Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy Almost New Year

Wishing every Nut out there, better things next year.

Ray Davies says:

It's really good to see you rocking out
And having fun,
Living like you just begun.
Accept your life and what it brings.
I hope tomorrow you'll find better things.
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.



Spooky Sleigh Ride with Dad

Check out my 1960s memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." at Logos Book Store, or purchase the book online at Amazon (113 five-star reviewsout of 113 posted) or Barnes & Noble ~ and buy "River to River ~ New York Scenes From a Bicycle" my photography portfolio online.




Central Park North Transverse ~ 102nd Street

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Stoops, Happy Nuts


Wishing everyone a red wagon and happy holidays.




Do you need a gift for an ageless kid?  Then check out my 1960s memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." at Logos Book Store, or purchase the book online at Amazon (113 five-star reviewsout of 113 posted) or Barnes & Noble ~ and buy "River to River ~ New York Scenes From a Bicycle" my photography portfolio online.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Day, Yorkville, 1960

dig my new polo
On Christmas Day in 1960 Yorkville, it was considered good luck to wear all new clothing over your pajamas, usually gifts from one out of touch no nonsense grandmother who forgot or didn't care kids only wanted toys. Here you see my new boring polo shirt. I later added two crappy sweaters and one pair of ill fitting dungarees to my outfit.

But that year was the best gift day of my life, my first two wheeler and a full football uniform with a football that could have doubled as a weapon for James Bond if he threw it at your chest when you weren't looking. The ball was a composite of rock, plastic and steel fibers (I assumed).
Dad's a little shaky, so am I
If you want know more about Christmas day 1960 in Yorkville read my memoir. If you like Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story," you'll love my book, promise.

My first ride
Do you need a gift for an ageless kid?  Then check out my 1960s memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." at Logos Book Store, or purchase the book online at Amazon (113 five-star reviews out of 113 posted) or Barnes & Noble ~ and buy "River to River ~ New York Scenes From a Bicycle" my photography portfolio online.

Bob, Tommy, Rory Pryor in front of The Old Timers Tavern on York Avenue

Killer Football



Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter's Late. Hang In, Central Park in Snow, 2013






Do you need a gift for an ageless kid? 

Then check out my 1960s memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." at Logos Book Store, or purchase the book online at Amazon (113 five-star reviews out of 113 posted) or Barnes & Noble ~ and buy "River to River ~ New York Scenes From a Bicycle" my photography portfolio online.

"Baby's its Cold Outside" looking down on the Mall

Sheep Meadow

Sheep Meadow walk

Mall


Umbrella at Bethesda

Laying Everybody Low

Greetings!

Bird Meeting at the Fountain

South end of Central Park Lake

My favorite tree looking down on Sailboat Lake

Get a Room!

Rory

Friday, December 18, 2015

Developing A Habit

Thank you, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood, for my first published story, "Developing a Habit" in 2006. 


