Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's Winter in the Catskills

It's only 143 miles from Kensington, but winter is already
gripping the Catskills with cold fingers. These are pictures
taken this past week up at our house in Downsville, New York.

Because we're 2000 feet above sea level, we got over a foot
of snow, while the folks in town only got about 4 inches.

Oh well, so much for summer and picking blackberries!

Ron Lopez

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Bank or the Beverly

It seems that the eight foot tall blue 99 cent store
letters are missing from the sign that INSULTS the
grand memory of the Beverly that used to be there
years ago.

Ok, so I hear a bank is moving into the old spot
where we used to spend a Saturday night back in
the 70's.

Well, even if it's so, there's still no way a bank
can ever replace the memories that the Beverly
gave me and many others who grew up here.

The egg stained screen, the matrons throwing
us out, the balcony where teenagers used to
make out with their dates.

No, nothing can compare to the Beverly,

Ron Lopez
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Towed Away

So the other night I park the Nissan Quest on DeKalb Avenue right next to Fort Greene Park. It was about six thirty at night and I was not in the yellow line of the bus stop right in front of me.

We walk a block to my sister-in-law’s brownstone on South Oxford. Have a nice dinner, and then walk back to the van at about eight thirty at night. As we make the left on to DeKalb, I look across the street to where the van was parked, and well, no van.

Now I grew up in Brooklyn and even had the back wheels of my 84 Monte swiped right off the car when I lived at 125 Ocean Parkway for two years. I remember walking out of the building early one Sunday morning, all bleary eyed after a late night out in the city.
As I got closer to the Monte something just wasn’t right, instead of two circles which should have been the back wheels, there were two squares which turned out to be wooden milk crates. They even stole my freaking brake drums too.

By the way, the car was parked right on the service road off Caton Avenue, the same place I had it parked one morning when I found a gigantic screwdriver stuck in the ignition column too.

Boy that Monte was a real hot car, and everyone just wanted to steal her all the time. Or at least get a piece of her, even if it was just her tires and brake drums.

Yeah, so back to the Nissan Quest.
No one wants to steal a big white dirty Nissan Quest, no, I knew the damn thing must have got towed instead. Because when it comes to being a “sexy” car that everyone wants a piece of, well, the Quest is more of a “Janet Reno” instead of an “Angela Jolie”.

Ok, so now is the real evil part, deep down I was really hoping the thing was stolen and burning up somewhere in Prospect Park.
Maybe in the center drive where we used to take our girlfriends back in the 70’s along with stripping parts off stolen cars, because the thing is really worthless, and I’d get more for it if it was stolen and burnt to a crisp.

Oh, but don’t tell Geico, because the book value is still fantastic.

So I walked over to where I was parked and looked up at the sign, yes I was actually parked in a “no standing” zone. Yes the car was towed,

Now I used to always memorize all the my license plates when I was younger. But forget the Quest, I had no idea what the plate number was. And because my wife uses the van everyday to drive my kids to school, all the stuff is in the glove compartment.

So my brother in law Ralph drives us home and I immediately start looking through all my paperwork looking for my plate number.

Insurance ID cards……no

Photos on my computer of my daughter painting
the side of the Quest with mud upstate….no,
the plates are cropped off.


Bill of sale….no

Damn, you need the freaking plate
number to pick up the stupid thing.

So finally I find an EZ-Pass statement, what the hell you never know.
I open it up and sure enough it has my plate number.

Along with a fine from 2007 that I never paid because I must have driven through the toll gate too fast and it didn’t read the box.

Gee, I never paid that?

So the rest is history folks, I skated down to the Brooklyn Navy yard. Was as friendly as possible to all the people working there on a Saturday morning. Paid the 185-dollar fine, and drove the dirty Quest back to Kensington.

I also wrote the plate number down and now keep it in my wallet.
Because you never know what might be missing from my
driveway one morning. And what might be burnt to a crisp in
the center drive of Prospect Park.

