Monday, October 31, 2016

The Love Seat ~ A Ghost Story

Boo! Happy Halloween. Here are two 1960 photos from the fifth floor of 321 East 85th Street on Halloween night. I be the Hobo, Rory is the Pussycat. Mom to the left, Nan Ryan to the right.

"City Boy" my solo show,
Saturday, November 19
@ 7pm at Ryan's Daughter.
Come on down to 350 E. 85th Street.

Here's my Yorkville ghost story. Boo!

The Love Seat

As a boy in the early 1960s, I'd go up my grandparents' second floor apartment on York Avenue several times a week. Their hallway was lit by one low watt exposed bulb. The dark hall frightened me. Sometimes my fear was compounded when I'd hear fuzzy radio sounds coming from the usually locked basement. I assumed it was a foreign station, maybe German based on the marching music, waltzes and the announcer's accent. I told my grandmother.

"You're hearing things," she said
"What's down the basement? I asked.
"Nothing and it’s none of your business!"

I chose to believe her because I had no courage or interest in going down to the cellar to investigate. I began taking the single flight of stairs in four long jumps to get into the apartment as fast as I could. I never looked back.

Over the years, the radio echoes from the cellar were there on and off. In 1964, Pop Rode, the man I knew as my grandfather died (Pop was my grandmother's second husband), and I began to stay over my grandmother’s on the weekend. The noisy avenue was right outside our front window. I'm a light sleeper. Awake, over my head I began to notice pacing in the apartment above. My ears perked up like Nipper the RCA dog. Dread sharpens my hearing. Through the airshaft next to my bed, I heard a man talking to himself. Based on my movie knowledge he sounded German. He spoke rapidly with quick pauses as if he was reading a list of pressing things to do. I didn’t move a muscle. The old lady above us spoke in a whisper, lived alone, and walked with a cane. It was a waste of time to check in with my no-nonsense grandmother.

"You're hearing things." She’d say. Eventually I'd fall back to sleep or it'd get light outside and chase my terror away.

In 1977, my parents bought a house after a lifetime of apartment living and had extra space to place new things. The day they moved in, I noticed Dad carrying a wide chair.

“Dad, what’s that?”
“It’s a love seat.”
“Where did you get it?”
“From your grandmother.”
“I've never seen it.”
“It was stored in her cellar.”
“It belonged to someone else who never retrieved it.”»

Dad told me a story. When his father contracted late stage tuberculosis in the mid 1930s, Mr. Volk, the German man upstairs cared for Dad’s family, bringing them food and fetching a doctor when one of them was sick. After my Dad's father died in February 1941, Mr. Volk gave my grandmother a couple of dollars anytime she was short. As a thankful gesture, my grandmother invited Mr. Volk in for coffee at the kitchen table. While Dad spoke, I pictured this with ease because I saw my grandmother do the same thing hundreds of times in my lifetime. She was strict but kind.

Mid 1942, Mr. Volk knocked on my grandmother's door. With his hat clutched in his hands, he greeted her urgently, "Mrs. Pryor, how are you? You work hard. I have something to ask, it is difficult. You know I've been good to your family. When you're husband was ill and after he passed. I care for you and your sons like they're my own. Immigration came yesterday and said I’m being deported in two weeks. There are problems with my papers. I have one chance to stay; I must be married and do it quickly. I ask you because I trust you to trust me that this is purely so I can stay. I'm desperate!"

My grandmother paused, took a deep breath and politely turned Mr. Volk down. He didn't grow angry; he thanked my grandmother for her kindnesses and asked her a favor.

"Would you take care of my love seat until I return after the war? It belonged to my parents.”

She agreed to care for it and felt obligated to store it safely until Mr. Volk’s return. The love seat sat in the cellar of 1582 York Avenue from 1942 until 1977. It’s in my living room today. I hear no voices. Mr. Volk is at peace.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dancing With The Moon

Four years ago, I stopped my bike at Sailboat Lake in Central Park and watched the hawk called Pale Male search for prey. He soared over Fifth Avenue. I tired before he did, but not before I took several photos of him dancing with the moon.

Leaving the park a water fountain got all psychedelic on me. I spied 64 Crayola colors reflected in the rippling water.

I’m lucky to be in New York City, find quiet places to read and think and when the mood suits me let an impulsive sensation lift me up. New York never bores me. Here are shots from my stay with Pale Male and a public Facebook link to 70 photographs from my Central Park romp.

And for good luck, here’s Billy Stewart singing, “Sitting in the Park.”

