Thursday, April 30, 2015
April 30, 2015 - "Blasting the Past"
I just came across a long-forgotten Case Logic cassette tape holder from the early-'90s, filled with heavy metal treasures!
The very first cassette tape I ever bought for myself using my own money was "He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince in 1988. (Don't laugh! It's a freakin' good album!) The collection just grew from there. At one point in time I had at least a couple-hundred or so cassette tapes. Some were store-bought, but most were copies recorded from vinyl records, CDs or from other cassette tapes - and given to me by friends and family. The collection ranged from the soundtrack to the movie "Amadeus" to some copies of Zappa albums - and a little of everything in-between.
There was, of course, a LOT of heavy metal... including every Iron Maiden and Metallica album that had been released to that point.
Every day I'd lug at least a half-dozen cassette tapes (mostly Iron Maiden or The Doors) in my bag, along with my clunky JVC cassette player with built-in equalizer. (I wanted a real Sony Walkman - but they were way too expensive). I'd listen to that thing on the bus ride to school... sometimes during art class... sometimes during lunch (which was usually spent in the art room anyway)... and again on the bus ride home. Then I'd switch to my boom-box once I was safely in my room.
In the late-summer of 1991 I bought my very first CD... Metallica's self-titled album, also known as the "Black Album". I didn't even own a CD player at the time... I had to use my brother's in order to make a cassette recording of the CD. Little-by-little CDs started to replace cassette tapes, and before I knew it I had a collection of several hundred CDs.
And little-by-little the cassette tapes disappeared. Some were given away... some were thrown away... some were just lost during the course of several moves. Today there's only around two-dozen cassette tapes remaining... mostly heavy metal. All of them are albums that I also have in CD and MP3 form.
These days most of my music is listened to either through iTunes on my computer... or through my iPod. Right now according to my iTunes library I have just shy of 1,500 albums by just over 700 different artists - and there's just shy of 20,000 songs on my iPod. So I guess it's safe to say that music is a very important part of my life!
But today it's all about the cassette tape! While I'm desperately trying to get stuff done I think I'm going to break out that case of old heavy metal tapes and blast them on my huge-ass Lasonic "ghetto-blaster" boom-box so the neighbors can hear it!
I think I'll start with some Overkill and Pro-Pain... and then move on from there. We'll see.
* * *
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
April 29, 2015 - "Adding to the Collection"
Those who know me well know that I'm a collector. I collect a LOT of different things. Just to give you a little taste of my addiction, here's a short list of some of what I collect:
* Kentucky Derby Mint Julep Glasses
* Tarot Cards and Fortune-Telling Items
* Vintage Radios
* Rosaries and Prayer Beads
* Freaky Old Religious Items
And then there are the cameras!
I don't even know how many cameras I have anymore. It's probably somewhere around a few dozen or so. Most of them are in working condition - and I still use a lot of them. There are 35mm cameras (mostly Canon, but also some Leica and other brands)... There are medium-format cameras... There are old 110 film cameras... There are different types of Polaroid cameras... There are digital cameras... There are even some working plastic toy cameras. Heck, I think I might even have an old Kodak disc film camera from the '80s around here somewhere.
Some of my cameras I've purchased new. Others were flea market and tag sale finds. Some were gifts from friends and family... and those are my favorite ones!
That's where today's photo comes in to play: The two newest additions to my collection - a Kodak Brownie and a Matsui 35mm camera. Both came in their original boxes. More importantly, both were gifts from my wonderful friends Sean and Carolyn (who happen to be getting married later this year, by-the-way!).
A wonderful gift from two wonderful people! I love the cameras... but I love the people even more!
* * *
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
April 28, 2015 - "In Need of Rejuvenation"
The City is my "Happy Place". It has been for a very long time. It always will be.
And by "The City", of course, I'm referring to New York City. Specifically the borough of Manhattan. Even more specifically The East Village. Even more specific than that, Alphabet City.
I remember my first real trip to NYC - back around '82 or '83. I was quite young, and we were there visiting my Godfather and his family. He worked in Manhattan but lived in The Bronx. We spent time in Little Italy and Chinatown. We went to the World Trade Center at night and I looked up at the towers in absolute amazement. We tried to get tickets to go see "CATS" on Broadway, but we couldn't. No one could. The show was still quite new and was the hardest ticket to get at the time.
As I grew up there were infrequent visits to Manhattan. I went to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting with a family friend in the mid-80s. I remember seeing Nell Carter as part of the performances... and I remember seeing the tree lit up and it seemed to me to be the most beautiful thing in the world.
When I was in my mid-to-late teens trips to NYC became much more frequent. My girlfriend at the time and I would take the train down there regularly. A very close friend of mine from Florida had moved to NYC to go to art school, and I'd go down there to visit her quite often as well. At one point I was heading to Manhattan just about every weekend. That's when I really got to know my way around... especially in the East Village. That's when NYC truly became my "Happy Place".
Eventually my kids were born and day-to-day life took hold of me and trips to NYC were less frequent: maybe just a few times a year, if that. We'd go to Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas Spectacular. We'd occasionally go to a Broadway show. That was about it.
That all changed around 2008 when I started earning a regular paycheck again and the kids were old enough to occupy themselves. Holly and I started going down to Manhattan at least once a month, every month. We'd go to the Museum of Modern Art to visit Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and to have lunch at Café 2. Then we'd head down to the East Village to wander around while I did some street photography. We'd spend a lot of time at Tompkins Square Park. We'd have dinner at our favorite restaurant - The Life Café (or sometimes at our second-favorite restaurant - "Dojo"). We'd end up at Sophie's Bar, talking to Brian, our favorite bartender in the world - for hours on end. It was sort of like the TV show "Cheers"... we'd walk in to Sophie's and it would be filled with regulars who all knew us and would say hello. We had "our seats" at the back corner of the bar. In fact, when Anthony Bourdain filmed an episode of "No Reservations" in Manhattan, he went to Sophie's... and sat in "my" seat! When I saw the episode I sorta had mixed emotions about that!
We'd go down to Little Italy every September 19th - the Feast Day of San Gennaro - to eat lots of food and to go to the special Mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood... and then watch the statue of San Gennaro be paraded all the way up Mulberry Street. It was a family tradition.
Sometimes we'd stay overnight at the (in)famous Chelsea Hotel with the ghosts of Robert Mapplethorpe, Sid and Nancy, Dylan Thomas and countless others.
