Thursday, November 26, 2020

The Girl Who Killed Santa

Deborah Santa Killer
Thanksgiving morning, 1961. Mom woke me quietly and whispered, “Rory is sick. If you wake him up before you leave, you’re not going either.”

I nodded my head yes. I felt bad that my brother wouldn’t see the parade, but I was happy to go with Dad alone. It was much easier having a good time with Dad when it was just the two of us. This was my first Macy’s parade and I didn’t want one of Dad’s bad moods blowing it.
At nine o’clock, we slipped out the door. We met Dad’s friend Richie Kovarik and his daughter, Deborah, inside Loftus Tavern a few blocks away. The four of us were going together. Richie was talking to Jack, the bar’s owner, over coffee. Deborah sat on a barstool sipping a Coke and sucking a cube of ice with the hole in the middle. She was a year older than I was, stuck up, and knew everything.
I hated her guts.
Richie greeted us. “Hi, Bob. Where’s Rory?”
“He’s sick. We’ll catch up later at my mother’s for dinner. Hi, Deborah, you look so pretty and grown up.”
With a wide phony smile she said, “Thank you, Mr. Pryor.”
I almost vomited.
Saying goodbye to Jack, we went out the bar’s side door, smack into a vicious cold wind. A Checker cab was just turning off York Avenue heading west on 85th Street. “Cabby!" yelled Dad and we piled in. 

Despite plenty of room to sit alongside our fathers, Deborah and I naturally sat on the round pull-up seats that faced them. That’s because for adults a Checker cab was transportation, but for kids it was an amusement ride and the bouncy pull-up seats were why. It was better than most rides, in fact, because there was nothing to strap you in. Deborah and I didn’t acknowledge each other. The cab made it nonstop from York Avenue to Fifth Avenue through a swirl of green and yellow lights. My head slapped the roof several times. The driver impressed me. Crossing Fifth Avenue, we dove into the Transverse through Central Park.

“You’re in second grade, right?” Deborah asked.
“I’m in third grade,” she said, pleased as punch.
She knew what grade I was in. She continued talking while looking out her window. I tried ignoring her.
“What are you getting for Christmas?” she asked.
That was a dirty trick. It’s nearly impossible for a kid to stay silent when this subject comes up.
“Things,” I said.


“I’m getting a bike and an Erector set.”
“That’s nice,” I said.
“What did you ask for?” Deborah pressed on.
“I’m still deciding. I have a list.”
“What’s on the list?”
“Lots of stuff.”
“Oh, come on, name a few things.”
“That’s between me and Santa.”
“WHAT?” she said.
“It’s between me and Santa.”
“Well, good luck, dummy, because there ain’t no Santa.”
Despite my lingering hope, I worried it was true. I wanted her dead.
I tried to recover. “I know there’s no Santa, stupid.”
“No you didn’t, but you do now.” Her eyebrows arched up and down.
“I play along for my brother. It makes him feel good. He’s just a kid.”
“Still believe in the Easter Bunny?” she said.
“Oh crap, him too?” I thought, then said, “No, of course not.”
I never realized until that moment how much detail there was on the stone blocks lining the underpasses through Central Park. The road was twisted and bumpy. My forehead banged repeatedly against the window’s glass. It felt good. It took my mind off the other pain. Silently staring out, I saw the glitter of the granite and the chiseled cuts where they sliced the stone to make the blocks. I imagined Deborah’s head being dragged across that rock as we drove back and forth through the park. Kaput!
“Johnny, leave us off on the near corner of 86th Street and Central Park West.” Dad’s voice broke my dream of vengeance.
The driver aimed for the curb. The air was frigid. I barely noticed. Normally, I would’ve run ahead toward the action, but my heart remained behind on the cab’s pull-up seat. I took Dad’s hand, even though I didn’t feel like a little boy anymore. We walked south to 77th Street in formation. Dad squeezed my hand. I weakly squeezed back.
“I don’t think we’re staying too long,” Dad said to Richie. “I think Tommy’s got something, too.”
We stood inside the park’s wall on the rocks. This allowed us to see the parade over the sidewalk crowd. Only because Dad announced the balloon names as they passed by, do I remember they included Underdog, Popeye, and Bullwinkle J. Moose from Frostbite Falls, Minnesota.

Underdog Thanksgiving 1961

This is the second story of three, the finale appears tomorrow

Do you like old New York City photos and street life stories? Then check out my 1960s memoir,"I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."Available at Logos Book Store and online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The book has 135 Amazon five star reviews out of 135 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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

My Turkey Got a B Minus

It was Wednesday afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving 1961 in St. Stephen of Hungary’s second grade.

