Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunrise in the Catskills

This is a picture taken early one morning from the front porch of our
house up in Colchester New York.

The nights up in the mountains are starting to get quite chilly and
it can actually snow up there in late September.

New York City is somewhere towards the right hand side of the
picture and about 150 miles away.

Forget about racoons in Windsor Terrace, a pretty big size black
bear walked right by my wife one morning while she was working
in her garden.

She was so scared!

Oh, I mean the bear,
my wife's screaming sent the poor
thing way back up in the mountain.

And still after fifty years of going up
there I have yet to see one myself.

Ron Lopez
Photo by Virginia Priest
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

P.S. 179

Back when I was a kid growing up in Kensington you rarely saw a parent taking a kid on the subway at eight in the morning.
And if you did, is was probably for a doctor’s visit down on Clinton Street, or a day off to see the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center. No, no trains here, we just walked up our block and made the right on Avenue C. Our loyal institution of learning was just that close,
and that was “too close”.

Oh, public school 179, how I hated seeing you from my front window each and every day. With your two gigantic smoke stacks rising high in the sky there was no way I could miss you, even on the weekends. And on those dark winter mornings you were there too, the classroom lights just turning on before my little blue eyes. Flick, flick, flick, “yes we’re open for business”, “see you soon!”. Oh, and lets not forget to say the “Pledge of Allegiance” an hour and a half before we said it again in class. There was that little tiny figure again standing on the roof of the school, raising the “Stars and Stripes” on that tall white flag pole.

Sometimes I even used my binoculars to see if it was one of my teachers trying to send me a message. But my best instincts told me it was just the maintenance man. Forget Pre-school, Pre-K, or Special-K, it was kindergarten when you were five years old and nothing else.

“Pete let go of the pole”.

My cousin Pete and brother Joseph were the first to fall victim to the giant “Monster of Grout” on Avenue C. But Pete’s first day had to be the most memorable. There he was just holding on to the dark green enamel pole in the gym for dear life. My Aunt Dolores and Uncle Pete trying to un-lock his tiny arms that were wrapped tightly around it.

“No, no, no, I’m not going, noooooooo!”

At some point according to history my Uncle lifted my cousin up by his "Buster Browns" and held him horizontally trying to pull him off the pole. My cousin did loose a valiant battle that day, his little hands succumbing to the strength of two massive adults. But not before he scratched off some lead based paint from the green pole.

And me? well I had a whole year to absorb all the horror stories about your “first day”, and the nightmare called “kindergarten”. The strange kids, the white paste, ice cream sticks, and the dreaded colored construction paper. Yes, my “Castle of my discontentment” was right there before me, and I saw it every day.

And forget any “gifted programs” at 179 back in 1963; no, you were just ranked by your class number. The low digits meant you were smart, i.e.; 4-1, 4-2. While the high numbers meant you better start learning how to mix concrete, because you weren’t going to law school any time soon. But kindergarten was still a mixed bag, where they proudly paired the lawyers and the plumbers of tomorrow all in the same room.

“Hey kid, do you have any “Pez Candy?”

“What do you mean?”.

“Lopezzzzz, Pez Candy, Lopezzzzz!”.

And that’s when I started to cry. My first day of kindergarten and I was already being mocked. I tried to stay calm but then suddenly I felt rage building inside of me, just wanting to glue that kids face with some construction paper and white paste.

“Ronnie, just remember the first day is always the hardest”,

I could hear my mom's voice from deep inside my head,
she always calmed me down when I was about get angry.

So I put down the glue and just walked away.

Well, the days turned to weeks, the weeks to months, the months to years. Junior High, High School, College. And the days at P.S. 179 just became a distant memory of my childhood.

It’s strange but I still see the giant smoke stacks of P.S. 179 from my front window, and my son passes it almost every day on his way to school in Bay Ridge. I wish going to school for him was as easy as it was when I was a kid. Just a walk up the block and then a right on Avenue C. But that’s just another story for another day.

But maybe some things really don’t change; every September when school starts my son Andres gets very nervous about the new school year. I just try to remind him that “the first day is always the hardest” and if he ever gets mad, just “put down the glue and
walk away”.

The truth is my "Castle of Discontentment" actually became my "Castle of Enchantment". And I still smile like I did in my kindergarten class photo each and every day when I pass P.S. 179, never forgetting my first day.
(I am second row, second from left)

Ron Lopez

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Staying young at 51

You know I have this theory about feeling young
when you’re getting old and look like hell.

Just do the same things that you did when you were
fifteen years old, that's all. And if you were roller hockey
goalie like me, you can always put a mask over
your face to cover the gray hair and wrinkles.

It’s funny, no matter how old I get, whenever
I play hockey with my cousin Pete, I always feel
like I’m still fifteen years old.

Oh sure, the knees sometimes hurt and the puck tends
to find it's way into the net a lot more than 35 years ago.
But what the hell, it sure beats worrying about the
economy and losing my job.

And sometimes a real hard blow to the head makes
you totally forget about everything, well, at least for
ten minutes or so, but at least it’s fun while it lasts.

These pictures were taken last Spring up in Florida
New York. The town where my cousin moved
to back in 1979 when he left Brooklyn.

I hope to be playing this fall with Pete and
using our AARP cards to get a discount on pucks.

You know they send you that F_ _ king card the day
after your 50th birthday.

What a bunch of creeps!

Ron Lopez
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The play date from Hell

The "Play Date from Hell" started like any other “play date” usually does. You’re in a park or playground with you son or daughter just pushing them on that black-seated swing. They’re laughing away with their little legs kicking back in forth having another wonderful day. And there’s that woman next to you again with that big straw hat. You have seen her about three times so far and yet have never spoke. You have your “nanny” radar on and so far so good.
Time to move on this, looks like the mom.

“Oh, so how old is your daughter?”
“Well, she just turned three on August 14.”
So far, so good, no corrections yet about her not being the mother.

“Are you from New York?” “Oh, me too,” “What’s her name?”
“Oh, she has such beautiful blonde hair”. Now, for the big one as your leaving. “Here, let me give you my number, maybe the kids can get together one day.” She smiles and gives you her number too. "Mission accomplished" is all you say to yourself as you push open the heavy metal gate of the playground.

And just like any other date, you still wonder if they’re going to call. Everyone is just so polite nowadays, and you wouldn’t expect them to crumple up your phone number right in front of your face now
would you?

