/ people

Toast

<p>(noise, chatter&#8230;)</p>

<p>(tink tink tink)</p>

<p>&#8220;Uh, hi.  Many of you have already read some of this, but I&#8217;ve added some new material, so pay attention.&#8221; (laughs)</p>

<p>&#8220;The Big O&#8221;,  &#8220;Ottie-woo&#8221;; these are monikers my grandfather not only accepted, but embraced.  And you have to love that.  You have to love this man.  Ottavio Guglielmetti.  He lived fast, and he died&#8230; well, he died old.  And when you think about it, that&#8217;s the ultimate parting shot to the odds makers.  </p>

<p>Otto was my Grandpa.  He was Grandpa to a bunch of people here in this room, and he was everything a Grandfather is supposed to be.  He was mysterious, exciting, loving, funny, debonair.  He was classy, well-dressed, street-smart, smooth.  He was shrouded in controversy.  </p>

<p>He was a walking, talking dichotomy:  Hero,  goat.  Tough guy, wimp.  Genius, idiot.  </p>

<p>He capsized boats.  He hatched schemes.  He won fortunes.  He forgot the cougang (Editor&#8217;s note: spelling help appreciated).  Hell, he even forgot Grandma once, at the gas station.  The stories abound, and to me, that&#8217;s really the true measure of a man.  Everyone in this room has an Otto story.  Most of us have several.  They have been told and retold, and we all listen to them again and again, because they are the stuff of great drama.  We are already adept at remembering him, because we have told his stories so many times.  I truly believe that the best way to ensure eternal life is to remember the stories; by remembering and retelling them, people continue to live.  </p>

<p>I remember the binocular eyeglasses he pulled from the trunk of his car, a present for me at my first baseball game.  </p>

<p>I remember riding the Pelham Bay Express all the way to the terminal; during the ride Grandpa held me up so I could look out the window of the front car of the train as we sped through the tunnel.  Exciting in its own right, but that was the beginning of a visit to City Island, a place he loved and loved showing to his grandchildren.  </p>

<p>I remember countless calls of &#8220;Lee, get me (fill in the blank)&#8221;.  </p>

<p>I remember he bought me my first baseball mitt, and taught me to field grounders in a paved park in Parkchester.</p>

<p>I remember how he read constantly, and I used to spend hours thumbing through his volumes on sports dynasties, and how to win at betting on them.</p>

<p>I remember riding the Staten Island Ferry with him, where he showed me a brochure for a Sunfish sailboat that he planned to buy.</p>

<p>I remember when he took me to Shea Stadium, where I met Bud Harrelson and Rusty Staub. I&#8217;m fairly certain he was more excited about it than I was. He took photos that day, and we watched a Met game.</p>

<p>I remember when he took me to Yankee Stadium, which I enjoyed a lot more, much to his chagrin. To his credit, all subsequent baseball games we went to together were Yankee games, even though he hated Steinbrenner&#8217;s Yankees.</p>

<p>I remember he could not operate a screwdriver or any other tool, which caused me much frustration. Guess my mechanical skills come from the mother&#8217;s side.</p>

<p>I remember he taught me about the differences between thoroughbreds and standardbreds, and took me to Yonkers Raceway and Belmont Park for &#8220;field trips&#8221;. It was there that I learned what a wheel bet was.</p>

<p>I remember he made me watch a guy get beat for $60 at three card monte on a sidewalk in Manhattan. I was about seven at the time, so that was a lot of money. Later he showed me how to cradle the top card in your knuckle joint, so you can easily slip it out and make it look like the bottom card. I never lost a nickel to card hustlers thanks to him.</p>

<p>Like Ralph Kramden, Otto&#8217;s peccadilloes were trotted out before a live audience each week.  The Otto Show lasted a lot longer than The Honeymooners run, perhaps fittingly so.  Better ratings, at least amongst our little circle of friends.  But I can&#8217;t help but steal a line from the show in tribute to Grandpa.  Through it all, the laughs along the way made all the bumps in the road tolerable.  And that&#8217;s why now, to Grandpa, I say: &#8220;Baby, you&#8217;re da Greatest.&#8221; </p>