A Winters Night

It was a wintery night in either 78 or 79. My friend Mike was going to be leaving for the Peace Corps and we all wanted to get together at least one more time before our merry group was broken up by time and circumstance. The core of the group, Jane, Joanie, Elizabeth, Mike and I were good friends and enjoyed each other’s company. The size of our merry band would grow on occasion, and but always revert back to the five of us. 

So we made a date for a Saturday and all met at one of our favorite places in the Village. It had snowed that day, but by the time we got together it had tapered off. We met, enjoyed pitchers of beer, good burgers and fun conversation and then it was time for the evening to end, or so we thought.

Jane, Joanie, and Elizabeth all lived close by in the Village; I was a bit further north at the projects in Chelsea, and Mike who lived in City Island, had driven down and parked his car on the west side. So we all started walking together up West 3rd Street towards Sixth Avenue. I planned on walking Mike to his car at the garage on 14th street and then continue up Ninth Avenue to home. 

The snow was still falling but lightly now but there was a few inches of nicely packed white stuff on the stoops, mailboxes, and parked cars. I noted aloud that it looked like perfect snowball packing snow. That was all it took.

I am not sure who fired the first shot but it was a soft harmless lob, I think from Mike at Joanie. She good-naturedly brushed her blue beret off, stooped down and grabbed some snow, quickly packing it in her mittens. She returned fire. 

I suddenly felt a wet smack to my left cheek and realized Jane had scored a hit from across the street! I rushed to a nearby stoop, grabbed some snow and…Smack! A flank attack!! Elizabeth’s aim was true and now I had been hit on both sides of my head!

I had to get into this fight and damned fast!!

I finally managed to return fire, missing Jane but scoring a beautiful hit on a stop sign. Mike had retreated behind a parked car, taken cover and was throwing a steady stream of snowballs. We were all laughing, thoroughly enjoying ourselves in a splendid winter world of our own. But of course we weren’t alone; this was Greenwich Village after all, and though the streets were a little less crowded due to the day’s snowfall, there were still a good number of pedestrians on the street. The odds of not hitting one were not good. I think it was Jane that drew first blood from a civilian. She sailed a nicely packed ball over Mike’s head, and it continued its graceful arc until it landed right atop an older gentleman wearing a fedora.

Whoops, I thought, time to rein this in and apologize to what looked like a cranky old Italian from the neighborhood, whom I am sure didn’t appreciate having his stylish fedora hat crushed by a well-placed snowball. I started to walk over to the guy, my hands held up in apology. He looked at me with contempt and I hesitated. This guy, I thought, was going to be trouble. But then a miraculous thing happened. I saw the beginnings of a sly smile cross his face. He bent down, grabbed some snow, hastily clumped it together and hit the bullseye he must have seen on my chest. Man, everyone was getting me tonight! Even strangers!! He laughed at my startled expression, but then had to dodge a missile from Mike; the old man ducked behind a parked Chevy and proceeded to re-load. 

I thought it best that I retreat as well. I found my own place of safety as the snowballs flew everywhere. But wait, I thought, this can’t be right. There were way too many snowballs flying in the air for the four of us and one old man to conjure up.

That’s when I heard Joanie giggle; I looked her way in time to see her exchange fire with the guy from the liquor store. I scrambled atop a garbage can and got a better view. There were scores of people, all strangers, laughing, pointing, dodging, throwing snowballs, all the way from Sullivan to Sixth Avenue!! It was a firefight for the ages!! It was like, that night, if you didn’t want in on the crazy wild ass snowball fight happening on Third, then you better stay away, because there was no way you couldn’t be a part of it. Even a cab stopped, its driver deciding to join the fun rather than chase a fare. He ran to a phone booth grabbing snow as he went. Damn! I thought – what a great idea! Why didn’t I think of the phone booth?! Snowballs slammed into the glass, and there was the cab driver, smiling away safely behind it, every once in awhile darting out to fire a round or two.

I was crouched behind a Ford, Mike to my left a few yards away was behind an Impala. As a barrage of snowballs splattered the cars, he looked over at me and shouted:

“Do you believe this??!!”

I popped my head up and took another look. There had to have been thirty people involved now, men, women, kids, heck even the beat Cop was busy hurling some our way. I turned back to Mike to answer and Smack!; took another hit to the head. I ducked, too late of course, and shouted back:

“No way! This is un-real…..where did they all come from??”

Mike shrugged.

“Who knows?!…. Crazy man Crazy!”

It’s like everyone had been holding their childhood inside and spontaneously saw a chance to re-capture it. They had literally walked into an opportunity to, for a few moments, at least, be carefree and engage in that most revered of contests: the Snowball Fight. It was like no one wanted to stop playing and go home.

But all wonderful things must end and eventually the snowballs flew less frequently, and the echoed sounds of laughter died away. The cab had driven off, its driver hopefully happier than he had been at the start of his shift. The Liquor store’s neon lights went black; the door shut and shuttered, the Cop continued on his beat. And it was suddenly silent. 

I can’t remember how long we were out there that night, but at the end of it, we were all soaking wet with snow; some of us had bruises, all of us were freezing. But that was a small price to pay for witnessing and being a part of a spontaneous combustion of pure joy, a sharing with strangers of a few precious moments of camaraderie; a wet reminder of the serendipity of living in the city.  

It may not have made the Daily News the next day, but it was nice knowing that we would share that memory with people we didn’t even know, and maybe for them, like us, it would become something to remember fondly, tell the family about, to laugh over.

That’s what I remember most about that night; the laughter of all those people bouncing off the brownstones on a snowy night in a long-gone Greenwich Village.

Nothing quite matches the sound of happiness.

 

Rob.

 

Getting Glasses

It was during my 4th-grade year at P.S 41 that it was determined that I could not see very clearly. I remember that I sat somewhere in the middle of the classroom, so not a great distance from the front of the room and the blackboard. Mrs. Clipper would often write a sentence on the board and ask kids to read what she had written. It went kinda’ like this when I was called upon;

Mrs. Clipper: “Donald, can you read what I just wrote on the blackboard?”

Me: “What blackboard?”

(Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but not by much. ) As I would squint, and try to move forward in my seat… but, could in no way see what she wrote. Mrs. Clipper clearly noticed my distress said it would be fine if I moved closer to the board to see. It was when I left my desk and moved to within six inches of the blackboard that my concerned teacher thought it was time to talk to mom. After school that day Mrs. Clipper walked me out of the school on to 11th street where my mom was dutifully waiting for me to come out. She had probably been there for two hours, you know, “just in case”. That was mom. Anyway, when she saw Mrs. Clipper accompanying me out of the building her normal smile turned to a frown. When we reached her, her first words were addressed to me.

