Thursday, August 7, 2008

When “pop” “pop” “pop” is more than nothing

When I was growing up in Brooklyn, you would always hear
“pop” “pop” “pop”, and it was always nothing more than
someone blowing off some fireworks. Yeah, some kid or
teenager throwing some Fourth of July leftovers in the street
or in-between an ally way somewhere on Ocean Parkway.

No, nothing to ever be concerned about, because people
didn’t shoot off guns in Kensington back in 1967.

And even up in the Catskills where I spent every July and
August until I was about eighteen years old. You would
sometimes hear “pop” “pop” “pop”. But once again nothing
to be afraid of, or concerned about. Because the Laidlaw
boys down the hollow were probably just target shooting
with their 22’s. Maybe blowing apart some of their
grandmother’s old botcholism laden canned tomatoes
or something like that.

No, nothing to ever be concerned about, because
people didn’t shoot off guns on Huntley Hollow to
hurt anyone back in 1969.

But then it started to change, and it all happened one
Sunday morning back in 1974 when we were playing
roller hockey up by the PS 130 schoolyard.
I remember my cousin Pete just finished scoring on me,
and while I was passing the puck back towards him
with my goalie stick, I heard it.

“Pop” “pop” “pop”

Fireworks in January maybe?

“Pop” “pop” “pop”

The two uniformed cops running from the Fort
Hamilton subway entrance on East Fifth were
shooting at two teenage boys they were chasing.
You could see the blue smoke from their guns
as they fired at the two teenagers.

We just “hit the deck” and hid between two
parked cars on East Fifth.

And now “pop” “pop” “pop” was starting to mean
something different, even in Brooklyn.

No, it wasn’t just fireworks anymore.

My wife was smart enough to buy a Brownstone
in Fort Greene back in 1997, before the neighborhood
became “gentrified”. But wasn’t smart enough to
realize that the “pop” “pop” “pop” we heard from in
front of her house on Adelphi Street, wasn’t just
“fireworks” on a cold March night back in 1998.
No, just like a “yahoo” from San Antonio, Texas, she
runs to the window to see what’s going on, while I’m
yelling at her to “hit the deck” so she doesn’t get shot.

Yeah, what would have been just “fireworks” in
Kensington back in 1967 ended up being some guy
lying in a pool of blood with gold shell casings
around him in 1998’s Fort Greene.

No, we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.
No, we’re in Fort Greene Brooklyn,
before it’s “gentrified”.

“You know this kind of stuff never happens
in Kensington” “Why the hell did I move here?”

But then it all changed about four years ago,
even in Kensington. I remember I was cleaning up
the downstairs apartment one night at 399 when
I heard it.

“Pop” “pop” “pop”

Fireworks in September?

“Pop” “pop” “pop”

Then I started to feel sick, because my wife
and kids were just one floor above me.

No, that wasn’t fireworks, that was a gun.

So not being so smart just like my wife, I peeked out
the window. And there right across the street in front
of the Margaret Court was some teenage kid shooting
away up towards Beverley Road. You could see tiny
flames coming out of the handgun.

“What the hell? This is Kensington not Fort Greene”

And now “pop” “pop” “pop” really meant something
different, even in Kensington.

So there were cops, there were detectives,
and finally arrests. And “pop” “pop” “pop” was gone
from East Fourth.

But still, it shattered everything I always felt “safe”
about on my block.

And even last night I heard a “pop” “pop” “pop”
on my block. So I politely asked my wife and son
to go into the back of the house until I could
find out what happened.

No, not to worry, it was just some leftover
fireworks on East Third Street.
And others actually saw it too.

But still, I have to tell you “pop” “pop” “pop”
doesn’t have the same feeling as it did
back when I was a kid. No, even here in
Kensington, when it was always fireworks
and nothing more.

Ron Lopez
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