Thursday, July 31, 2008

Top Ten Reasons why Raccoons make good house pets in Brooklyn

10. If you live in a trash strewn apartment they
can always eat a path towards the door in case of a fire.

9. You can spray shaving cream around their mouths and
let them roam around Ocean Parkway at night, hopefully
scaring off the people stealing the GPS’s.

8. You never have to buy them “pet food” because there’s
always something to eat in your neighbor’s trash or garden.

7. Their “gray” color never really goes out of style,
unlike an “orange” cat.

6. They give the out of state truckers a warm feeling when
they see them on Caton Avenue at night, and hopefully
keep them awake so they don’t drive right through
some ones house.

5. They are cute and cuddly and can kill your neighbor’s
annoying chicken colony.

4. They probably don’t smoke and drink beer like all the
raccoons do in upstate New York. But then again I think
the ones upstate are just bored, depressed and
can’t find work.

3. When you sleep with them and then get on the F-train
in the morning all you have are some scratches and grey
fur on your clothes. Which is nothing compared to your
strange downstairs neighbor who sleeps with a porcupine
and a wild turkey. Try explaining quills and a feather
sticking out of your ass to someone.

2. Even though they're never in class and spend all day
rummaging in the dumpster out back, they still manage
to somehow "intimidate" their teachers into giving them
passing grades.

1. They make us listen, they make us write, they make us laugh,
they make us think. Those little raccoons made me proud to
be a part of this city, no matter who’s side your on.
And they stirred up more conversation on the KWT site than
any "Pre-K" spot at PS 154 ever could in a million years.

Ron Lopez

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Foodtown saves Kensington

I have to tell you that this whole renovated “Foodtown”
thing is really catching fire. I guess for once someone
realized what this neighborhood needed and
actually listened.

To the manager of Foodtown and the company itself,
thank you for making a new wonderful store that's
very impressive and rivals anything in the “suburbs”.

And most important, my wife finally stopped
complaining about Kensington not having a really
nice supermarket like the Keyfood in Park Slope.

So have faith folks, it won’t be long before
Church Avenue starts changing too,
and maybe looks like something I remember
from 30 years ago.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Doctor Albin’s Five Dollar Specials

Now doctor Albin’s “five dollar” specials weren’t really that
long ago. In fact they may have even stretched into the
late 80’s here in Kensington. While other doctors may have
been charging 50 or 75 bucks for a “check-up”, doctor
Albin on Albemarle Road was still charging five bucks.

And I’m not really sure which of these houses on the right
he had his office in, I know it was one of them though.
Because I was one of his patients, and I always went to see
him when I wanted to hear only “good news”.

Oh, and don’t forget the “red pills” that doctor Albin gave
you when you left. I mean those pills were good for just
about everything you know.

Even terminal “lung cancer”.

Yeah, good old doctor Albin, he told my dad he was as
healthy as a horse and would live until he was a hundred
years old.

Except my dad died at 39, only three months later.

But at least doctor Albin never made you feel bad,
or like you had something wrong with you.
No, it was only a "positive" experience when you
saw doctor Albin. No matter what your condition.

I remember one time I was playing roller hockey on my
block and the puck really smashed my finger. With ice
wrapped around it I walked over to doctor Albin’s office.
I sat there on the sun porch with a dozen or so of his regular
elderly patients. The ice I had wrapped around my finger
just dipped on the wood floor, making a small puddle.

When it was my turn to see him, he didn’t even take me
inside. He just gave me more ice and a hand full of those
red pills. And he let me slide for the five bucks too.

Good old doctor Albin.

And don't you dare call him a "quack" if you knew what
was good for you. No, the only quacking we heard came
came form Prospect Park lake.

No, we never heard
doctor Albin "quack" once,
no, never once.

Yeah, good old doctor Albin, did we love him or what.

But I'm afraid the story about doctor Albin doesn’t have a
very happy ending you know. From what I heard, some
junkie broke into his house looking for drugs and
apparently killed him. That was sometime in the late
80’s or early 90’s, although I was never sure.

Doctor Albin and five dollar office visits.
And I don’t think anyone ever asked
him if he took insurance.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Vol 3, Kensington and WT True or False

There was once a “Planet of the Apes” marathon held in the Beverly Theater back in the late 70’s. With the air conditioning system broken, the temperature inside was well over 90 degrees.
And we may have been going delirious because of the heat, but we could have sworn Charlton Heston actually walked out of the screen and started beating us with a giant banana. Although after much thought it may have just been Beatrice the “bearded theater matron” hitting us with her billy club.
True or False

Saul’s appetizing and Edna’s restaurant, the last two truly Jewish delicatessens on Church Avenue were both leveled one morning after a hurricane swept through Kensington. Reports from the National Weather Service confirmed that hurricane “Christian” was actually a “remote controlled weather system” sent out by the Vatican in Rome. And apparently it accidentally destroyed both restaurants after Pope John Paul sneezed while holding the “joystick”.
True or False

It seems that I may have really pissed off the “No Land Grab People” here in Brooklyn. Because this morning I found my bedroom window open, and I’m sure they planted an electronic device in my ear. It plays that song “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” over and over in my head. And also causes me to dream about Bruce Rather wearing a “Sponge Bob” thong at Coney Island with horns growing out of his head.
True or False

What you may think as just being a gigantic antenna up by Bishop Ford, is actually the skeletal remains of a gigantic paper mache Godzilla. It was constructed back in the 50’s by PS 154 schoolchildren to protect Kensington & WT from the dreaded “Smog Monster”. And apparently was sent by a mad scientist living in an un-finished basement of a Brownstone in Park Slope.
True or False

