When I was a kid, Thanksgiving night was usually spent on the road driving upstate to our house in the Catskills.
With the 63 Rambler station wagon chugging up the West Side highway. I always made sure to stay up long enough to see that big billboard-like truck that was somewhere near the Chinese embassy up by 42nd street.
Remember the lights it used to have on all it's wheels? They looked like they were rolling, although the thing just stood in one place for something like 50 years.
And there were always a lot of orange hats in our car too. Because it was hunting season upstate, and you never knew if someone would mistake us for some deer when we went sledding the next morning.
Yeah, there I was little mister Kensington Stories with a great big plastic orange hat over my little head. And the same punishment was doled out for my older brother Joseph too.
Oh, and my dog Skipper, well, because he was pitch black we never let him outside. No, he most certainly would have been mistaken for a sixty pound Black Bear.
Well, those post Thanksgiving weekends were sure fun. And thank God everyone knew where the house was once when the guns went off and the deer went down.
Yes, there was no one prouder than my dad or grandfather when they had a dead deer tied to the roof of our 63 Rambler. Just slowly driving down East 4th street so everyone could check it out.
Sometimes the damn thing would have it's tongue sticking out too! Wow, that really made people "stop and stare" if you know what I mean.
Well, these days are a little different, I don’t really hunt and neither does my wife. And she’s from Texas too, so that’s really shocking.
When we go upstate these days after Thanksgiving I still bring those orange hats though. We even blow an air horn before we go sledding down the hill in front of our house.
But the only thing we have tied to our roof on the way home may be a sled to use in Prospect Park. Just ready to scream and yell "without" our orange hats, when this snowy Catskill winter finally reaches the streets of Kensington Brooklyn.
I have this picture in my head of all these Cooper hockey gloves slowly breaking through the dirt of Greenwood cemetery with a full moon in the sky. One by one the bodies start lifting up through the soil, the jerseys are old and tattered, they are Blackhawks, Rangers, Northstars, Penguins and Flyers. You can't see their faces because there are none. One by one they start standing up and slowly skate on the blacktop that leads out of the cemetery and to McDonald Avenue. Down the hill they go through the darkness of a cold Brooklyn night with splintered old Sherwood and Koho wooden hockey sticks in hand. The blades are worn and almost pencil thin, their quad skates are still spitting dirt and grass from the cemetery as they fly down the hill and zip past cars and buses. Almost floating until they reach Avenue F some two miles away. They make a hard left and skate right through cars heading north on McDonald under the El. Making their way to the court and take their places on the bench, they wait and wait until the sun starts to rise over the apartment buildings on Ocean Parkway.
Yes, it's Sunday morning and they are waiting for us. Because we said we would be there, and not let them down.
The tin’s been moving over Kensington since I was a kid looking out my bedroom window. The flight path is exactly the same and has never moved. On any Sunday night you can count upwards to a dozen Jet lights stretching from Brooklyn through Staten Island and into New Jersey.
In the early 60’s there were probably more prop planes than jets. I would sometimes sit with my Dad on the couch and try to make out the tail markings with my telescope. Pan Am, Eastern, United, TWA. Just about when they reached Ocean Parkway you could see the landing gear start to come down and the planes would usually disappear over the apartment buildings before the wheels were fully in position.
We also had these strange “whirly birds” too; they were double bladed helicopters that used to land at LaGuardia along with the planes and jets. I believe they came out of Newark, but I was never quite sure. I know at one time they used to land at the top of the Pan Am building, now the Met Life building in the city. The gigantic “whirly birds” seemed to end their flights over my house around the same time they ended them in the city. One of them had a horrible accident on the top of the Pan Am building in Manhattan, killing some people on the roof and down below on Vanderbilt back in the early 70’s.
I think I was too young to remember seeing the wounded United DC-8 fly overhead on fire before it crashed in Park Slope in 1960. But according to my Mom, I was home at the time and may have seen it if I was staring out the back window as usual. And I can’t tell you the hundreds of dreams I have had in my lifetime, about seeing a jet on fire flying over my house.
I would have been almost three at the time, but I can’t really say I remember seeing that Jet before it crashed.
I had to spend New Years Day this year at the emergency room with my wife at Methodist Hospital in Park Slope. After about twelve hours they finally discharged her. On the way out we passed by the Chapel in the hospital. There’s a plaque on the wall outside the Chapel that’s dedicated to the memory of a little boy that initially survived that Jet crash. Only to die a day later of severe burns. They bronzed all the change the kid had in his pocket, and attached it to the plaque. His name was Stephen Baltz.
And as far as seeing that Jet fly over my house in 1960 before it crashed in Park Slope. I hope it was just a dream and nothing more.
It’s funny, but there’s something about the crisp weather that will always remind me of playing roller hockey on the block back in the 70’s. Yeah, setting up the net behind Bob Brennan’s Treat Potato Chip truck and hoping that no one breaks one of his tail lights with a near frozen "Scotch 88”. How many of us were there, huh? Six, eight, ten? It’s hard to imagine seeing kids playing in the street now, because that just doesn’t happen in Brooklyn anymore.
Now while most of my friends from the block went to High School in Brooklyn, I was one of the “fortunate” or maybe “un-fortunate” ones who had to make the trek into the City every day. The ride on the F-train was something like one hour and my school was planted right on the corner of Second Avenue and Fifty Seventh Street in Manhattan. So when it came to getting home in time to play with the guys, it was a real pain in the ass. And especially when we had to turn the clocks backward in late October. Because that meant that it was dark by five, and I would only get about 45 minutes worth of pucks shot at me in front of Molly and Martin’s house.
So how did I solve this problem, well when school ended at 3 o’clock I would usually run like hell down 56th street and then up to Third Avenue to try to catch the 3:10 F train from 179th street. The 3:10 would usually roll into Church Avenue about 4 o’clock and that would give me enough time to strap on the pads and the rest of my goalie stuff and skate into the crease by 4:15. Only about 45 minutes of playing time, but I guess it was better than nothing. Oh, but then there were those days that I missed the 4:10 F, and I was cursed with the 4:20 or even worse the 4:30 F to Coney Island. When I was on one of those trains I just about lost all my excitement when it came to playing. That’s because I was doomed to only play for less than a half hour before it got dark.
Yeah, don’t let the sun go down on me. Especially when it came to playing hockey on the block, And especially when the guys were all waiting for me.