Tag Archives: New York City

More Info

“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Don’t do it!”

In the mid 1970s that was the http://www.kesalukio.fi/ about a street-smart quick-talking undercover cop with the NYPD who lived with an old man and a cockatoo.

When “Baretta” came on, it was dad-and-me TV. Dad and I would watch Robert Blake as Baretta ham it up with Huggy Bear. (Google it. He was street ’70s cool!)

Am I going down this nostalgic path to wax poetically about Robert Blake, a child actor of “Our Gang” turned tough guy actor who was later accused of murdering his wife by shooting her in a car outside a restaurant and then acquitted?

Nope.

It’s to remember where I was when the lights went out in New York City on July 13, 1977.

History shows that the electrical shutdown started at about 8:55 p.m. with a lightning strike in Yonkers.

I didn’t know anything about that at the time.

But what I do remember is watching “Baretta” with my dad in our Bronx apartment.

The screen suddenly went blank and everything in the apartment went black.

My dad enlisted me to find out what happened. So I went to the first floor where my dad rented space for his knitting factory.

As I went up the stairs with a flashlight, I looked outside and noticed just how freaking dark it was out there.

The house we rented was on a corner and one side was parallel to a major highway. Our corner had at least three light poles so it was never dark — except that day.

Looking out the factory’s ground floor windows, something our basement apartment lacked, I could see a very dark Bronx street.

It was something I had never seen before.

“Dad?!” I cried out. He told me to talk to the landlord.

As I went up the stairs and gained a higher vantage point, I could see more of the street and streets on the other side of the highway.

There were no lights anywhere!

My landlord screamed to go back downstairs and turn on a portable radio to hear the news. The Bronx was blacked out. Later I learned it was wider than that.

So here we were on a hot July night with absolutely no lights.

What to do?

Our landlord got into a post-Fourth of July mood and broke out the fireworks that he did not sell the previous week.

He still had a bunch of firecrackers, Roman candles and bottle rockets.

He gave them to me and I remember my dad joining in.

My mom came up with my infant brother. My middle brother, who was too young to light the fireworks, was running back and forth delighting in the explosions I was orchestrating.

The previous week I may have been able to get my hands on a few firecrackers and bottle rockets but now our usually stingy and sour landlord was gleefully opening up a trunk full of leftover fireworks.

I was in heaven.

Rich, my friend from around the block and now About Men Radio brother, and I talked the next day about the looting and pandemonium that happened all night long in the city.

We later found out about the people in the subways and in Shea Stadium when the ballpark went dark and the stores that were broken into.

There were stories of good Samaritans, New Yorkers helping each other or simply gathering outside their buildings to meet their neighbors.

Or in my case, blow up some fireworks with them.

Related:

Read This

Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?

Each generation shares some moments in history that leave an indelible mark, and everyone alive at the time can recount where they were and what they were doing.

Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot? When the space shuttle Challenger blew up? During 9/11?

For me, one of those moments was: Where were you when the lights went out?

I am not talking about the blackout of 1965, or the one in August 2003, in which some 50 million people in Southeast Canada and eight Northeastern states were without power for as much as two days in what turned out to be the biggest blackout in North American history.

While that was terrible — 11 people died and there was a reported $6 billion in damages – the blackout that stayed with me the most happened 40 years ago this week.

It was the evening of July 13, 1977, and New York City was enveloped in oppressive heat and humidity.

Our third-floor apartment was like the inside of a brick oven.

We had no air-conditioning. The fans did little more than loudly move the hot air around.

I was getting out of the shower when the lights went out. I thought we had blown a fuse.

It turned out the entire city blew a fuse — a really, really big one.

It was bad enough that there was no power to keep the fans – as ineffective as they were – blowing, but we soon discovered we were out of water too.

Our building in the Bronx had a tower at the top. Water would be pumped to the tower and gravity-fed to the apartments.

No power, no pump.

No pump, no water.

