Friday, April 30, 2010

A Great Car Buying Experience in Oneonta


Last weekend I had a great car buying experience. There was no “red face”, there was no slimy salesman, there was no inflated bill of sale with a “600” dollar bank fee.

Yeah, Bay Ridge Nissan screwed me with in 2005 after I signed all the paperwork and then re-examined it at home. I even called the bank that was financing my car to ask them about this “fee” and they said there was no such thing. I remember I was so pissed I even called the owner of those “Bay Ridge” franchises to complain, and he said it was the “cost of doing business”. The "cost of doing business" means "screw the customer" to me. I’m never going to buy a car at Bay Ridge Nissan as long as I live because they screwed me once. Just once, that’s all it takes and you will lose my business forever, yes forever.

And your damn right I always made a point to tell others interested in a Nissan not to take their business to Bay Ridge Nissan, because of this “bank fee” that was total BULLSHIT.

So you see Bay Ridge Nissan your "600 dollar profit" that was total "Bull", lost you thousands of dollars of my future business and maybe others as well.

Now that's bad business, and it will hurt
you more than help you in the long run.

So fast forward to 2010 and Bay Ridge Toyota…

Now I was going to be given a “deal” because my best friend Peter’s brother-in-law is the manager of this particular dealership. You know, that whole “you’re just like family” stuff so we’re not really going to “screw” you that much.

So I was told to see “So-in-So” when I walked in and tell him that I’m “So-in-So’s” brother-in-law’s best friend. Already the use of too many hyphens was making me leary about this whole “deal” I was going to be given.

“So mister Lopez I understand that you’re a friend of the family, so we’re not going to bullshit you here. We’re going to offer you the best deal possible, you’re going to get our employee pricing on this car.”

“I’m also going to get my best man to help you
with the vehicle and explain everything to you”

Why do they use the word "vehicle" and not "car" anymore?

So off we went, and after spending about an hour with the salesman
who did everything he had to do to try to sell us this car. I was sent
to the “Manager” to talk about this ‘Great” deal I was going to be offered.

So what’s a “great” deal in my mind? Well a great deal is usually
dealer invoice or below. And in the case of this particular car it
would have been about 21, 250 dollars. So that’s the number
I had in my head.

“Well mister Lopez we got you a price
and it’s our employee price of 23,800 dollars”.

“I’m sorry I was thinking more of a price
around 21,000, you know dealer invoice.

Already I could feel the blood rushing to my face and I was starting
to feel flush all over. That usually happens when I’m starting to get
annoyed with someone of worse yet get into a fight.

‘Well we have people and rent to pay
here, and it's just the "cost of doing business"
you know.

The old "cost of doing business" line.
Now where did I hear that before?

“OK, thanks, I’ll let you know”

I just got up and walked out of the dealership and met my wife
and daughter in a diner on 65th street just a few blocks away
from the dealer.

“Ronnie, your face is so red, did you get into a fight or something”

“No, I just hate dealing with these jerks, that’s all”.

It took a while for the redness to go away in my face and I somehow
managed to have a nice lunch with my family that Sunday morning.

Is there something wrong with me?
I can loose a hundred thousand dollars in my 401K and not care.
I can loose 90 thousand dollars in the value of my house and not care.
I can spend thousands and thousands of dollars in car repairs over
the years and just say “oh well” and still not care.

But try to screw me over a couple of thousand in a car dealership
and my face turns the most beet red you have ever seen and I feel
like killing someone who wears gold chains.

Yeah, maybe there’s just something wrong with me, I don’t know.

So now let me tell you about a "Great Deal" and a Great Dealership where you have good honest people and rock bottom prices on some “just as new” cars. The name of the place is Empire Toyota and they are up in Oneonta New York. They offer these great deals on what they call their TRAC cars. These are very low mileage Toyotas that are basically dealer loaner cars that people rent for a few bucks when their car is being repaired. We found a 2010 Prius with only 1800 miles on it for a little over 21,000 dollars. The model Prius we bought brand new would have been well over 24,000 dollars with all the options it has. And let me tell you I did my research on the price of what these cars should be even with the “low miles” and still they were a bargain no matter how you sliced it.

Try to find a 2010 used Prius here in Brooklyn with 1800 miles for that price. You will not, I guarantee you that. And they also have 2009’s and even a few 2008’s with just a few thousand miles on them. And all for a great deal I kid you not.

And what made me feel good about my car and it’s price was the fact that Rob the salesman I spoke to made it clear that these were their lowest prices on these cars and there was really no room to budge. But because I checked all my data I was ok with that and that’s why I knew I wasn’t getting screwed by these guys.

Now you all know I really never plug anyone on this blog, but I thought this was important enough to tell you. Because these guys didn’t pressure me, these guys were honest, and these guys didn’t try to pad the bill in any way. I don’t know, maybe it’s a “country” thing, but there was just not the “bullshit”, “screw you” environment that exists so much here in Brooklyn when you walk into a new car dealer.

No folks, my face didn't get red at all when I was talking to Rob the salesman. And maybe they can sell the cars so cheap because they park them near the edge of a cornfield rather than the middle of Brooklyn surrounded by million dollar homes.

Now don’t be afraid Oneonta’s not that far away form NYC and even if you have to rent a car for a day you will still come ahead of any “deal” in Brooklyn.

And once again, I’m not getting anything out of this folks, no, this is just my experience and I feel it’s important to share it with you.

So if you’re looking for a great deal on a low mileage Prius for a price well below anything here in Brooklyn. Check out Empire Toyota up in Oneonta New York.
Ask for Rob Schott.

http://www.empiretoyota.com/
6281 St Hwy 23
Oneonta, NY 13820
(607) 433-0045

And no, they didn’t pay me to tell you this, and
yes the car really does get 51 mpg in Brooklyn!

Ron Lopez
Mopar195@yahoo.com


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OK, so even the maps don't agree on everything.
Ron Lopez

First Crush by Jimmy Spinner

Jimmy Spinner is a good friend of mine and writes some real nice stuff about about growing up in Brooklyn. The following is a story he wrote for his students up in New England. Yeah, my friends teaching our young? How scary is that?

First Crush by Jimmy Spinner

Sometimes we just have to write about certain things. Something just keeps bubbling to the surface of our consciousness and begs to be written about. How many of us remember our first real crush? The total innocence of it? The unrequited love? The hopeless romantic in me looks back fondly on a more innocent Jim Spinner and a more innocent time, Brooklyn in the 1970’s…

The scene is Brooklyn in 1973, I’m a ten year old strolling up East 4th Street, with my Mets t-shirt on, some cut-off jeans shorts and some no-name black and white sneakers. I don’t know what kissing is, yet. I do however know what it looks like. I know this from watching The Brady Bunch or seeing teenagers making out on the street corners of our Brooklyn neighborhood. I do however know who I want to kiss. Rose Yannone. Her name needs a sentence all its own. Here I sit as a 43 year old looking back and I still love her. That’s a testament to the strength of a young boy’s crush and the beauty of Rose Yannone.

