“I did it my way.”
–My Way, song by Frank Sinatra
Back in the late eighties, long hair was somewhat in style among men. I knew this, of course, because my brother had let his hair grow long. All of his friends did. “The longness,” they called it. Well, you guessed it, us little guys grew ours too. So from about the 7th to the 8th grade, I had long hair (think mullet – very eighties). My hair always curled up and I could never get it past my neck (I blame the barber.). But my bro had long straight hair. I wished I had hair like his. A few years later, we both cut it off. And a few years later after that he starting balding: a receding hairline. “Crap,” I thought, “he wore glasses, and then I had to wear glasses. He’s going bald, so I probably will too.” I never asked him about it, but it must’ve been difficult for him. At least that’s what I thought by empathizing and putting myself in his shoes.
“The Force is strong with this one.”
–Darth Vader to himself, in Star Wars IV: A New Hope
I’ve always enjoyed Xmas (I know. Duh, who doesn’t – except you grinches out there.). Every year my wife and I debate about how best to setup the tree with the gifts: leave the gifts under the tree until Xmas, placing them there little by little over the course of the days leading up to Xmas, or leave it empty until the morning of Xmas day? I like the latter approach. I get a kick out of playing Santa, placing the gifts under the tree the night before while my kids are sleeping (and I like the cookies too :)). My brother preferred it that way too.
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
–Uncle Ben to Peter Parker, in The Amazing Spider Man
I was browsing my brother’s blogs in the archives looking for a particular something he had posted (I’ll find it one of these days.). As usually happens in life, I came across some surprises instead. Among them I rediscovered a gem of an interview with my brother several years ago. I was proud to read it then and I’m proud to read it now.
I’d just like to comment on his first two responses. As is probably obvious by now, both my brother and my mother were (and remain) my role models (along with Spidey and friends ;)). So many folks are quick to point to their hardships growing up and let them define them. My brother chose not to. With that he positively influenced not one, but (at least) two lives instead.
I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I do. (Thanks Lori!)
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” –Bruce Lee
Just before my 13th birthday, my brother and I went down to 42nd St to get my ear pierced. The older guys had their’s pierced and I wanted an earring too. My mom knew about it, so no big deal.
“Is it gonna hurt?” I asked.
“Nah. They’ll use a gun and you’ll just feel a click,” he said. And so it was.
A few years later, my bro wanted a tattoo. Back then it wasn’t as popular as it is today – it was a big deal. He was the first to get a tattoo out of any of us. We all thought it was cool. He hid it from my mom at first. Then he started walking around without a shirt or with sleeveless shirts so she could see it.
First day went by – she didn’t say anything. Second day – she didn’t say anything. Third day… Days turned to weeks.
“Mommy see your tat?”
“How you know?”
“She had to’ve,” he said.
“Sure she saw it?”
“She must’ve, I’ve been walking around all summer without a shirt.”
“What if she didn’t see it?”
“She saw it.”
I’m thinking, “She couldn’t have seen it. I mean, she woulda went nuts, right? But it’s been right in her face for over a month already. She had to’ve seen it, right? Maybe she saw it and doesn’t care?” Yeah, right.
A few days later, my bro is walking around the house with a tank top on, and my mom says:
“Louis, what’s that on your arm?”
“Uh, oh,” I thought.
“That? That’s my tatoo.”
Then I saw my mom do what she always did when she was pissed: the infamous ‘lean back against the wall’. “You got a tattoo?” she asked. And there it was. They got into it.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
–Juliet, in Romeo and Juliet
By which name to call him by; by which name to remember him? Depends on when you knew him. His friends who knew him from when we were younger still call him Lou or Louie. But as he got older, he preferred to be called Louis and would introduce himself as such. I bet the distinction wasn’t obvious to most, but I knew. I could immediately tell how far back he and someone went by the way they saluted him. So why the name game anyway? It all goes back to an inside family joke.
The folks on my father’s side of my family like to drink (I know: shocking.). My uncle was no exception. He was kind of sloshed on one particular occasion and went on about his name for no particular reason. His name was Louis; my brother was named after him. “My name ain’t Lou or Louie. Don’t be like: ‘Hey, man. Hey Lou, hey Louie, man,’ like we’re in the street. Don’t call me that s***, that’s b*******. My name is Louis – the name of kings!” What the hell was he talking about – someone French in our family? We didn’t know, but we laughed about it all the time. And, you know, it made sense when we thought about it. My brother took note. Suddenly, he had a newfound appreciation for the name ‘Louis’, his given name – the name of kings.
Lou, Louie, and Louis, one and the same – my brother.