First grade Presidential campaign poster
In October of 1960, Mom was pulling for Kennedy and Dad was rooting for Nixon. I couldn't have cared less one-way or the other—my thoughts were on baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates had just crushed my heart by beating the Yankees in the seventh game of the World Series and I wasn’t sure if I would ever recover.
The morning after that fateful game, my mother walked me to St. Stephen’s of Hungary, the Catholic elementary school I attended on 82nd Street. At the entrance, I kissed her goodbye and dragged my school bag up the four flights of stairs to my classroom. I sat at my desk, feeling glum and numb. My melancholy lasted for about an hour until suddenly I realized that there is more to life than baseball.
There are also girls.
Even at six years old, I was beginning to get a funny feeling in my belly whenever women were around. I had so many crushes—delightful first crushes—and I found them in the strangest places.
In the first grade, it was Sister Beatrice.
Sister Beatrice smelled great. I did all I could to figure out ways to get close to her. Shoe knotting was a ritual requiring assistance. I'd offer my leg out hopefully.
"Excuse me Sister, could you please tie my shoes?"
Sister Beatrice would drop to one knee to reach my shoe. When she leaned, I leaned—all the way. My nose would nearly touch her forehead, which peeked out of her hat. Sometimes, a little wisp of brown curly hair slipped out of the hat onto Sister Beatrice's forehead. The first time I saw the hair I was shocked, then relieved. I thought all nuns were bald and the hats kept their heads warm. With my nose to her forehead—she was too busy tying to notice—I would whiff away.
I smelled baby powder. I smelled Ivory soap. I smelled her. She smelled better than my brother's bottom after Mom put a new diaper on him. Being close to her, having her directly talking into my ear, made me swoon. I'd breathe in deeply so that I had some of her smell left over when I went back to my desk.
I loved her.
By the holidays, my grandfather had taught me how to tie a perfect double knotter, but I never let on.
"Oh Sister Beatrice, please tie my shoes?"
She started giving me funny looks. By the spring of first grade, every other kid in the class tied their own shoes. I could see it in her eyes, "What's wrong with the boy?"
I had a choice: I could go on letting her think I was a moron, or I could begin tying my own shoes, and lose my best opportunity to smell her. It was no contest.
"Aren't you practicing like I showed you?" Sister Beatrice asked.
"All the time," I said. "Just can't get it. I feel so bad."
I loved Sister Beatrice because of the way she smelled, and also because at lunchtime, when they closed off the street to let the kids play in front of the school, she would play punch ball with us. On her knees, she'd help us draw the bases onto the street bed, and when she stood up; her front would be loaded with chalk. (It went well with the chalk on her bottom. In class, she liked to lean against the blackboard while flipping an eraser in one hand. She never dropped it. Not once.)
Sister Beatrice would come up to the plate to take her turn hitting. She would whack the ball, punching it between the fielders. Then she would scoot down to first base, holding her heavy skirts up with both hands, flying past the parked cars. I would stare at her black wide-heeled nun shoes and black stockings. Sister Beatrice had perfect shoes for kicking field goals.
My first love was a pretty, punch ball-playing nun who smelled wonderful. I was hooked.
In the second grade, I became a choirboy. I was no fool—I was one of two boy sopranos surrounded by fifteen blue-skirted girls. Three times a week they stuck me right in the middle of them. I loved their white socks, their black and white shoes. The girls needed to cover their heads when they entered the church with school issued beanies. If a girl forgot her beanie, she had to think quickly. One day, my all-time crush, Barbara, forgot her beanie. I moved in.
"Barbara, would you like my hankie?"
"Did you blow your nose in it?"
I showed her both sides twice.
"Clean as a whistle, just washed with Clorox."
Barbara accepted my hankie. With a Bobbie pin, she fixed it over her silky black hair. I stood back. She was Bernadette of Lourdes. The only thing missing were the sheep and a couple of farm kids. We were in the choir, high in the back of the low-lit church, but I imagined we were in the French grotto, where the Holy Virgin appeared to Bernadette. With a halo glowing softly over her head, Barbara smiled at me and whispered, "thank you". My knees grew weak.
The hankie stayed in my pocket for three weeks before my mother, a notorious neat freak, noticed me hiding it under my bunk bed mattress.
She said, "What are doing?"
"Nothing."
She came closer for a look-see.
"What are you nuts? There's snot all over that thing. Give it to me."
"No, no, I have a cold. I don't want anyone else catching it."
She grabbed it, "I worry about you."
