Happy: May 2003 Archives

Reza Baluchi has been cheered along in Arizona on his run to the World Trade Center site, although by now he may actually be in New Mexico. Dave Hyslop, who has been sending these reports and who seems to be accompanying him along the way, writes:

Sorry for the long time between updates ... have only access through libraries in the towns we come to and then for a limited time. Reza is running on I-40 through the whole state of Arizona (thanks to permission from the Arizona Highway Patrol. Very nice folks, by the way. Many stop to check on Reza and make sure he's okay.)
People have been driving hundreds of miles from California to greet, care for and feed the guy. For those who want more about Reza, Hyslop offers this contact information:
You can leave messages of support for Reza at 310-821-6055. We try to listen to them daily and they mean so much to him.

He can also be written at this email address:
rbaluchi@yahoo.com and "any day now" we
should have the web site open at: www.run4peace.com

Sorry, but I seem to have gotten to the site too late to be able to link to the story with photos of these kids. But the story more than stands up by itself.

I grew up crazy about cars, but now as I approach adulthood I find my enthusiam more than tempered by the magic carpet of the subway. In truth, it seems that you don't really have to be crazy about cars to be an American kid - as long as there's an underground railway you can fall in love with.

They are the smallest subway buffs. Still almost short enough to sprint under a turnstile without bumping their heads, they can tell you more about the subway than most MetroCard-carrying adults have forgotten. In other cities, children with such an aptitude for geography and transportation might be able to identify different types of S.U.V.'s or navigate the megamall. In New York, subway whiz kids are much more helpful: they can tell you how to get from Middle Village, Queens, to Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, with only two transfers.

And this knowledge does not come without hard work. It involves hours of late-night reading. At 3 years old, in the same way some kids take teddy bears to bed, he was taking the subway map to bed and studying it," said Sandeep Puri, Alexander's father, watching his son the other day as he sat in rapt concentration in the middle of an oversized map spread out in the entryway.

A wild turkey on the 28th-floor balcony of an apartment on West 70th Street? The healthy-looking female has now taken up residence in the more interesting environs of Chelsea and the Village, and we hope she's happy. Unlike most Downtowners however, she may find it difficult to find friends.

A National Audubon Society ornithologist says that turkeys have not been known to fly as high as the 28th floor.

"They are not vertical fliers," said [Greg Butcher]. "You will see them maybe 20 feet up in trees, but not 100 feet. I'd say that turkey went up an elevator."

Mr. Lindenauer [the Upper West Side guy] insisted that the turkey was not planted on his balcony. [E.J. McAdams, a director of New York City Audubon] said she could have made her way to the 28th floor by flying up from balcony to balcony, like an elevator making all the stops.

Where is the turkey now? After making some stops in our own neighborhood, she headed further downtown to the Village, where she was last sighted this past monday, on top of a garage on Barrow Street.

No wonder New York is such a goldmine for Hollywood! You don't have to know Brooklyn or Italians in Brooklyn, and you don't have to know about Marlon Brando, but maybe it's better if you do. Now, if only the large and small screen stories could read as well as Chris Hedges' story on Sabasto F. Catucci, an incredibly successful businessman who began as a trucker on the Brooklyn docks.

The best "scenes" are these:

He is a rich man now. He has a big house in Westchester and seven Mercedeses, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a summer house in Spring Lake, N.J. He and his second wife, Lorraine, make their own wine. He employs more than two dozen of his relatives among his 1,000 or so employees. He has the rounded, bulky build of a man who has spent a lifetime lifting weights. He has the flashy diamond pinky ring, with his initials in diamonds, that speaks of success. And he is proud: of his company, of America, of the largely Italian-American neighborhood around the docks and of a new treatment he is undergoing for baldness.

. . . .

He grew up in a world in which bravado and fists often resolved disputes. He was thrown out of his Roman Catholic high school for hitting one of the brothers who taught him. And he did not make it through public high school because of "the same thing."

"I had a run-in with a teacher," he said, taking a drag on a slim cigarillo. "I picked him up by his throat."

. . . .

Later, seated in a small Italian restaurant where he goes to eat three days a week with several of his employees, he announced over a glass of red wine that he could take on anyone at the table. No one disagreed. As he spoke, Guy D'Anna, 36, a waiter who also works for him as a longshoreman, came up and kissed him.

"Without Sal," he said, using Mr. Catucci's nickname, "we would all be out on the street."

Mr. Catucci beamed.

