Friday, July 30, 2010

Kenny's Toy Store

Long before Park Slope was pretty and “Little Things” was cute, we had Kensington, Church Avenue and Kennys toy store. Kennys toy store sat on the corner of East 3rd street and Church avenue. Just about where you would open the door to enter RiteAid, back in 1963 you would be walking into Kennys. And you would usually have a dollar in your pocket.

As you walked in the first thing you would notice is how dark it was. Mr. Kenny who looked something like Albert Einstein sat behind a small counter on the left as soon as you walked in. He had wavy grey hair and a thick mustache. He was short and stubby with a large stomach. “Good morning to you young man”. The wood floors would start squeaking uncontrollably as soon as you started walking around in Kennys. And the floors were dark and dull and looked like they were there forever. Mr. Kenny usually worked with Mrs. Kenny, she too was short like Mr. Kenny and had long grey wavy hair. The squeaking floor was probably a way the Kennys kept tabs on their customers, because no matter where you were in the store Mrs. Kenny always seemed to be watching you.

The aisles of Kennys were very narrow and the toys always seemed to be covered with dust. And as far as the selection, it seemed that the Kennys sold toys that were popular in the 50’s rather than the 60’s. But still when you were granted the opportunity to go to Kennys with a dollar in your pocket you never said no.

“Oh, do I have something for you” said Mrs. Kenny. “This is something that just arrived” Mrs. Kenny held up a cardboard package with something that looked like a red egg in it. It said “Silly Putty”. Now when you find a toy in Kennys without a layer of dust on it you knew it had to be something special. “Would you like this” said Mrs. Kenny holding the strange looking package with the red egg. I nodded my head in agreement as I walked to the counter. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my dollar bill, I handed it to Mr. Kenny.

Mr. Kenny had this thing for Scotch taping ripped dollar bills, even if they had the slightest tear in them Mr. Kenny would tape them in what seemed like slow motion. Today would be no exception. “Oh, we have a tear, so we must fix” Mr. Kenny usually looked at me as he said this, I guess he thought I ripped them for a hobby. His fixing of dollar bills was a surgical procedure, and his process was slow, deliberate and exact, every time. First, came the close examination of the dollar and the tear. Mr. Kenny would always pull down his eyeglasses at this point. Second, he would lay the dollar bill on the counter and hold it with one hand. Now ever so slowly he would reach towards the scotch tape dispenser pulling off the length he needed and gently tape the bill. And when he was finished with one side this whole routine would start all over again for the other side of the dollar. When it was over he would put the dollar in the register and hand you your change. But the torture was still not over. The toy was then put into a small brown paper bag, the bag was layed on the counter, the top was folded over twice, the receipt (usually hand written) was attached to the bag and then stapled. All this within what seemed like hours to the mind of a little boy. “Thank you young man” said Mr. Kenny.

As you opened the heavy wooden door the cowbell on the door would cling and the sunlight usually blinded you from being in the darkness of Kennys so long as the bill was being taped. But as you walked home along Church Avenue you knew it would not be long before you would be at home playing with a new toy from Kennys and also taping all your mother's dollar bills before you go there again.

Ron Lopez

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Fury

The blower motor in Robert Brennan’s Plymouth Fury was on full force. With hot air blowing like a hurricane on my snow-covered boots, the heat of the Fury did little to defrost my feet and toes. No, once again my boots felt like two blocks of ice, and it would certainly be a while before they’d feel
warm again.

“Let me show you how she rides Ronnie, this ones real heavy duty”

With that Robert put the Plymouth Fury into gear and stomped on the gas. The huge 440 four barrel suddenly came alive and moaned a loud throaty sound. With the rear wheels trying desperately to grip the cold frozen asphalt, the Fury started to wildly squeal and fishtail in front of my house. I just held on to the dashboard for dear life until the Plymouth finally found its way and started rocketing up the block in a straight line.

“I told you she’s heavy duty”
“I told you”

The Plymouth barreled up East Fourth at about fifty-five miles an hour and then suddenly screeched to a stop at the corner of Avenue C. The little air freshener pine tree that Robert loved so much swung crazily from the radio knob.

“And she stops on a dime too”

“ Robert, she started skidding about six houses back?”

