Tuesday, September 29, 2009

High Fidelity

Met and spoke with a hero of mine tonight, Nick Hornby.
Nick's book, High Fidelity, opened a writing door for me six years ago, that's never closed. Hornby's love of music and it's centric inclusion in his work, convinced me I could mix my passions into stories I wanted to tell.

Nick and I agreed, we hope to hear new stuff from Peter Wolf (formerly with the J Geils Band).

I gave Nick a story I dedicated to him, saturated with musical references, Vinyl Medication. His big smile made my night.

Thank you, A.L.P. love, Tommy

High Fidelity, Elvis Costello, 1980 video

High Fidelity/Elvis Costello

Some things you never get used to
Even though you're feeling like another man
There's nothing that he can do for you
To shut me away as you walk through
Lovers laughing in their amateur hour
Holding hands in the corridors of power
Even though Im with somebody else right now
High fidelity
Can you hear me?
There's a new kind of dedication
Maybe you'll find it down the tunnel
Maybe I got above my station
Maybe you're only changing channel
Even though you're nowhere near me
And I know you kiss him so sincerely now
Even though the signals indistinct
And you worry what silly people think
Who just cant wait to feel so frozen out
I bet he thinks that he was chosen out of millions
I suppose hell never know about
High Fidelity

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Safe at Home

I never shook Mickey Mantle's hand and that remains one of my few regrets.
When I was 8 years old, Mickey stood right in front of me at the 86th Street RKO theatre in April 1962, when they made that silly movie "Safe at Home," to capitalize on the Maris & Mantle, M&M boys' 1961 home run derby. The Yankee team made appearances in several New York City movie houses to promote the film.
I forced Dad to get to the theatre two hours early to make sure we were on the aisle. We had a quick burger across the street at Prexy's first. At seven o' five, word spread the team bus had pulled up in front. The Yankees came into the lobby dressed in suits & ties and marched down the right side of the movie house. Yogi Berra walked by me and stepped on my toe, but I didn't notice, though my father did and wanted Berra to apologize. It was strange seeing Dad pissed at Yogi.
Elston Howard stopped in front of me, and put his arms behind his back like a military MP. Ellie saw I was having a baby over Mickey Mantle standing right next to him two feet away from me shaking in my sneakers. Dad and Ellie exchanged laughs over my dilemma, then Howard leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Say hi, he won't bite you." But I was too scared to say anything to Mickey. As the Yankees walked on stage for a final bow, I dribbled my opportunity away.

Below is a letter I wrote to Mantle when I was 13.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

59th Street Bridge ~ Now and Then: 1909 ~ 2009

Here's a photo of the 59th Street Bridge from 1909 the year it opened.
Below it are photos I took last week. I attempted to take the same scene, 59th Street looking east from Second Avenue to the water, but trees, cars and construction blocked a great deal.
On the very bottom are two photos of buildings on the north side of East 73rd Street between York Avenue and the water. These tenements were built approx. 1920, before that, this area was the center of Jones Woods. During the 19th century Jones Woods was a major destination for picnics, rallies, horseback riding and all forms of recreation.

Below ~ a 1918 New York Times article about Yorkville and Jones Wood:


Below is part of an article from New York Nature on the consideration of Jones Wood for Manhattan's key new park:


The campaign to create a great public park began in 1844 with an editorial in the Evening Post by William Cullen Bryant, who proposed a wild tract of 160 acres between 68th and 77th streets and Third Avenue and the East River, known as Jones's Wood, which he described as "beautiful woodland...thickly covered with old trees."

