Wednesday, July 29, 2009

86th Street ~ The Heartbeat of Yorkville


On a good day, I'd weasel a quarter off my mother on 83rd Street. Then I'd hit York Avenue, walk half a block north, go up the stairs of 1582, walk into Apt. 2 South, make a little small talk and say, "Hi Nan, how are you , can I have a quarter?"

Then I'd stroll north, crossing 84th & 85th Streets, go up the long stoop of 1616 York Avenue and walk into the first floor apartment on the north side of the building ~ same routine, "Hi Pop, Yankees won yesterday, how are you? Can I have a quarter?"

Once in a blue moon, they all said, "Yes."

When they did, I had my movie money ~ 75 cents for Loews or the RKO. Who needed food? I was going to see a new film all by my lonesome. Up 86th Street, I ran. It never bothered me to go in during the middle of a film. I liked trying to figure out what was going on, who was who, and I always stayed for the entire movie anyway.

Under the street bed of 86th Street between 1st & Lexington Avenues beats the heart of Yorkville. It's been there since the end of World War I. Maybe longer. Between those avenues were the pleasure domes of my childhood, the late 1950s and 1960s. The three movie houses, Horn & Hardart, Cushman's, Prexy's, Karl Ehmer, off block, Schaller & Weber and the Heidelberg Restaurant, Berlin Bar, Merit Farm, Papaya King, Ideal Restaurant, Salamander Shoe Store for my special need feet with the store's gift of a air-filled balloon for every child on a straightened out metal hanger because they were too cheap to buy helium, Woolworth's and Lamston's around the corner, Martin's, Singer's, Lotus, Little Hofbrau and countless other restaurants.
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Last night, I stopped by the new Barnes & Noble bookstore near the 86th Street subway entrance to check out the new books. There in the center of Local favorites & the New York section was Lost and Found: Stories from New York, (see photos).

My family's played, shopped and gallivanted along 86th Street for 100 years. If they were here, everyone of them would have a baby seeing my story, "Madame Butterfly Goes Down,"in this book.

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Thomas Beller's terrific anthology, Lost & Found: Stories from New York, is available at:

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Lost-and-Found/Thomas-Beller/e/9780393331912
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"I Have Two Birthdays!"


I’m 10, I go up my grandmother’s house around the corner to see what’s up.

“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, its 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 and needed assistance.
“Nan, I don't get it.”
She explained.

Nan was delivered by Saveria Palermo, a mid-wife from the Yorkville neighborhood on July 23, 1906 in her family's apartment at 1403 Avenue A, later named York Avenue, two buildings in, off 75th Street.
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When the lazy mid-wife filled out her Board of Health birth certificates the following Monday, July 30th, she used the same date, Saturday, July 28th, for all the babies she delivered that week ~ so, Nan had two birthdays, July 23rd & July 28th.
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My great-grandfather, Antonino Cuccia, a fruit stern, and his wife Giovanna couldn't read or speak English so they never fixed the certificate, but they always celebrated Anna’s birthday twice.
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She was the baby of the family and a spoiled brat. She told me.
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Nan never bored me. I miss her.
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Here are some pictures of Anna Cuccia, aka, Ann Pryor Rode. Today, July 28th, is one of her two 103rd birthdays.





























Saturday, July 25, 2009

She Started It



Dad captured my first argument with a girl.
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Barbara threw the Spauldeen lousy and the ball went up on a roof and rolled down into the gutter. The one week rental in Putnam county didn't have a ladder. The ball was lost. It took a long time for me to stop being mad at Barbara. I didn't talk to her for a good half hour.
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Below, Mom and Nan Rode at Putnam in 1960 ~ can you feel the love? Look at the puss on Nan knitting. They spent their lives together at war over Dad and family control. Nan was bossy. How bossy? I'll bet you a thousand dollars my grandmother, Ann Pryor Rode, could have gotten Madonna to go to the store for her, and then made Madonna rotate her stock in the pantry and refrigerator. And then Madonna would have asked, "Is there anything else you need Mrs. Rode?" And there always was. "Help me put up the drapes, Madge." And Madonna would, and she would have come back for more. They all did.
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Everybody's pissed. Someone was always pissed at somebody else in my family. My job was to figure out how to navigate the rearranged alliances. I got pretty good at it, but Nan Rode always screwed me up.
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She had a fight with Pauline Hannah and stopped talking to her. I was expected to do the same. I couldn't stop talking to someone I knew my whole life who did nothing to me, but when we saw each other in the street the greeting changed, no hugs, no how you been? If you were on Nan's shit list, I had to fall in line. So when Pauline and me passed each other in the street, we started nodding with a weak smile, and that's where we stayed.
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This goes a month or so, and I swing around 83rd Street and go up Nan's to see what's up. I'm on the hall stairs and I hear laughing coming from the second floor apartment. I flip the door knob, go in, and there's Nan and Pauline laughing and laughing like they heard the funniest joke on earth. I'm feeling all odd looking at Pauline who I treated like shit for a month, and Nan is clueless or thoughtless that's she's supposed to tell me when she makes up with her friends on her shit list. Nan had a special pencil with a huge eraser for her shit list, and we all went on and off that list effortlessly.
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Below is the cornerstone for the Eastside Settlement House facing the FDR Drive at 76th Street. Built in 1903, it was the second settlement house. It had a grass hill that led down to the East River. My grandmother, uncles, aunts, father & mother haunted that place. It had everything a kid could want. My parents, Pat Ryan and Bob Pryor were the Lindy Dance Champs at the Settlement House.
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Above, Dad & Mom, Patchogue, 1962.

