Saturday, December 31, 2011

Here's Wishing You the Bluest Sky, hugs, Yorkville Nut & Monty

Monty the Lexington Avenue Bulldog and I wish everyone a Happy, Healthy & Peaceful New Year!

2012 will see lots of new stories and photos on Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts, promise.

Help someone in need this coming year and you'll find better things! 

hugs, Monty & the Yorkville Nut

Monty on Lexington

Baby It's Mushy Outside

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Radio City Music Hall ~ The Vatican of the Silver Screen

Last night, walking through Rockefeller Center a memory struck me like a brick. In 1970 the best bang for the buck in New York City was Radio City Music Hall. My sixteenth year was a very good one.

After my last class at LaSalle Academy around 2pm, I’d take the # 6 subway at Bleecker Street to 51st Street where I’d pick up my girlfriend at Lexington and 50th after her last class and we’d walk over to the Subway sandwich store on Broadway. Order two giant Tuna heroes with cheese and lots of extra mayo, two jumbo Pepsi’s and place it all carefully in my practically empty plastic school bag (didn’t do much homework on Radio City nights). We positioned a sweater in the bag to cushion the food.

Then we’d stroll over to the greatest movie palace in the history of movie palaces: Radio City Music Hall.  We paid six dollars for two tickets and enter the cathedral.  Walk up the plush carpeted horseshoe staircase to the Mezzanine where we’d take over the center of the first row and watch the Rockettes perform on the front and back of the film. We took our shoes and socks off and dug our feet into the velvet rug under our luxurious seats and worshiped silently in the Vatican of the silver screen.

With Radio Center Music Hall as my playground, I owned New York City.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Key Lime Pie In Red Hook, Brooklyn

I visited Red Hook the day after Christmas and took pictures.

Here are a few and a link to many more.

Red Hook is an authentic neighborhood to walk and enjoy, it's rich with old New York character.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Inside You Time Moves, But Ghosts Dont Fade On York Avenue

Robert Pryor 1582 York Ave @ 1948

Last night I had a delicious dinner in Mumtaz a new Indian restaurant at 1582 York Avenue. The restaurant is directly under the apartment where my father's mother lived from 1932 to 1988 with my Dad, uncle and grandfather. It was odd coming home with no one home, but I felt ghosts swooping around the space

It was my first time in the store in 35 years; I remember being there 52 years ago when I was 5 years old.

Shopping on York Avenue in 1959

On the ground floor of my grandmother’s building, 1582 York Avenue, were two storefronts. To the left was Parker's Grocery. 
Murray Parker @ 1966

Rory at Zoo 1961

Thomas E. Pryor Jr. 1945 @ 1582 York Ave 

Tom Xmas 1960 in front of 1582 York

Pop Rode & Tom 1958

Aunt Mary 1582 York @ 1969
Aunt Mary Ann Pryor 1582 @ 1945

Herman & John Rode 1909
Ann Pryor in front of 1582 York @ 1942

Billy Majorosey & Tom 1965

Thomas E. Pryor 1582 funeral bill

517 East 83rd Street

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Big Blue Christmas ~ Go Jints!

When I was 2 years old I asked Santa for a red wagon. I got it.

This year I asked Santa to shut Rex Ryan's fat mouth.

Santa delivered.

After yesterday’s game, Brandon Jacobs took Rex Ryan's Drakes Cakes Order for today’s' Holiday Party at Met Life Stadium for Jet & Giant families.

Jacobs: "Yodels?"

Ryan: " Yeah, Yodels and a carton each of Ring Dings, Devil Dogs, Yankee Doodles, Sunny Doodles, Suzie Qs', Funny Bones, Sno-Balls, and those Orange cupcakes by Hostess, they're mine and Rob's favorites."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bleeding Giant Blue ~ Go Jints!

Three Bronx cheers for the NFL schedule maker who's guaranteed a lousy Christmas for half of New York City. The guy must be related to Joe Buck.

I'm going in the game today. Need to get the bad taste of 1988 out of my mouth and lead our Jints into playoff position.  

I'm wearing my pajamas under my uniform so I'm ready for anything. Frank Gifford told me to take out my old Our Lady of Good Council #16 jersey (we practiced in Central Park's 97th Street Dust Bowl in 1969) and told Coach Coughlin to put me as flanker in the second quarter after Jacobs and Bradshaw soften up the Jets defense with pounding runs. 

My personal trainer, my grandfather, will be on the sidelines making weird faces and smoking his cigar and coughing a lot. At flanker, I'll be a triple threat on the reverse thanks to my wicked left arm and my strong right leg from kicking and throwing pillows around the living room when the Giants do poorly (Dad taught me). 

