When I go t up this morning I found my sister, Isabella, at the kitchen table having a cup of espresso coffee with milk. I got my coffee and sat down next to her. I wanted to tell her all about Joanie’s new View Master and my trip with Joanie in her Dad’s, Hot Rod to the Horn and Hardart Automat on Fulton Street. But she looked kind of sad when I said “good morning” to her. Instead I said so I said “Okay, sister dear why are you so sad this morning?” She said “I’m upset because Mom got word that her best friend, Tessie, died last night. My eyes went wide and my jaw dropped. “Oh My God! What happened? Was she sick or something? I can’t believe that Tessie just passed away just like that.” She said, “No it wasn’t just like that and yes she was sick for months and Mom kept it from us.” I was in shock. I heard about people dying but this is the first time I knew someone that died who was close to our family. My sister put her hand on my shoulder to calm me down. She told me that there will be a Wake at Tessie’s house on Monday and the funeral mass will be on Tuesday at Visitation Church. She left me in the kitchen staring down into my coffee cup. I hate Wakes. I hate flowers. I hate to hear people crying. I don’t want to go to the Wake. Holy Shit! I feel sick to my stomach. I don’t know what to do to help my mother? Since I was a little kid my mother would take me with her to a Wakes of people I didn’t know. Most of the time, these Wakes, were in a small room in a person’s apartment. The open Coffin was always in the middle of the room surrounded by tons of flowers. Everybody there, at the Wake were very sad.
There was lots of crying and there I was with my mother and other women dressed in black with their little children praying for the person who died. I could never look at the dead person. I would close my eyes and stand by my mother until it was time to leave. I was scared out of my mind the whole time we were at the Wake. All I could remember was the strong smell of the flowers and ladies crying around me that made it hard to breathe. I could not wait to get the hell out of there. The more I thought about it the more upset I was getting. Just then my sister walks back into the kitchen, on her way out of the apartment, she could see the crazy look on my face and says, “Don’t worry there is nothing you can do right now. We will all go to the Wake together on Monday. Just give mom a big hug when you see her tonight. Do me a favor, go to the bakery and buy a loaf of Italian bread before you come home for dinner tonight.” She gave me a quarter for the bread and left the apartment to meet my mother. My sister and my mother will be at Tessie’s house to help her family any way they can. My Dad isn’t around either, he is working all weekend. I finished my coffee and I started moping around the apartment for a while. I finally pulled myself together and went out to find my friends.
I walked around the corner and I go to Nunzio’s house on Luqure Street. I knock on his door and it took him no more than two seconds to open it. He greets me with a big smile on his face and says, “Come in, come in, I have something to show you. You’re not going to believe it.” What in the hell is he talking about? I walk into his apartment as Nunzio is walking backwards and at the same time he is waving his hands for me to come follow him. It looks like he’s directing me to follow him into his parent’s living room combination dining room while he keeps saying, “you’re not going to believe it. You’re not going to believe it.”
When we gets to where he wants me to go he stands with he back in front of something blocking my view. Nunzio is a big kid, that’s why we call him,”Superman.” it’s almost impossible to see anything behind him. From what I could see, it maybe one of those new radio- stereo record player units. He holds his two hands out like a crossing guard telling me to stop. At this point I say, ”Nunzio, cut the bullshit! Just show me the freggin thing.” He finally steps aside so that I can see what he’s hiding with his big body. He’s right I could not believe it. Wow! It’s one of those new Television boxes I’ve been hearing about on the radio. Everybody is talking about this movie box I turn to Nunzio and say, “Cut the crap! When did you get it? How much does it cost? How does it work? What did you watch on this thing? I keep asking one question after another like a crazy person.
Meanwhile Nunzio is laughing out loud as he’s dancing around the room with his arms razed over his head. When he finally stopped his celebration war dance he says. “I can’t touch it. My Mom and Dad told me that they’re the only ones allowed to turn it on and off at night.
