It was wonderful. I had my little corner in a room where the roof slanted and everything you said brings back really great memories. These were the best years of my life. Moved out in the 60s. I'm looking through my mom's old photos and hoping to find some to send to you (if I can figure out how). The only names I can remember from E. 4th Street were the Cardillo's (Joe "Red" and his wife Mary and I believe they had 2 sons - one named Marty). Red was my dad's best friend. Also remember the Ryan's (straight from Ireland). Was best friends with Elizabeth. It was a great neighborhood. Had friends on every block from MacDonald to Coney Island Avenue & from Prospect Ave to Dahill Road.