Whenever I walk into a restaurant nowadays I can’t help looking back at the time I worked for an Italian Food Wholesaler. I spent six years of my life driving a food service truck and delivering all the food to Italian and Greek restaurants exclusively. It seemed like a normal job from the outside. However, from the inside world of food distribution and from the view of hanging on a cheese truck, there was nothing normal about it whatsoever. It was an Italian thing. Whether it was the olive oil companies out of Italy called the Agra – Mafia and their shenanigans or the many pizzerias owned by retired and not so retired gangsters, the world of mozzarella cheese was as colorful as the world of white collar crime I left behind.
The education I got about how our food chain in America works was priceless. What was also priceless was a good stick of cheese. The mozzarella cheese was shaped into blocks that looked like gold bars and as far as the restaurateurs were concerned, it is bouillon, plain and simple. The tug of war over these gold bars amongst the Italians with the buying and selling of it rivaled any Wall Street brokerage firm I had ever seen. The people behind the scene looked like they were plucked right out of any one of the Mafia Movies we have all watched over the years. Cheese in America is big business and the pricing of mozzarella cheese is nothing short of a blood sport. There is a never-ending, ongoing, and high stakes trade war raging just under the nose of the American consumer without anyone knowing it. Pour yourself a glass of Sambuca, get yourself a slice of Tiramisu and sit back and read about the secret world that exists behind the cheese.
“Dedicated to my friend AC”
Good pizza pie is somewhat of a religion to me now. I deplore, with all of my Irish pores, any chain pizza after what I have learned. These corporate chains that place their pie on a conveyor belt and think they have a pizza pop out the other end of their machines are an abomination to all things holy and cheesy.
I spent a good portion of my life working for an Italian food distributor on the east coast of America. We specialized in Italian and Greek food primarily. During that part of my life, I learned which restaurants on the East Coast were worth a damn and who cut corners trying to save money ordering inferior products to make an extra buck.
The greatest and most foolproof way to decide whether or not you want to eat pizza at any given place is very simple in my opinion. Just ask the owner whether or not he uses “Grande” Mozzarella. If the answer is no, get in your car and drive away. Drive away from that place because now you know that, for the restaurateur, profits and the bottom line are more important to him than the quality of his pizza and the other food he serves.
You see, Grande Mozzarella is hands down the best mozzarella cheese one can buy and that has not changed over the decades. Every pizzeria knows this and if they do not, then they have no business being in the industry. You, the reader, don’t know this and they count on it, but after this book, you will forever be in the loop. Grande cheese is like silk and the beautiful oils that flow off each slice of pie are nothing less than the nectar of the gods. The way Grande comes back on a reheat the next day when you pull it out of the refrigerator is nothing less than magic. The cheese stretches and it does not burn. That is why it is so expensive. That is why every cheese company has tried to come up with a stick of cheese to compete against Grande over the years and have failed.
Now, this mozzarella is not cheap to buy for the owner of that pizzeria or restaurant. A typical restaurant or pizzeria will lose around four hundred dollars a week just to provide their customers with the highest quality. Many other kinds of mozzarella cost much less. You need to respect any restaurant that will sacrifice sixteen hundred dollars of real profit a month just to provide you with the best ingredients.
I called up a local mom and pop in Florida recently and I told them that this was the first time that I had ever ordered anything from them. I wanted them to know that I was a brand new customer and was trying their food for the first time. I ordered a 16″ pie with pepperoni and a spinach calzone. The minute it got here and I opened the box, I knew we were in for some good pie. All I have to do is look at a pizza and see how the oils are flowing along the surface to know whether or not it was Grande Cheese. My wife took a bite and lit up like an x-mas tree and said, “This is good.”
She looked at me with those beautiful eyes and asked, “Is it Grande, honey?”
I said, “It looks like it, baby.”
I did not know about Grande until I worked behind the scenes at a food wholesaler for six years. How I landed up there was simple enough. I just got done doing a stint in federal prison in February of 1998 for a mail fraud beef and I needed a job to keep my probation officer off my back. As far as any knowledge about how our food chain in America worked at the time, I was what Italians call a “Mamaluke”, which means an idiot or a fool on the subject. I didn’t know a damn thing about any of it. However, I did know Italians and I was very used to working with them and being around them.
Before I got the job I had to learn how to drive those big tractor trailers that deliver all the food across America. I landed up going to a college in Central Florida that had a commercial driving course. The course was eight weeks long and cost thousands of dollars. When I graduated in July of 1998, the first job I got out of school was working for an Italian Food Company that I will call, for the purposes of this book, Americano Italian Foods. Americano was based out of New York and had a division down in North Central Florida in Ocala. The company only services Italian and Greek restaurants on the east coast of America. New York covered the delivery area from New England down to Virginia and the Florida branch covered North Carolina on down to the rest of the East Coast to South Florida.
My first day on the job I walked into the warehouse and was overwhelmed with the endless lanes of shelves with products stacked to the sky. Forklifts were flying by one after the other and each refrigerated cooler was big enough to hold a battleship in it. The place was buzzing and had its own energy that you could feel in the air. Having no clue what I was supposed to do, I walked up to the warehouse manager standing in the middle of all of this activity and hubbub. Before I could get a word out another very Italian looking guy named Mickey handed me a sheet of paper and called out to another worker.
He yelled out, “Train him how to pick an order.”
Some guy grudgingly came over and told me to follow him. The piece of paper he was now holding in his hand was an order form for some restaurant. We had to pull each item off the shelf and place it on a rolling push cart. Once we pulled the entire order of cold, frozen, and dry goods, we placed the pushcart in line to have the order rechecked by another person for accuracy. What was shocking, that all of this was going on out in the open and not in a climate control environment. Then once the cart passed that station it was loaded on to the truck that would deliver it to the restaurant. Strangely enough, the trucks didn’t even have a freezer, yet they were loading frozen goods on the truck anyway. All morning long we helped pull orders to load one truck after the other. About three hours into doing this the warehouse manager named Pony called my name and I went over to him.
He told me, “You are going with that guy. Go grab your overnight bag.”
He pointed to some dude walking toward a truck that was already loaded. I was told when I first got the job to keep an overnight bag in my car at all times because on any given day I could be sent to any city or state in our delivery area. I went and grabbed my overnight bag and jumped in the truck with a guy who introduced himself as Scott. He told me we were headed for two days in Fort Myers, Florida.
After being on I-75 going south for a few minutes I noticed that other cars on the highway were trying to flag us down and get us to pull the rig over.
I told Scott, “Hey man, something is wrong. They are asking us to pull over.”
Scott replied, “No, they just want to highjack the load.”
I was blown away by his response.
I said, “No man, I don’t think they are trying to steal the cheese. I think something is wrong and we should pull over.”
Now this went back and forth for a few miles where I was trying to convince this nut that something might be wrong with the truck and that this was not a conspiracy to steal all of the food off the truck by complete strangers that happened be driving by. Finally, I convinced this insane human being to pull over.
As I got out of the truck I could see smoke coming from the back of the twenty-eight-foot trailer. I ran back to see that there was a wheel fire that was blazing by this point and it was starting to catch the floor of the trailer on fire. I ran back to the cab of the truck where this nut was still sitting in his seat and told him the truck was on fire! He stepped out of the cab and ran back to look at it but left the fire extinguisher behind. I grabbed it and ran back to put the fire out.
With the fire out and the truck still smoldering, he handed me the phone and tells me to call it into the office. I told this madman that this was my first day and asked him whether or not he should be the person who calls management to tell them that their truck was on fire. He told me he had been in trouble as of late and that it was not a good idea to have him make the call.
So I take the phone from him and call the office telling them the whole story about the fire and that the guy thought it was a hijacking and refused to pull over for a while and due to that, the fire spread. I explained that the brakes were all burnt up for the rear of the trailer and asked what to do.
The guy on the other end of the phone line who was in charge of such things at the time was the warehouse manager, Pony. He told me not to worry about the brakes on the trailer, that the rig had brakes of its own and he told me to get back to work. The insanity of that response from management was breathtaking to me at the time and was my first red flag that went off about this company. There were many more glaring red flags to come.
As we got back in the truck and drove through the Department of Transportation’s scale house I pondered what would have happened if we drove through the scale house on fire. I mean we were just two miles from this facility filled with cops. I’m not sure how they would have appreciated a truck driving through it on fire. With my introduction to my new job behind me I went to turn the radio on in the cab when Scott stopped me and said that whoever is driving is in charge of the radio and there would be no radio played on this trip.
When I asked the nutcase why he explained to me that Satan was leaving messages through the radio and music. He told me he was a Jehovah’s Witness and that his preacher told him about the Devil’s grand plan using the FM/AM band on the radio to steal souls. I sat there utterly stunned that, number one, I was not going to hear music on this whole trip. Secondly, I felt trapped like a mouse knowing I was stuck in the truck with this crazy bastard.
So, I wasn’t going to just sit in this truck in silence for hours on end until we got to Ft. Myers which was over three-hundred miles away. I started asking him more about what other beliefs he held. Scott told me that he was kicked out of his congregation because he fucked his wife up her ass. I pushed him further for more information and he went on a tirade about how his wife told the others in their church that he gave her anal sex. He said he was told that Satan made him do that to his wife and was excommunicated from his congregation but his wife was not. He said that he believed that they were right and the Devil did make him do it. This was hands down one of the most bizarre trips I ever had. However, many more were to come.
When I got back from the trip two days later, I walked up to the big boss of the place named Antonio and said, “If you ever send me with him again I will quit.”
The boss was an old tall guy whose family started the company in the early 20th Century and he asked me, “Why?”