And then one day the phone finally rings. “Hi, this is “………” from the playground, we met the other day.” “Sure that sounds great”
“I’ll see you then.”
Oh, coffee or tea, what should I make? Now, which toys have that lead based paint? Better hide the “Little Princess” stuff. I know he’s only “experimenting” but she doesn’t. Ok, good, NPR as back-round noise. The doorbell rings, and there she is. “Hi, so nice to see you” “Oh, she’s so beautiful.”

Now my wife is a stay at home mom and has always been a pretty good disciplinarian with our son. No beatings or anything like that, just right from wrong, stand in the corner, 1, 2, 3, so on and so on. And let me tell you, it all works. He’s eight years old now and hasn’t spit at his teacher since pre-school.

And then it started, just like that.

The wooden spoon just struck the back of my sons little three-year-old head. The blonde girl just laughed after she did it.
My wife just sat there thinking the lady in the big straw hat would say something. Hoping in some way she would tell her daughter not to do it again. “Oh, is he having a bad day?” said the lady in the straw hat. Is this woman totally insane? Your little blonde haired daughter just whacked my kid on the head with a wooden spoon, he’s crying and you’re asking my wife if “he’s having a bad day?” My wife gently confiscated the wooden spoon from the little blonde girl. She then started crying. “Oh, Virginia, I think she wants the spoon back” said the lady with the straw hat. My wife gave the spoon back to the little blonde girl. “Now no hitting,” said my wife. “Oh, you don’t have to tell her that, she knows not to hit.”

And it just continued…………..

My son spent most of the “play date” trying to protect himself from the little blonde girl. The mother was just totally oblivious to anything her daughter did, yet totally tuned in to my sons crying after he would get whacked by the spoon.

“Oh, Andres, I’m sorry, are you having a bad day?” said the lady with the big straw hat.

Now, my son was pretty verbal as a three year old, you know the third adult syndrome, blah, blah, blah.

And here it comes, those moments in life that you never forget.
The ones you tell your kids about when they’re older.

The lady with the big straw hat stood by the front doorway with her blonde demonic child in the stroller. She just looked at my son and said “I hope the next time we visit you’re not having such a
“bad day”

With that my three-year-old son just looked at her and said,

The gasp could be heard around the world. The woman with the big straw hat just looked at my son frozen. My wife and I did our best to make Andres apologize for his remark, although we knew he just said what we were thinking all throughout the play date.
My wife did her best to avoid the woman with the big straw hat form that day on. Carefully surveying the playground before she opened the heavy black gate day after day. It was just that bad.

We don’t know what happened to the lady with the big straw hat and her daughter, she never called us and we never called her. It was Brooklyn justice, plain and simple. But like all good "Kensington Stories", they all start somewhere.

And we’ll never forget the “Play Date from Hell”

Ron Lopez

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Breaking up with other parents

Note: My better half did this some time back. She's the real "sharper knife" in the drawer.

Since becoming a mother, I’ve had a number of break ups with other mothers. Not my fault, though, and I’m not the only one. Mothers are breaking up with each other all the time and it’s always over the same thing – Parenting.

We are constantly assessing each other; weighing-in on who’s right, who’s wrong and who’s insane. It sounds gutless and mean-spirited, but it’s really not. It’s just fear and confusion on all our parts.

We’re all terrified of failing as parents. Terrified of failing our kids and having to live with the consequences. Pick your nightmare: AIDS, Crystal Meth., Columbine, “Girls Gone Wild”, uselessness, hopelessness. . . It’s all grim.

If we’re right, our children will grow-up into happy, useful adults and, hopefully, move out of the house. If we’re wrong, we’re visiting them in rehab or jail trying to ignore the words MOM SUCKS tattooed down their knuckles.

And what compounds it all is the total confusion and uncertainty surrounding good parenting. There is no consensus anymore on how we should parent our children, (if there ever was). None. There are plenty of theories, oh yes, but no certainty that any of it is works.

So we cling to those mothers who agree with our parenting choices and who can reassure us that we’re doing the right thing. And we jettison those moms who parent their children differently and who, through no real fault of their own, challenge us and force us to question our own parenting. And who wants that?

So we break up.

My first break-up was pretty painless. It was with a mother who took parenting her three-year-old son very, very seriously. She had to. He was “gifted.”

Now. I’m not saying he wasn’t gifted. Maybe he was. It’s true, he could say blue in Spanish. But, he wasn’t exactly composing sonatas. I never saw him do long division. Still, I was happy for her to think her son was a genius. I secretly thought my three-year old son was a genius too.

The thing is, it was really stressful being around her. Every moment had to be a teachable moment; talk centered endlessly around her son and about the challenges of raising such an intelligent child; but worse, every now and then, she would inexplicably try to reassure me that I didn’t need to worry about my son. He would be fine, she would say. Every child is different and develops at his own pace. Not to worry.

Um. I’m not worried. And you, my friend, are a total loon.

Ok. I never actually said that to her, because I’m a big coward and other moms scare me, but I did break-up with her. And, as I said, it was painless. So painless, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even remember my name.

The one break-up that did hurt was with my normal friend - my super cool, beautiful, funny friend. The one who was just like me - clueless and overwhelmed and scared of all the other moms because they clearly knew what they were doing and we clearly did not.

I loved her! She was a total joy to be around. Everything about her life seemed to mesh perfectly with mine. We both had boys the same age. I was renovating my house. She was renovating her house. I was thinking about getting highlights. She was thinking about getting pregnant again. Perfect.

It was our parenting, though, that truly cemented our friendship. We agreed that we weren’t going to be angry, punitive parents – like our parents. We were going to raise our sons using positive reinforcement.

We were going to “catch” them doing something good and praise them with a love and an enthusiasm so warm, so nourishing, so heavenly that our boys would be inspired to do good all the time just so they could be rewarded again and again by our remarkable love.

That was the plan.

The trouble is, in between those moments of doing good, our boys were complete terrors - each in his own astonishing and delightful way.

My son was verbal and had no problem insulting anyone who crossed him – especially teachers or, sadly, me. By the time he was four-years-old, he had a whole arsenal of distressing insults at his command. My personal favorite -“hysterical hens from hell”- shocked his teachers and got him into a lot of trouble at school, but secretly impressed me. I mean that’s not a bad alliteration for a four-year old. But wrong! Very wrong.

My friend’s son was different. He was extremely sweet and never had a bad word for anyone. But when he was crossed, he would get physical - hitting, biting and breaking things in anger.

Needless to say, we were the two moms who were asked to stay after school and conference with the teachers. We nodded politely and earnestly as they suggested “strategies” and “coping skills” and possible “consequences” for our boys, but we always left unconverted.

