Friday, February 25, 2011

Skateaway, That's All

Wednesday, I bundled up and biked through Central Park. Afterwards, I found a few pictures/prints that were in my memory of ice skaters from the 1800s' on the frozen Central Park Lake.

The four photo/print/paintings below, that are not my photos, are in order: skaters in front of the Dakota, which you can purchase from The New York Times Store, a small group in front of the Dakota with a guy in a bowler smoking on the right (no attribution), a Currier and Ives print from the 1860s, and last, Moonlight Skating, an 1878 painting by John O"Brian Inman with Bethesda Fountain in the background.

Every time, I go through the park old scenes pop up, then I see the same place now, and it's equally pretty and I see something new I missed before. The park still shines 150 years later.

Listened to Skateaway while I rode. Making Movies, Dire Straits, a perfect album.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Column in "Our Town" Newspaper

Hi Friends, my newspaper column, "City Stories: Stoops to Nuts" starts today in Our Town, the Manhattan weekly.

It's an honor to write for a newspaper serving the community since 1970.

Early on, my grandmother contributed to the paper and I attended Our Town functions at the Central Park Boathouse. Our Town sent a reporter to the Asphalt Plant football field in March 1974 to cover the local PAL Championship won by St. Stephen's of Hungary.

Thank you, Manhattan Media and Allen Houston, Our Town's Executive Editor, for inviting me to write for a paper that's tied to my life and tied to my stories.

Thank you, for reading my stuff. I love to make you laugh.

Here is the link to the first story.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Everyone's Gone to the Moon

Walked down to the East Village last night with the full moon and my jacket open. 60 degrees!

Everyone was in a playful mood.

"Everyone's Gone to the Moon," Jonathan King

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dancing in the Moonlight

I love tackle football, always have, and encouraged it year round in Yorkville.

In my lifetime, I've played a tackle football game in every one of the twelve months. Many viewed this strange.

Finding a decent field to play tackle football in Yorkville was a challenge in the 1960s & 1970s. In Central Park you marked the sidelines on the rocky no drainage field by carefully placing your coats and bags in a row and making an end zone with your extra equipment. Nobody wanted to put there stuff far away from the action. It tended to walk off.

In 1973 the Asphalt Green opened ~ we played tackle football on our first authentic marked-off field. In March 1974, St. Stephen's of Hungary won the Championship.

Here's the Our Town newspaper article on that game and several photographs from 1973 and 1974.

At the conclusion of the "Pineapple Bowl," aka the "1973-1974 Yorkville PAL Football Championship" St. Stephen's celebrated on the sideline at 90th St & York Avenue. This song blasted on several radios, we rocked all day and danced in the moonlight.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Franz Liebkind Is Dead ~ Kenneth Mars Died

Want to cheer up? Watch Mel Brooks classic 1968 "The Producers," starring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars, Lee Meredith & Dick Shawn.

Kenneth Mars, a wonderful character actor, and the original Franz Liebkind passed away on Saturday.

Below is my favorite scene from the film featuring Mars, may he rest in peace. "Today Broadway, tomorrow..."

"This calls for schnapps!"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Going Out Of My Head

“Well, I think I’m going out of my head,” the singer’s words burst out of the car’s radio circling the space. December 1964, I’m 10, in my Uncle George’s 1961 Impala. It still smelled new, Georgie was like that. I’m in the back of the big car by myself; upfront is my gorgeous Aunt Joan. Being alone with them was like being in an Elvis movie.

We pass the Natural History Museum, but I’m sitting on the Central Park side of the car staring into the trees at twilight focused on the song. My window was down, I leaned out and let the cool breeze ride through my crew cut.

This song stunned me, it was so good. Little Anthony passionately sung and the orchestra kept lifting after silent drops, with a sweet girl chorus joining in at the right time. I fell for this song as hard as I ever fell for any girl in my whole life. Fortunately, the crush is already reciprocated and all you have to do to keep loving it, and hope it doesn’t hit Number #1 because if it does, then it will be over played on the radio to the point that you want to shoot the singer.

It was the orchestra that nailed my heart to this record. The thundering instruments working together with the pleading singer turned the song into a movie. The inside of the Impala was the 86th RKO. I was a weird kid; I bought the soundtracks to Doctor Zhivago and Ben Hur. Mom thought I was losing it, but it pleased my father who hated our music. I still listen to those Lps on my turntable.

