Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Night I Fell In Love With Mel Brooks

On November 29, 1970, Dad and I watched the Giants beat the Redskins in the afternoon.  Later that night he talked me into watching the David Susskind Show with him.  I only did so, already suffering father overload, because David Steinberg was a guest.

The show's theme, "How to Be A Jewish Son," the panel also included George Segal and Mel Brooks who I vaguely knew. I was 16 and as soon as Brooks opened his mouth I lost my sense of place and laughed my ass off for 90 minutes. It's brilliant.

The original "The Producers" from 1968 is my favorite movie. Mel Brooks is the funniest man on earth.

Thank you, Dad. Your taste in several areas was impeccable.




If you enjoy my work, check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." It's available at  Logos Bookstore, 1575 York Avenue, or buy it online at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble or other booksellers. If you do read it, please leave a few honest words about the book on Amazon and B&N. Thank you!  (125 five-star Amazon reviews out of 125 posted)


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Two Of Us"

"Two of Us" riding nowhere,
spending someone's hard earned pay.
You and me Sunday driving,
not arriving,
on our way back home.



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bunny Giganticus

Big Bunny
"It's bigger than Nan's turkey!" Rory said.
"Leave me alone, it's too early."
"Tommy, I swear it's huge. Get up!"

I tried to punch Rory but missed and my momentum carried me out of the bunk bed onto the bedroom floor. I got up and scratched my butt through my PJ's' on the short walk to the kitchen.

"Holy crap!" Rory was right. This was the largest chocolate bunny I'd ever seen. It took up half the space on the dinner table. Nearly twice the size of the big one in the window at Woolworth's on 86th Street. This monster rabbit was surrounded by painted Easter eggs and cream-filled chickadees. Mom out did herself, but this was no surprise with Mom when it came to chocolate and sweets. When she was 13, her class at St. Joseph's visited a candy factory in New Jersey owned by Father Heidi's family. When the kids were leaving the factory, the nun pulled Mom aside and patted her down. Mom had bars of chocolate stuck in various spots on her clothing and body. The nun grew suspicious when Mom kept her winter coat on for the whole trip despite the fact it was an unusually warm April day.

When I got home from school, I knew Mom was having a good afternoon if she had chocolate stuck between her teeth. She smiled a lot after chocolate, and smiled harder when Dad hit his thumb with a hammer.
Happy Easter, Ma! love, your Boys
Rory Tommy Bunny @1959

Ryans' @1938 
If you enjoy my work, check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." It's available at  Logos Bookstore, 1575 York Avenue, or buy it online at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble or other booksellers. If you do read it, please leave a few honest words about the book on Amazon and B&N. Thank you!  (125 five-star Amazon reviews out of 125 posted)

St. Joe's 8th grade @1944


Friday, April 14, 2017

"Gang Way!"

You know you’re old when you remember being stuck inside a discarded locked refrigerator.

In 1963, the thrown-out fridge with an intact door and functional handle was on the sidewalk in front of the Sullivan McNamara house on 83rd Street. We wanted to see how many kids could get in there and still lock it. After we took the metal trays out, four guys did fit inside when everyone pulled their stomachs in. You only played this game with close friends.

Everyone understood this was fun only if the door reopened quickly. We knew that a few years back on 80th Street, kids were locked in a fridge and when the guys on the outside tried to open it, the door handle broke off and the kids were trapped (Parents like to repeat horror stories). A Con Ed worker was watching the action from his hole in the street. He grabbed a sledge hammer and gave the side of the refrigerator a few good whacks. The door popped open, the kids got out but spent the rest of the day with the shakes.

Old refrigerators provided hours of pleasure, but new ones did too, or at least the boxes they came in did. The fridge box was huge, taller than any kid and made of sturdy heavy-duty cardboard. There were three games.

When the box was intact, a guy would get in and the guys on the outside would rattle the box and knock it over a few times, then each guy would take a turn getting in and slammed around. It was preferable not to go last, since you probably pissed someone off for playing too rough and they were looking to get even. This game would eventually knock out the bottom of the box.

