ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washington DC. He holds an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University.
He is the author of No Time to Say Goodbye: Memoirs of a Life in Foster Care and Short Stories from a Small Town. He is also the author of numerous non-fiction on the history of organized crime including the ground break biography of bootlegger Roger Tuohy "When Capone's Mob Murdered Touhy" and "Guns and Glamour: A History of Organized Crime in Chicago."
His non-fiction crime short stories have appeared in The New Criminologist, American Mafia and other publications. John won the City of Chicago's Celtic Playfest for his work The Hannigan's of Beverly, and his short story fiction work, Karma Finds Franny Glass, appeared in AdmitTwo Magazine in October of 2008.
His play, Cyberdate.Com, was chosen for a public performance at the Actors Chapel in Manhattan in February of 2007 as part of the groups Reading Series for New York project. In June of 2008, the play won the Virginia Theater of The First Amendment Award for best new play.
Mish Mash: noun \ˈmish-ˌmash, -ˌmäsh\ A : hodgepodge, jumble “The painting was just a mishmash of colors and abstract shapes as far as we could tell”. Origin Middle English & Yiddish; Middle English mysse masche, perhaps reduplication of mash mash; Yiddish mish-mash, perhaps reduplication of mishn to mix. First Known Use: 15th century
by John Updike
In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits. I'm in the third check-out slot, with my back to the door, so I don't see them until they're over by the bread. The one that caught my eye first was the one in the plaid green two-piece. She was a chunky kid, with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun never seems to hit, at the top of the backs of her legs. I stood there with my hand on a box of HiHo crackers trying to remember if I rang it up or not. I ring it up again and the customer starts giving me hell. She's one of these cash-register-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows, and I knowit made her day to trip me up. She'd been watching cash registers forty years and probably never seen a mistake before.
By the time I got her feathers smoothed and her goodies into a bag -- she gives me alittle snort in passing, if she'd been born at the right time they would have burned her over in Salem -- by the time I get her on her way the girls had circled around the bread and were coming back, without a pushcart, back my way along the counters, in the aisle between the check-outs and the Special bins. They didn't even have shoes on. There was this chunky one, with the two-piece -- it was bright green and the seams on the bra were still sharp and her belly was still pretty pale so I guessed she just got it (the suit) -- there was this one, with one of those chubby berry-faces, the lips all bunched together under her nose, this one, and a tall one, with black hair that hadn't quite frizzed right, and one of these sunburns right across under the eyes, and a chin that was too long -- you know, the kind of girl other girls think is very "striking" and "attractive" but never quite makes it, as they very well know, which is why they like her so much -- and then the third one, that wasn't quite so tall. She was the queen. She kind of led them, the other two peeking around and making their shoulders round. She didn't look around, not this queen, she just walked straight on slowly, on these long white prima donna legs. She came down a little hard on her heels, as if she didn't walk in her bare feet that much, putting down her heels and then letting the weight move along to her toes as if she was testing the floor with every step, putting a little deliberate extra action into it. You never know for sure how girls' minds work (do you really think it's a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glassjar?) but you got the idea she had talked the other two into coming in here with her, and now she was showing them how to do it, walk slow and hold yourself straight.
She had on a kind of dirty-pink - - beige maybe, I don't know -- bathing suit with a little nubble all over it and, what got me, the straps were down. They were off her shoulders looped loose around the cool tops of her arms, and I guess as a result the suit had slipped a little on her, so all around the top of the cloth there was this shining rim. If it hadn't been there you wouldn't have known there could have been anything whiter than those shoulders. With the straps pushed off, there was nothing between the top of the suit and the top of her head except just her, this clean bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones like a dented sheet of metal tilted in the light. I mean, it was more than pretty.
She had sort of oaky hair that the sun and salt had bleached, done up in a bun that was unravelling, and a kind of prim face. Walking into the A & P with your straps down, I suppose it's the only kind of face you can have. She held her head so high her neck, coming up out o fthose white shoulders, looked kind of stretched, but I didn't mind. The longer her neck was, the more of her there was.
She must have felt in the corner of her eye me and over my shoulder Stokesie in the second slot watching, but she didn't tip. Not this queen. She kept her eyes moving across the racks, and stopped, and turned so slow it made my stomach rub the inside of my apron, and buzzed to the other two, who kind of huddled against her for relief, and they all three of them went up the cat-and-dog-food-breakfast-cereal-macaroni-ri ce-raisins-seasonings-spreads-spaghetti-soft drinks- rackers-and- cookies aisle. From the third slot I look straight up this aisle to the meat counter, and I watched them all the way. The fat one with the tan sort of fumbled with the cookies, but on second thought she put the packages back. The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle -- the girls were walking against the usual traffic (not that we have one-way signs or anything) -- were pretty hilarious. You could see them, when Queenie's white shoulders dawned on them, kind of jerk, or hop, or hiccup, but their eyes snapped back to their own baskets and on they pushed. I bet you could set off dynamite in an A & P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists and muttering "Let me see, there was a third thing, began with A, asparagus, no, ah, yes, applesauce!" or whatever it is they do mutter. But there was no doubt, this jiggled them. A few house-slaves in pin curlers even looked around after pushing their carts past to make sure what they had seen was correct.
You know, it's one thing to have a girl in a bathing suit down on the beach, where what with the glare nobody can look at each other much anyway, and another thing in the cool of the A & P, under the fluorescent lights, against all those stacked packages, with her feet paddling along naked over our checkerboard green-and-cream rubber-tile floor.
"Oh Daddy," Stokesie said beside me. "I feel so faint."
"Darling," I said. "Hold me tight." Stokesie's married, with two babies chalked up on his fuselage already, but as far as I can tell that's the only difference. He's twenty-two, and I was nineteen this April.
"Is it done?" he asks, the responsible married man finding his voice. I forgot to say he thinks he's going to be manager some sunny day, maybe in 1990 when it's called the Great Alexandrov and Petrooshki Tea Company or something.
What he meant was, our town is five miles from a beach, with a big summer colony out on the Point, but we're right in the middle of town, and the women generally put on a shirt or shorts or something before they get out of the car into the street. And anyway these are usually women with six children and varicose veins mapping their legs and nobody, including them, could care less. As I say, we're right in the middle of town, and if you stand at our front doors you can see two banks and the Congregational church and the newspaper store and three real-estate offices and about twenty-seven old free-loaders tearing up Central Street because the sewer broke again. It's not as if we're on the Cape; we're north of Boston and there's people in this town haven't seen the ocean for twenty years.
The girls had reached the meat counter and were asking McMahon something. He pointed, they pointed, and they shuffled out of sight behind a pyramid of Diet Delight peaches. All that was left for us to see was old McMahon patting his mouth and looking after them sizing up their joints. Poor kids, I began to feel sorry for them, they couldn't help it.
Now here comes the sad part of the story, at:least my family says it's sad but I don't think it's sad myself. The store's pretty empty, it being Thursday afternoon, so there was nothing much to do except lean on the register and wait for the girls to show up again. The whole store was like a pinball machine and I didn't know which tunnel they'd come out of. After a while they come around out of the far aisle, around the light bulbs, records at discount of the Caribbean Six or Tony Martin Sings or some such gunk you wonder they waste the wax on, sixpacks of candy bars, and plastic toys done up in cellophane that faIl apart when a kid looks at them anyway. Around they come, Queenie still leading the way, and holding a little gray jar in her hand. Slots Three through Seven are unmanned and I could see her wondering between Stokes and me, but Stokesie with his usual luck draws an old party in baggy gray pants who stumbles up with four giant cans of pineapple juice (what do these bums do with all that pineapple juice' I've often asked myself) so the girls come to me. Queenie puts down the jar and I take it into my fingers icy cold. Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks in Pure Sour Cream: 49¢. Now her hands are empty, not a ring or a bracelet, bare as God made them, and I wonder where the money's coming from. Still with that prim look she lifts a folded dollar bill out of the hollow at the center of her nubbled pink top. The jar went heavy in my hand. Really, I thought that was so cute.
Then everybody's luck begins to run out. Lengel comes in from haggling with a truck full of cabbages on the lot and is about to scuttle into that door marked MANAGER behind which he hides all day when the girls touch his eye. Lengel's pretty dreary, teaches Sunday school and the rest, but he doesn't miss that much. He comes over and says, "Girls, this isn't the beach."
Queenie blushes, though maybe it's just a brush of sunburn I was noticing for the first time, now that she was so close. "My mother asked me to pick up a jar of herring snacks." Her voice kind of startled me, the way voices do when you see the people first, coming out so flat and dumb yet kind of tony, too, the way it ticked over "pick up" and "snacks." All of a sudden I slid right down her voice into her living room. Her father and the other men were standing around in ice-cream coats and bow ties and the women were in sandals picking up herring snacks on toothpicks off a big plate and they were all holding drinks the color of water with olives and sprigs of mint in them. When my parents have somebody over they get lemonade and if it's a real racy affair Schlitz in tall glasses with "They'll Do It Every Time" cartoons stencilled on.
"That's all right," Lengel said. "But this isn't the beach." His repeating this struck me as funny, as if it hadjust occurred to him, and he had been thinking all these years the A & P was a great big dune and he was the head lifeguard. He didn't like my smiling -- -as I say he doesn't miss much -- but he concentrates on giving the girls that sad Sunday- school-superintendent stare.
Queenie's blush is no sunburn now, and the plump one in plaid, that I liked better from the back -- a really sweet can -- pipes up, "We weren't doing any shopping. We just came in for the one thing."
"That makes no difference," Lengel tells her, and I could see from the way his eyes went that he hadn't noticed she was wearing a two-piece before. "We want you decently dressed when you come in here."
"We are decent," Queenie says suddenly, her lower lip pushing, getting sore now that she remembers her place, a place from which the crowd that runs the A & P must look pretty crummy. Fancy Herring Snacks flashed in her very blue eyes.
"Girls, I don't want to argue with you. After this come in here with your shoulders covered. It's our policy." He turns his back. That's policy for you. Policy is what the kingpins want. What the others want is juvenile delinquency.
All this while, the customers had been showing up with their carts but, you know, sheep, seeing a scene, they had all bunched up on Stokesie, who shook open a paper bag as gently as peeling a peach, not wanting to miss a word. I could feel in the silence everybody getting nervous, most of all Lengel, who asks me, "Sammy, have you rung up this purchase?"
I thought and said "No" but it wasn't about that I was thinking. I go through the punches, 4, 9, GROC, TOT -- it's more complicated than you think, and after you do it often enough, it begins to make a lttle song, that you hear words to, in my case "Hello (bing) there, you (gung) hap-py pee-pul (splat)"-the splat being the drawer flying out. I uncrease the bill, tenderly as you may imagine, it just having come from between the two smoothest scoops of vanilla I had ever known were there, and pass a half and a penny into her narrow pink palm, and nestle the herrings in a bag and twist its neck and hand it over, all the time thinking.
The girls, and who'd blame them, are in a hurry to get out, so I say "I quit" to Lengel quick enough for them to hear, hoping they'll stop and watch me, their unsuspected hero. They keep right on going, into the electric eye; the door flies open and they flicker across the lot to their car, Queenie and Plaid and Big Tall Goony-Goony (not that as raw material she was so bad), leaving me with Lengel and a kink in his eyebrow.
"Did you say something, Sammy?"
"I said I quit."
"I thought you did."
"You didn't have to embarrass them."
"It was they who were embarrassing us."
I started to say something that came out "Fiddle-de-doo." It's a saying of my grand- mother's, and I know she would have been pleased.
"I don't think you know what you're saying," Lengel said.
"I know you don't," I said. "But I do." I pull the bow at the back of my apron and start shrugging it off my shoulders. A couple customers that had been heading for my slot begin to knock against each other, like scared pigs in a chute.
Lengel sighs and begins to look very patient and old and gray. He's been a friend of my parents for years. "Sammy, you don't want to do this to your Mom and Dad," he tells me. It's true, I don't. But it seems to me that once you begin a gesture it's fatal not to go through with it. I fold the apron, "Sammy" stitched in red on the pocket, and put it on the counter, and drop the bow tie on top of it. The bow tie is theirs, if you've ever wondered. "You'll feel this for the rest of your life," Lengel says, and I know that's true, too, but remembering how he made that pretty girl blush makes me so scrunchy inside I punch the No Sale tab and the machine whirs "pee-pul" and the drawer splats out. One advantage to this scene taking place in summer, I can follow this up with a clean exit, there's no fumbling around getting your coat and galoshes, I just saunter into the electric eye in my white shirt that my mother ironed the night before, and the door heaves itself open, and outside the sunshine is skating around on the asphalt.
I look around for my girls, but they're gone, of course. There wasn't anybody but some young married screaming with her children about some candy they didn't get by the door of a powder-blue Falcon station wagon. Looking back in the big windows, over the bags of peat moss and aluminum lawn furniture stacked on the pavement, I could see Lengel in my place in the slot, checking the sheep through. His face was dark gray and his back stiff, as if he'd just had an injection of iron, and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter.
I spent the weekend with my younger brother Dan and my older Sister, Florence up in Baltimore where Danny lives. Florence lives in New York but has come down to Maryland to look after Danny who has stage 4 cancer in his chest.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” - MA Radmacher”
This is the view from Danny's house
An award winning full length play.
For Sale on Amazon.Com and all Barnes and Noble Stores
"Cyberdate.Com is the story of six ordinary people in search of romance, friendship and love and find it in very extraordinary ways. Based on the real life experiences of the authors misadventures with on line dating, Cyber date is a bittersweet story that will make you laugh, cry and want to fall in love again." Ellis McKay
Cyberdate.Com, was chosen for a public at the Actors Chapel in Manhattan in February of 2007 as part of the groups Reading Series for New York project. In June of 2008, the play won the Virginia Theater of The First Amendment Award for best new play. The play was also given a full reading at The Frederick Playhouse in Maryland in March of 2007.
Wilde’s Women: How Oscar Wilde Was Shaped by the Women he Knew
By Eleanor Fitzsimmons - book review
“There is one thing worth living for, and that is sin.” Not an aphorism attributed to Oscar Wilde as one might think, but rather to his bohemian and outspoken mother, Jane. How much Wilde was his mother’s son is clear from this engaging and sympathetic biography, which also illuminates extremely well the circles of artistic and literary women of the time.
The women in Wilde’s plays were no pushovers; they were intelligent, strong and individual. And they didn’t come out of a vacuum. Fitzsimmons gives us Jane Wilde first, the dominant force in Wilde’s early life, who characterised herself as “Speranza”, Ireland’s foremost female poet (as she saw herself). Her physician husband was pretty colourful too, having fathered illegitimate children before he met Jane (two daughters would die in a horrific fire) and was subject to an accusation of rape. When he died, Jane was left with little but her own wiles, and so she moved from Dublin to London, where she held literary soirees in Chelsea.
Wilde cannot help but be framed by Jane, and his wife, Constance, who echoed her mother-in-law’s values. But not long after the birth of their second child, Wilde was “constructing a façade”. Fitzsimmons quotes Yeats who spent Christmas Day with the young family and who found that “the perfect harmony … suggested some deliberate artistic composition”. Because of Wilde’s later exposure, and perhaps because of his plays about London society, biographers often downplay this suggestion of artifice often associated with him. The “reality” of Wilde then becomes Reading Gaol and an early death in Paris. But Fitzsimmons is showing us another kind of reality here. She shows us a real person when we see him through the eyes of the many women who knew him, as well as his mother and wife.
