Monday, December 2, 2013

Bob Brennan (Last night I lost a friend)


Bob Brennan Sr. passed away last night in Brooklyn at the age of 83. Today a big part of my heart is missing, for I will miss Bob forever until the day I die.

Below is a story I wrote about 6 years ago, I am re-publishing it today in Bob's honor...

The greatest storyteller Brooklyn has ever known is my friend Bob Brennan. At 78, Bob is a Brooklyn original you know. From sneaking into Brooklyn Dodger games at Ebbetts field to climbing the wall outside Kings County Hospital to see a live autopsy. Bob just always had what seemed like a novels worth of stories to tell at any given moment.

“Oh, do I have a good one for you Ronnie” said Bob. “You know my brother Joey wasn’t one for doctors, and one day he hurts his arm real bad playing baseball down on Brooklyn Avenue. So after about a week he goes to the doctor. Well, he comes home with a cast on his arm, and there’s my brother going crazy every night with this cast. Its itchy as all hell, he’s sticking wire hangers, ice cream sticks, almost anything he can find to shove up the cast and scratch himself. Well, finally after six weeks he goes to the doctor to get it off. So when the doctor takes a small hammer and cracks it open, “Bang!”. He breaks open the cast and hundreds of roaches come running out.
The doctor gets up and runs the hell out of the room.
And there’s my brother just sitting there screaming with
all these roaches all over him”.

Besides being a wonderful storyteller, in many ways I felt like Bob was the Dad I never had also. When my dad died when I was seven many of the fathers on the block pitched in to either show me how to hold a hockey stick or catch a hardball. And of course Bob had the best arm on the block, he was even called for a tryout for the New York Giants Baseball team before he was drafted and went to Korea. So there I am just standing in front of my driveway at 399 East 4th with my new Rawlings mitt. “OK Bob, I’m ready”. With the gracefulness of a pro-ball player, Bob throws the hardball towards me. Like a streak of white it flies through the air crossing East 4th and hits the newly oiled palm of my glove, “snap”. I just stood there with my fingers and hand feeling like they got run over by the B35 bus on Church Avenue. “You OK, Ronnie?” Too embarrassed to say no, or even cry in pain. I dug the ball out of my oil soaked glove and threw it back to Bob. With the gracefulness of the “Tin Man” before he got oiled, the ball flies through the air, totally missing Bob’s glove. It ricochets off the hood of a 70 Plymouth Duster and lands in “Frank form Italy’s” tomato garden. Instead of laughing or being upset, Bob just retrieves the ball from the tomato garden. He walks over to me, “OK, now I’m going to show you how to throw the ball”. Yeah, that was Bob.

You have to understand that Bob’s stories and his personality were almost medicinal too. In some of the darkest days of my life I could always count on Bob to help me forget my pain. All without him ever knowing that he was doing just that.

After my little sister died at 33, I had to go to Kings County Hospital and identify her body. Without a moments hesitation I asked Bob if he could come with me. And without any hesitation on his part he just said “yes”. “Hey Ronnie, did I ever tell you about the time me and my brothers climbed the wall outside the morgue wing to watch them do an autopsy?.” Although I heard it before, I would rarely say yes, and especially not today. “No Bob I haven’t.
When I had to pick out a casket for my sister the next day at Pitta’s on McDonald Avenue. There was Bob with me in the “showroom” down in their basement. “Hey Ronnie, did I ever tell you the time I was at a funeral over at Cypress Hills Cemetery?” The ground is totally covered with ice, and here’s these two guys pulling the casket up a steep hill. Well one of the guy’s falls and the casket comes sliding down the hill like a toboggan at Prospect Park. It hits a tree and the stiff comes flying out of the casket". "What a mess I tell you”.

The Casket cost me fourteen hundred dollars,
but the therapy was free.

And the stories went on and on, from a baby eaten to death by rats in Brownsville when Bob was a kid. To the midget that fixed his oil tank in his basement, because he was small enough to fit inside it to do the repair work. Yeah, Brooklyn through and through, that’s Bob.

You better believe that Bob was one of the first people I saw after 9/11 too. Bob was a tower crane operator and worked on the World Trade Center back in the early 70’s. He used to tell me stories about sitting up in the cab some 110 stories up in the sky. “With the wind blowing it felt like you were on a ship, just rocking back and forth.” Bob pulled a lot of steel from the street to help build those buildings. And on 9/12 there I was, just sitting at his kitchen table. Looking at old photos of him standing on the roof of Tower 2 while the building was still a skeletal frame.

In many ways I feel bad that everyone doesn’t have a “Bob Brennan” in their life. Or maybe the entire Brennan family for that fact. There certainly would be a lot more laughing and less prescriptions being filled out at “Walgreen’s”. Yeah, that was my anti-depressant, a quick trip to 422 East 4th.

The other day my company was splashed across the business section in the “Wall Street Journal” another 2500 layoffs in 2008. So what’s a grown man to do? worry you say? No, just call Bob Brennan for that quick pick me up. “Hey Ronnie, did I ever tell you about the wedding I went to, here’s this guy standing over the bar like this. He has his eyes closed and just looks real stiff. When his wife tries to grab his arm, he’s cold as ice. This guys dead, standing up right over the bar, looking at his martini”.

Yeah, the greatest storyteller I have ever known lives on my block, and his name is Bob Brennan, and I’m proud to call him my friend.


Ron Lopez
(Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.)

Monday, November 25, 2013


Back when I was a kid growing up in Kensington you rarely saw a parent taking a kid on the subway at eight in the morning. And if you did, is was probably for a doctor’s visit down on Clinton Street, or a day off to see the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center. No, no trains here, we just walked up our block and made the right on Avenue C. Our loyal institution of learning was just that close,
and that was “too close”.

