Sunday, October 6, 2019

Yorkville Summer 1965

"Yorkville Summer 1965" my story was published today. 

Read it at the Mr. Beller's link right here. Thank you, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood!

Do you like old New York City photos and street life stories? Then check out my 1960s memoir,"I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."

Available at Logos Book Store and online. The book has 130 Amazon five star reviews out of 130 total reviews posted. We're pitching a perfect game. My old world echoes TV's "The Wonder Years" ~ just add taverns, subways and Checker cabs.

Friday, October 4, 2019

St. Francis, The Pope & The Devil Dog

On October 4, 1965, the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Stephen of Hungary's student body marched up to Third Avenue to wave to Pope Paul VI driving by on his way to Yankee Stadium in his limousine. This was important to me on a few levels:
We were getting out of sixth grade early. 
The New York Yankees stunk in 1965 and having the Pope say a Mass on their home field should help the team.
I'd have free rein to look at all the older girls in the school, and they couldn't do anything about it.
"What are you looking at?"
'Ha, ha,' I'd think, not say.
The Franciscan priests in our parish were good guys and the nuns and the students got into the spirit of the day each year, whether the Pope showed up or not. Plus, I loved the guy. St. Francis was cool. I loved animals and he blessed them. Unlike Doctor Doolittle, St. Francis could really talk to them. And, St. Francis was in my grandmother's holy trinity along with St. Anthony for lost objects and super duper St. Jude for hopeless cases ~ a biggie for our family.


Every two years, the school ran a movie of the Life of St. Francis in the auditorium getting us out of a class for a Friday afternoon. The movie wasn't bad, and I admired the comfort of only wearing a robe with a rope belt, best uniform every invented, and Italy was beautiful and I considered it a place I definitely would visit down the road. After lunch, we lined up outside the school and like a gaggle of 300 geese we waddled up 82nd Street to the avenue, where we stood against police saw horses on the east side of Third between 81st and 82nd Street.

Earlier that morning, I served eight o'clock mass with a guy in my class, Michael Toth, who was a big pain in my ass. One of those guys that always had to be first in everything: out the door, on line for the water fountain, first at bat in punch ball. Toth located a Siamese pipe connection right behind us against a building, and used it to sit on, its shape perfect for a kid's bottom. We waited a long time, and Toth also planned on standing on it when the Pope went by for a better view. Toth kept coming over and telling everyone how comfortable it was and how he was going to have a perfect view, and if anyone tried to sit there he'd run over and throw them off. We all wanted him dead.

While he's doing this, I'm eating a Devil Dog the long way, taking the two cake parts apart and starting to lick the crème out of the middle, when Toth comes over to tell Freddy Muller, "Ha. Ha, I've got a great seat," While he's yapping to Freddy, I slip one half of my half licked Devil Dog onto the Siamese connection, crème side up. Toth satisfied with himself, sits on it and he's so caught up he doesn't notice, the nun, sick of Toth popping up and down moves over to straighten him out, Toth pops up again on his way over to brag some more. The nun notices the Devil Dog sticking to his pants and smacks Toth in the head thinking he's an idiot. After she hits him she says, "Wipe yourself off, wood head."


Toth puzzled about everything, reaches behind and grabs most of the cake, and I could tell by the look on his face he was praying it wasn't dog crap. Meantime, the Pope's a half block north of us. I missed him, Toth missed him, and the nun hit Toth again because she missed him, too.



I returned my focus to the older girls.


****************************************************

Do you like old New York City photos and street life stories? Then check out my 1960s memoir,"I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."Available at Logos Book Store and online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The book has 130 Amazon five star reviews out of 130 total reviews posted. We're pitching a perfect game. My old world echoes TV's "The Wonder Years" ~ just add taverns, subways 

and Checker cabs.


