Not The Miracle On 34th Street

Vintage postcard of Macy's, New York
Even Santa told me to “Fuck off”

It takes two to make an unhappy marriage and my parents are those two. My father has just left my mother or been thrown out by her. (You can get even odds on either proposition.) With my older brother away at college, I am now the only male in the house – a house not favorably disposed toward males, especially males who look and act like our recently exiled father. When my mother looks at me, she sees him. She never tires of telling me this at length and at great volume. She hates him so my domestic situation is precarious at best.  

One day, in the latest skirmish of our long-running feud, I punch my older sister in the stomach. She tried to kill me years before but I am now a husky 12-year-old. Is she a surrogate for my mother? My mother certainly thinks so and she throws me out of the house. At age twelve. Throws me out into New York City. At night. In December. Gives me one subway token and nothing else. No money. No food. Just the clothes on my back. Tells me to go live with my father. Then with my four weeping sisters beside her, she slams the vestibule door in my face. Dickens in Brooklyn. 

I have no idea where my father is living but I know he is working nights in Macy’s for Christmas. (That Thanksgiving I spot him on TV holding one of the ropes to the Popeye balloon in Macy’s famous parade.) But, I don’t know if he is working tonight or in which department. And, Macy’s is “The World’s Largest Store.” That’s a lot of departments.  

Popeye balloon in Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade

Somehow, I get to 34thstreet on the subway. Once there, I follow the signs to Macy’s. I don’t know there is such a thing as a Personnel Department so I ask everyone who looks like they work for Macy’s if they know my father. Somehow, I learn that he is “in Linoleum.” During Christmas season, “Linoleum” is as lively as a funeral parlor. Still, I have trouble finding someone to help me and trouble finding the nerve to ask that someone if my father is there. I’m embarrassed and I’m sure that my father will be angry with me for embarrassing him at work. But, I hope that he’ll calm down and we’ll move into a swank bachelor pad and take in some Yankee games and maybe even act together. 

An elderly saleswoman wearing those “Frankenstein” orthopedic shoes tells me that my father isn’t working that night and she only has a daytime work number. “He should be here tomorrow night, sweetie. Ya know, Macy’s closes in ten minutes.” I hadn’t planned on this. My father isn’t there. Macy’s is closing. I can’t stay there. I can’t go home. I can’t roam the streets. I have no subway tokens or money to buy one so I can’t even sleep on the subway. 

Somehow, I have to get back to Brooklyn. Somehow, I have to get back in the house.  Somehow, she has to let me in. Doesn’t she?

I slink down into the 34th street subway station where to lessen my humiliation, I find a token booth far away from the eyes of the Christmas shoppers. I tell the clerk that I’ve lost my return token and plead to be let through the gate. Not a chance. So, I look for men with friendly faces and beg them for a token or even just a nickel to help buy one. (A nickel is nothing!) The men with friendly faces pretend not to see me. 

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook
And as an eBook here

Orgy in Times Square

The old New York Times building on W. 43rd st. NYC
Oy, if only I had a nickel for every time I went into the old NY Times building.

As a fifteen-year-old messenger in Times Square, I get a whiff of the newspaper game by making deliveries to the New York Times. I get to hang out in the newsroom – full of smoking men banging away at typewriters, and in the proofreading room – full of smoking men squinting away at galleys. The paper’s underground printing presses literally shake 43rd Street when they run at full tilt. The pressmen come up to the street for air wearing admiral-style hats formed out of that day’s front page – a bit of old New York life that is gone forever.

I make regular deliveries to the offices of Broadway producers and to the apartments of gossip columnists where I get a flavor of “the business they call show” and the Public Relations racket. And, I see the ad campaigns unfold in Times Square for the blockbuster movies of that summer. Of course, I’m more interested in the brabusters of that summer. My pace slackens as I inch past the marquees for Orgy at Lil’s Place or Sinderella and the Golden Bra or the many nudist movies like Goldilocks and the Three Bares. I spend three months walking around midtown Manhattan with a perpetual teenage hard-on. No wonder I attract creepy, confusing attention from creepy, confusing men.

David Merrick - Broadway Producer
David Merrick – he was Broadway in the 1960s and 1970s

Walter Winchell
Walter Winchell invented the gossip column and was still hanging on in ’65

Dorothy Kilgallen - gossip  columnist
The “female Winchell” – Dorothy Kilgallen.
She was about to spill the beans about the JFK assassination but committed suicide or was murdered. You decide.
Movie poster for Sinderella and the Golden Bra and Goldilocks and the Three Bares
Movie poster for The Orgy at Lil's Place
SEE the “Art” Class – go on…
you know you want to SEE it.

