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Posts Tagged ‘Tuckahoe’

This morning, while watching on MSNBC the latest outrage by he who is not my president, I disgustedly turned to Facebook on my computer. To my surprise I discovered the following photograph posted there:

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That is me on the left, Peter Cirrincione in the middle and Freddy Greco on the right. The photograph was posted by Peter’s wife Loretta also a dear friend of mine. We were at Playland by the Beach in Rye New York sometime during the 1950s when this picture was taken. Although I was a bit skinny back then, I agree with the comments to that Facebook post — we indeed were handsome devils. Alas, no longer.

My cousin Lou Bronico to whom, among others, I sent a copy of the photograph wrote back that he had a similar photograph taken at the same place with two of his friends also from Tuckahoe. I recall that my father and uncles also had taken a similar picture in the same setting years before I did.

I also sent a copy of the photograph by email to a few friends here in California. One of them was Peter Grenell with whom, whenever I am in San Francisco, I share a coffee and reminisces while sitting on the bench we named the Geezer’s Bench located in front of Bernie’s Cafe in Noe Valley. After seeing the photograph, Peter opined:

“Those were the days! Pretty spiffy. Could do a retake at the Geezers Bench with canes, walker, Prosecco, and family size bottles of pharmaceuticals — and hats. Or not….”

Here is the photograph Peter mentioned of him and me on the Geezers’ Bench, more than sixty years after the photograph at Sloppy Joe’s Bar had been taken. Alas, time has taken its toll.
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2.13

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me
with full hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother’s laps,
And here you are the mother’s laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and
children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and
luckier.
Walt Whitman

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About two years ago, here in T&T and in my blog Papa Joe’s Tales (https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/what-ever-became-of-one-punch-sammy-santoro/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true), I wondered what had become of old “One Punch” the terror of my neighborhood during my adventures as a teenager. I was convinced that Sammy (along with Pat Buchanan an acquaintance of my college years) would undoubtedly end up in the electric chair. A year or so ago, a reader of the blog notified me that Sammy, in fact, ended up in prison. “Where else would he be?” he added waggishly. This past week, another reader sent me the following:

“SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION, SECOND DEPARTMENT 1979.NY.41511 <http://www.versuslaw.com&gt;; 414 N.Y.S.2d 583; 68 A.D.2d 939 March 26, 1979, THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, RESPONDENT,v.SAMUEL SANTORO, APPELLANT Damiani, J. P., O’Connor, Lazer and Gulotta, JJ., concur.”

“Damiani, J. P., O’Connor, Lazer and Gulotta, JJ., concur.
Appeal by defendant from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Westchester County, rendered April 19, 1978, convicting him of murder under former subdivision 2 of section 125.25 of the Penal Law, upon a jury verdict, and imposing sentence. Judgment affirmed. Defendant was indicted and convicted of the “depraved mind” murder of Anthony Aiello, the three-year-old son of his paramour. The victim’s mother, Sadie Aiello, was the principal witness for the prosecution. She testified that defendant had moved in with her in January 1970, and had taken charge of the feeding and “discipline” of Anthony. The “discipline” included frequent beatings which resulted in serious injuries and the infant’s hospitalization on two occasions. In February 1971 she moved out with her children because of her concern about Anthony’s well-being. However, she returned with the children to live with defendant on March 1, 1971. On March 11th Anthony died after being beaten and strangled by the defendant. Defendant and Sadie Aiello initially told the police that Anthony’s death was caused by his fall down a flight of stairs. Six years later she appeared at the District Attorney’s office and reported the truth about the events of March 11, 1971. In our opinion, the trial court correctly charged the jurors that they were to decide, as a matter of fact, whether Sadie Aiello was an accomplice whose testimony required corroboration (see CPL 60.22). We cannot agree with defendant that Sadie Aiello was an accomplice as a matter of law. Neither her decision to return to live with defendant nor her conduct in concealing from the police the true facts concerning her son’s death constituted participation in the offense charged or an offense based upon the same or some of the same facts or conduct which constitute the offense charged (see CPL 60.22; People v Le Grand, 61 A.D.2d 815). Since the evidence did not conclusively establish that Sadie Aiello was guilty of such an offense by virtue of her conduct on March 11, 1971, the issue of her complicity was properly submitted to the jury (see People v Basch, 36 N.Y.2d 154). We agree with defendant that the court’s charge on the definition of “recklessly” was misleading. However, since no exception to the charge was taken, the question was not preserved. Moreover, the court, in a response to an inquiry from a juror subsequently correctly charged the definition of “recklessly” and thus cured any ambiguity. The trial court properly admitted evidence of defendant’s prior assaults on the victim to negative the defense of “accident” (see People v Henson, 33 N.Y.2d 63). Defendant’s remaining contention is without merit.”

