A Toast to My Dad

Photo FLC FD

After the first sip of their martini, the conversation was to begin. The plan was to meet my parents and announce that Mr. Wiz* and I had decided to move in together. Since my dad, of Latin descent, had never even grasped the concept of a children’s sleep over and that remained forbidden territory, it seemed only right to welcome cocktails into the discussion.

Mr. Wiz took a deep breath and, in his deep, professional voice, presented our strategy. He started off by letting his deep feelings for me be known. If we shared a household, we would then be able to lease a showroom for the business we owned together. Both having already been divorced, we would then take our time and let the relationship blossom.

The uncomfortable silence was broken when my dad slowly took a sip of his martini, looked Mr. Wiz straight in the eyes from across the table and said “…What?! How well do we know you? Let me tell you something; one call and I could have your legs broken. Do you understand what I’m saying?..”

After that, things got a bit fuzzy. I remember yelling “…Daddy!..,” jumping up from the table and heading to the ladies room with JC* following behind me. As she wiped away my tears, I remember JC explaining that when you were born in Hell’s Kitchen (a section of New York City whose ambiance needs no explanation), this was almost a prerequisite to a family welcome.

I calmed down and we both headed back to the table, not knowing what to expect. To my surprise, my dad and Mr. Wiz were leaning in toward each other, talking and laughing as if nothing had happened. That was the start of a beautiful relationship and to this day, what transpired during their secret meeting has never been divulged.

From humble beginnings and with little formal education, he had no choice but to put his head down and forge ahead, until each of his goals were accomplished. Once successful, his go big or go home attitude was tempered with his advice to always stay just a little under what you could afford.

When he would instill in me that I should do it right or not at all, I’m sure I’d roll my eyes and then begin again, methodically working toward an end goal that would make us both proud.

The first time he announced his belief that everyone is No. 1 after you, I thought it extremely selfish until I realized that, once again, he was right. Now, every time an airline instructs us to place our oxygen mask on first before assisting others, I can’t help but smile.

How many times since his passing have I wondered what he would’ve done in a similar situation. And, how many times have I known just what to do.

Happy Father’s Day!

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

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The King of Queens

Photo King of Queens

Ask anyone and they will tell you that I was the one to coin that phrase years before the popular TV show. My dad not only owned a construction company in Queens, a borough of Manhattan, he spoke of it as if it were his magical kingdom.

Every morning (sometimes seven days a week), he would leave the house before we got up and regale us with fascinating facts and stories when he’d arrive home. The reason that the fruits and vegetables from Queens were larger than any we’d ever seen was because the vacant lots they were grown in contained special soil. While he couldn’t make his way around a country road, he knew of a network of back alleys which could magically transport him to any Queens destination in half the time.

Though he only stood 5 feet 6 inches, he lived life large. He had a powerful presence that was not lost on any of the Queens store or restaurant owners. When he walked into an establishment, there was always a ruffle of excitement as they welcomed Mr. Frank and he delighted in that.

Wonderful marketer that he was, he noticed that the demographics in his area were changing. Many of the Queens homeowners were now widows who were a bit fearful of dealing with rough, tough and possibly unscrupulous contractors. That gave him the idea to create the persona of “The Gentleman Roofer.” His new Yellow Pages ad and business cards featured a photo of him in a bowler hat and tuxedo. When customers would ask if the Gentleman Roofer would be wearing his hat, he started to carry plastic ones in his trunk.

The photo shoot for the new marketing campaign was created in my parent’s living room. Initially, an argument ensued when my dad, in a hurry, insisted on just wearing the tuxedo jacket along with his boxer shorts, reasoning that the photo would be taken from the waist up. With JC* as the photographer (and no experience in this field of endeavor), what happened next was another Lucy and Desi moment. For years, those outtakes were the highlight of every family get together. We’d laugh until we cried at the photos of my dad yelling in each photo as JC repeatedly took crooked images of him in his combination tuxedo/underwear outfit.

Once he visited your home to give you a quote was when the magic happened. In five minutes, he would size you up. If you lived alone, he would show you family photos, tell you about his voice lessons and leave you a tape of him singing Frank Sinatra tunes. If you were aggressive and started haggling about pricing, he would suggest another area contractor. They were not as good as his company, but there might be a better rapport. This usually led to that customer calling, begging for another chance (and paying more for the privilege)

For months after he died, I would call his company phone number at night just to hear his robust voice on the message and smile. I knew that the new owner would eventually update it, but I doubted that anyone could match his Christmas message. Recorded over 50 times until perfect, it featured JC singing “Jingle Bells” softly in the background (again, with no experience in this field of endeavor) and my dad reminding you that you will have a happier holiday if you call the Gentleman Roofer for an appointment.

Happy Father’s Day!

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

The Life He Chose: A Father’s Day Tribute in Prose

Photo Fathers Day

Oh, what a novel your life would be
Filled with drama, intrigue and romance
An instant best-seller you couldn’t put down
About dreams, daring and chance

Our swashbuckling hero is born in Hell’s Kitchen
Where only the strong can stand the heat
Tough and daring, devil may-caring
His education was life on the street

He scrapped and fought, sold on streets what he’d bought
Living hard, playing hard with his money
‘Til a war came upon us, this Latin Adonis
Joined the army to be all he could be

The lessons learned here; cold, raw, full of fear
Shaped the spirited boy into a man
In an Infantry Irish with only one wish
To make it home and create a plan

The man of the hour, filled with rage, but no power
Was in search of who he was in his life
Who’d think that by chance, after asking her to dance
That beautiful blonde would become his wife

So, now full of dreams (the hero with schemes)
The couple set forth together
She provides inspiration, he- sheer determination
There’s no port in the storm they can’t weather

With street education and blind dedication
His goal not to follow, but lead
Oh, wonderful joy; three girls and a boy
Now, his ego and six mouths to feed!

From your soul way down deep, when you can’t sleep
Comes a voice of both terror and power
Telling you to pursue it, you know you can do it
This is your shining hour

He had no choice, he succumbed to that voice
And our leading man went from rags to riches
But, it’s that lost Latin boy that’s brought others such joy
Helping others to achieve their wishes