PAPA-LOGIC

In 1930 at the age of 15 my dad emigrated to the U.S. from Sicily. He spoke no English, had very little money and knew a bit about barbering. He settled in Brooklyn, moving in with friends from his home town in Sicily, but dad couldn’t live off the kindness of his friends forever; he needed to find work. Fortunately his friend knew of a barber who was looking for help so dad applied for the job and started work the next day.

When dad showed up at the barber shop he had a copy of the Italian newspaper Il Progresso under his arm. The barber said to him in Italian “Hey, Vito. If you want to learn how to speak English, do yourself a favor and stop buying that newspaper. Instead buy the New York Times and read it every day.” My dad took that advice to heart; reading the Times and dealing with some English-speaking customers is how be became fluent in English. He was a self-taught man; in fact, after a few years he hardly had any accent at all.

My parents were married in 1939 and dad was drafted soon after. He served overseas during WWII, something he never liked to talk about. The one thing I did know about dad’s army days was that he drove a jeep – a little fact that’s rather ironic; dad never learned how to drive! Many years later something came over dad and he decided to give driving a try, probably thinking “how difficult could it be?” He sneaked into mom’s car, turned the key and floored it, immediately driving in reverse onto the front lawn of the house across the street! Thank goodness no one else was on the road at the time.

During the 1950s we had fresh Italian products delivered to the house including olive oil imported from Sicily. Dad was jealous of the handsome salesman and demanded my mom stop the olive oil delivery. Mom was a good-looking woman and men were naturally attracted to her but she was very proper and never gave them a second look. She wasn’t a flirt and the thought of cheating on my dad never crossed her mind; killing him, yes, but cheating on him? Never!

Our family was very musical; we all sang, my sister and I played the piano and dad played the mandolin. He surprised us by auditioning for our church’s production of The Mikado – and he landed the role! What a riot seeing this mustachioed Sicilian guy made up to look Japanese wearing an authentic kimono and singing Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs. He was the hit of the show!

We’ll never forget the day two officials from our church came to the house to talk to dad; he was the church treasurer at the time but what no one knew was he had zero math ability. Dad botched the books terribly and had to account for his multiple mistakes. After a grueling two-hour meeting dad was relieved of his position as church treasurer. Fortunately for us mom always handled the family finances; left to dad we would have landed in the poorhouse.

One of my worst memories happened the morning after I had my first period. Dad came into my room and with a stage-worthy dramatic bow said “Good morning, young lady!” He thought he was being complimentary; I thought it was gross and humiliating.

Then there was the time dad was mowing the lawn with his brand new electric mower. Well, the mower got jammed and dad turned it over to clean it out; however he forgot to turn the damn thing off and lost the tip of this thumb in the process.

Dad was very protective of me and my sister and every guy we dated had to pass inspection. Throughout my dating years I had a curfew and dad waited up for me every night – right up to the night before my wedding day! Dad thought he had things well in hand; if he only knew how many times I sneaked out of the house to be with my friends or hung my head out the bathroom window for a forbidden cigarette!

When my sister and I had kids, they started calling dad “Papa”. Dad was an affable guy, always coming up with corny jokes or comments which soon became known as “Papa-Logic”. We would roll our eyes when he would intentionally order an “Al Pacino” instead of a cappuccino. Dad loved being controversial, too, and took great pride in getting his point across. I remember one day he saw a sign in a pizzeria window which read “WE HAVE THE BEST PIZZA IN TOWN!” Nothing wrong with that as far as we were concerned but dad felt differently and made no bones about it. He started a heated discussion with the pizzeria owner demanding that the sign should read “WE THINK WE HAVE THE BEST PIZZA IN TOWN!” Dad wouldn’t back down and the sign remained unchanged. And to make matters worse, we were never allowed in that pizzeria again.

One day dad and mom went to an art auction while on vacation. Dad was dressed nicely and wore dark glasses, a big watch and a couple of rings. He won a bid on a painting and the auctioneer exclaimed “Sold to the gentleman in the sunglasses!” He then asked my dad his name. Dad said “My name is Vito“. Then jokingly the unwitting auctioneer asked “Tell us, Vito. Are you The Godfather?” Well, dad couldn’t possibly resist an opportunity like that. He cocked his head, stared at the auctioneer and replied in his best Marlon Brando voice “Now let me ask YOU a question, Mr. Auctioneer. Do you really want to know the answer to your question?” The poor auctioneer started sweating, his hands literally shaking in fear! He made sure the staff meticulously wrapped dad’s painting, walked it to mom’s car and very carefully placed it in the back seat, all under the close scrutiny of my dad. They refused the tip he offered and practically fell over themselves in their hurry to get away from “Don Vito”. Of course dad thought it was hysterical; mom had a completely different opinion of the incident.

My dad was a good guy, a clown at times but he had a heart of gold. Even though he could get on our nerves big time all his friends enjoyed being with him. He adored his family and loved being Sicilian but I think one of the proudest moments in his life was the day he could do the New York Times crossword puzzle – in ink!

 NAR © 2020

IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY

Originally the Chelsea Piers evening boat tour was scheduled to depart at 6:00 but was cancelled due to dense fog. Disappointed, Emma consulted her tour guidebook for something else to do. She read:

THE VORTEX. NOT YOUR FATHER’S WATERING HOLE.
LOCATED AT 15 CHRISTOPHER STREET
IN THE HEART OF CHELSEA.
SMOKING PROHIBITED IN ACCORDANCE WITH
THE NEW YORK CLEAN INDOOR AIR ACT.
OTHER THAN THAT, ANYTHING GOES!

“Hmm. Now that’s intriguing” Emma thought “and it’s nearby.” 