Ron Lopez
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Misery loves company, even in Park Slope

There used to be this wonderful little restaurant on
the East side of Flatbush right off Eighth Avenue.
I remember going there with my wife before we got
married, it was nice little place that ofcourse you would
never see on Church Avenue here in Kensington.

No, instead of pretty little restaurants, we have pretty
little nail salons and 99 cent stores.

So there I was driving to Fort Greene last night.
As we made the left off Eight Avenue onto Flatbush,
I just chuckled when I saw what they opened
up in place of the little restaurant that closed down.

Yes, you got it,

Yes, misery loves company,
even in Park Slope.

Ron Lopez

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Make that boiler run like new

Last weekend I did something that was probably very bad for my health, but very good for my wife’s boiler. I did a “Shop-Vac” to the bottom of the chimney and didn’t wear a filter mask. I must have sucked out about ten pounds of brick chips, pebbles, and whatever the hell was in that pail. The basement air was thick as anything and my nose was chock full of dusk. And yes, I was too busy and too rushed to go to the hardware store down on Myrtle Avenue in Fort Greene to buy a mask first.

But hell, I never smoked, so what’s a couple of hours worth of thick dust going to do anyway. Well, I did sneeze like the dickens, and had a headache for about a day. Hey, my Mom always used to say “like the dickens”, oh no, it’s happening to me too.

But the bottom line here is your boiler right?
That’s why you went here to read this story anyway.

So this is what you got to do so your boiler runs better and uses less gas or oil. Have the bottom of your chimney where the stack of you boiler goes into cleaned out. Because my wife’s was halfway full when I pulled out the duct from it, which meant her boiler was working harder and was chocking itself.

Also having a blocked chimney can be deadly too, especially if your boiler doesn’t have an automatic cut-off when it senses that the pipe is blocked. Carbon monoxide just backs up and well, you know
the rest.

Now I don’t do this for a living,
but please look to have it done by someone.
Because a boiler needs a wide-open chimney
to breath better, run better,
and even not kill you by mistake.

Ron Lopez
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

A very bad sign

It doesn’t take much to really figure what’s going on
with our economy. I sometimes have this bad habit of
“listening” to other people when they talk, I don’t know,
maybe it’s something my mom taught me.

Last weekend we were upstate in the Catskills.
I was getting a new computer modem because a lighting
strike must have burnt out the one that wasn’t working.

As usual I got to talking to the serviceman from Frontier
communications. I asked him if he was busy that day with
a lot of other calls.

“Oh yeah, I’m busy today, but not the kind of work I really like doing. A lot of disconnections, because people aren’t paying their bills. In all my years of doing this, I have never had to shut down so many people. It really breaks my heart, but I just got to do it."

So there you go, bad sign number one.

I have a friend of over thirty years, his name is Peter
and he’s a Lexus salesman out in Long Island City.
And just like all my other long-time friends, we have
this habit of always calling each other a few times a week.

“So Pete, what’s going on today?”

“I think Lexus is going to buy us a pool table,
because it’s totally dead here.”
“Sales must be down at least fifty percent this month,
it’s really bad.”

Yeah, bad sign number two.

Oh yeah my 401K, well, today it’s just about a “201K”

A “very” bad sign number three.

And just like in the 70’s, there’s only one thing
to do when it gets this bad.

Put on the skates, grab your hockey stick,
and just have a good time.

Oh yes, a very GOOD sign indeed!

Ron Lopez
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tearing down houses in Kensington

I remember waking up in the middle of the night in my bunk bed. My heart was racing, my hands were sweaty. I ran from the tiny bedroom that I shared with my brother and down the hall to my mother and father’s room. I was crying.

“Get them away from the house, get them away”.

“Get who away” said my mom.

“The Bulldozers, the Bulldozers”

I must have been no more than five years old when I saw them on East 4th and Beverly road. I remember standing about where the underground garage entrance is for 303 Beverly. At the time a row of wood frame houses stretched all the way from Church avenue to Beverly Road, Along with even bigger houses on the North side of Beverly Road. They pretty much mirrored the ones that are still there now on the South side of Beverly between E4th and E5th.

