Thursday, May 19, 2022

Son Of A Son Of A Sailor

Dad&cousins@1946@500 E. 84st.
February 1941, on a Saturday morning, my father woke up and found his father drinking coffee alone in the kitchen with only the bare winter light coming in through the backyard window. My grandmother and uncle had left for work. Dad, 11, talked baseball with his Dad while eating three bowls of cereal. My 40 year old grandfather, ill with Potts Disease, a late stage Tuberculosis, told his son he needed to rest and suggested Dad go out and play. Dad got dressed took his mother’s scarf on his father’s suggestion, then he got a long hug and a wet kiss from his father and a good bye in his ear, twice.

Thomas Pryor @Mt. Loretto Orphanage

After my father left, my grandfather pushed himself up from the table, grabbed a bunch of towels and stuck them under the door and the windows. He pulled a chair over to the oven, stuck his head in it and killed himself. My father found his father dead an hour later and ran and get a cop.

T. Pryor S. I. Orphanage intake-card @1909

Today is Dad’s birthday, if he were here he’d be 93 and he’d still be expecting a call a day and a kiss on the lips, hello and goodbye. When I was young I didn’t understand his strong grip on Rory and my life. He was a suffocating son of a bitch but I guess he wanted to make sure we didn’t leave him.


Lucky for me, he was the most interesting pain in the ass I’ve ever known, and I miss him each day. His artistic and mechanical talent was boundless, barely owning an education (his early schooling were movies and the big bands at the Paramount) he read everything and could talk any subject intelligently. He knew every joke ever told, and told them well, over and over again.

Most of all he was a sailor, in his heart and in his soul. No conversation was ever far away from a reference to the sea, the Navy, the Merchant Marines, or his three trips around the world. Dad joined the Navy on his 17th birthday in 1946 after a failed attempt the previous year to get in before the war ended. After two years in the Navy he spent three more in the Merchant Marines.

1947 U.S.S. Mindoro carrier

If Dad didn’t meet Mom, he would have made a career at sea. He loved us dearly but never lost his yearning. My brother and I often heard, “if it wasn’t for you I’d be on the ocean.” He told me his father’s fondest wish was to be a sailor. Maybe in his heart that’s what my grandfather was. Being a sailor must have been a dreamy place to go to when he was a boy in the Staten Island orphanage, Mount Loretto at the end of Hyland Blvd. and later when the disease sent him upstate to Tuberculosis Sanatoriums for seven of his last ten years. Maybe my Dad wanted to finish his Dad’s dream. For five years, he got the chance




On way to Bear Mt. 1963




Friday, April 15, 2022

Kenny Devoe's Magical 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.




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.


The book has 136 Amazon five star reviews out of 136 total reviews posted.  My old world echoes TV's "The Wonder Years" ~ just add taverns, subways and Checker cabs. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

School Lunch Is Killing Me

"Fear!"
Thank you, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood for publishing my story today, "School Lunch Is Killing Me."


“Lefty, what did you do with the hard boiled egg?” I worked the words out of the side of my mouth. I was Jimmy Cagney in “White Heat” and I wanted to take this place apart.

“It’s in my pocket, and what’s with the Lefty crap?” John said.


“Lefty, we’ll know more in a few minutes. Are you sure the egg is safe?”

“Yes, you idiot. It’s safe; it’s tucked away in a Kleenex,” John snapped.

Our squawking drew Sister Adrienne’s attention as the lunch hour was winding down in St. Stephen of Hungary on East 82nd Street in April 1964. The nuns didn’t allow talking. The more you talked the longer it took you to finish your food.

4th grade April 1964

“John and Thomas, put a lid on it. You have two minutes, two minutes, misters, to finish your food. Do you hear me?”

“Yes, sister.”

John, facing me across the table mouthed a silent, “You’re dead, stupid.”

I made a face back at him. I thought that the nun was behind me. I was wrong.

“Young man, did you make a face at me?

“No.”

“Do you think this is a joke?” 

Sr. Mercedes 
by Jan Chapman



“No, no, no, sister, I have allergies and sometimes I scratch the inside of my nose by moving my face around. This is good in case it itches when my hands aren’t free.”

Sister Adrienne let out a long exhale that caved her chest in.