I sighed as my beloved hankie flew through the air, hit the lip of the hamper and slipped beneath the rim into the pile of dirty laundry.
Being in the choir was fun, not only because of Barbara, but also because practice got me out of class twice a week. I even ended up with a special assignment for Father Emeric's Silver Jubilee as a priest. I had to learn his favorite folk song in Hungarian. I was going to sing it before 200 people in the school's auditorium.
As the event grew closer, I began to practice at home. We had a small apartment, and the only place I could rehearse was in my parents' bedroom. It was the only room with a door, and even with it closed, I could hear my parents and my brother giggling on the other side. It drove me crazy.
My father grew concerned. One night, I overheard a conversation between him and Mom when they thought I was asleep on the couch.
Dad said, "Doesn't Tom seem a little too happy about this choir assignment?"
"Bob it's an honor. He sings great, and it keeps him out of trouble with the nuns," Mom replied.
"Well sometimes, he leaves the house with this blissed out grin—I mean he's going to choir - not the park, not to skate, not to play ball. He's going to choir. I don't get it."
"Well if you went to the church and heard him sing, you'd get it."
"Well, I hope it's a just a phase. Dear God let it be a phase."
Mom's last comment held the secret. If Dad went to church and looked up into the choir, he'd have seen my enormous grin stuck in the middle of the fifteen girls in their white socks and black and white shoes. All his worries would have faded away.
I remained in the choir, buried in the middle of my harem, until that horrible day my voice changed. And then, with great reluctance, I retired.
One day in class, when I was in the fourth grade Sister Adrianne said to me, "One more word, one more word mister, and you'll be staying after school."
That wasn't a threat, it was an invitation!
I loved being around the nuns, especially after school–they acted differently then. They were regular people, with normal feelings. Figuring out ways to spend more time with them outside of school was easy. I had a big mouth. I was constantly being told to "watch my step."
When I was punished and had to stay after school, a nun had to stay with me. And sure, they could do some of their paper work or read whatever holy book they were reading. But what they wanted most of all was to get out of the classroom and back to their residence floor.
Forty empty desks, the nun and me. I learned it could play out three ways. First way, she kept you in the classroom for a long time then home you went. Second way, she gave up and let you out early. Third way, wanting to punish you but not punish herself, she told you come with her. I preferred door #3.
On this particular day, Sister Adrianne took me to the mysterious fifth floor with the curtained windows and no classrooms. I was in their private sanctuary. She put me in the study room and told me to keep my mouth shut. It was heaven. I was so quiet, she forgot I was there.
Sometime later, Sister Jerome, the principal and eighth grade teacher, came into the study and jumped when she saw me.
"Thomas what are doing here?"
"I'm not sure—Sister Adrianne put me here."
"Why did she put you here?"
"Oh, I'm being punished for something. She said she was sick of the classroom, so she brought me up here, and put me in this room."
"Well, you sitting here like a sack of potatoes is doing no one any good. Do you want to do something useful?"
"Sure."
"Come with me."
We went to the kitchen. It was hugest one I had ever seen.
"Help me with the string beans." Sister Jerome ordered.
This I knew how to do. My Mom always made string beans. All you did was twist off the ends. I jumped up on a tall stool around the centered wood block counter and began my chore. Most of the nuns, at one time or another, walked through the kitchen while I worked away. When Sister Adrianne walked in, she was ready to scold me—it was a no-no for non-nuns to be in the kitchen. But Sister Jerome shot her a look. It needed no words. The look said, "I put the kid to work, let's leave it at that."
I began to mischievously worm my way into the nun’s residence on a regular basis. Sometimes, my “punishments” included polishing the furniture or vacuuming the rugs. Other times, I had to sit in the study and read books about the saints and all the great ways that they had died.
Late one afternoon, Sister Jerome popped her head in the study and saw me reading with my feet up on a hassock.
"Are you still here?" she asked.
"Well, I was worried you might have something else for me to do," I replied.
"It's almost five thirty!"
"What are you making for dinner?"
"Thomas, go home."
I left slowly, reluctantly, hoping she would change her mind and call me back. In a way, their sanctuary had become a haven for me, too—a place of comfort, acceptance, and community. A place where I could observe these women I loved—the first women I was ever attracted to—in all their mystery, from a safe distance. I knew they could never love me back. I was just a boy. But still, they filled such a large place in my heart.