When the bottom fell out, the box became a tank. We turned it on its side, and as many kids as possible would crawl in it and we’d begin to roll down the street, screaming, “Gang way! Gang way! Coming Through!” No one could see what was in front of them. Most of the time, people cleared the sidewalk and gave us room. We rolled over my brother Rory once, but he had on double winter clothes and hardly felt a thing. After a few trips up and down the block the tank would blow a gasket and tear.

We no longer had a cylinder, just a long wide strip of cardboard that was perfect for a sliding pond down the longer stoops in the neighborhood. The closest tall stoops were on the east side of York Avenue between 85th Street and 86th Street. We dragged the box over to one of those babies and played until the box blew its last breath.

If you like my work 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 & Noble.


art by Joe Dettmore

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

J Geils, Thank You For The Music & The Joy

My favorite J Geils memory: In 1979, my friends and I struck gold. A group of us played rugby for St. John’s, we were good friends with one of John Scher’s bouncers at the summer Doctor Pepper concerts in Central Park’ skating rink space. Tony rucked for the Long Island Rugby Club. The deal: we met Tony at the VIP gate and as each of us shook his hand; he palmed the five dollar bill we each gave him. This was simultaneous with the entrance of the general admission crowd giving us access to the third row in the orchestra right behind the press and special guests. Unfortunately, this routine was cut short when Tony relocated in fall 1980. But for two years we had boss seats for all concerts.

J Geils was our band. They played Central Park the summer of 79. When we vamooshed a cocktail hour inside an apartment before the parents came home, “I’m Looking For A Love,” was our go out song from the Lp “The Morning After.” Important element for beginning a solid evening.


It rained weakly for an hour before the J Geils show. Since it was a sprinkle they let us in at the normal time. In the third row, we used our shirts to dry the rain off the seats. As I turned to sit down over the Plaza Hotel I saw a breath taking cloud racing towards us and a minute later it dumped buckets of rain. So intense, I laughed and let it run over me. A stream from my head to my chest to my lap to my feet. My Converse sneakers were squeaking, my tee-shirt and shorts were attached to me like suction cups. After a “It’s never going to stop,” ten minutes suddenly the sun burst through and pushed the cloud away. It was over but there was three inches of water under our seats. Canceled I thought.” We sat there waiting for them to tell us to leave.


Two minutes later, Peter Wolf came out on stage looked us over and the less than half filled place and started laughing then the band joined him. He looked down at us and directed us to do the canoe, as his arms went back and forth like he was traveling upstream without a paddle but thought he had one. So we did the same thing, Stephen Jo Bladd banged the drums and the band rammed into “Ain’t Nothing But A House Party.” They played for two hours and forty minutes. We did The Canoe. Life is good.  J Geils, R.I.P.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Stoops to Nuts April Fools Return to Ryan's Daughter

Milo Noven
Thank you, Walter, Jim, Mick, and everybody else at Ryans Daughter for letting us go crazy cuckoo nuts Saturday night at Thomas Pryor's April Fools Stoops to Nuts Soiree.

Thank you, to my fine storytelling friends, Tricia Alexandro,  Joe Dettmore & JP Connolly, for coming on board the nut train.

My heart and gratitude are yours for bringing your best. Thank you, to our Stoops to Nuts audience. We work hard for you. You deserve it.

Here are more photographs from our show Saturday night at Ryan's Daughter.