Positive reinforcement might take longer to get results, we told each other, but in the end our boys would be less angry and happier men. Reason, love and praise were all that was needed to deal with this completely normal behavior.

But one afternoon, after a particularly bad outing with my son, I abandoned the faith completely and crossed over to the other side – the punitive, angry parent side.

I was in the drugstore, standing in a long line of people, and had just explained to my still four-year-old son that, no, I wasn’t going to buy him yet another packet of Pokemon cards, when he lost it. “You are such a loser freak, Mom! I hate you!”

An audible gasp rose from the line, and my scalp broke-out in a sweat. But, I didn’t cave. With all the love I could muster, I knelt down next to my son, looked him square in the eyes and told him he was being rude and hurting my feelings. He really needed to think about that and . . . But before I could finish, he shouted, “Shut-up, woman!”

More gasps from the crowd. More scalp sweat.

As I reached the counter to pay, the cashier – a middle-aged Bangladeshi woman who has since become my friend - said to me, “Don’t let him talk to you like that or he will grow up to be a very unhappy man.” Right.

As I think I’ve made pretty clear, I’m generally too fragile and insecure to accept unsolicited parenting advice from anyone. But for once, I wasn’t offended. I was actually relieved. It was as if for a brief moment I was in tune with the universe long enough to hear it say very clearly and lovingly, “Get a grip.”

And I did.

I took my screaming son home, sat him on a stool in the bathroom, went to his bedroom and proceeded to strip it, putting all his toys, videos, Pokemon cards, hot-wheel cars – everything! – away into the closet.

When I was done, his room was empty - except for his bed and dresser. Then I led my son to his room and sat him down on the bed. I told him he wasn’t ever going to talk to me like that again and he wasn’t going to see any of his toys until his behavior started to improve. Seriously. Then, I left him alone in his room, stunned.

And it worked. He was angry with me, oh yes, but he actually started to control himself and his language. Things at school improved.

Now. I’m not giving advice. I’m not. I’m still an insecure and clueless mom and I’m sure I’m going to have to deal with some kind of ugly backlash when my son is a teenager. So, wish me luck. I only mention it because, once I changed my parenting style, play dates with my friend and her son became impossible.

Inevitably, my son would end up punished, alone in his room, muttering something about me being the meanest mom in the world. Meanwhile, my friend’s son would still be bouncing a ball against my newly painted wall, completely ignoring his mother’s suggestions to “listen” and to “make the right choice.” It was miserable.

So were the silences between us. I just couldn’t engage anymore in our regular conversations, and I was too much of a coward (and I am a big, fat coward) to tell her the truth - how wrong I thought she was; how misguided her parenting now seemed to me.

So, I attempted a break-up, using the coward’s stand-by - the ol’ fade-away. I didn’t return phone calls. I made excuses to avoid play dates. Canceled others at the last minute. I did everything I could to avoid seeing or talking to her, hoping she would just get impatient and stop calling me.

What she did was confront me. What was going on? Was I avoiding her? Was I angry with her? What happened?


Normally, in these types of situations, I lie. Oh, yes. I do. If I think I‘m going to make someone angry with me or hurt their feelings I will lie – shamelessly - big, glorious lies. But this one time, I told the truth. And it was awful.

It wasn’t working! I blurted out. This whole positive reinforcement stuff was a load. Her son was out of control. She needed to stop talking so much to him and punish him. Give him consequences. Consequences, consequences, consequences!

In the middle my rant, I remembered why I don’t tell the truth – I’m no good at it.

After a long pause, my friend finally spoke. “I see,” she said. “Well. Good-bye, then,” and she hung-up the phone.

It was just a whisper, but that good-bye concussed me. Not only had I ended our friendship, I had hurt her feelings. I had insulted her son. And I had accused her of the one thing she feared most - failing as a mother.

I haven’t heard from her since.

Of all the break-ups in my life, of all the partings, hers is the one I regret most. The one I am most ashamed. There was no real reason why we couldn’t have been friends. If I had been a stronger person, a better friend, and a less insecure mom, I would have found a way to keep our friendship alive, despite our parenting differences. I acted like a coward, but this time it wasn’t cute or funny.
It was gutless and, even, a little mean.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Riding the train with a friend

He was tall and thin and carried a black garbage bag onto
the subway car. His skin was dark and his face unshaven.

I remember looking at another homeless man that day on
the F. He walked on to the train at the 14th street station
by Union Square, and just stood there across from where
I was standing.

And people gave him his “room” too, because that’s
what you do when the homeless walk onto your train,
you just give them their space, and hope they don’t
bother you.

I just stared at him and looked at his eyes, because
the eyes never change, even when you’re homeless.

He looked back at me, his eyes were as dark as coal,
he said nothing.

I know he felt strange when I saw him too. So he just
walked away and sat down on a seat facing the opposite
direction so I couldn’t notice who he was.

The people sitting next to him all got up and found
other seats in the subway car.

I walked towards him though, and sat beside him.

“Hey Donald, remember me?
it’s Ronnie from Art & Design”

He turned his head towards me,
but didn’t look in my eyes this time.

“How you doin man?” is all he said

“I’m fine Don, I’m fine”

“Yeah, well, you know since High School
things have been a little rough for me”
“I’m ok, but things are just not that good”

I remember my first day of high school back in 1972,
Donald was one of the first people I sat with at
the lunch table in the back of the cafeteria.

Donald always wore these really cool tinted sunglasses and
had a small goatee. While most other kids weren’t even
shaving yet, including me, Don looked like he may have
been about 20 years old.

Along with Donald, I also sat with Ernest and Sandy.
Donald and Ernest were black, while Sandy was Jewish.
We were certainly a cross section of New York, but hey.
That’s what made the High School of Art and Design
so cool back in 1972.

Yeah, the High School of Art and Design. I never knew
some of my best friends were gay until my senior year.
And to tell you the truth it never really mattered either.
Because we were all such good friends, and all artists anyway.
All going to a school were nobody cared about “what” you
were. And no one felt they were better than anyone else.

We all just loved that school so much,
including my friend Donald.

“Hey man I’m getting off here”

I reached into by jacket and gave
Donald a twenty-dollar bill.

Donald just looked at me and said “thanks”.

That was about 25 years ago and
I haven’t seen Donald since.

So the next time you see someone riding
the F-train with a bundle of sorrow.
Think about my friend Donald, and never
ever feel that you’re better than anyone else.
Because someday that person just might be you.

Ron Lopez
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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Roller Hockey Kensington style

Some old shots of 70's roller hockey in Kensington.