Praise for the book:

“Thomas R. Pryor has written a sweet, funny, loving memoir of growing up old-school in a colorful New York neighborhood. A story of sports, family, and boyhood, you’ll be able to all but taste, smell, and feel this vanished world.”
Kevin Baker, author of the novels “Dreamland,” Paradise Alley,” and “Strivers Row,” as well as other works of fiction and nonfiction


“Tommy Pryor’s New York City boyhood was nothing like mine, a few miles and a borough away, and yet in its heart, tenderness, and tough teachable moments around Dad and ball, it was the mid-century coming of age of all of us. A rousing read.”
Robert Lipsyte, former city and sports columnist, The New York Times


“Pryor could take a felt hat and make it funny.”
Barbara Turner-Vesselago, author of “Writing Without A Parachute: The Art of Freefall”


“Pryor burrows into the terrain of his childhood with a longing and obsessiveness so powerful it feels like you are reading a memoir about his first great love.”
Thomas Beller, author of “J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist”





The Jean Shepherd of Yorkville has a book - you should get! -Adam Wade, winner of 20 SLAMS at The Moth (18 StorySLAM victories and 2 GrandSLAM Championships
I've been a HUGE fan of Thomas Pryor's stories for a long time. It's so great to read so many of them in this fantastic book. Pryor pours his heart and soul into each and everyone of them. Some gut wrenching, others laugh out loud funny. And you don't have to be a NY Giants fan or a Cowboys hater to enjoy this book (though that will help). You just have to have a heart and love fun, authentic stories. Buy this book, I promise you'll enjoy it!


Dave Hill "The Goddamn Dave Hill Show" ~ WFMU radio
I wasn't alive for the New York Thomas Pryor writes about, but thanks to his brilliant, honest, and hilarious book, I feel like I was there."


Great writers are supposed to transport you to their world -Nicole Ferraro, writer, N.Y Times & Editor-in-Chief, Webby Awards
Thomas Pryor is one of those unique writers who can grab your heart and make you laugh and cry in a single sentence. The portrait he paints of growing up in New York City -- in Yorkville, specifically -- in the 60s is so vivid that you'll feel yourself there with him in every single scene, and every single memory. Great writers are supposed to transport you to their world, and Thomas Pryor does this exceptionally well. You'll walk away from this book feeling like you know intimately every butcher and bartender in town, every Sister at St. Stephens, and certainly every member of Thomas's family. Even more than that, though, this is a book about being a kid, growing up, loving people and losing them, losing people and loving them even more, and finding one's way. Basically, it's a book for anyone who's ever experienced the sheer pleasure and pain of being alive and growing up. Buy it today. It will leave you feeling enriched, touched, entertained, and eager to turn to page one all over again.


Wonderful Storytelling with a Time Machine Effect! - Leslie Gosko, entertainer, storyteller, comedian, "Funniest Woman in NYC"
Heart-warming, hilarious, and wonderfully quirky, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys" has something for everyone. Thomas Pryor does a fantastic job of transporting you to 1960's New York where you feel like one of the characters in his Yorkville neighborhood. Stylistically reminiscent of Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story," this book, too, becomes an instant classic!


David Terhune The Losers Lounge, co-founder
After reading "I Hate The Dallas Cowboys", I felt as if I had grown up with author Thomas Pryor. His stories of a childhood in New York City, punctuated by family photographs, drew me into his world and took me on a personal tour of the streets and neighborhoods of his youth. Living there were a host of vivid and eccentric characters - his parents, brother Rory, grandmother Nan, Joe from the candy store, Sister Mercedes, stewardesses Marie and Justine, and his many friends and co-conspirators with whom he shared his adventures and dreams. Mr. Pryor’s humor is gentle and infectious, his memories animated and engrossing. These essays are both historically valuable as well as entertaining in a way that befits the unique voice of New York City.


Saturday, September 21, 2019

Meet The Flintstones




s/e cor of York&86st @1953



















Friday, early 1960s, food shopping with Mom at Sloan's on 86th and York. I looked forward to it. I had two ridiculous supermarket addictions: grape jelly glasses and giveaways in detergent boxes. I never liked jelly, still don't - but that never stopped me from needing the glasses the jelly came in.  A glass with Fred Flintstone or Barney Rubble on it after you dumped the jelly?  Seemed like a no-brainer. Mom caught me slipping it in the grocery cart. “Put it back, you don’t like jelly.”
“No, no, I do.”
“Liar, do not.”
“No, I like jelly now.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yes I do; and Rory loves it. Rory, you love it, right?”
“Huh?
Mom took one jelly glass and threw it in the cart to shut us up.

Next day at breakfast, I’d said, “Mother dear, would you like a crispy English muffin?”
“Yes, thank you, Master Thomas.”

I’d toast her muffin and glob half the jelly jar onto every nook and cranny, earning Mom’s pathetic look, the one that said, “Tommy, I have nothing left to give.”