Mom; “what did you do?? Are you in trouble? Were you talking in class”?

Me: looking blank and stupid because I had no idea why Mrs. Clipper was walking with me.

Mom( now addressing Mrs. Clipper; ) “ what did he do? Was he talking in class again? There will be no television for him for two weeks… !!”

Me: “ what? What did I do? I didn’t do anything.”

Now I’m looking pleadingly at Mrs. Clipper, wondering what I had done wrong. I had a tendency to do things wrong and then figure out what it was after I was punished, and taking television away for two whole weeks was the worst possible punishment. Mrs. Clipper smiled at mom and said; “No, no he didn’t do anything. He has actually been pretty good this week”.

What a relief I felt! In addition, I had almost received a compliment!. I may even get to stay up late tonight and watch an extra show!

Mrs. Clipper continued; “however, I do think Donald may need glasses”.

Wait … what? Glasses!! That can’t be. No way … that can’t happen! As Mrs. Clipper went on to explain the blackboard situation to mom, Their conversation became just a blur to my ears… all I was thinking was; “Glasses?’ This can’t be…I don’t want to wear glasses!”

Please consider a number of things that elicited this response. I was already “that kid” who was picked on/ bullied by the other, “cool” kids. I was called a “Mommas Boy”, a doofus and some other nastier things. Now, add glasses? Remember, This was “another time”. Kids with glasses were mercilessly made fun of and called “four eyes”. This is all I needed to be added to my already stunning resume’. I protested vehemently that I could see just fine as I gracefully walked into a fire hydrant that materialized out of nowhere. Mom gave me that “ poor Donny” look that I had seen many times previously, and it was then I knew … I was getting glasses.

The next day it was off to the optometrist on 14 street near Union Square. Obviously, they had to examine my eyes to determine the strength of the lenses that I would need. I’m sure most reading this knows the process well: during the exam, the doctor puts an instrument called a phoropter in front of your eyes and then he begins to ask which of the lenses in each of the many choices looks clearer. This damned instrument was as big as my head. I felt as if I were wearing some kind of Space mask similar to those I had seen in some of the cartoons I enjoyed watching. It didn’t start out well.

Dr.; “Ok, son before I start trying the lenses, can you tell me which of the lines on the chart in front of you looks clearest.”

Me; “ what chart?”( perhaps I did have a slight vision problem)

Doctor and mom exchange these pitiful glances that one would perhaps expect to see at a funeral home… NOT AT THE OPTOMETRIST! So for the next hour, we try different lenses that bring the wall chart into focus and actually allow me to read the letters on the next to the lowest line. My prescription is decided upon and now all we have to do is pick out the frames. This is the part that had me panicked; those ugly, large frames. Nothing close to fashionable, as are available today. I looked upon the selection with dread….. I was going to look stupid and my new name would be “ four eyes”, no doubt. It was here that mom comes up with one of the most blatant lies in history, yet I, a gullible 4th grader actually bought into it. She tells me, now get this, she actually tells me, that if I pick out a frame of a neutral color, no one will really notice them on my face. (If I had been older, I would have noticed the Optometrist quickly turn toward the window and look out unto 14th.)I bought the story hook, line, and sinker and picked out ugly, light tan colored frames. They felt as large as the Space mask I wore during the exam. All the while, mom assuring me the light tan color was almost the same color as skin so no one would really notice. The Optometrist never looked me in the eye again.

Well, in two weeks my “invisible “ glasses were ready to be picked up. Mom and I trekked back to Union Square to make sure they were adjusted properly and felt “ good” on my face. When I put them on, they offered me a mirror to see “how they looked”. It was a bit of a shock to notice that the huge frames and thick lenses did not at all seem “invisible“ to me. They looked awful! Mom quickly and assuringly told me it was because “I know they are there”. The Optometrist dropped his pen and never resurfaced. I bought into it again. On the walk home, I was amazed at how clearly I could see everything: the street lights, the store windows, the bustling traffic, the sky… everything had a new and wonderful clarity. I made sure I looked at the people we passed on the way home. Not one of them glanced my way or smirked as I walked by. Perhaps Mom was right! No one could see the light tan colored frames on my face! This may work out! I was ready for school in the morning… this was not bad at all! I was a bit nervous the next morning as mom walked me to school, but again, as the previous night, people passed me on the street without giving me a second glance. My confidence built. Mom walked me to the school entrance and I proceeded to the 4th-grade line where the other kids in my class were gathering. As I got closer, Adam B called out to the other kids;“ HEY LOOK! Donald has FOUR EYES!!!”Other kids joining in; “ FOUR EYES, FOUR EYES!!”Crap. I turned back to look at Mom, but apparently, she had dropped her pen…….

 

Don.

Image (2)

Cheers!

To say New York City is a great drinking town would be stating the obvious. There are hundreds of places to go to enjoy a cocktail before dinner or get hammered on game day. At the very least you are assured of getting an ice-cold Bud.

But the other thing that New York is, is old; as in like over 400 years old. Now there aren’t too many taverns that can lay claim to that kind of heritage, but there are some that come close.

Growing up, of course, the bar scene was non-existent for us. Famously Dad would have a sip of a glass of wine or a cocktail at a holiday dinner, and push the glass aside, satisfied with that one sip, not wanting to slip down that slope into liquid debauchery. Mom was much the same though she might take two sips and then giggle for the rest of the evening. We didn’t even have beer in the house growing up; alcohol was a stranger to us.

That all changed with the coming of age of course. The High School and College years were ones that saw a strong push to make up for lost time, and I and my classmates became well acquainted with dozens of bar stools in Manhattan.

As I said, there were hundreds of places to drink; but only a few that had stood the test of time, and saw whole generations of patrons come and go. These special few watched as whole graduating classes were shipped off to war –The Spanish American, World War 1, World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. Parties to say goodbye were held in these saloons, parties to welcome sons and daughters back home were as well, and yes, when a loved one didn’t return home, a funeral luncheon was held instead. You walk amongst ghosts when you enter these hallowed spots.

A few of them have a special place in my memory and heart for they allowed for a few moments of truth, of compassion, of awakening.