People lined up at open hydrants and formed bucket brigades, filling pails and carrying them back home to “flush” toilets.

I checked on my older customers on my newspaper route to make sure they were OK.

That meant in some cases walking up 10 or more flights of stairs with buckets of water. (I was a lot younger then.)

Hallways and stairwells were as dark as midnight in a coal mine.

They lacked windows so no natural light got in. On some stairwells, small candles were lit like votives in a church.

I recall listening to WINS news radio with its signature theme music.

(“You give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world,” the announcer would say as the rapid fire teletype music would play, conveying a sense of urgency.)

We gathered around my sister’s Toot-A-Loop, a Panasonic doughnut-shaped radio, and heard the updates about the violence, looting and arson racking the city.

Fires consumed city blocks. In the end, more than 1,600 stores were damaged and more than 3,700 people were locked up.

The city was at a nadir, having gone through a fiscal crisis that saw its public services slashed and quality of life eroded.

For a city that was already down on the canvas, the blackout was a kick in the mouth.

But you know what? As bad as it was — and don’t get me wrong, it was bad — there was also an esprit de corps that emerged among New Yorkers.

They rallied in a time of crisis.

Strangers helped strangers as they had during blizzards and the way they would 24 years later during the Sept. 11 attacks.

Civilians took to intersections to direct traffic where signal lights were out, freeing up cops to do more important duties.

Mr. Diamond, the owner of the Carvel ice cream store across the street, gave away ice cream.

Neighbors checked on each other and offered flashlights and batteries.

The blackout brought out the worst — and some of the best — in people.

In the heat of the summer of 1977, the mettle of New Yorkers was tested and it was strong.

 

 

 

Remembering Prince in Concert in New York City

Young men coming of age in the 1980’s in New York City was an amazing time, with many stories to tell.

One of my favorites takes place at our go-to club, The Ritz, where many bands of the time were heard and good times were had.

1984: We show up at the club to see Sheila E, a protégé of an artist at the time known as Prince, knowing that he would be a shoe-in to show up to promote himself.

sheila24n-1-webShe puts on a great show, and even gives us a few thrills as she has wardrobe malfunctions and flashes us some flesh.

The night could only get better.

She plays her last song and leaves the stage but comes back out for an encore.

When she returns, the music strikes up for a song she has a duet with you-know-who.

When she introduces him, the crowd goes wild.

They finish and go off stage but now the crowd is stomping and cheering for him to come back out.

As he returns to the stage, holding a tambourine in each hand, he bows and tosses the instruments out to the audience exactly as he does in his hit movie.

Unfortunately we were nowhere near where they landed, so no souvenirs for us.

Prince performs a couple of his hits and brings down the house.

What a fantastic impromptu, intimate experience!

But the fun wasn’t over.

We worked our way down to the men’s room before leaving. What we found there has stayed in my mind.

Two lucky people left the club that night with tambourines touched by Prince himself.

The guy we saw in the bathroom didn’t get one but one had skimmed across the top of his head and slit open his scalp.

He was bleeding like a stuck pig, smiling his ass off since it was something “given” to him by that famous artist.

Lucky dude.

I guess every time he scratches his head and feels that scar where no hair grows he’ll remember that fantastic night at the Ritz.

An Interview With Terence Michos, Vermin From “The Warriors”

Terence Michos walks from the parking lot wearing an aqua blue V-neck shirt, khaki pants and sunglasses.

From a distance, it’s hard to reconcile that the man headed toward you is, in fact, the actor who played Vermin in the hit 1979 movie “The Warriors.”

Gone is the baby fat in the face. The curly locks are missing. The shoulders are not quite as broad.

But when he gets closer, and he smiles, the disarming and mischievous face of the lothario that Michos once played is unmistakable.

At 61, Michos would be the envy of men half his age.

He’s fit and trim. His midriff is even more flat now than when he bared it while wearing the leather vest of the Warriors. And even with crow’s feet at play around his eyes, his face exudes a youthful vitality.

