Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Teaching His Bird to Fly









"Will someone please put on a pair of friggin pants!"

Poor Mom, one neat lady in a house with three male slobs.

Dad, Rory and I lived in our underwear once we were inside our apartment. Only company got Dad to put on slacks, and Rory and I would only put dungarees on if it was someone outside our immediate family. Grandparents, Aunts & Uncles got the briefs. Dad wore boxers, "Like to give my boys room," he'd tell us when Mom was outside earshot.
We spent five hours a night in front of the TV together. Mom on the couch, Rory and me with Mom, or lying on the floor, and Dad in his chair where he did his art. Boys spend lots of time inside their underwear usually scratching out of boredom, or just making sure everything is in there. Mom hated this, especially when she thought we were in there too long. Our family nickname for the boy thing was "bird." Went something like this,

"Leave your bird."

"Hands off your bird."

"Stop it with your bird."

One night, when I was six, and Rory, was four years old, I must have been really digging for gold, because Mom went bananas.
"Bob, will you get them to stop. I've had it. They're monkeys, they're not ours, they're monkeys."

Dad, upset Mom was disturbing him, semi-flipped out. "Tommy, get your hands out of there!"

"Leave him alone," Rory said, "He's teaching his bird to fly."

Dad left the room faking a cough, I saw him laughing.

Mom fumed.
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Salute to the New York Times City Section ~ May 4th @ 7pm @ 17 Murray Street








May 4th @7pm, mark your calendar for a ~ Salute to the New York Times City Section.
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Famous authors & muggles (like me) are getting together to honor, pay tribute and entertain the amazing editorial staff of the New York Times City Section. Writers published in the City Section will read short pieces and chat about the influence the editors have had on their work & life.
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Saara Dutton (Mama D's Arts Bordello), Sloane Crosley (I Was Told There'd Be Cake), Merrill Black (NYTimes contributing writer) & I, invite the City Section staff & all of you down to "17" located at 17 Murray Street just west of City Hall. That's two blocks from the original Newspaper Row, and three blocks from the original site of the New York Times on Nassau Street.
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Thanks to "17" owner, Joe Fischetti, Chez Joey's restaurant is closing for three hours to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to let these terrific journalists know how much we love the City Section. The section of the paper we grab first every Sunday.
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It's a free show, free food (appetizers), and a cash bar.
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Doors open at 6:30pm and the festivities will start @ 7pm.
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We promise a grand time.
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Monday, March 30, 2009

1974 Pineapple Bowl Champions







St. Stephen's of Hungary ~ 1974 Pineapple Bowl Champions ~ above from the top left: Tom Pryor, Joe Menesick, Karl Feldman, Eddie Hauser, Eddie Zimmel, Gerard Bakay, Eddie Ohfer, Buzzie, Mike Roberts, second row, Eddie Ekis, Al Maher in front of Ekis, Russell Deutch, Freddy Muller, Benny Romano, Robby McGreal, Kevin Burns. Not shown, Dr. Robert Hauser, Hunter College.
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Below is an article on the Pineapple Bowl game from Our Town, the local newspaper.




















In 1973 the Yorkville churches, Settlement Houses and Police Pcts. created a short lived Yorkville Football League. The 19th & 23rd Pct. sponsored the league paying for jerseys and referees. We had one championship game, The Pineapple Bowl.

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The Pineapple Bowl matched Lenox Hill Settlement House versus St. Stephen's of Hungary in January 1974 at the Asphalt Plant football field on York Avenue & 90th Street. St. Stephen's rolled over Lenox Hill 24-0. This win was sweet for St. Stephen's because Lenox Hill included most of the guys who regularly kicked our butts in touch football down John Jay Park. This lopsided rivalry between Carl Schurz Park and John Jay Park lasted ten years.

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Freddy Muller, Mike Roberts, Benny Romano and myself got our revenge. We were the four regular doormats for the John Jay guys.

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Joe Menesick, one of Yorkville's all-time best athletes, had a terrific game playing out of position at half back (normally he played center). Joe ran the ball for 170 yards. It was my pleasure, to finally lead Joe on a run rather than him always leading me. I loved being flat on my back after a block and lifting my head to see Joe running over the body of the guy I just cleared. Joe was a train.

