Sunday, October 31, 2010

R.I.P. Pontiac

So today I heard that GM is officially retiring the "Pontiac" name.
Yes Pete, just like Plymouth, we now have something else in
common besides being blood relatives!


Friday, October 29, 2010

Do it for your friends and family

You know folks; I always promised myself that I would never lay any kind of crap on anyone. You know, “smoking’s not good for you”, watching what you eat, losing weight, politics, religion, etc. Because truth is it could only lead to bad feelings with friends, and most people don’t like others telling them what they should be doing anyhow. And it’s also a good way to loose a lifelong friend and insult them at the same time. No not me, I’m never going to run that kind of business with my friends.

So that being said, all I’m going to do is tell you guys about my really horrible track record when it came to seeing a doctor for anything, and how after almost 35 years or so I’m slowly changing my ways. So maybe my kids just might have someone to push off a cliff in his wheelchair while wearing his old 70th pct Northstars jersey forty years from now. Holding an old rotted Sherwood goalie stick with a scotch 88 tucked in his yellowed urine stained underwear, yeah that just might be me goalie mask and all.

Ok, so the first time I ever saw a doctor was probably the day I was born in late December of 1957 over at Methodist Hospital in Park Slope. Just a slap on my ass and that’s it. Yeah, that one counts, and that’s number ONE. Then from that point I would assume that my mom had to have me checked every year until I finished high school back in 1975. Oh, but those were my “mommy” check-ups, and not generated by me, so lets not count them because she was calling for the appointments. And besides many of them took place at doctor Albin’s office, and who knew if he was a real doctor anyway?

So let’s start from scratch at 18 shall we?

Ok, doctor appointment number one was made after I had this ongoing temperature for about one month and my urine was as dark as apple juice. I was around 23 at the time and I just met my first wife who was my girlfriend at the time. Who knows what the hell I had? but a trip to doctor Martinucchi on Prospect Park West and a prescription from the Eagle Pharmacy cleared that up after a few days. And of course a follow up to find out what gave me my kidney infection was never ever followed up with. But the original point here was that it took me one month to see someone even though I had a fever and some “Motts” apple juice flowing out of you know what

Ok, that was 5 years from my last “mommy” appointment,
and I guess five years isn’t too bad huh?

Now, the next stretch is real long here, because I can’t even remember ever seeing a doctor for anything. There were bruises from pucks, Delco car batteries falling on my hand, coughs, fevers, cuts, but never a doctor ever being called. There was even a broken finger that I repaired myself after I got “freaked out” at this walk in medical office on McDonald Avenue. I remember this Bangladeshi doctor in a white coat saying:

“Oh, you have not been to a doctor in 20 years?,
it is time for a full check-up my friend”

With that I walked out and taped up my finger in my garage with an old scotch 88 I had sitting in my goalie glove. No, no check-up for me when I can do it myself.

But then that day came, and I was doomed…

I was playing some pick-up hockey in Fort Greene when I was about 43 years old; I made this awkward leg save and heard this strange tear on the side of my leg. For a moment I thought it was my goalie pants, but then the pain came and I knew it was trouble. I went home and put some ice on it, but it did little to ease the pain. By nightfall my knee was swollen and I knew this one was trouble.

Now, what would ever force me to go see a doctor?

A fever? No
A month-long cough? No
A sore throat? No

An injury that would affect me playing goalie? Yes.

So the deed was done, and after about 20 years I made an appointment to see a doctor at the Hospital for Special Surgery to check out my “internet assumed” cartilage tear.

“So who’s your primary care doctor?”
I think I might have actually said doctor Albin, even though the last time I saw him was probably 25 years ago.

“And when was the last time you had a check-up?”

“Oh, it’s been a while”, I said

“Well, we’re going to have to look you over to make sure we can do this procedure”

And they did, but not the whole nine yards, or the finger with the “KY” on it if you know what I mean. But still in my little mind I guess that was some kind of check-up.

Ok, so that was 25 years since the last one, and I guess not bad considering I never died.

Oh, and I guess I forgot to mention here that I got married again when I was 41 years old, and my wife Virginia was starting the old “time for a check-up” thing with me. But that hockey injury solved that problem, so I was covered.