Ada Leverson, for example, knew Constance but liked to entertain Wilde and Bosie at her home, too. Women seemed less judgemental of his personal life and perhaps he felt he could be himself in their company. And when he did affect a change in manner, it was often out of consideration for other women: Fitzsimmons notes that Wilde would tone down his personality at his mother’s soirees, so as not to outshine her, though he was by far the bigger “celebrity”.
The Wilde that emerges here then is a more considerate, more thoughtful, perhaps less decadent one than we are used to. He loses none of his daring and none of his subversive qualities, but he acquires a new sympathy as a son, husband, father, friend. He may have achieved notoriety for “living for sin”, but the women in his life knew another man, too.
HERE'S MY LATEST BOOKS.....
This is a book of short stories taken from the things I saw and heard in my childhood in the factory town of Ansonia in southwestern Connecticut.
Most of these stories, or as true as I recall them because I witnessed these events many years ago through the eyes of child and are retold to you now with the pen and hindsight of an older man. The only exception is the story Beat Time which is based on the disappearance of Beat poet Lew Welch. Decades before I knew who Welch was, I was told that he had made his from California to New Haven, Connecticut, where was an alcoholic living in a mission. The notion fascinated me and I filed it away but never forgot it.
The collected stories are loosely modeled around Joyce’s novel, Dubliners (I also borrowed from the novels character and place names. Ivy Day, my character in “Local Orphan is Hero” is also the name of chapter in Dubliners, etc.) and like Joyce I wanted to write about my people, the people I knew as a child, the working class in small town America and I wanted to give a complete view of them as well. As a result the stories are about the divorced, Gays, black people, the working poor, the middle class, the lost and the found, the contented and the discontented.
Conversely many of the stories in this book are about starting life over again as a result of suicide (The Hanging Party, Small Town Tragedy, Beat Time) or from a near death experience (Anna Bell Lee and the Charge of the Light Brigade, A Brief Summer) and natural occurring death. (The Best Laid Plans, The Winter Years, Balanced and Serene)
With the exception of Jesus Loves Shaqunda, in each story there is a rebirth from the death. (Shaqunda is reported as having died of pneumonia in The Winter Years)
Sal, the desperate and depressed divorcee in Things Change, changes his life in Lunch Hour when asks the waitress for a date and she accepts. (Which we learn in Closing Time, the last story in the book) In The Arranged Time, Thisby is given the option of change and whether she takes it or, we don’t know. The death of Greta’s husband in A Matter of Time has led her to the diner and into the waiting arms of the outgoing and loveable Gabe.
Although the book is based on three sets of time (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and the diner is opened in the early morning and closed at night, time stands still inside the Diner. The hour on the big clock on the wall never changes time and much like my memories of that place, everything remains the same.
The Valley Lives
By Marion Marchetto, author of The Bridgewater Chronicles on October 15, 2015
Short Stores from a Small Town is set in The Valley (known to outsiders as The Lower Naugatuck Valley) in Connecticut. While the short stories are contemporary they provide insight into the timeless qualities of an Industrial Era community and the values and morals of the people who live there. Some are first or second generation Americans, some are transplants, yet each takes on the mantle of Valleyite and wears it proudly. It isn't easy for an author to take the reader on a journey down memory lane and involve the reader in the life stories of a group of seemingly unrelated characters. I say seemingly because by book's end the reader will realize that he/she has done more than meet a group of loosely related characters.
We meet all of the characters during a one-day time period as each of them finds their way to the Valley Diner on a rainy autumn day. From our first meeting with Angel, the educationally challenged man who opens and closes the diner, to our farewell for the day to the young waitress whose smile hides her despair we meet a cross section of the Valley population. Rich, poor, ambitious, and not so ambitious, each life proves that there is more to it beneath the surface. And the one thing that binds these lives together is The Valley itself. Not so much a place (or a memory) but an almost palpable living thing that becomes a part of its inhabitants.
Let me be the first the congratulate author John William Tuohy on a job well done. He has evoked the heart of The Valley and in doing so brought to life the fabric that Valleyites wear as a mantle of pride. While set in a specific region of the country, the stories that unfold within the pages of this slim volume are similar to those that live in many a small town from coast to coast.
In 1962, six year old John Tuohy, his two brothers and two sisters entered Connecticut’s foster care system and were promptly split apart. Over the next ten years, John would live in more than ten foster homes, group homes and state schools, from his native Waterbury to Ansonia, New Haven, West Haven, Deep River and Hartford. In the end, a decade later, the state returned him to the same home and the same parents they had taken him from. As tragic as is funny compelling story will make you cry and laugh as you journey with this child to overcome the obstacles of the foster care system and find his dreams.
QUOTES FROM THE BOOK
“I am here because I worked too hard and too long not to be here. But although I told the university that I would walk across the stage to take my diploma, I won’t. At age fifty-seven, I’m too damned old, and I’d look ridiculous in this crowd. From where I’m standing in the back of the hall, I can see that I am at least two decades older than most of the parents of these kids in their black caps and gowns.
So I’ll graduate with this class, but I won’t walk across the stage and collect my diploma with them; I’ll have the school send it to my house. I only want to hear my name called. I’ll imagine what the rest would have been like. When you’ve had a life like mine, you learn to do that, to imagine the good things.
The ceremony is about to begin. It’s a warm June day and a hallway of glass doors leading to the parking lot are open, the dignitaries march onto the stage, a janitor slams the doors shut, one after the other.
That banging sound.
It’s Christmas Day 1961 and three Waterbury cops are throwing their bulk against our sorely overmatched front door. They are wearing their long woolen blue coats and white gloves and they swear at the cold.
They’ve finally come for us, in the dead of night, to take us away, just as our mother said they would.”
“Otherwise, there were no long goodbyes or emotional scenes. That isn’t part of foster care. You just leave and you just die a little bit. Just a little bit because a little bit more of you understands that this is the way it’s going to be. And you grow hard around the edges, just a little bit. Not in some big way, but just a little bit because you have to, because if you don’t it only hurts worse the next time and a little bit more of you will die. And you don’t want that because you know that if enough little bits of you die enough times, a part of you leaves. Do you know what I mean? You’re still there, but a part of you leaves until you stand on the sidelines of life, simply watching, like a ghost that everyone can see and no one is bothered by. You become the saddest thing there is: a child of God who has given .”
“As I said, you die a little bit in foster care, but I spose we all die a little bit in our daily lives, no matter what path God has chosen for us. But there is always a balance to that sadness; there’s always a balance. You only have to look for it. And if you look for it, you’ll see it. I saw it in a well-meaning nun who wanted to share the joy of her life’s work with us. I saw it in an old man in a garden who shared the beauty of the soil and the joy he took in art, and I saw it in the simple decency and kindness of an underpaid nurse’s aide. Yeah. Great things rain on us. The magnificence of life’s affirmations are all around us, every day, everywhere. They usually go unnoticed because they seldom arrive with the drama and heartbreak of those hundreds of negative things that drain our souls. But yeah, it’s there, the good stuff, the stuff worth living for. You only have to look for it and when you see it, carry it around right there at the of your heart so it’s always there when you need it. And you’ll need it a lot, because life is hard.”
“As sad as I so often was, and I was often overwhelmed with sadness, I never admitted it, and I don’t recall ever having said aloud that I was sad. I tried not to think about it, about all the sad things, because I had this feeling that if I started to think about it, that was all I would ever think of again. I often had a nightmare of falling into a deep dark well that I could never climb out of. But then there was the other part of me that honestly believed I wasn’t sad at all, and I had little compassion for those who dwelled in sadness. Strange how that works. You would think that it would be the other way around.”
“In late October of 1962, it was our turn to go. Miss Hanrahan appeared in her state Ford Rambler, which, by that point, seemed more like a hearse than a nice lady’s car. Our belongings were packed in a brown bags. The ladies in the kitchen, familiar with our love of food, made us twelve fried-fish sandwiches each large enough to feed eight grown men and wrapped them in tinfoil for the ride ahead of us. Miss Louisa, drenched with tears, walked us to the car and before she let go of my hand she said, “When you a big, grown man, you come back and see Miss Louisa, you hear?”
“But,” I said, “you won’t know who I am. I’ll be big.”
“No, child,” she said as she gave me her last hug, “you always know forever the peoples you love. They with you forever. They don’t never leave you.”
She was right, of course. Those we love never leave us because we carry them with us in our hearts and a piece of us is within them. They change with us and they grow old with us and with time, they are a part of us, and thank God for that.”
“One day at the library I found a stack of record albums. I was hoping I’d find ta Beatles album, but it was all classical music so I reached for the first name I knew, Beethoven. I checked it out his Sixth Symphony and walked home. I didn’t own a record player and I don’t know why I took it out. I had Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony but nothing to play it on.”
“The next day, when I came home from the library, there was a small, used red record player in my room. I found my mother in the kitchen and spotted a bandage taped to her arm.
“Ma,” I asked. “Where did you get the money for the record player?”
“I had it saved,” she lied.
My father lived well, had a large house and an expensive imported car, wanted for little, and gave nothing. My mother lived on welfare in a slum and sold her blood to the Red Cross to get me a record player.
“Education is everything, Johnny,” she said, as she headed for the refrigerator to get me food. “You get smart like regular people and you don’t have to live like this no more.”
She and I were not hugging types, but I put my hand on her shoulder as she washed the dishes with her back to me and she said, in best Brooklynese, “So go and enjoy, already.” My father always said I was my mother’s son and I was proud of that. On her good days, she was a good and noble thing to be a part of.
That evening, I plugged in the red record player and placed it by the window. My mother and I took the kitchen chairs out to the porch and listened to Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony from beginning to end, as we watched the oil-stained waters of the Mad River roll by. It was a good night, another good night, one of many that have blessed my life.”
“The next day I was driven to New York City to take the physical. It was one of the strangest things I’d ever seen. Several hundred young men, maybe even a thousand, in their skivvies, walking around an enormous room, all of us lost, dazed, and confused.
Some of these guys had dodged the draft and were there under the watchful eyes of dozens of federal marshals lined against one of the walls. After eight hours of being poked, prodded, stuck, and poked again, I was given a large red envelope. I had been rejected. I had the respiratory problems of an old man, high blood pressure, partial loss of hearing, very bad teeth, very flat, very wide feet and I tested positive for tuberculosis.
“Frankly,” the doctor said, “I don’t know how the hell you’re even standing ,” and that was when the sergeant told me that if they bottled everything that was wrong with me “we could take over the world without a shot.”
“I had decided that I wanted to earn my living as a writer and the only place in Waterbury where they paid you for writing was at the local newspaper. My opportunity came when the paper had an opening for a night janitor. Opportunities are easy to miss, because they don’t always show in their best clothes. Sometimes opportunities look like beggars in rags. After an eight-hour shift in the shop tossing thirty-pound crates I hustled to the newspaper building and cleaned toilets, with a vague plan that it would somehow lead to a reporter’s .”
“One Friday afternoon at the close of the working day the idiot bosses in their fucking ties and suit coats came and handed out pink slips to every other person on the floor. I got one. They were firing us. Then they turned and, without a word, went back to their offices. Corporate pricks.”
“There is a sense of danger in leaving what you know, even if what you know isn’t much. These mill towns with their narrow lanes and often narrow minds were all I really knew and I feared that if I left it behind, I would lose it and not find anything to replace it. The other reason I didn’t want to go was because I wanted to be the kind of person who stays, who builds a stable and predictable life. But I wasn’t one of the people, nor would I ever be.
I had a vision for my life. It wasn’t clear, but it was beautiful and involved leaving my history and my poverty behind me. I wasn’t happy about who I was or where I was, but I didn’t worry about it. It didn’t define me. We’re always in the making. God always has us on his anvil, melting, bending and shaping us for another purpose.
It was time to change, to find a new purpose.”
“I was tired of fighting the windstorm I was tossed into, and instead I would let go and ride with the winds of change. How bad could it be, compared to the life I knew? I was living life as if it were a rehearsal for the real thing. Another beginning might be rough at first, but any place worth getting to is going to have some problems. I wanted the good life, the life well lived, and you can’t buy that or marry into it. It’s there to be found, and it can be taken by those who want it and have the resolve to make it happen for themselves.”
“Imagine being beaten every day for something you didn’t do and yet, when it’s over, you keep on smiling. That’s what every day of Donald’s life was like. His death was a small death. No one mourned his passing; they merely agreed it was for the best that he be forgotten as quickly as possible, since his was a life misspent.”
“Then there are all of those children, the ones who aren’t resilient. The ones who slowly, quietly die. I think the difference is that the kids who bounce back learn to bear a little bit more than they thought they could, and they soon understand that the secret to surviving foster care is to accept finite disappointments while never losing infinite hope. I think that was how Donald survived as long as he did, by never losing his faith in the wish that tomorrow would be better. But as time went by, day after day, the tomorrows never got better; they got worse, and he simply gave . In the way he saw the world, pain was inevitable, but no one ever explained to him that suffering was optional.”
“In foster care it’s easier to measure what you’ve lost over what you have gained, because it there aren’t many gains in that life and you are a prisoner to someone else’s plans for your life.”
“I developed an interest in major league baseball and the 1960s were, as far as I’m concerned (with a nod to the Babe Ruth era of the 1920s), the Golden Age of Baseball. Like most people in the valley, I was a diehard Yankees fan and, in a pinch, a Mets fan. They were New York teams, and most New Englanders rooted for the Boston Red Sox, but our end of Connecticut was geographically and culturally closer to New York than Boston, and that’s where our loyalties went.
And what was not to love? The Yankees ruled the earth in those days. The great Roger Maris set one Major League record after another and even he was almost always one hit shy of Mickey Mantle, God on High of the Green Diamond.”
“For the first time in my life, I was eating well and from plates—glass plates, no less, not out of the frying pan because somebody lost all the plates in the last move. Now when we ate, we sat at a fine round oak table in sturdy chairs that matched. No one rushed through the meal or argued over who got the biggest portion, and we ate three times a day.”
“The single greatest influence in our lives was the church. The Catholic Church in the 1960s differs from what it is today, especially in the Naugatuck Valley, in those days an overwhelmingly conservative Catholic place.
I was part of what might have been the last generation of American Catholic children who completely and unquestioningly accepted the sernatural as real. Miracles happened. Virgin birth and transubstantiation made perfect sense. Mere humans did in fact, become saints. There was a Holy Ghost. Guardian angels walked beside us and our patron saints really did put in a good word for us every now and then.”
“Henry read it and said, “A story has to have three things. They are a beginning, a middle and an end. They don’t have to be in that order. You can start a story at the end or end it in the middle. There are no rules on that except where you, the author, decide to put all three parts. Your story has a beginning and an end. But it’s good. Go put in a middle and bring it back to me.”