I said, “Have you ever had one of those Jehovah’s Witnesses knock at your front door on a Saturday?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “Now imagine being stuck in a cab with one of them for two days!”
As I walked away I heard him behind me laughing a thunderous laugh that echoed through the warehouse.
Learning the ropes and navigating my way through the world of Italians and their food started early for me. Italians and the Irish shared the same church, so many of us socialized and dated each other when I was growing up. Some of my best childhood memories were showing up at my girlfriend’s house after Mass and CCD classes on Sunday to enjoy what was called “Sunday Gravy.” I can remember it like it was yesterday. I would walk in the house and race to the giant pot on the stove and grab a ladle and pour some pasta sauce in the bowl. Tearing off a piece of homemade bread to dip it in and a few meatballs or sausages out of the pot to munch on was a weekly occurrence for me. I always loved Italian Food.
I started working for an Italian Food Distributor in the late 1990s. The timing of it could not be better when you factor in that is when the HBO show The Sopranos started. From beginning to the end of my career in food distribution, my entire six-year stint was during the run of that TV show. I don’t know if you remember, but that show changed television itself and it felt like the entire country was following it. If you can remember how popular it was trying to imagine how over the top its popularity would have been with my new crowd of Italian restauranteurs, wholesales, and salesman alike.
Owners of restaurants up and down the east coast would have parties at their restaurants on Sunday nights all based around watching the show. Every Monday when I would come into work we would all talk about the show from the night before around the water cooler. Little by little I was brought further into their world that really surrounds itself with food, booze, and machismo.
The manliness of their milieu took on many different shades. There was an Italian restaurant in Ocala, Florida that would celebrate The Sopranos HBO show each Sunday They would close the restaurant and invite everyone to come to watch the show there and eat. The family would cook up some amazing shit and watch the show every week with friends and family only. I got invited to join them one Sunday night and the party that was going on there was kicking ass. The men were drunk, the women were drunk and everyone was eating all sorts of food they cooked that was not on their menu for the public. When the show came on the TV the place fell silent as every eye was glued to the drama of Tony and Carmella Soprano.
In the middle of this intense silence I made my way through the garlic and wine filled air to go to the restroom. I walked down a dark hallway to find the room. I open the door of the john only to find the old lady of the family who was in her seventies mounting one of the young cooks in his twenties with a strap on dildo. The guy was bent over the toilet and the old lady was behind him just thrusting away. I stood there frozen in shock. This was a little different than Robert Duval’s character in the Godfather catching Sonny upstairs banging a girl against the door at a wedding. As I stood there frozen in time the old broad pulled me closer by my belt buckle. Before I could get my wits together she pulled out my cock and gave me a hand job while continuing to fuck the cook up his ass. It was one of the strangest moments of my life. I leaned up against the wall in the bathroom with twenty or more people back in the dining room watching the Sopranos while the old lady brought me to climax and banged the cook. As I returned to the silent room of Italians glued to the TV screen I slipped out the front door and left.
Days later when I delivered the food to that restaurant, the old lady winked at me as I was coming in and out with the food. The owner asked me why I left last Sunday and I told him I was getting too drunk and needed to make it home alive. He laughed out loud and yelled, “I thought you Irish could drink!” I kept my mouth shut as smartass quips about Italians and dildos ran through my mind. Fifty Shades of Grey had nothing on the many shades of the Italian Flag of green, white, and red or the people who hung that flag from their car rearview mirrors, as far as I could see. I was deep in their world now.
Learning how the nuts and bolts of how our food chain churns are somewhat unbelievable to see firsthand. What caught me off guard is the brutal and unchecked larceny that runs through all of it. Everyone is ripping each other off in some way, shape, or form. The cost of this purloining is baked in for the customer and the constant plunder from all angles is relentless and unstoppable. Everybody seems to get a piece of the so-called pie or the kitty and in the end, the consumer gets his or her market price for goods.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. Let’s take a shipment of pepperoncini peppers coming from Greece. It is commonplace for a shipper who loads a ship full of pallets of products leaving a European port to claim some pallets were lost at sea in bad weather by the time it gets to an American port. That “It just fell off the ship” is not unheard of. Now, this is true that pallets do fall off the decks of ships in bad weather. That does happen. If you have ever been on a cruise and stood at the edge of the cruise ship and seen some garbage or wooden pallets floating by, you know this is something that happens. However modern day navigation allows ships to avoid bad weather much more than the old days, yet there has never been a change in claims that food got lost at sea in a hundred years. The records show no improvement with this technology over lost pallets at sea.
Continuing this example, once the ship arrives in America there is a crew that unloads the containers from the ship onto dry land where the plunder continues. The pallets are taken to a warehouse with forklifts and dockworkers and somehow a little more buckets of pepperoncini seem to disappear. Then what is called line haul trucks and drivers come to pick up the pepperoncini from the wholesale warehouse and bring them to the different food service facilities of American Food Companies. Here the plunder of pepperoncini takes on a more skillful milieu. Once again the product gets unloaded and then re-loaded on a city-delivery truck to bring to the restaurants we all know and love. While at the restaurant and while the delivery driver is bringing food in and out of the kitchen, the owner who just happened to have a career as a gangster in his earlier youth sends one of the restaurant workers out back while they distract the delivery driver. During this orchestrated distraction the restaurant worker steals food off the truck.
, In the end, someone has to pay for all of this. After all pepperoncini from Greece are not free. The cost of doing business finally lands at the hand of the unaware consumer when they pay nearly ten dollars for a Greek Salad. It is quite a site to see firsthand. As a driver for Americano, I saw theft on so many levels that I wondered if anyone even cared. If you were to go to the personal homes of any of my fellow drivers you would see well-stocked pantries of some of the finest Greek and Italian Food known to exist filling their shelves. Anyone who worked there would never have to buy spaghetti ever again. They stole enough pasta to feed all of Italy for a hundred years. Now understand this is just a loose example that does not get into the thievery from office workers and bookkeepers where food disappears on spreadsheets and inventory lists, but it does give you a slight understanding of why a gallon of milk does not cost a dollar nineteen anymore or why your grocery bill grows more prodigious each year while your paycheck does not. It is all the cost of doing business and baked in your food chain perennially. It is the “American Way.”
Almost everyone involved in the food chain is trying to get over on one another. Studies were done on imported olive oil that was labeled extra-virgin and it turned out most of it wasn’t. Yet, the consumer was paying the price for those olive oil importers and their shenanigans that earns the Agra Mafia millions with this scam. I could give you one example after another of rampant fraud running through the entire system but amazingly it all continues somehow.
Amongst Italians it really is a game between them to see who can get over on who. Maybe a game is a wrong word. It is a damn blood sport. Some restaurateurs would run up a line of credit into the five-figure range and then just disappear overnight closing the restaurant PERMANENTLY, never paying their bill. One time I had a restaurant owner call down to Florida to claim my truck hit his roof and they wanted my company to pay for a new roof for the restaurant. I was called into the office of the big boss about this. I couldn’t believe my ears when he told me. I could not stop laughing when I explained our truck cannot get anywhere near the guy’s roof and that he was trying to pull a scam. The boss man Antonio said the guy spent a half million dollars a year with us, so we would pay for the roof.
I asked, “If he claimed I knocked up his wife would we pay child support?”
The old man said, “No, but we’d put the kid through college.”
The next week when I went to that same South Carolina Italian restaurant I confronted the owner about the scam.
He said, “You mafia guys have all the money!”
He stood there and laughed his ass off. I told him next time he uses my name to pull a scam off and does not give me points on it, my truck would find its way to his roof. The whole industry runs on chancery but somehow it works. It was a hell of an education for a Mamaluke like me to see it firsthand. After all, I was supposed to be in the legitimate world now. My criminal days were over. Yet it all seemed so familiar. Walking out of federal prison and a life of crime into the so-called legitimate world of America’s food chain felt like I was out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Very early into the experience of working for an Italian food distributor I realized I did not fit in with labor. Owning a business most of my adult life, I naturally looked at things from a top-down perspective and not as a worker bee looking up. I was more interested in how the whole damn business was being run. I wanted to learn everything from the top down and see if this was an industry I could try to learn and then eventually take over. I was searching for a new home and a new direction in life. I needed a new career that did not involve the FBI following me up a mountain on the Appalachian Trail just to try to catch me saying some incriminating shit on an audio tape. I was tired of looking over my shoulder. I only knew one kind of life in my twenties, but that decade was over and I was in my thirties now. No one who knew me believed I would walk away from a life of crime, not even my own mother. I guess there was nothing in my previous actions or life that would suggest it was possible for me, but I knew it was. They were all waiting for me to go back to South Florida and resume my life of crime. What they did not understand about me at the time was the reasons for landing in that world had a lot to do with where I came from and who my parents were. I was the son of a heroin addict growing up in abject poverty. I would have done anything to get out of that. The cards I was dealt with in life did not include money for major universities and silver spoons. I took the first train out of that circumstance. I hitched a ride on a runaway train of white-collar crime. I never once looked back, at least not until the train went off the tracks. I landed up in Federal Prison and it changed everything. It changed me. A couple of years inside gave me just enough pause to look at my life. Until then there was never a glimmer of hope that I had other options. I knew once I walked out of there it was, in fact, a fresh start. It was a chance to try something different. When you are going a hundred miles an hour in life, no one stops you. It took the weight of The FBI, Department of Justice, and the Bureau of Prisons to slow me down. However, it was that pause, that speed bump in life, that changed my trajectory. I don’t think anything else could have done it.