But sometimes in the mind of a 5 year old, things just don't make sense. These beautiful Victorians would soon fall to the ground. Just an X on a developers building plan, and a new nightmare for a child.

The massive yellow monsters were billowing black smoke from their pipes. They had large high silver steel blades that pushed everything in their path away. I remember holding my moms hand watching as it started crushing the side of the house. The wall of the house started to buckle as a stained glass window slowly began folding outward, suddenly shattering into tiny pieces. Like confetti the colors fell to the ground. The sound of cracking wood and glass breaking filled the air. The house groaned an awful sound, its heavy wood beams struggling not to crack against the power of the bulldozer, and then without warning, the front porch collapsed. The pillars that held the porch up slid sideways and hit the ground,dancing for a moment until they were still.

The house was just like the one I lived in . A massive three story wood frame with two large porches. I wondered if there were people living in it. Little children holding onto their moms, crying as the wood floors below their feet cracked and snapped. Windows that they must have looked out of suddenly shattering, walls falling. Holding on for dear life as the house twisted and contorted itself. Trying to stand as the monsters growl began to get louder and louder, both white and black smoke shooting through its nostrils. I cheered for the house to defeat the monster, hold on, please just hold on. But then my mom tugged on my arm and we started walking away, down east 4th street towards our house. I looked back towards Beverly Road, there was suddenly a loud crash followed by a cloud of dust that engulfed the entire corner, then only silence.

The next day on the way to the A&P (where Rite Aid is) we walked by the construction site. The house was gone, just a pile of broken wood, pipes, glass and dirt. The yellow bulldozer was working away, crushing the remains of the once beautiful house with it’s massive steel treads. There were other houses next to it which were still standing, soon to fall victim to the roaring machines.

The day of conception was coming soon for the building now known as 415 Beverly.

Sometimes as parent you try to shield you children from things that you believe may give them nightmares, I don’t blame my mom for letting me watch the bulldozers tear down those houses. I don’t think she really knew that I would ever have such nightmares about it. Not knowing if they were going to start tearing down our house next, moving down East 4th like house eating monsters, flattening everything in their path. No, I can’t blame her.

But one day a few weeks ago we were driving through Brooklyn, they were tearing down an old house on a block I cannot remember.

My son asked:
“Dad, can we stop and watch?”
I thought about it for a moment and then said,
"No, how about we just go to Greenwood Park instead".

Ron Lopez

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Popsicle Stick by Jimmy Spinner

Jimmy Spinner is one of my closest friends
that grew up on East Fourth.
Although he's a lot younger than me,
something like six or seven years.
He always seemed to be older than his
age and pretty wise too.

Some real good stuff here from
a real son of Kensington.

The Popsicle Stick
An autobiographical short story
by Jimmy Spinner

As children we cling to the remnants of the popsicle well after the flavored ice is gone. We savor the traces left on the small wooden stick until those tiny splinters start to hurt our tongue and we are forced to move on.

I was always cursed or blessed, depending on how you look at it, with the writer's ability to recognize moments. Even as a little kid on East 4th Street in Brooklyn I could feel myself as the protagonist in some grandiose play. The soundtrack of my life playing in the background would more than likely be the 70's A.M. pop that the girls on my block were collecting as 45's.

The setting of this play was my block. That's what we called it "our block." That was our haven. The boundaries were simple East 4th Street between Beverly Road and Avenue C. As we rode our bikes up and down the block the feeling of safety that we had would dissipate as we moved towards either avenue. It was just a feeling but as you passed Dr. Langsam's house, the last private house on the block, something changed.
It might only be a matter of feet but all of a sudden it wasn't our block anymore.

