Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Spotless Cleaners

A ten-year-old simp walks serpentine into his father's trap.

Nearing the 1964 Christmas break during my fifth grade, thirteen inches of snow blanketed my street on a late Thursday evening. Losing a school day to the elements was a beautiful thing.

Friday morning, my friends and I mushed over to Central Park towing our sleds through the middle of the street. Milking the day to the last of the light, we rode every hill until our feet froze. Back from the sleigh ride, I plopped down outside my apartment on the hall stairs and began undressing. Mom refused to let me inside the apartment. She, slush and dog poop were mortal enemies. As I worked my top layer off, I heard my father's familiar step coming up the stairs.

He mumbled to himself, "Damn, I forgot the suit." Noticing me, his eye focused on my half untied snow boots. "Tommy here's the ticket, hurry to the cleaners. I need that suit for the wedding."
“OOOOOOOOOOhhhhhh,” left my mouth as I rose slowly.
"Go!" Dad ordered.

I death marched down the stairs. Dad behind me, "FASTER they're going to close in 5 minutes."

When I got there, Joe, the Spotless Cleaners manager was turning off the lights. Smiling with an edge he opened the door.
"Come in Tommy, be quick, I want to get out of here." 

Deed done. I earned a slow walk home. A slow meandering trek through every snow pile between the store and my building. Walking deliberately, I was Hannibal's elephant moving over the Alps, going knee deep with every step. I moved the suit to the back of my pea coat, resting the hanger's hook on the back of my collar. This left both hands free for better balance. My serpentine trip created swirling desire paths over each snow pile.

Calculated attention paid to each hill stretched my normal five-minute trip home to half an hour. With the satisfaction of a Sherpa's job well done, I danced a jig and rang the bell in the vestibule harking my return and an incredible urge to pee. Running up the stairs, Dad greeted me at the door, "Where the hell were you?"

I said nothing, smirked and turned my back, offering Dad his suit from its resting-place on the nape of my neck. I ran into the bathroom, worked off my jeans, long johns, and two pairs of underwear just in time.

Stepping back into the kitchen, Dad met me face to face at the bathroom door holding up the suit.
"Nice jacket. Where are my pants?"
"Huh", I mumbled.
"My pants, where are my pants?"

A clothes hanger never had as thorough an examination as the one I put that hanger through. The pants were not on it, in it; on top it, under it. There were no pants. The jacket, the jacket was good. Two sleeves, pressed cleaned, all that. But the pants, the pants made no appearance despite multiple prayers under my breath. I was the baffled volunteer from the audience looking for the rabbit in the hat and finding it unbelievable it was gone.

Dad put his slacks on and said, "Lets' go."

Down to Hades we descended, third floor, second floor, first floor, no pants. Hallway, no pants. Down the building's stoop, no pants.

Dad, "So which way did you walk exactly?"

This is where it got tricky. I set a new record for a dramatic pause. My mouth agape, he asked again, "Exactly - where - did - you - walk?

Words failed me. I didn't even try. I owned too many fruitless experiences responding to similar requests from my father. Trying to answer unanswerable questions to even begin thinking about opening my mouth. Left with nothing to say I showed him my exact path. Every nuance. Every turn. Every double step. At one point, I did the cha-cha one up, two back, one up. I was possessed. I mirrored my entire walk never measuring how pissed off my path of greatest resistance home was making him. When Dad and I had these special moments an eerie stillness set in. No yelling, no accusations. Only the 'look' with sharp orders.

"Go left."
"Are you sure you weren’t under any cars?"

Hill after hill we climbed towards the avenue, policing the grounds. Despite the fact, Dad's pants were charcoal and the streets contained nothing but white snow, he insisted we walk very slowly. You couldn’t miss ‘em. The cleaners were closed.

Walking back to our building, same story. Every hill walked serpentine with the look and the short barked orders. After one last look under the car directly in front of the house, we marched the stoop and began our ascent to Hades, second floor, third floor, fourth floor, into the apartment. Passing through the door, Dad gave Mom the look and then me one more look for good luck. He went directly over to his jacket on the hanger with the plastic still on it. Dad held it up – then draped it over his arm. Together they resembled Michelangelo's Pieta. I think he was saying goodbye. It might have been my imagination, but I thought I saw him talk to the jacket.

"We have closed many bars together, old friend." Dad sighed, “I will miss the way the secretary at Pepsi looked at you, on me, when we did our sales calls."

Dad said no more about the suit.

Two weeks later, I'm playing in front of my house and Dad comes walking up the street. Getting closer, I see he has on a charcoal jacket. Oh God, I'm thinking, he bought the same suit again. Not good.

"Hi Dad, is that the suit. It looks great. Did you buy it again?"