Let me tell you about Rose. Obviously, she’s Italian. She has shiny, and I do mean shiny, black hair, a great smile a la Marie Osmond with a few crooked teeth which just made her a little more “human” otherwise she’d be too perfect. If I’m ten in this story, and in 5th grade that makes Rose 14 and an 8th grader at Ditmas the local junior high school.

I have the hugest crush on Rose and I tell her about it often. I simply want her to know how much I love her. I’ll prove it to you. The girls on our block play assorted jump rope games one of which is “Strawberry Shortcake.” Basically it goes like this, the person, usually a girl, jumps rope while the crowd circled around her chants with the rhythm of the skipping rope, “Straw-berry Short-cake, cream-on top, tell me-the name of your sweetheart, is it-A-B-C…” and the jumper would continue to jump as the alphabet is repeated until they “mess up” and whatever letter the girls are saying at that moment, say P, would prompt a guess from the crowd and the requisite, “Ohhhhh, P is for Paul, you like Paul Reilly…..”

The girls jump rope in front of John Tracy’s house because the sidewalk widens right there. Where they are jumping is right next to our stickball court which for the most part is in the middle of our block. Rose is in the crowd of girls so I saunter over, and ask, “Hey can I try?” The response of the girls varies, Helen McNally, my age and a friend of mine complains, “Come on Jimmy, you don’t like to jump rope.” Annoyance from Theresa Festa, “You better just let him do it or he’s never going to go away.” A dare from Joanne Yannone, Rose’s sister “Oh let him try, he won’t be able to do it.” Now the gauntlet has been dropped, it’s an athletic challenge. The girls swing the rope, I time the rhythm, my head bopping, swap-swap-swap…I jump into the circle. “Straw-berry Short-cake, cream-on top, tell me-the name of your sweetheart, is it-A-B-C…” …..I smoothly make it all the way to R and I plant my feet firmly, I stop jumping on purpose and the girls squeal, “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, R, it’s Rose, Jimmy likes Rose!!!!!” I shyly glance in her direction and walk back to our stickball game.

Remember that stage when you were still innocent enough that you didn’t care who knew if you had a crush on someone? You actually wanted them to know, you wanted the whole world to know? That’s the stage I’m at in this story.

When I’m by myself, tossing a spaldeen against the wooden steps of my front porch, I work on the assumption she is watching me from her second floor porch window a few doors down and across the street. You’ll have to excuse me but you remember that’s how egocentric we are at that age? With each grounder caroming off my stoop, I’m Buddy Harrelson, going deep in the hole to take a base hit away from a disappointed Johnny Bench. I’m Tommy Agee as I sprint to straight away center field to steal a sure home run away from Willie Stargell. I play these games in my head for hours, casually peaking over my shoulder occasionally, hoping Rose is sitting on her porch amazed at my athletic prowess. I realize now I was a 1970’s version of Tom Sawyer showing off for Becky Thatcher.

I’m aware of Rose’s outfits and I have my favorites. There’s a Seinfeld episode where Jerry describes a girl from his childhood who wore an amazing orange dress and to this day he tells Kramer he has “memory burn.” That’s what I have with Rose’s white turtleneck. I swear this shirt had special powers. Her breasts were amazing to begin with but you put them in this virginal white turtleneck they were positively magnetic. I witnessed this shirt make men walk into lamp posts and oncoming traffic. This shirt actually turned my dad into a flirt. I swear the one and only time I saw him flirt with a girl was because of Rose’s white top but that’s a story for another time. I don’t know what she wore with it, skirt, pants, shorts, who knows? That’s how amazing the top was.

So this is the Rose I was in love with. And who could blame a ten year old? I don’t know what she does to me, I just know that I act goofy when she’s around and as I said, I don’t care. I pine for Rose. I know where she is whenever I’m playing street games with my friends. I know who her friends are. I am vaguely aware of her schedule. Here in the year 2006 this might seem like stalking but this was a more innocent time for me and for the world. I have to be aware of her schedule to maximize my time, and that brings me to the crux of the story.

It’s Wednesday in mid June and Brooklyn is getting hot. Summer is hovering like the heat waves above the car roofs baking in the sun. We know it’s coming, the time when the heat radiates off of everything, when the asphalt of East 4th Street is so liquid it takes barely a few minutes to carve your initials into the street. And a breeze might be our only respite. But this summer the Yannone’s have a pool in their backyard. They share it with their next door neighbors, The Tracy’s, whose son John happens to be just about my best friend.


We called John Tweety, and Tweety as unrealistic as it seems to me, is not as smitten with Rose Yannone as I am. Incomprehensible I know. But he is a normal red blooded American boy and a good friend so he goes along with most of my plans and the various contrivances I use to get Rose’s attention. So this particular Wednesday my wheels are turning. I have a plan.

Wednesdays are half days for those of us who attend Immaculate Heart of Mary, the local Catholic school. We get out early so the kids of our neighborhood who attend public school can attend “religious instruction” or CCD. Given that, Tweety and I are home well before our public school counterparts. And as the bible says, idle minds are the devil’s playground or something like that. So I clue Tweety in on my plan…

“Tweety, hot enough to go swimming today?”
“You bet, wanna get our suits on?”
“Not yet I don’t.”
“Not yet? What gives? It’s freakin’ hot, let’s go!”
“Can’t, I have a plan.’
“A plan?”
“Yeh, listen, this is the plan…”


We sit on Tweety’s stoop, a brick staircase leading to the second floor apartment the Tracy’s rent above Mr. and Mrs. Miller. Tweety and I are half-heartedly playing “stoop ball” where each player bounces the ball off of the brick steps and gathers points for each time a ball is caught but the game is as unimportant now, as it was to me then. I am glancing up the block, in the direction of Beverly Road, the direction we usually walk home from school, but today the kids of East 4th Street who take religious instruction at our school will be walking that route. Including Rose Yannone. I know it’s hot. And I know it’s been a long day for my sweetheart. She’s going to need a dip in her pool as soon as she gets home.

Nervously, John and I make small talk.
John “Who are the Mets playing tonight?”
Jimmy “Phillies.”
John “Nah, they played the Phillies last night.”
Jimmy “Phillies, I’m telling you.”
John “You don’t know what you’re talking about, they already played three games at Shea against the Phillies. I think they’re on the road, at San Diego or something like that.”
Jimmy “Maybe you’re right.”
John “Course I am.”
Jimmy “That means the game’s not on until 10 tonight.”
John “Have to listen on the radio under the covers.”

