Friday, December 28, 2012

I Mustn't Eat After Midnight

Foolishly, I made a big sandwich after midnight. The smelly cheese, mayo and thin steak slices stuffed on two wedges of bakery rye joined me on the couch with a cold glass of milk.

Chewing away, watching my favorite "Christmas Carol," 1951's with Alastair Sim, Christmas Past made his appearance when the clock struck one and I left consciousness behind.

In my dark dream, Big Mouth, "the gentle dinosaur," was attacked by a huge cat who called himself, Stu. Stu showed Big Mouth no mercy, first smelling him up and down then performing Monty Python's Fish Slapping Dance while delivering several blows to Big Mouth's head. Before the beating went further, I woke in a cold sweat as Tiny Tim slurred, "God bless us, everyone!"

I mustn't eat after midnight.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

31 Chambers Street's Royal Throne

In the mid 1960s through the mid 1970s my grandmother was legal secretary to Judge Xavier Riccobono in Manhattan's Supreme Court in Foley Square. Nan respected and loved working for "Ricky" (never to his face).  If my grandmother called the judge at home in the morning to let him know she was ill and not coming in he stayed home, too. The judge knew who ran the office.

Being on the subway at 10 or 11 alone in 1965 was no big deal and I began visiting my grandmother downtown on school holidays if she was working. Going to the Courts, being treated swell (except by my grandmother, who told me to watch my step and keep my big mouth shut unless someone spoke to me) was a pretty good deal.  I got to know a lot of folks at 60 Centre Street and enjoyed their company but would grow itchy and go out and explore the neighborhood.

Of all the places I played in, Tweed Courthouse, City Hall, Municipal Building, Woolworth Building, my favorite downtown building was and remains 31 Chambers Street.  The Surrogate Court was built over an eight year period and opened in 1907. Made from Maine granite, it was Disneyland to me. In the 1960s security was lax or nonexistent and I wandered the top and bottom of most offices surrounding City Hall Park. But 31 Chambers was the winner, dark cavernous basement with long poles to pull voucher boxes from drawers fifteen feet in the air, secret entrances, a lobby that beat ancient Rome's Senate floor for beauty (seen in 10,000 films and TV shows), and the best part of the whole trip: I had full access to the judges bathrooms on the top floor.

These were not bathrooms. They were turn of the century male powder rooms with enough exquisite wood and polished brass you'd think you were in Delmonico's and just ran into your old pal, Diamond Jim Brady. The 1960s were a time if you were a kid and without saying a word you looked like you were going to ask a merchant, "Could I please use your the bathroom?" Out on your ass, no delay. I grew up in a noisy apartment with a closet size bathroom. I knew lavatory heaven when I saw it. I'd take two newspapers up there that I'd find on benches along the way up the long marble staircases ( I knew the judges and staff schedules and when the bathrooms were empty of traffic). I'd rest a spell on a toilet bowl so luxurious the King of France endorsed it in "Crapper Magazine."

From the Royal Throne I ruled fairly over the land.

Here are photos of 31 Chambers Street and Foley Square.

Tomorrow, Friday, December 21st @ 7pm, I'm a guest storyteller at Eric Vetter's No Name and A Bag O' Chips free variety show @ Otto's Shrunken Head @ 538 East 14th Street.  We promise a fine time, and then the world ends.

"River to River: New York Scenes from a Bicycle" available @Amazon @ $12.95.

Barbara, Pat O'Rourke & Pat Carmody on SE corner of 86th & York
Happy 75th Birthday tomorrow to my baby aunt, Barbara Ryan Fiorillo. I remember the sweet rides she'd give me in the carriage over to Kronk's Soda Fountain shop to flirt with the boys on 87th Street in the late 1950s. Free egg cream and a pretzel every time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

31 Years Ago Today, the NY Jints Drought Ended

On December 19, 1981, my Dad and I watched Joe “The Nose” Danelo kick the Giants over the Cowboys into the playoffs for the first time since 1963. (The playoff spot was actually locked in the next day when the Jets beat the Packers giving the Giants a wildcard spot).

Never having a sports interested child, I've lost most of my enthusiasm for pro sports, except for the Jints. I remain deliriously under the impression the Giants need me to root for them. I get delightful pleasure when they play well; it’s the one thing other than exercise that still makes me feel like I'm a kid.  My Dad is gone several years, but he's with me every Giant game.  Dad never missed one of my football games even with his world class hangovers. We loved the Giants together, it was our unbreakable link.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Walking My Baby Back Home

I didn't see much handholding during my time around my parents marriage. One rarity stands out.