“So when are you going to see a doctor?” said my wife.
“But I’m not sick, so why should I see one?”
“You see a doctor when you’re ok not always when you’re sick”
“It’s called being responsible as a father”

Oh yes, I forgot to mention here that I had a son now and he was two years old.

So I promised I would go and never went, the months rolled by then the years rolled on as well. Until finally I decided to see a doctor that a friend recommended in the city on the Upper East Side. That was 2001 and three years after my knee surgery.

And guess what folks, all was well and I was fine. Blood tests good, blood pressure, prostate and the rest. And once again I was good for another five years or so.

“So when are you going for your check-up again” said my wife.
“But I just went five years ago”
“Five years ago?”
“You’re supposed to go every year”

So once again it was time to make an appointment, and I did. And about five years to the day from my last appointment the doctor saw me again.

And guess what folks, all was well and I was fine. Blood tests good, blood pressure, prostate and the rest. And once again I was good for another five years or so.

“So when are you going for your check-up again” said my wife.
“But I just went five years ago”
“Five years ago?”
“You’re supposed to go every year”

So I made appointments, cancelled appointments, cancelled appointments and then finally went back to see my doctor as a "new patient". Thats because they threw out all my charts because I wasn't there in such a long time.

“You know when you’re fifty you should go for your colonoscopy Ron” said my doctor

“A what?”
“A colonoscopy” said my doctor.
“Here read this”
The doctor gave me this pamphlet on the procedure.

Well, fifty turned to fifty-one, fifty one to fifty two and then the questions from my wife once again.

“So when are you going for your colonoscopy?” said my wife

“Well, let me have my check-up first with my regular doctor and then I’ll schedule my colonoscopy”

And guess what folks, all was well and I was fine. Blood tests good, blood pressure, prostate and the rest. And once again I was good for another five years or so.

But not my colonoscopy, I need to do that sooner than later, because a promise is a promise. And I told my wife I would.

So I went to see the "colon" doctor for a consultation and he told me all about it. I made an appointment at the front desk before I walked out and I promised myself I would not "pussy" out of it. The appointment was one month to the day after my consultation. October 25th 2010.

And yes, I drank that funky drink, and yes I did not eat any solid food for one day. And yes I had a hard time sleeping the night before my colonoscopy because I was scared they would tell me right then and there that something was wrong. Because they will tell you right then and there after you wake up if something looks abnormal.

Well folks, on Monday October 25th at 7:30 am I finally had my colonoscopy, and all was fine. And it’s really not as bad as everyone says it is. And given the fact that many people die from colon cancer because they never have it checked, it’s well worth getting checked out before it’s too late. And if I can do this anyone can, because when it comes to going to doctors for anything I am the biggest six foot three two hundred pound infant in the world! But I did do it, and yes it counts.

Note: Colon cancer is the type of cancer that will just sneak up on you without you ever knowing you have it. You can feel great and run 25 miles a day, but it still may be brewing inside of you and waiting to kill you in a few years. You can eat right, not smoke, not drink and it will spread to your liver before you know it and be a stage four killer. So PLEASE do yourself this one favor, have a colonoscopy soon, because if something is found now, you WILL live to be an old person. And we do want you to be around and so do your friends and family.

Ron Lopez

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Glenn Gruder please come home

Glenn Gruder grew up on my block,
East 4th street. He was one of the guys that I played hockey with during the day and then cards with at night. Glenn always liked to argue about anything and everything, so it made perfect sense that he became a lawyer later in life.
Glenn was an excellent athlete and probably still is.
He was also quite instrumental in my first meeting with
my former wife. And although it didn’t quite have a happy ending,
he was there when it counted nevertheless.

Glenn went to PS 179, Ditmas and then Tilden High School,
a perfect Brooklyn “triple play”. And being a Yankee fan, it only made sense that he went to Willie Randolph’s Alma mater, Tilden.
Glenn attended Syracuse University Law School. So he did finally make it out of Brooklyn, but hell, he was never that far anyway.

So this is where it gets very confusing.
Glenn moved to Smithtown, Long Island after he got married,
and never looked back.