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John Jay beat us in touch but Carl Schurz kicked their ass in tackle. That's a fact.

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The St. Stephen's Pineapple Bowl party down Carl Schurz Park lasted six months, until we resumed getting our regular beatings playing touch down John Jay's.

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They had talent, we had heart.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Marty Brought Me Home









My favorite Marty Glickman memory was beating Dallas in 1970 at Yankee Stadium.
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I tried to bribe my way into the Stadium at all the entrances with a $5 bill, but unfortunately, every usher and cop was honest that day. I jumped on the subway, got home to 86th St stop and ran to grandmother's on York and listened to the last three quarters with Marty & Al Derogatis in the front room running over the beds with my grandmother chasing me, trying to whack me and at the same time cheering along with me. Nan hated the Cowboys. When the Giants beat the Anti-christ 23-20, she went bananas, and Nan got nuts over nothing. This was the first time I ever saw her go cuckoo. Never saw it again.
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Beating Landry & Dallas at Yankee Stadium was the Giants 1970 Super Bowl. Over the radio, Marty brought you into the crowd and never missed a detail. I saw the facade, the bullpens, the mezzanine, the dugouts, the courthouse. I smelled the grass and felt the cold dirt on my shins and elbows. Marty took me home.
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bob Sheppard's Voice in My Dream





I heard Bob Sheppard's voice in my dreams.
The Yankee Stadium public address announcer would be on one side of my head giving me the Yankee Stadium news and Marty Glickman would be splitting a mike on the other side with Mel Allen giving me the play action. This happened a lot. A Yankee game and Giant football game going on in my head at the same time. It made things extremely exciting on the playing field.

When I was kid it was hard to get to sleep in my house. Dad loved TV loud and stayed up late doing art. The bedrooms had no doors. Even as a kid my nerves were shot. To get to sleep, I'd remember a favorite Giant or Yankee game and channel the play by play in my head along with player introductions by Bob Sheppard. I'd create enough action in my head that eventually it would drown out the TV racket. If the TV was moderately loud, I only need one game at a time.
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"Marty Glickman, here folks on WNEW radio. The Giants are down by five points with 11 seconds left. This is it. No matter what happens, this has been an amazing comeback by the much-maligned Giants this afternoon. They have the ball, fourth down on the forty yard line. The team is moving towards the closed end of the Stadium. It's their last chance. The parishioners in the Church of Mara are on the edge of their seats. Here we go, Tittle leans over the center and takes the snap. He drops back and lofts a spiral down the right sideline. Shofner has it… at the fifteen, ten, five, touchdown! The Giants go ahead 20-19 with no time left on the clock."
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I'd drift away.
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Barber's Dead






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I bet I can name every barber I've had back to five years old.
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I have to go with nicknames for the first two, because I don't know their real names.
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Herman the German & Mickey Mouse with his wife with Tourette's Syndrome on York Avenue. She sat next to you in the always empty second chair and on and off through the haircut screamed obscenities into your ear. Herman the German fogged me into the chair during haircuts with his cigarette smoke.
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Breaking away from crew cuts, I went to Gino at Claremont's Men's Hair Stylist also on York. Here we discovered sideburns and threw away our butch sticks. Then, Antonino in Bay Ridge who played Italian Opera on Saturday morning while stingily sipping red wine out of a coffee cup, a little wine always rested on his pencil moustache before his cat tongue took it home. After, there was pretty Angeline who cost too much, but I didn't care because her face in my face for a half hour was heaven. Angeline moved to Jersey then it was off to Lydia on Beekman Street next to the hat store where my Dad got his hat blocked in the 50s'. Then David, my Russian comrade across the street from the Trade Center until September 11th.
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Following 9/11 a Chinese chicken salesman cut my hair when we were exiled to LIC while our work building went through repairs for three years. Mr. Hom had a barber's chair right next to the chicken coops in his basement on Jackson Avenue.
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Finally, coming full circle (almost) ~ I was back at Claremont Men's Hair Stylist in their new location on 83rd Street and First Avenue. Claremont's owner is a Yorkville land baron and moved the store from one of his buildings to another. Four months ago, I plotted my next haircut tying it to a doctor appointment day to avoid waiting on a Saturday morning. When I got to the store at 11am the windows were white washed with a little hand written sign telling the postman where to leave the mail. My barber who I already lost once in my life was dead. Or moved elsewhere leaving no forwarding address for my wild poet head.
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Not to be denied, I remembered somewhere between the subway stop and York Avenue there was a barber pole, I definitely remembered the swirling stripes on the pole. After a few passes, I located my the barber on 84th Street right next to Doctor Higgins the Vet's office.
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Not too shabby, cut my hair nice, would of made Floyd of Mayberry proud, "real proud, Andy." Can't tell you his name, his English, not so good. But I'll try to keep him on life support.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ol' Yankee Stadium


