Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - All Around Us

Oh, the memories.   My best pal from childhood, Leo, recently revisited this legendary novel.   This is noteworthy because he and I read the book originally when we were much, much younger.   The lure of the story, despite being a classic, was the infamous dirty pages at the beginning.  For years, I remember these passages on Page 23.   Then, for some reason, that morphs into Page 27.

Well, I just bought this and I am going to reread it myself.   PS, in this paperback version, the really spicy stuff is on Page 26.

Regardless of how memories can do acrobatics in your mind, I am looking forward to renewing acquaintances with the Corleone family.   Neighbors like no others you might know.

Or not.

Back in my youthful era of my hometown of Mount Vernon, New York, the city itself was mysteriously and uncomfortably divided.   The New Haven Railroad tracks cut through the center of town and created an odd geographic divide. The so-called "South Side," where we lived was a little poorer and skewed African-American.   The "North Side" was a little more affluent and skewed White and Jewish.

But, in the center of it all, was City Hall.  And, back when I was a kid, everybody in there was Italian.  


I used to hear it all the time in my neighborhood and my own home.   If you need something done on your block or in your school, you called somebody.   And everybody seemed to know that certain somebody with a name ending with either an "i", an "a", or an "o."   Heck, I was a kid and all the racial or ethnic divisions meant nothing to me.   I went to school with all of them and didn't give it a moment's thought.

What I also didn't consider was the folks running the town.   Who knew of such things when you were 8 or 9?  But, when something needed a tree branch cut or an old sofa picked up, whispers started.   I saw it with my own folks.

"Call City Hall and talk to..."

When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted a summer job with the city recreation park.   Playground supervisor.  Hell, it was the cushy gig of all time. Great money and you sat around all day.  Maybe, once in a while, you had to put a Bandaid on some kid's scraped knee.    

Now everybody wanted this job and you had to take a test to do so.  My high school bestie Danny and I did.   The room was full of about fifty hopefuls for maybe five openings.  It was like "A Chorus Line" except with basketballs and slides.   We took the exam but I am sure we didn't exactly get a grade of 100.

My dad stepped in.

"I'll call somebody."

Both of us got hired within the next week.

So, even a few years beyond that, I was cleaning out some drawers where my mother kept mementos.   Newspaper clippings of me making the junior high honor roll.   Old report cards.   And then I stumbled upon a dog-eared page ripped haphazardly from the town newspaper.   It was about a sting operation that nabbed a couple of horse racing bookies.   In among all the names that ended with a vowel was one I couldn't miss.   My jaw hit the floor.

My dad had been arrested.  I looked at the date of the story and did the mental math in my head.  I was probably ten years old when this happened.   How did I miss this?  Was I too wrapped up watching the Three Stooges?

It took me a few days to muster the courage to ask my mother about this.   Of course, this was likely one of the subjects never discussed above a whisper.

"We don't talk about this."

Another classic non-answer brought to you by my parents.  But I was a little older and a bit more relentless.   Whatever happened?

"Nothing.  Your father knew somebody."

Ah, yes.   Somebody.

Dinner last night:   General Tso's Chicken from Panda Express.

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