Dress for winter.
What a chore.
Under armour compression jersey for club.
Got to show off those hard-earned breasts and chest.
A light Smart Wool sweater.
A casual shirt-jacket saying I can dress as down as anyone and on me it’s stylish.
Totally stylish Italian scarf to go with the arrogant wrinkled shirt-jacket.
At the club, find a locker, small, most of them.
Take off the gloves, fur hat, sunglasses, winter jacket, scarf, shirt-jacket.
Keep light sweater until I build up some body heat.
Light sweater off.
To tanning room for 4 minutes.
Winter pale looks particularly horrible on me and the tanning is so easy.
No charge with membership.
Ten minutes on a water-pressured massage bed during which I take a quick nap.
Then the redressing.
Light sweater first.
Shirt-jacket, scarf, winter jacket, sunglasses, fur hat, gloves.
Walk to café for a cappuccino and reading, “My Brilliant Friend.”
Take off the gloves, fur hat, sunglasses, winter jacket.
Keep on light sweater, shirt-jacket, and scarf against the opening and closing of the café door.
Put on French beret-type hat to top off my newly-bronzed face – that intellectual look.
Am done with coffee.
Put on winter jacket, sunglasses, fur hat, gloves.
Head out to food shop, do some local North End errands, and go home.
Where I can undress.
Into lounge pant.
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
My 243rd consecutive posting, committed to 5,000.
Time is 12.01am.
Boston’s temperature will reach a high of 36* with a feels-like of 26 and sunny.
Dinner is Chicken Cutlet Milanese and a salad, with my friend LouLou.
Question of the Day
Can you tell us a story?
Answer to Question:
Yes, I can.
But instead, I’m going to let Howard answer this one.
With two stories.
So from Howard’s Corner (aka “Back Roads and Detours”):
There’s not much inherently interesting, I don’t think, in imparting the knowledge, regarding “puzzles and games” (one of your diversions of a few days ago, Dom) that I hate puzzles and games, and always did. Even as a kid. Smacked too much of competition for no other reason than to compete. I somehow knew prematurely that life was a rat race and, as Fran Lebowitz long since pointed out (I think it was she, it may have been Lily Tomlin, and in fact, the consensus on the internet seems to be that it was William Sloan Coffin, the 60s activist Chaplain of Yale University), that even if you win, you’re still a rat.
Why look for ways to get anxious about existential proxies for survival.
Whatever my predilections now, I do remember playing Scrabble with my two grown cousins, daughters of my Cousin Fannie, who lived near us in the Bronx and the relative we were most likely to visit when that cyclic urge to break bread with blood ties came over us. Anyway, both Beverly and Harriet were school teachers. I had a crush on both of them, but especially Harriet, the darker one. She was maybe 22 or 23 back then. Beverly was a couple of years older. I think Beverly had already gotten married. I was, at best, nine. I was also the really precocious one in the family. At least to the extent that we all need an identity, and that was mine. The little saturnine genius.
Anyway, somehow or other, we seemed always to end up playing Scrabble. I think my animus about games went into suspension with these games as, miraculously, I always seemed to win. They were very convincing. And maybe I did beat them, and at worst they simply didn’t try very hard. It honestly never occurred to me until I was in my late 20s or maybe even my 30s, and had had some harrowing experiences already with women (two failed marriages by the time I was 35 will do that to you, and each of my errant wives were young – you guessed it – maybe about 22 or 23, as the critical age. One of them was that age when she decided to have an affair. The other was barely that age when I met her. Anyway, it wasn’t until I was only a bit older, and as for wiser, I’ll be generous and call it a bit, that is occurred to me that the fabulous Menn sisters (that was the family name; Fannie was a widow, and my cousin’s late husband – Fannie was a Dinin – was named Hyman Menn) had allowed me to win, because they were teachers of young children, and they knew, preternaturally, that’s what you do. Now I think, who knows? We moved to Providence soon after that, and Harriet got married to Herb, and that was the end of the occasional Scrabble games.
You might want to take a breather here, this next bit is a little long.