“Don’t worry kid, she’s seen all kinds of action”

Now Robert Brennan was one of my best friends from the block, and for some reason he always liked to buy old worn out police cars at the city auctions up by Willis Point. And because Robert was a couple years older than the rest of the guys, he was the first to own his own car. And when you can’t drive what you don’t have yet, you just get into anything your friends are driving, no matter what.

And for my cousin Pete and I, it was a 1970 Plymouth that Bobby drove around all the time. A retired New York City undercover police car that drove like a tank and flew like a rocket.

“How about a trip to White Castle Ronnie?”

Oh God, that freaking White Castle up on Fort Hamilton Parkway. The place had bulletproof glass where you ordered, white tiled walls and floors, and the most horrible looking stainless steel tables and seats. And to top it off, it was always filled with the scariest looking people Brooklyn ever produced. Just a perpetual “freak show” that made any thing over in Coney Island look like kids stuff. Just shoot me and preform the autopsy on one of those stainless steel tables, but just don't forget to clean up the blood.

Oh, and they also had an armed guard inside the place, just standing in the corner with a black handgun in his holster. A real nice place to take the kids for a night out in Boro Park.

“ Robert why do we have to go there?”
“Why not the new Burger King over on Dahill Road?”
“One day we’re going to get killed over at White Castle”

“Ronnie, there’s nothing to fear, you got me and we have the “car”

Now because we drove around in an old unmarked police car, the truth is everyone thought we were cops. Including all the freaks over at White Castle who looked like they just got out of the Brooklyn House of Detention.

Even the security guard who worked there used to salute us. So when it came to feeling safe, I guess there was nothing better than driving an old police car and looking like a bunch of undercover cops.

And Robert, well he stood at six feet five inches and bigger than a bear. Yeah, I never felt tall or big around Robert, no not even at six feet three and two hundred pounds.

Robert always seemed like an older brother to me too, and in many ways reminded me a lot of my brother Joseph who passed away just a few years before Bobby became one of my best friends. He was loud like my brother, he sometimes bossed me around like my brother. And he always had the last word like my brother. Yeah, maybe a friendship that would never work for others, but somehow oddly worked wonders for me.

Yes Robert filled the void that was left after my brother died, and I certainly loved being around him all the time. But most important, I always felt safe around Bobby no matter what.

We made the left on to Fort Hamilton and drove past the brand new Burger King on Dahill road. I could see the blue and white logo of White Castle way in the distance by Forty-second Street in Boro Park.

“Oh God, that freaking place again Robert?”

“Don’t worry kid, you’ve got me and we got the car”

Robert made a hard right into the parking lot of the White Castle. And as usual the place was chock full of “hard nighters” and the scariest residents of Brooklyn. The Plymouth made an abrupt stop against the concrete slab by the front tires. Once again the little fragrant pine tree swung wildly on the radio knob. Robert shut off the now hot 440 engine, my feet were finally warm.

“You ready for action?”
“I guess so, lets do it”
We both opened the door and walked into White Castle.
Just another night in Brooklyn, the year was 1973.

The other day I was in an auto store with my son, we were standing by the counter when I happened to notice one of those little green pine tree air fresheners. I picked it up and threw it on the counter with the rest of my stuff.

"Dad who's that for?"

"It's for an old friend son,
it's for a very old friend"

Ron Lopez

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Band Aid Bandit by Charlie Gilli

It was a typical, quiet, summer night in the neighborhood, circa 1972. It was getting around the time to go meet "Red" (Greg Lombardi) up at the East 2nd Street & Church Avenue Carvel ice cream store, right across the street from Barton's Candy & Card store. It was almost quitting time for Red and Steven Marshack. It was about the time when Red and Steve would be doing their darndest to scrub down the countertops, mop the floors and hand wipe all the glass display counters.

They'd try to get it all done as fast as possible, so we could get the heck out of there and go hangout with the rest of the boys on Avenue C. If they could clean up fast enough, we'd be able to stop in to Scarola's and get some cold antipasto (since their Italian kitchen was closing up too, at that time of night) or maybe to the Liberty Diner for Burger Deluxes and Fries with brown gravy, before heading to the "corner" (Avenue C & McDonald).

