Sunday, August 6, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

Graveyard Cough

Thinking of Mom today. She's gone 19 years but her ferocious love for Rory & me burns my memory. Uncle Mommy was a good egg.

I’m 12. It’s right after dinner on a December school night in 1966. I’m in the living room, and I clear my throat a little.

“Oh, crap,” I thought, and grabbed more clothes and presented myself for my father’s review. “Get another sweatshirt!”

He counted my garments then said, “OK, be back by nine.”

Dad and I were at war. All my life, if I got the slightest cold, a little tickle in my throat, it turned into a graveyard cough. In his mind’s eye, it would start in my feet, travel through every chamber in my pulmonary system, and build in pressure and size until it burst out of my mouth like the death rattle of a tuberculosis victim who was simultaneously taking a series of bullets to his lungs. If Dad heard my tiny cough two rooms away he’d ambush me and sandwich me with two T-shirts, two of his old sweatshirts and a giant jar of Vick’s VapoRub. He put three fingers in the jar, take out enough yuck to cure a choir of sore throats, and rub it into my chest and neck like I owed him a lot of money.

My Dad’s dad, Thomas E. Pryor, died at age 40. He had advanced tuberculosis. They called it Pott’s Disease. Whenever I coughed my Dad probably saw pictures of the sanatorium where my grandfather spent seven of his last ten years, a hundred miles upstate.

On the way down the stairs I started undressing. By the time I got to the first floor I was down to a T-shirt and a light sweatshirt, the optimal clothing for touch football. I put my extra sweatshirt, my pea coat, and my scarf behind the radiator near the cellar door and left the vestibule. Jumping off my stoop, I looked up at the snowflakes dancing across the streetlights and followed their wavy paths down until they dusted the street bed. Then I wandered over to First Avenue to meet my friends.

After two hours and three games, it was time to go home -- and it was time to pee. Running into the hallway and up the stairs, determined to get to the toilet fast, I forgot the outerwear I had hidden in the vestibule. I ran into the bathroom, passed my mother doing the dishes, and relieved myself in a religious ritual. Finished, clueless, I stepped out of the bathroom into the kitchen at the same time my Dad stepped into the kitchen from the living room. He looked me over.

“Did you just get in?”

My mouth wide open, I said nothing, once again entering the land of unanswerable questions.

“DID YOU JUST…’” Mom cut Dad off. 

“Are you friggin’ nuts? He’s been home ten minutes in his room, if you paid any deeper attention to The World at War on TV you could go right into the sea battle.”

Dad was ready to say something, but shrugged and went back into the living room. The commercial was over and it was time for him to return to the North Atlantic in 1942.

Mom said loud enough for Dad to hear, “Tommy, here’s a dollar, go get two milk.” She pushed me out the door with the buck before Dad came back in the room. Even with the door closed, from the hall stairs I heard him say to Mom, “We have three quarts, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“Don’t have a conniption. You all drink milk like this is a farm, it will be gone tomorrow, I’m not your Gunga Din, Tommy’s on an exercise kick, I’m helping him out.” 

 I ran down the stairs with a shit-ass grin, madly in love with Uncle Mommy.

Monday, July 10, 2017

It's A Thin Line, Between Love & Hate

I liked "Eddie Baby" Galante. He taught bookkeeping to me and 38 other jerks in junior year. We busted his balls. He'd bust ours right back. If you were in the rear of the class yapping it up, he'd yell your name out, "Pryor!" point to you and give you the finger.

LaSalle '72 Yearbook cover.

At a wedding in 1984 someone at my table asked what were your best school memories. I started off with Galante, somebody snapped the shot above where I imitate him teaching class at LaSalle Academy on 2nd Street.

Seaman's Institute 6.12.72

When you really pissed him off, Galante would stop teaching and predict your future out loud to the class, "Hey Woodhead, yeah you, Costa, guess what I see in the crystal ball?"

(dramatic pause while the kid adjusts himself and knows what's coming, Galante speaks)

"After failing out of community college in your second semester, you'll be promoted directly to that 32B doorman job on 72nd Street you've been bragging about, your best friend will continue to be Ripple Red until Gallo discontinues the product and you switch over to Colt 45 tall boys. You'll sell pot on the side, live with your parents until they kick you out at 32, and you move into that great room with the hot plate and chipped paint at the Franklin SRO on 87th Street."

Graduation week Galante signed my 1972 LaSalle yearbook. Above is his note and photo.