Every time I'd go to NYC it was a rejuvenating experience for me. I'd feel so "alive" - the moment I'd exit Grand Central Terminal and catch that first whiff of city air and the first sounds of city streets. By the time we'd board the train to come home I'd be bursting with ideas for poetry, paintings, drawings, photographs, music and all sorts of creativity. It felt wonderful!
In very early 2014 I lost my job and my health went south. The regular trips to Manhattan had to stop. I only made it down there a few times during the course of the year... the last time being in September, soon after I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. My best friend Lenny spirited me away for the weekend. It was the best thing anyone could have done for me at that time.
So far 2015 hasn't been any better. The year started off well enough... only to lead to a very serious bout of depression and anxiety that got the better of me during February and March. Then, of course, I lost my brother on April 1st... and the depression has only gotten worse.
And so I am finding myself desperately in need of a trip to Manhattan for some rejuvenation. I need to photograph people. I need to sit in Tompkins Square Park for a while. I need to have a few pints of Guinness at Sophie's Bar... and a few at Sidewalk Café... and a few at Mona's Bar. I need to have some Chicken Yakisoba and a pitcher of Sangria while sitting outside at Dojo. I need a dirty-water dog. I need to visit my beloved "Starry Night". I need to stand on a street corner listening to the heartbeat of the city while I stare at the Chrysler Building glowing in the night.
I need to feel "alive" again!
* * *
Monday, April 27, 2015
April 27, 2015 - "Straightening Up"
These past few months have truly been chaotic ones. So much has happened, turning our world upside-down, inside-out and backwards. It has gotten to the point that I have no idea which way is "up" anymore.
One constant reminder of that is the current state of our house. It's a mess, to say the least... the result of a plumbing leak in our half-bath that forced all of the contents of our bedroom closet to be scattered throughout the living room and dining room. Unfortunately we just have not had the time to spend going through everything and reorganizing it all... so our house has become one great big "junk drawer" of sorts.
That's just the visible side of things.
"Health-wise" and "Emotion-wise" things are very much out-of-whack, and need to be put back in order.
It's time to get moving... to make changes... to straighten up - in more ways than one.
(I so desperately want to be able to say that "Life is Good!" again)
* * *
Sunday, April 26, 2015
April 26, 2015 - "Finding Nirvana"
Last night as I sat at my computer writing, I could hear my soon-to-be 14-year-old son singing along to some music in his bedroom. It took me a minute to register what it was that he was singing - then it hit me: He was singing "Dumb" by Nirvana... from their "In Utero" album.
I had an instant moment of pride! Then I had a flashback to April of 1994, when I found out that Kurt Cobain had committed suicide. That day I had walked from my house on South Street all the way down Main Street to "Seattle Espresso", my favorite hangout. When I got there it was pretty quiet, and people were sobbing. The radio was on... I think it was tuned to WXCI, the station for WestConn here in Danbury - and they were talking about Kurt Cobain. I can't remember who it was that told me... it might have been my girlfriend at the time, who I was meeting there... it might have been someone else - but regardless, someone told me what happened and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember I just sat down on the couch, completely blown away by the news.
I had been a Nirvana fan since their first album "Bleach". That album came out in the summer of '89, but I didn't catch wind of it until the following year - and I was instantly hooked. By the time "Nevermind" came out in '91 I was fully addicted to Nirvana. I just really loved their sound... and I found Cobain's lyrics to be just as much of an influence on my poetry and writing as those of Jim Morrison.
I saved every copy of Rolling Stone and other magazines that featured Nirvana or Kurt Cobain. As you can see in today's photo, I still have a bunch of them.
For my 17th birthday the only thing I wanted was a copy of "In Utero" which had just been released. My brother Kenny bought it for me... and to me it was the greatest gift ever.
I was glued to the TV when the "Nirvana - MTV Unplugged in New York" show aired for the first time... and I waited in line to buy both a CD and a Vinyl copy of the album when it was released.
I paid just shy of $50 for a copy of "Nirvana - Pissing in Action" - a live CD that wasn't available in the U.S. at the time. That was a hell of a lot of money to be spending on a CD in those days. Hell, it STILL is a hell of a lot of money for something like that!
When the boxed set "With the Lights Out" was released in 2004 it was the only thing I wanted for Christmas. My mom actually bought it for me... and to me it was the greatest gift ever.
For my 30th birthday my brother Peter gave me a collectible figurine of Kurt Cobain playing the guitar - based on the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video. Again, to me it was the greatest gift ever.
One of my few "regrets" in life is passing up the chance to go see Nirvana in Springfield, Massachusetts in November of '93. The concert was on a Wednesday night and I had school and work the next day... so I gave up my ticket, and promised myself I'd definitely see them the next time they came around. Unfortunately there never was a "next time".
It's hard to believe that this month marks 21 years since Cobain's death. So much has changed since then... and the music just isn't quite the same.
And now I hear Nirvana songs being played on "Classic Rock" stations - and even on some AM stations. I find their albums in bargain bins of used CDs and, from time-to-time, on sale for around $5.99 on iTunes.
It makes me feel old!
Very, VERY old!
* * *
Saturday, April 25, 2015
April 25, 2015 - "Drawing on the Past"
I used to draw a lot. Every day I would draw or sketch something. Then it turned into "once a week"... then "once a month"... then "once every six months"... then... well... you get the idea.
When my brother Kenny started tattooing I started to draw again, supplying him with tattoo ideas and such. It felt good to be working again... and, for a time, I was seriously considering taking up tattooing myself. I actually did tattoo Kenny once... a heart with a banner going across it with his daughter's name on it. Right on his chest. It wasn't "bad" for a very first tattoo... but then again, it wasn't that "good" either. I believe he has since had it "cleaned up" by a real tattoo artist.
Years passed and I found myself able to draw less and less. At first work got in the way... I just didn't have the drive to sit and draw after working all day. Then it became something else... a persistent tremor in my right hand, which prevented me from drawing or even writing.
As most of you already know, last year that tremor was diagnosed as Parkinson's Disease. The meds they put me on made a HUGE difference. I wasn't sluggish anymore... the swing was back in my arms when I walked... my reflexes were better... and, of course, the tremor lessened. My handwriting got "better"... not great... and it tends to be very inconsistent, but at least I "can" write again. Drawing, on the other hand, has been a much tougher thing to regain control of. I'll start - and I'll be doing fine for a bit - but then I just lose control of the pencil or pen. It sucks!
I recently sat down to draw up a tattoo in memory of my brother Peter. I was only able to get through the drawing because it used rulers and circle templates. Filling in the drawing was a bit of a pain-in-the-ass... but I got through it, and it felt wonderful! Kenny tattooed it on me just a couple of days later.
