Max I grew up in Queens and lived there the first 21 years of my life. Lots of places that used to be working class got gentrified. I don't know if that has happened to Sunnyside or not. It used to be a blue collar kind of place similar to where I grew up in the Glendale neighborhood. If you remember All in the Family, that supposedly took place in Astoria which is close to Sunnyside, but the opening shots were actually filmed in Glendale. The author Jimmy Breslin wrote a very realistic book about blue collar life in Queens called Table Money. Hope this is of interest. PS Simon and Garfunkel are both from Queens not far from where I grew up.
We’ve been watching CBS Sunday Morning for I don’t know how long.
I think it’s the best thing on TV.
They did this story on James Caan.
He’s been in a few movies that I’ve liked.
At the end of the segment, he said he’s looking for something to do.
He said he was from Sunnyside …..in Queens.
I thought that was an interesting name.
I’ve been trying to come up with story for a long time.
I don’t know why this inspired me, but it did.
Tell me what you think…..
I guess I better add this ….Copyright 2021 Max H. Schwartz All Rights Reserved
Enjoy, I hope…… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunnyside,_Queens
It’s about eleven o’clock in the morning, in Sunnyside, which is in Queens, New York. At a restaurant that was named “SoleLuna,” by its owners, by taking the Italian word, sole, which means sun, and combining it with luna, which means moon, two men are seated at a table. It’s in the back, and they’re having brunch. Both are having poached eggs, which they are about to finish eating. One’s having Poached Egg Carbonara, which has Italian Bacon, pecorino cheese, and black truffle. He’s the younger one. There’s a reporter’s pad on the table beside his plate, and on it is written in large handwritten print, “Ralph Angelucci NY Times,” And a phone number. The man that’s sitting across from him is much, much older, and he’s having Poached Egg Hemingway, which has smoked salmon and Hollandaise sauce.
The younger one says, “Frankie, I can’t do what you’re asking me to do.
It’s crazy. I won’t do it. You’re 81. Let go of it. Enjoy the time you have left. If you’re innocent, like you say you are, you owe it to yourself to try to enjoy the rest of your life. Think of your granddaughter, and her kid. Haven’t you put your family through enough? You spent 45 years in Sing Sing. If what you’re telling me is true, that you’re innocent, give yourself a break. You deserve one. Let it go!”
“Ralph, I can’t let go of it. Your grandfather and I were friends. I did him some favors. Now, I’m asking you for one. Just write the story. If everything works out for me, I might give you the rights to my life story after I’m dead. It will make you a ton of money.
“Frankie, my boss would kill me if he knew I’d done this for you. I’d like to help you, but I can’t. I hope you can understand. You’re lucky they didn’t fry you. Be glad you’re still alive, and out of prison. Very few people make it to 80.”
“I don’t understand what you’re telling me. If I tell you I’m going to find out who killed Billy, and make sure he gets what he deserves,” why can’t you print it? You can put in a follow-up to the story you wrote about my parole.”
Frankie, if I put that in a story, and they killed you, I’d be an accessory to your murder. I might as well have pulled the trigger myself. I can’t do it. My grandfather, rest his soul, would never forgive me. He loved your ass. He never stopped talking about you. I just can’t do it. I think you have some kind of death wish. You’re too ####ing old to be screwing with those bastards. They’ll put a bullet in your head. For God’s sakes, they’ll kill you. I’m telling you, let it go!”
“Ralph, I can’t do that. Everyone knows that besides having cancer, I have a heart condition. They won’t put a bullet in me. You don’t have to worry about that. They’ll make it look like I had a heart attack. I’ll be found slumped on a park bench. It will look like I just fell asleep, and never woke up.”
“Hey, I got you two tickets for tomorrow night’s Mets game. They’re for you and your granddaughter’s kid. They’re playing the Pirates.”