I’m really not into the conversation, preoccupied as I am with Rose’s imminent arrival. I keep looking down the block. Tweety is absolutely destroying me in stoop ball and I don’t care which is rare as I can be a competitive little snit. Finally, I spy her coming up the block with Helen McNally, they stop to chat in front of the McNally’s house a few doors down. I pick up the ball and just sit there trying to look nonchalant. “Come on. What is taking so long?!” Paul McNally, who just happens to be Rose’s age, comes out of his house. This is not good, I think. Now they begin talking and I am about to burst. Finally, she says her good byes. A smile and a hair flip and she’s heading toward us. Slowly. I am trying to look busy, picking at an ant in the little mortar between the bricks. Looking up, Rose is in front of me. She gives Tweety and I cursory hello as she walks by. “Hi Rose.” We both say in unison, a little too loud and a little too friendly, but she doesn’t seem to notice. She knows I love her and she’s still sweet to me, she never toys with me and that makes me love her even more. She walks into the front gate of her house, up the steps to the porch, says hello to fat Aunt Anna in her house dress, enveloping a poor little old folding chair. Then she’s in the house.

Off we go. Up the stairs, two at a time, past the kitchen, the bathroom, down the hallway and into Tweety’s room, which I should add for those of you who are slow on the uptake happens to be right across the alley from Rose Yannone’s bedroom. And that’s my devious plan, a stakeout. The plan, as I explained to Tweety is, “It’s hot, Rose has had a hard day at school, she’s sweaty and she has a pool! What do you think she’s going to do when she gets home?”
“No.”
“Yes.”
“We can’t.”
“Oh yes we can. And we will.”
“We’ll get in trouble.”
“Who will know? Your mom’s not home? Your sister’s at my house.”
“I don’t think we should.”
“As long as we’re quiet, nobody will ever know.”

So, we’re sitting there, two ten year old boys, on either side of the narrow window, peering out between the window and the white shade. Both of us, whispering, eyes glued on Rose’s bedroom across the alleyway a mere 40 feet away. Watching, watching and whispering, as if she could hear us.

“Where is she?”
“What do you think is taking so long?
“Fuck if I know.” We liked to curse if no one else was around, trying out our new words.
Suddenly, we spy Rose in the kitchen, talking to her mother, a much smaller version of Aunt Anna, but in the uniform of these Italian housewives, the nondescript flowered “housedress.’ Rose goes to the fridge, she grabs something to drink. “Come on already!” I complain. The suspense is killing me. And it’s hot. I decide to get something to drink, my Attention Deficit Disorder kicking in. The Tracy’s have just gotten one of those newfangled Fridges with the ice and ice water dispensed right from the door. It’s too much for me to resist. I scamper to the kitchen, grab a plastic cup from the cabinet and help myself to some of the best, coldest water I have ever had. “Ahhhhh.” I decide on a second cup when I hear Tweety, “Spinner, Spinner, get in here she’s fucking naked.” The cup and the water crash to the floor as I run through the ice water. I turn the corner quickly, scoot to my knees, burning them on the shag carpet and take up my place at the corner of the window. And there SHE is. Walking around her girly, pink room. Naked? Not quite, but all of the important stuff is there for an innocent ten year old boy. And we stare. Roundness. And Voluptuousness. And she looks at herself in the mirror. Who can blame her? I think, she’s amazing. She walks to her closet, she removes her bathing suit. She walks TOWARDS us. And places the bathing suit on the bed. And then she stops. She’s looking right at us. Panic! She’s paralyzed. And so are we. I still don’t know how she saw us. I imagine from her angle Tweety’s bedroom window was a white shade with two saucer-sized eyes on either side. Suddenly I feel bad, really bad for her. She’s stuck. Vulnerable. She wants to cover up. But has nothing handy. She can pull her blinds but in order to do that she actually has to walk toward the window. She has nothing handy. Finally, she yells, “Jimmy and John!” She lunges for her pillow, “Ahhhhh, I’m going to tell your mothers.” Eventually, she pulls the blinds. I imagine, she sat there on the bed, embarrassed, out of breath, maybe her mom came in from the kitchen to see what was wrong. I don’t know, we hightailed it out of there.

For the next few days, as painful as it was for me, I avoided Rose. I kept looking to see if she was coming to my house to tell my mother. Tweety and I watched, intensely, whenever Rose had conversations with his mom Rita, but nothing ever seemed to come of it. Eventually, after sweating it out for a week or so, we exhaled. We realized she wasn’t going to tell our moms.

About a week later in Tweety’s bedroom, sitting within close proximity to the guilty window the conversation goes something like this…
“So, Tweety, why do you think she didn’t tell?”
“She’s probably too embarrassed herself.” he muses.
“Could be, or maybe she figured it was just harmless. Maybe she was flattered?” I venture, always the romantic. Either way, until now, Tweety, Rose and myself are the only one’s who knew about that fateful Wednesday.

Jimmy Spinner

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Fish

I remember him like it was yesterday. He was tall and thin with a bald head and gray beard. On any given Saturday morning he could be seen in the driveway of 395 East 4th next door to my house with his gold 1965 Mustang convertible. With all the doors open and the mats laid neatly on the concrete, there he was just polishing away. He kept all his wax, rags and compound all neatly organized too; they were all inside an old wooden milk crate in front of his car. I clearly remember that the interior of the car was white with the emblem of a mustang running that could be seen in-between the pillar of the two back seats. The paint job shined like glass, along with the chrome plated hubcaps and bumpers.

We were always in awe when we saw his car; it had to be the cleanest, shiniest car I have ever seen in my seven years of Kensington life. The smell of chrome polish and carnauba wax just filled the air like a fragrant flower on Saturday mornings.

And there we would stand on the other side of the fence just watching him rub the tops of the fenders for what seemed like hours.

“Hey mister, your car is really nice”
He just kept waxing away not looking at us.

“Excuse me mister, your car is really nice”
Still no response from the man with the bald head and gray beard.

“Excuse me mister”…

”And if you ever touch it, I’ll break your little hand”

In shock my brother Joseph, cousin Pete and I just walked away to the front stoop of our house. We just sat there in silence; we could not believe that the man with the bald head and gray beard said that to us. Especially after we told him how nice his car was. It was just so wrong and bad. After a few minutes of being scared and upset waves of anger started to take control of our little minds. And my brother looked at a box of smoked trout that my Mom had thrown out the night before. It was just sticking out from the top of the dull silver garbage can.

