Sunday, February 19, 2017

Groovin' On The Met Steps

Thirty something years ago it was 72 degrees on President's Day. Gerard Murphy and I gathered together a cooler full of ice and Buds (from Coleman's Deli), a cassette radio, many tapes and extra batteries ( just in case).
With provisions we headed for the Met Museum steps and grooved for hours on tunes and pretty girls in the warm winter sun. When the chill of dusk set in we carried the cooler and all else to a friendly Second Ave Mexican restaurant. We ate like piggies, drinking our own left over beers (yes, they let us do that) with our music on just loud enough not to get kicked out.

Best President's Day ever.



Thursday, February 16, 2017

My First Coffin In Bizarro World

@surrealDonaldTrump thanks for the trip back to Joe's Candy Store. Completely forgot about Bizarro World until you brought it back. Here is one of 53 stories in my Yorkville memoir, "I Hate The Dallas Cowboys ~ tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."





My First Coffin

In the summer, in the city, there was a special bond between a kid and who got his soda business. This was my relationship.

My first coffin was metal. It measured six feet long, three feet wide, and three feet deep. It rested on a wood base that lifted its height up by one foot. It sat in near darkness at the rear of the parlor. Everyone paid their respects. Upon close examination, you saw it bled sweat and you heard it release a soft steady communal hum. It held something we cherished and missed all the time. It chilled soda bottles in Joe's candy store.

The cooler was battered and colored red, with a raised Coca-Cola bottle cap appearing on all four sides. A similar model followed Ike across Europe throughout World War II. I loved the coffin. I kissed it when no one was looking. 
similar to my first coffin but not as big


Joe's candy store was our neighborhood's home base. Till I knew better, I thought a couple of kids lived there. Joe was a fifty-year-old moody Italian bachelor. Every day, Joe arrived at the store with grey work pants, a grey tee shirt and a puss on his face. Joe was a man of few words. Here's a day's worth. 

"What do you want?" 

"Put the comic book back." 

"In the right place." 

"Get out." 

Joe was a miser. He made Silas Marner look philanthropic. There were no fans in the store and minimal electricity. Con Edison had Joe on their "to be watched" list. To save money he used low wattage refrigerator and aquarium light bulbs in the store, giving the space a glow of gloom. 

Coming in from the bright sunshine into the wartime blackout you became disoriented. With enough kids in there you could get a good game of blind man's bluff going without the blindfold. Despite his record-breaking cheapness, Joe was no fool. If you had a candy store you must have ice cold soda. Kids boycotted candy stores that ignored this rule. The water temperature in Joe's cooler always flirted with the freezing mark. 

Sometimes, you needed to submarine your hand through a thin crust of ice forming on the surface. 200 bottles of soda buried deep beneath the sea, in a light so dim the eels bumped into each other. More than twenty different brands slept on the ocean's floor. With the cooler sitting on a foot tall base anyone less than four feet tall needed to lift himself to plunge into the Loch in search of Nessy. Unfortunately, I usually craved a bottle of Mission Cream. 

Mission soda was a local favorite with 10 different flavors. Mission's bottles had zero variation in style, texture or height. All Missions being equal led to a courage speech I'd give myself before each attempt. "You can do it. I've seen you do it. Do it." 

Shorter than the top of the coffin, I'd hop up, and swing my arm over its front wall. My armpit was now responsible for keeping me airborne. I'd sink my other arm into the icy water with a numbing splash. I was 100 percent dependent on my tactile skill for the bottle retrieval. My hand and forearm would tighten up before I achieved bottle depth. When I reached the wreck, my numb digits embraced the familiar Mission shape and pulled one up. Orange. 

"Ooooh," I moaned. 

