Wow! This is the announcement that I've been dreading would come one day and now here it is! My worst nightmare come true! You see, I'm a bit older than Ronnie and I've already been through my mid-life crisis...even that seems ages ago! It was that third "old" in old, old, old timers that has me roped in. I'm already into that next stage in life. The one where you start to put on weight, get less active and really don't care anymore if that twenty-something hot babe that works in your office notices that your biceps aren't exactly like Popeye the sailor man's guns.
I've reached that stage where telling my kids stories about my super jock past is satisfactory enough for me to get a bit excited. My kids are even old enough to just listen whenever I go off about how I used to do this or that in some hockey game 35 years ago or how much I used to bench press and how I roofed one over some goalie's shoulder. You see they are old enough and smart enough to know that if they just shut up and act mildly interested in some story they've heard 3 dozen times before, dad will finish the story faster and they can be on their way and they also fulfilled that good deed for the day!
Yes Ronnie, thank you soooo much! So now I have to get off my fat out of shape butt, go downstairs and search for enough equipment that has not deteriorated too badly, find one of my kids hockey bags since I don't think my old duffle bag has enjoyed the same longevity as me, try to find/buy a stick with something close to a straight blade (That's the kind of stick I used so well when I was a super jock), probably have to buy roller skates and re-learn how to skate and then haul it all down to Avenue F and worse...have to put it all on!
Let's see...errrr...is it shin guards first and then pants or pants first and then shin guards? Is it possible for skates to tie themselves? Yes Ronnie, thank you soooo much! Then again, maybe if I go through the trouble of doing what it takes to get down there...yes, just maybe, if I can circumnavigate the old court...it will be like playing "kick the can" in the old Twilight Zone episode and at least for a little while, we'll fell like kids again! Yeah baby! It's worth the effort. Don't want to end up like that old guy in the episode that didn't try it! As I recall, he was a pretty unhappy fellow!
His fingers, yes there was something so beautiful about his fingers.
They were the longest and most gentle fingers you have ever seen.
And he stood like a giant too.
He had legs that just seemed to go on forever, and arms that could reach as far as the Brooklyn Bridge.
Oh, his uniform, let me tell you about his uniform. It was always the brightest of white you know, and clean as a whistle. He also wore a little white hat too, it looked something like a ship captains hat.
And with long nicotine stained fingers as cold as ice and as yellow as corn, Morris would gently pick the change out of the palm of your hand and then lean down and give you your ice cream bar.
Yeah, just like the giant in “Gulliver’s Travels”, that was Morris.
I think he also wore one of those change machines on his belt too, it was silver and had these different cylinders for pennies, nickels, quarters and dimes.
Morris was our ice cream man.
Not anyone else’s ice cream man.
No, just ours alone.
The bells on his truck had a very distinctive ring too. They jingled like those on Santa’s sleigh. Full of music, full of life. Nothing at all like the cheap sound of the Good Humor man. No, Morris’s bells were probably made of sterling silver instead of tin.
And what made Morris special to us was his kindness. Pure gentle kindness from a man who probably would have scared the living daylights out of anyone if he wasn’t dressed in an ice cream
You see Morris had to stand about six feet five, was as skinny as a flagpole and chain-smoked to no end. From what I remember too, he smoked the same brand as my dad. That distinctive “Camel” could always be seen sticking out of his shirt pocket.
And Morris also died young, just like my dad. Too many “Camels” bought him a headstone way before his time, and only left us with a nasty Good Humor man who never liked us.
Yeah, I could just see him like it was yesterday, his truck parked on Avenue C between East 3rd and East 4th, long tall and lean standing there like a gentle giant. Waiting for us hand him our dimes and quarters after another day at PS 179.
And if you didn’t have enough money, Morris would let you slide and pay him another day. Or he would even break an ice pop in two pieces, if you only had a nickel. Just the gentle kindness of a man who drove an ice cream truck and knew all our names.
Yes, The ice cream man of Kensington.
Not anyone else’s ice cream man.
No, just ours alone.
