Sunday, April 25, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl : Chapter Seven - New York City

(From the unpublished novel, Copyright 2010 Donald Riggio)

...Janet’s first look at the Manhattan skyline left her in awe of the place she would soon call home. They approached the city on a Greyhound bus through the neighboring state of New Jersey. She could see the towering skyscrapers that formed the tip of Manhattan Island. To her it looked like the bow of a mighty ocean liner cutting a path through the two rivers that flanked the island, the East River on one side, the Hudson on the other.
The closer they got to the city the taller the buildings seemed to become. They appeared so tightly packed together that surely there was no room between them for people to walk or traffic to flow. The bus turned off the New Jersey Turnpike to the portal of the Lincoln Tunnel. The next mile took them ninety-seven feet beneath the surface of the Hudson River, re-emerging on Manhattan’s west side. There, the perspective changed dramatically. Now, the tops of the surrounding buildings were obscured from view and the bus moved among the mass of traffic and the humanity of a workday lunch hour.
Janet thought to herself that the crowds of pedestrians crossing toward each other at every intersection resembled opposing medieval armies charging their enemies in battle on some European plain. She was happy to think that New York was a place with towering stone castles and battling armies of knights.
The bus left them at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street, where they freshened up in public rest rooms. Janet changed into the nicest thing she owned, a loose fitting dark dress purchased for Danny’s funeral. She combed her hair, deciding against wearing any make-up. Joseph donned his dress uniform for what he vowed would be the last time. They walked to the nearest subway station for the ride uptown.
Janet carried Joseph’s duffel bag and one suitcase of her own. Joseph struggled with two other pieces of luggage with the rest of her belongings. Their journey through the underground corridors was made difficult by dozens of New Yorkers who raced around them as though they were human roadblocks.
“Where’s everybody rushing to?” Janet asked, bothered by the near frantic pace.
“This is New York, Sweetheart. This is how things are.”
The subway platform was stifling hot and foul smelling. It got worse after they boarded the crowded train. There were no empty seats in the subway car. Janet needed to grip her knees together to balance the baggage on the floor between her feet. She reached up, to take hold of a strap designed to keep passengers from falling over on one another as the train sped noisily through the darkened tunnels.
Janet was relieved when they got off at their appointed stop and climbed the steep staircase that brought them back to street level and the light of day. She felt like a washed out dishrag, certain that her efforts to look nice and make a good impression would all go for naught.
They walked several blocks to West 87th Street and the apartment building Joseph called home. Their footsteps echoed on the polished floor inside the lobby. An elevator took them sixteen stories upward. Secretly, this idea of vertical living frightened Janet.
The entire, exasperating experience proved worthwhile when the door to the Rabinowitz apartment opened and Joseph’s mother laid eyes on her son . She clapped her hands together and smothered him in a hug and kisses that embarrassed him.
“Oh, it’s so good to have you home again.” She practically dragged him into the apartment with Janet following behind. She stood quietly as the heavy door closed behind them.
Solomon remained in the background, determined not to show much emotion. Now, with Joseph there, in the uniform of his country, Solomon couldn't conceal his pride proud. Once Myra allowed Joseph to breathe again, father and son shook hands and embraced.
“Welcome home, son,” Solomon said.
“Thanks, Papa.”
Finally, Joseph brought Janet forward.
“Mama, Papa, this is Janet Cavelli.”
Janet smiled. Myra put her hand on Janet’s shoulder emitting a smile of her own. “So very nice to meet you, my dear.”
Solomon stepped forward to take her hand in greeting the way any elegant European gentleman would have done. “How do you do young lady?”
Janet gushed. “I’m so happy to meet you both. Joseph’s told me so much about you.”
“And there’s so much we want to hear about you, too.” Myra spoke in the soft voice of a perfect hostess. “But you both must be exhausted after your long trip. Solomon, why don’t you and Joseph show Janet to her room?” She leaned closer to younger girl. “You can start getting settled in while my husband and I fuss over our son some more.”
“I’d like that,” she said, “I want to thank you both for letting me to stay here.”
“It’s our pleasure, dear,” Myra told her sincerely.
The men picked up her luggage and led the way. Janet made note of the old world styling and furnishings of the Rabinowitz home. Hardwood floors covered with plush area rugs elegantly colored in reds and blues. The sofa, chairs, tables and lamps were of superb craftsmanship. The place had a warm, homey atmosphere.
The room where she would be staying was small. It contained a single bed, a bureau for clothing and a dressing table with a mirror and chair. After she unpacked, she thought about how she might miss her house in Cleveland with a porch and a big spacious backyard. Janet walked to the window and glanced outside. She looked out over the splendor of Central Park, a sprawling, pastoral landscape for as far as the eye could see. Janet had the biggest backyard anyone could ever imagine.