“Thanks, he’ll like that. I’ll give them to my granddaughter, she’ll take him. You were at my parole hearing. You know what I told them. I’ve said the same thing at every hearing I’ve ever had. They wanted me to confess. I wouldn’t do it. Like I said, some people may have died because of me, I don’t know, but I didn’t kill Billy. It was a set-up. I’m pretty sure I know who did it. He was just a punk kid then. There’s a good chance that he might still be alive. If I can find him, I’ll be able to get him to tell me who got him to do it. I’m pretty sure I know who it was.”
“If you start messing around with the wrong people, they’ll revoke your parole. You don’t want that to happen.”
“The only reason they let me out was because they knew that my cancer would be coming back, and my medical expenses were going to cost them a ####ing fortune. They don’t want me back in prison. Whoever killed Billy did the state a big favor. The cops were after Billy. If they had caught him, putting him up in prison would have cost the state some money. If I can find who killed Billy, and who put him up to it, I’ll be saving the state some more money. That’s who I’m really after. They’ll love me for getting them off the street. Permanently. I have an idea that I’m working on that I think will help me find him.”
Ralph is seen handing Frankie the tickets. They’re both done eating. Ralph puts some cash on the table, he grabs his pad, and gets up. Frankie gets up too. They leave the restaurant.
Frankie is seen walking along the street casually. It’s a sunny day in Sunnyside.
Frankie is in the living room watching a Mets game on TV. It’s early in the evening, and the game has just started. The front door opens and his granddaughter comes in with her son. She looks like she’s in her mid-thirties and she’s wearing a nurse’s uniform. He’s a 15 year-old teenager. Her name is Rosie, and his name is Pete.
Frankie says, “Hi Rosie, how’s everything. Hey kid, what’s up?
Rosie says, ”Frankie, everything is fine. Did you eat?
“I had a ham sandwich and some soup. I’ve got some good news. Someone gave me two tickets for tomorrow night’s Mets Game. They’re playing the Pirates. You and Pete can go.”
“I’ve got a meeting tomorrow night that I have to go to. You and Pete will have to go together. I can drop you off at the ball park, and you’ll have to take the subway to get back home.”
“I don’t know if I’m ready for something like that yet. Big crowds are something that I’m not used to.”
“Maybe Pete will be able to help you.”
“Pete, do you think you can handle something like that?”
“Piece of cake. Frankie, I’ll have your back. We’ll do fine.”
“What I’m really worried about are the Mets.”
“The Pirates are having a great year. They’re on a winning streak. But, it’s still early in the season. Anything can happen.”
“Pete, I didn’t know that you’re into baseball.”
“I owe baseball a lot.”
“Baseball is what got me into math. It was all because of a movie I saw that’s about baseball. I just happened to come across it one day when I was flipping channels. It’s ‘Moneyball.’ Ever heard of it?”
“Can’t say that I have. What’s it about?”
“It’s a movie that’s about baseball and math?”
“You’ve got it. After you’ve seen Moneyball, baseball will never be the same again for you. A lot of other things won’t be either. It’s a real eye opener!”
“The movie is based on a book. I read it too. It changed my life.”
“Before I knew about Moneyball, I was headed no where. Didn’t have a clue.”
“So, where you goin?”
“Wherever I can learn the most about math.”
“That sounds like a darn good idea. Good for you!”
“I’ll bet that “Moneyball” is on Amazon or Netflix.”
“If I can find it for you, will you watch it?”
“OK, let me see if I can find it. Give me a minute.”
Pete pulls out his i-phone and starts looking.
“Here it is on NetFlix. You can watch it on my old notebook that I gave you. I’ve pulled it up for you, and you can watch it anytime you want to.”
“OK, I’m not going to stay up very late tonight. Maybe I can watch it tomorrow, before the game.”
“Sounds like a plan. I’ve got homework to do. ”
Frankie goes back to watching the Mets game.