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July, 1961, Dad, Allie Cobert and Mickey Fiorillo from 84th Street between York & East End Avenues. They are standing three stores down from the Old Timers Tavern on the east side of York Avenue at 83rd Street & 84th Street. The awning in the back is Parker's Grocery Store. That's Reliable Meats directly to the right. Mickey married Barbara my Mom's sister, he's my uncle. Allie was family, we loved him.


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Found this great picture of Rory at the start of first grade with a date on the back, November 18, 1962. This is right after the Cuba Missile Crisis. The kids don't look worried. It's recess! They're drinking their milk snacks, and the odds are pretty good I sold it to them, because by third grade I was going class to class as a toast and milk salesman.


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I know the three girls next to Rory on the left, but I only know them like this: the pretty brunette in the front was Bernadette's sister. Bernie was one year ahead of me at St. Stephen's of Hungary. Kenny Devoe loved her, or maybe it was Michael Sorenson. Behind her is Tina Harangazo, Rory's first girlfriend, she was so cute. A perfect symmetrical face. Behind Tina, is Joey Scrapits sister. Joey was in my grade and he's now a doctor. I never caught the sister's name but she was pretty and quiet..
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Here's Pilgrim Hill today at 72nd Street, looking down at what we called Sailboat Lake but park officials called the Conservatory. Starting at the Pilgrim statute this was the best sleigh ride in Central Park.
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I can't dress. Never could.
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Not in first grade, look at my tie. Not when I was 7, look at my zipper.
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As a man, I've failed to meet the minimum sartorial standards for looking good. Please see the evidence in my picture with Mayor Bloomberg and NYCHA Chairman Tino Hernandez, examine the bottom shirt bottom near my belt.
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But I could always ride a horse. This is in front of Lamston's on 1st Avenue in 1959. Every time, I saw a dime with Mercury on it, I thought about this ride. It was my favorite thing on earth when I was five.
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Psssst...The You Know What's in the Apple Jacks


I have a theory on why New Jersey politicians are uncontrollably corrupt.

There's something in the Jersey drinking water that triggers a rogue "impaired judgment" gene in the same people who have the "I want to run something, be in charge of something, but I can't figure out what to be in charge of... I know... I'll be a politician" gene.

I went to a wedding in Linden 20 years ago, where nine guests had won at least one elected office and also served time in prison.
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44 Charged by U.S. in New Jersey Corruption Sweep
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A two-year corruption and international money-laundering investigation stretching from the Jersey Shore to Brooklyn to Israel and Switzerland culminated in charges against 44 people on Thursday, including three New Jersey mayors, two state assemblymen and five rabbis, the authorities said.
The case began with bank fraud charges against a member of an insular Syrian Jewish enclave centered in a seaside town. But when that man became a federal informant and posed as a crooked real estate developer offering cash bribes to obtain government approvals, it mushroomed into a political scandal that could rival any of the most explosive and sleazy episodes in New Jersey’s recent past.
It was replete with tales of the illegal sales of body parts; of furtive negotiations in diners, parking lots and boiler rooms; of nervous jokes about “patting down” a man who turned out to indeed be an informant; and, again and again, of the passing of cash — once in a box of Apple Jacks cereal stuffed with $97,000.
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy Ending Lounge Performance with Claudia Chopek and Ward White

Here's a video of Claudia Chopek, Ward White & I performing my story, "Vinyl Medication," at Happy Ending Lounge on July 9th ~ part of Mr. Beller's Neighborhood Reading Series.
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Thank you, Claudia & Ward for trying something new with me. Thank you, Patrick Gallagher, Jean Paul Cativiela and Tom Beller for the opportunity.
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click on the arrow on the bottom left to start
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video
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Check out Claudia & Ward's terrific work.
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http://www.myspace.com/claudiachopekmusic
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http://www.wardwhite.net/index2.html
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Melancholy Baby

