02/03/2009 08:14 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

A Tribute To A Pal

The man was a target. Sometimes, it was self-imposed. Like the afternoon we drove halfway to Far Rockaway and he realized he had forgotten his "driving glasses," so he turned back and drove the same distance to retrieve them rather than just continuing on. Some would say that was the right thing to do, except that he forgot them on his return trip from Far Rockaway and drove all the way home without them.


Most other times, that bullseye was lazily painted by the ignorant and selfish people around him. For every malapropism--"I love James Oil Jerns and Rhonda Linstadt"--there were a dozen "I'll paint your kitchens" and "I'll drive you to the airports." The man was an endless supply of generosity and love. For some inexplicable reason, no one talked about that as much as the silliness...until now, of course.

The great Alphonse Delucia, musician, policeman, health nut, husband, father, and in my case, great uncle, slipped away this week. You probably didn't know him, but I guarantee, he would have liked you. He was 90.


My favorite Uncle Al story happened one summer afternoon in the mid-seventies. A bunch of us related ones, were huddled around the TV, watching the Yankees of course. Huge fans, this clan. Al decided he needed cherry-flavored tobacco for his pipe, and would some of us like to take the ride with him to get it. The collective groan was heard across Sheepshead Bay. ("Aww, come on. Jake Gibbs is on deck.") But, the lucky ones--and note, there are no quotations around the word lucky--Al's son Al, me and my father Sal, agreed. We piled into his hand-painted, 1964 Dodge Dart and drove 4 blocks. (The walk there and back would have taken 1/5 of the time we waited for the Dart to warm up...just sayin'...) We arrived and parked and Al told us to wait in the car. (Did he really need us to take the ride?)

10 minutes, maybe 15 went by and there was no sign of Uncle Al. (no sign of any cell phones in 197? either) So, my father got out of the car, looked in the tobacco shop and came up empty. Baffled, he found the nearest pay phone and called the house. Al answered, cool as a cucumber.


"Uncle Al?"

"Heeey Pal. How ya doin'?"

(EVERYONE was "pal" to Uncle Al)

"We're sitting in your car on Sheepshead Bay Road."

"OH SHIT!! I don't believe it."

The man bought his tobacco and walked home.

Al Sr. did stuff like that.

He also listened to Toots & The Maytals when everyone else in the family was listening to Vikki Carr and Jimmy Roselli. He did stuff like that, too.

It is not like me to talk about family this way. Or really, at all. But, someone needed to pay tribute to this man.