Usually, Josh (Seff) and I would go meet Red around closing time to get him and the rest of the Carvel crew to hurry up and close the place for the night. Sometimes Ronnie Spiegel, Joey Mattera and Sal Congemi would come too.

"Hey Red! You missed a spot!"

"Steve! You look like a fuck'in pussy with that mop in your hands!"

You know, just a little chop/ball busting between friends!

Well, we would heckle the shit out of these guys, while they were busting their balls to get the place ready for closing. They had to clean all the soft ice-cream machines every night before they locked up. It took about an hour or so to do just that. Josh and I would lean on the counter like a couple of pigeons on a ledge, our heads darting back and forth spewing wise cracks at the expense of our "working" buddies behind the counter and laughing our asses off at each
other's jokes.

Every now and then, some shmuck, a last minute customer would come in because the front door wasn't locked and the "closed sign" wasn't hung up yet or the poor bastard outside would just tap on the big glass windows and beg for the guys to let them in, so they could satisfy a craving for a vanilla cone.

This kind of interruption would just serve to keep us all there a little longer then we wanted. I have to say that Red and Steve were pretty good at being cold-hearted bastards and didn't mind waving away the last minute, desperate customers (I'm glad I didn't own that place)! It was like they were the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her pals got to the Emerald City. "Go away! We're closed! Come back tomorrow!" "Bring me the broom stick...” you know how it goes.

This was just the scene one night, except I was without Josh,
my usual partner. It was a night that I'll never forget....
nor will Red and Steve!

I took up my usual post, leaning on the front counter and in comes one of those last minute customers...or so I thought. A real dickey looking guy with a couple of fat band-aids pasted across his nose. Red told me later that his first impression of this guy was that he felt bad for the dude and thought that maybe the guy had gotten hurt in some kind of unlucky accident or something. Typical Red. Always feeling sorry for some shitty bastard. What the heck. Red still is a helluva nice guy.

This guy plants himself to my right and he leans on the counter with his arms folded, both elbows up on the counter. He asks Red for a vanilla shake and Red apologetically explains that they only have hard ice cream left and asks him if the hard stuff would be ok for his milk shake. (Since the boys had finished their duty and cleaned the soft ice cream machines already)

The band-aid guy says, "Yeah, ok." Red bends over with the scoop to fetch the Vanilla. As he does so, the guy adds, "And give me all the money in the cash register or your friend here gets it!"

I'm thinking to myself, "What the fuck is this a-hole talking about?" So I start to turn towards the guy and he says, "Don't move!" I glance down under my right arm and I was startled to see that he's holding a gun, a black revolver, under his left armpit and it's pointed right up at my head!

Red opens the register and thought about pressing the silent alarm, installed just a week earlier, but once the cash draw opened it was near impossible to reach the button. Red took out a small, white, Carvel bag and put the money into the bag and onto the counter. It all took about 60 seconds by Red's recollection, but we agreed, it felt like an eternity! I'm glad Red didn't try to hit that silent alarm. I didn't know the alarm was there, but I recall saying something like, "Guys, don't fuck around, just give the guy his money!"

Steve comes walking out from the back of the store, where he was making those freak'in Carvel ice cream cakes and the band-aid guy says to him and Red, "And don't forget the change fund either!" Steve did as he was told and handed it over to him. Then the bandit told me to get on the other side of the counter with Red and Steve. He told us to turn around and walk to the back of the store and stay there for at least 5 minutes. He said that he'd be watching us and that he'd shoot us, if we didn't follow his instructions!

That short walk to the back of the Carvel store was scary as hell. All kinds of stuff frantically runs through your head during a time like that. Red said that he was praying over and over in his head..."Please don't shoot us, please don't shoot us." All those action movies were flashing through my head during the whole know, where the hero kicks the gun out of the bad guys hand or throws some incredible kung-fu kick, decks the guy and his gun flies into the air, only to land in the good guy's (my) hand. I had to keep suppressing that nonsense, since I knew that our best chance at getting out of there in one piece, was to just do what the bad guy says and get it over with.