Detergent makers gave away drinking glasses. I became obsessed with them, too.  I have no clue why. Maybe because I was always thirsty and the glasses in TV commercials made all beverages look better.  When Mom wasn’t looking, I’d grab one of the detergent boxes and hide it in the middle of the shopping cart. We’d go to the register and I’d start passing items to the cashier.
“Mom, let me do it. Why don’t you rest over there on the window ledge?” 
Rory was climbing over the empty egg boxes piled up in the store’s front window, I figured she'd chase him. This worked a few times until Mom got wise. Getting caught didn’t matter. I was deemed hopeless. Emptying the cart herself onto the conveyor belt she saw the unwanted box of soap “How did this get in here?”
The cashier made eye contact with Mom and nodded toward me. I began moving toward the exit, a fresh TV Guide in hand getting ready to plan my viewing week. When we got  home, Mom and I unloaded the bags and Rory onto the hallway floor.  Then we carried the stroller down to the
cellar, parking our family car for the night.



If you enjoy my work, check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." It's available at Logos Bookstore, 1575 York Avenue, or buy it online at AmazonBarnes and Noble or other booksellers. The book has 130 five star reviews out of 130 total reviews on Amazon. If you do read it, please leave a few honest words about the book on Amazon & B&N. 


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Two Tickets To Paradise

Eddie Money will always remind me of my best times in my twenties. In the late 1970s a New York city boy rocking hard lit up the radio. 
I played rugby at St. John's in Queens. We rocked hard. One thing we had in common, Eddie Money. Two brothers on our team, Ray & Kenny were in a terrific band called "Rocks." They were good at picking up new numbers for their sets and Eddie's music even got the terrible dancers (like me) up where ever we were. 

You know couples have a wedding song and carry it for life.  Individuals can have one too. Takes them directly to fond memories of the best years.  "Two Tickets To  Paradise" does that to me. Wherever I am when I hear it my inclination to move starts. "So Good To Be In Love Again" is right behind two tix for a trip back to East Quoque rugby houses, Mickey Mantle diner, Citgo gas station, OBI, crashing Old Blue parties, The Pub, any of many apartments in the Kew Gardens rugby ghetto. Summer rugby on Thursday nights on Randall's Island, Grundy's and a dozen other places to hear the band play each weekend.  

The only time I saw Eddie Money live was 1979 in Central Park at the Doctor Pepper Festival. That night involved rugby related business. I worked with a guy who played for the Long Island rugby club. He worked at the show as a bouncer at a side gate. The moment people were allowed in me and any body with me would slide five dollars to Tony when we shook hands, run inside and always get a third row seat behind the first two rows for press and big shots.  It gets better. Opening act for Money, The Kinks. This pleased me.

Eddie Money, your voice always take me to a double feature in my head.

Rest in peace, Sir.



If you enjoy my work, check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." It's available at Logos Bookstore, 1575 York Avenue, or buy it online at AmazonBarnes and Noble or other booksellers. The book has 130 five star reviews out of 130 total reviews on Amazon. If you do read it, please leave a few honest words about the book on Amazon and B&N. 







Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Bruce August 21, 1978

Yesterday, I linked to Don McLean, "American Pie." It's opening lyrics reflected my mood related to seeing live music in 1978, when I was 24.

A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while.

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

Early that summer, I went to a Bad Company concert, and

sat through it like a work meeting. Bored. I was leading up to that, because the last few live shows I went to made me feel the same way. Empty. I thought I'd lost my musical inspiration.


(Bruce pix by Jeffrey Havas)

That August, my girlfriend, Yvette & I went to see Bruce Springsteen for the first time at Madison Square Garden. We got there two hours early and split an eight pack of Miller nips, watching people traffic and scoring the winners.

Inside, the energy was electric but I didn't know why yet. Then the band took the stage and ripped into "Badlands." I found religion in that four minute song. It felt like 1964, I was ten years old again, watching all the girl groups on the Clay Cole Show, watching Roy Orbison singing "Crying," and "Pretty Woman." It didn't matter it was a crappy little TV, those artists week after week tore my heart open, moved in, bought furniture and never left. Springsteen woke everybody up in there, and they haven't left me since 1978.

