Neighborhood stories, that is the verbal stories of a specific community or culture, are a funny thing.
Their shared nature gives them a life that is not present in that which is specifically written down.
Each time a story is told, a touch of the speaker’s personality is added until the conveying becomes a gossip of innuendo and feeling that we live out our dreams in.
Time is an odd thing.
And it changes everything that it touches.
The Jewish gangster stories told each morning by my father and his friends are really the remnants of old neighborhood stories, legends that have been passed from clubrooms and street corners to boardrooms and delis and on to suburban towns, like the one where I grew up. Over the years, in tellings that have worn them smooth, these stories have certainly been worked up and embellished, fitted less to the need of the subject than the teller. The story I am left with is therefore not so much one of facts as the noise those facts make passing through time. It is a story of shifting perspective, the way a group of Brooklyn thugs, each with his own rise and fall, fills a need in the lives of my father and his friends, and also in my life. So what follows is less a straight history than the story of a Brooklyn gang as seen through the eyes of my father and his friends, and then that story (my father looking at gangsters) seen through my eyes, like laying colored glass over colored glass.
-Rich Cohen, Tough Jews