Saturday, February 27, 2010

Storytelling Show ~ Neighborhood Evolution @ Maxwell's Tomorrow, Feb 28 @ 3pm ~ Check Out the Talent

"What you looking at?"
"What's Hoboken?"
"A wonderful place."
"Can I see?"

But you can! Claudia Chopek, Debby Schwartz and I invite you.
Come to our Neighborhood Evolution show tomorrow at Maxwell's at 3pm.

Check out the terrific storytelling talent below, and Andrew Tavani's story in


Claudia Chopek (with Ward White), Edward Rogers, Debby Schwartz (with Katie Gentile), Eddie Skuller (with Mike Fornatale), Lianne Smith, Amanda Thorpe


Abbi Crutchfield, Philip Dray, Thomas Pryor, Naturi Thomas, Adam Wade


Abbi Crutchfield, a comedy virtuoso, keeps her plate full in NYC with writing, performing stand-up and improvisational comedy, creating original characters, and producing a live comedy hour called the Living Room in B


She’s been seen on MTV and VH1, and she contributes regularly to the and Abbi’s blog is:

Philip Dray is the author of several books of American history including At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His latest book, There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of American Labor, will be published in fall 2010. He's appeared at Maxwell's numerous times in groups such as: The Scene is Now, Information, Shackwacky, and I Ride the Bus.

Thomas Pryor’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood, A Prairie Home Companion, New York Press, Underground Voices Magazine, Ducts, Opium Online and Our Town.

Naturi Thomas is a published writer of fiction, essay, and poetry. Her agent is shopping her memoir, How to Die in Paris. She lives right around the corner from Maxwell’s, which gives her about a 50% chance of making it to the reading on time.

Adam Wade is originally from New Hampshire and has proudly called Hoboken his home for the last seven years. He's a record 15-time Moth StorySLAM winner and 2-time GrandSLAM champion at The Moth. He's appeared on ESPN, NBC Sports, Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Comedy Central. He's written for Glamour Magazine, New York Press, The New York Times and Hoboken Reporter.

Jonathan Calvert (visual presentation), who prepared the neighborhood photographs projected as visuals during the program, is enthralled and inspired to be associated with these talented artists. A New Yorker with a love of neighborhoods and the diversity we find in our cities, he, too, is full of stories that one day will be told.


Violinist Claudia Chopek has performed with artists ranging from Bruce Springsteen to The Jonas Brothers, as well as in orchestras, chamber music ensembles and Broadway musicals. Her playing and string arrangements can be heard on over 100 recordings, and she continues to split her time between high profile, international touring and working with local, independent musicians. In addition to the violin, Claudia is an accomplished violist, guitarist, and vocalist. Recently, she completed a five-week tour with Moby, culminating in a performance for PBS Soundstage, which will air nationally later this year.

Brooklyn based singer/songwriter/guitarist Ward White has released six albums, garnering praise from local and national press. Most recently, he collaborated with keyboardist Joe McGinty on McGinty & White Sing Selections From The McGinty & White Songbook, which has been featured on WFMU, and has been named on several 2009 "Best Of" lists, including New York Press, where critic J.R. Taylor named it one of the five best albums of the year. McGinty & White have made several appearances as the featured musical guests for Upright Citizens Brigade.

Edward Rogers is earning brilliant reviews on his third solo album, Sparkle Lane ~ Rogers most ambitious and accomplished work yet, seamlessly merges hard-won lyrical insight with a lifetime's worth of classic pop influences. Sparkle Lane draws upon the talents of Don Piper, co-producer, Pete Kennedy, Sal Maida, Claudia Chopek, Konrad Meissner, and Keyboardist, Joe McGinty, the mastermind behind the long-running Losers Lounge series of all-star tribute shows. Rogers earlier solo efforts, Sunday Fables and You Haven’t Been Where I’ve Been, featured Roger McGuinn, Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, George Usher, and Marty Willson-Piper. Rogers also released two albums, Rendezvous and The Summer That Changed, as part of Bedsit Poets, his collaboration with Amanda Thorpe.

Since moving to NYC in 1986, Debby Schwartz has performed with The Summit Ensemble, The Aquanettas, Loser's Lounge, and P.G. Six band, among others. She plays her own music with Katie Gentile (violin) and Peter Stuart (bass). She is presently working on an album which she hopes to release before she dies.

Katie Gentile (violin) performs and records with the Hoboken band Special Pillow, and Debby Schwartz. She has also played on recordings with Tara Key and Rick Rizzo, Antietam, Sue Garner and Rick Brown, and Yo La Tengo.

Eddie Skuller has had a history with bad neighbors, confirming his belief that they indeed cause change in a neighborhood. Eddie's music, including his latest critically-acclaimed album The Morphine Berry Story, is available on iTunes. The record was produced by James Mastro. This alternative blues album, recorded in Hoboken, features nine original new tunes plus a fiery version of a song by blues legend John Lee Hooker.