"Nope, same suit." Dad said with a smile, "Every suit comes with two pairs of pants."


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 136 Amazon five star reviews out of 136 total reviews posted.  My old world echoes TV's "The Wonder Years" ~ just add taverns, subways and Checker cabs. 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Losers Lounge George Harrison Tribute

David Terhune

The Loser’s Lounge presents the music of George Harrison. 

They are back!!! Glorious live music!!!

Five shows at Joe's Pub, so far, I attended two and they were fantastic.

Below, a public Losers Lounge photo album ~ shots from Wednesday & Thursday shows.

Losers Lounge @ Joes Pub

Julia Joseph

Mike McGinnis

Eddie Skuller

Joe McGinty

Gideon Forbes

Leslie Goshko

David Driver


Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Love Seat (A Ghost Story)

Thomas Pryor's Yorkville Stoops to Nuts
Next Friday, Nov 5 @ 7pm
Ryans Daughter
350 E. 85 St.
Neighborhood Storytelling & Song with special guests:
Jeff Rose, Joe Dettmore, Fred Caruso, Eric Vetter & Courtney Hills

Admission: $10

My ghost story published in Mr. Beller's Neighborhood.

As a boy in the early 1960s, I’d go up my grandparents’ second floor apartment on York Avenue several times a week. Their hallway was lit by one low watt exposed bulb. The dark hall frightened me. Sometimes my fear was compounded when I’d hear fuzzy radio sounds coming from the usually locked basement. I assumed it was a foreign station, maybe German based on the marching music, waltzes and the announcer’s accent. I told my grandmother.

“You’re hearing things,” she said
“What’s down the basement? I asked.
“Nothing and it’s none of your business!”

I chose to believe her because I had no courage or interest in going down to the cellar to investigate. I began taking the single flight of stairs in four long jumps to get into the apartment as fast as I could. I never looked back.

Over the years, the radio echoes from the cellar were there on and off. In 1964, Pop Rode, the man I knew as my grandfather died (Pop was my grandmother’s second husband), and I began to stay over my grandmother’s on the weekend. The noisy avenue was right outside our front window. I’m a light sleeper. Awake, over my head I began to notice pacing in the apartment above. My ears perked up like Nipper the RCA dog. Dread sharpens my hearing. Through the airshaft next to my bed, I heard a man talking to himself. Based on my movie knowledge he sounded German. He spoke rapidly with quick pauses as if he was reading a list of pressing things to do. I didn’t move a muscle. The old lady above us spoke in a whisper, lived alone, and walked with a cane. It was a waste of time to check in with my no-nonsense grandmother.

“You’re hearing things.” She’d say. Eventually I’d fall back to sleep or it’d get light outside and chase my terror away.

In 1977, my parents bought a house after a lifetime of apartment living and had extra space to place new things. The day they moved in, I noticed Dad carrying a wide chair.

“Dad, what’s that?”
“It’s a love seat.”
“Where did you get it?”
“From your grandmother.”
“I’ve never seen it.”
“It was stored in her cellar.”
“It belonged to someone else who never retrieved it.”

Dad told me a story. When his father contracted late stage tuberculosis in the mid 1930s, Mr. Volk, the German man upstairs cared for Dad’s family, bringing them food and fetching a doctor when one of them was sick. After my Dad’s father died in February 1941, Mr. Volk gave my grandmother a couple of dollars anytime she was short. As a thankful gesture, my grandmother invited Mr. Volk in for coffee at the kitchen table. While Dad spoke, I pictured this with ease because I saw my grandmother do the same thing hundreds of times in my lifetime. She was strict but kind.

Mid 1942, Mr. Volk knocked on my grandmother’s door. With his hat clutched in his hands, he greeted her urgently, “Mrs. Pryor, how are you? You work hard. I have something to ask, it is difficult. You know I’ve been good to your family. When you’re husband was ill and after he passed. I care for you and your sons like they’re my own. Immigration came yesterday and said I’m being deported in two weeks. There are problems with my papers. I have one chance to stay; I must be married and do it quickly. I ask you because I trust you to trust me that this is purely so I can stay. I’m desperate!”

My grandmother paused, took a deep breath and politely turned Mr. Volk down. He didn’t grow angry; he thanked my grandmother for her kindnesses and asked her a favor.

“Would you take care of my love seat until I return after the war? It belonged to my parents.”

She agreed to care for it and felt obligated to store it safely until Mr. Volk’s return. The love seat sat in the cellar of 1582 York Avenue from 1942 until 1977. It’s in my living room today. I hear no voices. Mr. Volk is at peace.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

City Boy's Back @ Ryan's Daughter next Friday. Nov 5!


