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The way we were! Carroll Gardens native recalls the ‘hood in funny new book

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Depending on whom you ask, Brooklyn in the 1980s was either a violent, dirty, cesspool, or a wonderland filled with hilarious characters. For author John Khoury, it was both.

The Carroll Gardens native’s new book, “Go Sit on Your Own Stoop!” pays tribute to a time in Brooklyn’s history when danger lurked around every corner and neighborhood guys with names like “Jimmy The Mute,” “Frankie Parrot” and “Chunky Flappers” made up a colorful cast that gave the borough its patented character.

“Go Sit On Your Own Stoop!” is a coming-of-age story set on Henry Street in the 1970s — and being a classic bildungsroman, it prominently features the Triple Crown of Brooklyn life in the “Warriors” era: Mafia goons, local punks, and, of course, girls.

“Out-of-towners who’ve recently moved into Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope really have trouble believing and comprehending how dangerous, tough and dirty these neighborhoods were up until about 10 to 15 years ago,” Khoury writes in a chapter that recalls when his uncles got stomped after one of them flirted with the ex-girlfriend of a made man. “Brooklyn in the 1970s was a lot more nasty than romantic.”

Khoury, a broadcast operator for American Movie Classics, has since pulled up stakes for Long Island, but he was compelled to revisit his old neighborhood after years of enthralling friends with stories of his exploits.

“The stories were riveting to them,” he said. “The feedback was terrific.”

The book, whose title evokes what old ladies used to yell at him and his friends, doesn’t follow a conventional plot line or narrative arc; it is instead split into sections based around pivotal moments in Khoury’s life.

For example, there’s a chapter about his attempts to get a girl to make out with him, a section that also brings up the most exciting —and then most horrific — sexual experience of Khoury’s young life, when he sneaked a peak at a topless woman only to then recoil in agony as she plucked hairs from her nipples.

There is also a chapter about stickball, handball and whiffle ball that features a crazy neighborhood lady who tries to teach them “a lesson” by pouring boiling water on them from a second-story window. And it wouldn’t be a 1970s book without a chapter about 1977 — the year that “Saturday Night Fever” and Son of Sam remade the city.

As Khoury writes in that chapter, the craziest place in the borough for him was Bensonhurst.

“On July 4, the neighborhood ‘boys’ didn’t feel like lighting fireworks one at a time so instead they poured some gasoline and set the street on fire,” he writes. “There was literally a raging inferno in the street. ... It was an insane place to be, but it’s where I spent a lot of time as a kid.”

Khoury’s triumph is his ability to find humor in the face of violence and decay, and to craft charming vignettes that make it hard to not miss the days before Smith Street — once an uncrossable line of demarcation — became a go-to brunch spot with $4 coffee and three places serving croque monsieurs.

“I did not want to put something out that said, ‘This is when the neighborhood was the best,’ ” he said. “We can’t look at what Brooklyn is today and dismiss it. Every generation creates their magic. Just because it’s different from what you grew up with, doesn’t mean it’s any less magical.”

John Khoury at Brooklyn Farmacy [513 Henry St. between Sackett and Degraw streets in Carroll Gardens, (718) 522-6260], Dec. 3, 11 am. For info, visit www.gositonyourownstoop.com.

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@cnglocal.com or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at twitter.com/dsmacleod.