I went away encouraged, rewrote the story and returned it to him two days later. Again he looked it over and said, “It’s a good story but it lacks a bullet-between-the-eyes opening. Your stories should always have a knock-’em-dead opening.” Then, looking with exaggerated suspicion around the crime-prone denizens of the room with an exaggerated suspicion, he said loudly, “I don’t mean that literally.”
“A few days after I began my short story, I returned to his desk and handed him my dates. He pushed his wire-rimmed reading glasses way on his nose and focused on the two pages. “Okay, you got a beginning; you got yourself a middle and an end. You got a wing-dinger opening line. But you don’t have an establishing paragraph. Do you know what that is?”
He didn’t wait for me to answer.
“It’s kinda like an outdated road map for the reader,” he said. “It gives the reader a general idea of where you’re taking him, but doesn’t tell him exactly how you intend to get there, which is all he needs to know.”
“I don’t know’,” he said. “Those three words from a willing soul are the start of a grand and magnificent voyage.” And with that he began a discourse that lasted for several weeks, covering scene-setting, establishing conflict, plot twists, and first- and third-person narration. [ I learned in these rapid-fire mini-dissertations that like most literature lovers I would come to know, Henry was a book snob. He assumed that if a current author was popular and widely enjoyed, then he or she had no merit. He made a few exceptions, such as Kurt Vonnegut, although that was mostly because Vonnegut lived on Cape Cod and so he probably had some merits as a human being, if not as a writer.
I think that the way Henry saw it was that he was not being a snob. In fact I would venture that in his view of things, snobbery had nothing to do with it. Rather, it was a matter of standards. It was bout quality in the author’s craftsmanship.”
“The foundries were vast, dark castles built for efficiency, not comfort. Even in the mild New England summers, when the warm air combined with the stagnant heat from the machines or open flames in the huge melting rooms where the iron was cast, the effects were overwhelming. The heat came in unrelenting waves and sucked the soul from your body. In the winter, the enormous factories were impossible to heat and frigid New England air reigned sreme in the long halls.
The work was difficult, noisy, mind-numbing, sometimes dangerous and highly regulated. Bathroom and lunch breaks were scheduled to the second. There was no place to make a private phone call. Company guards, dressed in drab uniforms straight out of a James Cagney prison film [those films were in black and white, notoriously tough, weren’t there to guard company property. They were there to keep an eye on us.
No one entered or the left the building without punching in or out on a clock, because the doors were locked and opened electronically from the main office.”
“So he sings,” he continued as if Denny had said nothing. “His solo mio, that with her in his life he is rich because she is so beautiful that she makes the sun more beautiful, you understand?” And at that he dropped the hoe, closed his eyes and spread out his arms wide and with the fading sun shining on his handsome face he sang:
Che bella cosa è na jurnata 'e sole
n'aria serena doppo na tempesta!
Pe' ll'aria fresca pare già na festa
Che bella cosa e' na jurnata 'e sole
Ma n'atu sole,
cchiù bello, oi ne'
'O sole mio
sta 'nfronte a te!
'O sole, 'o sole mio
sta 'nfronte a te!
sta 'nfronte a te!
It looked like fun. We dropped our tools and joined him, belting out something that sounded remarkably like Napolitano. We sang as loud as we could, holding on to each note as long as we could before we ran out of breath, and then we sang again, occasionally dropping to one knee, holding our hands over our hearts with exaggerated looks of deep pain. Although we made the words , we sang with the deepest passion, with the best that we had, with all of our hearts, and that made us artists, great artists, for in that song, we had made all that art is: the creation of something from nothing, fashioned with all of the soul, born from joy.
And as that beautiful summer sun set over Waterbury, the Brass City, the City of Churches, our voices floated above the wonderful aromas of the garden, across the red sky and joined the spirits in eternity.”
“It didn’t last long. Not many good things in a foster kid’s life last long. One day, Maura was gone. Her few things were packed in paper bags and a tearful Miss Louisa carried her out to Miss Hanrahan’s black state-owned Ford sedan with the state emblem on the door, and she was gone. The state had found a foster home that would take a little girl but couldn’t take the rest of us. There were no long goodbyes. She was just gone. I remember having an enormous sense of helplessness when they took her. Maura didn’t know where she were going or long she would be there. She was just gone”
“After another second had passed I added, “But you’re pretty, pretty,” and as soon as I said it I thought, “Pretty, pretty? John, you’re an idiot.” But she squeezed my hand and when I looked at her I saw her entire lovely face was aglow with a wonderful smile, the kind of smile you get when you have won something.
“Why do you rub your fingers together all the time?” she asked me, and I felt the breath leave my body and gasped for air. She had seen me do my crazy finger thing, my affliction. I clenched my teeth while I searched for a long, exaggerated lie to tell her about why I did what I did. I didn’t want to be the crazy kid with tics, I wanted to be James Bond 007, so slick ice avoided me.
“It’s okay,” she said. “I bite my nails, see?” and she showed me the backs of her hands. Her finger nails were painted a color I later learned was puce.
“My Dad, he blinks all the time, he doesn’t know why either,” she continued. She looked her feet and said, “I shouldn’t have asked you that. I’m really nervous and I say stid things when I’m nervous. I’m a girl and this is my first date, and for girls this really is a very big deal.”
I understood completely. I was so nervous I couldn’t feel my toes, so I started moving them and to make sure they were still there.
“It’s all right,” I said. “I don’t know why I do that with my fingers; it’s a thing I do.”
“Well, you’re really cute when you do it,” she said.
“I know,” I said, and I don’t know why I said it, but I did.”
“So began my love affair with books. Years later, as a college student, I remember having a choice between a few slices of pizza that would have held me over for a day or a copy of On the Road. I bought the book. I would have forgotten what the pizza tasted like, but I still remember Kerouac.
The world was mine for the reading. I traveled with my books. I was there on a tramp steamer in the North Atlantic with the Hardy Boys, piecing together an unsolvable crime. I rode into the Valley of Death with the six hundred and I stood at the graves of Uncas and Cora and listened to the mournful song of the Lenni Linape. Although I braved a frozen death at Valley Forge and felt the spin of a hundred bullets at Shiloh, I was never afraid. I was there as much as you are where you are, right this second. I smelled the gunsmoke and tasted the frost. And it was good to be there. No one could harm me there. No one could punch me, slap me, call me stid, or pretend I wasn’t in the room. The other kids raced through books so they could get the completion stamp on their library card. I didn’t care about that stid completion stamp. I didn’t want to race through books. I wanted books to walk slowly through me, stop, and touch my brain and my memory. If a book couldn’t do that, it probably wasn’t a very good book. Besides, it isn’t how much you read, it’s what you read.
What I learned from books, from young Ben Franklin’s anger at his brother to Anne Frank’s longing for the way her life used to be, was that I wasn’t alone in my pain. All that caused me such anguish affected others, too, and that connected me to them and that connected me to my books. I loved everything about books. I loved that odd sensation of turning the final page, realizing the story had ended, and feeling that I was saying a last goodbye to a new friend.”
“I had developed a very complicated and little-understood disorder called misophonia, which means “hatred of sound.” Certain sounds act as triggers that turn me from a Teddy bear into an agitated grizzly bear. People with misophonia are annoyed, sometimes to the point of rage, by ordinary sounds such as people eating, breathing, sniffing, or coughing, certain consonants, or repetitive sounds. Those triggers, and there are dozens of them, set off anxiety and avoidant behaviors.
What is a mild irritation for most people -- the person who keeps sniffling, a buzzing fly in a closed room—those are major irritants to people with misophonia because we have virtually no ability to ignore those sounds, and life can be a near constant bombardment of noises that bother us. I figured out that the best way to cope was to avoid the triggers. So I turned off the television at certain sounds and avoided loud people. All of these things gave me a reputation as a high-strung, moody and difficult child. I knew my overreactions weren’t normal. My playmates knew it”
“Sometimes in the midst of our darkest moments it’s easy to forget that it’s to us to turn on the light, but that’s what I did. I switched on the light, the light of cognizance.”
“I don’t know what I would have done if they had hugged me. I probably would have frozen in place, become stiff. It took most of my life to overcome my distaste for physical contact and not to stiffen when I was touched, or flinch, twitch, fidget, and eventually figure out how to move away. I learned to accept being hugged by my children when they were infants. Their joy at seeing me enter a room was real and filled with true love and affection and it showed in their embraces. Like a convert, when I learned the joy and comfort of being hugged by and hugging those I loved, I became a regular practitioner.”
“Most people don’t understand how mighty the power of touch is, how mighty a kind word can be, how important a listening ear is, or how giving an honest compliment can move the child who has not known those things, only watched them from afar. As insignificant as they can be, they have the power to change a life.”
“They were no better than common thieves. They stole our childhood. But even with that, I was heartbroken that I would not know the Wozniaks anymore, the only people who came close to being parents to me. I would be conscious of their absence for the rest of my life. I needed them. You know, if you think about it, we all need each other. But even with all of the evidence against the Wozniaks, I had conflicted emotions about them, then and now. They were the closest I had to a real family and real parents.
But now I was bankrt of any feelings at all towards them at all.
I felt then, and feel now, a great sense of loss. I felt as if I were burying them. when I never really had them to lose in the first place. Disillusioned is probably a better word. In fact the very definition of disillusionment is a sense of loss for something you never had. When you are disillusioned and disappointed enough times, you shoping. That’s what happens to many foster kids. We become loners, not because we enjoy the solitude, but because we let people into our lives and they disappoint us. So we close and travel alone. Even in a crowd, we’re alone.
Because I survived, I was one of the lucky ones. Why is it so hard to articulate love, yet so easy to express disappointment?”
“My first and lasting impression of the Connecticut River Valley is its serene beauty, especially in the autumn months. Deep River was a near picture-perfect New England village. When I arrived there, the town was a typical working-class place, nothing like the trendy per-income enclave it became. The town center had a cluster of shops, a movie theater open only on weekends, several white-steepled churches (none of them Catholic), the town hall, and a Victorian library. It was small, even by Ansonia standards.”
“While I may not have been a bastion of good mental health, many of these boys were on their way to becoming crazier than they already were. Most couldn’t relate to other people socially at all, because they only dealt inappropriately with other people or didn’t respond to overtures of friendship or even engage in basic conversations.
Some became too familiar with you too fast, following their new, latest friend everywhere, including the showers, insisting on giving you items that were dear to them and sharing everything else. They also had the awful habit of touching other people, putting their hands on you as a sign of affection or friendship, and for people like myself, with my affliction and disdain for being touched unless I wanted to be touched, these guys were a nightmare. It was often difficult to get word in edgewise with these kids, and when I did, they interrted me—not in some obnoxious way, but because they wanted to be included in every single aspect of everything you did.
The other ones, the stone-cold silent ones, reacted with deep suspicion toward even the slightest attempt to befriend them or the smallest show of kindness. If you touched some of these children, even accidentally, they would warn you to back away. They didn’t care what others thought of them or anything else, and almost all their talk concerned punching and hurting and maiming.
I noticed that most of these kids, the ones who were truly damaged, were eventually filtered out of St. John’s to who knows where. Institutions have a way of protecting themselves from future problems.”
“Jesus,” I prayed silently, “please fix it so that my turn to read won’t come around.”
And then the nun called my name, but before I stood I thought, “I’ll bet you think this is funny, huh, Jesus?”
I stood and stared at the sentence assigned to me and believed that, through some miracle, I would suddenly be able to read it and not be humiliated. I stood there and stared at it until the children started giggling and snickering and Sister told me to sit.”
“My affliction decided to join us, forcing me to push my toes on the floor as though I were trying to eject myself from the chair. I prayed she didn’t notice what the affliction was making me do. I half expected to be eaten alive or murdered and buried out back in the school yard.
“I’m not afraid of you, ya know,” I said, although I was terrified of her. The words hurt her, but that wasn’t my intent. She turned her face and looked out the window into North Cliff Street. She knew what her face and twisted body looked like, and she probably knew what the kids said about her. It was probably an open wound for her and I had just tossed salt into it.
I was instantly ashamed of what I done and tried to correct myself. I didn’t mean to be hurtful, because I knew what it was like to be ridiculed for something that was beyond one’s control, such as my affliction, and how it made me afraid to touch the chalk because the feel of chalk to people like me is overwhelming. If I had to write on the blackboard, I held the chalk with the cuff of my shirt and the class laughed.
“You look good in a nun’s suit,” I said. It was a stid thing to say, but I meant well by it. She looked at the black robe as if she were seeing it for the first time.”
“Jews were a frequent topic of conversation with all of the Wozniaks, which was surprising, since none of them had any contact at all with anything even remotely Jewish.
While watching television, Walter would point out who was and who was not Jewish and Helen’s frequent comment when watching the television news was, “And won’t the Jews be happy about that!” To bargain with a merchant for a lower price was to “Jew him ,” and that sort of thing.
Walter’s mother and father were far worse. They despised the Jews and blamed them for everything from the start of World War I to the Kennedy assassination to the rising price of beef.
I didn’t pay much heed to any of this. It wasn’t my problem, and if I were to think through all the ethnic, racial and religious barbs the Wozniaks threw out in the course of a week, I’d think about nothing else.
After being told about a part of my mother’s heritage, the Wozniaks began their verbal and cultural assault against us. As odd as it sounds, they might not always have intended to be mean.”
“Explaining the Jews in a Catholic school when you’re Irish is like having to explain your country’s foreign policy while on a vacation in France. You don’t know what you’re talking about and no matter what you say, they’re not going to like it anyway.”
“You could read the story of his entire life on his face in one glance.”
“As interesting as that was, it didn’t inspire me. What did was that here was a Jew who was tough with his fists, a Jew who fought back. The only Jews I had ever heard of surrendered or were beaten by the Romans, the Egyptians, or the Nazis. You name it, it seemed like everyone on earth at some point had taken their turn slapping the Jews around. But not Benny Leonard. I figured you’d have to kill Benny Leonard before he surrendered.”
“One afternoon Walter brought Izzy to the house for lunch and, pointing to me, he said to Izzy, “He’s one of your tribe.”
Dobkins lifted his head to look at me and after a few seconds said, “I don’t see it.”
“The mother’s a Jew,” Walter answered, as if he were describing the breeding of a mongrel dog.
“Then you are a Jew,” Izzy said, and sort of blessed me with his salami sandwich.”
“Sometimes a man must stand for what is right and sometimes you must simply walk away and suffer the babblings of weak-minded fools or try to change their minds. It’s like teachin’ a pig to sing. It is a waste of your time and it annoys the pig.”
“Father, I can’t take this,” I said.
“Because you’re a priest, Father.”
“And my money’s no good because of it? What are you? A member of the Masonic Lodge?”
“Naw, Father,” I said. “I just feel guilty taking money from you.”
“Well, you’re Irish and Jewish. You have to feel guilty over somethin’, don’t ya? Take the money and be happy ye have it.”
― John William Tuohy, No time to say goodbye: memoirs of a life n foster care
“I caddied—more accurately, I drove the golf cart—for Father O’Leary and his friends throughout most of the summer of that year. I was a good caddie because I saw nothing when they passed the bottle of whiskey and turned a deaf ear to yet another colorful reinvention of the words “motherless son of a bitch from hell” when the golf ball betrayed them.”
