Frances Mary Turri Pilato

Frances Mary Turri Pilato
a.k.a, "St. Frances of Turri," my Mom

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Shouldn't I Be In College By Now?"

It was late in the super Summer of '78. I had not yet heard from the Number One College Choice on my list - which was Nazareth College of Rochester, New York. I had been accepted at a few area colleges, but Nazareth is the school that I very much wanted to attend - if only because of its awesome Theatre department. But also, too, because of the "chicks."

For years, Nazareth had been a "girls" school and, at the time, they had only recently transformed into a co-ed facility. So, it was an exciting time, all the way around.

Thing is, it was nearly August - and I had not yet received an acceptance letter. It's not like today, when high-schoolers and parents apply and plan for college years in advance. At least it wasn't like that for me.

Then, for me, weeks went by, and still no letter...until finally...it arrived. I would be attending my optimum choice for college in the Fall of '78.

As such, the process began. Registration, buying books, etc. I would be commuting to my parents home in Greenleaf Meadows, so signing up for a campus dorm, and so forth, was not part of the agenda.

But once everything was in place, I was simply waited for the other "letter."

You know the one?

The one that all kids, every age, receive at the end of summer as the new school year begins. The one that explains the start date and time for that first class in the first or second week of September, which usually began on a "Wednesday."

Well, THAT letter never arrived in the mail. Or least, I never saw it.

So, one day, while sitting at the Greenleaf pool (which would always open on Memorial Day - and close on Labor Day, the latter of which was fast approaching), I just decided to call "school," which in this glorius case, was Nazareth.

So someone "in the office" at Nazareth answered the phone.

"Nazareth College. How may I help you?"

"Yes," I replied. "I've been accepted at Nazareth, and I haven't received 'the letter' explaining when school is to start, and I'm just wondering when that will be?"

"When what will be, Sir?"

"School. When does it start?"

"Uhm, Sir. School started last week."

"WHAT?!"

"Yes, Sir. It's true."

"Ok, Ok! Thank you! I gotta' go!"

Not only did I have to go, but I had to go there FAST. Greenleaf Meadows in Greece, NY was some twenty-five miles from Nazareth College in Pittsford, NY, so I had to move. There was probably about ninety-five last-minute things I had to do.

Upon first arrival at "school," I parked, ran to the Registrar's office, took care of the last minute details, confirmed my class schedule - and I was off to meet my first professor - and new classmates.

This initial course was a Biology, and I made it just in time to hear my name in the initial roll call.

Honest.

Just as I walked into class, I heard, "Herbie J Pilato?"

"Here!" I said, if a little out of breath - and almost dangerously out of time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Summer Days, '78"

The Summer of '78 was definately one of the best summers of my life.

As detailed in the last two posts, it was the summer following my high-school graduation (just as the kids from Rydell High were doing the same in the super hit movie musical of that year, Grease). It was also the first summer in what I will now name as Greenleaf Meadows - the rental townhouse community in the suburb of Rochester, NY (my hometown) called Greece.

Not only was it the summer I met "Diana" (which see previous post, My Words Kissed Her Eyes), and had my first cross-country job (which see The Adventures of Ralph and Butch), but it was best summer of carefree fun that I ever experienced.

Being 17 in 1978 was filled with many more carefree moments that being 17 today. At least, I can only surmize it so.

As I have observed elsewhere on this blog, the Summer of '78 was a simpler happier time, specifically for me and my family who moved to Greenleaf from the inner-city.

I met so many wonderful friends that summer, including Robin and her sister Gwen, who worked at Burger King; Tanya, and yet another hot young hot blonde, who I remember as Betty, who lived right opposite the pool...and on and on.

It was the months before I began my Freshman Year as a Theatre Major attending Nazareth College, in Pittsford, NY; it was also the summer when I commenced work as a meatroom cleaner at Topps Supermarket, where I met so many other wonderful friends, like Carolyn, her cousin Marie, Terry, Jimmy D., Scott, Michelle, Dave, and again, so many more.

Times to cherish; memories to hold dear - and to blog about.

Forever.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Adventures of "Ralph and Butch"

Sometime before I met Diana (see previous post, My Words Kissed Her Eyes), and shortly after my high-school Senior Ball, I found myself "truckin'" half-way across the country with "Ralph." Or was it "Butch."

I better explain.

I had a best friend in high-school, who I will call "Tony," (can I make this any MORE complicated?), who went on to become extremely successful in the corporate world. In fact, if I mentioned his name, or the corporation he became extremely successful over, you would know him right off the "bat" (which is another clue). But I digress.

Suffice it to say, Tony was an awesome guy. He was very smart and funny, and quite in-tune with pop-culture, the latter of which is mostly why we got along so well.