JP Connolly







Joe Dettmore

Tricia Alexandro


Our Town Photo Contest Winner ~ 3.31.17





If you enjoy my work, check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." It's available at  Logos Bookstore, 1575 York Avenue, or buy it online at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble or other booksellers. If you do read it, please leave a few honest words about the book on Amazon and B&N. Thank you!  (124 five-star Amazon reviews out of 124 posted)


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Tonight @ 7pm @ Ryan's Daughter City Boy's Stoops To Nuts

Tricia Alexandro, courtesy of The New York Times
TONIGHT @ April 1st @ 7PM ~ Ryans Daughter presents Thomas Pryor's April Fools Stoops to Nuts Soiree. Pryor's guest storytellers: Tricia Alexandro, a wonderful actor and talented writer. Ms Alexandro was praised in The New York Times for her work in “The Unrepeatable Moment,” by John Yearly ; Joe Dettmore (Creative Director of The Daily Show, actor, storyteller & and master craftsman): and J.P. Connolly (An infamous Rose Hill yarn spinner who's stories always lead you back to Fordham rugby or The Irish Riviera (Rockaway Beach). Pryor promises a swell time with new Yorkville tales from his "City Boy" solo show with ancient B&W photos and silly movies.
Joe Dettmore

Pryor’s passion is preserving the history of Yorkville and the Upper East Side through storytelling, writing and photography. His solo show about the neighborhood, “City Boy,” premiered at Cornelia Street Cafe and was featured here at Ryan’s Daughter. Copies of his memoir and his acclaimed 2012 photographic portfolio, "River to River ~ New York Scenes from a Bicycle," will be available for purchase.  Ryans Daughter @ 350 East 85th Street (performance space is on the 2nd floor) - between First and Second Avenues. Take the #4, #5 or #6 subway to 86th Street. Or the Q/Second Avenue subway to 86th Street.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

On Three, Smile ~ City Boy Returns to Ryan's Daughter

This photo taken by my Dad won Our Town Eastsider photo contest.

Hope to see you this Saturday. 

@ Ryans Daughter this Saturday, April 1st @ 7pm.
Our talented storytelling guests: Tricia Alexandro, Joe Dettmore, J.P. Connolly
 and City Boy in a special appearance 







every picture tells a story...  don't it?

“OK, go stand against the wall.” Dad said. “Oh God, another annoying picture.” Mom mumbled. Summer 1961, we just stepped off the Lexington Avenue local at the end of the line: the Pelham Bay Park El subway stop. With his Yashica 44 camera hanging from his neck, Dad was gathering us for our first group shot. On our way to Freedomland, the terrific new amusement park in the north Bronx, Dad thought he'd capture every step of the way. Every step. The three of us took a vote and Dad won “biggest pain in the neck of all time,” and we didn’t even get to the ticket booth yet. “No, no, Tommy on the left, Patty, you in the middle, Rory on the right.” Dad said. “I want to be in the middle!” “Rory, be quiet.” After the three of us were placed in dog show positions, Dad said, “Hold still, and smile when I count to three.” Mom said through her tight lips,”On three, make a stupid face.” “One, two… three!” And here it is. The most revealing photo in my family history. Mom and I in cahoots make stupid faces, Rory is still upset at Dad for not letting him stand in the middle. Because we ruined Dad’s photo, he walked ahead of us and didn’t talk to us for an hour.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Kenny DeVoe's Magic Nose Live @ Ryan's Daughter April Fool's April 1st @ 7pm @ Ryan's Dughter

Thomas Pryor's April Fools Stoops to Nuts Soiree
next Saturday, April 1st @ 7pm @ Ryans Daughter

"Kenny DeVoe's Magic Nose"