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Reader Feedback

Homey from Crooklyn says:
Carroll Gardens native the old neighborhood with a funny new book.
What the hell is that supposed to mean? Duh !
Nov. 4, 2011, 9:48 am
manhatposeur from manhatland says:
Interesting a memoir to the Brooklyn when it was more savage and even more racially balkanize. But all those people that made Brooklyn what it was is either dead, moved to the burbs, or have been marginalized.
But I am curious what set off the transformation. What brought in the Hipster invasion or the invasion of America or people from the around theworld.
Nov. 4, 2011, 11:03 am
Alli from Park Slope says:
I think you mean sits on his old stoop as the article refers to him pulling up stakes and heading for Long Island....
Nov. 4, 2011, 11:55 am
Native? from Carroll Gardens says:
I'm happy that he wrote a book - but he really shouldn't be called a Carroll Gardens Native.
I've read his bio: He & his family moved into Carroll Gardens when he was 8-9 years old and he & his family moved away within the next 10 years.
While his memories may be good & his stories fun, please lets not try to pass him off as a C.G. native.
My family (and the families of many of my firends) have been in Carroll Gardens since is was still considered Red Hook and even earlier.
If you go to St. Agnes Church you'll see names on the wall of people who helped to build the church (both times) Those are my relatives and my friends relatives: 6 generations deep.
Good luck to the author on his book - but please lets not say he's a native or the be-all end-all expert on C.G.
Nov. 4, 2011, 1:09 pm
A true CG gardens, DNA proven says:
TO "Native? from Carroll Gardens"

I was waiting for such comment from a "purist", a true native... wtf? So only you guys can talk about OUR nabe?
Did you read the book? I understand that you are suspicious of "expert", I do agree with you on that one, but please stop that "6 generations deep" ——. You want a cookie for that?
Nov. 4, 2011, 2:30 pm
Frankie from Carroll Gardens says:
I was born and raised in Carroll Gardens. I don't refer to it as South Brooklyn like most of the kids I grew up with that are adults now still do. I'm glad he wrote the book. So what if his family moved. At least it's a part of his life he is sharing with the world. My family has been living on Henry btwn Sackett and Degraw for almost 93 years and most of my family moved to Li, Westchester and Florida. But I don't go tooting my horn because I pay rent control rent. Big deal, move on, your life is almost over anyway. I plan on moving myself, stop hanging on to dreams and moments that you know yourself won't be coming back to neighborhood.
Nov. 4, 2011, 5:59 pm
Rose from Carroll Gardens says:
such jealous freaks on here! Get a life!
Nov. 4, 2011, 6:46 pm
"D" from CARROLL GARDENS says:
I AGREE W/ ROSE!!!
@ MANHATPOSEUR, OF COURSE SOME OF THE PEOPLE ARE DEAD/MOVED ON ETC....THATS LIFE!! WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT HAVE TO DO W/ ANYTHING.
AND FOR THE REST OF THE JEALOUS BASTARDS.....GROW UP!!
WISHING MY "NATIVE" FRIEND ALL THE BEST W/ THE BOOK.....ITS FUNNY, BRINGS YOU BACK WHEN THE "NEIGHBORHOOD" WAS A REAL NEIGHBORHOOD!!!
THANKS JOHN......XO
Nov. 4, 2011, 7:54 pm
Franko from Carroll Gardens says:
I was born here in Carroll Gardens, in 1966. Grew up on President (between Court and Clinton), and spent most of my childhood on Henry (between Union and President). Until adulthood I had at least a dozen relatives living within a three-block radius.

I went to P.S. 58 from Pre-K (which I think was called "head start" back then) through the 6th Grade, then went to St. Mary's on Court Street for the 7th and 8th grades. I commuted to Bishop Ford for high school and attended a local college, commuting from home every day.

I've never left the neighborhood. My first apartment, after moving out of my parents', was on Third Place, and I've lived on Sackett Street for over 15 years now.

The author and I are the same age, give or take a year, although I don't remember him from my childhood. I've read his book from cover to cover. And while I appreciate its intent, I found it lacking in many ways, both in structure and style. A better editor could have tightened things up a bit, and given the narrative a better flow. That's a subjective opinion, I suppose.

But what I found somewhat troubling is how off-base his vision of the neighborhood often seems. Either his recollections are wrong, or he's writing for effect. From minor things like how everyone had nicknames (that was something true of the older generation; mostly men my grandfather's age - certainly not of the majority of teens), to erroneous facts like how milk was delivered daily by a literal milkman, in glass bottles. Again, I was here from birth, and I can tell you that by 1971, that just wasn't happening here. We bought our milk at Johnny's Grocery on the corner of Henry and President - or at G&G, where Met is currently located. There are many little "errors" like this throughout the book. One or two are fine, but cumulatively, they diminished my enjoyment of the book.