Rock and Roll Quote of the day: "When you walked out on me, in walked old misery. And he's be here since then." From - Since I Don't Have You, By: The Skyliners

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The TR6 Transistor Radio - Excerpted from Chapter Twelve of Seven-Inch-Vinyl

(The unpublished Novel: Copyright 2010 Donald Riggio)

Working under licenses granted by Bell Laboratories, an electronics company called, Texas Instruments, worked to come up with a practical, inexpensive mass-market use for a solid- state-amplifying device called the transistor. The low frequency device was only suitable for audio applications. It seemed logical for someone to develop a small, hand held radio.
Soon after, the Regency TR1 transistorized radio went on the market. It was five inches high and used four germanium transistors powered by a battery. The company believed that with all the cold war paranoia sweeping the nation, the transistor radio would become the essential survival tool every family and fallout shelter needed. They missed their market by a wide margin.
The radio would become essential, not for survival against a nuclear attack, but for the survival of the American teenager. Now they could listen to their own brand of music whenever and wherever they pleased. It created a form of aural integration. The songs had no race. They had no color.

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "And if we went to a party, and they wouldn't let us sing. We'd lock ourselves in the bathroom and nobody could get in." From - Looking for an Echo, By- Kenny Vance and the Planotones.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Forty-Nine Years ago today...

...Nineteen year old Bob Dylan made his first public appearance in Greenwich Village, N.Y. at Gerdes Folk City on Fourth Street. When Dylan arrived in New York, he was too young to sing in a club. Mike Porco, the owner of Fok City, took him to the musicians Union where Dylan claimed to be an orphan. Porco signed to be Dylan's guardian and the rest, as they say, is history. As an opening act for John Lee Hooker,He performed a two verse version of a song he wrote called "Blowin' in the Wind." adapted from an old Negro spititual, "No More Auction Block."

Dylan wasn't the only folk star to grace the Folk City stage. Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Phil Ochs and many others honed their craft in what Mike Porco called: "my place."

Mike's grandson, Bob Porco, is planning a 50th Anniversary tribute to Folk City and writing a biography about his Grandfather.

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "Once upon a time you dressed so threw the bums a dime in your prime...didn't you?" From: Like a Rolling Stone. By - Bob Dylan

Friday, April 9, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl Character Profiles - Richie Conforti & Phil Gambetta

(From Chapter Seven of the unpublished novel...Copyright 2010 Donald Riggio)

