I was talking to my cousin Buzzie this past Sunday and he asked me to put the word out if any old timers had pictures of the Buzz-a-rama from the 60's or 70's. It seems that PBS would like to somehow use the old pictures in the special they are doing about the place. If anyone out there has any old photographs please send them to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will make sure to get them to Buzzie.
So you’re getting sick because you’re losing all your money and they just told you at work that there would be more layoffs in the next few months. From the glory days of 2005 to the darkest days of 2009, this all sucks so much, doesn’t it?
Remember all that money you tried to save to pay for your kid’s first year of college? Well, it’s looking more like your gonna need that dough to pay the mortgage instead.
Eh, what are you gonna do, huh? Jump of the Brooklyn Bridge?
Can you say KingsBoro? I can, and it’s right here in Brooklyn too.
So you may not end up as well off as you thought you would, well neither is the next guy. And let me tell you I grew up on Social Security when my daddy died when I was seven. Just living in an attic while my mom waited for the check to come every month. Yeah, United States Treasury, that was all I knew until I was eighteen years old.
So if you have to downsize one day, I’m still here with you. Still knowing what it’s like to live in an apartment rather than a big house.
Eh, what are you gonna do, huh? Jump of the Verrazano Bridge?
Can you say “apartment” along with me? I can, and there’s no need to impress anyone either. That’s because they’re all the same size.
So you just can’t sleep at night worrying about every thing, and how you’re going to pay for it. Your job, your house, your kid’s tuition? It all seems so awful compare to just a year ago doesn’t it? Well, don’t worry; because we’re all here with you, all in the same boat watching the same water get higher and higher every day. Maybe telling a joke or two, and remembering about the days we all grew up on the block.
Oh, come on it's not that bad, and you know your parents certainly had it worse than you. And they survived, right?
Remember the famlies on our block with eight or ten kids? One working blue collar Dad and just one bathroom in the apartment?
How about Nunzio and his family living in a small apartment just like me?
The Briar's too, all eight kids and a mom and dad living in an attic with five rooms.
It really makes you wonder doesn't it? How did they all manage to be so happy all the time with so little.
Well, thats because their "so little" was actually more than we can ever have today.
And maybe we all have just too damn much. Yeah, maybe thats it.
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 big 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 won't have such a “bad day”
With that my three-year-old son just looked at her and said,
“YOU ARE A VERY STUPID WOMAN”.
The gasp could be heard around the world.
The woman with the big straw hat just looked at my son frozen.
My wife started sweating while I was laughing inside as hard as I could.
Let me tell you when you grow up in Brooklyn you just love moments like this, you just do.
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 entire 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.
Here is a picture taken from my webcam up in the Catskill mountains just a few minutes ago. As you can see it's snowing like crazy! Oh, but don't worry it will be spring in about a month or so and it will STILL be snowing in the Catskills.
Please check out my other blog: http://catskillescape.blogspot.com/
We will be renting the house for a limited amount of weekends between May and October. And you can see what it looks like without the snow.
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 might just be you.
I have never been really good with speaking “Brooklyn” you know. And I blame it all on my mom. You see, although she was born in Brooklyn she was raised in Mahony City Pennsylvania until she was twelve. So mom never really had a good “Brooklyn” accent, no it was as non-distinctive as possible. North, East, South, or West, no, there wasn’t any way you could figure out where my mom was from. I guess she kind of sounded like a telephone operator, or at least that’s what people used to tell her all the time.
And that brings this discussion to me now. Born in Brooklyn and still here, all with the slightest “Brooklyn” accent possible.
I remember when I was younger and used to date girls from other states or countries. They were always perplexed by my lack of a “Brooklyn” accent.
“Hey, I thought you would sound like Vinny Barbarino from “Welcome Back Kotter” but instead you sound like…well, I really can’t tell what you sound like”.
Yeah, real exciting dates you know. No wonder I stayed single for ten years after my first wife.