In fact, Tony and I once partnered on an awesome project for our Junior Year English class, presided over a very hot teacher (Hey, Mrs. Yorio!) that had to do with the effect of television on society. So, clearly, the seeds of my career, if not his, were being planted.

At any rate, Tony and I got along so well, and we both know pop-culture, inside and out, that we created, in our seemingly bored moments, the characters of "Ralph and Butch," who were some form of undercover cops or detectives, patterned after TV's then very-popular Starsky & Hutch (I guess.)

A few "R & B" adventures stand out in my mind, such one extremely cold day during the East Coast Blizzard of '77, when Tony gave me a ride home from school in his beat-up yellow Volkswagon. Whenever we'd go into our "Ralph and Butch" mode (and to this day, I'm still not sure who played whom), Tony would jump out of the car, and pretend to stick a flashing police light on the top of the car (again, as would Starsky & Hutch and, for that matter, as also did Karl Malden and Michael Douglas on one of TV's other very-popular cop shows of the day, The Streets of San Francisco).

Either way, one adventure had commenced.

We were clearly bored (and probably just a leetle bit too old to be playing cops and robbers - but at least we were funny and creative.

Especially on this particular winter day during the East Coast Blizzard of '77, when - in the deep blinding white-out that attacked us from the front, the back and the surrounding area, "Ralph and Butch" were not only stuck in the snow – but we were stuck in traffic.

I only wish I could remember the brilliant lines of humor that Tony vocalized that day.

Truth be told, not only was his wit pure genius, but he was a loyal friend.

After I gave that dance at the Senior Ball (again, please see previous post, My Words Kissed Her Eyes)?

Well, in many ways it was a nervous dance. And not just because I was performing before a crowd of bullies-would-would-later-turn-friends. But my "performance anxiety" had more to do with academic concerns, as opposed to peer pressure.

Even though I was attending the Senior Ball, I was somewhat uncertain if I was going to pass Senior Year! For some ridiculous reason, I had signed up for a course in Political Science in my final high-school semester mostly, I suppose, because it would have earned me college credit for the following Fall.

But getting to college was not gonna' happen if I failed high-school, which would have transpired if I failed Political Science.

So, in stepped my good friend Tony. That night at the Senior Ball, and right after I finished my dance, he excused himself from his date, and walked over to our Political Science teacher, the great Mr. Pilliter, who was one of the chaperones of the evening.

Quite pointedly, Tony asked Mr. P, "Is Herb going to pass Political Science?"

The esteemed instructor, who was dapper and sophisticated, paused a moment, then turned to Tony and answered, with a smile, "How can I fail a kid who can dance like that?"

Suffice it to say, I was safe.

Not so much, however, when some weeks later, Tony and I found ourselves on a cross-country truck adventure.

"Uh?" you ask?

Here's what happened:

The neighbors who held residence in the suburban townhouse next-door to where I lived (with my parents and sister), were planning to move. They were a retired, elderly couple, who were set on driving their beautiful new, big RV from Rochester to Cleveland.

But they needed help with the excursion.

So, I suggested that Ralph and Butch oblige. Well, at least Herbie and Tony.

And I made the suggestion because we were young, and this elderly couple were rich, or at least seemingly-so. Though there was no discussion of money between Tony and I, and the elderly couple, I assumed that we would be well-compensated for the time and effort that such a long-distance journey and job would require.

After some apprehension, Tony agreed to do it. Thing was, neither of us knew how to drive a stick-shift - which is what we had to do with the big-rig that the elderly couple had rented for us (to helm and follow them in their RV all the way to Cleveland).

So, picture it: two recently-graduated high school teens, neither of whom had much driving experience, in general, let alone driving a rented moving van with a stick-shift, were now about to literally truck half-way across the country.

I finally told Tony, "Look – I'm NOT gonna' drive this thing. So YOU have to."

Once more, Tony, somehow, reluctantly agreed.

So, for the entire trip, from Rochester to Cleveland, the truck kept "spitting" its engine, and clunking along – because Tony could not properly drive with a stick-shift...at least for the first couple of hundred miles.

After that, he conquered the technique.

But in the meantime, all I could do, as we spitted along, was make promises. "Tony," I'd say, "I'm telling ya'...it's gonna be worth it! These people got money. LOTS of it. And their gonna' pay us. And I mean pay us GOOD!"

Well, sure enough, THREE days later, - after the long, long trip, in the long, long trailer, following the old, old couple, we stopped at their destination, emptied the truck of their belongings, drove it to the nearest drop-off rental facility, and waited to be paid. We had showered, I think, at least only once. But other than that, things were pretty...well...hygienically-challenged.

But no matter - by this time, we just wanted our money. And as I had been promising Tony, "We were gonna'get paid. GOOD!"