Mike Fornatale has played and/or sung with The Monks, Mark Lindsay, Moby Grape, Kelley Stoltz, Richard and the Young Lions, Loser’s Lounge, Muck and the Mires, Misteriosos, Meagan Brothers, Keith Streng, Kerry Kennedy, Shaw’Nuff, Roman Eisener, Joe Hurley's Rogues' March, and basically whoever else asks him.

Lianne Smith's music dispenses with a panoramic shot in favor of zooming in on the bee and flower—grown-up songs about architecture, thieves, bicycles, the end of summer, and two roads that diverge in a wood.

Amanda Thorpe an English native, moved to New York in the 90’s and has seen the city go through a variety of changes, some drastic, some subtle! Her last album, Union Square, featuring appearances by Graham Nash, Martha Wainwright and Tony Scherr among other notables, captures areas of New York within the songs. Co-produced with Brad Albetta (the McGarrigle Sisters, Teddy Thompson). Amanda has received rave reviews in Billboard, People Magazine, and The Boston Globe to name a few. She is also known for her work with Wirebirds and Bedsit Poets. Currently, Amanda is finishing up her fourth solo recording, with several songs meandering through another borough, Brooklyn. Amanda's vocals continue to "balance brassiness and vulnerability with panache." (Variety).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Hard Day's Night

Today, is my third day in the Twilight Zone. I have no parent, teacher or boss to tell me what to do for the first time since I'm eight years old. It feels weird great. My dreams the last few nights are being directed by David Lynch on recreational drugs. In one, I dated Donna Reed and her father was Bilko (Phil Silvers). Every time I went over the house, he gave me a drill sergeant dress down.

When I was eight in 1962, My first job was Joe's Candy's store on York Avenue between 83rd and 84th Street. Here's what happened.

My First Coffin

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.

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.”

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 a.m. 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.

“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 toward 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 goodbye. Joe was washing the long stirring spoons - for the second time in the previous 10 minutes.

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




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)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Getting Ready for the Neighborhood Storytelling Show on Sun Feb 28th and the Rest of My Life

Friday night, I finished getting my stuff out of my old work office into my new work office, my home. 33 banker boxes, 11 Duane Reade shopping bags, and every left over Christmas shopping bag I could find. I like my stuff, fortunately, I have a little Felix Unger in me and though I'm a pack rat, I do eventually organize and neat my place up.

So exhibit 1, in black and white, was my place Friday night. Exhibit 2, is something near my dream writing space. Only time, sweat and lots of coffee will tell. I have a trunk of stories to unlock.

Neighborhood Evolution
Maxwell's, Sun, Feb 28th @ 3pm

This coming Sunday's storytelling show @ Maxwell's in Hoboken on Feb 28th @ 3pm will be terrific. The talent is deep and the streets, roofs and stoops are ready to talk to you and tell you their tales.

Easy Ride:

The Hoboken PATH station is ten to fifteen minutes from the following PATH stations in Manhattan: World Trade Center, 9th Street, Christopher and 33st/Penn Station. Maxwell's is ten blocks from the Hoboken PATH Station. It's a $ 4 cab ride from the cab stand @ the station. Maxwell's is five minutes from the exit of the Holland Tunnel if you drive from somewhere east of the Hudson River.
You can also take the 126 NJ Transit bus from Port Authority to Hoboken, which stops one block from Maxwells, and it's only $2.55!"

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Neighborhood Storytelling in Word & Song, Next Sun, Feb 28th @ 3pm @ Maxwell's in Hoboken

Neighborhood Evolution
Through Story & Song
Sunday, February 28th @ 3pm ~ Admission; $7
@ Maxwell’s, 1039 Washington Street, Hoboken
Hoboken and New York artists burrow through their warrens, digging in the dirt, interpreting their neighborhood experiences, past and present. Through song and story, they rebuild places that don’t exist anymore or hide from plain sight. Wiggle inside an ash can to escape a bully. Lean out a window with a pillow under your chest and see a guy in a T-shirt running up a fire escape with a TV under his arm! Hurdle an air shaft on a roof just to feel your heart pound on the outside of your chest… or sit on a stoop.

The neighborhood’s awake and talented songwriters, musicians and storytellers are ready to paint characters and scenes for your eyes and ears. Here are the artists on the block:
Claudia Chopek (with Ward White), Edward Rogers, Debby Schwartz (with Katie Gentile), Eddie Skuller (with Mike Fornatale), Lianne Smith, Amanda Thorpe
Abbi Crutchfield, Philip Dray, Thomas Pryor, Naturi Thomas, Adam Wade

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Hazy Shade of Winter

Ahhh, seasons change with the scenery,
Weaving time in a tapestry,
Won't you stop and remember me?
(Paul Simon)
Here's a view of the frontage of St. Peter's Church, the oldest Roman Catholic parish in New York. Standing north of the church, this view was hidden before the foolish demolition of the Deco Art styled Dun & Bradstreet building last year, and will only be available for a limited time until the monolith goes up across the street. Behind the church is the Underwood Building. At one point, Underwood Typewriter was one of the largest companies in the world ~ this was their headquarters. See the 1911 black & white photo of the building with the Municipal Building in construction on Centre Street behind it.

I roamed around City Hall Park today and took a couple of photos. In one, I caught a squirrel and pigeon playing an ignore me game.