“Weeks turned into months and a year passed, but I didn’t miss my parents. I missed the memory of them. I assumed that part of my life was over. I didn’t understand that I was required to have an attachment to them, to these people I barely knew. Rather, it was my understanding that I was sposed to switch my attachment to my foster parents. So I acted on that notion and no one corrected me, so I assumed that what I was doing was good and healthy.”
“I felt empty a lot and I sometimes had a sense—and I know this sounds strange—that I really had no existence as my own person, that I could disappear and no one would notice or remember that I had ever existed. It is a terrifying thing to live with. I kept myself busy to avoid that feeling, because somehow being busy made me feel less empty.”
“Denny thought our parents needed a combination of material goods and temperamental changes before he could return home.
“If Dad buys Ma a car, then she’ll love him, and they’ll get back together and she won’t be all crazy anymore,” he said. For years he held out the possibility that those things would happen and all would change. “If we had more things, like stoves and cars,” he told me at night in our bedroom, “and Ma wasn’t like she is, we could go home.”
“Because we were raised in a bigoted and hate-filled home, we simply assumed that calling someone a “cheap Jew” or saying someone “Jewed him ” were perfectly acceptable ways to communicate. Or at least we did until the day came when I called one of the cousins, a Neanderthal DeRosa boy, “a little Jew,” and he told me he wasn’t the Jew, that I was the Jew, and he even got Helen and Nana to confirm it for him.
It came as a shock to me to find out we were a part of this obviously terrible tribe of skinflint, trouble-making, double-dealing, shrewdly smart desert people. When Denny found out, he was crestfallen because he had assumed that being Jewish meant, according to what his former foster family the Skodiens had taught him, a life behind a desk crunching numbers. “And I hate math,” he said, shaking his head.
So here we were, accused Jews living in a hotbed of anti-Semitism. Not a good situation. Walter’s father was the worst. Learning about our few drops of Jewish blood seemed to ignite a special, long-held hatred in him. He became vile over nothing, finding any excuse to deride the Jews in front of us until Helen made him stop. We didn’t know what to make of it, except to write it off as another case of Wozniak-inspired insanity, but as young as we were, we could tell that at some point in his life he had crossed swords with a Jew someplace and came out on the losing end and we were going to pay for it. But because we really didn’t feel ourselves to be Jews, it didn’t sink in that he intended to hurt us with his crazy tirades. As I said, it’s hard to insult somebody when they don’t understand the insult, and it’s equally hard to insult them when they out and out refuse to be insulted.
Word got around quickly.”
“I hit him for every single thing that was wrong in my life and kicked him in a fierce fury of madness as he sobbed and covered his face and screamed. I hit him because Walter hit me and I hit him because I hated my life and I hit him because I just wanted to go home and I hit him because I didn’t know where home was.”
“I also told him about the dramatic, vivid verbal picture of God that the nuns drew for us—an enormous, slightly dangerous and very touchy guy with white hair and a long white beard.
“It’s all the talk of feeble minds,” he whispered to me in confidence. “Those nuns know as much about prayer as they do about sex. Listen to me, now. God is everywhere and alive in everything, while them nuns figured God is as good as dead, a recluse in a permanently bad mood. Well, I refuse to believe that to my God, my maker and creator, my life is little more than a dice game.” He stopped and turned and looked at me and said, “Never believe that a life full of sin puts you on a direct route to hell. Even if you only know a little bit about God, you learn pretty quick that he’s big on U-turns, dead stops and starting over again.”
As each day passes and my memories of Father O’Leary and Sister Emmarentia fade, and I can no longer recall their faces or the sounds of their voices as clearly as I could a decade ago, what remains, clear and uncluttered, are the lessons I took from them.”
“Eventually, many years later, I came to see him the way everyone else saw him—a nice guy who, despite all the damage he did to us, wasn’t a bad man, not inherently bad, anyway. He just wasn’t very bright, and was in over his head on almost every level of life. He was capable of only so much and not a drop more, and because he seemed so harmless and lost, people not only liked him, they protected him.
My mother, despite her poverty, left the opposite impression. She left no doubt that she was psychologically tough and mentally sharp, and because of that the Wozniaks disliked her.
And that was another difference between my mother and father. My father was a whiner, a complainer, a perpetually unhappy man unable to comprehend the simple fact that sometimes life is unfair. My mother never complained, and yet her poverty-stricken life was miserable. She never carried on about the early death of her raging alcoholic mother, or the father who raped her, or of a diet dictated by the restrictions of food stamps.”
To read the first 12 chapters of this book, visit it's BlogSpot @ amemoirofalifeinfostercare.blogspot.com/
Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! - I have as much soul as you, - and full as much heart! ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
I am here because I worked too hard and too long not to be here. But although I told the university that I would walk across the stage to take my diploma, I won't. At age fifty-seven, I'm too damned old, and I'd look ridiculous in this crowd. From where I'm standing in the back of the hall, I can see that I am at least two decades older than most of the parents of these kids in their black caps and gowns.
So I'll graduate with this class, but I won't walk across the stage and collect my diploma with them; I'll have the school send it to my house. I only want to hear my name called. I'll imagine what the rest would have been like. When you've had a life like mine, you learn to do that, to imagine the good things.
The ceremony is about to begin. It's a warm June day and a hallway of glass doors leading to the parking lot are open, the dignitaries march onto the stage, a janitor slams the doors shut, one after the other.
That banging sound.
It's Christmas Day 1961 and three Waterbury cops are throwing their bulk against our sorely overmatched front door. They are wearing their long woolen blue coats and white gloves and they swear at the cold.
They've finally come for us, in the dead of night, to take us away, just as our mother said they would.
"They'll come and get you kids," she screamed at us, "and put youse all in an orphanage where you'll get the beatin's youse deserve, and there won't be no food either."
That's why we're terrified, that's why we don't open the door and that's how I remember that night. I was six years old then, one month away from my seventh birthday. My older brother, the perpetually-worried, white-haired Paulie, was ten. He is my half-brother, actually, although I have never thought of him that way. He was simply my brother. My youngest brother, Denny, was six; Maura, the baby, was four; and Bridget, our auburn-haired leader, my half -sister, was twelve.
We didn't know where our mother was. The welfare check, and thank God for it, had arrived, so maybe she was at a gin mill downtown spending it all, as she had done a few times before.
Maybe she'd met yet another guy, another barfly, who wouldn't be able to remember our names because his beer-soaked brain can't remember anything. We are thankful that he'll disappear after the money runs out or the social worker lady comes around and tells him he has to leave because the welfare won't pay for him as well as for us. It snowed that day and after the snow had finished falling, the temperature dropped and the winds started.
"Maybe she went to Brooklyn," Paulie said, as we walked through the snow to the Salvation Army offices one that afternoon before the cops came for us.
"She didn't go back to New York," Bridget snapped. "She probably just--"
"She always says she gonna leave and go back home to Brooklyn," I interrupted.
"Yeah," Denny chirped, mostly because he was determined to be taken as our equal in all things, including this conversation.
We walked along in silence for a second, kicking the freshly fallen snow from our paths, and then Paulie added what we were all thinking: "Maybe they put her back in Saint Mary's."
No one answered him. Instead, we fell into our own thoughts, recalling how, several times in the past, when too much of life came at our mother at once, she broke down and lay in bed for weeks in a dark room, not speaking and barely eating. It was a frightening and disturbing thing to watch.
"It don't matter," Bridget snapped again, more out of exhaustion than anything else. She was always cranky. The weight of taking care of us, and of being old well before her time, strained her. "It don't matter," she mumbled.
It didn't matter that night either, that awful night, when the cops were at the door and she wasn't there. We hadn't seen our mother for two days, and after that night, we wouldn't see her for another two years.
When we returned home that day, the sun had gone down and it was dark inside the house because we hadn't paid the light bill. We never paid the bills, so the lights were almost always off and there was no heat because we didn't pay that bill either. And now we needed the heat. We needed the heat more than we needed the lights.
The cold winter winds pushed up at us from the Atlantic Ocean and down on us from frigid Canada and battered our part of northwestern Connecticut, shoving freezing drifts of snow against the paper-thin walls of our ramshackle house and covering our windows in a thick veneer of silver-colored ice.
The house was built around 1910 by the factories to house immigrant workers mostly brought in from southern Italy. These mill houses weren't built to last. They had no basements; only four windows, all in the front; and paper-thin walls. Most of the construction was done with plywood and tarpaper. The interiors were long and narrow and dark.
Bridget turned the gas oven on to keep us warm. "Youse go get the big mattress and bring it in here by the stove," she commanded us. Denny, Paulie, and I went to the bed that was in the cramped living room and wrestled the stained and dark mattress, with some effort, into the kitchen. Bridget covered Maura in as many shirts as she could find, in a vain effort to stop the chills that racked her tiny and frail body and caused her to shake.
We took great pains to position the hulking mattress in exactly the right spot by the stove and then slid, fully dressed, under a pile of dirty sheets, coats, and drapes that was our blanket. We squeezed close to fend off the cold, the baby in the middle and the older kids at the ends.
"Move over, ya yutz, ya," Paulie would say to Denny and me because half of his butt was hanging out onto the cold linoleum floor. We could toss insults in Yiddish. We learned them from our mother, whose father was a Jew and who grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in New York.
I assumed that those words we learned were standard American English, in wide and constant use across our great land. It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties and moved from the Naugatuck Valley and Connecticut that I came to understand that most Americans would never utter a sentence like, "You and your fakakta plans".
We also spoke with the Waterbury aversion to the sound of the letter "T," replacing it with the letter "D," meaning that "them, there, those, and these" were pronounced "dem, dere, dose, and dese." We were also practitioners of "youse," the northern working-class equivalent to "you-all," as in "Are youse leaving or are youse staying?"
"Move in, ya yutz, ya," Paulie said again with a laugh, but we didn't move because the only place to move was to push Bridget off the mattress, which we were not about to do because Bridget packed a wallop that could probably put a grown man down. Then Paulie pushed us, and at the other end of the mattress, Bridget pushed back with a laugh, and an exaggerated, rear-ends pushing war for control of the mattress broke out.
From the Inside Flap
By jackiehon October 13, 2015
After reading about John's deeply personal and painful past, I just wanted to hug the child within him......and hug all the children who were thrown into the state's foster system....it is an amazing read.......
By Jane Pogodaon October 9, 2015
I truly enjoyed reading his memoir. I also grew up in Ansonia and had no idea conditions such as these existed. The saving grace is knowing the author made it out and survived the system. Just knowing he was able to have a family of his own made me happy. I attended the same grammar school and was happy that his experience there was not negative. I had a wonderful experience in that school. I wish that I could have been there for him when he was at the school since we were there at probably at the same time.
By Sueon September 27, 2015
Hi - just finished your novel "No time to say goodbye" - what a powerful read!!! - I bought it for my 90 year old mom who is an avid reader and lived in the valley all her life-she loved it also along with my sister- we are all born and raised in the valley- i.e. Derby and Ansonia
By David A. Wrighton September 7, 2015
I enjoyed this book. I grew up in Ansonia CT and went to the Assumption School. Also reconized all the places he was talking about and some of the families.
By Robert G Manleyon September 7, 2015
This is a wonderfully written book. It is heart wrenchingly sad at times and the next minute hilariously funny. I attribute that to the intelligence and wit of the author who combines the humor and pathos of his Irish catholic background and horrendous "foster kid" experience. He captures each character perfectly and the reader can easily visualize the individuals the author has to deal with on daily basis. Having lived part of my life in the parochial school system and having lived as a child in the same neighborhood as the author, I was vividly brought back to my childhood .Most importantly, it shows the strength of the soul and how just a little compassion can be so important to a lost child.
ByLNAon July 9, 2015
John Tuohy writes with compelling honesty, and warmth. I grew up in Ansonia, CT myself, so it makes it even more real. He brings me immediately back there with his narrative, while he wounds my soul, as I realize I had no idea of the suffering of some of the children around me. His story is a must read, of courage and great spirit in the face of impoverishment, sorrow, and adult neglect. I could go on and on, but just get the book. If you're like me, you'll soon be reading it out loud to any person in the room who will listen. Many can suffer and overcome as they go through it, but few can find the words that take us through the story. John is a gifted writer to be able to do that.
ByBarbara Pietruszkaon June 29, 2015
I am from Connecticut so I was very familiar with many locations described in the book especially Ansonia where I lived. I totally enjoyed the book and would like to know more about the author. I recommend the book to everyone
ByJoanne B.on June 28, 2015
What an emotional rollercoaster. I laughed. I cried. Once you start reading it's hard to stop. I was torn between wanting to gulp it up and read over and over each quote that started the chapter. I couldn't help but feel part of the Tuohy clan. I wanted to scream in their defense. It's truly hard to believe the challenges that foster children face. I can only pray that this story may touch even one person facing this life. It's an inspiring read. That will linger long after you finish it. This is a wonderfully written memoir that immediately pulls you in to the lives of the Tuohy family.
ByDr. Wm. Anthony Connolly
This incredible memoir, No Time to Say Goodbye, tells of entertaining angels, dancing with devils, and of the abandoned children many viewed simply as raining manna from some lesser god.
The young and unfortunate lives of the Tuohy bruins—sometimes Irish, sometimes Jewish, often Catholic, rambunctious, but all imbued with Lion’s hearts—told here with brutal honesty leavened with humor and laudable introspective forgiveness. The memoir will have you falling to your knees thanking that benevolent Irish cop in the sky, your lucky stars, or hugging the oxygen out of your own kids the fate foisted upon Johnny and his siblings does not and did not befall your own brood. John William Tuohy, a nationally-recognized authority on organized crime and Irish levity, is your trusted guide through the weeds the decades of neglect ensnared he and his brothers and sisters, all suffering for the impersonal and often mercenary taint of the foster care system. Theirs, and Tuohy’s, story is not at all figures of speech as this review might suggest, but all too real and all too sad, and maddening. I wanted to scream. I wanted to get into a time machine, go back and adopt every last one of them. I was angry. I was captivated. The requisite damning verities of foster care are all here, regretfully, but what sets this story above others is its beating heart, even a bruised and broken one, still willing to forgive and understand, and continue to aid its walking wounded. I cannot recommend this book enough.
ByPaul Dayon June 15, 2015
Great reading. Life in foster care told from a very rare point of view.
ByJackie Malkeson June 5, 2015
This book is definitely a must for social workers working with children specifically. This is an excellent memoir which identifies the trails of foster children in the 1960s in the United States. The memoir captures stories of joy as well as nail biting terror, as the family is at times torn apart but finds each other later and finds solace in the experiences of one another. The stories capture the love siblings have for one another as well as the protection they have for one another in even the worst of circumstances. On the flip side, one of the most touching stories to me was when a Nun at the school helped him to read-- truly an example of how a positive person really helped to shape the author in times when circumstances at home were challenging and treacherous. I found the book to be a page turner and at times show how even in the hardest of circumstances there was a need to live and survive and make the best of any moment. The memoir is eye-opening and helped to shed light and make me feel proud of the volunteer work I take part in with disadvantaged children. Riveting....Must read....memory lane on steroids....Catholic school banter, blue color towns...Lawrence Welk on Sundays night's.
