Sunday, May 24, 2020

"He Was My Best Friend."

Pasquale Cuccia
It was the end of May 1999. I was at Nan's bedside at The Jewish Home on 106th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. She'd just passed her fourth anniversary in Room Frank 510 - we didn't celebrate.

What's today?"
"No, the date?"
"May 30th"
Nan, my Dad’s mother, turned her head towards the window.
"What's a matter?"
She didn't answer. 
I tried again.
"Nan, what's bothering you?"
"My cousin."
Your cousin, who?"
"My older cousin."
"Pasquale, your older cousin?"
"He died."
"OK, where did he die?"
 "We're you guys close?"
Giovanna Cuccia, my great grandmother

 Nan turned her had back to me, her tearing eyes milky white from macular degeneration. 
Anna Cuccia @ 1917

"He was my best friend."

She was 12 in 1918. Her family lived at 1403 on Avenue A right off 75th Street. Nan told me Pasquale lived around the corner and walked her to school when he wasn't working in the cigar factory on 69th Street.

"I was a tomboy; he'd played catch with me and skate with me.  Pasquale got me out of trouble with my mother ~ she loved him. He was tall and always stepped in when she was ready to give me a whack. He'd pick Mom up and spin her round. She'd forget all about me."

81 years later, my grandmother, Ann Pryor Rode, formerly, Anna Cuccia, 93, was remembering her cousin, Pasquale, with love. He died for his adopted country.

Years ago, Memorial Day always fell on May 30th. It was a somber day. No fireworks, honor guard honoring the flag, and later a long moment of silence at the ball game remembering those who died for their country.

Thomas E. Pryor Jr. @1945

Robert A. Pryor with cousins on 84th St @1946

500 block 84 St. Flag Dedication @1942

Anna Cuccia @ Ann Pryor on 511 stoop @1942

84 St @1942


Tommy & Nan Rode at her District Leadership retirement
party at Tavern on The Green @1995

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Another Park, Another Sunday

My neck and back feel like they’ve been whacked by Lizzy Borden's sturdy axe. I need fresh air. I'm out of here.

Off to the park on the bike, I cycle through the Engineer's Gate at 90th Street across the street from the Church of the Heavenly Rest, and put my music on ~ first song is " Another Park, Another Sunday" Doobie Brothers.
This song goes through me starting deep in my tummy. It's sad, and melodically beautiful. It's OK the lyrics get me down. It's good to be reminded of loss. Weigh where I am,  how I feel, give me a gauge. Central Park is an ideal location for me to do that. I've burrowed through its 843 acres for thousand of hours. Inside my warren, I've climbed, ran, biked, swam, made out, slept, laughed, played, lost a balloon, made promises, tore muscles, watched people endlessly, lots of sex, cried, sealed friendships, some forever, fell in love, got high, got too high, got lost, felt helpless, fought, made up, said things to people I love that I can never take back. Ever. Central Park is organically connected to all my senses.

I did three loops but cheated, using the 102nd Street transverse to get to the Westside. I rarely do the hill from hell at the north end of the park. I have no problem with the hill, but I don't like the long coast down.

I lost my recklessness twenty summers ago, when I took a piece of meat out of my forehead over my left eye. I fell off my bike going down a hill  and waited three hours in Lenox Hill to get stitches. A perp on another bike was at fault.

Ate the emergency room ran into Ronny Hanerfeld and his family. Later, Nicky Bowen from 87th Street walked in with his gang. Each had a kid that needed medical assistance. We had a reunion. It was 92 degrees outside that Saturday. I had a rag over my eye covering the wound, no shirt on, too bloody, the nurse threw it away. My Patagonia running shorts crept up the crack of my ass. So, with me just shy of nude, we reminisced.

Another Park, Another Sunday  
(The Doobie Brothers)

As I was sittin' in my room, starin' out my window
And wonder where you've gone
Thinking back on the happy hours
Just before the dawn

Outside the wind is blowin'
It seems to call your name again
Where have you gone?