IMG_2502

Michos is going to need some of that energy on Sunday when he and other cast members gather for what promises to be a blowout reunion in Coney Island.

Expect to see a huge turnout of fans, many replicating the costumes of some of the colorful gangs featured in the movie.

Think of it as cosplay for hardcore junkies of “The Warriors.”

But what’s not to like about this gritty, of-its-era depiction of New York City at its nadir in the 1970s?

The movie, with its haunting nighttime footage set against a foot-tapping syntho soundtrack, was a safe way for non-New Yorkers to view the stew of the city’s graffiti-covered subways, runaway crime and the specter of street violence.

And for those who grew up in the city in that decade, it was a chance to glimpse real-life neighborhoods and subway stations on film while rooting for underdogs.

(The Warriors are falsely accused of fatally shooting a charismatic leader who, at a summit in the Bronx, seeks to unite all the city’s gangs. The Warriors then have to make their way from the Bronx to their home turf in Coney Island, all the while crossing through rival gang territory and being pursued by the cops.)

For Michos, the all-day appearance at “The Warriors: Back to Coney,” signing autographs and interacting with fans will be a throwback to the intense experience of what it was like to make the movie.

“It was a wild, wild grueling time,” he recalled of the filming, which took place at numerous New York City locales.

The crew filmed in the middle of the night and the physical demands on the actors were not for the faint of heart.

Those scenes of Michos and other members of the Warriors being chased by other gang members and running at a full-out sprint?

Scenes like those were shot over and over again, 20 or 30 times a night, to get it just right.

And the scene at the Lizzies’ hangout where a night of amorous adventure turns to gunfire and mayhem?

Michos was hurling himself over that couch 15 or 20 times – without the benefit of padding.

In fact, he said he did all of his own stunts, with the exception of when his character got thrown into the mirror in the subway station men’s room.

He recalled going with some of his co-stars, hat brims pulled low, to theaters where the movie was playing and watching as movie-goers erupted in cheers and excitement at the fisticuffs.

Laughing, Michos remembers seeing real-life gang members sitting in the theater and saying to their girlfriends: “I can fight, but I can’t fight like those guys do!”

Michos was relieved not to be recognized, lest real life imitate fiction and he and his co-stars be challenged to a brawl.

warrior2

Michos was 25 when the movie was shot. His co-stars were also young.

It was a time of heavy partying, Studio 54 and cocaine, he said.

But not for him.

“I was probably more boring than all the other guys on the set,” he said.

He would tell his movie mates: “‘I’m going home. You guys hold it together.’ I would be telling them about my relationship with God. They loved me. They wouldn’t bring me to their parties, but they loved me.”

But lest you think he was all a goody two-shoes, Michos was quick to note that he shared with his character a weakness for the ladies.

“That was always there,” he said with a grin.

For Michos, the role of Vermin was almost not to be. He’s got the hit TV show “Taxi” to thank with propelling him to “Warriors” fame.

Here’s what happened: The movie auditioned thousands and originally did not pick Michos.

The actor Tony Danza also tried out, and those doing the casting liked him, so he got the part.

Michos went home, had dinner with his girlfriend and cried.

While coming to terms with the rejection, he said he prayed. “I said, ‘Lord, I’m yours.’”

Danza got a starring role in “Taxi,” which pulled him out of “Warriors” and Michos was called back for a second audition.

The movie-makers settled on him for Vermin, who, while a lover, was also a fighter.

“I think it was a good role for me because I think the film was enhanced by that little comedic twist, those little jokes that lightened things up a little.”

He said it’s not unusual six times a day to hear fans recite their favorite pieces of his dialogue back to him:

“Those cats were some desperate dudes.”

“I got the big one.”

“I’m sick of waiting for trains.”

His sense of comedic timing was nowhere better on display than in the tense moments leading up to the brawl in the men’s room.

Mercy, played by Deborah Van Valkenburgh, objects to being led into the restroom by the Warriors’ warlord, Swan.