He just stared at it and then slowly began to smile.

“Ronnie, I have a great idea”.

The trout must have gotten run over at least fifty times on East 4th before it was ready. I ran into the street with a thin piece of cardboard and gently scooped it up. Making sure not to break it in two, I placed our culinary masterpiece in my front yard and watched it bake in the hot Kensington sun.

And then like he did every Saturday, the man with the bald head and beard backed his shiny Mustang convertible out of the driveway and parked it in front of my house, 399 East 4th. As he walked back to the driveway he gave us a mean look. He then turned around and walked back to his car and raised the white convertible top, got inside and rolled up the windows.

There we sat on our stoop, devastated, looking at our squashed trout sitting in the front yard. Well, we could throw it on his hood or roof, but what kind of lesson is that? Just smear it on his door? no. It had to be better than that.

Then we saw it, and we couldn’t believe our eyes. We started stomping our little feet together on the red brick steps of my house. Just the opening we needed. The man with the bald head and beard forgot to fully close the driver’s side window; it was opened about
an inch.

The glory would be ours today!

Under the direct orders of my older brother Joseph and cousin Pete,
I gingerly picked up the trout in it’s stained cardboard serving tray and walked over to the car. They made sure to keep an eye out or the man with the bald head and beard, and he was nowhere in sight.

I slid the squashed trout through the one-inch crack that he left open. The bloody flat fish landed directly on his clean white driver’s seat.

With that we ran.

We never saw the man with the bald head and beard that day; he must have walked home to one of the apartment buildings on Ocean Parkway. And I couldn’t imagine what that car must have smelled like when he opened it up the next day either, because we were at mass in IHM Church on Ft. Hamilton Parkway when he moved it.
Just the good little Catholic angels we were.

So the next time you’re waxing your car and some little kid says “nice car”. Instead of getting angry and telling him “he better not touch it”. Just look at him and say “thanks”.

Because you never know, he may just be my son.

Ron Lopez

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pete and Robert



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.

Get better Robert, and see you at the court.

Ron Lopez
Mopar195@yahoo.com

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mike the Mailman by Charlie Gilli


Mike The Mailman: Inspired by Morris The Ice Cream Guy

I remember Morris and his Camels and his hat, just like it was yesterday! I also remember the sound of those bells and my mom and dad “running for cover,” to avoid the advancing army of kids, both my brothers and me and whatever buddies where tagging along
with us.

Stickball game was put on hold, all of us with our hands out, open-palmed, begging for that spare change that we would eagerly hand over to Morris and if we were really lucky, Morris would let you sit in that front seat and ring the bells yourself!

Wow! Where has the time gone?

I guess the Morris story jogged my memory and combined with a ride by the old neighborhood today and the sight of a green mailbox that is still in the same place it was 45 years ago, well, it brought me to another recollection of our Mailman, Mike…or as we called him back then; Mike the Mailman.

I guess today we’d have to call him "Mike the Mail Carrier"!

Now the green mailbox wasn’t really a mailbox at all, it was/is really one of those green boxes that are here and there. Part of some extensive postal system that most of us not involved in the mail delivery service are oblivious to, this box is used as some type of a transfer station for those mail carriers in the know and not by us civilians. The big difference between it and a functional mailbox is that it doesn’t have a slot. It just has a door and it’s a bit bigger than the boxes where we mail letters.

This particular green box stands on the corner of East 2nd Street and Caton Avenue, diagonally across the street from IHM (the Immaculate Heart of Mary School, my Alma Mater. And down the block, about half a block from where I grew up at 204 East 2nd.

So Mike the Mailman (I'll stick with the old vernacular) was our mail guy. What was it about Mike that made him do what he did? I'll have to just chalk up to him being a darn nice guy, who liked kids in the healthy sense of liking kids. My guess is that Mike was just a "big"
kid himself.

We'd spot Mike making his way up one side of the street and then crossing over and working his way back down the block.
Just to be a bit more specific; I had this debate a few times over the years, but to me "up the block" meant moving in the direction of the addresses getting higher and "down the block" meant the opposite. Some who disagree with me say that up and down the block has to do with which way the car traffic moves.

What do you think?

Now, before you answer, let me blow that car traffic argument right out of the water. What if you lived on a two-way street? The traffic flow goes both ways and your left to depend on the address numbers. So here! I guess we could all agree on the definition of "around
the block.”

Anyhow, back to Mike the Mailman.

So Mike would eventually make his way down the block, moving from Albemarle Road towards Caton Avenue. That's when our kid radar would begin to watch his moves very closely. Once he finished the last house on our side of the block (200 E 2nd), he'd make a bee line for the green mailbox on the corner, and like his pied-piper followers, every kid under the age of 10, would swarm after him.

You see, at some point Mike had made up this game with all of the kids and we all wanted to play. Once we all arrived at the green box, he'd pick a number from one to ten or more, depending on how many kids there were around on a given day. We'd all get to try to guess the number. Whoever got the number or was closest without going over his number, won the game! big deal right?
You bet it was a big deal.

You see whoever won Mike's game got the grand prize. You guessed it! The winner got to get locked up in that green box on the corner and all he other kids would pound away on the great, green,
metal thing!

You had to be inside that box to appreciate that pure kid glee of sitting in that small dark space, and knowing that all your buddies were outside doing their best to provide enough noise and echoes to drive the "lucky person inside to beg for Mike to open the door.

Of course, in all the episodes of Mike's game, I can’t recall one single time that any of the winners begged for Mike to let 'em out! Eventually, probably a few minutes or so in the box, you'd get let out and Mike would have to get back to his civil service responsibilities or knock off for the day or do whatever he did after the green box game on East 2nd Street was concluded.

We never knew or cared where Mike was headed, as long as we knew he'd be back on the following day to do it all over again. Sunday's were always a bummer (no mail delivery, no Mike) and when we'd hear that Mike was on vacation, well, that was a major disappointment too.

Can you imagine some modern day Mail "Carrier" doing that today?
I don't think so!
I wonder how many calls would go in to 311? Or even 911?
Mike the Mailman. What a wonderful guy!

I hope that Mike is still around and gets to read this. I wonder what he'd think if he knew that the kid from E 2nd St, that always guessed 7, was writing about "his" game from 40 something years ago!

Charlie Gili
(PS: I always guessed #7...
because that was Mickey Mantle's number of course!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kensington's Northern Border is.....?

Yesterday on the KWT site there was a discussion about the borders of Kensington. I always knew it as 18th Avenue South, Coney Island Avenue East, Ft. Hamilton Parkway North, and Dahill Road West. It seems like everyone is ok with Coney Island Avenue, but the rest of the borders are all different depending on who you ask. Any input would be great, especially from some natives.

