Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Street Cred

My grandfather used to tell me we were distant relatives of Bugsy Siegel. To a 10 year old boy, the story had a whiff of credibility to it. We had relatives in Brooklyn. He spelt his last name the same way we did. And like all Siegels, he had a healthy disrespect for authority.

Plus, being related to a gangster had a whole lot more going for it than being the grandson of NYC cabbie.

But, as it turns out, my grandfather and the Truth were not always on the same subway platform. As a lifelong bettor of the ponies, he'd made a habit of telling tall tales. Particularly when it came to explaining to my grandmother why he had no money in his pockets.

But my connection to the criminal underworld does not end there.

Recently my uncle and I were discussing my father's less-than-glorious discharge from the Army for smoking reefer (this was pre-Viet Nam.) My father told me the story of his run in with the army brass when he found out I was smoking weed a long, long time ago.

What he didn't tell me was, that in addition to a Dishonorable Discharge, he also spent a year of his life in a military brig somewhere in Georgia.

I know all families have secrets, but this one floored me. My father, a short, squat CPA from the Bronx, was also at one time, a prison-blues wearing outlaw with a indelible mark on his permanent record.

Thankfully this happened in a different time and a different era. Because from what I know watching prison documentaries, now would not be a good time to be incarcerated. Survival on the yard depends largely on membership in a gang.

I'll have to go through my TIVO'ed episodes of Locked Up, but I don't recall anything about a gang of street-hardened Jewish Accountants called the Vicious Deducters.

1 comment:

Robert Moss said...

That was a more Johnny Cash by way of Cell Block 10 era. But my folks grew up in Brooklyn, and some of my mom's aunts and uncles sold liquid refreshment during prohibition on the subway. But that was a long time ago.