I feel bad (not that bad) for my friends, the Calverts, Jet fans, but it's time to play four quarters of Giant football. Gangrene is going down. I plan to pick up extra yards by screaming"Geronimo!" after I catch the ball and straight arm would be tacklers. Gifford is proud I'm wearing his number. 

Dear Jet Offense, Please be kind to the Giant secondary they wear special orthopedic boots that slow back pedaling, and they love their defensive brothers so much they are reluctant to go deep with receivers and suffer separation.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Roll Out The Barrel

My Uncle Jack and Aunt Anna were having marital problems in the early 1940s. Their fighting hit a new high in their East Harlem neighborhood when Aunt Anna found half her house money missing from the flour tin. She chased Uncle Jack with a ladle full of dog crap up First Avenue to the entrance of the 138th Street Bridge. Jack ran into the Bronx using the roadway’s passing lane.

After catching his breath, Jack not wanting to waste a good trip to the Bronx, continued walking north up to Yankee Stadium where he caught a doubleheader with the Cleveland Indians. DiMaggio went 4 for 7 with two walks and five RBIs. Jack spent $2.75 of Anna’s house money on Franks, beer, a ticket, a pennant for the kid, a program and a five cent pencil to keep score.

When Jack got home, Anna had put a chair against the door locking him out. Unfortunately, she also locked out her son, John, who after begging his mother to no avail to let him in stayed with my grandparents on 104th Street in their new East River Houses, Housing Authority apartment.

After much consultation with everyone on their block, Jack and Anna decided to get professional help from Flam & Flam, a 106th Street law firm, famous in the neighborhood for resolving family crises when folks were broke. After discussing their plight with Freddy (the brains in the outfit) and telling him they had one dollar for a divorce, Freddy rocked back on the legs of the library surplus chair and thought it over, then he popped a hand off his bald head.

“I’ve got it! A house divorce! It’s the rage in Philadelphia. When couples want out, but can’t afford it, the courts can grant a house divorce (no they can’t). You live together, but you’re not married (you are). You can tell everybody you’re divorced, but by a tiny technical thread you’re not really divorced. So I only have to charge you a dollar. Give me a dollar.”

Stingily, Jack gave Freddy Flam a house money dollar. Anna watched the money change hands thinking about kicking Jack’s ass right there in Flam & Flam’s office.

Anna buried Jack in Calvary Cemetery in Queens in 1978 after 13 years of conventional marriage and 37 years of house divorce thanks to Flam and Flam.

Roll Out The Barrel!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yorkville, Just Another Small Town

Here is a rich story written by my friend, Denny Ferrado. It's about old Yorkville's village drums aka Moms' eyes, ears & voices.

Yorkville, Just Another Small Town

by Dennis John Ferado

In 1907 Enrico Caruso recorded VESTI LA GIUBBA, it went on to become the very first record to sell over a million copies.  Hank Williams COLD, COLD HEART was written and sung by him in 1951 and hit big on the Country and Western charts.  It was recorded by Tony Bennett in 1952 and it gave Mr. Williams his seventh million seller.  THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE by Kay Starr stayed in the top ten for nine weeks. On the Rhythm & Blues Charts there was Big Mama Thornton’s HOUND DOG (B. E.--before Elvis) recorded with Johnny Otis’ band, and Little Walter had JUKE.  On the Country Charts the Weavers hit with MIDNIGHT SPECIAL and Charlie Gracie recorded ROCKIN’ AN’ ROLLIN.’  Watch out,  Rock and Roll is on the horizon.

Gary Cooper won the 1952 Academy Award for Best Actor in High Noon, Anthony Quinn won for Best Supporting Actor starring along with Marlon Brando in Viva Zapata. The Best Director Award went to John Ford for The Quiet Man, Shirley Booth won for Best Actress starring with Burt Lancaster in William Inge’s, Come Back Little Sheba and Gloria Grahame won for Best Supporting Actress in The Bad and the Beautiful.  Went to all the movies that year with my school mates, Jim Jim and I saw Viva Zapata and The Quiet Man  twice.  Ronnie, Billy C. and I saw High Noon together.

I was born in New York City on Manhattan Island in a Brownstone building that is known as a railroad flat.  My parents were superintendents and our rooms ran from our front window on 87th Street through the entire building to a backyard which my mom had turned into a beautiful garden.  We lived at 411 East 87th Street on the Upper East Side in a section called Yorkville and I had my first cry on our kitchen table.  In 1942 a riot of kids were being born all around the city and placed on kitchen tables for the neighbors to ogle.