The MTA purposely named our train the “F”, because they knew that we’d be getting F’d every day we ride it.
True or False

Korner Pizza uses a “K” instead of a “C” as a show of love towards “K”ensington.
True or False

“Bozo the Clown” from the popular children’s television show of the 1960’s, actually appeared at the Beverly Theater once. But unfortunately he was heckled off stage by a group of un-ruly schoolchildren who were turned off by his “unrealistic” looking red hairpiece and larger than normal “alcoholic” red nose.
True or False

"Denny’s Steak House" on the corner of McDonald and Church Avenue actually has a secret machine inside that turns all the customers into “day laborers” by the following morning.
True or False

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Leaving Park Slope for Kensington

That’s right, after spending about a week in
Methodist Hospital back in 1957 I finally left
Park Slope. And you know what, I didn’t even
get to drool on Pete or Denis Hamill.
No, they were probably too busy playing
stickball to even care.

But I was able to smuggle out the maternity
ward address in my diaper, just in case I
ever need it to get my kids in PS 321.

So don’t feel bad, you weren’t the first person
to move out of Park Slope for Kensington.
Because I already did it back in 1957
and never knew the difference.

(My dad, brother Joseph and my mom
holding me right out front of 399)

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Monday, July 28, 2008

Kensington 1949

This is a shot taken in front of my house right
after my grandfather "Paco" bought it in 1948.

Thats my Dad and Mom on the left along
with my aunt Dolores sitting next to my

Notice their happy faces?
Yeah, thats right, I wasn't born yet!

And you see my Grandfather looking oh
so handsome and proud?

Well, he was a laborer who worked in a
factory on Atlantic Avenue and was able to
buy 399 East 4th with the money he saved.

Minimum wage went a
long way back then,
didn't it?

Laborers and Bank Presidents
could buy a house on the
same block.

Boy, how times have changed,
how times have changed

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

The Apartment House on Avenue C

When I was growing up in Kensington we only knew
this place as “The Apartment House on Avenue C”.
No, forget an address or anything like that, it was
just “The Apartment House on Avenue C”.

I could tell you that in the 60’s this place was a mix of
young parents, children and the elderly. Many of my
PS 179 classmates lived here and it was not uncommon
to find their grandparents living in the same apartment.
With white pillows propped on concrete windowsills
they’d wave to their grandchildren as they walked up
Avenue C towards school.

And the “Apartment House on Avenue C” was mostly
Jewish too. During the holidays when East 4th was
ablaze with Christmas lights and plastic Santa faces
nailed above doorways. The “Apartment House”
was chock full of brightly lit Hanukah Menorahs”
with orange bulbs in just about every window.

I had friends there; my Mom had friends there.
It was just a wonderful extension of my block,
and was a very solid pillar that made Kensington
that nice in the 60’s.

But then something happened in the 70’s and like
every other “great exodus” it just happened
without warning.

The "Apartment House on Avenue C" had changed,
all my friends were gone and there were no more
elderly leaning on the windowsills. Yes, other people
were living there now and they weren't exactly as
nice as my friend "Harold Levy" from PS 179.

No, instead of placing an orange bulb in a plastic
Hanukah Menorah late at night, a 38-caliber bullet
was being placed in the cold chamber of a handgun.

And seeing a Police car racing down my block and
parked in front of the “Apartment House on Avenue C”
was the norm. And don’t ever mess with
“Lucky and his gang” because he always had a handgun
that he’d flash us when he walked by my stoop.

Yes, the houses on my block were being robbed,
people were getting mugged and my block was changing.
It was time to leave Brooklyn folks, this was it,
and it’s never going to be the same again.

And they did leave, they left in droves.

Now, I’m not going to say that that apartment house
was all to blame for everyone leaving. But it certainly
must have played a major role in some of my friend’s
parents deciding to move to the suburbs. I mean having
the cold barrel of a gun placed on the side of your
temple doesn’t speak kindly of Brooklyn at all.
And I’m sure it “somehow” prompted that real
estate page to be looked at touting the wonders
of “Kings Park Long Island”.

Yeah, forget about East 4th and especially that
“Apartment House on Avenue C”.
a safe place is where we want to live.

So let’s pack up the station wagon,
And say goodbye to the neighbors.
Goodbye “Motherless Brooklyn”,
Kings Park here we come!

Wow, it was amazing how one building and
a few shootings could scare away my whole block.

But then there were those that “stayed”.

And just like in that movie “Escape from New York”,
we sat around the fires we made from burning
car tires and kept ourselves warm at night.

Yeah, some huddled masses never left.
Doomed to suffer on East 4th and Kensington.
All because of the “Apartment House on Avenue C”.
Just waiting for the world to end.

But then something happened.
After a while there were no more police cars racing
down my block, and no more shootings.
Lucky and his boys were finally gone and we heard
the “Apartment House” was going co-op.

It was all so baffling, because East 4th was
headed towards oblivion you see.
And we were all supposed to go to
Hell along with that “building”.

But it never really happened.
Because it went co-op.
Yes, because it went co-op.

And even today some thirty years after
“Lucky and his boys” left that “Apartment
House on Avenue C”, I’m still amazed at how
that placed has changed. Young parents
with children along with some the brightest
minds around always stroll down my block.
All living in a building that would
make 60’s Kensington proud again.

And me, well I'm feeling good these days.
Because instead of "Lucky and his Boys"
walking by my stoop, there are warm smiles
and "good mornings". And no one from
"The Apartment House on Avenue C" ever
flashes a 38-caliber handgun when they
walk by my house.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Jerry Fish and the Strawberry Shortcake

Time for some Mid-Summer repeats folks!

