Thursday, July 3, 2008

Before there was YouTube in Kensington

Long before “YouTube” or even “America’s Funniest Home Videos” there was just your memory along with your mind. A constant loop of digital imagery or video tape that’s stored deep inside the bowels of your grey matter, No, there’s no need to send this stuff to “Iron Mountain”, because it’s going with you when you’re six feet under someday. And no matter how many times you try to drag “it” into the trash and empty it. It’s still there, and never goes away.

Now for me growing up in Kensington Brooklyn, it’s a mixed bag. Tragic days, good days, bad days and an assortment of mind laden images that still cause me to start laughing to myself on the F-train. You ever see someone on the F-train start laughing to themselves without wires going into their ears or a book in their hand. It’s real scary, right? Like the people on the street you see walking towards you while they’re talking to themselves. You just keep looking for that wire or cell phone somewhere, only to be horrified when they have neither.

I’ll try my best not to start laughing to myself the next time,
because I know it must be scary.

But before I promise anything that I might not be able to deliver,
let me tell you about some of our dirty little East 4th street secrets.
Those pre-YouTube moments that still cause me to giggle and
scare my fellow riders. Those ten second “movies” stored
deep in my brain that may just bring me to the confessional at
IHM 40 years later.

They are tales of East 4th, and they are legendary

The Speeding Cab and the Dummy
(Halloween Night 1972) East 4th street.
The life size dummy just sat there on the fender of a Plymouth Duster in front of my house. As the speeding cab barreled down East 4th, we pulled it with a heavy piece of fishing line that we were holding across the street. The cab made a horrible skidding sound and the cab driver’s face was frozen in horror, his eyes were wide open along with his mouth. The dummy fell under his front bumper and was dragged down to Ditmas Avenue. We found its head on someone else’s lawn dummy the following week.

(The image of the cab driver’s face)
Forgive me father for I have sinned.

The Fourth of July (1975) East 4th street.
Bobby Wilson, one of the fathers on the block and our “delinquency” mentor was lighting about a gross of bottle rockets with a blowtorch. All the rockets were on the ground lying sideways. He started shooting them down the block towards Beverley Road. People started scattering as they were being shot, except for Martin, an elderly man about 90 years old. As he approached Bobby Wilson with a cane in hand, cursing. About two dozen rockets safely made their way between his legs leaving a trail of blue smoke about
a hundred feet long.

(The image of the bottle rockets going between Martin’s legs)
Forgive me father for I have sinned.

The X-rated movie being shown on the O’Callaghan’s
house across the street. (1980) East 4th street
Too much beer and lack of girlfriends led to this sorry tale that still surfaces at weddings and funerals. A super-8 projector and a Swedish Movie equaled a moving image being shown on the façade of 400 East 4th. Thank God my mom was sleeping.

(The image of the movie on the front of the house at 2AM)
Forgive me father for I have sinned.

My cousin Pete falling down the Subway
steps by Denny’s (1976) McDonald Avenue
It was a winter day and the steps were full of ice. Pete was walking in front of me with his briefcase. He slipped on the first step and them went down the entire staircase on his butt holding the briefcase.

(The image of Pete sliding down the steps
on his ass holding the briefcase)
Forgive me father for I have sinned.

Chipping my new paint job with a
swinging ax (My garage-1979) East 4th
I couldn’t see my face, but the guys all did. Some ribbing by my good friend Glenn Gruder while I was compounding my Plymouth Barracuda caused me to “playfully” swing an ax at his head. Something went very wrong during that procedure and I ended up hitting the side of my own car instead.

(The image of my own face after I hit my car with the ax)
Forgive me father because I missed Glenn Gruder)

Bobby Brennan falling up the steps
in the Beverley with popcorn (1973)
Beverley Theater Church Avenue
This one I still can’t erase no matter how old I am. There he is, all 6 feet five of Bobby Brennan walking up the balcony steps of the Beverley during a Planet of the Apes movie. All of a sudden he trips up the steps and all the popcorn goes flying up in the air. Like snow it gently falls on everyone’s head. His cup of soda also goes airborne and lands on someone nearby.