Oh, public school 179, how I hated seeing you from my front window each and every day. With your two gigantic smoke stacks rising high in the sky there was no way I could miss you, even on the weekends. And on those dark winter mornings you were there too, the classroom lights just turning on before my little blue eyes. Flick, flick, flick, “yes we’re open for business”, “see you soon!”. Oh, and lets not forget to say the “Pledge of Allegiance” an hour and a half before we said it again in class. There was that little tiny figure again standing on the roof of the school, raising the “Stars and Stripes” on that tall white flag pole.

Sometimes I even used my binoculars to see if it was one of my teachers trying to send me a message. But my best instincts told me it was just the maintenance man. Forget Pre-school, Pre-K, or Special-K, it was kindergarten when you were five years old and nothing else.

“Pete let go of the pole”.

My cousin Pete and brother Joseph were the first to fall victim to the giant “Monster of Grout” on Avenue C. But Pete’s first day had to be the most memorable. There he was just holding on to the dark green enamel pole in the gym for dear life. My Aunt Dolores and Uncle Pete trying to un-lock his tiny arms that were wrapped tightly around it.

“No, no, no, I’m not going, noooooooo!”

At some point according to history my Uncle lifted my cousin up by his "Buster Browns" and held him horizontally trying to pull him off the pole. My cousin did loose a valiant battle that day, his little hands succumbing to the strength of two massive adults. But not before he scratched off some lead based paint from the green pole.

And me? well I had a whole year to absorb all the horror stories about your “first day”, and the nightmare called “kindergarten”. The strange kids, the white paste, ice cream sticks, and the dreaded colored construction paper. Yes, my “Castle of my discontentment” was right there before me, and I saw it every day.

And forget any “gifted programs” at 179 back in 1963; no, you were just ranked by your class number. The low digits meant you were smart, i.e.; 4-1, 4-2. While the high numbers meant you better start learning how to mix concrete, because you weren’t going to law school any time soon. But kindergarten was still a mixed bag, where they proudly paired the lawyers and the plumbers of tomorrow all in the same room.

“Hey kid, do you have any “Pez Candy?”

“What do you mean?”.

“Lopezzzzz, Pez Candy, Lopezzzzz!”.

And that’s when I started to cry. My first day of kindergarten and I was already being mocked. I tried to stay calm but then suddenly I felt rage building inside of me, just wanting to glue that kids face with some construction paper and white paste.

“Ronnie, just remember the first day is always the hardest”,

I could hear my mom's voice from deep inside my head,
she always calmed me down when I was about get angry.

So I put down the glue and just walked away.

Well, the days turned to weeks, the weeks to months, the months to years. Junior High, High School, College. And the days at P.S. 179 just became a distant memory of my childhood.

It’s strange but I still see the giant smoke stacks of P.S. 179 from my front window, and my son passes it almost every day on his way to school in Bay Ridge. I wish going to school for him was as easy as it was when I was a kid. Just a walk up the block and then a right on Avenue C. But that’s just another story for another day.

But maybe some things really don’t change; every September when school starts my son Andres gets very nervous about the new school year. I just try to remind him that “the first day is always the hardest” and if he ever gets mad, just “put down the glue and
walk away”.

The truth is my "Castle of Discontentment" actually became my "Castle of Enchantment". And I still smile like I did in my kindergarten class photo each and every day when I pass P.S. 179, never forgetting my first day.
(I am second row, second from left)

Ron Lopez

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hanging out on Freddie's stoop

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
http://www.facebook.com/ronald.lopez.7946

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Rev in Action (from October 2011)

video
http://www.facebook.com/ronald.lopez.7946

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Rev (R.I.P)



East 4th will never be the same anymore,
the Rev died this morning.

I have known the Rev for all of my 54 years here on Earth and in Brooklyn. His loud booming voice was a trademark for our block along with his laughing. The Rev knew my whole family, my mom, sister, brother, father, grandfather, grandmother, etc. He used to tell me sometimes that they spoke to him from beyond the grave, especially my mother. He used to tell me that my mom told him to watch over me because she's no longer here and needed him to do so. And although I don't really believe in much, I always believed the Rev somehow. Because "I can speak to the dead you know, because I am a Profit sent here by God". Yeah, the Rev just had that kind of power, the power to make you believe in something.

"Hey Ron, you know you got to take me with you to the mountains one day, I want to see the mountains and your house in the country" Well, I never got to take the Rev up to Delaware County and I'm feeling bad about that now.

One time back in the 90's the Rev drove with Bob Brennan, Tommy Brennan and I to Kennedy airport to see us off on a trip to Spain. He was hooting and hollering in the car the whole trip and made me totally forget about my fear of flying.

"Hey Baby"

"Hey, what's going on Man?"

"Good morning to you beautiful"

"Ahhh, haaaa, haaaa, Woooooooo!"

"You know I'm a Profit sent here by God"

"You've got a dollar, I've got a dollar"

"You're FUNNY Boy"

From giving away food that the Rev had in his trunk to just being out there polishing his car, you knew everything was always all right when the Rev was there. He kept and eye on you and he kept an eye on your house when you were gone. Yeah, thats some Rev action going on and you knew it.

You know back in the 70's the Rev used to come out of the Margaret Court dressed in a long white fur coat, big old white hat with the two most beautiful black women holding each of his arms. He'd walk with them to his big white Caddie and they'd be on their way. Oh, I know what you're thinking, but no one ever really knew and no one ever asked either.

"Hey Ron, you know you and I got to take this show on the road and go preaching together. I got a white suit for you and a hat you could wear. We'll visit prisons and churches all over the country and preach together"

Well, it all sounded good but with two kids, a full time job and a wife it may be a little difficult.

"Hey Rev, you got to wait till I retire in five years or so, then we'll do it!"

I really thought the Rev was going to be around a lot longer, from one day driving his car to the next morning having a massive stroke. It just all seemed to happen too quickly for me. You see the Rev was supposed to live till 100 and still be polishing his car out there right now. There was a trip to the mountains for us, there were trips to the Hollywood car wash together like before. There was supposed to be more hanging out on my stoop together, no the Rev was supposed to be here on East Fourth much longer than this. This just isn't right.

