Author explains why his family fled Greenpoint

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These memories leave a hell of a paper trail.

California author Joseph Di Prisco is returning to his home ’hood of Greenpoint to explain why he left 53 years ago. The writer will take the subway back to Word bookstore on Oct. 29 to discuss his recent memoir “The Subway to California,” which recounts the author’s bizarre 1960s childhood during which his family fled Brooklyn to escape federal agents tracking his father for reasons the authors said are still murky.

“My father is a small-time bookmaker, a guy working for a local crew there, clearly in the wrong place — or the right place,” said Di Prisco. “His story always was that he knew too much about police corruption.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation trailed Di Prisco’s father for years, which Di Prisco said sent the family spiraling into a life of hideouts and heartache. His father — who Di Prisco describes as an Italian macho man and a habitual liar — hid behind the mob mentality of old-school Brooklyn, he said.

“You didn’t know if he was lying,” said Di Prisco. “You know, the Brooklyn thing — ‘I don’t know nothin’ what are you talkin’ about?’ ”

Di Prisco, who was a Catholic altar boy in his youth, said that as he got older, he found himself toeing the line between saint and sinner — just like his father.

“I spent a lot of time in church and I was a good little boy. That wasn’t enough. I wanted everything — I wanted both sides of the equation,” he said. “When I was in my 20s and broke, someone said, ‘We’re starting this blackjack team.’ ”

His tumultuous childhood evolved into a tempestuous adulthood. Soon, he was betting $10,000 per blackjack hand and was eventually barred from every casino he entered. Di Prisco said he battled his own addictions and allegations. Like the biblical proverb, his father’s sins were passed down to him — at least in the feds’ eyes.

“At one point, I was the prime suspect in a racketeering investigat­ion,” he said. “The thing you never want to have happen to you is have the FBI investigate you — they can do whatever they want.”

When Di Prisco wasn’t battling with the law, he was combating a complicated relationship with his mother.

“My mother was very beautiful, very smart — very manipulati­ve,” he said. “I write about the most romantic memory of my life and that had to do with my mother when I was a little boy.”

Di Prisco, who has also published several novels and books of poetry, said each writing session became a therapy session. And as every memoirist knows, he said, reliving the memories that make up life is uncomfortable but cathartic.

“When you write a memoir, you’re doing therapy on yourself,” he said. “I wanted to send myself a bill every day at the end of writing.”

“Subway to California” by Joseph Di Prisco at Word [126 Franklin St. between Nobel and Milton streets (718) 383–0096,]. Oct. 29 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Debbie Maloney says:
I might just have to buy the book. It sounds fascinating!
Oct. 27, 2014, 11:18 am

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