Monday, March 29, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Happy birthday, Joannie Baloney!
Joan Heuer, the funniest person I've ever met, was born today in 1935 in East Harlem.
She moved toYorkville with the Ryan family in 1944.Joannie was my godmother and my Mom's middle sister, her younger sister, Barbara is in pictures above along with one of Uncle Mommy below at Joannie'sdaughter, Christine's christening. Also a picture of chubbsy-ubsy Joannie at Coney Island in 1945.
Best Joannie story... my Uncle Lennie comes home from the Navy in 1945. Joannie, ten years old, lazes around the house while everyone else goes to work or goes to school. She's alone. She's playing hookey. Joannie takes Lennie dress whites out and puts them on. The pants drag by half a foot, so she rolls them up and pins them. Does the same thing with the arms, but doesn't need much there because Lenny is skinny and Joan ain't. Then she gets my grandfather's ancient fishing pole out, empties a tin ofCarnation Evaporated Milk into the sink, takes the top off the can, and shes ready to go. Got the pole and the can for the worms. She gets Lennie's sailor hat, double steps the stoop and jumps onto the street. She's dressed this way not to sneak around , she wants people to see her so she turns up 86th Street off York Avenue and gallivants, pole over her shoulder like a continental soldier, whistling while she strolls.
She makes it up to Horn and Hardarts getting all the attention she expected, when walking right at her with his face down in a newspaper is my grandfather. She don't see him because she's making lots of eye contact with people to her left and right. Joannie collides with her father, they make quick eye contact, Joannie takes off running towards Lexington, my grandfather's in pursuit but his strengths are sitting and complaining. Joan runs around the corner and down to 222 East 85 St and hides out with Uncle Jimmy for a half hour. From the stoop, he gives her the signal the coast is clear and Joan comes out of the hall, kisses Jimmy on the cheek and runs over to the Central Park with a loaf of stale bread in case she don't find any worms. She got back in time to wait for my grandmother to get off the bus after work. In the house, she hid behind her mother in the kitchen while her father circled the two of them, yelling, threatening, pointing but ultimately running out of steam.
I miss you, Joan.
Friday, March 26, 2010
He looked at the bike and said, "Oh, my God," then twisted the handlebars and the neck of the bike around two times like Regan's head in The Exorcist.
Riding home I thought about dad's tool pouch on the back of his 26 inch Raleigh touring bike seat. That olive green satchel contained a flat head screw driver, a Philips head, two wrenches and a hex wrench. I couldn't wait for Dad to pass me that bike with the tools, along with the knowledge on how to use them. His bike was stolen before my inheritance came due, but that was all right because my mechanical skills never developed.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Her full length portrait sat beside Emma Peel on my bedtime dream wall.
Everyone had Get Smart-itis, so my St. Stephen of Hungary Boy Scout Troop 654 decided we'd put on a show. I think I played Hymie the Robot. I don't recall who played Maxwell Smart, but I do remember we decided to not put Agent 99 in the sketch because no one in the scout troop had the guts to play a girl.
After practicing for weeks, we set a show date and invited our parents down to watch the sketch. We asked them to come without thinking through the sketch lasted nine minutes. Not much plot, and not much of a show. Bobby Hauser, our Assistant Scout Master, and one of the most enthusiastic contact sport freaks I've ever had the pleasure to be hit by, decided it'd be a great idea if we put on a few one minute long boxing matches right after the sketch. This decision by Bobby, like the length of the sketch, was not well thought through. Bobby kept two pairs of 16 ounce boxing gloves handy. One, because they were useful in quickly settling arguments between the boys at scout meetings, and the second reason: he liked violence.
On the night of the play, our parents were led into the St. Stephen's lunchroom. I was glad we did it there. The school lunches were horrific, the room always smelled like rotten eggs, old meat and spoiled soup. I got a kick out of a couple of fathers holding their noses and whispering to their swooning wives.
The sketch flew by, then one of the older guys made an announcement: "Mothers & Fathers, Sisters and Brothers, we bring you Friday Night at the Fights!"
A few dads perked up, but the mothers all looked like they got hit in the head with a flour sock. The first fight, was Tommy Belleck and me. We were the same size and had on no headgear and the gloves felt like heavy bags of laundry. I didn't feel right lifting them up. While I'm playing with the gloves, I missed Bobby Hauser starting the fight. Belleck landed a series of shots to both sides of my head, he began to punch my head back and forth, back and forth, this all happened before I could get the gloves up. I tried to protect my ears. My head hurt. Belleck was delivering countless "bell ringer" punches that would later be deemed illegal in the NFL. I don't remember the other bouts, but do remember the parents didn't clap. The Pastor, Father Frederick heard about the fights and gave notice that the gloves and the fights were forbidden at St. Stephen's. Bobby Hauser switched the official Troop 654 inside sport to full tackle football in the auditorium.
Years later, the group, Toto, recorded a song called "99." I thought this song was a tribute to Barbara Feldon. I was wrong but that never changed my perception. It's a candy ass song, but I still think of her when I hear it.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Aunt Mary ~ my grandmother's sister also born in 1403 York Avenue in 1899. She only has one birthday because her mid-wife filled out her birth certificates correctly.
Jimmy ~ got thrown out of his house at 12 by his mother for looking at her funny. When Jimmy visited Yorkville as a boy he wore a bow tie. I thought, he really liked the neighborhood.