But I was always a good listener, and I was able to take in as much “Brooklyn” as possible from many of my friends and relatives who knew how to speak it properly.
These are some of my “Brooklyn” translations. In regular English and then in “Brooklyn”
Bird is “Boid”
Thought is “Taught”
East Forth is “East Fort”
Mother is “Modda”
Me and you is "Mean you"
Let’s go to her house is "Let’s goda huh house"
With you is "Witcha "
Glasses is "Glassiz"
Something is "Sumpthin"
Pretty mind numbing shit? huh? Makes you want to go back to college or something.
Oh don't worry it won't rub off.
But maybe, just maybe the next time you get a wrong number at home. Tell the person they got the wrong "numba" and please don't "bahda" me again cause I'm from Brooklyn.
Wow, this really sucks, the price of gas is actually going up.
Now, I know the oil companies are not trying to screw us again, no, they would never do that. And the billions and billions of dollars they make every quarter is all donated to charity too.
So I’m never for one moment going to think that the oil companies are raising the price of gas, no, not for one minute. That’s because it must be some hurricane, or solar eclipse that’s doing that. Because the price of a barrel of oil hasn’t really gone up much and I know the people that run those oil companies would never be greedy. No they're our friends you know.
Psst…I’m finally selling my bridge too. Just drive down to Tillary Street and you can see it. It’s made of stone and steel and needs a paint job.
But don’t tell anyone because Bloomberg thinks it belongs to him.
If you grew up in Brooklyn you must remember the time when people used to steal parts off cars parked in Kensington. Let’s see, there were Cadillac bumpers and taillights from GM station wagons, along with emblems that used to vanish from the hoods of Mercedes Benz’s.
Some would end up in junkyards, while others would end up in the pockets of kids who went to Ditmas back in 1972.
Hey, one time on my block, someone even stole the driveshaft of Doctor Langsam’s 1971 Plymouth Fury.
There were also radios, cb’s and bowling balls stolen from cars, and I’m sure all this still happens here in Brooklyn. Except today it’s GPS’s and other fancy electronic toys.
Now I hear the big thing is stealing Honda Fit tires. Those things are about the size of regulation Frisbee, what the hell would someone need them for?
So the other day as I was driving through Bay Ridge. And sure enpugh there was a Blue Honda Fit balancing on two red milk crates and a jack under the bumper. All the tires were missing and the car looked sadly naked.
The scence perplexed me. A Honda Fit? The thing looked just like my sons go-cart, it was even the same color blue.
So when I got to work I goggled “Honda Fit stealing tires”.
Well, it seems like guys who drag race the bigger Honda Civic’s use these tires on their front wheels when they race. I guess the fact that they are smaller and skinnier makes sense. It’s a “drag racing” thing you know, even I had skinny front tires on my 70 Cuda back in the 1984.
But still it must suck to wake up and find your car without the wheels. But then again we still live in Brooklyn.
Hey want to know a company that really sucks? American Express that’s who. They dropped me down from a 35,000 credit limit to a 500 credit limit overnight.
And it better not me my last name Lopez, because I wouldn’t want to sue them. Oh, but then maybe I would. This six three blue eyed “Hispanic” is thinking that maybe they have something against my people.
Shhh…I never joined any Hispanic network though, at work or even in school. My Spanish sucks you know. But my Polish, hey I can call you a “monkey’s ass” in Polish. "Malpe Dupa" thats what my mom always called me.
And to make me feel even more paranoid my "Mexican" wife told me about a story on NPR about how American Express is "profiling" us Hispanics.
Slashing our credit lines based on our names and zip codes.
What the hell? Me Hispanic? I can hardly even speak Spanish?
But still F_ _ k them! And don't you dare mess with my people.
So today I told them to cancel my card and threatened to write about this on my blog.
To all my friends out there, cancel your American Express cards! Boycott these assholes and stick it to them where it hurts.
