Friday, July 30, 2010

Old Yorkville, One Story At a Time

Last week, Dan Rivoli, lead reporter for Our Town newspaper and I walked and talked the Yorkville neighborhood. We were joined by Our Town's photo editor, Andrew Schwartz. The conversation developed into "A Look at Old Yorkville, One Story At a Time."

Thank you, Dan, for turning my blabbing about my family's neighborhood history into a clear and well written account of my feelings. Thank you, Andrew, for dealing with the rain and taking fine shots. Thank you, Allen Houston, Our Town's Executive Editor, for running the article. I love sharing my pictures and stories. You gave me a wonderful opportunity to do so.

The specific history of the pictures on this page: On August 30, 1942, various Yorkville organizations & block leaders dedicated a huge service flag across 84th Street near the York Avenue corner. The flag says, "Our Boys, God Speed Them Home." It hung, three stories high, from one side of buildings to the other. There was a parade in the streets, up to Second Avenue, then down and up, 82nd, 83rd, 84th & 85th Street all the way to East End Avenue before finishing the parade on 84th Street where a crowd gathered in front of 511 East 84th Street for speeches by various local leaders including my grandmother, Ann Pryor Rode. My grandfather, father and uncle show up in a few of these photos. These pictures are treasured gifts my family gave me, and I plan to leave them for my daughter, and hopefully on and on. Rich reminders of things past.

Artie Shaw was all over the radio in August 1942, there is no better clarinet on earth.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sparkle Lane ~ Happy 208th Birthday, Nan!

Thank you, Edward Rogers, for being my guest last night on "Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts,". I love people who shut me up, Ed, you do that. It's always a joyful education for me, please come back to the show in the fall. We'll keep the conversation going and play more tunes. Please visit Ed's web site below, and pick up his wonderful new album, "Sparkle Lane."

Thank you, Melani Rogers for your great smile that cheered us on.

It was our third show at Giovanna's Restaurant. Davino continues to make us feel at home with splendid food and hospitality.

If you'd like to listen to the show here is the link on the terrific Centanni Broadcasting Network.

Please listen in next week @ Tuesday @ 9pm or go to the archive and listen to the show at your leisure.

Today is my grandmother, Ann Pryor Rode's 104th birthday ~ or is it her 208th birthday?

I’m 10, I go up my grandmother’s house around the corner to see what’s up.

“Hi, Nan.”
“That's it?”
“I said, hi.”
“Where’s my Happy Birthday?”
“I wished you a happy birthday on the 23rd and made you a card, its right there on top of the TV.”
“Today is my birthday, too.”
Involuntarily, my head started shaking. I was used to my grandmother’s inquisitions but I didn’t understand this one and needed assistance.
“Nan, I don't get it.”
She explained.

Nan was delivered by Saveria Palermo, a mid-wife from the Yorkvilleneighborhood on July 23, 1906 in her family's apartment at 1403 Avenue A, later named York Avenue, two buildings in, off 75thStreet.
When the lazy mid-wife filled out her Board of Health birth certificates the following Monday, July 30th, she used the same date, Saturday, July 28th, for all the babies she delivered that week ~ so, Nan had two birthdays, July 23rd & July 28th.
My great-grandfather, Antonino Cuccia, a fruit stern, and his wife Giovanna couldn't read or speak English so they never fixed the certificate, but they always celebrated Anna’s birthday twice.
She was the baby of the family and a spoiled brat. She told me.
Nan never bored me. I miss her.
Here are some pictures of Anna Cuccia, aka, Ann Pryor Rode.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's About the Music, Then And Now

On the radio show tonight, my guest, Edward Rogers & I are going lightly through the past using music to tickle our brains. Edward, songwriter, musician, yarn spinner, has a terrific new album, "Sparkle Lane." We'll play old ones and new ones and muse over what it all means to us.

My grandmother left me lots of stuff. Some sentimental and some practical. Among the practical items are an antique beater that helps me make nifty mashed potatoes, Vanilla Extract for yummy pound cake & Cut-Rite Wax Paper. This box of wax paper, over fifteen years old, still delivers excellent cheese storage in the clinch when other normally reliable products are not there. Thank you, Nan.

Please listen to, Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts, @internet radio, Tuesday @ 9pm @ the Centanni Broadcasting Network. Here's the link:
Go to live streaming at 9pm on Tuesdays, or go to the archive next day and find the show you wish to listen to, for example: last week's link is below

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Hardest Button to Button

Last week, I told two Yankee baseball memories to a TV camera, I'll leave it at that until I'm sure there's a show and I'm in it. I brought a ton of material with me after ransacking my place looking for stuff I swore I intelligently put away the last time I needed them: photos, letters, clippings, tix stubs, programs, etc. When The New York Times published my New York Giant & Yankee stories in 2008 and asked for same things, my apartment looked like I was robbed by mean, thing-breaking thieves. Dyslexic Anti-Dewey decimal freak I am, I did it again. Why do I do this to myself? My nerves are shot, I've wasted three days re-organizing my stuff. But this time I did it right, shoved everything in those long wooden Dewey decimal drawers in the antique library filing cabinet I picked up in the 4th Avenue Antique store. Only kidding, but all items are now filed, boxed or snugly put away in photograph storage things. Almost done.