That's me posing for a shot on my front porch.
I was about 15 years old

The second thot was taken up at the PS 130 school
yard back in the early 70's. You can see IHM in the
backround. Thats Bobby Brennan playing goalie and
my cousin Pete in the foreground.

These pictues were taken for my photography class
while I was in Art & Design High School.
For the record my teacher was not very happy with
them because I was supposed to take pictures of
"nature" instead.

Hey, roller hockey is "nature", right?

Ron Lopez

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kensington saves Sarah Palin

So, here's Kensington's and East 4th Street's own
Eddie O'Callahan up in Alaska "looking into things".

You know that "troopergate" thing and Sarah Palin?

Well, Eddie we still love you no matter who you are
trying to help. And I'm glad to see you doing something
useful with your life besides writing a blog.

I know you must be telling everyone about Kensington
and growing up in Brooklyn. Is that my picture on that
foamcore board? Don't forget to tell McCain about the
time you helped me carry that ping pong table down into
my basement and it almost crushed you when I dropped it.

And tell Sarah that you played hockey too,
just like her son. And both our moms were
"hockey mom's" too!

Except they never had to drive us anywhere,
no, all they did was watch us from the stoop
on East 4th street.

Ron Lopez
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Laying an Egg in Kensington Brooklyn

Well, with everyone getting a bailout of some sort,
I think now it’s my turn.

In the past week I lost about twenty thousand dollars in my 401K, and to make things worse my forty-six hundred dollar a month mortgage is really starting to get on my nerves after three years.

And every month it seems it’s getting harder and harder to “lay that egg”. I empty out whatever money I have from my other accounts, wait for checks to clear, hold off on all the electric bills, gas bills, cable bills, and then start to “cackle” like a great big old two hundred pound chicken.

Just sitting there with my arms flapping up and down,
and bouncing my big ass on my “Office Max” chair.

“Bak, bak, bak, bak......bak baaaaaaaaaaaak!!!
“Bak, bak, bak, bak......bak baaaaaaaaaaaak!!!
“Bak, bak, bak, bak......bak baaaaaaaaaaaak!!!

I can feel the “giant egg” slowly start to make it’s out of me.
The pain of it all seems unbearable.

It’s coming!
It’s coming!
Oh my God,
here it is!

I press the “pay this account” button
on my mortgage bank’s website.

"Thank you for your payment" is all it says

With the great big white egg just sitting there on top of the straw,
I look at my account and all the wonderful zero’s lined up just like the chicken “egg” I just laid.

“You mean I have to pay this shit for the next 27 years?”
“Forty-six hundred dollars a month for the next twenty seven years?”

No, no, no, I’m getting a “bail-out” folks, because this really sucks.

And of course I have no one to blame but myself.

You see when the banks were giving out “Re-Fi’s” and "HE" loans like candy on a Halloween night in Kensington, there I was. Standing there at the bank with my hands out and thinking about what to do with “the money”.

Yeah, just throw it in my bank account and I'll
promise not to eat too much and make myself sick.

And thank God I was married to my wife when I did it, because I actually did what most people don’t when they take out loans, or re-finance. I actually built another house with the money and also renovated 399, so every apartment is perfect. I mean all my tenants have a washer and dryer and dishwasher too. Well, it’s a lot of work running up and down the stairs washing their plates by hand, but a promise is a promise, and at least my nails are always clean.

Yes, if I wasn’t married the house would look like the “haunted house” that it looked like in the 1980’s. And my driveway would be full of old cars and leaking transmissions like it was when I was single. Thank goodness I got married, yes Virginia certainly did save me from “myself” and the NYC Dep as well.

And I’m not going to bull shit you either, because if it wasn’t for the two wonderful tenants I have that help me lay that “egg” every month, I would really be in deep shit like everyone else is today.

And no, I never fell for a “variable rate”; no all my loans are fixed.
And I will never see the 4.75 rate I have on my mortgage ever again in my lifetime.

No, never again.

And all this is exactly the root of the mortgage crisis
and Wall street crisis we are in today.

I may have graduated with a B- average, but “Brooklyn” knows.

I went for the bait like everyone else.
I have a 640,000 mortgage like many others.
But I own a three family house and have the support
of tenants to help me with my mortgage.

No, wasn't that stupid
No, not me.

The people out on Staten Island with the same mortgage as I do are living in a one family house and “not” laying that egg every month. No, there are more foreclosures on Staten Island than anywhere in the city.

Those one family houses can really be trouble if you don't watch yourself.

And you can say that’s true for the rest of the country too.
Although they may not be laying such a big egg as us here in Brooklyn.

So, you can blame anyone you like, but I would never have taken out a 640,000 mortgage if I didn’t have a multiple family house. Because I would have defaulted three years ago!

No, graphic designers don’t make that much money.

So there you are, one man’s take on the crisis we are in today.

“Bite off more than you can chew”
and of course my grandfather Paco’s favorite,
“Your eyes are bigger than your stomach”

“Yes, we know the enemy, and the enemy is us.”

Oh, and not to mention that chicken that
used to peck the shit out of my hand upstate.

Never try to bother a chicken when it's
laying an egg, never.

Ron Lopez

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sarah Palin, Eddie O’Callaghan and a cold radiator in Kensington Brooklyn

Tonight as I was watching CNBC I saw one of the O’Callaghan boys briefly
flash on the screen.
It was something about the “troopergate” scandal and Sarah Palin.

Now for all you people
that don’t know the O’Callaghan’s, They were a great big Irish family that grew up across the street from me on East 4th.

I think there was something like ten of them, and they were all really smart kids. The boys, Neil, Eddie, Andrew and Mark were also excellent roller hockey players and a real fun bunch of guys that always hung out on our stoop.

In fact, I saw the whole family recently for the funeral of their father good old "Mister O" down on Flatlands Avenue.

Now Eddie was the youngest of the boys and always liked to play goalie for me. In fact, I used to test the “homemade” goalie masks I made by having Eddie wear them. I would place Eddie in front of the goalie net in full equipment and then "accidently" shoot the puck at his head. He was an excellent “test dummy” and rarely complained when the puck would “ding” off his mask. Eddie was about five years old at the time while I was about fifteen. I think I told Eddie years later what I was actually doing and he just laughed. Because that was the wonderful thing about the O’Callaghan’s, they always laughed.

And Eddie like the rest of the O’Callaghan’s was also as "smart as a whip". He won a full scholarship to college and then went on to law school. Eddie currently works for the United States Government as a District Attorney and is involved in many "high profile" cases.