The image of my little sister Isabel lying in her casket at Pitta’s will forever be etched in my mind. With beautiful milky white skin and dark brown hair, Isabel wore one of her favorite blue dresses in the plain wooden coffin.
You see, Isabel loved the color blue, along with many other things that her short life offered her. And on a warm evening in June of 1994, she breathed her last breath over at Lutheran Hospital in Bay Ridge. Succumbing to respitory problems that plagued her through out her entire life.
And with my mom crying un-controllably in the front row, I just stared at my little sister. Thinking she looked too alone as she slept a cold eternal sleep, in a neighborhood funeral parlor I knew too well.
Now Isabel was downs syndrome, and actually lived twenty years longer than the doctors predicted when she was first born at Methodist in Park Slope. So I guess at thirty-two years old she more than lived a full life in the eyes of many.
Oh, and what a “full life” it was, more friends than you and I could ever have, more laughs than we could ever bellow, and the greatest love for music than you could ever imagine.
“Hey Isabel, what music are you playing tonight for your party?”
“Michael Jackson, YOU SUCKER!”
Ok, so my sister loved the A-Team and Mister T, and somehow developed the habit of calling me “Sucker” when she used to answer me, but, hey, what’s an older brother for if it’s not to be abused by your little sister once and a while.
And there as usual by her desk where her “Boom Box” was planted, was her Michael Jackson “Thriller” album, her Michael Jackson mirror, and her Michael Jackson books. Oh and don’t forget Isabel’s white glove too. Yes, she used to try to “moon walk” like Michael, except she shook the whole house.
Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, Isabel wasn’t even five feet tall and weighed well over 250 pounds. So when she danced, she really literally brought the house down.
So while I stood there above her body in the casket I got an idea. She should have the things that made her happiest all around her, even if it meant putting them in her coffin.
When I got home that evening I gathered up all of Isabel’s favorite things, including her walkman which still had her Michael Jackson “Thriller” cassette tape inside. Her Michael Jackson books, and the Michael Jackson white glove she always wore during one of her late night “Kensington” concerts.
As I gently placed them in her casket the next morning I did get some perplexed looks from some of the people in the funeral parlor. But, hell, if there was one thing I learned from growing up with my sister is that you never care what other people think, especially those who never had a downs syndrome sister or relative.
And as I kissed Isabel’s ice-cold forehead and said my goodbye, I could only feel happy that she was not alone in that plain wooden casket. Surrounded by all the things she loved so much, including her Michael Jackson “Thriller” album.
And as I write this story today I could only smile, knowing that Isabel and Michael are “moon walking” somewhere in another world, and maybe without shaking the house.
Are you over 45? Have you had a knee operation or two? Are you slow and get out of breath easily? How about when you put on your old hockey jersey, do you look like Gordie Howe with your grey hair instead of a young Bobby Orr? Or maybe just an old guy with no hair at all?
Well, if you do, now is the time to hit the treadmill, ride the bike, and cut out bread from your diet. Because starting in October of 2009 I am looking to have our first of many “Old, Old, Old Timers” games down at the Avenue F Roller Hockey rink in Kensington. That’s actually McDonald Avenue between Avenue F and 18th Avenue.
We’ll have oxygen, a box of defibrillators, and a bag of plaster to make a cast on site if you break a bone or two. And just remember, there’s no injury that "The Hospital for Special Surgery" can’t fix either.
And hell, if it all goes south, Pitta's is just a mile away up McDonald Avenue. We'll stuff you in your hockey bag and drop you off by his backdoor for "stiffs".
So take out that life insurance policy and get that stress test. Because you’re going to have more fun than a barrel of monkeys starting in October, and that’s because we are just looking to have fun and nothing else.
No, forget name-calling or feeling humiliated if you make a mistake. Because in our park the biggest effort you’ll be making is just showing up on a Sunday morning.
So let’s all drink from that fountain of youth, (although it’s just an old discolored park water fountain), and feel proud of our mid-life crisis. We’re playing roller hockey in October and feeling like kids again. And there’s nothing our parents can do to stop us.