Ron

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Patty D and Bobby Plates



You gotta love these guys,
even now.

Ron

Kensington Sky



Ron Lopez

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What the Heck???


Ok, so after 53 years of living in Kensington I think I've seen it all. For the first time in my life here, I saw a big fat possum walking around in my back yard. No, not a rat, not a cat, no, a great big old possum. I have to tell you I was pretty shocked when I saw this thing. And I guess it was pretty fat from eating everyone's garbage.

Oh well, I guess the Catskills are coming to Brooklyn.

Ron Lopez

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Great Car Buying Experience in Oneonta


Last weekend I had a great car buying experience. There was no “red face”, there was no slimy salesman, there was no inflated bill of sale with a “600” dollar bank fee.

Yeah, Bay Ridge Nissan screwed me with in 2005 after I signed all the paperwork and then re-examined it at home. I even called the bank that was financing my car to ask them about this “fee” and they said there was no such thing. I remember I was so pissed I even called the owner of those “Bay Ridge” franchises to complain, and he said it was the “cost of doing business”. Yeah, screw you asshole, I’m never going to buy a car at Bay Ridge Nissan as long as I live because you screwed me once. Just once, that’s all it takes and you will lose my business forever, yes forever. And your damn right I always made a point to tell others interested in a Nissan not to take their business to Bay Ridge Nissan, because of this “bank fee” that was total BULLSHIT and your 600 dollar profit lost you thousands of my future business and maybe others as well.

Ok, Ok, I'll calm down, I'll calm down...

So fast forward to 2010 and Bay Ridge Toyota…

Now I was going to be given a “deal” because my best friend Peter’s brother-in-law is the manager of this particular dealership. You know, that whole “you’re just like family” stuff so we’re not really going to “screw” you that much.

So I was told to see “So-in-So” when I walked in and tell him that I’m “So-in-So’s” brother-in-law’s best friend. Already the use of too many hyphens was making me leary about this whole “deal” I was going to be given.

“So mister Lopez I understand that you’re a friend of the family, so we’re not going to bullshit you here. We’re going to offer you the best deal possible, you’re going to get our employee pricing on this car.”

“I’m also going to get my best man to help you
with the vehicle and explain everything to you”

Why do they use the word "vehicle" and not "car" anymore?

So off we went, and after spending about an hour with the salesman
who did everything he had to do to try to sell us this car. I was sent
to the “Manager” to talk about this ‘Great” deal I was going to be offered.

So what’s a “great” deal in my mind? Well a great deal is usually
dealer invoice or below. And in the case of this particular car it
would have been about 21, 250 dollars. So that’s the number
I had in my head.

“Well mister Lopez we got you a price
and it’s our employee price of 23,800 dollars”.

“I’m sorry I was thinking more of a price
around 21,000, you know dealer invoice.

Already I could feel the blood rushing to my face and I was starting
to feel flush all over. That usually happens when I’m starting to get
annoyed with someone of worse yet get into a fight.

‘Well we have people and rent to pay
here, and business is business you know”

“OK, thanks, I’ll let you know”

I just got up and walked out of the dealership and met my wife
and daughter in a diner on 65th street just a few blocks away
from the dealer.

“Ronnie, your face is so red, did you get into a fight or something”

“No, I just hate dealing with these jerks, that’s all”.

It took a while for the redness to go away in my face and I somehow
managed to have a nice lunch with my family that Sunday morning.

Is there something wrong with me?
I can loose a hundred thousand dollars in my 401K and not care.
I can loose 90 thousand dollars in the value of my house and not care.
I can spend thousands and thousands of dollars in car repairs over
the years and just say “oh well” and still not care.

But try to screw me over a couple of thousand in a car dealership
and my face turns the most beet red you have ever seen and I feel
like killing someone who wears gold chains.

Yeah, maybe there’s just something wrong with me, I don’t know.

So now let me tell you about a Great Deal and a Great Dealership where you have good honest people and rock bottom prices on some “just as new” cars. The name of the place is Empire Toyota and they are up in Oneonta New York. They offer these great deals on what they call their TRAC cars. These are very low mileage Toyotas that are basically dealer loaner cars that people rent for a few bucks when their car is being repaired. We found a 2010 Prius with only 1800 miles on it for a little over 21,000 dollars. The model Prius we bought brand new would have been well over 24,000 dollars with all the options it has. And let me tell you I did my research on the price of what these cars should be even with the “low miles” and still they were a bargain no matter how you sliced it.

Try to find a 2010 used Prius here in Brooklyn with 1800 miles for that price. You will not, I guarantee you that. And they also have 2009’s and even a few 2008’s with just a few thousand miles on them. And all for a great deal I kid you not.

And what made me feel good about my car and it’s price was the fact that Rob the salesman I spoke to made it clear that these were their lowest prices on these cars and there was really no room to budge. But because I checked all my data I was ok with that and that’s why I knew I wasn’t getting screwed by these guys.

Now you all know I really never plug anyone on this blog, but I thought this was important enough to tell you. Because these guys didn’t pressure me, these guys were honest, and these guys didn’t try to pad the bill in any way. I don’t know, maybe it’s a “country” thing, but there was just not the “bullshit”, “screw you” environment that exists so much here in Brooklyn when you walk into a new car dealer.

No folks, my face did not get red at all when I was talking to Rob the salesman.

Now don’t be afraid Oneonta’s not that far away form NYC and even if you have to rent a car for a day you will still come ahead of any “deal” in Brooklyn.

And once again, I’m not getting anything out of this folks, no, this is just my experience and I feel it’s important to share it with you.

So if you’re looking for a great deal on a low mileage Prius for a price well below anything here in Brooklyn. Check out Empire Toyota up in Oneonta New York.
Ask for Rob Schott.

http://www.empiretoyota.com/
6281 St Hwy 23
Oneonta, NY 13820
(607) 433-0045
and ask for Rob Schott

And no, they didn’t pay me to tell you this.

Ron Lopez
Mopar195@yahoo.com

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Today's Snow in the Catskills


I kid you not, it was snowing this morning in the Catskills.

Ron

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alaina said...

Alaina has left a new comment on your post "Park Slope Ranked #1, but #1000 in Parking":

This is spot on! As soon as I heard that Park Slope got #1 on the neighborhood list I said "Who ever did the ranking never tried to park in Park Slope."

The ranking is messed up, Kensington should rank in the top twenty at least based on Housing Cost, Transit, Shopping & Services, Diversity, Green Space, and Housing Quality. But then again I don't really care if the rest of NYC knows how good we have it.