Moments like the one at The Old Town, a beautiful place on East 18 Street, dating from 1892, with a bar made of mahogany and marble measuring 55 feet long. And I remember gazing at that bar from a booth I sat at, as a regular, someone I saw every single time I can into the place, sat on one of the high stools, swaying. He was a big, jolly fellow, balding, large glasses slipping down his nose, always laughing saying hello to everyone who passed. But you see, the thing was this poor guy got that way after like two Miller Lites. I mean he would act like he had been downing them since noon, and all he had had was two not very real beers. I would watch as he would come in stone sober, sit at the bar, order his first, and I would just wait, and sure enough, within moments he was swaying this way and that. Obviously, the guy shouldn’t have been drinking at all, but I always got a sense he was kind of lonely and needed to be surrounded by what passed for friends.

One night I came in, and he was there in his normal state of inebriation. I went to my usual booth, and no sooner had I opened my book, that I heard a loud crash – one too many sways by that big body, and he had hit the floor, splintering the chair into pieces. The bartender came rushing around, I jumped up and went to help along with a few others. The guy was big and heavy and we managed to get him up on another barstool, where he hung his head and started to cry. I had seen this guy a hundred times but didn’t really know him at all, and yet at that moment, all I could do was hold him up and tell him everything would be ok. I knew I was probably lying. I asked the bartender to call a cab, at which point the guy starts shaking his head, muttering he lived nearby and could walk home- yea right, sure you can pal. Anyway, the cab came, and the bartender and I walked him out. I had managed to get his address out of him and told it to the cab driver, who being a veteran of the New York streets, had seen it all before.

“Take him home,” I said tossing the driver my last two twenties “And make sure he gets inside safely alright?”

I tried to sound like I would somehow know if he didn’t but who knows if it worked or not. He sat in the back seat, not crying anymore, just shaking his head and trying to say something. It wasn’t until I watched the cab pull away that I realized he was saying “God Bless You”.

Then I wanted to cry.

The bartender and I headed back in, and as we did he turned back to me:

“Next one is on the house ” which was good because now I was broke.

But I didn’t feel broke, I felt whole for the first time in a while.

 ***

The White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street was founded in 1880 and holds another soft spot in my heart. I had been there many times before it earned that spot. It had always had killer cheeseburgers and great taps, but it became a place of solace and comfort for me when, just a couple of blocks away, Dad was living in the Village Nursing Home, his last stop in his long noble journey  through life. I would take the train from Philly every other week, just to sit with him, assure him that I had found a good parking spot (repeatedly), and just watch him watch me both of us worrying about the other.

After each visit, I certainly needed a beer and there was The White Horse. I would walk in, nod in the direction of the increasingly familiar bartender, and sit sipping a cold one while watching the Mets on the small black and white television above the bar. Eventually, I would order one of those heavenly burgers. At first, it was just a good and necessary place to decompress after seeing my Dad grow further and further away from reality. But after a while, the bartender, like all good ones, struck up a conversation, probably sensing my mood. He asked:

“You doing ok today pal?”

How much did I want to share with what was just another stranger in a city full of them? But I wanted to – needed to – talk.

“Been to see my Dad” I answered “He’s in the Nursing Home….it’s hard”.

He didn’t miss a beat.

“Oh boy, that is tough” he said and I thought that would be the end of the conversation.

“Went through that with my old man” he continued “Strange isn’t it, or is it just stupid how we waste so much time being angry at stuff, all the time forgetting what you’re blessed with?”

We were both silent for a moment. He reached for a fresh glass, saying:

“Like my old man…we used to really go at it…but geez I miss him now”.

With that, he tipped the tap and filled his glass halfway with beer. He raised it, looked at me and said:

“To your Dad. I’m sure he knows how much you love him, and I bet he’s damn proud of the son he raised”.

Fighting back tears, I could only raise my glass in response.

“That’s good of you to say” I managed to croak out. He smiled, said:

“Hey, nothing but the truth spoken here” and he winked “Here let me get your food”.

That may have been the best cheeseburger I ever had. I was still sad about Dad, but didn’t feel so alone anymore.

That’s what a good bar does.

***

Besides Fraunces Tavern, McSorleys is the oldest bar in the city, dating from 1854. It has sawdust on the floor and two kinds of ale they used to make in the basement, light and dark; don’t dare ask for beer – they make ale, not beer. The small kitchen makes thick liverwurst sandwiches with slabs of onion and spicy mustard unlike any other found in the city. There are two signs hanging, one “We Were Here Before You Were Born”, and they are right for everyone that walks in, and the other “Be Good or Be Gone”, and that too was the truth; they made sure of it. The walls and ceilings were adorned with bits of the past, it’s past, the city’s past, the nation’s past–Houdini’s handcuffs hung on a wall, wishbones heavy with dust, hang from a pipe, undisturbed since the Doughboys that went off to fight in World War One left them there – the idea was when they came back from the war, they would take back the wishbone, as their wish of making it home safely having come true.

All the ones that remain are still waiting for their owners to come home.

There is a pot-bellied stove, scarred tables, and chairs. Lincoln, as a young lawyer, drank there. Ulysses S Grant, as an old battle-scarred General was a regular.

In 1970 the court ordered that McSorleys had to allow women through their doors, and they did, though they didn’t build a Ladies Room until ten years later.

It is a time capsule, sitting quietly on East 7th Street; it is everything an American bar should be, and there isn’t a television to be found in it. It is a place to come, eat, drink and talk. In college, my friends Mike, Ted, Dan, Joe and I all made sure our classes ended at noon on Fridays so we could pile into the D Train and hurry downtown to spend the rest of the day and all of the evening doing just that.

One time, during a nasty winter, a blizzard raged outside the windows as my friends and I sat around the pot-bellied stove absorbing it’s warmth, not wanting to budge, not caring if we got snowed in. Where else would be better than where we were? As the day aged, we found ourselves the only patrons left in the place. Two bartenders and the cook were all the staff left.

“Don’t worry boys” one of the bartenders said, “You put two of those chairs together and you have a pretty comfy bed.”

We looked at each other wondering if he was putting us on.

“Oh” he continued “and the next couple of rounds are on the house!”

Well, that settled it; snow be damned; we weren’t going anywhere. And we didn’t.

And he was right about the chairs.

Three bars, three special memories; three times when I was reminded we are all in this thing called life together; sure we are strangers to each other, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share a beer together, lend a hand or offer a kind word at the very moment it is needed most.

Something to ponder next time you take a seat at the bar.

