Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Gotta Get a Thurman Munson T-shirt!

In 1972, Pepsi Cola launched a Thurman Munson Fan Club.

They gave away Munson T-shirts to kids up to 14 years old. All you needed to do, was mail them 10 bottle caps and tell them your kid shirt size. This didn't sit well with me. I was 18, a huge fan of Thurman, and no longer able to fit into a boys size 20. Excluded from this fantastic offer, I wrote a letter to Pepsi Cola.
Dear Pepsi Cola Thurman Munson Fan Club:

My name is Tommy Pryor, I'm 13 years old and large. I've been a Pepsi drinker for as long as I can remember. My dream is someday there'll be a water fountain on every New York corner and instead of water, thirst quenching ice cold Pepsi Cola comes out of the fountain. I love Thurman Munson ~ like him, I'm pudgy. My grandmother tells her friends I'm portly and buys me husky dungarees for Christmas.

I'm embarrassed by my huge bottom. I run slow and waddle on the ball field. They make me play catcher on my team, the Yorkville Stars. When I hit the ball, the infielders throw the ball around the horn before lobbing it to first base for an easy putout. Your offer depresses me. I desperately want a shirt.
Because I'm big could you mail me a Men's medium sized shirt?
Tommy Pryor

The shirt came in the mail 10 days later. I wore it for twenty years.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Family Pictures Taken by the Police

Here's a picture of my grandfather, Tom Pryor, taken by those "dirty, rotten screws."

It's his NYC Police Department issued 1934-35 Hack license. Pop bore no love for authority. My grandmother told me, "he could hear somebody give him the finger from a block away. The cops were number one on his list." Nan said, "when he wasn't a bastard, he was charming, artistic and left handed."

He spent most of of his youth in an orphanage called: Father Drumgoole's Home for Homeless Newsboys - later known as Mt. Loretto. The largest orphanage in the U.S. at the turn of the century. A 500 acre working farm facing Raritan Bay at the southern tip of Staten Island. The picture to the right, is Tom in the orphanage in 1914. He's thirteen years old ~ he entered the home at eight years old and stayed till he was sixteen. I found this letter in my grandmother's strong box. It was written by Tom, the day before he died, February 20, 1941. It's addressed to his first great-grandchild, my daughter, Alison. He wrote:
Dear Alison,
My name is Thomas Edward Pryor. I am your great-grandfather. I was born on December 16, 1900 to James and Mary Pryor. Dad was a hostler, and Mom was a housekeeper. I was baptized in the new Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on December 23, 1900. My brother, Eddie was four years older than me. Everyone called him Buster.

We lived on 50th Street and our apartment over looked the Third Avenue El. The trains had steam engines until I was four years old. In 1905 they electrified the rails, the year after they opened the first New York City subway. My Mom and Dad died in 1909 from influenza. Aunt Mary put us in an orphanage in Staten Island. I got out seven years later. I met Anna Cuccia in 1921. We married in 1923. Thomas was born in 1925. Robert came along in 1929. We lived in several Yorkville apartments.
My Mom had a little Irish gypsy in her, and gave me the gift to see into the future. Here's what I see: Tom joins the Army at 18, marries Rose at 21 in Garguilo's in Coney Island, and Bobby's born in 1949. Robert joins the Navy on his 17th birthday. He tried to get in a year earlier but gets caught. Robert meets Patty Ryan at the East Side Settlement House in 1945. They win the Settlement House's 1949 Lindy Dance Contest and start keeping company. They marry in 1952. Tommy flies through the window in 1954. Rory falls from a plane in 1956. That’s all I’m telling you, right now. If we meet, I’m sure you’ll like me, because boy, do I love you.
All My Love, Great Grandpa Tom

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Clothes Horse, Then and Forever

They seek him here,
They seek him there.
His clothes are loud,
But never square.

You had no clue, Ray Davies wrote those telling words about me. Ray said, "Tommy, you are a dedicated follower of fashion."