Phil Gambetta walked out of Nick’s Sandwich Shop on Mulberry Street, clutching a paper bag containing six veal cutlet parmigiana hero sandwiches. He savored the aroma of homemade tomato sauce as it wafted from the bag.
One month shy of his nineteenth birthday, lean and tanned, Phil was like most young Italian males brought up in the lower east side Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Italy. What knowledge he neglected to learn in high school was supplemented by the education he got on the streets in the year since the Board of Education grudgingly issued him a diploma. He ran with a street gang called The Hester Street Cavaliers, where he earned the reputation of being a truly dangerous individual. He didn’t take any lip from anyone and often resorted to violence to settle a dispute.
When his talents brought him to the attention of one of the lieutenants of the local crime boss recruiting neighborhood muscle, Phil eagerly took the job. He was relegated to being a go-fer or a flunky, but he remained confident he’d someday move up in the organization. For now he accepted his role, kept quiet and followed orders.
Phil turned onto Broome Street, a cobblestone thoroughfare made narrow by cars parked on both sides. The neighborhood was alive with activity. Somewhere, a car horn blared.
“Hey you kids,” the driver shouted, “Get outta’ the way!”
“Up yours, mister!” A grimy urchin hollered back.
A woman leaning out from a fourth floor tenement window called in an Italian Neapolitan dialect, “Pasquale, go find your sister, she needs to come upstairs now.”
Further along, in front of a poultry market, an old woman and shopkeeper argued.
“This chicken is all feathers…too tough to eat.” She shook the freshly killed bird in the man’s face.
“Senora,” the shopkeeper pleaded, “What you want from me, eh? I already give you my best price.”
As he made his way through this landscape, Phil noticed some activity in front of his destination, The Carozza Social Club located up the block. He quickened his step, arriving in time to see one of the club members, a numbers runner named Fat Rudy Pasqua, shove a young man Phil’s age out the front door and down to the pavement. When Phil recognized the younger man he called out to Rudy, who moved forward to inflict further harm.
“Yo! Hey Rudy, ease up man! He’s cool.”
Fat Rudy, a short, barrel-bellied hood looked at Phil and ceased his charge.
“You know this asshole?” Rudy barked, breathless from the unwanted exercise.
“Yeah, that’s Richie Conforti, man. Me and him went to High School together.”
“Yeah? Well he came strolling into the club like he owned the place. Good way to get his friggin’ head broke. I thought you was supposed to be watchin’ the door?”
“Mister G sent me over to Nick’s to pick up lunch. I was only gone for five minutes.”
Rudy reached out and snatched the paper bag from Phil with one quick swipe. “High School huh? Well you better educate the creep a little more.” Rudy turned and walked back inside the Social Club.
Phil shifted his focus to Richie, now back on his feet, brushing sidewalk dust off his plaid jacket. Black chino pants, white shirt and socks and a pencil thin necktie completed his Ivy League look. He was shorter than Phil, slight of build, with a flattop style haircut.
“Damn, Richie, you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah…thanks Phil, I’m alright. Jesus, I thought that guy was gonna’ kill me.”
“He sure as shit might have if I didn’t come along. What the hell were you thinking to walk right in there like that?” He guided Richie over to the curb. They leaned against the front fender of a parked Oldsmobile sedan. From that vantage point, Phil could talk to his friend and keep an eye on the door of the social club at the same time.
“I’m selling magazine subscriptions door to door. I came by, looked in and seen a bunch of guys playing cards, so I went inside.”
“Magazine subscriptions? I thought you was going to City College?”
“Nah. I decided college was for chumps.”
Richie neglected to tell Phil that he’d indeed gone on to college for one semester before becoming too lazy to study and continue.
“So, how did you get into this magazine stuff?”
“I filled out a coupon on the back of a matchbook cover. You know, one of them: ‘be your own boss’ kinda’ things? Say, Phil, you work here?”
“Yeah. I’m in with the Viola mob,” he boasted.
“Shit! You work for Gugie Viola? This is his place?”
Don Gugliemo Viola ruled the lower east side. Even now, frail and in his seventies, the mobster was still feared and respected by everyone. Richie’s use of his boss’ derisive nickname annoyed Phil. He looked around to see if anyone else heard it.
“Cool it Richie. The guys inside don’t like civilians calling him that.”
“Civilians? Who do they think he is, Mussolini? And you, does he let you do anything more than be a doorman and pick up his lunch?”
Phil resented his tone. He remembered Richie as being one of those kiss ass, know it all kids in school. He always had his homework done and never got detention. He was also a finagler, always looking for an angle and ways to put things over on somebody. However, he came from the neighborhood and that made him okay.
“I do other things.” Phil said defensively.” I got high hopes…a lot of good ideas of my own. Someday I’ll approach Don Viola with them. Anyway, it beats selling magazine subscriptions door to door.”
“Don’t knock it. I got some ideas too. Lately I been thinking about that book we read in high school, Tom Sawyer. You remember it?”
“No, man, not really.” Phil gave an honest answer.
“Well, in this book, this kid Tom Sawyer is supposed to paint a picket fence around this house. But he’s lazy see and he wants to goof off. So instead of painting the fence himself, he talks all these younger kids into doing it for him.”
“Oh, I get it, he worked a con on ‘em?”
“I figure maybe I can do the same thing. If I find a bunch of kids to go around and sell subscriptions for me, all I’d need to do is pay the brats a couple of bucks and keep the rest of the commission for myself.”
“Sounds like a pretty good scam to me,” Phil agreed.
“The more I sell, the bigger the territory I get. They even give out prizes to the salesman who sells the most subscriptions every month.”
The wheels in Phil’s brain turned just fast enough to recognize an opportunity. “Ya’ know Richie, maybe I could help you out with this thing. I got a lot of connections in this neighborhood. I could scare up a whole bunch of kids to work for you, river to river.”
Richie, the finagler, was being finagled himself and he knew it.
“I… a… wasn’t thinking of taking on a partner, man.”
“But you really could use a guy like me. Most of these kids around here are just wiseass punks. I know how to keep them in line, make sure they don’t give you no shit…protect your interests…see what I’m saying?”
“I tell you what Phil, give me your telephone number and I’ll call you in a day or so”
“Yeah?” Phil became suspicious. He took Richie’s fake leather order book and used a pencil lodged in the binding to jot down his family’s telephone number on a blank form.
“You won’t give me the shaft on this, right, Richie?”
“No, man, I’ll definitely be in touch.”
Richie held out his hand and they shook on it. He then headed off toward the subway. Phil lit a cigarette and took a deep drag. He glanced inside the social club to see that the men were still busy with their lunch. Phil felt smug in the thought that he’d weaseled such a clever deal with Richie. All he had to do was be a bully. That was something he was very good at.
Richie Conforti stood on the subway platform waiting for the uptown local. He, too, preened over the arrangement with his former classmate. Though dim-witted and dangerous, an enforcer like Phil Gambetta might be a handy man to have working with him.

