Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring Balks


Three years ago on March 20th during winter's final hours on the first day of spring I took a long walk through Central Park in the snow. North of the Reservoir a brisk wind made swirly drifts here and there. Geese searched for food under the white blanket covering the rolling field between 97th Street and 100th Street. Same spot my Our Lady of Good Counsel's Yorkville football team practiced at in 1969. Half sleet was coming down by the time I reached the Botanical Gardens entrance. I discovered this beautiful oasis late in my life. My curled numb fingers inside my wet gloves told me this visit would not include twilight strolling.

I headed for Harlem Meer on the edge of the park and saw a nutty boy muscling his way through the snow on a small bike. Every half minute he stopped to clean his chain.  I enjoy how kids defy logic when it comes to things like what to do when it starts snowing? Of course, get my new bike out. That clash of need between using your new toy on the wrong battlefield. You gotta do it.

Children's defiance brought me back to sleigh riding on 79th Street on what we called Cherry Hill in the mid 1960s. My shivering brother, Rory, and I after countless rides rushed home to wrap our soaked clothing around the steam pipes and on top of radiators to get them dry (they stunk the place up) so we could go out a second time if Mom didn't tackle us at the doorway. We threw our clothes out the door down the landing and dressed in the hall to not give Mom a heads up we were on our way out. Because we never waited until everything was dry we usually got sick. And Mom loved the newsprint all over our asses and long johns from sticking newspaper down our dungarees and inside our boots.

March 24th is Mom's birthday. She loved snow. My family would have enjoyed the walk with me. Mom wearing her Babuska hat, Dad in his Elmer Fudd hat, and Rory sporting our Boy Scout Troop 654 approved yellow and green rubber boots we bought at Arbee's Army & Navy store on Second Avenue. A store that sold a majority of Yorkville kids' play clothing.

Want to see other Central Park photographs taken during the March 20th snowfall? 

Here is a public album.

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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. If you do read it, please leave a few honest words about the book on Amazon and B&N. Thank you.

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Babushka Mom & Rory.

 Dad & Rory















90 St & Fifth ~ same spot as above 2013













Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Happy St. Joseph Day!

St. Joe building a diving board.
March 19th is the Feast of St. Joseph. An Upper East Side wide holiday in 1962. The St. Joseph parish on 87th Street began as an orphanage on York Avenue (then known as Avenue A) and 89th Street in the 1800s. The present church’s cornerstone was blessed in 1894. My mother and her sisters went to St. Joe’s school in the 1940s. My affection for the saint was built into me.

In second grade, I was chosen to play St. Joseph in a play in front of the St. Stephen of Hungary's student body. Everything about this excited me right up to the beard but the nun lied. She told us St. Joe was the patron saint for the U.S. Post Office and therefore in heaven he was in charge of the mail between heaven and earth.
Tommy 2nd grade.

I later found out St. Joseph had never been near a post office but had a lot of other patronage responsibilities including patron saint against doubt, for cabinetmakers, Canada, carpenters, China, confectioners, craftsmen, dying people, engineers, families, fathers, a happy death, a holy death, house hunters, Korea, laborers, Mexico, New France, Peru, pioneers, social justice, travelers, Universal Church, Vatican II, Viet Nam, working people.

Alas, I was St. Joseph in charge of Heaven's post office and as my costume got built by the Nun I got happier and happier. First, I got to wear Father Emeric's cool brown priest sandals. The sandals signaled poverty but to me they signaled taking my toes out for a walk in the cool March air. Then, I got to wear his brown robe with rope belt. The priest uniform, I had the whole priest uniform! And I could swing that Franciscan poverty rope around like a beat cop. I nailed a couple of kids in the head as I walked up to the stage. They'd get even later. Who cared?
Sister Lorraine thank you note, 1962.


Sister Lorraine, our teacher, had this thing for the post office and authentic historical scenes and since St. Joe had a beard I was getting a beard. I had no problem until they put the itchy wool choker on my face held on by a thick rubber band over my ears and around my neck that cut off the blood to my brain. I couldn't stand it, and though I knew my lines I had a problem getting them out of my mouth through the beard to the audience. I fixed that. Every time I spoke I lifted the contraption off my face and spoke my lines out of the side of my mouth. It was my last feature role.

Happy Saint Joseph's Day!

Original St. Joseph's on Avenue A & 89th Street, 1890.

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 & Noble or other booksellers. If you do read it, please leave a few honest words about the book on Amazon or B&N. Thank you!

  St. Joe's 8th Grade graduation same month as D-Day
June 1944, my Mom, bottom row, third from left.