Jerry “Fish” was your basic “rink rat” down at the Avenue F hockey
court in the 1970’s. I'm not sure how he got the name “Fish”,
and we never asked him. Because no one really wanted to know
anyway, and sometimes certain nicknames are better left alone.

At 14 years old Jerry stood about 5 foot 5 and was kind of skinny.
He had straight dirty blonde shoulder length hair and blue eyes.
Jerry usually wore an orange and white “Flyers” jersey that always
looked quite dirty when he skated with us.

Now we were all at least 18 or 19 years old and much bigger than
Jerry. But because this kid was so good, we would always let him
join in our choose-up games during the week after school.
He was just a real sweet kid that looked up to us older guys,
and we in turn always made sure to keep an eye out for him
on and off the court.

One day Jerry was real excited because he just got
paid from his part time job at a supermarket on
18th avenue. He said he had about 20 bucks in his
hockey pants and was looking forward to spending
it on something he always wanted.

“Hey Ronnie, would you mind giving me a ride over
to “Scotto’s” on 13th Avenue after the game?”

“Sure kid, what are you going to buy?”

“You know, I always had this dream about
what I was going to do with my first paycheck
and today it’s coming true”

I had no idea what Jerry was going to do, but
gladly told him I’d give him a lift to Scotto’s
on 13th Avenue.

So I took off all my goalie equipment and threw it
in the trunk of my 73 Buick. "Fish” just kept his
equipment on, including his skates and sat in the
front seat of my car.

When we got to Scotto’s I was able to get a
spot right in front.

“Hey Ronnie, can I get you something?”

“No thanks Jerry, I’ll just wait here”.

Jerry just opened the passenger’s side door
and glided on his skates to the entrance of the
bakery and opened up the door. About five
minutes later Jerry appeared with a big white
cake box tied with that red and white string.
I guess he bought it for his mom. But then,
without warning Jerry sat on the sidewalk in
front of the bakery window. He put the box
to his mouth and started breaking the string
with his teeth. He then opened it up and stuck
his hand inside. Before you knew it he had
whipped cream and strawberries all over his
face and hands.

Yeah, that was Jerry’s dream, to buy a strawberry
shortcake and just eat it all by himself,
even if he didn’t have a fork and knife.

After the league shut down in the mid 80's,
I kind of lost track of “Jerry Fish”. From what
I heard he wasn’t keeping the best of company
down on Ditmas Avenue.

And I guess the off-duty cop that shot Jerry to death
never saw the same kid I did eating that cake with
his hands in front of Scotto’s bakery.

No, he just saw some teenage trouble maker trying
to steal his car early one Saturday morning in the
late 80’s. No one ever really knew if Jerry had a gun
that day, although that was the cop’s version.

And from what I heard,
he died right in the car.

An innocence lost is such a terrible waste,
I sometimes look at my own son and worry about
how fast his path could change. As a parent you
just try to do your best and hope they keep with
a good crowd. You try to give them their freedom
and let them dream for themselves. Even if that
dream is simply about eating a strawberry
shortcake in front of Scotto’s with their
first paycheck.

Ron Lopez

Website Counter

Free Counter

More Kensington and WT true or false

A. There is a secret trap door in the Kensington Post office that clerks can activate when one reacts too slowly to being berated. The clerk simply presses a button and dumps you on the F-train tracks directly below in front of a rushing train.
True or False

B. The highest point in Brooklyn and Windsor Terrace is the top of the hill by Bishop Ford high school. This will be the place to be when the polar ice cap finally melts.
True or False

C. Notorious Brooklyn mobster “Crazy Joey Gallo” made Kensington his home in the 1950’s, and lived on McDonald Avenue. He was a regular at all the bars on Church Avenue and even dated my best friend’s mom.
True or False

D. Golden Farms is actually owned and operated by former Brooklyn Boro President and Kensington resident Howard Golden and his stepbrother Marty Golden of Bay Ridge.
True or False

E. My best friend Bobby Brennan used to be Marty Markowitz’s personal chauffer back in the 1980’s and actually tried to set me up with Marty’s sister once.
True or False

F. I am convinced that my buddy “David Ratner” from Mr. Cuba’s homeroom class at Ditmas JHS is the older brother of Bruce Ratner that many people dislike. And maybe that’s why I feel so warm and fuzzy about the Atlantic Avenue Yards project.
True or False

G. The reason why the elevators at Church Avenue station are so awkward is because placing them in a manner that would make sense would interfere with the “trap door” form the post office.
True or False

H. The Jewelry store next to the Deal 99 Cent store was actually the site of a “Citibank” back in the 1980’s and before that Ebingers Bakery in the 60’s. The story goes that one time the bank was robbed and the teller mistakenly gave the robber a “black-out” cake. It somehow exploded on the sidewalk and spewed that “red dye” all over Church Avenue.
True or False

I. My grandmother once fell into the tracks at Church Avenue, and it was not the result of the trap door being activated. Someone was able to tell the token booth clerk and the train stopped before it ran her over.
True or False

J. The over-abundance of legal “Nail Salons” on Church Avenue are the result of Giuliani’s crackdown on “illegal” toe nail clipping parlors that once plagued the neighborhood.
True or False

B-True, C-True, E-True, F,-I have to ask, I-True
The rest, you never know.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Friday, July 25, 2008

How to get more hits on your senseless blog

I was amazed how many hits I got on my senseless blog in the past few days. And I have to say that insulting Park Slope probably played a big part. I mean, it just came out you know, like some type of uncontrollable “turrets”. Oh, and don’t ever insult the “No Land Grab people, because it will get you more hits than hooker on Pacific street wearing a tank top. Oh right, that was the 70’s, and I’m sure their all gone by now anyway. Please excuse my AARP moment, and no, we were always “just looking”.