Thanks Alaina!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Denny's of Kensington


I think Denny was a Ryan, but not sure.
Can someone let me know.

Ron

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring in Kensington


Kensington Webcam 7pm tonight.

Ron

Park Slope Ranked #1, but #1000 in Parking


I don't care what New York magazine says, because my seven car driveway in Kensington is worth more than anything you can sell me in Park Slope. That's a SEVEN car driveway and a guaranteed parking spot every day until I die. Sorry Park Slope, you SUCK because you force all your people to frantically look for parking and get high blood pressure over it. Oh, did I tell you that I have a SEVEN car driveway plus a TWO car garage? Does your 3.5 million Brownstone have that?. Oh, boo, hoo, hoo.

Ron Lopez

Friday, April 9, 2010

The door still sings after all these years.

You know the heavy wooden doors that I have in my house are still the same ones that were here when I was a little kid. And when they slam the doors still make the same exact sound that they did so many years ago. You see they have these large panes of beveled glass that still have some play inside the wooden frame. No I never bothered to put some clear silicone between the glass and wood to quiet them down. And maybe I left the doors alone so they can still make that same exact sound when they slam.

The same sound of a door slamming after almost 53 years, now isn’t that crazy? It’s just so comforting to hear that same sound. The same sound of the door slamming when my brother, father, mother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, aunt and uncle closed that old heavy wooden door.

Oh, and don’t forget my cousin Pete and Denise. You see they were both here a few months ago to see the apartment they both grew up in. And when someone closed the door that leads into our apartment they mentioned to me that they didn’t hear that same sound for many many years.


Yeah, the simple sound of an old wooden door slamming with a heavy piece of beveled glass inside of it rattling away like crazy. Something so simple as that can be so comforting after all these years.

And no, I don’t think I’ll ever squeeze any silicone
between the glass and the frame and ruin that song.

Ron Lopez

Still Standing


The house I live in is about a hundred
and two years old. It has lived through
many wars, a great depression, dozens
of recessions and generations of families
walking on it's old wooden floors.

It has seen both the countless days
of joy and tragic days of sorrow that
we sometimes suffer.

When the world sometimes gets me
down, I look at this house.
Yes, still standing after all
these years.

What a wonderful
world it has seen.

Ron Lopez

Catskill WebCam 7pm tonight



Some green in the Catskills.

Ron Lopez

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Time Tunnel with Cousin Pete


Way back in 1970’s New York there was once a place we called
“The Time Tunnel”. A dark scary block long underground corridor
that connected the 34th street F-train with Madison Square Garden.

I remember many a week night taking the F from Church Avenue
with my cousin Pete to see a Rangers game at the Garden,
and walking through this homeless filled tunnel that smelled so
bad and looked like something from that movie “Escape from
New York”.

It was filled with dozens and dozens of New York’s finest
“Street People” who lived there during the coldest of winter
months. Just lining the walls of the "Time Tunnel" and whatever
little nooks and crannies the place had as well.

And let me tell you this tunnel was real damn long too,
it stretched from Sixth Avenue to Seventh Avenue.
So this wasn’t just some little underpass, no, this was
a freaking city.

Yeah, this was "Kojack’s" New York, and it just isn’t the
same anymore. No, just too polished and too clean nowadays,
and no more “Time Tunnels” before a Rangers game to walk
through, and scare the living "shit" out of you.

Ron Lopez

Mike the Greaser


Back in the 80’s there was a building on the south side of Church Avenue between East 5th and East 4th street. It was just called “SUPERMARKET”
As far as I remember it only opened up when it was dark outside, and the hours of operation were very sporadic. Most of the food inside was usually covered with dust, and most everything was past it’s expiration date. The floors were pretty dirty and I didn’t think they were ever cleaned. It was a fairly big place, about the size of “Rite Aid”, yet there was only one employee. And he was only known to us as “Mike the Greaser”. Now Mike was about 40 years old at the time and stood about 5 foot 9. He had thinning black hair that he slicked back most of the time, and of course his favorite shirt was a “greaser style” t-shirt. Mike was also very hairy, thick black curly hair covered most of his body that normally would have just been reserved for flesh, for you and me. He also spoke with some type of accent that we could never figure out. It could have been anything, Italian, Russian, Greek, Turkish, Arab. We had no clue. And to this day, I still don’t know how he did it, but he used to park his 1978 Buick inside the store. Between the beer and the chips. There was probably a back gate to get it into the store with, but we never saw it and never asked. We would only buy food at Mikes when everything else was closed, and for us it usually meant buying beer and chips for a late night card game over at Glenn Gruder’s house. Mike never asked anyone for ID either, but then again my cousin Pete had a full beard when he was 15. So he was usually our “mule”, sort of speak. Mike’s prices varied depending on what day it was or what kind of mood he was in. And he usually charged us 5, 10, 15, or 20 dollars. His numbers were always in even dollar amounts, "no tax" he always said. I don’t think he even had a cash register in the store either. One night while we were hanging out on my porch at 399. There was a lot of commotion up on Church Avenue. Tons of cop cars, flashing lights and a few ambulances. The next morning when I woke up, word on the block was that Mike was shot something like 5 times the evening before. Some kind of an armed robbery. So all the cop cars the night before made sense. Thinking the worst, we all started reminiscing about Mike, figuring he was dead. Thinking about him in that dirty shirt, the stale chips, the expired milk and the Buick Skylark parked in aisle 5. And not to mention the rare occasions when he lost it, and threw us out of the store. But through it all we loved Mike and were surely going to miss him. So that same night we decided to take a walk to the avenue, and visit the scene of this horrorific crime. “Hey remember the time Mike threw that tuna fish can at you” “What about the time we rolled Mike’s car into the Ice Cream freezer” As we made the right onto Church Avenue from East 4th, we could see the store. Yet, there was no crime scene tape, and in fact the gate was up and the store was open. So we decided to go inside and see what was happening. As we walked into Mikes I noticed a few holes in the front window. They looked like bullet holes too, very round with tiny jagged edges on the inside of the hole. There was someone behind the counter, he was bending over and was fiddling with something on the ground. He had what looked like a white rag wrapped around his head too. And then, he stood up, and our jaws dropped. We couldn’t believe our eyes, it was like we were looking at a ghost. There he stood in all his “Greaser Glory”. With his head bandaged up, his arm in a cast, and a large stained gauze pad on his side, taped to his skin with silver duct tape. It was no one other than “Mike the Greaser” “Hey, you thought I was dead, huh?” “You think five bullets can kill me?” “Bullshit, that’s what I say” “I shot the guys eight times” “You see that blood?”, Mike was pointing to where he usually parked the Skylark, so it was hard to see the blood because of the oil on the floor. “That Fuck died right there”. At that point Mike motioned us around the counter to take a look at something. There inside a small pigeon hole shelf right under the cash box was the handle of a black pistol. “Dont’ta fuck with me, huh?” We all looked at Mike and smiled and then celebrated his survival by buying some expired chips and beer. "20 dollars, no tax". I gave him an awkward hug before I left, trying to stay clear of his blood stained gauze pad at the same time. And then just said our good nights and went on our way back home to East 4th.
I think Mike eventually sold the property and today in its place are a nice row of clean stores. But along time ago there were stale chips, old beer and a Buick in aisle 5. And a man we once knew,
a legend by no other name. And he was simply known to us as
“Mike The Greaser”

Ron Lopez

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

PS 179 and the Atomic Bomb


I remember the sound that came from the square loudspeaker
above my kindergarten classroom at PS 179. It always made
a strange sound, something like a cow mooing, except much
longer and higher pitched.