Eddie was also my second floor tenant along with his brother Andrew, who also became a lawyer. Andrew sadly died about ten years ago, and we all still miss him a lot.

Now I had a bum radiator in the back room where Eddie slept, the damn thing would never get warm at all. So every time my mothers apartment was about 105 degrees and the radiators hissed like snakes, I knew Eddie turned up the thermostat so his room wouldn’t be that cold.

And as usual I would go downstairs and turn it down from the 95 degrees it was cranked up to.

"Sorry Ronnie, but my room was getting really cold"

"Eddie, just turn it down before you go to bed, OK?"

I think my heating bill for that winter must have been about eight thousand dollars!

So what does Sarah Palin have to do with all this?

Well, it seems that Eddie is some how working on the “troopergate” investigation. According to CNBC he was hired by the McCain people to “look into things”.

I really don’t talk politics on this blog, but all I can say is I was proud to see a real “Son of Kensington” in the National Spotlight.

Oh, and by the way I finally fixed that stupid radiator,
And Eddie, aren't you glad those homemade goalie
masks I made actually worked?

Ron Lopez
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Working in Brooklyn

This picture was taken at the factory where my mother worked.
It was called Kaisers, and was located on DeKalb Avenue in
Clinton Hill Brooklyn.

My mom was a seamstress and used to work on ladies gloves.
Later in life when she lived in Kensington, she was simply known
as "Stella the dressmaker".

She made everything from wedding dresses to children’s clothes
and "bell bottoms" for my good friend Tommy Brennan when
he was five years old. She also made me some really wild shirts
in the 70’s that I’m sure my son would love today.

This photo was taken around 1940.

Buy the way, the factory is now a condo, and I was able to
take my mom to see it before she died in 2001.

My mom is on the right hand side, She is the third from the
bottom next to her sister Beatrice, who is wearing a hat.

Beatrice is still alive and lives in Toms River New Jersey.

Ron Lopez
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Insanity at Ditmas JHS

Being a teacher in the New York City public school system must be one of the roughest jobs around, especially in middle school, or as we knew it “junior high school”.

Mister Spodeck had a rough and ruddy complexion, red hair, and was somewhat stocky.

He also had a very short temper.

He was my seventh grade math teacher who's face would always turn the brightest red whenever the class “did it” to him. And the class “did it” to him practically every day, and especially when he turned his back to us.

“Ok, I’m going to draw an obtuse triangle on the blackboard, who can tell me the reason why we call it an obtuse triangle”.

As soon as Mister Spodeck turned his back to us, and the white chalk started “clacking” on the green blackboard, it started.

First softly, then louder and louder.

“hmmmm, hmmmmm, hmmmmmmmmmmm, HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Mister Spodeck would quickly swing his body around and fling the piece of white chalk towards the back of the room like a missile.


It would usually hit the back wall and shatter into dozens
of tiny white pieces, just scattered on the black linoleum
floor of our math class.

“I said STOP IT”

“I said STOP IT”

We would all just sit there and look at Mister Spodeck.
His face would be as red as a "Golden Farms" tomato.

Yes, like little angels we all just sat there,
staring at him like he was totally insane.

Like he was totally insane.

I know it's thirty eight years later Mister Spodeck.
But I'm sorry, I’m sorry for what I did.

Because even though you thought I never "did it",
I just may have been humming too,
along with everyone else.

Ron Lopez
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How to avoid getting killed on your bike

Riding a bike twelve miles each way into the city has given me a lot to think about lately. Especially after the latest two fatalities in Park Slope over the past couple of weeks. But still, given the benefits of getting a great workout on a daily basis. The positive hopefully still out-weighs the negative.

And there are some things you can do to help make your trip a lot safer. Some are in the book, while others are not. Here are some that work for me every day.

The first thing you always need to do is wear a helmet.
And ladies, I know I’m going to get some nasty comments, but you don’t like to wear helmets, do you? Because, I see a lot more women riding in Brooklyn and Manhattan every morning WITHOUT helmets than men. And I don’t want to hear anything about messing up your hair either, because the pavement takes no prisoners when your bare skull hits it. So please wear your helmets, because it may save your life one day, and I know my “helmet hair” looks worse than yours.

Wear a dorky “DayGlo” green jacket.
Yes, I wear my “pain in the ass” bright green jacket every day. In fact I got it from a mail order place that sells construction equipment. So it was a hell of a lot cheaper than one from Paragon or a bike store. The people at work call me a “fireman”, but at least I get to work everyday, and it probably saved my ass more than once.

The other night driving home from Fort Greene, there was a woman riding her bike on PPW without a helmet, all dressed in black, and without a light on her bike. Oh, It was also raining. That’s how you get killed in the boro of my birth people, and it’s not very hard.

Do NOT listen to music when you ride on the street.
OK, now you are just asking for trouble. When you ride on the streets you just can’t be listening to music on your iPod. It totally shuts you out from the “street noises” you need to be aware of. The sound of a truck or car engine revving towards you, tires rolling against the pavement, a horn, so on and so forth. It may be boring riding without music, but once again it may save your life.

Do NOT totally trust bike lanes
“Oops, sorry, I didn’t see you”. When someone opens up their door and you fall in front of the wheels of a truck on Third Street. Not very pretty, huh? When I ride in a bike lane I always ride far enough to the right, so if someone opens up their car door it will miss me. I kind of straddle the white line that divides the bike lane and the street. Many fatalities happen when people open up their car doors and deflect the bike rider into the street. Anytime I ride against parked cars I always ride far enough to miss getting hit by a swinging door. I also "scan" through the windows of parked cars looking for a person’s head looking to open a door when I ride.

Oh, and buy the way, the newest bike lane on Broadway in Manhattan between 42 and 34 street totally sucks. It is placed right next to the sidewalk and is chock full of pedestrians every night at five o’clock. Another waste of taxpayer money, and very difficult to ride in.

Watch out for oil slicks, green anti-freeze, etc. Even the best rider will slip and slide on "ice of summer".

Never find yourself between a large truck and a parked car. Do whatever you can to never be in that sitiuation.

I personally like to "ride high" and look over the tops of cars, it gives me a great view of whats behind another car.

Never "dare" a truck or car, because you will always loose.

There are more, and I’m sure the “book” has them. But these are just some that may save your life. Even today when you ride to work.

Ron Lopez
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Complainers, whiners, the impatient, and the annoying of Kensington Brooklyn

They find a reason to complain or whine all the time.
And it can be for just about anything whatsoever.

