Anarcho-Priapic Patriarch Passes
by Tony Pivetta: Drug-Screen
the Corporate-Welfare Queens!
and physical health had steadily deteriorated over the months. We
knew the end drew near. I thought I was braced for it. Braced, perhaps,
but not entirely prepared. My dear papa, Angelo Pivetta, died last
summer. He would have turned 87 last week.
He had a good
run. A hearty drinker and heavy smoker, things started catching
up to him about ten years ago. The medicos diagnosed a touch of
emphysema here, a scarring of the liver there. Nothing imminently
life-threatening, but his habits had to go. Give him credit: he
loved life more than he loved his Camels and vino. He summoned
the will to quit, cold turkey, with neither nicotine- nor alcohol-withdrawal
palliatives to help him along.
He’d had four
or five multiple-night stays in the hospital, in 2010 and 2011.
We feared each one might be his last. But, like Rasputin,
he would not go down. His last hospital visit, in July 2012, proved
to be his last. He was transferred to a nursing home. The end came
a few weeks later.
We called him
"Rough." We weren’t referring to his hale and hearty constitution.
No, it was because he’d had it rough. Life was hell when he was
a kid, and he let us know it. "When I was your age, we smoke
a cigarette three ways – three ways – and for weeks we talk
about what great smoke we have!"
Dad, you’re rough! I don’t even smoke! That’s how bad I’ve got it!"
He beat the
odds. Then again, who knows? Red wine is chock full of resveratrol,
polyphenols and anti-oxidants. Tobacco calms the nerves. Maybe his
vices – even in the immoderate doses self-administered – did him
less harm than good.
lector: this is not intended as medical advice. Please consult
your local State-licensed medical practitioner for answers to your
He toiled as
excavation laborer. It was hard, thankless and physical work. He
never complained. He never took a sick day. If he ever felt under
the weather, he ate his dinner and downed a couple of shots of grappa,
proceeding immediately to bed. That’s how we knew he was sick. He
went straight to bed instead of falling asleep on the couch watching
TV – or as TV watched him, as he was wont to say.
He was up-and-at-‘em
the next day – ready to tackle the man-uh-hole. That’s right.
This wasn’t your ordinary, everyday manhole. It had three syllables!
It was part of his Working Class Hero shtick. "I work in a
man-uh-hole all day. Water up to my knees, all soaking wet"
– and here he paused for dramatic effect, delivering the coup de
grace in a breathy whisper – "and sweat!"
If he intended
for his proletarian elegy to elicit sympathy, he failed miserably.
The ingrate sons collapsed to the floor in heaps of laughter. "Gee,
Dad, you’re rough!"
Did I say "sons"?
He gleefully denied paternity. This, too, was part of his shtick.
One summer his company deployed him to worksites within walking
distance of the downtown Detroit offices of my employer. He had
alerted me to the possibility we’d cross paths. Sure enough, I spied
him one morning. Even at a hundred yards and with his back to me,
his figure was unmistakable: feet shoulder-width apart, one hand
on his hip while the other held a shovel, the ubiquitous Camel squeezed
between index and middle fingers. I completed my approach and tapped
him on the shoulder.
he immediately started laughing. "Ha ha ha!
Hey, bum!" Then, tugging my tie, he shouted down into
man-uh-hole. "Hey, Joe! Come here! I want you meet somebody!
A hardhat emerged from his subterranean haunt. "This is my
son Tony! Ha, ha ha! Well, they say he’s my son. I don’t know. Ha
ha ha! You know how that go! Ha ha ha! I never say ‘my son,’ I never
way ‘my wife’! I say ‘our son,’ ‘our wife’! Ha ha
ha! Because you not know where she been! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
Dad, you’re rough! A fine way to talk about the mother of your children!
And thanks for saddling me with that Madonna-Whore thing!"
enough, Aristotle is reputed to have said something along the same
lines: "Of course mothers love their children more than fathers
love their children. Mothers are sure their children are their own."
I don’t think he got it from Aristotle.
He didn’t deny
paternity when it came to my sister. He always liked her best. One
Christmas, after we’d polished off multiple bottles of wine, he
started dropping hints "we" could use another. The three
sons played dumb. Without prompting, our sister dutifully pushed
herself away from the table and proceeded to make the trek to the
basement. Returning, she pulled the cork and poured him a glass.
my dad solemnly announced to the family and friends assembled, "is
the only son I ever had." The attempt to chasten us proved
futile, as the sons erupted into a barrage of jeers. "Fabio
is the only sister I ever had." "Mom is the only dad I
ever had." "Zio Gigi is the only aunt I ever had."
"Coco [our pet cockatiel] is the only dog I ever had."
"Leonid Brezhnev is the only president I ever had." And
so on and so forth.
He dished it
out. He took it.
leaned distressingly to the left. He managed to sow the seeds of
my libertarianism nonetheless. Perhaps the Italian left’s anarcho-syndicalist
distrust of central authority had something to do with it. He relied
on himself alone. He grew an extensive vegetable garden. He did
all his own plumbing and electrical repairs. He built an entire
bathroom from scratch. He made his own wine. He distilled grappa
from the residue, taking care to cover the basement windows with
cardboard to avoid detection.
me of American exceptionalism at a very early age. Maybe it started
with the unique imprecation – "M*****f***ing Hiroshima!"
– he hurled at motorists who cut him off in traffic. Or maybe it
was his flouting of the United States as a Global Force for Good.
He’d experienced a dose of uplift as a putative beneficiary of the
Allied "liberation" of Italy. He could have done without
it. As far as he was concerned, the Benevolent Hegemon was Just
I faced drafted
registration as an 18-year-old toward the end of the Vietnam War.
I knew he didn’t like that war, or any other, but surely a defensive
war is theoretically possible. I had to know. "If I get drafted,
don't you think I should fight for my country? Isn't it the honorable
thing to do?"
thought he'd shed some light on the matter. He’d lost a brother
in the Italian Army during the Siege of Stalingrad in 1942. MIA
to this day, my uncle left a two-year-old daughter and young widow
in the lurch. The family never even had a body to grieve over. That’s
not the worst of it. The poor schmuck fought on the Bad Guys' Side.
Yes, it seems my Zio Nino fought alongside the Germans to
put the kibosh to Stalin's tyranny, when all along The Right Thing
To Do was to fight alongside the Russians to put the kibosh to Hitler's
Who knew? The
Cold War would only come two long years later! Mussolini was just
a little ahead of his time.
papa would have none of this. He fairly came unglued. "Your country?!
What?! Are you crazy?! Where do you get these ideas? No! You have
no country! You know where my country is?! Here! Between my legs!
That's my country! That's all I live for! That's all I fight for!
That's all I'll die for!"
He was a good
man. Here's hoping he and his country find themselves in a better
place. May God rest his soul.
Pivetta [send him mail] lives
in Royal Oak, Michigan, where he pines for a bygone era in which
baseball actively strove to maintain its continuity with its past.
He draws dark parallels between the rise of publicly financed stadiums
and the demise of both the Grand Old Game and the cause of American
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