Thursday, July 28, 2016

Nan's Two Birthdays


Cuccia family s/w corner 75 St. & Ave A @ 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 like my work check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." Available at Logos Book Store.

The book has 120 Amazon five star reviews out of 120 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, July 24, 2016

Uncle Mommy's In The Dark & Logos Bookstore Lease Renewal Celebration

My memoir covers my first eighteen years growing up in Yorkville. Eighteen years ago today, Mom died. "Why do you call me Uncle Mommy?" she asked. "Because you're the best uncle I ever had."

Early on, her favorite indoor summer activity was turning off all the lights to keep it cool. Day or night, we walked around our little square apartment in shadows or in the dark. Our mere light coming through our backyard windows,  that was, unless "Thomas Edison" ~ Dad ~ was home. He loved turning everything on at once. But Mom persevered. Following him and immediately snapping the lights and all else off if she wanted quiet, "Quiet helps you stay cool," she told me in my ear as Dad made a spoiled milk face.

Our favorite outdoor thing in summer was Carl Schurz Park's baby pool. And if it was too hot, Mom came in with me. Nice, after eighteen long years, I see her face and hear her voice every day.

Here is a public link to photos from the pool last year.


A message from Harris Healy

Logos Bookstore is celebrating our 40th year in business and the 20th anniversary of our York Avenue location.

We'd like to welcome the Upper East Side community as well as all New Yorkers to join us on Tuesday July 26th at 6:30 PM for free refreshments, a 20% off discount on all items in the store (excepting original artwork and already discounted sale books.

Yorkville native, Thomas Pryor, author of the memoir "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys: Tales of a Scrappy New York Boyhood" will be here to talk about what existed at 1575 York Avenue before Logos Bookstore as well as share other stories of the neighborhood. He will begin around 7:15 PM.


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.

The book has 120 Amazon five star reviews out of 120 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, July 22, 2016

City Boy Rocks!

Thank you, to a super audience for making City Boy's first tryout at Cornelia Street Cafe's Solofest as good as it gets. Thank you, Joshua Rebell & Robin Hirsch for inviting me. Thank you, Michael Pettey, for your professional support and great street life playlist. I loved it! Thank you, Leslie GoshkoNicole Ferraro, for shooting spitballs at me, and for always covering my back. Thank you, Jeff Rose for filming the event and the shoutouts.
Thank you, Joe Dettmore, for helping me ready for the show. Hope to do it again early next year. If you like my work, check out my book. But first, check out Leslie Goshko tomorrow at An Old-Fashioned Piano Party with Leslie Goshko. I guarentee you'll leave the Cafe feeling silly and smiling.


I get home from my City Boy show about growing up in Yorkville in the 1960s and open up an email from Gerard Bakay's older brother, Steve. Sweet harmony. Robert Grundstrom please share with Richie and any of the Bodners you are in touch with. love, Tommy





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 120 Amazon five star reviews out of 120 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, July 18, 2016

John Jay Pool ~ A Yorkville Gift & "City Boy" ~ This Thurs, July 21 @ Cornelia St. Cafe @ 6pm

This Thursday, July 21 @ 6pm


John Jay Park was part of the original location for the Queensboro Bridge. They moved the bridge to 59th St giving Yorkville the freedom to use the city land to build PS 158, John Jay Park, Cherokee Place and The City & Suburban Housing project. Otherwise the neighborhood's single park would be CARL SCHURZ PARK nyc.

When James Cagney and my great-uncle Joe Cuccia played on the Yorkville Nut Baseball Club, their chief rivals were the John Jays. See photo below anid find Public Enemy Number One.









If you come to City Boy ~ my solo show @ Cornelia Street Cafe @ Thursday @ July 21st @ 6pm, you'll understand why I was lucky growing up in the old Yorkville neighborhood with my favorite stoops, stops and crazy cuckoo nuts. My old photos, the people in them and the scenes they present, are tied to the street life double feature in my head where I watch old Yorkville movies from my seat in the first row of RKO 86th Street's mezzanine.