Still, it felt good to be drawing something again! It's something I need to push myself to do more... to try to regain for myself.
* * *
Friday, April 24, 2015
April 24, 2015 - "The Unexpected Visit"
I have a bit of a shrine set up in my kitchen, right next to the front door. It has statues of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Padre Pio, San Gennaro and St. Dymphna. It has pictures of the Divine Mercy and of the Holy Family. It has Holy Cards for favorite Saints... and Prayer Cards from loved ones who have passed. It has a bottle of Lourdes Water and a vial of Holy Water. It has a Pyx that is filled with Relic Medals. It is where I keep my Chotki and my Rosaries (including the blue one seen here - which was a Confirmation gift from my brother Peter, and contains a vial of Lourdes Water). It is where I keep my Sunday Missal.
On the wall, directly next to the front door of our home and for the purpose of "blessing" and "protecting" the home, hangs the Green Scapular and bundle of St. Benedict medals that you see in today's photo.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well...
I was sitting at my computer, trying to get some work done. My computer is set up in what is supposed to be our dining room, but which has become more of an extension of our living room. When I'm at my computer desk my back is to the front door... and I have no view of anything going on in the living room or kitchen.
I was all alone and the house was quiet, except for the sound of my keyboard clicks. The dog was asleep on the couch. The front door was locked.
Suddenly I had this very intense feeling that someone was standing behind me, and I got a cold chill up my spine. I turned around quickly, but of course nothing was there. Not that I could see anyway.
At that exact moment I heard a noise coming from the area of the front door - right near my little shrine. It sounded a bit like muffled wind chimes mixed with the sound of something scraping against wood. I got up and walked to the front door - it was still locked and no one was there... but the Green Scapular and St. Benedict Medals that hang beside the door were swinging back-and-forth. Not just "a little bit", either... they were REALLY swinging... as if someone had intentionally held them off to one side and let them go, like a pendulum.
I freaked out! I started breathing heavily in sort of a panic... and I grabbed my cellphone to contact Holly and let her know what the heck just happened...
Holly replied saying "Why freak out?". She told me it was probably Peter stopping by to say hello and that my freaking out probably has him laughing. She told me that I needed to know that he was there... and he was just making sure that I knew it. She then said "Well, that... or the house is about to fall apart!".
This isn't the first time I've had such unexplainable "visits". Years ago when Holly and I used to live in Stamford in the house that had belonged to my Grandparents, they were still there and would "visit" from time-to-time. After that we moved to Danbury, to a condo that was built on the site of a Revolutionary War Hospital Camp. Strange stuff happened all of the time and we had PLENTY of "visits". It wasn't just us that saw it, either - many a guest would report seeing the exact same figure standing in the space between our kitchen and living room. When they were very little our kids used to see people in the house all of the time.
And, over the years, I've had visits from other relatives that have passed. No "messages" or anything like that... just very definite signs that let me know with no uncertainty that they were, in fact, there.
So was it my brother Peter paying me a visit? I don't know for sure. I know that some of you won't believe any of this... and will think I'm just crazy or that it was all just a coincidence and that there's some sort of "logical explanation" for what happened...
I don't know. I'd like to think it was my brother...
I DO believe it was.
Regardless, shortly after this whole thing happened I found out that the Mets had just won their 11th game in a row... and I just KNOW for a fact that Peter had something to do with THAT!
* * *
Thursday, April 23, 2015
April 23, 2015 - "Happy Birthday, Bro!"
Today is my brother Kenny’s birthday. I won’t say how old he is… I’ll just point out the fact that he’ll always be older than me.
Kenny is - of my three older brothers - the one closest in age to me. We grew up together at a time when our two oldest brothers - Xavier and Peter - were pretty much already out of the house and out on their own. So for the bulk of my childhood it was just Kenny and me.
Kenny loved to torture me as a child. He told me that there was a monster who would come into my room while I was sleeping and take photos of my hands and feet to bring back to his boss so that he could determine whether or not I was ready to be eaten. So, as a result, I slept with my socks on and with my hands hidden under my pillow, wrapped up in a small blanket.
When I went to kindergarten, Kenny told me that there was a monster who lived in the toilet bowl who would pop out and bite my wiener off unless I sang while I went to the bathroom. My first day of school I barricaded myself in the small bathroom at the back of the classroom - singing as loudly as I could so I wouldn’t lose my wiener.
That’s just how it was growing up with Kenny as my brother!
We actually didn’t fight much… never physically, anyway - this despite the fact that I annoyed the crap out of him, and I knew it. Yet because we were so close in age, Kenny meant the world to me… and I found myself liking whatever he liked and believing whatever he said. He told me that Harley-Davidson made the best motorcycles, period. So I believed him. He told me that Jimi Hendrix was the greatest guitar player that ever lived, period. So I believed him. He told me that Marilyn Monroe was the hottest woman there ever was, period. So I believed him.
And I tried to copy him. When the movie “Breakin’” came out and Kenny suddenly decided he was a Breakdancer… I tried to be one too. When Kenny went to see Iron Maiden and became convinced that they were the greatest band in the world… I thought they were too (and still do, by-the-way). When Kenny grew his hair long - and looked like a cross between Joey Ramone and Howard Stern - for some strange reason I decided that that look was cool, and grew my hair long too.
So there I was… sixteen years old… with long hair and loving Iron Maiden more than anything else - all because of my dorky brother Kenny.
When I lived in New York state and was constantly feeling down - having left all of my friends behind in Florida - Kenny would come up on weekends and snatch me away to stay with him and my Aunt Pat down in Norwalk. Those weekends were my favorite times!
It was Kenny who took me to my very first concert: The heavy metal band “Pro-Pain” at the Rocker Room in Port Chester, NY. I had no ID, so he had to plead with the bouncer to let me in… and it worked! I remember watching in awe as Kenny dove into the mosh-pit, while I stayed on the sidelines. At the end of the concert the lead singer threw out a bunch of guitar picks… and Kenny got one for me. I still have it… it’s in today’s photo.
Kenny also took me to my second concert: “Anthrax” and “White Zombie” at The Marquee Theater in Norwalk, CT. I knew Anthrax quite well, everybody did - but hadn’t really heard of White Zombie yet. They just weren’t well known at that point. When White Zombie came on, I stood there in awe - staring at the really hot female bass player, Sean Yseult. I was standing there staring as the pit erupted all around me. Kenny grabbed me by the shoulder and dragged me out of the pit to safety.
