CONTAINER DIARIES

July 15, 2014

YESTERDAY…

An interesting take on Brooklyn over the years. Nice mention of the neighborhood.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/travel/my-brooklyn-then-and-now.html?_r=0

In Windsor Terrace, Sunday-afternoon drinkers holding plastic foam cups of Budweiser spill onto the sidewalk outside Farrell’s, where Pete Hamill’s father spent many a twilight, while yammering 20-somethings pick from an impressive and rotating selection of craft beers at the Double Windsor across the avenue. I’ve happily stood at each bar when it was three-drinkers deep.

-Red

Hoops135@hotmail.com

July 8, 2014

ALONE IN THE STREETS

Filed under: Blog,Schoolyard — hoopscoach @ 1:43 pm
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Out here on my own.

Thursday night.

Late July.

Hot as hell. Probably the hottest night this summer.

We spent the afternoon at Brighton Beach. I got an awful sunburn.

Now I’m perturbed.

Mom left for upstate with my sister. I didn’t want to go because I had a summer league game in the boys schoolyard. We lost. I barely played. The coach is a jerk. He barely plays me. Why am I even on the team? I think of quitting.

The bottom door of our apartment is locked; I check my shorts for the key. Oh shit, I lost it.

Now I’m fucked. They won’t be back until late Sunday night. Shit, I should have went with them.

It’s after eleven, summer league is over, it’s pitch dark in the boys schoolyard, I go back and try to find the key.

It had to fall out of my jean shorts while I was sitting down. This isn’t the first time I lost my key.

Walking around in fucking circles, I can’t find anything. Wish the lights were still on.

I’m frustrated as shit.

One night Danny forgot to shut the lights off so I came back at midnight with my ball and got some shots up until a priest threw me out. Hey at least I was staying out of trouble, right?

I give up looking for the key after ten minutes; story of my life.

No persistence.

The key has to be here somewhere, no?

Screw this.

I’m outta here.

Walking down Prospect Avenue towards Fuller Place I think I’ll go to my cousins house.

They own a sweet house with a cool front porch that no one ever sits on.

I like going over there. My Aunt and Uncle are cool.

My cousins, well let’s just say they’re like my brothers and sisters.

I hang a left on Fuller and see a few people out on their stoops.

“Hey Red, how you doing?” an old lady asked me.

She’s sitting on her porch. It looks comfortable. Wish she would invite me up to have a seat next to her.

But that probably ain’t happening. I don’t think anyone on Fuller Place likes me to tell you the truth.

I wave and keep going.

There’s a girl I know who lives in the corner house, she’s walking her dog. I smile at her. She pays me no mind as I pass her.

As I walk up the steps At twenty-nine Fuller Place, I look through the window and the lights are off.

Oh shit, don’t tell me no one’s home?

There’s always someone home.

Where could they be?

Whenever I play stickball on Fuller Place and I have to hit the bathroom, I always run inside, up the stairs and use their bathroom.

“You only come here when you have to take a shit!” My uncle shouted from the kitchen. He likes to break my balls.

I glance at him and smile.

Out the door and back to my stickball game…

But tonight there’s no one home.

Good thing I don’t have to go to the bathroom. I try opening the  front door but it’s locked. The doorknob doesn’t move. It’s weird because when they are home, they never lock their door.

I take a peek in the neighbor’s window and there’s someone on the couch watching television. He’s laughing at something.

Walking down Fuller towards Windsor Place I hang a sharp right and head towards tenth avenue.

There’s a crowd outside the Windsor Pub.

A couple of guys are yelling. The noise gets louder as I get closer.

Maybe my brother’s there, I’ll get the key from him. But he gets mad when he see’s me around the bar. So maybe I should keep going down to 154 schoolyard. There’s a girl I have my eye on who lives on Horace Court, maybe she’s hanging out?

I get closer to the group on the corner and there’s a big fight.

A couple of guys are on the floor, rolling around punching the shit out of each other.

“KICK HIS FUCKIN’ ASS!” one guy demanded, as he holds a bottle of beer in his left hand.

I hear a cop car coming along tenth avenue from Prospect Park southwest; the siren, the lights flashing. It’s like a scene out of ‘Dog Day Afternoon’.

I have a feeling there’s going to be some heads smashed in. The cops don’t take any shit from anyone.

A few people who live nearby are out on their stoop taking in the action. They probably called the cops.

Bar-fight.

Step outside.

Throw down.

Go back inside.

Bartender buys the two fighters a drink.

