950 Mr. Cappelli The Bookie 01-05-21

Grandpa owned a print shop

just off Bleeker, near Canal.

Four antique, (even back then!)

vertical letter presses

in a space the size of my current living room!

After he walked across the border

between Canada and America,

to finish his journey

from Odessa to New York City,

“I’m an ice-back!”

he used to call himself,

he’d worked just like most immigrants.

Somehow he scrounged well

and married well,

Rose Schneider from Poland,

a nice Jewish girl,

her parents, well off.

He created Bonson Press,

carved a special niche

in Manhattans business world

printing perforated payment books

and selling them to local banks.

My Father worked for him,

an aggravating, but necessary concession

for an newly married, WW2-Navy Vet,

swallowing 28 years of estrangement,

choking down every mornings

train- ride to work.

I remember, when I was eight,

taking the IRT with him

from the Bronx into Lower Manhattan

to watch them work.

The presses printing sheet after sheet

of those payment books,


all day long…

Watching the cutter slicing them

into glued and bound booklets,

stacking, wrapping, packing them,

hefting them onto the handcarts,

rolling box after box onto the sidewalk

to be picked up by local truckers

for delivery to The Chase Manhattan Bank

in Mid-Town Manhattan

and the Lincoln Savings and Loan

across the Bridge to Brooklyn.

I was proud of them,

my Grandpa and father,

and of Gus, the Negro pressman

and of their “Girl-Friday”, Mary

who, I learned much later on,

was, maybe, probably, Grandpa’s girl friend,


book-keeper, chief cook and bottle washer,

the one who ordered the ink, the reams of paper,

took care of all the stuff of business.

And there was a guy,

Mr Cappelli,

fedora and gray wool over-coat

in winter.

In summer,

a suit, blue shirt starched to cardboard,

black shoes, always polished,

Windsor knotted silk tie,

who just showed up,

Monday, Wednesday and especially Friday afternoons,

usually around 4PM,

“To collect what is owed to him”,

as Grandpa explained, quietly to me

on my first visit to the shop.

“Do you owe him?”

I whispered to Dad.

“No. Our doorway is his office.

Pop won’t let him inside.

And he gets that.”

Years back, Mr. Cappelli and Grandpa

made an arrangement.

He would use our covered, sheltered doorway

and Grandpa…

well, Grandpa would let him.

When the coffee and doughnut guy

would come around,

Mr. Cappelli would get his

and Grandpa would get his

and for Mary, Dad and Gus

and a doughnut for me whenever I was there.

And Mr. Cappelli offered,

every time,

to pay.

But Grandpa,

every time,

told him, “No Thanks”.

Nothing ever passed between them.

Not even a handshake.

From my metal folding chair

in the corner that was the office,

just a desk, a phone,

a window onto the street,

Mary sitting at the desk,

ordering on the phone,

I watched,

as workers from the loading docks,

the truckers parked around the office buildings,

mostly blue-collar guys,

sometimes, though, men in suits,

looking around,


come by to give Mr. Cappalli,


Mr. Cappalli, always a gentleman…

a hand on the shoulder,

a pat on the back,

a smile,

envelopes slipped into his inside suit pocket…

Doing business.

Dad told me that when I was born,

Mr. Cappalli had given Dad an envelope for me

and when I turned five,

Dad gave me a ten dollar bill

and told me I would meet my benefactor

when I came downtown.

Dad told me the man’s name

and that the man would say,

“Just call me Vincent.”

But I should call him only Mr. Cappalli

and only when he greeted me first.

But I should thank him for the ten-spot.

But only once.

And refuse any other offer.

So I did.

I remember,


there was a problem.

Mary was crying.

Gus was shaking his head.

Dad was angry.

Grandpa was cursing in Russian.

One of our bank customers

didn’t pay up on a big order that

we delivered to them,

“Right on time, God Damn It!”

Mary had called over and over

but Dad said the bank was going under

and we were getting stiffed.

I watched as Grandpa

stood by the doorway, smoking,

mumbling in Russian.

Mr. Cappalli asked what was up.

Grandpa wouldn’t tell him.

Neither would Dad.

But Mary, angry enough and tearful , did.

He smiled.

He said to Dad,

“Look’a, ya let me run my business here.

I can’t afford you should have to close up shop.

Let me see what I can do.”

Mary said, “Yes. Please.”

That was Friday afternoon.

Monday morning, as they say,

“The check was in the mail.”

Mr. Cappalli said,

“Look, Mr. Green,

consider it accumulated rent.”

I learned early in life.

I learned there’s business

and there’s…

“Just Business.”

About Ken Greenman

Married and Happy. Retired and busy. Living in NC. 71 and counting. December 12, 2020 and it's 72! ... I would love some written comments, critiques, adulation or kind suggestions.... If you have the time and or inclination, please feel free! Not in fear but by faith. We will see. See you later! If you ever want to talk for real, email me and I will send you my cell number.... I am enjoying this!
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