I worked at Corner Pharmacy on the southeast corner of 79th Street and York Avenue (see bottom photo). My bosses were Marty and Milton. It was Christmas time on a Saturday night around 1965. I was itchy to leave, standing in front of the door waiting for my seven o'clock end of shift watching people go by, coming or going shopping or if they were really dressed up I figured they were rushing to holiday parties. I turned to my right across 79th Street in front of the Chase Manhattan where the guys were selling Christmas trees. As I daydreamed about running up 86th Street to Woolworth's to look at records, I saw a couple pop through the canopy of evergreens arm in arm laughing and the man was hugging the woman's fur hat covered head. She shrugged away, not mad but like someone who'd been tickled, and I knew before I saw their faces its my parents. (Mom didn't like anyone touching her head.) After they crossed to my side, I asked them what was up, "Nothing, just wanted to drop down and say hi to you." I smiled big. Dad asked, "What are you doing later?" I told him about Woolworths, he said be home by 9:30. I made a face. He said 10. This was good, I was eleven years old.

As they walked away I yelled, "Where ya going?" "Dad yelled back, "Down to 57th over to the Plaza, then back up Madison. Just a walk."

I was never happier they were mine, and couldn't wait to walk my girl back home.

Walking My Baby Back Home - James Taylor

Photos here: Madison Avenue along the mid 70s and one shot of 78th Street's trees leaning south.

a perfect Stocking Stuffer or holiday gift ~ my book of photographs, "River to River: New York Scenes form a Bicycle."  $12.95 from Amazon.

Next Friday, December 21st @ 7pm, I'm telling a story @ Eric Vetter's "No Name and a O' Bag of Chips free variety show @ Otto's Shrunken Head, if you want terrific holiday cheer, this is the place.

Mom and Dad - 12.31.67

The former Corner Pharmacy with half of the original sign

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sister Lorraine Catches Kids Necking in Carl Schultz

You know those Dutch kids, Lars and Gusta, the exchange students who started 7th grade at St. Stephen's this semester? Well yesterday, Sister Lorraine caught them necking down Carl Schultz Park near the 86th Street staircase. Their future at the school is cloudy.  Two years ago, Sister Lorraine threw Kevin Murphy through the coat room closet door just for looking at her funny. I imagine our new friends from Holland cheery faculty welcome will soon be on the fritz.

More photos from the scene of the crime below.

Here is a link to a photo album from Tuesday's Stoops to Nuts show at Cornelia Street Cafe.

The New York Daily News endorses and recommends "Stoops to Nuts."

"River to River: New York Scenes from a Bicycle," a great stocking stuffer or holiday gift only $12.95 @ Amazon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stoops to Nuts Warms Cornelia Street

When you say an event is the best ever, right after the event happened doubt slips in.  You don't purposely try to knock it down, what you are doing is hoping down the road the best thing ever hasn't happened to you yet.

Well, I don't care, here I go:  Last night's "City Stories: Stoops to Nuts" show at Cornelia Street Cafe was the most exciting storytelling show ever.  The Cafe was electric.  From my seat, I saw a attentive full house totally engaged in each artist's performance. We heard tales and songs of redemption, family strife, a mother asking her kid "for a little help here;"the best Christmas ever,  reflections on a grandmother's and great aunt's unconditional love, and a story about stepping back from a family and seeing their capacity to walk into an asylum as a group and immediately getting a suite.

Thank you, Barbara Aliprantis, Nicole Ferraro, Robin Hirsch, Jim Hawkins, Amanda Thorpe and Adam Wade.  Your audience was deeply moved by your work last night. Your stories and songs lifted spirits and charmed hearts.  Thank you, Steve Northeast and Natalie for making us feel at home.  Thank you, Angelo Verga and Josh Rebell for inviting us to play and that we did.

Here are photos from the show and pictures of the surrounding West Village neighborhood.

Our next "City Stories: Stoops to Nuts" show is Tuesday, January 8th @ 6pm.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stoops To Nuts Tonight - Bowery Island Summer

"City Stories Stoops to Nuts" storytelling show @ Cornelia Street Cafe ~ Tonight, Tuesday @ December  11th @ 6pm. Our artists: Barbara Aliprantis, Nicole Ferraro, Amanda Thorpe and Adam Wade

Our special guest, Jim Hawkins, will tell a fine seasonal yarn then shoot back home to study for his semester finals at Power Memorial. 

Admission is $8, that includes one free drink.

The NY Daily News recommends tonight's show.

A PRYOR ENGAGEMENT. Acclaimed author Tom Pryor hosts “Stoops to Nuts,” an evening of storytelling and song, at the Cornelia Street Cafe. Also on the bill: Barbara Aliprantis, Nicole Ferraro, Amanda Thorpe and Adam Wade. 6 p.m. $8. 29 Cornelia St. (212) 989-9319.

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