Tomorrow, I'm telling a new one at "The New York Story Exchange" show @ Cornelia Street Cafe @ 6pm.  COME ON DOWN!!!

If you like my work 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 & Noble.

The book has 126 Amazon five star reviews out of 126 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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Sunset Doesn't Last All Evening"

79 St from river
Photos on or near the Equinox from the last few years.


York Avenue

Lexington & 86th St

York Ave.

car going by on FDR

72st & CPW

79st from river

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Happy Birthday, Rory!

Today is Rory's birthday, I miss him. Here's the odd story about our parents unhealthy discussions naming their sons. Happy birthday, Brother. We played our roles the best we could in Mom & Dad's 46 year long opera.


The apartment in Woodside overlooked the No. 7 El and the Long Island Rail Road. The two train lines crisscrossed, and one train rattled over another train all day long. It was March 1954, a year after Mom’s ketchup-smeared death on the kitchen floor.

“I need food!” Patty pleaded, rubbing her big belly in the kitchen.

“There’s plenty of food,” Bob answered, playing with the bunny ears on top of the living room TV.

“YOU’RE A LIAR!” Patty opened the refrigerator and eyed the contents for the fifth time in five minutes.

“There’s no food-food, only junk. I want bread, I want bacon, I want Hellman’s mayonnaise!”

Disregarding her request, Bob shook ice into the spaghetti pot that was chilling his six bottles of Rheingold. Wiping his hands on a dish towel, he definitely heard Patty’s next statement: “Get off your bony ass and get me food!”

Bob ignored this, too. It was “Friday Night at the Fights” and he’d just settled in – first round, first beer. Desiring perfect comfort, Bob moved a hassock over to put his feet up. While doing this, he missed the left hook that sent one of the boxers to the canvas with a thud. Unfortunately, Bob’s man was down. So was Bob, $20. After the stiff was counted out, the telecast went to a commercial. Disappointed, but now available for chores, Bob wrapped his arm around his extremely pregnant wife’s head.

She pushed him away. “Get off. You know I hate anyone touching my head.”

Bob bent over, kissed Patty’s cheek and asked her softly, “What do you need, Hon?”

Patty reeled off five items, and aimed her lips up to kiss Bob on the mouth.

Back from the store, Bob put his beers in the fridge, washed the pot and put water on for spaghetti. Grabbing a black frying pan, he made two bacon sandwiches with extra mayo on Silvercup bread. After serving Patty both sandwiches, he took a beer and joined her at the kitchen table.

“So, we’re decided on baby names, right?” Bob said. “Marc Anthony if he’s a boy, and Alison Leigh if she’s a girl.”

Bob smiled. Patty did not.

“You’re so full of shit. The girl’s name is fine. When you name the boy Marc Anthony, be sure you walk carefully over my dead body. Because that’s the only way that stupid guinea name will ever appear on my son’s birth certificate.”

Bob’s expression fell.

“Oh, cut the crap and get that stupid puss off your face.”

“So what name do you want?”

“Rory,” she said.


“R-O-R-Y, Rory.”

“Like Calhoun, the movie cowboy?”

“Yes, it’s an old Gaelic name meaning Red King.”

“Red? Our hair is black. It’s a girly name – you’re guaranteeing he’ll get the shit kicked out of him.”

It grew quiet. The only sound in the room was Patty’s low hum. She loved bacon.

Fracturing the silence, Bob said, “It’ll be Rory when Brooklyn wins the World Series.”

“I’ll alert the press.”

Bob said, “Give me an alternative.”

“Nope,” Patty said in between bites.

“Then I’ll give you one: Thomas.”

“That’s inspired.” Patty pointed her sandwich at Bob. “I thought we agreed, no fathers’ names?”

“It’s my brother’s name, too.”

“You mean we’re going to name him after Stone Face?”

“That’s my compromise. You’ll get to name the next baby.”

Patty swallowed a large bite of mayo, with a little bit of bacon and bread attached to it. She chewed slowly, wiped her mouth, and said, “OK.”

On March 20th, Patty gave birth to an eight-pound boy. When the nurse let Bob into the recovery room and he saw Patty cradling the baby, he started to cry.

“Oh stop your blubbering and give me a kiss.”

“How do you feel?”

“Not too swift,” Patty said, wiping sweat from her brow.

Bob, lightly rubbing the baby’s dark hair, asked, “How’s Tommy?”

“Doctor said he’s fine. Isn’t he beautiful?”