I leave my affordable housing job and my office below in two days, and slide into my new career. Can't wait.
Here's a description of St. Peter's from their web site:

Old St. Peter's is the Mother Church of Catholic New York, as it is the oldest Roman Catholic parish in New York City and New York State. The Roman Catholic Church was not permitted to function in New York during the Dutch and British colonial periods, except for the administration of Gov. Thomas Dongan (1683-88), who was himself Catholic. The American Revolution changed all this, and in 1785, after the British evacuation of New York, St. Peter’s Church was founded. Property was acquired on Barclay Street, and the first church constructed on the site of the present church. St. Peter's Parish opened the first Catholic school in the state of New York in 1800. Elizabeth Ann Seton was received into the Roman Catholic Church at St. Peter's in 1805. Born in New York City in 1774, Elizabeth often prayed before The Crucifixion painting above St. Peter's main altar. (This painting by Mexican artist Jose Vallejo was a gift from the archbishop of Mexico City in 1789.) A widow and mother of five, the former Episcopalian eventually went on to found the Sisters of Charity. Elizabeth was the first person born in the (soon-to-be) United States to become a canonized saint (September 14, 1975). The cornerstone of the present Greek Revival granite building with six Ionic columns was laid in 1836, as designed by John R. Haggerty and Thomas Thomas. St. Peter's was the first church in the archdiocese to offer midday services, and by the 1940s St. Peter's was becoming more of a service church as the financial district gave way to stores and tall office buildings, with thousands entering the area each day for work.In 1965, St. Peter's was designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The church is located just north of the World Trade Center towers, and was a staging area for emergency responders. The body of the Rev. Mychal Judge, Chaplain to the New York City Fire Department and officially the first casualty of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, was brought to St. Peter's by firefighters and laid before the altar.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Happy Valentine's Day, Alison, I miss you, love, Dad

ps here is my favorite Valentine song by Nils Lofgren.

pss here's a February 14th memory

Valentine’s Day 1971 , I'm sitting at Nan’s kitchen table while she cuts vegetables for pea soup.
.“Thanks for the card. What are getting Gin?”
.“A card.” I answered.
.“What?” She stopped cutting which was a highly unusual thing for her to do. Abort a chore to talk? She was a multi-tasker.
"I spent all my money on her Christmas and birthday gifts, I'm broke."
"You like the girl?"
"Want to lose her?"

"Then don't be a knucklehead. Get my pocketbook."
She reached in and pulled out a ten.
"Here, get her something nice, and if you don't spend the the ten, I want my money back."
"Thanks, Nan."
I bought two James Taylor albums at Woolworth's on 86th Street. Then, I went to Mickey's florist on 84th & First and bought one rose. I delivered the package hiding the records inside my corduroy jacket pulling them out after Gin took the rose. I got a long hug and a big kiss. She didn't let me go. Nan's mind reading skills were started to scare me.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Freddy Muller Slips a Tag

When Ralph and Norton snuck out on the girls to go fishing early Saturday morning, they borrowed Freddy Muller's car. They got caught.
Fifteen years later, that same Freddy Muller showed up in St. Stephen of Hungary 4th grade and stayed until graduation on June 16, 1968.
Never questioning Freddy on how an old television character became a ten year old boy we instantly became friends when we found two green derby hats with a bunch of fake money stapled to them in a garbage can on 83rd Street in front of Leo Clairborne's house. It was St. Patrick's 1964, we hit all the bars with the money hats. Most of the guys were loaded by 3pm, and either gave us change or threw it at us. Freddy never missed catching a coin. I knew then, I was in the presence of superior athletic ability.
Whatever sport Freddy played he was good at, but his best game was running the bases. Freddy could slip a tag like Phil Rizzuto. I miss playing ball with Freddy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Telephone Bar, We Three Productions Readings, Goodbye to All That

The Telephone Bar and Grill, an East Village fixture closed last week.
We Three Productions presented biweekly readings of Poetry and Prose in The Library Lounge for 15 years.
Thank you, Tim O'Mara, Harold Dean James, Wayne Kral, Audrey Peterson, and Mike Herron for producing the show, and giving countless new writers opportunities to tell their stories, read their poems and connect with an audience. Your love for the production and your efforts were evident. We are grateful. Lisa Lush, thank you for your hard work, hospitality and making us feel at home in the front of the place.
We look forward to We Three Productions moving the show to a new location later this month.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mom's Still In a Headlock

Today is the two year anniversary of the Giants victory over the Patriots. My work chum, Bill Cardinale, gifted me a copy of his painting of Tyree's catch over a disturbed Rodney Harrison, who spent the next minute in disbelief, along with everyone who just watched Eli Manning escape from a hoard of Patriots to throw the ball.

The game was sweet, the parade was sweet, and reliving putting my mother, Uncle Mommy, in a headlock to clinch a Gary Wood led Giant victory in 1964 was sweet.

My daughter, Alison, born 10 months after the 1986 Giant's Super Bowl victory (see my Rose Bowl game ticket below from January 25, 1987) wore her Giant hat proudly during Dannon yogurt breaks.