Now that Shea is kaput the reality is sinking in, Yankee Stadium will be demolished.
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My sadness is tempered by my disgust over the renovation job after the 1973 season. Two missing elements destroyed the beauty of the place. Gone was the copper facade overhanging the roof and worse; the bullpens were no longer bookends between the bleachers and the lower right and left field seats.
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The ghosts of Yankee & Giant fans hung in that space behind the facade. When I sat in the grandstands high up under the roof's cover and felt caught between the facade and the playing field, sometimes my hair would raise on my neck as I sensed the millions who sat there before me, who invested all their hope and poured all their sorrows on the team below. Part of anyone who measured a good day versus a bad day, based on how their team did, left a piece of themselves behind. I felt it.

(photo is available for sale at the New York Times Store).
The demolition is a final blow to a patient that's been dying for 36 years. (The place closed for renovation after the last Yankee game in 1973 and re-opened in 1976.) I'm sad, but in a different way then if the place was never subject to amputation. I never enjoyed Steinbrenner's remodeling.
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In the old park you could sit next to a ballplayer. You, in the first row, the last box seat in right field next to the bullpen ~ the player, sitting next to you on a park bench in the Yankee bullpen. Think about that next time you see 10 security guards standing in front of the Yankee dugout.
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Don't get me started on the football Giants still in Jersey!
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Many thoughts on this in the next few weeks...
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Uncle Mommy's Birthday

Today, would be Mom's 79th birthday.

Patricia Helen Ryan missed Yorkville the moment she stepped out of it. We had relatives at 1582 & 1616 York Avenue; 222 & 321 East 85th Street, and 516 East 84th Street. She spent nearly as much time in the 86th Street shoe stores and yapping with her sisters on 85th Street as Dad spent in the local taverns and playing ball with Rory and me. Mom's feet always hurt. She was like Cinderella in reverse, her foot was always trying to find the perfect shoe. Mom never found the shoe but it never stopped another expedition.
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I miss Uncle Mommy, she loved me good. I was her "Cow, Cow Boogie." I retain vague hope there's an afterlife, what a blast it'd be to play with a young, healthy Patty Pryor.



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pictures above:
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Mom with Nan Ryan on north side of 86th Street between 2nd & 3rd Avenue @1949. See Hofbrau awning and Cushman's on the corner.
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Barbara, Joannie & Mom, three Ryan sisters in November 1955, Joannie's bridal shower
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Mom & me, Christmas 1954
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Monday, March 23, 2009

Eastside of York Avenue between 87th & 86th Street ~ July 1945


















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This photo of York Avenue and many other photos of the Yorkville neighborhood are located in the New York Public Library's Digital Collection.

The horrible local bakery, Cake Masters, was located on this block. My mother broke a tooth on one of their Strawberry Shortcakes. The Mansion Diner later appeared on the northeast corner of 86th Street. Their fine coffee saved the lives of hundred of doormen on 86th Street and East End Avenue.
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Sunday, March 22, 2009

City House Orphanage in the East Village

This is a photograph of City House, the largest orphanage in the United States in the late 1800s'. It stood at the northeast corner of Lafayette and Great Jones Street. It was built by Father Drumgoole after his success with a smaller orphanage at 53 Warren Street called, Father Drumgoole's Home for Homeless NewsBoys.

