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Below you will find the current episode of the series, Tony's Town. New episodes appear occasionally and when replaced by a new episode, are generally included in the Archives library.  Additionally, we occasionally rerun an earlier or archived episode on the Tony's Town Reruns section.  We do this if an episode is relevant to a current event, particular to a recognized holiday or universal time of celebration, or if it is requested by our readers. The Archive library follows this 'Reruns" section below. 

If you are new to the series,we suggest you avail yourself of the archived episodes, especially the first four. They will introduce you to the people, places, and themes of the series as they appear. So, to paraphrase someone well known to us;

Welcom to our neighborhood, friend.

Tony's Town



A tragic mistake ... avoided

SEVEN AND SEVENTEEN 



     “Your bet.”

      Silence.

      “Hellloooo … Darryl … your bet.” 

      Nothing. 

     "Hello, earth to ‘Ace’.”

     Startled, Darryl Martinson looks up at Rabbi Green. “Huh? Oh, sorry 'your eminence', just thinking.”

   “You don’t say,” Josh chuckles. “Something on your mind, if you don’t mind my asking?”

    “Aahhh, Rabbi, it’s my neighbor’s kid. Sixteen years old, busted for dealing drugs. Yesterday he’s playing pee wee ball, today; he’s the lead story on the six o’clock news.”  

     “And your son’s what, eight?  His name’s Peter, right?”

      “Seven, and yea, it's Peter.  Suddenly I’m wondering how well I know him.”


      ... Hi, I’m Tony Baggz. It’s poker night.  Tonight ... the game room at Nick Kossarides’ house. Five card stud; three down, two up. Table's full.  Let's see, there's the Spinelli brothers, Reverend Williams, Pastor Jacobson, Nick, Rabbi Josh, Sammy “Bagels,” Father Bob, and a new player. Darryl Martinson. Darryl's nickname is "Ace"; a fighter pilot in the service, he now flies corporate jets. He spends a lot of time 'on the road' so to speak and really enjoys the times he can join the gang. Especially poker night.

       Reverend Williams and Pastor Jacobson are helping Nick's son, Paul, in the kitchen. Paul's icing down the drinks while the two clergymen are heating the food and making the garlic bread.  Nunzio taught them his recipe and now they fancy themselves as experts. Honorary "paesanos" as the Spinelli brothers call them.

      Carmine was the big winner last week, so he and Vito brought some sausage lasagna and baked ziti.  Nick’s wife made baklava, Rabbi Josh brought his version of a Greek salad, Father Bob brought some kosher goodies for Josh and Sammy, and in addition to his wife Kristi’s brownies, Darryl brought a mixed salad … worry and concern. Seems he’s searching for answers and judging from his cards, also the jack, queen, and king of hearts.  My guess, he’ll trade the royal flush for some good old-fashioned advice. 

     What do you say we listen in?


     Ace checks. “Tell me Nick,” he says, “your son, Paul, he’s what, fifteen, sixteen. He’s a great kid; smart, personable, respectful. How’d you do it?”

     “Thanks, Darryl … appreciate that. But Andrea gets the lion’s share of the credit. She’s a great mom. Me, well maybe I deserve some, but honestly, I almost made the mistake too many dads make.”

     “How so?”

       "Not seeing the forest for the trees."

     "I don't follow."

       “Well, one day I was building some display cases.  It was a custom job and I was hard up against a deadline. Paul was five or six at the time. He came running into my workshop with some little plastic tools he got for Christmas, ready to go to work with his dad. Evidently, he’d heard me complain to Andrea I was behind, and he wanted to help.

      “Anyway, I was in a hurry, not in the best of moods, and his interruption annoyed me. So, I told him I was busy and to go play somewhere else. Well, he picked up his little tools and I heard him sniffle. He looked at me and the hurt in his eyes went right through me. He just wanted to be with his dad, and I was telling him his dad didn’t want to be with him. So, I called him back, gave him a hug, told him I was sorry, and together we set about finding things he could do. Later he was brushing on some varnish and he turned and just smiled. And it was there and then I finally understood those cases weren’t my real job; that little curly haired interruption was.”

       Bringing a plate of sandwiches from the kitchen, the sound of Martin Williams’ booming laugh fills the room.  “I smell a child labor law violation, Nick.”

      “Actually, padre,” Nick says, shaking his head, “when the varnish dried, I had to sand it all off at two the next morning and re-do it”  

     Pausing, Nick sips his drink and continues. “It was there and then I think I finally realized being a dad isn’t just slapping the 'I’m the proud parent of …' bumper sticker on the car. It’s being involved in his everyday life. In the little things, playing catch, going fishing, washing the car. And if he misses half the dirt, who cares. The important thing isn’t a shiny car; it’s a kid who knows his dad looks out for him, loves him, and wants him in his life.” 

