I had been divorced about two years, moved from where I had spent most of my life in southern Florida. After working in several restaurants in a couple different towns, I settled in the resort town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and opened a small restaurant. One day two fellows came in; a tall lanky guy with long black hair and a shorter man with a mop of tousled brownish-red hair. Jeff, the tall guy, introduced himself and his friend, Perry Antonelli. Perry was quite a congenial, slightly handsome, down-to-earth-looking guy. He introduced himself as the owner of the motel “on the way to the ski slope”. “Ah yes”, I said, “the big one with the green trim, right?”. He acknowledged that was the one – his brother and he had bought it a few years before I came to town. This was quite amazing to me because, for some inexplicable reason, my eyes would always fix upon that motel whenever I rode up to the ski resort. I would always get this magnetic draw towards it – for why, I don’t know. But now, I felt a connection with Perry – what with my father’s Italian background and maiden name of Sigareta – and he, too, growing up in Florida and both of us being born in the north – he in New York and me in New Jersey. After coming in to eat a few times, he asked me out for dinner. A lovely man was he! Besides running a motel he liked to write poetry and to sculpture body parts, mainly feet and hands, and mainly in alabaster.
Then my mother, who lived in Cape Cod, came for a visit. And at the same time, his father came for a visit from Florida. So we didn’t get to see each other for a few days. Then one morning, Perry came into the restaurant and asked if I would like to come have a home-cooked spaghetti dinner with him and his father; and the invitation was extended to Mom also. This sounded like a splendid idea, so I called Mother and relayed the invitation to her. She was delighted since she is a real “people person”.
After getting off work, going home and beautifying myself (Mom was already dolled up) we headed up the hill to Perry’s motel-home. Perry welcomed us in and introduced his father, Marco. Right away, Mom and Marco started chatting. Of course, Mother had to tell Marco that I was half-Italian – my maiden name was Sigareta and my grandfather was born in Sicily. Marco paused, thought for a moment, then said, “I knew of a Sigareta in New York. Did her grandfather ever live there?” Mom nodded affirmative, “yes, that’s where he lived. He had a big construction company in New York”. We all were sort of awed that these two people (Marco and Mom) met halfway from opposite ends of the US in Tennessee and started talking about mutual acquaintances from fifty years ago!
Marco and Mother continued discussing my grandfather – did he have one glass eye? Yes, he had one glass eye. Once they agreed it was the same man, Marco went on to relate stories he had heard about my grandfather and grandmother. The story he heard about Grandma was, she “entertained men in her boudoir” and, according to Marco the story he heard about my grandfather was someone shot him in the eye, and that’s why he had one glass eye. Actually, mother really didn’t know how Grandpa Sigareta ended up with one glass eye. There were rumors that my grandfather was Mafia; in fact, that’s what Mom used to tell me whenever we’d be looking at his photograph. The picture showed a portly bald man with one regular eye and one staring eye (which I assume was his glass eye), and a big stogy hanging out his mouth. If anyone “looked” Mafia, this man in the photo sure did!
But this whole experience of a total stranger retelling tales about my grandparents from fifty years ago was mindblowing not to mention quite embarrassing!
Truth Is stranger than fiction!
Flash forward to now – the day of “Google knows everything”. I have on several occasions looked up my grandfather and found several articles on him from googlebooks. Googlebooks has archived books, legal articles, medical articles and who knows what else from years ago. They are the most amazing resource material ever! One of the articles I found on Grandfather Sigareta was from a New York newspaper which carried several installments on his court case, State of New York vs Sigareta Construction Company where his business partner was accused of illegally obtaining a sewer installation contract with the city. Supposedly, according to this article, he told another bidder that “they (my Grandfather’s construction company) had the Queens area covered and if anyone else came in they’d break their legs”. Does this make Grandpa a mafioso? Not really. But it sure doesn’t smell right!
~All names except the author’s were changed to protect the privacy of still living individuals.