Alas, Sammy escaped the death penalty as it had previously been declared unconstitutional by the NY Court of Appeals. I do not know if he remains in prison or if he is even still alive. Pat Buchanan, on the other hand, unfortunately, remains free.

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In the late 1940s, my father owned a bar in the Fleetwood section of Mount Vernon. The City of Mount Vernon along with Yonkers formed the northern boundary of New York’s Borough of the Bronx. During that period in my life both my parents would disappear for a while. I never knew where my father went. My mother was hospitalized for a year or so at a time in various mental and medical hospitals having unspeakable procedures administered to her as was usual at the time.

Anyway, during the period my father owned the bar, I would spend many of my days there sitting on the floor, my chin propped up on my fists listing to the music and staring at the changing colors of the lights emanating from the Wurlitzer.

Now for those who do not know what a Wurlitzer is, it was one of the last great analog machines for producing music before the advent of the digital age. Through the clear plastic window at the top, I could see the bright chrome handle move up and down the stack of records, stop with a jerk and pluck a record out of the stack, swing the report over to the turntable and drop it. Then the music would play — silky jazz, bright pop tunes, magnificently melodious show tunes. Surrounding the window, a roll of back-lit variegated colored plastic would bath me sitting there before it with its ever-changing colors.

One day, in the bar, while I sat there before the Wurlitzer dreamily wandering through the bliss of the colors and the music (Lady Day’s cover of Night and Day?) I, for some reason, overheard my father and the other men at the bar talking. One of them, probably my father, said, “You know those guys on Tin Pan Alley*, who write those songs all wear bow ties and horn-rim glasses.”

This startled me. “What do bow ties and horn-rim glasses have to do with writing music,” I thought? “Was it some sort of uniform that one must wear to get into the alley?” “Odd, why would they say that?”

I would continue to ponder that question as I sat there in that dream-like state, bathed in the slowly shifting colors listening to Sarah Vaughn, Mildred Bailey, Jack Teagarden or some other the wonderful sounds of that golden age of music wondering about bow ties and horn-rim glasses.

Of my childhood, this was one of the only two experiences which I remember fondly.

Later, there was a time that I wore bow ties and still later horn rim glasses. Never wrote a note of music though.

A Wurlitzer Juke Box


  • Tin Pan Alley — the name given to the collection of New York City music publishers and songwriters who dominated the popular music of the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The name originally referred to a specific place: West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in the Flower District of Manhattan.

The start of Tin Pan Alley is usually dated to about 1885 when a number of music publishers set up shop in the same district of Manhattan. The end of Tin Pan Alley is less clear cut. Some date it to have continued into the 1950s when earlier styles of American popular music were upstaged by the rise of rock & roll, which was centered on the Brill Building.

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3-hispaniolan-edible-rat

A few years ago, I lived in a Bangkok apartment infested by rats (the non-edible kind). At night, after the lights were out, they gaily scampered about the rooms. At one point, the maid put out an anti-rodent device consisting basically of a plastic sheet covered with glue that traps any rat unlucky enough to step on it and produces, I am sure, a cruel and painful death for the creature.