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Girl With The Pearl Earring

When I feel blue nothing lifts me higher than Leslie leading the band. Great time with Joe, Craig, Kim and family at Leslie's karaoke soiree at Sid Gold's Request Room.

Do you like old New York City photos and street life stories? Then check out my 1960s memoir,"I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."Available at Logos Book Store and online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The book has 121 Amazon five star reviews out of 121 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.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

By The Light Of The Silvery Moon

I was biking on the 102nd Street transverse from the West Side to the East Side. A friend called. I stopped, we spoke for 30 minutes and twilight set in. The full moon lit up the Fifth Avenue sky over the park.

This reminded me of my favorite film, The Producers with Zero Mostel & Gene Wilder.

Boating in Central Park, they plotted their plan for the worst play ever. Opening night, they retired to the tavern across the street from the theatre where there was only one other customer, Willam Hickey, deeply drunk.

Figuring the flop is in the bag, Zero Mostel said to Frank Campanella, the bartender, "Barkeep, Barkeep, another drink for myself, my associate, Mr. Bloom, and don't forget our good natured inebriate over here."

Their initial toast, " "Here's to failure!"

Hickey, the good natured inebriate down the bar answers the toast, "Oh, thank you. It's very kind of you."

After the toast, Max Bailystock dropped a dime in the juke box and the three of them launched into a dancing rendition of By The Light of the Silvery Moon.

By the light, of the silvery moon,
I want to spoon,
To my honey I'll croon love's tune.
Honey moon, keep a-shinin' in June.
Your silv'ry beams will bring love's dreams,
We'll be cuddlin' soon,
By the silvery moon.
By the light (not the dark but the light)
Of the silvery moon (not the sun but the moon)
I wanna spoon (not croon, but spoon)
To my honey I'll croon love's tune
Honey moon, honey moon, honey moon
Keep a-shinin' in June
Your silv'ry beams will bring love's dreams
We'll be cuddlin' soon
By the silvery moon
The silv'ry moon...

The music was written by Gus Edwards, the lyrics by Edward Madden. The song was published in 1909. It was one of a series of moon related Tin Pan Alley songs of the era.

Friday, October 14, 2016

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?

Biscuits & Bath window in Yorkville a few days ago. Mother and her daughter in a St. Joseph's School sweater enjoying the view.

Do you like old New York City photos and street life stories? Then check out my 1960s memoir,"I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."Available at Logos Book Store and online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The book has 121 Amazon five star reviews out of 121 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.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Groovin' With The Yorkville Girl Watcher

Early Saturday morning,  I spied the Yorkville Girl Watcher settling in for the day on Third Avenue and 79th Street.

Sitting snug on the crossing box, he leaned his green head against the light pole, sighed and said, "Life is good." 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Free Skirt Steak!

Once upon a time, if a Yorkville butcher looked favorably upon you and your meat order, he would throw in a free piece of skirt steak. Not anymore, it goes for $10 to $15 a pound. Here's a skirt steak related excerpt from my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."

“Tommy, get my bag,” my grandmother barked. It was February 1965. I was 11.
“Oh, Christ,” I thought. Slowly, I made my way through the railroad flat looking for Nan Rode’s pocketbook. It weighed more than my little brother, and when I heaved the thing up, I imagined Nan in the audience on Let’s Make A Deal, easily meeting Monty Hall’s challenge to draw an Indian head penny out of the bag, or a 1928 Al Smith for President pencil with Al’s head and big nose on the top (I still have that item).

I muscled the bag into the kitchen. Nan wanted to give me money because it was Saturday, and Saturday meant I was going shopping. Nan liked Schaller & Weber’s frankfurters, Karl Ehmer’s pork chops and bologna, and Reliable Meats’ veal cutlets. Plus, George at Reliable Meats on York Avenue would throw in a half-pound of skirt steak if he was in a good mood.

Schaller & Weber was my first stop, and there was always a major crowd there on Saturdays. I wanted to play ball sometime that day, so I’d minimize my wait by getting there early. Nan had specific shopping directions for each location. Schaller & Weber: “Make sure you see the guy’s hands at all times. If they drop below the counter, and he comes up with franks, tell him to put them back, and take the fresh ones out of the glass display.”

I watched the guy’s hands like he was a card cheat. And there he went… “Hey Mister, I don’t want those franks, give me two pounds of these.” I pointed to the glass; the guy gave me a dirty look and put the old franks back below the counter.

Next stop was Karl Ehmer’s. I reviewed Nan’s instructions for that store: “Tell the guy to leave all the fat on the pork chops.”