After the Rev had his stroke I went to visit him a few times in the hospital. While his body seemed strong his mind was not all there. He really didn't know who I was although he could stand straight up and still preach the word of God just like always.

I remember giving him a great big hug before I left and kissing him on his cheek.

"You know I'm a Profit, and God speaks through me"

No matter how much I never believed anything else,
I always believed the Rev.

And I'm glad I did.


Ron Lopez
Mopar195@yahoo.com
http://www.facebook.com/ronald.lopez.7946

Friday, March 16, 2012

When the Sun Sets over Brooklyn


The old woman moved very slowly down the cold concrete sidewalk of East 4th street. Her body was bent forward as she used the tiny blue shopping cart to help steady her walk. With her knuckles swollen and her hands looking somewhat distorted, she gripped the cart's thin metal bar for dear life. Wearing her old favorite tan overcoat and dark sunglasses she had hair as white as a new fallen snow. The wind was bitter cold as it blew against her skin, she seemed to be counting her steps as she walked. The wheels of the cart squeaked quite loudly and made a sound that was almost seemed musical, the spokes just glistening in the morning sunlight. I watched her until she vanished around the corner onto Beverly Road.

She was tall and beautiful with long brown wavy hair and dark blue eyes. There she stood under the big clock at the Hotel Astor in Manhattan. “Hey gorgeous, how about a movie tonight?” The young woman smiled as she glanced back up at the clock. It was five minutes to six and her date would be there any minute. His name was Ray Ravelli, and he was a professional boxer. Tonight there would be a lot of stopping on the way to dinner, because everyone knew Ray when he walked through Times Square. As the clock struck six and the bells gently tolled, she saw Ray walking towards her.
She smiled as he took her hand.

“Hey Ray, when you going to fight Graziano again.” With quickness in her steps she pulled him along through the busy sidewalks of Times Square. Ray, unable to answer the question from the stranger just turned to her and said, “Hey Stella, how about we just get married and move to California?”. She just looked at him and shook her head "No".

She looked into the mirror and closely studied her face. The mirror just looked back at her, staring straight into her eyes. “Who you looking at you old woman!” The lady in the mirror just smiled back. With much caution in her steps she slowly walked out of the bathroom and headed towards her favorite chair by the window, her old bent finger flipped up the switch of her radio. She loved “Prairie Home Companion” on a Saturday night. Then she reached into her bathrobe pocket and pulled out her mother’s old magnifying glass. She placed it against the face of her watch and slowly drew it towards her blue eyes. It was six o’clock and time for another beautiful sunset over Brooklyn.

My Mom never married Ray the boxer. He wanted to elope and move to California, my mom just wasn’t that adventurous and instead decided to stay in New York and make Brooklyn her home. She loved the excitement of Brooklyn and especially the young people. “Do you think I want to live with a bunch of old people and hear all their stories about aches and pains? no, I’d rather live with the young, at least they help you forget that you’re old”.

My mom died on October 13, 2001 at the age of 83.
She never left Brooklyn, and I never remembered to oil the squeaky wheels of her carriage.

Ron Lopez
Mopar195@yahoo.com
http://www.facebook.com/ronald.lopez.7946

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Goldfeather


He used to walk up my block when I was a kid. He was a short man maybe in his 50’s. He had black hair, a moustache and thick “Buddy Holly” style glasses.
Sam usually wore a brown overcoat in
the winter and a sports jacket in the summer. He could always be seen wearing a brown or black derby too.

Now Sam also walked with a cane, except most of the time it was never touching the sidewalk. Instead he used it to point at people.

“Hey ya bum ya, you fuckin bum”

those words were Sams trademark as he walked up East 4th.
And he usually uttered them when he was drunk.

Now, we were never mean to Sam, and actually liked him. Even when he called us “fuckin bums”, because we may have been only five or six years old at the time and actually thought he was funny. So there he would stand with a newspaper under his arm, his face flushed red and a bottle sticking out of his coat pocket. His old cane right in our faces as we played in front of our house.

“Hey you know what you are?”
“A FUCKIN BUM!”.

We would all start laughing at this point because Sam always had a smile on his face when he cursed at us.

“Thats Goldfeather,
Sam Goldfeather”

And then he would slowly walk up the block towards Avenue C.
Just pointing his cane at anyone he saw until he vanished around
the corner.

And then there was Sam’s brother Irving Goldfeather” who looked strikingly similar to Sam. Except Irving was always seen walking in the opposite direction towards Beverly Road. Usually on his way to work in the morning. Yet, Sams brother was quiet and businesslike and would always tip his hat to my Mom and say:

“Good morning Mrs. Lopez, a beautiful day isn’t it?.

“Mom, why don’t Sam and Irving ever walk together?”

My mom would usually just say that “Maybe Sam sleeps late”.

Then one day Sam told us while waving his cane in our faces that he was moving to Florida and wouldn’t be around anymore. He said his brother Irving would be staying, and for us to be nice to him.
Well, I guess I was pretty naive because I must have been in High School before I figured out that they were actually the same person. And Sam did a pretty good show holding a job during the day only to drink his problems away at the bars on Church Avenue, and then from his pocket before he got home. But truth is from that day on we only saw his brother Irving walking up and down the block. And he never cursed, always wished my Mom a good day, and only walked with his cane touching the sidewalk.

Ron Lopez


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rev Update...

The Rev seems to be getting better and is making progress according to the medical staff at Maimonides hospital. He is being looked after and can actually walk and feed himself on his own. He's still a little groggy but is starting to laugh like he always did here on the block. We are all hoping and praying that he makes a gigantic recovery and returns to his old apartment here on East Fourth street. So once again folks, lets all say a prayer for the Rev.

