Fighting Words

by Jerry Vilhotti

It was said that the war between the Fordham Baldys and the East Harlem Mussolini Redwings began on the sands of Orchard Beach when Manhattan invaded The Bronx six months after Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Most everyone believed that the Baldy name came from the Great Garibaldi, whom Lincoln had asked to lead his great northern army after some general was afraid to fight wanting to be the first real G president to begin a Brit imperialism of its own that would kill millions of innocent people American and otherwise, but that wasn't the case since the Great Red-shirt had other plans - like unifying a country with many different ways to talk in the land that gave birth to the Romans, thinking nationalism would end wars, but instead killings grew even more vicious in the name of self-interest, greed and the hollow thought egging people on with the boast his country was more manly than the Other's. Power mattered. God it mattered and the many gods of the different religions would add their weapons to the killing of humanity.

Instead, their name came about when hanging around Pirandello's barber shop and Porky decided (not that he looked like a pig or all that, but rather it was because his last name had some letters in it that sounded like that) to get a haircut, but when the old-timer Mister Santo Marconi looking out the window saw a beautiful woman sauntering by (probably going to the candy store to service the bookie who was doing business for the "Our Thing" mob and being rewarded by them for gathering lots of pennies from people whose only dream was to have their green ship come in even if the cargo was worth only a few dollars) and cut off a big chunk of Porky's hair away. Before Porky could get mad, Leny One N (also known as Blacky) said that was a great look, and when eighteen year old Little Benvenuto, the oldest by five years and biggest guy weighing as much as the other five guys put together said: " Porky, cut the whole fuken thing off!" and low and behold did get rid of his "pruckees" and when they saw how good he looked and wasn't scratching his head anymore, decided to get all their hair cut off too, and so the name Fordham Baldy was born.

Since most of them lived near Fordham Road that was once an Indian path that was built by Indians walking from the Hudson River to get to Pelham Bay, not yet discovering both waters connected which would have saved a big walk from west to east but since they had villages along the way where they could stay for awhile lessened their burden which after they were massacred by religious Taliban-like people called the whole area Fordham Village that became a big town so much so that Edgar Allen Poe would live with his young bride who just happened to be his first cousin and decided to live not very far from West Point which he had attended for a while and began chasing his demons all around the area that would become a Little Italy.

The two biggest guys from their gangs confronted each other but nobody knows for sure who started the talking:

"Hey what you guys doing up here? Don't you belong in East Mussolini Slum City - when we kilt five of your Fascist bastards coming out of our Mount Carmel Church?"

"We came to the boonies to see how you cafones live and by the way Mussolini gave his people social security and your FDR stole it from him and did the thing here! The GOPs say we won't have social security when we get old and I believe the Nazi bastards love our country more then the Dems!"

"You call me a hillbilly farmer or what?"

"No I'm saying if the bone fits in your nose wear it."

"Hey guy not for nothing but this is our turf."

"Did the church give it to you?"

"Hey you leave Mount Carmel outta this."

"This, the last time I looked, is a free country - if you get my drift."

"Why don't you guys just drift outta hea-"

"Why because you got The Bronx Bombers and the house that guy Babe built? We got the Polo Grounds where horses played the game long before people did!"

This is when folklore says all the six guys from each side began to hurl words at each other and their East Harlem guy Bobby Darino began to sing the Italian National Anthem with a Mussolini swagger and it just happened that guys called The Belmonts began in harmony to sing "This is our land" - overcoming the anthem.

"Your mudder's virginia!"

"We don't want trouble so for your sake take a walk. This is our sand brought over by our fodders from across the seas."

"Hey our fodders found this whole fuken land! The fuken country is named after that guy who discovered the Hudson River! Americus Vespucchi or something like that!"

"Manga this!"

"I'm saying you talk funny like you own this beach!" Get my sand drift?"

"Take a walk and nobody will look. You understand?"

At this point fists began to fly and the Harlem Redwings ran all the way back to East Harlem on the path that once Indians walked leisurely; believing the White man's crooked words rapped in smallpox infested blankets.

Retaliation came a few weeks later when the Redwings returned shooting up the candy store, killing to death a nineteen year old guy, Mike DeAngelo, who was father to a one-year-old daughter, which in turn brought on the last battle that ended the war when the whole neighborhood joined again - as they did that day one of theirs died using whistles to cordon off all their blocks of escape and if the cops, the Black and Tans, hadn't come first, four guys would have been found hanging from poles by their genitals - and with bats but no guns visited East Harlem and broke many heads, arms and legs and some guys to use a Redwing expression had to be scraped up from the streets "wid a blotta".