Yeah when you call my name
I salivate like a pavlov dog
Yeah when you lay me out
My heart is bumpin’ louder than a big bass drum, alright
On Saturday mornings as a young kid, my poor excuse for a father would take me along with him to Timboo’s where he spent much of his time taking numbers in the popular Bar & Grill located on the corner of 12th street and 5th avenue.
This became a weekend ritual for me between the ages of 8 and 12.
The morning would start with getting picked up from my apartment on 9th avenue, (some mornings I’d walk alone or meet him on 9th street and 9th avenue).
The Cube Steak was our first stop for breakfast (it’s the first time I ever had scrambled eggs with ham). Remind me to post a blog entry on the legend of Jack Buscarelli’s confrontation with my late Grandfather, Ray Corbett. The Cube Steak was located on 9th street – always known for a lot of action going on inside and out.
The Gooch, Roger Chebba and Stevie Bodlovich were the usual suspects in the booth; plus skinny little me squeezed in against the wall.
Talking low almost to a whisper, laughing and sometimes arguing between the three men; as for myself, I just listened and looked around at everyone in amazement.
The activity in and around the restaurant was electric and fast paced. You had waiters and waitresses flying all over the place taking orders and delivering plates of hot food; all on the run. The infamous smoke from cigarettes was always floating in the air. The Gooch loved to smoke Kool’s.
Other diner’s at the Cube Steak included Fat Tom, Mikey Melfi, Phil and Miles McNiff, Billy Phelan, Artie Miller, Red Duffy and of course you had your degenerates trying to skip out on their check.
After the scrumptious breakfast, the four of us would walk over to the bar just a few short blocks away but not before stopping at the newsstand on the corner of 5th avenue and 9th street. I’d always walk through the side door on 9th street next to the donut shop while the Gooch grabbed a Daily News to check out the basketball magazines back against the wall; occasionally taking a peek at the girlie magazines if no one was watching.
A stop at the pay phone seemed mandatory for either Roger or Gooch. Stevie, well he always had his hands in his pants pockets chatting it up with someone along the way. (Imagine if they had cell phones back in the mid-70’s) These guys would be burning up the lines.
As we entered Timboo’s I’d peek to the back to see if anyone was occupying the pool table; if the table was empty, I’d hustle past the bartender while the Gooch grabbed a few quarters and I’d choose a cue stick to begin the chalking process.
“Rack ’em!” the Gooch would say as he made his way to the bar to get change.
There were usually 3-4 sticks hanging on the wall. Sometimes there’d be two lying on the green felt from the previous game. Small, used cubes of blue chalk on the side of the table and I was ready to go. The Gooch always made me wash me hands after I played. “Ya don’t wanna get that blue stuff in your eyes.” he said.
Sliding the quarters in I’d watch the side of the table to observe the balls rolling down the chute and then racking them. Placing the formation of the balls together at the start of any billiards game is an art.
I was awful at it.
Each time I tried, it was very frustrating; seemed like every time I lifted the white plastic rack a ball or two would always roll away (do people still play 9-ball with the triangle ball rack?)
“Breaking” was also a weak point of mine. I just didn’t have the strength. I used to love to watch Roger break. He was by far the best. The balls went everywhere and of course he always managed to sink one or two.
High’s and low’s or stripes and solids, whatever tickled your fancy.
After a couple games of pool (alone of course, the Gooch was too busy tending to his clients) it was time for pinball with the occasional visit to the Jukebox to play ‘Rock the Boat’ by the Hues Corporation.
Taking a well-deserved break from the amusement of this fine establishment chillin’ in a booth, (which last I heard was still owned by Timmy Hodges), downing unlimited number of glasses of Coke with the Marciano cherries, (I always asked for extra cherries) ham and cheese sandwiches from the deli a few doors down and of course viewing college football from the television set mounted on the wall just above the entrance to the men’s restroom room.
Late in the afternoon usually around five, five-thirtyish, just as the afternoon football game on ABC (no cable ‘bro) was coming to an end (the winning QB was taking a knee) and everyone with a financial interest in the game was grabbing their windbreakers or Members Only looking jackets downing their drink; I knew it was my time to leave.
Some were excited their team had covered the spread and some were ticked off.
“I ain’t never bettin’ Nebraska again”, Fat Tom shouted as he tossed a couple of bills to the edge of the bar and began to walk out.
“Yo, Fat Tom, don’t forget to drop my kid off.” The Gooch shouted from the opposite end of the bar.
Football sheets, teasers, point spreads, pool, pinball, jukeboxes, breakfast at the Cube Steak, glasses of cokes, and of course the occasional calling of a horse race coming from the radio in the corner of the bar; Timboo’s was a valuable experience in the social growth of this young boy from 228A Prospect Park West.