Louie was standing outside Izzy and Bennies luncheonette near the corner of Church and McDonald Avenue. The smoke from his cigar blew gently into the Kensington sky. Like white snakes dancing a gentle waltz they only lasted a few seconds and then just vanished into the night.
Louie looked down McDonald towards Avenue C, the lights of another F-train could be seen far in the distance. The yellow headlamps of the train slowly moved out from the Ditmas Avenue station and downwards towards the tunnel opening near the Gel spice company.
Down, down, down, until they disappeared under the street.
Louie continued smoking his cigar and was now trying to blow smoke rings from his mouth. Out of his lips they came, but not the kind of rings Louie wanted. No they all had a break near the top of the circle. Probably the result of Louie’s mustache that was getting in the way.
“Ahh, fuckin rings!, why doin’t dese God damn tings woik?”
By now the rumble of the Manhattan bound F-Train was right below Louie’s feet. Not liking the feel of the sidewalk vibrating beneath his soles, Louie squashed the cigar against the red brick wall outside the luncheonette, leaving another tell tale black mark along with thousands of other cigars he squashed. He then made his way back inside and sat on his favorite chrome stool, his cup of warm coffee was still there untouched by the counter.
Now Louie was what us Brooklyn guys called a real Brooklyn “character”.
Louie was about fifty years old, stood no taller than five foot one, and combed his thinning black hair straight backwards. He also used some type of grease to slick his hair back, because it always looked shiny and never seemed to move. Louie always had a cigar sticking out of his mouth sideways too, sometimes the tip would be a glowing orange while at other times it was black and un-lit.
But what had to be the funniest thing about Louie was his thick Brooklyn accent. Louie had the thickest, deepest, Brooklyn accent you have ever heard. It was just so “Brooklyn” that it even amused us, a bunch of Brooklyn boys ourselves.
Louie also made Izzy and Bennies luncheonette his second home. He could usually be seen sitting on one of the chrome-plated stools by the counter with a cup of coffee and a small spiral notepad and pencil. Most of the time before he saw us walk in, he would usually be scribbling in his notepad unaware of anything around him.
Although we were probably too young or stupid to realize it at the time, by all accounts Louie was probably a good ol’ Brooklyn “bookie” and ran his “business” from the luncheonette on McDonald Avenue
“Hey, what chu guys doin here again?” “I tout I toll you’s to stay on East Fort?”
At that point we’d all start giggling because Louie was speaking “Brooklyn”
The language of our forefathers.
“Hey what you boys smiling at?” “Did I just say sumptin funny?”
At that point Louie would get off the stool and charge towards us like a raging bull. Well, actually a raging bunny, because Louie was a real sweet guy and was was always laughing when he saw us.
He especially liked my friend Glenn Gruder, and would sometimes show up at his hockey games down by Avenue F to cheer him on.
“Hey Glenn, you gonna score a goal for me today?” “Because if you don’t, I’m gonna kick your ass”.
Glenn would usually pat Louie on the shoulder and assure him he’ll score that goal.
“Don’t worry Lou, I got you covered, I got you covered”
After finishing our egg creams we’d all say good night to Louie at the candy store. Sometimes I’d look back and see him quickly immerse himself into his little notepad and start scribbling with his yellow pencil.
Just another night for Louie in Kensington Brooklyn. Just another night.
It’s been over twenty-five years since I last saw Louie, and the luncheonette once known as Izzy and Bennies is long gone too. Now some kind of nameless cell phone store on McDonald Avenue.
But the funny thing is there’s still all these black marks on the red bricks that used to surround the entrance to the candy store. And I can’t help but think that they’re the old burn marks from when Louie used to squash the tip of his cigar.
Just the “drawings” on a cave wall from a real Brooklyn guy. A real Brooklyn “character” that we simply knew as Louie.