Sunday, August 31, 2014

Two Stellar Reviews for "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood"

Two outstanding reviews from Kevin Baker and Robert Lipsyte for "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New york boyhood." They both loved the book.

In their words...

“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, author and former city and sports columnist, The New York Times

This book doesn't happen without the fine editing job by Francis Flaherty, New York's best story editor. Thank you, Frank.

"I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood" book release party @ Tuesday, October 14th @ City Stories: Stoops to Nuts @ Cornelia Street Cafe - followed by a book event at Barnes & Noble, 150 E. 86 St on Friday, October 17th @ 7pm in the Yorkville neighborhood on the Upper East Side."

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Spaldeen & Me

Preparations for a perfect summer day required a delicate dance

Yesterday, I strolled through Central Park. Resting on a bench in front of the Delacorte Theater, I turned my eyes to the center of the Great Lawn. I saw myself lying face up on the grass at 9 years old, throwing a ball up in the air as far as I could, never letting my back lose contact with the ground.

Summer 1963: “Mom, please give me a quarter, I’m dying, come on, give me a quarter, I really need a quarter, I’m on my knee, Uncle Mommy, I want a quarter!”
Mom gave me a dime and spun me toward the door out of the apartment. I’d already had six cents. Walking up 83rd Street, I went through everybody’s garbage and found five soda bottles. That made 10 cents plus my sixteen. When Murray Parker passed me the deposit money, he made a face because I didn’t buy anything from him. I had my quarter plus a penny. The quarter triggered my dilemma: three of my favorite things cost 25 cents.
My first consideration was crap. My favorite crap combo was a 16-ounce Pepsi with Yankee Doodles, three to a pack. Brilliant! That gorgeous, swirled bottle's what a grip! I never dropped it, and I dropped everything. If other kids had 12-ounce sodas you’d torture them, finishing the 16-ouncer real slow with sound effects, “Oh my God, that’s good, …Oooooh! The third Yankee Doodle was a gift. You never got three things. After the second doodle, your mouth would calm down, disappointed nothing further was going in it. Then, all of a sudden, your mouth is being stuffed for a third time with fluffy chocolate cake and cavity-causing vanilla crème. If you’re lucky, a gob of crème stays on your upper lip for a while and you don’t realize it’s there until your tongue goes out for a walk and brings it back into your mouth. The third cupcake went down your throat like a royal coach.
Occasionally, I’d ignore my stomach and consider choice number two: a balsa wood glider. They all had names' like Hornet, Mustang or Scout. The aircraft’s propeller was powered by a rubber band. In a classroom, you could make a plane out of a sheet of loose leaf and, at best, clock a kid in the noggin four or five rows away. With a propeller on your plane, you were going places. Exotic flight plans danced through my head before the first journey. Sometimes there was no second flight. The plane was fragile. This was a short life toy, like having a butterfly for a pet.

Winding the propeller up, I’d send her off. The glider sailed passed the German butcher, narrowly missing the store’s awning. Climbing to the second story it veered left, hitting a wall of wind, did two quick loops and landed on a fire escape.
The painful memory of these lost aircraft led me to door number three: a Spaldeen. A high-bouncing, reject tennis ball. You tested its quality by dropping it from shoulder height. The one you picked must have superior bounce.
In Joe’s Candy Store, Id proceed with my ritual. During a test, you developed immunity to being shooed away.
“Pick a ball and get out of here.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do.”
“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.”
“You just tried that one,” he said.
“Not true. I have a system. I repeat no ball.”
“I repeat: Pick a friggin’ ball!”
I found one, said, “Bye, Joe,” and left a quarter on the counter.
Working my way down my street, I joined games already in progress that moved me: Ace, King, Queen, and then some Off the Point. Finally, I’d run over to Central Park and find a perfect spot in the middle of the Great Lawn, lie on my back and toss the ball as high as possible, over, over and over again. Nothing eased loneliness like a game of catch even when it was just my Spaldeen and me.

"I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood" book release party @ Tuesday, October 14th @ City Stories: Stoops to Nuts @ Cornelia Street Cafe - followed by a book event at Barnes & Noble, 150 E. 86 St on Friday, October 17th @ 7pm in the Yorkville neighborhood on the Upper East Side."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bob Tucker Hates the Cowboys, Too

Bob Tucker, #38, the second best tight end in New York Giants history says, "38 days to go!"