Cheers.

Rob.

In the Spirit ( no pun) of Halloween

In the spirit of Halloween, I would like to talk about horror movies for a bit. For whatever reason, I have always been a fan of horror movies. Even as a very “frightened of my own shadow” kid, I was attracted to these crazy movies! I guess I was, and in many ways still am, a glutton for punishment!

I would like to talk about two things; the movie itself and then the musical score that went with the movie. If you are like me, just a few notes from one of these movie scores can stand your hair on edge! I would love your thoughts and feedback as well!

The first horror movie that I remember that created continuing nightmares ( glutton for punishment) was Hitchcock’s Physco. ( The Original) I had seen the classics as a very young child( Frankenstein, The Wolf Man Dracula), and they scared me, but not with the lasting effect of Physco. Hitchcock was a master at creating suspense and catching a viewer quite unawares. I jumped out of my seat a few times during my first viewing of this movie. There was not really much of a musical score to the original, but those high pitched, pulsating notes that accompanied the frenzied moments of the movie are unforgettable. Do you remember that sound? Just a brief second of hearing those notes, and I’m back at the Bates Motel looking at that freakin house on the hill. I swear that after viewing that movie, I became a huge fan and supporter of taking nice long, baths, not showers, and, l if perchance I did take a shower, I found myself peaking out of the shower curtain every few seconds to make sure that the shadow I was certain I saw, was nothing.

Another horror movie that had a lasting effect on me was The Exorcist. This one hit particularly close to home because the scene in which Father Karras listens to the tapes of Regan’s dialogue was filmed in the basement of Keating Hall at Fordham University in the Bronx, which is where I went to college. In addition, William O’Malley, who plays Father Joseph Dyer in the movie was a real-life assistant professor of theology at Fordham at the time. The movie was loosely based on real events, which made it even more frightening to me. The iconic scene where Father Merrin, the elderly priest, steps out of a cab and stands silhouetted in a misty streetlamp’s glow and stares up at a beam of light from the bedroom window,  still sends a shiver or two down my spine!.. and what about the unworldly score of this movie! If you have seen the Exorcist you know the haunting, “Tubular Bells”. Even now, if I hear this… I get uneasy… I’m looking up at that beam of light from the bedroom window…. “shudder!”

How can we speak of “Halloween Spirit” without highlighting Wes Craven’s masterpiece, “Halloween”. I find it hard to believe that the original was released 41( almost 42) years ago. It still resonates with me as one of the very best horror movies made. The plot, the camera angles, the ominous atmosphere, and the nerve-racking suspense make this a classic. Michael Meyers and his iconic mask have reached the level of movie legend. Haddonfield will be forever, where Michael Meyers will eventually return. The very first time I saw this movie, From the opening credits ( with the sinister Jack-o-Lantern on the screen), I was properly frightened. Just as important ( perhaps more so) as the plot, camera angles, atmosphere etc, was the unforgettable soundtrack. Unbelievably, it only took John Carpenter three days to write this musical score. Made up of a bone-chilling piano motif with contrasting base notes, the score itself still has me expecting to see Michael Meyers staring at me at the end of a deserted street. Every Halloween since my first viewing of this classic, when I see a lit Jack-o-Lantern….. I hear that ominous music. No matter how many times I see this movie, it will always be required viewing for the holiday for which it’s named. I could ramble on for quite a while about my favorite Horror movies, but I will spare you the potential boredom. However, there are a few others that I want to give an honorable mention to.

The Ring: this movie was just eerie from the opening scene. Long black hair that covers the face is definitely forever a no-no and the scene when the girl crawls out of the television set? Lights out for me!

Blair Witch Project; the “ feel” of this movie simply creeped me out. The use of the camera was outstanding, simulating a handheld video that gives the impression of reality and the action happening in real-time. The final scene, with Michael standing in the corner, was simply haunting for me. No more “ walks in the woods “ for this New York kid. I hear very varied reviews of this movie, but it did its job of scaring the crap out of me!

The Shining: Perhaps the most graphic of scenes in The Shining was the little boy, Danny, innocently riding his bike along one of the long, narrow and terribly claustrophobic hallways of the hotel when he is stopped dead in his tracks by the untimely appearance of two twin girls. The camera is from Danny’s vantage point and the sudden appearance of these two young girls, in the already frightening hall, stood my hair straight up! I now compare all hotel hallways to those in this movie. If the hallway is deserted….it’s back to the lobby for me.

Paranormal Activity. I have seen this “security-cam” horror movie many times and it still sends chills. This movie about possession (that launched a paranormal franchise ) still leaves a mark. That last scene… on the security camera? I almost fell out of my chair. We have a security camera at my house today… the problem is….. I’m afraid to check it. ..and if I DO check it, and it happens to catch a shadow ( usually of a raccoon or something), I am jumping for cover! I had better stop here.

I could go on and on…and I am leaving so many out. I realize this is a very subjective list, but I would love to hear about your top picks. I’m certain that we will agree on many.
Until then, stay away from any Cabins in the woods. Enjoy your Halloween

Candy Man.

Starry, starry night.

When we first moved in together, Les and I lived in a loft at the corner of West Broadway and Canal Street. It was a fun, interesting place to live at it was way before the gentrification of the area, and it had its own special brand of funky. There was a luncheonette on the ground floor of the building that provided many a much-needed breakfast after a long night of clubbing. Canal Street itself was a wonderful mixture of army surplus stores, jewelry outlets, greasy spoons, Asian restaurants, and dive bars. The street itself was kind of a boundary; to its north was “the Village”, to its south, well it wasn’t quite known as Tribeca (Triangle Below Canal) at the time but it did have some crazy clothing stores, a few pretty good reasonable restaurants, and bars maybe one level above “dive” status. At its western nexus, near us, Canal met the entrance to the Holland Tunnel and New Jersey beyond.  It continued clear across Manhattan until it met up with the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge that would take you to Brooklyn. There was constant commercial traffic all day and all night. We would at the tall windows in the loft and just watch the flow of business and humanity; it was a comforting sight; we were not alone, but part of a huge crowded Metropolis.

There were lots of vendors on Canal Street, whose wares spilled out onto the sidewalks in cardboard boxes, or used plastic milk crates. You could score anything from an Army Surplus machete (I still have mine) to a fake Rolex. Can you imagine selling machetes out of a cardboard box on the streets of New York now? Or anywhere for that matter? It was a strange and wonderful time. All the items being sold were clearly priced, pieces of torn paper taped to the outside of the box telling you how much that boomerang cost. And you knew, just as the seller did, that you weren’t paying that price. It was understood there was a time-honored process to be played out.