On a grander scale, it doesn't matter. The stories are colorful (if occasionally vulgar - I'd anticipated giving the book to an older female cousin, but a surprising amount of the content made that impossible), amusing but not hilarious. But while I'm all in support of apocrypha, having been here and lived my life in Carroll Gardens, quite frankly, the book feels like it was written by an outsider for an outsider. Entertaining, to a degree, but nearly all of it should be taken with a grain of salt.
Nov. 5, 2011, 2:31 am
Dominick from carroll gardens says:
I grewup on henry st and president, I don't know the author and have not read the book, but the author's name does not sound Italian, so to a non Italian it would have been a scary place.
the area henry from baltic st upto jhs 142 was all italian
I knew just about everyone but the author I don't know I and my friends never felt it to be scary. who did this guy hang with degraw would be nunsio richie and anthony fm cheever pl. I mostly stayed on president st down at sam's
on the hicks st corner. I left in the 70s primarily because the only thing to see was how the drugs were destroying everyone. I have not been back since 1981 I live in the philippines now although I am 59 I retired in 1992 The one guy is right the milk trucks did stop around 1970 midnite milk and camarary's hot bread from the cellar.
all way's preferred them to mazzola's. glad to here someone talking about the old neighborhood. should anyone like to talk my ds129@msn.com good luck with the book...
Nov. 5, 2011, 4:40 pm
pat I from Carroll Gardens says:
Wonderful. He wrote a guide for the me monkey transplants.
That's all we need is the tattooed Latte foam artisans actually playacting about how to "act brooklyn"

Let me cue you in. Egg creams, pizza and bread were not artisanal. we didn't have the douche bag on the corner of Sackett and Henry St dole out BS about hwo he couldn't find a good eggcream in NYC until he arrived from Willow Dick, OH.

Good God - the solid world reknown and respected Brooklyn accent has now turned into the the nasally whiny "YAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH".

In my day, we didn't shout have crap stolen in the subways. The only time we ever bothered the cops was during a black out or an all out riot.
Nov. 5, 2011, 6:46 pm
Maria from SP says:
Pizza was 15 cents, then a quarter. Your high school bus pass got you anywhere in NYC for a nickel. But by the late 70s the bums, muggers and psychos would follow you off the train and try and get you on a dark street. Heroin killed (just like now, shocking), and times were bad, just like now. The world moved on, and yeah, we moved away, because you just had to get out. So, now we come back and visit our families and friends and reminisce, until they are gone too. Just remember: there were other great people and cultures here before you, and there will be many others aftwerwards as well. Just don't forget.
Nov. 6, 2011, 1:15 am
manhatposeur from manhatland says:
To D
I am glad that this neighberhood is being gentrified. So poop poo to your people.
Nov. 9, 2011, 7:55 am
Rose from Carroll Gardens says:
To the ignorant,

I am a native of Carroll Gardens, I'm ITALIAN and I was born and raised there. Franko-you must have a terrible memory.......
1-we DID have milk delivered in glass bottles
2-you and I are exactly the same age
3-do you remember having cases of soda delivered in glass bottles? PROBABLY NOT.
4-Head start? ps58? I went there honey, I don't think so! pre-k? really? WRONG!
5-I'm also very educated, but it seems you have something to prove with your writings above. Must've been the "head start" program at 58's that made you such a smart boy.
6-AND FINALLY - YOU SEEM LIKE A FRUSTRATED AUTHOR, ALTHOUGH, GRAMMATICALLY, YOU'VE MADE QUITE A FEW ERRORS IN YOUR FOOLISH STATEMENTS ABOVE.

No offense Frank, I grew up there at the very same time. Your memory is shot sweetheart. What is it that you do for a living? Just curious.