For more info please contact: Ron Lopez Mopar195@yahoo.com
The shuttle ran until May 11th, 1975 and was replaced with free transfers to the B-35 bus that ran along 39th Street. The structure between Ditmas Ave. and 9th Avenue was torn down in the late 1980's and the free transfer to the B-35 bus was eliminated in the early '90s. (However, the MetroCard fare collection system once again offers a free bus transfer.) The back of the southbound Ditmas Ave. canopy was "filled in" with the MTA-standard corrugated steel windscreen wall and only a glimpse of the fourth track structure is visible from the front, rear, or below the station remains. (excerpted from http://www.nycsubway.org/lines/culver.html)
This past weekend I waxed and compounded my old 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, just me and an old warrior that I painted way back in 1981 when I was 24 years old.
Slowly rubbing her old cracked and faded paint to a mirror-like finish, I gently glided the white towel over her old “Mopar Rally Red” body. Being ever so careful not to lift any of the small chips that developed on her old lacquer skin. You see a paint job only lasts so long, and this one is well over 25 years old already. So, in 2009 I’m more than pressing my luck by compounding deeper and closer to her gray primer below the surface.
The feel of the fenders and the roof were oh so familiar to my hand. Yes, I probably have done this a thousand times before since I was 22 years old. Knowing every flaw and every inch of this old car, I slowly passed my fingers over the smooth red paint after the wax was rubbed to perfection.
But as I polished the top of the doorsills, I suddenly saw a face staring back at me from the driver’s side window. It was a much older version of me than I remember, just looking back at me with a perplexed expression.
“Who the hell are you?”
“I’m you, you asshole”
“Well, you look like hell, and what happened to your hair?”
The face just smiled back at me and then continued to polish the old Plymouth.
But then I looked again and he was back. Oh my God, it was me!
You see, I have been going through this routine for years, and the car is basically the same. Well, maybe the paint’s a little cracked and faded. But the car could still pass for the 1981 version I painted if you squint your eyes enough.
But the guy in the window got old on me, and looked quite different from the same kid who used to wax that car to death back in the early 80’s in Kensington Brooklyn.
No more “Eagles, Hotel California” or “Meat Loaf, Bat out of Hell” blasting in the garage either. No, tonight the kids are sleeping, so I better just keep it down before I wake them up.
Oh well, life changes and so do we, but at least I still have this old car to make me feel young. Along with that guy in the window to make me feel old.
I remember looking up at the train as it passed overhead. Like the sound of thunder on a clear Kensington morning, the dirty black subway cars slowly rumbled by. And as always the large shadows of the train made their way though the playground. Sheets of black silk gently moving over the swings, seesaws and then finally the small brick building where the bathrooms were.
I just stood there staring up at the train, it hissed, moaned and clattered until it was finally out of sight, just slithering away into the distance until there was silence.
I guess I was about four years old when my mom used to take me to that playground on Dahill and Cortelyou. At the time there was an elevated train that used to connect the Ditmas Avenue F station with the Ninth Avenue D train station by 39th street. I think it was called the “S” shuttle train. And although I never really traveled on it that much, I was certainly fascinated by it as a kid. That’s because the El that the train traveled on was almost directly above the playground my mom used to take me to all the time. And let me tell you, I was certainly one who loved anything that traveled on two rails. So when it came to going to the playground, I probably spent more time waiting for the next train to come rather than climbing the monkey bars.
And my mom, well, she was never really the type to chase me around the playground or slide down the slide alongside side me. No, my mom would always sit there on the concrete and wood bench, and watch me play instead. And that was perfectly fine with me you see, because I really never saw any other parents sliding down those slides either. No, when it came to the playground, our parents knew where their place was, and that place was usually on a hard bench in the corner somewhere.
But that all changed the day my mom decided to ride the seesaw with me.
Now I was always a skinny little kid, and my mom, well, let’s say she was always kind of “big” if you know what I mean. She was probably about five foot nine and well over 175 pounds at the time. While I was no more than 40 pounds or so, and skinny as the subway rails above the playground.
“Ok Ronnie, are you ready to try the see-saw with me?”
I remember sitting on the wooden plank of the seesaw and looking at my mom across from me. She was smiling at me and was telling me to “hold on to the handle”.
