A leisurely stroll on a cool morning. Anastasia Lane is tree-lined with bodacious curves like his wife’s. He is not quite sure where the road will take him. This is a new neighborhood. His heavy patrician brows, salt and peppered over time speak to old-school character. Harder working, forthright decades. Maybe. Broad shoulders once home to a leather holster a bit concave now. With a surgically fixed hip, he perseveres upright and true. A firmness beneath those size fourteens beats the pavement, nothing aged in that step. He’s thinking about life. He’s a thinker. His brain will never stop cycling. Unlike the right arm that sometimes gives him bother.
He is passing a grand home on Anastasia Lane, a compound with ornate gates around its perimeter. Behind the black iron rods–in stark contrast–a large, white German Shepherd paces. The walking man’s flecked grey eyes shift. Having owned several of the black and tan variety, he admires the GSD a moment then continues on. His mind wanders back in time–a bleaker part of NYC. Two murderers hiding out on the ninth floor. Blocking the hall’s entrance, a hulking Shepherd with raised fur and glistening canines. In the stairwell, two agents plan a regroup, when the grey-eyed agent comes up from behind. He moves to the front and simply growls more loudly than the dog. The next moments complete another story–one that becomes legendary at retiree gatherings.
Continuing along Anastasia, the grey-eyed man is passing the expansive lawn’s last wrought iron post when from behind, silent teeth sink into his upper thigh. He reacts immediately whacking the white GSD’s head with his good arm and his large hand. His trousers are torn and blood is trickling down the back of his leg. Charging across the monstrous lawn, the GSD’s owner bellows, “RELEASE, RELEASE!” The dog owner’s voice quickly turns contrite. Sweat trickles down his ample exposed chest onto his jogging suit. His combed back hair is shoe-polish black and his endlessly dark, Sicilian eyes remind the old agent of someone.
The bite only broke surface skin. Within minutes the two are sipping Sambuca together in a flamboyant Mediterranean room. Above the gilded mantel, looming larger than life hangs an oil portrait. The old agent stares through the intense frozen eyes. He’d remember that gaze anywhere. Decades ago, Enzo Rozzoni was painted into a nice jail cell with canvas bedding. The grey-eyed man helped put him there.
The old agent and the Sicilian empty their shot glasses. Then the grey-eyed man points to himself and states with a grin, “Franco Rozzoni, I knew your father. FBI–”
Smiling equally as wide, Franco Rozzoni parlays, “No wonder my dog bit you in the ass.”
The old world neighbors share a laugh over another round of Sambuca.
I’d like to extend a very Happy Birthday to my father, Vito, newly minted 85 today and by far, still the most intimidating man I’ve ever met.
In the photo above he was just entering the FBI.
back when men were men
silent pain and strong hands
I remember other agents gathering around him at parties
women telling him what a handsome figure he cut
he smiled in his broad shouldered frame of 6’2
eyes piercing as was that deep voice
terrifying as a child
listening to his life stories
mesmerizing in detail, poetic in delivery, exciting in fact
an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation
as a kid staring up at him
I believed any criminal in my father’s path
immediately surrendered themselves
rather than deal with this larger than life, slice of human
friends called him Bill, the rest–Vito
judicious and fair before earning the law degree
an amazing and prolific career
mafia cases and colorful gangsters
the temper, he still has it
no patience for silliness, but all the time in the world for family
not a day goes by
when I don’t think of him
of the exceptional driving force
his charismatic personality has infused
and continues to…
Happy 84th Birthday, Dad
top photo – Brooklyn Tech, 2nd – Coast Guard, 3rd – firearms practice, 4th – my mother-in-law on left, dad center, mom on right
Shy Party Dog created last year for his 83rd B’day 🙂
This upcoming weekend my father will be celebrating his 83 birthday. The man called Vito, is still tough as nails and hard as a hammer. The entire la famiglia will be gathering for this auspicious occasion. My father and mother visited my home last weekend to help celebrate my mother-in-law’s 81st birthday.
During this last visit, as he sometimes does, my dad dug out some of his F.B.I. escapades. My father is a fantastic storyteller. His attention to detail, his character profiles, his memory and his sheer joy in recounting the days as a successful agent never cease to captivate. Our family is quite blessed to still have our strong patriarch.
This is one of my favorite photos of my parents, circa 1980-