Those Were The Days: Growing Up In NYC In The Ed Koch Era

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The Good Old Days

To say Ed Koch was the quintessential New Yorker would be a huge understatement. Everything about Koch was New York, his accent, his brashness and his combative style all New York. Sadly those of us of certain age see that kind of New Yorker fading away.

The New York of the Koch era was one of the most exciting times the city ever witnessed, good and bad. I was 20 years old when Koch took office, working for Salomon Brothers a pretty big financial institution at the time, headed by a flashy trader named Mike Bloomberg, in fact I worked in the computer room at 1 NY Plaza. On some weekends I’d come in to do an overtime shift where I’d stay out all night, mostly in the East Village at Max’s Kansas City, and head to work and grab a two hour nap on some big executives leather couch until one of my shift mates would wake me up, but I digress. The Koch Era was the last of the gritty, nasty days of New York. I’m just glad I grew up then.

I laugh when I see folks get on the subway and anoint themselves with loads of hand sanitizer, I think of the days of subway trains decked out in graffiti and who knows what else. With all the uproar over gun control and curbing of violence, how about growing up in an age where 2,000 murders were the norm and riding the subway after 10PM meant you had better be armed with some sort of weapon to survive the trip. I get a real kick out of going to Time Square with my kids to go to the theater and look around at the Disney-facation of the area. It’s kind of hard to articulate this without sounding like a complete asshole, but I do miss a lot of the nastiness and out right debauchery of the old 40 Duce.

 

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I guess it’s because there were no big wave of tourists coming to see the sites and the neighborhoods were still full of neighborhood people. I grew up on a block in Brooklyn where everyone on the block knew everyone. During the summer you could hear the TV’s blasting Mets games and Highlander games on to the streets with the familiar cry of “Yo Whad’s da Score??? “ . The moms and grandmas would take their folding chairs outside to sit in front of the house or under a tree after the chores of the day were done. Kids played in the street all day and night. That was New York. That was the New York that Ed Koch governed and governed so well because he was one of us. Koch would tell a heckler to “shut the hell up” and it was fine because hey that’s what we do, when Bloomberg does it, we say, “look at this little pampered prick, who does he think he is”? It’s not just the fact that Bloomy is out of touch with his constituents because he’s a rich guy, it’s also because he’s not one of us, he wasn’t born here didn’t grow up here and that makes all the difference.

I think about all the hot dogs and orangeades I devoured as kid at the stand at the 42 St Subway station while transferring  from the Sea Beach line (N train) to the IRT Flushing Line (7 train) to  get to Wiilets Pt/Shea Stadium. I doubt that stand would have gotten an “A” rating back then. Same with Dave’s Luncheonette that was on Canal and Broadway where you could get a hot dog in a natural casing (great crunch) a knish and a chocolate egg cream at 3 in the morning. That’s all gone and sadly a whole generation has missed out on what gives New Yorkers such a hard shell.

Sorry for the old guy trip down memory lane but with Ed Koch passing away yesterday it just conjured up so many memories of the era where this city was unruly and imaginative, filthy and cutting edge, menacing and remarkable. Just like Ed Koch I am and always will be a proud New Yorker.

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YO’ METS FAN, SEE THE KNICKS? THAT COULD BE US SOON!

Most times when the Boston Celtics hit the city, I make it my duty to go see my favorite basketball team in person. During the last decade, securing a ticket to a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden was as cheap and easy as a Hunts Point hooker. That has now changed.

I went looking for a couple of tickets for last Wednesday’s Knicks-C’s tilt at MSG and the best I could find were blue seats for a hundred or a hundred and a quarter. That’s what I’d spend for two games plus a couple of hot dogs and a beverage. What the hell happen?  Winning and exciting basketball by the NY Knickerbockers is what’s happened.

Yesterday in NYC the talk around town was all Knicks, Knicks and Knicks. The last time I can remember the Knicks being this relevant I was fighting my wife for use of the blow dryer, quite a while ago.  It’s not just that the Knicks sucked or that they were run by a complete asshole or that owner was fucking clueless (sound familiar Mets fans?) the team was run so bad, the fan base gave up on them and if you are of a certain age and grew up in NYC in the 60’ and 70’s you know basketball was THE game .  Tickets to Knick games were scarce.  A night at a Knicks game and being welcomed by the voice of John F.X. Condon (Welcome to The World’s Most Famous Arena) was electric. All that was lost, but now it looks like it’s been found again.