In 1976 I bought my first car, a 1973 Buick Century. Had more fun in this car than any other. One time I even drove it through the woods on a camping trip. Oh, your first car...you always remember it.
In 1979 I bought a car to tinker around with. A 1970 Plymouth Cuda. Took it to many Islander games and drove it up to Canada with my ex-wife many times. I still have it, and it still looks great.
Oh God, the Monte Carlo! Now I bought this baby in 1986 right after I married Jessica, my first wife. The car had only 11 thousand miles on it and somehow ended up with a target-master 350 engine. This car could really fly and was later known as the "Jade East" on wheels. After my divorce I really had a ball with this car you know. Used to get chased by the cops all the time by the Verrazano, Prospect Park and Plum Beach.
The Green Cuda. The green Cuda was purchased right after I was dumped by an old girlfriend. I guess it was my way of getting my mind off her. That was October of 89, I think I spent 1400 to buy this car. And yes I still have this car and drive it once and a while here in Brooklyn.
Now the Thunderbird was the first "new" car I ever bought. One Christmas night the Monte barely made it home from Florida New York, so the next day I just decided to buy a new car. Man, the decisions were so easy to make when I was single. Just me and my shadow and a brand new car. This thing was fast and cool just like me. But then I got married and it was all about to end!
So you grew up in Kensington and always heard all these horror stories about Fort Greene. The shootings, killings, robberies, etc. Well guess what Ronnie, your future wife just bought a Brownstone in Fort Greene and she wants you to move in. My Thunderbird parked on the street? Are you nuts! And in Fort Greene no less! Must go to plan B, keep the woman but buy a piece of shit car to park in Fort Greene. Thus in 1997 I bought this 1977 Dodge Aspen. And to this day I am always reminded about it from my wife. No, she was not happy with my decision. Nor all the people who used to try to flag us down on Fulton Street because they thought we were car service.
Whats happens after you get married and have a baby? Yeah, thats right, you buy a piece of shit Volvo that overheats and has no air conditioning. You go from a brand new Thunderbird that can cruise at 110 mph like nothing, to a crapmobile that goes form zero to sixty in 110 minutes. I got rid of my red Thunderbird "Booty-Mobile" for this????
The Ford Wagon in 2001. Ok, so after the Volvo we decided to buy something newer. Thus the 1999 Ford was purchased used from a dealer out on Long Island. This car was great and had a sun-roof. Wow, I never had a sun roof before! And man was this baby good in the snow. One time we drove home from upstate in 10 inches of snow. This car was a tank I tell you!
Hey, have some extra home equity money? Feeling bored with your Ford? Well how about a new Nissan Quest? I am still out on my opinion of this van. It totally SUCKS in the snow and the doors get frozen shut every time it snows. But still after about 75,000 miles not too many issues to say it's bad.
So there you go, just follow the cars from when I was single until I got married and had kids. From supercars to a minivan.
Oh, but don't worry I still have a few of them if I decide to have my mid-life crisis someday.
I think my earliest recollection of Park Circle Lanes was when my cousin Tony took us there on a snowy winter’s day. I must have been no more than seven years old and it was the first time in my life that I had ever seen a bowling alley.
And the walk to the bowling alley was real simple too. Just straight up East Fourth and then a right on Caton Avenue. Follow the horse crap from Kensington Stables and then you're there! You see the bowling alley was right across from the horse stables and also the Park Circle roller rink. Just a little wonderland of things to do when it was snowing outside.
So with cold toes and snow on our feet we opened the doors and walked into the warm air of the bowling alley. The long dark maple planks that made up the alleys along with bright lights shinning on the bowling pins were the first thing I noticed. There was a concession stand that sold hot dogs and popcorn along with soda machines lining the back wall. And of course there was cigarette smoke in the air, because back in the 60’s everyone smoked at bowling alleys. So smelling like smoke when you got home was no big deal, no, just change your shirt and it will all be fine.
