Monday, March 31, 2014

Captain Naked Man review

First order of business on the Good Ship Cosmic Bobo is to review a book I just read by Deirdre Marie Capone, titled: Uncle Al Capone - The Untold Story From Inside His Family.
The book is fascinating in a few aspects, predictable in a "not bad" sense, agreeable in many ways, and chock full of pictures, which is always a plus, especially when reading the Kindle Edition... which often screws you out of pix. An aside is Bugliosi's  book on JFK. Thousands of pages, but no images in the Kindle Version.
During the reading the pictures were sparse, breaking no ground. At the end is a treasure chest of pictures, though some are not well focused. You still see images you've never seen before. I was extremely pleased, unlike the Chicago Press book with their glass negative images. They couldn't even get the direction right, i.e. the famous shot of Al and Sonny at the ballpark with Sonny and Big Al's scar on the wrong sides. Unforgivable for a press edition. I digress.
Some of the reviews trash this book as having been a trumped up memory in an age where there is no one left to argue about it. That's garbage. I think Ms Capone waited until she offended a few less family members by coming out. Self Serving? What book isn't?
Some brought up that Ms Capone had an unbelievable (literally) memory, yet I can remember back to my second year, maybe earlier, as I remember being in a crib, too. I probably looked like Jimmy Cagney raking my baby cup across the bars. For the sake of argument, let's say that her memory is not as tight and sure as she writes. She spent enough time with her family, them going over old stories and memories over and over until it was pretty well in her head. My mother told me something I did that I could not recall, but if I were to write about it, I would write as if from memory.
One reviewer vehemently wrote that NO gangster would tell anything to anyone about anything they did. I can't swear how close Ms Capone was to her grandfather Ralph, but he lived well into her adulthood and could very easily have told her "how things were."
Oh, snap! All the people Big Al was responsible for killing. Here we go with my take on government... I mean organized crime... I mean government -- SAME THING!
Big Al killed people. So have all of our presidents, the worst being Honest Abe. Big Al committed other crimes. So does our government every day every one of those 530 odd congressman, executives, and justices go to work. The very least by robbing us by not doing their jobs. The very most by sanctioning laws to suit themselves. Bastards one and all.
They took liquor away from us. Big Al gave it back. They make prostitution illegal, meaning I can pay two people fifty thousand dollars to have sex on film, but I can't buy it for myself for a few hundred. I'm not defending prostitution, but it is our criminal government that makes it profitable for criminals.
You must remember that when Al Capone came to Chicago we were less than two decades past Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid getting killed or escaping. I am not really fond of people being killed, but it was a different era, the main difference being that while "The Outfit" was coming into its own; so were law enforcement. Let's not forget that asshole in a dress, J. Edgar Hoover: The guy who had people shot in the back, shot the wrong criminals, and made Ma Barker out to be Elizabeth Bathory, when there is not one iota, not squat, not an ort of evidence to show that she did anything at all wrong, save some less than savory breakfasts, says Al Creepy Karpis, whose word I believe over anything JEH and our wonderful crime lords in Washington say.
So we had a mob, the old style, like the Six Families Tongs in San Francisco. There weren't as many renegade actions (random gang crapola) like we have now that our "legitimate" government has grown into it's own. I have a much better chance of being taken down by our government or the cracks in the system they caused than I would have in Al Capone's Chicago.
So, Deirdre Capone paints her family to be a tad rosier than they might be. She is offsetting decades of one-sidedness that have been put out there. Maybe there's a good reason people still show a whispering respect in Chicago when Big Al is brought up.
My only issue is that Ms Capone mentions somewhere towards the start of her book that there is someone claiming to be Al's Grandson. This person would like Al exhumed for DNA. That is not necessary if a known blood relation will volunteer. I cannot imagine everyone in the family NOT wanting to know if they have a cousin.
Take no shame in the name Capone. Different times. Different standards. Perhaps (I should say absolutely) we would have less crime now if "The Outfit" ran the country.

----------------- Captain Naked Man's Email Box I haven't got all that it takes to create a functional web log here, but if you wish to post something, please use the link directly above. If you want to comment privately, please use the same, but tell me you would rather not have it published. Oh, and if you wish your comments made public, just tell me what you want as far as how to identify you (name, email, nickname, etc.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Al Capone's St. Joseph Table. True story!

