In Washington D.C., Anthony Scaramucci on Wednesday night attempted to put a bold, new spin on America. The hedge fund financier -- whose immigrant father used his hands to shovel sand in the pits near the Long Island Sound in Port Washington -- said America is more Uber and start-up "by a bunch of rich guys who broke away" from England than a nation of patriots and revolutionaries and poor immigrants who wanted political and religious freedom.
Another day, another rebranding of America in the age of billionaires steering the ship.
Meanwhile, his family back in Port Washington was just sorting through the swift ascension of Scaramucci to White House director of communications in the Age of Trump -- and that was before Newt Gingrich delivered a message to Scaramucci that may or may not been authorized by Trump about Scaramucci's "divisive" actions and "full-of-himself" bravado. Then the biggest bombshell in Scaramucci's one-week tenure: A profanity-laced tirade in The New Yorker which he took lethal aim at Reince Preibus, Steve Bannon and all the alleged White House leakers. One week!
Sal Defeo is a sort of legend here in Port Washington, N.Y. For decades, he and his brother, Sonny, ran Ghost Motorcycles, a small but mighty motorcycle shop on Main Street that once sold some of the most rare and powerful bikes to a large and loyal clientele. These days, the 90-year-old World War II veteran can be found sitting outside the old house on Main Street selling the only thing left of the old business: T-shirts and hoodies.
That's where I found Sal on Wednesday afternoon, only this time the familiar face had some other wares spread out on a table in front of him: Newspapers. Not the "fake news" that Donald Trump likes to mock whenever there are headlines about investigations into Russian election hacking and possible collusion, but the local Port Washington and Manhasset newspapers, and the New York Daily News.
With the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci to the White House, where he is now in command of Trump's scorched-earth "communications" team, Sal Defeo was basking in the hoopla surrounding the ascension of his nephew. It is a well-known fact that, growing up in Port Washington, where Anthony Scaramucci was a respected athlete and student before heading off to Tufts and Harvard and, later, earning over a billion at Goldman Sachs and with his own Skybridge hedge fund company, "Mooch" used to go help his uncle sell helmets and mopeds.
A working-class kid whose Italian immigrant father worked in the nearby sand mines, and whose mother was a well-coiffed homemaker who raised her kids Roman Catholic, Anthony Scaramucci's roots are Port Washington and his family. He has close friends from his days at Main Street elementary and Schreiber High School. He lives two miles away in Manhasset. And during Scaramucci's business cable TV news appearances, he extols the virtues of his working class background. Which is what Sal Defeo wanted to show me.
"Look,'' Sal says, reaching for his cellular phone and pulling up a picture. It's one that Anthony Scaramucci sent Sal on his 90th birthday. It's a Tweet that shows Scaramucci 30 years ago at Ghost, with a caption that says he will never forget what he learned working alongside his uncle.
"I'm going to the White House,'' Sal Defeo says, explaining that because Anthony has made such a big deal about the influence his uncles had on him, Anthony wants them to come dine with Trump. It's payback, in a way, for what Defeo and all of Scaramucci's immigrant family taught him over the years -- an American Dream story that Scaramucci often references in his mega-media appearances and finance books.
Trump is slated for an appearance in Suffolk County on Friday, where youth gangs have committed some heinously violent crimes. Trump will be met with protests, but Sal shrugs. He did not exactly sing Trump's praises. "What were people going to do? They were both bad,'' he says about Trump and Hillary Clinton. However, when you are within one loyal and loving nephew away from the presidency, it's something to crow about. Sal pointed to his motorcycle, the one with the sidecar, and said Trump wants to ride in it. You never know, Anthony comes by his parents' home around the corner often. Maybe Trump and Scaramucci will take a detour and drag race up Main Street.
Sal Defeo holds up the newspapers then. He has collected them because his sister is coming by any minute and she wants to see the fuss being made over her son. It's then that Marie Scaramucci comes driving up the side street in her gray sedan. Sal hops up and walks over to her open window. They pat each other's hands and smile and chat. Then Mrs. Scaramucci asks if I know Anthony and I tell her I do but he was in my younger sister's class in school. She nods. She asks my name and nods again. She's kind of beaming, as if none of the controversy and crazytown surrounding Trump and now Scaramucci is happening.
"I've met Trump. He's a very nice man,'' she says, and fends off any notion that Trump may be slightly, you know, divisive or mentally unhinged or unable to govern. "He just says what's on his mind. He's not a politician,'' she says as her car idles at the stop sign.
She is not done being the proud mother, though. This is not about Trump, really. It's about her son. "My son is very , very talented, he's very regal and he's everything that a mother could want and he's going to run for president one day and I might not be around because I'm a little bit old and hopefully he gets it and I'll see him from spirit.''
