Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fat Boy From Brooklyn

Strolling Prospect Park yesterday, I saw "Fat Boy" by Leonard Ursachi on the front lawn of Litchfield Villa. The artist carved the head from styrofoam, and coated it with a weatherproof, cement-like material.  Litchfield  was built in 1855, bought by the city of Brooklyn in 1869 and served as the headquarters for Brooklyn's Department of Parks since 1892.

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 109 Amazon five star reviews out of 109 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.












Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bay Ridge Sunset

Sweet sunset over the bay last night from a hill in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

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 109 Amazon five star reviews out of 109 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.






Friday, July 31, 2015

Why Eddie Ekis Mattered

Tommy & Eddie @ March 1994

One year ago today, Eddie Ekis died. I miss him and want to tell you why Eddie mattered to me. 

When I love something intensely and a close friend loves it with equal intensity we need nothing further to achieve bliss.

Eddie and I loved the J Geils Band, the New York Giants, The Beatles, Yorkville, The Pineapple Bowl, SJU Rugby, the Beach, among other things but they all fall behind the insane number of times we watched the 1968 Mel Brooks' "The Producers." We saw it over 75 times together and add around fifty solo screenings each.

For us, the film was a ritual of joy.

We traded lines like a Martin & Lewis routine.  Eddie was my best riff partner. I love friends who jump in, even if they sometimes jump without looking.  But Eddie waited until he had something to say - it wasn't his style to interrupt. He'd wait for the idiots (me included) to run out of hot air then Edward dropped in the line that stopped the talking and started the rolling laughter - the kind of laughing that if you walked into the room unaware you'd think we were doing Amyl-nitrate.

I miss Eddie's humor, warmth and generosity. We all miss Eddie.



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

In honor of Edward Edgar Ekis, a few of the best from The Producers:


Franz Liebkind: Not many people know it, but the Fuhrer was a terrific dancer. He could dance the pants off Churchill!  Hitler... there was a painter! He could paint an entire apartment in ONE afternoon! TWO coats!





Concierge: Who d'ya want?

Leo Bloom: I beg your pardon?

Concierge: Who d'ya want? Nobody gets in the building unless I know who they want. I'm the "concierge". My husband used to be the "concierge", but he's dead. Now I'M the "concierge".

Max Bialystock: We are seeking Franz Liebkind.

Concierge: Oh... the Kraut! He's on the top floor, apartment 23.



Max Bialystock: Thank you...

Concierge: ...But you won't find him there... he's up on the roof with his boids. He keeps boids. Dirty... disgusting... filthy... lice-ridden boids. You used to be able to sit out on the stoop like a person. Not anymore! No, sir! Boids!... You get my drift?

Leo Bloom: We... uh... get your "drift". Thank you, madam.

Concierge: I'm not a "madam"! I'm a "concierge"!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Hardest Button to Button



In July 2010, I told two Yankee baseball memories to a  TV camera, for the heroes episode in the five part PBS series, "Baseball: A New York Love Story." I brought a ton of material with me after ransacking my place looking for stuff I swore I intelligently put away the last time I needed them: photos, letters, clippings, ticket stubs, programs, etc. When The New York Times published my New York Giant and Yankee stories and asked me for the same things. My apartment looked like I was robbed by mean, thing-breaking thieves. Dyslexic Anti-Dewey Decimal freak I am, I did it again. 

Why do I do this to myself? My nerves were shot. I wasted three days re-organizing my stuff.

At the TV studio one of the producers needed to fix the collar on my shirt and on my sports jacket which had flipped up after my shirt problem was resolved. I had to re-button my shirt twice. I sat on the microphone booster and had to retell a tale when I did. In one story, Sparky Lyle, a pitcher, after striking out the side, leaves the mound banging his glove against his chest. Without thinking it through, I reenacted this scene and beat my fist against my chest, one inch away from the microphone on my lapel. The fellow doing the sound with the headphones on looked like the only guy on the stage who didn't know the cannon goes off at the end of the 1812 Overture. After he recovered, I apologized twice.

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 109 Amazon five star reviews out of 109 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.

Tonight, Thursday, July 30th, I'm telling a story at Walter Michael DeForest's show at Ryan's Daughter, 350 East 85th St. @ 6pm. Come on down!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Carl Schurz Park & Golden Light on 84th Street

Photographs of 84th Street and Carl Schurz Park from mid-spring.




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 109 Amazon five star reviews out of 109 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.

Tomorrow, Thursday, July 30th, I'm telling a story at Walter Michael DeForest's show at Ryan's Daughter, 350 East 85th St. @ 6pm. 











Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Nan's Two Birthdays

Giovanna Cuccia & family on s/w corner of 75 St & Ave A in 1906
My grandmother Nan Rode’s four-room railroad flat faced York Avenue in the front and a backyard in the rear. Leaning out her front window, I could watch my world pass by. Leaning out the rear window, I could see Yorkville as it was long ago. In the backyard was an old two-story house surrounded by five-story brick tenements. The house, built around 1890, looked like it had fallen out of the sky and plopped onto a stray witch. Somehow, it had escaped the tenement explosion in Yorkville in the first two decades of the 1900s, a frenzy primarily triggered by speculation about the underground IRT subway coming to 86th Street and then proceeding farther north. (The speculation, of course, ultimately proved true.) As buildings rose around it, the old house, with its worn porch and crooked chimney, just sat there. I enjoyed this relic from the past and imagined it there in June 1906, when my grandmother was born in her family’s apartment only eight blocks away, at 1403 Avenue A. Above is a photo of my great-grandmother, Giovanna Cuccia, with family members sitting in front of their fruit stand at the southwest corner of 75th Street and Avenue A (later named York Avenue in honor of Sargent Alvin York, a World War I hero). Giovanna, third from right, is eight months pregnant with my grandmother.

It looks like a normal old photo, but it led to a bona fide miracle: the month after it was taken, Nan was born and she had two birthdays, July 23rd and July 28th. I learned this astounding fact at age 10 when I went to my grandmother’s house to see what was up.
Nan & me 1955


“Hi, Nan.”
“That's it?”
“I said hi.”
“Where’s my ‘Happy Birthday?’”
“I wished you a happy birthday on the 23rd and made you a card. It’s right there on top of the TV.”
“Today is my birthday, too.”
Involuntarily, my head started shaking. I was used to my grandmother’s inquisitions but I didn’t understand this one.

“Nan, I don't get it.”

She explained.

Nan was delivered in her family’s apartment by Saveria Palermo, a midwife from Yorkville, on July 23rd, 1906. But Saveria was lazy, and when she filled out the Board of Health birth certificates the following Monday, July 30th, she used the same date, Saturday, July 28th, for all the babies she had delivered that week. That’s why Nan had two birthdays, July 23rd and July 28th.
Lazy Midwife filled this out

Neither Giovanna nor my great-grandfather, Antonino Cuccia, knew English, so they never fixed the certificate. But they always celebrated Anne’s – Nan’s --birthday twice. She was the baby in the family and a spoiled brat. She told me this with pride.

Anna Cuccia, 1913, Communion at St. Monica's


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


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 109 Amazon five star reviews out of 109 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.

This Thursday, July 30th, I'm telling a story at Walter Michael DeForest's show at Ryan's Daughter, 350 East 85th St. @ 6pm. 


Monday, July 27, 2015

"81st Street Staircase, Wave Goodbye"

If you grew up in Yorkville, odds are high you spent time hanging out under the 81st staircase at the East River.  Dangling your feet over the water, talking with friends, listening to your tunes on the radio, sharing drinks bought by an older acquaintance.

The staircase is near death. One last flight left to demolish. I'll go down there today and think about the countless Friday nights it was our place.

Here are photos from yesterday. The top one is from 2012. If you like it, a print is available for sale here.




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 109 Amazon five star reviews out of 109 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.

Thursday, July 30th, I'm telling a story at Walter Michael DeForest's show at Ryan's Daughter, 350 East 85th St. @ 6pm. More info to follow.




Here's an excerpt from my memoir called, "Ripple."