Another New York Times article from 1921 that references Yorkville and Jones Wood:

I still smell Silvercup bread whenever I cross the 59th Street bridge.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Men Without Hats


Sometime in the late 1980s' I ran into Tom Landry at a midtown saloon during a New York Giants alumni party. I wasn't able to talk to Tom because of the noise volume, but I was able to convey my appreciation for all the Cowboys have meant to me with sign language. In return, Tom gave me the universal "be fruitless and multiply" signal when no one was looking.
Metropolis Magazine wrote a solid review for Tom Beller's "Lost & Found" New Stories Anthology, see it below:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blow Away the Dreams That Tear You Apart

Happy Birthday, Bruce. He turns 60 today.
The photos were taken by my friend, Jeff Havas, at Madison Square Garden in August 1978 after "Darkness on the Edge of Town," came out.
I went to the opening show on a $ 6 ticket. The next night, I scalped a tix for $15 and snuck down to the third row in the orchestra. Those two concerts readjusted my heart for live music.
Bruce took me away for three hours, to a place I had never been to. His energy and talent targeting me and everyone else there overwhelmed me, and left me flattened. He still does that. I'm grateful he's still out there.
My Favorite Springsteen song:
My Love Will Not Let You Down,
Madison Square Garden, 2000
the guitar duel at the end gets me every time

Monday, September 21, 2009

No Sacks, No Turnovers, No Romo

Dateline: Sept. 20, 2009
Let's Call It Nothing At All Stadium, Texas
No Sacks, no turnovers, no Romo!
Despite the Cowboys dirty pool move with the hurried timeout call as Tynes kicked, the Giants lined up and did it again.
Giants 33 ~ Cowboys 31

Best half birthday present ever.

How bout those Boys?

Friday, September 18, 2009

St. Paddy's & Rockefeller Center ~ 1900 & Today ~ A Walk Around

Here are a few pictures from a midtown walk around St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center and The New York Library.

My grandfather, Thomas E. Pryor, was born in 820 Third Avenue at 50th Street in 1900 before the Third Avenue rail was electrified in 1905. His family lived on the third floor in an apartment that faced the roaring smokey steam engines that chugged by like the one in the black & white picture here. Also below is a 1939 NYC tax record photograph of the west side of Third Avenue between 50th & 51st Streets. 820 is the second building off the left side of the picture. My grandfather was baptized in St. Patrick's Cathedral on December 23, 1900, a copy of the certificate is below.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nan Loved San Gennaro Zeppoli & Tripe

My grandmother, Ann Pryor Rode, worked for Surrogate & Supreme Court judges from the 1940s through the 1970s. Being right there on Centre Street, being of Sicilian blood, Nan made a big deal out of the San Gennaro festival. The actual Feast Day of San Gennaro is September 19th. The festival started in 1926 for the patron saint of Naples.
Nan loved food, and loved her zeppoli's. At lunch all that week, she would walk over to the festival, pin an offering to the statute's apron, and eat her way through the streets. One of the judges always drove her back and forth from work to Yorkville. I couldn't wait for the paper sack of oiled soaked treats, and she always had her own powered sugar shaker ready to blanket each zeppoli like it was in the middle of a terrible snow storm.
Moderation was an unknown word in Nan's household. She didn't smoke or drink and moved the weight of those vices over to eating. She also brought home tripe from a Mulberry Street butcher, I was thrilled to find out tripe was cow stomach. When she prepared cow stomach I left the apartment and wouldn't come back till it was done, eaten and put away.

The other night, I walked down Fifth Avenue, through Washington Square Park, down Bleecker Street and over to Houston and Mulberry. When I got there, Puck was looking down, smiling, from a ledge on the south east corner of his self named building at the Festival's entrance sign, saying San Gennaro in neon script. I slid through the gauntlet of vendors aiming for Old St. Patrick's Cathedral soaked in the festival lights. I then imagined the location 83 years ago. It was easy. The City's great in this tween period between summer and fall.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Last Night's Show at Telephone Bar

Last night's show was wunderbar. Thank you ,Tim, Wayne and Harold for inviting me to read at Telephone Bar's season opener.

In one story, I explored Yorkville's German butchers in 1962, and my Italian grandmother's shopping idiosyncrasies. My other story examined the schadenfreude pleasure I derive from savoring the Dallas Cowboys suffering, and how it played out one winter day in Yorkville in 1969.
Thank you, to all my friends who came, and all my friends who sent me good wishes. It always feels good. be well, Tommy

ps hopefully, I'll put a video or audio up this week

Here's Schadenfreude ~ How Bout Those Boys? by trp

As you get older the word hate drifts from your conversation. It’s a bad word, and a silly emotion to hang onto. Life’s too short.