“Wait a minute,” she says. “I can’t go in there. It’s a men’s room.”

Vermin’s retort is “Are you kidding?” but Michos said the line lacked punch.

So he delivered the line but also improvised.

“I just reached out and grabbed her and she went flying and the house came down.”

He grew up in what was then a much more rural Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

He was interviewed at a playground and recreational field in the Town of Poughkeepsie in his old neighborhood.

He pointed to the field and recalled how he and his friends would play ball and use a beer can as first base, an empty beer case as second base “and, if we found one, a dead skunk for third base.”

It was a community of IBM and Central Hudson workers, professors and doctors. Growing up, he had no ambition to be a member of a gang much less exposure to one.

Still, Michos described himself as a punk.

“I had a chip on my shoulder. If people talked to me wrong, I hit them in the nose, hit them in the face. I hit teachers.”

He was raised Catholic but was less than observant. (He recalled being an altar boy and pilfering the sacramental wine to try to get a buzz.)

He said he had a spiritual awakening in the year that “The Exorcist” was released. Michos said he was fearful — “don’t ask me why or how” — of becoming demonically possessed.

“One night the presence of God came into my room and totally transformed me in a way I could never, ever imagine.”

He said he became a whole new person.

“I committed my life to Christ,” said Michos, who is a pastor at an evangelical church. “I tripped and fell a number of times but I picked myself up and I press on towards the mark.”

Michos, who enjoyed a career on stage and in TV, turned his attention from acting to being a husband and father. He and his wife have four children, including one who is developmentally disabled.

For 16 years, he served as a news director and anchor for a cable TV station that covered the Hudson Valley and then was communications director for former U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth in her Washington, D.C., and district offices.

Now, among other things, he does political consulting.

But for better or for worse, Michos will long be remembered as Vermin.

He said he remains close to his castmates and has appeared at numerous reunion events but none that have caught on like the one taking place on Sunday.

He described the first time they got together in more than 20 years: “The minute we saw each other, it was like nothing had passed, not a beat had passed. We get together and we just care about each other.”

And as for the movie’s appealing legacy?

“We were likeable bad guys,” he said, citing a comparison of “The Warriors” to “The Wizard of Oz”: It’s all about trying to get home.

Yeah, we can dig it.

Read more blog posts at www.aboutmenradio.com and at http://aboutmenradio.net

Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AboutMenRadio and follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aboutmenradio

Have a question or a comment? Write us at amr@aboutmenshow.com

 

Remembering 9/11: A Firsthand Account of the Day of the Attacks

Note: We pause today to remember the attacks of 9/11 that claimed nearly 3,000 lives. 

Jaime Vallecilla, a graduate of St. Raymond’s Boys High School in the Bronx and a classmate of many of the About Men Radio crew members, shares his harrowing account of being at One World Financial Center on the day of the attacks 14 years ago.

Fourteen years later, it is still difficult to recall the events of that day.

A single event transformed the lives of so many and changed the way we live our lives in the modern era.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I had recently started a new assignment for a mutual funds company based in One World Financial Center. After three weeks at the site, I was finally growing accustomed to my surroundings and was hoping for a lengthy contract.

I arrived at the office at 7:30 a.m. as was typical for me. Traveling from New Jersey, I liked to stay ahead of the height of the morning commute. It was close to 9 a.m. when I received a phone call from my wife and she told me that a plane had struck the World Trade Center.

I immediately thought a private citizen had lost control of his plane and had crashed into the tower.

Only two years before, John F. Kennedy Jr. had crashed his plane off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. A tragedy in either case, but I didn’t give it too much attention.

I continued working.

Just a few seconds later, I heard my coworker shout “Oh my God!” as he stared out of the office window. I ran to join him.

The scene outside was chaos.

I looked across the street and saw two Lincoln Town cars smashed together. The two drivers were just staring blankly ahead, probably trying to process what was happening.

The parking lot in the background had cars that were in flames.

