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  • SEPTEMBER BRINGS ME BACK TO JUNE

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    It was the summer of 1959, I’d just finished my junior year at Central High and needed a job. My uncle Louie, through a family connection found me a job working as a short order cook for Tony Castagnolas, a druggist on the other side of town. I actually had met Tony years earlier, when my old man and I built a wall around his house in the ritzy section of town. Tony was primo to Capo Joe Castagnolas, who lived in the Hollow, the Italian enclave our family was from. In fact Joe’s wife was comadre to my aunt Maggie. While working at the store, from time to time I’d see Tony’s daughter sashay in.  As a seventeen year old kid, I knew lots of girls from school, but she was different, fully formed figure you might say. I learned later she’d graduated and would start college in the fall. In time I learned she had a felonious silliness, always plotting something risky or absurd. I’d gawk at her from behind the counter every time she walked through, her loose fitting dresses draped sinuously over her prominent hips. Emphasis on the “sin” part. She acted as if she didn’t see me, but every so often I’d glance over and she’d be spying me from the back room where her father worked his alchemy. Her dad had a surface respectability in the community, owning a large drug store, and living in an upscale neighborhood across from a Christian-only golf course. But, Mr. Castagnolas, like his cousin Joe, hung around with bag-men, ones who visited him just before the store closed to drop off the days slips from the clientele who played the numbers. Later that summer, one of them, Frankie P, would make the front page when he was machine gunned, while dropping coins into a payphone on the corner of Main and Savoy. It was messy. And, over the years, I found that the word “messy,’ would be one way to describe what most people encountered when they rubbed elbows with the Castagnolas, and I mean everybody, including me. That’s a story for later, but the point of this intro is to recall the summer of 1959 and Miss Castagnolas, and the nights we’d spent dancing at the Pleasure Beach Ballroom, and afterward  walking along the beach until the wee hours. I don’t remember exactly the tunes we’d listened to that summer, but here’s one I put together, September Brings Me Back to June, which seems to take me back to that time—before, things got, let us say, ‘messy.’

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