What a great place to grow up. Our neighborhood was working class Irish and Italian so there was a ton of kids. Catholics you know. All we did was play, mostly sports, depending on the season. The big sports were stickball in the summer and roller hockey in the winter. We had some pretty good athletes, at least that's the way I remember it, and the competition was fierce. There was Tommy Brennan, a few years younger than most of us, our goalie. Jimmy Breyer, a tall drink of water and the only boy of seven kids, our token red head who went into a psychosomatic slump every summer during stickball season. James Yannone, also known as Bubba because he was our fat kid, if he argued vehemently with you and shook his head NO from side to side the fat would roll in waves. The best part of arguing with Bubba was if things got out of hand, his older sisters would show up and man were they gorgeous. We all had crushes on Rose and Joanne. Picture a cross between Marie Osmond and Annette Funicello. I also have to mention my next door neighbors, Big Pete Competello the smartest kid on our block. He was so smart they skipped him twice. He leaped from 2nd to 4th grade and from 6th to 8th! And his cousin, Little Pete Savino the toughest little left wing I ever met. Our houses were separated as were all of the houses on the block, by an alleyway about the width of a small car.

We were a tight knit group. We shared our secrets. We were practically inseparable. Which brings me to my Best Friend, John Tracy, nicknamed Tweety we were inseparable. Tweety was the fastest kid on our block. He was small, brown wavy hair, Mets t-shirt,cut-off jeans shorts. We did everything together. A game wasn't as much fun for either of us if we were not on the same team. We were so tight that our families became close. We vacationed together in the Poconos. Our father's coached our little league teams together. We went to our first Met game together. We were always eating or sleeping over each other's houses. Like a married couple that's been together for a while, people started to say that we even looked alike.

The routine was the same every summer day. We rushed to see who would be the first one "out." It was then that person's responsibility to ring everyone else's bell to get our whole gang out. We would then meet at the sewer in the middle of the street in front of Tommy Brennan's house that served as our home plate for stickball games. We would choose up teams and then play stickball until lunchtime. For lunch we'd beg a buck from our Mom and then grab our skateboards and skate up to Church Avenue, en masse to get a slice of Pizza and a Coke at Korner Pizzeria, still the best I have ever had. We'd probably wreak a little havoc in the stores on the avenue until we'd wear out our welcome.

We'd usually get chased back to the friendly confines of our block for some more stickball. The only time the routine changed was if we had a good old fashioned thunder storm. Then we would pitch baseball cards or play board games on somebody's porch until the rain let up.

Usually we would chase that little pink rubber ball and run the bases between those sewers until six o'clock or so as the dad's started to come home from work. Then it would be time for dinner so our game would break up.

Mr. Competello, the plumber, usually came home first and made Pete kiss him hello every night, which we all thought was weird. Then the remaining fathers would appear in rapid succession between 5 and 6 o'clock. Then East 4th Street was silent, all you could hear was the sound of evening traffic lolling slowly down our street.

After dinner we waited for the bells of the ice cream man.
We had two ice cream men in our neighborhood. We had the Good Humor man, Mr. Corporate America in his clean and pressed white uniform. Good Humor sent a different guy every year in his sparkling new truck and that didn't sit right with us, we'd only buy ice cream from the Good Humor man as a last resort. We did however buy a lot of ice cream from Morris, our grandfatherly figure in his beat up old ice cream truck, with its collage of stickers displaying that summer's wares. Morris was part of our neighborhood, he was as much a fixture as the church steeple. White haired, rail thin, Morris was the underdog and he tugged at our working class hearts.

It was the summer of '76, Elton John's "Daniel" was topping the charts and my friends and I were eating our ice cream on the stoop in front of my house when I had one of those Moments. I remember distinctly glancing down the line of my boyhood friends and thinking, "It's never going to be any better than this. How much fun do we have? No responsibility, playing games all day, eating ice cream. I hope this never changes but I know it's going to."

And things were about to change and I was an agent of that change.

Every morning during the school year, Tweety and I would walk up East 4th Street and trek the 6 long blocks in our school uniforms to Immaculate Heart of Mary School. The only place Tweety and I were separated was at school. For the 8 years of grammar school, we were tracked by "ability." The way we called it, I was in the smart class (8-1) and Tweety was in the middle class (8-2) .