On the other hand, in those few seconds, I was also thinking, that making a move before he starts shooting might be the only chance we had. Luckily, in those days, there wasn't a lot of the "steal and kill in cold-blood stuff" that has become more prevalent since then, so I think the basic credo was to just do what the bad guy says and you get to go home standing up. So we did. After all, what was I going to throw at him? Chocolate syrup? Sprinkles? Sear his face with hot fudge maybe? Stab him in the eye with a sugar cone? Na. No heroics.

I didn't know it then, but there was another silent alarm in route to the back of the store, under the "scoop sink" and Steve pushed it as we passed by. When we got to the back of the store and no bullets had come our way, we all breathed a huge sigh of relief and Steve told us he had pushed the alarm. We waited a few minutes, came out with our heads down and Steve pushed the alarm again and we locked the front door.

The cops got there in about 10 minutes, along with storeowner, Frank Chiarello.

Once NYPD was in the store, you could hear the chatter over their police radios, "...that the alarm at Carvel had been tripped, but it was probably by accident...!" Yeah right! Accident my ass!

It was right about this time that Red realized he had pissed his pants! Could you blame him? A few more cops arrived and one of them asked us if the perp had big band-aids on his nose. In harmony we all said, "YEAH, how did you know?" The cops told us that a guy fitting the same description had robbed the Baskin-Robbins a week earlier and that this guy had been robbing ice cream stores regularly. Thus the label, "The Band-Aid Bandit or The Ice Cream Bandit."

Red reminds me that we all went down to the 70th Pct. to look at MUG shots and we all independently picked the band-aid man's picture out. This guy (maybe) was arrested about a year later, but got off because he had a twin brother and the cops couldn't prove which one of these brothers had committed all the robberies!

Neither Red nor I recall if we ever got anything at all to eat that night, but we'll never forget the rest of that night at the Church Avenue Carvel Store!

Charlie Gili & Greg (Red) Lombardi (Technical Advisor)
Written Friday, July 10, 2009

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kensington Pictures

Thats me on the left, my cousin Pete and cousin Denise.
When you grow up together for 20 years,
they really become your "brother and sister"
My cousin Pete had a full beard at 16!
The photo was taken in their old apartment
on the first floor of 399 East 4th.
We now live in the same apartment.

Playing goalie against my cousin Pete,
35 years later we still play together.
A little slower, with more muscles aching,
but we still do!

My coisin Pete and Bobby Brennan Jr.
at Avenue F back in about 1974.

Ron Lopez

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Stranger

It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you live. Someday someone will come out of nowhere to save your life. They may be a friend, relative, or a total stranger. They will just appear to be there for you for that split second, and then they will just disappear into the crowd, because the divide between life and death is just that, a split second. And you, well you may not even give it a second thought. The conversation you were just having on your cellphone was more important to you than the arm that just grabbed you from behind to prevent you from walking right into the path of the B35 bus. A little startled at first about what had just happened, you continue on with your day without even looking back to say thank you.

For me it was a hand that grabbed my foot when I was about two years old. I guess the view of East 4th street from our roof looked inviting. It was the hand of a young mother (my mom) that pulled me back inside our apartment just moments before I would become another dot on a NYC chart. For my cousin Pete, another son of Kensington and East 4th, it was the voice of a stranger screaming at him to run faster just before a piece of an airliner killed the person directly behind him on a sunny day in September 2001. It may have also been the“Brooklyn” in my cousins blood too that saved his life. When the loud speakers blared the instructions that “everything is OK and there is no need to evacuate at the present time”. My attorney cousin just said “bullshit” and left only to meet up with falling jet parts on the street below. Buy hey, he was back to work the next day up in Westchester, you got to love that Empire Blue Cross.They probably helped him forget 9/11 by making him work on 9/12.

But years before back in 1981 there was another person, someone I will never know who just appeared out of nowhere to change someone’s life. Just there for an instant to make a difference and then return to the crowd without ever knowing their name. I really didn’t think much about it that day back in 1981. It was unusual to see the Manhattan bound F express running at 5:30 in the afternoon. But as soon as I stepped out of the first car of the southbound F, I noticed a bunch of EMS guys, Cops and Fireman on the local track. Now, I’m not much for gore and just a couple of years before I saw an elderly woman get killed by a “Kings” concrete truck right before my eyes on East 2nd street in front of Carvel. And the thought of a train running someone over wasn’t exactly something I’d like to take to bed that night. So I just walked up the stairs and then down Beverly towards my house.

