Friday, October 30, 2009

Through the Mirror, Lightly



Two pictures of the front step of 1582 York Avenue, 1942 & 2009, then & now.
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Spy the Mission Soda advertisement behind my 36 year old grandmother on her way to the 85th Street Gracie Station Post Office to mail the letter in her right hand. Every day would improve with a bottle of Mission Cream.
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Below, two pictures of the east side of York Avenue between 83rd & 84th Streets in 1945 & 2009. The 1945 shot is Tom Pryor, my uncle, in front of 1582 just home from Italy after four years in the Army. Old Timers Tavern is directly to his right.

Below are two pictures of the southeast corner of 86th Street and York Avenue, 1953 & 2009. Fran Carmody, Pat O'Rourke & Barbara Ryan. Down the block on the west side of 86th Street was Misericordia Hospital.
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If you look at both pictures you can see a strip of bluestone sidewalk along the 86th Street side. Bluestone was the best roller-skating surface, polished smooth, worn down, you flew over it, and there was so little of it left when I was a kid, but we knew where it was. The best stretch was in front of the Frick Museum on Fifth Avenue. A long way to go for a skate but well worth it.









Below is the store front of what was Kronk's Soda Fountain, at the NW corner of 87th Street & York Avenue, where Barbara Ryan rolled me around in a stroller, gallivanting and flirting with the boys.













Below is the stoop of 222 East 85th Street, from where Jimmy Nolloth watched the river flow for 40 years, enjoying all the traffic in and out of the post office across the street. I loved Uncle Jimmy. We leaned on that rail together a thousand times.








The rear of the former Yorkville Casino on 85th Street between 2nd & 3rd Avenue. Notice the original etching of the musician's union that built the structure nearly a hundred years ago.








York Avenue Oct 2009 ~ bet. 83rd & 84th Street











Frame Houses in Yorkville built in the mid 1800s. What a blast walking down the block and running into one of these beauties.
















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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween in Yorkville ~ A Hideous Dance of Death


In front of a townhouse, a half block from Central Park, a Hideous Dance of Death is spinning round. There are goblins and ghouls and many more gruesome guests.
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The other pictures are for fun. A building across from the ghost house, Art in Washington D.C., City Hall Fountain lights at midnight, Ali and Mel at Coney, the day Ali left for France; same day, Surf Avenue.
























































































Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Nerves are Shot


I'm a wreck.
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I duck when someone points their finger while giving me directions. I think people I love are going to hit me when they innocently move a limb towards me. I scare myself when I sneeze.
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Some of this started with the TV volume growing up. Dad liked to watch TV loud, and stay up late to watch old movies on Channel 5 & 9. Mom and Rory got used to it. They both could sleep through a war. I never got used to it and walked around in a coma from sleep deprivation.
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Mom and Dad's relationship was like a functional alcoholic, they got through the day but there were casualties. Usually Rory and me from their verbal bouts. That pushed me around the corner to my father's mother's apartment on York Avenue.
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I lost a portion of my hearing up Nan's nut house. She loved lots of company, playing pinochle and pokeno, loud TV, Guy Lombardo & Kate Smith music, and she had a $100 telephone bill in 1965, twice her rent cost, staying up to midnight every night yakking away doing her politics.
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Nan was the only person I knew who if she was speaking in her apartment, her voice volume could wash out the horrible theme music coming from the Mister Softee truck. She'd be saying something then stop, and I'd hear the Mister Softee truck a block away. I completely missed its appearance in front of our house.
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But the main reason, my nerves are shot is my perpetual proximity to demolition and construction.
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It started on 83rd Street when they demolished 515, right next to my building, 517,and put up an ugly gray building that took three years to complete. Mom caught Rory and me walking across a fourth floor beam during early construction, and for once, I absolutely remember getting hit and fully understood why, even though I blamed Rory forever because Mom couldn't see us on the beam but called our names out the back window.
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"Tommy?"
No answer.
"Rory, are you there?"
"Hi, Mom."
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When 515 came down, no lead or asbestos team was on hand, just a crane and a huge concrete ball taking whole brick and plaster walls down smack after smack. A cloud of dust rose over the block and stayed there for hours. It was a cool thing to watch a wrecking ball in action, except when it was destroying the building next to yours. I secretly hoped the ball would miss 515 and go through the third floor window of 517 and hit Mr. Toledo in the head. Cheap bastard didn't tip me when I delivered his Sunday Daily News..
When I was 10, at St. Stephen's of Hungary, they pulverized a perfectly good rectory next to our school, and put a new one up. Three years of noise and dust on our desks and in our eyes and ears. In 1964 when they knocked something down, they just knocked it down. No water, no brick by brick, the wrecking ball came in and everybody had a big old party watching the ball raze a building in a few days.
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After St. Stephen's, they leveled the lovely & old Church of the Nativity on Second Avenue in the East Village and built a modern horror right next to LaSalle Academy my high school. I thought I had Parkinson's due to the involuntary shaking I developed because our classes were right next to the party wall we shared with the new church. I flinched all the time, my girlfriend loved it.
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After high school, Hunter College began a major expansion effort by tearing buildings down across the street from the Hunter High School Building shown in the picture here.
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After college, I worked on William Street where they ripped up the streets over and over again ~ eight years of torturous jackhammering.
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I was three blocks from the WTC North Tower when it was bombed in 1993 and when it collapsed in Sept 2001.
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Now I work at 90 Church Street surrounded by 360 degrees of demolition and construction. The World Trade Center site is right outside my window, they're demolishing a college building on Greenwich Street out the other window, a new sixty-story building (it also replaced a rectory) went up next to St. Peter's Church and they foolishly destructed the Deco Art quality Dun & Bradstreet building on Church Street that is being replaced by a ninety-story Silverstein monster.
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Someone told me, "You'll have peace when you're in your grave." Hope so, but I'm not counting on it..
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Coney Island ~ When Everyone Goes Home




Worked hard this weekend, then I snuck in some play.
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Rode the bike to Coney ~ what a gorgeous day. The beach and boardwalk in October is splendid. The birds were mad at me and kept running away. My bike wanted to go in the water, but forgot his trunks.
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All the way on the bottom is Nick Danger and the Ho-Ho's from the Losers Lounge show at Joe's Pub. Losers Lounge is the best recurring show in the city. Thank you, Joe McGinty & David Terhune and the Kustard Kings for the seasonal switch cheer me up.
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Every good boy deserves favour...
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Goooooooooooo Giiiiiiiiants!









































































Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pat Cullinan's 1968-1973 Photos & The Babe in Right Field in 1928


Patrick Cullinan, my LaSalle Academy Geometry teacher,created an amazing catalogue of photographs that captured LaSalle life between 1968 and 1973.
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In addition to the LaSalle photos, Pat took tons of pictures of the Lower East Side and other New York City neighborhoods. You can see all the photos at the link below including recent shots of Papaya King on 86th Street taken this past month. I owe Pat, much ~ he is one of the most interesting, knowledgeable and funny mentors I've had in my life and a stupendous photographer (Click on photos to open).
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If you ever stepped into a Catholic classroom, or wondered what else was going in the East Village in the late 60s besides sex, drugs and rock & roll take a look at Pat's photos.

http://pcullinan.smugmug.com/




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It drives me nuts that hardly anybody had to sense to film Yankee baseball in the 1920s at Yankee Stadium. The Stadium I knew and loved, until the renovation at the end of the 1973 season, was radically different from the original 1923 structure. Dead center was 490 feet, a flag pole was in the middle of the deep outfield, there was no left or right field upper deck, the Yankee dugout was on the third base side, and on and on.
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Yesterday, the New York Times published a story and a link to a one minute long film of Babe Ruth playing right field in 1928, and striking out with Lou Gehrig on deck. This is the first film to surface showing Ruth playing the outfield, and you also see quick shots of the Grand Concourse with a few familiar buildings missing. Check out the film and the Times article at the link below.
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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/09/sports/baseball/09video.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=babe%20ruth&st=cse
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mad Mom's Not Pleased With Pee-wee

