Monday, July 27, 2015

"81st Street Staircase, Wave Goodbye"

If you grew up in Yorkville, odds are high you spent time hanging out under the 81st staircase at the East River.  Dangling your feet over the water, talking with friends, listening to your tunes on the radio, sharing drinks bought by an older acquaintance.

The staircase is near death. One last flight left to demolish. I'll go down there today and think about the countless Friday nights it was our place.

Here are photos from yesterday. The top one is from 2012. If you like it, a print is available for sale here.

If you enjoy my stories please  check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." Available at Logos Book Store or online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The book has 109 Amazon five star reviews out of 109 total reviews posted. We're pitching a perfect game. My old world echoes TV's "The Wonder Years" ~ just add taverns, subways and Checker cabs.  

You can also purchase my photography portfolio, "River to River - New York Scenes From a Bicycle" on Amazon.

Thursday, July 30th, I'm telling a story at Walter Michael DeForest's show at Ryan's Daughter, 350 East 85th St. @ 6pm. More info to follow.

Here's an excerpt from my memoir called, "Ripple."

My formula for a perfect Friday night in May 1970: One friend and three dollars.  One dollar was for gas, and two dollars were for two bottles of Ripple Red ($1.78) and two bags of Wise BBQ Potato Chips (20 cents).
Buddy McMahon and I left LaSalle Academy at three o’clock and took the #6 Lexington Avenue Local uptown to 23rd Street. Then we walked east to the Sanitation Department pier at the river’s edge. Parked way in the back of the long shed, hidden between two dumpsters, was Buddy’s car, a white ‘65 Mustang convertible. Buddy slowly backed it up. I got in. His Dad was a gem letting Buddy drive illegally with his new learner’s permit. It was illegal because there was no licensed driver in the car, myself included.
“Pass me the baseball,” Buddy said.
I put my hand under my seat and found the hardball and gave it to Buddy. He stuck it in a place that kept the driver’s seat from flopping backward and forward. The broken seat, along with the bald tires and several other cosmetic and mechanical issues, made this car an affordable pleasure for a 16-year-old working part time as a Daitch Shopwell delivery boy.
            As we drove cautiously up First Avenue, I noticed the five-degree chassis alignment problem that Buddy had mentioned. It felt like we were in a parade and the car was facing the adoring crowd on the sidewalk while we motored straight up the road. It was a pain in the ass to put the rusted top up, so we left it down even though it had started to drizzle. The busted radio provided no tunes, so at red lights we’d try to idle next to someone playing our kind of music.  
On 80th Street, we found a parking spot in front of St. Monica’s School. Buddy sprinted up the stoop of his building, and I ran home to my grandmother’s on York Avenue. We needed to get into our weekend uniforms -- pocket T-shirts (our regular purchase from Arbee’s Army & Navy store), dungaree shorts, and Converse sneakers -- and I needed to grab my radio.
Twenty minutes later, I met Buddy at 82nd Street and First Avenue. We planted ourselves and waited for someone special. The first would-be guy we asked gave us the finger.
Then Buddy sighted a usually friendly party. “Here comes Jojo.”
We quietly cornered Jojo under a candy store awning -- like two junkies on a buy.
“Hey, Jojo, can you buy us two bottles of Ripple Red?”
Jojo looked at his watch, made a face like we were making him constipated, and said, “OK, but quick.  Give me the money.”
We snuck a peek at the transaction through the edge of the store window.
On the way down to the river we bought the potato chips at Eddie’s Market on 80th Street. It was still drizzling. We targeted the spot below the 81st Street Staircase on the East River.  Under dry cover with our legs dangling over the water, we eased in, relishing our Friday ritual, an al fresco dinner with WNEW-FM on the radio dial.


Anonymous said...

If you didn't like Ripple, there was Thunderbird and Sneaky Pete.

Thomas Pryor said...

yes, on Thunderbird ~ what was Sneaky Pete a nickname for?
and how about Mad Dog 20/20 (Mogen David) & Colt 45 for the extra kick

Anonymous said...

Sneaky Pete was a brand name for an inexpensive wine. there was also another called Twister