The black and white pulls up in front of the bar.

Two cops get out with nightsticks. They leave the car doors wide open. I move closer, to get a better look.

“BREAK IT UP!” one cop ordered as he muscles his way through the group.

The two cops make their way to the two fighters on the ground and pull them apart. The cops look funny because one is real tall, the other is short.

“GO BACK IN THE BAR YOU BUMS!” the taller cop shouts.

“YEAH, DON’T MAKE US COME BACK HERE AGAIN,” his partner stressed.

Both fighters do as they’re told and walk into the bar.

One of the fighters picks up his blue, New York Mets baseball cap and places it on his head; it’s backwards.

The cops walk back into their car and drive away. The cop on the passenger side looks at me.

“Get home, it’s late,” he says.

I head across tenth avenue towards Prospect Avenue.

“Get home?” He’s gotta be kidding, right?

I don’t have a fucking key. I’m locked out.

“Excuse me Mr. Officer, can I sit in the back of your patrol car and cruise with you guys?”

McBears is quiet.

Just a few people sitting at the bar. Not a soul out on the corner in front of the bar.

Across the street there’s a girl sitting on the stoop of the deli.

I walk across Prospect Avenue notice it’s Mary, a good-looking blonde who lives on Prospect Avenue; we used to be in the same class together at Holy Name.

She’s crying.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

She looks up and shakes her head, “Nothing,” she assured me.

I don’t know what to say.

She probably had a fight with her boyfriend. He’s always yelling at her.

Mary has her head down, hands on the side of her head.

Looking across the street I see two people walking out of McBears, they’re clearly drunk. A Car Service pulls up, they hop in and make a dash up Prospect Avenue.

I don’t waste Mary’s time, leaving her alone I head up Prospect Avenue, towards ninth avenue.

‘Take care,” I offered.

She kept crying.

What else could I have done?

What should I had said to her?

Should I have sat down and talked to her?

Yeah right, then her boyfriend pulls up in a car with his friends and they kick my ass.

I get to the corner of ninth and Prospect outside the church.

I look at Jesus on the cross.

“What am I gonna do Jesus?”

He stares back at me.

“I’m locked out of my house.”

Again, no answer from the son of God.

There’s a homeless guy sitting on the church steps, he’s sniffing a brown bag filled with glue.

I head across the avenue and walking towards me is La-La.

Holy shit, he’s gonna kill me.

It was just a couple of days ago we made fun of him and he chased us down to PS 154’s.

La-La is deaf. He always wears black dress shoes. We break his balls often. He’s never caught us. I once saw him go to the rectory and cry like a baby to a priest.

I think of crossing the avenue but it’s too late.

We cross paths and he looks at me. We make eye contact and I thought I was going to piss my pants right there.

He stops. I keep going past him.

I speed up as I pass Key Ford.

I turn around to look back and he’s still looking at me.

“FUCK YOU!” I shout.  to him.

“LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA…”

That’s what he said.

That’s all he ever says along with pointing his finger at you like my third grade teacher Miss Lynn.

I pick up the pace and quickly turn the corner at Windsor and ninth and head down towards eighth avenue.

Thank God La-La didn’t chase me. I’m in no mood to run.

-Red

July 5, 2014

COME ON MAN

Filed under: American Flag,Blog,Windsor Terrace — hoopscoach @ 7:36 am
Tags: ,

My friend Pat Fenton will not like this story.

The New York Post reports that someone has swiped a few American Flags in the neighborhood.

A coldhearted thief stole American flags from homes along a patriotic stretch of a Brooklyn neighborhood ahead of Fourth of July festivities, leaving residents upset and scratching their heads over who would commit such a heartbreaking crime.

One of the flags that went missing either late Thursday or early Friday had been flown in Iraq and was given to Windsor Terrace residents George and Anne Burke in 2008 by a friend in the US Army, the couple told The Post.

“We’re quite upset about it. It’s very disturbing. On July Fourth, this is what we find!” said the couple’s daughter Karen Burke Abruzzese, 45. “We live in America, the land of freedom, and I don’t know who would do this.”The family had proudly displayed the banner outside their home at 1628 10th Ave. Abruzzese said her mom went out for coffee at 7:30 a.m. when she noticed it was gone.

“The pole was smashed in half and in the street. And then we noticed a couple other neighbor’s flags were gone,” Abruzzese said.