Laurene, Yvette, Tommy
The next night, I went back to MSG alone, and bought a $6 ticket for $15 from a scalper. Starting from my blue heaven seat I ended up in the third row in the orchestra by the third song and stayed there crouched on the floor between two girls for the entire show including the three encores.

Tons of great shows followed: Garland Jeffreys, John Hiatt, J Geils Band, Elvis Costello, Shawn Colvin, Lucinda Willams, Mary Lee's Corvette, Losers Lounge, and on... When I die, tickets for my next live show will be in my dresser. Somebody pick them up, don't waste them!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

My Kingdom For A Muumuu!

Powerful Storytelling tonight 
@ 7pm sharp (REAL START 7) 
with a super-duper line-up! 
@ Kraine Theater  ~ 85 E. 4 St. 
west of Second Avenue.

TaleFest presents: the return of "It Came From New York!"


"My story: a quest for a throwback old lady muumuu."

Monday, July 1, 2019

Spicks & Specks

Every time I see the Losers Lounge At Lincoln Center Summer Swing another event comes to mind... March 1974 @ Avery Fisher Hall @ Lincoln Center @ the Bee Gees. Great show. Their final tune, "Spicks & Specks." 
After Barry sang:
"Where is the girl I loved All along
The girl that I loved She is gone
She is gone."
A young teen girl behind me shouted:
"No I'm not. I'm right here."












Sunday, June 30, 2019

Jones Beach ~ Land Of The Pharaohs

In the 1960s, each time we approached Jones Beach by car and I saw the Needle at the roundabout and walked through the bathhouses and pool I imagined I was in the land of the Pharaohs.





















Friday, June 21, 2019

Perfect Day June 21, 1964


Tomorrow at Ryan's Daughter, School's Out For Summer and I'm telling this one with a hundred old Yorkville photographs. Joe Dettmore, Fred Caruso and Walter Deforest will join me for a storytelling & song show reflecting the birth of summer.


       
“Do you wait till you’re done?” 
        “Yes.” I said.
        “I mean, do you wait till you’re sure you’re finished?” Mom dug in.
        “I really do.”
        “Obviously, you don’t.” Mom said wagging a finger at the stream meandering down my left pants leg.
        “It fools me.”
        “Well, why don’t you fool it back?  Make believe you are putting it away then leave it out and see what happens?”
        “For how long?”
        Losing steam, mom said, “Get your shoes on, get your brother and let’s go.  If we’re lucky we’ll sneak in before the gospel.  I hate getting the dirty look off the priest.”
        Mom had a lot of rules about peeing including, “Lift the seat, wipe the seat, put the seat down.”  She forced Dad to schedule target practice.
       “Bob, I want you to work with them on their marksmanship.  It’s starting to smell like we have a cat.”


        No adult lecture could break the spell.  My mood soared.  I was invincible.  It was the longest day of the year, June 21st, Sunset 8:42pm - confirmed through consultation with my Reader’s Digest Farmer’s Almanac calendar.  I was liberated from fourth grade two days earlier.  This was the first of an endless string of Sundays where the looming gloom of Monday faded away.  On Sunday during the school year, you carry a nagging dread of the next day through all your activities.   Summer empowers Sunday.  
       Nine o’clock Mass was always a sellout.  We tried slipping into a crowded pew in the back of the church. My brother Rory led, I followed, then mom.  Mom pushed me, I pushed Rory, he pushed a holy-roller lady and she said loudly, “Well, I never.” 
        On the altar, Father Benedict Dudley stopped his Latin chant, brought his raised arms down to his side, turned his head slow like a cow monitoring a passing car and gave mom a dirty look.  Mom tried to bite me with her eyes. 
        I flipped my head towards Rory and mimed, “What are you going to do?”  
        Mom mimed back, “Thanks a lot.”
        After Mass, I ran home to put on my sneakers, shorts and tee shirt.  It was 10am and there was only eleven hours left of daylight and so much to do.  First thing, I had to finish making Dad’s Father’s Day card.  Dad slept in on Sunday, so I had time.  I cut a Joe DiMaggio photo out of Life Magazine from “The Yankee Clipper’s” rookie year 1937.   Joe had a wide gapped tooth smile and his bat was slung lazily over his shoulder.  From the same magazine, I ripped out a photo of a young Frank Sinatra singing directly to a bunch of squealing girls at the Paramount Theatre.  I placed Dad’s two favorite guys next to each other on the front of the card and pasted dialogue bubbles over the heads. 

