Sunday, March 30, 2008

Harry the hat wanted to have his picture taken

Harry the Hat, whose real name is Frank Aqilino and whose nickname is butch , is one of the oldtimers in the neighborhood. He's about 60 or so now. He's an actor who does bit parts in many of the gangster movies made in the last thirty or so years. He often appears on " Law and Order" as well. Once you see him you will never forget his face. It's a face that was made for type casting. In any event Frank wanted some new pictures for his portfolio. In early May of 2006 he asked me to do the job, not because I'm a photographer, but because I'm local. Around here that is what counts. So we set up a time, met and in a few moments I had a whole batch of new pictures for him. No problem. Butch is a seasoned actor and he knows how to pose for the still camera. I liked the one where he sports his trademark hat. Lots of hip people try to imitate the look, but there is only one Harry the Hat. No matter what I did, or for that matter no matter what Butch did, the pictures would still look like a series of mug shots. While I was shooting Frank launched into a tirade against John who had sold Buffa's Deli. The real season for his resentment was that he and everyone else in the neighborhood now has nowhere to go. Nor, he said could we even recognize a face on the streets during the weekends when it was filled with tourists. I still have all the pictures. The problem is I don't see Frankie around anymore.

A few weeks before we got together to take the pictures, Frankie, wearing one of his old time hats, stood on the corner of Mott and Prince Streets looking for a familiar face. He saw me and we talked. Then Frankie spied a building buzzer and he looked at each name in turn and then he turned to me and said, " I used to know everyone who lived in this building and now none of the names are familiar." The neighborhood was changing. What with all the old places closed there is nowhere for the locals to go anymore. Then Frankie turned and walked home down Mott Street towards Spring. I watched him go looking like a lost soul in the neighborhood in which he was born and had lived all of his life.

1 comment:

jannx said...

our old neighbourhood started to morph about 10 years ago. Now it is so very different I feel like I never lived in the area because little is even recognizable. Stores are gone, restaurants, places are demolished and new ones put up that bore no resemblance to the architecture or neighbourhood. It was godawful. I feel for Harry, I was there.