Unfortunately, however, that kind of transaction never transpired.

For after we dropped-off the truck with the elderly couple, they drove us to the bank in their RV, made a withdrawal from their account, and paid us FORTY-BUCKS.

Total.

Tony was ready to kill me.

We made that long, clunky trip, all the way from Rochester to Cleveland, safe and sound.

But now - I was prepared to die.

Though not before the now-cheap elderly couple drove us to the airport, where they purchased plane tickets for our return to Rochester.

Thank God. At least they did THAT.

And then, fortunately, by the time they left the airport, Tony had calmed down, and we laughed a little bit about the whole thing.

That was the kind of guy Tony was.

Humor always trumped everything else.

Good thing, too – because once we had those plane tickets in our hands, I had suggested to Tony, several times, to please make sure he kept his ticket in a safe place, as not to lose it.

"Now, Tony," I pestered, "Please put that ticket away - or else you're gonna' lose it. I'm telling ya'!

Well, he heard all that "I'm tellin' ya'" stuff before," and it pretty much didn't work out for him. So, he wasn't gonna' listen to it this time around.

"I'm NOT gonna’ lose it, Herb," he said, quite aggravated.

"Ok," I continued to press, "but if you DO – I'm tellin' ya' - it's gonna' mess things up, and delay our trip.”

"I’m NOT gonna' lose it!' he insisted.

Well, guess what?

About twenty minutes before we were to board the plane, Tony, who was about 6'3', to my 5'7", came cowering up to me - 'er, down to me - looking very sad.

"Uhm," Herb..." he said, with his head bowed.

"Yeah?" I wondered.

"Uhm...I..."

"Yeah...what is it? Spit it out, would ya', Tony!"

"I...uhm..."

"Don't tell me."

"I, uhm...lost..."

"You LOST the ticket!" I screamed. "I TOLD you to be careful!!"

"Would you stop!" he pleaded. "We're in a public place, for pete's sake."

And so went the adventures of "Ralph and Butch."

Or "Butch and Ralph."

Or Herb and "Tony."

Or Herb and "Whoever-Tony-Really-Was" - and remains...

A loyal friend with a with a great sense of humor – and a genius for corporate business, if not driving trucks.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Words Kissed Her Eyes

In the late 1970s, my family and I moved from our red-brick house in the inner-city of Rochester, New York to a rented town-house in a surrounding suburb. This particular town-house rental community had a pool and a tennis court, and was close to the beach, as well as the area's best hamburger resturant and the original Abbott's Ice Cream parlor.

What more could anyone want, right?

It was a tough time growing up in the city. I was a cute and artistic little boy, and as a result, all the little girls were after me.

Also consequently, though unfortuately, not all, but most of the little boys in the neighborhood were jealous of me. So they frequently beat me up or called me names - horrible, hurtful names.

But when I was 17, and in the year that I graduated from high school, which was an equally tough time for me - filled with continuous bullying, my family and I moved to that rented town-house in the suburbs - which ultimately proved to be somewhat of a paradise, at least for a little while.

For during that entire summer - of 1978 - by the pool and the tennis courts, I ever-enjoyed the sun. It was the war-less era of Grease at the movies, and Three's Company was on TV. I was planning for college for the coming Fall, though not sure which college it was to be. I wasn't working yet, but also that Fall, I would get a job at the local supermarket (cleaning the meat department, and later, as the "Head of Maintenance").

But before any of that transpired - there was the carefree spirit of the pool...and the sun...and the laughter of new friendships.

And there was also "Diana" - a beautiful young woman who can only be described now as an ideal cross between Farrah Fawcett and Christie Brinkley.

It's important to note, too, that, by this time in my life, most of the "bullies" were gone - and I had found a new confidence. Not only did John Travolta's performance in Grease echoe in a new era, but his character named "Tony Minero," in that year's release of Saturday Night Fever, had given me an "identity." All the kids who once laughed at my dancing, when I was a young kid in the city, now wished they had my "moves."

I recall the Senior Ball, only months before my first visit to "the pool." A few "bully classmates" (I guess that's what you could call them) tried to "pull one over on me." They went up to the band, and asked the lead vocalist to call my name to the dance floor, because, "apparently," she said, "this Herbie-J-person can dance."

"Well," she went on to say, "let's see what Herbie J can do."

So, my name was called, and the band started to play a disco version of "I Love NY."

Instead of turning away from the request, I went into the dance, full-throttle. As I started toward the center of the dance floor, which was cleared and waiting for me, I turned to those certain "class bullies," who were laughing and pointing, and calling me names, each with their girlfriends standing beside them, in unison.

Instead of snearing towards their way, I ignored them - and said to myself, "They want to see a dance? Well, they're gonna' get a dance."