“Whaddaya get for the coffee urn?”

“Twenty-Five”

“I’ll give ya fifteen”.

A pause.

“Alright gimme twenty and it’s yours”.

It was virtually impossible to take a walk along Canal and not find something you wanted; not something you needed but something you wanted.

“How about that meat slicer?”

“Fifty”

“Fifty?! Are you outta yer mind – Ill give ya thirty”.

And on it went day and night; the street that never slept. Always crowded, always vibrant, with enough colorful characters to staff Disney Studios.

We loved our time there and never found another neighborhood like it. It was strange, years later to come back to pay a visit, a week after 9/11; a painful pilgrimage to see everything covered in dust – mailboxes, cars that hadn’t moved, hydrants, the sidewalks themselves; the streets deserted, except for some lost souls like ourselves trying to recognize our beloved city again.

But that lay ahead, in the future; when we lived there, those towers stood tall on the horizon and there was hustle and bustle all around us.

We, of course, didn’t have a car, a totally unnecessary luxury when we had the subway. While cars were stuck in traffic, the A train zoomed uptown; when bad weather made the streets treacherous, the rails of the D train stayed dry and firm. It was, for all of its faults, a miraculous system. The Canal street station was a hub for a number of lines, with many pedestrian tunnels leading to different lines, and even with the signs, there were days when you would find yourself back at your starting point when you swore you had followed the signs for the AA line perfectly. I always suspected that the MTA did that on purpose and watched on cameras laughing, as people went round and round in endless circles vainly trying to find their connection.

One memorable night, we sat in the loft and watched Canal Street become blanketed with snow. It was a major storm; even the city buses couldn’t get around. It was rare to hear a silence in the streets of Manhattan, but that is what the snow was doing that night, hushing everything up. The neighborhood looked different. It was warm and cozy in our home, as the storm intensified outside. So of course, Les had an idea:

“You know what we should do?”

“What’s that?

“Go to Central Park.”

The first stop (of course) was to the liquor store around the block. A pint of Jim Beam for Les, a pint of Jack Daniels for myself, and off we went trudging through the snow to the subway. Life goes on in a city the size of New York, despite snow, strikes, and crime. The subway was packed with people, some making their way home from work, others on their way to work. I didn’t think too many were on their way for a stroll through Central Park. The trip to Columbus Circle was about twenty minutes, and when we climbed the stairs to street level, we were greeted by even more, heavier snow. Even there, a confluence of streets usually clogged with traffic, most everything was empty. An intrepid taxi fishtailed its way down Broadway, a couple of trucks still were making deliveries, and a city bus crept along, its interior lit up to reveal the faces of tired New Yorkers just getting through another day. 

The temperature had dropped, and the wind had picked up and I was having doubts about the plan. But Les was game and if she was in, I was too, and on we mushed. We entered the park and made our way too the Zoo, all buttoned up for the night, but its near Gothic architecture, and now strange-looking statures made a surreal backdrop to the ice accumulating on top of the snow. We went on towards the Great Meadow. After a while we couldn’t tell if we were on a path or not, it was all just snow. Visibility was limited but I was able to tell we were rising, climbing up on one of the many bridges that allowed vehicular traffic to transverse the park. I could make out the outline of the roads below. The wind thankfully started to die down a bit, and our spirits were keeping us warm. We reached the summit of the bridge, at about the same time there came a break in the clouds and a bit of clear night sky peaked through, stars bright.

And then we looked down to the expanse of the Meadow below, soft, white, peaceful, framed by the dark shadows of hundred-year-old trees, and beyond them, the hotels and apartment houses that lined the park, their lights twinkling in the dark sky. 

I don’t think I had ever seen the city look so beautiful, and we were the only ones to witness that beauty in that particular way, in that particular spot on that snowy night. I took another sip of Jack and reached out to take Leslie’s gloved hand. We just stood in awe; no words were needed. I remember thinking ‘well my son, don’t ever fear death, cause I have a feeling it has already happened – how else to explain this walk, this night, this glimpse of Heaven?’ I stood holding the hand of the person I loved, looking out over the city I adored. There was no place on earth at that moment I would have rather been. It was like some unseen benevolent force had led us to this one spot, this one moment, as if to say “Look, look at this, remember this time, and how you feel….you only see this once in a lifetime….savor it.”

That was a long time ago. Now when I see snow, I have to shovel it. It’s not as much fun living in the suburbs – actually, nothing is.

Every once in awhile, as I am straining my back in the darkness of the night, cursing at the weather, I  will look up into the night sky, gaze at the stars through the falling snow, and I will remember. And when I look over at Les and find her looking back at me smiling, I know she is remembering too.

There have been many great nights in my life, but that one……that one was special.

 

Rob.

Captured Moments; Old photographs

For a good portion of my life; the memories, the good times, even the not so good times were captured on photographs. I am not speaking of those we see every day on social media, usually consisting of an inordinate number of selfies or close-ups of what someone is having for dinner. I’m speaking of actual photographs; you know, those taken with a camera. Yes, cameras are not quite passé as yet, simply relegated to professional photographers, however, I fear that for the everyday man and woman they are. It’s just simply too easy and convenient to hold our phone up and “fire away”, and, in all fairness, the technology is getting better and better. Yet, for me, there is something still beautiful, magical and even haunting about looking at an actual printed photograph.

In one of our closets are 30 photo albums. A visual history of life and existence as I remember it. Some of the photos are old and frayed. Some taken in black and white and others so old that the color has faded enough to look as if they are black and white. Some have faded inscriptions on the back of them, indicating the year and the event. Many of the inscriptions are written by loved ones no longer with us.

At times, I simply “get in the mood” to pull down a few of those albums and simply thumb through the pages of photos. I’m quite certain that if one were to film my face as I viewed each photo, they would observe quite the scope of facial emotions; a chuckle, a laugh, a sigh, a tear. They would observe a blank stare as my eyes turn from the photo to space. I am looking at nothing, staring into space, reliving the moment, the emotion, the day itself. Often I can feel the breeze, smell the air or the grass or the dinner as it cooked. I look closely at the people in the photo and I feel like I am back at that table on 418 west 17 Street. The whole family is there enjoying Christmas Eve dinner. Mom’s expression is one of love; her face says she is happy that her family is together on this special night. Dad’s smile says “ this is why I work three jobs…. to make a night like this possible…aren’t my boys dressed nicely tonight? “ I catch the aroma of Uncle Dicks cigarette as he lights another. I catch a whiff of Aunts Fils’ perfume. Then I turn my attention to the next photo.. and I travel back in time to a new location, another day… another memory…. and there in front of me, that memory sits…. locked forever in a small, warm photograph.