Where those the same people standing on the steps of Brooklyn Boro Hall singing that 60’s song, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” a few years ago?

The Atlantic Avenue train yard is a “paradise”?

Give me whatever your smoking, because the last time I rode my bike by that place it looked like a “rat hole”. And yes, there really are rats there; you can see them running around like crazy too. One even tried to car jack me back in 1977, but I fought it off with my 8-track Bee Gees tape I had in my Monte Carlo.

A few miles from the Atlantic yards
there was an old stadium called Ebbets Field.
And I don’t know if that song was written then.
But knowing what happened now,
they REALLY could have used it.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Great Moments in Kensington History

The day a neighbors kitchen exploded after he let off a roach bomb too close to the pilot light of the stove. Although he practically destroyed his kitchen, he did finally kill all the roaches.

The day Frank’s brick arch collapsed just after he finished putting the crooked eagle on it. And yes he re-built it and it’s still there today at the entranceway of 400 East 4th. And P.S., the eagle is still crooked.

The day LBJ’s Presidential motorcade drove down Church Avenue in 1964. Where the hell was he going anyway?

The day we lit off a “block-buster” that shattered a bunch of windows on the block. Too scared to show our faces, we just stayed inside and hid form the Police for days.

The night a bunch of moms were protesting in front of the Beverly Theater because it went ‘Porno” just before it closed. The great moment in Kensington history came when one of the protesting mom’s husbands walked out of the Beverly and was caught by his
wife holding a sign.

Ron Lopez

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Support your local Toy Store

I wrote a piece about the new toy store on
Church Avenue “Rich Frog” a few weeks back.
I am just re-posting it to remind everyone to
try to support your local toy store.
And yes, my wife dropped about a hundred
bucks there the other day. So we’re putting
our money where our mouths are.

I also know that it was mentioned that the
prices were a little high. Well, look at it this way;
wouldn’t you rather give a few extra dollars
to a local toy store rather than a few less
to Wal-Mart or Toys r Us?

If the “Slanted Slope” can support “Little Things”,
We, Kensington can support our “Rich Frog”.

Let’s start to shop local and
help grow something nice.

Ron Lopez

You know I haven’t seen a true toy store on Church Avenue since the days of Lee’s and Kenny’s. And let me tell you, that was a VERY long time ago. Lee’s probably closed in the late 70’s while Kenny’s may have shut down in the mid 80’s. They were both real nice neighborhood toy stores and were on par with anything in Park Slope. Except the prices were a lot less and Lee wore gold chains, polyester shirts and too much colonge. And his wife had a beehive dew that dwarfed anything Amy Winehouse can manage. It was also extremely flammable, and smelled like an automotive body shop. That being her hair by the way.

And the Kenny’s, well that’s a story for another day, you can just look in my archive and find that one.

So today I started to read about this new children’s toy store called “Rich Frog” on the KWT site. It just opened on Church Avenue between East 3rd and East 2nd on the North side of the street.
A toy store on Church Avenue? why not another nail salon or cellular phone store? Why change a bad thing I ask you.

So on the way to Golden Farms this afternoon to see the latest Polaroid’s taped to the cash register, I decided to take a slight detour and check out this place. There must have been some kind of explosion in Park Slope or Bay Ride, because a store just landed on Church Avenue that certainly must have come from somewhere with a much better BID (Business Improvement District) than us.
I mean this place is so nice and cute looking I thought I was dead and in Lee’s across the street in "Brooklyn Heaven".

You have to check this place out I tell you, it’s just nothing like I have seen on Church Avenue since I was a little kid.

And for everyone who has been asking for something “nice” on Church Avenue. Well, this may just be the start of the great “downfall” of schlock that has invaded the boulevard of my youth in the past 30 years. And don’t get me wrong; I’m not looking for a “Little Things” or a 7th Avenue “transplant”. But Church Avenue was actually a really wonderful strip back when I was a kid, and no one ever “goofed” on it either like they do today.

So let’s all try to support this place and give it a whirl, before the next tornado picks it up and drops it back in Park Slope or Bay Ridge. Where it’s just “another” store on a nicer avenue than ours.

And just maybe with our help it can be the "Lee's" or "Kenny's" that your kids can someday remember when they are 50 years old.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

When Cousin Brucie kept his word

My own cousin Pete reminded me about this tale,
One time Helen McNally, my friend Paul's kid sister asked
Cousin Brucie for an 8 x 10 autographed glossy outside
370 Ocean Parkway. He told her he didn't have one with
him, and she should come back the next day at the same
time for it. And being a man of his word, there he was
the next day waiting outside his building with the
autographed photo to give her.

Helen proudly showed it to all her friends at
Ditmas JHS that afternoon.

Brucie also parked the wildest cars on the service road
of Ocean Parkway, including a yellow Plymouth Superbird
(like the one in the photo) that WABC gave him to drive.
That car would be worth well over two hundred
thousand dollars today.

Don't you just love stories
about people that keep their word.
It just gives you faith,
doesn't it?