A woman was shrieking in the middle of the road. I followed her body positioning and realized why she was screaming.

Strewn across the road in front of her were human remains. An ambulance arrived a few seconds later and covered the parts with sheets.

I then saw thousands of tiny pieces of paper floating from the building, each of them smoking or on fire. I could not believe how the fire continued to spread at the top of the building.

“What happened to the sprinkler system?” I wondered.

“Let’s go people!” shouted my manager to the group of us on the floor.

Pat was a retired NYPD veteran who had discovered a passion for information technology after his police life was completed. He was on the force at the time of the first World Trade Center bombing and his sixth sense was tingling.

We single-filed down the back staircase and exited the building through the basement door and onto the street.

The street was filled with people. The police were trying to set up a perimeter and keep people away from the building and the firefighters raced toward the building in their full gear.

I stayed close to my colleagues waiting for further instructions from our managers. After a couple of minutes, I saw some people pointing to the top of the building. A woman standing next to me exclaimed, “Oh, God no!” and started crying.

I adjusted my eyes and realized what they were looking at.

People were jumping from the upper floors of the building. One after another, some even holding hands and jumping together. I was horrified and couldn’t bear to watch anymore.

I walked away from the North Tower and toward the South Tower, trying to keep my colleagues in view. After a few minutes, I heard a loud, deep rumbling noise and I turned my head to see what it was.

The airliner was big and moving quickly but I thought that it was flying way too low. The unthinkable happened as it slammed right into the South Tower.

I thought for sure I would be hit with debris but the airliner was seemingly swallowed by the building and spit out on the opposite side.

There was a collective gasp from the crowd. I started running, and so did everyone else. A woman next to me kicked off her expensive high-heel shoes and took off running barefoot.

At this point I knew this was no accident and had no way of knowing what was coming next. I took out my phone and called home. I was hoping to reach my wife and just hear her voice, if just for one last time.

The phone connection never happened so I said a quick prayer and continued to run. I reached a point where I had to decide what to do: Should I run uptown or run toward the NY Waterway Ferry?

I ran toward the ferry.

There was a ferry already at the dock and I ran right onto it, past the ticket-taker who tried to grab my arm as I ran by him. Seconds later an announcement was made over the loudspeaker to load the ferry and leave the dock. A few more people boarded and the boat left.

It was a short boat ride across the river but long enough to observe the people around me. A woman across from me was lying across the bench in a fetal position, rocking and sobbing.

Others desperately asked around for a working cellphone but there weren’t any.

As we reached New Jersey, I tried calling home again but I still could not get through. I just needed to get home.

I went to the NJ PATH station, jumped the turnstile and boarded the train. It filled up quickly and the conductor got us out of the station.

I was in the last train car. As we emerged from the tunnel, I looked out of the little window facing the rear of the train car and I saw a large cloud of something but I couldn’t tell what it was.

The man sitting next to me had a portable radio and he was giving updates. He said the North Tower had collapsed. He also said the Pentagon had also been struck by an airliner.

Hearing this news just increased my urgency to get home.

Arriving at the Newark Penn Station train station gave me some comfort as I knew that I was closer to home.

The train car I boarded was full and it’s true what they say happens in times of crisis, your humanity kicks in and you try and help those around you even if they are complete strangers to you.

There were people covered in dust; people offered them tissues, water and whatever snacks they could find.

The passengers around me shared their stories with me and it was surreal how quickly people could bond over this traumatic event.

I was the first stop off the train and I said a quick goodbye to my new train friends. I rushed to my car and glanced around the parking lot.

I wondered how many people would never be picking up their car and returning home.

I sat in the car, took a deep breath and called home. My wife answered the phone and broke down when I told her I was fine and on my way home. I don’t really remember the drive home. I just remember pulling up to my house and seeing a bunch of cars in my driveway.

I walked into my house and embraced my wife. My house was filled with family members and neighbors, all lending their support.

