I was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1954. The fifties and sixties were such a wonderful time to grow up. The rules set by our parents were simple: Don’t get in trouble and be home before dark. Summers were filled with pick up games of baseball and football, exploring the railroad tracks and the abandoned factories that abounded in North Buffalo. Several playgrounds, a bowling alley, the YMCA, and two Candy stores were in walking distance.
My family was the first non Jews, the first Italians, on our street. (My mom is a Naples). There was resentment from some, but soon we made friends and blended in. I still retain many of those Jewish friends to this day. In our neighborhood you were either Jewish or Catholic and there was nothing in-between.
Neither of my parents went to college. My dad was a postal worker, my mom a house wife. Somehow they set an example of love of learning and appreciation for books. My older brother and sister were both precocious readers. They would lay on the floor with the Sunday newspaper sprawled out before them and pass the sections back and forth. I copied them, at first by simply looking at the pictures of the funnies.
If I crawled behind the chairs and couch in the living room, I found books. Two sets of encyclopedia, one of them a young readers version. I spent hours looking through them until the sections on dinosaurs were dog eared. There was a collection of Zane Grey, various history texts, and Science Fiction anthologies. Years before I could read them I held them and paged through them and stuck my nose into them to smell the leather and fading paper.
To some children, magic might be a piano or a pack of playing cards or glass figurines. The consideration of what separates the magic from the plain comes from the beholder. I viewed books as magic. And they became magic to me.
After high school, most of my friends went to college. I jumped right into life. I worked many different jobs and traveled across our beautiful country and explored the far east as a merchant seaman. In 1982, I joined the fire department. To some, fighting fires is just a means to a steady salary and a pension. To others like myself, it is assuming a duty upheld so nobly from brave men who came before, who craved adventure and showed up at the citizen’s door with the desire to help.
Again, how does one view his job? With firefighting, again I answer, magic.
Courage is magic. Generosity and humanity are magic. So is duty.
Now those days are behind me and I turn again to books. I am too old for that physical labor and too full of life to quit. So I write. To thrill. To inspire.
A well lived life is a life of service to others. I served in the fire department. Now I serve with my keyboard.
God Bless the artist who works with words or music or clay or paint. It is he who inspires. Humanity is desperate for inspiration.
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