The Karl Ehmer butcher loved me. I’d point out pork chops in the glass; he grabbed them and wrapped them in paper. He never even had to pick up a trim knife.
After Ehmer’s, I walked down 85th Street with five pounds of meat in paper bags. All the dogs I pass on the sidewalk are looking at me funny and moaning. Halfway down the block, Nan’s final direction pop into my head. “Make sure George pounds the cutlets paper thin and throws in the skirt steak. Don’t forget the steak!”
George was a problem. He knew my large grandparents bought lots of meat, but only bought part of their meat from him. He wanted all their business. There was no way I’d bring the other meat into his store -- he’d torture me – but I was too lazy to run it up to my grandmother’s apartment one building away. So, I’d hide it outside the shop -- in the gutter hugging the curb, in the basket of the delivery bike, or thrown up on an awning. I had plenty of places to put it but they all had potential consequences. Lots of kids and animals comb the gutter for goodies, and they might pick it up and eat a frank right there. The delivery boy could slip by me and take my meat for an unwanted ride. Up on the awning, pigeons could use the bags for target practice, or I might not be able to find something to reach the bags to get them down.
“Why you so antsy?” George asked.
“What are you looking for?”
I was second on line, and George was working alone. He was annoyed that I kept asking the lady behind me with the baby to hold my place, while I checked on my hidden stash.
When it was my turn, George leaned over the counter. I could smell his coffee and cigarette breath.
“No franks and chops today?”
He knew. He knew everyone’s meat desires.
“No thank you, George, just the cutlets. Please give them a good pounding. Nan said, nice and lean.”
He hit the meat like it was my head. Then he put my stuff in a bag and eyed me over. I gave him a nod toward the skirt steak with a pathetic look. He grudgingly wrapped a chunk in paper and threw it in the bag.
On the way out, George shouted a farewell.
“How long was the line at Schaller & Weber’s?”

The hair on my neck stood up, but I didn’t turn around. I began looking for something to knock my bags off the Chinese Laundry’s awning.

Do you like old New York City photos and street life stories? Then check out my 1960s memoir,"I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."Available at Logos Book Store and online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The book has 121 Amazon five star reviews out of 121 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.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

St. Francis, The Pope & The Devil Dog

On October 4, 1965, the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Stephen of Hungary's student body marched up to Third Avenue to wave to Pope Paul VI driving by on his way to Yankee Stadium in his limousine. This was important to me on a few levels:
We were getting out of sixth grade early.
The New York Yankees stunk in 1965 and having the Pope say a Mass on their home field should help the team.
I'd have free rein to look at all the older girls in the school, and they couldn't do anything about it.
"What are you looking at?"
'Ha, ha,' I'd think, not say.
The Franciscan priests in our parish were good guys and the nuns and the students got into the spirit of the day each year, whether the Pope showed up or not. Plus, I loved the guy. St. Francis was cool. I loved animals and he blessed them. Unlike Doctor Doolittle, St. Francis could really talk to them. And, St. Francis was in my grandmother's holy trinity along with St. Anthony for lost objects and super duper St. Jude for hopeless cases ~ a biggie for our family.

Every two years, the school ran a movie of the Life of St. Francis in the auditorium getting us out of a class for a Friday afternoon. The movie wasn't bad, and I admired the comfort of only wearing a robe with a rope belt, best uniform every invented, and Italy was beautiful and I considered it a place I definitely would visit down the road. After lunch, we lined up outside the school and like a gaggle of 300 geese we waddled up 82nd Street to the avenue, where we stood against police saw horses on the east side of Third between 81st and 82nd Street.

Earlier that morning, I served eight o'clock mass with a guy in my class, Michael Toth, who was a big pain in my ass. One of those guys that always had to be first in everything: out the door, on line for the water fountain, first at bat in punch ball. Toth located a Siamese pipe connection right behind us against a building, and used it to sit on, its shape perfect for a kid's bottom. We waited a long time, and Toth also planned on standing on it when the Pope went by for a better view. Toth kept coming over and telling everyone how comfortable it was and how he was going to have a perfect view, and if anyone tried to sit there he'd run over and throw them off. We all wanted him dead.

While he's doing this, I'm eating a Devil Dog the long way, taking the two cake parts apart and starting to lick the crème out of the middle, when Toth comes over to tell Freddy Muller, "Ha. Ha, I've got a great seat," While he's yapping to Freddy, I slip one half of my half licked Devil Dog onto the Siamese connection, crème side up. Toth satisfied with himself, sits on it and he's so caught up he doesn't notice, the nun, sick of Toth popping up and down moves over to straighten him out, Toth pops up again on his way over to brag some more. The nun notices the Devil Dog sticking to his pants and smacks Toth in the head thinking he's an idiot. After she hits him she says, "Wipe yourself off, wood head."