Ron Lopez

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pray for the Rev



This past week the Rev suffered a stroke. He's in the hospital right now recovering. Please say a prayer for the Rev and let's hope he someday returns.

The following is a piece I wrote last year...

I have known "Prophet Allen" for just about all my life here on East Fourth. And if my memory serves me right, the "Rev", as all us natives actually know him, moved here sometime in the mid-1960's from
parts unknown.

With a bellowing laugh that could be heard all the way from Church Avenue, "the Prophet" is certainly a living legend of East Fourth, and probably all of Brooklyn as well. Wearing his signature "white" outfits, Prophet Allen can be seen almost every day of the year polishing his automobile of choice to perfection.

And they are usually white as well.

"You know Ron, a clean car means a clean mind"

Yes, I have heard these words mentioned to me many times in the past. And if my mini van is an indicator of how clean my mind is, then I'd probably be doing something very different right now than writing this blog. And I'm sure the "Prophet" would be praying for me right now and cleansing my soul of all its demons.

Yes, Prophet Allen,
A living legend of East Fourth,
and also a good friend of mine.

Long Live the Prophet!

Ron Lopez
Mopar195@yahoo.com

Monday, December 19, 2011

Some Bad Habits at IHM


As I sat in my third grade classroom in PS 179 I could hear them roaring towards us. From my desk I could look out the window and see their long yellow roofs. They parked in front of the school entranceway on Avenue C. With their diesel engines just clattering away, I knew it was my time to go. On every Wednesday at 2 o’clock my stomach would start to hurt. It was time for the public school Christians to leave our sanctuary of bliss and head North up East 3rd street to The Immaculate Heart of Mary school. It was time for “Religious Instructions”. As I gathered my books and headed out the door I looked back and said good bye to Miss Saltzman. She just smiled back at me looking as beautiful as ever in her white go go boots. As I started to walk down the battle ship gray stairs I really started to feel nauseas. But you see I wasn’t alone, about four other
children followed me down. All of us silent, no words ever spoken. “Ronnie are you feeling OK” asked the school bus matron. A friend of my Mom’s whose name always escaped me. I tried to smile at her, but my lips always had a problem arcing up on the sides on a Wednesday afternoon. I always sat in the back of the bus too. Right under the “emergency exit” sign. Maybe hoping it would open up one day and I would just fall out. As the bus driver closed the doors, I closed my eyes. The bustling clatter of the diesel engine got louder as we pulled away and made a left onto East 3rd street. The ride up East 3rd street was the greatest torture. Especially as we passed Church Avenue, because everything I loved was right outside the school bus window, almost within reach. Kennys Toy Store, Lee’s Toy Store and a brand new Pizzeria called “Korner”. All the places I loved to visit with my Mom, yet here I am sitting on a cold school bus seat heading towards my doom. Church Avenue just vanished in the distance behind me. The bus made a left on Fort Hamilton Parkway and gently stopped in front of IHM School. We all silently gathered our belongings and filed out the bus. At this point I would really start to dread them. With my stomach feeling worse I was hoping to start throwing up this time before we got inside. One of them opened a heavy red metal door, dressed only in black, she just stared at us through her little round eyeglasses, not saying a word. The
public school heathens had just arrived. We sat in the classroom, all silent. One of them stood in front of the chalk board, she too was dressed in black with something white around the top of her head. Some kind of hat. Right below her head was a large white disc that looked like it was sawed in two. She held a long wooden yardstick in her wrinkled old hand. She just stood there glaring at us. I could make out her bee bee eyes behind her glasses, they were dark blue. She started to speak, “Now who can tell me about Jesus......And then it happened like it always did. There she was standing in front of the class. She had to be the most beautiful teacher at 179. Miss Saltzman, with beautiful dark eyes and long silky black hair. She had to be a dream, because when she spoke to me I just melted. When I’m old enough I’m going to marry Miss Saltzman, my third grade teacher. And even when she handed me my test papers that usually scored no more than 65. I just stared at her beautiful milky white hands and then her beautiful face, then down her neck to her tight pink sweater and then at her two beautiful full......Wack!, Wack!, Wack!, the tip of the wooden yardstick slammed hard on my desk, just barely missing my little fingers and almost hitting my Timex Dumbo watch that my Mom just bought me for Christmas. “I said wake-up and pay
attention young man!” “Don’t you care about Jesus?” At that point I was too scared to look up at her, I could only stare at the cross that was hanging on her waist with some sad looking skinny man with a long beard nailed to it. “I said look at me when I speak to you!” Now she was screaming at the top of her lungs. “I said look at meeeeeeeeeee.........and that’s when it happened. Without warning it just burst from my stomach, hot and steamy, with little pieces of the hot dog I just had for lunch. And it was all over her black dress, with some of it hitting the little man on the cross. I had just vomited like so many times before, and the “nerve medicine” my Mom gave me every Wednesday morning failed to work, again. I just sat
there frozen and she just stood there silent. “Now go to the boys room and clean yourself up”. I got up from my desk, I could feel evey ones eyes staring at my back as I walked out the door and down to the Boys room. I tried my best to wash myself off and I must have been there for a while, because when I walked out I could see my Mom talking with the Nun outside the classroom. My little sister Isabel was there too, just sitting in her stroller staring at the Nun. We left early that day and as we walked along Fort Hamilton Parkway towards East 4th the Church bells started ringing.
“Mom do I have to go back?” “You know what you have to do Ronnie”
is all my Mom said. Well, I did somehow manage to survive “Religious Instructions” and even made my Communion and Conformation at IHM. All because I knew “What I had to do”, Something thats just in your blood when you’re from Brooklyn. But the truth is even today some 43 later, I still can’t help but feel a little nervous when I see a Nun. The memories of “Religious Instructions”, the bus rides and the vomiting just come back to me like a nightmare. Because you see, even at 50, Some Bad Habits” are just too hard to forget!

