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.
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).