Click the link below to read more…

http://nypost.com/2014/07/05/thief-steals-american-flags-from-brooklyn-neighborhood/

-Red

June 26, 2014

ROAD TO NOWHERE

Filed under: Blog,Prospect Park,Windsor Place — hoopscoach @ 3:40 pm
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I’m freezing.

It’s gotta be below zero.

Prospect Park, a little after midnight.

The park bench all alone.

Sitting here thinking of what to do next?

I have a pair of wet gloves on. Three shirts, a black leather bomber, jeans, long-johns and black boots. Probably have two, maybe three pairs of socks. I couldn’t tell you because I can’t feel my toes.

All my friends went home. I don’t want to go home. The heat is off. The landlord said she’ll call someone in the morning to fix it. Our apartment is always cold, even if the heat works.

Sure I can throw a few extra blankets over my skinny body but to tell you the truth, I’d rather be out here. When I am outside I feel free. No one to tell me what to do.

There’s snow on the ground, it’s been snowing all night.  I can’t go to the yard, because I don’t have a shovel. Usually I can shovel the court and get some shots up or work on my dribbling.

I see the 68 bus sitting in front of Lefrak waiting for passengers. Who rides the bus at midnight?

Maybe I should ask the bus driver If I can ride with him? At least the bus will be warm. I can sit in the back, stare out the window while it rolls down Coney Island Avenue. Most important, I’d be sitting over the engine, my ass would be nice and warm.

Too late, the bus pulls out and heads down Prospect Park SouthWest.

I wonder what Maureen is doing right now?

Maureen is my girlfriend.

We’re in love.

I can’t live without her. I want to go down to her house and hang out with her.

I miss her.

It’s been about an hour since I walked her home.

We make-out on the corner of Windsor and eighth, and I say good night.

God I hate when she has to go home. I think she has a curfew.

Some nights I feel like I am never going to see her again. I have dreams of her running away with some rich guy.

Sometimes when I go home I call her and we talk on the phone for hours.

“GET OFF THE PHONE!” mom yells at me.

I finally get my ass up off the park bench and head across ninth avenue. There are a few junkies sitting on the circle. I pick up some snow, pack a snowball and throw it at them. I miss.

Walking past Farrell’s I look through the front window and see a bunch of guys hanging out at the bar.

I’m sixteen so I can’t go in and drink…yet.

Matter of fact, I can’t wait until I turn eighteen so I can walk up to the bar and order a drink.

I head down Windsor Place towards eighth avenue.

The wind picks up and my face feels like its frozen.

I can barely move my jaw.

I get to the corner of eighth avenue and look up at Maureen’s bedroom window. She lives in the first house. It’s a pink house. You can’t miss it. We hang out on her stoop in the summer.

Her light is on.

I want to ring her bell so bad.

Boy I wish she would peek out the window so she could see me, come down and hang out with me.

Maybe we could walk down to Frank’s pizza. Grab a rice ball, hang outside and talk.

A cop car drives by and stops in front of me.

“Get home,” the cop says.

I look at him.

We stare at each other for a few seconds.

I look up at Maureen’s window.

“You hear me?” the cop says.

Both cops are looking at me. Wondering what I’ll do next.

I turn around, too afraid to answer and start heading back up Windsor towards ninth avenue.

The cop car pulls away and heads down Windsor towards seventh avenue.

-Red

Hoops135@hotmail.com

April 10, 2014

BREAK A LEG

Front of Farrell's (Pat Feenton)No, no, no,  I’m not telling you to go out and break someone’s leg because they said something about you behind your back or maybe they owe you money.  There’s a universal phrase “Break a leg” in theatre used to wish a performer “good luck.”

Journalist, playwright, good friend and writing mentor Pat Fenton will be at Farrell’s this coming Sunday along with actors Jack O’Connell and Honor Molloy. The trio will take us back to Pat’s old Windsor Terrace neighborhood performing a dramatic reading of three scenes from his play “STOOPDREAMER.”

Pat intimates the dreams, trials and travails of just ordinary people trying to find the American dream in post WWII.

Irish-American stories about a lost part of Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, that existed around 17th Street and 9th Avenue before Robert Moses drove the Prospect Expressway through the very heart of it in 1953, and divided it forever.

FARRELL’S BAR
215 Prospect Park West
Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. 11215

Sunday, April 13th. 2 P.M. to 2:45.

Admission is free.

If you can’t make it, don’t worry, like Pat told me, “just pour a pint and pretend you are back in Farrell’s for the reading.”

Yo Pat, Break a Leg brother!