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Kensington & WT, True or False

A. The Kensington Post Office is actually a satellite
branch of the “Madame Tussaud’s” wax museum chain.
True or False

B. The people on line at the Post Office are always the
same, and are actually part of the exhibit.
True or False

C. The “Deal 99 Cent” store transforms into the old Beverly
Theater from midnight to six in the morning. And that old
guy who wears those long tube sox and sits on that red
milk crate out front is really the “mysterious owner”.
True or False

D. The “New McDonald Farm” building that straddles the
corner of Beverly and Church Avenue was once the
Greater New York Savings Bank. And in the basement
still sits a gigantic safe that was too heavy to move.
True or False

E. Bishop Ford High School was once the site of a
“trolley car turn table” that once served most of Brooklyn.
True or False

F. The IHM Church steeple is actually a missile silo
owned and operated by the Vatican.
True or False

G. Under the intersection of Church Avenue and
Ocean Parkway there’s still an old trolley tunnel.
It was used so the trolleys wouldn’t interfere with
Ocean Parkway beach traffic, and is still the cold
damp home of Robert Moses.
True or False

H. It’s a very odd coincidence but before the
Carvel opened on the corner of East 2nd street and
Church Avenue back in 1976, there was a small
candy store there. And the guy that ran the place
was simply known to us as “Cookie Puss” .
True or False

I. The Fort Hamilton Parkway subway entrance
was the best spot for “token sucking” after we’d
jam the slot with a broken Popsicle stick back
in the 70’s. But it all went South one day when
Steve McNally almost chocked on a dirty token.
True or False

J. Bobby Wilson, who drove a tow truck for Al & Leo’s
once pulled down the flagpole from the McDonald’s
on 36th street and Fort Hamilton. He actually brought
it home and cemented it in front of his house on East 4th
and it’s still stands there today "flag-less"
True or False

D-True G-True I-True J-True
The rest, well, you never know!

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When John Forsythe                                                lived in Kensington

Ok folks, this one I'm not going to bet the farm on.
But, I have heard it so many times from the older
natives that grew up on East 4th between Avenue C
and Cortelyou Road, that I just can't ignore it.

More than once I was told that acting legend
John Forsythe grew up on the next block from me.
You remember "Charlies Angles" and "Dynasty?"

Well, I included a breif bio on Mr. Forsythe.
And I am still looking into this story to
see if it is true.

And yes, he grew up in Brooklyn.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Howard Golden still living in Kensington

Kensington has been the
long-time home of former
Brooklyn Boro President
Howard Golden.

Shiny black cars and
tailored suits have always
been a way of life at
303 Beverly Road.

Yes, our Brooklyn Boro
President still lives in

Not Park Slope,
Not Bay Ridge,

No, Kensington.

And boy,
are we still proud.

Ron Lopez

Website Counter

Free Counter

Sunday, July 20, 2008

When Albert Shanker lived in Kensington

I only knew who Albert Shanker was after our teachers went on strike at PS 179 in 1967. That’s because Shanker lived on East 4th street between Avenue C and Cortelyou Road. It was a wood frame house on the right hand side of the street, just off Avenue C.

I remember seeing news trucks and people protesting outside his house during the strike. And let me tell you, as kids we adored the guy. I mean we were out of school for weeks during that strike,
and certainly loved every minute of it.

“Hey, Albert Shanker!”
“Hey, Albert Shanker!”

And of course he'd NEVER wave to us.

Could you imagine the most popular UFT President
in the world living in Kensington Brooklyn?

Yeah, Albert Shanker,
a hero to all us school children at PS 179.

I mean this guy was at the height of his
career then.

And he lived in Kensington.
Not Manhattan.
No, Kensington Brooklyn.

And boy, were we proud!

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

When "Cousin Brucie" lived in Kensington

Cousin Brucie lived at 370 Ocean Parkway during
the early 70’s. When we used to walk to Ditmas JHS
back then, we’d always look for him by his building;
either being picked up by a limo or driving a hot car
that the radio station lent him.

Buy the way, 370 Ocean Parkway is that big
white apartment house with the triangular
“64 Worlds Fair” design in front.

Yeah, you've seen it a million times.

“Hey, Cousin Brucie!”
“Hey, Cousin Brucie!”

And of course he'd always wave to us.

Could you imagine the most popular radio DJ
in the world living in Kensington Brooklyn?

I mean this guy was at the height of his
career then.

And he lived in Kensington.
Not Manhattan.
No, Kensington Brooklyn.

And boy, were we proud!

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pushing tin over Kensington, Brooklyn

The tin’s been moving over Kensington since I was a kid looking out my bedroom window. The flight path is exactly the same and has never moved.
On any Sunday night you can count upwards to a dozen Jet lights stretching from Brooklyn through Staten Island and into New Jersey.

In the early 60’s there were probably more prop planes than jets.
I would sometimes sit with my Dad on the couch and try to make out the tail markings with my telescope. Pan Am, Eastern, United, TWA. Just about when they reached Ocean Parkway you could see the landing gear start to come down and the planes would usually disappear over the apartment buildings before the wheels were
fully in position.

We also had these strange “whirly birds” too; they were double bladed helicopters that used to land at LaGuardia along with the planes and jets. I believe they came out of Newark, but I was never quite sure. I know at one time they used to land at the top of the Pan Am building, now the Met Life building in the city. The gigantic “whirly birds” seemed to end their flights over my house around the same time they ended them in the city. One of them had a horrible accident on the top of the Pan Am building in Manhattan, killing some people on the roof and down below on Vanderbilt back in
the early 70’s.

I think I was too young to remember seeing the wounded
United DC-8 fly overhead on fire before it crashed in Park Slope in 1960. But according to my Mom, I was home at the time and may have seen it if I was staring out the back window as usual. And I can’t tell you the hundreds of dreams I have had in my lifetime, about seeing a jet on fire flying over my house.

I would have been almost three at the time, but I can’t really say I remember seeing that Jet before it crashed.

