Thursday, March 28, 2013

Q60 Blues ~ 1967


“Love is a hurting thing” played on the transistor radio pressed to my ear as I waited for the Q60 bus. Leaning on the wall outside Eduardo’s Italian restaurant, I wasn’t in love with any particular person but totally related to Lou Rawls words in the tune. It was September 1967, the previous month my family moved from Yorkville to Sunnyside for a bunch of ridiculous reasons that had nothing to do with my life. I was 13, and spending as much time as I could back on York Avenue but I had an 11:30 pm curfew on weekend nights. My father was an amazing pain in the ass – his stone look made me beg silently, “please hit me, and get it over with.” Earlier this week, I walked from an appointment on 38th Street back to Yorkville past the New York Daily News Building, Tudor City, the Chrysler Building, and a row of old law tenements on 51th Street and Third Avenue that my grandfather saw from his third floor window across the street in the apartment he was born @ 1900.

When I reached the 59th Street Bridge I walked up the Roosevelt Island Tram platform and took pictures of the old Trolley Kiosk that sits in front of the bridge’s entrance on Second Avenue. I rode that trolley from Manhattan to Queens then back again to Manhattan with my father on its last day of service in April 1957. That’s when I became addicted to the aroma of baking bread floating over the water from the Silvercup factory in LIC. Every time I pass the bridge, the kiosk, the bus stop, a swell of mixed feelings come up and I never know which way they are going to lead. After the bridge, I took some photos of tenements on their last legs in the mid 60s on First Avenue and a couple of photos of St. Catherine’s Park and Julia Richman.



Here's a link to photos related to locations mentioned above.
"Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts" storytelling show is coming back to Ryan's Daughter @ 350 E. 85th Street. next Wednesday night, April 3rd @ 7pm. Our last show was standing room only, we plan to top it. Our amazing April 3rd artists: Tricia Alexandro, Michele Carlo, Luke Thayer, Adam Wade, Eric Vetter, Alex DeSuze and Seth Foster. I'll host and tell an old Yorkville yarn. Free Event!

Please drop by Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village to see my photo exhibit "New York Scenes from a Bicycle," on view through March 31st. Framed work and my book, "River to River: New York Scenes from a Bicycle," are for sale at the Cafe, my prints are for sale at Thomas R. Pryor Photography - my book is available online through Amazon.






Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"I Can Fly!" ~ "No You Can't."


Walking inside Carl Schurz Park last night, seeing the 87th Street bridge reminded me of Allie Cobert. Allie, one of Dad’s best friends, was a piece of work. Over beers in Loftus Tavern on York Avenue, Allie, Walt Trusits and Dad counted the number of jobs Allie had in his lifetime. 65. Allie remembered why he left each one of them (or was asked to leave). He lost his fourth job, delivering poultry for a slaughterhouse on 80th Street for failing to report ~ he claimed with reason.

In 1938, Allie, 13, Walt and Dad went to the RKO on 86th Street to see Robin Hood on a Saturday, first show. They like it so much they stayed until it got dark outside. On the way home, they climbed half way up a Third Avenue El girder, wrestled and scrambled over stoops and cars, reenacting scenes from the swashbuckling film. Passing a warehouse, Allie found a huge cardboard box with a long piece of sturdy rope inside it. Allie announced, “I’m making wings, I’m flying.” Allie grabbed the box and the rope and headed straight down 87th Street towards Carl Schurz Park. Walt and Dad had trouble keeping up, but eventually met him on the bridge.


Allie had ripped a six-foot by four-foot piece of the box out. With a pocket knife, opened four holes that he put the rope through, then tied fist-sized knots so the rope was secured to the box so he could hang on. He jumped up on top one of two bridge side walls and ran back and forth across the bridge a few times to see if the rope knots would hold. They did. The makeshift wing billowed behind him. Allie, smiling, ready to go, stood on the bridge’s wall 15 feet above the concrete path, shouted, “Long Live the King!” jumped, and looked up and back just in time to see his crude wing break away from his roped grip. He went down like a rock, screamed once, then moaned a lot. Dad said, “Your leg looks funny.” The two friends carried Allie across the street to Doctor’s Hospital’s on East End Avenue.