April 3, 2014

OUT IN THE STREETS

Filed under: Blog,Farrell's,Holy Name,Windsor Terrace — hoopscoach @ 8:43 am
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IMG_1585I miss the days of hanging out in the boys schoolyard at Holy Name playing basketball with all my friends and kids I didn’t know, but after a few games of three-on-three, we became life-long buddies. ..Thanks for the competition.

Hey Cubie, make us laugh; you were the best at it. Remember the time when the malted spilled on a certain someone during the summer league? Or how about Danny’s dog whistle?

I see you Timmy Kemp jumping so high through the air that you were talking to the lord.

Forte Bellino, can I get a ride with you down to St. Francis? Miss your conversations. Say hi to “Fonz” for me.

Curtis Walker with your afro and pick dug in the back taking the ball to the rack and scoring in traffic. No one could stop you.

I miss guys like Sean Riley who was one of the toughest SOB’s I hung out with; despite being a tough guy, he had the biggest heart in the neighborhood…Thanks for your protection and your friendship.

I miss the “older” guys who hung out in Farrell’s. They hit you with their wisdom and wit…Thanks for showing the way.

Yo, Hooley, gimme a container to go! What? I’m not 21? So what…

Ok, I’ll go to the bodega on 8th avenue and 15th street for a six-pack. Take it to the park and get drunk.

I miss my basketball coaches at Holy Name…Thanks for teaching me the game and that it’s OK to have passion for something.

CYO – riding the trains to away games. OLPH, OLA, Regina Pacis, St. Finbar…

Danny, thanks for making me develop a left-hand in the fourth grade; I took that lesson and taught my daughter to shoot left handed lay-ups. I didn’t see many kids on her team shooting them left-handed.

I miss the teachers at Holy Name. You taught me my A,B,C’s…Thanks for always being there. I DON’T miss anyone at the school who hit me with the wooden paddle.

Yo Brother Thomas, wish I could sit down and listen to some of your stories.

Imagine if I moved to Greenwood Lake to live with my cousins? Don’t laugh, I actually wanted to at one point in my childhood.

Father Shine, why did you always throw me out of the boys schoolyard late at night? It sucked being at home, the yard was my refuge. When I was there it felt like I was in Madison Square Garden.

Andy Purdy, how about those late nights after the CBS west coast game on TV heading down to PS 154’s and playing ball until 3 AM? No one ever threw us out.

Yo G, let’s hang out down in your basement and listen to records.

I had so much fun in the third grade playing for Georgie Rauthier; he was the best coach any boy could have.

Joe Lee, forget the Yankee games, how about shooting in the yard at 8AM on Saturday mornings?

To all my buddies who rushed the gate with me at 15th street.

Mr. Liquor Store man; I was 16 when you were selling me Wild Irish Rose.

Farrell’s football on Sunday mornings down Farragut Road. Duffer, thanks for the numerous rides to and from.

Officer Doyle, thanks for trying to set us straight. Now can you pay me back for pouring out my beer.

Mrs. Deere, sorry I cursed at you when you yelled at me for crossing the avenue…the light was red. You raised three great kids in Richie, Mickey and Eileen. They were always nice to me.

Tommy Houk, loved playing whiffle ball with you on Howard Place.

Yo Charlie Alberti, how often did you work out? You were great at baseball and basketball. Bet you would have made a great football player too.

Jamie and Timmy Rooney, think we need to choose up a game of stickball. Do kids still do that?

Mary Kay, how about “the last dance?” If not, I’ll take a game of ‘Around the World’ in the yard.

Bobby and Gerard Trapp, I don’t have a ball, can I walk down your steps and use one? I see about six or seven of them. I promise to return it.

Mom I’ll go to the store but please don’t make me use the food stamps.

Dad, oh shit, the bum’s not here. Mom, where is he?

Playing ball down at East 5th with Jackie and Billy Ryan.  Can’t forget my guys Turk, Randy and Guido.

Hey Joe, can I pay you tomorrow for a slice and a coke?

Wanna go to Bonali’s and get a slush?

Gerry Coles, you wanna race? Better yet, let’s have a 100 yard dash on ninth avenue; you vs Charlie Kawas.

Joey Corrar, who you like tonight in the NCAA tournament? “Keep an eye on Valvano…”

Let’s go down to fifth avenue, I wanna buy some records. Forte, I’ll be sure to pick up a racing form for you.

Oh shit, there she goes again, I gotta ask her out. She’ll probably say no.

Let’s go to Lenny’s for a slice. “I can go for a slice, you got wheels?”

Hey Laura Cox, it’s raining, let’s go hang out in your apartment.