It’s late at night and there’s a storm. Plenty of loud thunder and lightening. Frankie wakes up. He looks out the window and he sees what’s going on. He’s in a small bedroom. The lights are out, but the lightening provides a little light. There’s a clock on the table next to his bed. Frankie looks at it. It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. He tries going back to sleep, but he can’t. The storm is still raging. So, he gets up. He puts his house slippers on and goes into the living room. There’s a laptop computer on the coffee table. It has earphones plugged into it. He puts the earphones on, and he turns on the computer. He begins watching the movie, “Moneyball.” While he’s watching it, he has still photograph flashbacks of the times before he was sent to prison. He’s seen in his younger days with other people who were in his family and who were his friends. When the movie is over, he’s seen in thought for a few seconds. It’s obvious that he’s learned something from the movie. He goes back into his bedroom and he goes back to sleep.
It’s the next morning. Frankie is in the kitchen, and he has finished his breakfast. He’s drinking coffee, and he’s reading the newspaper. Rosie is cleaning up the kitchen after making breakfast. Pete comes into the kitchen for breakfast.
Frankie says, “Hey Kid, that was some storm last night. It woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep. So, I watched ‘Moneyball.’ That was some movie. One of the best I’ve ever seen. I learned a lot from it. I can see why you’re so interested in math. I hope you know that there was a lot more to that movie than baseball and math.”
“It think the movie was about people, more than anything else. It was about finding value in people that others can’t see. It fit right in with something I’m working on. It gave me some great ideas. Are we still on for the Mets game tonight? Watching that movie made me really want to go to a ball game.”
“Absolutely! We’ll do it!”
Rosie’s left the kitchen. Pete starts eating his breakfast. Frankie goes back to reading the newspaper, and drinking his coffee.
Frankie is in a park. It’s mid-morning. It’s a nice day. He’s sitting at a table in the park and he’s drinking coffee from a paper cup. There’s another coffee cup on the table and the top is still on it.
A man is seen looking around. He’s looking for someone. He’s about ten years younger than Frankie. He sees Frankie and he walks toward the table where Frankie is sitting. Frankie sees him.
Frankie says, “Hey John, come have a seat. I have some coffee for you. I’m glad you decided to meet with me. We need to talk.”
John says, “You slime bag! I don’t know what you’re up to, but it isn’t going to work.”
“Well, sit down. Drink some coffee, and hear me out. This won’t take but a few minutes. I promise you. You’ve got nothing to loose.”
John begrudgingly sits down at the table.
“Beautiful day isn’t it? That was some storm last night. It woke me up, and I ended up watching a movie that my granddaughter’s son wanted me to see. I learned a lot from that movie. It’s called ‘Moneyball.’ Ever see it?
John doesn’t look very happy.
He says, “You’re the last person that I ever thought would get a parole. I don’t know how you did it. But, I’m going to see to it that you’re back behind bars before you know it. You’re gonna slip up. Guys like you always do.”
Frankie says, “John, you know, you might be right. I might end up back in the slammer. I have to give that to you. I’m not sure of what’s going to happen. I spent 45 years in prison. The world outside is not what it used to be. I might just be better off in prison. There, I knew what to expect every day. I pretty much had it made. On the outside, I don’t know what’s going on. I’m not sure I can handle it. I miss my friends. So, you might just get what you want. I might give it to you on a silver platter. How would that be?
“I’ll tell you what, Frankie. There’s an old retired cop who has a 7-Eleven. It’s on Queens Boulevard. He keeps a loaded gun under the counter near to the cash register. I’ll set it up for you. You can go there and act like you’re going to rob him. He’ll save us both a lot of trouble. He has the perfect cure for cancer.”
“John, you’ve given me something to think about. Later on, I might just take you up on your offer. But, I’ve got something that I have to do first, and I need your help. I’ve got plenty to trade. I’ve got something that the cops need very badly. If you help me find who killed Billy, and who put him up to it, I’ll give you something that will be worth more than you could ever possibly imagine.
“Frankie, what could you have that you think is worth so much? Are you going to snitch on some of your friends? They’re all dead! You outlived them all. The ones we couldn’t get are all gone now. Now, the cops are going after their grand kids. You’re too late. You missed the boat.”