“Ok children, get under your desks
and put your hands over your heads,
and keep your eyes closed”.

Mrs. Steining was my kindergarten teacher at PS 179 on Avenue C
in the Kensington section of Brooklyn. She wore eyeglasses and
always seemed to have the same black dress on all the time.
She had the loveliest of smiles and was quite kind to us all.

But whenever the loudspeaker made that sound and she
told us to get under our desks and close our eyes, her smile
would quickly disappear from her face. Replaced instead by
a look of futile depression.

"Quickly now, quickly".

We would all scramble to get under our desks, at the same time
our teacher would pull down the shades and turn off the lights.

The classroom always seemed extremely dark at this point,
almost like the Beverly before the movie started.

I would just sit there frozen with my eyes closed, waiting
for something to happen. But just like every other time,
nothing did. Only silence, followed by more silence.

Again the loudspeaker on the wall above the
classroom made it’s strange “mooing” sound.

At that point I would open my eyes, usually greeted
by the old dried gum stuck to the bottom of my desk.

“Ok, children, everyone get up now, the drill is over".

Mrs. Steining would then walk over to the windows and
pull up the large dark green shades. The light of the morning
sun once again filled the classroom. The parachute jump and
Coney Island suddenly appeared for me to see along with the
Ditmas Avenue stop of the elevated F-train.

“flick, flick, flick” went the light switches,
as our classroom suddenly came back to life.

Yes, these were the early 60’s and the Cold War was in full swing.
Welcome to school children, and have a nice day.

Ron Lopez
Mopar195@yahoo.com

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter from the Egghead!


Yes the "Egghead" from Batman, he was
an "Eggcellent" actor that Vincent Price!

Ron Lopez

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Freddie Schefferman we still love you

Sometimes we go through life never realizing
what kind of influence we had on other people.

I have to tell you I was caught totally off guard when Jimmy Spinner, one of the younger kids on my block. Told me what kind of positive effect I had on him while he was growing up. I mean there I was, this goofy longhaired teenager sitting on my stoop with a bunch of younger kids, including Jimmy, all around me. Just telling jokes or listening to the Eagles on my “boom box” until the stars came out. No, not once ever thinking that I was influencing them in any way possible. Especially in a positive manner.

But Jimmy recently told me that his choosing to hang out with me, instead of his other friends on East 8th street probably kept him away from some very bad stuff. Including drugs. And I have to tell you, I really didn’t know what to say. In fact I actually felt a little embarrassed for the first time in my life. Yeah, big old Ronnie Lopez not knowing what to say, because I always have an answer you know.

Me a positive influence?
You have to be kidding, right?

Well, this all brings me full circle to Freddie Schefferman.
A wonderful creative person who had the most “pied piper”
effect on all of us, including me.

Just a bunch of young teenagers sitting around Freddie,
talking about anything and everything until the stars came out.
And not once ever wanting the night to end, because we were
all just hanging out on Freddie's stoop and having the
time of our lives.

Freddie should only know what kind of
influence he had on all of us including me.
And he probably never knew it at the time.

Ron Lopez



On any given August night back in 1975 you could find me down the block on Freddie Schefferman's stoop. But not just me you know, the rest of the boys also made Freddie's stoop their perpetual brick and mortar home. Glen Gruder, Robert Brennan, Neil O’Callahan, Jimmy Spinner and my cousin Pete Liria.

Now most of us were anywhere from fifteen to twenty at the time, and Freddie was much older. Freddie could have easily passed for Jesus or Tommy Chong from “Cheech and Chong”. With long wavey black hair, a beard and little round glasses. It was hard to imagine what Freddie really looked like too.

Freddie may have been 35 years old at the time. His mother and father owned the house he lived in. And from the stories Freddie told us all the time, we were pretty sure that he grew up on the block too. I know Freddie graduated from Pratt in Brooklyn and did work “freelance” from time to time. Hey, he even owned a 68 Triumph Spitfire convertible, so he had to have some kind of dough. But most of the time Freddie just loved to “hang out” on the block. Just looking like “Jesus” in his bell-bottoms, sandals, and yellow and white striped shirt. Leaning against the white picket fence of his house talking to anyone who wanted to “hang out” with him.

Freddie did spend some time in Vietnam too; I think he told us he used to make maps there. But we never pushed it because who knew if he would “Freak out” about it. And Freddie knew just about everything you know, politics, art, religion, history, philosophy, and most important, Brooklyn.

“You kids should have been around here when the Trolleys ran on Church Avenue. You couldn’t imagine the shit we used to do with the Trolleys”

Freddie did share many of his Church Avenue Trolley stories with us. From squashing pennies on the rails to making late night explosions on the high wires by throwing a metal pipe up at the lines, hoping to arc them both at once, and causing something to blow. I guess it did work sometimes, because Freddie told us many stories about being chased by the cops up our block too.

“What the hell are you guys doing here with me?”
“you should be out getting laid somewhere,
you guys are really schmucks!”

Now we never asked Freddie the same question, because it was
still a Saturday night, and the clock just struck midnight for him
too. But we just took his insults in stride, and just listened to
more of his stories.

“Did you guys check out that new program “Saturday Night Live”, now that’s some funny shit. Hopefully NBC won’t cancel it next year like they always do. Bunch of schmucks!”

Freddie was a Jewish 60’s flower child with an edge.

“You guys are little assholes, didn’t you see
that girl walk by and smile at you?”

“Why don’t you talk to her and get her number?”
“When I was your age I had a girl on each arm every night”

No one ever dared to ask Freddie what happened,
because we never saw him with anyone on the block.

No, instead of a beautiful girl on each side of his shoulders,
Freddie had us instead. And let me tell you, we were far
from being beautiful.

