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Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Buddy Columbus

If you have been following my Appian Way saga, you might have picked up on the fact that the end of my adventure coincided with Columbus Day Eve, if there is such a thing.

It is up for interpretation but Christopher Columbus was born on October 31, 1451 and due to the change in the calender it was moved to October 12 of the same year. Due to the Monday thing the celebration is a different date every year.  He died around May 20, 1506.

As grade schoolers we learned that Columbus discovered America.  When we got to high school we found out that perhaps that was not entirely true, but his voyage in 1492 for shadowed European colonization of the Americas.

There are a few places in the United States that hold Columbus Day celebrations but not as many as you might think considering America's large Italian/American ethnic group.  The patron saint of Italians, St. Joseph, celebrated on March 19, is a much bigger deal in many communities especially New Orleans.  The parade they hold there every year honoring the husband of Mary is only surpassed by Mardi Gras.  However that is odd in and of itself because New York is where most of the Italian immigrants disembarked and New Orleans for some reason was the main port of entry in the 19th century for Sicilians.  Do not confuse the two.  Sicilians and Italians are as different as Eskimos and Indians.  You don't call one the other.

In actuality Sicilians have made more of an impact on American culture and folk lore, mainly because the Mafia and Cosa Nostra, with their code of silence, Omerta, started in Sicily during the Roman times.  It was established to take care of "families" against the evils of the Roman Empire.  It served a purpose back then and has eventually been disbanded.  There is nothing like them that exist any more and what stories you do here are myths and urban legends.  I mean really have you ever really met a mob guy?

For instance I know this lady who is a third generation Sicilian.  She takes great pride in her heritage and bristles when people ask her if her family is part of the Mafia or if she knows anyone who was a "made man."

She adamantly rejects such notions and silences the inquiry immediately.  She points out that all her brothers are professional men and work in the family business.  One is a doctor, another a lawyer, and the youngest one a CPA.  Her uncle she proudly states is the head of the family now.  He runs the family business from Cicero on the south side of Chicago.

I asked her once what type of business it was and she told me it was a consulting enterprise and provided special services for private parties that wished to remain anonymous.  She did not know much about the business other than that and never understood why her father was annoyed with her brothers when they went to work for the uncle.  She said it must be a very profitable enterprise.  She said one brother told her that they were successful because they offered services and provided opportunities that were not  available normally and that the intrinsic exchanges were of such a nature that they could not be refused.

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