"I run my company like a family," he said, as he sat with his arm around Mr. D'Anna's waist. "They got a problem, I got a problem."

. . . .

He does not want to take his companies public. He likes to make decisions with speed, without going to committees and boards that can stymie decisions for months. And he trusts his three sons, his brother, his nephews, two brothers-in-law and his son-in-law to keep an eye on every aspect of the business.

. . . .

He could retire, he said. He has made enough money. He loves his home and said he had just put in 200 tomato plants.

"I have 20 animals," he said. "I used to have 150. I had sheep, goats, cows, ducks, geese and chickens. Now I have 2 horses, 2 cats, one goat, 2 ducks and 15 geese. I love animals. I love looking out the picture window and watching them graze. It is like some people who like to look at the lights and people on 42nd Street."

But he will never retire, he says.

"I have 50 guys who will kiss me like that," he said, when Mr. D'Anna left. "It's not the money. It's the power trip."

The picture's about a month old, but it is still Spring. The image is that of the little Shadblow Serviceberry tree outside our back windows on the "roof terrace." The name supposedly comes from its habit of blooming at the same time the Shad run in the Spring, but I can't vouch for its timing, as there have been no Shad sightings on the roof, or, for that matter, anywhere else in walking range of Chelsea.

Right now the tree is busy pushing out what will eventually be its reddish-purple crabapple-like fruits. The birds in the garden should go crazy over them.

I can't recommend it enough. If you want to feel good, about Reza, yourself and the whole world, write to this address, rbaluchi@yahoo.com, and ask to get regular email updates on his run across the country to New York. There are wonderful pictures so far, and you'll be cheered, touched and delighted by the unfolding of the story.

Dave Hyslop, who is monitoring the trip from home and who was his host in California, writes, "You'll die waiting for Reza to ever complain about anything."

There were 147 graduating seniors in the all-boy, Austin Prep 1958 graduating class. Dave DeBusschere was class president - it had not been a contest, and even I had voted for the big sports guy.

Dave was a gentleman. He was 6 feet 6, at a time when that meant very big, but he was bigger than that - he was a gentle man. As a child he lived on the block behind our own, but I really knew him for only the four years we shared at Austin.

His campaign credentials included the fact that he had been largely responsible for putting our neat new school on the map, starting the year before, when he had led the basketball team to the first of two state championships. This was a very big deal for us - almost as exciting as Latin or rhetoric. Dave and the enthusiasm generated by a star team had been been able to make this sissy-boy a basketball fan for a few years. Except for a couple of months which followed a horrible auto accident on the way to a game, I never missed a contest, home or away. I even found myself crouching regularly at the edge of the floor with my little Praktiflex, snapping the action for the school paper.

Dave's gone now. "Austin Catholic Preparatory School" (the formal name) had disappeared just about as prematurely, a few decades ago. Perhaps the institution was a victim of its times, but not before it had launched its favorite son to be loved and admired in his time. The school seems to have left almost no trace it ever existed, other than in the memories of its boys (and later, girls too?) - and in the evidence of their works. Some of the boys became men like Dave.

The NYTimes remembered him this morning, most eloquently in Ira Berkow's, "A Big Player Who Did All the Little Things." This is an excerpt from the jock-y part:

Burly, rock-jawed, his thighs so muscular they seemed cast in marble, he could be a force in what the players called "the butcher shop," the rebounding area under the basket where welts sprouted and blood spilled and, as Kipling might have said, you had to be a man, my son.

Or he sank shots from so far out the basketballs seemed to be launched from Section 310 in Madison Square Garden. And if a defender dared try nuzzling up to him, DeBusschere drove around him with grace and power and surprising alacrity, given that he was 6 feet 6 inches and 235 pounds.

On defense, he had the amazing ability to make his man disappear. As Donnie May, a teammate, said in the 1970 book on the Knicks, "Miracle on 33rd Street," by Phil Berger: "Guys like DeBusschere, for six, seven, eight minutes of a game, you don't even see the man he's guarding. He cuts him off from the ball, takes him right out of the game."

DeBusschere off the court possessed a sense of humor, a sense of balance, a solid sense of himself. I remember a night in the locker room before a game when he was talking with several teammates, discussing "homer" referees who called, he said, "these terrible charging fouls." DeBusschere, wearing only a jock strap, impersonated a referee calling a charging foul - slapping his right hand behind his neck and pointing with his left hand and skipping across the floor. Everyone was laughing.

Wish I'd been there.

This page is an archive of entries in the Happy category from May 2003.

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