The other morning while I was in the bagel store, there was a woman who had to “point” to the exact plain bagel that she wanted toasted.
Ok, you have about two dozen plain bagels; they all look exactly the same. Exactly the same I tell you.

“No, I want that one, I want that one”

The guy behind the counter had to go through at least eight or nine bagels before he got it right, while the woman was steaming because he didn’t pick the right one the first time.

And of course being the rude, impatient, “stroke seeker” she was, she didn’t even say “thank you” after she got her order.
She just walked out cursing under her breath.

So the parade of “schmucks” continued that morning.
As soon as she left, the next guy in front of me has to get all exasperated about the most minor minutia. His bagel’s butter, the proper corn muffin, and the fact that one of the guys didn’t have change for a twenty-dollar bill.

“Don’t forget to say thank you,” I said as the jerk walked out the door while cursing under his breath too.

“How do you deal with people like this all day?”
I said to the guy behind the counter.

“I don’t let them bother me, I just think about my wife and children in Mexico, and try to smile, and besides everyone is different, and there's nothing you can do”

You know what, he’s a better man than me, because I just couldn’t deal with jerks like that all day. No, I’d take my hockey stick and my six three, two-ten pound body and crosscheck them right into the glass in front of the store. Then I’d make sure to “accidentally” kick them in the head before skating to the penalty box.

“That’s five minutes for intent to injure for number 31 Ron Lopez”
“And a game misconduct for not obeying your wife”

“A game misconduct for not obeying your wife?”
“But she’s not even here?”

“Well, you didn’t put the dishes in the dishwasher this morning before you went to the bagel store, and the laundry is still sitting in the washing machine for two days now”

So I skate to the penalty box, slam the door,
spit on the ice and threaten the fans behind me.

Ok, sorry, I think I’m getting angry here too.

But you see what these people do to the rest of us “good, normal people.” They even manage to piss me off, and I’m a real calm guy you know. Because nothing really bothers me, and I really mean that.

Well, not exactly everything.

Did I ever tell you the story about a car that parked in my driveway back in 1978? I backed up my 73 Buick and took out his side door, and then I put the Buick back inside the driveway and took the subway to the city.

“You mean you damaged his car
because he parked in your driveway?”

“I’m from Brooklyn, what do you want?”

“People just can’t park in your driveway, that’s
like someone hitting on your wife or girlfriend”.

“Well, I don’t see your point, and I think it borders
on the “picking the right bagel” syndrome.
Even if you think it’s something different”.

“ I don’t get it, a bagel and a driveway are two
different things. One’s flat, while the other’s round
and can fit in a toaster when you slice it in two”.

“That’s exactly correct Mister Lopez,
just like living in Brooklyn,
everyone is different”.

Some are impatient,
Some are annoying,
Some are angry,
Some whine,
Some complain.

Yeah, I guess the guy that works in
the bagel store was right after all.

Yes, everyone is different,
and there's nothing you can do”

Ron Lopez
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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Images of a Brooklyn life

My Mom (1942 she was 25)

My Parents getting married in Park Slope (1948)

The family on the steps of 399 East 4th (about 1965)

My brother Joseph, cousin Pete, me, and cousin Frankie (1962)

Me (1982) Baruch Graduation

IHM Communion picture at 7 years old (1964)

1975 High School of Art & Design
Graduation picture (I miss the hair)

IHM Confirmation picture (1969)

Ron Lopez
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Friday, September 12, 2008

Cousin Pete and a sunny September day

Everyone has a story
about September 11th,

I was actually right below in the subway when one of the buildings was hit. I was on the R train on my way to work after dropping off my son at the Montessori school at Atlantic and Third Avenue.
The conductor announced that the train would be passing
Cortland Street because of “police action”.

When we finally stopped at the City Hall station, an unusually large number of people rushed on to the train.

And this is the "picture" that will always stick in my mind.
The woman who sat directly across from me.
She was a well-dressed Asian woman wearing a black dress.
The dress looked like it was torn in places, while the woman had fresh cuts on both her knees. She just stared straight ahead.
She looked like she was in shock.

I had no idea what was going on, and asked the woman if she was ok. Her body was trembling uncontrollably, and she didn’t say a word.

It wasn’t until an older man got on at the next stop that I had some idea about what had just happened. He just announced to the entire train car that “a plane just hit the World Trade Center” and there were “people jumping out of the building”.

And this is the second "picture" that will always stick in my mind.
I remember there were two young teenage girls sitting next to me. They were both sharing a headphone and listening to music.
They were both laughing at what they were listening to and were totally oblivious to what had just happened.

And just like the woman with the cut knees,
I still think about those two young girls.
Innocent laughter on September 11th 2001
while the souls of thousands perished.

No, they didn’t do anything wrong.
They were just being kids.

By the time I got to work up at 50th street, I knew what happened. No, this wasn’t just an accident, no we were being attacked.

So Avon Products closed early that day and I met up with my wife.
We decided to walk home over the 59th street bridge, because I heard that lower Manhattan was closed, including the Brooklyn bridge. Well, that was a mistake on my behalf, and it added a lot of miles and about an hour to our trip to Fort Greene.

And all the way home I just couldn’t
help but think about my cousin Pete.

Pete is my cousin you know, but really a brother.
We grew up together at 399 East Forth and were
always extremely close. He worked in the World
Trade Center and I knew he was there that day.

And because I had no idea if he was dead or alive,
I just prepared myself for the worst.

So I just thought about him during the long walk home.
About all the times we played roller hockey together
on East Fourth street in Kensington.
About our camping trips upstate in Downsville.
About the phone calls we made to each other
just about every day.
And about the times we sat on our front stoop
together at 399 East 4th.

I had a real bad feeling about Pete that day.
But I tried my best to be positive.
And I may have even said some prayers,
although I haven't been to IHM in years.

Well, we finally got to the YWCA and picked up our son.
And then headed to Adelphi Street to our house.

And again I just thought about my cousin.

Well, by the time we got home there was a flashing red light
on the answering machine.

Good or bad, I knew it must have been some news
about my cousin Pete.

So, I gently pressed the button and closed my eyes.

“Hey Ronnie, I’m ok,
I just wanted to let you know I’m ok”.

It was the voice of my cousin Pete,
and I just broke down crying.

Everyone has a story
about September 11th.

Ron Lopez
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Growing up all mixed up in Kensington

You know Kensington has always been quite
a mixed bag of people, even back in the 60’s
when I was growing up here.

Oh, let’s see…..
There were the McNally’s
who lived next door to me,
Um, they were Irish.