Freddie hated the establishment too,
every President sucked,
every Governor sucked,
every Mayor sucked.
But then again we never asked Freddie if he ever voted.

On very rare occasions Freddie would let us down into his basement to see all his photography equipment. Freddie knew all about mold making and casting too. In fact he made me my first fiberglass goalie mask that I still have today. We may have even seen “pot roaches” in empty cat food cans down there too. If Freddie did smoke pot, we never knew it, because he kept his personal life in the basement.

Sometimes some of my friend’s dads would playfully rib Freddie about the fact that he seemed to be blissfully un-employed. Especially my friend Robert’s dad Bob Brennan.

Now Bob worked on the World Trade Center and told us countless stories about being up on the tower crane some 110 stories up. About how it swayed back and forth and almost got him sick on windy days.

“Hey get a job you bum”

Freddie would just laugh with all of us sitting around him.
Like overgrown Santa’s elf’s around our spiritual leader.

“Hey, I am working” “I’m teaching these kids about life,
including your son” “I’ll send you the bill next week!”

Sometimes another great Brooklyn philosopher and storyteller, Freddie’s downstairs tenant “Bobby Wilson” would join in on the conversation. Bobby Wilson was stocky and stood about six feet tall, with a big square jaw, dark blue eyes and midnight black hair. Bobby always looked like he was on the verge of murdering someone. He drove a tow truck for “Al & Leo’s” collision on 36th street near Fort Hamilton. In fact the place is now called “36th Street Collision” and Al is still the owner. Bobby always wore a dark blue jump suit with red script letters “Bobby” on his left chest, With the police scanner blaring and the volume up high, you always knew when Bobby was on the block. And don't forget, he had his name painted on the truck also, so you just couldn't miss him.

I think if Bobby didn’t know Freddie, he may have just beaten him up because of his long hair. Bobby hated hippies, freaks, the un-employed, the protesters, and the left-wingers. I think you get the picture. Yet together they were our own "Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby" right on East 4th street. Just arguing about everything and taking opposite sides on any subject. And of course Bobby’s solution for everything if conversation and debate didn’t work was to just “kick their asses” Most of Bobby’s stories were about his adventures driving his tow truck for Al and Leo. And usually when he was the first person to get to some horrible accident somewhere before the cops.

“Now who has a weak stomach here?”
“Because if you do, I don’t think you want to hear this one”

“OK, I heard this call on the scanner about a roll-over on McDonald and avenue C. It was late at night and I’m just a couple of blocks away. I get there and the car's totally in flames. It looked like a 69 Charger but I wasn’t sure. And the guys still in it because I see his head. So I try to pull the guy out of the car and the only thing I can grab is his head. So I’m on the ground squatting like this, just pulling and pulling. And them “Boom”, I fall backwards and the guy’s head comes off right in my hands. I’m on my back just looking at his head in my hands. I think he was even trying to talk to me too cause his lips were moving”.

At this point Freddie would be looking up at the
sky above East 4th, just rolling his eyes.

“Hey Freddie you think I’m bullshittin?”
“Cause if you do I’ll go upstairs and show you the guys ear,
I cut it off as a souvenir”

Freddie would just shake his head.

And the stories just went on and on, and the hot summer nights just rolled on by. I guess our parents were torn, on one hand they wanted us to be going out more, but then on the other all my mom had to do was poke her head out the window and see us all on Freddie’s stoop.

But just like everything when you were young,
you thought it would never end.
Until one day our nightmare came true.

Freddie told us he found a job and was going back to work.

Well, back to work, that’s ok. Because I worked too, and went to college also. So maybe Freddie couldn’t hang out till 2 AM anymore.

And then it hit us like a brick, my heart sunk, my world ended. Freddie told us his job was in Alaska, and he was leaving within a week, and would not be back for years.

We left the stoop that night feeling very depressed, but still held out some hope that Freddy was full of shit.

But then the day came that would be etched in my mind forever. Just a few days after Freddie told us the news I was sitting on my porch with some of the guys. Across the street was some guy walking with a clean white shirt and kacky pants. He crossed the street and started walking towards us. He had short black hair, clean smooth skin and a big bright smile. He also wore little round glasses.

“Do you guys know who I am?”
We just looked at him perplexed and said “no”
“You’re kidding, you don’t know who I am?”
“Sorry” we said, “we have no idea”
“You schmucks” the voice sounded familiar, yet the face wasn’t.
“I’m Freddie, you assholes”

Oh, my god, it was Freddie, he cut his beard, hair, and was wearing a white button down shirt and dress pants.

We all just stared at him in shock.

“I told you guys I got a job,
what did you think, I was full of shit?”

I guess maybe for once Freddie wasn't
full of shit, no he was really leaving the
block, and wouldn't be back for years.

I don’t remember the day Freddie left,
I may have been working or in college at the time.

We tried to pick up the pieces with Bobby Wilson and his tow truck stories, but it wasn’t the same without Freddie. Then tragically Bobby’s son Bobby jr. got real sick and died of a brain tumor. And Bobby just wasn’t the same anymore.

From what I heard he just stayed inside
his apartment and did a lot of crying.

The stoop in front of Freddie’s house was empty, yet there
was still hope that at least Bobby would be back someday.

But then one day when I got home from work I remember seeing a NYC morgue truck in front of Freddie’s house. I figured it was Freddie’s mom that died because she was quite old. As the black body bag was being carried out of the house, Bobby’s wife Eileen was holding on to it and crying. It was Bobby Wilson.

The doctors said it was an aneurism,
but we knew it was just a broken heart.
Because Bobby just could not live without his son.

I remember the funeral at Pitta’s on McDonald Avenue.
The whole block must have come that night.

And there was Bobby in the casket.
With a cigar in his pocket, and still looking like he could
kick someone’s ass, even in death.

Yeah, it was over.
Everyone was gone.

So the stoop remained empty forever at 418 East 4th.
And after Freddie’s parents died he sold the house.

We moved on with our lives. Found girlfriends or got married.
Some of us even moved away far from the block.

I heard Freddie finished his work in Alaska
and finally did get married.

In fact, rumor is he still lives in Brooklyn.

But truth is, I haven’t seen him in almost 30 years,
and neither has anyone else.

And I hope that some of those late night stories
about Brooklyn and life rubbed off on me too.
Because I grew up with some of the greatest storytellers
in Brooklyn, although at the time I don’t think they had
a clue that they were just that, “story tellers”.

And Freddie, wherever you are.
Thanks for all those great nights on your stoop.
Just hanging out and passing time,
and giving me a "gift" I will never forget.

Ron Lopez
Mopar195@yahoo.com