Walking to school the day Mom asked Dad for a house money raise, I smiled, remembering it was Good Friday. That afternoon we’d be doing the Stations of the Cross in the church. Right after lunch, I said, “Sister, can I be excused?” The nun made a face but she had to let me go down to the sacristy to transform into an altar boy. The rest of the class and the whole school assembled in the pews a half hour later. Kids ate the Stations of the Cross up. It was theatre. Two altar boys with gigantic candles would stand to the side of a third boy carrying Jesus on what to me looked like a heavy duty stickball bat with a crucifix on top. You felt like you were in the Roman Legion and you got to leave the altar and walk up and down the church aisles. “Look at me!” Standing right next to your chums and pretty older girls who couldn’t make you go away. That particular afternoon, things got interesting.
Kenny Devoe loved altar wine and for some reason would never drink it directly from the gallon jug. He carefully poured the wine into the cruet, the tiny glass vessel used during the mass. This drove me crazy. First problem was a twelve-year-old drinking wine. Did Kenny think he was going to get in more trouble or less trouble depending on his method for getting it into his stomach? The other problem was his slow wine transfer meant he was tripling the chance of getting caught. We knew if Kenny got busted our indictments were sealed. School rule - If you’re there, you did it.
That day, Kenny drank too much. When the altar bells rang, we led the priest out of the sacristy to the center of the altar to start the procession. I had a candle, Smithy had the cross and Kenny the other candle. At the ninth station, when Jesus carrying the cross falls for the third time, the entire student body cheered him on with practiced sarcasm learned from first grade through eighth grade; they read from their missals, “Jesus – exhausted – in pain – for the third and final time. Long pause here BUT, NO! Jesus rose and struggled on!”
Three hundred little boxing announcers sounding like Don Dunphy at ringside screamed, ‘our Lord had risen from the canvas back into the heat of the battle.’ The nuns flew around the church wanting to thump somebody but really couldn’t do anything, while the getting-away-with-murder insolent children picked up the reading speed leading towards an early dismissal. The nuns tried to slow it down but the three hundred-voice rock was rolling downhill. After a good giggle, I looked around the church for some of my friends, when I noticed Kenny nodding off into the flame at the top of his candle. I nudged Smith carrying the pole, who nudged Kenny, but Kenny was well past that point. He was a sleeping horse standing up in his stall. After a hard nudge, Kenny’s head lifted up with a jolt, he shook his noggin and wiggled his nose. Then he gradually dropped back into the flame. We pulled Kenny along through the rest of the stations. By the end, his nose smelt like skirt steak. Kenny left the altar boys that week. His nose, first purple, and then red for a year became Kenny Devoe’s Magical Nose.

Monday, March 20, 2017

I'm A Lucky Boy

1958 in Apt #4R at 517 E. 83rd Street
Nice surprise for my birthday, Joe Dettmore, Nicole Ferraro, Jeff Rose, Kyle Erickson & Leslie Goshko showed up last night with pepperoni pizza and a chocolate cake from Two Little Red Hens. Thank you, pals! xoxo teepee ~ Today, The New York Times printed my Metro Diary piece on pg A20. I'm a lucky boy.

Storytelling returns to Ryans Daughter ~ Thomas Pryor's April Fools "Stoops to Nuts" soiree ~ we've locked in gifted artists: Tricia Alexandro(actor/writer praised by The New York Times); Joe Dettmore (The Daily Show, Creative Director) & J.P. Connolly (King of The Hill). A swell time with "City Boy" tales, ancient B&W photos, silly movies, great tunes sung by a soon to be named songsmith. Come on down to 350 East 85th St. on 4/1/17 @7pm
FREE SHOW.






If you enjoy my work, check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." It's available at Logos Bookstore, 1575 York Avenue, or buy it online at AmazonBarnes and Noble or other booksellers. If you do read it, please leave a few honest words about the book on Amazon and B&N. Thank you! (124 five-star Amazon reviews out of 124 posted)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Happy St. Joseph Day ~ My Beard Itches!

March 19th is the Feast of St. Joseph. An Upper East Side wide holiday in 1962. The St. Joseph parish on 87th Street began as an orphanage on York Avenue (then known as Avenue A) and 89th Street in the 1800s. The present church’s cornerstone was blessed in 1894. My mother and her sisters went to St. Joe’s school in the 1940s. My affection for the saint was built into me.

In second grade, I was chosen to play St. Joseph in a play in front of the St. Stephen of Hungary's student body. Everything about this excited me right up to the beard but the nun lied. She told us St. Joe was the patron saint for the U.S. Post Office and therefore in heaven he was in charge of the mail between heaven and earth.