     Saying nothing, Ace nods gently. Pausing a moment, he turns to the Spinelli brothers. “Vito, Carmine, your boys work with you in the restaurant. Same reason?”

     “Well partly,” Carmine says, picking up his cards. “It started because we needed the help. But now, with them going off to college, it gives us a chance to stay involved in their lives. They’ll be doing any of a dozen different things and the conversation will turn to girls or school, or something.”

     Vito winks at his brother. “Yea, like Carmine says, it’s a chance to learn a thing or two, especially about girls.”

     “Who, you or the boys?” Nick chuckles, a devilish look in his eyes.


      “Well, Nunzio actually,” Carmine deadpans.  “Being married to “Tiff”, he needs all the help he can get.”

     The mention of Nunzio and Tiffany brings chuckles around the table. Everyone has their favorite “Tiff and Z” story.  A fun, and at times, zany couple, they're a neighborhood legend. A "goombah" and the daughter of a “Wasp” banker. How that marriage came about is a story in itself. Maybe later. But they’re a great couple. And a better mother than Tiffany you won't find anywhere. 

     Looking over Carmine’s head, Nick spots a painting. “See that picture over the stereo, Darryl?” he asks. “It’s Joseph teaching young Jesus the skills of a carpenter. Joseph gave his boy his time and attention, and the knowledge and skill of a craft. Can't you picture the two of them, working together in the Galilean sunshine, with Joseph teaching and talking with his boy?”

     “Yea … I can,” Darryl says somewhat absent mindedly, the look on his face a faraway one.

       Smiling gently, Nick continues. "Scripture shows Jesus as a man of vision, direction, courage, and compassion; all qualities of a good strong man, and the product of Joseph’s time and effort. Something we often miss. Ever wonder what that first conversation was between Joseph and his Heavenly Father when they finally met face to face?”

     “Interesting thought,” Darryl says. “I never really thought about Joseph in that way."

     “You and everyone else," says Reverend Jacobson. "If that old cliché`, 'the child is the father of the man,' is true, then Joseph was an exceptional influence on the boy. Like Nick says, something we often miss.” 

       Rabbi Josh nods in the direction of Ace’s hand. “Ace, you have the ten and the ace of hearts showing. If you’re an absentee dad now, when he’s little, well, you have a better chance of holding the inside three to that royal flush, than expecting a teenage son to automatically respect you if you’ve never really been involved in his life. Absentee dads who show up one day demanding automatic respect and obedience are unrealistic, at best.”

       Nick throws in a nickel. “Call.”

       It’s showtime. Carmine has an ace high, Vito, two pair, sevens and nines, Nick, a pair of kings, and Josh turns his cards to show three fives.

     Spreading his hand, Darryl shakes his head. “Ace, ten, queen of hearts, four of diamonds, jack of spades. Kangaroo straight.”

     "Sorry, Ace … the poker angel passed over that hand,” Josh says, chuckling softly. “But you still have lots of time to be a winner with Peter, right?”

      Josh’s “passover” reference draws a laugh around the table. 

       Ace smiles. “Right, Rabbi.” Pausing a moment, he looks up. “Thanks fellas. Funny …

       … never thought I’d enjoy losing a hand so much.” 

 

     It’s easier to raise strong children, than to repair broken men.  – Frederick Douglas.

     The late Harry Chapin’s song, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” points to the sad truth of absentee dads. If you don’t have you son, or your daughter for that matter, in the palm of your hand at seven, you won’t have them at seventeen, twenty-seven, or probably, ever. You’ll end up little more than a distant relative.

     A child is a gift from a Heavenly Father to an earthly one; a gift to be treasured, one for which you are a chosen steward. Children are not decorations and they certainly are not interruptions. They are a father’s life; an awesome responsibility. And, one day, that heavenly Father will ask for an account of your stewardship.  Here’s hoping on that day, they’ll be your pride and joy. And a reason to hear …

     “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Come and take the place My Father has prepared for you.”

    Thinkaboutit … I’m Tony Baggz.

© 2016  Tres Angeli Publishing, LLC


Tony's Town Reruns

A pro-life story.

Roll Tide 

 

     “Rooollllll Tiiiide!!!”

     “The Bowl” erupts in a frenzied cheer as the referee signals touchdown, putting the The "Boys in Black" up by ten on the “Skins.” Mimicking the referee’s signal, "Alabama” breaks into his trademark touchdown dance … aahhh, touchdown dance … well, just picture Riverdance meets the hula … you get the idea.

      “Hey Alabama, we’re on a roll today!” comes a shout from six rows up.