I love old photos of places as well as people. I can thumb through an album and come across a photo of a place or location that triggers all kinds of emotions and memories. Gazing at the small, wrinkled, photo I’m transported back to that place, even if just for a moment. The feel of the place, the aromas, the sounds. though faint, they are just as real as when I was actually there. I have included two such photos as attachments to this post. One is of the front of the grammar school I attained as a kid, PS 41. As I get into this photo, I hear the sounds of the passing cars and the distinct voices of other kids. The “ street sounds” of NewYork. It seems to always be a crisp , fall morning in this particular flashback. I’m now getting in the proper line to be ushered through those glass doors by a few of the teachers. Waving goodbye to Mom as she stays in place until I’m safely in the building. How many years ago?? Not that many when I’m lost in this photo.

The other is one of the “door” one would bump open on the way into the Haunted House at Bertrand’s Island amusement park in New Jersey. Seated in the cart that would take you through the ride, that Skeleton head, with his menacing smile and leering eyes would greet you as your heart began pounding in anticipation. Once through that door, there was complete darkness and frights and jumps galore. Never very brave as a child, my eyes often stayed closed until our cart safely emerged at the end of the ride. As we walk away, I turn and look back at that smiling skull. He seems to be saying, “ until next time”… I turn away and walk just a little bit closer to dad.

Bertrand’s Island has long since been closed. Where that Haunted House stood, a condo now stands. However, in that photo, that worn, haunting photo, I still feel the anticipation, the childhood fear of the dark and scary things. I hear Rob’s excited/ frightened giggle as Mom hugs him a little tighter to protect him from the ghosts and monsters we will encounter. I hear Dad’s distinct and pleasant laugh as he shouts “HERE WE GO” as our cart bumps open the skeletons door… and when the ride is over, I look back… the skeleton is still there..with the creepy smile…” until next time…”

I realize that most likely there are not a lot of photo albums around anymore. It is simply too easy to store our photos on a photo stick or flash drive. However, for me, the emotions and feelings evoked In looking at an actual, worn photo are hard to match. It is both haunting and beautiful. I linger a bit longer as I close my eyes and relive the moment or the place. Quite often I wish that I were back in the moment and that time has not moved quite so quickly. After all, that trip to Bertrand’s Island? That was just last month, right?

Anyone recall this Simon and Garfunkel song?

Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away

Don.

The Strange Case of the Wrong Tea Bags

This memory takes me well back to our very first apartment on 290 West 12th Street in NYC.

I don’t recall my exact age, but I believe it was somewhere around 11. For the most part, our very protective mom didn’t let me out of her sight for very long at all. However, on occasion, she would send me to the bakery to pick up a freshly baked loaf of Italian bread or to the A&P to pick up one or two small grocery items.

Now, to be honest… I didn’t have the best track record in accomplishing these rather simple tasks. There was the time I arrived back at our apartment building, proudly holding the above-mentioned loaf of fresh Italian bread, only to drop it out of the bag onto the front steps of the building. I then proceeded to trip over our hot, fresh Italian bread and crush it under me. That was a hard one to explain. Then there was the time I was sent for a dozen eggs, and, forgetting to check the eggs in the carton, I arrived home with seven eggs. Oh, and that container of milk I was supposed to buy…Don’t you think Milk containers should look vastly different from heavy cream containers? I sure do. It’s inexcusable. Dad loved Cocoa Puffs, so I was sent to pick up a box of Cocoa Puffs. Easy right? Not so much. Cocoa Puffs… Cocoa Krispies… Cocoa Krispies… Cocoa Puffs. Hell, they were both Cocoa, right? No big deal? Not to my dad. I can still hear him stating, to no one in particular, as he shook his head looking with disdain at the Cocoa Krispies I had purchased:” WHAT THE HELL IS A COCOA KRISPY? “

Those are just a few examples, but they kind of set the stage well. No one could accuse me of being a very good grocery shopper.

It’s also probably important to restate something I have mentioned quite a few times. Money was very tight in our family there was little room for carelessly handling it. I want to be certain that you don’t draw the conclusion that mom or dad were being overly harsh when these kinds of things happened. Every penny, literally counted.
Which brings us to the tea bags.

Seemed like a reasonably easy assignment. Our Uncle Vincent, Moms Brother, was stopping by for lunch. He was a tea lover ( perhaps the only one in the family, everyone else were coffee drinkers). As mom and dad were not tea drinkers and Robert and I were too young to care, we had no tea bags in the apartment for Uncle Vincent. Mom gives me this look that basically says, “Ok….. I’m going to send you to the store for one easy thing…. don’t mess it up”.

She tells me at least four times all she needs is one small box of tea bags. She asks me if I understand if I have any questions. I enthusiastically nod “yes”… I understand ….. no problem”.

Sitting directly behind mom as she gives me the instructions, looking like an evil little elf, is my little brother Robert. He also has a look on his face. But, his eyes are already laughing and the look says. ..   ..” this doofus is going to mess it up!” I shot him a look that responded;  “ cut it out!” And he gives me one back of mocking glee. Evil little elf.

Off I go to the store, confident that this is going to go well and Robert will have to swallow that look.

I find the place where the tea is stocked, pick up the smallest box, as per mom’s frugal instructions, pay the cashier with the money mom gave me and I stride confidently home. I ascend the three flights of stairs, knock on the apartment door and walk boldly in as mom opens the door for me.

She looks at the brown paper bag holding my purchase and asks;

“Any problems? “

“No !” I say smiling a confident smile.

The evil elf is still behind mom…. that damned look still on his face.

I hand Mom the bag and stand there proudly as she opens it.

I knew right away something was amiss.

A dark look comes over moms face, the eyebrows are now quite furrowed.

“ WHAT’S THIS??! “ she exclaims.

I’m thinking to myself; “it’s freakin’ tea…. just like you asked?”

The elf is already starting to go into convulsions on the floor behind Mom.

“I SAID TEA BAGS!!!!! Five times I said TEA BAGS!!!! This is loose tea!!!! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH LOOSE TEA??”