But it’s great to watch people dancing, singing, cowboy movies like Roy Rogers and cartoons anytime you want.” He rolls his eyes and says, “I don’t know what it costs, but I know that it must have cost my parents an arm and a leg to buy this thing. This Television is new to us so it will take a while before I can invite you over to watch cartoons with me.” I stopped asking Nunzio questions, I just stood there looking at his new Television as if something was playing on the blank Television tube. Nunzio’s excitement over his new Television snapped me out of my gloom about Tessie. For the moment I forgot all about Tessie’ Wake. What a shocker it is to see my first Television box. I never thought that anyone in our neighborhood could ever buy one. We stopped looking at the blank Television tube and went out to find our friends.
We walked towards Hicks Street and found Mikey Tomato sitting on the curb talking to Prospector Frank from Huntington Street. I said, “Yo, what are you guys talking about?” Mike looks up and says, “Nothing much, Halloween is coming up and Prospector Frank here is trying to talk me into making a Lean-To so that we can camp over night on Halloween in the vacant lot near his house on Huntington Street. I say.”Yeah, no shit! Guess what I saw at Nunzio’s house?” Mike says, “OK, Big Head, spit it out.” I start laughing, I look at Mike and Frank and motion my extended arms wider and wider and say. “Superman, here just got a huge Television box in his apartment about this big.” Prospector Frank, squints his eyes, wrinkles his nose and says. “What in the hell are you talking about? What’s a Tell-A-Vision?” I look down at him and say.”I guess you haven’t heard that you can buy a box with tube like window that looks like a screen and they can send a movie to your house for you and your family to watch, with sound and everything.” Frank got this weird look on his face and he looked like he was about to pass out and says, “Come on, cut the bullshit. The next thing you’re gonna tell me is that Aliens are sending these movies from outer space, huh, huh.” I’m about to crack up when I say. “This is not bullshit Frank. I just saw my first Television box in Superman’s house two minutes ago.” Frank starts yelling “Holy Shit! What will they think of next? Maybe they’ll put a guy in a rocket and shoot him to the Moon? How about that, Pepino.”
I don’t think that Frank’s brain can handle this stuff. Then we all started laughing and making up all kinds of stuff like, “Yeah, like summing across the Atlantic Ocean to England.” “Yeah, how about, camping in a vacant lot on Halloween night. Boooooo.” And “Yeah Frank, maybe you will be the guy they shoot up to the Moon.” That was it. We could not stop laughing for almost twenty minutes. When we settled down and stopped laughing we made plans to meet the following weekend on Halloween for fun and games. I left the guys on Hicks Street and walked six blocks to Cammareri Brothers Bakery on the corner of Henry Street and Sacket Street.
My mother loves this Bakery. There must be ten bakeries within a five block area. Some of the bakeries are on Union Street then there is some on Columbia Street, Henry Street, Court Street and a few more towards Atlantic Avenue. Every Italian family is loyal to a baker who came to America from their village in Italy. I like any kind of bread that I can dip in wine for breakfast, put Olive Oil on it for lunch or dip it in the pasta sauce for dinner. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
I bought the bread and went home. It was still early when I got home so I put the bread into our apartment and went up to the top floor to see what Roger was doing. I walked into Roger’s apartment and I found him working on a drawing for the carpet Cannon we talked about months ago. “Hey Roger I thought you forgot all about the Cannon we wanted to make.” He turns to look at me and says. “No, I didn’t forget. It’s been bugging me on how we can make a trigger that can shoot a square piece of linoleum that measures eight by eight inches. I think I’m close to solving the problem but I don’t feel like making another drawing today.” So I chimed in and started taking all about my adventures.
I went on and on telling him about the View Master, my visit to Horn & Hardart in Bruno’s Hot Rod, Nunzio’s new Television Box, our plans to camp out on Halloween, I could barely catch my breath. Roger looked amazed and said, “Wow, you have been busy the last couple of days.” After talking with Roger for a half hour about the new inventions he plans to work on I said goodbye, I went downstairs to see if my mother came home.
I found my mother sitting at the kitchen table shucking peas for dinner. I didn’t say anything; I walked up behind her and put my arms around her and hugged her tight. She looked at me over her right shoulder and started crying out of control as I held her in my arms.
To be continued……. New Chapters in the works are… Halloween Games, Prospecting for Silver, Shoes on Wire, Pirates, Robin Hood, Ice Cones, Red Hook Gangs, Drive In Movie, Woolworth, Treasure Island and many more………….