“John, I know what you’re saying. You’re probably right about my missing the boat. But, I think what I have in mind might be worth a try. I promised someone that if I ever got out, I’d give it a try. I never thought I’d ever get out. So, when he was dyeing, I gave him my word. So, now I have to live up to it. He saved my life and I own him. He was my best friend in prison. He died there, and he didn’t want the same thing to happen to me. So, will you just hear me out on this?”
“This coffee is pretty good. But, I’ve almost finished it. So, I’ll give you a few minutes. When I got your note, asking me to meet with you, the only reason I came was to tell you about the 7-Eleven on Queens Boulevard. You’d be doing a lot of people a big favor, including yourself, by taking up my offer. So, go ahead. I’m listening. You’ve got until I finish my coffee.
“You know that someone killed my older brother, Joe. He was supposed to take over when my father retired. My father was grooming him for the job. Billy knew who killed him. We made a deal with Billy, and he was going to tell me who did it the night he was killed. That’s why I was there that night. You caught me instead of whoever killed Billy.
“Frankie, you’re full of shit. You killed Billy.”
“John, I saw that I wasn’t going to be able to get away. You had me. Someone told you that something was going to go down there that night. Or, you would have never been there. I had to make a decision. I was either going to have to fight it out with you and the other cops, or I could give myself up. You had me outnumbered. I got lucky and found a good place to hide my gun. I figured that if I didn’t have a gun, you couldn’t pin anything on me.
“Well, Frankie, obviously, you thought wrong.
“John, I could take you today to that alley and show you where I hid my gun. You could do a ballistics test and you’d see that my gun didn’t kill Billy. Of course, you know that there’s just one problem with what I just told you. That alley ain’t there anymore. Nothing’s there anymore that was there then. A new office building was built there. I figured that the gun would be found when they built it. But, it wasn’t.”
“So, why didn’t you tell us what was going on when we arrested you?
“You know what happened right after that. Harry was killed. We thought that Harry was the one who killed Billy, and was behind everything. My brother Bob, God rest his soul, killed Harry. He didn’t mean to, but Harry pulled a gun on Bob, and he had to shoot him. Otherwise, Harry would have shot him. If I had told you my story, you would have had Bob too. We figured that you wouldn’t be able to convict me if I you didn’t have my gun. But, like you said, we figured wrong.
“Frankie, that’s a great story. But, that’s all it is—just a story.”
“John, it’s not just a story. It’s the truth, and I know how you cops love the truth. If we could work together on this, I know that we could find out who killed Billy, and who ordered it. I’ve got something to offer you that might make you want to help me.”
“So, what have you got? Tell me, Frankie, what could you have that’s any good after nearly fifty years.” I’ve been retired for a little over ten years. You don’t have anything that’s going to help me. Now, I spend most of my time fishing with my grandkids.
“John, now you’re shitting me. I know what you’ve been up to since you retired. I kept up with you. You’re the cops’ top retiree. You don’t spend all of your time fishing. You’ve been working unsolved cases. You’re almost as busy as you were before you retired. Maybe more so. There’s more work to be done than you could ever do. I think I can find out some things from the inside that you could never find, working on your own on the outside.
“I don’t believe you. First of all, you’re on the outside now. Once you get outside, you loose your edge on the inside.”
“John, that’s where you’re wrong. I made a deal with the warden before I got out. It’s a real sweet deal.”
“First, we need to back track a bit. You know that my brother Bob was killed
not long after I was arrested. One of your guys did that. A lot like me, he was in the wrong place at the right time. Then, my father got sick. Just like me, he had a bad ticker. As a matter of fact, I got my bad ticker from him. Bob was dead, I was in jail awaiting trial, and my father was under doctor’s orders to cool it. So, my mother, God rest her soul, and my older sister took over the family business. They made a deal with the Devil. They had no choice in the matter. It was the only way our family was going to survive. They gave up all of their illegal interests, and got to keep the legal ones. They expanded them, and that’s what my family has today. That’s what’s paying for my keep now.”