I am staring back at her with the wide-eyed doofus look thinking… “I don’t know… put it in a bag?”

Mom then proceeds to go into a rant in Italian, thankfully which I didn’t understand, though I vaguely remember hearing “stupido” and “muto” a couple of times. She tosses the box of tea in the air and walks down the hall, continuing her rant…. to no one in particular now.

…… and there, on the sofa, rolled up in convulsions of hysterical laughter, was the evil elf.
And… I’m thinking to myself… tea is tea, no?

 

Don.

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The Bronx is Burning/Bonds is Da Bomb

It was one of the worst eras New York City ever experienced. Crime was rampant, jobs and the middle class were fleeing the city every day, the economy was tanking, pimps and prostitutes owned whole neighborhoods, those that weren’t ruled by the pushers. There were blackouts, transit, garbage, and teacher strikes; even the Federal Government, who would know something about mismanagement, declared New York “ungovernable”. It was perceived as wallowing in garbage, and sloth, a welfare state gone mad, and no less than the non-elected President of the United States told the city to “drop dead”. Of course he really didn’t say that, though it made a hell of a headline for the New York Daily News; what he did say was that no funds from the Federal Government were to be spent on bailing out the city from its current mess; you got into it, you get out of it was the attitude from Washington, and you couldn’t really blame them.

It was so bad, that visitors arriving at the two major Airports, were greeted by people wearing death masks handing out pamphlets that proclaimed: “Welcome to Fear City”. The pamphlets were a guide for the uninitiated coming to town. It listed neighborhoods to avoid (and there were plenty), things to avoid doing, and the best times of day to take in some attractions (most always broad daylight). It warned against going to Central Park at night as muggers were everywhere (and they were), and Times Square with its pickpockets, scams, and hookers. It advised against walking anywhere near the miles and miles of deteriorated empty tenements, and rubble-strewn blocks that made up most of the South Bronx, parts of Harlem and Brooklyn as well. It went on and on. You couldn’t blame any visitor from say, Toledo, for hunkering down in their hotel room and just ordering room service for the duration of their stay.

The largest city in America was failing miserably and the whole world was watching.

On October 12, 1977, the Los Angeles Dodgers were in town to play the New York Yankees for Game Two of the World Series at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Announcing the game were Howard Cosell and Keith Jackson. A bit into the game smoke became visible over the familiar confines of the historic park; an empty, abandoned school building had caught fire and was blazing away. There wasn’t a fireman for miles, the usual practice when there was such an event in a poor part of the city. The cameras following the game would periodically scan the skyline to watch the flames, which kept on getting bigger and wider; the building was doomed. The fire lit up the sky over the South Bronx, smoke drifted into the stadium, and the fear began to spread….if no is going to put this out…what is to stop it from spreading through the surrounding neighborhood? And then, at least in legend, Cosell said, in his usual laconic fashion:

“Well Ladies and Gentlemen…..the Bronx is burning.”

Now remember this was a World Series game being broadcast across the globe, and everyone with a television set got a first-hand look at a city literally coming apart at its seams. Finally, the sirens of a fire engine were heard, and everyone breathed a little easier.

It was no surprise to anyone when a study, undertaken because of this event, found that the FDNY (and the NYPD) didn’t respond to emergencies in certain neighborhoods as quickly as they did in others – namely poor ethnic neighborhoods vs. white affluent ones. And also remember this was after the Knapp Commission on Police Corruption (think Serpico), which gave New York’s Finest a whopping black eye.

The shame of the city continued.

Now with all that, throw in The Son of Sam blasting away at random and at will, and the atrocities at Willowbrook, the state-supported institution for minors with mental disabilities, and you pretty much have completed the picture of a place that if you weren’t born there, you would be fucking nuts to come and visit.

Ah, but if you were born there, there was another reality happening……………

At this very same time, you were in on the ground floor of a musical movement that would shape the industry for years to come, and no, I am not talking about Disco. New York City in the ’70s and early ’80s was ground zero for the emerging and exciting Punk movement, and its music was the perfect, expected, and natural reaction to the insanity that was happening every day in that town. The movement had its cathedrals of sound, names now that evoke a tear, a yearning, and a heightened pulse rate. Names written large and indelibly on the history of pop music in America. Names like the Mudd Club (unbelievably named after Dr. Mudd who gave medical assistance to Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth); a small storefront in what would come to be known as Tribeca (Triangle below Canal); it gave life to what are now well-known names. But as we stood in the smoke-filled small room, drinking beer from a can, wearing the standard outfit of tight blue jeans and leather jacket, Marlboro in hand; as we stood and watched these wonderful, exciting, sexy, stunning bands we knew they were what we needed at that very moment; but we didn’t know they would become world-famous as The Talking Heads, Blondie, or The Ramones. A hot dog at Dave’s Luncheonette after the show completed the night perfectly. Over at CBGBs, the same vibe was happening as we drank in Patti Smith and avoided the bathrooms (which were a horror). Or Max’s Kansas City, where we screamed for Lou Reed or David Bowie. Was there anyone that spoke for a New Yorkers sensibility quite like Lou Reed? Lord do we need him now.

And I will never forget one particular night at Hurrahs, a rare uptown club when I stood a few feet away from Mick Jagger, and Roger Daltry, both lost in the crowd that was buzzing and jerking to the beat of the B-52s.

That kind of thing just doesn’t happen anymore.

And there was more to come. Like Mink Deville at the Lone Star on Fifth Avenue. One of our favorites, Willy DeVille, the band’s creator, bummed a light off of me in the men’s room…ah…brushes with greatness. Miss Willy every day.

But a few years later I and the entire city would be blown away when The Clash (still in my opinion the greatest band ever) played eighteen concerts at Bond’s on Broadway. Eighteen. Every one sold out. We went to a show there that started at midnight and finished up around 3AM (screw work the next day – this was The Clash after all). We stood at the very bottom of the stage and looked up at Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon make history. I had never felt such energy before at a concert. Because of where we stood, right next to the amps, I couldn’t hear for a week after that morning, but I couldn’t care less; it was worth it to be a part of the most perfect concert I had ever seen before or since. I would never listen to rock the same way again.

That was New York at just the right time. In a flash, it was over. As it was supposed to be.

Now I know I was lucky. I was white; I came from a good home, with a loving family and lived in a relatively safe neighborhood, one that the FDNY would probably come to. A lot of people were not that lucky; they didn’t get the chance to see this other side of the city, the alternative underside.