You can take me anywhere, but you can't dress me.

At the TV studio one of the producers needed to fix the collar on my shirt and on my sports jacket which had flipped up after my shirt was resolved. I had to re-button my shirt twice, how buttons open themselves I'll never know, I'm not portly. I sat on the microphone booster and had to retell a tale when I did. In one story, Sparky Lyle, a pitcher, after striking out the side, leaves the mound banging his glove against his chest. Without thinking it through, I reenacted this scene and beat my fist against my chest, one inch away from the microphone on my lapel. The fellow doing the sound with the headphones on looked like the only guy on the stage who didn't know the cannon goes off at the end of the 1812 Overture. After he recovered, I apologized twice.

Please listen to, Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts, @ internet radio, every Tuesday @ 9pm @ the Centanni Broadcasting Network. Here's the link:

Go to live streaming at 9pm on Tuesdays, or go to the archive next day and find the show you wish to listen to, for example: last week's link is below

Tomorrow night's guest is Edward Rogers, songwriter, musician, yarn spinner. Edward has a terrific new record, "Sparkle Lane." We'll play a few songs off the album and a few tunes from way back that trigger our neighborhood memories.


A dear friend, Rhona Saffer, passed away yesterday. Too young, too soon. Funny with a wicked wit, smart and compassionate. She never judged me, always loved me. Rhona was a terrific friend & loving always there for her kids mother. I'll miss her every day.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter

Today, at a local New York TV studio, I told my baseball memories in front of a camera. One I told, I forced my Dad to take me to three straight Yankee games in May 1967 after Mantle hit his 499th homer. I was going to catch number 500. The Mick was going to hit it into the right field grandstands, and that's where we sat Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. I brought my glove.

Well, he didn't hit it Friday night, and it drove my father nuts that the Yankees were down by 10 runs in the 5th, Hal Reniff gave up nine earned runs and we didn't leave. I had to see every Mick at bat. He didn't hit it Saturday either. But Sunday, God bless, Stu Miller, the Baltimore Oriole pitcher threw a meat ball to Mickey and he cracked it. That ball was coming straight to me and I could feel the hair on my father's neck stand up. I watched it rise over first base, then travel most of the outfield high as the top of the grandstands, then like a broken balloon it started to fall and fall, into the lower right field seats. My excitement slipped for a second, but Mickey hit 500! Mickey hit 500! Mickey hit 500! Dad and I hugged and cheered ourselves hoarse right through the next batter. Our legs were rocky.

After the season, I wrote Mickey the letter on this page asking for an autograph. I wrote it out once, Mom corrected it in pencil (that's this copy) then I re-wrote it, and mailed that copy with a stamped addressed envelope. 5 months later, I got a picture of Mantle with a phony signature. I traced real ink over the name and made believe he signed it.

My Uncle Mickey was a terrific guest on this week's Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts radio show on the Centanni Broadcasting Network. We played music, too. Take a listen here at the link below.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mitch Miller Has No Pants On ~ But He's Still Listening to Yorkville On The Radio Tomorrow Night @ 9pm

I lost my family swiftly, Mom, Rory, my brother; Dad, and my grandmother in four years.
As the Pryor survivor, I ended up with stuff. Fun stuff, memorable stuff and crap stuff. As you dig through the artifacts, gifts and mysteries emerge. Dad & Mom left me their love letters from when Dad courted Mom while he was in the Navy, Rory left me every funny post card I ever sent him when he lived in California for 25 years, my grandmother left me a photograph of Mitch Miller with no pants on.
How did my grandmother, Ann Pryor Rode, get a photograph of Mitch Miller with his pants down?
If the photo was Lawrence Welk, I could understand it. She loved the "and a one-ah, and a two-ah and a three-ah" dreamboat and watched his weekly show more than I watched Barbara Eden's belly button on the first season of "I Dream of Jeannie." Nan blew bubbles with a bubble pipe during Welk's commercial breaks to keep us in the mood, but Mitch? I never saw it coming. When I found the photo lying aimlessly between two family photos from the 1920s' I thought, she wasn't even hiding this, it was there for anyone who wanted to find it. You think you know someone, then...

On tonight's show, we'll visit John McNulty's Manhattan taverns in the 1940s, The WPA Guide to New York City's vivid description of 1939 Yorkville, we'll play singles on the 83rd Street sidewalk in 1968, and my guest, Mickey Fiorillo & I will explore the golden age of neighborhood bar softball leagues and the core years when Duke, the Say Hey Kid, and The Mick ruled three centerfields in New York City: Ebbets Field, Polo Grounds and Old Yankee Stadium.

Please listen to, Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts, @ internet radio, every Tuesday @ 9pm @ the Centanni Broadcasting Network. Here's the link:

Go to live streaming at 9pm on Tuesdays, or go to the archive next day and find the show you wish to listen to, for example last week's link is below

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sweet Evening Breeze

If I paid attention to everything I do, as deeply and as passionately as I pay attention to a good pizza slice, I’d be writing you from the former Frick Museum, because I’d be so wealthy I’d have bought the place, kicked the visitors out, and be sitting in one of my twenty-five Fifth Avenue Central Park facing windows right now.