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder memoir by Jack Antonio 
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook
And as an eBook here

Who you callin’ crazy?

19th century British mental asylum residents
Times Square residents in the 1970s

In the late 1960s, the mentally ill of America were caught in a political pincer movement. The tightwad Right wanted to close public insane asylums to save money. The moronic Left decided that the insane were the only sanepeople on the planet and had to be liberated from “captivity.” Yippie fuckwits scaled asylum walls and attempted to “free” the petrified inmates. The result of this Left/Right détente was that many of the mentally ill were pumped full of drugs and dumped onto America’s streets. 42ndStreet being one. Aunt Rosa being one. (Ya ask me, insane people should be locked up and kept warm, safe and fed but as far away from sane people as possible. This “care in the community” and “mainstreaming” crap doesn’t work. All it does is create jobs for parasitic social workers while exposing the sane and insane to attacks from each other.) 

Thorazine suppositories
How’d ya like the job of inserting these?

My family did what we could to help Aunt Rosa but it was impossible to help her. She was crazy. She wouldn’t take her medicine. If we gave her money she gave it away or flushed it away. If we had taken her into our homes she would have burned them down. She needed asylum. As in “insane asylum.” There was no asylum in Times Square for anyone. It was insane to inflict Times Square on the insane and vice versa. Correction. It was criminally insane. The Left and Right should have been given hot-lead enemas for using helpless lunatics as pawns in their political game.

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder memoir by Jack Antonio 
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook
And as an eBook here

Psychedelic Slum

Hippies on St. Mark's Place in the Lower East Side of Manhattan
“Hippie-central” aka St. Mark’s Place

In the late 1960s, the Lower East Side and especially St. Mark’s Place is the epicenter of New York’s hippie-yippie-trippieworld. It is Haight-Ashbury East. It is lined with head shops, record-shops, bookshops, poster-shops and vintage-clothes shops. The sidewalk is packed with freaks, frauds and fools. It’s fun. But, by the early 1970s, when Rob and I move in, St. Mark’s is lined with strung-out hippie-junkies and emaciated speed-freaks – the kids who forgot to get off the train before it hit the wall. They are gawked-at by tardy tourists in from Omaha and Osaka. (“Is this where the hippies live?”) In 1968, I see a Black hippie digging for food in a macrobiotic restaurant’s garbage can. Fifty years later, I see him doing the very same and he looks remarkably healthy. I’m astounded that the macrobiotic manure hasn’t killed him. 

Strung out hippie shooting heroin.
“Damn, that vein was here a second ago.”

In the early ’70s, now that their patchouli-oil bubble has burst in an explosion of exceptionally sour disappointment, the hippie-junkies and emaciated speed-freaks feel it is their right to “liberate” money from others – “This is a stick-up… er, I mean, this is a revolution, man.” Young actors are easy prey. So, when returning home late at night, Rob and I avoid the sidewalk and practice our broken-field running down the middle of the street. We figure this gives us more chance of evading any muggers or bullets headed our way. 

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder memoir by Jack Antonio 
Image: The smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook
And as an eBook here

The Wild One

Marlon Brando in The Wild One
Brando Brooklyn-style

Tony Unbatz, the top punk on my block, is known to be, as his Italian nickname implies, crazy – “batz.” He’ll do anything on a dare and more without one. He’s a skinny kid with a nose bigger than he is. He weighs at most a hundred and ten pounds soaking wet and since he’s drenched in beer that’s what he weighs tonight. Tony dresses like Marlon Brando in The Wild One – motorcycle jacket, boots and garrison belt. And, like all the Juvenile Delinquents in 1950s America, he apes Brando’s schtick – “Don’t bug me coz I’m a sullen, sensitive, tough-but-tender, misunderstood punk-poet.” The juvenile delinquents of Brooklyn even try to mimic Brando’s Southern accent from The Wild One. When Beatlemania hits Brooklyn, the punk-poets of that era attempt a Liverpool accent, “Toydy toyd and toyd meets the Moysey.” Brooklyn rock bands have to pretend to be English to get gigs and so they name themselves – The Churchills, The Cuppa Tease and The Chamber Pots

AD for a Beatles wig circa 1964
Just like the real thing…sort of

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook
And as an eBook here