Byeileenon June 4, 2015
From ' No time to say Goodbye 'and authors John W. Touhys Gangster novels, his style never waivers...humorous to sadness to candidly realistic situations all his writings leaves the reader in awe......longing for more.
Bykaren pojakeneon June 1, 2015
This book is a must-read for anyone who administers to the foster care program in any state. This is not a "fell through the cracks" life story, but rather a memoir of a life guided by strength and faith and a hard determination to survive. it is heartening to know that the "sewer" that life can become to steal our personal peace can be fought and our peace can be restored, scarred, but restored.
A captivating, shocking, and deeply moving memoir, No Time to Say Goodbye is a true page turner. John shares the story of his childhood, from the struggles of living in poverty to being in the foster care system and simply trying to survive. You will be cheering for him all the way, as he never loses his will to thrive even in the darkest and bleakest of circumstances. This memoir is a very truthful and unapologetic glimpse into the way in which some of our most vulnerable citizens have been treated in the past and are still being treated today. It is truly eye-opening, and hopefully will inspire many people to take action in protection of vulnerable children.
ByKimberlyon May 24, 2015
I found myself in tears while reading this book. John William Tuohy writes quite movingly about the world he grew up in; a world in which I had hoped did not exist within the foster care system. This book is at times funny, raw, compelling, heartbreaking and disturbing. I found myself rooting for John as he tries to escape from an incredibly difficult life. You will too!
ByGeoffrey A. Childson May 20, 2015
I found this book to be a compelling story of life in the Ct foster care system. at times disturbing and at others inspirational ,The author goes into great detail in this gritty memoir of His early life being abandoned into the states system and his subsequent escape from it. Every once in a while a book or even an article in a newspaper comes along that bears witness to an injustice or even something that's just plain wrong. This chronicle of the foster care system is such a book and should be required reading for any aspiring social workers.
TODAY'S ALLEGED MOB GUY
From Publishers Weekly
JFK's pardons and the mob; Prohibition, Chicago's crime cadres and the staged kidnapping of "`Jake the Barber'" Factor, "the black sheep brother of the cosmetics king, Max Factor"; lifetime sentences, attempted jail busts and the perseverance of "a rumpled private detective and an eccentric lawyer" John W. Tuohy showcases all these and more sensational and shady happenings in When Capone's Mob Murdered Roger Touhy: The Strange Case of Touhy, Jake the Barber and the Kidnapping that Never Happened. The author started investigating Touhy's 1959 murder by Capone's gang in 1975 for an undergrad assignment. He traces the frame-job whereby Touhy was accused of the kidnapping, his decades in jail, his memoirs, his retrial and release and, finally, his murder, 28 days after regaining his freedom. Sixteen pages of photos.
From Library Journal
Roger Touhy, one of the "terrible Touhys" and leader of a bootlegging racket that challenged Capone's mob in Prohibition Chicago, had a lot to answer for, but the crime that put him behind bars was, ironically, one he didn't commit: the alleged kidnapping of Jake Factor, half-brother of Max Factor and international swindler. Author Tuohy (apparently no relation), a former staff investigator for the National Center for the Study of Organized Crime, briefly traces the history of the Touhys and the Capone mob, then describes Factor's plan to have himself kidnapped, putting Touhy behind bars and keeping himself from being deported. This miscarriage of justice lasted 17 years and ended in Touhy's parole and murder by the Capone mob 28 days later. Factor was never deported. The author spent 26 years researching this story, and he can't bear to waste a word of it. Though slim, the book still seems padded, with irrelevant detail muddying the main story. Touhy is a hard man to feel sorry for, but the author does his best. Sure to be popular in the Chicago area and with the many fans of mob history, this is suitable for larger public libraries and regional collections. Deirdre Bray Root, Middletown P.L., OH
John William Tuohy, one of the most prolific crime writers in America, has penned a tragic, but fascinating story of Roger Touhy and John Factor. It's a tale born out of poverty and violence, a story of ambition gone wrong and deception on an enormous, almost unfathomable, scale. However, this is also a story of triumph of determination to survive, of a lifelong struggle for dignity and redemption of the spirit.
The story starts with John "Jake the Barber" Factor. The product of the turn of the century European ethnic slums of Chicago's west side, Jake's brother, Max Factor, would go on to create an international cosmetic empire.
In 1926, Factor, grubstaked in a partnership with the great New York criminal genius, Arnold Rothstien, and Chicago's Al Capone, John Factor set up a stock scam in England that fleeced thousands of investors, including members of the royal family, out of $8 million dollars, an incredible sum of money in 1926.
After the scam fell apart, Factor fled to France, where he formed another syndicate of con artists, who broke the bank at Monte Carlo by rigging the tables.
Eventually, Factor fled to the safety of Capone's Chicago but the highest powers in the Empire demanded his arrest. However, Factor fought extradition all the way to the United States Supreme Court, but he had a weak case and deportation was inevitable. Just 24 hours before the court was to decide his fate, Factor paid to have himself kidnapped and his case was postponed. He reappeared in Chicago several days later, and, at the syndicates' urging, accused gangster Roger Touhy of the kidnapping.
Roger "The Terrible" Touhy was the youngest son of an honest Chicago cop. Although born in the Valley, a teeming Irish slum, the family moved to rural Des Plains, Illinois while Roger was still a boy. Touhy's five older brothers stayed behind in the valley and soon flew under the leadership of "Terrible Tommy" O'Connor. By 1933, three of them would be shot dead in various disputes with the mob and one, Tommy, would lose the use of his legs by syndicate machine guns. Secure in the still rural suburbs of Cook County, Roger Touhy graduated as class valedictorian of his Catholic school. Afterwards, he briefly worked as an organizer for the Telegraph and Telecommunications Workers Union after being blacklisted by Western Union for his minor pro-labor activities.
Touhy entered the Navy in the first world war and served two years, teaching Morse code to Officers at Harvard University.
After the war, he rode the rails out west where he earned a living as a railroad telegraph operator and eventually made a small but respectable fortune as an oil well speculator.
Returning to Chicago in 1924, Touhy married his childhood sweetheart, regrouped with his brothers and formed a partnership with a corrupt ward heeler named Matt Kolb, and, in 1925, he started a suburban bootlegging and slot machine operation in northwestern Cook County. Left out of the endless beer wars that plagued the gangs inside Chicago, Touhy's operation flourished. By 1926, his slot machine operations alone grossed over $1,000,000.00 a year, at a time when a gallon of gas cost eight cents.
They were unusual gangsters. When the Klu Klux Klan, then at the height of its power, threatened the life of a priest who had befriended the gang, Tommy Touhy, Roger's older brother, the real "Terrible Touhy," broke into the Klan's national headquarters, stole its membership roles, and, despite an offer of $25,000 to return them, delivered the list to the priest who published the names in several Catholic newspapers the following day.
Once, Touhy unthinkingly released several thousand gallons of putrid sour mash in to the Des Plains River one day before the city was to reenact its discovery by canoe-riding Jesuits a hundred years before. After a dressing down by the towns people Touhy spent $10,000.00 on perfume and doused the river with it, saving the day.
They were inventive too. When the Chicago police levied a 50% protection tax on Touhy's beer, Touhy bought a fleet of Esso gasoline delivery trucks, kept the Esso logo on the vehicles, and delivered his booze to his speakeasies that way.
In 1930, when Capone invaded the labor rackets, the union bosses, mostly Irish and completely corrupt, turned to the Touhy organization for protection. The intermittent gun battles between the Touhys and the Capone mob over control of beer routes which had been fought on the empty, back roads of rural Cook County, was now brought into the city where street battles extracted an awesome toll on both sides. The Chicago Tribune estimated the casualties to be one hundred dead in less then 12 months.
By the winter of 1933, remarkably, Touhy was winning the war in large part because joining him in the struggle against the mob was Chicago's very corrupt, newly elected mayor Anthony "Ten percent Tony" Cermak, who was as much a gangster as he was an elected official.
Cermak threw the entire weight of his office and the whole Chicago police force behind Touhy's forces. Eventually, two of Cermak's police bodyguards arrested Frank Nitti, the syndicate's boss, and, for a price, shot him six times. Nitti lived. As a result, two months later Nitti's gunmen caught up with Cermak at a political rally in Florida.
Using previously overlooked Secret Service reports, this book proves, for the first time, that the mob stalked Cermak and used a hardened felon to kill him. The true story behind the mob's 1933 murder of Anton Cermak, will changes histories understanding of organized crimes forever. The fascinating thing about this killing is its eerie similarity to the Kennedy assassination in Dallas thirty years later, made even more macabre by the fact that several of the names associated with the Cermak killing were later aligned with the Kennedy killing.
For many decades, it was whispered that the mob had executed Cermak for his role in the Touhy-syndicate war of 1931-33, but there was never proof. The official story is that a loner named Giuseppe Zangara, an out-of-work, Sicilian born drifter with communist leanings, traveled to Florida in the winter of 1933 and fired several shots at President Franklin Roosevelt. He missed the President, but killed Chicago's Mayor Anton Cermak instead. However, using long lost documents, Tuohy is able to prove that Zangara was a convicted felon with long ties to mob Mafia and that he very much intended to murder Anton Cermak.
With Cermak dead, Touhy was on his own against the mob. At the same time, the United States Postal Service was closing in on his gang for pulling off the largest mail heists in US history at that time. The cash was used to fund Touhy's war with the Capones.Then in June of 1933, John Factor en he reappeared, Factor accused Roger Touhy of kidnapping him. After two sensational trials, Touhy was convicted of kidnapping John Factor and sentenced to 99 years in prison and Factor, after a series of complicated legal maneuvers, and using the mob's influence, was allowed to remain in the United States as a witness for the prosecution, however, he was still a wanted felon in England.
By 1942 Roger Touhy had been in prison for nine years, his once vast fortune was gone. Roger's family was gone as well. At his request, his wife Clara had moved to Florida with their two sons in 1934. However, with the help of Touhy's remaining sister, the family retained a rumpled private detective, actually a down-and-out, a very shady and disbarred mob lawyer named Morrie Green.
Disheveled of not, Green was a highly competent investigator and was able to piece together and prove the conspiracy that landed Touhy in jail. However, no court would hear the case, and by the fall of 1942, Touhy had exhausted every legal avenue open to him.Desperate, Touhy hatched a daring daylight breakout over the thirty foot walls of Stateville prison.The sensational escape ended three months later in a dramatic and bloody shootout between the convicts and the FBI, led by J. Edgar Hoover.
Less then three months after Touhy was captured, Fox Studios hired producer Brian Foy to churn out a mob financed docudrama film on the escape entitled, "Roger Touhy, The Last Gangster." The executive producer on the film was Johnny Roselli, the hood who later introduced Judy Campbell to Frank Sinatra. Touhy sued Fox and eventually won his case and the film was withdrawn from circulation. In 1962, Columbia pictures and John Houston tried to produce a remake of the film, but were scared off the project.
While Touhy was on the run from prison, John Factor was convicted for m ail fraud and was sentenced and served ten years at hard labor. Factor's take from the scam was $10,000,000.00 in cash.
Released in 1949, Factor took control of the Stardust Hotel Casino in 1955, then the largest operation on the Vegas strip. The casino's true owners, of course, were Chicago mob bosses Paul Ricca, Tony Accardo, Murray Humpreys and Sam Giancana. From 1955 to 1963, the length of Factor's tenure at the casino, the US Justice Department estimated that the Chicago outfit skimmed between forty-eight to 200 million dollars from the Stardust alone.
In 1956, while Factor and the outfit were growing rich off the Stardust, Roger Touhy hired a quirky, high strung, but highly effective lawyer named Robert B. Johnstone to take his case. A brilliant legal tactician, who worked incessantly on Touhy's freedom, Robert Johnstone managed to get Touhy's case heard before federal judge John P. Barnes, a refined magistrate filled with his own eccentricities. After two years of hearings, Barnes released a 1,500-page decision on Touhy's case, finding that Touhy was railroaded to prison in a conspiracy between the mob and the state attorney's office and that John Factor had kidnapped himself as a means to avoid extradition to England.
Released from prison in 1959, Touhy wrote his life story "The Stolen Years" with legendary Chicago crime reporter, Ray Brennan. It was Brennan, as a young cub reporter, who broke the story of John Dillenger's sensational escape from Crown Point prison, supposedly with a bar of soap whittled to look like a pistol. It was also Brennan who brought about the end of Roger Touhy's mortal enemy, "Tubbo" Gilbert, the mob owned chief investigator for the Cook County state attorney's office, and who designed the frame-up that placed Touhy behind bars.
Factor entered a suit against Roger Touhy, his book publishers and Ray Brennan, claiming it damaged his reputation as a "leading citizen of Nevada and a philanthropist."
The teamsters, Factor's partners in the Stardust Casino, refused to ship the book and Chicago's bookstore owners were warned by Tony Accardo, in person, not to carry the book.
Touhy and Johnstone fought back by drawing up the papers to enter a $300,000,000 lawsuit against John Factor, mob leaders Paul Ricca, Tony Accardo and Murray Humpreys as well as former Cook County state attorney Thomas Courtney and Tubbo Gilbert, his chief investigator, for wrongful imprisonment.
The mob couldn't allow the suit to reach court, and considering Touhy's determination, Ray Brennan's nose for a good story and Bob Johnstone's legal talents, there was no doubt the case would make it to court. If the case went to court, John Factor, the outfit's figurehead at the lucrative Stardust Casino, could easily be tied in to illegal teamster loans. At the same time, the McClellan committee was looking into the ties between the teamsters, Las Vegas and organized crime and the raid at the mob conclave in New York state had awakened the FBI and brought them into the fight. So, Touhy's lawsuit was, in effect, his death sentence.
Twenty-five days after his release from twenty-five years in prison, Roger Touhy was gunned down on a frigid December night on his sister's front door.
Two years after Touhy's murder, in 1962, Attorney General Robert Kennedy ordered his Justice Department to look into the highly suspect dealings of the Stardust Casino. Factor was still the owner on record, but had sold his interest in the casino portion of the hotel for a mere 7 million dollars. Then, in December of that year, the INS, working with the FBI on Bobby Kennedy's orders, informed Jake Factor that he was to be deported from the United States before the end of the month. Factor would be returned to England where he was still a wanted felon as a result of his 1928 stock scam. Just 48 hours before the deportation, Factor, John Kennedy's largest single personal political contributor, was granted a full and complete Presidential pardon which allowed him to stay in the United States.
The story hints that Factor was more then probably an informant for the Internal Revenue Service, it also investigates the murky world of Presidential pardons, the last imperial power of the Executive branch. It's a sordid tale of abuse of privilege, the mob's best friend and perhaps it is time the American people reconsider the entire notion.
The mob wasn't finished with Factor. Right after his pardon, Factor was involved in a vague, questionable financial plot to try and bail teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa out of his seemingly endless financial problems in Florida real estate. He was also involved with a questionable stock transaction with mobster Murray Humpreys. Factor spent the remaining twenty years of his life as a benefactor to California's Black ghettos. He tried, truly, to make amends for all of the suffering he had caused in his life. He spent millions of dollars building churches, gyms, parks and low cost housing in the poverty stricken ghettos. When he died, three United States Senators, the Mayor of Los Angles and several hundred poor Black waited in the rain to pay their last respects at Jake the Barber's funeral.