Do you need a gift for an ageless kid? Then check out my 1960s memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." at Logos Book Store, or purchase the book online at Amazon (113 five-star reviews out of 113 posted) or Barnes & Noble. 

You can also buy "River to River ~ New York Scenes From a Bicycle" my photography portfolio online.



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Spotless Cleaners ~ A Christmas Story

Fifty one years ago, this happened on 83rd Street. It's one of fifty three stories in my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys ~ tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."

Nearing the 1964 Christmas break during my fifth grade, thirteen inches of snow blanketed my street late on a Thursday evening. Losing a school day to the elements was a beautiful thing.

Friday morning, my friends and I mushed over to Central Park towing our sleds through the middle of the street. Milking the day to the last of the light, we rode every hill until our feet froze. Back from the sleigh ride, I plopped down outside my apartment on the hall stairs and began undressing. Mom refused to let me undress inside the apartment. She, slush and dog poop were mortal enemies. As I worked my top layer off, I heard my father's familiar step right below me coming up the stairs.

He mumbled to himself, "Damn, I forgot the suit." Noticing me, his eye focused on my half untied snow boots. "Tommy here's the ticket, hurry to the cleaners. I need that suit for the wedding."

OOOOOOOOOOhhhhhh, left my mouth as I dramatized the act of rising slowly.

"Go!" Dad ordered.

I death marched down the stairs. Dad behind me, "FASTER they're going to close in 5 minutes."

When I got there, Joe, the Spotless Cleaners manager was turning off the lights. Smiling with an edge he opened the door. "Come in Tommy, be quick, I want to get out of here."

Deed done. I earned a slow walk home. A slow meandering trek through every snow pile between the store and my building. Walking deliberately, I was one of Hannibal's elephants moving over the Alps. I went knee deep with every step. A resourceful Gunga Din, I moved the suit to the back of my pea coat, resting the hanger's hook on the back of my collar. This left my hands free for better balance. My serpentine trip created desire paths over each snow pile. Calculated attention paid to each pile stretched my normal five-minute trip back home to half an hour. With the satisfaction of a Sherpa's job well done, I danced a jig and rang the bell in the vestibule harking my return and an incredible urge to pee.

Running up the stairs, Dad met me at the door, "Where the hell were you?"

I said nothing, smirked and turned my back. I offered Dad his suit from its resting-place on the nape of my neck. I ran into the bathroom, worked off my jeans, long johns, and two pairs of underwear just in time to go.

When I stepped back into the kitchen. Dad met me face to face at the bathroom door holding up the suit.

"Nice jacket. Where are my pants?"

"Huh", I mumbled.

"My pants, where are my pants?" Dad voice higher this time.

A clothes hanger never had as thorough an examination as the one I put that hanger through. The pants were not on it, in it; on top it, under it. There were no pants. The jacket, the jacket was good. Two sleeves, pressed cleaned, all that. But the pants, the pants made no appearance despite multiple prayers under my breath. I was the baffled volunteer from the audience looking for the rabbit in the hat and finding it unbelievable it was gone.

Dad put his slacks on and said, "Lets' go."

Down to Hades we descended, third floor, second floor, first floor, no pants. Hallway, no pants. Down the building's front steps, no pants.

Dad, "So which way did you walk exactly?"

This is where it got tricky. I set a new record for a dramatic pause. My mouth agape, he asked again, "Exactly - where - did - you - walk?

Words failed me. I didn't even try. I owned too many fruitless experiences responding to similar requests from my father. Trying to answer unanswerable questions, to even begin thinking about opening my mouth. Left with nothing to say I showed him. I showed him my exact path. Every nuance. Every turn. Every double step. At one point, I did the cha-cha one up, two back, one up, two back. I was possessed. I mimed my entire walk never measuring how pissed off my path of greatest resistance home was making Dad. When Dad and I had these special moments an eerie stillness set in. No yelling, no accusations. Only the 'look' with sharp orders.

"Stop." "Go left." "Here?" "Are you sure you were not under any cars?"