Who wants to go over to the city?

Bishop Ford.

Why did we waste all those eggs on Halloween?

Mustaseed in Bay Ridge…I was 17, the lady I danced with was in her 30’s.

You need your sidewalk shoveled?

I forgot to do my homework. Shit, the bell rang, I’m late for school again.

Track practice at 3:30. We have to meet at the 10th avenue entrance of the park.

Sister Joan, hope all is well.

Midwood field, track meet. Edward R. Murrow right across the street.

Mr. Mussa, miss your enthusiasm.

John Jay, not once, not twice, but three times a student!

The Grady Special, Coney Island Avenue.

Miss Monzillo, you were always a great sight in the morning.

When it rained, we had so many leaks in our ceiling. Mom put pots on the floor and when they filled we had to dump them in the tub.

L’Mour with George Brossard…I was 17.

Breakin’ night.

Basketball Digest.

I’ll see you in the NBA.

I hate mom’s new boyfriend.

Red

Hoops135@hotmail.com

April 1, 2014

IN MY TIME OF DYING

Go ahead, say it, when you read the title of this entry you think of the Led Zeppelin song, right?

“OH MY JESUS, OH MY JESUS, OH MY JESUS!”

I feel like I’m going to die right now.

They have me surrounded. There’s no escape. I’m fast and all but there’s no way out.

There’s about five or six of them.

They’re all bigger than me. I’m 15, they look about 17, maybe 18?

I don’t have a chance.

FUCK!

All I’m doing is walking through the park over by Hippie Hill looking for a spot to crash.  I decided to hit the grass and rest. A few cars are out on Prospect Park South West. I see the 68 bus pulling out on it’s way down Coney Island Avenue.

Sitting down on the grass is a big mistake!

Mom threw me out of the house a few hours ago.  She’s always on my case.

Take the garbage out.

Make your bed.

Brush your teeth.

Eat your dinner.

Get off the phone.

Blah, Blah, Blah…

It’s a school-night, a little before midnight. All my friends have gone home. I have nowhere to go. I was thinking of going over to the boys schoolyard but I’m drunk and have a hard time walking. I also smoked a few joints tonight, so I’m in no shape to go anywhere.

Think I’ll rest my weary bones right here but I’m fucked.

“Give us your money,” one of them says.

I stand still, frozen, staring at him.

“You heard ‘em, cough up your dough, bro!” another says.

“I ain’t got no money,” I reply.

It’s not what they wanna hear.

One kid steps to me and punches me in the face, I go down and hit the ground.

I wish my friends were here right now.

Why can’t Officer Doyle roll up now like he always does when we’re drinking a can of beer out of a brown paper bag.

No one ever said, “Stay out of the park at night,” Why should they? Prospect Park was safe at night. No one fucked with you, especially if you were with your friends. But now I’m alone.

I get up to my knees, I can feel blood dripping down my face.

Looking up another kid walks towards me and looks down at me.

“Give us your money and we’ll leave you alone!”

“I told you, I don’t have any, I’m broke.”

Now it’s his turn as he kicks me in the chest, I fall backwards.

All I can hear is these guys laughing.

“Check his pockets!”

“Yeah, empty this punk’s pockets and get his money!”

I’m on my back looking up and all I see is the dark sky and some stars.

One kid starts to slide his hand in my pocket. I don’t put up a fight. I figure if he goes through them, and finds nothing, he’ll leave me alone.

“This chump is broke!”

“Told ya,” I say as I’m trying to get up. Bad move. The kid pushes me back.

“Let’s kick his ass,” one kid cries out.

All I can hear are voices. I have no idea who’s who.

They begin to take turns punching and kicking me. One time I watched ‘West Side Story’ and now I feel like I’m part of the cast; getting jumped.

A sneaker in my rib cage, a fist on my head, a punch in the face; holy shit,  I’m getting my ass kicked and there’s nothing I can do about it.  I remember someone once said if you ever get jumped by a bunch of kids just roll up into a ball and cover your head.

I try that, it doesn’t seem to work. I wish they would leave me alone. I didn’t do anything to them.

After a ton of blows from these guys they finally stop. I’m on the grass almost certain I’m about to die. I can’t feel any part of my body. I see them walking away and can hear them laughing. At least I’m not blind and can still hear.  They walk towards the road in the park and pass the horse corral.  I can barely make out what they look like. I have no idea where they come from or where they’re going.