I knew no other way of life, so everything I was to learn would be new for me. I had to acquire new skills to survive in this world of mozzarella cheese. I was not going to learn anything from the grunts on the dock or the brain surgeons driving the forklifts. I needed to get to know the men who ran this place.
At the top there were three different men who ran the Florida facility. Three very different men were in charge. The top guy was Antonio. His father started the business in the 1940s and Antonio worked for the family business his whole life. Antonio had never had another job. This was all he knew. His father passed and left the business to him and his brothers. One brother died in a car accident on a rainy day. It was a suspicious death because it came just two weeks after he gave an interview to a reporter about the Mafia connection to his industry. He did some name dropping in that interview that landed up in a New York newspaper, then he landed up dead. It was strange because they said he drove off the road on a rainy day, but the man drove race cars so it was hard to believe. The other brother almost destroyed the family business due to cocaine addiction. During this period Antonio was left with the business. He mortgaged his house to try to save the business from bankruptcy and his brother’s cocaine plunder. There was not enough equity in that house to save it. Hours before the bank was about to take the keys to the business another group of Italians from New York walked in and took over the place. By the time I got to this company they were in this state where Antonio and his crew were contracted to stay on and run things, but they no longer had much say over the important things. Antonio lost the company but was left in charge to run its Florida division only. That is when I met him. That is when I started working for him. I never knew life there when he owned the company. There were others that were with him for decades, their whole adult life even, so it must have been weird for some of them to see him lose the company and wonder what would happen to them. We were thirty years apart in age but Antonio was like some of the guys I grew up with. I understood him very well. He was a tall, trim, good-looking Italian guy who dressed in dress pants and business shirts. He wasn’t a suit and tie guy. The man commanded respect and I liked him from jump street. I knew many men like him in a different world and field of business. I felt very comfortable around him. He knew the business inside and out.
The number two in charge was a businessman and unofficial COO named Will. When it came to being Antonio’s right-hand man, Will was it. He was not Italian, but he worked well with them as I did. I’m not quite sure what the fuck his nationality was, but Will had his hands in every level of every aspect of this business so that you would think he was a Jew. If you drank with him you’d think he was Irish like me. There was very little going on at Americano that Will did not know about. The man was one of the most dedicated and hardworking guys I have ever met. He was a little stout guy that looks like Barney Rubble with a fierce temper and a quick wit. I could tell from the very beginning he was the smartest guy in the whole place. I liked him instantly.
The number three in charge at Americano was Mickey. Now, this guy was the salt of the earth. Mickey was an old school standup guy that you would want in your corner if you got in a jam. He got a job at eighteen years old at Americano and had been working there his entire adult life. He never had another job with any other company. Mickey, like all three men, grew up in New York and had a colorful past. He was the company’s purchasing agent and he worked the warehouse. All three men worked both the docks and the office. It was a hands-on crew. Mickey grew up with some guys that became famous Rock Stars. Mickey could party with the best of them and never miss a minute of work. He had that old school work ethic that seems to have faded in our nation. The man loved Italian food and he knew his shit. There was not a single product that was in that distribution center that did not go through Mickey first.
So this was the crew that ran Americano. These were the men I wanted to get close to and learn a new field of industry. There was a lot of knowledge wrapped up in those three heads. I just needed to figure out a way to unlock all of it and learn what I could. I needed to get to know these men. Looking back at it, this was a time in my life when I needed to get to know myself. I was unsure with my role in the world or the direction my life was headed.
My path from my past to Americano went like this. When I walked out of Federal Prison in February of 1998 I had forty-eight hours to report to a halfway house in Ocala, Florida. I made arrangements to stop by my mother’s house to see her. She lived in Marion County, Florida and had moved there from South Florida after her house burned down. I made arrangements to acquire a brand new car and pick it up at her house and then head over to the halfway house.
The halfway house was located on a block in the Northwest section of old Ocala. The feds had taken over an entire city block of duplexes and triplexes and turned the entire street into a world of misfits coming and going. I drove up to the place and walked into one of the buildings they had made an office out of. The man running the place was this creepy dude named Richard who looked shadier than the inmates I had left behind in Alabama.
Immediately and without a moment passing by of normal introductions and pleasantries Richard started in on me about the rules of the place and threats of sending me back to prison if I violated them. It did not take me long to realize that this entire ordeal was not set up to help me acclimate back into society but rather it was a trick bag designed to trip me up and send me back. There was not a single thing about the halfway house system that was there to help the inmate return to society. It was fraud top to bottom and through and through. The government needs the inmates to return to keep all of the correction officer jobs. The residuum rate was high by design. The halfway house was there to keep the whole unfortunate government chicanery going. I was not even a spoke on the wheel. I was the dirt gathered on the spoke while the wheel spun. We were not looked at as humans. We were bugs to be crushed under their depraved feet of their shameless injustice.
I was issued a bed across the street in one of the duplexes and I meet my fellow roommates. One of which was a biker from the Outlaws. I could not believe that after all of this time and distance, here I was locked up with another Outlaw. From the day I stood in the courtroom to be sentenced and there were snipers on the roof of the skyscrapers in downtown Tampa to protect the building and judges from the Outlaws to the day I arrived at the halfway house, I could not get away from this biker gang. I had no beef with them and they had none with me, but it was wild that at almost every stage of my incarceration experience through the federal system stood a member of the Outlaws. The government really did a number on that biker gang.
I was told I had three days to find a job or I would be returned to prison. When I was not working I was to be back in my bed at a certain curfew. I was brought into another office where I was introduced to my caseworker. She was this older hippie woman with rather large breasts. She was pleasant enough and even flirted with me. It was the first woman to flirt with me in years and I knew right away I was going to fuck this lady. I explained to her that I had no idea where to get a job. I told her that part of my sentence was that I was supposed to abstain from telemarketing for three years and that was the only field of work I knew. She sent me back to see Richard who had an arrangement with a local commercial roofing company that took in the inmates from the halfway house.
The next morning, I made my way to the roofing company and began my new career in roofing. The next thing I know I find myself in Gainesville, Florida on top of a hospital on what is called a tear-off the crew. Our job was to tear off the tar-covered shingles that covered the football field size hospital roof. The crewman handed me a set of leather gloves and pointed to a section of the roof and said tear off those panels and put them in that wheel barrel. It was not ten minutes before my back was burning from the constant bending and my entire body was covered with tar from head to toe. No one else was covered with tar, so clearly I was doing something wrong. I couldn’t take any of it. I just could not do this kind of work. I walked over to the foreman and handed him the gloves back and told him, “No thanks.” He said to me, “Don’t push yourself. Take your time.” I never even responded to him and walked towards the ladder and climbed down from the roof of the hospital.
The problem was now I was in Gainesville, Florida and I had to find my way back to Ocala which was thirty minutes away by car. I called a cab and when he pulled up and saw me covered with tar asking to be driven to another city, the guy just looked at me and said, “I’m going to need the money up front.” I handed him a one-hundred-dollar bill. He went to the trunk and pulled out what looked like a shower curtain and covered the back seat with it and we were off. Now, this cab ride was one of the strangest rides I had ever had in my life and over twenty years later I can still see this guy in my mind’s eye. He was a dot head of some sort and went on and on about how Pope John Paul the second was, in fact, the anti-Christ. He explained that the Catholic Church I grew up in was, in fact, the Whore of Babylon. It was the wildest conversation but I had a half hour to burn and was grateful he even took me under these conditions. He drove me back to the halfway house and dropped me off in front of the office. I started to walk back to my room to take a shower when Richard came running out into the middle of the street yelling at me. He wanted to know why the fuck I was not in Gainesville working and I told him I quit.
The man lost his mind right there in the middle of the street yelling at me and telling me I needed the government’s permission to quit a job and that I needed to get back to work. I almost kicked his ass right there. I mean, I really thought about it. I was not even out seventy-two hours and I was ready knee deep in shit. Richard told me I had forty-eight-hours to find a fulltime job at least forty hours a week or I was going back to prison.
I took a shower, redressed and took off in my car job hunting. I drove past a Domino’s Pizza with a Help Wanted sign in it. I went in and the guy said he was looking for a daytime delivery guy. I told him my situation with the feds and that I could be that guy but I had to have forty hours a week. The manager named Brain was completely intrigued by my story and gave me the job on the spot. I drove back to the halfway house and told Richard I was a pizza delivery guy now. He just looked at me and said, “I got my eye on you, buster.” As I walked back to my room I pondered how far I had fallen in life to be in this situation.
During the course of the next three months I delivered pizza all over Ocala, Florida and worked in the storefront making pizzas. Being locked up for two years in Federal prison all I had on my mind was pussy. I did everything I could to get my hands on it. One of the ladies that worked at Dominos with me had a friend that was going through a divorce. She was by no means nice to look at but her personality towards the subject of sex was as free as mine. Until that point in my life, I knew of no woman who came close to my inclinations. There had been a few but nothing so utterly close to my depravity ever existed in the female form until I met her.
After three months in the halfway house I was released to home confinement. I got a luxury apartment on a lake in town, got married and did three months of home confinement throwing one orgy after the other at my new place. It was an awesome time. I got my second wife to agree to permanent open marriage. I told her she could fuck any guy she wants but not behind my back. I finished my house arrest and was finally released from the custody of the Bureau of Prisons back to The Justice Department to do my probation or Supervised Release as the Feds call it.
For a moment in time I was happy. I did not have to look over my shoulder working for a pizza chain. I had the open marriage I always dreamed of and life was trucking along just fine. I resumed my intimate relationship with alcohol. I danced between different drug test from the probation office with different drugs and I expanded my world of sex far beyond anything I had ever experienced before. I was Caligula in Ocala, Florida. For a while, I was content.