“Well you both can sit there till the ice skating rink is done in Hell. There are poor children starving in China. You both dwell on that fact.”

John gave me a nasty look. I was convinced part of a nun’s final exam involved making the case to the Mother Superior that there was a connection between kids finishing what was left on their plates and fewer kids starving in the world. 

first campaign poster

John had put the egg in his pocket because he had no intention of eating it, and because our prison guard wouldn’t let him leave the basement cafeteria until his tray was cleared of all food.

Daydreaming about getting news that Mom was dead was my vengeance for her forcing me to eat this crummy school lunch. Mom had done the math after first grade. She was losing two hours of her day picking me up, taking me home and feeding me, then returning me to school. At the start of the second grade I was put in the school’s lunch program, or as the older kids called it the “Pain Meal Plan.” You could not bring your own lunch to school. The Parish was greedy for profit and knew that the only way to make money out of the school’s lunch program was to up its enrollment. They paid an old lady called “Ma” to cook for 150 kids. Her specialties: boiling green meat brown and adding spoiled vegetables into the soup.

While John settled his egg in his pants pocket, I rearranged the cold white beans on my plate for the sixth time. The smiley face was gone. The beans were now a crucifix. Sister Adrienne could take this a few ways. My hope was that she’d appreciate that I was thinking about our Lord. She went another way and identified my bean work as further proof of my defiance. She loved that word. 
happy faces for Father









“Thomas, your defiance will lead you to ruin. Not only will you not get out of here to play with the other kids, but if you don’t finish the beans and the half of a sandwich still on your plate, you will stay after school as well.”

Sister Adrienne’s foot kept time throughout her speech. Watching her shoe tap reminded me of a hoe down.

“Well swing your partner…” I pictured her in a straw hat, overalls, and checkered shirt with a red kerchief, telling us to dosi-doe…then I remembered the pickle I was in. I moaned, picturing the other fourth graders playing box ball in front of the school.  
Ryan Girls @ St. Stephen's

“Sister, I’m not feeling well. This is the best I can do.”

“Try harder,”

“I’m feeling weak.”

“Bite it. Chew it. You’ll get your strength back.”

“This is not meat.”

John whispered, “I am Spartacus.”

Watching John enjoy the nun’s and my back and forth, I was positive he couldn’t have been happier if he’d just won a million dollars. I pictured him sitting on a pile of money.

The sandwich, a plug of greenish-brown ham, was thick enough to sit in front of Snoopy’s doghouse as a doormat. It curled on the edges and was bookended by stale wheat bread and a globby spread of margarine. No mayo, no mustard, just margarine. It was sickening. I gave up salvaging any of the remaining lunchtime but I had no intention on staying after school. It was 70 degrees and sunny. The park was screaming for me to get over there as soon as I could.

St. Stephens, 1st grade, 1962

Back at the gulag, John actually liked white beans and thick chunks of ham. He made sure he showed me every half-chewed bite in his mouth. He’d drop his jaw all the way down like a ventriloquist’s dummy in a state of awe, leaving his hangar open and giving me a bird’s eye view. His eyes would stay on the nun and follow her around, and only when she was looking at him would his mouth close shut. After his final satisfying swallow, with an audible “aaahhh,” he was ready to make his break. He gave me a last smile and made a head motion towards his empty plate, wiggled his eyebrows and bid me farewell.

“See ’ya, numb nuts.”

John held his empty red tray up in presentation to the nun. I wanted to kick him in the ass. While the sister looked John over, I slipped a handful of white beans into my pocket and rushed back to my fork. I felt the cold beans gook up against my leg, but I’d deal with that later.

With John gone, it was only Sister Adrienne and me. She was ready to give me her full attention.

Looking at my plate, she said, “Well, you’ve made some progress.”

I smiled sensing something behind the stone eyes.

“Yes sister, I’ve done all I can.” I said with a pathetic smile trying to look like Dondi, the Italian orphan in the comic strip.

“Can I go now?”

A glint of kindness muscled its way round her iron mask.

“You can leave the rest of the beans but you have to finish the sandwich.”

Well, she might have well as told me, “You don’t have to jump off the building, but I’m still setting you on fire.”