City Boy's Back @ Ryan's Daughter Next Friday, Nov 5th @ 7pm

Thomas Pryor's Yorkville Stoops to Nuts
"City Boy"
18 months at sea, we are back! LIVE!
@ Ryans Daughter
Fri., November 5th @ 7pm
Neighborhood Storytelling & Song
@ 350 E. 85th St.
our talented guests:
Joe Dettmore, Fred Caruso, Jeff Rose, Eric Vetter & Courtney Harrison.
Admission: $10 bucks

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Losers Lounge @ Talking Heads @ The New City Winery.

2021.9.11. Losers Lounge @ Talking Heads @ the new City Winery on the Hudson. The early show was excellent. A pleasure to see my favorite live music gang again. Here is a link to a full album of show photos. A few shots are below. Their next show is a tribute to George Harrison in December at Joe's Pub.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Happy Birthday, Devil Dog Charlie!

Guess who's 6 today? 

Devil Dog Charlie!!!

Happy birthday, Kid.
Tonte, Malibu Bob, Alien Baby, Baby,
Teddy & Tommy
Tonte, Malibu Bob, Alien Baby, 
Baby, Teddy & Tommy

Monday, August 2, 2021

The Growler, 1933

“Tommy, get the growler,” Anne said to her eight-year old son. The boy took the pail off the icebox in the kitchen. His four-year-old brother, Bobby piped in, “Let me, let me!”
Swede with growler at the lake

Tommy turned the bucket over to his brother, and Anne went to the front window and watched the iceman’s cart rolling down York Avenue.

It was April 1933, spring’s early bloom, Anne needed fertilizer, and there was none better than fresh horse manure. Her plantings were her pride. In the summer, you could see the flash of color on the stone ledge from a block away. The four flower boxes stretched across both windows in a military row.

Bobby ran ahead of his brother down the stairs into the street. His mother leaned out the window and pointed to the target lying on the cobblestones. Not having a scoop, Bobby bent over and took one of his brother’s baseball cards out of his back pocket to act as his steam shovel.

Mom gave directions to her son.

“Too much, put half back.”

Tommy walked over to the German butcher’s window to stare at the hanging meats. On the avenue, there was only one parked car, the butcher’s delivery truck, and a debris container right in front of it. Distracted by his meat investigation, Tommy missed the delivery man slowly backing up to avoid hitting the container. The driver didn’t see the boy, and eased his rear bumper into Bobby who fell face first into the manure pile.

“Thomas, pick your brother up, and get up here, now!” Anne yelled as the truck pulled away.

Tommy ran over and lifted Bobby up and cleaned him best he could with a wet newspaper lying in the gutter.

“Wipe it off, wipe it off!” Bobby cried.

When they got upstairs, Anne whacked Tommy, “For not watching your brother,” then pulled Bobby by his one clean arm over to the washing sink where she took off his clothes and dropped them directly into the cast iron bathtub. After scrubbing Bobby and soaking the clothes, she moved the garments into a washing basin, and ran a fresh bath for Bobby and put him in.

Anne took the bucket and walked through the rooms toward the front and the flower boxes. On the way, she passed Tommy and asked what he was doing.

“Reading a comic, Mom.”

Moving the soil around with her single gardening tool, Anne thought about her family.

The Pryors at the lake @ July 4, 1931

She adored the boys, but the man, Tom, was a different story. Her feelings for him, once positive and strong, had cracked into little compartments. His bravado and promises shrunk down to faithless words with no action. Right out of the orphanage at 16, he hated authority and fought ceaselessly with anyone who disagreed with anything he said including his bosses, co-workers, shopkeepers, girlfriends, and bartenders.

He drank the little money he made away, and developed chronic pneumonia that was more here, than gone. Soon he’d be on his way to the TB hospital, she thought. The older boy, Tommy, saw too much, lost affection for his father and stopped accepting his kisses. The father coddled the youngest boy because Bobby adored him, and he was too young to understand the misery in the home. Anne was tired, tired of being mistreated, tired of working two lousy jobs. What she saw the previous night, walking home at midnight crushed her - Tom pinning a young girl against the wall of the Webster library entrance, hungrily kissing her, and roaming his hands all over. Pressed against the door, he thought no one could see him, but she knew his profile, his stance, and the way he rolled his neck to ease his arthritic pain, and he was mauling this whore on the spot where they first met in 1921 when she was fourteen years old. She was furious, but also felt shame and regret. ‘Why didn’t I leave this man the first time he hit me?’

Tom was driving a cab, a job with no boss, but who knew how long that would last before he got bored or fell ill and went off to the sanatorium.

Finishing her chores, on her only day off, she went back to the kitchen, gave the bucket a half-assed wash, placed it on the icebox and began making dinner for the family.