(Sean Yseult of White Zombie)
After the show we went behind the theater and got to hang out with the band. Sean Yseult came out of the tour bus and approached me. She signed my ticket… gave me a hug… all while I was saying something stupid like “Do you know who you are!?!”. I was in heaven!
(My White Zombie autographs. Sean Yseult's is in the center, with the pentagram/star. The other two are the guitarist and drummer. Rob Zombie wouldn't talk to anyone or give any autographs. He left the tour bus, ignored all of the fans, got in a rental car and sped away while the rest of the band hung out with everyone.)
Over the years Kenny and I have gone to a lot of shows together: OverKill… Aerosmith… KISS… and, of course - Iron Maiden.
Kenny was the one who snuck me into my first bar. I don’t remember the name of it… I only remember that it was in downtown Stamford. In fact that is literally the only thing I remember… as he had to carry me out of there by the end of the night!
When I was 17 - Kenny “forced” me to go to an Emmaus Retreat with his church - St. Matthew’s in Norwalk. At the beginning of the weekend I was hating his guts for making me go. By the end of the weekend we were all sorts of hugs and tears and mushy stuff. He gave me a gold crucifix. I still have it. It’s in today’s photo.
When I was 18 - Kenny took me for my first tattoo. I got a tribal dragon that I had drawn up - because I was born in the Year of the Dragon. Speaking of tattoos… When Kenny took up tattooing, I became one of his primary canvases. My wife was his first “victim”… I was his second. He has tattooed me nine times… and I’ve tattooed him once.
When Kenny married the love of his life, Michelle - I proudly stood by his side as a Groomsman. He gave all of us Groomsmen engraved pocket knives as gifts. I still have mine. It’s also in today’s photo.
When Kenny and Michelle became pregnant with my niece Madison - we all celebrated. Soon after their announcement Holly and I found out that we were expecting our first child as well. Madison was born at the very end of May… and our daughter Caitlynn was born just a few short weeks later.
When my son Brandon received his Baptism, Communion and Confirmation - Kenny stood there as his Godfather.
Over the years there have been many wonderful highs… and too many absolutely terrible lows that we’ve experienced together. But we’re still here. Still fighting for each day. I love my brother Kenny more than I could ever explain. I’d do anything for him. Well, almost anything. There IS one thing I won’t do for him - and that’s helping him move his freakin’ huge-ass 180-gallon fish tank again! When he got that freakin’ tank he and I carried that damn thing into the house and set it on it’s base. It was freakin’ heavy as hell! I’ll do anything for him… ANYTHING… except help to move that freakin’ tank again!
But other than THAT - I’ll always be there for you Bro!
I love you!
* * *
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
April 22, 2015 - "Photographic Roots"
Today I find myself looking back on my "photographic roots", so-to-speak.
Here we have my first Professional 35mm SLR camera (left) alongside my first Professional Digital SLR camera. My first light meter (left) and my Grandfather's light meter. My Grandfather's badge for being an official photographer for the Knights of Columbus in Connecticut. And, of course, a print of the very first photo I ever took using that 35mm camera: A photo of St. Peter's Church in Danbury, CT.
I'm also re-visiting and updating a post I wrote back in 2010 about receiving that first 35mm camera from my Grandfather.
Here it is...
My grandfather (my father's father) was a photographer. When, at age 16, I decided that I wanted to get into photography as a serious artistic interest, I turned to my grandfather for advice on choosing a camera. He asked me what I wanted to shoot... then told me to "come down to the house next weekend and we'll discuss it".
I arrived at my grandparents house the following weekend, only to find the dining room table absolutely covered in cameras and camera equipment... and my grandfather practically glowing! A 35mm camera body... and at least a dozen lenses... plus flashes... motor drives... light meters... and other accessories - and we discussed the details and nuances of each and every one.
My grandfather seemed more "alive" that night than I had ever seen him in my entire life. We talked for hours - and not just about photography... but also about music (he had been a musician, playing a variety of instruments from flute to sax to, I believe - trombone) - as well as "deeper" subjects, like marriage.
We had a wonderful day together... and I thought that that was that. I had a wealth of information about cameras... and basically learned that if I was going to buy a 35mm SLR camera, it HAD to be a Canon - or it simply wasn't worth buying! I figured that I now had enough information to go out and buy what I needed... probably a used Canon AE-1 or something like that.
Then my grandfather absolutely shocked me: He told me that what I saw on the table was now mine. A Canon "New" F-1 body with an AE Finder... a dozen Canon FD lenses, each with filters, hoods and cases... Canon Speedlite flashes... Canon Power-winder/Motor-drive... and all of the accessories. This wasn't a simple 35mm camera... this was Canon's absolute top model professional manual 35mm camera... their last manual 35mm camera before switching over to the EOS system of Auto-focus. It was absolutely beautiful to me!
I was in shock!
Enough "Thank You!"s could never be uttered! I swore to put the camera to good use... and it wasn't long before I had blown through ten rolls of Kodak T-MAX B&W film. My first "real" photographs.
The black metal rings which capped the cartridges from those first ten rolls were placed on a ball-link chain... and became my "Creativity Mojo". I've worn them on my belt almost every day of my life since then.
And the camera? Obviously I still have it... and while it's no longer my primary camera (having switched to a digital SLR several years ago) - I do still use it from time-to-time. The camera is almost 30 years old... and still works absolutely perfectly!
Since receiving the F-1 over two decades ago... I've used at least a half-dozen other cameras... and every single one of them has been a Canon. While I also own a Leica M3 35mm camera - Canon is just part of my life... and I can't imagine ever being without one. I certainly won't ever get rid of that F-1!
So... this is "the camera that started it all" for me. After all these years I still find it to be absolutely beautiful!
* * *
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
April 21, 2015 - "Remnants of 1995"
I've discovered a box of old journals, sketchbooks and day-planners from the mid-90s. So many memories in such a small box!
Seen here are the first page of my sketchbook and the inside cover pages of my day-planner and address book from 1995. I had a habit of collecting lots of little mementos and sticking them in my planners.
Ahh... Those were the days! Back before iPhones and internet/cloud-based calendars, schedules and notes. Back when we actually had to write stuff down!
Excuse me... it's time to take a walk down Memory Lane!
* * *
The school year was 1989-1990. I was in 8th Grade at Union Park Middle School in Orlando, Florida. It was the second middle school I had attended - the first being Tuskawilla Middle School in Winter Park, Florida, which I went to for the first half of my 7th grade year, before switching to Union Park.