For the record, I did reach out the Anthony Scaramucci to let him know that his mother and uncle were making a fuss about him, and to let him know his mother was making some newsworthy statements about his future plans. No word back, which is understandable, given the White House firestorm into which Scaramucci has walked, and which he may be accelerating.
Scaramucci was due in D.C. month before his eventual arrival last week. He sold his Skybridge hedge fund, then was told there was no room at the inn. Now, with Trump on the warpath, Tweeting his way to his immovable base, Scaramucci -- who dogged Trump's candidacy during the GOP primary -- was brought in to be Trump's younger, more handsome, more glib megaphone. It's been quite a show already.
Sean Spicer quit as press secretary within hours of Scaramucci's arrival. Trump has inspired a new round of outrage with Tweets about banning transgender soldiers from the U.S. military. He has drawn rebukes from Republican Senators over Trump's humiliation via Twitter of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The teardown of the Obama legacy is foundering, at least in the GOP's desire to repeal and replace health care. And Scaramucci faces fresh criticism almost hourly over his handling of White House staff, his ire over "leaks" of his financial disclosure statement, which is actually a matter of public record. Then there are the video montages that compare how exactly Scaramucci is mimicking Trump -- at least in terms of press conference hand gestures.
What side of history Anthony Scaramucci from Port Washington is on -- time is going to tell. In the meantime, his people at home are sharing not-so-fake news from local newspaper about his arrival at the Trump White House.
It's been a strange year, mostly for electoral reasons we won't get too far into right now because I am so sick of thinking about HIM. But one of the most telling aspects of the strange and outrageous year has been the toll it has taken on my waistline, and arms and ... yeah ... like everywhere.
Since November, there's been an inordinate amount of time spent on the computer, in front of the TV, on the phone looking at Facebook and Twitter -- all in an effort to try and be there for the exact moment when the news breaks that everything that's happened and happening is going to stop, so we can return to a normal country, or at least not a country run by a nutcase authoritarian with a real knack for lying and gas-lighting millions of people.
Anyway, about the eating -- otherwise known as binge snacking from 7 p.m. until 9:22 p.m --which has accompanied the post-election nightmare: The biggest problem has been potato chips. It appears that watching cable news during this strange year has accelerated and exaggerated the body's need for Cape Cod low-fat potato chips, or Utz's Dark Russet Chips, with an occasional bag (or 99 bags) of Lay's low-fat Ruffles.
When those items have found themselves eaten out of house and home, we have been known to resort to Cheeto's (!!!!) "All Natural" Cheese Puffs, or Pirate Booty, or Cheez Its or a big bin of homemade popcorn smothered in salt and nutritional yeast. (Have you tried it? Until you do, do not scoff.)
Sometimes, when those preferential snack items are out of stock in the kitchen cabinets, we've had to resort to Special Dark Pretzels, or Everything Snack Factory Pretzels or that giant bag of Pita Chips.
And then, when the chips were really down, we could always rely on saltine crackers or Virginia peanuts, since they are staples in the house. And as if all of that wasn't bad enough, and since we've abandoned diet soda because it is going to kill us, all of that salt and garbage was generally washed down with a few million gin & tonics, or a nice Woodford Reserve, or, in really desperate times, straight rubbing alcohol.
Which brings me to the picture above: The Dry-Mixed Sweets that mysteriously appeared in my refrigerator. Just as I have launched a new crusade to go snack free -- or at least limit access and intake to salty or sweet or overly caloric items in an attempt to regain any resemblance of self control, I find that somehow my mother must have bought us a pack of Indian pastries when she took out kid out for lunch when I was out of town. Now they are sitting on the counter. They are a very colorful and alluring set of sweets, all the more enticing because these goodies remind me of being in India, and the exotic flavors and spices of that cuisine. Eating this kind of treat can be justified as not about calories, but as a gastro-transportational method of being somewhere else. Not Proustian. But maybe a little more justifiable than ... potato chips.
I took two small bites. India. Other countries. A big world. So much bigger than one can comprehend. Bigger than ... HIM. I gave the dog a little crumble, then put the treats back in the fridge. It was a nice interlude.
But I don't really want to sell real estate. I mean, I love houses. But I like to buy them, not sell them to other people, because other people are much more annoying than I am, and that's saying a lot.
I bring this up today because, since I don't want to sell houses, I thought maybe it would be fun to do something like sell commercial real estate. So, on a whim, I took an interview with a small firm in Queens. They are nice people, or, at least, nice enough to let me come in for an interview. It was in this interview, in a moment of complete delusion and/or boredom, that I said: Sure, I would really love to come in and join your team!
I guess this is a problem, since, it's been a few weeks and now it's show time. They wrote to me asking: Hey, are you done with your vacation and can we talk? After spending a few months online with my trusty but virtual real estate teachers, whose little 1:30 minute video tutorials about capitalization rates and gross monthly income prepared me to take the New York State Department of State licensing test -- which I somehow passed -- it seems a shame that, after all that, I am on the verge of wasting all that time and effort.