In my time of dying, want nobody to mourn
All I want for you to do is take my body home

Well, well, well, so I can die easy…

Jesus, gonna make up my dyin’ bed.
Meet me, Jesus, meet me. Meet me in the middle of the air
If my wings should fail me, Lord. Please meet me with another pair

February 15, 2014

THE WIND BEGAN TO HOWL

Filed under: Blog,Timboo's,Windsor Terrace — hoopscoach @ 9:57 am
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“Frustration leads to anger.  Anger to violence. Don’t get frustrated.”

-Dave Kindred

Saturday morning in February.

It’s so cold in our apartment.

IMG_0927

I have two blankets covering me, a sweatshirt and a pair of white long johns. I’m wearing a pair of white tube socks.

Glancing over at my digital clock on the table it says 4:35.

Thank God I can still sleep some more. But how can I sleep? Mom is having another fight with her boyfriend.

They are out in the living room, screaming at each other.

My sister who is nine, slept over my cousin’s house last night so she’s safe.

My older brother who’s 17 is not home. I know this because we have bunk beds and he sleeps on the top.

I’m not only cold, I’m scared.

Mom’s boyfriend is mean. He’s vicious and strong too. His temper is out of control.

What makes it worse is when he’s drunk, like he is now, he’s twice as bad.

This is becoming the norm on Saturday mornings.

It’s hard to understand what they are yelling about. Their speech is slurred.

The shouting match goes on for what seems like an hour. But finally they are quiet. Too quiet if you ask me. I decide to get up from the bed, I’m not scared of him. I’ll pick up my Louisville slugger which sits close by and smack him across the fuckin’ head.

I look out of my room towards the living room. I see mom on the couch and her boyfriend on the living room floor.

Looks like they both passed out.

How can they go from screaming at each other to sleeping?

It’s still dark outside. In the past I have run out of the apartment to the schoolyard to get away from all the bullshit.

But I think I’m going to stick this one out.

I make my way closer to where they are sleeping.

Looking at my mom she has her mouth open a little bit and she still has her clothes on. The boyfriend is on his stomach, sprawled out on the carpet. I can smell booze and cigarettes. I’m sure they were in Timboo’s all night.

I don’t think he has hit her though, usually when he does she screams really loud.

One time he hit her so hard he gave her a black-eye. Our landlord downstairs called the police and Doyle came by and placed the cuffs on him and took him away. I stuck my head out the window and saw him ushered into the back seat of the patrol car. Before he got in he looked up at me and smiled.

I gave him the finger.

Figuring that would be the last we saw of him, to my surprise he was back two days later. Mom never pressed charges.

Standing over them in the living room I feel like Mills Lane, the boxing ref standing over two boxers who knocked each other out.

But there’s no one around pleading for them to get up. I’m not counting to ten either. I don’t want them to get up. I hope he never gets up. As for mom, she can sleep as long as she wants.

January 2, 2014

A HILLTOP LOUNGE NEW YEAR’S IN WINDSOR TERRACE…

Filed under: Blog,Pat Fenton,Windsor Terrace — hoopscoach @ 1:16 am
Tags: ,

By Pat Fenton

Pat Fenton in bat

This New Year’s Eve night as the old year winds down, I’m talking to an old friend from Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn who I grew up with, Bob Rice….

Like all of humanity, we replay our lives on this eve of the changing year. We’re young again for the short hours between the old year and the new year, and the Scotch and the beer.

“Imagine being able to walk back into the Hilltop Lounge on 18th Street on New Years Eve again, Pat,“ he says. And I do imagine it:

And I’m 18 again for this New Years Eve night.

Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn in the early 50’s was a neighborhood of bars on every corner.  Holy Name Church, Pete Smith’s Funeral Home and the Sanders Theater on 15th Street.  On one side of 17th Street and 9th Avenue where I came from, there was the Shamrock Bar and on the other corner there was McNulty’s. Over on Prospect Avenue and 8th there was Val’s Bar, and a block away, Boops’s bar, where a young, undiscovered Pete Hamill drank. And over on 16th Street there was Farrell’s Bar. Up in the Hilltop on New Year’s Eve, we would be slow dancing with pretty women to Lee Andrews and the Hearts singing, “Long Lonely Nights.”

Man, the place is jumping tonight. All you can here is the ching, ching, ching sound of this bowling alley game as you walk in. You slide a metal puck down at the plastic cut out pins, and as they fly up the game starts to flash scores as it makes this ching, ching, ching sound. There’s Jacky Malone doing the Cha-cha with Tony the Rigger’s girlfriend, Eileen. All the red plastic-covered booths that surround the small dance floor in the back room are full. Everyone is drinking pitchers of Rheingold beer, smoking cigarettes and talking.