“Children, the Pilgrims had a bountiful crop their first year in the American colony. They arranged a peace treaty with the Indians. They celebrated together, and feasted on geese, deer, corn, and oysters.”

“Yuck,” said a few kids at the mention of oysters.

Sister Lorraine threw a look around the room then said, “… and President Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official holiday in 1863.”

She cleared her throat, “Let’s move on. Everyone take out the hats, bonnets and headdresses we’ve been working on. Pilgrims, go over to the windows… Indians, stay on the closet side. Think about your lines, everybody.”

While the kids got into place, I put on my Indian headdress and snuck over to the teacher’s desk. It was the only one with a cartridge pen. Second graders worked in pencil. Sister Lorraine, distracted by the two herds moving to her left and right, missed my pre-show make-up application. I had no mirror to work with so I figured out two spots and wiped an inky finger across each cheek twice. Sister Lorraine gave us a short history lesson while she passed back our art assignments. My turkey got a B minus. I ran out of brown crayon and finished his stomach off with green and red. Eventually she saw me upfront.

“Thomas, what are you doing?”

“What are you doing?” Sister Lorraine repeated.
“Putting on stripes.” I said, standing in front of her desk working the ink off my fingers onto a piece of loose leaf.
“Why, God Almighty are you putting on stripes?”
“I’m an Indian. If I’m an Indian, I’ll need war paint. It’ll look good, promise.”
“Do you ever listen to me?”
“Yes, Sister.”
“Didn’t I just say the Pilgrims and Natives declared a peace treaty?”
“Was she nuts?” I thought.
“You’d trust an Injun? I watch a lot of movies. Believe me; Sister, peace treaties are broken all the time.”
“This will be a calm re-enactment of a peaceful gathering. Thomas, the war paint is not necessary.”
“There might be trouble.” I said.
“You have one minute, mister. One minute, that’s it. Go to the bathroom and wash the ink off your hands and face. And don’t touch your shirt again. Your mother is going to kill you.”

Disgusted, I ran off.
“Don’t run,” she said.
“Make up your mind,” I mumbled.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Cartridge pen ink doesn’t wash off well with cheap school soap. The nun sent two boys to get me. My head was buried in the sink.

“Sister told us, ‘Get him back in here if you have to drag him by his feet,’”  Joey Skrapits said to the back of my head. “She’s not happy. What’s up?” Leslie Henits added. I turned around and showed them. I held my hands out. They were beginning to look white; my face, however, had an even blue tan. It seemed the washing, rather than taking the ink off, just moved it around.

“I can’t get it off,” I said.
“Holy crap, forget your face, look at your shirt. Joey said. It’s a gunshot wound.”
I looked down and moaned.
“You’re going to need Lava Soap to get that off. Come on, dry up and let’s go.” Leslie said. 

As I crept through the classroom door, the entire class laughed their heads off. I tried to bury myself in the middle of the Indian tribe. I thought of opening one of the coat closets and spending a little time in there. My first stage appearance as Injun Joe was ruined. The only good part was: Sister Lorraine was laughing too. I was more afraid about her being angry than me being embarrassed. Once I saw her laughing, I calmed down. I almost forgot that my mother was going to murder me.

We did our little Pilgrim and Indian “everyone be thankful” speeches, and then we started singing, “Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go…” I stared at the clock over the alphabet cards lining the top of the blackboard. The clock said, One minute to three.

Pop! My Mom’s incredibly angry face flashed over the clock’s face.

When I got home, Mom pounced. “What the hell did you do?”
“What happened to your shirt?”

Then she saw my face and her voice went up an octave. 

“What the hell did you do to your face!”
“Two sixth graders started a fight in the schoolyard at lunchtime. I was leaning against a car right next to them. One of them had a box of pen cartridges in his shirt pocket. They were wrestling, two of the cartridges were crushed - and the ink flew all over. Luckily, I wasn’t hurt, but the ink got me in a few places.”
“A few places?” Mom said.
“Are you sure you weren’t refereeing the fight?
“No, Mom…no, no, no, I was doing nothing. Just standing there.”
“Where? In the ink factory when it exploded?”
“Take the shirt off and throw it away. Then come over here by the sink.”
Mom knew second graders weren’t allowed near ink.
“Thank you, God,” I whispered.

At the sink, Mom put Boraxo scrubbing powder on a washcloth and began making little circles on my face.

