A Story from My Past; Out of our Element

My brother Russ was married to a very sweet woman, Karen, who also lived in Brooklyn. We lived across the street from this very large park called Marine Park, and Karen lived on the other side of the park. I’m not sure how they met, but they fell in love and eventually got married.

Aunt Karen had very interesting parents. Dorothy was a very large and tall woman, with an outdated beehive hairdo who never left the house. She was a true recluse, who got all of her food delivered from the local deli. The only time she would ever go out of the house was one evening a week, when she would go to George’s Restaurant and Bar on Flatbush Avenue near her house. She never drove a car so she would take a car service. They knew her well there since she never missed a weeks visit. She would dress in pink chiffon dresses, with jet black dyed hair and being about 6 feet tall she was a true sight to be seen. There was no one nicer, or more innocent than Dorothy. Walter, Karen’s dad was the complete opposite on every level. He was a tough, gruff, ex con who had connections that we, as innocent Jew’s from across the park could never imagine. We knew he had a trucking business, and we knew who ran the trucking industry but that was all we knew.

Now for the story. After Uncle Russ and Aunt Karen were married Walter told Uncle Russ that if anything ever happened to him he should find a guy on the waterfront named Pimpinelli. He knew Dorothy could never handle anything on her own so he gave this task to his son in law. As you can imagine, one day, unfortunately Walter died. Uncle Russ immediately calls me to help him figure out what to do to help the Widow Hannon. (That was Dorothy’s last name)

We knew that Walter had a small office somewhere on the waterfront so we went there. It turned out Walter owned two trucks, and had a desk in a seedy office. When we got there, we found the two drivers that worked for him. The diesel tractor trucks were parked but still running. I asked them why are they running? Are you making a delivery? They said no, that if they turned off the trucks they would not start gain. These trucks are so old that they can’t be restarted so they run them all night. Okay! Now I see what we are working with. Being me, I go right to his desk. I find a stack of checks, and some paperwork, and I can then figure out what kind of business Walter had. His trucks would pick up containers from ships at the docks and deliver them. The containers were the ones you see all the time, and they sit on carriages which the trucks pull. Then he returns the carriages to the dock. He got paid a few hundred dollars for each delivery. How the drivers got paid I have no idea. I doubt there was pay stubs in this picture. Of course, the docks and the entire waterfront was run by the Italian Mafia, so this is where the story gets more interesting. We have to find Pimpinelli!

Uncle Russ and I feel EXTREMELY uncomfortable in these environs. We had to talk to people who know we don’t belong there; about things we know nothing about. But we need to help Dorothy so we push on. We ask around if anyone knows where we can find a man named Pimpinelli. If we didn’t look so pathetic, they probably would have killed us right then and there. We were told that he can be found most days at a certain address in Red Hook Brooklyn. We went to this block in Red Hook and if I tell you, it was all dilapidated buildings, I would be nice to the description. No one was on the block, and it looked like no one could or would live on this street. We found the building and knocked on the door. While we were shaking in our shoes, someone answered the door, and we politely asked if someone named Pimpinelli was there. He said to come in and we did. Inside the place was gorgeous. Expensive wood paneling and very fancy furniture. It turned out that we wandered into a mafia clubhouse, and this guy pointed to a graying, potbellied man, immaculately dressed in a suit and tie, with an apron tied over it, standing at the stove cooking a huge pot of sausage and peppers for the boys. I could not make this up.

Yes, we were out of our element.

We politely asked if we could have a word with him. He took us to the side and we told him the story about how Walter Hannon told us one day if anything happened to him, we should find a man named Pimpinelli and ask him for help. We told him that we find ourselves with this small trucking company and we are trying to sell it so that Walter’s widow, the Widow Hannon could live. He, of course knew Walter, and said he would see what he could do. He would call us in a few days. We thanked Pimpinelli and gladly left this place.

A few days later Uncle Russ gets a call from Pimpinelli to meet him at this other address on the waterfront. We go there, and are led into a large, beautiful and impressive conference room with huge windows overlooking the river. Sitting in this room are younger men, all dapper looking, in suits and ties, but with an air of danger surrounding them. We don’t get introduced to anyone there but are given a chance to plead our case. We explain that we are hoping that they can help us liquidate the trucking company so that Walter’s widow will have money to live on. We know we are totally at their mercy and we say so. We know that Walter had some low-lying connection with them and so we hope for the best. They acknowledge that they heard us and tell us politely to leave. We go outside the conference room and wait for the verdict.

Soon after we are told that they will buy the trucks and seedy desk for $50,000. We are grateful beyond measure. It is the only time in my business career that I didn’t negotiate. Dorothy got her money, and was able to be carefree about cash for the rest of her life. And so that you know that she was such a nice person, she gave me Walter’s aging Cadillac as a thank you for helping. As I always say, as crazy as things might seem, it always works out in the end.

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