I had to spend New Years Day this year at the emergency room with my wife at Methodist Hospital in Park Slope. After about twelve hours they finally discharged her. On the way out we passed by the Chapel in the hospital. There’s a plaque on the wall outside the Chapel that’s dedicated to the memory of a little boy that initially survived that Jet crash. Only to die a day later of severe burns. They bronzed all the change the kid had in his pocket, and attached it to the plaque. His name was Stephen Baltz.

And as far as seeing that Jet fly over my
house in 1960 before it crashed in Park Slope.
I hope it was just a dream and nothing more.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Friday, July 18, 2008

The F-Express

The F-Express was the fastest train around. There was no
way I would ever take the local because it was just that slow.

Like a shell shot out of a cannon, it would barrel from the
4th Avenue station at speeds well over 50 miles per hour.
Church Avenue, Seventh Avenue then Bergen Street.

We left everyone else behind and couldn't care less.

Yes, the F was my ride to the High School of Art and Design
every day. And it only took about 37 minutes to get to 53rd
and Lexington from Church Avenue. So who had time to
study on the train?

It's been well over 25 years since the express was
discontinued, and there's hope it may return.

But until then I still suffer on the "slow" local,
knowing that there was something so much faster
and so much better. Somewhere, a long time ago
in the Kensington Brooklyn of my youth.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Top Ten Reasons why Kensington                              is better than Park Slope

10 Instead of the Pavilion, we have the Kensington Post office,
and the shows are free every day.

9 If you loose your job as a television comedy writer, you can
start your own construction business by simply walking to
McDonald Avenue at eight in the morning.

8 You’ll always be able to walk off your meal from the nearest
nice restaurant, because it’s not near at all.

7 When you shop lift at Golden Farms, you can immediately gain
celebrity status by having your Polaroid taped to the cash register.

6 Our calves are smaller because we don’t have to walk
up and down hills all day.

5 Dressing up as an Amish Farmer and re-selling vegetables
bought at Golden Farms is always a “hoot” at the green
market every Saturday morning in Park Slope.

4 We know that “ugly” train yard on Atlantic Avenue is actually ugly,
and are not fooled by the “Develop don’t destroy Brooklyn” people.

3 Cousin Brucie and Albert Shanker can kick any of your
celebrities asses.

2 We also use our Yoga mats to lie on when we steal the lithium
batteries out of your hybrid cars.

1 Electro shock therapy is alive and well in Kensington and involves
licking a live slot car track at the Buzz-a-rama for only
twelve dollars an hour.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Pictures from the Catskills

These are strawberries that we hand picked from a
local farm near our house in the Catskills.
The flowers are all wild and grow on our property.

A rainbow developed after a severe rain storm
over the mountains in front of our house. I think
I saw Black Bear walking away with the "pot of gold".
Buy hey, maybe now he can buy some food instead
of eating our bird feeders.

Just some Summer pictures
from our weekends in The Catskills.

P.S. we may be renting the house next year
on a weekend/weekly basis. Sorry we backed
out of doing it this year.

Ron Lopez
Photos by Virginia Priest
Website Counter

Free Counter

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Black Raspberries Grow in Kensington

When I was a kid we would always pick berries up
in the Catskills during the summer. No, Kensington
was only for grapes and the fig tree that grew in
my back yard. Leave it up to my wife to introduce
"berries" to our back yard, and change the only
course of nature I have ever known.

Ron Lopez
Photo by Virginia Priest
Website Counter

Free Counter

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Kensington before me

This is a very old picture of Church Avenue and the Beverly.
If you "Google" the name of the movie on the marquee you could probably figure out what year it was. Do you notice "Ebinger's" next to the Beverly? It was one of the best bakeries in Brooklyn.

After the bakery closed in the early 80's the store actually became a "Citibank. Could you image a Citibank right on Church Avenue?
Boy, did we really command respect a ways back.

And after Citibank closed it became the jewelry store which it
still is today. The News stand is still there today,
at least something survived the 80's.

Oh, and the trolly, get a load of that.
As the story goes, my dad lost his brakes going down the big hill on McDonald Avenue. He wasn't able to stop and hit a trolly broadside on Caton Avenue. In the days before lawsuits, everything worked out fine, and no one got hurt.

Oh, and buy the way. I gave the folks in the jewelry store this picture about ten years ago. I think they still have it somewhere on the wall in the back of the store.

I was never that kind to Citibank though,
and I could never figure out why.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The 1977 Blackout in Brooklyn

I remember exactly where I was that day when the lights went out in Brooklyn. I was on the down escalator at the "EJ Korvettes" on Bay Parkway, down by the water. It's where the Toys R Us is now. Bobby Brennan, Pete Liria and I just stepped on the moving steel stairs.
We were about halfway down and all of a sudden “stop”, we all almost fell down forward too. All the lights in the store went out, while the battery powered emergency lights suddenly kicked on.

Not knowing any better, everyone in the store just left and walked to the parking lot to find their cars. And that’s when we knew something was really wrong, because it wasn’t just Korvettes that was dark. No, it was the rest of Brooklyn including Coney Island.
I clearly remember looking over towards the Parachute Jump and just seeing dark silhouettes of the entire place. Let me tell you, that was something I will never forget.

So we all piled into Bobby’s Plymouth and slowly made our way up Bay Parkway towards Kensington. All the traffic lights were out, so it took us well over an hour to get home. Just a slow crawl through every intersection, hoping no one would broadside you.

Now the block was quite quiet when we got home.
A lot of folks with flashlights walking up and down East 4th street that night. I remember we all just sat on my porch and listened to my mom’s transistor radio while shining flashlights up towards the apartment house across the street. We were probably out that night till early in the morning, listening for any informaton on when the power would be back on.