But just then another train started to rumble by overhead. I looked up at the subway cars as they thundered by and was fascinated once again by their wheels, windows, and noise.
And then without warning I remember feeling myself being thrown into the air. I was floating way above the seesaw and the playground. The train suddenly was not that “high” above me anymore.
“Wow, can this be heaven?”
And then I started falling towards earth.
I remember waking up and seeing my mom’s face above mine. There were other people too all staring at me. I guess I forgot to hold on to the handle along with my mom forgetting that she weighed almost four times as much as me. My mom told me that I hit the back of my head on the concrete so hard she thought she killed me.
But even though my head hurt real bad, at least I got a real good look at that train that day. Because that El was torn down some years later in the 1970's. And the rumble of that train can be heard no more.
And as for riding on a seesaw? Well, I've never been on one since, and never plan to ride one ever again.
It's always hard to forget your first ship. Mine was about 18 feet long and a dark forest green. It had light tan captains chairs and a 350 Buick V8. And you had to be real careful when you backed it out of the dock too, not to sideswipe the house or scratch the freshly compounded paint on the bushes.
Then when you’re rolling down the river you gotta make sure to have your “Boston” 8-Track on full volume, and at least one hand on the wheel. Just washing the kids and the elderly into their front stoops from your powerful wake. Oh, and you better not have any small stones in-between your hubcaps and the whitewall tires, because that noise just ain’t cool. Ting, Ting, Ting.
And you never have to worry about getting lost at sea or Prospect Park either, because all you’d have to do is shoot up a flair and have the Coast Guard land right on your hood. Yeah, that hood was so damn big!
I think it was late October back in 1976 when I got the bug to buy my first car. I was 19 at the time and always imagined it to be something real cool too. Oh, lets see........70 Cuda, 68 AMX, 69 Dodge Charger. All the car models I built as a kid with my cousin Pete upstate in the Catskills, on those very rainy days. And now, I could own one all for myself!. Heck, my friend from work Peter LoBianco even had a Pontiac Astra lined up for me, nice two door with a small V8, but the deal fell through.
“You know Ronnie, my sister and Frank are thinking about selling their car” said my Mom. “Oh, I don’t know Mom, that’s not the kind of car I really had in mind”.
Now, let me tell you about my Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Frank’s Buick. It was only three years old but looked like it went through the mill. Although my Uncle Frank worked for "Wonder Bread" in Queens, by the look of the car you’d think he used it as a cab. It was constantly dirty and the interior was yellowed and smelled like cigarette smoke. There were scratches all over it and it had a big dent in the rear passengers side quarter panel from when my Uncle Frank sideswiped a Amish Buggy in Lancaster, PA. Oh, and buy the way don’t believe that crap that those people don’t go in cars, they chased my uncle and shook him down for 300 bucks. In a red pick-up truck no less. So you see the idea of buying that car and possibly being a marked man for the rest of my life in Amish Country wasn’t exactly something this Brooklyn boy had in mind.
“I think they want 2000 dollars for it” said my mom. The price wasn’t exactly a bargain, but then again the car did have low mileage and with some Clorox, compound and wax, you never know what you could come up with. “My sister said that if you don’t want it they would buy it back”.
Oh right, my aunt would send bogus letters to GE, saying all her light bulbs were defective just to get a box of free ones. So, I knew the car was “never” going to be returned. “So, what do you think Ronnie?” “Should I tell her OK?”. At that point I looked towards the heavens asking my Brother and Father what I should do. Hoping to hear some voice whisper in my ear. But, there was no voice, and all I could think about was the time we got stuck on route 17 near Monticello, in my Dad’s 63 Rambler on our way to Downsville. Thinking we were going to never be found and freeze to death just a few hundred feet from a Jewish bungalow colony. And then those two letters just came out of my mouth, there was no turning back now. “OK”.
So the next morning we went to see my next door neighbor Mr. Blank over at Nationwide on Church avenue for the insurance cards, and then Greater on McDonald Avenue to cut us a money order for 2000 dollars. It was down the subway stairs to the F-train, and a long ride to 179 street Jamaica, last stop.