That's me at LaSalle Academy @ 44 East 2nd Street in 1969.
(Photo taken by "Cool Pat" Cullinan, my geometry teacher)

I still own the jacket, a 40 Regular. Worn on my first date with Rosemary DiNatale in 1970. We took in Monterrey Pop at the Paris movie house across from The Plaza on a rainy afternoon.

This outfit, complimented with powder blue socks and desert boots earned me jealous stares, oohs & aahs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Put the Friggin Camera Down

Did I ever tell you, that Weegee, the crime photographer, was a friend of my grandmother?

Problem was, when he visited the family on York Avenue he couldn't sit still and kept taking flash photos without warning. It unnerved us, but Nan loved the lug.
That's Mom, me and my grandfather, John Rode, in his best "I'm not with the hooker perp walk pose."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yorkville Nut Baseball Club circa 1915

Jimmy Cagney, his brother, Bill, and my uncle, Joe Cuccia, played together on the "Yorkville Nut Baseball Club." I believe the years were between 1912 and 1917. The "Yorkville Nuts" were a famous and successful sandlot team in New York City at the turn of the century through World War I. Their main rivals were the "John Jays."
This photograph of a group of Yorkville boys was taken in approx. 1912.
Cagney is in the photo with my Uncle Joe, whose nickname was "Cheech." I'm trying to locate information on the Yorkville Nut Baseball Club, stories, pictures, box scores, etc.
If Anyone has information on the "Yorkville Nut Baseball Club," and is willing to share it with me, I'd be so grateful, please contact me through my email.
Cagney loved his Yorkville youth and loved the team. He kept the Nut uniform for his entire life, see the NY Times article below. My Uncle Joe had box scores, I saw as a boy, but sadly, they are lost.
Thank you. be well, Tommy

New York Times
September 24, 1992
Objects and memorabilia belonging to James Cagney will be put on auction Sept. 30 at William Doyle Galleries on the Upper East Side.
Fans of the actor, who died in 1986, will find mementos of some of his most famous movies, including the spats and boots he wore as George M. Cohan in the 1942 musical "Yankee Doodle Dandy," the role for which he won an Oscar.
The auction will also include his personal copy of the screenplay from "The Time of Your Life" and canisters containing various films, including "Public Enemy." A signed drawing by Al Hirschfeld and five 1930's portraits of the actor by Edward Weston are included.
Also on sale will be more private items like a uniform from Cagney's childhood days on the Yorkville Nut Club baseball team and paintings and drawings that the actor made after he retired to his farm in Dutchess County.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Clamato & the Tumbleweed in My Belly Button

Readying myself for today's Giants vs Ravens game, I drank three glasses of Clamato. Thank you, Freddy Muller, for turning me on to this quirky cocktail in 1966. What a nutty flavor, clam juice, tomatoes, and garlic. A perfect drink to ward off vampires when you're buried in the sand.

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..."

The Giants are 9-1. Ray Lewis failed to get the license plate number off the truck that ran over him in the first quarter. The plate number was "27." Brandon Jacobs driving. Philly tied the Bengals. Should I root for the Redskins or the Anti-Christ? Hee, hee.

The photo, that's me at the Giant victory parade down Broadway after February's Super Bowl.

Why do I have a tumbleweed in my belly button every evening? Where does the lint come from? Should I knit a mohair sweater for Barbie?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Neighborhood Lore

My friend, Jon Calvert & I put on an Old Neighborhood Story, Song & Picture Show: Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts, two weeks ago with our talented friends, Myles Goldin, Saara Dutton & Amanda Thorpe.

The genesis for Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts was the thousand of hours I spent watching Sandy Becker, Chuck McCann, and Zacherly. From two years old through my early teens, these three nut jobs made me laugh, made me happy. Probably most responsible for forming my creative personality.