By the time I got to my block I noticed a Police car parked right in front of my house. And on the porch there were two Cops talking to my mom. By the look on her face something really bad had just happened.“Grandma had an accident on the subway” said my mom.“Is she ok?” I said. “They don’t know, they just took her to Methodist Hospital”. I looked at the two Cops and said, “what kind of accident?” “She fell onto the tracks on the Northbound side” one of them said....“that was my grandmother, that was my grandmother”! I yelled!

Well before you knew it I was in my 73 Buick and driving up the hill to Methodist Hospital in Park Slope. It was probably the first time I was there since I was born. I got there before any one in my family did and my grandma wasn’t a pretty sight. There she was still on the stretcher waiting to get into the ER. Her clothes were all bloody and the gash on the side of her head was so big you could probably put a candy bar in it. But even in her condition the doctors assured us all that she was going to be just fine, but should keep away from subway platforms for a while. And what about that stranger that came out of nowhere you ask? Well, we never got to thank the man that saved mygrandmothers life. The police told us that he didn’twant to give his his name or address. As soon as he saw her fall on to the tracks, he noticed theheadlights of an oncoming train entering the tunnel up by avenue C. He ran upstairs to tell the token clerk about what had just happened. They somehow stopped the train just before it entered the station, just a fewfeet from where my grandmother was sprawled across the rail. He stayed with her for a while until the Police came, and then got on the F express once it started running. Just like that without ever knowing his name, this guy saved my grandmothers life and then got on the train and left, simply amazing. My 80 year old grandmother healed up and got better,she gave us another fifteen years of her stories about growing up in Cuba, and was able to see her great grandchildren born before she died in 1996.
All because of someone I will never know, a "Kensington Stranger" by no other name, and all I can say is “thank you” who ever you are.

Ron Lopez

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Land, Your Water and Two Little Voices

“NYC DEP Wants Ban on Marcellus Drilling in Certain Areas"
If New York City's Department of Environmental Protection gets its way, 500,000 acres in the city's watershed would be off limits to Marcellus development. The request includes banning drilling in a one mile perimeter around the city's Catskill reservoirs and all infrastructure”

Ok, so let me get the ruler out because I think my property upstate is just about a few inches over a mile from the Pepacton Reservoir and the water you drink every day from your tap. And so what if a little benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid; and sodium hydroxide get on you while you take a shower on East Fourth Street. Hell, I bet you a little “Lava” soap can get that off you in a few minutes and it may make your skin softer too.

So bring that truck in and lower that big iron head, because today we’re drilling for Natural Gas and I’ll never have to cut my grass again, because the run off from the drilling chemicals may just kill it forever. And tell my boss I won’t be in on Monday or forever for that matter, because today I'm quitting my job.

Oh, but back to reality and the two little voices in my head.
You see my family and I own over 200 acres just up from the Pepacton Reservoir in Delaware County, New York. We are smack in the middle of the NYC DEP Watershed area, and if the city has it’s way we’ll never see that check for 38,000 dollars a month from Suburban Energy or National Grid. Yes, right on top of Bryden Hill and some 1800 feet above sea level sit our two little Catskill houses. And given the fact that sometimes they have to drill down five miles to get to the gas it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever ring my doorbell because of how high we are on the mountain.

And that’s ok, that’s ok, because I would never want to be tempted by greed and green. No keep it to yourself and ring that farmer’s doorbell over in Delhi. Because his barn’s falling apart and his cows look pretty darn skinny, and I’m sure the National Grid logo would look great painted on the side of his barn along with a new Escalade parked in his dirt driveway.

“So Ronnie what do you think about those gas companies trying to drill right in the NYC Watershed”

“Could you imagine what kind of shit is going to end up in our water?”
“Are they crazy or what?”

Good Voice: “Oh, it’s terrible and I know no matter what the gas companies say the water’s going to get polluted somehow. Yeah the old “the air is safe to breathe down by the WTC on 9/11 kind of shit”

Bad Voice: “Are you freaking crazy? I’ll drink bottled water and make my kids bathe in Poland Spring every night, am I going to say “no” to National Grid when they screwed me for so many years and I spent hundreds of thousands to heat my house? Over 35,000 dollars a month and finally have enough money to buy a new Prius?