The O’Callaghan’s who lived
across the street from me,
Um, they were Irish.

The Brennan’s who lived
down the block…Irish

The Reilly’s who lived in
The Margaret Court across
The street from me…
What? Irish again

The McKay’s who were our
downstairs tenants for over
twenty years…. Irish too?

Now wait one minute here, you said
Kensington was a mixed bag,
even back in the 60’s.

Well, there were
the Compitiello’s…Italian

The Savino’s…. Italian

The Yanonie’s….Italian

And of course my good
friend Glen Gruder,

And then there was me…
Spanish and Polish.

Do you know what it’s like constantly
being questioned about your last name?

“Your last name is Lopez?”
“Why are your eyes blue?”
“You don’t look Spanish”
“Oh, your tall for a Mexican”

Well, I’ll clue you in on a little dark secret, when I was in Spain
back in 1996 to visit my cousins for the first time; they all had
blue eyes and blonde hair. And they were all at least six feet tall.

“Your name is Lopez, and you don’t know how to speak Spanish?”

Imagine having the last name Lopez and failing Spanish class at
Ditmas JHS back in 1971. I mean the teacher was appalled,
and most of the Irish kids got 95’s too.

“My father died when I was seven and my mother is Polish,
so no one really speaks it at home”

Well, that line, although very sad, was very true.
And it usually brought a shocked look to the face of
whatever Spanish teacher I had. And it was always
my first line of defense after I failed a Spanish test.

Maybe that’s why I just squeaked by with a 65 on
my final Spanish exam in 1972.

Oh yes, Mr. Fine, my ninth grade Spanish teacher at
Ditmas JHS. He insisted on always speaking to me
in Spanish even though I had no clue what the hell
he was saying. And years later I saw him rummaging
through trash cans on Church Avenue talking to himself.

I really hope I didn't cause that, because he
really tried his best with me, he really did.

So here we are in Kensington 2008.
I guess you should add a zero to the amount of different nationalities that live here and make it an even 300. And the nice thing about it is no one ever feels out of place here in Kensington. You can be from anywhere and you’ll always fit in.

You know what, I bet you if a space ship crashed at McDonald and Church and a Martian walked out of it, nobody would even notice. That’s how diverse this place is now compare to the 60’s when I was growing up. And that’s how anyone can just fit in without feeling out of place.

And that goes for my two kids too,
Because they are a combination of Spanish, Polish, Mexican and Irish.

And let me tell you something, my wife is already
teaching them both how to speak Spanish.
No, there's not going to be any blank stares from
Spanish teachers this time. And no "your name is
Lopez, and you don't speak Spanish".

No, I have it covered this time Mr. Fine,
and now I understand what you were saying.

Even if it's thirty six years later.
And even if my mother was Polish.

Ron Lopez
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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Nail Salon Dreams on Church Avenue

Well, I think it’s about time I just cash out my 401K and pay those penalties. Forget real estate, forget classic cars, and forget those IRA’s I opened up at the Greater New York Savings Bank back in the 80’s.

No, this one is good folks, and the
investment will make you rich.

Goggle stock? EBay stock?,
No, those babies are already ripe
and ready to fall from the tree.

No, I’m talking about a “Nail Salon” on
Church Avenue folks, and now is the time.

You see, just when I was getting depressed about another
nail salon opening up on Church Avenue between East 4th
and East 5th rather than a bookstore or coffee shop,
It just hit me. Yeah, like a Pete Liria slap shot square in
my goalie mask on East 4th, Pow!

1. A multicultural market
2. No deliveries from milk trucks.
3. No food that expires.
4. Nothing to go bad during a blackout
5. No one using a laptop all day and
stealing my wireless.
6. No overhead, except the rent and
a few boxes of rubber gloves.
7. More customers than you
could ever imagine.
Well, except me, because my feet
would scare anyone away.
8. Getting a "buzz" from the
laquer paint all day.

Yes, a nail salon, yes a nail salon.

Wow, what was I thinking all these years putting my
money in a stupid 401K, when I could have been running
one of the most profitable types of businesses around?
More bang for your buck than selling drugs or illegal fireworks.

Yes, a nail salon, what the hell was I thinking.
You know what they say, “if you can’t beat them, join them”.

And the funny thing is, it all made sense after I read an article in the
Times about the "gentrification" of Bedford Stuyvesant this morning.

They spoke about an avenue full of 99-cent stores and
nail salons, and about how the new residents were so
unhappy with what the local strip had to offer.

“A commercial strip always changes after the residential area”
was part of the conversation I read about.

Well, if that’s true, then Church Avenue still has a way to go
before the next "Conneticut Muffin" opens up and ruins
everything for me.

So in the meantime maybe I’ll ask my friend Kevin Ryan
(the owner of Denny’s) if he wants to rent me a small spot by
the jukebox to keep my rubber gloves and nail polish.

And I promise I’ll do a good job, and
you can just leave your tips on the bar.

Ron Lopez
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A 58 Plymouth out of Kensington

Long before roof mounted DVD players, side curtain airbags and air conditioning, there were just four wheels, shiny chrome bumpers and a big steel body. No, forget about seat belts when you were inside. Because all I ever did was lay across the back seat or just sleep on my mother’s lap when we drove to the Catskills on a Friday night.

“Is everybody inside, because we’re leaving”

With that said my Grandfather and Dad would put my dog “Poochie” in the back. They always left a small spot right near the rear lift gate for him to sleep. It must have been no more than a one by one foot square, which always gave him a nice view of Route 17 as we drove through the dark mountains towards Downsville, New York. Poochie was just surrounded by boxes of food and suitcases full of clothing, but never once tried to open anything to sink his yellow teeth into. Yeah, he was sure a good dog, even if he liked to chew on rocks and keep them in his mouth all day.

Oh well, I guess everyone must have some kind of weird fetish, including a dog.

With the Lopez family safely inside, the 58 Plymouth would gently back out of our driveway in Kensington. The tail pipe scraping the sidewalk was always the last sound we heard before pulling away and driving down East Fourth Street. Usually when that happened my grandmother Isabel would make the sign of the cross while my grandfather Paco would just shake his head.

The car must have been as long as an “air-craft carrier”, and the inside as big as the Beverly theater. Or at least that’s how massive it felt. But truth is the car was “gigantic” and much longer than the Nissan Quest that we drive today. Maybe 20 feet long or something like that. And the O’Callaghan’s who lived across the street from us had a similar model, except theirs was the “Airport” version and had an extra row of seats. But what the heck, there were about a dozen of them anyway, so they needed the room.

