Hello, and welcome to my website and blog page. For my first blog, I was going to go on a rant about two items recently that have twisted my shorts. The first was ESPN's unprompted decision to remove the announcer Robert Lee from the University of Virginia football game. Their reason for doing so went way beyond pandering to the offended class. No one complained,probably because Robert Lee is in his early thirties, didn't live in the South, didn't fight in the Civil War, and of course never owned slaves, not being alive when that sort of thing existed--152 ears ago. One last obvious distinction between Robert Lee the announcer and the long dead Confederate General--he is of Asian descent. The announcer, not the General Have we really gotten to the tipping point where a man's name can trigger outrage?
The next item I had the pleasure to see first thing in the morning when I opened up the newspaper. It seems the kindly folk from that good will society known as the Black Lives Matter Movement have officially equated all the nations law enforcement officers with the KKK.. I don't even know where to begin with that.
Upon reflection, I decided that rather than highlighting glaring stupidity, that you already know is stupid, I would rather make this blog more about writing and the writing experience. So with that in mind, I present a blurb from my forthcoming second novel, Maybe All We Get.
in 1964, Butchie was thirteen. Walking on Suydam Street toward Knickerbocker Avenue, he saw his friend, Armando Molina being surrounded and hassled by four of Butchie’s former Italian compatriots. They were from the crew of teen thugs who ran on Jefferson Street and Knickerbocker Avenue. All Italian, they were the sons of the mustache Petes who were running the criminal business in the neighborhood for Joe Bonanno. Everyone started referring to them collectively as the farm team.
Their ascension to the ranks of the Bonanno Crime Family was just assumed. They were the obnoxious kinds of guys who entered every confrontation wanting to make sure you knew who they were, and who they knew. In a neighborhood where everybody knew everyone else, it was a stupid question. But it wasn’t posed for the purpose of gathering information. It was a tacit threat, and usually an effective one. Not this day.
“Hey, Mousey,” Butchie called out to Massimino Basaluco. “Why don’t you stop pressing on my friend? Give him a little room to breathe.”
“Fuck you, Butchie!” said Carmine Donofrio.
“This is none of your business, Spic-lover. So, stay out of it,” warned Angelo Mercante.
“My business is what I say it is,” Butchie said. “Right now, I got nothing better to do. Let’s do this.”
At that, Roman Sciula, as big and menacing a fourteen-year-old as ever there was, awakened from the dream-state of muted stupidity in which he always seemed to be.
“We can take care of the spic when we get done with this meddling fuck here. It’s time he learns who runs this street,” Roman decreed.
As big as he was, his young hoodlum friends weren’t inclined to argue with him. As the four of them advanced on Butchie, they left Armando with an avenue of escape.
“Run!” Butchie directed Armando. Armando hesitated. His better instinct was to stay and fight beside Butchie. Butchie was having none of it. He knew Armando couldn’t fight, and would only prove a distraction and an imposition. Butchie made himself clear on the point.
“Get the fuck out of here, Armando! I got this.”
As Armando finally got the hint, and ran off as instructed, big Roman Sciula advanced on Butchie.
“The only thing you got, Bucciogrosso, is a beating coming your way. I’ll tell your mother she can find you at Wyckoff,” Sciula said, referring to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, the hospital around the corner.
“I guess we’ll see about that,” Butchie said, sounding curious about the matter himself.
Roman Sciula started landing thunderous blows down on the sides of Butchie’s head. Butchie made no real effort to duck or counter the punches. What he did was lean into them, as if he were trying to get the punishment over with. He had learned to do this over the years from catching the frequent beatings at home. While it wasn’t Butchie’s intention, it had the effect of robbing some of the incredible impact from Roman Sciula’s brick-fisted hay-makers. It also slightly changed the point of impact.
Roman expected to be connecting with the softer areas of Butchie’s face. When he kept landing his fists on the very hard surfaces of Butchie’s skull, Roman’s hands started to hurt-- a lot. So, each successive punch was delivered with a little less enthusiasm than the previous one. It only helped incrementally.
While Roman Sciula was hammering Butchie like a veal cutlet, the other three thugs took advantage of the distraction to move in and start landing pot-shots of their own. Butchie would receive each attack, mounting no form of defense whatsoever. He would merely back up a step or two, and brace himself for the next assault.
Finally, with his back against the brick of the building on Suydam Street, Butchie had nowhere else to go. He absorbed Roman’s last two punches. Butchie reached down as if he were trying to pick something from under the heel of his shoe, propelling himself up and forward, delivering a vicious, round-house right. The punch connected squarely with Roman’s jaw, but narrowly missed the mandible nerve. It didn’t put his lights out, only waffling the big boy.
Butchie took the opportunity to continue his attack, leaping up into the arms of the stunned Roman. Instinctively, Roman started squeezing Butchie in a bear-hug, trying to crush the air out of his lungs. With Roman’s hands so occupied, Butchie reached up and grabbed him by the ears. He brought the crown of his head down three times as hard as he could on the face of Roman.
The first strike shattered Sciula’s nose and rendered him immediately unconscious. The next two shots broke all of his teeth, and left his mouth looking like a face full of bloody stumps. Roman Sciula was out of this fight. The big loser, he was the one who would have to be collected by his mother at Wyckoff.
With their Goliath lying face down in the gutter, the other three goons were less than enthusiastic about getting close enough to Butchie to share Roman’s fate. Their attacks lacked coordination. Making their greater numbers count for little. Butchie was able to focus on each of his attackers, one at a time. This was bad news for the three of them.
