Saturday, April 9, 2011

Italian Americans and The Mob

First of all, today’s blog is inspired by a new reality show, Mob Wives, and the Facebook that was created for it by VH1. It has triggered all kinds of memories for me and taken me back to my childhood neighborhood. Please bear with me as you read because my thoughts have not yet all gelled.

I am an American of Italian descent. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York at a time when the mafia was still actively in business and before Mayor Giuliani had a chance to crack down on them. There were always stories being told on the street of shootings, mob hits and meetings, but they never phased me as a kid. I felt if you had nothing to do with the mafia they weren’t a threat to me or my family. As a young adult, I heard of a shooting at Joe and Mary’s restaurant, not far from my home, on 205 Knickerbocker Avenue. It was the summer of 1979 and a famous mob boss, Carmine “The Cigar” Galante was murdered in the courtyard. The owner Joe was killed in the crossfire. The neighborhood was shaken up, but more over the owner’s death than Galante’s. Galante had gotten what he deserved, but poor Joe was a hard working, decent guy. Things like this happened all the time.

There were two kinds of Italian families in my neighborhood, besides the Mafia. One kind were the hard working immigrants who came here to make a better life for their children. The mothers were over protective, the kids went to school every day, the, father’s worked without taking sick days, and pots of sauce were always cooking on the stove. Then there were the lower class, vulgar-tongued, lowlife punks who were out on the street morning till night. They spent their time in a rat pack, intimidating others, getting into trouble, cursing, vandalizing property. These are people I did not associate with.

One day I needed a protractor for my math homework. It was still daylight at 7 o’clock that spring night, so I went to the store with my cousin to pick one up. On my way home from the store, one of these “rat packs” spotted me and my cousin on the street. They started following us. Truthfully I was nervous. There were six of them and two of us. They knew how to fight, we were pathetic. But, my cousin and I kept walking. Then, one of the girls starts speaking to me. She said, “Hey, b*tch, do you go to Grover Cleveland?” I didn’t answer. She asked, “Are you in the college bound program?” I said, “yes.” She said, “B*tch, you aren’t that smart, are you really in that MF program?” I don’t answer. She says, “Answer me b*tch!” I reply, “I don’t have to talk to you if you are going to talk to with like that!” My cousin and I keep walking. It’s only a few blocks, but it seems like forever before we get to my house. The rat pack is behind us every step of the way. As we get into the hallway, my cousin turns to me and says, “Are you crazy? Why did you answer her like that?” I told her, “I don’t like the way she was talking to me.” I never realized that the girl did not know how to talk any other way.

Well, we entered my apartment. My mother, who has the maternal instincts and intuition like no other, immediately knows something is wrong as soon as she glances at my face. My cousin is only too happy to recount the details of our little trip. My mother becomes very angry and tells me to go with her to the window. “Tell me which one of those girls was talking to you.” I point out Felicia, the foulmouthed ghetto girl to my mother. My mother promptly turns around and heads for the door. Down the steps she runs and outside. I watch from the window as my mother goes behind Felicia and starts tapping her on the shoulder and saying “Miss, miss“ to get her attention. My mother is a foot shorter than Felicia. Felicia turns and looks down at my mother, she is a little startled to see this little old woman behind her. My mother looks up into her eyes, I see the anger on my mother’s face as she says, “Don’t you ever, ever talk to my daughter again! Do you hear me? If you ever see her on the street, you better cross the street to the other side! You lousy tramp!” Felicia didn’t say a word, she looked in shock. The rat pack didn’t say a word. My mother turned and came back upstairs. I never saw the rat pack or Felicia again.

Now, back to Mob Wives. The Facebook page I visited yesterday is full of “Felicias.” They are unarmed intellectually and have a very limited vocabulary, usually curse words sprinkled with acts of violence. It took me back to the old days. I know these people, they still exist in Staten Island. Yesterday, I was called every name in the book, I was threatened with a “freakin’ beatin’” and a “b*tch slap.” For what? For expressing my opinion that the Mob Wives pictures looked air brushed and their voices were raspy. These classless “women” make Felicia look like an angel in comparison. But hey, they gave me a nice topic for a blog today.

Too bad my mother is no longer around to go to the Mob Wives FB page. I can see it now: “Miss, don’t you ever post to my daughter again! And if you see her post on a thread, stay the hell off it and post elsewhere! Better yet, go find yourself another page to post on! You MF’n b*tch!” That’s my mom!

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