Allie always called me, “partner.” He made me laugh and made sure I knew he was glad to see me. When I was young, if I saw him through Loftus or the Old Timers window, I’d go in the bar and he’d buy me a coke, and we’d split a newspaper. Now that’s a friend.

Here's a link to more Carl Schurz Park Full moon photos.

"Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts" storytelling show is coming back to Ryan's Daughter @ 350 E. 85th Street. next Wednesday night, April 3rd @ 7pm. Our last show was standing room only, we plan to top it. Our amazing April 3rd artists: Tricia Alexandro, Michele Carlo, Luke Thayer, Adam Wade, Eric Vetter, Alex DeSuze and Seth Foster. I'll host and tell an old Yorkville yarn. Free Event!

Please drop by Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village to see my photo exhibit "New York Scenes from a Bicycle," on view through March 31st. Framed work and my book, "River to River: New York Scenes from a Bicycle," are for sale at the Cafe, my prints are for sale at Thomas R. Pryor Photography - my book is available online through Amazon.









Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Complicated Shadows" in Yorkville

Walking east near the 59th Street Bridge, I saw a startling shadow up ahead. A bishop's crook, twenty feet tall, on the smooth surface of a brick wall painted white. The light pole’s reflection flickered. I fumbled for my camera but before I could pull it out the shadow slipped away along with the sunlight that created it. It was sunset, my short film had vaporized but the beauty of the image was branded inside my brain. 


Light always plays tricks on me and I like that. Serious shadow production in early spring when daylight stretches and the air is still cold and clear is ideal making movie weather.

Saturday morning, walking along the East River Drive, inside Carl Schurz Park, down to 79th Street and East End Avenue, I stopped on the 500 block of 81st Street to savor the rich shadows and light contrasts against the buildings. Leaning into a street tree to shoot up past the branches and fire escapes I thought, this is what I saw in 1957 from my stroller when I was 3 and laid all the way back and concentrated on the sky instead of trying to see what was in front of my one year old brother's big head that was blocking my forward view (I have a fat head too, but it doesn't impede my view).

Mom was a big time Yorkville walker. Rambling down to 59th Street, “to make sure the bridge was still there,” was nothing for her. Rory and I would dive inside the family car in front of our house on 83rd Street (Dad didn't have a car, so our stroller was our jalopy) and we’d take off for the foreign lands inside our Yorkville neighborhood: Bohemia, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Ireland, and other exotic places. Aromas and languages floated by our noses and ears on each block. Recalling our ancient adventures, I began taking photos from my old stroller view, same perspective kids see today from their Maclaren carriages if their moms let them get out of their protective coverings for air.

The bishop crook I spied last week might have been a reminder of something I saw long ago that planted itself inside my head and returns, now and then. Not all stored images are happy ones. Complicated shadows run through every childhood. It’s inexplicable having emotions riled up inside you without warning and sometimes without understanding of what put them there in the first place. Triggers are everywhere, and I find that mystery intriguing.

Here is a link to a photo album with pictures from stroller height and others just capturing a beautiful Saturday morning.






"Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts" storytelling show is coming back to Ryan's Daughter @ 350 E. 85th Street. Wednesday night, April 3rd @ 7pm. Our last show was standing room only, we plan to top it. Our amazing April 3rd artists: Tricia Alexandro, Michele Carlo, Luke Thayer, Adam Wade, Eric Vetter, Alex DeSuze and Seth Foster. I'll host and tell an old Yorkville yarn. Free Event!