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "To sip a little glass of wine. I'll gaze into your eyes devine. To feel the warmth of your lips, pressing on mine." From: That's My Desire by - Dion & the Belmonts.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl Excerpt: Chapter Six - Laughing Sal

(From the unpublished novel Copyright 2010 Donald Riggio)

(the image of Laughing Sal (TM) The Euclid Beach Boys: Used by permission)
Chapter Six:
“Laughing Sal”

The Euclid Beach Amusement Park became the center of their world. Almost every day, Joseph and Janet walked to the corner and rode the city bus to the end of the line, leaving them at the parking lot outside the main entrance.
Before venturing through the stone gateway arch, the aroma of freshly made popcorn balls and cotton candy wafted through the air to greet them. They strolled passed the Kiddie Park where young children rode the carousel or tamer rides under the watchful eye of their parents. Then they came to the thrill rides. They screamed with delight after riding the Flying Scooters or the twin wooden roller coasters named Gemini.
Some days they’d pack a lunch and eat on the sprawling picnic grounds, or munch down hot dogs and root beer served from wooden kegs. They’d mischievously toss jellybeans at the huge, grotesquely painted plaster statue of a hag-like woman dubbed “Laughing Sal,” positioned above the funhouse entrance. Loud music and shrill, recorded laughter blared from hidden speakers, annoying adults and frightening little children.
Twilight time found them walking out onto the fishing pier They leaned over the wooden railing to drop crumbs into the water, feeding large fish schooled against the pilings below. They’d stay long past sundown when the amusement park became a wonderland by night.
Janet loved listening to Joseph. He painted wonderful word pictures of New York City, his family, and his plans for the future. He confided in her his dreams about making a career in the music business.
“You mean you want to be a dreamy singer like Eddie Fisher?” she asked.
“Me? I couldn’t carry a tune in a suitcase.”
“But, you told me your dad was a concert pianist. Talent runs in the family, right?” He was quick to dismiss her compliment. “No, I could never hope to play music the way my father does. But there is something I think I can do. I hear all this stuff going on in my head. I’d like to put all that together, arrange it in some way, the instruments, the voices...”

...On an afternoon jaunt at the amusement park, they ducked into a large indoor arcade to get out of the late summer sun. Joseph won her a cuddly stuffed teddy bear playing Skee Ball. They giggled as they squeezed into a photo booth that took a strip of six photographs in less than a minute. They made funny faces for the first five poses but Joseph put his arm around Janet before the sixth flash of the camera.
“C’mon, Janet, make this a good one so I have a nice picture to remember you by.”
Janet stiffened as the camera clicked for the final time. The strip of snapshots were processed inside the cabinet and dropped into a metal slot on the side of the machine. Janet picked it up to look at them and Joseph pressed close behind to peek over her shoulder. They laughed at the first five shots but the sixth made them quiet. In that photo Joseph smiled but Janet wore a serious look on her face. They didn’t speak much on the ride home and it wasn’t until the bus deposited them at their stop that Joseph felt the need to explain.
“I don’t know what made me say that back at the arcade, about wanting a picture to remember you by? It was an awful thing to say.”
“That’s okay, Joseph, really. It’s just that until then I hadn’t given much thought to the fact that you’d be going home soon. It made me kinda’ sad, that’s all.”
“Janet, I love you, and I never want to be away from you, but I’ve been here almost two weeks. Eventually I have to go back to New York and you have school here.”
“Don’t back up Joseph. You just told me something wonderful, that you loved me. And I love you too. But if you back up now, apologize for it…”
“I’m not apologizing for anything Janet.”
Her eyes widening like a Cheshire cat. “I want ice cream.”
Joseph knew this was her way of saying that there had been enough serious talk. He took her by the arm and led her off in the direction of the nearest ice cream parlor.

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "We ate and ate at a hot dog stand...we danced around to a rockin' band. And when we quit, I gave that girl a the tunnel of love." From: Palisades Park - By: Freddy Cannon.