City Boy ~ built into me over a lifetime, stories flew into my ears straight to my memory palace.
These events shook the area
1880 ~ Second & Third Ave Els reach Yorkville\Upper East Side
1918 ~ IRT comes to Yorkville
1955 ~ demolition of the Third Ave El,
2016 ~ Second Avenue Subway

Cornelia Street Cafe
Thurs, July 21 @ 6pm.
$10 admission includes a free drink

my first solo play
Thursday, July 21 at 6 PM - 7:45 PM
29 Cornelia St, New York, New York 10014

Thomas Pryor's "City Boy" is a love letter to street life in the 1960s working class Manhattan neighborhood, Yorkville. Devil Dogs were a nickel, Spaldeens flew, and the capture game, Ringalario, let boys put their arms around girls for the first time. Nuns slugged you for humming baseball’s beer jingles in class. And, like other fathers, Tommy’s took him to saloons, all day, and no one thought it was strange. In this funny and bittersweet portrait of family and life, Pryor echoes TV’s “The Wonder Years” - just add in taverns, subways and Checker cabs.


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

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 120 Amazon five star reviews out of 120 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, July 15, 2016

Aunt Lily's Rule

Aunt Lily and Aunt Vera
I'm 10, I walk into my 83rd Street apartment on a miserably hot afternoon. It's dark, the lights are out to pretend it's cool, and there's my mother's Aunt Lily sitting in her underwear at the kitchen table drinking coffee like she's dressed for tea. Nothing on, but a giant white bra and big fat pink panties. I circle the table, my mother's sisters, Joan and Barbara are there but they have clothes on.

I say hi to everybody, and give Mom the eye and a head tilt to join me in the next room.

"Mom, what's with Aunt Lily?"
"She's hot."
"No, she's nude."
"No she's not silly. She has her underwear on."

I walked away spinning circles on the side of my head with one finger.
Aunt Barbara, Aunt Joan and Mom


A week later, Mom throws a Tupperware Party on a record heat day for early June. There are strange faces on my couch and a few of Mom's friends. I was drenched with sweat from playing ball down Carl Schurz Park. I tore my clothes off, threw them in a pile, kicked them under my bed, and put on a fresh pair of Fruit of the Loom briefs and went to the refrigerator. The sweat on my back and belly returned, but I sighed when I felt the chilled air leaving the fridge as I pulled out the ice water. I took the old Mott's apple juice bottle to the kitchen table and plopped on a chair to catch a tiny backyard breeze coming in from the living room window. Where I sat gave the ladies on the couch a clear view of me and me of them.  My pot belly was pooling sweat. They stopped their gabbing. One had her mouth wide open. Mom facing them turned around, saw me, and came into the kitchen.

"What the hell are doing?"
"Drinking, cooling off."
"Why are you in your underwear?"
"I'm hot."
83rd Street backyard


She grabbed me by the neck and directed us towards my bedroom.  I didn't bother arguing. What was the point? Aunt Lily had her own set of rules.




If you come to City Boy ~ my solo show @ Cornelia Street Cafe @ Thursday @ July 21st @ 6pm, you'll understand why I was lucky growing up in the old Yorkville neighborhood with my favorite stoops, stops and crazy cuckoo nuts. My old photos, the people in them and the scenes they present, are tied to the street life double feature in my head where I watch old Yorkville movies from my seat in the first row of RKO 86th Street's mezzanine.