For the next few hours I repeated my story to family, friends and neighbors and I was also riveted to the television, trying to understand the full scope of what had just happened.

I received a call later that evening from my contract employer to make sure I was accounted for. They said they would call me later in the week to discuss work logistics.

A week later I was asked if I was OK with working in Boston. With no income coming in, I readily agreed. Another week passed and I received another phone call letting me know that they couldn’t accommodate me in Boston.

I received two weeks’ pay and a “good luck to you” send-off.

With no work prospects in sight and social media yet to be invented, I said a lot of prayers and reached out to as many friends as I could for job leads. I was lucky to land another contract a month later, but it was in the heart of ground zero.

I walked along Broadway every morning and passed the wall of missing person signs on the fence of Trinity Church. A sea of faces smiling at you and tearing you up inside because you knew there would be no happy reunions.

I did that walk five days a week for eight months. The pictures remained; a makeshift shrine to the victims of that awful day. That charred, horrid smell lasted that long as well.

In the present day, I am forever changed because of the events of that day.

Every fire alarm that sounds in the building I take seriously. Prior to 9/11, I would just ignore them and keep working.

I have a heightened sense of awareness of the people and things around me. I am always looking to see what just doesn’t belong. I sometimes scour the skies to see if any planes are flying just a tad too low

For my son’s birthday this year he asked to spend the day in New York City and visit the 9/11 museum. My wife was a little apprehensive but agreed to go. As you entered the museum, the displays quickly bring you right back to that day.

I passed the room where there was a photograph of each of the victims who died that day.

I took my children inside to show them the friends I had lost that day.

Frank Schott (pronounced “shot”) was a coworker during my early days on Wall Street. He was a quiet, bright guy who was as conservative as they come. We would tease him by calling him “Money” Schott and we would ask him when his next feature film would be playing at the Globe Theater in the Bronx that specialized in adult movies.

He couldn’t help but laugh.

Frank never made it home that day.

JennieAnn Maffeo was another coworker who was a calming force in the sea of troubled IT projects. I don’t think I ever saw her without a smile on her face.

On Sept. 11, she was waiting for the shuttle bus to the NY Waterway ferry and was doused with jet fuel after the first plane hit. She was burned over 98 percent of her body and endured 14 surgeries over the next 41 days until her body could no longer fight that fight.

Alan Feinberg was a fierce competitor on the softball field and I always looked forward to facing his team. We had those classic back and forth matches that became trash talk fodder until the next time we faced each other.

It was no surprise that Alan raced to the World Trade Center as part of Battalion 9 to help those in need.

He perished along with 14 others from his firehouse.

John Burnside and Joe Kellett were my high school classmates.

John was a firefighter and Joe a stock trader. Both of them still had so much more living to do.

IMG_0105

My children listened as I told some of these stories and they understood why I get emotional watching the 9/11 memorial telecasts.

I am working in the financial district again, my third tour of duty.

On the way to work, my bus passes the Freedom Tower and I silently pay homage to all those who were lost that day similar to the way Catholics make the sign of the cross when they pass a cemetery.

It’s a constant reminder that I will never forget, nor should anyone ever forget.

 

 

Oh Rats! A Subway Stare-Down That I Lost

What creature would roam underground, scurrying from point to point through an intricate network of tunnels — dank, dirty and dingy — tirelessly trudging in claustrophobic surroundings?

I know them as New Yorkers. And they rule the subways.

For a long time I was one of them. Today I fondly think back of my days underground — and over ground when on the El — from the safety and sunshine of Florida.

But there is another New York inhabitant that is the true ruler of the subway, especially its tunnels.

This New Yorker has many cousins in fields, landfills and building basements and is an abomination born of the darkest of crevices – The Subway Rat!

This monstrosity is no ordinary rat. Its above-ground cousin shares similar disgusting traits, such as its almost cat-like size, hideous teeth and fur and voracious appetite. Did I mention it’s as big as a freaking cat?!

