Monday, July 24, 2017

Graveyard Cough

Thinking of Mom today. She's gone 19 years but her ferocious love for Rory & me burns my memory. Uncle Mommy was a good egg.

I’m 12. It’s right after dinner on a December school night in 1966. I’m in the living room, and I clear my throat a little.

“Oh, crap,” I thought, and grabbed more clothes and presented myself for my father’s review. “Get another sweatshirt!”

He counted my garments then said, “OK, be back by nine.”

Dad and I were at war. All my life, if I got the slightest cold, a little tickle in my throat, it turned into a graveyard cough. In his mind’s eye, it would start in my feet, travel through every chamber in my pulmonary system, and build in pressure and size until it burst out of my mouth like the death rattle of a tuberculosis victim who was simultaneously taking a series of bullets to his lungs. If Dad heard my tiny cough two rooms away he’d ambush me and sandwich me with two T-shirts, two of his old sweatshirts and a giant jar of Vick’s VapoRub. He put three fingers in the jar, take out enough yuck to cure a choir of sore throats, and rub it into my chest and neck like I owed him a lot of money.

My Dad’s dad, Thomas E. Pryor, died at age 40. He had advanced tuberculosis. They called it Pott’s Disease. Whenever I coughed my Dad probably saw pictures of the sanatorium where my grandfather spent seven of his last ten years, a hundred miles upstate.

On the way down the stairs I started undressing. By the time I got to the first floor I was down to a T-shirt and a light sweatshirt, the optimal clothing for touch football. I put my extra sweatshirt, my pea coat, and my scarf behind the radiator near the cellar door and left the vestibule. Jumping off my stoop, I looked up at the snowflakes dancing across the streetlights and followed their wavy paths down until they dusted the street bed. Then I wandered over to First Avenue to meet my friends.

After two hours and three games, it was time to go home -- and it was time to pee. Running into the hallway and up the stairs, determined to get to the toilet fast, I forgot the outerwear I had hidden in the vestibule. I ran into the bathroom, passed my mother doing the dishes, and relieved myself in a religious ritual. Finished, clueless, I stepped out of the bathroom into the kitchen at the same time my Dad stepped into the kitchen from the living room. He looked me over.

“Did you just get in?”

My mouth wide open, I said nothing, once again entering the land of unanswerable questions.

“DID YOU JUST…’” Mom cut Dad off. 

“Are you friggin’ nuts? He’s been home ten minutes in his room, if you paid any deeper attention to The World at War on TV you could go right into the sea battle.”

Dad was ready to say something, but shrugged and went back into the living room. The commercial was over and it was time for him to return to the North Atlantic in 1942.

Mom said loud enough for Dad to hear, “Tommy, here’s a dollar, go get two milk.” She pushed me out the door with the buck before Dad came back in the room. Even with the door closed, from the hall stairs I heard him say to Mom, “We have three quarts, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“Don’t have a conniption. You all drink milk like this is a farm, it will be gone tomorrow, I’m not your Gunga Din, Tommy’s on an exercise kick, I’m helping him out.” 

 I ran down the stairs with a shit-ass grin, madly in love with Uncle Mommy.

Monday, July 10, 2017

It's A Thin Line, Between Love & Hate

I liked "Eddie Baby" Galante. He taught bookkeeping to me and 38 other jerks in junior year. We busted his balls. He'd bust ours right back. If you were in the rear of the class yapping it up, he'd yell your name out, "Pryor!" point to you and give you the finger.

LaSalle '72 Yearbook cover.

At a wedding in 1984 someone at my table asked what were your best school memories. I started off with Galante, somebody snapped the shot above where I imitate him teaching class at LaSalle Academy on 2nd Street.

Seaman's Institute 6.12.72

When you really pissed him off, Galante would stop teaching and predict your future out loud to the class, "Hey Woodhead, yeah you, Costa, guess what I see in the crystal ball?"

(dramatic pause while the kid adjusts himself and knows what's coming, Galante speaks)

"After failing out of community college in your second semester, you'll be promoted directly to that 32B doorman job on 72nd Street you've been bragging about, your best friend will continue to be Ripple Red until Gallo discontinues the product and you switch over to Colt 45 tall boys. You'll sell pot on the side, live with your parents until they kick you out at 32, and you move into that great room with the hot plate and chipped paint at the Franklin SRO on 87th Street."

Graduation week Galante signed my 1972 LaSalle yearbook. Above is his note and photo.

Tomorrow, I'm telling a new one at "The New York Story Exchange" show @ Cornelia Street Cafe @ 6pm.  COME ON DOWN!!!

If you like my work check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." Available at Logos Book Store or online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

The book has 126 Amazon five star reviews out of 126 total reviews posted. We're pitching a perfect game. My old world echoes TV's "The Wonder Years" ~ just add taverns, subways and Checker cabs.