Tony B skated through the rest of his Grammar School years, doing just enough not to get left

back in any grade. When he graduated 8th grade, he made the made circuit of graduation parties all throughout Little Italy. Sure, the legal drinking age in NY City was 18 at the time, but not in Little Italy. Any boy could go into any bar in Little Italy and get himself a beer, as long as that boys father had given him permission. The bartender, might not know, so they always asked, “You're father said it's OK?” If you answered yes, the bartender poured you a small 8 ounce glass of Reingold, for 10 cents. If you answered yes, and the real answer was no, you'd be bared from all Little Italy bars until you reached 18, and sometimes longer. Some guys were thirty years old and still waiting to be allowed their first Little Italy bar drink. Lying has it consequences. Now the apartment parties for Grammar School graduation were a little different. Every kid knew who had a party, and what they were serving. So the kids made the rounds, scarfing up Italian cold cuts, trays of meatballs, manicotti, baked ziti, veal and chicken parmigiana, and whatever else the apartment chef would rustle up. Cans of beer were offered to the kids, but some apartments had a full assortment of whiskeys and liqueurs, which were set up in shot glasses on serving trays. So as Tony B made his rounds of the Little Italy apartments, he downed a shot here, a shot or two there, of whatever the host chose to pour him. So during the course of maybe three hours of apartment hopping Tony B. devoured scotch, rye, vodka, gin, flavored brandies, crème de menthe, crème de cocoa, galliano and some diesel fuel called grappa. After the first five, or six, all the shots basically tasted the same to Tony B. So as Tony B weaved a crooked line down Mulberry to Bayard, to Baxter, across Canal, up Mott, across Hester to Elizabeth, across Canal again, and finally down Mulberry Street again, things were looking a little bit shaky, especially Tony B's legs. When Tony B crossed Park Street, by Columbus Park, his father was looking out the 6th floor window, having already received the report that his son had maybe had a little too much to drink. As soon as Sally Boy saw the wiggle in Tony B's legs, he yelled inside to his wife, “Hey Dria, make a big pot black coffee. We're going to need it.” Sally Boy knew there was no way his son was going to make it up six flights of stairs. So he ran downstairs, picked his son up, draped over his broad shoulders and carried him up six flights of stairs. Sally Boy lay Tony B down on his bed until the black coffee (what Americanus called espresso) was ready and on the table. As Tony B lay prone, he saw the room spinning around him in a counter clock direction, like he was on a merry-go-round. But there was no brass ring to grab. Only the sides of the bed to stop him from falling off. Sally Boy went into the kitchen and returned with full cup of coffee. “Now drink this down,” Sally Boy told his son.

Tony B sat up straight, or what he thought was straight, because the room had reversed course and was now spinning clockwise. Tony grabbed the cup of coffee from his father and took a sip. “No small sips, “Sally Boy said. “Down the freakin' thing, while your mother makes some more coffee in the maganette.” Tony B was not feeling any better. Plus he had a bitter taste in his mouth, like he had eaten a whole bunch of broccoli. Raw. “Put some sugar in the coffee, “ Tony B said. “No sugar, “Sally Boy said. “Sugar turns into alcohol. And you'll get more drunk” This went on a few more times until Tony B had knocked down about a quart of the black gooey stuff. With no sugar. It was like drinking mud. Tony B. found out at an early age that drinking black coffee to negate drunkenness was plain stupid. The caffeine in the coffee did not make you any less drunk. What it did was wire you up so tight, you were now a hyper-nervous drunk, ready to rip out the walls. Eventually Tony B. wound down enough to actually go to sleep. When he awoke some 12 hours later, he had a huge headache was his mouth was as dry as sand. He staggered out of the bedroom to the kitchen table, and there was his father waiting for him with, you guessed it, a pot of black coffee. “Here, this will straighten out your hangover,” Sally Boy said. All Tony B could think about, was what a moron his father was.

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