Thursday, March 28, 2013

I have been a very lucky man.

                                      Enjoying a beer in Hong Kong

A slightly different history. Some about me.

I have been very lucky in my life.

Perhaps many think this. I hope they do. But I really feel that I have had a really great and fascinating life.

 As friends are getting older and some have passed away. We look back on what was. This was going through my mind the other day as I was flying out of Singapore to Hong Kong.  I thought to myself, think of all you have been involved with. What you have done and seen.

 It is really quite a lot in many ways.  I really kind of think I have had several wonderful and not so wonderful epochs of my life.  While maybe some are more concerned about money, I am more about the experience.

  I have often thought that the next endeavor should be radio. I have had so much experience in life, it sure would be good to share some of the experience and experiences of my life. Also I have a good speaking voice. If anyone reading this can help me to that area that would be great.

I wanted to recall a few of the events that were really exciting, interesting, or very special for me.  I am writing this on the other side of the world from which I usually write.  I am in Hong Kong right now, on a rainy, stormy, night.

 Even this has its own special parts. I have had the chance to meet many people from all over the world, see their world from their perceptive. It has been really wonderful to chat with and live with people from all over.

 To see the world and life from a whole new vantage point. I had some very different views on life and the world till I got the chance to talk to many who changed my life.Many of these people could neither read nor write. But they had what many scholars do not have. That is a natural sense of life and a common understanding of life itself.

I grew up really poor, that is very much a fact. My mother held our dysfunctional family together and somehow we existed together. We were on Welfare and every kind of assistance  We did not get the chance to see the doctor much, or ever go on a vacation. I still have a bit of envy when I hear people talk of their childhood taking a trip here or there. We never took trips, how could we?

Christmas we would often give each other something we loved and had already to each other. Buying something was just out of the question. I remember I took my mothers coat and gave it back to her for Christmas. The same was done by all of us. I received something I had already as did my sister and as mentioned before my mother.

We spend a few months living with my grandmother. My grandmother was a vicious drunk who in drunken rages would pull out a knife, or lie drunk on the floor . It was a pathetic existence and she made it known what was important. Her.  I had a few records that I listened to now and then and she came in my room and broke them. After a really bad moment in November of 1970, in which she took out a knife and held it to my mother saying she would kill her..... we moved out.

My mother was drawing at straws to exist. She married a guy who was the worst example of a man I have ever met
 We lived in a very beat up, dirty, insect infested cheap apartment. It was a really gross place. To this day I really cannot handle bugs, I see one and I run. Perhaps it is part of those awful memories. It is hard to even put into words.

 We were many times close to being taken to foster care, or housed as there was not enough money to feed us, but we survived. I know I hid from the police a few times when my Grandmother would call them and try to get us taken away.
 My step father who would often get drunk and beat me up. Not slap me, but punch me and holding a knife to me often threaten to kill me. I guess that and a number of other dreadful stories (That  would be looked on as practically unbelievable) and events from my youth has given me a very strong, but tender sense. He was an animal. he beat my mother, punched me around like a rag doll and giving me various bruises, did other things I will not write to my sister.

 I was 14 and very slight and I would often stand up to him and get beaten. I collected records and he would break them. He stole my grandfathers WWI material and threatened me constantly out of view or earshot of the other members of the family. Now I can take a lot of stress, pressure, and abuse. It falls off my back like a duck.

  I can be like a rock, but I can still cry when I see something that moves me.

 Oh that drunk step father, I finally got the nerve to fight back, and we got rid of him. A gun was used to keep him away for ever. He was not shot, but would have been if he had come back.

 Thanks to my mother for her devotion and love. We had nothing but love, but in our case it was just what was needed, nothing material, but devotion to each other to survive, and survive we did.

So the first thing I wanted to say here is....Thank you Mom for giving me everything you had and more. I love you. I was very lucky to have her, as few would have given as much.

My mom went through a lot. My father left in 1969 and put us on the street. Cause there was no money. We begged to live in other peoples houses. We were homeless, and very poor. My father's brother refused to help us. Saying we were no longer part of the family. Finally we went back to my grandmothers, which was just awful.

My mom as I mentioned married the drunk and I saw when my mother was ill and needed surgery . He punched her in the stomach and and pushed her into the TV behind her.  It is hard to explain the anger you feel when you see that. I charged at him when I saw that, I was 15 and small. He was a 6' 2" bruiser. I was just beaten.  My mom had the surgery and took care of the awful pain she was in.   My mom is very happy today and has a wonderful husband. I wish her every happiness.

I started working at 12 to help the family. I got jobs during the summer and somehow between beatings and stress I made it through school.  Just barely to be honest. So did my sisters.

How we did it I do not really know, I was on autopilot and just did what I had too. So did my mom who would work everywhere for us.  Then after we disposed of the drunk stepfather, our lives too on a better tone. My mother reunited with her mother. I started to study. The storm was over. But it would take many years for the clouds to disappear.

I find it really amazing that this very poor kid would have the chance to meet and talk with on a personal level two former Presidents. To know some of the greatest Opera singers who ever lived, to have the chance to meet talk with and record some of the great men of the media like Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, Mike Wallace and Charles Osgood. That I would have lunch with the Governor of New Jersey. Meet two famous mayors of New York City. Get yelled at by Lauren Bacall, Chat with Norman Mailer. Meet Buzz Aldrin, who was one of the first two men who went to the moon in July of 1969, and to meet the brother of the man who pushed for it in the first place, Senator Edward Kennedy.

I was able to meet and study with Theodore Edison, who was the son of the famous inventor, Thomas Edison. I was able to talk with Enrico Caruso's son and learn from him about his remarkable father..

That is just part of it. To have had such diverse careers in my life. I was a house singer for the New Jersey Racing Authority. I sang at all the race tracks in NJ, Sang with my buddies Ray, Bill and John. We worked in restaurants, Bars, Hotels, Boats, and even sang a funeral. That was a over period of 10 years and we did performances all over and made some damn good money. But being young and foolish I went through it pretty quick. It was a great time in my life and I do not regret my actions, but just wish I had been wiser. We all think that after. But that was a great time for me. There is nothing like walking into a restaurant and have people applaud you for just being you. That really is a thrill. It was back then and the memory still is with me.

I had the delight of running a museum for a number of years and taking it from a little place and making it world known. That was a thrill

I was able to appear on over 60 TV programs on various subjects, but mainly as a Thomas Edison expert of which I was and still am. I was on programs all over the world. It was thrilling to have friends from another country tell you that you just appeared on TV there. I would be recognized now and then by people on the street or where ever. It was fun.

I got to appear in 2 movies and in one which was a documentary type movie on talking pictures called the Jazz Singer Set on Warner. I got to just be me and talk.

I was given the chance to teach in 2010 and that was perhaps the greatest gift I ever received and working with kids was the most rewarding moment of this life. I will always remember them. I often get emails from former students who made my life and will forever be in my heart.

There is a great deal more to this life and I hope someday to write a book about it. Cause there is so much that happened and now I am here on the last few laps of life and want to put much of it all together. Cause as perhaps as simple or crazy as my life has been, it has been a very good one. My sisters are well and happy. We all have a roof over our heads.

 I have really been a very lucky man. Even the bad that happened gave me strength to go on. Cause once you deal with really bad things, everything else is very small indeed.  I have had a most wonderful life.