“Ouch” I said pulling away. “My face is being ground with sand.”
“Well, what else can we use to get this ink off? Stop fidgeting and stay still. If you let me work, it’ll be over one, two, three.”
“Big fat liar,” I thought.

Once clean, my face was a deeply embarrassed rosy red.

My brother, Rory, mocked me, “ha, ha!”

I gave him a knuckle when Mom wasn’t looking – a slight tap. He had a fever, so I held back a bit. I felt bad for him. On the verge of getting sick, there was no way Mom was letting him go with Dad and me to the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in the morning.

Part two of three tomorrow…

Do you like old New York City photos and street life stories? Then check out my 1960s memoir,"I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."Available at Logos Book Store and online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The book has 135 Amazon five star reviews out of 135 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.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

"Enjoy Yourself, It's Later Than You Think"

Two years ago,  The New York Times  published my piece below. It remains relevant.

October 1962, my parents mood was grim. Lot of whispering between them.The newspaper headlines were bold and twice their normal size like World Series headlines. All I heard from just about everybody, "The Russians are coming." This raised the hair on the back of my neck. The Cuban Missile Crisis commanded television and radio's full attention. I tried to shut it out of my mind. I was eight years old in third grade at St. Stephen of Hungary on East 82nd Street. Starting our music period, our teacher, Mrs. Francis, put the needle on the record and said, "class, sing along!" The worried mood, still here.

"Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.
enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink."

At the time, I was oblivious to the meaning of the lyrics we were singing.
I liked the tune. Thinking back, it was not a prudent selection for young children to sing in fall 1962 when their world was in peril. No mystery as to why this memory came back to me.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

"Getting to Know You"

Today is my parents wedding anniversary or as I refer to it the anniversary of the opening volley at Fort Sumter. My parents battled over anything. The 1954 New York story below depicts one of their classic brawls. It’s an excerpt from my memoir, “I Hate the Dallas Cowboys: tales of a scrappy New York boyhood.”

The apartment in Woodside overlooked the No. 7 El and the Long Island Rail Road. The two train lines crisscrossed, and one train rattled over another train all day long.  It was March 1954, a year after Mom’s ketchup-smeared death on the kitchen floor.
“I need food!” Patty pleaded, rubbing her big belly in the kitchen.
“There’s plenty of food,” Bob answered, playing with the bunny ears on top of the living room TV.
“YOU’RE A LIAR!” Patty opened the refrigerator and eyed the contents for the fifth time in five minutes.

“There’s no food-food, only junk. I want bread, I want bacon, I want Hellman’s mayonnaise!”
Disregarding her request, Bob shook ice into the spaghetti pot that was chilling his six bottles of Rheingold. Wiping his hands on a dish towel, he definitely heard Patty’s next statement: “Get off your bony ass and get me food!”
Bob ignored this, too. It was “Friday Night at the Fights” and he’d just settled in – first round, first beer. Desiring perfect comfort, Bob moved a hassock over to put his feet up. While doing this, he missed the left hook that sent one of the boxers to the canvas with a thud. Unfortunately, Bob’s man was down. So was Bob, $20. After the stiff was counted out, the telecast went to a commercial. Disappointed, but now available for chores, Bob wrapped his arm around his extremely pregnant wife’s head.

