From old pallie, co-founder (with me,of course) of the Ellen Barkin Worship Club, and longtime Culture Vulture-Beatnik Division, j. celenza.
My old man is now in his mid 80s having outlived the bulk of his people.
Of his fifteen brothers and sisters only three left.
His wife dead, the men he served with in the Pacific dead,
All those he worked for and with in the great post war building boom in
NYC have departed.
He saved his younger brother Tommy from being shot because of
inadvisable gambling debts.
He helped build the NY School for the Performing Arts and Lincoln Center
And worked for Donald Trump’s father (Fred)who build thousands of
garden apartments throughout the New York metro area.
It was only when I worked on some jobs with him in Brooklyn’s
Bed Sty and east NY
and on the inlet of workers paradise,
Coney Island I saw how well respected he was
And how unbelievable hard it was to work like that…
And what money meant to people who work to earn it.
ANd The cigar soaked concrete workers, the lathers who looked like brown tree
trunks with arms, sullen laborers, the electricians (prima donnas)
and the hoisting engineers, his fellow brickees,
guys with names like Jimmy Hooks and Rudi the Kraut,
Willie the mule driver, Frankie three eye
Monte three card, Mickey the Mook,
scaffold men with arms like steel girders,
and the union stewards
the little fierce paper-thin Jewish bookkeeper who floated like a kite when
there was a gust of wind,
who came to us from Treblinka…
All, they all called him uncle
He lives now in a retirement village in Florida
As one of the few men in the complex is very popular...and a big flirt
He is deaf and a little bit addled when I tell him anything.
Anything at all he invariably replies:
I went to the pool today and we went to eat at Angelo’s
and I had the tripe and I had a glass of wine
That’s a nice day.
He engaged in violence to his children and his wife.
The paradox of tracing that back to its roots is that it becomes less paradoxical
You can always find the reasons.
He was an unbelievable successful gardener: fig trees and cherry trees and
eggplant and tomatoes and herbs …
But the story I want is when
There was going to be a major anti war demo and these people in
Sunglasses came onto
the job site basically mob guys
and said we giving everybody the day off
But you got go up to Central park and beat those fucking fag snot bag
Commie Hippes we got some bags of bats and tire irons and wrenches…
You with me boys?
And are we being paid?
Yeah yeah full days pay
Okay USA USA
Once the sunglassed people left
Everybody put their tools away
Waited waited waited
And then everybody to a man
went to the nearest bar (it was an IRA-Westie bar
in Hells kitchen) spent the whole day signing Irish Polish Yiddish Italian
Spanish songs and getting sublimely shitfaced…
I am not a big believer in the greatest generation stuff
Except that almost all the generations after—the one after
and mine and the one after that: Clueless, pampered, self absorbed
And none would take the money from the wise guys and say fuck em and
and go to an Irish bar ….