And the music played on - and I danced...mimicking nearly every move Travolta performed in the solo sequence of Saturday Night Fever.

When I was done - the bullies were silent - though with their jaws dropped. And each of their girlfriends ran from their side - and rushed up to me - and adorned me with non-stop kisses and hugs.

It was pretty awesome - a moment in time that almost compensated for the four-years of high-school trauma that each of their boyfriends put me through. But it was also an awesome moment because it prepared for my dance for Diana.

Because again, a month or two after my prom, there I was - at the pool, laying in the sun. And there, only a few yards away, was Diana.

Somehow, I knew had to meet her. So, after about an hour of trying to figure out how I was going to do that, and what I was going to say, she started to gather her towel to leave.

I was like, "Oh, great! Now what?"

She then started walking passed the lifeguards to the exit, and paced over to the lawn, between the pool and the tennis courts.

I had to move - and I had to move quickly.

So I got up off my towel, and ran over to the black rail fence that now stood between us, she on the outside of the pool, and me on the inside - and I called out to her, saying, "Excuse me - but what's it like to have blue eyes?"

She stopped, turned, and smiled, and said, "I dunno. What's it like to have brown eyes?"

We both laughed and talked a little more, and then she left.

I'm not sure how many other times I saw her again. But somehow, a few days later, I was dancing for her in her family's townhouse.

We never dated. We never went up the street to the beach, to get a hamburger or an ice-cream. I don't think we ever even sat at the pool together again or played tennis. And we certainly never kissed or even embraced.

But somehow, in that simpler, happy summer of '78, Diana made me smile - and I made her smile a little bit, too.

I went on to college (Nazareth) that Fall, and never saw or heard from her again.

That is, until last week...when I received a message from her, "out of the blue," on Facebook.

She remembered how I asked about her blue eyes, and she reminded me of how I gifted her with a plaque with spiritual words upon it that defined true friendship. We messaged one another a few more times, back and forth - and she expressed so many kind thoughts about how I made an impression on her that summer...an impression that I thought only I remembered.

But in fact, I finally realized what it's "like to have blue eyes"...and how Diana and I had really "kissed" after all - on that first moment we met.

For her eyes were kissed by my words...words from the past that somehow spoke back to me in the present with a loving-kind vision of an immortal moment in time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Thoughts For The Day

People either "get you" or they don't. But whether or not they think you are wonderful, doesn't change the fact that you ARE wonderful.

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A person of true grace embraces imperfection and replaces it with love - and forgiveness.

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There is a great war going on in the world - between nice people and mean people. Don't let the "blue-meannies" win.

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You don't have to do one dang thing to earn the respect and love of a true human being of substance...for quality recognizes quality - automatically.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sammy's Happy

When my nephew Sammy was about nine-years-old, he contracted a very serious viral infection. He was always a healthy little boy, athletic and never really ill - and certainly always happy. He never really had a big appetite, but during that one particular period, he wasn't eating very much at all. And he very much worried everyone in the family.

I knew for certain one day that the infection was serious, when he and his Mom - my sister, Pam - came over to see our parents (Frances and Herbie P.).

Sammy was bone thin, pale and weak.

I was so disturbed by his appearance, that I was forced to turn my head and cry, being sure not to show him my tears. For he certainly was not crying himself, and I did not want to make even a dent in his courage.

Instead - I thought only to make him laugh...to encourage him to be more joyful than he already was - and remains to this day.

For not only does Sammy laugh - but he loves to laugh...and he can't wait to laugh. And not in a mean-spirited way at the expense of others. But he loves to laugh the real joyful kind of laughter.

So, those now fifteen years or so ago, I had to act quickly. I had to swiftly somehow dry my tears.

I then turned to him, pulled him close and hugged him hello. Real tight.

I felt the bones on his back - and I almost cried some more. But I kept it together...concentrated...and somehow gathered my emotions...and recalled every joyful thought or joke I could muster...making a new few laughs along the way.

And then Sammy started to laugh...and I continued to tell jokes.

And he laughed some more.

And then some more.

And more still.

And my jokes kept coming...and he kept laughing - especially when I threw in a few silly physical manic moves of a clown.

A desperate clown.

Though Sammy never knew how desperate I really was to make him laugh.

And it didn't matter.

All that mattered is that he laughed.

And then a few days later - we all smiled.

Sammy was eating again, and gaining weight. He was getting healthier - and finally, his very serious viral infection was gone - replaced by a very happy infectious laughter and healing joy - that he continues to share to this day.

Vote for the INDIVIDUAL!

Vote for the best person for the job. Focus on their humanity, integrity, wisdom, and leadership capabilities - and don't just vote for them because they share your cultural heritage, religious beliefs, or political affiliation. Vote for the INDIVIDUAL.