My feelings about the Rodentia situation in my apartment were somewhat ambiguous. I felt neither fear, sympathy nor disgust for either the infestation or the rodenticide. It was more like the feeling I have when I try to avoid meeting someone I prefer not to meet. On the one hand, I always feel a bit cowardly skulking away while on the other, I generally am aware that forcing a meeting through some misplaced moral sense is probably as stupid a thing to do as can be imagined.

This ambivalence about rats I find strange given my history with the species. Growing up in New York, I generally fell asleep with the sound of rats scurrying through the walls. As a child, I was never able to settle on whether these sounds in the walls by my bed frightened me or comforted me.

When I was about six-years-old my family was homeless for a while. Ultimately, we found an abandoned store that we moved into and soaped up the glass front for privacy. There was neither heat nor hot water in the place and at night, the large Norwegian roof rats would slink into the room through the spaces between walls and the various pipes and plumbing servicing the residential apartments above us.

Every night, while my brother and I slept, my mother armed with a bread knife would remain awake to chase away the rats. One evening while so armed and on guard she fell asleep sitting beside the kitchen table. Suddenly she was jolted awake by the sound of rats scrabbling to get into a cake box on the table. The rats startled by her movement leaped on to her face and head as it was the highest point in the room between the floor and the exposed pipes available to them to make their escape. She fell to the floor and had an epileptic seizure, beginning a multi-year period of seizures and hospitalizations.

After my mother was taken away in an ambulance that night, I spent the next four years living with various relatives and strangers who took me in, but mostly with my grandparents. I never knew where my brother lived during this time.

After a few years and many hospitalizations of my mom, we began living together again but her periodic fits continued until I was about 17 years old when, in a surprise to everyone, mom became pregnant with my sister and the seizures suddenly stopped. She considered both the pregnancy and the curing of the epilepsy a miracle. I was not so sure.

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“One Punch” Sammy Santoro was one of the terrors of my youth as well as one of its dark heroes. (He beat the shit out of Richie Santaliquito twice and he and his gang was about to do the same to me and a friend for knowing Richie until “Chickie” Muscalino interceded on our behalf.) I have written about him HERE before (For some reason, it is my most popular post worldwide.) The last I had heard of him, he had an operation going using a “little person” to break into homes. I always wondered what had happened to him. For some reason, I thought he had died in the electric chair. Recently by chance, I found the following in a 1972 appellate court opinion in New York

“The indictment charged that Santoro and Tortora, along with Joseph Chiaverini, Gene Genaro and Nicholas Rattenni, lent money to Joseph Formiglia although they had reasonable grounds to believe that the money would be used by Formiglia to make extortionate loans. It further charged that they had used extortionate means to collect the money loaned to Formiglia.”

“The scheme began in November 1969 when Formiglia, a jeweler, borrowed $400 from Santoro, promising to pay $40 a week interest until the $400 principal was repaid. Shortly after this first loan was made Formiglia wanted additional money, but did not want to borrow it under his own name. Thus he conceived the idea of borrowing from Santoro on the pretext that he himself was relending the money at usurious rates. Beginning in early December 1969, Santoro made additional loans to Formiglia, amounting to approximately $11,000 by the middle of February 1970. Tortora frequently was present when these loans were made. Ratteni was present at two of the transactions.”

“By late February 1970, Santoro suspected that Formiglia was not actually relending the money. Chiaverini was delegated to go with Formiglia on his next collection date to visit his “customers.” When Formiglia protested that his customers might not like this arrangement, Santoro said, ‘We’ll go around and collect the f____’ money or we’ll break their heads if they don’t pay us.’”

“Formiglia feigned sickness on the collection date, but this merely confirmed Santoro’s suspicions that Formiglia’s customers were nonexistent and that the “loans” were only a pretense to cover Formiglia’s own borrowing. Santoro met with Formiglia and threatened to split Formiglia’s tongue or put a ‘bullet through [his] head’ unless the money was repaid.”