        DiMaggio said, “Dear Bob, your sonny boy said you’re the Best Dad in the World, so I’m going to go five-for-five today and smack two homers into the left field bleachers for you.  Happy Fathers Dad, love, Jolting Joe DiMaggio #5.”
        Sinatra said, “Hey Pal, your son, Tommy, thinks you’re his Night and Day.  Happy Pappy’s Day!  Ding a Ling Ding, love, Francis Albert.”
        I wrote dad a poem inside the card.  It was kind of personal, so it’s just between Dad & me.   When I finished, I went to his bedroom and left it on mom’s pillow.
        Job done, I flew down the stairs to the street.  Surveying the block from the stoop, I saw groups of kids and had several options.  The hot sun baked each side of the street.  I needed fuel.  My first stop would be Joe’s Candy Store.        
        The Candy store was lit by two chintzy light bulbs.  One must’ve been from Joe’s refrigerator and the other from his aquarium. He pulled the window shades down to cool the space.   His ceiling fan had TB and hardly moved.  Cheap and mean, Joe was on Con Edison’s Watch list.
       
“Hi Joe,” I said.
        He grunted at me.  This was progress.  He usually ignored customers unless they were paying for something or he was throwing them out.  I delivered newspapers for Joe, but this had no impact on his feelings for me once I slipped back into being just another annoying kid wasting time in his store.
        I looked through the sports magazines and comics for new stuff.  Nothing.
        “Hey Joe, were there any deliveries this week?”
        “No.”
        He spoke to me.  I was honored.  He had unique grunts that meant different things and he rarely used language with a kid.  When he did, he got right to the point.
        “Put the comic back.”
        “Where you found it.”
        “Touch the candy, you buy it.”
        “Stop spinning on the stool.”
        “No, I don’t have a bathroom.”
        “Get out.”
        I was thirsty.  Since Joe was being Joe, I decided to take my soda business elsewhere.
        “Bye Joe.”  I said, just so I could get my goodbye grunt.
        Two stores down was Parkers Grocery store.  Murray Parker wore a girl catching Elmer Fudd leather hunting hat with ear flaps year round over his extremely bald head.  His giant movie star black eyeglass frames added the ideal accessory.
        “Hi Murray.”
        “Hey Tommy.”   Murray was helping a customer and I noticed sweat rolling down his chipmunk cheeks.
        The customer was Mrs. Huthansel, a gigantic pain in the ass.  All the store owners hated her and called her Sour Puss.  So did I.  She never gave me a tip when I delivered her newspaper.
        Mrs. Huthansel was buying cold cuts.  Murray was at the slicer.  I watched from the back of the store while weighing my soda selection.
        “Murray make sure the cheese is paper thin.” Sour Puss said this three times.
        After the third time, Murray delicately held up two fingers holding a slice of air and asked, “Is this thin enough?”