Back down the bottle would go. I'd do my best to remember where I replanted it. The bottles were snug as sardines. I had limited time before my arm below the elbow lost all sensation. If my search stretched beyond a minute and my favorite soda remained unlocated, sensors went off. The front of my arm turned into a bottle-nosed dolphin. Using the pain impulses shooting through my hand, sonar signals would strike the bottles then return to my brain revealing vital bottle data. Rotating my arm in a corkscrew motion increased blood circulation allowing a brief search extension, but the water was too cold. Pride swallowed, I raised the last bottle I touched before my hand passed out. It was a Root Beer. "Grrrrr." 
Mission soda sign behind Nan


I moved the second place soda gently from my puffy blue hand to my landlubber hand. I tucked my arm under my noncombatant armpit, rocking back and forth till warmth returned. With phony bravado, I grinned at my friends. A wicked pleasure swept through the crowd when someone chose a soda you knew wasn't their first choice. Everyone knew each other's favorite soda right behind knowing their favorite sports team or movie star. When I was in the hot seat, I sat there drinking the soda, faking enjoyment, saying, "hmmm" or "aaahhh", followed by a satisfying swipe of my mouth. I knew, they knew, I was lying. It didn't matter, I went down swinging. 

Addressing the mob, I'd say, "I do like it. I really do like it. I just didn't tell anybody." 

One day when I was eight years old, I was moping around the store doing nothing. Joe, ready to throw me out, switched moods and asked me to take a newspaper around the corner to Mrs. Todero. I did. Two weeks later, Mrs. Moose was added to my delivery route. After a month, Joe asked me if I wanted to deliver the New York Times on Sunday mornings. He said my pay would be a dollar and any flavor milk shake I wanted. Excellent money. I knew I'd get decent tips so the dollar pay was gravy. First Sunday, I showed up at 7 am. Joe gave me 15 papers to pile into a grocery-shopping cart he told me was on loan from Sloan's Supermarket. "On loan?" I thought, "that's nice." Two hours later, three dollars richer in tips, I returned to the store triumphantly baring an empty cart and an awful milk shake craving.
Barbara, Joan, Rory, and a kid with a donald duck hat


"I'm back." 

Behind the counter, Joe gave me a grunt with not too much mood. I rode the cart to the back of the store and returned to the counter for my beautiful reward. I was in a death match struggling between chocolate and vanilla, chocolate and vanilla. They were both so good and I didn't want to wait till next week for either one. Mom did this black and white thing with her egg creams and I toyed with that for a while but settled back to vanilla. 

"Joe, I'm ready." 

"What flavor do you want?" 

"I'd love a chocolate shake please." 

My tongue left my mouth to circle my lips. I spun around and did four revolutions on the counter stool off one push. My record was five. I eased my effort not wanting to be too dizzy while sucking down the shake. A couple more takeoffs and the mixer roar died down. I turned as Joe approached me with a big smile. This unnerved me. It took a while to leave his smile and return my eyes back to the important matter, my delicious chocolate shake. I looked down. I smelled it before I fully thought out the word... strawberry... strawberry... Joe walked away before I could confront him. I began presenting my case towards his back. 

"Joe I asked for chocolate. This is not chocolate. I don't like strawberry. I can't eat it." 

Joe never turned around. I didn't see his face the whole time I sat there playing with the shake. After it got luke warm, I pushed it to the edge of the counter. On the way out, I said good bye. Joe was washing the long stirring spoons - for the second time in the previous ten minutes. 

"Hey Joe, can I get a chocolate shake next week?" 

"Yeah." 

"Promise?" 

"Yep." 

Liar, I thought. 

Joe never made me a chocolate, vanilla or black and white shake. I stopped hopping on the counter after Sunday paper deliveries. What was the point? Joe delivered a strawberry shake each time. At least he stopped smiling. Over time, I realized that Mr. Stingy was moving his stock and the strawberry had to go. My compensation sunk back to a dollar. I hardly noticed. At eight years old, counting tips, four dollars in my pocket made me a wealthy man.

Previously published in  A Prairie Home Companion


This is one of fifty-three stories in my Yorkville memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." Available at Logos Book Store or online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The book has 123 Amazon five star reviews out of 123 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.

You can also purchase my photography portfolio,"River to River - New York Scenes From a Bicycle" on Amazon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

There Will Be Blood


At 16, my dream job was working behind the deli counter at Daitch Shopwell on First Avenue & 72nd Street. As a stock boy this would be a coup. Watching Milton or Marty cut thin slices of rare roast beef and Jarlsberg Swiss, I cried with pain. Pain that some son of a bitch was going to eat that tasty mound of meat and cheese and it wouldn't be me. One Saturday, Milton got sick and Marty asked if I wanted to help him out for the ladies afternoon cold cut rush?

"Huh?"
Did I want to see Emma Peel nude?
Did I want free Ranger tickets on the glass?

