Friday, January 30, 2009

There's always room for Porrello

It’s Friday and my attention span is shot. Welcome to the melange.

First, I have a bone to pick. I pick the tibia.

Second, I have a problem.

My co-blogger, Tricia, writes one post about “Seven Wheelchairs” and its author, Gary Presley; and, lo and behold, who should appear in the comments but Presley?

Yet, I direct — not one, but two — posts toward James Joyce, and does he emerge from the ethernet to respond? No.

Sure, Joyce died in 1941, but if Finnegan can rise from his casket — at least, I think that’s what happened — then, Zombie James Joyce can find an Internet cafe and snap off a couple of witty retorts.

Next, I’m halfway through a Rick Porrello kick. For those who read our newspaper, you may remember Porrello as the Lyndhurst Police Chief/Sammy Davis Jr. drummer/mafia legacy author.

Porrello has a homegrown interest in the mafia. His grandfather and three of his great-uncles were killed during the corn sugar wars in Cleveland. He’s written three books on organized crime in Cleveland so far: “The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia,” “To Kill the Irishman,” and “Superthief.”

Porrello flummoxes me. I spend all of my time trying to become a better writer and journalist. He’s already better than me and he does it part time. And he played drums for Sammy Davis Jr.

So he’s a better writer, better musician, and I’m going to assume he’s a better cop because he’s a police chief and I’m... not a police officer. So he thrice defeats me.

Nevertheless, I liked his “Irishman” and like-liked his “Rise and Fall.” Porrello has a knack for including the perfect detail.

For example, in “Irishman,” Porrello writes about how Butchie Cisternino and Allie Calabrese tried to kill notorious Irish mobster Danny Greene by blowing him up with a remote control bomb hidden in Greene’s car.

As Greene pulls away in the vehicle, Cisternino and Calabrese hit the button but are too far away from the car to set off the explosion. As they run closer, Greene pulls up to the parking lot attendant.

The attendant asks for seven dollars. Greene hands him $10 and says, “Keep the change.” Then, he drives away safely.

Keep the change.

Details make a scene, but the right detail makes a scene great.

--Jason Lea,

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Lea:

Good point about Danny Greene. My mother was at that building during a doctor's appointment (It's the big tower at the corner of Cedar and Brainard) the day of the explosion. But she left an hour before the bomb went off.

Cleveland Magazine had a great piece about the rise and fall of the Cleveland Mafia. Greene was supposedly cocky and drove a Celtic-green Cadillac Eldorado or Lincoln Mark IV or whatever American boat was popular in the late-70s (This was before the era of downsized cars. I love those cars, as I still drive a mid-80s Diplomat police car in the summer). Greene often escaped near death, whether it was by bomb or bullet.

Buy the book To Kill an Irishman by Rick Porrello (ISBN-10: 0966250885) or (ISBN-13: 978-0966250886).

It makes you think about how different Cleveland is now. Even the Italian kids in my school and neighborhood didn't really like talking about Danny Greene whenever I asked them, and we live a few miles away from Cleveland. (southern Cleveland Heights).

January 30, 2009 at 2:37 PM 

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