If you’re lucky, you lose it all together. If you’re really lucky, you save it for one person, one particular thing, or in my case, one professional sports team.

If I hear the two words together, Dallas and Cowboys, my middle finger lifts to attention and points at the speaker. I immediately hate the person and think they’re stupid. If that person is wearing a Cowboy jacket, I pray they were overcharged. It always thrills me when they also have a bad haircut.

For me, Schadenfreude heaven is the tangible pleasure I derive from watching the Anti-Christs from Dallas suffer.

This morning, I swooned over the NFC East Division standings, particularly, first and second place

New York Giants 11-2
Dallas Cowboys 8-5

I stared at the standings the way a GI in a swampy World War II trench stared at his wallet photo of Rita Hayworth in a nightie.

Some background, two memories.

A long time ago, the Giants went 2-12. I wasn’t that sad because... That’s right they won 2 of 14 games. BUT, they beat the Texas Anti-Christs 14-6, and also beat the Kansas City Chiefs led by Hank Stram, who perfectly fit the response the kid in Annie Hall had for Joey Nickle, “What an Asshole.”

Second memory… Robby Zimmel was the most obsessive Dallas fan in Yorkville. I’d be down Carl Schurz Park in June suffering abuse over how terrible the Yankees were, and Zimmel would come down the park and start busting my chops over the Giants stinking, a month before training camp opened, temporarily wiping out my hallucinations that the Giants were getting better. I always was close to putting a garbage can over his head. I went in a different direction.
As good as the Cowboys were in the late 60s & 70s they only won the championship twice, and got knocked out of the playoffs every other year.

On the day your team gets knocked out of the playoffs, no matter how well you did during the regular season, you feel horrible. Your world ends, it’s hard to eat, music sounds lousy, girls aren’t as pretty, and it’s raining in your soul.

It’s the perfect time to send that person a post.

Moments after the Cowboys got knocked out the playoffs by the Cleveland Browns on December 28, 1969, I went to St. Stephen’s rectory and bought a fancy $5 Mass Card. Not the cheap $2 card, the fancy card, with a glittering Jesus or Mary in raised relief on the front. In case you don’t know what a Mass Card is, here’s a definition.

Mass Card ~ In the Roman Catholic Church, a card sent to a bereaved person or family indicating that the sender has arranged for a Mass to be said in memory of the deceased.

There was a prim lady at the rectory desk with bouffant hair and a whiff of Jean Nate toilet water. She was massively proud of her penmanship, dying to write in the name of the deceased in big swirls. The conversation went like this.
Lady: “Son, the name of the departed?”

“Can’t tell you, Mam. Mom didn’t spell it for me. She told me, get the card and we’d learn the spelling at the funeral
home off the board and after we find out, I’ll come back and tell you, so you can put the name in for the Mass.”

Reluctantly, she released the Mass Card for my five dollar bill.

I sat on the church steps with the card solid against my thigh and put my calligraphy skill to work, writing out the name of the deceased in beautiful script.

Dallas Cowboys

Adding in block letters: May they rest in peace.
I mailed it to Zimmel, happily spending the extra postage on the fat envelope. My only regret, I wasn’t there when Zimmel opened it.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Neighborhood Evolution ~ a Feb 2010 show ~ songs, art & tales from Hoboken & New York artists burrowing through their warrens

Claudia Chopek, Debby Schwartz and myself are planning a show to investigate the Hoboken ~ New York neighborhood connection. They'll be fabulous artists, musicians & storytellers to make you laugh, cry, think, feel.

The show will be in Hoboken in February 2010. As soon as we lock a date, venue and line-up, I'll let you know. I promise a great time. be well, Tommy
the first three photos below, were taken at the Hoboken waterfront, the others are from midtown Manhattan.