I pushed the beans aside, mashing them for good luck, and centered the sandwich. I wanted to get a good look at it. I figured centering it in the middle of the plate might make it look smaller. No luck. Maybe if I imagined it was something else…I mean really, really, really imagined it was, say, a boiled hot dog, American cheese or liverwurst. Yes, liverwurst, that’s meat right? Then maybe I could eat it. But it was hopeless. The scary smell coming from in between the bread slices closed off any chance I was going to trick myself.

I stared down at the thing and tried to clear my mind. I was ready to wait till the Pope had a baby. I had my guns on. Sister Adrienne put on her holster. The streets had cleared and the bank and the barber pulled down their window shades. The clock in the steeple said twenty to one. The standoff began.

At one o’clock we’d be due on line in front of the school getting ready to return to the classrooms. I had twenty minutes before I went into the penalty situation – staying after school. There was no more conversation. We both took turns looking at each other, looking at the clock, looking at the sandwich, and looking at our feet. I kept thinking she wanted to pick her nose but wouldn’t do it in front of me. I guess that’s because my nose needed picking and I wasn’t going to do it in front of her either. Did you know that the second hand on a clock doesn’t just spin around without stopping? No, it stops each second then with little jerks does it again fifty nine more times each minute. I wondered if my turtles, Joe and Lenny, missed me when I was at school. Little nuggets like that kept me going until loud shoes smacking the wood floor interrupted my daydreaming. I looked up and saw Father Edward.

“Excuse me, Sister Adrienne, I thought lunch was over.”

“It should be.”

“Sister, I can come back a little later.”

“No Father Edward, please take care of your business.”

“No that’s okay, thank you.” The priest left.

Sister’s eyes followed the priest’s shadow long after he left the room. She liked the priest. Everyone in the school knew that. Father Edward had been a Marine chaplain and he still did his exercises. Sister got all jelly-legged when he was around. Playing Olive Oyl to Father Edward’s Popeye, I thought of balling the sandwich and putting it in my pocket. I decided against it. Sister Adrienne would probably pat me down on my way out. When she wasn’t looking, I tried sticking the sandwich inside my sock but the elastic band was too tight.

Then one word pulled the string attached to the light bulb in my brain, “Margarine.” There was enough of the stuff on the bread to stucco a wall. I slipped the two sandwich pieces apart and pressed the wet sides firmly to the bottom of the table. As Sister Adrienne turned back toward me, I chewed on the imaginary wad of pig in my mouth. I faked a swallow and got up to show the nun my tray, though it really wasn’t necessary at that point. And yes, she patted me down on my way out while looking around me to see if she missed something. As I left the lunchroom, her mumbling behind me sounded like an old car trying to turn over on a cold morning.

I headed straight for the boy’s room to dump the beans. They came out of my pocket in broken parts. I threw them into the toilet bowl on top of what remained of John’s flushed egg. I owed him one, and would plot my revenge later. My Timex watch said one minute past one. School lunch was killing me.

***

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Happy Birthday, Joannie Baloney!


Joan on right
Joan Heuer, the funniest person I've ever met, was born today in 1935 in East Harlem.

She moved to Yorkville with the Ryan family in 1944. Joannie was my godmother and my Mom's middle sister, her younger sister, Barbara is in pictures above along with one of Uncle Mommy below at Joannie's daughter, Christine's christening. Also a picture of chubbsy-ubsy Joannie at Coney Island in 1945.


Best Joannie story... my Uncle Lennie comes home from the Navy in 1945. Joannie, ten years old, lazes around the house while everyone else goes to work or goes to school. She's alone. She's playing hookey. Joannie takes Lennie dress
whites out and puts them on.





The pants drag by half a foot, so she rolls them up and pins them. Does the same thing with the arms, but doesn't need much there because Lenny is skinny and Joan ain't. Then she gets my grandfather's ancient fishing pole out, empties a tin of Carnation Evaporated Milk into the sink, takes the top off the can, and shes ready to go. Got the pole and the can for the worms. She gets Lennie's sailor hat, double steps the stoop and jumps onto the street. She's dressed this way not to sneak around , she wants people to see her so she turns up 86th Street off York Avenue and gallivants, pole over her shoulder like a continental soldier, whistling while she strolls.