Cris ~ a brilliant writer and editor, her office is down the block from the old location of Father Drumgoole's 10 story orphanage, City House, the country's largest in late 1800s.' It was at the north east corner of Lafayette Street & Great Jones Street.
Diana ~ she moved to California, but misses her view of the Hudson River terribly.
Christine ~ crochets pretty pictures and words, loves wine and food.
Anil ~ a solid friend & super duper project manager at the New York City Housing Authority.
Michael Toth ~ my Yorkville schoolmate who shares the same last name with the loony Hungarian guy, Lazlo Toth, that hammered Michelangelo's Pieta. My Toth and I got a hundred on our 4th grade final in Math, then we got beat up by the Nun, Sister Adrianne, for fighting during the award ceremony in front of the class.
Jordana ~ We Three Reading Series pal ~ claims she saw Peter Stuyvesant's ghost one night sitting on a parking meter in front of the Telephone Bar.
Me ~ spring, daylight savings time, soon Yankee Stadium opens, but I miss the old Stadium http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/24/nyregion/thecity/24thir.html?_r=1
Eddie ~ my 83rd Street friend, lived down the block.
Lauren ~ a beautiful person, met her yesterday morning in City Hall Park, instantly cheered me up.
Bobby ~ my cousin in Spring, Texas, a fine musician ,whose Dad, Tom, grew up on York Avenue.
Uncle Mommy ~ my dear ol' Mom, Erin Go Bragh! Grew up in East Harlem and later on York Avenue. 11 years gone and she's still torturing my father. I can hear them.
Dawn, "Go away, I'm no good for you" ~ my Elmhurst cous with the basketball smarts. Her Mom, Barbie Pins, grew up on York Avenue. Her Dad, Mickey, grew up on 84th Street.
Joanie Baloney ~ my funny fruit cake aunt & godmother and provider of bacon & mayo on Wonder bread at 321 East 85th Street. Another York Avenue mutt.
Laurene ~ old Yorkville chum, East End Avenue mutt.
Gabriella ~ Ms. Kantor was the object of my affection, who turned my complexion, from white to rosy red, in sixth and seventh grade at St. Stephen's of Hungary school on East 82nd Street.
Hildy ~ loved Philadelphia but made New York and West End Avenue her home for a million years. A city girl. A strong woman. We miss you!
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Christmas Day 1960, cousin, Bobby, me, and brother, Rory posing with my first bike. I'm six and a half, over the previous several weekends, I practiced learning to ride on a bomb with training wheels that Dad borrowed from his friend on 83rd Street.
I begged for a new bike for Christmas. I got it.
Still a wobbly rider, I refused further training wheel assistance. Directly after this photo, Dad reluctantly let me take my first ride around the block by myself. I headed north towards 84th Street on York Avenue made a right at Mayo's and aimed my ride east towards East End Avenue. Felt a rush of wind behind me pushing me along. The last quarter of the block was down hill, I practiced on level ground and lacked judgement on how much brake to apply, I switched my focus to braking, all my focus, this caused me to miss spying the short lady with the pill box hat carrying the Christmas gifts up to her neck, by the time I saw her and yelled, "Out of the way!" Left with only one choice, I veered left and whacked the brown mailbox near the corner by the drugstore. I collapsed on my side into a sturdy pile of dog poop off the curb. Mom was not happy, Dad was not surprised.
I favor Westside rides, Dad and my route up to the bridge, it's only recently the south Hudson River trip is navigable without going back into traffic.
Here are a few photos of Central Park's Falconer, A Bass Player on the Mall, a Riverside Park tree in late sun, and the Jane Street Hotel formerly the Seaman's Institute, where Titanic crewmen survivors from the Carpathia were brought after their rescue in April 1912.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Augie was the manager of Reliable Grocery store at the southwest corner of York & 84th Street. When my grandmother needed a mouser in 1972, she kicked me out of the house and told me not to come back without a cat. It was 80 degrees at nine in the morning and the air smelled foul from the butcher's garbage. I went across the street to Reliable to get a soda, inside the ice cream fridge with the slide glass top wide-open, was a box with four white kittens cuddled together. I asked Augie what's up? He said, given them away, take two. I took one with a pink nose, crossed York Avenue with the kitten in one hand covered by my other hand and went up 1582 and gave my grandmother the cat, and said, "Her name is Sally."
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
Katie Gentile, Claudia Chopek, Debby Schwartz, photo by Jim Testa, The Jersey Journal
Yesterday's Neighborhood Evolution storytelling show was a smash. Claudia Chopek and Debby Schwartz put together a terrific group of musician storytellers to mesh with the prose storytellers. Claudia, Debby & I thank all the artists, Eddie Skuller, Mike Fornatale, Abbi Crutchfield, Lianne Smith, Adam Wade, Edward Rogers, Don Piper, Ward White, Philip Dray, Amanda Thorpe, Naturi Thomas, and Jonathon Calvert. Thank you, Claudia and Debby for asking me to do this with you. It was an honor.
Thank you, Todd and Maxwell's for having us. The seasonal storm drove some unexpected guests into our show including a squirrel and a pigeon having a silent quarrel, a snowman surrounding a tree, penguins, salmon, seals, gulls, and Gus, the depressed polar bear from Central Park Zoo.