With this tracking, I was with the kids from the "1" class from first grade to eighth grade. We became a pretty tight-knit group, Sully, Chrissy Ryan, Mark Bowen, Jean Ann Powers and Jimmy Quinlan. We gave Quinlan the nickname Quint, remember it was the 70’s and Jaws was the hot movie. Quint was one of my best buddies at school. He was sharp as a tack, a wise-ass extraordinaire and a real live wire. This kid invented ADHD before any of us had ever heard of the diagnosis. He was also the most popular with the girls at school. He had that upturned Kevin Bacon nose and the confidence that comes from knowing you're good looking. Needless to say Quint was a lot of fun to hang out with. He seemed to raise the level of excitement. Quint was from East Seventh Street, a world away from East Fourth Street when you’re a kid.

As we moved up in the grades however, our parents began to expand the territory in our neighborhood we were allowed to venture to on our own. By 7th grade, East Seventh Street had become a reasonable destination. As a result I had started spending time on East 7th Street with Quinlan.
The Quinlan's had a big house and a nice backyard, Jimmy's father was a Lt. in the NYC Police department so his family was pretty well-off by our neighborhood's standards. And by 7th grade Jimmy was already wearing Levi's and Pro-Keds while the rest of us were still buying our clothes at Sears. It was always fun and exciting to leave the friendly confines of East 4th Street and venture off to unknown worlds.

After spending the day with Quint and his friends, jumping off of garage roofs and stealing Milky Ways from the local news stand, I would walk the 4 or so blocks back to East 4th Street. I can still see the hurt look on my friends' faces when they interrupted whatever game they were in the middle of to ask,
"Spinner, where yah been?

There started to be an ebb and flow to this routine. Once or twice a week I would go to Quinlan's after school. As my horizon's expanded, I started to look at my East 4th Street friends differently. They seemed like little kids. Part of me liked that and part of me was embarrassed by that. Little kids play hide and seek and flip baseball cards, and I loved doing all of those things. Little kids also wear little kids clothes and rarely shower and don't really care what they look like which really wasn't a problem until I started hanging out with Quint. He started "coaching" me on what kind of clothes to wear and where to get my hair cut. "Spinner what are you a little kid? You're wearing Tough Skins and dirty t-shirts and reject sneakers? You're never gonna get any girls like that!" So I gave in to the peer pressure and begged my Mom to get me some Levi's and some "big kids" clothes.

Eventually, I invited Quint to my block. That's when everything changed. I can still picture it, we were in the middle of a stickball game and I could see him sauntering up the street. It was almost like the music changed in the background. All of a sudden I looked around at my friends and I was embarrassed, I tried to distance myself from them. He came up to home plate and said,
"Spinner, what are you doin'?"
"I'm playing stickball. What does it look like I'm doing?"
"Stickball? That's for little kids. Don't you have anything fun to do on this block?"

And that was it, I told my friends I was going to do something else. Tommy Brennan looked at me as if I had punched him in the stomach and said, "But we're in the middle of a game?" As we walked away Quint snickered, "You're hanging out with these little kids?"

I started to increase the time I spent with Quint. We dragged Tweety with us as he was still my best friend. After this, my boyhood friends started treating me differently and rightfully so. I can picture them all in their minds saying, "Oh sure Spinner you only hang out with us when your cool friends aren’t around."

Quint started to come around East 4th Street more often and eventually it was the three of us Quinlan, Tweety and Spinner. At some point Quint showed up with girls. And they were cute and pretty and they made us act different.

One of the girls was Cathy Cavanaugh, the prettiest girl in our school. She hung around with two other girls we knew from school, Carolyn Leaver, small petite, long straight brown hair down to her butt and Marie McKay, freckles and black hair. All three were cute and I started to realize it was a perceived danger/excitement that was bringing them around, there was a certain electricity in the air when the three of us were together. They liked us. They thought we were funny and laughed at our jokes.