I mean, why would such a powerful Brooklyn soul move to Long Island? He could have certainly fit in “Park Slope”, even though he grew up in Kensington. And all his favorite sports teams were always right here in town. Hell, the Yankees are a subway ride away, the Rangers a skip into the City. Heck, even the Giants are a lot closer than "Smithtown".

And what the the heck is "Smithtown" anyway,
do those two bearded brothers make cough drops there?

So Glenn, what gives? Why did you do it? I know you were'nt afraid of Brooklyn, because you were always tougher than the rest.
And if my memory serves me, I think your mom still lives here too.

Oh, I think I know what it was, that terrible apartment house on Avenue C, between East 4th and East 5th. The endless police cars racing up our block, the gun shots at night. Yeah, I have to admit, the 80’s were really scary, even here in Kensington. And if there was one building that was going to take down the neighborhood, it was certainly that apartment house.

But Glenn, you should see that building now,
it's chock full of wonderful smart people.
And I don't think any of them even carry a hand gun.

What? You mean there were others who left too?
Oh right, my cousin Pete left in 1979
Bobby Brennan in the late 80’s
Neil O’Callaghan in the 80’s
Jimmy Brier in the 80’s
Jimmy Spinner in the 90’s
And Nunzio, even before in the 70’s

What the hell guys?
Was it something I said?

Didn't you guys ever listen to Neil Diamond?
"Brooklyn Roads", "I am I said?"


Oh right, If my mom didn’t need a place to live, I probably would have moved too. But instead, I ended up buying the house, so she could live out her live here in Brooklyn. Because my mom never really wanted to leave Brooklyn you know.

Well, maybe you got me on that one, yes maybe.

Oh, I see, you have kids in school, and it’s not a good time to move back to Brooklyn. OK, I’ll buy that, because uprooting a kid from school is not exactly the best thing anyway.

But aren’t all your kids in college?
So they're not home anyway.

Oh, come on boys, do you all really like the suburbs that much?

Psst, are there really Owls out by you?
And do they really go “Hoot” at night?
And the ticks?
Can they really make you foam at the mouth?
Or is that rabies?

Oh, come on stop, don’t get mad, I was just kidding.

And I know you're going to stand on that soapbox and defend wherever you live. Because anyone that moves out of Brooklyn will always put down the “boro of their birth”, and prop up whatever “unknown” place they live in now, bragging about how great it is.

Yeah, I guess that’s only human nature.

But just remember boys, your “human nature”
starts with a capital “B” and ends with a lowercase “n”.
And the streets are still calling you,
wherever you may be.

Ron Lopez

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Avenue C Hell

When I was growing up in Kensington we only knew
this place as “The Apartment House on Avenue C”.
No, forget an address or anything like that, it was
just “The Apartment House on Avenue C”.

I could tell you that in the 60’s this place was a mix of
young parents, children and the elderly. Many of my
PS 179 classmates lived here and it was not uncommon
to find their grandparents living in the same apartment.
With white pillows propped on concrete windowsills
they’d wave to their grandchildren as they walked up
Avenue C towards school.

And the “Apartment House on Avenue C” was mostly
Jewish too. During the holidays when East 4th was
ablaze with Christmas lights and plastic Santa faces
nailed above doorways. The “Apartment House”
was chock full of brightly lit Hanukah Menorahs”
with orange bulbs in just about every window.

I had friends there; my Mom had friends there.
It was just a wonderful extension of my block,
and was a very solid pillar that made Kensington
that nice in the 60’s.

But then something happened in the 70’s and like
every other “great exodus” it just happened
without warning.

The "Apartment House on Avenue C" had changed,
all my friends were gone and there were no more
elderly leaning on the windowsills. Yes, other people
were living there now and they weren't exactly as
nice as my friend "Harold Levy" from PS 179.

No, instead of placing an orange bulb in a plastic
Hanukah Menorah late at night, a 38-caliber bullet
was being placed in the cold chamber of a handgun.

And seeing a Police car racing down my block and
parked in front of the “Apartment House on Avenue C”
was the norm. And don’t ever mess with
“Lucky and his gang” because he always had a handgun
that he’d flash us when he walked by my stoop.