Despite Mad Mom's best efforts, Pee-wee continues to woo Bride of Frankenstein Barbie.
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In the last month, Pee-wee bought fine art for his angel, taken her to roof top restaurants for French cuisine, arranged tango lessons, and spun Bride of Frankenstein Barbie through Central Park in horse-drawn carriages. The last straw for Mad Mom was hearing Pee-wee told Bride of Frankenstein Barbie that her Italian sauce was the best in the world. Made Mad Mom's blood boil.

Mad Mom promised to blast this tryst asunder. Stay tuned...

Watching the action, my Uncle Mommy's teddy bear & friends. There hasn't been this much excitement in the living room since Lawrence Tynes drove the ball through the uprights in Green Bay sending the Giants to the Super Bowl two seasons ago. Teddy is hoping to get called into action later in the football schedule this year. Teddy told me he was in a car last week, and a guy pulled up along side him in a yellow Hummer with a sticker on the side that said "Top of the World." When Teddy looked inside to see who was driving he saw a guy with a bad haircut wearing a Dallas Cowboy jacket.











Here is a picture of City Hall Park at midnight and one of the Woolworth building yesterday.
















Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Talking Scales

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"Please! Step on the scale!" A firm male voice directed me.
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I waited a second, listening hard to make sure she sounded busy three rooms away. When I heard the sink running, I got on and the number came up.
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"Your weight is 178 pounds. Have a nice day. Goodbye!"
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I'm a fat bastard.
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Laughing started in the kitchen at the other end of the railroad apartment on York Avenue. My grandmother with the hearing ability of a nocturnal animal, was clearing her lungs and stomach, big ol' belly laughs starting way down. I wanted to kill her, and kick my cousin in the ass for buying her the talking scale with Don Pardo's voice. I loved Nan dearly, but she wanted me fat. She wanted everyone fat. She loved food and loved eating with people, so she filled her fridge to the point it was dark in there, because the 15 watt light bulb was shaded by a colossal head of iceberg lettuce sitting on two large tubs of Cool Whip. The Cool Whip to go on top of the Turf Cheese Cake that she bought right next to our house. Italian Village pizza place on First Avenue considered her family and the Parker's bought their first car on the profits they made off Nan's cold cut orders. She never bought a quarter pound of nothing. Half pound was a snack. Three quarters of a pound was getting into sandwich country. I was a cold cut junkie.
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Similar to recreational drug friendships, the bonds with my friends were strengthened by the load of cold cuts, Jewish rye and condiments in my Nan's fridge.
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Artie Peters met me on Saturday afternoons on lunch break from my delivery job at Corner Pharmacy on 79th & York. We'd go straight to Parkers, buy a pound of Swiss cheese and a loaf of rye on Nan's credit in the marble book, go up the apartment and make six grilled cheeses, two each ~ Nan included. We made dark chiaroscuro swirls on Nan's white tin ceiling with the plume of smoke coming from the butter soaked black frying pan with the foot high flame under it.
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Buddy McMahon and I, had a kind of exchange student relationship with his mom and my grandmother. I'd sometimes hang out with his Mom and shoot the shit while she loaded me up with 4 C Ice Tea. Buddy would drop by my grandmother's when I wasn't there for a quick sandwich and glass of milk and catch up on the local gossip & politics.
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About a month after Nan got the scale, Buddy dropped up the apartment, for a change, while I was there.
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"Hey, Buddy, try out the new scale," Nan said.
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Obediently, Buddy stepped on the scale, clueless, and Nan looked like she just ate a canary.
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"Your weight is 180 pounds. Have a nice day! Goodbye!"
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Buddy startled, frowned and rubbed his belly, I was pleased, and Nan grinned.