She pushed him away. “Get off. You know I hate anyone touching my head.”
Bob bent over, kissed Patty’s cheek and asked her softly, “What do you need, Hon?”
Patty reeled off five items, and aimed her lips up to kiss Bob on the mouth.
Back from the store, Bob put his beers in the fridge, washed the pot and put water on for spaghetti. Grabbing a black frying pan, he made two bacon sandwiches with extra mayo on Silvercup bread. After serving Patty both sandwiches, he took a beer and joined her at the kitchen table.
“So, we’re decided on baby names, right?” Bob said. “Marc Anthony if he’s a boy, and Alison Leigh if she’s a girl.”
Bob smiled. Patty did not.
“You’re so full of shit. The girl’s name is fine. When you name the boy Marc Anthony, be sure you walk carefully over my dead body. Because that’s the only way that stupid guinea name will ever appear on my son’s birth certificate.”
Bob’s expression fell.
“Oh, cut the crap and get that stupid puss off your face.”
“So what name do you want?”
“Rory,” she said.
“R-O-R-Y, Rory.”
“Like Calhoun, the movie cowboy?”
“Yes, it’s an old Gaelic name meaning Red King.”
“Red? Our hair is black. It’s a girly name – you’re guaranteeing he’ll get the shit kicked out of him.”
It grew quiet. The only sound in the room was Patty’s low hum. She loved bacon.
Fracturing the silence, Bob said, “It’ll be Rory when Brooklyn wins the World Series.”
“I’ll alert the press.”
Bob said, “Give me an alternative.”
“Nope,” Patty said in between bites.
“Then I’ll give you one: Thomas.”
“That’s inspired.” Patty pointed her sandwich at Bob. “I thought we agreed, no fathers’ names?”
“It’s my brother’s name, too.”
“You mean we’re going to name him after Stone Face?”
“That’s my compromise. You’ll get to name the next baby.”
Patty swallowed a large bite of mayo, with a little bit of bacon and bread attached to it. She chewed slowly, wiped her mouth, and said, “OK.”
On March 20th, Patty gave birth to an eight-pound boy. When the nurse let Bob into the recovery room and he saw Patty cradling the baby, he started to cry. 
“Oh stop your blubbering and give me a kiss.”
“How do you feel?”
“Not too swift,” Patty said, wiping sweat from her brow.
Bob, lightly rubbing the baby’s dark hair, asked, “How’s Tommy?”
“Doctor said he’s fine. Isn’t he beautiful?”
Bob picked up the wrinkled, red-faced boy. He thought the baby’s head looked like a grapefruit. A gorgeous grapefruit. Bob held the baby for a long time, then returned him to Patty.
“I have to fill out the birth certificate. I was thinking about Robert as a middle name,” Bob said.
“No,” she answered.
“Why not?”
“You picked the first name. I pick the middle name.”
“No, no, no, you get to name the next baby.”
            “No, I get to name the next baby’s first name, and you get to name the next baby’s second name.”
“But…” Bob said, uselessly.
“No buts.” Patty closed the discussion. “Tommy’s middle name is Rory.”
That night, Bob temporarily parked his anger over Mom’s choice of middle name, and hailed a cab to his old Manhattan neighborhood. He celebrated his first son by dancing on the bar in Loftus Tavern on 85th Street and York Avenue. A month later, the boy was christened, Thomas Rory. When the priest repeated the boy’s second name, Bob rolled his eyes.
A year and a half later, Thanksgiving 1955, Bob and Patty told their families they were expecting again. Throughout the pregnancy, Patty kept Bob in the dark about names. He begged and whined for hints. Late in Patty’s term, Bob tried to bribe her by hiding candy bars around the apartment, promising to reveal locations only if she told him the name. Patty never cracked.
On June 20th, Patty gave birth to a perfect boy. Bob dropped Tommy off with Bob’s mother and went directly to the hospital. The room was dimly lit; the baby was sleeping in Patty’s arms. She gave Bob a weak wave. He went over to kiss mother and son. Patty gently held Bob’s arm, keeping him close. She tilted her head, signaling him to lean in so she could whisper something. Bob pressed his ear to Patty’s dry lips.
“Rory, his name is Rory,” she said.
Bob backed away. “That’s nuts – we’ve already got a Rory.”
“Shush! Middle names don’t count. You promised.”
Bob knew he’d been had. In desperation, he blurted, “His middle name is Robert.”
“Who cares?” she said.
Patty settled back into bed, gave Bob a sly smile and squeezed her Rory tight.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

In The Navy

After graduation, Charlie plans to join the navy (like Tommy's father) as a signalman. This morning on her first trip back to Central Park in a very long time Charlie practiced semaphore and  messaged her sister, Phoebe, on a Fifth Avenue roof waiting for the signal.
"I chased two squirrels. One for you, one for me."

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Boys Second Home in Yorkville @1945

Here are photos of Gene's Tavern on the northeast corner of 84th Street and York Avenue taken in 1945. On the 84th Street wall, right above the lady with white hair crossing the street is a service memorial with the names of the Yorkville men and women who gave their lives in World War II. Look at the stores on both sides of the avenue, the barber pole and the young guys on the bike and sitting on the bumper of the car on York. And the graffiti on the wall to the left of the service memorial in the photo above and in my Dad's sketch below reads, "Cameron."
Dad earned a smack from his mother when she saw the graffiti and recognized Dad’s art work. If she knew it, others knew it, and the one thing she never tolerated was being embarrassed by anyone related to her by blood, marriage or politics. She gave me a smack for my 83rd Street "Teddy Ryan" graffiti 25 years later in 1969.
Robert Pryor's sketch of Gene's Tavern

Gene's Tavern had a two lane bowling alley in the cellar. My father's brother, Tom, was the weekend pin boy for the place. Good tips. When Tom got too old for the job he passed it onto his younger brother, Bob, my Dad. There was a controversy over the changing of the guard on this pin boy position in 1941. They were 16 and 12 at the time, their father had just died that year, their mom worked two jobs, six days a week. Tom and Bob liked to settle things quickly. I'm saving that one for a longer story called, "Pin Boys."
The photo above, same 84th & York corner mid 1930s.