Sell me, sell me, I have no soul.

And then I thought about my grandfather Paco, and how he would be ashamed of me. How he scraped up every dime he had to buy 204 acres at 18 bucks a pop back in 1953 so his family would have a place to go every summer and get away from the hot steaming streets of Kensington, Brooklyn.

“You know Ronnie, there is nothing as beautiful as the mountains and the green of the trees. Someday this will be for you and your family, and I hope you keep it just the same”

“Yes Grandpa I will, and I will always think of you when I’m here”

The long drill suddenly stopped and was pulled out of the bedrock.
I could see a little benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene,
naphthalene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons dripping from
its ugly head.

What the Hell are you doing?”

“Do you know what kind of money this baby’s
going to pay you every month?”

“Forget what your grandfather said and just
“Drill Baby Drill”.

“Drill Baby Drill?”
Now where did I hear that before?

The image of matching “his” and “hers” Priuses in my driveway at 399 suddenly flashed in my head along with that new 14 Mpg Dodge Challenger with a Hemi no less.

“Just stick that drill head back in and watch
my wife’s perennial garden.”

“Oh, now you’re talking, now you’re talking”

Good Voice: Do you realize that your house
sits right above the Pepacton?”

“Do you see the little skull and crossbones on
those five gallon drums that they’re pouring down that hole?”

“You were born in Park Slope man not Dubai”

Bad Voice: “Oh right don’t tell me for one second some Subaru owning, politically correct Park Slopian is going to turn down 38 grand a month?” “They can be sold just as easily as me” And I bet they’ll still keep their Greenpeace bumper sticker on their car along with the National Grid one. Yeah protesting the Atlantic Yards and then taking their kid to a Brooklyn Nets game. Don’t tell me about being a hypocrite”.

Good Voice: Morals, Goodness and Kindness.

Bad Voice:: Greed, Green a Prius and a dead lawn.

“Ok, OK, stop the drilling, I just can’t do this! And besides that benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons is starting to melt my shoes.

With a look of utter disgust the hard heads pulled the drill out from the hole in front of my wife’s perennial garden.

Oh well there goes buying my way into Berkley Carroll or PS 321.

“Well Pal, I hope you’re happy because we’re never coming back”

The hardhats all got into the big GMC and started her up, black smoke spewed from the stack as they put her in drive. Slowly they drove away as the National Grid logo faded in the distance on the big chrome rear bumper.

Good Voice: “You know you made the right choice
and your children will be proud of you”

Bad Voice: “This is National Grid and your bill is overdue”

For more information on the effects of Natural Gas Drilling:

Ron Lopez

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Catskill Webcam 5:30 am Today

Another nice day on the mountain, and I'm stuck in Brooklyn!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Go Spain Go!

Because I'm officially 1/2 Spanish, I have to root for my Spanish brothers from over the Atlantic. And besides, soccer is the only sport that I know that vaguely resembles hockey in some way. You know, the goalie (I'm still a goalie), the forwards, the defencemen, the center line and so on. Hey, which came first? hockey or soccer? Um...did Poland have a team? because that's my other 1/2 you know!

Anyway, lets go Spain, and bring it home before Franco wakes up!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Windsor Terrace Boys

The boys from Windsor Terrace were tougher than us. With names like Jimbo Drudy, Bobby O’Shaughnessy and the dreaded Billy Powell, we had to watch our backs. Of course we saw them in church on a Saturday night or Sunday morning, but no words were ever exchanged. Just cold stares. The stories about the Irish boys up the hill were never good. And Greenwood Park? Well, you just better stay away from it if you knew what was good for you.

Now back in the late 60’s and early 70’s there was a roller hockey league at East 5th street and Ft. Hamilton playground. Most of the boys who played there were from Windsor Terrace. Sometimes after church on a Sunday morning me and the guys would watch a game from behind the fence near the Prospect Expressway. A lot of red hair and short tempers under those helmets we thought. The games were played in the coldest of weather too. With red faces bellowing puffs of white smoke my feet were cold and my hands numb clutching the hurricane fence. But somehow the sound of the steel wheels scraping rough concrete made a new music I had to learn. I wanted to play this game too.

