(Publication date: Aug. 15, 2003)


Love, Italian Style

“Leave the gun.  Take the cannoli.”

Some people claim that anyone who can identify that quote is male. I’m not sure about the gender
issue, but I can tell you this. It’s Clemenza, from
The Godfather. He has just spent thirty seconds or
so looking the other way while performing an outdoor urinary function, as his pals back in the car
terminate the services, and life, of their colleague-turned-traitor Paulie.  

About a year ago, I started debating whether our Albany High daughter was old enough for
The
Godfather
. I asked a fellow film freak about it. “Well, she's fifteen,” he mused. “I’d wait awhile. She
needs some more seasoning.”  (And that seasoning remark propelled us immediately into yet another
discussion of the scene where Clemenza teaches young Michael Corleone how to make spaghetti
sauce when you’re holed up on the mattresses in a gang war with twenty guys who are not your
wife.)

Seasoning wasn’t the only issue. Allison’s a girl. Few guys I know can bring up
The Godfather
without launching at each other immediate fusillades of quotes from the movie. It’s like the ambush at
the toll booth, with words instead of bullets and without the natty clothes from the ‘40s. I suspect
that most women I know aren’t aware there was a toll booth ambush in Part 1, or any other Part, for
that matter. What they might recall, if anything, is that the Barzini gang, after making Tommy gun
meatballs out of Sonny Corleone at the gate, then drove away without paying the toll!

So, screen
The Godfather for my Albany High sophomore? A tough call. Watching movies together is
what we do. But would she care about Vito Corleone’s family business issues? Would she jump into
the story’s sweeping operatic maelstrom? Would she spend the rest of her life saying she was going
to make people offers they couldn’t refuse?

We watched the movie, and Allison liked it. Or she said she liked it, as her pre-Father’s Day gift. I
spent a couple of weeks thereafter pondering whether I had made the right decision, wondering
whether
The Godfather’s lessons of family, loyalty, and betrayal had sunk in, and, more significantly,
figuring out a decent time interval before I could in good conscience haul out Part 2.  

Finally, late one night, I was padding downstairs for a glass of water and saw the light under Allison’s
door. The door opened. There we stood, barefoot father and hair-tousled daughter, together in the
darkened kitchen. “’Night, Dad,” she said, with a smile that a father treasures even more than all the
Godfather movies on DVD. Yes, she was plenty old enough.  I pictured myself dancing with her in
the dappled sunlight outside the Veterans Building at Memorial Park on her wedding day, like Don
Corleone and his daughter, only with no FBI agents writing down the license plate numbers of our
friends’ cars parked on Portland.  I opened my mouth, hoping some profound paternal guidance
would topple out. I didn’t say it but, for the life of me, all I could come up with was, “Leave the gun.  
Take the cannoli.”

Which, now that I think about it, might have been the best advice of all.


Life Is a Movie