“A few days later Tortora went to the jewelry store where Formiglia worked and told him, ‘My man, you are in a lot of trouble . . . what are you going to do about these f______ loans.’ No arrangements for repayment were made, however. Later that day Santoro telephoned Formiglia, who said that he was going out of town, whereupon Santoro replied, ‘Have a good time because it’s your last trip.’ The next week Tortora went to Formiglia’s store and told him to show up at a meeting at Genaro’s fish market regarding repayment of the loans or Tortora would ‘drag [him] up by [his] head.’”

“Frightened by these threats, Formiglia called the Yonkers Sheriff’s office and was instructed to telephone Tortora and delay the meeting one day. The Sheriff’s office then recorded the conversation.”

“Wearing a hidden tape recorder supplied by the Sheriff’s office, Formiglia met with Tortora the following day at the fish market. Tortora accused Formiglia of juggling the loans and suggested that to repay the loans Formiglia might have to rob a store. Tortora then telephoned Santoro and put Formiglia on the line. Santoro said that if Formiglia did not pay he would break Formiglia’s wife’s head and burn down his house. Tortora then told Formiglia that he better work out a deal to repay the money.”

“The next day Formiglia arranged to go to Santoro’s house, ostensibly to repay the loans. He brought with him money supplied by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. After Formiglia had been in the house a short while, investigators from the District Attorney’s Office entered and arrested Santoro with his hands on the money. Tortora was later arrested by the FBI.”

Sammy skipped out on the trial and disappeared. I could find no further record of him.

Note: Nicholas Rattenni or as he was also known, “Cockeyed Nick” was the head of the mob in Westchester County and a Capo in the Genovese family. He owned a garbage company and controlled refuse collection in the County as well as the construction trades. I used to caddy for him and some of his button men at a local golf club (They tipped well, so carrying their golf bags became a highly competitive and political competition among the caddies.). A few of the button men were friends of my family. Most of the button men I knew had fled to Florida and other places before the events described in the opinion took place.

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TODAY’S FACTOID:

 

th-3

 

1548 – The Hispaniolan Edible Rat becomes extinct.

The kitchen of our Bangkok apartment is infested by rats (the non-edible kind) that at night after the lights are out gaily scamper about the room. Recently the maid put out an anti-rodent device that consists basically of a plastic sheet covered with a glue type substance that traps the rat unlucky enough to step on it and results in what appears to be a cruel and painful death of the creature.

My feelings about the Rodentia situation in my apartment are somewhat ambiguous. I feel neither fear, sympathy or disgust for the circumstances of either the infestation or the rodenticide. It is more like the feeling one has when one seeks to avoid meeting with someone one prefers not to meet, on the one hand, one feels a bit cowardly skulking away while on the other hand one also is generally aware that forcing a meeting through some misplaced moral sense is probably as stupid a thing to do as can be imagined.

This ambivalence about rats I find strange given my history with the species. Growing up in New York I generally fell asleep with the sounds of rats scurrying through the walls. As a child, I was never able to settle on whether these sounds in the walls by my bed frightened me or comforted me.

When I was about Hayden’s age my family was homeless for a while. Ultimately we found an empty store that we moved into and soaped up the glass front for privacy. There was neither heat nor hot water and at night the large Norwegian roof rats would enter the room through the spaces between walls and ceilings of the store and the various pipes and plumbing servicing the residential apartments above and the grocery store next door.

Every night my mother would remain awake armed with a knife to chase away the rats while my brother and I slept. One evening while so armed and on guard she fell asleep sitting beside the kitchen table. She was suddenly jolted awake by the sound of the rats scrabbling to get into a cake box on the table. The rats startled by her movement, leaped on to her face and head as it was the highest point in the room between the floor and the exposed pipes available to them to make their escape. She fell to the floor in an epileptic seizure beginning a 10 year period of seizures and hospitalizations.

After her being taken away in an ambulance that night, I spent the next four years living with various relatives and strangers who took me in but mostly with my grandparents. I never knew where my brother lived during this time.

After a few years and hospitalizations we began living together again but her periodic fits continued until I was about 17 years old and in a surprise to everyone mom became pregnant again with my sister and the seizures stopped. She considered both the pregnancy and the curing of epilepsy a miracle. I was not so sure.

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