City Boy ~ built into me over a lifetime, stories flew into my ears straight to my memory palace.
These events shook the area
1880 ~ Second & Third Ave Els reach Yorkville\Upper East Side
1918 ~ IRT comes to Yorkville
1955 ~ demolition of the Third Ave El,
2016 ~ Second Avenue Subway

Cornelia Street Cafe
Thurs, July 21 @ 6pm.
$10 admission includes a free drink

my first solo play
Thursday, July 21 at 6 PM - 7:45 PM
29 Cornelia St, New York, New York 10014

Thomas Pryor's "City Boy" is a love letter to street life in the 1960s working class Manhattan neighborhood, Yorkville. Devil Dogs were a nickel, Spaldeens flew, and the capture game, Ringalario, let boys put their arms around girls for the first time. Nuns slugged you for humming baseball’s beer jingles in class. And, like other fathers, Tommy’s took him to saloons, all day, and no one thought it was strange. In this funny and bittersweet portrait of family and life, Pryor echoes TV’s “The Wonder Years” - just add in taverns, subways and Checker cabs.


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

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 119 Amazon five star reviews out of 119 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.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

City Boy @ Thurs, July 21 @ 6pm @ Cornelia St Cafe

If you come to City Boy ~ my solo show @ Cornelia Street Cafe @ Thursday @ July 21st @ 6pm, you'll understand why I was lucky growing up in the old Yorkville neighborhood with my favorite stoops, stops and crazy cuckoo nuts. My old photos, the people in them and the scenes they present, are tied to the street life double feature in my head where I watch old Yorkville movies from my seat in the first row of RKO 86th Street's mezzanine.




City Boy ~ built into me over a lifetime, stories flew into my ears straight to my memory palace.
These events shook the area
1880 ~ Second & Third Ave Els reach Yorkville\Upper East Side
1918 ~ IRT comes to Yorkville
1955 ~ demolition of the Third Ave El,
2016 ~ Second Avenue Subway

Cornelia Street Cafe
Thurs, July 21 @ 6pm.
$10 admission includes a free drink


"City Boy" 
my first solo play
Thursday, July 21 at 6 PM - 7:45 PM
29 Cornelia St, New York, New York 10014

Thomas Pryor's "City Boy" is a love letter to street life in the 1960s working class Manhattan neighborhood, Yorkville. Devil Dogs were a nickel, Spaldeens flew, and the capture game, Ringalario, let boys put their arms around girls for the first time. Nuns slugged you for humming baseball’s beer jingles in class. And, like other fathers, Tommy’s took him to saloons, all day, and no one thought it was strange. In this funny and bittersweet portrait of family and life, Pryor echoes TV’s “The Wonder Years” - just add in taverns, subways and Checker cabs.



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

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 119 Amazon five star reviews out of 119 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, July 11, 2016

She Could Smell Who Was Closest

Nan singing and making a store list in her head at same time
My Dad's mother, Nan Rode had the hearing ability of a nocturnal animal. The four of us, Mom, Dad, Rory and I made a visit to her Collyer Brother styled full of crap railroad apartment - before we could say hello Nan lying on a couch yelled from the next room, "Bob, Tom, Rory, get my bag!"
The three of us moved as far away from her as possible shoving each other back towards the voice and knocking over things in our way. She'd never send Mom to a store. Mom would tell her to go to hell under her breath and ignore her.
"What's going on? Bob, you there?"
"Yes he is." Mom said and gave Dad an evil grin.
Dad's shoulders drooped and he mouthed, "I'll kill you," as he passed Mom on his way to the front room to get Nan's gang box.

I'm part of a great show Tomorrow night, July 12 - New York Story Exchange returns! It's a super-duper line-up of fine tellers, and I'm proud Ms. Ferraro invited me to join her crew. All info is below for a major NYC bang for a buck event.

Hear stories, tell stories! Tuesday, July 12th, 6:00 PM, downstairs at Cornelia Street CafĂ©. Admission: $9.00—includes one drink! Four featured tellers, followed by a 5 for 5 Open STORY Exchange: Up to five audience members will each get five minutes of stage time for stories, poems, spoken word, or music. Sign up: 5:45–6:10pm. This month’s host: Nicole Ferraro—with featured tellers Brad Lawrence, Kate Agustin, Thomas Pryor, and Nisse Greenberg.
*****
Collyer Brothers Reading Room

If you come to City Boy @ Cornelia Street Cafe @ Thursday @ July 21st @ 6pm, you'll understand why I was lucky growing up in the old Yorkville neighborhood with my favorite stoops, stops and countless crazy cuckoo nuts. These photos here, the people in them and the scenes they present, are part of the street life double feature in my head where I watch old Yorkville movies from the first row in the RKO 86th Street's mezzanine.




