Sunday, February 15, 2015



Carlo Martello, a Chicago cop and Mafia hood, dreamed of building a marble bathroom for himself, ever since he visited ruins in Rome and Athens. So, when Urban Renewal started tearing down old movie houses, he used his connections in both worlds to have loads of marble, glass, and brass diverted to his property. My reigning woman at the time was a nurse who tended him when he was in the hospital with the first of eight heart attacks. She told me that he was looking for an apprentice, no experience required; and, on her recommendation, he hired me. We worked only two-three hours a day, because we both had formidable schedules, and calculated the job would take most of the summer. I learned much during those weeks, how to cut and drill marble, affix and adhere it to walls and ceilings, grout and polish it, and a lot about construction and carpentry. I was particularly proud of the toilet-tissue holders I designed out of old brass candle/bulb holders. His wife was a large, loud, essentially lonely lady, whose passion was cooking; and that she did extraordinarily well. She worked at it all day, every day, preparing extravagant dinners for as many as twenty guests. The house that was painfully lonely during the day was almost a carnival in the evening. The sandwiches she made for my lunch were monumental tributes to the gods of delicatessen: Garfield, Hagar, and Dagwood Bumstead would have envied them: more varieties of meats and cheeses and trimmings than I had ever imagined existed. I usually had enough food left over to take home for my supper. One afternoon, when the project was only half finished, Mrs.Martello, not very subtly, suggested that we have "dessert" on her living-room couch. Now, no way was I going to touch something belonging to a cop/gangster! In desperation, I told her that I had an infection. I don't think she believed me. Lunch the next day was a cold slice of meat loaf on a wilted leaf of lettuce. After telling Carlo that I had sprained my back, I was again unemployed.

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