Ron Lopez

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Still giving thanks after all these years!

It all started early on Thanksgiving morning, my brother Joseph, little sister Isabel and my cousins Pete and Denise would all either walk up or down their respective flight of stairs to our grandparents apartment on the second floor. We would then camp out on the rug in front of the TV and wait for the start of the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. My grandfather Paco would be sitting on his "Lazy Boy" right behind us all waiting for the show to start. The turkey cooking in the oven usually started in the morning too, and you could just about smell it throughout the entire house. Later in the afternoon the whole family would be there sitting around the dinner table. The voices of my aunt and uncle, grandparents, cousins, brother, sister, mother and father could be heard throughout the hallows of the wooden stairway. Not to mention the dogs barking too. So, I'm thankful for living in an attic apartment with my Mom, Dad, Brother and sister. Being able to grow up with the entire family in one big house, on one great block, in the City of Brooklyn. And still have all those wonderful memories to write about for now and the years to come.
And Hey, Still giving thanks after all these years!

Ron Lopez

Friday, September 23, 2011

Donald and the F train


He was tall and thin and carried a black garbage bag onto
the subway car. His skin was dark and his face unshaven.

I remember looking at another homeless man that day on
the F. He walked on to the train at the 14th street station
by Union Square, and just stood there across from where
I was standing.

And people gave him his “room” too, because that’s
what you do when the homeless walk onto your train,
you just give them their space, and hope they don’t
bother you.

I just stared at him and looked at his eyes, because
the eyes never change, even when you’re homeless.

He looked back at me, his eyes were as dark as coal,
he said nothing.

I know he felt strange when I saw him too. So he just
walked away and sat down on a seat facing the opposite
direction so I couldn’t notice who he was.

The people sitting next to him all got up and found
other seats in the subway car.

I walked towards him though, and sat beside him.

“Hey Donald, remember me?
it’s Ronnie from Art & Design”

He turned his head towards me,
but didn’t look in my eyes this time.

“How you doin man?” is all he said

“I’m fine Don, I’m fine”

“Yeah, well, you know since High School
things have been a little rough for me”
“I’m ok, but things are just not that good”

I remember my first day of high school back in 1972,
Donald was one of the first people I sat with at
the lunch table in the back of the cafeteria.

Donald always wore these really cool tinted sunglasses and
had a small goatee. While most other kids weren’t even
shaving yet, including me, Don looked like he may have
been about 20 years old.

Along with Donald, I also sat with Ernest and Sandy.
Donald and Ernest were black, while Sandy was Jewish.
We were certainly a cross section of New York, but hey.
That’s what made the High School of Art and Design
so cool back in 1972.

Yeah, the High School of Art and Design. I never knew
some of my best friends were gay until my senior year.
And to tell you the truth it never really mattered either.
Because we were all such good friends, and all artists anyway.
All going to a school were nobody cared about “what” you
were. And no one felt they were better than anyone else.

We all just loved that school so much,
including my friend Donald.

“Hey man I’m getting off here”

I reached into by jacket and gave
Donald a twenty-dollar bill.

Donald just looked at me and said “thanks”.

That was about 25 years ago and
I haven’t seen Donald since. But the
memory of that day will stay with me forever,
because Donald was a friend of mine.

So the next time you see someone riding
the F-train with a bundle of sorrow.
Think about my friend Donald, and never
ever feel that you’re better than anyone else.
Because someday that person might just be you.

Ron Lopez

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I always knew this...

Kensington/Boro Park Tops List of Safest Brooklyn Neighborhoods
September 7th, 2011 11:55 pm
In a “Crime & Safety” report issued by DNA/Info and detailed in AM/NY, Kensington/Boro Park ranks at the top of its list of the 5 safest Brooklyn neighborhoods and is considered the third safest neighborhood in the entire city.

CRIME IN BROOKLYN

5 safest neighborhoods
1. Kensington and Borough Park
2. Bensonhurst
3. Sheepshead Bay
4. Bay Ridge
5. Windsor Terrace

5 least safe neighborhoods
1. Brownsville
2. Fort Greene and Clinton Hill
3. Bedford-Stuyvesant
4. Brooklyn Heights
5. East New York

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Little Help Here??



My friends in the Catskills got slammed by Irene. No, it was no joke here and many towns were destroyed. Please help the folks up here by donating something. Here is some info about where to donate:

http://www.watershedpost.com/2011/catskills-flooding-hurricane-irene-relief-and-recovery-resources

Thanks,
Ron

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Sewer Cap


We could hear the sound of the engine accelerating from the far reaches of Church Avenue. The moan of the small block V8 was fast approaching, its demise was in reach.

“This is going to be a good one,” someone said.

We all quickly got up from my front stoop and ran into the street. Our eyes were all fixed on a late model olive colored Pontiac, it looked like a 68 or 69 GTO. As it raced down East 4th and approached Beverley we prepared ourselves for that horrible sound.
A familiar sound we heard hundreds of times before, a sound that wounded or killed many a car engine or Torque flight transmission. Or maybe worse, ripped an entire motor from its warm enamel painted nest.

As the racing Pontiac crossed Beverley, it’s front nose quickly dipped downwards towards the asphalt. From the distance it looked as though it’s four headlights and painted rubber bumper were gently kissing the black-top below. But then in an instant its face lifted upwards towards the Brooklyn skies above.

BAAAAM! BAAAAM!

With two quick hard hits to its stomach, the Pontiac bounced up and down like a child’s toy. Blue smoke and sparks quickly seized the area under its hot undercarriage. From a high speed one moment to a slow crawl the next, the grasp of the monster had just ripped its guts out right before our very own eyes.

The sound was so loud you could probably hear it from Greenwood Avenue too. It was the sound of metal being crushed and bolts being ripped from the flesh of the car. A transmission pan being slashed down it’s belly, or even worse a heavy steel frame snapping in two.

It was the sound of automotive death on a warm Kensington day.