Walter & Charlie same corner June 2016

If you enjoy my stories please  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 and Noble.

The book has 133 Amazon five star reviews out of 133 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.


looking towards s/w corner of 85 St Bailey's Corner aka Loftus Tavern

looking at n/e corner of 84 Street

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Nan's Two Birthdays

Cuccia family s/w corner 75 St. & Ave A @ 1906

My grandmother Nan Rode’s four-room railroad flat faced York Avenue in the front and a backyard in the rear. Leaning out her front window, I could watch my world pass by. Leaning out the rear window, I could see Yorkville as it was long ago. In the backyard was an old two-story house surrounded by five-story brick tenements. The house, built around 1890, looked like it had fallen out of the sky and plopped onto a stray witch. Somehow, it had escaped the tenement explosion in Yorkville in the first two decades of the 1900s, a frenzy primarily triggered by speculation about the underground IRT subway coming to 86th Street and then proceeding farther north. (The speculation, of course, ultimately proved true.) As buildings rose around it, the old house, with its worn porch and crooked chimney, just sat there. I enjoyed this relic from the past and imagined it there in June 1906, when my grandmother was born in her family’s apartment only eight blocks away, at 1403 Avenue A. Above is a photo of my great-grandmother, Giovanna Cuccia, with family members sitting in front of their fruit stand at the southwest corner of 75th Street and Avenue A (later named York Avenue in honor of Sargent Alvin York, a World War I hero). Giovanna, third from right, is eight months pregnant with my grandmother. 

It looks like a normal old photo, but it led to a bona fide miracle: the month after it was taken, Nan was born and she had two birthdays, July 23rd and July 28th. I learned this astounding fact at age 10 when I went to my grandmother’s house to see what was up.
Nan & me 1955

“Hi, Nan.”
“That's it?”
“I said hi.”
“Where’s my ‘Happy Birthday?’”
“I wished you a happy birthday on the 23rd and made you a card. It’s right there on top of the TV.”
“Today is my birthday, too.”
Involuntarily, my head started shaking. I was used to my grandmother’s inquisitions but I didn’t understand this one.

“Nan, I don't get it.”

She explained.

Nan was delivered in her family’s apartment by Saveria Palermo, a midwife from Yorkville, on July 23rd, 1906. But Saveria was lazy, and when she filled out the Board of Health birth certificates the following Monday, July 30th, she used the same date, Saturday, July 28th, for all the babies she had delivered that week. That’s why Nan had two birthdays, July 23rd and July 28th.
Lazy Midwife filled this out

Neither Giovanna nor my great-grandfather, Antonino Cuccia, knew English, so they never fixed the certificate. But they always celebrated Anne’s – Nan’s --birthday twice. She was the baby in the family and a spoiled brat. She told me this with pride.

Anna Cuccia, 1913, Communion at St. Monica's

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.

The book has 133 Amazon five star reviews out of 133 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.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Flam & Flam

My Uncle Jack and Aunt Anna were having marital problems in the late 1930s. Their fighting hit a new high in their East Harlem apartment when Aunt Anna found half her house money missing from the flour tin. She chased Uncle Jack out of the house with a ladle full of dog crap, down the stoop and up First Avenue to the entrance of the Willis Avenue Bridge. Jack ran to the Bronx using the roadway’s passing lane.

After catching his breath, Jack not wanting to waste a good trip to the Bronx, continued walking north up to Yankee Stadium where he caught a doubleheader with the Cleveland Indians. DiMaggio went 4 for 7 with two walks and five RBIs. Jack spent $2.75 of Anna’s house money on Franks, beer, a ticket, a pennant for the kid, a program and a five cent pencil to keep score.

When Jack got home, Anna had put a chair against the door locking him out. Unfortunately, she also locked out her son, John, who after begging his mother to no avail to let him in stayed with my grandparents on 104th Street in their new East River Houses, Housing Authority apartment.

After much consultation with everyone on their block, Jack and Anna decided to get professional help from Flam & Flam, a 106th Street law firm, famous in the neighborhood for resolving family crises when folks were broke. After discussing their plight with Freddy (the brains in the outfit) and telling him they had one dollar for a divorce, Freddy rocked back on the legs of the library surplus chair and thought it over, then he popped a hand off his bald head.