City Boy ~ built into me over a lifetime, stories flew into my ears straight to my memory palace.
These events shook the area
1880 Second & Third Ave Els reach Yorkville\Upper East Side
1918 IRT comes to Yorkville
1955 demolition of the Third Ave El,
2016, Second Avenue Subway
Cornelia Street Cafe
Thurs, July 21 @ 6pm.
$10 admission includes a free drink


"City Boy" 
my first solo play
Thursday, July 21 at 6 PM - 7:45 PM
29 Cornelia St, New York, New York 10014

Thomas Pryor's "City Boy" is a love letter to street life in the 1960s working class Manhattan neighborhood, Yorkville. Devil Dogs were a nickel, Spaldeens flew, and the capture game, Ringalario, let boys put their arms around girls for the first time. Nuns slugged you for humming baseball’s beer jingles in class. And, like other fathers, Tommy’s took him to saloons, all day, and no one thought it was strange. In this funny and bittersweet portrait of family and life, Pryor echoes TV’s “The Wonder Years” - just add in taverns, subways and Checker cabs.

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

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 119 Amazon five star reviews out of 119 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, July 4, 2016

Thankful to Live In a Free Country

Liberty is a gift. Respect it and share it with the less fortunate.

1932 photo below of my Uncle Tom, Dad (little guy) and a friend at Miss Liberty ~ top photo, The Lady stands tall in 2015.


Thurs, July 21@6p 




"Young Man Thorpe Strolls Governors Island"


"City Boy" 
my first solo play
Thursday, July 21 at 6 PM - 7:45 PM
29 Cornelia St, New York, New York 10014

Thomas Pryor's "City Boy" is a love letter to street life in the 1960s working class Manhattan neighborhood, Yorkville. Devil Dogs were a nickel, Spaldeens flew, and the capture game, Ringalario, let boys put their arms around girls for the first time. Nuns slugged you for humming baseball’s beer jingles in class. And, like other fathers, Tommy’s took him to saloons, all day, and no one thought it was strange. In this funny and bittersweet portrait of family and life, Pryor echoes TV’s “The Wonder Years” - just add in taverns, subways and Checker cabs.

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

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 119 Amazon five star reviews out of 119 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, July 3, 2016

A Little Dab Will Do Ya

Got into a sparkling new cab this morning. The seats, dashboard and windows shined. Riding my finger along the metal detail on the passenger door, I thought, the only time my brother Rory and I were ever this clean was for one lone hour at a photography studio on Third Avenue in spring 1960.

I repel wool. I can’t even look at someone wearing it without itching. That morning, Mom made us put on wool pants and red wool vests. Having a shirt under the vest was useless. In my mind, the wool was right on my skin just like the pants. Mom scrubbed our necks and washed our ears and put Brylcreem in our hair. I hate oil on me.
On the way over, Rory was in the stroller and I was about a half block behind them trying to walk in such a way that my legs centered in the pants so there was no wool making contact with my skin. To do so, every step was calculated. Since we were late for the appointment, Mom left Rory unattended a few times to come back and drag me. When she did, Rory climbed out of the stroller and ran back towards us. Part of the trip was uphill between Second and Third Avenue and when Rory left the stroller the brake slipped. Mom had to leave us alone to run after the stroller rolling down the hill towards 2nd Avenue, off the sidewalk and into the street. Reminded me of a Western movie I had recently seen on TV’s Channel 5.