Ciao!
Nov. 12, 2011, 11:33 am
Alan from CarrollGardens says:
Alan from Carroll Gardens says:
In April of 1984 we retired to Carroll Gardens from Northport, L.I. Our friends considered us delusional, as did our new neighbors in Carroll Gardens who told us that their dream was to move to Staten Island or New Jersey. My wife had grown up on Columbia St., and she had no idea that it had morphed from South Brooklyn/Red Hook into Carroll Gardens - a bit of cachet concocted by realtors. Then she found the library she had used as a girl, as well as her elementary school a few blocks away. Our original plans to retire to Greenwich Village evaporated like spit on a hot July pavement when we learned of real estate prices there, and we wound up in wonderful Carroll Gardens.
Our retired former colleagues and friends in Florida tell us about manicured golf courses and lighted tennis courts, early bird dinners, sunshine and swimming pools. When we rhapsodize about BAM, the Promenade,
the Botanic Gardens, the pizza, the walk over the Brooklyn Bridge - and all the enchanting diversity we encounter daily - they shake their heads in wonder. They still consider us deranged for having adopted Brooklyn as our final resting place.
I have written a followup in 2004 detailing all the changes we have seen over a 20 year period.

Nov. 12, 2011, 9:32 pm
D from CARROLL GARDENS says:
ROSE, ONCE AGAIN, WELL SAID!!! YOUR RIGHT, WHAT THE HECK IS FRANKO TALKING ABOUT?? FRANKO, DID YOU GET OUT MUCH??
@ MANHATPOSEUR.......THATS A MATURE STATEMENT....HAHAHAHA
Nov. 13, 2011, 11:02 pm
Frank V from Cobblehill says:
I was born in 1940 at St Peters Hospital, and it was all called Redhook, from Erie Basin to Atlantic Avenue. I lived on Cheever place and delivered the Brooklyn Eagle, and later meat from the butcher on the corner. They used to deliver milk to houses, but that ended considerably before 1971. What I remember most was all of the great places to get fresh foods such as panelles, pastries, fresh killied chickens, pushcarts on Union Street between Hicks and Columbia. We had four bread bakeries, five pastry shops, fresh fish market, pork stores, Foccacheria's (it means ovens in Italian). We used to hang out on the corner of Kane and Henry and sing doowops. We loved to dance the Lindy and salsa. That was my neighborhood. Later we had social clubs.
Nov. 16, 2011, 9:18 am
Franko from Carroll Gardens says:
Hello, Rose -

Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful response to my post. Your jovial list of facts and corrections absolutely put me in my place. I'm giving up chocolate and cartoons for a week, just to punish myself for speaking so far out of turn. Before I do, however, I think a quick rebuttal is required...

1 - In my post, I didn't say that milk didn't exist in glass bottles, just that the practice of delivering said milk to neighborhood homes predated my childhood. Unless through some insane coincidence, every person I knew as a kid didn't receive the service and every person *you* knew did. We're talking about dozens of families, but it's certainly possible. Again, to clarify: I didn't mean that milk wasn't *available in stores* in glass bottles - it was. I meant that the milk wasn't home-delivered. See the difference? (Probably not, but I had to try. Sigh...)

2 - We're the same age. Duly noted. Perhaps we knew each other as children, although even as a boy, I was a good judge of character, so probably not. By the way, Rose, I'm also Italian (no need to capitalize it, dear, we can all "hear" you), so whatever empowerment you thought that loud fact might give your post was a bit of a failure. My people are your people, so please do chill out. 'Kay, sweetums?

3 - Of course, I remember soda being available in glass bottles. Do you really think your condescending tone makes you look good?

4- Head-start/pre-K at P.S. 58. Yes, Rose. This was a thing that actually happened. My kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Yasso, and although I don't remember my pre-K teacher's name, I, without a shadow of a doubt, recall attending pre-K. It was a half-day set-up, and we entered the building on the First Place side of the school. If you have any doubt, the next time you're in the building, go to the main office and ask someone. You're still attending right?

5 - I'm glad you're "very educated" (although apparently not educated enough to know that saying "I'm also very educated" isn't quite grammatically correct, but typos happen, so we're good; next time try "well-educated" or just go for broke with "I got some schoolin' on me."). And I have nothing to prove, pumpkin. I paid for the book, I read it, and I had an opinion. What's your excuse for being so rude? (In case you're wondering, my excuse is you. Don't dish out what you can't take, cupcake.)