She makes it up to Horn and Hardarts getting all the attention she expected, when walking right at her with his face down in a newspaper is my grandfather. She don't see him because she's making lots of eye contact with people to her left and right. Joannie collides with her father, they make quick eye contact, Joannie takes off running towards Lexington, my grandfather's in pursuit but his strengths are sitting and complaining. Joan runs around the corner and down to 222 East 85 St and hides out with Uncle Jimmy for a half hour. From the stoop, he gives her the signal the coast is clear and Joan comes out of the hall, kisses Jimmy on the cheek and runs over to the Central Park with a loaf of stale bread in case she don't find any worms. She got back in time to wait for my grandmother to get off the bus after work. In the house, she hid behind her mother in the kitchen while her father circled the two of them, yelling, threatening, pointing but ultimately running out of steam.


I miss you, Joan.



Thursday, February 17, 2022

Rumble Seat

Thomas E. Pryor @1922 Yorkville

 

"I used to ride in my father's rumble seat," Dad said and sipped his beer. I sipped my coke. We sat on stools facing the grandfather clock in Loftus Tavern.

"What's a rumble seat?"

"It was a seat that hinged out of the back of the car, it felt like you were riding in mid air."

We mulled over our drinks and I thought, someday, I'm going to ride in a rumble seat.

One hot afternoon in the Old Timer's Tavern, I was laying on the floor watching the ceiling fan spin and I overheard my Uncle Mickey say to my father, "Bob, when we were young, I remember you driving us to Rockaway. Why don't you have a car?"

"Because I knew I was going to drink and I didn't want to hurt anybody."

The Pryor’s didn't have a car, and depended on the kindness of strangers and relatives. My Uncle George occasionally took us to beaches and lakes, my grandfather Rode took us to buy wool for my grandmother on Grand Street. I spent an inordinate amount of time in Checker cabs heading for Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden. That gave me access to the pull up seat on the floor of the cab. A seven ticket ride.

My mother's father, Pop Ryan, didn't have a car. In 1961 he bought his first one - a Falcon in mint condition. This made my grandmother very unhappy since my grandfather had a reputation for taking the laws of self-preservation lightly.
Pop put plastic over the seats and washed the car every Saturday in front of the house on York Avenue (He was the building's super). Nan wouldn't let Pop take me for the first few weeks because he had just gotten his first driver’s license by the skin of his teeth.

Week six, after relentless whining and begging, Nan finally let me go for a ride with Pop. I started off in the back seat but climbed into the front seat when we were out of sight from Nan. We turned left on 86th Street, and went straight over to 5th Avenue passing my favorites places: Loews Orpheum, Woolworth’s, the huge RKO, Horn and Hardart’s, Prexy's, Singer's, and many more.

We drove down Fifth Avenue pass the museums and mansions, I took it all in on my knees with my head out the window catching air in my mouth. At 72nd Street we turned into Central Park and veered right past Pilgrim Hill. Going north I waved at the boathouse doing 30 miles an hour.


At Cherry Hill, I said, "Pop, do 40!" He hit the accelerator, we did 40 uphill. Near the Engineer's Gate I saw a hawk swoop down and said, "Pop, 50!" The speedometer moved up. As we started down the hill pass the 102nd Street transverse, I yelled,"60, 60, 60!" Pop gave me a wicked smile and there we went. Pass the Harlem Meer at the north end of the park taking the curves at a breakneck speed with no one on the road but us. We rode up on the curb facing Cathedral Parkway and nearly hit a trash can. Pop backed down to 45, then 35, and we stayed there until we turned east at Columbus Circle heading back to Yorkville. Luckily, there was a spot on York Avenue in front of 1616. Pop parked, I jumped out, ran up the stoop, busted into the apartment screaming, "Nan, it was great! We did 60 miles an hour in Central Park!"

The next day, Pop sold the car to his son, my Uncle Lenny.
Pop & Nan Ryan Loftus in background

Friday, January 28, 2022

An Indian Summer Dog Strike

Long Beach Island September 2010 on an Indian summer day, a human goes for a bike ride and takes his dog along for a run. 


 

It's in the high 80s with dripping humidity. A mile into the event dog sees large puddle, plops down, refuses to move.