~ An Interview With Crime Writer John William Touhy ~
O’Laughlin: First things first, are you related to your books subject, Roger Touhy.
Tuohy: No, not in the least. His last name was actually Tewy. Mine is Tuohy. Different tribe, literally.
O’Laughlin: But John Factor, the other leading subject in the book is related to Max Factor, the cosmetic king, right?
Tuohy: More or less. Same father, different mother. I don’t think the brothers were very close because of the age difference between them, and as far as I know, Max Factor was an upstanding guy who kept out of trouble and was an honest business person.
O’Laughlin: You started "When Capone’s Mob murdered Touhy as an undergrad, how long ago was that?
Tuohy: Long ago. I’m an old guy. That was in 1976 when I was attending the criminal justice program at the University of New Haven. The instructor, by the way, was Dr. Henry Lee. He later turned up at the O.J .Simpson trial. I was originally going to work on the Sam Sheppard murder case, but several other students had already declared that as their subject. I had heard about Touhy, and on a fluke, did some research, it lasted almost thirty years.
O’Laughlin: Why did they kill Touhy?
Tuohy: He intended to enter a 300 million dollar suit against the state of Illinois for wrongful imprisonment. But suing the state was only a pretext to drag people like Ricca, Accardo, Giancana into court so that he could reveal the relationship between the Mafia, the Teamsters money , the Stardust casino and John Factor. In 1959, those relationship were still very hush-hush. So they killed him.
O’Laughlin: But could he have won the case?
Tuohy: I don’t think he was suing to win or lose the case, he was suing to get revenge He would have embarrassed a lot of people with the information he could have revealed. You know, he was surrounded by a motley crew. His private detective was a cop with a shady past, his lawyer had a history of mental problems and his co-author drank to much, but combined they were a highly effective group, very good and very committed to Touhy. They could have shed light on a lot of profitable areas for the Outfit.
You know, that’s an interesting asset Touhy had, by the way. People around him were loyal to him, he had a charisma. Betty Brennan, Ray Brennan’s wife said it the best "He made you want to protect"
O’Laughlin: Do you think Factor knew about the murder in advance?
Tuohy: No, Jake the Barber, as Factor was known, was a lot of things, but not a killer. I think he would have taken steps to stop the killing if he had known about it.
I do think the murder was designed by Murray Humpries and carried out by Sam Giancana and two others. Humpries had the most to lose with Touhy alive and I’m told that the fact Touhy referred to him as a pimp really set Humpries off. Humpries considered himself something more than what he was, a cheap hood. He thought he was above it.
I think Giancana and the other two who may have actually carried out the killing, because they were ordered too of course, but because they were former members of the 42 gang, the group that fought against the Touhy’s in the 1931-32 union wars. A lot of 42 members, kids mostly, were killed in that war.
O’Laughlin: So revenge was not a motive in his death?
Tuohy: No. The murder brought international attention to his case. They, Mafia, didn’t want that. I think that if Touhy had simply retired to Florida and left well enough alone, they would have let him live. Besides, if they wanted him dead, they could have had him killed in prison with much less attention.
O’Laughlin: Would you say Touhy was a typical Irish mobster?
Tuohy: Yes and no. He was a mobster who happened to be Irish-American, but he was a hood, a likable hood, but still a hood. Some things about him were very Celtic, like his aversion to prostitution, although to some degree that was more of a business decision than anything else.
Tuohy: Well he knew that the people who lived in the suburbs that he controlled would draw the line on prostitution in their towns. That’s the interesting thing about Touhy and Factor, they understood the importance of public perception Most gangsters didn’t.
They both knew that the public will allow a certain amount of bad behavior, but it was a fine line. Capone never understood that. Frankie Nitti understood that.
Even when Touhy was in prison, he sent Christmas cards to the media. Factor gave millions of dollars to the poor, although some of that may have been actual remorse for his past life.
O’Laughlin: And Factor ended up with a Presidential pardon didn’t he? How did that happen?
Tuohy: Frankly, I think he bought it. I think the larger picture is that when the Kennedy’s and the mob were still on a best friend basis, that a lot of hoods got favors from them. Its an area that needs to be looked into.
O’Laughlin: Why don’t you look in to it?
Tuohy: Well I have, but most of the records are locked up with the CIA and the Navy. I don’t know why the Navy has them. Its one of those projects that could years to unlock and I have other fish to fry.
O’Laughlin: When do you write?
Tuohy: Constantly. When I’m not sitting in front of the keyboard, I’m writing in my mind. I edit, move around paragraphs, change structure. Its difficult to turn it off. I’ve read that writing is a craft, but I don’t know. I mean how many carpenters stay awake at night rebuilding a cabinet in their mind?
You know writing this stuff, mob stuff is harder than it seems. Because unlike other subjects, the writer can’t get to involved with the subject, writing with emotion isn’t a real option, you have to stay detached but at the same time it can’t be devoid of feeling. Its a fine line.
O’Laughlin: Any favorite crime writers?
Tuohy: Rick Porello is a good writer, dedicated researcher. I like Jerry Capcici’s style too. Very uncomplicated, very New York. You don’t have to read his stuff twice to understand what he’s saying. Nor should the reader have to do that in this type of writing. This isn’t rocket science. This isn’t deep. This is mob stuff.
Dan Moldea is a dedicate researcher and has a clear style. If Moldea wrote it, you can be damn sure he researched the hell out of it first. He’s caught hell for some of his political stances, and I don’t necessarily agree with his take on everything, politically, but that’s his style. Moldea and Capcici have an understanding of the subject matter and its shows in their work.
Richard Lindberg has a unique style, he writes with flare. David Evanier is a master. There was, or is, I don’t know, a New York writer named Harvey Aronson who is also a master story teller.
O’Laughlin: What do you think of the Mob as a source of stories?
Tuohy: You know, there will come a day, when some medical doctor will do a research project and discover that that organized crime is little more than a large group of dishonest people with attention deficit syndrome with hyperactivity who found each other.
I work on the theory, and its good theory, that 25% of what a bad guy tells me is a lie, 25% is inaccurate, 25% is irrelevant and about 25% is worth writing down…and most of that is sensationalized. Unfortunately, you have to listen to the first 75% to get to the worthy subject matter.
In the end, your better off getting your information from the government. Its just as good and you don’t have to sit through hours of "Let me tell you abut the time I…" stories. You know, most of those guys have no concept of the larger picture. Its like somebody wrote about Joe Valachi that listening to his testimony on the Mafia was listening to an infantry private explaining the origins of the Second World War.
O’Laughlin: You’ve told me that you don’t hold to the Mob-killed Kennedy theory?
Tuohy: These stories come from people with an agenda and no proof. There was a wonderful, small book that came and went, called "Oswald’s Game", I’ve forgotten the authors name, but she did a great job bringing out the real Oswald. It convinced me that he was the lone gunmen. The book didn’t go anyway, because, in part, it lacked the intrigue of a conspiracy story and because, for a while, there was a lot of money to be made in the Mob killed Kennedy stuff.
You know, when you talk to some of these mob guys who were active then, people who could have known something about it, they always imply there was a conspiracy but they don’t have any thing of concrete, only the "I heard stuff"
You know, a lot of it, this mob conspiracy stuff, is cultural. If you ask a reasonable person "Have you ever cracked a guys head with a baseball bat?" even if they did, they’ll deny it. Ask a bad guy the same question, and even if he never cracked anybody, he’ll lie and say "Yeah, a dozen times" Its a macho world down there, the rules are different. It was the same thing with the old bosses, they were very pleased that people assumed they had a hand in Kennedy’s murder, it made them look all- powerful. In one way, it was good for business, in many ways it wasn’t.
You know, if you look at the players, the people who spread the mob involvement stories, you see that they had reason to spread these things to a press that was willing to listen. Johnny Roselli, at an age when most men are deep in retirement, was dead broke, under a dozen indictment and facing deportation to a country he knew nothing about. He would have said anything to avoid facing the music. Its same thing with that Marcello lawyer who wrote some rubbish about Marcello having played a role in the murder. When he wrote that he was disbarred, flat broke, facing a massive tax lien and had cancer. After three decades as a mob lawyer, he really didn’t have a story to tell, so he came up with "Marcello told me he did it" Of course Marcello was dead at the time the lawyer came up with this stuff.
There’s a lot of speculation in this sort of writing. Like the people who write that Hoover was Gay, as though its an accusation, are the same one’s who leap to defend Gay rights. They have an agenda, which is fine, but say so. But again, where are the facts? The Hoover was Gay story is right up there with the Mob killed Kennedy stories and the Loch Ness Monster tales, fascinating yarns with no evidence, and the people who have come forward have an agenda or an axe to grind. I’ve been all over this town, DC, for the past twenty years interviewing people who knew Hoover, on all levels. People who would have had an opportunity to see Gay Hoover in action. They speaking to me off the record, but not one of them believed the Gay stories about him or saw any evidence of it .They confirm that the guy was an abusive prick and he was a very, very strange person, but that’s it. But again, whether Hoover was Gay or whatever, how is this of any importance?
O’Laughlin: Favorite mob film?
Tuohy: I don’t have one. I don’t watch that stuff. I’ve seen them but I don’t get a lot of personnel time and when I do, I like to relax. I like fluff films, Gary Grant, Rock Hudson, even the occasional Elvis film. Film is best when it deals with fantasy, and those films are fantasy. The good guy always wins, always gets the girl, they’re always filmed on great locations with nice looking people whose every third word isn’t "F" this or "F" that.
O’Laughlin: But you must have one gangster film you like.
Tuohy: Well, for accuracy, I though Harvey Kietel in the film "The Bad Lieutenant" was about right. Its a quasi-mob film, but the portrayal is correct; self obsessed, weasel behavior, money hungry. Its a dark film, but its supposed to be and for what it is, its a good film.
O’Laughlin: What do you think of the Soprano’s?
Tuohy: I’ve never seen it. Its on cable, we have children, I don’t think cable is healthy for children. They become TV zombies.
O’Laughlin: Will the mob survive this century?
Tuohy: Sure. The mob has always had one foot in the grave and they always will, and they’ll always survive
Interesting Information on A Little Known Case
By Bill Emblom
Author John Tuohy, who has a similar spelling of the last name to his subject Roger, but apparently no relation, has provided us with an interesting story of northwest Chicago beer baron Roger Touhy who was in competition with Al Capone during Capone's heyday. Touhy appeared to be winning the battle since Mayor Anton Cermak was deporting a number of Capone's cronies. However, the mob hit, according to the author, on Mayor Cermak in Miami, Florida, by Giuseppe Zangara following a speech by President-elect Roosevelt, put an end to the harrassment of Capone's cronies. The author details the staged "kidnapping" of Jake "the Barber" Factor who did this to avoid being deported to England and facing a prison sentence there for stock swindling, with Touhy having his rights violated and sent to prison for 25 years for the kidnapping that never happened. Factor and other Chicago mobsters were making a lot of money with the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas when they got word that Touhy was to be parolled and planned to write his life story. The mob, not wanting this, decided Touhy had to be eliminated. Touhy was murdered by hit men in 1959, 28 days after gaining his freedom. Jake Factor had also spent time in prison in the United States for a whiskey swindle involving 300 victims in 12 states. Two days before Factor was to be deported to England to face prison for the stock swindle President Kennedy granted Factor a full Presidential Pardon after Factor's contribution to the Bay of Pigs fund. President Kennedy, the author notes, issued 472 pardons (about half questionable) more than any president before or since.
There are a number of books on Capone and the Chicago mob. This book takes a look at an overlooked beer baron from that time period, Roger Touhy. It is a very worthwhile read and one that will hold your interest.
GREAT BOOK FROM CHICAGO AND ERA WAS MY DAD'S,TRUE TO STORY
Very good book. Hard to put down
Eight long years locked up for a kidnapping that was in fact a hoax, in autumn 1942, Roger Touhy & his gang of cons busted out of Stateville, the infamous "roundhouse" prison, southwest of Chicago Illinois. On the lam 2 months he was, when J Edgar & his agents sniffed him out in a run down 6-flat tenement on the city's far north lakefront. "Terrible Roger" had celebrated Christmas morning on the outside - just like all square Johns & Janes - but by New Year's Eve, was back in the bighouse.
Touhy's arrest hideout holds special interest to me because I grew up less than a mile away from it. Though I never knew so til 1975 when his bio was included in hard-boiled crime chronicler Jay Robert Nash's, Badmen & Bloodletters, a phone book sized encyclopedia of crooks & killers. Touhy's hard scrabble charisma stood out among 200 years' worth of sociopathic Americana Nash had alphabetized, and gotten a pulphouse publisher to print up for him.
I read Nash's outlaw dictionary as a teen, and found Touhy's Prohibition era David vs Goliath battles with ultimate gangster kingpin, Al Capone quite alluring, in an anti-hero sorta way. Years later I learned Touhy had written a memoir, and reading his The Stolen Years only reinforced my image of an underdog speakeasy beer baron - slash suburban family man - outwitting the stone cold killer who masterminded the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
Like most autobiographies tho, Touhy's book painted him the good guy. Just an everyday gent caught up in events, and he sold his story well. Had I been a saloonkeeper back then I could picture myself buying his sales pitch - and liking the guy too. I sure bought into his tale, which in hindsight criminal scribe Nash had too, because both writers portray Touhy - though admittedly a crook - as never "really" hurting anybody. Only doing what any down-to-earth bootlegger running a million dollar/year criminal enterprise would have.
What Capone's Mob Murdered Roger Touhy author John Tuohy does tho is, provide a more objective version of events, balancing out Touhy's white wash ... 'er ... make that subjectively ... remembered telling of his life & times. Author Tuohy's account of gangster Touhy's account forced me - grown up now - to re-account for my own original take on the story.
As a kid back then, Touhy seemed almost a Robin Hood- ish hood - if you'll pardon a very lame pun. Forty years on tho re-considering the evidence, I think a persuasive - if not iron-clad convincing - case can be made for his conviction in the kidnapping of swindler scumbag Jake the Barber Factor. At least as far as conspiracy to do so goes, anyways. (Please excuse the crude redundancy there but Factor's stench truly was that of the dog s*** one steps in on those unfortunate occasions one does.)
Touhy's memoir painted himself as almost an innocent bystander at his own life's events. But he was a very smart & savvy guy - no dummy by a long shot. And I kinda do believe now, to not have known his own henchmen were in on Factor's ploy to stave off deportation and imprisonment, Touhy would have had to be as naive a Prohibition crime boss - and make no mistake he was one - as I was as a teenage kid reading Nash's thug-opedia,
On the other hand, the guy was the father of two sons and it's repulsive to consider he would have taken part in loathsomeness the crime of kidnapping was - even if the abducted victim was an adult and as repulsively loathsome as widows & orphans conman, Jake Factor.
This book's target audience is crime buffs no doubt, but it's an interesting read just the same; and includes anecdotes and insights I had not known of before. Unfortunately too, one that knocks a hero of mine down a peg or two - or more like ten.