They invited you into their neighborhood, their house, their living room and told you stories, told you jokes, sang songs, taught things, gave kids prizes, played cartoons, tied songs to sketches with people and puppets. Behind, the silliness, they stressed the value of old places, people, games, songs, dances, language. They reinforced what my family taught me, and they showed me around the old neighborhood. My best days as a kid were when my family played together and forgot they were adults. You saw it in their eyes.

It's natural to invite you to my block, to tell you a story, sing you a song, show you pictures and give you a gift for valuing and storing your memories.

Hambone was a loony disk jockey. He wore a pith helmet with a decorative plume, a drum major's uniform, and a pair of binocular glasses. The Big Professor, introduced to Pomp and Circumstance, answered questions and gave away Golden Book Encyclopedias for the best questions. K. Lastima was a dishevelled, Spanish-speaking kid's-show host in a Panama hat. He played trivia with the kids.

Zacherly was the host of Chiller Theatre and one of the first FM disc jockeys in New York on WNEW. Chuck McCann was out of his mind and matched Sandy Becker with his own characters, tales, songs, puppets, film & history trivia, movie clips, cartoons and pictures.

Neighborhood lore was embedded in these shows, and from there it flew straight into my heart.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Life's Good

"Fran the Scram" against the Eagles at Yankee Stadium in 1970.

Eli Manning, managed a terrific game against the Eagles last night. The Giant ball-carrier unit, collectively, is their best ever but must protect the ball.
8-1... a three game lead on the Anti-Christ.
Life's good.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I Don't Like the Eagles

I don't like any Philadelphia sports teams. The Eagles are not the Anti-Christ from Dallas, but serve the underlord well. Like the other lesser devils, the Washington Redskins and the San Francisco 49ers, the Eagles must die.
Great piece in today's NYTimes Fifth Down on the Giants/Eagles history.
Goooooooooooooooo Giiiiiiiiiiiiiants!
That's me running the football for the St. Stephen's/19th Pct. team against the Our Lady Of Good Counsel/23rd Pct. team in the 1974 Pineapple Bowl. The Pineapple Bowl was the Manhattan Eastside PAL Football Championship held at the Asphalt Green field on York Avenue and 90th Street. OLGC/23rd Pct. also served the underlord. St. Stephen's crushed the serpent 23-7.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

York Avenue, June 1906

This photo was taken in front of my great-grandparents fruit stand on the southwest corner of 75th Street & Avenue A, later named, York Avenue.
From left to right, my great-aunt Mary (b. 1899), my great-grandmother Giovanni Cuccia, eight months pregnant with my grandmother. Anna Cuccia, later Ann Pryor Rode, to her right, two great cousins.
My family's been on York Avenue since 1896.
If you can come to the reading tonight, I'll tell about old Yorkville.
be well, Tommy
Trumpet Fiction's is celebrating Flash Fiction tonight, Saturday, @645pm
November 8th @ KGBs' @ 85 East 4th Street (just west of Second Avenue)
I'm reading three short stories, leading off a talented band of readers.
Here's a link to Trumpet Fiction's official announcement.
Get a seat at 6:45pm, I start reading at 7pm, sharp.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I Told the Witch Doctor, I Was in Love With You

My first record was "Witch Doctor" by Dave Seville and the Chipmunks.
I was four, taking a bath. My Dad came home from work and snuck into the bathroom and said, "I've got something for you." I remember his brown raincoat hanging over the tub's rim and his coat's belt dipped in the water, he leaned in with my surprise ~ A brand new 45 single. Seeing the title, I yelled, "yippee," snapped my head forward, rapping my face off the hot water knob, knocking my front tooth out. It was my baby tooth, it grew back. I still have the record, it's in my living room with my singles. I got a dime for the tooth.
Trumpet Fiction's is celebrating Flash Fiction tomorrow, Saturday, November 8th
@ KGBs' @ 85 East 4th Street (just west of Second Avenue)
I'm reading three short stories, leading off a talented band of readers.

Here's a link to Trumpet Fiction's official announcement.

