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Excerpts From My To Do List
By Carl Capotorto

To fill it, my father had the bright idea of offering to throw pizza birthday parties. So a poor, unknowing parent would book the place for a Saturday afternoon and load in ten or twenty screeching eight year-olds. Long before the first pizza was served (full pies at the table were acceptable, by the way, just no slices) Cappi would be throwing the entire party into the street. Again with the Ralph Kramden: "OUT! ALL OF YOU! GET OUUUT!" My own tenth birthday party ended this way when Johnny Appelbaum starting popping balloons with a plastic fork. "THAT'S IT! PARTY'S OVER! OUT! OUUUUT!"

Thank god we had a few regulars, like the Saturday night crew that Ann Lazerta had been part of.

They'd feast and party themselves silly. It was Ann and her husband Little; Ann's sister Tessie and her husband Big; Rosie and a guy named Lenny X (they were married too … only not to each other); a short morbidly obese guy, I forget his name, maybe Vin or Vic, who was missing an ear but had a big plastic one he'd plug in there for formal occasions; and a couple of other characters who'd come and go. They, to me, were the height of glamour. The women were all in sequins and diamonds and they smoked cigarettes and had raspy voices and husky laughs. The men wore shiny suits and chunky pinky rings and reeked of pomade and cologne. Most of them were "connected." Numbers-runners, fencers, that kind of thing. Furs and jewels and electronics would "fall off the truck" into their hands. My father was repeatedly offered "in." It would have made his life dramatically easier. All he had to do was say yes. But he wouldn't go near it. He had a powerful -- and immutable -- sense of right and wrong. And what they were doing was wrong. Period.

Also wrong was our local movie theater, The Globe. Soon after Cappi's opened for business (in 1965 or so) it became a porno house. Its first offering was I Am Curious (Yellow). This enraged my father and he began a neighborhood campaign to shut them down. This very quickly expanded into a broader crusade against pornography and before long he'd established The Committee to Control Obscenity by Constitutional Means. I still have the letterhead. The address? Cappi's. Yes, Cappi's Pizza & Sangweech Shoppe was the national headquarters of The Committee to Control Obscenity by Constitutional Means.

When he wasn't flying up to Albany in his heavily-backfiring lime green Cadillac (circa 1952, sold to him by Squeegee the bread man for fifty bucks) to lobby members of Congress to add anti-obscenity provisions to the US Constitution, Cappi was proselytizing from behind the pizza counter. "How do you feel about pornography?" he'd ask every adult male customer. This being the sixties, most of them felt it was a matter of free speech, which really got his goat. "Oh yeah? Is THIS free speech?!" And he'd flash a picture of, like, a nun in a barnyard with her habit hiked over her head being mounted by a farm animal. (He kept a store of particularly egregious porn samples in a box under the counter for exactly this purpose.) "Or THIS?!" And it would be, like, a super close-up of some way-dilated bodily orifice being violated by an oversized household object, like a vacuum cleaner hose or a decorative vase.

Of course, the people would be horrified. They'd politely explain that while these images weren't their cup of tea, they didn't have to see them if they didn't want to (unless of course they were ordering a slice of pizza at Cappi's) and therefore the images had a right to exist. This kind of bleeding heart liberal attitude really enraged Cappi and he'd have no choice but to toss them out. "Well guess what? I don't serve perverts here. Now get owwwwt!" Another potential customer tossed out on his ass. I'd say one of three potential customers of Cappi's Pizza & Sangweech Shoppe was tossed into the street before even getting to place an order. We hung on this way for about 5 years or so and then, mercifully, Cappi's was sold.

A couple of years after selling the pizza shop is when my parents bought the house. Which brings me back to where I started.

My father died in 1998. He was 76 years old. The house was mostly done by then but had fallen into bad disrepair. I helped my mother hire a contractor who brought in a team of laborers and they accomplished in two or three weeks more than Cappi and Bub could have done in a year. It was cathartic. Nothing gave me greater joy than to walk around the place and see it filled with workers … other people working on that house!

My mother lives there still and I help her out a lot but there are limits. I've developed a deep aversion to hard labor. I also have a troubled relationship with To Do lists. I should learn to stay away from them all together but somehow they keep popping everywhere. Here's one I just found under my keyboard:

P.S.: Let. Go.

Hmmm. I don't remember writing that one.

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