I later found out St. Joseph had never been near a post office but had a lot of other patronage responsibilities including patron saint against doubt, for cabinetmakers, Canada, carpenters, China, confectioners, craftsmen, dying people, engineers, families, fathers, a happy death, a holy death, house hunters, Korea, laborers, Mexico, New France, Peru, pioneers, social justice, travelers, Universal Church, Vatican II, Viet Nam, working people.

Alas, I was St. Joseph in charge of Heaven's post office and as my costume got built by the Nun I got happier and happier. First, I got to wear Father Emeric's cool brown priest sandals. The sandals signaled poverty but to me they signaled taking my toes out for a walk in the cool March air. Then, I got to wear his brown robe with rope belt. The priest uniform, I had the whole priest uniform! And I could swing that Franciscan poverty rope around like a beat cop. I nailed a couple of kids in the head as I walked up to the stage. They'd get even later. Who cared?

Sister Lorraine, our teacher, had this thing for the post office and authentic historical scenes and since St. Joe had a beard I was getting a beard. I had no problem until they put the itchy wool choker on my face held on by a thick rubber band over my ears and around my neck that cut off the blood to my brain. I couldn't stand it, and though I knew my lines I had a problem getting them out of my mouth through the beard to the audience. I fixed that. Every time I spoke I lifted the contraption off my face and spoke my lines out of the side of my mouth. It was my last feature role.

Happy Saint Joseph's Day!
Original St. Joseph's on Avenue A & 89th Street, 1890.



**********

Storytelling returns to Ryans Daughter ~ Thomas Pryor's April Fools "Stoops to Nuts" soiree ~ we've locked in gifted artists: Tricia Alexandro (actor/writer praised by The New York Times); Joe Dettmore (The Daily Show, Creative Director) and J.P. Connolly (King of The Hill). A swell time with "City Boy" tales, ancient B&W photos, silly movies, great tunes sung by a soon to be named songsmith. Come on down to 350 East 85th St. on Saturday, April, 1st @7pm

FREE SHOW.

If you enjoy my work, check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." It's available at Logos Bookstore, 1575 York Avenue, or buy it online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or other booksellers. If you do read it, please leave a few honest words about the book on Amazon and B&N. Thank you! (124 five-star Amazon reviews out of 124 posted)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Skating Away



A few winters ago, I needed cash downtown. Wickedly windy, I ran to the HSBC near Duane Park north of Chambers. After the bank, I jogged down Warren Street towards Whole Foods. In a crystal clear store window, I saw my reflection running, “I know you!” Then I saw myself in the process of falling. Some knucklehead wet down the sidewalk in front of his double-wide building creating 40 feet of icy death under me. The super genius wanted to clear the remaining dirty snow off. It was 15 degrees out.
First, I did a Dorothy Hamill on the frozen sheet. One leg lifted unintentionally towards the sky while the other turned 90 degrees off the ball of my foot. For this part of my program, I imagined the East German judge gave me a “5″ on his card.


Following the Hamill move, I did a James Brown shuffle, where my arms got involved trying to sustain enough balance not to go down, I resembled a kid imitating a steam engine, “Good & Plenty, Good, & Plenty.” Coming to the end of the ice, I tried to slow by pushing both feet down hard, but this spun me around 180 degrees. Now I couldn’t see where I was going, so I moon-walked the rest of the way, left the ice prepared to fall, covered my head and took all of the impact on my bottom. I’m going to a have shiner on my hinny tomorrow.

Storytelling returns to Ryans Daughter ~ Thomas Pryor's April Fools "Stoops to Nuts" soiree ~ we've locked in gifted artists: Tricia Alexandro(actor/writer praised by The New York Times); Joe Dettmore (The Daily Show, Creative Director) & J.P. Connolly (King of The Hill). A swell time with "City Boy" tales, ancient B&W photos, silly movies, great tunes sung by a soon to be named songsmith. Come on down to 350 East 85th St. on 4/1/17 @7pm
FREE SHOW.