My grandfather, Thomas E. Pryor and his older brother, Edward, lived in the City House after they spent many years living in Father Drumgoole's 500 acre Farm & Orphanage at the southern tip of Staten Island now known as Mount Loretto. They were sent to the orphanage by Mary Pryor, their aunt, in 1909 after their parents died of pneumonia.
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Friday, March 20, 2009

Mom Loves Dad, Sometimes

















Rory

dedicated to my brother, Rory, above with Mom, me and a bunny, published by Mr. Beller's Neighborhood in 2007

March 1954. In a Woodside apartment overlooking the # 7 El and the Long Island Railroad, two express trains crisscrossed, one rattling over the other.
"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 the ice in the spaghetti pot 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, 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, Bob 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, aimed her lips up and kissed 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? 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.
"Huh?"
"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, 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, "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."
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 blabbering 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 spoke uselessly.
"No buts.” Patty closed the discussion, “Tommy’s middle name is Rory."
That night, Bob temporarily parked his anger, 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.
Thanksgiving, 1955, Bob and Patty told their families they were expecting again. Throughout the pregnancy, Patty kept Bob in the dark. He begged for clues and whined for hints. Late in the term, Bob tried to bribe Patty by hiding candy bars around the apartment, promising to reveal the locations only if she told him the name. Patty never cracked. Bob prayed for a girl.
June 20th, Patty gave birth to a perfect boy. Bob dropped Tommy off with his grandmother 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 the 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 precisely.
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.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cornelia Street Cafe Swinging Soiree ~ Video Below

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Thank you, Angelo, Robin, Steve, Tiffany, Eddie (my Cafe hosts), Susan Lewis (my co-conspirator), and all my friends that came down to Cornelia Street Cafe. I'm always grateful for your encouragement and support.
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love, Tommy
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the video below, includes two new stories,
"Cowboys to Girls" & "Sanctuary." Click on arrow to start.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Loftus Tavern Crew Joins Mark Bavaro at Tommy's Reading








Loftus Tavern is sending a party of regulars to my reading tomorrow night.


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After they raise their Irish today, they'll get a good night's rest and work their way slowly down Second Avenue tomorrow, making a right on Bleecker Street and heading west to the Cornelia Street Cafe. Mark Bavaro, the greatest offensive Giant football player ever, is doing his best to make it there.


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The third guy over is Orson, a good guy who let me go to several New York Giant football games on his season ticket. The fourth guy over is Bobby Schroeder. I think the first guy is Al Bender, and I think the second guy's name is Phil.


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If anyone can help me with the names please do. The photo was taken by Bob Pryor against the tavern's wall on 85th Street in 1961.


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Monday, March 16, 2009

Yorkville Mother's Club Endorses Tommy's Reading



My grandmother sang in the P.S.77 Mother's Club show. Did the ladies dress up or what?
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Nan loved music in the house. She had a toy piano with eight color coded keys. It came with a color-coded music book with classics like Pop Goes the Weasel, Roll Out the Barrel and This Old Man.
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My brother, Rory tortured Mom by playing the piano during family dinner visits. Her eyes rolled from the aural pain. Rory tortured her so much he eventually got good on the thing and played a mean Jingle Bells.
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If you come to my reading Wednesday night, I promise not to torture you. OK, maybe just a little.
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Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Bullpen Breeze @ Cornelia St Cafe @ Wednesday @6pm



Wednesday night at Cornelia Street Cafe, we'll start off listening to the top singles of 1968 on an 83rd Street stoop. Then we'll run up 86th Street and take the subway to 1972 where we have a date to play catch with Sparky Lyle at Yankee Stadium.

We'll sing truly bad lyrics, we love to sing anyway. Take it Flo:
You got a thing about you,
I just can't live without you,
I really want you, Elenore, near me.
Your looks intoxicate me,
Even though your folks hate me,
There's no one like you, Elenore, really.
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Reading starts @ 6pm (really), please come!
See Cornelia street Cafe link below for further information:
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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wedding Day, September 1952, Silly Dad


After Father Edward O'Halloran, OFM, married Mom and Dad in St. Stephen's of Hungary church, it was a dry reception down the cellar of a Yorkville social club. Dad, on the bottom left, is being silly. I never saw Dad silly. He showed a lot of cards emotionally, but not the silly one. That's why I love this photograph.

