Uncle Louie thinks he is a gangster and his rare visits are punctuated with his infamous “let me tell you a story.” For most families Thanksgiving Dinner is about family and food, maybe a game of football in the front yard and of course pumpkin pie. When Uncle Louie and Dad get together it’s all about tales of their dysfunctional family history. On this visit in 1976, he gets drunk as usual, and I, the 17-year-old nephew, have been recruited to cart him to Jersey to pick up his girlfriend (Loretta, the dancer) and get both of them back to New York City. Reluctantly, Uncle Louie has handed over the keys to Betty, his 1967 Camaro. My parents believed the three hour trip would be an excellent time for Uncle Louie and me to bond. I thought driving in Uncle Louie’s Betty through a snowstorm to spend time in NYC was going to be the highlight of my Thanksgiving. Where to begin, what to relive?
Let’s start with the middle of the night at Ciotka’s Diner in NJ. Diners, coffee, pie, and New Jersey all seem to go together. I miss my bed but, the coffee is great, the pie is excellent, the waitresses all wear pink, and I meet Angel. I’m liking New Jersey. Until I’m not.
They say a lot can happen in the blink of an eye. Back on the road headed toward NYC, I feel kind of gray and need air. Funny how the fresh air in an alley ain’t really that fresh.
Things get a bit messy as we try to sneak into NYC. What can you say about NYC in the ‘70s? It’s beautiful, ugly, amazing, ordinary, flamboyant, frenzied, and unruffled. It is NYC and that means anything can happen. Uncle Louie’s plan is to hide out at a friend’s apartment. Food, showers, and oh yeah, pigeons.
Things don’t always go as planned. We meet a few people, Uncle Louie tells a story. Meanwhile, it’s kidnapping, fire alarms, broken legs, cab rides, NY pizza, hospital visits, baldheaded goons, and gin. It’s NYC in the 70’s. Things happen. What things? Any more would be telling.