Please drop by Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village to see my photo exhibit "New York Scenes from a Bicycle," on view through March 31st. Framed work and my book"River to River: New York Scenes from a Bicycle," are for sale at the Cafe, my prints are for sale at Thomas R. Pryor Photography - my book is available online through Amazon.



Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bay Ridge ~ First Day of Spring

The first day of spring in Bay Ridge was wintry, clear and beautiful. Walking along Shore Road between 69 St. & 79 St. I went inside Narrows Botantical Garden and circled the ball fields. I peeked over a fence and saw a babbling brook at 70th St. nestled up against the Belt Parkway shoulder, I visited Hank & Irma Stabile's tree near 71 St. and sighted serious geese action. All of it, cold and gorgeous.


"Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts" storytelling show is coming back to Ryan's Daughter @ 350 E. 85th Street. Wednesday night, April 3rd @ 7pm. Our last show was standing room only, we plan to top it. Our amazing April 3rd artists: Michele Carlo, Abbi Crutchfield, Luke Thayer, Adam Wade, Eric Vetter, Alex DeSuze and Seth Foster. I'll host and tell an old Yorkville yarn. Free Event!

Please drop by Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village to see my photo exhibit "New York Scenes from a Bicycle," on view through March 31st. Framed work and my book"River to River: New York Scenes from a Bicycle," are for sale at the Cafe, my prints are for sale at Thomas R. Pryor Photographymy book is available online through Amazon.
















Sunday, March 17, 2013

Erin Go Bragh!

Tonte Getting Her Irish Up
March was nuts in my house. Mom began getting her Irish up right after Valentine’s Day. My father couldn’t stand it. Even though he was half Irish, he acted like he was born in Florence. Which I later found odd since his Italian grandparents were from the bottom of the boot just outside Palermo. Antonino Cuccia was a shepherd, his wife, Giovanna, a milk maid.

First, we got the St. Paddy’s thing going ~ my mother’s family, all Ryans. We had a dozen family birthdays in March, including me, Mom and her sister, Joan, my godmother. Those three rolled in one week, the 20th, 24th and 27th. By the day Julius Caesar got it on the Ides we were ready to go. Adding to the frenzy, our year round passion for our favorite three saints (all households), Saint Jude, Saint Francis and Saint Anthony. I couldn’t pass a hallway without my head smacking one of their miraculous statues or paintings. Why these three? My family had a stack of hopeless cases, we loved animals and we were always losing something.

The only thing I ever saw Dad do that somewhat acknowledged he was Irish was put a green St. Paddy’s hat on Tonte his dog. Tonte instantly got her Irish up.

Antonino Cuccia
Our March Madness has nothing to do with basketball.

Here's a story I wrote for Ask A New Yorker about my favorite St. Paddy's Day in 1970.

Erin Go Bragh, Ma and Buddy McMahon!


"Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts"storytelling show is coming back to Ryan's Daughter @ 350 E. 85th Street. Wednesday night, April 3rd @ 7pm. Our last show was standing room only, we plan to top it.


Our amazing April 3rd artists: Michele Carlo, Abbi Crutchfield, Luke Thayer, Adam Wade, Eric Vetter, Alex DeSuze & Seth Foster. I'll host and tell an old Yorkville yarn. Free Event!


Please drop by Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village to see my photo exhibit "New York Scenes from a Bicycle," on view through March 31st. Framed work and my book "River to River: New York Scenes from a Bicycle," are for sale at the Cafe, my prints are for sale at Thomas R. Pryor Photography, my book is available online through Amazon.
Mom & Joannie Baloney






Tom & Mom
Tommy & Buddy 1982
Giovanna Cuccia



Friday, March 15, 2013

Mr. Bridge Head Supports "New York Scenes from a Bicycle"