Now at 19, I was an F-train veteran you know. From changing prices on hockey sticks at Mays on Jay street, when I was 12. To my daily ride to the High School of Art & Design on Lexington ave. until I was 17. I had it down. But today the ride was especially long, and forget about Queens. Anything after Lexington avenue should just as well be Kansas, because I never really go to Queens. Except of course to see Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Frank. But “Queens Village” is so close to Long Island, I never really considered it was part of the city anyway. As we walked up the stairway I could see my uncle Frank in his new 77 Olds Cutlass waiting by the curb. “So, you must be excited Ronnie” said my Uncle. I got inside the car, smiled and nodded to my uncle. As we got closer to their house I started to become more excited, and with a money order for 2000 dollars in my pocket, I knew I would be driving back to Brooklyn in my first car.
My uncle parked his car in front of his house and it was up the driveway we went to take a look at the Buick. “I didn’t get a chance to clean it or anything” said my Uncle. Knowing my Uncle never cleaned it anyway, I just said “that’s OK”. And everything was just like I remembered it, cigarette butts in the ashtray, the yellowed interior, the smell of stale smoke, and the dent from the Amish Buggy. Not to mention the scratches and the overall look as though it was waxed with sand and Brillo.
Well, we handed my aunt and uncle the money order and celebrated with coffee and cake on their kitchen table. It was congratulations, kisses and hugs and then it was on our way to Kensington, Brooklyn.
The ride on the Belt Parkway was smooth sailing, My poor Mom indured about an hours worth of WPLJ. “Meat Loaf” “that’s a real funny name” said my Mom. “In my day singers used their real names, like Tony Bennett and Bing Crosby”. “What a bunch of idiots today”.
And then finally I saw it, like a beacon in the night. Exit 7N, Ocean Parkway! We made the right off the Belt and on to the service road, another right onto Ocean Parkway and it wouldn’t be long now. As the alphabet got closer to C, I started to feel the excitement and reality of finally owning my own car. We made a big left hand turn onto Beverly Road and then another onto East 4th.
To this day I clearly remember the reflections of the trees above moving along the dark green hood as I got closer to my house. I just felt so damm proud finally driving my own car. Another big left and up the driveway we went. The guys were there too sitting on my front stoop, just watching. I guess word travels fast on my block. As I put it in park and started opening the drivers door to get out, Glen, Neil, and Pete opened up both back doors and got in. “Hey Lopez, what do you think you’re doing?” “Lets go for a ride” “I think Coney Island sounds good” “Don’t they have a Nathans there?”.
Well, from that day on the “Buick” became the car for the guys on the block. I cleaned her and polished all the scratches from her hood and fenders. I scrubbed the white walls and hung a cherry air freshener from the radio knob along with a disco ball from the rear view mirror. The “Buick” was nothing less than a Saturday night cruiser. We also had the latest in technology too, an 8-track and a CB, along with bowling balls in the trunk for a stable ride. But don’t read me wrong here, the “Buick” was also tough as a Hummer too. On one ill faded camping trip to Downsville NY, I drove her up our logging road on a Friday night. Too tired to carry all our backpacks and equipment, we just set up camp as an electrical fire from the starter motor almost sent her to “hubcap heaven”. But regardless the beat just went on and on for the Buick. Although sometimes it almost stopped for us as well.
One Sunday morning back in 1980 on the way to McCarren Park in the wasteland known as Williamsburg, we lost some valuable hockey equipment that was piled inside our hockey net strapped to the roof. I stupidly stopped the Buick on the other side of a curve, just East of the Brooklyn Bridge on the BQE. We almost became a newspaper headline that day, but thanks to an alert oil truck driver all we got was cursed at. And there were weddings, funerals and everything in-between for the Buick. All the time nourishing itself on an endless supply of Diehard batteries, alternators and tail pipes. Yes the late 70’s and 80’s were surely this dinosaurs heyday, but the "Ice Age" was coming soon. And the asteroid just hit the earth, and its name was “Monte Carlo”.