6 - I'm not a frustrated author at all, Rose. In fact, I've been working in publishing since 1989, as both a writer and an editor (primarily the latter; the word "latter," Rose, is indicative of the second of those two jobs, it doesn't mean the thing you climb to get on the roof, that would be a "ladder."). I'm well-respected, and pretty good at what I do. People seek me out and pay me good money for my skills, more than enough to pay the crazy rent in this neighborhood. However, if you'd like to point out my grammatical errors, please feel free to do so. I'm always willing to learn from someone who is "very educated," even at this point in my career. Enlighten me, buttercup, I beg of you. (And for the record, I freely admit that I use sentence fragments when posting on message boards, although it occasionally brings out the riff-raff and the wackadoos. Don't take that personally, Rose. You're not riff-raff or a wackadoo. You, Rose, are something else.)

In closing, Rose, sweetheart, honey pie, light of my life, you're more than welcome to disagree with anything I've posted. Such is life. Our memories may certainly differ, as may our personal experiences, but when you get judgmental and start typing in capital letters like you've fallen asleep on your keyboard, well, Rose...no offense, but your own ignorance shines through like the Bat-signal on the Gotham City skyline.

Thanks for the laugh, pooh bear, you're a peach.

Ciao, indeed!
-Franko
Nov. 19, 2011, 1:43 am
D from CARROLL GARDENS says:
FRANKO,
ALL I CAN SAY IS THAT YOUR RESPONSE IS RIDICULOUS & BORING!!
DID YOU REALLY FEEL THE NEED TO POST ALLLLLL OF THAT? (I SKIMMED THRU IT)
AND YOU DO SOUND VERY FRUSTRATED....