The beginning of the end started with Butchie taking two head shots from Massimino Basaluco. This allowed him to get close enough to deliver a left hook to Basaluco’s ribs, in quick combination with a right cross to the jaw. The last shot found the mandible nerve like they were long lost cousins. As Massimino was hitting the floor, Angelo Mercante rushed Butchie, running into an overhand right. The contact was so pure, Butchie half expected to hear it accompanied by a carnival bell. Mercante’s eyes rolled up in his head as he fell to the floor, seemingly in slow motion, like a sack of falling flour.
Butchie now focused on Carmine The Mouth Donofrio. The loudest and most obnoxious of the farm team, he was the guy who made all of the noise, and started all of the fights. But other than being a facilitator of violence, he brought nothing to the table in the way of fighting skills. When Butchie waved his adversary on, The Mouth remembered he needed to be somewhere else. Exhausted at this point, Butchie could only watch as Donofrio ran down Knickerbocker Avenue toward Jefferson Street. Carmine was all asses and elbows as his image receded into the fading afternoon sunlight.
Butchie was surveying the damage to himself in the window of the smoke shop there on the corner. He was bleeding from the cuts above his eyes. The skin had split where Roman had hit him. Butchie could see he was bleeding from his ears and his nose as well. His mouth had become a river of blood, he was nearly choking on the salty, coppery effluence pooling there. Even through the buzz of the adrenaline rush he was experiencing, Butchie’s body began to ache all over. His victory, unexpected and spectacular, was starting to feel pyrrhic in nature. When he saw Patrolman Mick the Quick Doheny approaching, Butchie thought it started to feel like a shit sandwich.
Mick Doheny had watched the whole thing transpire from his foot-post in front of Badlamenti’s lattacini across the street. When he saw the farm team from Jefferson Street surround that nice Puerto Rican kid, Armando, he was about to come over and end it before Armando got hurt. But then he saw the Bucciogrosso kid come down the block and intervene. He decided to let the scene play itself out for a while.
Doheny didn’t yet know what to make of Butchie. Unfailingly polite, the kid was always respectful. But, oddly for a fourteen-year-old, he wasn’t ever deferential. He made eye contact with everyone, and held it. His unwavering gaze had the effect of being unsettling, even to adults. It also looked like smiling was not within his skill-set. He didn’t seem particularly angry or unhappy, just unimpressed and vaguely suspicious—with everyone and everything. Doheny prided himself on being able to read people. Before today, he just couldn’t get a read on Butchie. His primary professional concern was determining whether or not he was a good kid, or just another neighborhood tough-guy on his way to thugdom. While the jury was still out, Doheny thought the evidence on Butchie’s behalf was starting to look formidable.
Doheny came across the street and addressed Basaluco and Mercante, who were just climbing unsteadily to their feet.
“Go pick up the gorilla, and drag his ass to Wyckoff. You jerk-offs got the beating you deserved today. Remember that the next time you want to fuck with somebody. Now disappear, scumbags.”
As the vanquished punks limped away, Doheny addressed Butchie.
“How are you doing, Mr. Bucciogrosso?” Doheny asked, with genuine concern.
“Am I in trouble, Patrolman Doheny?”
“If you don’t learn how to keep your hands up and slip a punch every once in a while, you’ll be in big trouble.”
“I meant with the law.”
“I know what you meant, kid. On that score, you’re fine. You did a lot of damage today, but those assholes deserved every bit of it. You do need to learn how to fight, though.”
“I thought I did pretty good. It was four on one.”
“No doubt. You knocked out three goons and chased off the loud-mouth. That’s a whole month’s worth of good work. But you took a lot of unnecessary punishment.”
“I was letting them hit me so I could set them up. What should I have done differently?”
“You need to learn how to fight more defensively.”
“I don’t know how to do that.”
“Clearly,” Doheny laughed.
“Did I do anything right?”
“Sure. You got three knockouts to show for yourself. That was no easy trick. I can see you have some rare talents. You have great balance, and you’re fearless. Those are things that can’t be taught. Best of all, you’ve got hammers for hands. Like nine-pound sledges, everything you hit, you break. The problem is, you think your face is an anvil. You’re not supposed to let people hit you. Even if it is to set them up. There’s a better way to do that.”
“You sound like you know what you’re talking about. Do you?”
“Do you know why they call me Mick the Quick? I got that handle in the Marine Corps. It’s a boxing nickname. Skinny as I am, I’m not knocking anyone out, but no one is laying a glove on me either. In the ring, I get on my horse and make them chase me all night long. By the end of the fight, I don’t have a mark on me. The other guy looks like he got his head stuck in a beehive. So yeah, I know what I’m talking about. I run the PAL boxing program in Brooklyn. We train out of Brewster’s club in East New York. I can teach you how to fight, if you want. With your punching power, there’s no telling how far you can go.”
Two days later, Butchie showed up at Brewster’s. He took to the training. Butchie learned how to fight more defensively. But he was never as committed to it as he should have been. He had grown so accustomed to absorbing abuse from years of beatings, if he knew he was going to get an opening for the knockout, sometimes Butchie would allow himself to take the punches, until he got the chance to deliver one. It was a hard habit to break, and Butchie never completely broke it.
In spite of this, Butchie had some stunning success as a boxer. He could have made a nice living fighting as a professional. At 5’ 11” and 190 lbs., Butchie had the punching power of someone a half-foot taller and fifty pounds heavier. But the circumstances of the time, and a war in Southeast Asia prevented Butchie from pursuing that particular career.