Toth puzzled about everything, reaches behind and grabs most of the cake, and I could tell by the look on his face he was praying it wasn't dog crap. Meantime, the Pope's a half block north of us. I missed him, Toth missed him, and the nun hit Toth again because she missed him, too.

I returned my focus to the older girls.


Do you like old New York City photos and street life stories? Then check out my 1960s memoir,"I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."Available atLogos Book Store and online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The book has 121 Amazon five star reviews out of 121 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.

Praise for the book:

“Thomas R. Pryor has written a sweet, funny, loving memoir of growing up old-school in a colorful New York neighborhood. A story of sports, family, and boyhood, you’ll be able to all but taste, smell, and feel this vanished world.”
Kevin Baker, author of the novels “Dreamland,” Paradise Alley,” and “Strivers Row,” as well as other works of fiction and nonfiction

“Tommy Pryor’s New York City boyhood was nothing like mine, a few miles and a borough away, and yet in its heart, tenderness, and tough teachable moments around Dad and ball, it was the mid-century coming of age of all of us. A rousing read.”
Robert Lipsyte, former city and sports columnist, The New York Times

“Pryor could take a felt hat and make it funny.”
Barbara Turner-Vesselago, author of “Writing Without A Parachute: The Art of Freefall”

“Pryor burrows into the terrain of his childhood with a longing and obsessiveness so powerful it feels like you are reading a memoir about his first great love.”
Thomas Beller, author of “J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist”

The Jean Shepherd of Yorkville has a book - you should get! -Adam Wade, winner of 20 SLAMS at The Moth (18 StorySLAM victories and 2 GrandSLAM Championships
I've been a HUGE fan of Thomas Pryor's stories for a long time. It's so great to read so many of them in this fantastic book. Pryor pours his heart and soul into each and everyone of them. Some gut wrenching, others laugh out loud funny. And you don't have to be a NY Giants fan or a Cowboys hater to enjoy this book (though that will help). You just have to have a heart and love fun, authentic stories. Buy this book, I promise you'll enjoy it!

Dave Hill "The Goddamn Dave Hill Show" ~ WFMU radio
I wasn't alive for the New York Thomas Pryor writes about, but thanks to his brilliant, honest, and hilarious book, I feel like I was there."

Great writers are supposed to transport you to their world -Nicole Ferraro, writer, N.Y Times & Editor-in-Chief, Webby Awards
Thomas Pryor is one of those unique writers who can grab your heart and make you laugh and cry in a single sentence. The portrait he paints of growing up in New York City -- in Yorkville, specifically -- in the 60s is so vivid that you'll feel yourself there with him in every single scene, and every single memory. Great writers are supposed to transport you to their world, and Thomas Pryor does this exceptionally well. You'll walk away from this book feeling like you know intimately every butcher and bartender in town, every Sister at St. Stephens, and certainly every member of Thomas's family. Even more than that, though, this is a book about being a kid, growing up, loving people and losing them, losing people and loving them even more, and finding one's way. Basically, it's a book for anyone who's ever experienced the sheer pleasure and pain of being alive and growing up. Buy it today. It will leave you feeling enriched, touched, entertained, and eager to turn to page one all over again.

Wonderful Storytelling with a Time Machine Effect! - Leslie Gosko, entertainer, storyteller, comedian, "Funniest Woman in NYC"
Heart-warming, hilarious, and wonderfully quirky, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys" has something for everyone. Thomas Pryor does a fantastic job of transporting you to 1960's New York where you feel like one of the characters in his Yorkville neighborhood. Stylistically reminiscent of Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story," this book, too, becomes an instant classic!

David Terhune The Losers Lounge, co-founder
After reading "I Hate The Dallas Cowboys", I felt as if I had grown up with author Thomas Pryor. His stories of a childhood in New York City, punctuated by family photographs, drew me into his world and took me on a personal tour of the streets and neighborhoods of his youth. Living there were a host of vivid and eccentric characters - his parents, brother Rory, grandmother Nan, Joe from the candy store, Sister Mercedes, stewardesses Marie and Justine, and his many friends and co-conspirators with whom he shared his adventures and dreams. Mr. Pryor’s humor is gentle and infectious, his memories animated and engrossing. These essays are both historically valuable as well as entertaining in a way that befits the unique voice of New York City.