I don’t exactly remember how it happened but one day I woke up and the Buick just didn’t look the same anymore. She was looking old and worn out, her lacquer skin was cracking and peeling and the seats were all ripped. The 8-track was out dated and the cats sleeping in the back seats during cold weather wasn’t exactly impressive on a first date either. I tried my best to spruce her up with a new paint job and rubber mats. I even sealed up the hole in the floor so the cats couldn't get in anymore. But still, the feeling just wasn’t the same anymore. We were just growing apart.
So out came the automotive personals simply known as the “Buy Lines”. With other candidates being circled in red along with late night phone calls to “for sale by owners”. My quest for something young and new was making me restless. And all along she slept right outside my window, just leaking her tears of "Dextron transmission fluid" on the cold concrete floor. Unaware of my wandering feelings. Then one day I just saw her, the “Monte Carlo” of my dreams. With smooth lacquer paint, two perfect doors and a magnificent tail panel. I just couldn’t wait any more and had to do it. Well, it was another trip to the Greater on McDonald and 8,500 dollars less in my account. The cash was all I needed to bring her home from Seaford Long Island. And it was just a part of life you know.
I did try my best to keep them both, just bumper to bumper in my driveway. But the beauty of the new won over the memories of the old. And the insurance was too damn much anyway. A “Big Love” this was not, and the Buick had to leave. I tried hard not to get emotional when I took off the plates, just gently counting rotations as I backed off on the screws. Trying not to look into her GE headlights. But then without warning it suddenly all came back to me, the trip to Queens Village, the cigarette butts in the ashtray and the image of my uncle Frank sideswiping an Amish Buggy. The ride up my block, the trees reflecting on the hood, the guys watching me as I pulled up the driveway. No, I just couldn’t do it, No! I reversed the rotation of the screws and put the plates back on.
I think I kept the Buick for a few more years and finally just gave it away to a friend at work in 1990. She tried to offer me money for it more than once. But you know, like they say. Some Brooklyn memories you can buy, while others remain priceless forever. And that 73 Buick was nothing less than “Priceless” to me, in the Brooklyn of my youth.
Here's an old picture of my cousin Pete and my good friend Robert Brennan playing goalie. Robert was one of the reasons why I decided to play goalie way back when. There was just something so cool about being a goalie. And Robert made it all seem so colorful when I used to sit on my stoop and watch him.
Thanks Robert, I'm glad I picked the right "job" and I still work at "it" you know. Pulling muscles and feeling sore more than ever. But hey, at least I'm still playing, and it sure beats the alternative.
Last weekend I held what I hope is our first of many East Fourth street reunions. I guess you can blame the power of the internet for helping us all keep in touch. Just a running list of email addresses and my December 2008 pitch for a get together in June of 2009. Yes, it was a success, and more people showed up than I ever thought would in a million years.
And yes, there was talk of the old days, all the crazy things we used to do and such. The normal chatter you would find at any reunion, be it high school or nursing home.
“Hey Ronnie, remember the time we let the dummy fall from the tree in front of that taxi cab?” “Oh my God, I thought that cab driver was going to have a heart attack”.
“Hey Ronnie, remember the first time you got drunk at my parents house on East 5th?” “You were in the bathroom throwing up and singing at the same time”.
“How about all those camping trips up by Downsville?”
Yes, the day was filled with the talk of “how about” and “remember the time”. And yes, I loved every minute of it.
You know for all you folks who just moved here to Kensington, you should be happy to hear that all the guys who moved away years ago are still quite impressed by the old “nabe”. The words “solid neighborhood” was mentioned quite often that day, and I couldn’t agree more with them.
So we all sat on my stoop just like 30 years ago, and it was like they never left. Just feeling more comfortable than ever with your lifelong friends.
There were coolers and bags of food, hockey sticks and hockey gloves. And the very curious black bag and portfolio that Neil O’Callaghan brought to my house.
“Hey Neil, what are you pitching a presentation today?”
“Oh Ronnie, you better get ready for the hockey slide show” “I think you may want to see some of these pictures”.
So Neil went inside my house and set up his laptop while we all sat on my front porch, and about ten minutes later peeked his head out the front door.
“Ok guys, the shows about to start, come on in”.