Monday, March 18, 2019

An Irishman Gave Me The Finger


Ourselves Club on East 84th Street in 1903

St.
 Paddy’s morning I woke from a strange dream. It was a spring day in the early 1900s in Yorkville. I knew this when I saw isolated wood-frame houses scattered among the vacant lots along the cobblestone street lined with trees in early bloom. I rode inside a copper colored trolley shooting the breeze with the driver.

We passed Lexington Avenue on 79th Street headed towards Third Avenue, when an Irish gentleman dressed in his Sunday best, velvet green vest, spats, top hat, the works, decided to dart out mid-block and jog theatrically across the street in front of us. The driver paid him no mind and kept the trolley at cruising speed. This forced the gent to move faster than he intended and his feet tangled. The gentleman finished his cake walk crossing with a 360 degree turn with his arms flailing and remarkably kept his balance.

The Irishman fumed when he saw us giggling at him. He marched across his lawn to his porch and pulled a large wooden contraption down the steps and out on the grass ~ looked like the catapult that the French hurled the cow at the English with in "Monty Python's Holy Grail."

He set the weapon up on the lawn and started cranking a handle on the side of the device. The driver and I exchanged a look, we expected, "Incoming!" Instead, after several "Crank, Crank, Cranks," a colossus wooden fist rose up with the middle finger saluting ~ the carved hand was giving us the finger. The Irishman crossed his arms, smirked and nodded towards the bus. 


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. If you do read it, please leave a few honest words about the book on Amazon and B&N. Thank you.


Central Park


Central Park


Thursday, March 14, 2019

My Favorite St. Patrick's Day ~ 1970

Ask a New Yorker published my column about my favorite St. Paddy's Day. 


It's one of those memories that float in and out my head and lift my spirits.

Here's a link to the story, a link to Old Saint Paddy's and a few pictures through the years.

The singles Thank You and Everybody is a Star by Sly Stone was in heavy rotation on March 17, 1970.

That day was a keeper.

Erin go Bragh!

copy of my grandfather's baptismal certificate from St. Pat's Cathedral  ~ 1900


Old St. Pat's


Buddy @ LaSalle Academy 1970

Tommy @ LaSalle Academy 1970



Artie Peters & Tommy mugging for Joe Menesick on the #6 Local 1970


Tommy & Buddy 1985


Buddy, Tommy, Karl, Eddie & John 1982


Buddy & Tommy 2011

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

You Win Some, You Lose...

On my 12th birthday, Dad gave me a basketball. This was an odd present for two reasons: 
(1) Dad gifts to me always reflected his interests and he hated basketball. 
(2) I was terrible at basketball.

Right after Christmas 1965, I made up my mind I was going to change that. I would learn to dribble the ball with my right hand, drive in both directions to the basket, and force myself to jump higher. My vertical leap was challenged. When Dad and I played catch he’d sometimes throw the ball a little over my head so he could get a kick out of the short distance I put between the sidewalk and my chubby body with the dead legs. My left handed dribbling was something to watch. Each time I played a new rival I’d drive left, hit two to three baskets with a nasty hook until my opponent figured out "the lack of right" in my game and then I’d be blanketed for the rest of the match. Only reason I played basketball was for a good sweat because it certainly wasn’t pleasurable playing it poorly.



Dad was sick of hearing how much I wanted a basketball from New Year’s through St. Paddy’s Day so he bought the ball to shut me up. On the morning of the 20th, Dad passed the "monkeys-wrapped-it" ball over Mom’s head to me as she was doing the dishes. I named it Joe, after my round-headed friend, Joe Menesick, from 84th Street. It was Saturday, and I had to try it out down Carl Schurz Park. I thanked and kissed my parents, my brother, Rory, rolled his eyes and I ran down the four flights of stairs into the street.



A blast of wind headed west smacked my face on the 83rd Street stoop. I awkwardly dribbled the ball with one hand towards East End Avenue. I avoided the Drive near the water figuring a gale storm was whipping the river up. In the park, at the basketball court in the Hockey Field my left hand was numb and coiled like a cripple. I took my first shot from the top of the key, a doozy. It left my hand on a high arc and caught a demonic stream of air that lifted and carried the ball over the left side of the back board. Losing altitude near the fence, it struck a spike and let out a death rattle, “whisssh,” it hung there disheartened. I walked over to the ball, gave it an up and down but didn’t bother to touch it. It was useless. Like the ball, deflated, I walked home.


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. If you do read it, please leave a few honest words about the book on Amazon and B&N. 
Thank you!