     A ripple of laughter courses through the crowd.  Down on the sideline several players turn and give him the thumbs up sign. Alabama flashes his familiar lopsided grin and returns the gesture.  Seems everyone here knows him. 

     Strange thing is, we’re nowhere near Tuscaloosa … this is a professional football game.


     …Hi, I’m Tony Baggz.  Long as I can remember, the neighborhood has had these seats here at ‘the Bowl” … almost half of section 136 by my count.  The tickets belong to a dozen or so of the folks in the neighborhood gang and St. Kate’s, First Presbyterian, and Christ the Redeemer Lutheran each have seats that parishioners who have passed on, left to the churches. The guys in the neighborhood split the cost of the tickets so those who don’t have season tickets get to go to a few games. And each week some go to high school students who excel in their studies. This week it's four football players and two cheerleaders at St. Mark's Episcopal Academy who've maintained A averages.  It's an incentive and a reward the guys have established. 

     The fella everyone calls “Alabama” is named Andy. He’s in his early twenties and he and his dad, Pete, belong to Martin Williams’ church. They’re a fixture here on game day. A widower, Pete was a fireman in Engine Company 5 and about ten years ago was severely injured fighting a fire.  So, Pete's on a disability pension and the Chief, “Crazy Pat” makes sure he and Andy have a ticket for all the home games.  They’re sitting two rows in front of Father Bob, Rabbi Green and Pastor Williams. Behind Martin a fellow in a ‘Skins’ jacket is watching Alabama with a decidedly puzzled look. Leaning forward he taps Reverend Williams on the shoulder …

     … Let’s listen in…

 

     “Excuse me fella … name’s John. Not to be nosy but isn’t that guy down there a little lost?”

     Chuckling, Reverend Williams turns to the stranger, “Hi, I’m Martin … this is, Bob, and my friend over here is Josh.”

     Smiling, Father Bob shakes the stranger’s hand. “Nice to meet you,” he says as the Rabbi follows suit.

     “I take it you’re referring to ‘Alabama’?” Reverend Williams, asks.

     “Right, what gives … This isn’t exactly the Southeast Conference …?”

     “Chuckling, Pastor Williams nods his head. "Yea … I see your point," he says. "Well, Alabama’s real name is Andy, and Andy has Down syndrome.  And as a toddler, he nearly drowned, complicating things a bit.  So he’s a little ‘challenged’ as they say.”

     “Okay … but … what’s with the ‘Roll Tide’ bit.”

      Father Bob laughs.  "... gotta admit, it must seem a little strange,” he says.

     Smiling gently, the Baptist minister continues.

     “Well, Andy’s dad, Pete, is the fellow in the crimson windbreaker sitting next to him.  Pete went to the University of Alabama.  He’s a die-hard Crimson Tide fan and he told us when Andy was little, they would watch the college games on Saturday afternoons.  Whenever Alabama would score, Pete would raise his arms in a touchdown signal and holler ‘Rooollll Tiiiide.’ Little Andy picked up on it and now anytime his team scores, Andy hollers ‘Rooollll Tiiiide.’ It doesn’t matter who’s playing."

     “Or what sport,” laughs Josh “… you should see him at a hockey game.” 

     It’s John’s turn to laugh. “Yea, I’ll bet that’s rich … especially if the Canadiens are playing.” Pausing a moment, he watches Andy laughing with the kids from St. Marks. “And his touchdown dance… where’d that come from?”

     "Well, he’s on his own there,” laughs the Rabbi. “Even his dad doesn’t know where that came from. He just starting doing it one day. You’ll notice we all cheer with Andy, but the dance … heck, half of us would end up in traction.”

     Two rows down, someone passes Andy a couple of hot dogs.  Waving to his benefactor, Andy looks around ... and then gives them to two little kids sitting in front of him.  

     “I’ve noticed that he doesn’t seem to want for anything. That has to be the sixth hot dog someone’s sent him, and we’re barely into the second quarter.”   

     “Yea, everyone looks out for Andy,” Martin says. “We take care of him because he gives us far more than we give him." 

     “What could he give you?”

     Martin nods at the priest.  “Perspective … and balance.” Pausing, Martin takes a long sip of his drink, and continues. “You see, in the beginning we all felt sorry for Andy, and, truth be told, some of us avoided him. His disability made us uncomfortable. Now, he's one of the reasons we all look forward to coming here on Sundays. You see, to Andy, everyone here is his friend, and Andy loves his friends.

     "Yea, I've noticed that." 

     "… if someone buys him a hotdog or a drink, he’ll eat the first one, and then just give the next ones away.  So, we buy Andy ‘dogs and drinks and snacks so he can take care of his friends.  Just watching him gives us a good feeling." 