And here's another of those Moments. Someone got the bright idea that we should play Hide-and-Seek. I remember thinking we're in 8th grade and we're going to play a kids game? But it was all Quint's idea to get us alone with the girls so we could "make out." I remember panicking and dragging Tweety and Quint away from the crowd and whispering, "I don't know what I'm doing, what if Carolyn wants to kiss me?" Quint and Tweety laughed and said in unison, "That's the whole idea." Eventually Quint said to me, "Don't worry about it Spinner just act like you know what you're doing and let her lead. She's probably kissed somebody already. You just kind of stick your tongue in there and swish it around a little bit. You'll be fine."

So we went back out to the front porch of my house. Somebody was chosen as "it" and counted out loud, "One-Two-Three…" We scattered to hide. Unbeknownst to me the girls and Quint had orchestrated where we would all hide. I wound up in the hedges along the side of Mrs. Brody's house with Carolyn Leaver. There we were giggling and out of breath, in very close quarters, with the sound of someone yelling, "Ready or Not here I come!" in the background. And that's the MOMENT. I remember thinking, "Here I am in one of the hiding spots from my childhood, playing Hide-and-Seek, and I'm about to kiss a GIRL!."

A few weeks later, I was standing at home plate, with the stickball bat in my hand, when my mother screamed, "Jimmy telephone!" from the front porch of my house a few doors away. I pulled the bat down and yelled, "Who is it Mah, we're in the middle of a game!" I heard her say, "I think it's Tweety," as I watched her apron fluttered back into the house. I put the bat down, amid the protests of my friends, and said I'd be right back. Running into the house I picked up the phone and said, "Hello." All I remember was Quint saying, "Spinner get your ass over here right now, we got beer." I asked how he got it or something stupid like that and he said, "Don't worry about it just get your ass over here now." So I hung up the phone, looked guiltily at my mom and walked out of the house. I walked right past the stickball court, "Spinner where are you going? We're in the middle of a game."
"I know." I said, "But I gotta go."

And here was another one of those Moments. I remember looking at my boyhood friends, stuck in their innocence and thinking, "I'm going to drink a beer. Am I allowed to do this? Should I just stay here? I'd rather be 10 years old like Tommy Brennan and not have to make these decisions right now." But I went. I knew if I didn't show up they'd call me a pussy and I'd probably miss a lot of fun. And I wanted to drink the beer. That's what the MEN in my neighborhood did, they worked hard and they drank beer. So at 14 years old I drank my first beer.

Things really started to reel out of control after that. I was torn in so many directions. I missed my friends from my block. I missed playing hide-and-seek. I wasn't ready to give up my baseball cards. But I enjoyed hanging with this cool crowd, even if it was tough. We did have a lot of fun, and we were hanging out with girls.

One night, late in the summer, Quint, Tweety, the girls and I we were hanging out on my stoop, eating ice cream. News of a liquor store hold-up and a shooting on Church Avenue traveled quickly up the block. Everyone ran the two blocks to the scene. There were cop cars and ambulances with lights flashing. The smell of blood and adrenaline was in the air. The crowd was full of the usual know-it-alls who were the first on the scene. Whispers of, "They shot the guy." "The old man who owned the liquor store shot a junkie as he was running down the block" "Shot him in the head." "He's dead." "How the hell did that old man hit him?"

We all stayed at the scene for a while, trying to get a peak at the victim. We were all drawn to the scene. We grew up in a rough neighborhood but this was big news no matter how you looked at it. Eventually, they took the victim away in an ambulance. The crowd started to disperse. All of us kids wound up in a circle around a pool of blood. It was huge, about the size of a manhole cover and it had been sitting a while so a skin had started to form on top. We just stood there staring at it. Quinlan, Tweety, Myself on one side of the circle and Big Pete, Little Pete, Bubba & company on the other side of the circle. We were all repulsed and drawn to it at the same time. We stood there saying nothing, or things like, "Oh man", or "Shit, I can't believe this happened." When all of a sudden, Tommy Brennan took his popsicle stick out of his mouth, gave the crowd a sly look, raised his hand slightly and tossed that stick into the middle of the coagulating pool of blood. I remember everyone turning away in unison. I can still see Tommy's smiling face, thinking he had done something really cool. And I remember looking at that popsicle stick and looking at Tommy and my friends from my block and realizing that we were different somehow. The fact that Me, Quint or Tweety would not have thrown that popsicle stick in that pool of blood seemed to mean something. As we turned to walk away these two groups of my friends went in opposite directions. And that seemed symbolic to me. Glancing over my shoulder as my boyhood friends headed back to my block I knew then that this choice I was making would effect the rest of my life…