Stupid questions, of course I wanted to be in the deli. And there I was, helping Marty make orders and sneaking bits of delicious cold cuts left and right into my mouth. I gained five pounds that day.
The following month, Milton was scheduled to be off for two Saturdays in a row, and Marty talked Harry Cohen, #16 store manager, into letting me cover. "Harry, you'll save money using the kid!" Harry looked like Mr. Dithers from the Blondie comic strip. He pulled his starched collar, wiggled his neck and said, "OK."

I brought my LaSalle Academy schoolbag in. My bag was well used and had holes in its four corners from me throwing it around the subway platform while waiting for the #6 local at Bleecker Street. I needed the bag. I had no control this close to the goods. I talked Marty into letting me cover up the salads so he could leave early. This left me alone with the roast beef and Jarlsburg. I finely cut 3/4 of a pound each on the slicer, wrapped them like a spastic, and shoved the wax paper lumps into my bag. Making sure Pete the Assistant Manager saw how good a job I did cleaning the sawdust off the deli floor, I gathered my bag and said good night to all and went around the registers towards the exit.
Two steps from the automatic door, I heard, "Pryor!" I turned towards the voice. The Assistant Manager was looking down. I followed his eyes and saw a long trail of blood leading from Pete’s feet to my dripping LaSalle bag. “Drip, drip, drip,” I listened to the faint sound of my thieving deli days being cut off.


This story was previously published in Mr. Beller's Neighborhood


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If you enjoy my stories please check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." Available at Logos Book Store or online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The book has 123 Amazon five star reviews out of 123 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.


You can also purchase my photography portfolio,"River to River - New York Scenes From a Bicycle" on Amazon.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

"Get On The Love Train!" ~ Losers Lounge Philly Soul Tribute

If you don't feel like making out with someone after a Losers Lounge Show go to a doctor and ask him what you need. (I'll bet he tells you to go home and play your 45 singles until it kicks in).

Thursday night at Joe's Pub at The Public, The Losers Lounge Tribute to Philadelphia Soul, as always, thoroughly entertained. The best NYC live music bang for the buck. No contest.


I also went to the The Losers Lounge Tribute to Philadelphia Soul late Saturday show @ Joe's Pub at The Public. I always love the finale best and obviously so do the artists. Darn good time.










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 123 Amazon five star reviews out of 123 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, February 10, 2017

Queens Of The Hill ~ New Stoops to Nuts, April 1st @ 7pm @ Ryan's Daughter

Fog, snow, and four Orthodox girls on two sleighs. Two Februarys ago, I saw this scene in Bay Ridge from the street, parked the car and and ran into Owls Head Park to take pictures. The young ladies were giddy with pleasure. They owned the misty space. There was no one else there but these four ghost girls.

They were "Queens of the Hill."

Saturday, April 1st @ 7pm we're bringing Stoops to Nuts back to Ryan's Daughter. My guests are Tricia Alexandro, J.P. Connolly & a secret musical treat. FREE SHOW.




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 123 Amazon five star reviews out of 123 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.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Manhattan Skyscraper History & Sunset Dreams

The Skyscraper Museum interactive map is a visual treat if you like neighborhood history. I could play with this all day and never be bored.




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 123 Amazon five star reviews out of 123 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.






Saturday, February 4, 2017

Instantly, Life Got Better

Mr. Beller's Neighborhood published "Instantly, Life Got Better," my story about The Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan February 9, 1964. The piece conveyed what happened that night in my home but doesn't explore a deeper connection the event had across the country.

It was less than three months after the Kennedy assassination, Pope John XXIII died in June 1963 (even if you weren't religious, you would've loved this guy) and the country's nerves were still rattled by the upper case, bold, 24 point newspaper headlines and frantic news coverage of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.

Children, particularly in Catholic households, saw one or both parents lose it. I mean really lose it. Cuba, The Pope and JFK knocked them for a loop and the younger children were at a total loss understanding what was happening in Mom and Dad's heads - they were crying out of context, drinking when they shouldn't and not making the usual "I'm all there" eye contact. Felt like there was no chance things were going to be OK and the parents lost their license as kid protectors.



In February 1964, The Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan offered a bit of salvation, a distraction away from grief. If you let 'em in. The younger audience's reaction telegraphed to the older audience, "we still have joy." Like or hate them, The Beatles rallied hope.





the story...