PS...IN DEFENSE OF ROSE, SHE SAID BOTH "DELIVERED & GLASS BOTTLES)
Dec. 4, 2011, 10:52 pm
Franko from Carroll Gardens says:
Thanks for the analysis, D. You're a terrific skimmer!
Dec. 7, 2011, 8:44 pm
anon says:
What is Carroll Gardens full of such angry people with nothing to do? Seems like it's scarier today than ever!
Feb. 20, 2013, 5:35 am
marty m from carroll gardend says:
The golden age is long over today anyone.micrf up in the.mob goes to jail of gets killrf but they.don't find the bodiex anymore so.theres no publicity and out of the nr the news .
Aug. 23, 2013, 1:18 am
kev from Carroll.gardens says:
Don't label.people all.that talk.is alleged.remember that .
Oct. 6, 2013, 12:31 am
realgangsterdon'tbrag from Carroll Gardens says:
Here you go again, Lou. Settle down, you're not a gangster. Just because you know some people doesn't make you one of them, remember that.
Nov. 12, 2013, 2:27 pm
anon says:
People use these forums to trash talk one another or people they dislike i have come to notice the way to do it speak in the persons face not on a computer because computer talk means squat anyone can trash talk from the protection of there laptop or iphone . So i don't take anythig i read from the computer seriously . i say to all the bloggers above me 'get a life ' and stop worring about who is doing what to who its obvious you kids use the computer because your all punks scared to comfront each other .
Jan. 29, 2014, 8:45 am
Louis Fontana from south Brooklyn says:
I was told to look this crap up.,what —— punks are talking about Louis Fontana ,you don't even know me you rape victims ,and your dam right I'm not involved with street crap an the washed up mob and this Dick is staying.I'm. Posting on these,subjects I HAVE NOTHING TO DO..WITH ANY OF THAT —— I DON'T BELONG TO.ANY MOB SO WHAT ARE YOU EVEN SAYING YA PUNK SAY YOUR NAME SO I CAN.OPEN YOUR —— UP WITH A BROOM STICK YA RAT BASTARD ,IM HEAR USING MY REAL NAME I GOTTA GET A CALL TO FIND OUT PEOPLE ARE SAYING MY NAME ,HIDING BEHIND COMPUTERS ,DON'T EVER INVOLVE ME.WITH CRIME ,I'M. LEGIT GUY ,BUT WILL.BEST YOUR ASSESS
Jan. 29, 2014, 11:47 pm
Louis Fontana from south Brooklyn says:
I was told my name is being used on.here.you punks I'm a legit guy so.keep my name out your mouths ,come clean state your name an find out.the beating you will endore , I'm.not involved in crime so stop the story telling . I don't know those people and don't even hang out.you morons.,smarten up ya two.bit fags .....
Jan. 29, 2014, 11:54 pm
Curtis P from fort.green says:
Them dudes always say they not not down with the program so I don't believe none of ya"lls but for real anon s are scared ——es dude Lou sound like he calling all you wops out crazy mofo on da real.
Jan. 30, 2014, 12:33 am
CFW from STAEN iSLAND says:
typical of the kids from down there now a bunch of stoolie's and the youg group in there late teens and 20s are all on dope and oxtcotten its a shame aand who said benny geritano is a junkie not true i only wish some of you posters would have the curage to use there real name so we can see benny fiond you in 12 years and stab you 35 times and im sure he would . anthony c is chichetti the guys a mental patient and a known informer people on 3rd ave are lookking for him for trying to rob a card game i bet he is the one behind the anaon comments ha ha ... i cant believe anything who is who with fake names lou from degraw if you say your a legit person im not gonna ad to the gossip but these are your haters and bennys haters and my haters so pay no mind . i know dam well anyone talking behind a computer with a fake name talking smack is a —— nd the young kids from south brooklyn wanna be boys are all junkie ——s and anyone who thinks chicetti is a mobster a boss at that is on junk lmao . f d staten island .
Feb. 3, 2014, 7:23 am
AMUSED BY THIS from CARROLL PARK says:
keyboard gangsters are the most amusing of all ��
Feb. 16, 2014, 4:23 am
sam from Bensonhurst says:
I believe nothing written .These posts are typical of south Brooklyn they all hate each other over there ,that's why in the 90 s they were killing each other and I'm talking guys that knew each other there whole lives .It's jealousy and hate at it's best .
April 2, 2014, 9:01 pm
pete bop from Staten Island says:
This blog is funny .One guy claims to be a mob boss another says he is a mental case .Another says guys are writing about them self s then the guy comes on and is in rage they put his name on here .The rest they say are junkie punk kids .Its a comedy show .My opinion is not one poster knows the other here and there all making it up as it goes along . There is no mob boss there ,this is a bunch of kids mentioning names they hear and other kids screening around.. Get in school and off the dam computer.
April 24, 2014, 3:22 am
rather not from some place safe says:
It doesn't make a difference if a couple of the name's that people are gossiping about are in any mob or gang .Not to me when I know what guys like Benny and Louie F have done in the past, why do you think all these posters are using fake name"s common sense cause they don't' want any problem' s as I don't' but. I know as a fact these guy's are dangerous they have hurt people before and give them the slightest reason they will without remorse. I will not say anymore except people with common sense stay clear of such people .
May 12, 2014, 3:32 pm
Peanuts from clinton and degraw says:
My oh my....how sad it is to slowly have dead brain cells...First of I lived in carroll gardens all my life and never heard of this guy..My father and family worked at the docks.peir 4 and 5 on the brooklyn side...all my friends were italian...I went to p.s. 13 on degraw street..I grew up with the ni kname Peanuts that was given me I I would go to the pal on union street after school..
June 14, 2014, 5:45 am
Vito Dam from Carrol Gradens says:
Those firework battle zones were the works of Stevie Borriello and his flunkys during the 80's on clinton and President . Myself i lived furture up court street and was a known laies man driving nice cars and wearing nice clothes and jewlry , but we did you'se to beat up anyone who was not from court street ,no one passsed 3 rd place or 4th place that did not belong . I moved aa way . but peole from the 80''s whould still know me of i came around . take care.
July 10, 2014, 7:54 am
Paul from Boerum says:
It is comical to read about, as one poster, put it, "the keyboard gangsters." And, for God sake, learn how to spell.
Dec. 2, 2014, 1:31 pm

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