Bob picked up the wrinkled, red-faced boy. He thought the baby’s head looked like a grapefruit. A gorgeous grapefruit. Bob held the baby for a long time, then returned him to Patty.

“I have to fill out the birth certificate. I was thinking about Robert as a middle name,” Bob said.

“No,” she answered.

“Why not?”

“You picked the first name. I pick the middle name.”

“No, no, no, you get to name the next baby.”

“No, I get to name the next baby’s first name, and you get to name the next baby’s second name.”

“But…” Bob said, uselessly.

“No buts.” Patty closed the discussion. “Tommy’s middle name is Rory.”

That night, Bob temporarily parked his anger over Mom’s choice of middle name, and hailed a cab to his old Manhattan neighborhood. He celebrated his first son by dancing on the bar in Loftus Tavern on 85th Street and York Avenue. A month later, the boy was christened, Thomas Rory. When the priest repeated the boy’s second name, Bob rolled his eyes.

A year and a half later, Thanksgiving 1955, Bob and Patty told their families they were expecting again. Throughout the pregnancy, Patty kept Bob in the dark about names. He begged and whined for hints. Late in Patty’s term, Bob tried to bribe her by hiding candy bars around the apartment, promising to reveal locations only if she told him the name. Patty never cracked.

On June 20th, Patty gave birth to a perfect boy. Bob dropped Tommy off with Bob’s mother and went directly to the hospital. The room was dimly lit; the baby was sleeping in Patty’s arms. She gave Bob a weak wave. He went over to kiss mother and son. Patty gently held Bob’s arm, keeping him close. She tilted her head, signaling him to lean in so she could whisper something. Bob pressed his ear to Patty’s dry lips.

“Rory, his name is Rory,” she said.

Bob backed away. “That’s nuts – we’ve already got a Rory.”

“Shush! Middle names don’t count. You promised.”

Bob knew he’d been had. In desperation, he blurted, “His middle name is Robert.”

“Who cares?” she said.

Patty settled back into bed, gave Bob a sly smile and squeezed her Rory tight.

(Previously published in Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Two Guys Talking on the Corner

"Two Guys Talking on the Corner, " one of my favorite Dad stories from my book, also published in Mr. Beller's Neighborhood.

Happy Father's Day, Malibu Bob!

Dad and I did four things together: play sports, attend sports, watch TV, and go to the movies. I liked movies the best; it’s much harder telling a kid what to do in the dark. You would have loved taking me to the movies when I was 6 years old. I was a cheap date, one box of Pom Poms caramels and a dime soda kept me blissful through the whole film and I shut up. Didn’t want to miss anything.
It was the fall of 1960, which I remember for three reasons.
I had just started first grade, the Yankees had lost to the Pirates in the World Series, and Dad was rooting for Nixon against Kennedy to spite my Irish grandfather. I still believed my father was infallible. He never had to use this line on me — “Are you gonna believe what you see or what I tell you?” He accomplished his goals without direct engagement. Looking back, I suspect he periodically forgot I was his son and thought I was the most intelligent dog in the world. But this day would be different.
Dad’s charm was in full swing as he pulled me along up 86th Street. I kept my eye out for friends. The last thing I needed were the guys giving me the business, “Daddy still holds ya hand, Tommy the baby!” Resistance was futile, so I decided to keep tight to Dad’s side so it looked like we were just walking very close together.
“So, what do you want to see?” Dad stopped at the corner of Third Avenue, moved the cigarette out of his mouth and looked down at me. “The Mouse that Roared, a very funny comedy, or that other film up there, The Time Machine?”
Up ahead of us on the north side of 86th Street were two movie houses, the Loew’s Orpheum and the gigantic RKO.
“What are they about?”
“Well… The Mouse That Roared is about a tiny little country that declares war on the United States. The star of the film, Peter Sellers, is a famous English comedian. You’ll love him.”
I just stared at Dad hoping he’d move on. I didn’t like war. Finally he said, “The Time Machine is a science fiction movie I don’t know much about.”
“What do you know?”
“It’s about time travel.”
“I want to see The Time Machine.”
Dad stared down at me, holding the look, hoping I’d keep talking. I didn’t. Getting this look made me nervous and I usually blabbed on just like Dad wanted so he could carefully talk me out of something. But this time we just stared at each other.
After a traffic-light-missing pause, Dad said, “What???”
“I love time travel.”
Dad rolled his eyes. He had no clue how crazy I was for Mr. Peabody and Sherman on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which I watched faithfully every Sunday. Mr. Peabody invented the WABAC Machine (pronounced “way back”), which allowed him and Sherman to time-travel to ancient Rome, the voyages of Columbus, the dinosaur era, you name it. I wasn’t sure what science fiction was, but I loved time travel.
Dad recovered. “Oh, I bet it’s going to be one of those talky films you hate.”
I said nothing.
Dad threw a wild punch, hoping it would land. “If we go to The Mouse That Roared I’ll take you to Prexy’s afterwards for a hamburger and a milk shake.”
I ducked his shot. “Why can’t we go to Prexy’s anyway?”
Dad’s shoulders rolled forward and his chest fell as he grabbed my hand. Swiftly, we crossed Third Avenue, sidestepping the spray from a street-cleaner truck, and headed to the RKO to see Rod Taylor, whoever he was, in The Time Machine. 