“Who wants to get ice cream at my restaurant?”

With that said, my Dad would veer towards the right after we got out of the Battery tunnel and park on Trinity Place in front of “McPherson’s”, the place where he worked in Manhattan. With a silver key he would open the door and walk through the darkened restaurant towards the freezer that held the ice cream. Sometimes he let us inside, but most of the time we just watched through the glass window from the sidewalk.

He’d soon return with a handful of vanilla and chocolate ice cream cones. We’d all take which ones we wanted and then run back inside the Plymouth and take our seats.

With the taste of ice cream we were eating, and the smell of a fresh cup of coffee my dad and grandfather Paco were both drinking, the Plymouth would continue it’s journey up the West Side highway towards the George Washington bridge.

With my eyes felling heavy, I’d usually fall asleep somewhere right before the Bridge. The sound of the road beneath the floor boards and the panting of our dog “Poochie” would somehow enter my ears no matter how deep I slept. Always playing a part in whatever dream I could have inside the hallow steel walls of a 58 Plymouth station wagon. But somehow I would always wake up once we got to our house in the Catskills. Maybe it was the cold mountain air or maybe the millions of stars above in the sky.

And with East Fourt street and Kensington a thousand miles away, my grandfather Paco would put the Plymouth in park and shut off the huge hot V8 engine. And just like every time before, my grandmother Isabel would make the sign of the cross and say the same words as always.

“Thank God we made it, thank God we made it”.

Ron Lopez

Above is a picture of our 58 Plymouth parked in front of 399 East Fourth back in the late 1950’s. I was lucky enough to find the original bill of sale too. My dad bought it from a Plymouth dealer across from Ebbets field back in December 1957, the month I was born. The car cost a little over five thousand dollars new and probably got less than ten miles per gallon in Brooklyn.

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Nail Salon Dreams on Church Avenue

Well, I think it’s about time I just cash out my 401K and pay those penalties. Forget real estate, forget classic cars, and forget those IRA’s I opened up at the Greater New York Savings Bank back in the 80’s.

No, this one is good folks, and the
investment will make you rich.

Goggle stock? EBay stock?,
No, those babies are already ripe
and ready to fall from the tree.

No, I’m talking about a “Nail Salon” on
Church Avenue folks, and now is the time.

You see, just when I was getting depressed about another
nail salon opening up on Church Avenue between East 4th
and East 5th rather than a bookstore or coffee shop,
It just hit me. Yeah, like a Pete Liria slap shot square in
my goalie mask on East 4th, Pow!

1. A multicultural market
2. No deliveries from milk trucks.
3. No food that expires.
4. Nothing to go bad during a blackout
5. No one using a laptop all day and
stealing my wireless.
6. No overhead, except the rent and
a few boxes of rubber gloves.
7. More customers than you
could ever imagine.
Well, except me, because my feet
would scare anyone away.
8. Getting a "buzz" from the
laquer paint all day.

Yes, a nail salon, yes a nail salon.

Wow, what was I thinking all these years putting my
money in a stupid 401K, when I could have been running
one of the most profitable types of businesses around?
More bang for your buck than selling drugs or illegal fireworks.

Yes, a nail salon, what the hell was I thinking.
You know what they say, “if you can’t beat them, join them”.

And the funny thing is, it all made sense after I read an article in the
Times about the "gentrification" of Bedford Stuyvesant this morning.

They spoke about an avenue full of 99-cent stores and
nail salons, and about how the new residents were so
unhappy with what the local strip had to offer.

“A commercial strip always changes after the residential area”
was part of the conversation I read about.

Well, if that’s true, then Church Avenue still has a way to go
before the next "Conneticut Muffin" opens up and ruins
everything for me.

So in the meantime maybe I’ll ask my friend Kevin Ryan
(the owner of Denny’s) if he wants to rent me a small spot by
the jukebox to keep my rubber gloves and nail polish.

And I promise I’ll do a good job, and
you can just leave your tips on the bar.

Ron Lopez
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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Death on the E-Train

The damp musty air of the tunnel blew softly through the open windows of the subway car. With yellow lights streaming by the dirty glass windows, the train roared along through the darkness of Manhattan’s underbelly.

The E-train was packed with rush hour commuters that afternoon; all hoping to get off at 34th street and quickly make their way to Penn Station. With all the windows of the subway car wide open, the breeze coming from the tunnel did little to cool down the hot humid air inside.

You see in the days before air conditioning, the windows inside the subway cars were always pulled down. Making the sounds and the smell of the subway yours for the taking, even if they were sometimes horrific, and still give you nightmares thirty years later.

I remember it was somewhere just before 42nd street when the train made a sudden stop inside the dark tunnel. With over two hundred commuters packed inside its steel body, you could hear the groans of many who were not happy with another rush hour delay as the E-train sat idle on the tracks.

And the strange thing was there were no other trains moving either, making it all seem so oddly quiet. So we just sat there for at least an hour, as the only sounds being made were that from rustling newspapers and occasional muttering from some un-happy MTA customers inside our car.

The police radios were the first thing we all heard from the outside. Cracking in the darkness, they just echoed through the hallows of the empty tunnel alongside of us. Then there were the beams of flashlights that danced along the dirty stained walls of the tunnel. And finally, the voices the police that were holding them, marching into the darkness under Eight Avenue, they were searching for something.

No, this was not just a “red light”,
no, this was going to be a while I thought.

“Police” “Police” “come out where we can see you”

The flash was the first thing I remember, followed by the screaming.
Yes, the screaming that I can still recall like it was yesterday.

“Ahhhhhhh, Ahhhhhhh, no, no,”
“Please ma ma, no”
“Ma ma”
“Ma ma”

With frozen faces and frozen limbs everyone just
listened to the screaming and didn't say a word.

“Ahhhhhhh, Ahhhhhhh,

Then we smelled the burning hair,
it just came through the windows of
the subway car and entered our lungs.

No, there was no escaping,
Because there was nowhere to run.

“Please noooo, please nooo”
“Ma, ma please”
“Oh, ma ma”

The silence inside our subway car was maddening as we all listened to the sounds of a man dying on the subway tracks beside us. Over two hundred commuters, and not one person making a sound as “death” echoed inside our subway car. Yes, they say a dying man will always call for his mother, and today would be no different.

The story about that man dying made a small corner in the Daily News the next day. Something about a robbery suspect that died when he touched the third rail running away form the police.

Yes, long before air conditioning we kept all the windows of the subway car open. And sometimes nightmares came through those windows, and screams that you can never forget.

Ron Lopez
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