So now I have to decide how to tell them that, really, I like the IDEA of selling commercial real estate, especially in scrappy neighborhoods in in Brooklyn and Queens where neighborhoods are turning over and changing, as more and more of NYC's record 8.5 million residents move out to the fringes of the boroughs. It seems exciting to try and strike up deals with old mom & pop shops that may decide it's time to sell; or to find space for retailers and franchisees looking for a spot in Bayside or Bushwick. Deals are fun! People have interesting stories, and it's exciting to get them to trust you and make them want to let you help them. And make a little coin, too.
But the reality is: I like the stories. I like talking to people and getting all the information. But can I really get down and dirty and slog through the listing and selling or leasing process? More to the point, do I really want to commit myself to an office in Queens, right on Northern Boulevard passed the Cross Island Expressway exits and in between the Korean barbecue restaurants and tire repair shops, and invest all kinds of blood, sweat and time developing a "book" for myself?
The answer: No.
I want to go to the country and write. Maybe I have to work. But I can work at Stewart's. I can stock shelves at Price Chopper, or make egg salad and slaw in the deli department. I like to cook. I like grocery stores.
Mostly, though, I like words. And while selling commercial real estate in Queens seems like a grand new adventure, and a way to invigorate life and maybe pave the way for a few commissions, I think my heart isn't in it. I'm not sure. But I think probably not. I have to decide. Like in the next 7 or 12 hours.
For what it's worth, here is a little real estate roundup about Trump World: Sean Spicer was born at North Shore Hospital because his parents lived at the time at 8 Third Avenue in Port Washington. It's a two-family brick abode down near the Town Dock. I walked by there after I read that Spicer lived there as an infant.
Anthony Scaramucci is also from Port Washington, and was in the same class as my sister, Corinna: 1982. When me and Anthony go at it on Twitter about T&&&p, especially via DM, he always says "say hi to Cokie." Anthony's parents still live here in town, and he has a house in Manhasset.
When Anthony became T&&&p's most ardent NYC supporter and campaign fund raiser last year, some of our fellow Schreiber High School classmates wondered how come Anthony believes in the Creation Theory? After all, Port Washington has some of the best schools in the country. It is just so inconceivable but then again, others pointed out that the Christian Right has been milked by the likes of T&&&p and Scaramucci for money and votes all because these characters have adopted some outrageously unscientific positions, as if to fit in with The Base.
Anthony's uncle owned Ghost Motorcycle. It was an interesting little place on Main Street. His cousin Auggie runs a glass replacement outfit in town, about a block from where Spicer was born. The glass outfit is lined with photos of Auggie and Anthony with all kinds of politicians: Cuomo, Romney, Democrat and Republican alike. When I brought a coffee table top in to be fixed, Auggie told me once about a house in Irma Avenue (where we live) where drug dealers once stashed $14 million in the pipes. Interesting story.
OK. Now, one or two more notes here. Felix Sater, a notorious figure in Trump world, lives in Port Washington, too. Sater served time in federal prison and then became an FBI informant. In the latest news (July 2017) it was reported that Sater is COOPERATING with the FBI on the Trump money laundering investigation (That's bad news for Trump). Sater has a big ranch house right at the beginning of Sands Point. When we ride our bikes past his house, the signs warn: Surveillance Cameras In Effect. I get scared, a little, and pedal faster. Now, Trump as we know is from the same Queens neighborhood as my father: Jamaica Estates. Little Donny was known as a bully from the earliest of ages. When a ball was hit over the fence into his yard, Donny wouldn't give it back. His childhood house just sold for very high price.
I am only bringing this up in the event that these four fellas are ever at Louie's together, and I find out about it, and I go in there, and I say something stupid, and then I am swimming with the fishes ... you'll get a sense why I think the whole cabal is ... not necessarily on the up and up.
Of course, Anthony would not need to go to Louie's. He owns a restaurant in New York City. The Hunt and Fish Club.
Again, last year when I was all over Anthony about Trump being kind of, you know, a liar and a con artist, Anthony said I should come to The Hunt and Fish Club for dinner. "You'd like him in person,'' he said. I was like: I am not going to The Hunt and Fish Club to meet Trump. First of all, I don't have stockings, sleeveless dress and pumps. Second, it is a restaurant NAMED AFTER A MOB JOINT, as in John Gotti. YOU CANNOT MAKE THIS STUFF UP.
I used to write politics, news and sports for newspapers in cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. Now I take a lot of Instagram photos, check Facebook, swim, read about T$$$p and cook dinner for people I really like. New York native, living in Port Washington and Greenfield Center (that's near Saratoga Springs FYI).