I was assigned a bull dyke lesbian probation officer that hated me beyond words. My very existence, personality, and Alpha Maleness violated the very fiber of her carpet eating self. My confidence was nailed on a chalkboard to this woman and she hunted me every chance she would get. She would show up at my job and freak people out. She would show up at my apartment at 3 am knocking at my door telling me to piss in a cup for a drug test. The woman hunted for any situation that would give her the power to violate my supervised release and send me back to prison. She would look in my face and tell me she was going to get me. I would challenge her like no other. It was a cat and mouse chess game and I dominated and taunted her.
Part of my probation I had to pay restitution to my so-called victims. Since the whole case against me was a paper tiger and full of shit, I pushed the government’s limits. They demanded that I pay fifty dollars a month to the government in restitution. I claimed that the system was corrupt and I would not send any money into a government black hole. I said out of the three hundred so-called victims I defrauded, the government could only come up with three names of anyone who said I ripped them off. I told her that I would only send the money directly to one of those three people and not into a government black hole fund as I called it.
She threatened to violate my probation for not paying my restitution and I claimed I was not saying I would not pay. I was only saying I would not pay the government. She went to her bosses trying to violate me and send me back to prison only to learn I had her here on technical righteousness. She had to capitulate to me sending the restitution directly to the so-called victims. The government who “claims” they send the money to the people has no check and balance system to prove they are paying anyone. All I did was speak up and they had to cave. They are not used to people being their own advocates. Listen, I do not want to come across like Billy Bad Ass. The government is all powerful and I know that. They shattered my life into a million pieces already. No one knows better than I when the government wants your ass, nothing can stop them. They do not operate on time and money. However, from my point of view, when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. My dike probation officer was out of her lesbian mind dealing with me.
Life went on like that for a while until one day she was gone. She was promoted or transferred somewhere else. All I remember is I got a new probation officer who met me just once and then left me alone for the remainder of my probation.
During this time I figured out driving my vehicle for a living was counterproductive. I talked to the truck drivers who brought the food to the storefronts of Domino’s Pizza in eighteen-wheelers about driving the trucks. They told me I needed to get a Class A CDL to drive the big trucks. So that is what I did. I finally made it to college, but it was for this commercial driving course and not an advanced degree. I had to take a test to see where my education was. After the test, I was told I scored in the top three percent of everyone in America who took the same test. They encourage me to go one path. I told them, I was here for the Commercial Driving Class. The council’s head almost exploded. I went and got a job at an Italian Food Distributor.
In an attempt to get into the inner circle of the management of Americano I looked for an opening. I sat back and did my duties as a grunt worker and observed the three men in charge from a distance. I immediately started on an age-old tactic of mine from my white-collar criminal days and targeted the office women for sex and pillow talk. If you want to know what is going on in any business, get close to the ladies in the office and you can learn more than an apprenticeship. In the office of Americano were three women who had close access to the power structure. One of them was a beautiful older Italian woman that came down from New York with the crew. She was the office manager and the seat of secretarial power at the company. Rumer was that she had been very close to the top guy in a Biblical way and she had a daughter who was a stripper. She was unapproachable. I had no chance of getting into those panties. The other two ladies, however, were down to earth and very cool chicks. One was tall and skinny and the other was a BBW or Big Beautiful Woman. Having an inclination my whole life for more cushion for the pushing, I moved on the big pretty one. Her name was Carrie and we hit it off in spades. She was a quality human being who was a single mom with three young kids. After the kids would go to sleep at night I would show up to her single-wide trailer and have some of the most wonderful sex I had ever had in that town. She was adventurous in bed and would try all sorts of fun stuff with me. She had long beautiful hair and one of the top three best smelling vaginas I had ever had. When it comes to that scent, a man never ever forgets the two or three in his life that smelt incredible. She was one of my three in life. If I could have bottled up her unique scent, I could have made millions. Over the course of time, we became very close and good friends. I learned a lot about what was going on in that office with her. She was very loquacious when it came to pillow talk. Carrie was a treasure trove of office politics and history. Everything was going according to plan.
The number two in charge was Will and he was going through a nasty divorce. It was very public and parts of the whole ordeal even made the local papers. He was really being put through the wringer. I knew this pretty lady that worked with my mom. My mother was retired from American Express and within months of her retirement got so bored, that she got a local job at a neighborhood convenience store. At that store was a single lady who of all things practiced the religion Wicca. She was a really cool chick that lived out in the woods and literally spun around the May Pole naked during certain times of the year. She was a very interesting woman who just happened to practice positive witchcraft or white magic, not any of that dark shit. Knowing Will and the insanity of his divorce, he looked like he could use a nice lady in his life. I never met his soon to be X-wife, but it sounded like she was Satan’s handmaid. The woman my mom worked with was good-hearted, so I hooked the two of them up. Will and she hit it off immediately. I got them together and was asked to be the best man at his wedding. We all became good friends and twenty years later as I write this book, they are still together. I had an incredible skill of being a matchmaker and to this day have an amazing track record of putting people together for life. My personal choice for women landed up disasters, but somehow I could see other people’s relationships clearly. While Will’s love life took off, my marriage started to unravel.
After Two years of great sex I found myself wanting more in a relationship. My wife would not work or go to school to better herself. She would not cook or clean. There was nothing to that marriage but good sex. I yearned for an open marriage my whole life and now that I had it, I realized it was not enough. The last straw on the camel’s back was when we had company over on Tuesday night. We partied and left a sink full of dishes. I went out of town to South Carolina the next morning and was gone for the rest of the week. When I returned Friday night at the end of the week, the dishes were still in the sink from Tuesday night’s guests. I looked down into the sink and saw that same pot of potatoes with the food still in the pot and I ended our marriage right there. She was sitting on the couch masturbating to a porno video. I turned around and told her to keep everything I own, I’m leaving you. She just looked up at me and kept rubbing her clit. I took all of my clothes, videotapes, and VCR and threw them into the trunk of my car and drove away. I filed for divorce and was released from the marriage by a Marion County judge not too long afterward. That day of my divorce I sat on a bench in front of the courthouse. She never once asked me why I left her. If she would have, I would have said just one word, “Potatoes,” but she never asked. She looked at me and asked if I wanted to come back to her apartment for a ball licking. I declined her generous tongue offer and never to this day have ever seen that women ever again. My second marriage was two years of madness to a bipolar woman who I had to Baker Act for her own good after she broke a beer bottle over my head, cheating on me despite being in an open marriage, and stole a lifetime of jewelry and gave it to crack dealers. It was a huge life mistake made out of the shadow of loneliness after being in prison for two years. I have since forgiven myself for that marriage.
In our food chain I learned that white labeling in products was way more prevalent than I could have imagined. White labeling is where a company will allow another company to put their name on something. For example, you could go into a grocery store and see two cottage kinds of cheese sitting right next to each other on the shelf. The only difference was the label and the price, but it was the exact same product from the same place. It blew my mind that this was even legal. It just felt fraudulent to me. But what did I know? Well, it turns out not much when it came to the food chain in America. For example, one of the most popular brands of eggplant that restaurants use comes from a place that if you saw it you would run to the hills away from such a dirty environment. There is a stage in the production of that eggplant that is outdoors surrounded by a porous mosquito net where the product just sits there to be consumed by flies. When I saw this I brought the subject up with management and asked whether we should report this, they blasted me for such a naïve thought. We made a lot of money with that company and I was to mind my own business. I was told if in the near future that company was suffering from some anonymous tipster then I would find myself back in that office or looking for another job. It did not take me long to see in America’s food chain there is a lot of head turning. This crooked comradery has never gone away and exists even today. All you have to do is watch the news and see the latest product recalled. The fact that scandal at Blue Bell Ice Cream was even allowed to happen in the 21st century is all the proof you need to understand we have serious problems in America’s food chain. Seeing it up close and in person, however, is something else. It changes a person. There is a reason why the purchasing agent Mickey, who has worked a lifetime in his job, would never eat at any restaurant. Not a single one would he eat at and he would not even eat at a friend’s house if the people did not have a dishwasher. Mickey knew through a lifetime of being around the food chain that there is so much one can do to protect themselves or families. If you only ate at home you had more control over illnesses and other things.
The one thing I will not ever forget and take to my grave is how many commercial kitchens out there are so dirty and nasty. If you saw the back of the house of some of your favorite restaurants you would never go out to eat again. It would be accurate to say that more restaurant kitchens than not are unacceptably juxtaposed to your kitchen at home for comparison sake. Most of this part of the industry is policed by local government employees at the health department. Civil service workers are prime targets for bribes and free meals in exchange for passing basic health inspections. There are good inspectors in certain areas, but that is not the norm. This practice of paying off the local health inspector goes back to the beginning of our nation and will never change.
Of all the years I worked there I had two kitchens stand out among all of them. There were many bad ones, but there were two nightmares that never left my consciousness. It branded my brain and left an unforgettable scar on my very soul. One was a restaurant in Port Saint Lucie, Florida that was owned by an Asian guy. It wasn’t even a restaurant. It was an Asian supermarket that also made pizza. It was the strangest place, but back in the kitchen was a dumpster party of complete madness. It was beyond dirty, however, it was not the filth that was what scared me, it was the smell. It literally smelled like there was a dead body in there. The drivers who delivered the food would have one driver to get the money from the owner for the food we brought and the other driver searched through the back looking for the dead body. We never did find the body or source of the smell, but make no mistake about it, something was decomposing in there.