My formula for a perfect Friday night in May 1970: One friend and three dollars.  One dollar was for gas, and two dollars were for two bottles of Ripple Red ($1.78) and two bags of Wise BBQ Potato Chips (20 cents).
Buddy McMahon and I left LaSalle Academy at three o’clock and took the #6 Lexington Avenue Local uptown to 23rd Street. Then we walked east to the Sanitation Department pier at the river’s edge. Parked way in the back of the long shed, hidden between two dumpsters, was Buddy’s car, a white ‘65 Mustang convertible. Buddy slowly backed it up. I got in. His Dad was a gem letting Buddy drive illegally with his new learner’s permit. It was illegal because there was no licensed driver in the car, myself included.
“Pass me the baseball,” Buddy said.
I put my hand under my seat and found the hardball and gave it to Buddy. He stuck it in a place that kept the driver’s seat from flopping backward and forward. The broken seat, along with the bald tires and several other cosmetic and mechanical issues, made this car an affordable pleasure for a 16-year-old working part time as a Daitch Shopwell delivery boy.
            As we drove cautiously up First Avenue, I noticed the five-degree chassis alignment problem that Buddy had mentioned. It felt like we were in a parade and the car was facing the adoring crowd on the sidewalk while we motored straight up the road. It was a pain in the ass to put the rusted top up, so we left it down even though it had started to drizzle. The busted radio provided no tunes, so at red lights we’d try to idle next to someone playing our kind of music.  
On 80th Street, we found a parking spot in front of St. Monica’s School. Buddy sprinted up the stoop of his building, and I ran home to my grandmother’s on York Avenue. We needed to get into our weekend uniforms -- pocket T-shirts (our regular purchase from Arbee’s Army & Navy store), dungaree shorts, and Converse sneakers -- and I needed to grab my radio.
Twenty minutes later, I met Buddy at 82nd Street and First Avenue. We planted ourselves and waited for someone special. The first would-be guy we asked gave us the finger.
Then Buddy sighted a usually friendly party. “Here comes Jojo.”
We quietly cornered Jojo under a candy store awning -- like two junkies on a buy.
“Hey, Jojo, can you buy us two bottles of Ripple Red?”
Jojo looked at his watch, made a face like we were making him constipated, and said, “OK, but quick.  Give me the money.”
We snuck a peek at the transaction through the edge of the store window.
On the way down to the river we bought the potato chips at Eddie’s Market on 80th Street. It was still drizzling. We targeted the spot below the 81st Street Staircase on the East River.  Under dry cover with our legs dangling over the water, we eased in, relishing our Friday ritual, an al fresco dinner with WNEW-FM on the radio dial.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

East River Sunset From Carl Schurz Park

A patriotic young lady
Caught a brilliant sunset on the East River. This is what I saw from my spot at 86th Street in Carl Schurz Park.

Thank you, Eric Vetter for inviting me to last night's No Name... & A BAG O' CHIPS: SUMMER READING EDITION '15. I had fun, and all your artists were in tip-top form.

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

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 109 Amazon five star reviews out of 109 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.

Next Thursday, July 30th, I'm telling a story at Walter Michael DeForest's charity show at Ryan's Daughter, 350 East 85th St. @ 6pm. More info to follow.

Carl Schurz at 86th Street looking over the East River




Groovin'

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Best Babysitter Ever ~ "Good Ol' Uncle Mommy"

Barbara, Joan, Rory, me in the summer of 1958
Pryor children babysitting rule #1: all assignments outside the Pryor apartment were only accepted by our grandparents and my mother's two sisters. All other houses begged off. There was one unbreakable caveat with the aunts and the grandparents ~ no one would watch the two of us together. The extended family agreed, "Tommy and Rory were not allowed in the same house without parental supervision."

Rory and I fought over any spot on the couch the other was in; the last slice of bacon and battled to the death over who licked the tuna fish bowl after Mom made our sandwiches.

When Bob and Patty Pryor went out, Rory stayed with the Ryan grandparents or Barbara and Mickey. I stayed with the Pryor-Rode grandparents or Joan and George.
Freedomland 1962


Rory and I had our needs met at all households, but Joannie had bongos, an FM radio and a bullfighter poster on her wall. She had a calypso bar with high stools and wore clam diggers as she danced and sang around the living room. I kept expecting Trini Lopez to drop in.
Uncle Mommy, me, on Hudson, 1963
Joan and George took me to the beach named after Joan. This was good since the Pryors didn't have a car.

I loved my grandparents, aunts and uncles, but my favorite babysitter was Mom. Sometimes, it was just her and me. She called me her “Cow, Cow, Boogie,” and I called her "Good Ol' Uncle Mommy," because she was the best uncle I ever had!

Mom giving Dad the business 1962
We snuggled on our tiny 83rd Street couch watching The Twilight Zone and Hitchcock on Friday nights after Rory conked out. Her smile stopped my clock.

I was a lousy artist, a stinky poet, and I had a stutter. None of this disrupted me from trying to make Uncle Mommy laugh. She loved Rory and me like a freight train. Mom died today a long time ago. I'm still working on stuff for her.

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

Tonight at No Name... & A BAG O' CHIPS: SUMMER READING EDITION '15  I'm telling a hot fun in the summertime story in Mom's honor. The Free show starts at 7pm when The Summer Replacements get in tune.

**********************************
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 109 Amazon five star reviews out of 109 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.