Here comes Jenny and her sister Rosy too in the front door. She’s a good-looking woman, Jenny. Jenny’s husband has been in jail for at least three years now, so she walks around the corner from 18th Street where they live just to get out for a while. Nothing wrong with that. It’s the 50s, probably one of the last times that there will be such a large group of white guys in jail, and nobody really knows why.

Man, you can hardly move in here tonight. They’re lined up three deep at the bar. The guy who is pouring drinks tonight is this older guy, Phil. He looks just like that actor Cesar Romero. Everyone kids him about that. He’s grinning ear to ear, loves a big crowd like this. They’ll be plenty of tips tonight, he’s thinking. He just hopes that there aren’t any fights. Last week someone threw a chair through the front window. It ruined the whole night for Phil.

Phil grabs a handful of house red quarters with red nail polish on them from a jar, and hands them over to someone who is standing near the jukebox.

“Hey play Louie Prima and Keely Smith.  Play, “I’m just a Gigolo,” Phil yells out as he starts to sing and shake his hips back and forth.

“I’m just a Gigolo and every where I go people know the part I play… Oh, I ain’t got nobody…..”

He bangs on the bar with his hand as he sings. Everybody is laughing now. Man, the place is jumping tonight. Happy New Year, Bob, we’re home again.

And a most happy New Year to all my actor and writer friends, and to all the rest of you who mean so much to me.

December 23, 2013

A CHRISTMAS STORY OF WINDSOR TERRACE

Filed under: Blog,Pat Fenton,Windsor Terrace — hoopscoach @ 6:14 pm
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By Pat Fenton

The snow came hard that winter. It covered 17th Street and all of the rest of Windsor Terrace in a thick, blanket of white. Strings of stark, clear light bulbs hung over rows of Christmas trees in front of Mitchy’s Fruit Stand on Prospect Park West, and over on the corner of Prospect Avenue you could see the outline of the red bricked, Holy Name Church through the swirl of the snow.

It was the winter of 1961 and Billy Coffey was thinking of leaving the neighborhood. He was too young to understand what he would be leaving behind. He was 19 years old now and the 50’s were gone. And with them soon would go places he would never ever see again, places like the Royal Tailors on 5th Avenue where he was measured for his first pair of peg pants, the Shoe Box over on 19th Street, Bill and John’s Bar off the corner of 18th Street, Jack the Wonder Dairy’s grocery store on 17th Street, places like the Globe Theater on 15th Street, and the 16th Street Theater just off of 5th Avenue, and the Venus down on Prospect Avenue, and the Sanders on Bartell Pritchard Square, where he first saw Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis as a kid on a “standing room only “Sunday afternoon.

It was in that long ago time in America when they actually had standing room only in movie houses, and people would announce “this is where we came in”, because, like dreams, the movies went on and on, and on. And it only cost a quarter.

Now, in bars like McNulty’s on the corner of 9th Avenue and 17th Street, men would stare down at the front page of the New York Daily News and read headlines of a wall being built by the Communists between East and West Germany, and news that Russia had built missile launching pads in nearby Cuba, and the headlines said that they were pointed at the United States.

The “Cold War” was becoming something more real now, and you could sense that change was coming to the culture of America. Where once there were empty lots all over Brooklyn where kids ran free as if they were in a rye field somewhere in the country, every square foot of the borough was being built on. And you couldn’t go to Coney Island anymore, too dangerous people said. Men were moving their families out to places like Levittown on Long Island, hoping to hang on just a little longer to the innocence of the fifties that they once knew in Brooklyn.

In early evening, just before the sunset started, he would sometimes go out the back door of the railroad room flat that he lived in at 483 17th Street, and climb up this ladder in the hallway that led to a hatch way. He would push it open and stand on the roof as he looked down toward the magnificent sky over the Brooklyn waterfront.

They called his neighborhood “The Hill” because it was located on the highest point of Brooklyn. You could see the Statute of Liberty from here. Just as the sun went down you could see the bright flicker of its torch and the weathered green of its copper robes. It was so close.

Some evenings he would watch in amazement as a giant cruise ship sliced passed it through the dark green of the water as it headed for the Verrazano Narrows, and far out to sea somewhere. And as he watched it go by he would slide a can of Rheingold Beer out of his jacket and punch a hole in with a can opener, and he would daydream about leaving here.

