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The Godfather & the Little Girl

I'm a late-life dad, 48 years older than my kid. She doesn't mind too much now, but just wait till she's buying me Depends and shouting in my good ear, 25 or so years from now.

Although it took me a while to become a father, I'd always had baby lust, even when I was a kid, growing up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. It made me an oddball, because we were part of a macho culture of guys who were, among other things, the farm team for the Mafia.

They'd scout us out, looking for recruits. For a few of my friends, the Mob was a good alternative, kind of like a safety school: "If I can't make Yale, I could always apprentice with Mikey Four Fingers."

But while I willingly participated in fighting and weightlifting -- the primary neighborhood preoccupations that gave me street cred -- I also liked playing with kids and cousins' babies. It wasn't long before I longed for a kid of my own.

In later years, I'd let friends' kids put clips and ribbons in my hair as they served me imaginary tea.

The thing that kicked me into baby overdrive, though, was my friend, Rita's baby shower. A few years before I got the Little Girl, a buddy and I went on a mission to a baby boutique to get a stroller for Rita, who was having twins.

We tried to figure out the best configuration: Should it by a side-by-side, or a front-and-back stroller? I hesitated about the front-and-back because the kid in front could be jumped by the sibling behind. He would have been in Brooklyn, anyway.

It got me and my buddy to talking about the garrote scene in "The Godfather," in which Fat Clemenza is sitting in the back of a car, and he dispatches a family turncoat sitting in the front passenger seat.

"Great moment," my buddy said. "Clemenza says, 'Hello, Carlo,' then does the guy."

"No," I corrected, "He says, 'Hello, Paulie,' then he strangles the poor guy as he kicks out the windshield while he struggles."

"It was Carlo!"

"No, Paulie!"

On we went, two middle-aged goombahs over six feet and 200 pounds, in the middle of the baby store, arguing passionately about a brutal hit in an iconic movie -- all within earshot of pregnant women hunting for Gracos.

The store manager had to come over and quiet us down. My buddy was right, by the way: It was Carlo.

For a while, I toyed with the idea of naming a kid after him. The Little Girl would not have been amused.