At 5:30AM, Salvatore "Big Sal" Salamia is woken up by his alarm playing the theme to The Godfather. He knows it's cliché, but it's also a great song.
Every day's a beautiful day in Sal's world. He has a lovely wife, five sons, a consigliere whom he trusts implicitly, and a crew of disciplined, loyal minions ready to bust heads and crack skulls whenever Sal tells them to. Altogether, this has helped Sal become the wealthiest and most successful Don in the city.
Sure, some people may question how a guy who lives "on benefits" can drive five luxury vehicles, but what other people think about him is the least of Sal's concerns.
If they want to say something, they can say it to his face.
His consigliere Vincent—a young man whose father was one of Sal's best capos right up until his tragic "accident" in the meat processing plant—comes into the room with Sal's bagel and cup of peach ginger tea. Sal's a virile and motivated man who doesn't need a coffee to stay focused.
After Vincent leaves, Sal begins dressing, and he's imbued with a sense of peace and self-worth; he created many of the successes this family has seen during the past fifty years.
He's chosen the right people for the jobs, kept his various business ventures afloat and away from the prying eyes of other families and the law, and is witnessing how the grooming of his sons is starting to bear fruit: three are working their way to associate status, and soon they'll be soldiers; one left the family to be a doctor, which is fine; and the fifth—well, okay, he's a cop. There's a black sheep in every family.
At 8:00AM, Sal arrives at the café he owns in the nicer part of town. He leisurely eats a typical Italian breakfast: a prima colazione consisting of a caffè latte and some rolls with butter and jam.
He reads the newspaper as he takes his breakfast, making sure to pay close attention to any important real estate or business dealings. He's got some holdings in construction—not that anyone knows he has them. Unlike some of the flashier bosses, Big Sal likes to stay under the radar.
Starting around 10:00AM, it's time to take care of some business-related business. He takes a few meetings with his underbosses, asking all the usual questions: who's showing promise, who's slacking off, and is anyone snitching on them right now? These are the questions that keep Sal up at night. Feeling pretty well-informed and assured of his men's loyalty for another day, Sal signals Vincent to get the car.
Sal has a lunch meeting today at Vesuvio's with one of his more trusted capos, Boris, who completely excuses Big Sal's typical late arrival at 12:15PM with a customary kiss on each cheek.
Sal's an international guy and Boris proved his loyalty to Sal when he worked over the Polish energy companies for a real nice slice of the babka. That was before leaving the Kielbasa Posse in Philly and joining up with Sal's familia. So, you know, they go way back.
Sal asks Boris what was so important that they couldn't just talk about it over the phone. Apparently something's going on with the six Korean laundries and dry cleaning stores owned by Cho Hee Choe, a man whose reputation is as frightening as his prices. Sal has been dealing with Cho Hee for fifteen years now, and before that his father dealt with Cho's father.
In the organized crime world, that's an incredibly long partnership. It's always been the same agreement: Sal's family protects Cho Hee from the thugs in the neighborhoods where he has the dry cleaning services, and in return Cho Hee offers some small green pieces of appreciation in little brown envelopes.
Apparently, Cho Hee gave Sal's best capo Frank some attitude when he came around last week and nearly didn't hand him this week's envelope. If Sal's known for one thing it's that he's very, very good at keeping his family, his associates, and the people who owe him money in line.
Sal sighs; he never enjoys it when the business responsibilities take precedent over his personal relationships, but if he lets one person off, more will think they can get away with it. He tells Boris to take a couple guys and make sure Cho Hee realizes how quickly fifteen years of friendship can go up in smoke, emphasizing the last word to make sure Boris totally gets his meaning.
Problem solved, at 2:00PM Sal heads to his favorite spot: the private club he's owned for the last ten years, to shoot some pool and catch up with Al, his personal Teamsters union "representative." With Big Sal's operation doing a brisk business in construction, it's important to keep someone employed who can give him the inside track.
Over half of all the new buildings going up downtown have Sal's fingerprints all over them, and he wants to make sure to keep that tight grip.
After a few hours of games and drinks at his club, at 5:00PM it's time to end the work day. Now the fun can finally start. The family—Jeannie, the boys (even Jimmy the Cop), the other wiseguys—are taking him out to his favorite restaurant Carmine's on Penn for their weekly celebration of Big Sal's contributions to each of their lives.
It's not easy being at the top—but when everyone always acts like it's your birthday, it gets a little easier.