The Pontiac slowly limped down our block, spewing blood and entrails behind its broken tin shell and warm red tail lights.
The 350 four barrel was just “chugging” a slow horrible song,
gone was the glorious melody of its real V8 power.

The driver quickly pulled over to the right in front of an apartment house, the Margaret Court across the street. He quickly got out of the car holding the top of his head. He was all right, but the force of the impact must have lifted him off his seat and into the air, hitting his head on the roof of his car.

The Pontiac was still smoking and spewing both white and blue smoke. Through the mist of its destruction you could see that the body was broken in two. The nose looking downwards at the ground, while the taillights were angled upwards looking towards
Windsor Terrace.

Yes, this was indeed a bad one, for the Pontiac looked dead.

The driver just stood there staring at the car, and then turned around and slowly walked away up the block. He made a left on to Beverley Road and was never seen again.

That GTO must have been there for what seemed like months.
Like the corpse of a great racehorse, it just lied there rotting in the Kensington summer sun. Until one day it was gone, leaving us only with a puddle of motor oil and red transmission fluid.

Just another insurance payout in the Boro of my birth.

And even today, some thirty-five years later, I still slow down before I cross East 4th street at Beverley. Just taking it real slow and gentle before I get to my house.

I guess some habits are just hard to break you know.

Because you see, a long time ago there was a horrible iron monster that lived in the street. It was probably just a few inches too high for it’s own good. Heavy cast iron, with holes for its eyes. And I’m sure it must have weighed well over a hundred pounds, and took more than one man to move.

And it had the blood of a hundred cars on its face and always thirsted for more. It was murderer plain and simple and proudly bared it’s name to all, never caring when it killed. Just heavy bold letters and in capitals no less, forever reminding us of its deadly presence here
in Brooklyn.

And if the name wasn’t tearing apart the bellies of cars, it was instead emptying the bank accounts of New Yorkers with blue and white bills being slid through a mail slot.

A long time ago there was a killer on the loose
and it sat at the edge of my block.
It showed no mercy and never picked favorites.

So just drive slowly my Kensington friends,
and remember the deadly
"CON EDISON" manhole cover.

Because it’s long gone now,
and only a distant memory
in the Kensington of my youth.

Ron Lopez

Friday, July 8, 2011

Joe Mirada's Pet Store


I think Joe Mirada’s pet store was somewhere way down Church Avenue near 36th street.
And from what I remember as a kid, the place was a very, very long walk from East Fourth.

A small, smelly pet store that may have been in “Gods Country” for a reason you know, far removed from all the grocery stores and fruit stores that lined the heart of our Church Avenue. And for anyone who grew up in Kensington, the “Heart” of Church Avenue was anywhere between McDonald Avenue and Ocean Parkway.

So here was this pet store way the hell down Church Avenue and almost in Boro Park. Yeah, maybe because it smelled so much the rest of the merchants told old Joe Mirada to stay as far away as possible.

But still when you’re a kid you’re going to
find a pet store no matter where it is.

And even if it's practically in Boro Park

“Hey Joey, did you hear that Joe Mirada’s
selling hamsters for a dollar?”

I remember that day quite well; I was playing on my front porch with my cousin Pete, my brother Joseph and Johnny Reilly from the Margaret Court across the street.

“Here, take a look at the one Kevin and I just bought”

There inside a cardboard milk container with the top sliced off was this small brown looking thing that looked something like a rat. It seemed to be sniffing around with barely any room to turn it’s little body in the confines of the sour smelling Borden’s milk carton. There was also a bed of shredded paper underneath it as well; it’s tiny teeth just chewing away at the remains of yesterday’s Daily News.

“So guys, what do you think?”
“There only a dollar and Joe Mirada
said he just has a a few left”.

Now when I was growing up my older brother always made the “corporate” decisions, not me. And maybe it was because he was almost two years older than me, I don’t know. So when it came to things like when we were going to ride our bikes, or roll tires down our driveway and hit a car, it was always Joseph who made
the decisions.

“Ronnie, go upstairs and see if mom can give you a dollar, tell her it’s for ice cream from Morris. But DO NOT tell her it’s because we want to buy a hamster. You understand?

“But Joey, you know mom hates mice”

“It’s not a mouse you idiot, it’s a hamster”.

“Now just go upstairs and ask mommy for a dollar”

Well, I asked my mom for a dollar, came back downstairs and we were on our way to Joe Mirada’s pet store. I remember it was a very hot summer’s day as we rode our bikes there. A caravan of bicycles on two wheels and training wheels, making their way down the hot gum dotted sidewalks of Church Avenue to the “End of the Earth”.
Well, almost Boro Park, but that might as well have been the end of the earth to us.


“Oh I see we have more customers,
I bet you kids are here for the hamsters right?”

Now from what I remember Joe Mirada was this short little Italian man who always wore checkered shirts. The store like I mentioned earlier smelled to high heaven, and given it was a hot summer’s day in Kensington Brooklyn, the smell today was worse than it usually was.

Joe Mirada stuck his hand inside a cage and pulled out this little brown thing that looked something like a rat. He quickly put it inside another Borden’s quart milk container and handed it to my
brother Joseph.

“Here you go kid, that will be one dollar”

My brother handed Joe Mirada the dollar, and in return Joseph was handed a smelly Borden’s milk container with something inside of it that looked very much like a rat. I was sure my mom was going to have a fit when she saw it. But I would never tell my brother, because it was his decision to buy it. And that was that.

So we got on our bikes and slowly moved Eastward towards East Fourth. Spoke wheels, and solid silver wheels just spinning away until we finally made it back to the concrete confines of our front porch with our little hamster and the smelly milk carton.

Now, we may have even been trying to play with it somehow, I can’t quite remember. And just like Johnny Reilly’s hamster, it had the hardest time trying to turn its little body inside the bottom of the empty quart of milk barely able to move.