So we all got up and lumbered inside my dining room, the parquet floors squeaked like crazy as the boys all gathered around Neil’s laptop sitting on the table.
Neil smiled at me as he pressed the button on his laptop. The “show” was about to begin, and a million memories would crash on my old grey head.
As pictures starting rolling I couldn’t believe my eyes, in a state of total shock I just stared at the screen.
There I was at about sixteen years old making a stick save off someone. My hair was long and my body young and thin. I was wearing my old Ryans Northstars jersey that was thrown away years ago. The court looked quite new and the boards were free of 70's graffiti that eventually covered everything except us.
There was Bobby Brennan, Pete Liria, and a young dark haired Neil O’Callaghan. Charlie Gilli fighting one of the 67 precinct Blues, and "Little Tommy Brennan" making a stick save.
We were frozen in time in the most glorious photographs that I have ever seen. A treasure chest that lay hidden in the darkness for over thirty-five years has now crashed on my head with all its weight.
These were the “lost” hockey photographs that Neil’s brother Mark took so long ago, and finally at 51 years old I shall finally see them!
You see whenever we used to play hockey on the block or down at Avenue F back in the 70’s, Mark used to always take pictures of us. We never cared, and never bothered to ask Mark to see them anyway. No, we were too busy being kids and had no time for pictures.
Oh, but life changes my friend, and when you get older you never know what brings you true joy.
So the screen of Neil’s laptop must have gone through over a hundred pictures. The most amazing photographs I have ever seen. Just a bunch of young kids with no cares and no worries playing the game we loved so much.
In the days before marriage, kids, mortgage payments and foreclosure worries, there was just hockey and nothing else. And yes, I sure miss those days.
I just stood there and couldn’t believe what I saw. I was totally blown away by those pictures, totally blown away!
Hey Mark, thanks for the memories. Because “better late than never” has never rang so true.
You know I have been writing all this nonsense since before November of 2007 and sometimes I just can't remember anything. So once again I am asking anyone with a good tale to tell, or a photo they want me to show, to send it to my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
In fact below is a wonderful story scribed by an old friend Matt Millbauer.
The following story was sent to me by Matt Millbauer, an old friend and Windsor Terrace native. Thanks Matty!
Back in the summer of 1979 my brother and I had a problem. There weren’t any good neighborhood bars for us to enjoy a nice cold brew and a good ballgame. Well, actually, there were about six or so within a ten block radius, but they were not for us. Those bars asked for I.D., so that was a big problem.
Now, trying to get a beer at these bars was a dangerous proposition. First of all, I was 16 years old and my brother was 14. Second of all, if my parents found out that we were in a bar, we definitely would not have made it to 17 and 15, respectively. And lastly, back then the neighborhood was a different place than it is today. People looked out for each other and that included other people’s kids. If we attempted to get served at one of the local bars, one phone call and we would be dead meat before we got home.
We were actually smart enough to know this too, so Terrace Bar (East 4th & Greenwood), Harold’s Bar (East 3rd St. & Ft Hamilton), Ulmer’s (Vanderbilt & East 3rd) were out. Since we lived on East 5th off Ft Hamilton this would be akin to ‘Shitting where you eat’. There was a bar on Church Ave and East 5th called the Sportsman Lounge, but our Mom’s good friend lived right up the street. Too risky, so in comes Pat’s Pub.
Pat’s Pub was on Prospect Avenue off of Greenwood Avenue down the block from the local firehouse. In order to get there you had to cross what was called by local youth the ‘Snake Bridge’-a fairly ugly green bridge that crossed over the Prospect Expressway. This expressway kinda separated these two areas of the neighborhood. Even though it was really only a stones throw away, we rarely ever ventured over it.
For whatever reason the bridge and the expressway acted as a boundary, and kids from over that side stayed over there and we stayed on our side. Every spring, however these two factions would come together at I.H.M’s annual Bazaar which sometimes involved the local authorities.
So Pat’s Pub was far away enough for us to try to get that beer, but close enough to stumble back home and more importantly not be seen.
