Thursday, July 10, 2008

Glenn Gruder please come home

Glenn Gruder grew up on my block,
East 4th street. He was one of the guys that I played hockey with during the day and then cards with at night. Glenn always liked to argue about anything and everything, so it made perfect sense that he became a lawyer later in life.
Glenn was an excellent athlete and probably still is.
He was also quite instrumental in my first meeting with
my former wife. And although it didn’t quite have a happy ending,
he was there when it counted nevertheless.

Glenn went to PS 179, Ditmas and then Tilden High School,
a perfect Brooklyn “triple play”. And being a Yankee fan, it only made sense that he went to Willie Randolph’s Alma mater, Tilden.
Glenn attended Syracuse University Law School. So he did finally make it out of Brooklyn, but hell, he was never that far anyway.

So this is where it gets very confusing.
Glenn moved to Smithtown, Long Island after he got married,
and never looked back.

I mean, why would such a powerful Brooklyn soul move to Long Island? He could have certainly fit in “Park Slope”, even though he grew up in Kensington. And all his favorite sports teams were always right here in town. Hell, the Yankees are a subway ride away, the Rangers a skip into the City. Heck, even the Giants are a lot closer than "Smithtown".

And what the the heck is "Smithtown" anyway,
do those two bearded brothers make cough drops there?

So Glenn, what gives? Why did you do it? I know you were'nt afraid of Brooklyn, because you were always tougher than the rest.
And if my memory serves me, I think your mom still lives here too.

Oh, I think I know what it was, that terrible apartment house on Avenue C, between East 4th and East 5th. The endless police cars racing up our block, the gun shots at night. Yeah, I have to admit, the 80’s were really scary, even here in Kensington. And if there was one building that was going to take down the neighborhood, it was certainly that apartment house.

But Glenn, you should see that building now,
it's chock full of wonderful smart people.
And I don't think any of them even carry a hand gun.

What? You mean there were others who left too?
Oh right, my cousin Pete left in 1979
Bobby Brennan in the late 80’s
Neil O’Callaghan in the 80’s
Jimmy Brier in the 80’s
Jimmy Spinner in the 90’s
And Nunzio, even before in the 70’s

What the hell guys?
Was it something I said?

Didn't you guys ever listen to Neil Diamond?
"Brooklyn Roads", "I am I said?"


Oh right, If my mom didn’t need a place to live, I probably would have moved too. But instead, I ended up buying the house, so she could live out her live here in Brooklyn. Because my mom never really wanted to leave Brooklyn you know.

Well, maybe you got me on that one, yes maybe.

Oh, I see, you have kids in school, and it’s not a good time to move back to Brooklyn. OK, I’ll buy that, because uprooting a kid from school is not exactly the best thing anyway.

But aren’t all your kids in college?
So they're not home anyway.

Oh, come on boys, do you all really like the suburbs that much?

Psst, are there really Owls out by you?
And do they really go “Hoot” at night?
And the ticks?
Can they really make you foam at the mouth?
Or is that rabies?

Oh, come on stop, don’t get mad, I was just kidding.

And I know you're going to stand on that soapbox and defend wherever you live. Because anyone that moves out of Brooklyn will always put down the “boro of their birth”, and prop up whatever “unknown” place they live in now, bragging about how great it is.

Yeah, I guess that’s only human nature.

But just remember boys, your “human nature”
starts with a capital “B” and ends with a lowercase “n”.
And the streets are still calling you,
wherever you may be.

Ron Lopez
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Anonymous said...

I actually live in Kings Park too. It's pretty awful. My only dream is to get back to Brooklym.

Meghan said...

LOL, I think I own a co-op in that terrible apartment building you describe! 415 Avenue C. Definitely sounds like it was a much different place back then. Quite tame (and even nice) now. Would love to hear more about its past :)

Dan C. said...

I left Kensington for Staten Island in 1990. My next door neighbor is from Elmwood Avenue which while not in Kensington, is nearby.

Funny thing most people out here are from Brooklyn but few know about my old neighborhood of Kensington. I always have to explain "it's near 18th Avenue and Ocean Parkway". Thens they say "oh yeah, I know where that is"!"

Anonymous said...

Ron, I just found your Kensington stories and love each one as my brother Jay and I grew up around the corner from you at 445 E. 5th Street, the only apartment house on the block.

Though you are slightly younger than I and I'm sure our paths never crossed, I do remember most of what you write about. I remember the Gruder family as well. For a time they lived in a front first floor apartment in that six story building on E. 5th.

The Gruder family consisted of mom and dad (I won't bet the farm but I'm sure their names are Shirley and Larry). I remember when Dad Gruder finished his bakery route he would park his big clunky "Betty Jane" truck out front.

Their children are Terri, Steven and Glenn, who is the youngest; all nice kids. As a young boy, Glenn had the curliest hair ever. The Gruders were very good friends with Ethel and Jack Steinberg and their children Leslie and a son who's name escapes me now, who also lived in that apartment building.

As with everyone else in the neighborhood, I attended P.S. 179 and graduated in 1961 under the regime of Principal Louis Gartenlaub. I remember all my grammar school teachers, but my sixth grade teacher, Miss Irene Kennedy, who seemed like 100 years old back then, stands out most of all. Albeit all my teachers were wonderful educators, but when Miss Kennedy taught, you learned or else! She was the best teacher, may she rest in peace.

From there I graduated from Ditmas JHS 62 in 1964 and then off to Erasmus graduating in 1967. Those surely were the good olde days, though I didn't realize it then.

Ron, thank you for the trips down memory lane; keep them coming. It is alway nice to go home to visit childhood memories, if only with the written word.