School sucked, to say the least. I was very unpopular. I had a few "friends", but they were just as unpopular as I was. I was bullied just about every day for everything from my clothes and shoes to my weight to the bag that I carried to my northern accent to the fact that I was Catholic in a primarily Baptist area. Some days it was verbal... Some days it was physical. The teachers and other staff did nothing, in fact - sometimes it was THEM doing the bullying!
Every day sucked, and I dreaded going to school. My stomach hurt constantly. I got headaches. I was making myself sick.
Then my brother Peter came down from Connecticut for a visit. He stayed for at least a week. While he was there he rented a brand-new black 1990 Dodge Daytona, exactly like the one pictured above.
He asked me how school was going... and I was honest with him and told him everything that was happening to me. That was something I just couldn't do with my parents! He and I talked for quite a while and he gave me lots of advice... comebacks to say when people would bully me... things like that. Then he told me that HE would be taking me to school the next day.
I'll never forget all of the attention we got when that Dodge Daytona pulled up in front of the school. Looking back, it wasn't like it was the greatest car ever made or anything like that - but in 1989/1990 it was one hell of a freakin' cool car! Kids and parents were stopping to stare at the car... to see who the heck it belonged to. Peter seemed to be getting a kick out of that - and revved up the engine a bit. He gave me a hug and told me not to take any shit from anyone that day... and I got out of the car.
People were shocked. Why the hell was one of the least-popular kids in the school getting out of such an awesome car!?! Immediately kids who would regularly bully me were coming up to me to tell me how cool the car was and to ask whether it was my dad's. As Peter sped out of the parking lot, everyone - even school staff - had questions.
And it felt awesome!
Peter brought me to and picked me up from school every day while he was visiting. On the way home he would have music blasting - mainly classic rock. We'd do a bit of cruisin', sometimes stopping off to do a little shopping or to grab some food. He bought me some new clothes and a new bag for school. He joked about wanting to take me to "Erotic Doughnuts" - a topless doughnut shop that was, believe it or not, less than a five minute walk from the school. We didn't, of course.
One day we were driving around with the music as loud as we could stand it - and Peter was drumming very intensely on the steering wheel, while I drummed along on the dashboard. Well, our drumming screwed something up because suddenly the car went absolutely bat-shit haywire! The windshield wipers kept turning on and off... as did the turn signals. All sorts of electrical malfunctions started happening. Peter said something to the effect of "Fuck! We broke it!" - but we kept on drumming until it all stopped. It didn't go back to normal though... when he'd make a turn the turn-signals wouldn't automatically shut off anymore... and now and then the windshield wipers would turn themselves on.
The car continued to flip out during the remainder of Peter's visit. I have no idea whether he even mentioned it to the rental agency when he returned it.
Over the years that story would come up many times while I'd be a passenger in the car with Peter and he'd start drumming on the steering wheel - saying something like "Remember the Dodge Daytona?" or "Lets see if we can break this one too!".
Just another memory of time spent with a truly awesome brother.
* * *
Monday, April 20, 2015
April 20, 2015 - "First Paycheck"
It was 1993. I was 16 years old... a junior in high school.
In March of that year my family left Orlando, Florida and moved to Yorktown Heights, New York. I was devastated... yet somehow I quickly drew attention to myself at school and made friends. Maybe it was my long hair... maybe it was the art portfolio I carried around with me every day... or maybe it was the very tight black leather pants I wore on a daily basis (gifts from my brother Peter, worn in an effort to be more like Jim Morrison). I don't know.
My best friends were Chip and Dana... two seniors who were dating each other and adopted me into their circle. They were good people... and great friends. Though no longer a couple, we're all still friends and stay in touch via Facebook.
Dana helped me get my first official paying job: Working for the Cole Key Corporation at a kiosk within Sears at the Jefferson Valley Mall. We cut keys and engraved names and monograms on everything from keychains to pens to Zippo lighters to pewter mugs to metal picture frames. It was boring as hell... but the people I worked with were wonderful and the pay was good for a 16-year-old.
On August 21, 1993 - a couple of weeks after I started my job - I received my first paycheck. It was for a grand total of $122.39. At the end of my shift I asked my manager if I could cash the check via the register drawer and she said "sure". That was a pretty common practice back then, but I doubt that most retail stores allow it these days.
I took my hard-earned money and quickly headed out into the mall... down the escalator... right into Wilsons Suede and Leather. I had a plan... a plan that had been brewing for several years: to finally own my own leather jacket.
I had wanted a black leather motorcycle jacket since the '80s... but every time I asked for one for birthdays or Christmas the answer was "no". My brothers had black leather motorcycle jackets... so I really didn't understand why I wasn't allowed one. It couldn't have been a money-related situation, as the gifts that I did receive cost far more than the jacket would have. Regardless, I didn't have one... and I wanted one very badly.
I searched the racks until I found the right one. Perfect size for my way-to-skinny body, it was also quite heavy. Without even looking at the price I headed straight for the register. Thankfully I had enough money to cover the cost... but not much. I received three dollar bills as my change. I still have one of those dollar bills, tucked away in a journal somewhere as being "the first dollar I ever earned" - along with the receipt for the jacket.
(The very first dollar I ever earned - Along with the receipt for the leather jacket)
When we had a house fire on Halloween night in 2003, we lost almost everything to either fire or smoke damage. Somewhere around 95% of what had been in the living room was gone... but that leather jacket survived, despite being draped over the staircase bannister - directly next to where the fire started. Sure, it need a cleaning to get rid of the smoke smell - but other than that it was untouched.
Now the jacket has been replaced with another, larger but almost identical twin - purchased from the famous "Trash & Vaudeville" on St. Mark's in the East Village of NYC.
And the original? Today I took it out to have a moment of nostalgia and take it's photo. It was the first time it has seen daylight in a very long time. It hangs in our coat closet... waiting for the day that it gets passed along to my son, if he'll have it.
Or perhaps he'll want to buy his own...
* * *
Sunday, April 19, 2015
April 19, 2015 - "Mr. S"
I have to start off this post by apologizing to my parents and to my children for what I'm about to reveal about myself. I'm not proud of it... and certainly do not condone such behavior and actions.
High School was very tough for me. I went to three different high schools in three different states: Florida, New York and Connecticut. The majority of my high school career was spent in Orlando, Florida. It was a brand-new school. The first day of my freshman year was the first day the school was "open for business" - in the late-summer of 1990. I remained there until a little more than 3/4 of the way through my junior year, when my family moved to New York state. I then went to school in Shrub Oak, NY to finish what was left of my junior year... then we moved again over the course of the summer, and my senior year was in Danbury, CT. I graduated in 1994.