City streets and lonely highways
I travel down
My car is empty and the radio just seems to
Bring me down

I'm just tryin' to find me
A pretty smile that I can get into
It's true, I'm lost without you

Another lonely park, another Sunday
Why is it life turns out that way?
Just when you think you got a good thing
It seems to slip away

It's warm outside, no clouds are in the sky
But I need myself place to go and hide
I keep it to myself, I don't want nobody else
To see me cryin' all those tears in my eyes

Another lonely park, another Sunday
Why is it life turns out that way?
Just when you think you got a good thing
It seems to slip away, yeah yeah

Another park, another Sunday
It's dark and empty thanks to you
I got to get myself together
But it's hard to do

Another park, another Sunday
Why is it life turns out that way?
Just when you think you got a good thing
It seems to slip away, yeah yeah

Another park, another Sunday
It's dark and empty thanks to you
I got to get myself together
But it's hard to do, yeah

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Happy Birthday, Malibu Bob!

My favorite Dad story in my memoir was published in Mr. Beller's Neighborhood.  Today he would be 91. One big P.I.A. but every day, I miss his intelligence, curiosity and his love for life.

Happy 91, Malibu Bob!  love, Tommy

Dad and I did four things together: play sports, attend sports, watch TV, and go to the movies. I liked movies the best. It’s much harder telling a kid what to do in the dark. You would have loved taking me to the movies when I was 6 years old. I was a cheap date, one box of Pom Poms caramels and a dime soda kept me blissful through the whole film and I shut up. Didn’t want to miss anything.

It was the fall of 1960, which I remember for three reasons: I just started first grade, the Yankees lost to the Pirates in the World Series, and Dad was rooting for Nixon against Kennedy to spite my Irish grandfather. I still believed my father was infallible. He never had to use this line on me — “Are you gonna believe what you see or what I tell you?” He accomplished his goals without direct engagement. Looking back, I suspect he periodically forgot I was his son and thought I was the most intelligent dog in the world. But this day would be different.
Dad’s charm was in full swing as he pulled me along up 86th Street. I kept my eye out for friends. The last thing I needed were the guys giving me the business, “Daddy still holds ya hand, Tommy the baby!” Resistance was futile, so I decided to keep tight to Dad’s side so it looked like we were just walking very close together.
“So, what do you want to see?” Dad stopped at the corner of Third Avenue, moved the cigarette out of his mouth and looked down at me. "The Mouse that Roared", a very funny comedy, or that other film up there, The Time Machine?”
Up ahead of us on the north side of 86th Street were two movie houses, the Loew’s Orpheum and the gigantic RKO.
“What are they about?”
“Well… The Mouse That Roared is about a tiny little country that declares war on the United States. The star of the film, Peter Sellers, is a famous English comedian. You’ll love him.”
I just stared at Dad hoping he’d move on. I didn’t like war. Finally he said, “The Time Machine is a science fiction movie I don’t know much about.”
“What do you know?”
“It’s about time travel.”
“I want to see "The Time Machine.'”
Dad stared down at me, holding the look, hoping I’d keep talking. I didn’t. Getting this look made me nervous and I usually blabbed on just like Dad wanted so he could carefully talk me out of something. But this time we just stared at each other.
After a traffic-light-missing pause, Dad said, “What???”
“I love time travel.”
Dad rolled his eyes. He had no clue how crazy I was for Mr. Peabody and Sherman on "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show," which I watched faithfully every Sunday. Mr. Peabody invented the WABAC Machine (pronounced “way back”), which allowed him and Sherman to time-travel to ancient Rome, the voyages of Columbus, the dinosaur era, you name it. I wasn’t sure what science fiction was, but I loved time travel.
Dad recovered. “Oh, I bet it’s going to be one of those talky films you hate.”
I said nothing.
Dad threw a wild punch, hoping it would land. “If we go to "The Mouse That Roared," I’ll take you to Prexy’s afterwards for a hamburger and a milk shake.”
I ducked his shot. “Why can’t we go to Prexy’s anyway?”
Dad’s shoulders rolled forward and his chest fell as he grabbed my hand. Swiftly, we crossed Third Avenue, sidestepping the spray from a street-cleaner truck, and headed to the RKO to see Rod Taylor, whoever he was, in "The Time Machine." 


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 at 1575 York Avenue or online at Amazon & Barnes & Noble.