Our front room window looked out on Saint Joseph’s school and its Church alongside it.  Ours was the closest building on the block to the main entrance of the school:  roughly 15 grown-up steps in a straight line across 87th Street.  I still have my graduation certificate from Kindergarten 1947.  

I am still in touch with a few of those classmates.  Every year we played basketball for Saint Joseph's School, some of us even stayed together through high school.  We all lived within two blocks of the school and played in the streets after school was out.   We played all the street games, kick-the-can, stickball, stoop ball, ring-a-levio, roller hockey, street-wrestling, hot beans, etc., etc.   We played together on a baseball team, a soft ball team and a football team.  We rode bikes, shot paper clips at one another, blew uncooked peas through straws at the girls, had raw egg fights, tortured store owners, sneaked into movie houses, got kicked out of movie houses, dropped water balloons from rooftops at other kids and threw them at passing Westbound 86th Street Crosstown buses with open windows, (as they were in mid-turn going from York Avenue into 86th Street) then flew like bats towards 87th Street. In school we shot water guns with ink in them at one another while in our white uniform shirts, we built skateboard boxes out of old wooden crates and rode them down hills and crashed them into one another.  We tossed each other off concrete stoops playing king-of-the-mountain--I achieved a fractured elbow from that game.

We were a large crowd, maybe 15 of us on this particular day.  It was a lazy Sunday afternoon sometime in late July or early August when we decided to play Johnny-on-the-pony against the Sanitation Department’s office building wall.  After the game most of the guys walked home banged up and bruised. Ronnie, Jay, Paddy, Jim Jim,Tommy and I stayed and played a couple of games of Swift ball for another hour or so.  

When we finished we sat down against the school’s wall, exhausted, underneath our 3’ x 3’ square box drawn with chalk on the wall which we also used as a catcher when the batter got up to hit.  If the batter missed the ball it came right back to the pitcher.  This area on the wall constituted the strike zone and faced north opposite and Sanitation building directly across 87th Street.  The pitcher would stand in the middle of the street and the ball was hit back at him. We were just sitting there minding our own and relaxing, looking across the street at the two-storied office building with its flagpole extending up another twenty feet or so into the sky. Paddy stood and announced:

“I’m gonna climb up the side of the Sanitation building onto the roof and right on up that flagpole to the top of it.  Does anyone want to come?”  Ronnie said:  

“You’re nuts!  Jim Jim said: 

 “I’m out.  That pole’s too thin to hold me.”  I added, 

“What for?  He answered:  

“There’s nothing else to do.”  Before we knew it, Paddy, was half way up the side of the Sanitation building and continued up to the roof.  From the roof he started to wave and shout:  “Come on you guys, the view is great.  And then he shimmied straight up the flagpole to the top of it.  He touched the tip of the pole and then slid back down to the roof and shouted down to us: “You should see all the Spauldeens.  Ronnie said:  

“Lets go up,” Jim Jim jumped up and said:  

“What the hell.”  We all climbed up the side of the Sanitation building and we found a treasure-trove of pink-rubber balls.  They had been collecting for years from all the foul balls by the different age groups playing ball on 87th Street and from the kids in Saint Joseph’s School during our recess hour of organized mayhem.  During lunch period when school is in session, 87th Street becomes a play street.  There was also a cracked baseball bat up there, a dead football, a swollen softball and an old pair of sneakers.

Although there would never be another summer to match the innocence of this summer, I thought:  I was really lucky.  How could a guy ever have a better bunch of friends, as crazy as half of them are, they’re the best.  Maybe Paddy had to scratch some kind of itch that day by climbing to the top of the flagpole, I’ll never know.  I was happy I never had to deal with that particular itch.  

We were a close bunch all through the 1950’s into the mid 1960’s.  When we were in the fifth grade we began spending our lunch periods in the back of hallways along 1st Avenue smoking cigarettes.  I do not condone smoking, it’s a terrible, disgusting, dirty habit and many lives from my parents and from my generation have been lost due to tobacco.  No one should ever start smoking.  However, back then people were ignorant to the dangers involved and everybody smoked.  Doctors, on TV commercials, recommended smoking to help people relax.  It was a sign of one growing up, or so we thought, maturing; and we just couldn’t wait to mature.  Between 88th Street and 89th Street on the east side of 1st Avenue, close to the butcher shop, there was Mark’s candy store.  Mark wore a fedora hat and had a permanent short cigarette butt wedged into the left corner of his mouth--the eye above showed a constant squint from the smoke.  He habitually wore a flannel shirt, under a buttoned-up gray cardigan sweater (winter and summer) along with his ever present change apron over that.  His apron had numerous pockets in it along the front for every size coin that had ever been minted.  Sometimes in the evenings I’d see Ronnie there waiting for the papers to arrive to take home to his parents just like me.  We’d hang out and chat until both the Daily News and the New York Mirror trucks arrived.  Mark was short and chunky and sold loosie cigarettes, three for a nickel, seven for a dime.  That’s where we got our Lucky Strikes.  