Jimmy Spinner
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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Goodbye big ugly sign

Wow, I can't believe that the gigantic "Coney Island" style sign
that greets everyone walking down Church Avenue may be a
thing of the past.

Don't you think it would look really great in Park Slope?
Yeah, maybe someone can help me tear it down one night
and we can mount it on 7th Avenue somewhere.

They may even think it looks "artistic" too.
You never know, with the right connections you might
even see it at Brooklyn Museum one day.
And God knows those Park Slopers have connections.

I heard that a bank is moving into the building,
oh right, a bank, I thought they all went out of
business already.

Oh well, on second thought maybe they'll just
keep the sign after all. Because 99 cents may
be all any bank's worth pretty soon.

Ron Lopez
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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sam Goldfeather

He used to walk up my block when I was a kid. He was a short man maybe in his 50’s. He had black hair, a moustache and thick “Buddy Holly” style glasses.
Sam usually wore a brown overcoat in
the winter and a sports jacket in the summer. He could always be seen wearing a brown or black derby too.

Now Sam also walked with a cane, except most of the time it was never touching the sidewalk. Instead he used it to point at people.

“Hey ya bum ya, you fuckin bum”

those words were Sams trademark as he walked up East 4th.
And he usually uttered them when he was drunk.

Now, we were never mean to Sam, and actually liked him. Even when he called us “fuckin bums”, because we may have been only five or six years old at the time and actually thought he was funny. So there he would stand with a newspaper under his arm, his face flushed red and a bottle sticking out of his coat pocket. His old cane right in our faces as we played in front of our house.

“Hey you know what you are?”

We would all start laughing at this point because Sam always had a smile on his face when he cursed at us.

“Thats Goldfeather,
Sam Goldfeather”

And then he would slowly walk up the block towards Avenue C.
Just pointing his cane at anyone he saw until he vanished around
the corner.

And then there was Sam’s brother Irving Goldfeather” who looked strikingly similar to Sam. Except Irving was always seen walking in the opposite direction towards Beverly Road. Usually on his way to work in the morning. Yet, Sams brother was quiet and businesslike and would always tip his hat to my Mom and say:

“Good morning Mrs. Lopez, a beautiful day isn’t it?.

“Mom, why don’t Sam and Irving ever walk together?”

My mom would usually just say that “Maybe Sam sleeps late”.

Then one day Sam told us while waving his cane in our faces that he was moving to Florida and wouldn’t be around anymore. He said his brother Irving would be staying, and for us to be nice to him.
Well, I guess I was pretty naive because I must have been in High School before I figured out that they were actually the same person. And Sam did a pretty good show holding a job during the day only to drink his problems away at the bars on Church Avenue, and then from his pocket before he got home. But truth is from that day on we only saw his brother Irving walking up and down the block. And he never cursed, always wished my Mom a good day, and only walked with his cane touching the sidewalk.

Ron Lopez

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Please vote for someone smarter than you

This whole “they’re just like me” so I’m going vote for them attitude
scares the living shit out of me you know. But the truth is, a lot of people in this country actually vote for someone because they are “just like them”.

And that my friends really scares me an awful lot.

Because you really want someone running the country or sitting in
the Vice President’s office who’s a hell of a lot smarter than you.
Someone who you may “not” want to have over for dinner, or drive
up to the Catskills with in your car.