"I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood" book release party @ Tuesday, October 14th @ City Stories: Stoops to Nuts @ Cornelia Street Cafe - followed by book event at Barnes & Noble 150 E. 86 St store on Friday, October 17th @ 7pm in the Yorkville neighborhood on the Upper East Side."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cooling Off in Bethesda Fountain

This has been the coolest New York City summer in my memory. One of the hottest summers that I remember is 1961. Each scorcher my brother and I tortured our parents for relief from the heat. Late August that year, in the middle of Central Park they gave up.

Here's the story as it appeared in The New York Times.

Dad had a thing for Bethesda Fountain. Mom loved any reason for getting out of our tiny apartment on East 83rd Street. Our countless adventures in Central Park always included a pass through the plaza and a stroll down Poet’s Walk.

Fifty-three years ago, August 1961, Dad; Mom; my brother, Rory, 5; and I, 7, death-marched through Central Park on a miserable 100 degree day. Fed up with the heat, Rory and I tortured our parents into letting us swim in Bethesda Fountain. They gave in, sick of our whining. We stripped down to our briefs and vaulted over the stone into the water.

The swim lasted a long time. There was a patrolman watching us, and he left us alone. Then his sergeant came by, and the patrolman had to be a cop again. “O.K. kids, get out of there, and stay out,” he said with a grin facing away from his boss. Thanks to Dad’s Yashica 44 camera, here are photos. As we swung our soaked bodies out of the fountain, Bobby Lewis was singing “Tossin’ & Turnin’” on someone’s transistor radio.

Barnes & Noble confirmed, Friday, October 17th, book event at the East 86th Street Yorkville store for "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

LBI ~ Part Two

The ocean water is clean, seventy-four degrees and the surf, deceptively rough. The dog dug a hole, being a good guest; I joined Ricki in the hole. We stayed there covered with sand for an hour humming tunes, until a nosey pelican teased Ricki. We both rushed the bird. Exhausted from the two-block run, we went in the water to freshen up. When we came out, I fell on my back in the wet sand and Ricki rubbed my belly with her front paw. Then we switched and I rubbed her belly. Later, Ricki gave me an ear rub.

Our exhaustive mission left me sandy, breathless and sweaty. Ricki and I sniffed each other goodbye, and I returned to the backyard of the house to take my final outdoor shower. I’m going home today - that made me sad, but the shower softened my blues and I milked it like a final bite of a yummy pepperoni slice of pizza.

After I took my clothes off, I teased myself. I stuck one arm under the water, noticed the difference between the air temperature and the water’s temperature, played with it, then slowly passed my whole body through the shower. While the rope of water pounded my neck, my tension eased and I looked over the shampoo selection and noticed a purplish bottle with a frog colored top. I grabbed it and read the label,
“Herbal Essences - Totally Twisted - Curls and Waves Shampoo.”
If this was true, who knew what amazing things would happen to my hair? I read the back label, it talked to me.
“With a French fusion of lavender twist & jade extracts, I’m deliciously bent and your hair is, too.”
I couldn’t stop, my heart raced.
“Are you happy go loopy?”
That’s me! I’m in love with this amazing product.
“Happiness goes round. I’m essential to a curl’s life with a cleaning that’s totally springy.
My formula fuses French lavender and jade - makes curls and waves smooth, lush and defined. Use me: lather up, have a lush moment with your curls, rinse and repeat.”
I stretched my lush moment. I’d spent the last three days with hat head - my hair stuck flat to my brain’s roof, an area rug where a wavy plush oriental once laid. Poor shampoo choice. “Totally Twisted” promised curls and waves, I took a leap of faith.

Twenty minutes after drying off, my hair looked like a prairie. Waves, curls, I was bouffant; luckily it was a little windy and a bit humid, contributing to my full luxurious head of hair. I went to the LBI Chowder fest and the remarks thrown my way, made it clear, “Herbal Essences - Totally Twisted - Curls and Waves Shampoo” and me were going to be together for a long time.

At a red light, I heard two women crossing the street checking me out as they noticed me freshly showered behind the steering wheel.

“Holy crap!”
“Look, at those curls!”
“Did you see the waves on that guy?”

Friday, August 1, 2014

Two of Us

Two old friends at Coney Island
"Two of Us" riding nowhere,
spending someone's hard earned pay.
You and me Sunday driving, 
not arriving, 
on our way back home.

Goodbye, my brother.

Eddie Ekis & Tommy

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Book Event @ Barnes & Noble @ E. 86th St. Store @ Oct 17

Barnes & Noble confirmed, Friday, October 17th, book event at the East 86th Street Yorkville store for "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."

Today, I'm "The Sunshine Kid."

Working hard here!

Thank you, Dean Dacian for bottom photo.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Hey, Dad, I See Something!"

Father & daughter at John Jay Pool on the East River. Summer in the city.