        Mrs. Huthansel ignored him and played with the fruit.  She squeezed every piece then threw it back.  I saw Murray mumbling.  I needed to cheer him up.
        Murray had a long counter that ran from the front, to the back of the store.  The sodas were in the back, so I was able to stand to Murray’s side of the counter so Mrs. Huthansel couldn’t see me, but Murray could.  Every pair of shorts I owned had a hole around the crotch area.   I carefully pulled my ball sac around my underwear band and pulled the sac through the hole in my shorts.  I waited till Murray shut off the slicer.  
        I yelled, “Hey Murray want to see me blow my balloon up?”
        When I had his full attention, I squeezed my nut through the hole in my shorts.  The deflated sad sac blew up like a birthday bubble.  Murray started choking.  He stepped back so he could lean against the cash register and tried to recover.  Each time he thought he was ok; he’d look back at me.  When he did, I’d do it again.  His hat and glasses were crooked and he began to cry.  I was so proud.
        “Murray are you ok? Are you ok?”  Mrs. Huthansel thought he was having an epileptic fit.  It was time for me to leave.  I went to front of the store and left 12 cents on the counter for the Mission cream soda in and waved goodbye to Murray.  
        Back on my block there were several games going on.  I worked my way down the street and joined the ones that moved me.  First, I played a little Ace, King, Queen, then I jumped into Off the Point - two games played with a Spauldeen.  A high bouncing reject tennis ball.  You tested the quality of a spauldeen by dropping it from shoulder height.  The higher it bounced back, the better the ball.  Joe was the neighborhood’s premier spauldeen seller.  The balls sat in a tall wire barrel near the register.  Kids were always trying to sneak one in their pockets so Joe kept a close eye on the bin.  Spauldeen selection was serious business.  From a kid’s point of view they were expensive.  The one you picked must have superior bounce and last through a wide variety of games.  During a test you developed an immunity to being shoo-ed.  Joe became a genuine conversationalist when you conducted a test. 
        “Pick a ball and get out of here.”  Joe said.
        “That’s what I’m trying to do.”  I said.
        “They’re all good.” He grabbed one and squeezed it.  “See.”  He almost smiled.  This frightened me.
        “Yes,” I said.  “But one of them is better than all the others.”
        He studied me.  The relentless bouncing was murdering him.  I was driving him crazy.
        “You just tried that one.”
        “Not true, I have a system.   I repeat no ball.”
        “I repeat, pick a friggin ball now.”
        I had him on the ropes - he said a curse word.  I found the ball and left a quarter on the counter.  “Bye Joe.”
        Around noon, most of the fathers on the street began showing up on the front stoops.  Normally many of them would’ve headed straight for the bars - especially, on a hot Sunday afternoon.  It was Father’s Day, and that wouldn’t be right.  They stood on top of the stoops surveying the block.  The older boys were in the street playing stickball.  Most mothers had their front windows wide open looking for a breeze.

        I heard Dean Martin’s voice floating in the air,
If I had it in my power,
I’d arrange for every girl to have your charm.
Then every minute, every hour,
Every boy would find what I found in your arms.
Everybody loves somebody sometimes.
         
        Looking up, I saw a few moms draped over their window sills singing along with Dino.  The dads began congregated around the older boys’ home plate.  A manhole at the southern end of the street. 
        “You play like girls.” One dad said
        “We could beat you while we were sleeping.” Said another.
        “Prove it old men.” A teenager taunted back.
        One insult led to another until it was agreed - there’d be a game.  My Dad sitting on our stoop was amusing himself listening to the mêlée.
        He yelled down to the group.  “Let’s make it interesting.  The dads will take the little guys on our team.”
        The teenagers sneered, but the young guys got into the game.  I never played in a competitive game along side my Dad.  Just catch and pitch it to each other.  This was my first time and I couldn’t stop grinning.
        Stickball wasn’t an easy game.  The bat, a broomstick, was only an inch or two across.  The field included the sidewalk, the cars, the building walls and all the fire escapes.  Everything was in play.  There was a bona fide talent to being able to follow a bouncing ball down a web of landings, window sills and stairs till you hopefully caught the egg in your cupped hands.  The ball was light and you needed to finesse its capture.
Paddy McNamara’s father, a Lieutenant in the local Police Precinct, just happened to have a parade sawhorse in the basement of his building that he dragged out for special occasions.   To officially start the game, Mr. Mac plopped the sawhorse in the middle of 83rd Street where it met East End Avenue, shutting off car traffic for the rest of the day.  Mr. Mac theatrically tipped his cap to acknowledge the round of applause from the mothers in the nose bleed seats.  His manner reminded me of Jimmy Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy.