Now it's 21 years since I've been in high school. This coming September I will have two kids in high school: My daughter will be a senior and my son will be a freshman.
So much time has passed! Where did it all go!?!
I'm finding myself feeling quite nostalgic these days... as several old high school friends and I discuss fond (and some "not so fond") memories from back in the day.
Even though I went to three different high schools in three different states, I've always considered the high school in Orlando to be "my high school". That's where I spent the most time... and it was definitely the best of the three schools, by-far. It was there that I had the most friends... many of which I'm still in touch with today via Facebook and social media and texts and such.
My years at in Orlando were not easy. My freshman year I got bullied a lot. I was always behind on the style... and, well, just plain "unpopular". I was also rather chubby - which didn't help at all. For some reason all of that changed during the summer between 9th and 10th grade. I lost a lot of weight (I became a toothpick, basically)... I developed my own sense of style... I had a best friend... and I got myself a girlfriend (a REAL girlfriend too... not "some girl who you wouldn't know because she lives in Canada").
Unbeknownst to all but a VERY select few (which did NOT include my family at home, my best friend or my girlfriend - but did include my brother Peter back in Connecticut) - I had also discovered the "wonderful" world of drugs and alcohol. I'm not going to say where it was coming from... I'll only say that a majority of the time I was going to school drunk, stoned or tripping on acid... particularly in 11th grade.
One teacher knew all of this though... my art teacher, Mr. S. He sort of became a mentor to me... and helped me to straighten things out in my life.
I first had Mr. S as a teacher during my freshman year. I took "Drawing I" and "Drawing II" with him. There was supposed to be this whole line of required art classes you needed to take before being allowed to take the advanced ones... but at the end of my freshman year Mr. S signed off on letting me skip all of the required classes and moved me directly to "Art Portfolio I" during my sophomore year. I was ecstatic!
Mr. S sort of took me under his wing. I wasn't the best artist in the class - that would've been a kid named Jason who was a phenomenal talent (I wonder whatever happened to him?) - but for some reason Mr. S seemed to have a bit of a soft-spot for me. He'd spend extra time helping me work through the details on my drawings. The drawing in today's photo was from that 10th grade "Art Portfolio I" class. I was having a really hard time getting the crucified hands to look right... so Mr. S sat down with me and we drew them together in my sketchbook until I was able to get them "just right" - then I went on to do them in the finished drawing. I remember him mumbling something to me about how I probably wouldn't struggle with the details so much if I wasn't drinking so much. But that was that.
One day I was particularly wasted. A kid sitting next to me started talking shit about my girlfriend, so I just turned around and punched him. Mr. S stepped in... and told me to go out into the hallway and take it out on the lockers instead. So I did. Punching the lockers was a bad idea though - it was hurting my hand - so I began kicking one of the bottom ones instead, until it was dented in a bit. Finally Mr. S came out and asked me if I was done. I said "yes". He said "Good. Now get back in class and get to work!". The kid I punched was OK. Nothing ever came of it. That's just the way it was back in the '90s.
In 11th grade Mr. S bumped me up to "Advanced Placement Art Portfolio II". He put up with a LOT of shit from me in that class! I'd show up late. I'd leave early. I'd refuse to sit AT a table... and, instead - preferred to sit ON the table that was along the side of the wall.
He'd come to the school on Saturdays and open up the classroom for whoever wanted to come in to work on projects. I would go... with my big-ass boom box, blasting "The Doors"... and would sit on the table, working on whatever I was working on.
One day I was working on a rather intricate pen & ink drawing that had been in the works for quite some time... and I'm pretty sure that I was high or tripping or something. The kid next to me started dipping a freakin' toothbrush in black India ink and pulling back on the bristles with his thumb so the ink would spray all over the place. He was flinging ink all over the table... all over his own drawing and the drawings of people next to him. A drop landed rather close to my drawing - so I grabbed an X-Acto knife... reached across to grab him by the shirt... and threatened to stab him if he didn't stop. Mr. S stepped in... pulled the X-Acto from my hand... told me to go to the other side of the room... and told the kid to cut his shit, stop flinging ink around and clean up the mess. Today the kid's family would probably have pressed charges and I would be escorted out of the school in handcuffs like I deserved. Not in the '90s. Again, nothing ever came of it. That's just the way it was.
Things got progressively worse as my junior year rolled along and it looked more and more like my family would be picking up and heading out of Florida. I did NOT want to go. I did NOT want to leave my friends... my school... my life. I started to physically hurt myself. I began cutting.
I showed up at school with my arm wrapped in bandanas... and Mr. S instantly knew that something was up. He pulled me aside and made me show him what I was hiding. Then he immediately walked me to the school's guidance/crisis counselor's office for a chat. I remember I was in tears... and I spilled my guts about everything that was going on in my life. Today if something like that happens, the school will immediately notify your family and the authorities. Not in the '90s though. I basically reassured them that I would be OK... and nothing ever came of it. Besides... I was leaving the school very soon to move to New York.
(Today my left arm is covered in scars from those days of cutting)
My last day of school in Orlando was in March of 1993. It was an EXTREMELY difficult day for me. I had to say "goodbye" to so many people... and snapped a lot of photos of friends and of the school grounds and such.
At the end of my final class with Mr. S - he pulled me aside into this little office he had at the back of the classroom. I turned in my keys (I actually had keys to the art-room's side-door that led outside, even though students weren't supposed to have such keys... as well as keys to my lockable portfolio drawer where I kept my drawings and supplies). Mr. S told me that he was very worried about me. He knew about the drugs... the alcohol... the drinking... the sex... the cutting... etc.. He knew that my ultimate plan was to move to New York City and go to art school at either the School of Visual Arts (SVA) or Cooper Union. He knew that I planned to "make it big" in the art world someday. He told me that I needed to straighten up and change my ways... or else I'd be dead by the age of 27 (like Jim Morrison) and would end up becoming very famous for all of the wrong reasons. Then he hugged me... and that was the last time I ever saw or spoke to Mr. S.
I moved to New York state and sort-of straightened out. I stopped dropping acid and doing other hard drugs. I still got drunk at parties... but that was about it. No drugs. Then I moved to Danbury... started my senior year... fell in love with two girls... dated one for several years... broke up with her... and married the other. We're still happily married... it'll be 16 years this June, and we'll have been a couple for 19 years this Halloween.