And I was lucky because I witnessed this spark of musical creativity in spite of the cesspool it sprang from, or maybe because of it. All those clubs are gone now, either they are condos or dorms for NYU, but for someone who dearly loved that city, they provided a counterpoint to all the sadness around us.

When I think of that time, those clubs, those bands, that music, they are what I remember most.

It’s nice to have been there when it all happened.

“This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco,
This ain’t no fooling around
This ain’t no Mudd Club or CBGB
I ain’t got time for that now”
-Live During Wartime- The Talking Heads

Rob.

Howdy Doody and Me

I have no clue why all these very early memories have hit me over the past few weeks, but this is another.

As in my entry entitled “Crayons”, this memory takes me back to kindergarten.

There was a very popular kid show running on television at the time called the Howdy Doodie show.

(Following is how Wikipedia describes the show)

“Howdy Doody is an American children’s television program (with circus and Western frontier themes) and telecast on the NBC network in the United States from December 27, 1947, until September 24, 1960. It was a pioneer in children’s television programming and set the pattern for many similar shows. One of the first television series produced at NBC in Rockefeller Center, in Studio 3A, it was also a pioneer in early color production as NBC (at the time owned by TV maker RCA) used the show in part to sell color television sets in the 1950s.”

I was a HUGE Howdy Doody fan and only severe sickness would keep from watching the weekly show on our small black and white television.

A guy by the name of Bob Smith was the host of the show. All of us kids that watched the show ( it is my understanding that it remains the most successful kids show in television history) knew Bob Smith ad “Buffalo Bob” . This was a reference both to the historical American frontier character Buffalo Bill and Smith’s hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.). At first, the set was supposed to be a circus tent but soon was changed to a western town. Smith wore cowboy clothes, as did the marionette and star Howdy Doody.

As stated above, I was addicted to this show, as was my only friend at the time, Richard Z. In addition to Howdy and Buffalo Bob, there was quite the “cast of characters “ that made up this show including:

Phineas Bluster, Princess Summer FallWinterSpring, FlubaDub and Clarabell the Clown. There were many others, but these are the ones I remember the best. Howdy and Buffalo Bob had two nemeses, so to speak, Phineas Bluster and the Mysterious Mr. X. They would cause all kinds of havoc on the show and many episodes ended with Howdy and Buffalo Bob in some kind of predicament because of the antics of these two. Obviously, this kept us kids waiting in high anticipation for the next episode to see how our hero’s got out of the “fix” they were left in.

An ongoing struggle for the good guys would be finding that the props or the set had been “messed with” at the close of the show. This would leave Buffalo Bob and Howdy befuddled as to what happened to a chair, their cowboy boots, desk, curtains…. anything that was a fixture. One such series in the case of tampering with the shows set had to do with the curtains.

At the start of every show (as with most live variety shows of the day) the host would emerge from behind some plush stage curtains that would open after the host was announced. In this case, it was something like; “and now, kids all across America ….. HERE’s Buffalo Bob”!!! Loud cheers from the kids in the live audience and Buffalo Bob would step from behind the opening curtains revealing the set for the day.

Well, the set up for the this particular “ end of show” challenge was that the mystery “bad guys” had taken down the beautiful, plush curtains and replaced them with old, shabby, torn curtains. The closing of the show was Buffalo Bob frantically pushing aside the shabby curtains, looking for the plush curtains that opened the show. This was the plot for quite some time, and those of us kids watching the show on TV (remember how young we were) were both amazed and frightened that some bad guy was messing with our heroes.

As I mentioned, the show itself was filmed at NBC studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, literally in walking distance from our apartment at the time. I have no recollection as to how it came about, but somehow Richard Z’s mom got us tickets to be part of the live audience for an upcoming show! This was the promised land! I was going to be on the Howdy Doody show!!

Each week I would sit in front of our television and watch the live audience in awe. I wondered what it would be like to be one of those lucky kids in the audience clapping and cheering for Howdy and Buffalo Bob and booing and hissing at the bad guys. I was certain that it would never happen. Then one day, mom tells me I’m going to be one of those kids… Me and Richard Z were going to be in the live audience! I don’t think it registered at first, but when it did, I remember running around the apartment screaming; “ I’m going to be one on the Howdy Doody Show!!!! I’m going to be on the Howdy Doody Show!!!!”

In hindsight, I believe it was at this point Dad starting planning on having another child.

I can not describe the excitement I felt the day of the show. I know I didn’t sleep a wink the night before; the anticipation was incredible.

By the time we were actually there, in the audience with all the other kids, the excitement was at a fever pitch. I looked at Richard Z and he looked at me. We didn’t exchange a word, but the look said;

“We are really here, aren’t we!” When the lights went down I thought my heart would pop out of my chest. Then the announcer’s voice, booming across the set. “OK, kids everywhere! Are you ready??!” Screams from all of us… ancient television cameras panning the audience. Richard Z was screaming, I was screaming all the kids were screaming.

Announcer: “IT’s HOODY DOODY TIME!

Screams get louder.

Announcer: “KIDS ALL ACROSS AMERICA… HERE’S BUFFALO BOB SMITH!!!!”

The plush curtains open, and there, right in front of us, live, not on television was Buffalo Bob! I could not believe it and I don’t have a clue when I stopped screaming.

The rest of the show was a fog, I remember nothing of it other than Buffalo Bob, and of course, Howdy on stage. I was mesmerized.

However, I do remember the end of the show. Please recall the plot of the nice curtains being replaced by ragged ones by the “villains?” This was highly anticipated; would we, the live audience, see the bag guys ripping down the nice curtains and replace them with rags???

This was the one thing about being in the live studio audience that proved to be negative. After the last commercial, before Buffalo Bob came out to say goodbye and to find the curtains again ruined and replaced, we witnessed the stagehands simply draw back the nice curtains and, open, in their place, the ragged ones.

Buffalo Bob came out to say goodbye and was, as usual shocked and dismayed to find the torn and patched curtains. He frantically looked all over the set, completely confused. As I mentioned, it always had us who were watching on television amazed and frightened…., but now….. we saw what really happened. A bit of the magic was gone.

Even in kindergarten, growing up came with some consequences.

But! Here we are… a lifetime from that day at NBC studios. I still see the set, I still hear the excited screams of the kids, I still see Richard Z’s face.

All in all, a wonderful, beautiful, unforgettable Cobblestone Dream.

 

Don.

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