"Hey Joey, see if it wants to play with this stick"

Johnny Reilly handed my brother a small twig from
our front bushes and he threw it into the carton.

The hamster just looked at it and did nothing.

"Oh well, maybe it's tired"

But then suddenly we saw our mom walking up the block,
and unlike my brother, I knew it was all going to be over real soon.

“What are you boys doing with those milk containers?”
“Is there something inside”?

Now this is one of those moments you
always remember and tell your kids about.

My mom slowly leaning over to look inside the carton,
and then her loud blood curdling screams.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
"AHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
"AHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

I think my mother’s screams could be heard all the way from Church Avenue on that warm summer’s day. The hamster just spun in circles at the bottom of the carton as she screamed and screamed. The milk container bellowing outwards at the bottom from the hamster's attempted escape.

You see I knew my mom hated mice,
yet my brother wanted to buy the hamster
and I was powerless.

“GET IT AWAY, GET IT AWAY!”

My brother Joseph put his hand over the top of the carton trying to shield the hamster from my mom’s screaming. Yet you can still hear it scurrying around in circles on top of it’s bed of shredded Daily News.

“But mom, it was only a dollar at Joe….”

“TAKE IT BACK NOW!!!!”
“TAKE IT BACK NOW!!!!”

“I don’t want to see that thing in my house, you understand!”

Well, the rest is history folks, we went back to Joe Mirada’s
and returned the hamster, and I’m sure he gave my brother
the dollar back as well.

But I never dared to tell my brother "I told you so".
Because he'd kick my ass you know.

Yes, Joe Mirada’s pet store, the hamster, and my mother’s screams.
Just another day in the Kensington of my youth, so many years ago.

Ron Lopez
Mopar195@yahoo.com

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

90 Church


You know those subjects you can’t bring up at the dinner table, the ones that get some people mad. No, were not talking about politics or religion here, it’s something worse. You see back in the summer of 1956 my grandmother and grandfather decided to take a stab at the big fat cash cow called
“Church Avenue”.

Now, Church Avenue has always been excellent when it came to simple “foot traffic”, even back in the summer of 1956. Except for one slight problem according to my grandfather “Paco”. The more affluent people with money in their pockets simply made the left from the F-Train and walked along Church to Ocean Parkway.
They never looked towards Dahill Road or even bothered to give it a second thought.

The name of my grandmothers store was “Isabel’s”; it was located at 90 Church Avenue. Basically the cash cows “tail”, which rarely moved to swat a fly no less.

My grandmother Isabel was always a working woman you see. And she usually held positions such as supervisor or “floor lady” wherever she worked. One of her specialties was hand-made lampshades, and she was proud of her position at Krasnours Lamp Shade Factory on Prince street in Manhattan. She was the floor lady there; basically supervising the workers to make sure the quality of the shades were up to standard. A job she held for many years until she decided to give her own business a shot one day.

So with the knowledge of Kensington and a “store for rent” sign at
90 Church, my grandparents took a plunge into owning their
own business.

The grand opening was sometime in the summer of 1956. They sold custom-made silk lampshades, imported plates, crystal, porcelain figurines and various other “high end “ knick-knacks. The entire family worked there and helped to keep it a float. My mom, dad, aunt Dolores, and uncle Pete helping out my grandmother and grandfather any way they could. Making deliveries, working the register or taking the F-Train to Canal street to buy the lamp shade skeletons that gave them their shapes.

I always remember my grandfathers face getting red when he used to talk about “the store”.

“What a waste of money, we should have invested in
another property instead”. “God damn store!”.

Now you have to remember that as kids growing up we only heard about “the store”, because it closed down before my cousins and I were even born. Although we knew something had happened once, there was an entire room in the basement full of lampshade skeletons, rolls of silk material, plates and porcelain figurines. And a wonderful large old-fashioned gold cash register in the garage. A huge monster that just sat in the corner gathering dust. As kids we used to play with it, pushing hard down on the buttons to make a metal numeral flip up in a glass window. Or just hide Matchbox or Hotwheels cars in the coin slots.

“There they go, never walking this way” said my grandfather Paco standing in front of the store at 90 Church Avenue.

“This side of Church Avenue is invisible, this store may as well be in the middle of the woods up in the country”.

“With all their money in their pockets, they just walk to their castles in the sky on Ocean Parkway”.

“The people that walk past this store are the working class poor, who only look and never buy”.

My grandmother just looked at my grandfather and said;
“You mean just like us?”

My grandfather just shook his head and my grandmother just kept working away, cutting patterns and sewing the beautiful silk shades and hoping for a miracle. Because she always believed that those who worked hard survived, and they both survived the great depression right here in New York City. My grandfather Paco selling Good Humor ice cream off his back in Central Park and my grandmother making hand made silk flowers from their apartment on Pearl street in downtown Brooklyn. Now the site of Metrotech.

So there was going to be no giving up here,
at least not without a fight.

I remember it was something like 1984 when we sold the cash register. I think my aunt listed it in the Buy Lines. And it must have weighed at least 100 pounds. My cousin Pete and I both helped the man carry it to his car. I think he gave us 25 dollars for it. He was opening up his own business somewhere here in Brooklyn, and he liked the old fashioned register. We tried selling the lampshade skeletons back in 1990, the man who looked at them thought they were beautiful, but the rust on them was too much and would only destroy the silk. When he was leaving we even offered them for free, he just smiled and said “no thanks”.

With rent being paid on time and little business coming in, the store closed about two years after it opened. There was no meat on this “cows tail”, and my grandfather Paco always had his reservations about that side of Church Avenue. And unfortunately he was right.

My Dads 1957 Plymouth station wagon pulled up in front of 90 Church Avenue that day. All the contents of the store were hauled to our house at 399. The inventory was split between my aunt’s old room, the basement and the garage.

A month later the store was for rent again.