[disclosure: some names and other facts have been altered for a variety of reasons]
The address we moved to from New York when I was ten in Providence, and on the East Side, essentially a Jewish enclave that covered about one and-a-half square miles, was 44 Sargent Avenue. A very modest one-family dwelling that sat on a very odd-shaped, tiny lot that itself was situated at the point where the street took an odd jog, very slightly, to the right as you proceeded uphill, which meant it was nearly impossible to park straight and parallel with the curb right in front of our house. It made other aspects of living there – because we were on the serious part of the rise of the hill all the houses sat on, the elevation of the left side of our house was probably about two feet higher than the right side. The house was built square and level, of course, but it made our basement and the single car garage on the right-hand side of the house truly subterranean. They could only exist as a result of being on that rise, as the lot wasn’t wide enough, and if they scooped out a driveway on an incline, which they did, and built the house into the hillside, which they did, they could tuck a garage in, barely wider than a car and which a nervous, not too skilled driver, like my father, always found a challenge – a challenge he would lose about twice a year – to avoid scraping one side, usually the right side, of our automobile on the frame of the overhead door. It also meant having to back out of the driveway blind almost directly into the street. Being situated on that jog in the street, there usually wasn’t anyone else interested in trying to park there. This meant that the free and clear part of what was otherwise a fairly narrow street to begin with suddenly seemed to widen, so that cars proceeding up the hill would speed up just a tiny bit, and this meant having to be that much extra cautious tentatively backing out of our blind driveway. My father did it for nearly 30 years, into his 80s, until he suddenly got sage and gave up driving altogether.
But this, in retrospect, was only a metaphorical representation, real enough for sure, but only a metaphor, for what I experienced as a displaced child of the Bronx as the precariousness of my otherwise mild-seeming, innocuous ‘hood. It turned out, we learned quickly as we acquainted ourselves with our community, our new neighbors immediately across our narrow street were the Gotz family. They were a couple who lived on the ground floor dwelling of their duplex. On the second floor, with its own entrance and street address, lived Mrs. Gotz’s mother, hardly ever seen as she was a semi-invalid. The other part of her bifurcated life appeared from her behavior when she did present herself in public to be that of a demented person. Or maybe her half-chronic condition was dementia, and she and her dear ones were merely spending their time waiting for the other shoe, or whatever article it was, to drop. She would occasionally appear on the second-floor porch of her apartment and yell at whoever was in the street. If you were a child you learned what the sensation associated with the word “chilling” was, as she would suddenly, breaking the diurnal calm that usually prevailed on Sargent Avenue, start shrieking and yelling.
The Gotzes somehow persevered with this generational impediment. Usually we saw them if we saw them at all – aside from appearances, not a little like a kind of modest royalty making an audience with their public, on patriotic occasions when everyone was home from work and school and they would stand around idly, in clement weather, on their front porch – on bundling themselves and their son, Manny, into the family sedan in their driveway (a long straight shot, nice and wide, and on level ground, into a spacious two car garage that sat at the rear of their sizable lot, with a generous view of the street and oncoming traffic). And they would putter off to god knows what destinations. They kept to themselves.
Manny was adopted. This was one of those bits of common knowledge that you seemed to assimilate out of the very atmosphere bounded by the street. I don’t remember anyone telling me, or making a big deal of it.
It was a fortuitous match, parents to child, as Manny had the same dark, one might call it swarthy – and later in his development it grew to incorporate the quality of being unusually hirsute, with very dark hair growing thickly on his head and his face, and, as was revealed in summer, on his thick arms and legs. Manny was short. Perhaps squat was a better descriptor, as he was always fairly powerfully built. This was one factor in my sense of precariousness, also part of that atmosphere. I was, it almost goes without saying, of a more ectomorphic configuration, tall and skinny. One could say slight. I thought of myself as slight. Except I was so tall for my age, until adolescence when, seemingly, all of my friends caught up with me. Except Manny.
Not that Manny was exactly a friend, or a playmate. He was about three years older than me. I don’t know who he “played” with. He was, as I suggested, quiet, and kept to himself. I can remember thinking quite clearly that I was ill disposed to invite him, however I might have done that, to join the wholly imaginary exercises, a kind of precursor to cosplay, as we did it in our street clothes with only a few props, though the scenarios in our minds were clear enough, of combat (essentially re-enactments of the Korean War, rumbling rapidly into the past, though it had ended only three years prior to our move to Providence. Or they might be the stock tableaux, part of the repertoire, fed by a diet of Hollywood features that were prominent through the 40s and 50s, of cowboy and Indian encounters. Most of these games involved toy pistols and make-shift bows without arrows. They mainly consisted of a lot of running around, hiding poorly behind physical obstacles, and making gun fire noises with our mouths. Manny simply wasn’t the type.
