Got you on my mind.
Happy Anniversary, Little River Band
I was talking with a friend the other day. He said that he made a trip to Germany to see the places of his ancestors. He discovered that his grandfather was a soldier in Hitler's army. And he remarked, with much emotion, "I am embarrassed to be associated with him."
It is often with mixed emotions that we discover and then learn to embrace a villain in the family. It seems that the farther back in time that you go, the less problematic such a discovery is, but still, who would want to find out that Adolph Hitler or Pol Pot or Joseph Stalin falls amidst the ranks of your family?
Mixed emotions? Well, sure, who isn't just a bit titillated to think that there is a notorious villain in the family? Sure, no one wants Hitler, but to say that my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great Grandfather was Ghengis Khan? How cool would that be?
Today is the death-versary of Harry "Happy" Maione.
Harry did not come to a happy end. He did not die quietly in his sleep, a kindly old man. He did not cross over to the great beyond full of years and surrounded by his family. Well, it is possible that he was surrounded by his family at his death but not in a venue conducive to warm feelings. Instead, at 2:00am on February 19th, 1940, having been strapped into a chair, electricity was passed through Harry's body until he was declared dead. And with that, Harry had his final distinction: he was the first mobster to be executed in the state of New York by electric chair.
By all accounts, Harry Maione was a bad guy. Not just a bad guy, he was a monster. Harry was a contract killer, a man whose rose up in the ranks of the underworld to become a prominent part of an organization called Murder Inc. the assassination arm of the National Crime Syndicate. His final mistake: he was ratted out by a compatriot for killing George Rudnik, an execution that involved stabbing him 63 times with an ice pick with a meat cleaver to the head, just to complete the task.
But somewhere, somehow, Harry Maione is part of my family tree. The Maione historians are not quite clear where Harry fits. We think that he is connected to the tree via one of my great great aunts, but that is not really certain. However, with the Maione surname, we can be sure that he is attached somewhere.
And that brings this story back to me. What am I to think of this character? I am not particularly moved by his story nor do I feel any lingering guilt over his connection to my branch of the family tree. But, there he sits, staring back at me. Daring me, perhaps, to figure out what his presence there means. And, perhaps, there is no meaning, just a random guy, a branch that came to a bad end. Or, maybe something else, one more story of redemption and the subversion of destiny.