The second kitchen that refuses to leave my mind’s eye was a restaurant in Ocala, Florida that was owned by an Arminian who told the neighborhood he was Italian. He had a popular restaurant that was packed all the time. Well, on Friday’s our food service truck would show up at the restaurant before it opened, so the drivers were there at the door waiting for the red-headed manger’s lady to show up and open the doors. As we all walked in the back door she would hit the light switch. As the room illuminated the entire floor looked like it was moving due to all of the roaches scurrying away to their hiding spots. Right there in the middle of the floor would be five giant pots of sauce without any lids on them. For some reason, this restaurant never put their tomato sauce in the cooler overnight. Then the redhead, looking completely hung over from the night before, walked past the stove. On one of the burners was a pot with meatballs in it from the night before. The balls were sitting in the coagulated grease overnight and were sitting in this pot with no lid. The redhead hit the switch on the burner and put on the flame to heat up the meatballs. The driver I was with almost threw up right there. I begged people I knew to please stay away from this place, but to this day, they eat there and the restaurant still does well. The owner used to show up with many pizzas at Americano and give them to us for free. As he drove away each and every week, we walked the pizza boxes back to the dumpster and threw them all away.
It is hard to state in words the influence the Mafia has when it comes to the food chain for Italian and Greeks restaurants. The vast arm of the criminal world holds in its grasp most of these companies involved. The reach could be described as a total. Of course, they will scream from the mountaintops that are untrue and yell about stereotypes. However, that is just part of their modus operandi. From the very conception of some of the most well-known brands and companies, the mob has been there. Behind the smiley faces of chefs with white hats or the cheerful sound of the 1959 Norman Fox & The Rob Roys song “Pizza Pie” lays a dark criminal enterprise that spans from Italy and Greece to North America and beyond. They have their collective hands in every stage of the food chain from the farms that produce the tomatoes and olives, to the pizzerias that ultimately serve you the finished product. They own and control it all. They even own the trucks that move all of this around.
Cosa Nostra is far from the peak of their heydays but left over from that history remains companies and brands we all know and love. According to Business Pundit:
“Restaurants and pizzerias are no stranger to Mafia connections. The connection between eateries and organized crime spans decades and continents. Umberto’s Clam House in lower New York City and Rao’s in the Bronx were famous mob hangouts. In the 1980s, the Sicilian Mafia relied on the “pizza connection” to ship cocaine and heroin to mob-run pizzerias in towns across the United States. They used cans of San Marzano tomatoes to export the drugs.
Now, mob-run pizzerias and cafes are everywhere. A recent sweep or Rome resulted in the seizure of 27 restaurants and cafes. Authorities also seized about 250 million euros worth of assets. The restaurants include the extremely popular Pizza Ciro, which was in business for more than 10 years. The pizza chain allegedly laundered money from loan sharking, drugs, and extortion. But the number of restaurants seized is barely a dent. An estimated 70 percent of restaurants and bars in downtown Rome have mob connections.”
It is well known that they have their hands in many industries including but not limited to Cheese, Jukeboxes, Records, Chemicals, Hollywood, Gay Bars & Clubs, and Fish. Waste Management or garbage, moving companies and about anything to do with or surrounds the trucking industry is touched by these folks. The company I worked for, Americano, was no different. Antonio’s father started Americano and in the early years of the company, there were rumors of mob connections and money. Certainly, most of our clientele was owned or touched by the mob and its history in some way. Many were still powerful and active in the underworld. Since I worked with this element most of my entire life, I felt at home in this atmosphere. I just needed to find a way to make a living at it beyond slinging the cheese off a truck. I needed to get into the leadership. I needed them to understand it was my brain they needed, not my back.
I spent years trying to shape relationships with management and ownership there in order to carve out a future in the industry. I took Mickey to New York Yankee Games when they would play the Tampa Bay Rays. I smoked pot with him. I did everything I could to break in the circle. I was the best man at Will’s wedding and developed a close relationship with him and his family. I spoke to Antonio and the owner of the whole place when he came down from New York, like men and equals. I was ostracized by labor at the company because the drivers and warehouse people could see I related to management more than them. It was a hell of a balancing act. However, what became very clear to me was that the ownership in New York treated the Florida division of Americano like a red headed step son. There was not going to be any more money cut out for another high dollar guy in management. I was hitting a dead end every time I tried to advance in the company. There was simply no room for advancement and I was stuck in a dead-end job. Problem was, I was not the type of man to be stuck on any one dead end street. There was no way I was going to settle for this station in life. It was time to recalibrate the whole deal. Almost like a light switch, the old me was turned on. It was time to make some money. It was time to get a hustle going on. It was time to implore my skill set. Time to carve out a living there, whether they liked it or not.
Years had gone by at Americano and the workforce there hated me because of my relationships with management. They did not trust me at all. They thought I was a spy and the drivers and warehouse workers would watch what they would say around me. In order for me to set my plan in action, I needed to gain their trust. The problem with that was, it was not going to be an easy task. Most of the men that worked there were locals that lived in Ocala, Florida their whole lives. Unless you have been to Ocala before, it is hard to explain how backward a town this was and is. The people there are not sophisticated, to say the least. The town still is playing out some Deep South pre-civil war mentality when it comes to race. The education level of the locals would frighten you and this was the first time in my life I had ever lived in a town with under a million people.
I realized that for all the years I was there, that drivers were always getting caught up in failing a drug test and getting into trouble. The Department of Transportation had random drug tests on tractor trailer drivers for obvious safety reasons. The men there loved their drugs. Like many rural areas in America, the drug and alcohol abuse was devastating. Many of these men used drugs to help them drive through the night and work long hours. They would buy these cleansing products to drink to try and pass urine tests, but they rarely worked properly. I looked at this situation as an opportunity to help gain their trust. If I could help them with this problem, then clearly, I could turn some opinions around about me.
I made a call out to Las Vegas. I knew a company out there from my previous life that sold powdered urine and these kits to pass drug tests. I never needed them for myself. We never had called for drug test with what I used to do for a living, but I knew this place existed. I used to do a lot of business with some guys out in Vegas back in the day and I learned of this company. I made a call out to the desert and order one of these kits. I wanted to use it myself and see if it worked. The last thing I wanted to do was hand any of these men a product that would only land them up in trouble. That would defeat my purpose. I needed to make sure the damn thing worked before I would supply the crew with them.
So, I got my kit in the mail and opened the box. Inside the box was a couple of jars of powdered urine, an IV bag with a hose coming out of the bottom of it with a clip on the end of the hose, two heating pads that were chemically triggered and a string. How it worked was you would mix the powdered urine with warm water. Then you would pour the liquid into the IV bag with the clip on the end of the thin hose. Next, you would put the string through the IV bag like a belt and tie it to your body against your pubic hairs. So, try to picture an IV bag against your pubic hairs with a hose that comes out of the bag on the bottom like a dick. At the end of the hose is a clip that holds the liquid in it. The IV bag against your body would assume body temperature and heat up the urine in your bag. They even gave you a couple of heating pads if you live in cold climates. After that, you would pull up your underwear and pants. Inside your underwear was a bag against your body with urine in it. You could even see that the urine matched your body temperature because they put a thermometer on the bag.
Now when you show up to the drug test they would have you empty your pockets and then go to the stall with a bottle to pee in. Instead of unzipping your pants and pulling out your dick, you would pull out the hose and unclip the end of the hose and have the urine drain into the cup they gave you to pee in. You put the hose back in your pants, zip up your pants and walk out with the cup of clean piss. The whole thing was fucking brilliant. It was the very early days of drug testing and they were much easier to beat back then and much less sophisticated.
I had to try it first before I showed the guys at work. I smoked some pot before my next drug test and went into the lab to do a test run. Sure enough, everything went according to plan and I walked out of the laboratory clean as a whistle. Once enough time went by to show me I passed the drug test, I started my plan to make myself some real money at Americano. It was time to put the pieces of my plan together.
Every morning all of the smokers would walk out of the warehouse and go have a cigarette break. One day I went out there with them and lit up a joint instead of a cigarette. All the drivers were stunned because they thought I was a hack for management. One by one they asked me how I would pass a drug test now. They also realized that I was putting trust in them because any one of them could just walk right back into the building and report that I was smoking pot outside. I told them all about my kit from Las Vegas that allows me to get by on the drug tests. I walked them all to my car in the parking lot and showed them the kit. I passed out all of the information for the company so they could buy the kit too. After that, I was in like Flynn. Months went by and it seemed as if everyone was smoking pot now. Nobody was getting in trouble and everyone was free to enjoy their weed without Uncle Sam crawling through their urine looking to catch them ingesting something. It must be said, it was not only pot. These drivers did many kinds of drugs. That was the beauty of the kit.
Now it was time for my next step in my plan to enrich myself. On every single route, there was at least one pizzeria that had an owner that would ask you if anything fell off the truck. That was code for: he will pay fifty cents on the dollar for stolen cheese or any product he sells. For years and well before I worked at Americano, drivers would steal cases of cheese from the warehouse of other restaurants and sell them to the shady owners for half and the driver would keep the money. Now I did not invent this concept nor is there any way to stop this. The loot is always available because most restaurants do not check the order when you bring in the food. If the guy ordered ten cases of cheese that week and you only put eight in his cooler, it just goes unnoticed. The gangster restaurant owner types know this and will ask you if anything fell off the truck and let you know that you can always show up at his back door with some goodies. It was a timeless skim or scam. Whenever you see a restaurant owner standing there with a clipboard checking off every item as you bring it in, that guy knows about this skim too. He just does not want to be a victim of it.