He told jokes and enjoyed comedies, but he tended to take himself serious most of the time. He was vigilant over how others perceived him. His friend Allie said, Dad could hear someone give him the finger.

Mom told me Dad got silly with her sometimes. I was jealous and wanted him to do that with Rory and me. I'll bet he was funny and could make his friends laugh when he let it go. I wish I saw him loose. It never happened but he made up for it.
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is Seven Years a Short or a Long Time?




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Above, my daughter, Alison, 3, on my Dad's lap in 1991 on York Avenue.
To the right, Dad, 3, with his brother, Tom, 7, in 1932 in Central Park.
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Dad died seven years ago today. Seven years is a long time for some things, and a short time for others.
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It was a hundred years ago, that he and I fought over hospitals, caretakers, hospices, taking care of Mom and my brother, Rory, paying bills, taking care of my grandmother, nursing homes, oncologists, medications, and other things that made us both miserable.
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It was yesterday, we fought over Sinatra's best song, DiMaggio versus Mantle, Ringalario versus Ringelivio, Bogart versus Cagney, how to make a hamburger, Wonder Bread versus Silvercup. It was yesterday, he took me to the park to play ball twice a week, taught me to throw a spiral, played Artie Shaw's Begin the Beguine, lived and died rooting for the New York Giants, taught me the tight~loose thing when holding a bat for power and control, took me to Yankee Stadium 15 times a year, 5 Ranger games, watched 2,000 movies together, cried together but hid it from each other, explained who Zeppo and Gummo were and the beauty of a tongue and grooved shelf, told me about his three trips around the world in the Navy and Merchant Marines 200 times, did art with me, sculpted clay together, taught me to respect women, told me every joke ever told and I don't remember one, bit my ear while I was sitting on his lap in the passenger seat driving along the Palisades. I threw his hat out the window and he didn't get mad at me. It was yesterday, he kissed me good night.
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Is Seven Years a Short or Long Time? Depends.
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Robert Anthony Pryor
May 19, 1929 ~ March 11, 2002
Dad
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The King Biscuit Flour Hour 1973



I miss sitting on a stoop doing absolutely nothing with a few friends for several hours.
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If you don't know, every street light pole in New York City used to have a regular electric socket in the base panel. If you popped the panel off you could plug in your music.
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We wheeled our Lp albums down Carl Schurz Park in a permanently borrowed Daitch Shopwell shopping cart, and lugged along a full stereo system to the park for the King Biscuit Flour Hour on Sunday nights.
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That eventually got shot down by an angry Gracie Terrace mob.
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Our music bounced off their tall buildings, their sheer walls great for acoustics. We moved the party to John Jay Park, less affluent neighbors.
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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Davey Jones Welcomes Yorkville Men to His Locker, Deep Beneath the Sea





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"Get the camera."

They lied. They lied about the cooler being sturdy. They lied about the boat.

"No, no, no," the Collins Avenue Notions Store salesman said, "the cooler holds a case of beer loaded with ice, and that's an eight man boat. It'll handle seven easy."

Not true!

There were six of us in the boat when Karl dove in. Whether it was his fault or not, Karl got the blame. Our Uber boat went kaput. It happened within an hour of our checking into the Tropicana oceanfront resort motel in Miami Beach on spring break 1974.

We drove from Yorkville in a tiny car we rented from a circus clown and a Volkswagen Bus we borrowed from someone's cousin without telling the cousin. We did 1300 miles down I95 in two days, stopping in Atlanta the night Al Downing gave up #715 to Hank Aaron.

The cooler, the boat, we needed to photograph the evidence. Above, me and Eddie, 30 seconds after the cooler incident.

Hours into our stay, things looked grim. We were down a boat and a cooler, but after driving the eastern seaboard nothing could deter our loopy excitement over meeting wild girls.

more later...
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~ My Cornelia Street Cafe reading is coming up quick ~
~Wednesday, March 18th @ 6pm ~

I'm reading first, it's starting sharp @ 6pm, so please come on time.
http://www.corneliastreetcafe.com/

I'm treating you to a few beverages to thank you for reading my stuff and to acknowledge I'm one year older. thanks, Tommy
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