I was a lucky 10 years old boy in 1964 ~ delighted daily by the explosion of music from England, Detroit, California, Philly, Boston, New York and everywhere else.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Friendly Ghosts

This past September, I toured St. Stephen of Hungary's grammar school and church with Principal Katherine Peck. In several locations during the walk I had out of body experiences where I clearly saw full classrooms from the 1960s, nuns, priests, brothers, teachers and custodians moving around, telling us what to do, but mostly what not to do. I could've touched them. I'm a little weird, I liked school, loved playing but school was home, felt like I belonged, learned a lot about junk and life.

Last Friday, I was one of three judges in a Saint Stephen's Student Speech Contest in the school's auditorium. There were eight contestants and they were all amazing. Education is flying high at Saint Stephen's. I had a ball.

The speech contest was in the auditorium space where from 6 to 14 years old, I was in plays, watched movies, I was in the audience, got thrown out a few times. Followed President Kennedy's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Program. I still hate Jumping Jacks. Hung out in Mr. Varga's office, stuck uneatable sandwiches under the lunchroom tables so I could get an empty tray through the nun's careful you must eat everything inspection. Became part of Troop 654 Boy Scouts, sung in Hungarian, played tackle football, field hockey, whiffle ball, and Johnny on the Pony (when the nuns weren't looking). Kissed a girl at a dance in early March 1969. The song playing was a slow one, "Season of the Witch."

I'm happy Saint Stephen's is still part of my life.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Off The Point

Yesterday, it warmed up to the point if you were a kid and playing in the street the coat definitely would have come off. Because of the five week snow cover going back to the holidays, spring games would have popped up in 1969. The best and easiest to start spring game was Off The Point. All you needed was a Spauldeen, a wall, and two players (ideally four players or up to six).

In the picture below taken by Jan Chapman in 1969, Freddy Muller is about to whack the ball off the point of 400 East 83rd Street (the lip/edge at the bottom of the wall). Two odd things about this photograph: Freddy was right handed, but he's using his left. Probably someone dared him to play with his left hand, or sometimes for a goof we all would play a whole game of Off The Point or Whiffle Ball with our opposite hand. Freddy was close to be ambidextrous, he excelled when we switched hands.

The second odd thing about this photo is the game is being played south to north. We usually used the point on the north side of the street making the south side building the outfield wall. We probably had a string of bad luck with Mr. Moylan. He lived on the second floor of 400 and if he was home when we played Off The Point, he'd open all four of his windows facing the game and wait. Inevitably, someone would sail a high flying shot over the outfielder's head high enough to reach the second floor then it was only a matter of luck whether it hit the wall or dove through the window, gone forever. He never gave a ball back. Spauldeens were expensive, each one lost was painful to the pocket. We thought Mr. Moylan was a sourpuss, looking back, we tortured him and deserved more than open windows.

We usually had a large radio/cassette player positioned on top of a car to entertain us while we played. In 1969, this song was still in heavy rotation, we played it loud.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Is Fifty Years A Long Time?

Is fifty years a long time? Depends, on your memory and how enjoyable or painful that memory is.

The top picture is 50 years ago in Putnam County in July, me, Uncle Mickey & Aunt Barbara. The second picture is me, Vito D'Amico & Uncle Mickey this past July after our first radio show together at Giovanna's Restaurant in East Harlem. Mickey passed away three month later in October 2010.

This week, the Super Bowl in Dallas involving the Green Bay Packers brings back a strong Mickey memory.

Around noon, December 31, 1967, Mickey and Barbara came into our 83rd Street apartment, Barbara stayed in the kitchen with her sister, Mom, and Mickey walked into my bedroom where I was alone writing down the lineups for the game.

"Go get your father's black polish and shoe brush." Mickey said.
"Huh?" I said.
"Do it!" He ordered.
He's nuts and usually a lot of fun so I go get Dad's shoe box. On the way back to my room Mom gave me a look.
"Shine my shoes." Mickey ordered.
I looked at him like he is nuts.
"And here's a little something for your trouble."
He handed me a crisp ten dollar bill.
I tried to figure out something to say or ask but he beat me to it.
"I won two bets last week and picked up this morning, don't tell Barbara."