However, what nobody ever tried was to consolidate the entire system into one operation that fed every single shady pizzeria up and down the east coast of America and that was my plan. I was going to turn this one-off kind of thing into a well-greased machine. I was going to build an entire criminal operation that crossed state lines and filled my coffers. It was time to violate the RICO ACT once again. (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) It was time to build my next criminal enterprise. I tried making a living there the proper way and there was no room for me. Now, I would make room for myself.
Florida is what is called a “Right to Work” state when it comes to employment. Right-to-work laws in America are statutes that are found in 28 U.S. states as I type this. These statutes prohibit union security agreements. Under the umbrella of these laws employees in unionized workplaces may not be forced to join a union. They also can’t be compelled to pay for any part of the cost of union representation. Now when it goes to the unions and the trucking industry the Teamsters are very much a part of the scene. The Teamsters targeted Americano and did a full court press to try to get all of the drivers to go with the union. Americano was a strange company when in our northern division in New York was a union shop and our southern terminal in Florida was not. This dichotomy made the company a prime target for the Teamsters.
During this era of union targeting the Teamsters did their thing to reach out to the drivers. They got all the drivers riled up. Around this time it came out that the drivers in New York were making over twice what the drivers were making in Florida for doing the same job at the same company. The Teamsters efforts were very successful at Americano and they got all of the black drivers to show up at a hotel lobby in town to organize. In Florida, our warehouse was half and half when it came to blacks and whites. At a time, this created serious issues and I can’t tell you how close to a race war we came to more than once. It was a real problem and I could tell that the big boss, Antonio, was starting to realize this. He needed to make a move to make it more of a natural balance of blacks and whites, more in line to our nation’s population. Twelve percent black was the nation’s average and not fifty percent. That kind of balance is nothing but trouble.
After the meeting between the black drivers at Americano and the Teamsters, all of a sudden the blacks started acting nice towards the whites. Their entire way of treating us and interacting with us became all rosy. It made me sick to watch. This group of black guys were just scumbags for the most part and watching them being nice was ridiculous to see. While they had their newfound personalities they slowly tried to get the white drivers to sign a piece of paper saying they wanted our company to go union. They had a certain amount of time to have an official vote and the first step was signing this paper. I sat back over the course of two weeks watching all the white guys slowly agree to do this. I could see it happening right in front of my eyes.
The leader of the blacks came to me personally and told me that he knew it was a waste of time trying to convince me to go union. I told him, “You do not understand what it means to be a union shop or have any idea of the union dues and all the shit you will pay and be asked to do.” I told him every industry in New York paid more than their counterparts in Florida. I told him, “I’m not going to give you lessons and education of what is called “cost of living” and how that effects pay in New York and Florida.” I basically told him to go fuck himself and to stick that union slip up his ass. He knew he was wasting his time with me and moved on before he gave in to his urge to physically assault me.
The town of Ocala was abuzz during this period as Teamsters from New York were running around town stirring things up. The company had no idea how vulnerable they were. Owners of large companies do not want to answer to union reps when it comes to their companies. I had big plans that I was in the process of accomplishing and I certainly did not want to see the union come to Americano. I had some shady shit planned and having strict union rules about this or that was the last thing I needed at the time. Strangely enough, the company and I had aligned goals without them knowing it. Unbeknownst to them, they had a secret weapon in their pocket. They had me. I was going to be their singlehanded union wrecking ball. I knew I could put a stop to it. The whole vote was hanging on a thread down to the very last white guy who would be convinced to vote for it. So at the very last moment, right before it was to become official, I walked right into Antonio’s office and said the Florida division of Americano is about to go union and I can stop it. The old man stood up and asked how. I said, “You leave that up to me.” He looked at me with a smile and asked, “What do you want?” I said, “Give me a dollar more an hour and I make it all go away.” We both walked out of his office into the main office and Antonio told the office manager to call New York. “Irish here makes another dollar an hour.” I know another dollar an hour sounds silly but I would have done it for free. I just wanted something of a symbol. My revenue stream was about to turn on like a faucet. My salary would soon become a front.
I walked out into the warehouse and gathered half the white guys who were my pot smoking redneck pussies and told them not to listen to the blacks and to stop being their puppets. I said, “You know as well as I, we are never going to get that kind of money New York gets but we will get the same union fees deducted from our paychecks.” That was it, that was all it took. Those guys said fuck it and there were not enough votes to unionize Americano and the Teamsters left town. To this day I saved the owner of Americano more money by far than I was about to skim. He should still be paying today for that favor. It was the single biggest effect I had on the company. After all of these decades, the place is still not a union shop and that is all because of me. They never did compensate me properly for that monster favor. They just thought I was placated with my dollar raise. They were wrong. They were very wrong.
During my time at Americano it did not take me long to find out what restaurants were run by shady fellows. At that time there were thirty-three separate truck routes that covered five states. On each one of those routes, there was an owner who would ask “if anything fell off the truck” that day. As I said before, this was code that meant if you gave him a case of cheese that is stolen he would give you fifty cents on the dollar for the case. Now, there are countless ways a driver can steal cases of cheese, but the biggest way was the easiest way. Many restaurants would not check in the order as you brought in the food. So if he ordered twelve cases of mozzarella and you only brought in ten cases it would go unnoticed. There were also ways to get it out of the warehouse, but shorting one restaurant and selling the cheese to another was the most common way of doing this. I did not create this scenario nor did I set the price at fifty percent on every case. That was all going on decades before I got into the industry. Long before I showed up this was a clear-cut way for a driver to put some extra cash into his pocket.
However, what this industry never had was a bastard like me who saw the whole thing as a business just sitting there for the taking. One weekend I snuck down to my old stomping grounds in South Florida and looked up a very powerful Italian guy I met in Federal Prison. When we were doing time in Alabama he tried to recruit me to come work for him. He gave me a moving company and a car dealership in Fort Lauderdale that was run by a section of the mob to go to. This was the real mob. When I was in prison, one day we were all sitting around the TV set watching a 60 Minutes episode on John Gotti and many of the people who were highlighted in that piece were sitting right there with me watching this thing. They were the real deal.
For the purpose of this book, I’ll say this man’s name was Mr. R and I’ll leave it at that. Mr. R ran all of Fort Lauderdale and had his hands into everything from money laundering to doing some shady shit with the Florida Lottery. I drove down there one weekend and met with him and explained the whole situation. As he sat there smoking La Fontana Vintage premium cigars, I laid out my pitch. I explained to him that I had access to these restaurant owners who would pay fifty cents on a dollar up and down the east coast for a case of mozzarella and that I had ways of acquiring the cheese. What I needed from him was a place in Ocala to store the cheese, a truck of some sorts to deliver the stolen cheese and a driver who could make the deliveries every week. I told him that all of the money would go to him at first until he recouped all the cash he put out and then I would give him ten percent vig on the entire operation. Once he set it up all he had to do was sit back and take an envelope of cash every week for doing nothing. Mr. R loved the idea. The funny part was why he was happy. It was not so much about the venue stream, but these Italians love getting over on one another. It is like a game to them or more like a sport. They do it to each other all of the time. It is a riot to sit back and watch them. So, Mr. R and I cut a deal in the back room of a well-known car dealership and we were off and running. The good part about the arrangement was the fact we had total trust in each other because we did time together in prison. We knew each other very well. When men are locked up together for years we get to know each other better than our wives know us. There is a bond there and this bond put my whole operation in motion.
It wasn’t long before I was approached by this old Jewish guy in Ocala who told me we had a mutual friend in Mr. R, and that he was here to help. The old man had a tiny storefront off of Hwy 40 in Ocala. I’m not sure what kind of business this used to be. The place was only six-hundred square feet if that. It looked like it could have been many things over the years but now it was a dusty old place. When we walked in and turned the lights on the bulbs took a minute to come on. It was like nobody had been there in a while. The key to this place was, there was a walk-in cooler in the back and there was enough room to drive a tractor-trailer behind the building and load and unload without anyone seeing it. It was perfect for what we needed. A week later the old man produced a pickup truck that had a camper top on it. He showed me how there was enough room to load the cheese up front under the driver’s cab window and then he had a wooden dog cage used for hunting that we could put in front of the cheese to hide it. That way if any cop or person looked inside the back they would just see the dog cage thingy. Then he showed me how there still was enough room for the Mexican to sleep in the back of the camper. I asked the old man, “What Mexican?” and he said, “Your delivery driver.” I just looked at the guy stunned. This really was what we needed. He looked back at me and said, “What you think we were going to do, put up a Mexican in a hotel all week? He sleeps in the truck and he will like it!” The old Jew said, “Trust me, this is a step up for him.” So that was it. We had what we needed. Mr. R came through and now it was time for me to fill the cooler up with cheese. On the door of the walk-in cooler was a sticker of a pink pig. The old guy pointed to the sticker and said, “Feed the pig, you understand?” I said, “Yes, I understand, feed the pig.” It was time to go get the cheese.
I approached the big boss one day and told Antonio that I was getting bored doing the same old routes and I wanted to learn all the other ones. He agreed that I would be more valuable to him the more truck delivery routes I knew. So, over time I was sent to one city after the other and one state after the other learning each route. Along the way, I identified on each delivery route who the shady restaurateurs were and developed a clientele list of greedy Italian men who would buy my stolen cheese. Then I approached other drivers who were my pot smoking buddies and some others with larceny in their blood to drop off the cheese at our store every chance they got. I would pay them mostly with marijuana and some wanted a little cash. The real hook was, I would throw real life orgy parties at my home over the weekends and my crew got to come and indulge. They were simple locals that were not sophisticated. Orgies were a novelty to them. They had no clue how regular it was in the bigger cities across the nation. I pushed all of them to cross sexual boundaries they never knew existed in themselves. Too bad social scientists were not there to take notes. I had my own Masters and Johnson thing going on there in Ocala, Florida. It was quite revealing.
