Monday, October 14, 2013

* Carm Cozza, Patricia's and Yale, circa 1980 (work in progress)

LINK to 
Photos, 2013

Patricia's: That Kind of Place

It was almost 40 years ago, 1978, when I was a Divinity student at Yale and an apartment superintendent one block from Patricia's restaurant at 10 Whalley Avenue, which was also one block from Yale's Payne Whitney Gym and the office of the legendary Yale football coach, Carm Cozza.

I ate lunch at Patricia's almost every day. I sat at the round table in the extreme back of the place with all the timekeepers for the Yale track meets, in the waning days of human timekeepers. 

This was a restaurant so tiny there was hardly a front or back to it.
They all knew Carm Cozza and he would join them when he wasn't with someone else. On big weekends like the Yale/Harvard game you might be sitting next to the country's elite on your right, and a New Haven charcater on your left.

Payne-Whitney Gym at Yale, one block from Patricia's.

One autumn Yale/Harvard-game  Saturday, Eunice Kennedy, in an ankle length mink coat, sat at a table with her Yale student son, Robert, who is today helmsman of his late mother's philanthropic masterpiece and gift to the world, The Special Olympics.

At the counter two feet away in a dapper suit sat Six-finger Sam, an 80 year old African American from New Haven, who had been born with six fingers on each hand. He accepted his nickname proudly as a gambler might (like Diamond Jim) and would immediately show you his bonus digits when introduced. 

A jolly old sport. 

A few feet from them was a young man with an alarming facial distortion ---  a missing jaw bone.

It was that kind of place.


Everyone was treated the same "coffee sir? respect ; no one pulled rank--- or had any  rank ----  in the eyes of  Patricia's staff ---  to pull. It was simply "What may I get you?"

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One lunch I sat at the round table in back with the timekeepers and Carm Cozza.  Carm had just ordered and the others were finishing their meals.

Suddenly everyone except Carm got up to leave and I was alone at the table with one of America's great football coaches.

He was too polite to move to another table leaving me to myself, and I gulped and did the best I could to make conversation.

It began like this:  "Well, I'm really a waste on you because I know absolutely nothing about football."

How's that for an opener?

Carm---who as I recall was the father of five daughters and must have had some experience making their gentleman callers feel at ease in his presence--- replied, "Actually, that's kind of a relief."

Graciousness personified.

I forget what we talked about.  I'd been at Kent State when the shootings happened in 1970 and knew that Woody Hayes was a big football god/coach in that State, so I probably mentioned him.  

Carm actually worked under Woody Hayes so I may have gotten some mileage out of that conversational vehicle.

I had also worked with Stone Phillips, the '77 Yale quarterback, on a Yale/Kent State project, so I brought that up.  

I recall Carm saying quite disitnctly that Stone Phillips was one of "the nicest young men [he]  had ever had the privilege of working with"

This was before Phillips was a household name--and heartthrob---as the anchor for national news  programs.

Carm also spoke of the difficulty of recruiting: "One year every member of the freshman class had been valedictorian of his high school class." Carm said.  When I mentioned this on th Yale Daily News posting board a year ago, I was immediately challenged. "No freshman class was ever composed only of valedictorians." 

I recall my conversation quite distinctly since I was so self-conscious about what I might say to "the legend"  himself when left alone at Patricia's  back table.

I was reminded of this encounter at Patricia's this very Saturday in Hanover, New Hampshire where my weekend responsibilities give me access to  (LINK) behind-the scenes preparations for the Dartmouth football games. 

Yale was the visitor this week. (D20;Y13) 

I looked for signs of Carm.

There was another thing about Patricia's, the view from the front  (and only) window.  One day we saw a huge New Haven bus pull off the street in a weird manner and the driver jump out and run over to the restaurant.  Someone with a gun had tried to take over the bus and the driver escaped to call the police.

Another day I saw a car which had  pulled into the gas station at Dixwell and Goffe, lose control at about 2 miles per hour and hit the person pumping gas at the pump in front of him.

And finally there was the street itself. I saw a fellow sitting in a parked car cutting cocaine with a razor and a mirror right in sight of the place. I didn't wait to see if he snorted it.

Another  day a fellow (a "brother")  tried to sell me cocaine on my one block walk over to the restaurant, in sight of Payne-Whitney Gym.

New Haven.

It's that kind of place.

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