The New York Subway Rat has all those traits and exponentially raises it a few degrees.

Many New Yorkers never get to see one of these monsters.

They are the fortunate ones.

I am a New Yorker who faced one and lived to tell the tail…um…tale.

My commute back in the late ’80s was on the No. 6 train from Parkchester in the Bronx to the Garment District near Seventh Avenue. (No self-respecting New Yorker ever called it Fashion Avenue.) But the No. 6 doesn’t go to Seventh Avenue in the Garment District.

I would get off at the 42nd Street Station and then take the Shuttle to the West Side.

I would always go to the first car, not because I wanted to watch the passage through the tunnels from the front door, though I often did.

My principal reason for taking that spot was logistical.

The 42nd Street Station back then had a supervisors’ booth that had long been abandoned.

But the structure was still there and at the mouth of the tunnel, it jutted into the platform forming an inverted “U” from the front tunnel entrance. To either side of the “U” there was a narrow walkway that went right up to the tunnel’s mouth.

Since this walkway was always empty, no one would stand there to wait for the train and I could exit from the first car onto the platform without bumping into anyone waiting to come in.

It saved me a few milliseconds, and if you know a New Yorker’s morning commute, every fraction of a second mattered.

For months I exited the car without ever looking. Until one day…

Sniffing around this secluded platform, at the height of morning rush hour, just inches away from where I was about to plant my first step was a Subway Rat.

image

He was this big: I am holding my hands out at least three feet apart!

I froze mid-step.

Average rodents will typically scurry away when confronted by a human. But this is Subterraneous Verminus Rodentus we are talking about here.

This — this thing — stopped sniffing the ground, swiveled and stood on its freaking hind legs!

image

I was still frozen mid-step, and five cars away there was probably a conductor watching this exchange and wondering who would win, and more important how quickly, because he needed to get the train moving and close the freaking doors!

This New York Subway Rat knew who was boss. He was!

After a brief stare-down, it lowered itself and slowly, deliberately, walked to the tunnel and out of sight.

I exited the train, turned left and got the hell out of there.

I lived to tell the tale. But often I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t froze and if I had quickly used my soccer skills to kick that bigger-than-a-football-size vermin into the subway car before the doors closed.

Oh the pandemonium that would have created!

But I’m certain the rat would have landed on its feet, killed some passengers and slowly walked off the train and into its subterranean realm.

Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AboutMenRadio and follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aboutmenradio

Have a question or a comment? Write us at amr@aboutmenshow.com

 

Let’s Go Mets! Recalling the 1986 Ticker-Tape Parade

In October 1986, baseball history had been made and Chris Mele and I were ready to experience a ticker-tape parade in the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan for the World Series Champion New York Mets.

We were men with a plan:

Chris was going to meet me on Park Row by City Hall, where the parade would climax. I had jury duty in the Bronx and I planned to jump on the No. 4 train, which would bring me right to City Hall.

Of course, 2.2 million other people had the same idea.

I caught the train, and the crowds poured in.

I had to stand all the way but I didn’t even need to hold on as we were packed in and couldn’t move.

Then the “LET’S GO METS!” chants started. We were all screaming at the top of our lungs.

The energy was unreal.

These chants turned into “Who Do You Love? Bill Buckner!!!” OMG! Poor Bill Buckner, the weight of Boston’s loss on his shoulders.

(Cheer up, Bill. Even if you would have fielded that ball, you never had a chance beating Mookie to the bag.)

I finally arrive at City Hall. I figured my chances of finding Chris were slim, but we connected on Park Row — all without cellphones — imagine that?!

We try to get a good spot to watch the parade wind down Broadway.

People were standing on cars, light posts, mailboxes and we could hear the cheers and the “LET’S GO METS!” chants as the vehicles carrying the champs got closer.

Paper rained down from the buildings, even some toilet paper.

We are able to catch a glimpse of Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling as they worked their way to the front of City Hall where Mayor Ed Koch, Gov. Mario Cuomo, and Sen. Alfonse D’Amato waited to give speeches and share in the victory.