It did not take long for Mr. R to get all of his cash back that he invested and I was now fully in charge of the operation paying him vig. Of course, once he realized what a cash cow this was he wanted twenty percent instead of the ten percent we agreed upon. I did not tussle over the points. The man was very persuasive. The operation was now in full swing and the cash started piling up. The whole thing worked like a charm. Ironically if the management of the place would have just made room for me in a leadership position none of this would have happened. However, they would not have come near the money I was making with their salaries around there. I was swimming in cash. Nobody seemed to notice how suddenly one of their drivers was buying land in Marion County and knocking trees down. I put in a septic system on the land and paid for a water pump system to bring me up free water from the Florida Aquafer seventy feet below the ground. I went out and bought a brand new double-wide mobile home and slapped it on the land. Now I had a home again. Americano certainly wasn’t paying me enough money to do all of this, but everyone was busy with their lives and paid no attention. I lost my last house when the FBI arrested me and paraded me in front of the nation on the evening news as I went through all that. Now I had a place of my own again and it did not look too suspicious because I did a mobile home and not some fancy house. One of the skill sets I learned in my previous life was not to stand out and to operate below the radar. I was very good at that. I could live in any neighborhood and hang out on any rung of the social economic ladder. I felt at home either way. I grew up poor, so I had no problems fitting in any lifestyle.
My life settled in and for a time and it felt like I was settling down. I had my little cash thing on the side and I made a salary at Americano that was a perfect front. I even got married for the third time and had a baby girl. My wife knew nothing of my passions for making money and for a while, I just lived a quiet life of orgies, drugs, and booze. My problem really became what to do with the cash. I could not put it in the bank, so I decided to hide the cash in a shed of a person I knew. It was in their back yard and no one was the wiser. I did not want it on my property. That was all I knew. A lesson I learned the last time the feds raided my house. I converted all the bills to hundreds and then put it in a metal fireproof filing cabinet that locked with a key. This person never used their shed out back and had no idea I was storing all the loot in there. It was fucking perfect.
Americano delivered not only to Italians but also to the Greeks. Over time I learned the Greeks had a Mafia of their own and truth be told, it was even more organized than the Italians. It was quite an operation. How it worked was there was one Godfather type who everyone answered to. For the purpose of this book and being able to continue to breathe oxygen, I’ll say the man is named Mr. G. and we’ll leave it at that. Now Mr. G. was based out of Columbia, South Carolina and he owned one of the most popular restaurants and bars in town. He also controlled an import company that would bring goods in from Greece every month through the port in Charleston. He would bring in workers from Greece and have them work in restaurants in Connecticut. After a couple of years, if they did a good job and became trustworthy, Mr. G. would move them to South Carolina and get them closer to him. He would find them jobs at one of the many Greek restaurants that answered to Mr. G or he’d put them on the docks at the import company. Some of these men were worker bees and some stone-cold killers. Lastly, once they proved themselves to be reliable Mr. G would ship them down to Florida where they had a huge presence. It was a hell of an operation. If you owned a Greek restaurant on the east coast of the U.S. you knew who Mr. G was. Even if you had nothing to do with him or his operation, you damn sure knew who he was and your Greek wife did too. Everyone and I mean everyone in the Greek community would come down to Tarpon Springs, Florida each year for two weeks for a Greek Festival. You might not have made this trip every year but you damn sure made this pilgrimage at least once if you were operating a Greek restaurant or bar. They are a very tight bunch and they keep to themselves. Now don’t get me wrong they will do business with anyone, but you would never penetrate their inner circle. Greek restaurants were nearly half of Americano’s venue. It was big money to do business with the Greeks. They were loyal customers and kept a tight relationship with the Italians. Over the course of my time at Americano, I got to meet Mr. G. and all of the owners and their wives of the many Greek restaurants. I would make pickups at their import company and knew almost every owner by name. They treated me like gold and they did not even know my background. If they had any idea of my felonious past I’m sure we would have become even closer. Every time they saw my Americano truck coming they would cook me up incredible meals to take with me on the truck so I could eat. Many of them gave me booze to wash down my steak and Greek salads with. They were an awesome group of folks. Their women were beautiful, everybody knew how to cook and I was treated like gold. Mr. G. would sit me down in the middle of a packed restaurant and bar and ask me how Antonio was doing back at Americano. He always wanted to know how the boss was doing and would tell me to say hi when I got back from South Carolina. That restaurant and bar was his main hub or office. Every Greek in Columbia that was somebody showed up there every morning before their restaurants opened and had coffee with Mr. G. to discuss this or that. As I said, it was an awesome operation.
Over time I got to know the whole crew that worked the docks at the import company and one day this guy struck up a conversation with me. He told me that he was not Greek like everyone else there but was Egyptian. As time went by and through many talks, the guy told me that back home where he came from butter was like sticks of gold there. For whatever reason, it was hard to get their hands on butter. He told me if I could get my hands on some pallets of butter he and I could make some big money shipping butter to Egypt. Back at Americano Mickey had just recently closed a deal with a butter company and our freezer back in Florida was filled with butter. I mean there were cases and cases of it. If I could somehow figure out a way to get the butter to this Egyptian without the Italians and Greeks knowing, I could make a bundle of cash without having to cut them in on it. If they knew about this Egyptian butter lane they would cut me out and take all of it. As I thought this through I had multiple ways of getting the butter to this guy but I had to rely on him to do what I say and get through the lost in translation issues I was dealing with because he barely spoke English. If I did this right I could scale this thing and bring in my old prison friend from South Florida. I was very excited to make this happen and I worked it hard. One day before anything was put into motion, I was on my weekly trip to South Carolina and I showed up at the docks of the import company. My Egyptian buddy was nowhere to be found. I asked about him and was told by this big fat Greek guy that he “Slipped off the docks and is gone.” I asked, “Slipped” and the guy looks me straight in the eyes and said, “Like he slipped on butter and now he is gone.” I stood there frozen in time. I guess they whacked the guy or something. It did not seem that they realized my role in the butter scenario and I never saw the Egyptian ever again. My dreams of getting rich shipping butter to Egypt also “slipped” away and I never forget how close I came to putting that together, only to have it slip between my fingers. That fucking butter was greasy and hard to hold on to.
The alarm clock went off. I sat up in bed wiping the dust from my eyes. Sitting there in the dark the realization comes forth that I need to get to work early because this was Thanksgiving week. On holiday weeks like this everything is totally chaotic. We must slam five working days of routes into three. My route had to go out on Monday instead of Wednesday. In fact, my truck to South Carolina would be the first truck loaded today.
As I arrived at the warehouse the place was buzzing. Forklifts were flying around at a high speed. Everyone was on the move. There was no time for water cooler talk or even a cup of coffee. Everyone worked towards loading my truck first. I was one of only two routes that used a forty-eight-foot trailer, so there was a lot to load. It benefited me because I would get my manifest and be put on the road. I did not need to hang out at the docks to help load other trucks. I did not mind that.
As I pulled away with the tractor-trailer from the dock all I had on my mind was getting up to South Carolina and getting this route done. I had to get back to Florida by Tuesday night because I had to turn around and drive straight to New York to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family. It was going to be a brutal week of driving. In order to pull this off I had to do a three-day route in two days, then turn around and drive straight through to New York without stopping. It was all I could think of as I drove down the road.
I got up to South Carolina and because it was a holiday week every restaurant was giving me all sorts of food and drink as I went along my route. I started downing some shot-sized bottles that South Carolina has. They had this strange law at the time that you could not free pour at a bar, you must serve these little bottles as we get on the airplane. I was no stranger to drinking and driving an eighteen-wheeler. Hell, most of us were not.
The route was going well that day. I was actually ahead of schedule. All I needed to do was make my way up to Sumter, South Carolina and do all the restaurants there before they closed. Then, I needed to end up at the mall before that closed at 10 pm. I had one restaurant to go and then I could deliver to the mall and go to a hotel room and sleep. Working for Americano we did not have to sleep in the truck. The company paid for us to stay in a hotel every night so we could get some rest and a shower. Some drivers would pocket the expense money and sleep in the truck. I, however, knew hotels along my route that had good breakfast in the morning and I wasn’t passing that up. To this day I remember a cook up there that would deep fry bacon. It was heaven!
I pulled up ahead of schedule to the last restaurant before the mall. It was closed but the owner would meet me there to take the delivery. This place was more like a bar that did pizza too. I got all his food brought in and he asked me if I wanted to have a drink with him. Of course, I took him up on his kind offer. I was already half in the bag drinking those shot bottles. All I had was one more delivery at the mall and then I could go to the hotel and take a shower and get some rest.
I sat down at the bar looking around at all of the air hockey, pinball machines, and pool tables. The guy came out from the back with this odd-looking bottle of booze. He explained to me that this was his family homemade hooch and that this bottle was fifty years old. He was divorcing his wife and it was time to crack open this fifty-year-old bottle. He pulled the cork out of this huge bottle that reminded me of Thanksgiving. When I grew up the supermarkets would have these giant glass jugs of apple cider around Thanksgiving. They would line them up on the floor under the produce in the produce section of the store. I haven’t seen those jugs in a long time, but this guy had booze in one. As I drank a few drinks with him, listening to stories of what a whore his wife was, I told him I needed to go before the mall closed. I got back into the truck and realized I had quite a buzz. I’m really good at maintaining a certain level of intoxication that is functional, so I realized this buzz was not from the little shot bottles, but rather from this guy’s homemade hooch. I wasn’t worried because the mall was right around the corner.