I was 13, thrilled for the bill and happy Mickey was over the house, he was an on and off actor and had 100 voices. For Christmas, Dad bought me my first reel-to-reel Tanberg tape recorder and I was taping all the songs off the radio but I needed a partner in crime to use the new gray microphone. Rory didn't like sports and Mickey was a perfect choice to do pre-game with me. Even though Ray Scott, Jack Buck and Frank Gifford were CBS announcers that day, Mickey decided to take it another way.

"This is Chris Schenkel live from Lambeau Field in frozen Green Bay where today, Tom Landry's Cowboys face off against the NFL World Champion Green Bay Packers. The Dallas team is looking for revenge for last year's defeat. I'm here with New York Giant Golden Boy, Number 16, Frank Gifford, say hi, Frank."
"Hi." I did as told.
"This is the coldest assignment I've had since I covered the bobsled championship in Saint Moritz, Switzerland in 1952. It is thirteen degrees below zero, I had to take off my glove to itch my nose, and my finger turned into a twig. What do you think Frank?"
"It's going to be tough on the players, but these are two great teams."
"Well said, Gif!"
"Thank you, Chris."

And the idiocy went on for seven or eight minutes, I never had that much fun on a microphone again until Mickey and I did the two radio shows together this past July. I still have the tape from 1967. I hope I find it, if I do I will put it up on the blog. Picture below is the microphone from that first tape player.

That day Bart Starr followed Jerry Kramer into the end zone on a sneak with sixteen seconds left to seal the Packers victory in the Ice Bowl.

ps Chuck Mercein, a former New York Giant Baby Bull, caught a pass and ran 19 yards on the final Packer drive, then Mercein carried the ball eight yards to the three to set up Starr's sneak. That was my personal highlight for the game, outside the Cowboys losing.

pss 20 years ago this week, "No good! Wide right!" Giants 20 Bills 19

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"I'm Not That Strong A Swimmer"

One thing makes me happy about this Super Bowl. Jerry Jones is hosting it, and his Cowboys ain't in it.

Add Eagles are home, it gets better.

At 15, I was a fanatical New York Giants/NFL fan and had no interest in the merger with the AFL. Green Bay had a leader on his way to sainthood, Lombardi the former Giant offensive coach, was feared, respected, but not hated, except by his own players who would not put him out if he was on fire but they won every important game for him. Steelers had Art Rooney and he with Wellington Mara went back to the beginning of the league, and the Steelers stunk when the Giants stunk so Pittsburgh was tolerable and not on my Anti-Christ list.

Tomorrow, I'm rooting for the Packers, because Aaron Rodgers is in a zone that makes it a pleasure to watch him manage a game. Ben Roethlisberger is playing at a top level, too. Folks say no one can run on Pittsburgh. So what? Rodgers will get outside the box, pick up first downs running and keep them honest. It's rare in football that one player can carry a team but Rodgers like Brees last year with the Saints has stepped up.

In the picture below doesn't Jerry look like Martin Short playing Lawrence in the Men's Synchronized Swimming sketch from Saturday Night Live?

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Quarterback on a Roll Trumps Your Good Luck Charms

It has come to my attention, that gathering your good luck charms together cannot ensure your team's victory when the other team has a dead solid perfect quarterback.

In January 2008, putting Mom's Teddy Bear into a headlock was sufficient voodoo to knock off Brett Favre who was dying to play catch with Corey Webster even though Corey wore blue and Brett had that pea soupy colored jersey on the Packers wear.

Two months ago, before the New York Giants played Green Bay the day after Christmas, I gathered my lucky charms and placed them strategically on the couch to watch the game with me. My # 16 blue jersey from 1969 ~ I was a lineman in the 145 lb tackle league with Our Lady of Good Counsel's Rams; my Rose Bowl seat cushion from January 25, 1987 ~ the New York Giants first Super Bowl victory; Hector the Duck, my daughter Alison's favorite pal~ zee, wal~zee; Tweety Bird; & my blue New York Giant mittens knitted by my grandmother twice as big as my hands. She told me, "You'll grow into them!"

Despite all the prime voodoo, Aaron Rodgers, GB QB, went all Drew Brees on the Giants and kicked our butt. The only thing that made me feel better, was watching Aaron roll on taking no prisoners.

I have four friends who are big GB fans and I'm wishing them luck, not sure they need any with Aaron running the table: John O., Jane R., Michael G., & Murph the Surf.

Thursday, February 3, 2011