“Sounds to me like ‘The Godmother.’ I think you’re putting me on. You’ve seen too many Coppola movies.”
“John, you don’t know how close to the truth you really are. I never wanted to be part of the family business. I had other ideas. I was forced into it. The exact same way Michael Corleone was forced into the family business. The movie, ‘The Godfather’ had a big effect on me when I was young. I didn’t want to be Michael Corleone. I wanted to be Al Picino. I wanted to be an actor. I eventually got my wish in prison. You didn’t keep up with me, but I kept up with you. You heard them tell about my accomplishments in prison at my parole hearing. Weren’t you listening?”
“I was listening, but I also knew that it was all bullshit.”
“I put on lots of plays while I was in prison. I produced them, I directed them, and I acted in some of them.”
“So, what in the hell has that got to do with anything?”
“With me out of prison, there’s no one there to do what I did. So, I made a deal with the warden. He agreed to let me come back and do plays. While I’m there, I can find out things for the cops.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“You don’t know what it’s like to spend 45 years of your life in prison.” First off, I wasn’t a hardened criminal. I’d gone to college where I majored in drama. As insane as this might seem to you, when I graduated from college, I was exactly where Michael Corleone was when he graduated from college. My father needed me, and I couldn’t let him down. He wasn’t the guy you think he was. Just like me, when he was young, he had other ambitions, but he was forced into the family business too. He told me that he hated doing it, and that it would only be temporary. He told me that as soon as he could, he’d let me go off to Hollywood, and he’d pay my way. Well, you know I never got that far.”
“I’m listening. Finish your story fast. My coffee’s gone.”
“When the only deal I could make was one that would save me from the chair, my father went to work. He had people he knew who were in Sing Sing who could help me. There was an old lifer whose family needed help. He became my mentor. I was scared shitless when I go there. He looked out for me, and he taught me the ropes. He helped me get my head on straight from the beginning, God rest his soul. He was the best friend I ever had. He was like a father to me, and a brother.
“I’m still listening.”
“There are three kinds of people in prison. There are the ones with no brains, and there are the crazy animals. Then, there is everyone else. The only way you can survive in prison is by having friends who will look after you. You cover their asses, and they cover yours. In prison, the first thing you have to learn is how to know who you can trust. If you’re a lifer, you have to have strong beliefs that will get you from one day to the next. This doesn’t come easy. It takes time. A long time. The first twenty years are the most difficult. Because you see your youth slipping away. When you hit 50, that’s the most difficult time because by then, you’ve given up hope, and you believe you really are going to die in prison. That’s when you have to find something to sustain you, or you will die. Most lifers who survive eventually find God. I did that, but I did something else that worked really well for me. It was something I already had, that I came there with. It was theater. It was acting. When you’re acting, you get to be someone else. That’s the beauty of it. You can be someone who is not in prison. It’s the perfect escape. You never get shot, and you never get caught. But, you have to keep it a secret. Because, in prison, there’s always someone who is after what other people have. Life in prison is far worse than anything you could ever imagine. It’s a living hell. And, maybe that’s what it should be for some people. But, there are people who are in prison who shouldn’t be there, and there are people who aren’t there who need to be there. I’m thinking that if we work together, maybe we can somehow even the score.
“I’ll have to admit, Frankie, you’ve thrown me a real curve ball. Something I never expected out of you. I need to tell you what it’s like to be a cop for 50 years. But, that will have to wait. I need to talk to some people before I can tell you anything. But, I’ll say, you’ve gotten my attention. Cops need every break they can get. You think it’s tough inside. Read your newspaper every morning and you’ll see how it’s going for us. It ain’t good.
They’re in Rosie’s car, headed for the ball park, going to the Mets game. Rosie is driving. Frankie is in the passenger seat. Pete’s in the back seat. He has on his Mets T-shirt. They’re on Queens Boulevard. They pass a 7- Eleven and Frankie sees it. He stares at it for a long time.