"I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood," coming October 2014 (YBK Publishers)

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Artie Peters & Tommy on #6 train, 1969
I thoroughly enjoyed many World Cup games this past month in Brazil. I was a big fan of the NHL as a kid and quickly understood the importance of precision passing, tight defense and sharp goaltending. A 1-0 game can be a brilliant contest if those three aspects of a hockey game were executed well. The same goes for soccer. A low scoring game does not necessarily mean boring. But an NHL hockey rink is 85 feet by 200 feet, and a soccer field can be as large as 300 feet by 390 feet. In hockey if you don’t have a man advantage it’s usually not easy to keep the puck away from your opponent, the size of the rink encourages engagement. In soccer, a sharp passing team with a goal or more advantage versus a weak defense well they may as well be playing Salugi. 

What’s that’s? Salugi is a keep-away game in which children throw around an object with the aim of keeping it away from a particular child (often the owner of the object).

In 1969, I was spending half my time in Yorkville, and half my time in Sunnyside, Queens. This was the same year Panasonic came out with a $39 portable record player/radio combo. Well, Tina Fridheim had one, and Artie Peters and I thought it was a great idea to play Salugi with it on 83rd Street. Unfortunately, we started the game near my curfew. I had to be home in Sunnyside by 11pm. We moved the game off the block and started working our way up to the subway stop on Lexington and 86th Street with Tina and her girlfriends trailing after us trying to get the record player back, but we’d have none of that. Throwing it back and forth, nice and high, over the parked cars we almost dropped it several times, impressing the heck out of each other with tremendous catches. 

Ginny, Norma, Sharon on 403 E 83 St stoop, 1969

At the subway station we went down the stairs to the local #6 level and I passed it to Artie one last time. After putting my token in the turnstile, I went down one more flight of stairs so I could be half way between the local and express platforms. Waiting there, I was semi-aware Artie was still playing the game without me - running away from the girls chasing him around the token booth. Once or twice, he faked throwing the record player down to me over the railing. And then he’d disappear out of my sight. I heard an express train coming and flew down the staircase. Behind me, I heard plastic and metal exploding  as the record player hit the concrete platform. Artie did not fake that time. What could I do?

Tina's record player
I caught the train, went to 42nd Street, got the #7 to Sunnyside's 46th Street/Bliss Street stop. When I walked into my Skillman Avenue apartment, Mom with a puss on was waiting for me with great news:
Tina called my grandmother from the Chapman’s house (the other girls with Tina), then my grandmother called my Mom and let her know what we did. The next Saturday, I worked 12 hours for free for Milton and Marty at the Corner Pharmacy on 79th Street and York. My earnings, twenty bucks, went towards half of Tina’s new Panasonic portable radio/record player.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

NYC's Bird: The Pigeon ~ Like it, Or Not

Before you complain about their crap, give the pigeon credit for dealing with our crap. Like noise and pollution. The pigeon didn’t crash the North American party. It didn’t get here on it’s own, an ocean is a long flight unless you’re made of metal and carry tons of fuel in your tank. Where would The New Yorker cartoonists be without the go to pigeon? Where would Oscar and Felix be without the Pigeon Sisters on The Odd Couple?

As long as I’m not sitting directly under one in the park while he’s reading a newspaper above me, I’m fine saluting New York City’s bird: the pigeon.

"My husband used to be the concierge but he's dead. Now I'm the concierge"

My book, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood," coming October 2014 (YBK). 

If you like TV's "The Wonder Years," add tenements, loitering and a subway - you'll slip seamlessly into my world.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Baby Pigeons Love Thurman Munson

The last time I remember seeing baby pigeons was the day we moved into 83rd Street on Rory's first birthday in 1957. Well, I saw them again, last night and I knew that I would. 

I'm taking that excitement to Bergino Baseball Clubhouse tonight @7pm, and telling a Thurman Munson story at:

Baseball As Good Medicine©
Photo ID Foundation
Thursday, July 17 2014 @ 7:00 pm
Bergino Baseball Clubhouse

"Baseball As Good Medicine: The Amazing, Magical, Healing Qualities of Baseball - a unique variety of storytellers from sportswriters to rheumatologists to artists to umpires - each telling a story related to this theme in 5 minutes or less! An action packed fun evening of baseball, stories and judges all to benefit a cause.
The cause is a good one, offering kids with medical challenges cameras and other media tools to tell their stories. More information below. Please come out and support the children.
All proceeds from the event go to Photo ID Foundation. Our work puts cameras and other tools in the hands of young people with medical challenges/life threatening illnesses to enable them to create media projects to tell their stories and transform their experiences.