Maybe in the morning he would go down to Livingston Street to the Draft Board and push up his draft for the Army. He could be gone in a week.

That’s what he was going to do.

Some afternoons he would play this record called, “Far Away Places,” over and over again.

“Those far away places with strange sounding names keep calling, calling to me . . . They call me a dreamer, well maybe I am…”

He had this feeling that he wanted to pack up and leave, to travel, to see places that were far away from Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. It was such a strong feeling that it scared him sometimes, but he knew that he just had to go.

When he came down from the roof he opened up a pint of Southern Comfort that he had been saving, and he poured some of it into a shot glass. It had a sweet sort of a taste to it that made it go down easy. Too easy. Maybe he would ask them to send him to France or even Germany, he thought. Then he reached over and started playing this song by Tommy Edwards on his record player, “It’s All in the Game.”

“Many a tear has to fall, but it’s all in the game. All in the wonderful game that we know as love…”

The song made him think about Janice Joyce. She was three years older than him, and he loved being around her. She had this dark, black hair and a face so beautiful she could have been a movie star. She used to drive around in this old 1954 Ford Customline with holes punched into the exhaust pipe so the car would make a lot of noise.

There were so many guys in his neighborhood that wanted to be with her, it always amazed him that she would come looking for him up in the old Irish bars of Prospect Park West. He would see her come up to the doorway of McNulty’s saloon wearing this suede jacket with tassels on the sleeves, and she would wave to him to come out, and he would. He would quickly slide his money off of the bar and go off with her.

Since she had so many boy friends, he never understood their relationship, but he didn’t question it either. She would ask him what songs he liked and when he would tell her she would tape them off of the radio for him. One of them was Johnny Cash’s “I guess Things Happen That way,” and Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only make Believe.” Sometimes he would tell her how much he liked it when she wore her hair in an up sweep and the next time he would see her she would tell him she was wearing it that way for him because she knew he liked it.

The closest he ever came to making love to her was one Christmas weekend that the two of them were drinking a pitcher of tap beer in a back booth in Val’s Bar on 10th Avenue and Prospect. They slow danced to the sound of Tommy Edwards singing “It’s All in the Game” from the Wurlitzer Juke box in a corner of the bar, and afterwards she asked him to take her up to the top of Lookout Mountain in Prospect Park.

The two of them walked up the long rows of steps in the darkness of Prospect Park to the top of the mountain where you could see all of Brooklyn lit up in the Christmas night, and Billy reached over and started to kiss her. She pulled him close as he wrapped the hood of her parka around her to keep her face warm. It was such a clear winter night filled with stars, and Billy felt so lucky to be gently holding her face in his hands and staring at her.

As he drank the whiskey, he played the Tommy Edwards song over and over again. A little while later, he stumbled out of the building and made his way down to Helen’s Candy Store on 8th Avenue. He nodded to a few young members of a local street gang called The Jokers. He was about a year older than most of them, but he felt much older than that.

They sat lined up along the soda counter, some talking, some like Bengie just day dreaming as he stared out the front window. Along the wall was a comic book rack with rows and rows of comics like Archie, Daredevil and the Little Wiseguys, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man, last vestiges of the innocence of the 50’s.

All of them were slowly killing themselves by staying in Windsor Terrace, he thought. All of them were facing a life time of Irish working-class jobs in the factory row that lined the nearby Bay Ridge waterfront in a place called, “Industry City.” That’s where many of their relatives worked. That’s where they were headed. Or they could wind up in one of the local factories like National Metal Art on 19th Street where Billy wound up after he dropped out of Manual Training High School in South Brooklyn, eight hours a day of stepping on the pedal of a riveting machine as it slammed a rivet into the hinge of a bathroom hamper. And in the end the boredom and helplessness of it all would lead them to escape somewhere else with drinking in the Saturday night bars of 9th Avenue.

He leaned over the juke box as he punched in Gene Vincent’s,” Be -Bop- A- LuLa.” And then he walked out the door of the candy store and tried to get his balance as he hung onto the side of a car. A group of the Jokers came out of Helen’s candy store and threw his arms over their shoulders and walked him home.

The snow fell softly on them as they made their way up 17th Street. Across the street in Lenahan’s Bar, you could hear muffled laughter and men singing Christmas carols. In his head he kept hearing the words of the song, ”Those far Away Places,” and it saddened him, but he knew that he could never stay here. He knew that he might never see Janice Joyce again. And he was right.

“Those far away places with strange sounding names keep calling, calling to me.”

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