        My Uncle Mickey and my dad’s friend Allie were on our team.  Both of them, comedians and good players.  Allie dove into a row of garbage cans to catch a line drive.        All the cans rolled over, the garbage piled out and Allie came up holding the ball.   
        Mickey went over, held Allie’s arm straight up, examined Allie’s wrist and said, “And it’s still ticking!”
        “I’m not a watch, Doc.” Allie replied and threw the ball back to me. 
        Mickey playing the outfield waited for a ball to make its way down a building’s worth of fire escapes. 
        Staring up, he said, “Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows.”
        Bouncing off the last fire escape the ball eased into Mickey’s hands.
        During the fifth inning, a few people started yelling and pointing up towards a building.  There was a guy running up a fire escape with a portable TV under his arm. It was our neighborhood junkie, Freddie Hammer.  He was being chased by Mr. Muller who I assumed came home unexpectedly while Freddie was helping himself to the TV.  Freddie had a lead but looked like he was getting winded.  I didn’t like Mr. Muller and was pulling for Freddie. “Come on Freddie, you can do it.  Get to the roof, get to the roof.”  With Freddie in the lead, he, the TV & Mr. Muller disappeared over the roof. 
        The game couldn’t have turned out better. We played three!  We won the first one.  The teenagers won the second one, then we played the rubber match.  Dad had three hits in the third game and pitched great.  I didn’t make any errors in the field and got on base once, scoring when Dad knocked me home on a tremendous two sewer shot.  We won the game 3-2.  The teens begged for a best of five, but the dads told them to go get wet.  They did. 
        The heat was brutal.  We were all sweaty and exhausted.  Mr. Mac went into his basement again and came out with a giant wrench.   He walked over to the fire hydrant and one, two, three the street was flooded.  Steam rose off the asphalt and the air filled with a cooling mist.  My skin goose-bumped.  The rush of the water drowned out most other noises.  I cautiously protected my transistor radio.  I put the radio to my ear to get the baseball scores.  I normally would’ve listened to the Yankee game only, but the Phillie pitcher, Jim Bunning, had faced fifteen batters up, fifteen batters down.  He was perfect through five.  I screamed out the news, “Mets are being no-hitted!”
        Like my heart needed another reason to beat outside my chest.   My brother held my radio while I dove head first on top of a wall of water flying down the middle of the street.  The water exploded out of the hydrant so it didn’t have a chance to spread across the whole street bed.  It moved syrup thick giving you an opportunity to ride a cushioned wave if you hit it perfect.  On the other hand, if you missed the wave, say the pressure on the hydrant let up a bit, it’d be just you in flight and the wet asphalt coming at you very fast with your landing gear already down.  This option provided no happy ending - cuts, bruises, torn clothing, or worst case, an unplanned visit to Lenox Hill’s Emergency Room.  My dive was half assed.  The German judge gave a five.
        It slipped my mind that Dad was watching the action.  He never officially approved playing in the hydrant and he absolutely never joined us when we did.  He knew the cops would always shut us down; he didn’t like cops and knew he’d get in an argument with one of them one way or another.  That day was different.  Everyone had a hall pass thanks to Mr. Mac, and he turned the darn thing on.  Rory gave the radio back to me and left his feet for a beautiful ride down the rapids.  Rory was graceful and less clumsy than me. 
        I went back to the game and heard the Met announcer, Lindsey Nelson, “At the end of six and half innings it’s the Phillies 6 and the Mets nothing.  Bunning’s retired 21 straight batters.”
        Oh my god, this could be the first one since Larsen’s in 1956, I thought.  I made like the Town Pryor and screamed, “He’s perfect through seven.” 
        By this time, even the Met fans were into it and there were so many radios on, the sound of the game was beginning to match the sound of the open hydrant.  I turned to the hydrant and saw Dad took over directing the water.   My Dad, he who always told me what to do, when to do it, how to do it countless times each day, was squatting behind the hydrant in a catcher’s position.  He reached his arms around the fire plug giving it a big hug.  With his fists together, he came up under the jet of water and began to lift the spray up in the air like a fireboat.  Higher and higher he sent it up to a second story fire escape.  His eyes were opened wide with joy and he laughed hard.  Dad left the arch of water up there for a few minutes till he realized he knocked over Mrs. Trusits’ flower pots sitting outside her window.  I watched his face carefully. 
        It said, “Oh, oh.” He was ten years old.  When he brought the spray back to the street bed, I took a running start and hit the sky.
        “Good slide, Tommy.” I heard Dad say over the noise.
        As word got round the Mets were down to their last batter in the ninth inning, someone turned the pressure off the hydrant.  All you could hear was Lindsey Nelson’s voice on the radio, “What a day for Bunning he has 2 hits and 2 RBIs on top of this incredible pitching performance.   He’s retired 26 straight Mets.   To the plate steps pinch-hitter John Stephenson.  Mets are down to their last out.  The 32,000 fans are on their feet.  They know they’re watching history.  Here’s the pitch - Stephenson takes a called first strike.  The crowd is clapping as Bunning rubs the ball and gets ready to deliver – the windup, the pitch, Strike two!  He’s one pitch away, one pitch away! Bunning circles the mound and returns to the pitching rubber.  The catcher, Gus Triandos gives him the signal, Bunning draws a big breath, and here comes the windup and the pitch - Stephenson swings, Strike three!  He did it!  Perfect game!  The Phillies are mobbing Bunning, slapping him, hugging him, and putting him up on their shoulders.  On only 90 pitches, Jim Bunning’s made history with the first regular season perfect game in 42 years and the first one overall since Don Larsen tossed one in the 1956 World Series.  What an amazing Father’s Day gift this is for Bunning on Father’s Day 1964.”
        All the Yankee fans in the street went bananas, all the Met fans sulked.  This lasted less than a minute before my Dad turned the hydrant back on.  I don’t know who brought it up first, but no one had eaten all day.  It was past four o’clock and it seemed everyone’s stomach woke up at the same time. 
        Barbecue?” Dad said loudly. 
        Everyone who had a car parked on the block had a barbecue in their car’s trunk.  Two fathers took them out.   During the game, when Allie knocked over the garbage cans, folks picked them up but didn’t bother to stick them back in their enclosure behind the gate off the sidewalk.  A couple of men moved the garbage cans completely away from the enclosure next to the stoop, swept the area and put the two barbecue stands inside the enclosure.  They called it a M.A.S.H. kitchen.  With the fires set up it was time to deal with Sunday’s meat problem. 