Chris and I tried to make our way over to City Hall, but there were so many people, we could hardly move.

The police corralled a large crowd of us down one of the side streets and blocked both ends. We were jammed in and the mob was getting rowdy and ugly.

The police were holding us back while the crowd pushed and shoved.

There was a couple of mounted police in there with us and the next thing I know I was face to face – no, face to rear — with the backside of a very large police horse.

I thought that’s it: Either the horse is going to kick me into oblivion or the officer on the horse was going to club me down for bumping into him.

Finally, the police opened up the end of the street and we broke out of there.

We caught some of the presentation from the City Hall stage, and Koch and Cuomo had to cut their words short as the crowd drowned them out with chants and cheers for the champs.

I think at that point we decided we had enough life-threatening experiences for one day and we parted to safer grounds. We escaped the area before the throngs started heading out.

The sanitation crews were already out cleaning up the paper and debris on Broadway, as life in the city never stops and doesn’t miss a beat.

Strangest Summer Jobs: Part One

It is hard to imagine a world today without our cellphones. For many of us, they have become a permanent attachment to our hand or hip.

Does anyone memorize phone numbers anymore?  I know I don’t, but I can remember phone numbers to places where I lived more than 20 years ago yet I can’t remember my own children’s cell numbers.

During one summer when I was in college, I got a job with New York Telephone, after the monopoly break-up but prior to the industry proliferation of wireless devices in the marketplace.

How did we communicate when on the streets back in the pre-historic, pre-cellular days?

Pay phones were the way of the world. They were prominently positioned on the streets, at airports, bus stations, businesses and gas stations.

Today’s generation wouldn’t recognize a phone booth or understand having to dig change out of their pockets to call their BFF.

That summer I worked in a warehouse on the west side of Manhattan counting coins collected from all of the pay phones from the Bronx and Manhattan.

Each week this facility filled up a room with bags of nickels, dimes and quarters totaling over $100,000 —   not a bad take but I’m sure nothing compared to how much the cellphone industry rakes in today.

The counting room had a security guard who ran a metal detector over you when you left the room, so all your own coins, keys, and any metal objects needed to stay outside in your locker.

Cameras were also placed throughout the facility and at each counting station.

I was told that some employees in the past had developed a system of dropping coins down into their boots while they were counting, thus prompting the video surveillance.

I noticed that security rarely wanded you all the way down to your shoes.

On my first day, I was trained by a man who on one hand had a thumb and no other full fingers. He was the fastest counter in the place.

The counting machines were along a complex conveyor belt where the upper level brought you full banks of coins to be counted, and the lower level belt took away the full bags of counted coins.

The counting machines were pretty cool.

Each pay phone bank had a tag with info that you entered into a computer, and then you dumped out the change into a large tray and sifted through it to remove foreign coins and slugs.

Next, you lifted the tray and dumped the coins into the machine, which had a large spinning platter that pushed all the coins to the edge where they were lifted off the tray according to thickness and flew through an electric eye that counted them and off they went into a bag.

When a bag was full, the machine beeped and you would tie it up and throw it on the conveyor belt.

Attach a new bag and the counting continued.

That’s how the day went: pretty repetitive and mindless.

The place had a Musak system that we would commandeer and play our own mix tapes, yes tapes. So we would boogie to counting thousands of coins.

I remember that one of the favorite tunes that summer was the theme from “Beverly Hills Cop.”

One afternoon everyone was leisurely counting and we saw some people leaving early! We found out later that they had counted a certain number of banks and were allowed to go home. Damn!

The next day, we were all flying through the counting, knocking out those banks in record time and yeah, I got to go home early but this only lasted a week.

All the regular employees were brought into the boss’ office one at a time and got chewed out for not counting fast enough and the going home early thing was only to get production up.

Now that the coin counting was going great, us summer guys were expendable and we were transferred to escorting, but that’s another story…