The Middle Weight Champion of the World Started Me on my Journey to the East End

Written By: Charles  DeLuca

I was thirteen years old and part of a gang that was something out of Oliver Twist. We were petty thieves that hated anyone who had more than us. It was the lower east side and we were all huddled around a barrel fire trying to keep warm while roasting potatoes at the end of a stick. A beautiful car pulled up to the curb. We looked up at the young man who stepped out of the Cadillac. As he walked toward us you could see he had a confident swagger that said, “ get out of my way”. When he passed me I cursed him under my breath, “rich bastard”. I wasn’t sure if he heard me because he continued to walk to the building behind us. When I thought he was out of sight, I picked up a Coca Cola bottle cap and raked it across his new automobile. All at once I felt myself being picked up and slammed on the hood of his car in a sitting position. The stranger was in my face, cursing and yelling. He was so close I could smell his breath. He told me the only reason he didn’t knock out my teeth was because when he was my age, he was just like me, with no respect for authority and no hope for the future. He continued to tell me to stop feeling sorry for myself and make something out of my life. He said the time I spend in school should count for something. I could be anything I choose to be, as long as I work towards a goal. When the stranger left, one of the older boys asked me, “Do you realize who that guy is?” I shrugged my shoulders. “No who was he?” “That’s Rocky Graziano, he’s the middle weight champ of the world!” Even though Rocky scared the hell out of me and verbally beat me up, I understood how profound his words were. After that incident, I had taken his words to heart and broke away from the gang. The years went by and I finally knew where I was going. I felt transformed and started to believe in my future. From that day on I set goals for myself. I was married at 21 to a girl that was more than my lover. She was my best friend. Two years later I started a meat packing business that was a success. It was a time when I could do no wrong. To make things even better, my wife was expecting our first child. It was 7 a.m. and my wife was having trouble getting around. I told her I would drive her to the hospital but she said she had another week and told me to go to work. So I did. After I left she called a cab. By the time she reached the hospital her water broke and she went into labor. Meanwhile I went to work not knowing about her sacrifice. She was brave as she was true. In the years to come I prospered. I was invested in real estate. It was the seventies and the East End was still the best kept secret. It was the only place that was unspoiled. Every Sunday I would drive out, looking for property. I came upon an old Victorian house that stood sentinel on a large piece of land. The honeysuckle bordering the grounds gave off a fragrance that was intoxicating. I knew if at all possible, I had to have that property! I parked in front of the stately home and proceeded to knock on the door. A man that looked like an old sea captain stood before me. “What do you want?” he said. I told him I wanted to buy his back yard. He shot back,” Do you see any for sale signs?” I told him no, but I continued to make my pitch. As he was in the process of closing the door I heard a female voice in the background, ”Tell the young man to come in.” His wife was receptive. I guess my timing was right because they had the property sub-divided and the sale went through. We built a house with large cathedral windows thus bringing the greenery and light in from the outside. When you sat in the living room you had the feeling of being outside among the trees. After the house was finished I realized I had something special so I named the house after my wife, “Sylvia’s Place”. Thirty years later I’m a successful business man, with homes in Jupiter, Florida and the East End of Long Island. Jupiter is the place to be from January to April, but you have to be on the East End in May. It’s resurrection time, when all the trees begin to get new buds and the grapes in the fields are starting to grow. Because of the soil on the East End, our wineries produce prize winning vintages comparable to Napa Valley. Saturday and Sunday the limousines, full of people from the city, stop at one winery after another, like bees sampling the nectar. If you want night life there are great performances at the Bay Street Theater and Guild Hall. Then to finish off the evening there are restaurants that stand alone, just to name a few, Nick and Toni’s, and Fresno. I had just taken delivery of a Rolls convertible and was glowing with satisfaction as I drove down Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills. I stopped for a light, that’s when I saw a familiar figure walking with two poodles. I quickly pulled to the curb and jumped out of the car. It was Rocky. What are the odds of running into him after such a long time? I knew then it must have been karma. I had to thank him for coming into my life, when I was desperate for guidance. “Rocky, it’s me.” The ex-champ looked at me bewildered. “Who the hell is me?” “Me, Rock! When I was a kid I was spiteful and tried to ruin the paint job on your new Caddy.” Rocky walked towards me with apprehension.” Are you saying you’re the kid that scraped my car with a bottle cap?” “Yeah Rock I’m the one! “ “You know how many times I told that story about my car? I always wondered how you would end up.” “Well Rock, because of you, most people would like to have my life. I owe you big! My kids were raised in a house on the East End of Long Island with a beach in their backyard. We wake up in the morning with the deer eating our flower beds. It’s a small price to pay to live with nature“. “That’s great! It sounds like you found your piece of heaven. I also see you are successful when it comes to making money. The kind of car you drive tells me that. Come over here and give me a hug.” After we embraced, I gave Rocky my card and told him to call me at his convenience. We should do dinner or lunch. Rocky was quick to reply,” Sounds good!” As I was about to walk back to my car, Rocky tells me to wait a minute, he seems to be looking for something on the sidewalk. “What is it Rock, did you lose your keys?” “No, I want to find a nail or something sharp, so I can do some real damage on that expensive car of yours.” With that proclamation, we both burst out into unbridled laughter. Someone once said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”