Yes, the houses on my block were being robbed,
people were getting mugged and my block was changing.
It was time to leave Brooklyn folks, this was it,
and it’s never going to be the same again.

And they did leave, they left in droves.

Now, I’m not going to say that that apartment house
was all to blame for everyone leaving. But it certainly
must have played a major role in some of my friend’s
parents deciding to move to the suburbs. I mean having
the cold barrel of a gun placed on the side of your
temple doesn’t speak kindly of Brooklyn at all.
And I’m sure it “somehow” prompted that real
estate page to be looked at touting the wonders
of “Kings Park Long Island”.

Yeah, forget about East 4th and especially that
“Apartment House on Avenue C”.
a safe place is where we want to live.

So let’s pack up the station wagon,
And say goodbye to the neighbors.
Goodbye “Motherless Brooklyn”,
Kings Park here we come!

Wow, it was amazing how one building and
a few shootings could scare away my whole block.

But then there were those that “stayed”.

And just like in that movie “Escape from New York”,
we sat around the fires we made from burning
car tires and kept ourselves warm at night.

Yeah, some huddled masses never left.
Doomed to suffer on East 4th and Kensington.
All because of the “Apartment House on Avenue C”.
Just waiting for the world to end.

But then something happened.
After a while there were no more police cars racing
down my block, and no more shootings.
Lucky and his boys were finally gone and we heard
the “Apartment House” was going co-op.

It was all so baffling, because East 4th was
headed towards oblivion you see.
And we were all supposed to go to
Hell along with that “building”.

But it never really happened.
Because it went co-op.
Yes, because it went co-op.

And even today some thirty years after
“Lucky and his boys” left that “Apartment
House on Avenue C”, I’m still amazed at how
that placed has changed. Young parents
with children along with some the brightest
minds around always stroll down my block.
All living in a building that would
make 60’s Kensington proud again.

And me, well I'm feeling good these days.
Because instead of "Lucky and his Boys"
walking by my stoop, there are warm smiles
and "good mornings". And no one from
"The Apartment House on Avenue C" ever
flashes a 38-caliber handgun when they
walk by my house.

Ron Lopez

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Vote for my sister-in-law NOW

Vote for my sister-in-law Mariadele because she actually does stuff
for Brooklyn while the rest of us just whine, complain, do nothing,
or even write old goofy stories about when we were kids.
Oh, and by the way, she was also very active with things in Kensington back in the early 1990's and worked with many of the merchants on Church Avenue.

Here's the link, all you have to do is take a few seconds to register.

Why you should vote for Mariadele Priest
Mariadele Priest is a person deeply committed to the betterment of communities and the lives of the people who live in those communities. From her early days as Executive Director of Neighbors Helping Neighbors to her present role as VP, CRA Housing Development at Capital One Bank, Mariadele has not only directed the organizational assets at her disposal where they were needed most, but has also given of her personal time, energy, expertise and resources. A community advocate and coalition builder, Mariadele unites institutions and organizations toward a common goal – a safe, affordable home for every man, woman and child in Brooklyn. She serves on the Boards of the New York Mortgage Coalition and Restored Homes, and chairs the Pratt Area Community Council Board of Directors, leading the charge for holistic community development, not from behind a desk, but in the trenches. She is known in the community for her judgment, and for rolling up her sleeves, diving in and making things happen.

Community Impact
In a city comprised of many diverse neighborhoods, the question, “where do you live?” is a common topic of conversation. But for many people in Brooklyn, the answer is not so simple. Mariadele believes that too many of our neighbors can’t say that they have – what so many of us often take for granted – access to safe and affordable housing. Mariadele has responded to Brooklyn’s housing crisis by supporting the creation and preservation of affordable housing, counseling homebuyers, helping to broaden the services provided by organizations and understanding the proactive role that banks must play in underserved communities. She has also helped local nonprofits build their capacity to serve low-to-moderate income home buyers. Mariadele's homebuyer trainings have helped countless New Yorkers achieve their dream of safe, responsible home ownership. She has also created a peer education program for youth, through which more than 1,000 students across NYC received lessons on budgeting, saving and money management.

Ron Lopez