If you like my work 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 & Noble.

The book has 125 Amazon five star reviews out of 125 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, June 15, 2017

Exhibit #1 ~ The People of the State vs. Patricia Pryor on the Charge of Murder

Exhibit #1
If Mom murdered Dad, I'm positive she could have walked by presenting this photograph as evidence to the jury.

The picture from Davies Lake features a can of Pepsi, a Spaulding and my sneaker. But Dad didn't care about snapping those things, he thought it was hilarious to frame this shot focusing on Mom's ass. You can see my father crouched down so his camera was practically level with Mom's butt.

When Mom saw this photo (Dad was hiding it), she threw a black plastic Copacabana ash tray at his head (Mom had slipped the ashtray into her pocketbook on the way out of the Vic Damone show). The ash tray nearly missed the bird cage on it's way towards the open window, passing through clean, it plummeted four stories into our 83rd Street backyard.

Lots of stuff went out our windows. Pillows, balls, my grandfather's guitar, our toys, and Dad's expensive shoes when Mom was in a special mood. Dad had an agreement with Mrs. Hauser on the first floor in our building, if her family wasn't having dinner she'd let Dad come in and climb out her back window and let himself down into the backyard so he could pick up the Pryor stuff laying around.

Dad took many other self described hysterical photos. Mom never did kill him, but she wanted to, more than most kids want a pony. If she had killed him, you know who she would have called, "Can I speak to Mr. Perry Mason? It's urgent!"


If you like my work 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 & Noble.

The book has 125 Amazon five star reviews out of 125 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, June 10, 2017

"Well My Heart Went Boom"

I have no sound coming out of my right earphone when I plug into my iPhone. To hear tunes, I walk the dog on the river with my iPhone speaker pressed to my ear. This morning at 89th Street I swung up the stairs towards East End Avenue and when I reached the peak of the grassy hill at the north end of the park I heard this in my ear.

"Well my heart went boom,
When I crossed that room,
And I held her hand in mine."

And my mind flew back to the first time I heard that song at this spot:

With the 8 transistor in the tattered leather case pressed to my ear, I memorized every word I heard. Lying on the hill against the frozen grass at the north end of Carl Schurz Park, visions of girls, dancing, and holding hands whirled through my head. Had no clue how it all worked, or what I would do, but I saw these things.
86th St & East End Avenue 

It was December 1963, I was nine years old, the Beatles had dropped a bomb in my head that never stopped going off. TV and sports formerly occupied my brain’s whole house but suddenly that year, the master bedroom room was turned over to music and my 45 singles.

89 St Hill

89th & EEA

“I Saw Her Standing There,” was the first time Paul McCartney’s voice trapped me. Even today, if I stood in front of a jury of my peers, charged with a capital crime, and right before the foreman read the verdict, if I heard Paul in tune, I might miss hearing the word,“Guilty.”

I remember missing Pope John XXIII when he died. He seemed like a nice guy, but at least the next Pope had the good sense to take the name Paul. I figured it was only a matter of time before we had a Pope George and a Pope Richard. Even at 9, I knew the church would never allow a Pope Ringo.

Paul’s 75 years old on June 18, the guy’s been cheering me up since 1963. Happy Birthday, Paul!

If you like my work 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 & Noble.

The book has 125 Amazon five star reviews out of 125 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, May 18, 2017

Happy 88, Malibu Bob

 Tomorrow, Happy 88, Dad.
You giant pain in the ass,
who taught me so much,
when you thought I wasn't listening.

Mom' still pissed you left a mess wherever you were. She thinks your idea of letting dirty dishes sit in the sink for a few hours to let the crude roll off them instead of getting them done, one, two, three, "came out of your bony ass."

Shown here, a portion of my father's art.