Saturday, October 22, 2011

Once Upon a Time in the Bronx

Al's Trivia: 'Kafer', in German, means 'Beetle.'
Plus, Hitler liked them.

    Vince Spagnoula reverently tapped the glow-in-the-dark figurine mounted just above the dashboard of his red Volkswagen beetle.
    “Ain’t this the cat’s ass?” he cackled.
Peace be with you.  And also with you.
Now, keep your eyes on the damn road.
    Even though Spags, Donny, and I thought Mr. Spagnoula’s little plastic Jesus was a nice touch, I doubted the Son of God would appreciate being referred to as a “cat’s ass.”
    Chuckling to himself, Mr. Spagnoula jammed the car’s transmission into reverse and zipped down his driveway.  Abruptly cutting off an old lady in a Rambler, he then continued down the street.
    He snapped on the AM radio.  “Little shit kickin’?”
    Not waiting for an answer, he began crooning along to a Hank Williams ballad about trains, trucks, or somebody’s dog.  Or all three, for all I knew.
    It didn’t matter to me what music he played, though, because he was taking us to a ballgame that afternoon.  He could sing Christmas carols in a dress for all I cared.
    When I got the call from Spags about going to see the Yankees and the Red Sox along with him, Donny, and his dad, I jumped at the chance.  It wasn’t often I had an opportunity to go to the stadium.

"I love you."
"Well, I don't love you!"
"Well, for starters, you're going to
have me stuffed, you A-Hole!"
    After an hour, Mr. Spagnoula turned the volume down on a  song about a cowboy’s love for his horse and announced, “Toll coming up, fellas.”
    Spags dug into an ash tray filled with coins.  “Let me do it, Dad.  Pull into the exact change lane.”
    “You got it, Tommy,” he said as he whipped the tiny beetle in front of a puke green station wagon the size of a cruise ship.      
    As the Volkswagen glided to a stop, Spags rolled down the passenger window with his left hand, a quarter gripped in his right.
    “This is good right here.”
    “Let ‘er fly, son.”
    Spags flipped his hand up and shot the quarter across the car’s roof.  We could hear it bounce across the metal as it danced toward the plastic basket.
    And missed.
    Mr. Spagnoula sighed.
    Spags held his hand up, “Don’t say it.  Give me another shot.”
    A buck and a half later, Mr. Spagnoula decided that was enough Toll Booth Basketball.  “Just dig up twenty five pennies.”
    Spags looked at him like he was crazy.  “What?  You can’t use pennies at the toll booth.  It says so on the sign.”
"I said NO PENNIES!!"
    Mr. Spagnoula pooh-poohed his protests.  “Money’s money, isn’t it?  Besides, the sign says ‘No pennies, please.’  It doesn’t say ‘No pennies or else’.”
    Sure enough, the toll basket did accept twenty-five pennies, even though it slowly cha-chunked its way through each one of them.  Too bad the line of aggravated motorists fuming behind us failed to see the wisdom of using small change to pay a toll, though.  As each little coin slowly registered with a click, the symphony of irritated car horns behind us built to a deafening roar.
    Unfazed, Mr. Spagnoula waved an unconcerned hand and repeated, “Money’s money.”
    “Hey, Mr. Spagnoula,” I asked.  “You want me get all those quarters?”
    “Naw,” he said, as we passed under the upraised booth arm.  “Consider it a donation to the New York Department of Potholes.”

To be continued......

Next:  Squeegee Boys, Off-Street Parking, and Yankee Stadium


  1. Some great writing here buddy. I love New York, only been once but it was awe inspiring. If you live there you're a lucky man.

  2. For some reason, I always misread "pennies." My eyes tell me that they are "penises."

    It's like the universe is reminding me that I'm a pervert everywhere I go.

    Great writing, by the way. The plastic Jesus part made me laugh.

  3. You weave a wonderful tale. I love your stories.

  4. You have pennies ?

    I thought you only had cents.

  5. I woulda held traffic for the quarters. AMC Rambler...we had a Rebel.

    Great story!

  6. The cat's ass? That's fascinating, because in England they say "the dog's bollocks".

  7. Some mighty fine writing there Mr. P - mighty fine!

    I'm a fan of the penny!
    Yes, I like its cousin the quarter - but there's something about finding a "lucky" penny and making a wish - so far I'm batting 0/0 on the fulfilment of those wishes, but hey, I keep never know.

    Once when I tossed one of my lucky pennies (after I spit on it three times) it hit someone walking behind me...not so lucky there, eh! (while they were distracted I ran...thank goodness I'm a good runner - how lucky is that!)

    I'm looking forward to Squeegee Boys...

    Cheers, Jenny


  8. @Yeamie: Thanks! Even though I love New York, I live closer to Philadelphia now. More cheesesteaks, fewer skyscrapers, about the same in "hooker count."
    @Lemons: Better YOU seeing "penises" than me. Because that would be icky.
    @Eva: Thanks, Eva. I've got to finish Part II today and get it "on the wire." I've been away for the weekend.
    @Dirty: Our pennies are normally found in couch cushions, ashtrays, or underneath car seats stuck to gum.
    @Bluezy: Mr. Spagnoula was a free-spending rich guy. Who worked for the Post Office (although he HAS to be retired now).
    @Damon: Thanks!
    @Gorilla: Ever since he said that, I've used that expression. Almost 40 years later, it still makes the guy laugh that I remembered it.
    @Jenny: And, if you throw one off the Empire State Building and it hits a guy on the head, he'll be wicked pissed off at you. BUt, he won't be able to catch you. Because that building has a lotta frikkin' stairs.

  9. Really well written, and I loved the little plastic Jesus!

  10. Great story and REALLY good writing!