This piece appeared in my column in Ask A New Yorker this week.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Thinking Of Dad

Listening to Dean Martin sing “Houston,” I'm thinking about my father. He died 15 years ago today. If he and I were alone in our 83rd Street living room listening to a record, paying attention 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, he also 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.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Groovin' On The Met Steps

Thirty something years ago it was 72 degrees on President's Day. Gerard Murphy and I gathered together a cooler full of ice and Buds (from Coleman's Deli), a cassette radio, many tapes and extra batteries ( just in case).
With provisions we headed for the Met Museum steps and grooved for hours on tunes and pretty girls in the warm winter sun. When the chill of dusk set in we carried the cooler and all else to a friendly Second Ave Mexican restaurant. We ate like piggies, drinking our own left over beers (yes, they let us do that) with our music on just loud enough not to get kicked out.

Best President's Day ever.



Thursday, February 16, 2017

My First Coffin In Bizarro World

@surrealDonaldTrump thanks for the trip back to Joe's Candy Store. Completely forgot about Bizarro World until you brought it back. Here is one of 53 stories in my Yorkville memoir, "I Hate The Dallas Cowboys ~ tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."





My First Coffin

In the summer, in the city, there was a special bond between a kid and who got his soda business. This was my relationship.

My first coffin was metal. It measured six feet long, three feet wide, and three feet deep. It rested on a wood base that lifted its height up by one foot. It sat in near darkness at the rear of the parlor. Everyone paid their respects. Upon close examination, you saw it bled sweat and you heard it release a soft steady communal hum. It held something we cherished and missed all the time. It chilled soda bottles in Joe's candy store.

The cooler was battered and colored red, with a raised Coca-Cola bottle cap appearing on all four sides. A similar model followed Ike across Europe throughout World War II. I loved the coffin. I kissed it when no one was looking. 
similar to my first coffin but not as big


Joe's candy store was our neighborhood's home base. Till I knew better, I thought a couple of kids lived there. Joe was a fifty-year-old moody Italian bachelor. Every day, Joe arrived at the store with grey work pants, a grey tee shirt and a puss on his face. Joe was a man of few words. Here's a day's worth. 

"What do you want?" 

"Put the comic book back." 

"In the right place." 

"Get out." 

Joe was a miser. He made Silas Marner look philanthropic. There were no fans in the store and minimal electricity. Con Edison had Joe on their "to be watched" list. To save money he used low wattage refrigerator and aquarium light bulbs in the store, giving the space a glow of gloom. 

Coming in from the bright sunshine into the wartime blackout you became disoriented. With enough kids in there you could get a good game of blind man's bluff going without the blindfold. Despite his record-breaking cheapness, Joe was no fool. If you had a candy store you must have ice cold soda. Kids boycotted candy stores that ignored this rule. The water temperature in Joe's cooler always flirted with the freezing mark. 

Sometimes, you needed to submarine your hand through a thin crust of ice forming on the surface. 200 bottles of soda buried deep beneath the sea, in a light so dim the eels bumped into each other. More than twenty different brands slept on the ocean's floor. With the cooler sitting on a foot tall base anyone less than four feet tall needed to lift himself to plunge into the Loch in search of Nessy. Unfortunately, I usually craved a bottle of Mission Cream. 

Mission soda was a local favorite with 10 different flavors. Mission's bottles had zero variation in style, texture or height. All Missions being equal led to a courage speech I'd give myself before each attempt. "You can do it. I've seen you do it. Do it." 

Shorter than the top of the coffin, I'd hop up, and swing my arm over its front wall. My armpit was now responsible for keeping me airborne. I'd sink my other arm into the icy water with a numbing splash. I was 100 percent dependent on my tactile skill for the bottle retrieval. My hand and forearm would tighten up before I achieved bottle depth. When I reached the wreck, my numb digits embraced the familiar Mission shape and pulled one up. Orange. 

"Ooooh," I moaned. 