I never went to art school. I tried to, several times... but it just didn't happen for me. My anxiety got the better of me, and I'd chicken out. The closest I came to actually going was a plan to move to Boston and go to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. I had quit my job and everything... and was packing to move to Boston when the apartment my girlfriend and I had lined up fell through... and we decided to just stay in Danbury. I remember that I had to beg for my old job back.
I did go to SVA for photography - but that was part of the Adult Continuing Ed program.
Over the years I've thought of Mr. S countless times... always wondering what became of him. I know that he retired from teaching years ago. I've tried to find him online, but have had absolutely no luck. He's got to be in his 70s now, I think. Maybe a bit younger than that. I'm pretty sure that when I was his student he was in his late-40s/early-50s and had already been teaching for 20+ years. I could be wrong.
Regardless... I don't really know why he did the things he did for me. I don't know why he handled things the way he handled them. By today's "standards", a teacher doing such things would lose their job in a heartbeat... and a student like me would end up in jail. I don't know why it happened the way it happened... I only know that I'm eternally grateful to have had Mr. S in my life.
He was the greatest teacher I have ever known!
"Thank you" Mr S!
* * *
Saturday, April 18, 2015
April 18, 2015 - "Early Morning Coffee"
I'm awake way-too-early for a Saturday.
Woke up with another freakin' Charley Horse sometime around 6:30-ish. Stumbled out into the kitchen to grab myself some coffee and start the day.
Today is going to be a "full" day. Heading down to Norwalk and Stamford this morning to help my sister-in-law with a few things at my brother Peter's frame shop. Then I don't know if I'm coming back to Danbury for a bit - or just staying in Norwalk or Stamford... because Holly, her mom, my son Brandon and I are supposed to be going to a show at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford tonight - for which my wonderful brother-in-law Chris is the musical director.
But that's all in the future. Right now all that I know is "coffee".
* * *
P.S. - The travel mug is from the famous Mud Coffee in the East Village of Manhattan. One of the few good things that remain in the East Village these days.
* * *
Friday, April 17, 2015
April 17, 2015 - "From One Artist to Another"
It was October, and I was a high school sophomore at the time. I lived in Orlando, Florida - but my family was in Connecticut for my Grandfather's (my mother's father) funeral, which took place at the very end of September. We were in Connecticut for a couple of weeks, and it was not a particularly happy time at all.
One day, close to my birthday, my brother Peter takes me away from all of the busy-ness that was going on at the family house in Norwalk. We went out for lunch together... and then he told me we had a stop to make. We ended up in Darien, at a Koenig Art Emporium (an art supply store). Peter seemed to know the people who worked there (I assume that they were the owners) quite well. He started pulling things off of shelves: Drawing Pencils... Sketchbooks... Erasers... Blending Stumps... a black Portfolio case, etc.. He seemed to know exactly what he wanted... and exactly where everything was. Then he approached the counter and asked to see a set of drawing pens that were on a shelf behind the register.
The pens were beautiful! It was a set of seven Staedtler MarsMatic 700 ink drawing pens, that were so much nicer than the cheaper Rapidograph ink pens we used in our high school art classes. They were marked as being on sale for a mere $96.00. Peter said "We'll take these too." and piled everything together on the counter.
I don't remember how much it all came to... I believe it was a couple-hundred dollars worth of art supplies. He paid... they handed him the bags... and he handed them to me, saying "Happy Birthday".
I was in shock! I had assumed that we were there buying supplies that he needed for some art job he was working on or something. I never in a million years thought that he was shopping for me! Heck, with all of the sadness surrounding my Grandfather's passing the fact that my birthday was coming up just wasn't on my mind. I remember giving him a huge hug and thanking him and him saying "You're welcome, Bro!".
I started using the supplies as soon as I could. I remember walking in to school with my new portfolio and pens for the first time... and other kids in the art class were a bit in awe. I'm not going to lie... it felt pretty freakin' good!
The pencils and sketchbooks and erasers and blending stumps are all long gone now. They were used to the fullest. The black portfolio case and the Staedtler pens, however, remain. They've been used countless times. I still use the portfolio to transport my photos when I participate in photo competitions with the Candlewood Camera Club. The Staedtler pens are kept in their original plastic case... within their original cardboard box... which still has the price tag on it from all of those years ago. It has been a while since I've used them... but I can't even begin to tell you how many drawings and tattoo designs they've been used for over the past 24 years!
They are a cherished possession... from one artist to another.
(Just one of the many drawings I did with those pens. This one if from my Junior year of high school in Orlando.)
Thursday, April 16, 2015
April 16, 2015 - "Hyacinth House"
This morning I'm listening to The Doors as the house is filled with the scent of the Hyacinths my wife Holly recently bought.
"Hyacinth House" by The Doors
What are they doing in the Hyacinth House?
What are they doing in the Hyacinth House?
To please the lions...
I need a brand-new friend who doesn't bother me.
I need a brand-new friend who doesn't trouble me.
I need someone... yeah... who doesn't need me.
I see the bathroom is clear...
I think that somebody's near...
I'm sure that someone is following me... oh yeah...
Why did you throw the Jack of Hearts away?
Why did you throw the Jack of Hearts away?
It was the only card in the deck that I had left to play.
And I'll say it again... I need a brand new friend...
And I'll say it again... I need a brand new friend...
And I'll say it again... I need a brand new friend...
* * *
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
April 15, 2015 - "A New Day"
I woke up early this morning. Too early. I think it was before 6AM. It was the birds. So. Many. Birds. Chirping and singing outside my window. It was both "beautiful" and "freakin' annoying" at the same time.
Today is a new day.
Today my son and I are heading down to Norwalk with my mom to plant flowers on my step-dad's grave. It has been quite a while since I was last there. It's time.
Then we're heading down to Stamford for some pizza at Colony Grill. Pizza at Colony Grill is a family tradition... since way before I was born. We used to live just a couple of streets over from there - on Halloween Boulevard. I'm 99.99% sure that my very first pizza ever was from Colony. Our weekly order - "The Pia Order" - was two plain, two sausage and two mushroom. Every week.
The bar at Colony Grill was the first place I ever sat and had a beer with my dad.
Tonight my son Brandon has track practice and my wife Holly and I are going to see an advance-screening of "The Age of Adaline". At least... I think that's what we're going to see. Regardless... we're going to the movies tonight. It'll be a nice little escape of sorts.
I'm just trying to stay busy... Trying to keep it all together... Trying to, well... I don't know... "get back to normal", I guess.
We'll see how it goes.
* * *
(My turn getting eaten by the shark)
A Brother's Promise...