 

Human dismounts and begins negotiation. Dog's deaf to sweet talk. Rubs belly across the refreshing pond. A block ahead human sees a stand-off solution. Persuades dog relief is near. Dog rises and they walk towards the curb-pride man watering his lawn. Like a silent movie, no words are passed. Human nods at hose guy. He nods back and aims an arc of rushing cool liquid at the hairy dog. Dog doesn't move. Dog is pleased.


















Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Spotless Cleaners


A ten-year-old simp walks serpentine into his father's trap.


Nearing the 1964 Christmas break during my fifth grade, thirteen inches of snow blanketed my street on a late 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 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 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 rose 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 Hannibal's elephant moving over the Alps, going knee deep with every step. I moved the suit to the back of my pea coat, resting the hanger's hook on the back of my collar. This left both hands free for better balance. My serpentine trip created swirling desire paths over each snow pile.

Calculated attention paid to each hill stretched my normal five-minute trip 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 greeted me at the door, "Where the hell were you?"

I said nothing, smirked and turned my back, offering 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.

Stepping 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?"

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 stoop, 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 my exact path. Every nuance. Every turn. Every double step. At one point, I did the cha-cha one up, two back, one up. I was possessed. I mirrored my entire walk never measuring how pissed off my path of greatest resistance home was making him. 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 weren’t under any cars?"

Hill after hill we climbed towards the avenue, policing the grounds. Despite the fact, Dad's pants were charcoal and the streets contained nothing but white snow, he insisted we walk very slowly. You couldn’t miss ‘em. The cleaners were closed.

Walking back to our building, same story. Every hill walked serpentine with the look and the short barked orders. After one last look under the car directly in front of the house, we marched the stoop and began our ascent to Hades, second floor, third floor, fourth floor, into the apartment. Passing through the door, Dad gave Mom the look and then me one more look for good luck. He went directly over to his jacket on the hanger with the plastic still on it. Dad held it up – then draped it over his arm. 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, “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 on a charcoal jacket. Oh God, I'm thinking, he bought the same suit again. Not good.

"Hi Dad, is that the suit. It looks great. Did you buy it again?"

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




####




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.


The book has 136 Amazon five star reviews out of 136 total reviews posted.  My old world echoes TV's "The Wonder Years" ~ just add taverns, subways and Checker cabs. 


Saturday, December 11, 2021

Losers Lounge George Harrison Tribute


David Terhune

The Loser’s Lounge presents the music of George Harrison. 

They are back!!! Glorious live music!!!

Five shows at Joe's Pub, so far, I attended two and they were fantastic.

Below, a public Losers Lounge photo album ~ shots from Wednesday & Thursday shows.


Losers Lounge @ Joes Pub

Julia Joseph

Mike McGinnis

Eddie Skuller

Joe McGinty

Gideon Forbes

Leslie Goshko

David Driver

 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Love Seat (A Ghost Story)


Thomas Pryor's Yorkville Stoops to Nuts
Next Friday, Nov 5 @ 7pm
Ryans Daughter
350 E. 85 St.
Neighborhood Storytelling & Song with special guests:
Jeff Rose, Joe Dettmore, Fred Caruso, Eric Vetter & Courtney Hills

Admission: $10


My ghost story published in Mr. Beller's Neighborhood.


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.”
“Huh?”
“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.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

City Boy's Back @ Ryan's Daughter next Friday. Nov 5!

 


City Boy's Back @ Ryan's Daughter Next Friday, Nov 5th @ 7pm

Thomas Pryor's Yorkville Stoops to Nuts
"City Boy"
18 months at sea, we are back! LIVE!
@ Ryans Daughter
Fri., November 5th @ 7pm
Neighborhood Storytelling & Song
@ 350 E. 85th St.
our talented guests:
Joe Dettmore, Fred Caruso, Jeff Rose, Eric Vetter & Courtney Harrison.
Admission: $10 bucks

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Losers Lounge @ Talking Heads @ The New City Winery.

2021.9.11. Losers Lounge @ Talking Heads @ the new City Winery on the Hudson. The early show was excellent. A pleasure to see my favorite live music gang again. Here is a link to a full album of show photos. A few shots are below. Their next show is a tribute to George Harrison in December at Joe's Pub.