Not all Kensington Stories really take place in Kensington you know, especially this one. I mean it did start in Kensington that evening, but ended in a very strange place that warm spring night back in 1996. And it certainly was a night I will never forget, and it truly became a story for the ages in my Brooklyn life.
I don’t know why I made such a fast left turn that night off 40th onto Eight Avenue in Manhattan. I remember hearing the real wheels of my 84 Monte Carlo squeal a little. Maybe she even fish-tailed too. But whatever it was or wasn’t, it was sure enough to get the attention of a patrol car waiting for a red light on Eighth Avenue.
But being cautiously optimistic, I gently pressed on the gas pedal, and kept driving anyway. Hoping a Brooklyn snail cruise would maybe somehow make up for the dangerous show she just put on.
And like a Bay Ridge cruiser on the boulevard, she slowly moved along, the sound of her 350 V8 softly rumbled in the warm Manhattan night.
Buy the time I passed the Port Authority and approached 43rd street the police car was directly behind me with lights flashing. The Monte’s slow speed probably caught their attention even more. I could see the cop in the drivers seat motioning me to pull over to the left by one of the blinking peep shows that made Eighth Avenue it's home.
So I pulled over to the left, put the Monte in park and waited for the cops to walk over to my window. They both opened the doors of their squad car in perfect harmony and slowly walked over to my car. One stood by my driver’s window, the other in the street by the passenger side. The cop by my driver’s window slowly leaned down and looked at me.
“Do you know why we pulled you over?”
Now, if there’s one thing I have learned in all my life here in New York City, It’s always a good idea to be polite to a cop. And never really “bullshit” them either, because they do this stuff for a living and can smell a bullshit artist a mile away. And besides I was on the way to my friend Justin’s apartment up by Central Park West, and I was late already.
“Yes officer, I made that left a little too fast”
“Could I see your driver’s license and vehicle registration please”?
So I gave him my license and registration and he walked back to the patrol car with his partner. They sat in the car for a while and seemed to be looking at something inside their car. Maybe a computer screen or something.
They then both got out of the car and approached my window again.
“Mr. Lopez, can we ask you to step out of the car please”. “And keep your hands where we can see them”.
“Sure, no problem”.
So I un-folded myself out of the Monte and stood against the drivers door of my ride. For whatever reason I was wearing my favorite long black leather coat that night. I was also trying to grow a beard that week. So I had to look just a little too cool for my own good.
“Is there some kind of problem officer?”
Suddenly there was a lot of chatter on his police radio, my location was mentioned over and over, “43rd and Eighth Avenue, 43 and Eighth Avenue”.
And that’s when they came, about four other police cars. They surrounded my Monte Carlo, and the police surrounded me.
They just all stood milling around, and then it was time for Mister “Tough Guy Cop”.
This little guy who probably stood up to my chest starts getting in my face, well actually my chest but who’s counting.
“Mr. Lopez, I have a few questions to ask you”
“Have you ever been to the state of Texas?’
“Maybe once on a business trip I stopped over in Dallas, but that’s it”.
“Well mister Lopez we have a big problem here, a real big problem.”
“What kind of problem?”
“Well that’s what you have to tell me mister Lopez”.
So there I stood against the door of my car on 8th Avenue, the bright lights of Show World just flickering away and reflecting off the windows of my car. People started to gather around and watch the side show being played out on the hot asphalt on a warm spring night.
There were more cops and more cars parked around mine.
And then I just started to laugh; I just couldn’t take it anymore.
“I don’t know why you’re laughing, this is a very serious mater” said “Tough Guy Cop”.
And then it hit me, it was all a set-up. My good friend Bobby Brennan worked for the mayor and must have set-up the whole thing. Oh, that Bobby Brennan! Or maybe one of my old girlfriends, yeah, the one I never called back; maybe she knew some cops and wanted to get “even” with me because I was a jerk to her.
And then it was “Tough Guy Cop” Part II.
“Now mister Lopez, I’m going to ask you once again. And look straight into my eyes when you answer me. Do you know why we are holding you here?”
“No, I do not”.
“YOU ARE WANTED FOR A MURDER COMMITTED IN THE STATE OF TEXAS MISTER LOPEZ” said the “Tough Guy Cop”.
“What?” What?” Murder?
“We just ran your name and date of birth, and a Ronald Lopez born December 30th 1957 is a wanted fugitive for murder in Texas”.
And once again I thought of my friend Bobby Brennan playing a prank on me for forgetting his Birthday or something.
“Now, we are going to ask you to get into the patrol car and come down to Midtown South. We are going to have the Houston Police department fax over a picture for confirmation”.
“Ok, sure, all I was doing tonight was catching the Ranger game anyway”
“We’ll have someone drive your car down to the station house too”
So I gave one of the cops my car keys and walked over to the patrol car, I was praying that no one from my job saw this “freak show” right in front of all the porno places on Eighth Avenue.
I remember talking some small talk with the guys in the patrol car, and of course dropping names of all my hockey buddies who were “on the job” themselves working for the NYC police Department. Hoping one of them may recognize a name.
There were no handcuffs and the guys were actually very polite to me as we walked into the station house somewhere in the 30’s off Ninth Avenue. They had me sit down on a metal chair by a cop in front of a desk.
“You know mister Lopez this is probably a big mix-up, but we have to wait for Houston to send us a picture of this guy” If we just let you go, then we wouldn’t be doing what we have to do” said the cop by the desk.
“Hey, you do what you got to do, I got all night, and besides I was just going to a friends house uptown to catch the Ranger game anyway.”
For the first time in about a couple of hours I was starting to feel like this nightmare was going to be over.
So I waited and waited and waited. Cops in and out of the stationhouse, strange stares from anyone who walked by.
And then I heard it, and I started to get really nervous.
The sound of the fax machine.
What if the picture that comes out of that thing is me?
What if someone really did set me up?
What if that girl I never got back to really does want to get back at me?
And then came the moment I was waiting for. After about three hours waiting in the precinct the fax was finally out. The two cops just looked at it and started laughing.
Now it was my turn to break their humps.
“Hey guys, what’s so funny? Is it really me?”
The two cops walked over to me and showed me the fax. It was indeed a “Ronald Lopez” and his d.o.b. on the wanted poster was indeed 12/30/1957. Except he looked more like George Lopez with a full black beard rather than me.
And out came “Tough Guy Cop”.
“Mister Lopez we just wanted to apologize to you for any inconvenience you may have suffered” “Its just that the odds of having the same name and date of birth with another person is very rare”. “And of course it is our job to check all the facts to make sure we are not letting someone go who may have been wanted in another state. “I hope you didn’t miss the whole Ranger game, I hear their winning in the third period”.
“Tough Guy Cop” shook my hand and smiled. “You seem pretty calm for someone who just wasted three hours in a station house”
“Hey, you got to do your job right? and besides I have a lot of friends "on the job" anyway".
He handed me my car keys and I walked out of the precinct, my Monte Carlo was parked in front.
I took a deep breath and was a free man once again. And the lights of the City never looked sweeter that warm spring night in 96.
Yes, I was a free man.
So there you go, a story to remember, yes one for the ages. Murderer one minute, good son the next.
Yeah, another night on the town for a kid from Kensington, just growing up in the only town I have ever known. The big town we simply call New York.
Ron Lopez P.S. Yes, that story was true, I kid you not!