A few words from Mr. Bridge Head. "I'll be leaving my spot on Ward's Island today. I have a date to see "New York Scenes from a Bicycle," Thomas Pryor's photo exhibition @ Cornelia Street Cafe before it closes March 31st. I'm part of the show along with many photographs of Yorkville, Central Park and the East River. Here's a lovely review by Pamela Beth Grossman from cititour.com. NBC TV, New York Press, and NY 1 TV are also bullish about the exhibit and Pryor's book. Gotta go!"

http://cititour.com/NYC_Events/New-York-Scenes-from-a-Bicycle/23184

https://www.facebook.com/events/323278421123059/

http://thomasrpryor.photoshelter.com/

http://www.amazon.com/River-Scenes-Bicycle-Photographer-Portfolio/dp/1936411199/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363349837&sr=1-1&keywords=pryor+river+to+river

Monday, March 11, 2013

Missing the Conversation, Missing Dad



Listening to Dean Martin sing “Houston,” I'm thinking about my father. He died 11 years ago today. If he and I were alone in our 83rd Street living room listening to a record, paying attention, and I started asking questions he’d take me through the door where I’d learn where the artist was from and everyone they played with throughout their career. If they had a stage name Dad gave me their real one - Dean Martin? Dino Paul Crocetti from Steubenville, Ohio. He did the same with film stars, Archie Leach was Cary Grant, Bernard Schwartz was Tony Curtis and Leslie Townes Hope, a.k.a., Bob Hope, boxed under the name, Packy East. I’d get an earful about the Manhattan movie houses Dad went to as a kid that weren’t there by the time I showed up. At eight, I knew who Edith Head was. He and I studied the rolling credits for each film on Ch 5, 9, and 11 like we were doing homework. As they scrolled, if I told Dad a piece of trivia he put in my head sometime before he’d break into a grin. He did the same with sports, history and most important, neighborhood lore. He went around the world three times in the Navy and Merchant Marines but he came back to old Yorkville, the neighborhood he loved for 72 years. I can’t imagine growing up without a father. It must hurt all the time. I still feel Dad's love. I still ache when a question crosses my mind and he’s not there to answer it. 







Tonight @ 8pm, I’m telling a story about Dad at Bar 82 at 136 Second Avenue, part of the terrific We Three Productions Reading series.  If you are around please come down. Bar 82 is between St. Mark’s and 9th Street.




Tomorrow, I'm headed for "City Stories:Stoops to Nuts," @ Cornelia Street CafĂ© @ 6pm, The incomparable Barbara Aliprantis is guest host and Time Out Magazine thinks it’s a fine thing to do. Here's the scoop. (pg 42)




"Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts" storytelling show is coming back to Ryan's Daughter @ 350 E. 85th Street. Wednesday night, April 3rd @ 7pm. Our last show was standing room only, we plan to top it.

Our amazing April 3rd artists: Michele Carlo, Abbi Crutchfield, Luke Thayer, Adam Wade, Eric Vetter and special guests. I'll host and tell an old Yorkville yarn. Free Event!


Please drop by Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village to see my photo exhibit "New York Scenes from a Bicycle," on view through March 31st. Framed work and my book "River to River: New York Scenes from a Bicycle," are for sale at the Cafe, my prints are for sale at Thomas R. Pryor Photography, my book is available online through Amazon.



Friday, March 8, 2013

Yorkville "All Those Years Ago"


Coming out of the subway station at 59th Street and Lexington, turning east, I see the north sidewall of Bloomingdale’s and my mind skips to the past. Just the name of the store lights up the part of my brain that listened to all the stories told to me or around me when I was a boy. At Third Avenue, I turn north and I begin to get it, fresh again, like I’ve never felt this before. I ascend a hill all the way to 65th Street that tapers off between 66th St and 67th Street.  Standing on the corner of 65th I am within a block where British military records indicate Nathan Hale was captured near “The Dove,” an inn situated near the five-mile stone, a mark from lower Manhattan. On the top of the hill, I spin in all directions and see a strategic high point that had a stunning 360-degree view. Of course, this is where you would rest your horse, hitch your coach, eat, drink ale and repose before you travel on to Harlem or other points north. This is where the military would stake its grounds and easily see intruders.