The lamp shades made great props for parties when we wore them on our heads as teenagers. And not to mention there was always an endless supply of porcelain doll eyes for us to look into as kids, constantly worried that they would move, or blink.

I spoke to my aunt Dolores the other day, and she said the basic story about her mothers store could be summed up as “wrong place in the wrong time”. I laughed and told her that grandma would have made a killing in today’s Park Slope with a store like that. She said that grandma would have loved to open the store in Manhattan, but just couldn’t afford the rent.

But not all family stories have crash landings like “Isabel’s”. About ten years after my grandmothers store closed, her niece Dolores and husband Buzzy opened up another place you may have heard of. Its still called the “Buzzarama” and managed to survive over forty years on the “cows tail” of Church Avenue.

And my grandfather Paco, well he always believed real estate was your best bet and bought two hundred acres of land in upstate New York. Right before the store fiasco and just five years after he bought 399 East 4th. So “Isabel’s” was just a bump in the road, a bad decision, and a “wrong place at the wrong time”. Sure they lost money with the store and it made my grandfathers face turn red at the dinner table. But hell, that one hundred pound cash register was sure fun to play with along with those dozens of lampshades on New Years Eve.

And like they say, if you never try, you'll never know.


Ron Lopez
Mopar195@yahoo.com

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Goldfeather


He used to walk up my block when I was a kid. He was a short man maybe in his 50’s. He had black hair, a moustache and thick “Buddy Holly” style glasses.
Sam usually wore a brown overcoat in
the winter and a sports jacket in the summer. He could always be seen wearing a brown or black derby too.

Now Sam also walked with a cane, except most of the time it was never touching the sidewalk. Instead he used it to point at people.

“Hey ya bum ya, you fuckin bum”

those words were Sams trademark as he walked up East 4th.
And he usually uttered them when he was drunk.

Now, we were never mean to Sam, and actually liked him. Even when he called us “fuckin bums”, because we may have been only five or six years old at the time and actually thought he was funny. So there he would stand with a newspaper under his arm, his face flushed red and a bottle sticking out of his coat pocket. His old cane right in our faces as we played in front of our house.

“Hey you know what you are?”
“A FUCKIN BUM!”.

We would all start laughing at this point because Sam always had a smile on his face when he cursed at us.

“Thats Goldfeather,
Sam Goldfeather”

And then he would slowly walk up the block towards Avenue C.
Just pointing his cane at anyone he saw until he vanished around
the corner.

And then there was Sam’s brother Irving Goldfeather” who looked strikingly similar to Sam. Except Irving was always seen walking in the opposite direction towards Beverly Road. Usually on his way to work in the morning. Yet, Sams brother was quiet and businesslike and would always tip his hat to my Mom and say:

“Good morning Mrs. Lopez, a beautiful day isn’t it?.

“Mom, why don’t Sam and Irving ever walk together?”

My mom would usually just say that “Maybe Sam sleeps late”.

Then one day Sam told us while waving his cane in our faces that he was moving to Florida and wouldn’t be around anymore. He said his brother Irving would be staying, and for us to be nice to him.
Well, I guess I was pretty naive because I must have been in High School before I figured out that they were actually the same person. And Sam did a pretty good show holding a job during the day only to drink his problems away at the bars on Church Avenue, and then from his pocket before he got home. But truth is from that day on we only saw his brother Irving walking up and down the block. And he never cursed, always wished my Mom a good day, and only walked with his cane touching the sidewalk.

Ron Lopez

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Donald and the F-train


He was tall and thin and carried a black garbage bag onto
the subway car. His skin was dark and his face unshaven.

I remember looking at another homeless man that day on
the F. He walked on to the train at the 14th street station
by Union Square, and just stood there across from where
I was standing.

And people gave him his “room” too, because that’s
what you do when the homeless walk onto your train,
you just give them their space, and hope they don’t
bother you.

I just stared at him and looked at his eyes, because
the eyes never change, even when you’re homeless.

He looked back at me, his eyes were as dark as coal,
he said nothing.

I know he felt strange when I saw him too. So he just
walked away and sat down on a seat facing the opposite
direction so I couldn’t notice who he was.

The people sitting next to him all got up and found
other seats in the subway car.

I walked towards him though, and sat beside him.

“Hey Donald, remember me?
it’s Ronnie from Art & Design”

He turned his head towards me,
but didn’t look in my eyes this time.

“How you doin man?” is all he said

“I’m fine Don, I’m fine”

“Yeah, well, you know since High School
things have been a little rough for me”
“I’m ok, but things are just not that good”

I remember my first day of high school back in 1972,
Donald was one of the first people I sat with at
the lunch table in the back of the cafeteria.

Donald always wore these really cool tinted sunglasses and
had a small goatee. While most other kids weren’t even
shaving yet, including me, Don looked like he may have
been about 20 years old.

Along with Donald, I also sat with Ernest and Sandy.
Donald and Ernest were black, while Sandy was Jewish.
We were certainly a cross section of New York, but hey.
That’s what made the High School of Art and Design
so cool back in 1972.

Yeah, the High School of Art and Design. I never knew
some of my best friends were gay until my senior year.
And to tell you the truth it never really mattered either.
Because we were all such good friends, and all artists anyway.
All going to a school were nobody cared about “what” you
were. And no one felt they were better than anyone else.

We all just loved that school so much,
including my friend Donald.

“Hey man I’m getting off here”

I reached into by jacket and gave
Donald a twenty-dollar bill.

Donald just looked at me and said “thanks”.

That was about 25 years ago and
I haven’t seen Donald since. But the
memory of that day will stay with me forever,
because Donald was a friend of mine.

So the next time you see someone riding
the F-train with a bundle of sorrow.
Think about my friend Donald, and never
ever feel that you’re better than anyone else.
Because someday that person might just be you.

Ron Lopez

Friday, May 20, 2011

Catskill Webcam @ 3:00 pm Today


Big Sky Time in the Catskills