(The image of Bobby and the popcorn flying up in the air)
Forgive me father for I have sinned.

Neil O’Callaghan hanging from the fence
of the Greenwood Cemetery upside down
(1977) Fort Hamilton Parkway
Now I wasn’t there for this one, but I sure heard the story a million times. Neil O’Callaghan and his friend Bobby S. were cutting through the Greenwood Cemetery after school. According to the story, the security guards let the dogs loose after them. Neil and Bobby both ran and tried to hop the high green wrought iron fence. Bobby made it over, but Neil got his sneaker laces caught on the points on the fence tips. He ended up hanging upside down on the fence along Fort Hamilton Parkway. Bobby was laughing too hard to even help him, and everyone driving by was stopping to see the freak show.

(The image of Neil hanging upside down from the fence)
Forgive me father for I have sinned.

Forty years since my last confession at IHM?
I think its time, I think its time.

Ron Lopez
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Cousin Pete said...

Yo cuz -
I wrote this long comment yesterday and the blog site dumped me off before it posted. Just a few points I wanted to make -

1. You had me laughing out loud remembering Bobby Wilson - RIP. And poor Martin - also RIP. I also remember the bottle rockets that we shot into the open window at Rita and Tony's house....and the bottle rockets we lit after breaking off the sticks - one hit Thomas behind the ear and cut him - that's one of the only times I ever saw Bob get pissed at us. Do you remember when somebody took a slap shot and hit the poor guy square in the nuts? He went down in slow motion! I thought we killed him, and when we realized he wasn't dead, we just broke up laughing!

2. You have it wrong with me and the subway stairs calamity - it was in the Fall, not winter, and it was by the Greater NY Savings Bank entrance to the F. And it wasn't ice - it was my God-forsaken PLATFORM SHOES - I still remember this old guy watching me fall down past him with him telling me "the stairs can be slippery! with me trying to grasp the handrail with the hand that was holding my briefcase"

3. Finally, Robert and the popcorn and soda - I still laugh whenever I think about that. The Beverley had these wide steps - maybe a yard wide and two inches high. He took a header and everything went up in the air! There was a whole row of older teens right in front of us and they laughed even louder than we did....that was sooooo funny!

4. The dummy was a classic as were the eggs we tied with fishing line to a car handle across the street and we hid as the eggs smashed into sides of cars.

Thanks for the memories!


Tracey said...

I came across your blog just by chance. I had to laugh when reading your stories from the old days in Brooklyn. I'm from Flatbush and then Canarsie and me & my friends used to pull similar stunts. All in good fun of stuffing a big fat dead wharf rat into a lunch box, leaving it on the porch of one of our annoying wannabe friends, ringing the doorbell and hiding in the schoolyard of ps 242 while the mom opens up the lunchbox. Her agonized shrieks filled the night air and we danced with joy. LOL

Oh yeah and then we strapped the annoying individual into an old abandoned baby buggy..the big kind...and pushed her out into traffic on Flatlands Ave. Well we pushed her out into onto Flatlands, then as cars came zooming up, we had a change of heart and went out into the middle of the street, played traffic cop and wheeled the baby buggy with her legs awkwardly sticking out back to safety.
What else..let's see...sitting on the stoops at night in the summer to watch the rats swarm out of the this old abandoned building looking for food..the guys would take pot shots at them with their guns.

Throwing whole magazines of firecrackers into bonfires we lit in the schoolyard..either directly on the ground or in the old metal trash cans...pow pow pow blam blam blam....cherry bombs in toilets, through the windos of the old abandoned factories..where were the cops? We never asked...LOL

One cop that DID come around because he cared (even though at the time we gave him lip) was Officer Cecil Sledge. I will never forget how he died..stopping "Crazy" Sal Romano for speeding, Sal shot Officer Sledge in the face and took off, Officer Sledge fell, his jacket got hooked on Romano's bumper & he was dragged for what seemed like blocks and was pronounced dead. I will never forget that as long as I live. your blog and thank God for Brooklyn because as your title says "A Mind Grows In Brooklyn" could it not?

Take Care
Tracey :)

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