Circa 1960, President Kennedy pardoned Jake the Barber, a fact that reading of almost made me puke. Then again JFK and the Chicago Mob did make for some strange bedfellowery every now & again. I'll always admire WWII US Navy commander Kennedy's astonishing (word chosen carefully) bravery following his PT boat's sinking, but him signing that document - effectively wiping Factor's s*** stain clean - as payback for campaign contributions Factor made to him, was REALLY nauseating to read.
Come to think of it tho, the terms "criminal douchedog" & "any political candidate" are pretty much interchangeable.
Anyways tho ... rest in peace Rog, & I raise a toast - of virtual bootleg ale - in your honor: "Turns out you weren't the hard-luck mug I'd thought you were, but what the hell, at least you had style." And guts to meet your inevitable end with more grace than a gangster should.
Post Note: Author Tuohy's re-examination of the evidence in the Roger Touhy case does include some heroes - guys & women - who attempted to find the truth of what did happen. Reading about people like that IS rewarding. They showed true courage - and decency - in a world reeking of corruption & deceit. So, here's to the lawyer who took on a lost cause; the private detective who dug up buried facts; and most of all, Touhy's wife & sister who stood by his side all those years.
Crime don't pay, kids
Very good organized crime book. A rather obscure gangster story which makes it fresh to read. I do not like these minimum word requirements for a review. (There, I have met my minimum)
Chicago Gangster History At It's Best
As a 4th generation Chicagoan, I just loved this book. Growing up in the 1950's and 60's I heard the name "Terrible Touhy's" mentioned many times. Roger was thought of as a great man, and seems to have been held in high esteem among the old timer Chicagoans.
That said, I thought this book to be nothing but interesting and well written. (It inspired me to find a copy of Roger's "Stolen Years" bio.) I do recommend this book to other folks interested in prohibition/depression era Chicago crime research. It is a must have for your library of Gangsters literature from that era. Chock full of information and the reader is transported back in time.
I'd like to know just what is "The Valley" area today in Chicago. I still live in the Windy City and would like to see if anything remains from the early days of the 20th century.
A good writer and a good book! I will buy some more of Mr. Tuohy's work.
Great story, great read
A complex tale of gangsters, political kickback, mob wars and corrupt politicians told with wit and humor at a good pace. Highly recommend this book.
One of the best books I've read in a long time....
If you're into mafioso, read this! I loved it. Bought a copy for my brother to read for his birthday--good stuff.
Ricky Swallow, Skewed Open Structure with Rope #3
Yu Honglei, Detective, 2012. Wood, Polyester Putty, Clock, Plastic, 86 x 305 x 23.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Magician Space, Beijing.
Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa has applied his trademark minimal approach to a range of wooden tables and chairs for furniture manufacturer Conde House
It's Not All Right to be a Foster Kid....no matter what they tell you: Tweet the books contents
Paperback 94 pages
From the Author
I spent my childhood, from age seven through seventeen, in foster care. Over the course of those ten years, many decent, well-meaning, and concerned people told me, "It's okay to be foster kid."
In saying that, those very good people meant to encourage me, and I appreciated their kindness then, and all these many decades later, I still appreciate their good intentions. But as I was tossed around the foster care system, it began to dawn on me that they were wrong. It was not all right to be a foster kid.
During my time in the system, I was bounced every eighteen months from three foster homes to an orphanage to a boy's school and to a group home before I left on my own accord at age seventeen.
In the course of my stay in foster care, I was severely beaten in two homes by my "care givers" and separated from my four siblings who were also in care, sometimes only blocks away from where I was living.
I left the system rather than to wait to age out, although the effects of leaving the system without any family, means, or safety net of any kind, were the same as if I had aged out. I lived in poverty for the first part of my life, dropped out of high school, and had continuous problems with the law.
Today, almost nothing about foster care has changed. Exactly what happened to me is happening to some other child, somewhere in America, right now. The system, corrupt, bloated, and inefficient, goes on, unchanging and secretive.
Something has gone wrong in a system that was originally a compassionate social policy built to improve lives but is now a definitive cause in ruining lives. Due to gross negligence, mismanagement, apathy, and greed, mostly what the foster care system builds are dangerous consequences. Truly, foster care has become our epic national disgrace and a nightmare for those of us who have lived through it.
Yet there is a suspicion among some Americans that foster care costs too much, undermines the work ethic, and is at odds with a satisfying life. Others see foster care as a part of the welfare system, as legal plunder of the public treasuries.
None of that is true; in fact, all that sort of thinking does is to blame the victims. There is not a single child in the system who wants to be there or asked to be there. Foster kids are in foster care because they had nowhere else to go. It's that simple. And believe me, if those kids could get out of the system and be reunited with their parents and lead normal, healthy lives, they would. And if foster care is a sort of legal plunder of the public treasuries, it's not the kids in the system who are doing the plundering.
We need to end this needless suffering. We need to end it because it is morally and ethically wrong and because the generations to come will not judge us on the might of our armed forces or our technological advancements or on our fabulous wealth.
Rather, they will judge us, I am certain, on our compassion for those who are friendless, on our decency to those who have nothing and on our efforts, successful or not, to make our nation and our world a better place. And if we cannot accomplish those things in the short time allotted to us, then let them say of us "at least they tried."
You can change the tragedy of foster care and here's how to do it. We have created this book so that almost all of it can be tweeted out by you to the world. You have the power to improve the lives of those in our society who are least able to defend themselves. All you need is the will to do it.
If the American people, as good, decent and generous as they are, knew what was going on in foster care, in their name and with their money, they would stop it. But, generally speaking, although the public has a vague notion that foster care is a mess, they don't have the complete picture. They are not aware of the human, economic and social cost that the mismanagement of the foster care system puts on our nation.
By tweeting the facts laid out in this work, you can help to change all of that. You can make a difference. You can change things for the better.
We can always change the future for a foster kid; to make it better ...you have the power to do that. Speak up (or tweet out) because it's your country. Don't depend on the "The other guy" to speak up for these kids, because you are the other guy.
We cannot build a future for foster children, but we can build foster children for the future and the time to start that change is today.
DON'T YOU JUST LOVE POP ART?
DON’T WORRY-BE HAPPY
GOOD WORDS TO HAVE………………..
Salacious: (suh-LAY-shuhs) adjective: 1. Obscene. 2. Lustful. From Latin salax (lustful, fond of leaping), from salire (to leap). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sel- (to jump), which also gave us salient, sally, sautssail, assault, exult, insult, result, somersault, resile, desultory, and saltant.
HERE'S PLEASANT POEM FOR YOU TO ENJOY................
"The Alley Violinist,"
by Robert Lax
if you were an alley violinist
and they threw you money
from three windows
and the first note contained
a nickel and said:
when you play, we dance and
a very poor family
and the second one contained
a dime and said:
I like your playing very much,
a sick old lady
and the last one contained
a dollar and said:
stand there and play?
walk away playing your fiddle?
Robert Lax (November 30, 1915 – September 26, 2000) was an American poet, known in particular for his association with famed 20th century Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton. A third friend of his youth, whose work sheds light on both Lax and Merton, was Ad Reinhardt. During the latter period of his life, Lax resided on the island of Patmos, Greece. Considered by some to be a self-exiled hermit, he nonetheless welcomed visitors to his home on the island, but did nothing to court publicity or expand his literary career or reputation.
Born in Olean, New York November 30, 1915, to Sigmund and Rebecca Lax, he returned to that town only weeks before he died there in his sleep, September 26, 2000, at age 84.
Lax attended Columbia University in New York City, where he studied with the poet and critic Mark Van Doren. Lax graduated in 1938. On leaving school, he worked for several mainstream magazines, including The New Yorker and Time before he began his process of moving into a simple life. An expert juggler, he worked in a circus for some time during his initial years of wandering.
He lived the last 35 years of his life in the Greek islands, most recently on Patmos.
Lax wrote hundreds of poems and dozens of books in his long career, but never reached the level of recognition that some of his peers say he deserves. Jack Kerouac called Lax "one of the great original voices of our times ... a Pilgrim in search of beautiful innocence".
One of his most acclaimed works was Circus of the Sun, a book of poems metaphorically comparing the circus to Creation. Called by a critic in The New York Times Book Review "perhaps the greatest English language poem of this century", an excerpt was handed out to those attending Lax's funeral at St. Bonaventure University Sept. 29:
And in the beginning was love. Love made a sphere:
all things grew within it; the sphere then encompassed
beginnings and endings, beginning and end. Love
had a compass whose whirling dance traced out a
sphere of love in the void: in the center thereof
rose a fountain.
As a student at Columbia University in the late 1930s, Lax worked on the college humor magazine, Jester, with a classmate who became a close lifetime friend, Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and author of many spiritual books. Others on the Jester staff were Ed Rice, founder and editor of Jubilee magazine (to which all three men contributed in the 1950s and ¹60s) and Ad Reinhardt, the painter.
The correspondence of Lax and Merton, written in a kind of comic argot, was published in 1978. In his biography, The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton describes Lax at a meeting with other Jester staff: "Taller than them all, and more serious, with a long face, like a horse, and a great mane of black hair on top of it, Bob Lax meditated on some incomprehensible woe."
Mark Van Doren, one of his Columbia professors, wrote that "The woe, I now believe, was that Lax could not state his bliss: his love of the world and all things, all persons in it."
Lax attempted to embody a sense of bliss in his writing.
Some of his poems, however, were whimsical:
"are you a visitor?" asked the dog,
"yes," i answered.
"only a visitor?" asked the dog.
"yes," i answered.
"take me with you," said the dog.
Over the years the poems became more and more minimalist, sometimes consisting of single words, even single syllables, running down page after page, often in varying colors.
Much of his output, while not outright spiritual, evoked religious thoughts. Many Western visitors to his tiny house in Patmos had their spirits recharged in the presence of his peaceful mien. Maxwell Portlow even likened him to a saint.
"To the best of my knowledge," wrote William Maxwell, "a saint is simply all the things that he is. If you placed him among the Old Testament figures above the south portal of Chartres, he wouldn't look odd."
Lax converted from Judaism to Catholicism in 1943, five years after his friend Thomas Merton, and Rice was godfather to both men. In the 1940s, Lax worked on the staff of The New Yorker, was poetry editor of Time magazine, wrote screenplays in Hollywood, and taught at both the University of North Carolina and Connecticut College for Women.
He traveled with the Cristiani Brothers circus in 1949, which enabled him to generate material for Circus of the Sun. He helped start Jubilee, a lay Catholic magazine, under its founder, Edward Rice, in 1952 and became its roving editor before moving to the Greek Islands in 1962.
For several years, Lax practiced the method of meditation developed by Eknath Easwaran, and near the end of his life, Lax's only reading each day was from Easwaran.
Lax moved back to Olean in 2000 after living abroad for more than 30 years. He died in his hometown at age 84.
Robert Lax's most famous book, Circus of the Sun, a meditation on creation, was heralded by The New York Times as "perhaps the greatest English language poem of this century."
In his later poetry, Lax concentrated on simplicity and on making the most out of the fewest components. This makes him one of the patron saints of literary minimalism. Some of his poems can go on for several pages using no more than four words and a punctuation mark. In some instances, Lax uses repetition of a few words either as a device for instilling a sense of serenity or to create a sense of surprise in the reader when a change in the pattern occurs. Despite the limited vocabulary of his poems, some create narratives, while others seem more like examples for use in meditative practice or even spiritual discipline.
I LOVE BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOS FROM FILM
William Eugene Smith (December 30, 1918 – October 15, 1978), was an American photojournalist, renowned for the dedication he devoted to his projects and his uncompromising professional and ethical standards. Smith developed the photo essay into a sophisticated visual form. His most famous studies included brutally vivid World War II photographs, the clinic of Dr Schweitzer in French Equatorial Africa, the city of Pittsburgh, the dedication of an American country doctor and a nurse midwife, and the pollution which damaged the health of the residents of Minamata in Japan.
White Rose Bar sign from the 4th floor window of 821 Sixth Avenue (ca. 1957-1964) by W. Eugene Smith
THE BEAT POETS
Beat poetry evolved during the 1940s in both New York City and on the west coast, although San Francisco became the heart of the movement in the early 1950s. The end of World War II left poets like Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso questioning mainstream politics and culture. A Brief Guide to the Beat Poets | Academy of American Poets https://www.poets.org/poetsorg
What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. Jack Kerouac
What love is……………….
True love stories never have endings. Richard Bach
Love involves a peculiar unfathomable combination of understanding and misunderstanding. Diane Arbus
Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.
Visit our Shakespeare Blog at the address below
300 quotes from Emerson
To view more Emerson quotes or read a life background on Emerson please visit the books blog spot. We update the blog bi-monthly emersonsaidit.blogspot.com
WHY THE WORLD NEEDS EDITORS.....................
THE ART OF WAR...............................
*** PLAYWRIGHTS OPPORTUNITIES ***
Monkeyman Productions, Toronto's geekiest theatre company, is now accepting submissions for RETURN OF SIMIAN SHOWCASE. We want your short play to be part of our enlivening evening of entertainment, theatre, and laser sounds (PEW PEW). The show would be presented in the distant future, April 2016.
To qualify, your script must:
Be no longer than 15 minutes in length
Have a cast of 2-4 characters
Require minimal tech and encourage suspension of disbelief
This December, Manhattan Repertory Theatre continues our celebration of 10 years of creating cutting-edge theatre and more in the heart of Times Square and we are celebrating by presenting a a HUGE 10th Anniversary HOLIDAY Event with Short Plays, Full-Length Plays, Dance pieces, Live Musical Acts, Passionate Poetry Readings, and Performance Art.
There is NO FEE to submit and NO FEE to participate. This celebration event is FREE for artists to participate!
The Platform Group seeks playwrights for project
We're looking for some new blood to add to an existing collaboration!
A few of us have been working on a new play based on interviews with the homeless, and we're looking for a few more playwrights to add to the mix.
Interested and experience with collaborative, investigative, and devised work.
A comfort level of interacting with and conversing with the homeless of NYC
Availability to jump into an existing developing project, meet writing deadlines, spend time at the soup kitchen, and time for other development meetings.
An excitement and enthusiasm for this unconventional form and topic!
*** FOR MORE INFORMATION on these and other opportunities see the web site athttp://www.nycplaywrights.org ***
WHERE MY DOG BART IS CONCERNED, ITS ALWAYS TWO TAKES PER PHOTO
HALLOWEEN DOGS (AND BART)
HERE'S SOME NICE ART FOR YOU TO LOOK AT....ENJOY!
Jean Siméon Chardin was born in Paris in 1699 and spent his entire life there. He learned what he needed from the old masters he saw in the French royal collection, in the collections of Parisian amateurs, or passing through the active Parisian art market of the day. He might have claimed he did not need to visit Rome or the Netherlands.