I bring the Knicks up today because the Mets are where the basketball team was before new management took over. When Donnie Walsh of the Bronx came home to rescue the premier basketball franchise in the NBA, he inherited a total mess. Same as Sandy Alderson has with the Mets. The Knicks have been saddled with over priced players who couldn’t care less if they won or lost as long as Jim Dolan signed off on the payroll. Same as the Mets. The GM of the Knicks was a cluessless, sexual harassing douche bag. Just like what the Mets had. The Dolan family along with the board of directors of Cablevision, the parent company of MSG stepped in and told Jimmy Dolan stay the fuck out of the basketball business, just like it seems the Skill Sets family has told Jeffey.

First thing Donnie Walsh did was try to rid the organization of bad players and bad contracts. Walsh did something that most deemed impossible, he brought the Knicks payroll under the cap and out of luxury tax hell.  He then put together a staff from head coach to assistants to scouts then used the draft well and signed players of talent and character  like Amare Stodumire. Stodumire is THE face of the Knicks and after one month of playing for the team, he hated what he saw and called his team out in public:

    “I’m not sure if it’s the fact maybe a winning mentality has never been here. I’m just not used to it. I’m used to winning. I’m used to talking about winning and having that confidence toward winning. You just can’t have guys complacent and comfortable with losing.”   

“I don’t understand why we’re not playing with the urgency. I’m not used to that. We’re not playing like we’re on a four-game losing streak, now five. We don’t have that sense of urgency. It’s almost as if it doesn’t matter.”   

 

WHOA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Do they make one of these in a baseball player? If they do, Sandy Alderson needs to get us one.

Now that the Knicks are playing not only good basketball but exciting basketball and have a player in Stoudemire who has stepped up to lead on and off the court and has reached one name status in the city. AMARE. Because of this the ugly element of the NYC fan base has raised hi ugly head, The Band Waggoner.  You know who they are, the most clueless and insecure people this city has to offer.  You go to a party and in passing conversation you ask if they are a Mets fan or Yankee fan or Jets or Giants fan and they reply “I’m a New York Fan” which my ears interpret as “I’m an asshole”.  That’s when I excuse myself find my wife and tell her  “I’ll meet you in the car, 15 minutes A.I.S (ass in seat)”     

A splinter group of Mets fans are clamoring over Sandy Alderson not going out and throwing money at free agents. This group confesses to hate the NY Highlanders and all they stand for but they want the Mets to copy their plan. Why they don’t just grow some balls and move their allegiance to the Bronx Bastards, is a question you’d have to ask them. This group doesn’t get it that the Mets did make a big free agent signing this winter, they signed Alderson, J.P. Riccarrdi and Paul DePodesta to go out and bring this franchise back to its rightful place of prominence in NY sports.

Don’t take this as me saying Alderson will part Flushing Bay or will put his hand on Ollie Perez’ left shoulder and turn him into Sandy Koufax, all I’m saying is he has run organizations before and he has been very successful, so let’s give his way a chance before you scream and yell about not buying tickets or Mets merchandise. If that’s the way you want to roll that’s fine but remember I know who you are, you’re the same the person walking around the city in that brand spanking new Knicks jacket and hat and the big foam KNICKS #1 on your finger.  How do you people live with yourselves? You disgust me.

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JANE JARVIS 1915-2010

Mets fans of a certain age are mourning the death of another Shea Stadium icon, Mets organist extraordinaire Jane Jarvis passed away yesterday at the age of 94 at the Llian Booth Actors Home in Engelwood NJ where she lived since 2008 when a crane accident displaced her from her Upper East Side apartment in Manhattan.

Ms. Jarvis had a slew of musical credits on her resume but to Mets fans she was the lady whose sweet tones of the Thomas organ filled our summer days and nights at Shea Stadium.

Rest in peace Sweet Lady Jane whenever I hear the Mexican Hat Dance I’ll think of you.

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