It was November of 1991 and I was living in Orlando, Florida. I had just turned 15 the previous month, and things weren’t going so well for me. I was getting horrible migraines on an almost daily basis. Migraines that would cause me to black-out at times. I was constantly in doctors offices. I was in and out of hospitals. There were 911 calls and ambulance rides. There were CAT-Scans and EEGs. No one could figure anything out. Prescriptions were tried… and none seemed to help. I was in pain… and no one knew why.
That is where my brother Peter comes in to the story.
One day I was sitting on my bed, looking out the window. From my window I could see the front yard and driveway. Suddenly a car pulled into the driveway. It was a car I had never seen before. I don’t remember if it was a Buick or an Oldsmobile - but it was one of the two. I couldn’t see the driver until he was out of the car and was standing in the driveway looking at me looking out of my window. It was my brother Peter, paying a completely unexpected visit from Connecticut.
I ran out of my room to greet him. The whole house was filled with excitement at this completely surprise visit. My mom was so excited to see him. Everyone was. After a few moments of hugs and hellos he took me into my room and shut the door. He asked me how I was doing… and whether I was OK. He asked about my headaches. He asked about school. He asked about whether or not I was being picked on or bullied. He asked if I was doing any drugs or drinking any alcohol. He told me that he had come to Florida for one reason and one reason alone: To check on me.
I began to cry.
That evening I had the most horrible migraine while sitting in the living room. My brother Peter carried me to my bedroom and helped me get settled in.
The next morning he woke me up and told me that I was skipping school. I asked why… and he told me that he had something special planned for the day. I put on my jeans and a white Jim Morrison/The Doors T-shirt… and grabbed this horrible 80s maroon leather jacket I had - and headed out the door with my brother. I think he told my mom that we were “going out for the day”.
We ended up at Universal Studios. The place was practically empty - because it was November and it was a weekday. We basically had the place to ourselves. We went on just about every ride that there was at the time. We took the tours. We took lots and lots of photos. But that was all secondary to me. The main thing was that I was spending time with my brother. He was there for me.
We ate lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. At the time, Orlando’s Hard Rock Cafe was the largest one in the world. It had a HUGE collection of rock and roll memorabilia. We ordered burgers… and Peter ordered the famous Hard Rock Hurricane. He got carded, which we laughed about - because he had recently turned 26. I think he was actually a bit embarrassed that he got carded.
We talked and we talked and we talked. We talked about everything from girls to school to Jim Morrison to drugs to being an artist. (Peter was an amazing artist… and I was trying my best to follow in his footsteps, taking every art class I could in high school).
We left Universal Studios rather late that night. I remember we were driving on the East-West Expressway, heading home… and there was no one else on the road. There was just the glow of the headlights hitting the road reflectors… and the glow of the dashboard lights. Peter turned to me and asked “Have you ever gone 110mph before?” I said “No.” He replied “Well, you are now!”. I looked over at the speedometer in amazement! We really were going 110mph in this big-ass four-door GM monster of a rental car.
During the rest of Peter’s visit we spent a great deal of time talking. We drew together. We went shopping together, and he helped me to change my wardrobe. We listened to just about every album by The Doors multiple times… and sang along to all of the songs. He gave me a copy of “No One Here Gets Out Alive” by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman (a book which I quickly devoured).
The days flew by and eventually Peter had to head back home to Connecticut. I remember crying as I hugged him goodbye. I wanted to go back to Connecticut with him so badly, it hurt.
From that point on, I just knew that my brother Peter would always be there for me. He had my back. When I got completely piss-drunk for the first time — he was the one I called. When I had my first bad acid trip - he was the one I called. He talked me through it even though it was somewhere around 1:00 in the morning. He told me to grab a drawing pad and start drawing what I was feeling. He helped it end, when I thought it never would.
Over the years Peter continued to “have my back”. He was always there… even when months passed between actual in-person visits with each other. He was always waiting on the other end of the line. It was his promise to me, when at Christmas he sent me a copy of “The Doors: The Illustrated History” with the following inscription on the title page:
“To Vincent James
Big Vin - I am so proud of you, your talent and smarts and good taste in music. I’ll always be there for you, just give me the chance.
P.S. - Keep Jim Alive”
He promised me that he’d always be there for me… and he always was. And now that he has passed I make that same promise to his family…
I’ll always be there for you.
(Peter taking his turn getting eaten by the shark)
* * *
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
April 14, 2015 - "One Week Later (Eulogy Outtakes)"
It's hard to believe that one week has already passed since I put on this suit, this shirt, this tie - and stood in front of a full church to deliver the Eulogy at my brother Peter's funeral mass.
Two days prior to that mass was Easter Sunday. That evening I visited Peter's family: my wonderful sister-in-law Angel... and my three beautiful nieces, Frannie, Jessica and Liliana. I did not want to let Angel read the Eulogy I had written for my brother... I wanted that to be a special moment in the church, with it being heard for the first time. BUT I desperately wanted to make my sister-in-law laugh and smile for a moment.
I told her that when I sat down to write the Eulogy, I had written down lots of ideas to touch upon about my brother. I said that I had a list of bullet-points that did not make the cut, but I wanted to share them with her:
My brother Peter...
* Had a big heart... and lots of gas
* Loved soft-serve ice cream from Dairy Queen... sometimes with sprinkles
* Loved both the NY Mets and the NY Giants... and loved complaining about how shitty they were playing.
* Loved to point out how fat people had gotten.
* Not many people know this... but he REALLY liked rice pudding.
* He loved the music of James Brown and Maceo Parker... but had a secret love for the music of ABBA, and on more than one occasion had been caught belting out "Dancing Queen" while he drove.
* It really, really bothered him when people on Facebook posted about what they were eating.
* Was really the only person who was able to pull off that whole "Z. Cavaricci" pants thing in the late-80s
* Had an unhealthy obsession with Wonder Woman
* Never refused a piece of cake at a birthday party.
* During the course of his life he has resembled Jim Morrison, Jon Bon Jovi and - for a brief period - John Travolta's character from "Pulp Fiction" (which, by-the-way, he felt was a very over-rated movie)
* Frequently texted rather inappropriate, but hilarious photos.
* Hated when people put the lid down on the toilet because it caused him to have to wait a second longer to pee.
About 99.99% of those bullet-points are true. I'm not 100% sure about the ABBA part... or about how Peter really felt about the movie "Pulp Fiction".
Angel and the rest of the family laughed with each and every line. My mission was accomplished.
(She then reminded me that at one point Peter had also looked like Johnny Depp.)
* * *