Learning to skate at twelve was not very easy. And you had to make sure there were enough cars parked on your block to hold on to while you learned. Always making sure there were no cars crossing either since who knew where your heads going to land when you hit the ground. But not long after the first box of band aids was gone and my black and blues healed I soon found myself gliding down the pavement. No longer looking for a Caddilac fin to hold on to!

The games played on East 4th were hard fought, we used car doors to bank pucks off, body checked each other into Plymouth Duster hoods, broke taillights,windshields, mirrors and sometimes house windows. Yes,we were soon becoming a menace to the block. One day as we were skating on the street we saw two figures fast approaching us from way up East 4th. One, quite big, wearing a green and white hockey jersey and the other, kind of skinny, wearing a NY Rangers jersey. They had Hockey sticks in their hands and were fully dressed in hockey gear. They even hadreal hockey gloves. They were Windsor Terrace Boys!

As the figures became closer and crossed Beverly we stood our ground. Two of them and five of us, no need to retreat. The big one stopped right by our net, “hey where’s the puck?” Nunzio, one of our boys, skated and fished it out passing it to the this big kid with sandy blond hair. With a lighting like move and a snap off the stick the kid with the green and white jersey snapped the puck right through the netting. The puck left a black mark on a car trunk behind it. He looked at us and with a sheepish grin said “oh gez, sorry”. The skinny one with the Rangers jersey took a similar shot into our net, but this time the puck hit the netting and fell harmlessly inside the goal. “What the hell you guys playing here for? Why don’t you join the league down at Ave F?" "Playing on the streets is for kids” said the big one. “Here take this” the big one handed my cousin Pete a flyer, it said “70th pct. roller hockey league has moved to Ave F park.” “Thanks” said Pete. As the two players skated down East 4th towards Avenue C we read the backs of their jerseys..........O’Shaughnessy and Drudy.

The rest is just history and I played at Avenue F for years. O’Shaughnessy was my teammate on Ryans Northstars and Jimbo played with my cousin Pete forthe Terrace Cafe Rangers. We formed wonderful friendships with the Boys from Windsor Terrace and even cried together the day we heard Billy Powell was killed by a car on the way to a game by Prospect Park back in '71. Two years ago we had a 30th year reunion at The Billy Powell Memorial Rink. Many of the Windsor Terrace boys were there including Jimbo Drudy and RobertO’Shaughnessy. It was a wonderful experience seeing the guys after 30 years of going our separate ways. Our worries about mortgages, bills, and our children’s future left our minds that day. It was just like 1975 and we were still playing the sport we loved so much as kids growing up in Kensington and Windsor Terrace. After the game we all met at the “Gallery” a local watering hole under the El on McDonald Avenue where our coaches usually drank after the game back in the day.

Phone numbers and e-mail addresses were exchanged and promises to “keep in touch” rang in the air like the bells of Immaculate Heart of Mary on a Sunday morning. Outside the Gallery I made sure to give O’Shaughnessy a big hug before I left. As we said our goodbyes we both had tears in our eyes. I guess not seeing a friend for 30 years can do that to someone and saying goodbye even more. Walking away from the Gallery and all my old friends was hard. But the glory days of 1975 and our youth still remained in an old bar for a few more hours that day in old photos and stories. But as they say, every beginning must have an end. And when the Galleries metal gate came down that night, the Windsor Terrace Boys were just a memory once again.

Ron Lopez

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Connies Cafe

I have been to Connie's Cafe twice already since it opened.
And for all the folks who grew up here, it's where Royal Sporting goods used to be on the corner of East 5th and Church back in the 70's. A real nice "Old School" diner run by a hell of a hard worker being Connie. In fact Connie is a Brooklyn gal herself who grew up right here in Kensington. Yeah, Connie remembers the Beverly, the Liberty diner and the Buzzarama. Only places a native would know with real Brooklyn blood running in their veins.

So let's help support a new business here in
Kensington and grab some food over at Connie's.
Because both the food and the price are right.

Ron Lopez