When we got there 25 minutes late, Otto the photographer was livid. His baldhead was loaded with sweat and he was breathing heavy like Mr. Fields, the landlord in the “Abbott and Costello” TV show. This didn’t stop Rory and me from having a fight over who’d ride one of those horses with four springs that you go up and down on and also get a little bit of side to side action. Mom took me off the horse in a headlock. When he saw this happen to me Rory immediately cheered up. Otto and Mom quickly combed our hair and moved us into the position.

Mom said, “Smile nice, not stupid, or I’ll kill you.” Rory, always photogenic, nailed his pose. Somehow, I didn’t screw it up. After Otto snapped the picture, I saw Mom smile and look at us like the last hour never happened.


"City Boy" 
my first solo play
Thursday, July 21 at 6 PM - 7:45 PM
29 Cornelia St, New York, New York 10014

Thomas Pryor's "City Boy" is a love letter to street life in the 1960s working class Manhattan neighborhood, Yorkville. Devil Dogs were a nickel, Spaldeens flew, and the capture game, Ringalario, let boys put their arms around girls for the first time. Nuns slugged you for humming baseball’s beer jingles in class. And, like other fathers, Tommy’s took him to saloons, all day, and no one thought it was strange. In this funny and bittersweet portrait of family and life, Pryor echoes TV’s “The Wonder Years” - just add in taverns, subways and Checker cabs.

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

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 119 Amazon five star reviews out of 119 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, June 26, 2016

Happy Birthday, Nephew Eddie

Edward Edgar Ekis’s mother worked at the local Five & Ten store on First Avenue. You know, the one with the mechanical jalopies and "Ride "Em Cowboy!" outside the store - a dime did it. On Friday nights, Asst. Manager, Ellie Ekis closed the store at 9pm. This put Mrs. Ekis home at 9:15.

our first album cover, Ed, Buddy, teepee





Sometime in 1969, on one Friday the cocktail lamp was lit at 5pm and the first wave would roll in. There were seven to ten regulars, a poker game always got going, and the music blasted. (I never played cards, I stunk at cards.)  J Geils, “Looking For a Love,” “Floyd’s Hotel,” Jeff Beck, "Truth," Humble Pie, “Thirty Days In The Hole,” Black Sabbath, “Paranoid,” Black Oak Arkansas, “Jim Dandy,” Jacksons, “Never Can Say Goodbye,” Led Zep, “Everything,” The Who, “Who’s Next,” “Quad,” Beatles, “Rubber Soul & Revolver,” Sly, “Everything single song he did," “Billy Preston, “Outer Space,” and every worth while 45 single from 1962 and forward. 



Eddies' older brother Ginter had a doctorate in Entomology, the scientific study of insects. Eddie bought into science and loved exotic animals. Fall 1970, Ginter came home from a research trip to India with a gift for his brother - two Rhesus monkeys. Eddie named them Chiquita and Toto. Eddie caged in the tiny tar roof of the beauty parlor under his second floor apartment. They loved beer and lived in a cage in the kitchen and had a terrace out the window when the weather was nice. A porch for everybody. If the weather was right we’d move two chairs and a bottle of Yago Sangria out there and hang out with the monkeys, but if they didn’t like the music they went cuckoo crazy nuts and pulled our hair. We carefully made our record selections. Toto & Chicata hated Black Oak Arkansas.


At five to nine everyone knew the drill. The brown bags came out and all the empties into the garbage. Ekis ran to the turntable for our “Go out,” last song. We'd march out of the building, on our way to somewhere that was never as much fun as Ekis's house.We sang along:

I'm looking, I'm looking, I'm looking,
Somebody help me find my baby!




Happy 61st Birthday, Edward Edgar Ekis, we miss you, brother.


Yvette, Joe & Eddie

Eddie warming up

Gerard, Eddie & Karl

Chris, Gerard, Nick & Eddie 1966

Ed, Gerard & Arlene

look pretty happy to me, Ed & Arlene


Buddy, Ed, tp