There used to be an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn on the corner of 5th avenue and 20th street. When I was a little kid my father would take me there every now and then. I would be in heaven whenever the man they called ‘Gooch’ would come around to get me, hop in a taxi and make our way to Felix’s. The spaghetti and meatballs were my favorite.
I don’t remember a lot about the place that served some of the best Italian cuisine but I do recall a very attractive waitress who went by the name of Connie. She was very cordial and sported red hair (like yours truly). I think she took a liking to me for that exact reason. Redheads stick together because we understand the verbal abuse bestowed upon us by ball busters.
If you think of the HBO hit series ‘Sopranos’ and the restaurant Artie Bucco owned, you’d get the picture. Come to think of it, I would notice a lot of guys in there with suits and shiny shoes, whispering to each other. Yes Virginia, 5th avenue had a lot of Wise guys and wanna-be mobsters. They came from all over; 21st, Court street, shoot I’m sure they came as far as Bay Ridge.
One night at Felix’s you had the usual suspects. Me, Gooch and his friend Roger, who happened to be sitting across from me in the booth. Like always we were served bread and butter and I was sipping on a coke.
Things were pretty quiet when I overheard some guy at the next table ask someone out loud a baseball trivia question-without hesitating I blurted out the answer. Everything went silent; I mean real silent. Church quiet, library quiet. Gooch looked at me, I didn’t know if he was going to scream at me, slap me or was he going to applaud for me. Nevertheless, I was scared shit.
I glanced over at Roger (who by the way was always nice to me) who was spreading some butter on his bread. He smiled. ‘Atta boy kid’. Just like Robert DeNiro in Goodfella’s.
Connie was standing in front of our table with a pitcher of iced cold water and said, “Great job!”
Even the guy with the thick mustache and thick muscles who asked the question was impressed. “Wow, good answer kid!”
My father, the one person I was looking to for approval/ assurance/acceptance and even some attention, just looked at me and never changed his facial expression…he took a sip of his drink and looked straight ahead. How did this kid answer that question was his thinking, I’m sure.
I was born on June 7, 1964 to a wonderful mother Carol, God rest her soul and to a father who was just the opposite of what a father was supposed to be. At the age of five, he left us. He just got up and left. My mother did her very best to raise three kids. On occasion Gooch would come around, but it was nothing to get excited about. Oftentimes our meeting place was Timboo’s. One day he mentioned he was going to get me tickets for my birthday, so him and I can go see the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Mets. Every year I would look at the Mets schedule to see if they were playing at Shea on my birthday; hoping Gooch would get me tickets. This particular year had the Big Red Machine coming into town on the weekend of June 7th, 8th and 9th. Connie was a huge Cincinnati Reds fan.
In front of Connie, Gooch mentioned that he was getting me tickets to see the Reds and Mets for my birthday. I sipped some more coke and smiled. I was excited.
All week long I was excited. Telling anyone who would listen I was going to Shea to see the Mets and Reds. Friday night came, the night we were supposed to take the ‘F’ train to the ‘7’ train and watch Pete Rose, Dave Conception, Tony Perez, Johnny Bench and the rest of the Big Red Machine.
I was sitting in my bedroom staring out the window looking in every direction for Gooch.
No such luck.
Glancing at the clock up on the wall every 15 minutes until I finally gave up; it now read 7:15 which meant the first pitch was going to be thrown in 15 minutes (now way we could make it now) Instead I turned on channel 9 and watched the game on t.v. (Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner)
Chalk one up for another let down by the man they called Gooch-this time it was on my birthday.
Happy Fuckin’ Birthday!