The book has 133 Amazon five star reviews out of 133 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.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

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!  (133 five-star Amazon reviews out of 133 posted)

St. Joe's 8th grade @1944

Friday, April 10, 2020

Glory Days?

Old Cathedral Girl High School sweatshirt @ 1970, Fits! ( not really) School's long gone from 50th Street & Lexington along with Radio City Music Hall showing a new movie and Rockettes Radio City all day.
LaSalle Academy H.S. Graduation, June 1972, my parents had not seen each other in two years. He was excommunicated from the household. Not sure my father would show up for the graduation and not sure Mom would stay if he did. Remarkably, they were scary polite to one another. They focused on me but snuck lovey looks. At some point he asked her to dinner. Mom said OK. I started to dribble. Next morning, I woke up to pee and I heard Dad's voice coming from the kitchen. I thought or maybe said out loud, "oh shit, here we go again."
And there we went... glory days


6.12.72 trouble ahead

Asphalt Plant 1974


January 1969 Room 406
LaSalle Academy
Freshman class day after Jets won Super Bowl

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Yorkville Is Still Here

The Drive
86th St. Horseshoe staircase
The day ended with a blast of nature's beauty down Carl Schurz Park.

Yorkville is still here.
86th St. Horseshoe staircase

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Uncle Mommy ~ Best Baby Sitter Ever

Barbara, Joan, Rory, me in the summer of 1958
Pryor children babysitting rule #1: all assignments outside the Pryor apartment were only accepted by our grandparents and my mother's two sisters. All other houses begged off. There was one unbreakable caveat with the aunts and the grandparents ~ no one would watch the two of us together. The extended family agreed, "Tommy and Rory were not allowed in the same house without parental supervision."
Rory and I fought over any spot on the couch the other was in; the last slice of bacon and battled to the death over who licked the tuna fish bowl after Mom made our sandwiches.

When Bob and Patty Pryor went out, Rory stayed with the Ryan grandparents or Barbara and Mickey. I stayed with the Pryor-Rode grandparents or Joan and George.
Rory and I had our needs met at all households, but Joannie had bongos, an FM radio and a bullfighter poster on her wall. She had a calypso bar with high stools and wore clam diggers as she danced and sang around the living room. I kept expecting Trini Lopez to drop in.
Uncle Mommy & me, on Hudson, 1963
Joan and George took me to the beach named after Joan. This was good since the Pryors didn't have a car.

I loved my grandparents, aunts and uncles, but my favorite babysitter was Mom. Sometimes, it was just her and me. She called me her “Cow, Cow, Boogie,” and I called her "Good Ol' Uncle Mommy," she asked me why, "because you're the best uncle I ever had!"

Mom giving Dad the business @ 1962
We snuggled on our tiny 83rd Street couch watching The Twilight Zone and Hitchcock on Friday nights after Rory conked out. Her smile stopped my clock.

I was a lousy artist, a stinky poet, and I had a stutter. None of this disrupted me from trying to make Uncle Mommy laugh. She loved Rory and me like a freight train. Today Mom would be 90, and I'm still working on stuff for her. It's my job. To Make Uncle Mommy laugh.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Watching The Wheels Go Round & Round

The plan was to build a bridge at 77th Street. It was the 1870s. Later, the city decided to move the bridge to 59th Street after doing condemnation on property from Ave A to river, from 76th Street to 79th Street.

John Jay

John Jay

The change in venue for the bridge gave Yorkville these icons: P.S. 158, The Suburbans & John Jay Park.

Ave A & 77th St


Thursday, March 5, 2020

Baby Workout!

" Baby Workout" and Jackie Wilson did. Thank you, Dean Dacian, for these photos from last Friday's Thomas Pryor's City Boy: Stoops to Nuts at Ryans Daughter. We had a good time. Thank you, Walter & Jim, and everybody at Ryans Daughter. Thank you, Joe Dettmore, Fred Caruso & G Murphy for partnering up and bringing your best. Thank you, John F. Kennedy for flipping my father out and putting Rory I through too many stupid workouts, way too early.

Feel the burn!

Rory nailing it.

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Jackie Wilson