We had grown a little tired of having to buy our beer at Wholesale Farms on Church Avenue-the only local store in the neighborhood that didn’t proof. Having to deal with Mike and his mutant fingernails and exorbitant prices was getting tiresome. Not to mention having to traipse all the way back up to the bocce courts on Vanderbilt St. to drink them.
In truth however, the impetus for us to attempt to visit Pat’s might have come from that fact that we had recently ‘procured’ my brother-in-law’s old draft card. It showed that he was 25 years old. This of course did not deter us. Now when I was 16 years old, I looked about 12. Seriously- about 5’4 and 100 lbs. My younger brother actually looked older than me, and with his ‘who gives a shit’ attitude was the logical choice to buy the beer once we got to Pat’s. So with our new I.D. we walked over to the other side on a bright Saturday morning.
It was about Noon when we walked into Pat’s Pub. Actually I scurried in and made a beeline for the back, as my brother Richie sauntered over to the bar. If you have ever seen the movie ‘A Bronx Tale’, think about the scene when the motorcycle club meets up with the mobsters in their bar. That bar was very similar to what Pat’s looked like. It was a very small place, with a square bar in the front and a Jukebox, some tables and a shuffleboard in the back. I think it used to be a place called Jerry’s Hardware a few years before. Either way, it had the vibe of a social club in someone’s living room. As I nervously fumbled with my selections, my brother bellies up to the bar, confidently puts two five dollar bills on it, while lighting up a Parliament. Right now there are exactly two people in the bar besides us. One is the bartender, and the other is a grizzled older man who sits nursing a beer and probably a hangover from the night before.
“What’s Up. Gimee a pitcher of Bud and two mugs please” my brother asks calmly.
I am standing there watching this out of the corner of my eye, trying to act cool. It’s not working. The bartender, a guy with many tattoos stares at my brother for what seemed to be 15 minutes without saying a word. He then leans over the bar and asks him:
“Do you have any I.D. kid?”
My brother, as confidant a 14 year old you would ever find, now seems pissed that this guy has the audacity to proof him. So with a roll of his eyes, and cigarette in the corner of his mouth, he flips my brother-in law’s draft card over to him. By this time, I am shitting it out over by the jukebox. I am having visions of the barkeep pressing a silent alarm and S.W.A.T appearing at the front door any minute now. Another insufferable minute passes as the bartender looks over the I.D. then my brother about 58 times.
“ So Mr. Ortiz, it says here that you are 25 years old.”
“Yep, that’s what it says.” my brother answers quickly, now clearly perturbed.
I feel the moment of truth is upon us as the barkeep looks one last time at us and then looks over to his lone customer who has been sitting quietly, clearly amused by the scene playing out in front of him. At last the bartender turns to his other customer and says:
“Do you believe the size of the balls on this kid?” The customer shakes his head as he stifles a laugh.
The barkeep doesn’t say a word as he tosses the I.D. back to my brother. That’s it I figure we are done. He then, to my shock and amazement, silently pours a pitcher of beer and grabs two glasses. He looks at us and says:
“One pitcher, sit in the back and leave when you’re done.”
My brother smiles at him through his cigarette smoke as he grabs our bounty.
“Keep the change”, he says.
Needless to say that was probably the fastest we ever drank in our lives. We stumbled out of Pat’s Pub into the afternoon sun and found our way back over the snake bridge into our territory. We were late for dinner that night, allowing for many basketball/softball games to help us sober up. I really don’t remember going back to Pat’s again, it closed down no long after that summer and by that time age didn’t matter. I think all the fun was in the chase, anyway. Now if we could only get served at Ulmers- no bridge to deal with.
So there we fall, the once proud American automobile industry is now dead. No, don't try to sell me any kind of bullshit about how this is all "actually better", because we SUCK. How could this country get to the point where the once mighty Chrysler Corporation is now a "subsidiary" of FIAT and GM bankrupt?
And to make matters worse we're basically China's "hoe". Because if it wasn't for China right now we'd all be living in cardboard boxes in Prospect Park. Yes, China OWNS us folks, and don't believe anything else you hear. They are the ones giving us all the money we need to stay alive, not anyone else.
Sorry, I'm just not feeling that good today about this place we live in.