Holy cannoli, look what I started in Little Italy. The St. Anthony Festival is this weekend. The boccie tournament is Sunday at high noon. And not only is Luigi Boeri proclaiming himself the champ already, but he's bad-mouthing me.
Why? Because in last week's column announcing the competition and my search for a partner, I failed to list Luigi Boeri's name among Little Italy's finest players. (Luigi Boeri doesn't even like the way I spell boccie -- with an "i" -- which is the Anglicized version favored by this English-language newspaper.) Two things really got on Luigi Boeri's nerves: My quoting tournament director Joe Scalia -- and not Luigi Boeri -- on the history of boccie, and my naming Alfonso Mannetta and Jon Pente as two of Little Italy's best.
"The last time Pente played a game of boccie, Pratt Street was a prairie!" Luigi Boeri says. "And Mannetta can only pray for the day when he has a chance in a game with Little Italy's finest -- Lelio Tomasina, Attilio Sant'Antonio and Luigi Boeri. Let's put it this way: If Alfonso Mannetta or Joe Scalia played 50 games against those three, Lelio Tomasina would win 45 games, Attilio Sant'Antonio would win 45 games and Luigi Boeri would win 49 games, maybe all 50!"
A little cocky this Luigi Boeri, wouldn't you say? I mean, he sounds like the Neon Deion of boccie.
"Luigi Boeri is a superstar, in a class alone!" Luigi Boeri says. "And I don't believe in false modesty!"
Here are Little Italy's Top 10 players, according to Luigi Boeri:
1. Luigi Boeri (surprise)
2. Lelio Tomasina and Attilio Sant'Antonio (tie)
3. Tony Sansone
4. Mike Nini
5. Joe Scalia
6. Alfonso Mannetta
7. Ralph DiLiello
8. Umberto Rotondo
9. Sergio Brotto
10. Rose Apicella
As for Sunday's tournament, Luigi Boeri says: "Luigi Boeri has been swamped with requests from others to play as their partner. . . . Actually I don't need a partner to win the whole thing. I am at a level where any partner can only harm me. But since they insist on having a team composed of two players, I'll deign to accept you as my partner."
Hey, Loo-eej, thanks, but no thanks.
You're so beautifully cocky, so full of yourself, you make for a nice big target. I can't play with you. I must play against you. So I'll take a pass, amico mio, and chance the consequences.
I haven't decided on a partner yet. Right now, I'm trying to make a choice from a short list -- a guy named Alessandro, a guy named Domenic and a guy named Ermanno. So many wanted to hook up for this tournament. Thanks to all who applied. I'll announce my partner Friday.
As for Luigi Boeri -- tell Luigi Boeri I'll see him in boccie court.
Why don't bus lifts work?
Wolfe Kaminetz, a double amputee who uses a wheelchair, says that three times last week he tried to board an MTA bus and each time the chair lift failed. This all happened in one day -- last Tuesday -- and within about 15 minutes. Kaminetz lives at 2500 West Belvedere, near Sinai Hospital. He wanted to go downtown, so he waited in front of his residence for a bus bearing the blue-and-white marker indicating a wheelchair lift. The first bus, the No. 1, arrived at 10 a.m. Its lift didn't work. The second bus, the No. 91, came a few minutes later. Its lift didn't work. A No. 44 came along about five minutes after that and its lift didn't work either. Kaminetz says this has happened to him before. "Too many times," he says. "If the lifts don't work, why are they sending the buses out on the street that way?" Excellent question.
Strangers can do nice things
Susan Stewart wasn't expecting it; she certainly wasn't looking for it. But what she got, as a result of the letter she wrote to this columnist (published here Monday) was reassurance that all is not rotten with the world. She also got new bicycles for her sons.
Susan, who lives on TV Hill in Baltimore, reported that someone stole the bikes her ex-husband had bought for the boys -- Stephen, 15, and Mark, 12 -- but never delivered to them personally. The boys' father, Harry Strasinger, 37, died of a heart attack at a mall three days before Christmas. That's why the bikes had sentimental value, why Susan wrote the letter.
Monday morning, several readers called This Just In to offer to buy the boys new bicycles. An Owings Mills man, who asked not to be identified, went to Sears, showed a salesman Susan's letter and received a discount on a 15-speed all-terrain bike. He delivered it, with a new helmet, to the Sun lobby on Calvert Street. I took it to Susan's house yesterday. By then, at my request, she had placed return calls to most of the TJI readers who had offered to help.
"Several of them said they had lost their fathers when they were young," Susan said. "And several of them said they had children of their own." One man, who said he didn't want his name mentioned, asked her to meet him at Princeton Sports last night to pick out the second bike. "This has really been wonderful," she said. "I didn't expect this at all."
"I don't think she was looking for anything, and maybe that's why her letter was so appealing," said the man who left the new bike in the Sun lobby.
Said a woman who called TJI: "Those boys need to know that strangers do nice things as well as nasty things." I think they got the message, don't you?