      "Yea, and the vendors here all drive Cadillacs,” Josh laughs.   

        "Andy sees everyone as good and that simplicity makes him special … and unique,” Father Bob says, chuckling at the Rabbi’s remark. “What we originally saw as a limitation we now see as a gift. Andy’s joy reminds us life is good and happiness is found in giving. He shows us our troubles aren’t all that bad, and when we look beyond the surface we find a simple and pervasive kind of joy."

     “… like, don’t judge a gift by the wrapping paper?” John says. 

      Josh nods. “Exactly … and the great thing is, he’s infectious.  The TV cameras love him.  You can bet somewhere in this game his face’ll be up there on the big screen. He’s even been featured on TV a few times. Half the city knows Andy and his cheer and his special touchdown dance. He’s kind of the unofficial mascot.”  

     “OK, but what if the team loses, what happens then?”

     “Doesn’t faze him at all. He just knows they’ll win next week ... he has that simple faith. And in a way, it doesn’t matter to him ... just being here with his dad and his friends means everything. Like I said, simple.”

     More cheers and another chorus of "Rooollll Tide" cascades from section 136. The men turn their attention to the field as the Boys in Black just hit a big pass play for another touchdown. And Andy’s on his feet ... another cheer and another crooked grin ... he's doing his dance … along with the kids from St. Mark's.  They’re having a ball ... all of them.

     And the crowd erupts in a cheer as the image of Andy and the kids appears on the Jumbotron.

     Mr. “burgundy and gold” waves the hot dog vendor over.  “Give ‘Alabama’ down there two dogs and a large cola … it's on me.”

      Martin chuckles, “You know, John, they’ll probably be eaten by someone three rows away.” 

     "Then give him two more."

     Rabbi Josh turns to Reverend Williams and winks.

     And in section 136, a man dressed in the other team’s colors hollers “Rooollll Tiiiide” and does his own funny little dance ….

 

     Someone once asked Jesus if a young man’s blindness was punishment for his sins or the sins of his parents.  Our Lord replied it was neither; it was so the glory of God may shine through him.  Look hard enough at someone society considers a tragedy, a mistake, or worse, expendable and it often becomes clear that the world misses an important  point … or refuses to see it.


     All people are made in the image and likeness of God including the handicapped, the Down Syndrome kids, those "challenged", and those marginalized and consigned to the edges of society ... seen but not heard.  God’s plan for mankind doesn’t always neatly fit into modern society’s preconceptions of the value of a human life.

     Truth, joy, happiness, and love don’t always come in the packages we expect … or think they should. 

     Angels are messengers, and when a person shines through his or her suffering, disability, or troubles, they may be teaching us something valuable … if we’re willing to listen.

     In your life, are you being sent a message … through an angel? …

     … who just might be known as, oh let’s say … Alabama?  

     Thinkaboutit … I’m Tony Baggz. 

©Tres Angeli Publishing, LLC, 2017


Tony's Town Archives

Below you will find prior episodes. The have been included here in the order they appeared through the first four episodes; Church and State to Amish Race Car Drivers. Many of the people, places, and themes of the episodes are set in those first four. Also, the Tony's Neighborhood portion found immediately below is a overall view of the people and places you will find in our neighborhood. If you are new to our little neck of the woods, may I suggest you avail yourself of these so as to familiarize yourself with our little world.

Please enjoy.


TONY'S SOUTHSIDE NEIGHBORHOOD  - PEOPLE AND PLACES Come meet the neighborhood gang and their favorite haunts.

CHURCH AND STATE  In today's culture, what does structured religion provide society?

NAMES Get to know many of the neighborhood gang more closely.  And what popular recording artist might need to change his nickname?

THE REPAIR Sometimes the most trivial work is the most important.  Discover it in a conversation that occurs before, "movie night."

AMISH RACECAR DRIVERS The 'glue' that holds uncommon relationships together puzzles a young man.  Listen to a rabbi set him straight..  

TWELVE CENTS Sometimes the very valuable lessons in life, come at little cost.

ROLL TIDE An prolife episode shows us sometimes those very valuable lessons come from the least likely person you would expect. 

DILEMMA An unexpected windfall is a challenge to "do the right thing."

BLACK OPAL Some of God's most beautiful, yet unlikely, creations, speak to us of beauty and depth beyond what's see on the surface. 

MISTER DRISCOLL Riches from an unlikely source.

SALT IN CHOCOLATE A necessary evil?

A SCARY STORY Sometimes nice guys do finish last.

TANZANITE  A whisper from God

THE S IS SILENT  A devastating disease ... do you have it?

PROOF  Proof of the existence of God ... from an interesting source

THE PREACHERS MISTAKE  The danger of going overboard