My Childhood Friend, The Mafia Godfather
Anyone who has read my All About Me & My Father Hub will know that I had a very strange childhood (to say the least). One of the strangest anecdotes in a very long list of strange anecdotes has to deal with a man who was a close friend of my father and mother, and who I remember with a great deal of affection: The Head of the Five Families.
Although I like to keep my skin firmly attached to my body thus will not refer to this fine old friend by name, any aficionado of Organized Crime history will quickly realize who I'm discussing. He was an impeccably dressed gentleman, soft-spoken, courteous and chivalrous in an old-fashioned manner which unfortunately no longer exists. (No, it's not John Gotti, who was a showoff of a dresser and a boor to boot!) He was always extraordinarily kind to me and I thought of him as a beloved uncle. I have to admit that there are many times now, more than two decades after his passing, that I think of him with profound fondness. He was a truly wonderful human being.
Since my family was quite renowned and "famous" among Italians, we were virtually adopted by this Godfather and were continually invited to spend weekends at the Brooklyn home where he housed his mistress. The house itself was nothing short of amazing: We'd park on the street in front of a row of relatively nondescript brownstone townhouses in a barely marginal area. Two men who wore buttoned up suits whether it was freezing or searing outside would come to the side of the car, peer into the vehicle, and then indicate their approval that we could get out of the car. Then, and only then, could we go to the door of the townhouse closest to the middle of the block.
When the door was opened, I'd feel like I had stepped into another dimension. The incredibly opulent foyer belied the dimensions of the outside of the structure, as it turned out that the entire block was one single luxuriant town mansion, and that only the outside seemed to the unknowing bypasser to be individual townhouses.
When I say opulent, I mean Saddam Hussein type of opulent. Everything that could be gilded in 24 karat gold was, and whatever wasn't gild-able was of the finest imaginable silks, luxuriant textures, and Persian rugs that felt like you were walking in soft butter. The cutlery at the enormous dining table was made of solid gold so soft that if you pressed down with your fork on the fine china plates it would visibly bend. The mistress had a diamond ring encrusted with so many stones of such great quality that it would catch the light and dazzle you from right across the room.
He would regale us well into the wee small hours with tales of his life, the people he had known, and yes, even the people he had whacked. We were trusted as members of his own personal family and in a very strange way it was essentially no different (to my child mind) than sitting around with an old uncle who had been a sea captain and relishing the salty tales of faraway ports, dangerous voyages, and exotic adventures.
I can now with the wisdom of the years state conclusively that he was an extremely dangerous criminal mastermind and murderer who destroyed countless lives. However, through the memories of this very unique and special man, I can relive those childhood evenings of lavish dinners, cordial conversation, and the excitement of peering into a very different world.
Hey... I was a kid! What did I know?