No, as far as I remember everything in Brooklyn was quite calm the first night. It wasn’t until the second night of the blackout that we heard about the cars pulling down storefront gates with long steel chains along Flatbush Avenue. It was just a lot of fire trucks and police cars racing down Church towards Flatbush that night, along with the smell of smoke in the air from far away fires.

And Kensington was quite peaceful during the whole blackout, and the East 4th street Block Association kicked into full gear.
Heck, I was even one of the “security guards” along with the rest of the boys who patrolled the block late at night with a “Louisville Slugger”. Just to make sure whatever was going on down by Flatbush was not coming here.

And nothing ever happened, no the closest we got to a riot was hearing the sirens of the fire trucks and police cars going East on Church Avenue. No, nothing more.

And Kensington along with Windsor
Terrace stood tall during those three
days in July back in 1977.

And we just read about the
riots in the Daily News.

And Hell, I never did get to buy
That “Boston” 8-track that night.

Because the cash registers
didn’t work without electric.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Friday, July 11, 2008

East 4th Street Block Party

On Saturday July 12th there will be a block party
on East 4th between Beverley and Avenue C.

There is no parking from 8am until it's over.
And that's not usually until later in the evening.

The block will be closed and the kids will be having
a ball playing in the street without cars.

I know there will be some stoop sales too.

So please feel free to vist and take pictures
of the block I grew up on.

And I promise the "skeletons"
will stay put in the closet.

Ron Lopez

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
Website Counter

Free Counter

Close calls in Kensington

I was too young to remember my first really “close call”, but according to my mom I was crawling on the roof that overhangs the second floor porch at 399 East 4th. In the days before window guards little kids just climbed out of windows when no one was looking. If it wasn’t for my mom pulling me in, I would have certainly been killed.

Another tale is about the time I got a small ball lodged in my throat. As the story goes, I was gagging and turning purple. And it only came out because my grandparents were holding me upside down by my feet and banging on my back. I’m sure it wasn’t exactly the “Heimlich” but at least
it worked.

And of course every good deed deserves another. And this time it was my mom, and I’m glad I was home. One time back in the late 80’s I walked out of the bathroom to find her on fire in the kitchen.

Now, because the landlord never bought a new stove (that being me), my mom had to always light the burners with a match. Well, somehow a part of the lit match head ended up on the back of her terrycloth bathrobe. With a plume of flames dancing on her back I quickly ran back in the bathroom and drenched a bath towel with water. When I threw it on my moms back she started yelling at me, and asking what the hell what I doing.

Mom had no clue she was on fire,
and thank God it never got past her bathrobe.

So you can imagine after this stuff that we’d be real careful as new parents. And yes we tried our best with all the childproofing work you could do. But like everything in life, there’s always something you forget. And once again I was lucky to be right there when
it happened.

For whatever reason my son liked to hang out in the bathroom while I was taking a shower. Usually playing with his toys or just sitting around. So here I am getting out of the shower only to hear that awful “chocking,” sound that parents fear. Too young to know what’s really going on, my son's just standing there with his mouth open. I quickly look inside his throat and see a small white thing that looks like a cup. With my long fingers I was able to pry it out, once again not the “Heimlich” but at least it worked. And you know what is was? The small ceramic cap that covers the bolts that hold your bathroom toilet to the ground. These things are usually not glued down, and little kids can easily grab them. If you have a small child just take them off and hide them, because they almost became deadly to us.

Yeah, let me tell you about
“close calls” in Kensington.

I’d rather live without them.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Doing Laundry in Kensington Brooklyn

I know why
I hate doing laundry.
Yes, I think I know why.

It all started when I was a kid spending my summers up in the Catskills. Whenever it rained we would somehow end up in the Laundromat in Downsville, New York.
Just sitting there for hours watching the clothes dance through the glass window of the dryer while rain drops bounced off fly ridden window sills. If there was some type of parental torture, I think this was it. No beatings, no screaming, no cigarette burns on my arms. No, just hours in a small town Laundromat while misty rain fell on the mountains. Yes, that was torture, and that’s why I hated doing laundry for such a long time.

And for years I somehow survived in Kensington without ever doing laundry. Ok, well for years my Mom actually did it. But don’t get any ideas, that doesn’t make me a “mamas boy”, I’ve been working since I was sixteen and even bought my own car with my own money when I was 18. So just because my mom did the laundry…ah, um, maybe I’ll stop while I’m ahead on that one.

But when I had my own apartment at 125 Ocean Parkway,
well, I was really on my own you know. Piles of dirty laundry and no one to do it, sometimes forced me to buy new “Hanes” at Silverrod. Because I hated doing laundry you know, and I blame it on those rainy days in the Catskills.

So one day while I was growing mountains of laundry in my apartment I walked by the Laundromat at 403 Church Avenue.
There was a sign in the window that said “drop off”
79 cents a pound.

“What is this?”
“You can actually have someone else
wash you clothes besides your mom?”
“And all you have to do is pay for it?”
“Oh man this is great! “

So I started dropping off tons and tons of laundry.
One time I dropped off 65 pounds, wow, this is fantastic.
And it lasted for years, and they actually separated colors, shirts, underwear and socks.

And once again I dodged the lethal bullet of “doing laundry” and I was almost 40 years old. Just an endless wave of someone else doing my “dirty work” while others suffered watching clothes spin in a dryer. Yes, for years I was the “luckiest man on earth”, and the only “Tide” I knew came in at Coney Island.

But soon it would all come crashing down on me,
yes, my days were numbered.
I was getting married again,
and there was room for a washer
and dryer in our basement.