Now cousin Tony was always so nice to us little kids when we were growing up on East Fourth. He must have been at least fifteen years older than us and I’m sure could have been having much more fun with his friends down by Avenue M where he lived. But for whatever reason Tony always made sure to show us all a good time, either riding sleds in Prospect Park or ice-skating at Wollman Rink. Yeah we all loved Tony, and were always excited when we heard he was coming over.
“Ok guys, we’re going to have to get each one of you a pair of bowling shoes”.
I remember being very confused because I was told to take off one shoe and give it to the lady behind the counter.
“What size is he?”
“He looks like a size five to me”
“Here, just make sure you return them with the laces UN-DONE!
The women behind the counter handed me a pair of strange looking red and white shoes. I walked over to a plastic bench and proceeded to put them on.
There were also racks and racks of bowling balls all over the place too, mostly black bowling balls with a few red ones scattered around.
“Ok Pete, Ronnie and Joseph, I am going to get each one of you a bowling ball and I want you all to be very careful with them. They are very heavy and if you drop it on your foot your parents aren’t going to be very happy with me.”
Tony walked over to the racks and lifted various balls with his right hand. After a couple of minutes he started bringing over the black balls and gently placed them on the rack right behind the ball return
“Now Ronnie this is how you throw the ball”
I remember watching Tony as he rolled the black ball smoothly down the long dark alley. Within seconds the pins exploded and the ball disappeared into darkness. Tony looked at us and smiled.
“See guys that’s how you do it”
When it was my turn I remember picking up the heavy ball with both my hands, I slowly walked up to the alley and rolled it with all my might. Within moments the ball slid sideways into the gutter. I walked back feeling somewhat dejected but Tony made sure to cheer me up by telling me I did a great job. He also did his best to encourage me too.
"Ronnie, try to roll it straight down the lane next time, I know you can do it".
So the second time I rolled the ball it did go straight down the lane, it hit about three pins and I felt like a millionaire!
That was 1965 on a snowy winter's day in Kensington Brooklyn.
It’s funny how you just remember certain things in life, and if there’s one thing I will always remember it’s the first time I rolled a bowling ball down at Park Circle Lanes. The agony of seeing it fall into the gutter, along with the joy of seeing the ball knock down a pin or two. The smell of popcorn and hotdogs along with cigarette smoke on your clothes. The walk home through the snow filled sidewalks of Kensington with Tony, Joseph and Pete. Feeling so proud of myself that I got a twenty-five, and so excited to tell my mom about the bowling alley and the fun I had there.
I still remember that day, isn’t that something?
So whatever happened to Kensington’s Park Circle Lanes?
Well sometime back in the late 80’s or early 90’s it closed down like many other bowling alleys in Brooklyn and just became another memory for a child of Brooklyn. Now replaced by a gigantic church right across the street form Kensington Stables where it once was.
Oh, but don't you worry, some things never change. One snowy Saturday a few weeks ago I took my kids over to Melody Lanes in Sunset Park. When the lady behind the counter handed us our shoes she made sure to remind us to return them with the laces UN-DONE!
And both my kids had the time of their lives, and maybe someday will think of it too.
Besides being a word tinker I am a pretty damn good maker of hockey masks and auto parts. Back in the early 90’s I used to make hockey masks in my basement at 399 East 4th. You know when you’re single you could just about do anything without someone else telling you it’s bad for your health. Oh the smell of fiberglass resin in the morning, there's nothing better let me tell you.
Then later I learned the art of some very complex silicone mold making. Shown above are two actual headlight bezels that I made for my 1970 Cuda. They are made of plastic and were manufactured right here in Kensington Brooklyn. Now silicone is a lot safer, thats the stuff you can bake muffins in. And the plastic, well, it's not really bad unless you drink it.
Looks like real hard stuff huh? Well, when you have fun doing something you like, it's never hard. No, it's just fun!