This is probably the first time an author giving a talk can start off by introducing his characters.
First, I would like to introduce my wife Eileen without whom there would be no beginning, end nor dedication to my book.
I would like to introduce my brother John who has promised to keep me honest in my story telling.
My daughter Jeannine
Assorted nieces and nephews including my nephew Michael who is recording this for posting on You Tube.
Now last and certainly not least, The Bronx Boys: Michael O’Connor, PJ Howley, and Fred Cappelletti. John Trentacosta wanted to be here but had vacation plans already made. Another good friend ,Lou Fabrizzio would have loved to be here but business is keeping him away.
Our friends Pat and Paul
The great thing about having this put on You Tube is that many of the women, who I still think of as girls, who were not able to be here will now be able to see this. I hope Jeannie Held Algazzinni, Rosemarie Beitz and Kathy Lynaugh ,as well as Laura Clemente are watching and I wish you all were here in person to share this.
The list of friends that we all had back in grammar school and through high school was too much for me to manage in my writing but they were all there in spirit.
1261 Leland Avenue, Apartment 6
My mother and father raised five children in a two bedroom apartment on the second floor of 1261 Leland. It was paradise. It was hard being humble living in such a glorious place as The Bronx especially on Leland Avenue. You really felt that you were something. I just loved the sound of Leland Avenue whenever I said it. LELAND Avenue! Forget about feeling deprived, we were rich and we knew it.
I had to take Latin as a college student at St. John’s. Apparently the three years of Latin at St Helena’s HS wasn’t enough. Anyway, the professor I had at St John’s would start off each semester (I had him for three semesters) by quoting Ogden Nash, “The Bronx? No THONX”. I made sure never to read Ogden Nash.
Anybody here named Ogden ?
In recent years, my siblings, Maureen, Johnny, Barbara, and Michael would often marvel at my mother’s ability to manage a large family in so small an apartment. Now to be fair Johnny joined the Marines when I was two, so that opened up a bed. Then when he came home from the service Maureen had the good sense to get married to Hank and four years later Johnny got married to Mary. But during those four years when Johnny was still at home you never were quite sure where you were going to sleep or with whom.
It wasn’t until much later when Barbara married Jimmy and then Michael married Margaret that I had a room of my own…my siblings hated me for that. I was spoiled.
One of the common reactions my siblings have had to the book is the belief that we may have come from different families. I spent a lifetime hearing stories about people I never knew, cousins that lived with us that I hardly knew and other tales of fun and adventure. Now my brother and sisters were reading stories that they hadn’t experienced or hadn’t seen through my eys.
One of the nice things that I have heard from my own children and some of my nieces and nephews was that they loved hearing about Nana and Pop.
YOU ALWAYS HAVE A STORY
I had an assistant director who once said that I always had a story to tell. I think I inherited that from Pop. Pop was always telling stories and sometimes I had heard the story so often that I didn’t always listen. Sometimes I would just recite the story with him. But Pop had great stories and he had a unique delivery. He was always funny but never tried to be. Unlike me, I always try to be funny and very often miss the mark. But I always do have a story to tell.
A BRONX BOY’S TALE
I had a tremendous time writing the book. I am my best audience and I kept myself amused for quite a long time. I first started writing the book back in 1997 because of a friend I met on the Speonk train.
I met a guy who used to play basketball for St John’s when Mike and I were there. He wrote a book and asked me to read it for him. It was a manuscript, not published, and it was about a college basketball player. It was a pretty good story and well written but what struck me most was that my friend had written about something he knew.
I had been writing for years and never getting beyond a page or two because I wasn’t writing about something I knew, or more importantly, I was writing without a passion for my topic. I finally found a topic about which I was very passionate.
I always appreciated growing up in the Bronx and going to Blessed Sacrament and my last year as a student at Blessed Sacrament was something special. So, that’s where I began. I woke up humming a tune on November 22, 1963. Big D Little A Double L A S
It took me no time to get fifty pages written but then I hit a wall. I didn’t know where to go.
Fast forward to May 1, 2011. I started a blog, The Newell Post. I started writing again. I wrote about everything. I had a few Saturday Morning Rants about politics, religion and AROD and steroids. I also began writing stories.
One of the stories I did was an adaptation of something I had written for the Newell Christmas Party, A Very Newell Christmas. I added other stories and kept writing new ones. Finally, I put my original fifty pages on the computer and began to cut and paste my new stories. They weren’t in any order at this time.
Then one morning Eileen sent me a link for Create Space and told me I should publish my book…now I had to write it.
Create Space is a branch of Amazon that provides self-publishing services. I submitted an eighty page draft for editing and critique and a year later I published A BRONX BOY’S TALE.
I used to say that my parents lived at a time when life was less complicated than today, less stressful. They worked hard but they didn’t have to deal with email and cell phones or a ridiculous commute. But then as I continued writing I wanted to make sure to include the historical setting in which the story takes place.
It was then that I realized that raising a family through the Great Depression, World War II and the constant threat of World War III had its challenges. Now I wasn’t around to see how my parents dealt with the depression and World War II but I did hear pretty funny stories about those years. Even when I was old enough to appreciate the significance of the Cuban Missile Crisis we had a laugh or two in between decades of the Rosary.
I guess what I learned was that every generation faces turmoil of one kind or another but if they have a family that loves them, friends, that stand by them, and a community that provides a structure for a life well lived, then you survive enough to create your own stories and to share them with the next generation.