No, you want someone who can kick your ass when it comes to
being smart, and someone who may just bore the living crap out of
you when they explain the details of the Wall street “bail-out”.

No, you don’t want someone just like you.
No, you really don’t.

So please my friends the next time you vote,
just be sure you're voting for someone
smarter than you.

And someone who's
"NOT just like me".

Ron Lopez
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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Virginia's hardest job yet

It’s been almost nine years since my wife “told” her boss,
and I’ll never forget that day too. We were sitting at the
kitchen table with calculators and hand written numbers
scribbled on small pieces of scrap paper. Figuring out
how we'd be able to "make it" on one pay check instead
of two. My wife was all dressed up for work, and we were
waiting for Sylvia, our baby sitter to arrive.

“How do you think she’s going to take it?’ I said

“I have to tell her sooner or later, because
I feel like I’m taking advantage”. said my wife.

My wife’s boss loved her to death and was trying
to make “this” work for her. She promised my wife
that she could work part-time and her hours would
be as flexible as possible. And all that was after a
“very” extended six month maternity leave.

Yes, after my son was born my wife decided to go back
to work. Because she really liked her job and believed
her boss when she told her she could even keep the
"crib" in her office if she liked.

Yes, little Andres looking out the window of my wife's
office high above Madison Avenue. Just counting tugboats
along the East River while my wife held staff meetings in
her office.

Yes, this was my wife's dream, and her boss was going
to make it all "work" for her. Because she loved my wife,
and she would do just about anything to get her back to
her job at AFTRA.

Well, the "honeymoon" at work lasted for about two weeks
and then everything seemed to revert back to the way it was
before my wife had our son. The long hours, the meetings,
and the special projects that cropped up out of nowhere.

No Virginia, there is no Santa Claus at AFTRA, even if
your boss is the head of a multi-billion dollar health fund.

And today is the day you have to finally tell her that
you're quitting your job and never going back.
No matter how scared you are.

So there she was wearing her blue blazer and carrying her
black leather brerifcase. Yes, my wife always looked like
a real professional when she went to work. Even if the guys
hanging out on the milk crates outside our building thought
she was a flight attendant for Aero Mexico.

My wife left the house at eight that morning while I waited for
Sylvia, our baby sitter to arrive. And going to work a little late
was never a problem for me either. No, when you’re a graphic
designer the day never starts at nine anyway. No, I’ll leave that
up to the real world to deal with. No, not me.

The phone rang at about 10 that morning at my office,
I knew it was my wife.

“Well Ronnie, I told her”.

“How did she take it?”

“She wasn’t happy, and I think she’s actually a little mad”.

“Ok, so here goes nothing” I said.

That was sometime in March of the year 2000.
And my wife has never gone back to work since.

Yes, my wife became a stay at home mom.

A very hard decision to make,
I very hard decision indeed.

And the other day while I was cleaning out the closet I
found one of her dark blue business suits she used to wear
to work everyday. Inside her pocket was an old ADP pay
stub from her job at AFTRA.

Although my wife works harder than ever before, and
sometimes puts in fifteen hour days. There’s never a direct
deposit made into her bank account or an ADP pay stub
sent to the house.

No, these days there are roundtrips to school, cleaning the
house and homework in the afternoon. It’s harder than it’s
ever been at work, and sometimes it can be downright
maddening according to my wife.

And you know what, it’s only her and no one else.
When my mom stayed home with us at 399 East 4th there
were my grandparents and my aunt and uncle to watch
us once in a while.

No, these days families don’t live together in the same
house anymore, so you better just “buck-up” when you
get a migraine headache. Because your mom lives in Mexico
and your dad in San Antonio Texas.

So the next time you’re going to work while some other mom
is listening to her child cry because they can’t find their toy.
Don’t believe what everyone ever tells you, and don’t
think she’s so lucky because she doesn't have to take the
subway to work everyday.

Because the hardest job around may just be the one that
you never get paid for, and the one that doesn't end even
when it's time to go home.

Ron Lopez
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