Order a drink, get a seat at 6:45pm, I start reading at 7pm, sharp.
Hope you come.
be well, Tommy

Thursday, November 6, 2008

KGB's or Bust, Yee-Haa!

Trumpet Fiction's is celebrating
Flash Fiction on Saturday, November 8th
@ KGBs' @ 85 East 4th Street
(just west of Second Avenue)
That's in Two Days!
I'm reading three short stories Saturday,
leading off a talented band of readers.
Here's a link to Trumpet Fiction's announcment.

Order a drink, get a seat at 6:45pm, I start reading at 7pm sharp.

Hope you can come. be well, Tommy

Monday, November 3, 2008

Shanghaied on Peck Slip!

Walking along Peck's Slip in the Seaport this morning, I spied a barber's pole, looked at myself in the store window's reflection and saw a wild poet. I went inside, took a seat and announced, "Short on the sides, square in the back and take nothing off the top.
"Whoa, matey, what?"
A voice from the backroom. He was behind me and I couldn't see him, while he's talking I notice there was no mirror in front of me, just piles of ship rope and nautical devices ~ hanging over my head was a painted maidenhead with wings.
"I want a haircut."
"This ain't a barbershop."
"What is it?"
"It's the Unofficial South Street Seaport Museum and Home for Wayward Sailors. Call me, Ishmael."
"What's with the barber pole outside?"
"That's not a barber pole, It's a carved lighthouse painted with stripes."

I readjusted my glasses and looked around the place. The windows were dirty with little light coming through them, but I saw two guys asleep inside a rowboat turned on it's side so they could curl up for a nap. One sailor had an admiral outfit on and the other seaman wore a striped shirt with a hankie wrapped oddly around his bald head. They both snored. A sign said, "Bait for Sale."

"I'm sorry, I thought you were a barber, I'll leave."
"No, no, don't go, I'm a barber, I mean I was a barber when I sailed the South Seas."
I recalled my memories of sailor's hairdos from movies and concluded this wouldn't end well.
"Thanks, but no, I'll be going."
I tried to get up, but in a warm forceful way, Ishmael shoved me down. He had an eye patch.
"No, please, I'll do a fine job, and I'll feel better about myself. I've been combing the waters for another chance at barbering."
"What do you mean feel better about yourself?"
"Well the last time I cut hair, I was still rumming, covering everything with monkey shit and had a few accidents. I damaged my pepper box and had to kiss the wooden lady."
I tried to get up again, but Ishmael gave me a desperate hug and pressed me down.
"I'm better now. Haven't cut myself shaving all week."
My chance to escape was nil. I haven't been to a gym in a year; my exercise slump's taken me muscle away.

I've been Shanghaied on Peck Slip!

"Why so glum?"


"Why the long face?"

I've buried three barber shops in the last four years. Sick of the "find a new one" process, I surrendered.

"Oh nothing, go ahead."

"A fine decision, laddy, sit back, while I swab your deck."

"Who are those guys?" I said, pointing to the two sad sacks in the rowboat.

"Sporty in the admiral's outfit is Loose Lips. He's been on three ships that sunk and he's talky. Baldy's name is Billy Bones but everyone calls him Baldy."

"Do they live here?"

"On and off, but it's my sea chest they're after."

Ishmael took my glasses off and with little light coming through the haze covered windows I may as well been down in Davey Jones Locker. In the dark, I imagined what was in Ishmael's sea chest. I concluded Loose Lips and Baldy were strictly there for the free room & board.

"Why are the boys in the rowboat, don't they have beds?"

"Up on the deck they have swell hammocks, but they like being down here with me."

While Billy Bones and Loose Lips snored away the morning in their rowboat, Ishmael & I talked about the sea, the football Giants win over the Anti-Christ and my next reading for
Trumpet Fiction,
this coming Saturday, November 8th @645pm @ KGB
@ 85 East 4th Street (just west of Second Avenue)

Ishmael gave me a fine haircut; I tipped well and prayed my head had found a new barbering home.