Hi, this is the Honorable Ann Pryor Rode, I just heard about tonight's show.
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I'm skipping the Fifty Fifty Club, canceling Bingo, and rescheduling the Cherokee Club Dinner Dance committee meeting.
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Though, I passed on six years ago, what kind of grandmother would I be if I can't come back and cheer my star boarder grandson on.
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I'm counting on Yorkville Casino quality entertainment tonight, but if Tommy stinks, I'm prepared to take over the mike and get the show on the road.
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See you at Happy Ending Lounge @ tonight @8pm
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http://www.happyendinglounge.com/2005/
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Why do you grieve?
Try and believe
Life is always sunshine
When the heart beats true
Banish your fears
Smile through your tears
When you're sad
It makes me feel the same as you...
Come to me my melancholy baby
Cuddle up and don't be blue
All your fears are foolish fancy, maybe
You know, dear, that I'm in love with you;
Every cloud must have a silver lining
Wait until the sun shines through
Come on and smile, my honey dear,
While I kiss away each tear
Or else I shall be melancholy too...
(music, Ernie Burnett, lyrics, George A. Norton)
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Next Cherokee Club Outing ~ Tommy's Reading Tomorrow Night ~ Thursday, July 9th @ 8pm


"Annie, Isabel here. I've got the bus ready for Tommy's reading tomorrow night. Woody will pick us up in front of the Cherokee Club on 79th Street. I put a crate of rotten peaches in the back. No, not Alberta, the Cling peaches. This way, if Tommy stinks we can rocket a few off his head."
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July 9th @ 8pm @ Happy Ending Lounge

302 Broome Street (between Forsyth and Eldridge Streets)
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part of Mr. Beller's Neighborhood Reading Series
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Tommy, Claudia Chopek & Ward White storytell with song
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see the link below for directions, please come.
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thanks, Tommy
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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Picture Book

Picture yourself
when you're getting old.
Sat by the fireplace
a pondering on.

Picture book,
pictures of your mama,
taken by your papa,
a long time ago.
Picture book,
of people with each other,
to prove they loved each other,
a long time ago.

(song by Ray Davies)













Sunday, July 5, 2009

Trust


"Stop moving your nose."
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Alison reminded me of Elizabeth Montgomery playing Samantha on Bewitched. When I rubbed sun tan lotion on her nose, Alison's head would keep still, but her nose would take off like a whirly bird. I'd stretch the ritual out so I could watch her make a thousand faces.
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One of our favorite games was "Trust." She'd run the length of the couch and dive off like Wile E. Coyote. I'd be on the floor and the deal was I'd catch her as close to the ground as possible without her crashing. She'd take off like a madman and go up four, five feet in the air, trying to go past my arms, daring me to drop her. Lots of close calls, but no emergency room visits. Nothing compares to the powerful faith Alison had in me during that game.
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Today, Alison worked Elixir Juice Bar, a smoothie store on Hudson Street. I biked there to visit her. The place got busy. For 45 minutes, I read & watched Alison handle the best and worst of New York. She ran the place working alone. No sweat, no scenes, just satisfied customers.
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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tuesday on the Hudson


Last Tuesday, the terrible weather didn't stop love from appearing on the Hudson. Biking north, Alison and I spied folks enjoying the river in the rain. There was a retired couple playing dominoes under two umbrellas, the lady was winning and after I asked permission to photograph them, and they said yes, she shyly slipped her head under her black umbrella.

We saw a solitary lady not alone with her companion, her dog. Never saw her face but all the energy from behind said she was fine.

While love sprouted in the drizzling rain, south of the scene the sky was clearing over the lower bay.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Come Celebrate @ Thursday, July 9th @ 8pm


Tommy Pryor’s Reading ~ Next Thursday ~ Free Show

July 9th @ 8pm @ Happy Ending Lounge

302 Broome Street (between Forsyth and Eldridge Streets)















I’m so excited, I’m dribbling.

Come celebrate the publication of my first story in a book, Thursday, July 9th @ 8pm @ Happy Ending Lounge @ 302 Broome Street. The story, Madame Butterfly Goes Down, is part of Thomas Beller's new diverse anthology, Lost & Found: Stories from New York, Vol. 2, coming out July 21st.

Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood’s Reading Series invited me down & I'm reading two stories with musical accompaniment from two terrific string artists, Claudia Chopek & Ward White, There will be song. Please come, you'll have fun, promise. Be well, Tommy


Take the B, D train to Grand Street
Take the J, M, Z to Bowery.
Take the F to Delancey.
See Happy Ending Lounge link below for further travel details.
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http://www.happyendinglounge.com/2005/
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