As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States.
Even before I first wandered into the cabstand for an after-school job, I knew I wanted to be a part of them. It was there that I knew that I belonged. To me, it meant being somebody in a neighborhood that was full of nobodies. They weren't like anybody else. I mean, they did whatever they wanted. They double-parked in front of a hydrant and nobody ever gave them a ticket. In the summer when they played cards all night, nobody ever called the cops.
I was the luckiest kid in the world. I could go anywhere. I could do anything. I knew everybody and everybody knew me...I was part of something. And I belonged. I was treated like a grown-up. Every day, I was learning to score. A dollar here. A dollar there. I was living a fantasy.
Hundreds of guys depended on Paulie and he got a piece of everything they made. And it was tribute, just like in the old country, except they were doing it here in America. And all they got from Paulie was protection from other guys looking to rip them off. And that's what it's all about. That's what the FBI could never understand. That what Paulie and the organization does is offer protection for people who can't go to the cops. That's it. That's all it is. They're like the police department for wiseguys.
People looked at me differently and they knew I was with somebody...At thirteen, I was making more money than most of the grown-ups in the neighborhood. I mean, I had more money than I could spend. I had it all. One day the kids from the neighborhood carried my mother's groceries all the way home. You know why? It was outta respect.
What Jimmy really loved to do, what he really loved to do was steal. I mean he actually enjoyed it. Jimmy was the kind of guy who rooted for the bad guys in the movies.
And when the cops, they assigned a whole army to stop Jimmy, what'd he do? He made 'em partners.
Paulie may have moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn't have to move for anybody.
By the time I grew up, there was thirty billion a year in cargo moving through Idlewild Airport and believe me, we tried to steal every bit of it...It was an even bigger money-maker than numbers and Jimmy was in charge of it all. Whenever we needed money, we'd rob the airport. And to us, it was better than Citibank.
For us to live any other way was nuts. Uh, to us, those goody-good people who worked shitty jobs for bum paychecks and took the subway to work every day, and worried about their bills, were dead. I mean they were suckers. They had no balls. If we wanted something we just took it. If anyone complained twice they got hit so bad, believe me, they never complained again.
For most of the guys, killings got to be accepted. Murder was the only way that everybody stayed in line. You got out of line, you got whacked. Everybody knew the rules. But sometimes, even if people didn't get out of line, they got whacked. I mean, hits just became a habit for some of the guys. Guys would get into arguments over nothing and before you knew it, one of them was dead. And they were shooting each other all the time. Shooting people was a normal thing. It was no big deal. We had a, we had a serious problem with Billy Batts. This was really a touchy thing. Tommy'd killed a made guy. Batts was part of the Gambino crew and was considered untouchable. Before you could touch a made guy, you had to have a good reason. You had to have a sitdown, and you better get an okay, or you'd be the one who got whacked.
Saturday night was for wives, but Friday night at the Copa was always for the girlfriends.
It took the jury six hours to bring us in guilty. The judge gave Jimmy and me ten years like he was giving away candy.
See, you know when you think of prison, you get pictures in your mind of all those old movies with rows and rows of guys behind bars...But it wasn't like that for wiseguys. It really wasn't that bad. Excepting that I missed Jimmy. He was doing his time in Atlanta...I mean, everybody else in the joint was doing real time, all mixed together, living like pigs. But we lived alone. And we owned the joint.
It took me about a week of sneaking around before I could unload the Pittsburgh stuff, but when I did, it was a real score. I started using Sandy's place to mix the stuff and even with Sandy snorting more than she mixed, I could see that this was a really good business. I made twelve thousand dollars in my second week. I had a down payment on my house and things were really rolling. All I had to do was every once in a while was tell Sandy that I loved her. But it was perfect, I'm telling ya. As long as I kept getting the stuff from Pittsburgh, I knew Paulie would never find out. Within a couple of weeks, it got to be so big I needed some help. So I got Jimmy and Tommy to come in with me.
That's how it happens. That's how fast it takes for a guy to get whacked.
It made him sick to have to turn money over to the guys who stole it. He'd rather whack 'em. Anyway, what did I care? I wasn't asking for anything and besides, Jimmy was making nice money with me through my Pittsburgh connections. But still, months after the robbery they were finding bodies all over. When they found Carbone in the meat truck, he was frozen so stiff it took them two days to thaw him out for the autopsy.
It was revenge for Billy Batts, and a lot of other things. And there was nothing that we could do about it. Batts was a made man and Tommy wasn't. And we had to sit still and take it. It was among the Italians. It was real greaseball shit. They even shot Tommy in the face so his mother couldn't give him an open coffin at the funeral.
For a second, I thought I was dead, but when I heard all the noise I knew they were cops. Only cops talk that way. If they had been wiseguys, I wouldn't have heard a thing. I would've been dead.
I knew Paulie was still pissed at me and he's such a hot head. And I was worried about Jimmy. See, Jimmy knew if Paulie found out he was in the drug deals with me, Paulie would have Jimmy whacked even before me. This is the bad time...So now my plan was to stay alive long enough to sell off the dope that the cops never found and then disappear for a while until I can get things straightened out.
If you're part of a crew, nobody ever tells you that they're going to kill you. It doesn't happen that way. There weren't any arguments or curses like in the movies. So your murderers come with smiles. They come as your friends, the people who have cared for you all of your life, and they always seem to come at a time when you're at your weakest and most in need of their help.
So I met Jimmy in a crowded place we both knew. I got there fifteen minutes early, and I saw that Jimmy was already there. We took the booth near the window so we could see everyone that drove up to the restaurant. He wanted to make sure I wasn't tailed. He was jumpy. He hadn't touched a thing. On the surface, of course, everything was supposed to be fine. We were supposed to be discussing my case. But I had the feeling Jimmy was trying to sense whether I was gonna rat him out to save my neck.
Jimmy had never asked me to whack somebody before - but now he's asking me to go down to Florida and do a hit with Anthony? That's when I knew I would never have come back from Florida alive.
See, the hardest thing for me was leaving the life. I still love the life. And we were treated like movie stars with muscle. We had it all, just for the asking. Our wives, mothers, kids, everybody rode along. I had paper bags filled with jewelry stashed in the kitchen. I had a sugar bowl full of coke next to the bed...Anything I wanted was a phone call away. Free cars. The keys to a dozen hideout flats all over the city. I'd bet twenty, thirty grand over a weekend and then I'd either blow the winnings in a week or go to the sharks to pay back the bookies. Didn't matter. It didn't mean anything. When I was broke I would go out and rob some more. We ran everything. We paid off cops. We paid off lawyers. We paid off judges. Everybody had their hands out. Everything was for the taking. And now it's all over. And that's the hardest part. Today, everything is different. There's no action. I have to wait around like everyone else. Can't even get decent food. Right after I got here I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.
Sure, mom, I settle down with a nice girl every night, then I'm free the next morning.