“OK, go stand against the wall.” Dad said. “Oh God, another annoying picture.” Mom mumbled. Summer 1961, we just stepped off the Lexington Avenue local at the end of the line: the Pelham Bay Park El subway stop. With his Yashica 44 camera hanging from his neck, Dad was gathering us for our first group shot. On our way to Freedomland, the terrific new amusement park in the north Bronx, Dad thought he'd capture every step of the way. Every step. The three of us took a vote and Dad won “biggest pain in the neck of all time,” and we didn’t even get to the ticket booth yet. “No, no, Tommy on the left, Patty, you in the middle, Rory on the right.” Dad said. “I want to be in the middle!” “Rory, be quiet.” After the three of us were placed in dog show positions, Dad said, “Hold still, and smile when I count to three.” Mom said through her tight lips,”On three, make a stupid face.” “One, two… three!” And here it is. The most revealing photo in my family history. Mom and I in cahoots make stupid faces, Rory is still upset at Dad for not letting him stand in the middle. Because we ruined Dad’s photo, he walked ahead of us and didn’t talk to us for an hour.
Walking to school the day Mom asked Dad for a house money raise, I smiled, remembering it was Good Friday. That afternoon we’d be doing the Stations of the Cross in the church. Right after lunch, I said, “Sister, can I be excused?” The nun made a face but she had to let me go down to the sacristy to transform into an altar boy. The rest of the class and the whole school assembled in the pews a half hour later. Kids ate the Stations of the Cross up. It was theatre. Two altar boys with gigantic candles would stand to the side of a third boy carrying Jesus on what to me looked like a heavy duty stickball bat with a crucifix on top. You felt like you were in the Roman Legion and you got to leave the altar and walk up and down the church aisles. “Look at me!” Standing right next to your chums and pretty older girls who couldn’t make you go away. That particular afternoon, things got interesting.
Kenny Devoe loved altar wine and for some reason would never drink it directly from the gallon jug. He carefully poured the wine into the cruet, the tiny glass vessel used during the mass. This drove me crazy. First problem was a twelve-year-old drinking wine. Did Kenny think he was going to get in more trouble or less trouble depending on his method for getting it into his stomach? The other problem was his slow wine transfer meant he was tripling the chance of getting caught. We knew if Kenny got busted our indictments were sealed. School rule - If you’re there, you did it.
That day, Kenny drank too much. When the altar bells rang, we led the priest out of the sacristy to the center of the altar to start the procession. I had a candle, Smithy had the cross and Kenny the other candle. At the ninth station, when Jesus carrying the cross falls for the third time, the entire student body cheered him on with practiced sarcasm learned from first grade through eighth grade; they read from their missals, “Jesus – exhausted – in pain – for the third and final time. Long pause here BUT, NO! Jesus rose and struggled on!”
Three hundred little boxing announcers sounding like Don Dunphy at ringside screamed, ‘our Lord had risen from the canvas back into the heat of the battle.’ The nuns flew around the church wanting to thump somebody but really couldn’t do anything, while the getting-away-with-murder insolent children picked up the reading speed leading towards an early dismissal. The nuns tried to slow it down but the three hundred-voice rock was rolling downhill. After a good giggle, I looked around the church for some of my friends, when I noticed Kenny nodding off into the flame at the top of his candle. I nudged Smith carrying the pole, who nudged Kenny, but Kenny was well past that point. He was a sleeping horse standing up in his stall. After a hard nudge, Kenny’s head lifted up with a jolt, he shook his noggin and wiggled his nose. Then he gradually dropped back into the flame. We pulled Kenny along through the rest of the stations. By the end, his nose smelt like skirt steak. Kenny left the altar boys that week. His nose, first purple, and then red for a year became Kenny Devoe’s Magical Nose.
Storytelling returns to Ryans Daughter ~ Thomas Pryor's April Fools "Stoops to Nuts" soiree ~ we've locked in gifted artists: Tricia Alexandro(actor/writer praised by The New York Times); Joe Dettmore (The Daily Show, Creative Director) & J.P. Connolly (King of The Hill). A swell time with "City Boy" tales, ancient B&W photos, silly movies, great tunes sung by a soon to be named songsmith. Come on down to 350 East 85th St. on 4/1/17 @7pm
A few winters ago, I needed cash downtown. Wickedly windy, I ran to the HSBC near Duane Park north of Chambers. After the bank, I jogged down Warren Street towards Whole Foods. In a crystal clear store window, I saw my reflection running, “I know you!” Then I saw myself in the process of falling. Some knucklehead wet down the sidewalk in front of his double-wide building creating 40 feet of icy death under me. The super genius wanted to clear the remaining dirty snow off. It was 15 degrees out.
First, I did a Dorothy Hamill on the frozen sheet. One leg lifted unintentionally towards the sky while the other turned 90 degrees off the ball of my foot. For this part of my program, I imagined the East German judge gave me a “5″ on his card.
Following the Hamill move, I did a James Brown shuffle, where my arms got involved trying to sustain enough balance not to go down, I resembled a kid imitating a steam engine, “Good & Plenty, Good, & Plenty.” Coming to the end of the ice, I tried to slow by pushing both feet down hard, but this spun me around 180 degrees. Now I couldn’t see where I was going, so I moon-walked the rest of the way, left the ice prepared to fall, covered my head and took all of the impact on my bottom. I’m going to a have shiner on my hinny tomorrow.
Storytelling returns to Ryans Daughter ~ Thomas Pryor's April Fools "Stoops to Nuts" soiree ~ we've locked in gifted artists: Tricia Alexandro(actor/writer praised by The New York Times); Joe Dettmore (The Daily Show, Creative Director) & J.P. Connolly (King of The Hill). A swell time with "City Boy" tales, ancient B&W photos, silly movies, great tunes sung by a soon to be named songsmith. Come on down to 350 East 85th St. on 4/1/17 @7pm FREE SHOW.
Listening to Dean Martin sing “Houston,” I'm thinking about my father. He died 15 years ago today. If he and I were alone in our 83rd Street living room listening to a record, paying attention I started asking questions he’d take me through the door where I’d learn where the artist was from and everyone they played with throughout their career. If they had a stage name Dad gave me their real one - Dean Martin? Dino Paul Crocetti from Steubenville, Ohio. He did the same with film stars, Archie Leach was Cary Grant, Bernard Schwartz was Tony Curtis and Leslie Townes Hope, a.k.a., Bob Hope, he also boxed under the name, Packy East. I’d get an earful about the Manhattan movie houses Dad went to as a kid that weren’t there by the time I showed up.
At eight, I knew who Edith Head was. He and I studied the rolling credits for each film on Ch 5, 9, and 11 like we were doing homework. As they scrolled, if I told Dad a piece of trivia he put in my head sometime before he’d break into a grin. He did the same with sports, history and most important, neighborhood lore. He went around the world three times in the Navy and Merchant Marines but he came back to old Yorkville, the neighborhood he loved for 72 years. I can’t imagine growing up without a father. It must hurt all the time. I still feel Dad's love. I still ache when a question crosses my mind and he’s not there to answer it.