After a brief stroll Emma arrived at The Vortex, a secluded and rather alluring place. Finding a seat at the bar she ordered a dirty martini. Reflected in the mirror behind the bar was the image of a retro-looking poster. Sliding off her barstool she casually walked up to the poster for a better look. She snapped a photo and returned to the bar.

More people were in the place now – gays, heteros, bisexuals, interracials. Emma found it all so exciting and very New York! When the bartender brought her drink, Emma commented on how electric the atmosphere was and asked “Can you tell me something about that poster?”

“Sure! It’s a beauty, isn’t it?” he replied. “The Vortex is an edgy and somewhat somber play written by the literary giant, Noël Coward. It premiered in London in 1924 garnering Coward great critical and financial success. It’s a story about a nymphomaniac socialite and her cocaine-addicted son. Many thought the drug was a cover for homosexuality. As you can imagine it was considered pretty shocking back then. Rumor has it that Princess Margaret owned the original poster for a while. She was a free spirit and loved a good lampoon, especially those directed at the upper classes and British aristocracy.”

“That’s fascinating!” Emma exclaimed. “Something tells me there’s more to the story.”

“Oh, there is” the barkeep agreed. “During the run of The Vortex, Coward met an American director and producer named Jack Wilson. They ran with the same crowd where drugs, booze and homosexuality were prevalent. Wilson became Coward’s business manager and lover. We thought The Vortex was a cool name for the bar. My mother recently brought me that poster; there’s a showing of the play this week.”

“Sounds like you might have a personal connection to this story” Emma declared.

“Yeah, in a circuitous way I do. My great-great-grandmother was once a chorus girl and she got on famously with Jack Wilson – so much so that she and her husband named their first baby Jack Wilson Morrow and asked Jack to be his godfather. The tradition continued through the years; lots of my relatives were named Jack Wilson so-and-so. In fact, my name is Jack Wilson Connors.”

“Pleased to meet you, Jack Wilson Connors” Emma laughed as she extended her hand. “I’m Emma Peterson Kennedy and you have officially blown my mind!”

“I like you, Emma Peterson Kennedy! Always nice making new friends. How about another drink – on the house?”

Emma blushed a little and said “Yes, I’d love one.” 

While Jack was preparing Emma’s drink, all sorts of thoughts were running through her head … he’s cute, friendly, great personality, no wedding ring. I wonder ­– should I?

“For my new friend, Emma. One perfect dirty martini” Jack said with a flourish.

Trying to sound nonchalant, Emma said “You know, Jack. There’s a performance of The Vortex tomorrow night. How about we make it a date?” 

“I’d really love to, Emma” Jack said “but my husband and I already have plans for tomorrow night.”

“Husband!? Oh my God, Jack! I’m sorry! I didn’t realize………”

“No worries, Emma. It runs in the family.”

NAR © 2020

In response to Fandango’s One-Word Challenge#FOWCsomber

GREY’S ANALOGY

Originally I was considering letting nature take its course and stop dying my hair. After all, being in isolation all this time because of the Coronavirus has kept me from going to the salon and now my grey roots are prevalent.

I asked my husband for his opinion. Regardless of the situation his answer is “You always look beautiful!” Liar! I adore him but he tells me what he thinks I want to hear. Give it to me straight! Contrary to what Jack Nicholson declared in “A Few Good Men”, I CAN handle the truth!

Time to weigh my options. First, I look young for a woman in her sixties; will going grey age me or will I look chic? My husband’s hair has yet to turn grey; I much prefer looking like his youthful wife as opposed to his older sister! Second, I’ll save beaucoup bucks at the salon if I go au naturel; just need to pop in for the occasional trim. And last but not least I’ll leave myself wide open for a good-natured lampoon offered up by my oh-so-witty friends.

Since my hair is professionally dyed brown with golden highlights, I was reluctant to pick up a box of Clairol and give it a go at home. I recalled the one and only time I tried to dye my hair. The color was called “Iced Mochaccino”’ which sounded like a delicious shade and the model on the box look dazzling. What could go wrong? My hair came out an unattractive shade of dull cocoa so ixnay the home dye job.

Let’s try this: I consulted Google and found a site where I could see what I’d look like with grey hair. I had no idea there were so many shades of grey – everything from silky white to smokey charcoal, even some with hints of purple or green. I was starting to get very confused. Then I downloaded a copy of “Custom Hair Color at Home” – a literary masterpiece guaranteed to “help you find the perfect hair color”. It did not.

Suddenly I had a brainstorm. Click on good old reliable Amazon for a hair product specifically designed to cover roots, something easy? You can get anything on Amazon from an air fryer to zinc ointment. I typed in “root” and abracadabra, there it was – L’Oréal Magic Grey Root Concealer – the answer to my prayers (unless in turns out to be like the infamous “Hair in a Can”)!

Just as I was about to place an order for the root cover up I got an email from my hair salon:

“In accordance with the guidelines of Phase 2, we are delighted to announce the reopening of “We’re Hair For You” on Monday, June 15.”

The email went on to welcome their clients back and describe changes in the salon. I immediately grabbed my cell phone to call my stylist (she’s on speed dial!) and make an appointment for the following week. Goodbye drab grey roots! Hello luscious brown hair with golden highlights! I was thrilled.

The next day I received a sobering email from the salon:

“Your appointment is confirmed. Please call the salon from the parking lot upon your arrival. You will either be told to come in or asked to wait until we call you back. Clients are required to wear a mask at all times and will have their temperature taken before entering the salon. Please come to your appointment alone as we have eliminated our waiting area. We apologize for any inconvenience. The safety of everyone concerned is of utmost importance. Thank you.”

Shades of future past.

NAR © 2020