I got to the mall before it closed and parked the truck right in front of the entrance. I got out of the truck and went back to the end of the trailer and opened it. I pulled out the ramp that connects the floor of the trailer to the ground. I walked up the ramp and walked through the blinds that go from roof to floor to keep the cold in the refrigerated trailer. I pick up my handcart and started loading the food on it. Then I walked back to the back of the trailer to the ramp, walked through those blinds that are hard to see through and went down the ramp. I wheeled each handcart into the mall to the food court where there was this pizza place. I had to repeat this a dozen times to get everything into the food court.
On my last handcart of stuff, I loaded the very heavy fifty-pound bags of flower. We are told not to put more than six bags on the handcart at a time. It just was not safe going down the ramp with more than that because it was hard to control. However, I was among a handful of guys that could handle twelve bags of flour and go down the ramp. It was six-hundred-pounds and once you walk through the foggy hanging blinds to the top of the ramp, it is hard to see who is down at the bottom of the ramp until the last moments. As I started to go down the ramp I saw this little black girl at the bottom of the ramp pointing up to me. I started screaming get out of the way, but there was no time.
I smashed into the little girl who could not have been more than four or five years old and completely crushed her. Bags of flour went everywhere. I ran to the child and dug her out from under the handcart and six hundred pounds of flour. I checked for a pulse and there was not one. She was dead. I just killed this little kid. I looked around the parking lot and nobody was around let alone her parents. Nobody saw what happened. It was dark and about ten o clock at night. I picked up the dead kid and walked up to my ramp into the trailer. I held her in my arms as I walked through the cloud of cold mist and I placed her on a pallet of flour. I went back down the ramp put the flour back on the handcart and finished my delivery and got the money from the restaurant for their food. I hated that we had to handle money on the routes because our trucks did not have a floor safe. We were targets for sure. But I had more troubles on my hands than worrying about being robbed. I had a dead kid in my trailer. I put the ramp up, pulled the door of the trailer down and put a padlock on the door. Then I drove away. I checked into the hotel racing with adrenaline and went upstairs to my room and passed out cold.
I woke up the next morning like any other morning and took a shower. It wasn’t until five minutes into my shower that I remembered that there was a dead kid in the trailer outside. Panic hit me like a hurricane. My legs gave out in the shower and I went to the bottom of the tub. Panic-stricken, I finished up my morning hygiene and got myself downstairs to check out of the hotel. I walk towards my tractor trailer with such a sense of doom. I was fairly certain that nobody saw happened the night before, but I still had this situation of a dead body lying in my refrigerated trailer. What I need to do was get rid of the body. The only thing I could think of was to drive behind some shopping center or strip plaza and dump the kid in a dumpster and ride away without being seen. However, I had to find one that did not have any camera around it. This was a time before everyone walked around with a smartphone with a camera on it. I’m sure today it would almost be impossible to pull this off.
My problem was that I did not have all day to drive around finding the right dumpster. I was under the gun with time because of all my responsibility that day with my job. I needed help. I drove to the restaurant to get help from the restaurateur that I got drunk with the night before. These Italians did not freak out over dead bodies. These retired gangsters had seen their fair share of bodies and that guy I drank with and knew pretty good by now was the perfect shady guy to help me get out of this pickle.
I drove up to his place and caught the guy before he opened for the day. I went in and explained my situation. He told me that I was lucky because this was the day that his garbage man came to empty his dumpster. He asked me to drive around to the back of his building and he would help me get the body in his dumpster and hide it in there where nobody could see it at first glance. I drove the truck around his building and pulled next to the dumpster.
I parked the truck and came out of the cab and walked towards the back of the trailer. I pulled out my key and unlocked the padlock and rolled up the trailer door. We had trailer doors that opened and closed up and down and not the ones that open side to side. I pulled down the ramp to connect the ground to the trailer and we both walked up the ramp. We walked through the rubber curtains that hold in the cold and we made our way through the refrigerator mist toward the pallet of flour.
I stood there in utter shock as I looked down at the pallet. There was no kid. There was nobody. I was stunned. This was impossible because I locked the trailer the night before and nobody could have gotten in there. I was speechless. Where was the body? The guy looked at me and asked me where the kid was. I said I have no idea. That is where I placed the little black girl. He looked around the trailer and started to crack up laughing. He was laughing so hard that he started to tear up. I told him this was impossible everything was locked up. He walked out of the trailer and down the ramp to the ground still laughing. I walked down with him and stood next to him asking what was so funny?
The guy just kept laughing. Finally, he looked me in the eye and said that he was sorry. I asked what for? He told me that his family’s homemade hooch also had a little liquid LSD in it to make the drink more powerful. I was flabbergasted. I looked at him and asked, “So this was an acid trip?” He said, “Apparently.” I could not believe what had happened. I had hallucinated the whole thing. Part of me was so mad at the dude for drugging me without telling me, but all I could feel was relief that I did not kill a little girl or that I was not going back to prison for the rest of my life. He patted me on the shoulder and told me he had to get back to work. His last words as he entered the building was, “See you next week,” and I could not believe my eyes or ears. As I drove away all I could think was, “Those fucking dagos!”
As time went by my cheese hustle was moving along just fine. We kept feeding the pig back at the home base of our scam and filling the cooler up with cheese. Our Mexican was doing his job and delivering our stolen sticks of gold to all of the shady Italians up and down the East Coast. I kept putting away the money and not spending a dime of it while my benefactor down in South Florida was pleased. All was going just fine until one day everything changed on a dime. I was about to have my very conscience put to the test.
By this time into my career in America’s food chain I got to become good friends with the boss who ran the whole thing. We became very close and many nights I would come back late after my route and bring in the money. After getting all the paperwork done and the truck taken care of I would sit in Antonio’s office and he would pull out some booze from his desk drawer. We would sit and talk hours on many occasions. He really opened up to me and told me about his life and the history of the company.
Antonio explained how his father started the company in the early part of the 20th century and how it really was a family business. His father told all three of his boys that they could either join the family business or he would put them through college. One son went off to school and the other two boys joined Americano and made it their life’s work. He talked about how when he was young he would come in on Saturdays and they would shred the mozzarella and put it into bags. He said his father was the first company in America that sold the cheese shredded to restaurants. They would get more money if they sold the cheese already shredded. So the same block of cheese could get twice the revenue sold in this way. He also told me how his brother was killed by other Italians in the industry because he took an interview with a reporter about the business to a prominent newspaper in New York. After his brother’s interview was published, he was dead within two weeks.
The two of us got very close. We became friends, real friends. He would let me in on the most personal things going on with his life. I really liked the guy and started to get a feeling of prodigious guilt knowing I was ripping off my friend. As shady as my life had been, I always lead my life with a certain code. I was very loyal to my friends. So, now I had a dilemma. I just could not keep going on this way. One day he shared with me very personal details about his childhood and his relationship with his only living brother. That day I knew I was done stealing from this man and his family.
I drove down to South Florida to meet my Mafia buddy who was getting a piece of this operation. I told him that I was convinced that the feds were on to this whole thing and that things were getting hot. He told me that he didn’t need any more heat on him. He said he had too many eyes on him to be wrapped up in this shit storm that was coming my way. Since we did time in prison together we knew each other well and knew enough guys in the joint who are in there because they did not know when to stop.
I went back to North-Central Florida to shut everything down. Now I had to move all of the money to its final resting place. I did not want a penny of it. I was doing fine without it. I went and counted all of the money. It totaled out to 443,020 dollars. I put it back into the metal filing cabinet and I went to the home of the person who I knew never ever went back into the shed on his property. We had a falling out and he was my enemy now. I knew nobody would ever think to look there for it. Certainly not he and very few people on Earth knew the money even existed.
I left the industry entirely. I cashed in my 401K and eventually moved to an island off the coast of Florida and started my own business. For going on two decades I maintained my friendship with Antonio. We would talk on the phone once a week during that whole time. He kept me up with the gossip and what was going on with Americano and I told him about my life and new business. He was one of the biggest fans of my business and my writings as an author.
One day in 2017 I got a call from his stepson told me that Antonio was dead. By now he was an elderly man and I knew this day would come. He was struggling with some serious health issues. But before I could get a tear out of my eye his stepson told me that he killed himself. I was stunned. I was told that he shot himself in the driveway of his house in his car. I hung up the phone and broke down. I just lost it. I was filled with grief and of course guilt that I robbed the guy. On top of that, I was the only person on Earth that knew the real reason he took his life. I am the only human being that knows why. The whole world got that death completely wrong. It is something I will keep to myself for the rest of my life. We told each other everything and had many secrets. This was our last one.
I drove back to the shed where I hid the money and of course it was still there. Ocala is a town that was carved out of the Ocala National Forest and the surrounding areas so most of it is rural and woods. There are these sheds all over the area that are sitting on properties untouched and ignored. It was the perfect place to hide in clear sight. As I went to remove the filing cabinet from the shed I heard his voice carried on the wind. It was not some hallucination this time. I was not on acid. I know it sounds crazy, but I heard him as clear as day. He said my name or at least the name he always called me. I heard the word “Irish.” It was in a tone that made me break down and cry. It was an unapproving tone. I closed the door of the shed and just drove away. I will never return to that shed ever again. I will never return to that town again. I will never see my friend again. But if I could, I would say thanks. Thanks for your friendship that meant the world to me. And I would say I am sorry.