Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

May Your Day Nicer: Meet Guy, John & Rose of Carroll Gardens

October 15th, 2008 · 2 Comments

[Photos for GL courtesy of Jodi Call]

(This morning it bring us great pleasure to welcome a new contributor, Jodi Call, who produces the superb blog Pistols & Popcorn. Jodi wrote this post for GL. It’s a beautiful feature about some people that have lived their entire lives in Carroll Gardens. It is a heartwarming and beautiful story and we thank Ms. Call for sharing it with us.–GL)

If you live in Carroll Gardens, chances are you’re at least familiar with the faces of my neighbors, Guy, 68 years old, John, 67 years old and Rose, 57 years old. They’ve lived in my building for twenty-seven years. That’s back when the corner restaurant Marco Polo’s was a pub, and back when the newly bulldozed lot on the corner of Union and Court was the International Longshoreman’s Association. These siblings have figured out the best parts of the hood (Rose tells me the best meat is at Mastellone’s), made life-long friendships with their neighbors (they all mention Moses and Millie in the building as very dear friends), and they welcome newcomers (like my family) with such warmth and kindness that my son Roan considers them part of our family.

Guy, John and Rose grew up in Brooklyn with very “strict” parents. Guy says that “I grew up as a prisoner”, with John explaining that they “weren’t really let out of the house.” Guy remembers being behind the glass of a window, watching other kids play. He describes having no toys to play with but then says, “That’s how I became the toy-maker!” In retrospect, Rose feels she was “the spiteful one” as she would defy her mother by leaving the house and going across the street. Guy and John remember themselves as “daredevils” telling of building giant bon fires and jumping through them.

When asked why none of them have married, John replies, “I blame my parents.” He and John say that when they would try to leave the house and go out, their mother would follow them. Rose expresses doubt that their mother really did, but John and Guy assert that their mother would always know where they had gone, and that there was really no other way for her to know. John says he would often be looking over his shoulder to see if he could see her, but he never caught her.

When Guy and John were in their mid-twenties, they were drafted into the Vietnam War. Guy ended up suffering “a complete nervous breakdown”, and was hospitalized for seventeen months. This remains the longest stretch of time that the trio has been apart from each other. Through it all, they have very few complaints. Rose says that the brothers leave the toilet seat up at times, and that she’s the one who has to fix everything. Guy says, “they don’t really aggravate me too much”, and John couldn’t think up a single complaint.

When you take a look around their home, you have the unmistakable feeling that Guy, John and Rose are collectors. From dolls to artwork to craft projects, they all have their own style represented. John created a “Love Chain” which is made of gum wrappers. He spent two to three hours every day for one year folding these gum wrappers and connecting them. He is also a gifted snowflake maker (I know this because he gave Roan some wax-paper snowflake cut-outs last Christmas which Roan wouldn’t take down until Valentine’s Day). Guy and Rose both have their own paint-by-number creations hanging up on the walls. Rose also introduced me to the art gallery in her room complete with posters of good-looking men like Patrick Swayze, David Hasselhoff and Charles Bronson.

John supplements their income by collecting cans in the morning from around the neighborhood. Many people recognize him as they pass by on their way to the subway for their morning commute. He’s usually sporting a red hoodie, and always has Queenie, their big white dog by his side. When I told them they were like celebrities in this neighborhood, Rose laughed and said, “My life is so boring!” Even if that’s true, I’ve never seen her, Guy or John without a smile ready to be given, a hug to be bestowed or the loudest most infectious laughter ringing through the halls of our building.
Jodi Call, Pistols & Popcorn

Tags: Carroll Gardens · Uncategorized

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 kateinTn // Oct 15, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    I think this is a wonderful story. I would love to see a documentary about real people such as these. Very sweet and very interesting. If only we all had such wonderful neighbors! I’m jealous!

  • 2 bibi // Oct 15, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Yes, they are nice. That is Queenie #2. The original Queenie used to carry the newspaper home from the newsstand. John had a special black bag to cover it with so she could carry it easier in her little dog mouth. In a way, I wish you hadn’t exposed them. Now your landlord may try to evict them for too many crochet dolly heads.