Between 87th and 88th Streets on the East side of 1st Avenue we frequented the hallways between Hugh's’ Bar on the corner of 88th St. and Anna Marie’s Pizza Parlor  on 87th Street.  Paddy, Jim, Ronnie, Tommy and myself had just lighted up two of our 7 cigarettes in the back of one of the hallways between Glaser’s bakery and Weinstein’s Hardware store and began to pass them around between us.  Just then a lady came into the building with a baby in a carriage and two little ones tagging along, the older one was a little girl of about six and a boy about the age of three.  The girl was trying to stop the boy from crying because he wanted a mello-roll ice cream and did not want to go upstairs to their apartment until he got one. The girl kept repeating the words, first gently: 

“Hush Billy,”  then sternly, “HUSH BILLY.”  She positioned herself behind Billy and began to nudge him along with her body and her knees while little Billy dug his heels into the floor. We all jumped to attention when we heard them enter the hall and quickly crushed out the evidence while trying to wave the smoke away.  However, the smoke hung low and heavy and we were drenched in guilt, caught in the act.  It was a vain attempt to cover up our deed since the place stank from cigarette smoke.  We all grabbed a hunk of carriage, as the baby slept, and carried it up the one flight.  We knew the lady by sight and she knew us.  She never said a word after we helped her, she simply opened her door and entered her apartment while her daughter gently dragged little Billy by the ankles along the floor, over the door sash and out of sight.   

We returned to the bottom of the steps.  Since our first attempt failed we passed around the five remaining cigarettes--a whole one each--because none of us could go home with any for fear of it being ferreted out by an inquisitive parent.  We spread out, some of us stood, others sat around on the hallway steps and talked about the most recent tortures we had to endure from Father Heide.  Over that weekend fourteen windows had been broken in Saint Joseph’s School which we had been accused of because the school staff knew we were the crowd who hung around 87th Street on the weekends.

  To make matters worse those of us called to the Principle’s Office actually had nothing to do with the vandalism and at a latter date the truth surfaced and we were exonerated.  So what! we all figured, we had already been accused and beaten on our bare asses by Father Heide with his Little Oscar.  For the time being we had to endure.  When we were nearly finished smoking the hallway looked like a smoke screen had just been put down.  Straightaway the silence was splintered by the siren like sound of the downstairs doorbell squealing.  We nearly jumped out of our skins.  Someone entered the front hallway and the clap of slippered-footsteps came padding toward us.  Outside the glass doors the sun shone brightly and we could only see a silhouette briskly making its way through the long smoky hallway.  It was a familiar looking figure, I said to myself.  The way it moved, lightly, yet determinedly.  Then it hit me and the word just blurted from my mouth:  

“MOM!”  Ten Arms flailed in anguish trying to dispel the thick fog of smoke as we scurried, spun in circles, collided into one another.   In the angst  of the moment Paddy actually swallowed what remained of his cigarette and began to cough and gag.  Mom was sharp, it was extremely difficult to fool her.  She attended Saint Joseph’s with several of my friends’ parents and grew up on the same streets we were growing up on.  Mom knew the first Mr. Glaser back in the early 1920’s, she knew Sam the fish man, all the store owners knew the hallways, the backyards and she knew everyone and everyone knew her.  

We dashed towards the stairs, the roof as our goal.  In our adolescent disarray we tripped and stumbled and could barely make it past the first couple of steps where we got tangled in gridlock, pulling at one another from behind when we heard my Mother  shout:  

“Freeze!”  We did. “I’m not going to do anything,” she said.  As we were unknotting ourselves, Ronnie whispered to me:  
“She’s tricky, Den.” Jim said: 
“Come on, I believe her,” and cheerily said: “Hi ya moms,” and began to strut out.  Paddy while choking and turning fire-engine-red began to spit out the words:
“I don’t, (cough) I don’t know (cough, cough)..., I don’t know about this.” Tommy followed Jim and as they were passing mom she grabbed each of them by their right hands and smelt their fingers.  She looked into Jim’s eyes and softly mumbled:

“Don’t give me that ‘Hi ya mom stuff, I’ll give you one upside your head.  This is no joke, you’re a bunch of dummies.”  Jim hung his head as he gingerly moved past her.  Mom sniffed Ronnie’s and Paddy’s fingers as they slithered by.  Smelling the fingers for tobacco smoke was her proof that we had been smoking.  Two weeks later she informed me that while she considered the smoke in the air as circumstantial evidence (we could somehow lie about that) the stench on our fingers was hard factual evidence--the smellee’s hand, she concluded, had definitely held a cigarette--this could not be fabricated away.  
Alone in the smoky hallway with mom my knees began to touch. Once my friends were clear she waited for me but I was slow in moving because I didn’t know what to expect.  Mom threatened but rarely did she resort to violence.  She would even the score some other way which usually had a longer lasting effect.  But mom knew just how to frighten the hell out of us by the sheer act of intimidation.  She had a winter coat on (It was late November) with big wide sleeves, her arms were folded and she had her hands up either side of the opposite sleeve.  She took her hands from her coat sleeves and opened her palms to show me that she was unarmed.  Stepping lightly I began to wiggled by her when in one swift motion, she dropped her right arm straight down toward the floor, a wire hanger slid down and into her hand and the hand automatically shot high above her head (prequel to the movie Psycho) with the wire hanger.  

With that sudden movement an all consuming fear ran through me.  I bolted toward the front of the hall where the other four were out in the vestibule, faces pressed against the square glass in the door trying to see what was going on inside.  But they did not see me coming, until I was at the door.  They were too slow in moving as I yanked the hallway door open and jumped down the one step into the tiny 4’ x 4‘ vestibule and like dominoes we all crumbled to the floor.  Now we were clambering, stuck in the vestibule and not enough room to open the outside door which opened inward.  All 5 of us stuck in that little space while mom stood in the hallway with her face against the glass, grinning at us.  All we could think about as we tore at one another to get out of that vestibule was that any second we were about to hear and feel the hiss and the  kiss of a wire hanger.  However, mom was too weak from laughter to even raise her weapon now.  What she wanted to do was let us know that we couldn’t put anything past her and secondly and most importantly to put a real good scare into us--which she had, most emphatically, achieved. 

I found out later that the mother of the lady with the carriage and the three children played bingo with a lady who knew my aunt, my mother’s sister, Nora, who was also a part of the great Bingo society at Saint Joseph’s.  A few phone calls were made.  When the lady with the three children got into her apartment she told her mother (who lived with her) about us.  Her mother called her friend who played bingo with my aunt Nora, the bingo lady called Aunt Nora who in turn called my mother.  My mother armed herself, sprinted around the corner in her slippers, and caught us red-handed.  All this took place within a time frame of about twenty minutes during our lunch period.  I always thought things like this only happened in small towns where everyone knows everyone else.

I got to thinking, I live in a big city with millions of people.  Sometimes I can walk for miles, passing fleeting faces by the thousands, and no one will know my name.  But in this little place in a corner of an overflowing megalopolis everyone, at one time, did know my name and everyone did know everyone else.  Yorkville, just another small town.


Below: Denny Ferado's 400 block on 87th St ~ St. Joe across street @ 2011


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Grandfather's View of Nassau Street in 1916

My grandfather, Thomas E. Pryor, was committed to a Staten Island orphanage for 8 years.  He was 8 when he entered in 1909 (his parents died of pneumonia) and a day shy of 16 when he was discharged to his Aunt, Mary Pryor, who lived at 300 E. 42nd Street in 1916.  

Below is a picture of my grandfather at the orphanage, his birth certificate, his intake/outtake card from Father Drumgoole’s Orphanage and his 1935 Hack license.

Yesterday, doing birth certificate business for my daughter downtown in the Courts area, I walked along Nassau Street and saw the vacant lot where the first New York Times office opened in 1851.  Through the lot I had a cool view of the Woolworth Building.

As I strolled about I thought about the day my grandfather was released from the orphanage in 1916.

The next day was his birthday. I imagined he walked downtown enjoying his new freedom, past the Brooklyn Bridge along Nassau Street turning into Broad Street at Wall Street.  When possible I looked up at buildings I knew were built before 1916 and mostly served the publishing industry at the turn of the century. I made believe it was my first time.

I saw what my grandfather saw as a young man. New York City busting the sky even on the side streets off Park Row and Broadway.  This blew me away. Below are some pictures from my walk and link to several others.

Happy holidays to everyone. Have a happy, healthy, peaceful New Year. Thank you for reading my work.

be well, Thomas.


Our next City Stories: Stoops to Nuts storytelling show at Cornelia Street Café is January 10th @ 6pm. Please come down, I promise a good time.