        All the German butchers were closed.  The men set the kids off to the store to buy franks and buns but it was impossible to have a real barbecue without hamburgers. 
        Mrs. Walsh watching the action from her fourth floor window said, “I was making meat loaf for dinner, but you can have it.  All my kids and my knucklehead husband are down there with you.  Joey, come up and get the meat.” 

        And that was that.  The meat drive was a success.  Two more mothers donated meat loaf chuck chop and a couple of mothers donated their roasts that became shish-kebobs.   Vegetables and baked beans followed.  By the time we finished eating it was past 8pm and the light was sinking over the Metropolitan museum up on Fifth Avenue.  We sat on the stoop singing along with Peter & Gordon:
Please lock me away
And don't allow the day
Here inside, where I hide with my loneliness
I don't care what they say, I won't stay
In a world without love  
       
        As time passed, the only thing that changed was there was no daylight, the street lights came on, everyone was still in the street including the moms once we started eating. We were all together - and the Yankees won a doubleheader against the White Sox in Chicago.
        “Let’s take this party to the Old Timers.”  The voice came out of the dark and was met by several others all in agreement.  The crowd moved as one around the corner to the Old Timers Tavern that sat in the storefront next to my dad’s mom’s apartment house.  I knew from listening to Dad, that in 35 years my grandmother never stepped into the bar and he considered it a safe haven from chore requests.
     
   I ran into the bar, dropped a dime in the jukebox and played the fastest song I knew:
Hey pretty baby!  You can't sit down.
A don't you hear the drummer thumpin’  You can't sit down.
You gotta shake it like a crazy.  You can't sit down.
Because the band is sayin' something.  You can't sit down.
And everybody is a jumpin'  You can't sit down.
You gotta slop, bop, flip flop, hip hop all around.
You can’t sit down, you can’t sit down.

        As people passed through the tavern’s door they began to shake something.  Maybe it was their hips, some it was their leg, and some just put a finger in the air and shook it back and forth.  But everybody who came through the door reacted to the song.  Meanwhile, the regulars on the barstools thought we were all nuts and kept drinking their short beers.  The place had a big dance floor in the back.  All the kids and many of the mothers headed for the back while the Dads joined the regulars.
        We took over the old fashioned shuffleboard and rotated between that game and making dizzy circles on the buffed dance floor when a song moved us.  One that made us bop was:
I'm broken-hearted now
Since we have parted now
My mind wanders now and then
Remember then, then, then, then, then
Remember, Re-mem-mem, Re-mem-mem-mem-ber

        Well past midnight, Rory fell asleep across two chairs.  A piece of a candy bar was sticking out of his mouth.  Dad removed the Milky Way and carried Rory over his shoulder up the stairs to Nan’s second floor apartment next door.  By the time Dad came back, I was punchy and lying on the floor watching the fan spin.  Dad picked me up like the sailor’s bag in the Old Spice commercial.  Upstairs, he put me to bed next to Rory who was sawing wood. 
“How about that Bunning, Dad?”
“Perfect, Tommy.”
“Happy Father’s Day.” I said.
He smiled & kissed my forehead and I don’t remember another thing.