I get teary during the first bite of a great slice the same way I well up over Bambi’s mother getting shot in the movie. I learned young, that if I made believe a girl was a delicious cheese bubbly slice I paid greater attention to her. Girls know that, too. Not that you’re thinking they’re a pizza, no, that you’re listening.

Last night, I stopped in a pizza place on Chambers Street. The guy rushed me. I said. "One regular." I saw him grab the lousy runt slice that sits so snug next to a newer pizza that it looks like they are related. So, I settled on accepting the orphan. No other customers but me, but the two guys behind the counter managed to ignore me twice, ask politely, “please take it out, I’m in a rush.” I got my too hot slice on a paper plate with no tray, and the other guy gave me my change a foot away from my hand. I made a small cough, made sure I had their full attention. Then I opened the top of the grated cheese jar they foolishly left out and dumped half on my slice. Made a stupid face and thought about Mom, Dad, and manners.

Washington Square Park's fountain was happening last night, with a sweet evening breeze.

Please listen to, Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts, @ internet radio, every Tuesday @ 9pm @ the Centanni Broadcasting Network. Here's the link:

Go to live streaming, or go to the archive next day and find show you wish to listen to, for example last week's show link is below.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

All Mobbed Up On The Coney Island Boardwalk

Last night, I rode the N train out to the Poor Man's Rivera. Dying of thirst, I went directly from the Stillwell Avenue station to Abb Ganny Deli on Mermaid and grabbed a 20oz Doctor Pepper. Waiting to pay, I heard this exchange between a customer holding a dollar and the clerk behind the counter.

"Give me two."
"That's $1.50."
"Give me one. "

The clerk gave the guy a quarter back and one cigarette. A lucy costs 75 cents in Coney Island.

Coming out the Deli's door I intercepted a pass between two young brothers playing catch with a football while running up the street. I put the soda in my knapsack and tagged along with them for two blocks. Nice, kids still let you break into a throw. And I could tell they liked each other. Made me think of Rory. I never played catch with my brother, but we played stick with an ice cream stick and a Spauldeen, you know, stand apart, throw the ball towards the ground, hit the stick get a point.

It was deep twilight, I walked over to the Parachute Jump then started walking east. The show was about to begin.

"It's Now or Never," "Summerwind", "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," "Sunshine of Your Love." How's that for song progression? Well, if you were at Cha-Cha's last night on the Coney Island Boardwalk that's what you heard. Every Friday night for the rest of the summer, All Mobbed Up is playing terrific music, what style of music defies description, all I promise is you will enjoy yourself. The band, the audience, the boardwalk crowd all look like they stepped out of a group photo taken, than drawn, by Robert Crumb. My friends, Barry and Brian Stabile are in the band, and Baby Doll dances fast on stage throughout the show. Doesn't matter what song, what speed, Baby Doll dances fast. I smiled all the way home.

For a good time: All Mobbed Up @ Cha-Cha's @ Stillwell & the Coney Island Boardwalk @ every Friday through Labor Day @ 930pm

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What Does It Take?

My favorite spot in Central Park twenty years ago. I ran obsessively for sanity in 1990. The park was the doctor's office. After a long run on the bridal path circling the Reservoir, I'd take my endorphins over to the chin bar, stretch, and do arm & chest exercises a 35 year old body craves and is happy to do.

Inside the nook of a tree's root I saw a lake for very little people.

In 1990, "What Does It Take, To Win Your Love?" was on many running cassette tapes. Garland Jeffreys nails this song.

Just north of this spot is the Central Park Police Precinct. Directly in front of the precinct is a perfect tackle football field for 15 year olds. On the next radio show, I'll tell the story "28-28." Sometimes a tie's a win. For Steve Murphy & me, that day in 1969, it was.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts ~ They Can Lock Us Up and Lose The Key

"Yorkville Stoops to Nuts," maiden voyage burst out of port with a joyous rendition of "Prisoners of Love," from the best comedy ever, "The Producers. Mel Brooks classic 1968 film. Lose your job? Miss your wife? House burn down? Watch this movie, it helps.

Mickey Fiorillo, my first guest & I revisited the Yorkville neighborhood of Mickey's youth, the 1930's, 1940's & 1950's. He and I still have a lot to talk about. Mickey's coming back next week to finish our conversation. I'm bringing my copy of the 1939 WPA Guide to New York City with me, we are going to dive into the Yorkville neighborhood section and see what we can find out about the place 71 years ago. They'll be music, too!

Closed the show with Dion's cover of Tom Waits, "Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night." My Aunt Barbara former Kronk's patron was pleased.

Davino, Giovanna's owner is a terrific chef and host. Come down to 1567 Lexington Avenue @ 100th Street and try it out. Thank you, Luis and Anna for taking care of us so well last night. Thank you to my friends for being there and supporting me.

Please visit Giovanna's any Tuesday @ 9pm for "Yorkville: Stoops to Nuts" ~ the radio show.

If you want to listen to last night's show go to the Centanni link

and find the line below.

be well, Tommy