Back down the bottle would go. I'd do my best to remember where I replanted it. The bottles were snug as sardines. I had limited time before my arm below the elbow lost all sensation. If my search stretched beyond a minute and my favorite soda remained unlocated, sensors went off. The front of my arm turned into a bottle-nosed dolphin. Using the pain impulses shooting through my hand, sonar signals would strike the bottles then return to my brain revealing vital bottle data. Rotating my arm in a corkscrew motion increased blood circulation allowing a brief search extension, but the water was too cold. Pride swallowed, I raised the last bottle I touched before my hand passed out. It was a Root Beer. "Grrrrr." 
Mission soda sign behind Nan


I moved the second place soda gently from my puffy blue hand to my landlubber hand. I tucked my arm under my noncombatant armpit, rocking back and forth till warmth returned. With phony bravado, I grinned at my friends. A wicked pleasure swept through the crowd when someone chose a soda you knew wasn't their first choice. Everyone knew each other's favorite soda right behind knowing their favorite sports team or movie star. When I was in the hot seat, I sat there drinking the soda, faking enjoyment, saying, "hmmm" or "aaahhh", followed by a satisfying swipe of my mouth. I knew, they knew, I was lying. It didn't matter, I went down swinging. 

Addressing the mob, I'd say, "I do like it. I really do like it. I just didn't tell anybody." 

One day when I was eight years old, I was moping around the store doing nothing. Joe, ready to throw me out, switched moods and asked me to take a newspaper around the corner to Mrs. Todero. I did. Two weeks later, Mrs. Moose was added to my delivery route. After a month, Joe asked me if I wanted to deliver the New York Times on Sunday mornings. He said my pay would be a dollar and any flavor milk shake I wanted. Excellent money. I knew I'd get decent tips so the dollar pay was gravy. First Sunday, I showed up at 7 am. Joe gave me 15 papers to pile into a grocery-shopping cart he told me was on loan from Sloan's Supermarket. "On loan?" I thought, "that's nice." Two hours later, three dollars richer in tips, I returned to the store triumphantly baring an empty cart and an awful milk shake craving.
Barbara, Joan, Rory, and a kid with a donald duck hat


"I'm back." 

Behind the counter, Joe gave me a grunt with not too much mood. I rode the cart to the back of the store and returned to the counter for my beautiful reward. I was in a death match struggling between chocolate and vanilla, chocolate and vanilla. They were both so good and I didn't want to wait till next week for either one. Mom did this black and white thing with her egg creams and I toyed with that for a while but settled back to vanilla. 

"Joe, I'm ready." 

"What flavor do you want?" 

"I'd love a chocolate shake please." 

My tongue left my mouth to circle my lips. I spun around and did four revolutions on the counter stool off one push. My record was five. I eased my effort not wanting to be too dizzy while sucking down the shake. A couple more takeoffs and the mixer roar died down. I turned as Joe approached me with a big smile. This unnerved me. It took a while to leave his smile and return my eyes back to the important matter, my delicious chocolate shake. I looked down. I smelled it before I fully thought out the word... strawberry... strawberry... Joe walked away before I could confront him. I began presenting my case towards his back. 

"Joe I asked for chocolate. This is not chocolate. I don't like strawberry. I can't eat it." 

Joe never turned around. I didn't see his face the whole time I sat there playing with the shake. After it got luke warm, I pushed it to the edge of the counter. On the way out, I said good bye. Joe was washing the long stirring spoons - for the second time in the previous ten minutes. 

"Hey Joe, can I get a chocolate shake next week?" 

"Yeah." 

"Promise?" 

"Yep." 

Liar, I thought. 

Joe never made me a chocolate, vanilla or black and white shake. I stopped hopping on the counter after Sunday paper deliveries. What was the point? Joe delivered a strawberry shake each time. At least he stopped smiling. Over time, I realized that Mr. Stingy was moving his stock and the strawberry had to go. My compensation sunk back to a dollar. I hardly noticed. At eight years old, counting tips, four dollars in my pocket made me a wealthy man.

Previously published in  A Prairie Home Companion


This is one of fifty-three stories in my Yorkville 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 123 Amazon five star reviews out of 123 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.