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Mr. Manzini, the jazz musician down the street, tells me that once upon a time Youngstown was a thriving mecca. He says it had everything you could ever ask for and more, even if you were a dreamer like he was. A bass player, he had gigs, not in seedy joints, not in smoky backroom parlors like he does these days. No, he was booked solid. He played dressy upscale events, black tie gigs with women glittering, and men shaking hands every night of the week. Of course there was money under the table, the Family doing business like it always did. And where there is money, there is always trouble. But it was good trouble, mostly. Happy trouble. That's why the people drank and danced into wee hours of the morning. Sure there were dead bodies now and again, some floating in pieces in lakes or rivers. But everyone knew the deal. No one questioned it. Or wondered at the fact that you could hold out a blank piece of paper and watch it turn black in minutes. What mattered was that men got their paychecks, went home to sleep with their wives. Sure, some got sick. Some died young. But they kept their families happy like that.

--Nin Andrews