I remember looking at them at the PC Richards on Atlantic Avenue.
The Maytag logo looked very familiar, and was making me sick.
“My God, those machines in Downsville were all Maytag’s,
and I can never forget that logo”

The delivery was for the next day,
and I was hoping they wouldn’t fit down the stairs.

“Didn’t you do your laundry in college?” said my wife
“I went to college in the city, I never left home”
My wife just rolled her eyes.
You see she left home at 16 and never looked back.
I left home at 16 and took the F-train back the same day.

We were both just so different.

“When you put in the detergent make sure you don’t pour it directly on the clothes. Because if you do, you will probably leave white blotches on all the colored clothes”.

And I learned real fast that if you ruin something.
It’s better to just throw it in the trash,
and not show your wife.

“Ronnie, have you seen our new bath towels?”
“No, I haven’t, maybe we took them upstate by mistake”.

Yes, I was running scared and raking dirt over my footprints.
This whole “laundry” thing was going to catch me.
A washer and a dryer tell no lies.

“Ronnie, what happened to my dress?”
I remember looking at the splotches
on my wife’s dress as I started to sweat.

“I put the Tide in maybe too soon?”

“Did you pour it on the clothes before the water filled?”

“I don’t remember, I don’t remember”.

This was all so awful and tragic, a man who re-built his own car engines and stopped 90 mile per hour slap shots a few years before,
is now being questioned about “laundry”.
What has my little world come to?

But like everything in life there is a beginning and an end.
And for me the end was called “Maytag”, and it was time to grow up.

I was going to love doing laundry,
no matter what it took.

I don’t know what happened, or even how. But somehow I actually started to enjoy washing clothes. Maybe it was the smell of those white things you put in the dryer, or the sound of the washer. I don’t know, but for some strange reason it was all just so easy and didn’t give me nightmares anymore. Water before clothes, no detergent on the jeans, Yeah, me and my big white Maytags, we own the world. And I do fold clothes better than you.
Oh yes I do.

I guess it’s the same thing that happens
to people in jail. You just give in and learn to
accept it. Yeah, instead of becoming a prison lawyer
during my life sentence, I studied laundry.
And I love it more than ever.
Oh yes I do.

Now if I can only remember to separate the whites
from the colors and the towels from the skirts,
I think I may learn to love it a little bit more.
Because whites don’t look good when they’re
light blue, and detergent still makes strange
white splotches. And my wife may still be
checking to see what’s in the trash.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Glass of Frank's Wine in Kensington

Frank Verbito lives across the street from me at 400 East 4th street. Frank bought the house way back in 1978 and has been a fixture on my block ever since. You may have seen him from time to time, he usually walks around shirtless during the summer and can usually be found doing concrete work on the block.

Frank is very proud to have worked on the construction of the World Trade Center too, especially the original “bath tub” that survived much of the destruction on 9/11.
If there was anything that would have survived that day, it would have been Frank’s concrete. Because concrete is Frank’s specialty you know, and he takes pride in his work.

Now besides concrete, Frank also loves to work on the garden in front of his house, and from time to time he makes homemade wine from the grapes he grows right here on East 4th street. You see Frank was born in Italy and lived on a farm, so anything plant or wine related, Frank has a real knack for. And especially homemade wine, let me tell you.

I remember it was a hot summer night back in about 1992. I was in between marriages and did a lot of hanging around on the block at night. And much of the “hanging around” usually took place in my garage, or my friend Mario’s a few doors away. Either working on my car or one of Mario’s, just passing some time until the next day. I guess you can say it was my form of “therapy”, and it probably saved me a lot of money on "dead end" dating too.

Now, that night I was using a hand held sledgehammer for something, it looks kind of like a hammer except the head is about the size of a can of corn. Maybe it weighed about four or five pounds too. A real swell tool for pounding the hell out of a engine pulley when you don’t have a date on a Friday night.

So here comes Frank from across the street with a
big glass of homemade wine in his hand.

“Hey a Ronnie, come on anda hava soma wine”.
“Its gooda and will make you sleepa tonight”.

I looked at the glass, it was about
twelve ounces and was filled to the top.

“Come on Ronnie trya”.

So I took the glass from Frank and took a sip.

Forget anything you can buy at Walgreen’s,
this stuff was real alcohol. No, nothing they'd
serve at "Picket Fences", this stuff was deadly!

Well, before you knew it I finished the entire glass,
and not thinking much about it I continued to pound
the hell out of the engine pulley I was working on.

Just “bam” “bam” “bam”,
iron to iron, steel to steel.
Real manly stuff that
gets your hands dirty.

And it was all going so well
until a silly little thumb
got in the way.

Now, you ever see one of those old cartoons when someone hits their thumb with a hammer. You know, the thumb swells up real fast and turns a real dark purple. Real funny stuff, right?

So there I am pounding the pulley with the sledge hammer, and then “POW”, my silly little thump gets hit. I pull it out of the engine compartment and show it to Mario, we both can’t stop laughing because it’s just like in a cartoon. Except instead of the “Coyote” in Roadrunner, it’s Ronnie Lopez from East 4th. And my thumb is real and not owned by “Warner Brothers”.

Frank’s wine was in full effect,
I hit my little thumb; It was all very hilarious,
and yes I went straight to sleep.

Now Saturday morning was a real different story.
No wine from Frank and no silly visions of a cartoon in my head.
No, my thumb hurt like hell and was swollen to the size of a golf ball. And no, it was not very funny anymore, and I used about a bag of ice to kill the pain.

And today some sixteen years later I still have a little purple mark under my fingernail. A constant reminder of a Friday night in Kensington, and a glass of Frank’s wine, and learning the hard way that a hand held sledge hammer just didn’t mix well with both.

Ron Lopez
Website Counter

Free Counter