Sunday, May 19, 2019

Two Guys Talking On The Corner

My favorite Dad story in my memoir was published in Mr. Beller's Neighborhood.  Today he would be ninety. One big P.I.A. but I miss his intelligence, curiosity and his love for life.

Happy 90th Dad, Happy Birthday, love, Tommy

Dad and I did four things together: play sports, attend sports, watch TV, and go to the movies. I liked movies the best. It’s much harder telling a kid what to do in the dark. You would have loved taking me to the movies when I was 6 years old. I was a cheap date, one box of Pom Poms caramels and a dime soda kept me blissful through the whole film and I shut up. Didn’t want to miss anything.

It was the fall of 1960, which I remember for three reasons: I just started first grade, the Yankees lost to the Pirates in the World Series, and Dad was rooting for Nixon against Kennedy to spite my Irish grandfather. I still believed my father was infallible. He never had to use this line on me — “Are you gonna believe what you see or what I tell you?” He accomplished his goals without direct engagement. Looking back, I suspect he periodically forgot I was his son and thought I was the most intelligent dog in the world. But this day would be different.
Dad’s charm was in full swing as he pulled me along up 86th Street. I kept my eye out for friends. The last thing I needed were the guys giving me the business, “Daddy still holds ya hand, Tommy the baby!” Resistance was futile, so I decided to keep tight to Dad’s side so it looked like we were just walking very close together.
“So, what do you want to see?” Dad stopped at the corner of Third Avenue, moved the cigarette out of his mouth and looked down at me. "The Mouse that Roared", a very funny comedy, or that other film up there, The Time Machine?”
Up ahead of us on the north side of 86th Street were two movie houses, the Loew’s Orpheum and the gigantic RKO.
“What are they about?”
“Well… The Mouse That Roared is about a tiny little country that declares war on the United States. The star of the film, Peter Sellers, is a famous English comedian. You’ll love him.”
I just stared at Dad hoping he’d move on. I didn’t like war. Finally he said, “The Time Machine is a science fiction movie I don’t know much about.”
“What do you know?”
“It’s about time travel.”
“I want to see "The Time Machine.'”
Dad stared down at me, holding the look, hoping I’d keep talking. I didn’t. Getting this look made me nervous and I usually blabbed on just like Dad wanted so he could carefully talk me out of something. But this time we just stared at each other.
After a traffic-light-missing pause, Dad said, “What???”
“I love time travel.”
Dad rolled his eyes. He had no clue how crazy I was for Mr. Peabody and Sherman on "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show," which I watched faithfully every Sunday. Mr. Peabody invented the WABAC Machine (pronounced “way back”), which allowed him and Sherman to time-travel to ancient Rome, the voyages of Columbus, the dinosaur era, you name it. I wasn’t sure what science fiction was, but I loved time travel.
Dad recovered. “Oh, I bet it’s going to be one of those talky films you hate.”
I said nothing.
Dad threw a wild punch, hoping it would land. “If we go to "The Mouse That Roared," I’ll take you to Prexy’s afterwards for a hamburger and a milk shake.”
I ducked his shot. “Why can’t we go to Prexy’s anyway?”
Dad’s shoulders rolled forward and his chest fell as he grabbed my hand. Swiftly, we crossed Third Avenue, sidestepping the spray from a street-cleaner truck, and headed to the RKO to see Rod Taylor, whoever he was, in "The Time Machine." 


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 at 1575 York Avenue or online at Amazon & Barnes & Noble.

The book has 130 Amazon five star reviews out of 130 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. You can also purchase my photography portfolio, "River to River - New York Scenes From a Bicycle" on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

"I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter"

52 years ago today, Mickey Mantle hit his 500th home run,  and with my Dad I was there. At a PBS New York TV studio, I told my baseball memories in front of a camera. 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.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Stymie & Sparky Hanging on York Avenue in 1972

In the middle of the night staying over my grandmother's house, sleeping on the punishment couch in the junk room (my mother claimed the couch came from a prison yard sale) I'd wake in a panic hearing a dog screech in pain when Stymie with the pink nose cat, for no reason at all, attacked the sweet sleeping Sparky Lyle. 

They also had fun together, listening to the neighbors on the fourth floor argue in German through the open window facing the railroad's air shaft.

If I did that, my grandmother would be all over me, "Get the hell away from the window. Now!" 

Never understood that, I didn't know a word of German.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Cats Caught Necking, Again

Despite multiple warnings and signs everywhere in the park, Paisley and Taylor, the heart breaker and the make-out king, lovey dovey-ed in a no necking zone over the holiday weekend.

Their brazen indifference infuriated officials.

Stiffer penalties are under discussion:

No Boars' Head Turkey snacks for a week.

Weekly visit from "Gramps," the dog born old hating cats.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Gang Way!

You know you’re old when you remember being stuck inside a discarded locked refrigerator.

In 1963, the thrown-out fridge with an intact door and functional handle was on the sidewalk in front of the Sullivan McNamara house on 83rd Street. We wanted to see how many kids could get in there and still lock it. After we took the metal trays out, four guys did fit inside when everyone pulled their stomachs in. You only played this game with close friends.

Everyone understood this was fun only if the door reopened quickly. We knew that a few years back on 80th Street, kids were locked in a fridge and when the guys on the outside tried to open it, the door handle broke off and the kids were trapped (Parents like to repeat horror stories). A Con Ed worker was watching the action from his hole in the street. He grabbed a sledge hammer and gave the side of the refrigerator a few good whacks. The door popped open, the kids got out but spent the rest of the day with the shakes.

Old refrigerators provided hours of pleasure, but new ones did too, or at least the boxes they came in did. The fridge box was huge, taller than any kid and made of sturdy heavy-duty cardboard. There were three games.

When the box was intact, a guy would get in and the guys on the outside would rattle the box and knock it over a few times, then each guy would take a turn getting in and slammed around. It was preferable not to go last, since you probably pissed someone off for playing too rough and they were looking to get even. This game would eventually knock out the bottom of the box.

When the bottom fell out, the box became a tank. We turned it on its side, and as many kids as possible would crawl in it and we’d begin to roll down the street, screaming, “Gang way! Gang way! Coming Through!” No one could see what was in front of them. Most of the time, people cleared the sidewalk and gave us room. We rolled over my brother Rory once, but he had on double winter clothes and hardly felt a thing. After a few trips up and down the block the tank would blow a gasket and tear.

We no longer had a cylinder, just a long wide strip of cardboard that was perfect for a sliding pond down the longer stoops in the neighborhood. The closest tall stoops were on the east side of York Avenue between 85th Street and 86th Street. We dragged the box over to one of those babies and played until the box blew its last breath.

If you enjoy my work, check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." It's available at  Logos Bookstore, 1575 York Avenue, or buy it online at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble or other booksellers. If you do read it, please leave a few honest words about the book on Amazon and B&N. Thank you!  (130 five-star Amazon reviews out of 130 posted)