Hill after hill we climbed towards the avenue, policing the ground looking for sign of pants. Despite the fact Dad's pants were charcoal and the streets contained nothing but white snow, he insisted we walk very slowly. The Cleaners were closed.

Walking back to our building, same story. Every hill walked serpentine with the look and the short barked orders. At our house, one last look under the car directly in front. Into the lobby we began our ascent to Hades, second floor, third floor, fourth floor, into the apartment. Passing through the front door, Dad gave Mom the look and then me one more look for good luck. Dad went directly over to his jacket on the hanger with the plastic still over it. He held it up to take a good look. Together they resembled Michelangelo's Pieta. I think he was saying goodbye. It might have been my imagination, but I thought I saw him talk to the jacket.

"We have closed many bars together old friend." Dad sighed, then continued.

"I will miss the way the secretary at Pepsi looked at you, on me, when we did our sales calls."

Dad said no more about the suit.

Two weeks later, I'm playing in front of my house and Dad comes walking up the street. Getting closer, I see he has a charcoal jacket on. I'm thinking he bought the same suit again. Not good for me. "Hi Dad, is that the suit. It looks great. Did you buy it again?"

"Nope, same one." Dad said with a smile. "Every suit comes with two pairs of pants."

Do you need a gift for an ageless kid? Then check out my 1960s memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." at Logos Book Store, or purchase the book online at Amazon (113 five-star reviews out of 113 posted) or Barnes & Noble. 

You can also buy "River to River ~ New York Scenes From a Bicycle" my photography portfolio online.





Monday, December 14, 2015

Clorox Hockey League MVP ~ Freddy Muller

Freddy Muller was the MVP of the one quart Clorox Hockey League. His goaltending was terrific. Nothing got by him. A shifty center or wing, Freddy faked left, faked right, went left and put the boot to the puck and drove the plastic quart bottle past the hapless goalie. Freddy was a fearless player.
Eddie Ekis & Freddy Muller @1974


He was our game king. We had no where to play in the winter, and you had to keep moving or freeze. Freddy found the perfect hockey ring. Right off First Avenue on 83rd Street, was a shoe store with a similar frontage to the Frame Shop in the photo below. The guy closed early and had no gate. It was a double wide store with a deep entrance that had dimensions very close to the width and depth of a hockey net. Once we decided to play we'd scatter like rats and scavenge the garbage cans looking for a thrown out one quart Clorox bottle. We chose this bottle because of it's durability and it was easy to pass from foot to foot.

Ted Green on the Boston Bruins was the devil for spearing Phil Goyette on the Rangers. No one wanted to be Ted Green. But everyone wanted to be Ed Giacomin or Jean Beliveauand if you were a jerk we called you Dickie Duff. 
.
Other favorite non-Ranger hockey names, JacquesLaperriere, Gilles Tremblay, and Yvan Cournoyer because they were so much fun to say and that was the best part of the game everyone would be yelling commentary throughout the match. Sometimes even the fifth or sixth place Rangers scored.
southwest corner of 82nd & Lexington
perfect Clorox hockey goal net opening.


"Howell brings it up the ice, passes to Ratelle who moves it over to Gilbert, Gilbert slips the defenseman, shovels the puck to Hatfield, slap shot, he scores! A rocket right pass Gump Worsley."















Do you need a gift for an ageless kid? Then check out my 1960s memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." at Logos Book Store, or purchase the book online at Amazon (113 five-star reviews out of 113 posted) or Barnes & Noble. 

You can also buy "River to River ~ New York Scenes From a Bicycle" my photography portfolio online.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Picture Book

A few photos that cheer me up.



Do you need a gift for an ageless kid? Then check out my 1960s memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." at Logos Book Store, or purchase the book online at Amazon (113 five-star reviews out of 113 posted) or Barnes & Noble. 

You can also buy "River to River ~ New York Scenes From a Bicycle" my photography portfolio online.