In America March 19 is always celebrated as Saint Joseph’s Day. (Saint Joseph was the symbolic, but not birth, father of Jesus.) In Italy March 19 is also celebrated as Father’s Day. My Grandmother Theresa taught me the customs of the Italian celebration of this Christian Feast Day.
Saint Joseph’s Day always falls during Lent, so the food served on this day never has meat, and the food that is served represents the harvest so no cheese is served. Therefore, the pasta which is traditionally served is sprinkled with bread crumbs rather than cheese.
I remember Grandma asking me on one Feast Day if I knew why bread crumbs were used on the food, instead of another non-cheese seasoning
“No, Grandmacita,” I answered wonderingly.
“Because the bread crumbs symbolize the sawdust Saint Joseph –and Jesus would-- create when they sawed wood to make furniture for their customers in Nazareth,”  she smiled.
Saint Joseph was also chosen the patron saint of Italy. One year, I think in the Middle Ages, there was a terrible drought in the country and people fervently prayed to him to save their crops and restore the virtually empty water wells. In an almost-mystical response to the ardent pleas of the devout peasants, massive rain showers soaked the parched land. Like Saint Joseph, Saint Patrick became the patron saint of Ireland when he was said to have driven out all the snakes in the country.
Grandma Theresa taught me to always wear red on Saint Joseph’s Day. Italians wear red on that feast day in the similar religious-based tradition that the Irish wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day!
There is another wonderful custom that my Grandmother faithfully practiced and passed down to me: If you pray to Saint Joseph and he answers your prayers, you must thank him by preparing a feast in his honor and asking others to eat from a table we call a “Saint Joseph’s Table”.
Traditionally, the grateful petitioner then opened their front door and hung out a red flag so that anyone could enter their home and eat at the Table until they were satisfied. For obvious reasons, at 7244 S. Prairie Avenue, only invited guests were able to dine at the Saint Joseph’s Table.
This Feast Day was the one time my family members could invite acquaintances outside the family to come and eat. There were no chairs placed at the table. Diners would take a plate, fill it and, after eating, put the plate in the kitchen and leave. Then Grandma, Aunt Maffy and I would wash the dishes and place them back on the table for the next guests.
“What are we celebrating this year, Grandmacita?” I asked her one year.
“We are celebrating that your Uncle Al is getting stronger and healthier every day,“ she replied solemnly. “I have said nine novenas for him”, she added.
The nine novenas leading up to Saint Joseph’s Day is another custom. A novena is a special prayer that you would say over and over during the day for nine successive days. Each day you said a different prayer.
Each year I went to Saint Philip Neri parochial school on Saint Joseph’s Day wearing a red ribbon pinned to my blue uniform, and that was before ribbons were in! Other children would ask me why I wore the red ribbon and I would tell them it was because I was Italian and it was St. Joseph’s Feast Day. I was the only Italian in my class. They also knew I was a Capone, so I think they believed that meant something sinister.
One year our oldest son Kevin had to have open heart surgery when he was seven and, due to post-surgery complications, spent a couple of weeks in intensive care in Children’s Memorial Hospital. In the next bed to our son was a beautiful infant boy, named Victor, whose parents virtually lived in the parents lounge with us during that time.
We leaned on each other for support. When my son would have a setback, their son rallied and vice versa. Their relatives, her sister and brother-in-law, would often bring home-made dago red wine to help us relax!
We were allowed to visit Kevin for only 5 minutes every two hours. Late one night as we approached his bed in intensive care, we saw doctors and nurses frantically working over him. He was hemorrhaging. They wouldn’t let us near him and pushed us back out of the room. A few minutes later we saw one of the doctors leaving.
“Is our son Kevin alright?”
“He’s still breathing.” He replied coldly in his east Indian accent. Then he turned and walked away.
We couldn’t get any answers from anyone, so I called our pediatrician who said he would check and call us back. About 30 minutes later he called to inform us that Kevin was now out of danger.
Victor’s parents were very religious. So they did a novena to Saint Joseph and promised a Saint Joseph’s Table in celebration. Customarily, three persons represent The Holy Family at the Saint Joseph Table. (The parents knew I was Italian, but I never told them
of my heritage while we were together in the hospital.)
A few years later the wife called me long distance, we had since moved away from Chicago, and said,“ Deirdre, I would like you to come to my home and represent the Virgin Mary at the St. Joseph’s table we are having to celebrate Victor’s recovery.
On that day, I said to her, “My Grandma taught me the custom of a Saint Joseph Table as a young girl and we did have people play the roles of the Holy Family. Thank you for having me be such an important part in the celebration of the answer to your prayers for your son, Victor.”
I flew into Chicago on March 19th and drove to their home. The table in their dining room was decorated as I remember my Grandma decorating her table. There were the traditional breads and sweet raviolis. People began arriving in the late afternoon. There were so many happy people and Victor himself played the baby Jesus.
As the celebration began to wind down Victor’s mother approached me.
“Deirdre, you never told me what your maiden name was”, she said.
“Capone, as in ‘Al Capone’”, I smiled. “He was my uncle.”
I never heard from those people again

Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Joseph's Day 2014

St. Joseph the patron saint of Italians

St. Joseph’s Day in the Capone home

St. Joseph’s Day, March 10, 2014

I prefer to think of myself as spiritual rather than religious. But I do believe in the power of prayer, so I offer you here the prayer to St. Joseph that my Grandma Capone claimed brought miracles.

O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, so that, having engaged here below your Heavenly power, I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen

Below are three recipes for food that is eaten on St. Joseph’s Day.


We ate these tasty puffs at every St. Joseph’s Table. Some Italians call them St. Joseph’s Sfinge.

1 cup cake flour
½ cup butter
4 eggs
1 cup water
1 tbsp sugar
grated rind of one lemon
1 tbsp brandy
Heat oven to 400º

16 oz ricotta (preferably Italian ricotta)
1/3 cup of chocolate chips chopped fine
½ cup sugar
grated rind from small orange

Mix well and fill puffs

Put water, salt and butter into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Once the butter has melted, add the flour all at once and mix until the dough leaves the side of the pan.
Remove from heat and allow to cool a little before adding the eggs one at a time, blending well after each egg.
Add sugar and lemon peel and mix.
Place a tablespoonful onto a greased cookie sheet at 3-inch intervals
Bake in 400º oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 325ºbaking 30 minutes longer.
Cool for 30 minutes while preparing filling
Before filling, cut the top off each puff. Fill and replace the top. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Spaghetti with Bread Crumbs

The bread crumbs sprinkled on top of the spaghetti is said to represent the sawdust that would have covered the floor in St. Joseph’s home.

1 pound spaghetti
2 – 28 oz cans of Italian tomatoes pureed
4 tbsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves chopped fine
1 medium onion cut into quarters
6 basil leaves or 1 tbsp dried basil
1 bulb fresh fennel
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
4 cans sardines skinless and boneless
Grandma’s breadcrumbs

Core the fresh fennel and cut into small pieces, discarding the leaves.
Take a piece of cheesecloth and wrap around the fennel, onion and basil forming a ball that will be lowered into the tomatoes. Heat olive oil in stock pot and add garlic. Stir until the garlic has released its flavor into the oil. Add tomatoes and fennel ball. Bring to a boil stirring slowly. Lower heat and simmer slowly uncovered. Add salt and pepper.
Cook slowly for 3 or more hours. Before serving, remove fennel ball and discard. Drain the 4 cans of skinless & boneless sardines
Add sardines to sauce
Stir to break up sardines
Simmer for 15 minutes
Cook spaghetti
Toss with sauce
Sprinkle with bread crumb

Fava Beans

The fava bean is always served in some manner on St. Joseph’s Day because, during the drought that plagued Italy, only the fava bean grew. Italians call it the “Lucky” bean.

1 lb. dried fava beans
1 medium onion chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped fine
3 basil leaves
chopped bunch of Italian parsley, stems removed and heads chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of salt freshly ground black pepper to taste
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until the onion turns transparent   Add the basil and parsley and heat through. Add to beans. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve in  bowls.

Bread crumbs

4 cups bread crumbs
¼ cup Italian parsley stems removed and leaves chopped
4 stalks of fresh basil stems removed and leaves chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup freshly grated cheese
2 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

We only made bread crumbs with stale leftover bread. Today I will take a loaf of Italian bread and break it up into pieces. Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil and place it in a preheated oven at 250° until thoroughly dried, 1 ½ - 2 hours.
Crumble with your hands or a food processor.
Put 1 tbsp oil in sauté pan. Heat oil and add 1 cup bread crumbs. Cook, stirring constantly