Chardin often drew inspiration from the 17th-century Dutch genre tradition, for both format and subject. What is the first thing that catches your eye in “The House of Cards”? The ephemeral nature of a house of cards reminded the 18th-century viewer of the fragility—and often futility—of human existence. The boy's apron suggests he is a household servant called to clear up after a gaming party. Instead, he uses the cards—folded to prevent their being marked and used again—to build the most impermanent of structures. The stability of the painting's triangular composition freezes the moment, as the boy is poised, breathless, to remove his hand and test the fragile balance of his construction. In the open drawer the jack of hearts hints at rascality. #ArtAtoZ
Jean Siméon Chardin, “The House of Cards,” probably 1737, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.90
PEOPLE TAKING PICTURES OF PEOPLE
MUSIC FOR THE SOUL
Art Blakey, Tony Williams and Elvin Jones, Japan 1966
But I noticed the ladies seemed annoyed, at my cigar, no doubt. One of them stared at me through her tortoise-shell lorgnette. I did nothing again, for they said nothing. If they’d said anything, warned me, asked me — there is such a thing as language after all! But they were silent… . Suddenly, without the slightest preface — I assure you without the slightest, as though she had suddenly taken leave of her senses — the pale blue one snatched the cigar out of my hand and flung it out of the window. The train was racing along. I gazed at her aghast. A savage woman, yes, positively a woman of quite a savage type; yet a plump, comfortable-looking, tall, fair woman, with rosy cheeks (too rosy, in fact). Her eyes glared at me. Without uttering a word and with extraordinary courtesy, the most perfect, the most refined courtesy, I delicately picked up the lap-dog by the collar in two fingers and flung it out of the window after the cigar! It uttered one squeal. The train was still racing on. Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot
The Observation and Appreciation of Architecture
The Taj Mahal incorporates and expands on design traditions of Persian and earlier Mughal architecture. Specific inspiration came from successful Timurid and Mughal buildings including; the Gur-e Amir (the tomb of Timur, progenitor of the Mughal dynasty, in Samarkand), Humayun's Tomb, Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb (sometimes called the Baby Taj), and Shah Jahan's own Jama Masjid in Delhi. While earlier Mughal buildings were primarily constructed of red sandstone, Shah Jahan promoted the use of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones. Buildings under his patronage reached new levels of refinement.
THE ART OF PULP
Meanwhile, in Shepherdstown West Virginia...
Architecture for the blog of it
Art for the Blog of It
Art for the Pop of it
Photography for the blog of it
Music for the Blog of it
Sculpture this and Sculpture that
The art of War (Propaganda art through the ages)
Album Art (Photographic arts)
Pulp Fiction Trash (The art of Pulp Fiction covers)
Admit it, you want to Read this Book (The art of Pulp Fiction covers)
The Godfather Trilogy BlogSpot
On the Waterfront: The Making of a great American Film
The Wee Book of Irish Recipes (Book support site)
Good chowda (New England foods)
Old New England Recipes (Book support site)
And I Love Clams (New England foods)
In Praise of the Rhode Island Wiener (New England foods)
Wicked Cool New England Recipes (New England foods)
Old New England Recipes (New England foods)
Foster Care new and Updates
Aging out of the system
Murder, Death and Abuse in the Foster Care system
Angel and Saints in the Foster Care System
The Foster Children’s Blogs
Foster Care Legislation
The Foster Children’s Bill of Right
Foster Kids own Story
The Adventures of Foster Kid.
Me vs. Diabetes (Diabetes education site)
The Quotable Helen Keller
Teddy Roosevelt's Letters to his children (Book support site)
The Quotable Machiavelli (Book support site)
Whatever you do, don't laugh
The Quotable Grouch Marx
A Big Blog of Irish Literature
The Wee Blog of Irish Jokes (Book support blog)
The Wee Blog of Irish Recipes
The Irish American Gangster
The Irish in their Own Words
When Washington Was Irish
The Wee Book of Irish Recipes (Book support site)
The Blogable Robert Frost
The Beat Poets of the Forever Generation
Holden Caulfield Blog Spot
The Quotable Oscar Wilde
NEW ENGLAND BLOGS
The Quotable Thoreau
Old New England Recipes
Wicked Cool New England Recipes
The New England Mafia
And I Love Clams
In Praise of the Rhode Island Wiener
The Connecticut History Blog
The Connecticut Irish
God, How I hated the 70s
Child of the Sixties Forever
The Kennedy’s in the 60’s
Music of the Sixties Forever
Elvis and Nixon at the White House (Book support site)
Beatles Fan Forever
Year One, 1955
Robert Kennedy in His Own Words
The 1980s were fun
The 1990s. The last decade.
The Russian Mafia
The American Jewish Gangster
The Mob in Hollywood
We Only Kill Each Other
Early Gangsters of New York City
Al Capone: Biography of a self-made Man
The Life and World of Al Capone
The Salerno Report
Guns and Glamour
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Recipes we would Die For
The Prohibition in Pictures
The Mob in Pictures
The Mob in Vegas
The Irish American Gangster
Roger Touhy Gangster
Chicago’s Mob Bosses
Chicago Gang Land: It Happened Here
Whacked: One Hundred years of Murder in Gangland
The Mob Across America
Mob Cops, Lawyers and Front Men
Shooting the Mob: Dutch Schultz
Bugsy& His Flamingo: The Testimony of Virginia Hill
After Valachi. Hearings before the US Senate on Organized Crime
Mob Buster: Report of Special Agent Virgil Peterson to the Kefauver Committee (Book support site)
The US Government’s Timeline of Organized Crime (Book support site)
The Kefauver Organized Crime Hearings (Book support site)
Joe Valachi's testimony on the Mafia (Book support site)
Mobsters in the News
Shooting the Mob: Dead Mobsters (Book support site)
The Stolen Years Full Text (Roger Touhy)
Mobsters in Black and White
Mafia Gangsters, Wiseguys and Goodfellas
Whacked: One Hundred Years of Murder and Mayhem in the Chicago Mob (Book support site)
Gangland Gaslight: The Killing of Rosy Rosenthal (Book support site)
The Best of the Mob Files Series (Book support site)
It’s All Greek Mythology to me
The Rarifieid Tribe
The Upscale Traveler
The Mish Mosh Blog
DC Behind the Monuments
When Washington Was Irish
FROM LLR BOOKS. COM
Litchfield Literary Books. A really small company run by writers.
The Day Nixon Met Elvis
Paperback 46 pages
Theodore Roosevelt: Letters to his Children. 1903-1918
Paperback 194 pages
THE ANCIENT GREEKS AND CIVILIZATIONS
The Works of Horace
Paperback 174 pages
The Quotable Greeks
Paperback 234 pages
The Quotable Epictetus
Paperback 142 pages
Quo Vadis: A narrative of the time of Nero
Paperback 420 pages
The Porchless Pumpkin: A Halloween Story for Children
A Halloween play for young children. By consent of the author, this play may be performed, at no charge, by educational institutions, neighborhood organizations and other not-for-profit-organizations.
A fun story with a moral
“I believe that Denny O'Day is an American treasure and this little book proves it. Jack is a pumpkin who happens to be very small, by pumpkins standards and as a result he goes unbought in the pumpkin patch on Halloween eve, but at the last moment he is given his chance to prove that just because you're small doesn't mean you can't be brave. Here is the point that I found so wonderful, the book stresses that while size doesn't matter when it comes to courage...ITS OKAY TO BE SCARED....as well. I think children need to hear that, that's its okay to be unsure because life is a ongoing lesson isn't it?”
Paperback: 42 pages
No time to say Goodbye: Memoirs of a life in foster
Paperbook 440 Books
BOOKS ABOUT FILM
On the Waterfront: The Making of a Great American Film
Paperback: 416 pages
BOOKS ABOUT GHOSTS AND THE SUPERNATUAL
Scotish Ghost Stories
Paperback 186 pages
The Book of funny odd and interesting things people say
Paperback: 278 pages
The Wee Book of Irish Jokes
Perfect Behavior: A guide for Ladies and Gentlemen in all Social Crises
BOOKS ABOUT THE 1960s
You Don’t Need a Weatherman. Underground 1969
Paperback 122 pages
Baby Boomers Guide to the Beatles Songs of the Sixties
Baby Boomers Guide to Songs of the 1960s
The Connecticut Irish
Paper back 140 pages
The Wee Book of Irish Jokes
The Wee Book of Irish Recipes
The Wee Book of the American-Irish Gangsters
The Wee book of Irish Blessings...
The Wee Book of the American Irish in Their Own Words
Everything you need to know about St. Patrick
Paperback 26 pages
A Reading Book in Ancient Irish History
The Book of Things Irish
Poets and Dreamer; Stories translated from the Irish
Paperback 158 pages
The History of the Great Irish Famine: Abridged and Illustrated
Paperback 356 pages
BOOKS ABOUT NEW ENGLAND
The New England Mafia
Wicked Good New England Recipes
The Connecticut Irish
Paper back 140 pages
The Twenty-Fifth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
Paperback 64 pages
The Life of James Mars
Paperback 54 pages
Stories of Colonial Connecticut
Paperback 116 pages
What they Say in Old New England
Paperback 194 pages
BOOK ABOUT ORGANIZED CRIME
Chicago Organized Crime
The Mob Files: It Happened Here: Places of Note in Chicago gangland 1900-2000
An Illustrated Chronological History of the Chicago Mob. Time Line 1837-2000
Mob Buster: Report of Special Agent Virgil Peterson to the Kefauver Committee
The Mob Files. Guns and Glamour: The Chicago Mob. A History. 1900-2000
Shooting the Mob: Organized crime in photos. Crime Boss Tony Accardo
Shooting the Mob: Organized Crime in Photos: The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.
The Life and World of Al Capone in Photos
AL CAPONE: The Biography of a Self-Made Man.: Revised from the 0riginal 1930 edition.Over 200 new photographs
Paperback: 340 pages
Whacked. One Hundred Years Murder and Mayhem in the Chicago Outfit
Paperback: 172 pages
Las Vegas Organized Crime
The Mob in Vegas
Bugsy & His Flamingo: The Testimony of Virginia Hill
Testimony by Mobsters Lewis McWillie, Joseph Campisi and Irwin Weiner (The Mob Files Series)
Rattling the Cup on Chicago Crime.
Paperback 264 pages
The Life and Times of Terrible Tommy O’Connor.
Paperback 94 pages
The Mob, Sam Giancana and the overthrow of the Black Policy Racket in Chicago
Paperback 200 pages
When Capone’s Mob Murdered Roger Touhy. In Photos
Paperback 234 pages
Organized Crime in Hollywood
The Mob in Hollywood
The Bioff Scandal
Paperback 54 pages
Organized Crime in New York
Joe Pistone’s war on the mafia
Mob Testimony: Joe Pistone, Michael Scars DiLeonardo, Angelo Lonardo and others
The New York Mafia: The Origins of the New York Mob
The New York Mob: The Bosses
Organized Crime 25 Years after Valachi. Hearings before the US Senate
Shooting the mob: Dutch Schultz
Gangland Gaslight: The Killing of Rosy Rosenthal. (Illustrated)
Early Street Gangs and Gangsters of New York City
Paperback 382 pages
THE RUSSIAN MOBS
The Russian Mafia in America
The Threat of Russian Organzied Crime
Paperback 192 pages
Best of Mob Stories
Best of Mob Stories Part 2
Mob Recipes to Die For. Meals and Mobsters in Photos
More Mob Recipes to Die For. Meals and Mobs
The New England Mafia
Shooting the mob. Organized crime in photos. Dead Mobsters, Gangsters and Hoods.
The Salerno Report: The Mafia and the Murder of President John F. Kennedy
The Mob Files: Mob Wars. "We only kill each other"
The Mob across America
The US Government’s Time Line of Organzied Crime 1920-1987
Early Street Gangs and Gangsters of New York City: 1800-1919. Illustrated
The Mob Files: Mob Cops, Lawyers and Informants and Fronts
Gangster Quotes: Mobsters in their own words. Illustrated
Paperback: 128 pages
The Book of American-Jewish Gangsters: A Pictorial History.
Paperback: 436 pages
The Mob and the Kennedy Assassination
Paperback 414 pages
BOOKS ABOUT THE OLD WEST
The Last Outlaw: The story of Cole Younger, by Himself
Paperback 152 pages
BOOKS ON PHOTOGRAPHY
Chicago: A photographic essay.
Paperback: 200 pages
Boomers on a train: A ten minute play
Paperback 22 pages
Four Short Plays
By John William Tuohy
Four More Short Plays
By John William Tuohy
High and Goodbye: Everybody gets the Timothy Leary they deserve. A full length play
By John William Tuohy
Cyberdate. An Everyday Love Story about Everyday People
By John William Tuohy
The Dutchman's Soliloquy: A one Act Play based on the factual last words of Gangster Dutch Schultz.
By John William Tuohy
Fishbowling on The Last Words of Dutch Schultz: Or William S. Burroughs intersects with Dutch Schultz
Print Length: 57 pages
American Shakespeare: August Wilson in his own words. A One Act Play
By John William Tuohy
She Stoops to Conquer
The Seven Deadly Sins of Gilligan’s Island: A ten minute play
Print Length: 14 pages
BOOKS ABOUT VIRGINIA
OUT OF CONTROL: An Informal History of the Fairfax County Police
McLean Virginia. A short informal history
THE QUOTABLE SERIES
The Quotable Emerson: Life lessons from the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Over 300 quotes
The Quotable John F. Kennedy
The Quotable Oscar Wilde
The Quotable Machiavelli
The Quotable Confucius: Life Lesson from the Chinese Master
The Quotable Henry David Thoreau
The Quotable Robert F. Kennedy
The Quotable Writer: Writers on the Writers Life
The words of Walt Whitman: An American Poet
Paperback: 162 pages
Gangster Quotes: Mobsters in their own words. Illustrated
Paperback: 128 pages
The Quotable Popes
Paperback 66 pages
The Quotable Kahlil Gibran with Artwork from Kahlil Gibran
Paperback 52 pages
Kahlil Gibran, an artist, poet, and writer was born on January 6, 1883 n the north of modern-day Lebanon and in what was then part of Ottoman Empire. He had no formal schooling in Lebanon. In 1895, the family immigrated to the United States when Kahlil was a young man and settled in South Boston. Gibran enrolled in an art school and was soon a member of the avant-garde community and became especially close to Boston artist, photographer, and publisher Fred Holland Day who encouraged and supported Gibran’s creative projects. An accomplished artist in drawing and watercolor, Kahlil attended art school in Paris from 1908 to 1910, pursuing a symbolist and romantic style. He held his first art exhibition of his drawings in 1904 in Boston, at Day's studio. It was at this exhibition, that Gibran met Mary Elizabeth Haskell, who ten years his senior. The two formed an important friendship and love affair that lasted the rest of Gibran’s short life. Haskell influenced every aspect of Gibran’s personal life and career. She became his editor when he began to write and ushered his first book into publication in 1918, The Madman, a slim volume of aphorisms and parables written in biblical cadence somewhere between poetry and prose. Gibran died in New York City on April 10, 1931, at the age of 48 from cirrhosis of the liver and tuberculosis.
The Quotable Dorothy Parker
Paperback 86 pages
The Quotable Machiavelli
Paperback 36 pages
The Quotable Greeks
Paperback 230 pages
The Quotabe Oscar Wilde
Paperback 24 pages
The Quotable Helen Keller
Paperback 66 pages
The Art of War: Sun Tzu
Paperback 60 pages
The Quotable Shakespeare
Paperback 54 pages
The Quotable Gorucho Marx
Paperback 46 pages