Six o’clock, they heard Tom’s whistling in the hallway, he came in and turned up the volume on the Philco Baby Grand Console, the family’s one luxury item. The radio costs $50, and was well worth it. The only thing he and the missus agreed on these days. He looked at his wife, only 27 years old, still pretty but her eyes and spirits exhausted. He knew why. He felt guilt and shame but hid them behind a practiced smile.

Al Jolson sang “Sonny Boy,” and Tom joined in, he loved the song and gave the nickname to his oldest son. Tom kissed his wife on the forehead, his little boy on the lips and nodded toward his older boy and said, “Sonny, get the growler.”

Tommy went to the icebox and grabbed the bucket off the top.

“Here’s a nickel, go down to the tavern and tell em’ to fill ‘er up.”

Tommy liked going down to the “Old Timers” where the regulars treating him like a regular and he could grab half a cheese sandwich off the bar. Back in the apartment, he passed the bucket to his father. The growler tipped full with a frosty head of beer. Tom poured a glass for himself and took a long pull.

Anne, with her elbow on the table and her hand at her chin asked, “How’s that beer, Tom?”

“Pretty tasty. Want some?”

“No, it’s all yours.” Anne said, and the older boy covered his mouth hiding his smirk. It was an inside job.

Story published by Opium Magazine

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Wave Flows Over The Irish Riviera

Rockaway's classic newspaper, "The Wave" (1893) re-published my love letter to the peninsula, "The Irish Riviera." Thank you, Ray Vahn, Community Editor, for reaching out to me. My family's connection to Rockaway goes back to the early 1920s.

More old photos to follow.

Thank you, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood for  publishing this story and your 15 years of strong support for my New York City neighborhood stories. 

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, 15 75 York Avenue or 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, July 24, 2021

Giving Thanks To Mom

Mr. Beller's Neighborhood published my tribute "Giving Thanks To Mom" a few years ago. I called her "Uncle Mommy" because she was the best uncle I ever had. Thinking of Ma today.

Patricia Helen Pryor
3/24/30 ~ 7/24/98

So I walk into the house, I’m 10, and the first thing I see is a pair of bare legs on the inside of a closed window and the rest of the body isn’t in the apartment. I’m praying to God whoever it is doesn’t fall, the soapy glass prevents a clean identification of the person sitting on the outside sill, but I kind of figure it’s my mother by the unmistakable fluffy sky blue slippers dangling from her toes. Now I’m flipping out because I’m scared of heights. She’s four stories up, 50 feet smack over the concrete backyard. My heart’s outside my chest doing a Mexican Bean dance on my T-Shirt. Finally an arm starts swirling away the soapy water and I see Mom’s face through the glass and she smiles at me. I love that smile, and for a brief moment, I was not frightened for her I was just amazed at how hard she worked to keep our small apartment clean.

When I was boy right through my teens, if I was away a day or longer from the house she’d surprise me and clean my room like something out of a movie. It looked so good I thought I was in Beaver Cleaver’s bedroom. This blew my mind, I’d run through the apartment and grab my mother and kiss her over and over and shower her with thank yous. All Mom said while I tackled her, “Watch my head, I don’t like people touching my head.”
This morning, I washed ten windows, five storms windows and two screens. When I got to my daughter’s room that’s when Mom’s spirit swept through me, I felt it, I felt her, and she made several passes. As I cleaned my daughter’s space (dusted the knick-knacks, too) Mom stayed with me for two hours and I began to feel the love and enjoyment she experienced doing this for me countless times many years ago. Doing something she was good at with her whole heart. Mom knew she had maternal limitations; she was a street kid who never grew up, an urban Peter Pan smoking a Marlboro with a bump-up hairdo and a High Ball drink, neat. But with the mothering tools she had, she gave totally with humor and unconditional love. 

As a dad, I’m no Ward Cleaver. Nope, I’m restless, pushy and jump the gun a lot, and this drives my daughter cuckoo. I wish I could control it but I’m not adopted, and if you spent quality time with my parents you’d know I’m a dysfunctional family car accident survivor. I know my paternal limitations and I give my best with the skills I have to express love to my daughter. I make things for her: dioramas, cards, photo books with stories, whatever I can to extract a smile. Once in a blue moon, I’m able to patch my patience together and clean the dusty house around my records, books, papers, photos, Dad’s art, and sports junk.
This morning, thinking about my daughter while I polished my mother’s bone china pieces and her Aries statute, behind me I felt that same smile I saw through the soapy window when I was 10.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Biking Over The 103rd Street Walkway

My ten year old self would've had a baby gaping at the beautiful baseball fields on Randall's Island Park empty, just waiting for a game. A single occupied field had three retired guys whacking the ball around.

"Hot Fun In The Summertime."