My brother, Rory, and I, agreed on two things in early 1964: we loved bacon and we were crazy cuckoo nuts over the Beatles. Every Friday night that year, Mom gave us each a dollar to “get the hell out of the house and don’t come back until the store closes.” Together, Rory, 7, and I, 9, zoomed up 86th Street to Woolworth's 5 & 10 for our “start the weekend” ritual: carefully look over all the records in the store’s basement after our pizza dinner on Second Avenue. "I Want to Hold Your Hand," the Beatles first U.S. single came out the day after Christmas 1963, and the Lp "Meet the Beatles," was released on January 20th. Our mouths watered as we fingered through our favorite album covers: the Motown artists, Beach Boys, the Four Seasons and others.

We didn’t own a record player yet, but each of us had a few 45s that with low frequency Dad would let us hear on his 1955 RCA Victrola. He never let us touch it. He stood there giving us lessons on how to put the record on the turntable, how to clean the needle, but he always put the record on and he would lower the sound so we had to put our ears against the speaker’s grill to hear the song. Rory told Dad if he really loved us he should get us a dog like “Nipper” the RCA pup inside the record player’s top listening to “His Master’s Voice.”



Dad surprised the family with a Motorola TV Console at Christmas time in 1963. Mom, Rory, and me were pleased as punch, the only down side was taking tuner changing lessons from Dad once a night. He’d stand in front of the TV screen demanding our full attention. Rory and I were not allowed to touch it. Mom had limited privileges. “Slow, turn the knob slow, only one station at a time. Got me? Very slow, and make sure it precisely stops at each station.” I could feel the heat of the cigarette in his mouth near my ear when he leaned in during my lesson. When Mom was upset with Dad (often) and he wasn’t around, she’d let Rory and I have tuner-turning contests — who was the fastest going from Channel 2 to Channel 13 then back to Channel 2.

My only refuge to enjoy my media alone, anxiety free, was listening to my eight transistor radio. My confirmation gift was packed carefully in the front pocket of my dungarees. I’d run down to the 89th Street hill inside Carl Schurz Park and lay on the ground oblivious to the cold. I’d open my jacket, lift my shirt, and place the radio on my belly so I could feel the vibrations of the music through my body. By New Year’s I was listening to “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “I Saw Her Standing There, the single’s B-side, over and over. That’s all I wanted to do. Be alone with my songs and dream.

On Sunday night, February 9, 1964, the family, the four of us were in our 83rd Street living room. Rory and I in our usual positions lying on the area rug over the linoleum covered floor, our heads pushed up with our arms. At 7:30 we were watching “My Favorite Martian,” on CBS, normally a must see show. But that night, all I wanted was it to be over and it to be eight o’clock. After scratching my ass five hundred times, Ed Sullivan came on the air. He made an announcement and then, they were there, The Beatles, live! Paul counted and then they drove into “All My Loving,” and life instantly got better.


In 1964, you could see ballplayers live, you could see movie and TV stars on the screens but it was nearly impossible to see the musicians you loved when you were too young to be going to a concert. When I saw The Beatles for the first time, they were mine, not to be shared with my parents; I owned this picture, this sound, these feelings. I looked over at Rory and saw him glowing. He got it, too. We found a place of our own. The Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan, the flesh and blood merge with the music that was driving us crazy to distraction opened up a pleasure vault in our hearts and minds.



Glued to the TV screen we inched closer as if touching the screen with our noses would put us in the audience. Using slight body English to move when Dad yelled,” You’re in my way!” As if he cared. We gawked with our mouths wide-open, hands to our chins, our hearts beating faster than they had any right to. Their names flashed on the screen: Paul, George, Ringo, John, (SORRY GIRLS, HE’S MARRIED). Our eyes and ears conspired, making a movie we’d keep inside our heads forever.

It’s still there, the TV console Dad bought Christmas 1963. No TV inside it, but I have a worn beautiful piece of furniture in my living room that reminds me of a moment 50 years ago that stopped my heart in the best way.

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 123 Amazon five star reviews out of 123 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.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Half Way Through Winter

We're just about half way through winter. That calls for beach photos on this frigid NYC day that nips at our ears and puts gloves on our hands.

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 123 Amazon five star reviews out of 123 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.