It wasn’t until not too many years had passed. I was barely into my scholarly career in junior high school, a couple of years or three into our New England sojourn, that somehow or other, again through that peculiar osmotic acquisition of certain everyday facts about the existence of other residents, even as you assiduously avoided having much contact with them, that Manny had a fairly constant companion – were they not well into their adolescence, I might be tempted to describe them as playmates, though there was only the most sinister quality, one way or another, yet a different form of intuition, about their hanging out. Their most noticeable singular feature, say if a policeman making routine inquiries were to ask if you noticed any distinguishing physical characteristics, was a propensity to present themselves in public with heavy, and unusually well-advanced for their ages, five o’clock shadow. Manny’s buddy, who was a little older, and already had a driver’s license – because Manny had by then stopped traveling with his parents in the sedan, and was now in the company of his constant friend; they would go off together, Manny existing his house with a furtive air, sometimes bull-like, sometimes with a gruff grunt of farewell that he projected back through the open glass-windowed wood frame door into the perpetual darkness within. His friend was named, as transmitted by the local wireless telegraph, Ray.
Well, one day, the news came back to us, and seemed to have spread fairly quickly, and not surprisingly, as it constituted notoriety of such magnitude that it was worth reporting in the city’s newspaper of record, the Providence Journal-Evening Bulletin. It seemed that Ray and Manny were “playing” (that was the word that sticks in my mind; I will swear it was reported to me deploying such a word choice, like it was a game). Ray had a weapon, a handgun, apparently a revolver, that he had borrowed from his father. He was proudly showing it to his friend when somehow or other it discharged, firing a bullet, which entered and then exited the fleshy part of Manny’s already growing ample mid-section. A flesh wound. As the crime shows of the 90s, about 35 years later would teach us, a “through-and-through.” Manny was patched up and recovered quickly and life went back to the strange normal we had learned, previous to this incident not to think too much about.
The one note to this story that was both macabre and highly humorous, especially to the precocious posse of bar mitzvah boys of which I was one, was that, on seeing what he had done, and using what knowledge he had somehow only poorly assimilated from his his tutors in these matters, Ray decided that he’d better ditch the evidence, and the threw the pistol he had “borrowed” from his father. He dropped it into “the sewer,” which is to say, he dropped it into a convenient storm drain cut into the gutter of the street (I have always imagined this bizarre and clownish scenario had come to pass in the dark recesses of 43/45 Sargent Avenue, which did have a storm drain cut into the gutter in front of it, and which I never looked at in the same way every again; but it’s not clear to me, after all this time, where the incident did, in fact, occur… it would have been just as stupid whatever the setting).
The most chilling aspect of this anecdote was what was also general knowledge, kind of part of the legend of that crazy town, belying its vaguely Wild West ancestry, Providence RI, was that Ray was, to give his full name, Raymond Patriarca Jr., son of the mob boss of Federal Hill, the Italian-American enclave in downtown Providence. I have never to my knowledge laid eyes on Mr. Patriarca, Sr., though his power and influence always preceded him. My tenure in Providence was brief, only seven years, taking me from childhood to my teen years, when I abruptly left to take up my precocious academic career in Boston, the Athens of America. I say all this with a somewhat sardonic tone, because neither city had yet abandoned, not in 1963, their still decrepit conditions of municipal decay and metropolitan inanition. It took ethnic politicians, Italians and Irishmen, to revive them and bring them to a true state of renaissance.
In the meantime, certainly in the early 60s and into the 70s, it seemed to me, as little as I paid attention to these matters, that what real power there was in Boston, which seemed to be ascendant in terms of mob rule of any other part of New England. It wasn’t until the time I lived briefly in the North End, the Federal Hill of the larger city, in the 80s that I learned that it may have been a fact that the local mob boss in that part of town (as opposed to the Irish syndicate that ruled Southie) was a man named Jerry Angiulo, but even he, back in the day, reported to the big boss of New England, Raymond Partiarca, who would appear from time to time, on expeditions, probably something like a papal visit, to the teeming streets of the North End, so the locals could pay their respects.
Good morning on this Tuesday, December 11, Christmas now 14 days away.
Today we talked about some of the burdens of winter.
And we were regaled with two of Howard’s always entertaining stories.
Che vuoi? Le pocketbook?
See you soon.