On a cold Sunday morning last week, I took photos from the corner of 59th Street, into the 70s where there are old stable houses and other shots into the sky at the Bloomberg building. Yorkville’s past still haunts and presents its timeworn self in interesting ways. Certain avenue frontages retain their low-rise tenement charm.  Two blocks here: “Bark Place” my friend’s pet & grooming store at 1371 First Avenue between 73rd & 74th Street and stretch of three story buildings on York Avenue at 81st Street. 

Here is a link to a Facebook photo album from my walk.


Monday night @ 8pm, I'm telling a story @ Bar 82, part of We Three Productions Bi-weekly Reading series. Here's a piece I wrote on We Three's last show at Telephone Bar.

Tuesday @ 6pm, I'll be at Cornelia Street Cafe @"City Stories: Stoops to Nuts," this month hosted by the incomparable Barbara Aliprantis, co-founder of second Tuesday storytelling at the Cafe.

"Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts" storytelling show is coming back to Ryan's Daughter on Wednesday, April 3rd.

Last fall we had a standing room only crowd that cheered us on and it's time to do it again. 

Our artists: Michele CarloAbbi CrutchieldLuke Thayer, Eric Vetter, Adam Wade and other persons of interest. Ryan's Daughter is located at 350 E. 85th Street, fun starts @ 7pm.

Here is a link to a public album of Yorkville Full Moon photos from last week.

Please drop by Cornelia Street Cafe to see my photo exhibit "New York Scenes from a Bicycle," on view through March 31st. Framed work and my book "River to River: New York Scenes from a Bicycle," are for sale at the Cafe, my prints are for sale at Thomas R. Pryor Photography, my book is available online through Amazon.



The section below was written in 1898 by an author unknown about an 1858 fishing trip he made north up Manhattan’s east side that took him through Yorkville:

Speaking of old buildings reminds me that I have received a friendly criticism, by post, for not giving more details of the Third Avenue, through which I passed on my stolen fishing excursion of forty years ago. At that time, after leaving Astor Place, there was nothing compact in the way of buildings until we reached Bull's Head Village, which extended from Second to Fourth avenues and from Twenty-third to Twenty-seventh streets. Here was the great cattle mart of the city, and here it had been for twenty years. But soon after it was removed to Forty-second Street, and thence to Ninety-fourth Street, from which point it was transferred to the Jersey shore a few years since. The people of old Bull's Head Village worshipped in the Presbyterian Church, now standing in Twenty-second Street west of Third Avenue; at the Twenty-seventh Street Methodist Church, and at the little Episcopal Chapel of St. John the Baptist, on the east side of Fourth Avenue, near Twenty-third Street, which was demolished thirty years ago on the completion of the fine church of the same name at Lexington Avenue and Thirty-fifth Street.
After leaving Twenty-seventh Street and Third Avenue the traveller was in the country. There was no other settlement until Yorkville was reached, nearly two miles beyond. Scattered farmhouses, distant villas, green fields, and bits of woodland made up the landscape. The commodious country-seat of Anson G. Phelps on the East River was reached from Twenty-seventh Street. In the vicinity of Thirty - second Street the inhabitants imported from the river the name of Kip's Bay, and lent it to the Thompson and Henderson homesteads thereabout, and to the grocery store that was for many years owned and conducted by a brother of Peter Cooper, a very worthy gentle-man, who died not long ago, having passed his ninetieth birthday. Sunfish Pond, famous for its eels, as well as sunfish and flounders, occupied the site of the Fourth Avenue stables at Thirty -second Street, and extended westward to Madison Avenue. From this pond a brook ran to the East River, following very nearly the line of Thirty-second Street. The brook was almost dry in summer, but, in times of freshets, it overflowed its banks and spread from the foot of Rose Hill at the South to Murray Hill on the north. When it was in a desperately angry mood, the residents of houses that are still standing could reach the avenue only in boats.
The residence of Peter Cooper-of rare and blessed memory always in this city of ours-stood then and still stands at the south-west corner of Fourth Avenue and Twenty-eighth Street. It was a plain and unpretending structure, and yet substantial withal, as befitted its builder. In front of his residence the Eastern Post Road passed to nearly the present line of Lexington Avenue, which it continued to follow until near Forty-second Street, when it joined Third Avenue. On its western side stood several large and fine residences owned by opulent Knickerbockers, embowered in gardens, half hidden by trees, and buried in deep lawns-the realization to weary travellers of an earthly paradise. On Third Avenue there were no dwellings until we reached the point at which the old " Cato " Road stretched out towards Second Avenue from Forty-third Street to Fifty-first, and thence circled around to the " Turtle Bay "region and the famous hostelry kept by Cato. Tradition does not tell whether he had any other name besides Cato. A great cloud of witnesses, principally gray-haired; still survive to testify that his dinners and suppers were simply incomparable. Everybody who owned or could hire a "rig" drove out there at least once a week and feasted himself. Burnham, on the Bloomingdale Road at Seventy-fourth Street, was Cato's only rival, but a formidable one.
At Forty-ninth Street and Third Avenue was a tiny hamlet known as Odellville, which owed its patronymic to Mr. Odell, who kept a country tavern at the corner first named, and with whom life agreed so well that he nearly lived out a century. Just across Third Avenue and above Fiftieth Street was the old potter's field, which next followed those of Washington and Madison squares; and, strange to say, not far from its northern borders was a spring of soft, pure water which was extensively carried away in carts to supply the distant city. This water readily commanded two cents a pail, and its sale was not discontinued until some time after the introduction of Croton water-many old people having a preference for it as. Well as a decided distaste for new-fangled aqueducts and water brought in pipes. Between Odellville and the Five; mile public -house at Seventy-second Street there were a few scattered country-houses, many fields, some considerable forest tracts, and then came the village of Yorkville. Half a century ago this was quite an extensive settlement, reaching from Eighty-third to. Eighty-eighth streets, compactly built on both sides of Third Avenue and to Second and Fourth avenues on the intersecting streets. The village must have numbered more than a hundred houses, with three or four churches and a dozen stores. It never was a pretty place, but down towards the East River, and facing that picturesque stream, were some superb country residences in those days-such as the Schermerhorn mansion at the foot of Seventy-third Street, and the Riker homestead at the foot of Seventy-fifth Street. Elegant lawns stretched down to the riverfront, and from the ample piazzas the scene was a panorama of beauty.
The Six-mile Tavern awaited the thirsty pilgrim at the corner of Ninety-seventh Street and Third Avenue. Our excellent forefathers always placed a milestone and a tavern together, by a gracious instinct which held that the dust of which our mortality is composed needed moistening at the end of a mile's march. It was a good doctrine to stick to. The newest imported idea allows three saloons upon a single block on our busiest avenues. But our progenitors were be-hind the times--good men, but they did not under-stand human nature. They believed in a man owning as much land as he could manage comfortably, and only taking as much drink as was good for him. The new doctrinaires deny man's right to own any land, and insist that he shall impose no restriction on his own or his neighbor's right to drink all that he wishes. Thus we live and learn. But this is a digression. From the Six-mile Tavern we begin to descend the valley towards Harlem. It is a rough road. To the left is an abrupt stone ledge that runs up into Mc-Gowan's Pass; to the right are the marshes of Harlem Commons, through which the East River extends up to the avenue for the distance of a mile. There was not a house to be seen until One Hundred and Second Street was reached, at which point a lane turned down to the celebrated Red House at First Avenue and One Hundred and Sixth Street, where a trotting course called together the owners of fast horses, especially on Sunday afternoons.