“I’ve got it! A house divorce! It’s the rage in Philadelphia. When couples want out, but can’t afford it, the courts can grant a house divorce (no they can’t). You live together, but you’re not married (you are). You can tell everybody you’re divorced, but by a tiny technical thread you’re not really divorced. So I only have to charge you a dollar. Give me a dollar.”

Stingily, Jack gave Freddy Flam a house money dollar. Anna watched the money change hands thinking about kicking Jack’s ass right there in Flam & Flam’s office.

Anna buried Jack in Calvary Cemetery in Queens in 1978 after 13 years of conventional marriage and 37 years of house divorce thanks to Flam and Flam.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

"Get A Mouser!"

Anne Pryor 1942
Sleeping in the front room of my Italian grandmother's apartment I dreamt Ann-Margret was in a blue bikini doing a shimmy dance humming, “Tommy, Oh, Tommy.”

The vision dissolved when I felt the vacuum cleaner suck my toe in. Above the roar of the machine,  my grandmother’s voice. “Get up!” 
She did not like you sleeping when she was awake.
1582 York Avenue 1940
Uncle Tom home from Europe 1945
It was 1972, mid-summer. I looked at the clock on the nightstand.
“It’s 8:15!”
“Get up!”
“There’s a mouse running around in the kitchen.”
I don’t believe I heard the end of that sentence while I was still in bed. I jumped up, grabbed my eyeglasses, a pair of dungaree shorts, and my sneakers and ran out the front door. From the top of the staircase, Nan yelled down to me at the bottom where I was tying my sneakers in the low light of the hall.
Hunter I.D. 1972

“Don’t come back without a mouser!”
“A cat, a cat, bring back a    cat.”

It was hot that Saturday and the streets of Yorkville were empty. "Where was I going to find a cat" I thought about walking up to the ASPCA on 92nd Street but I wanted a friend to go with me.  The only place where there might be someone else up this early was Esquire Deli on 84th Street & York. Their sodas were ice-cold and Augie, the owner, made terrific hero sandwiches that my friends craved all the time. Including for breakfast.
I ran into the store through their open door -- the AC was broken -- and saw Eddie Hauser talking to Augie’s brother, Joey. Augie was at the slicing machine, making breakfast for Eddie.
I ran into the store through their open door -- the AC was broken. I saw Eddie Hauser talking to Augie’s brother, Joey. Augie was at the slicing machine, making breakfast for big Eddie.

Tom Mac, Esquire, 1970

  Side note: If you asked Eddie for a sip of his soda, he'd put the bottle up his arm pit, give it a couple of deep spins, pull it out, and offer you a sip.

“Hey, guys!”
I got back three “Yo’s!”
I went straight to the soda fridge and pulled out a Mission Cream. Walking back to the fellows, I asked, “I need a cat. Anyone want to walk with me to the ASPCA?”
Augie said, “Yeah, I’ll go. But first go get some ice cream.”
“I don’t want ice cream.”
“Pick something out.”
I’m thinking Augie lost his mind from the heat, but, I went over to the ice cream case and found the glass top half way open. Looking in, I saw a cardboard box with five snow-white kittens.
“I don’t believe it!”
The three of them laughed their asses off. Eddie said, “Take one, take two!”
I never had a cat; this was scary business. One had a pink nose. I grabbed it. The kitten fit in the palm of my hand.
“Thanks!” I said, and ran back to Nan’s.“Jeez, that was quick.” It was hard to impress Nan with anything but this nearly did. The whole thing took 20 minutes.
Stymie & Sparky Lyle

Murray Parker 

Nan was humming to herself as she stroked the ball of fur in her lap.
“Let’s call her Stymie,” I said. I loved Stymie from the Little Rascals TV show.
“OK, but he’s a she,” Nan said after a quick investigation under the hood.
The contented expression on Nan’s face gave me hope I might have a rare window inside the Honorable Anne Pryor Rode's head.
“Nan, when was the first time you fell in love?”
With no hesitation, she said, “Your grandfather, Tom.”
“Tell me.”
Nan walked across the linoleum floor to turn on the fan. She came back to the kitchen table, placed the tiny kitten on her lap and started the story.  As always, her streetwise accent echoed Yorkville's history.

Aunt Mary & Nan 1945

Aunt Mary 1582 York 1978

Stymie & Sparky Lyle