I was born in my father’s neighborhood, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. When my father died in 1950 my mother took me and my sisters back to her South Bronx childhood home that year. Mom went back to work. For four generations my family owned a bar on 146th Street in a three story building. The jukebox sat on the ground floor, my bedroom directly over it.
My grandmother Anna was supposed to watch us in the back of the bar while she cooked for the lunchtime crowd. Instead, Grandma pawned me off on the daytime patrons who took me for walks around the neighborhood. Guys like Frankie Chip, Sheik, Half-a-Cigar were my childhood pals. Mom was furious, But Grandma Anna, a Democratic Female District Leader in the 75th A.D. was a force to be reckoned with. Mom gave up.
While the jukebox blared tunes from Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington and salsa from El Gran Combo, reflecting the neighborhood’s ethnicity I was witnessing stories that fascinated me.
My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Boozer was a heavy set Black grandma type who played piano with such gusto that we all sang along. I learned to sing and love music. When she retired at half year my world ended. Other kids? Nah. I grew up around World War 11 veterans, construction and factory workers, mafiosi, gamblers, con men and bartenders named Louie the Gimp and Joe Fish who’d take me down to the Fulton Market every Friday for the catch of the day. Their stories had to be told. Later, during high school at Cardinal Hayes H.S. and college at St. John’s I would substitute bar tend for Grandma Anna’s brother Uncle Jim (called Jimmy Brown) who ran the bar. All my crew hung there, making it real family.
I Started teaching at P.S. 18 across from house on 146th Street and Morris Avenue (now Lincoln Hospital). Worked at Brooklyn’s Lafayette H.S. in 1986 as a Teacher Trainer. Taught at P.S. 30 in Westerleigh Staten Island for 20 years, retired in 2002.
Summers during the ‘80’s I bar tended at Trump Plaza’s Boardwalker Bar, where my family, friends and South Bronx experience served me well.
During my teaching career I used to read Dickens to my students. The captured look on their faces lead me to tell my own stories, mainly re bar tending, but cleaned up. That experience lead me to write myself and is the reason I dedicated my book to them. Their favorite story involved the time at The Boardwalker Bar when I had to escort a beautiful but inebriated young lady up the elevator and back to her room.
We bartenders were not allowed on guest elevators, let alone in guest’s room.
This knockout girl kept pulling me towards her open door, throwing her arms around me with great success. Never underestimate the strength of an inebriated woman. Honestly, it was more than difficult for me to resist. I’d like to say I honored my vows, but truth is it would’ve cost me my job.
The looks on my students’ faces during that story were more than fascinating. Some of their reactions: Aw we know you went in the room. Why didn’t you go in? What was her name? What was she wearing? You should have gone in. I admire your restraint Mr. P.
Ah. My students.
My book “The Boardwalkers” features an Atlantic City bartender who falls for a mysterious blonde visitor from San Francisco. Bartender Mike winds up getting more than he bargained for. After a gruesome murder the beautiful Carole disappears, leaving behind a group of chasers, including Mike the bartender. Meanwhile the horrid underbelly of Atlantic City is exposed in neon brilliance, including drugs, prostitution, motorcycle gangs and corruption, leading to an astounding conclusion.
To check out Michael’s book for yourself go to Amazon by clicking the link.