"Hi! I don't know you really, but you Facebook friended me a couple months ago and I deleted you."
This, I vaguely recall, was what a very attractive, younger girl with a perky hairdo, big, hazel eyes and sly smile said to me on November 14, 2008, at a benefit show for a friend who had a recent personal catastrophe.
"Um ... right. Hi, what's your name?," I said.
"Jodi ... and I deleted you."
"You ... you did?"
"Yep. I don't really know you, but you friended me a while back ... and I have a lot of personal stuff on my profile ... and so I had to delete you."
"Wow!", I said. "I ... I didn't even notice!"
And so it began. So the long strange journey began in my life that would lead me to be here, in my house, lying--laptop propped open--next to a sleeping, very attractive, younger girl with a perky hairdo, big, hazel eyes and a sly smile--albeit a snoring one--madly, deeply in love on the eleventh day of January. But a lot of coincidences had to happen to get me to where I am now--very much awake--and trying to type lightly.
Let me explain.
Today is an important day for a lot of reasons. It is my very dear friend Steve's birthday. Happy Birthday, Steve. Stolat!, as they say.
It is also the day that I walked into the New Bedford, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Center to visit my mother who had been there for two weeks, only to find out she had passed on from this world. My whole life changed forever in that shocking moment, which really should have come as no shock. It was a long, slow, illness and she fought it tooth and nail. She hung on for a whole extra Christmas season that the doctors could have never predicted because she wanted--no, she demanded to be around for it. But almost like she had struck some sort of deal, three days after it was over, on the 28th of December she took a bad fall and was admitted to the rehab center. From that point on she slipped away a little more each day until she was tenderly and thankfully tended to by hospice. And then, sadly but mercifully she was released from this mortal shell, and the lifelong dialog we had between us was over ... and I had to do everything a little differently.
I made it through that year, barely. I've written about a great deal of it over the past two. Suffice to say that I could have killed myself from the stupid things I did with drugs, alcohol, my car, my bicycle, my nose, my mouth and my two legs. But I didn't want to die. If it had happened it would have been through selfishness and stupidity, not a cognizant desire to cease living.
And when I say I made it through that year, "barely" I should specify that what I mean is not only would I almost kill myself through stupidity, but I would not make it to the very end of the year before I would declare myself to be done with a life of drinking. It was officially over on the 27th of December, and I am happy to say that it has remained that way ever since.
The year between that upcoming January and the one that followed it was an eventful one indeed. My aunt would live long enough to see me successfully put down the bottle, but not long enough to witness my year anniversary. Because by September of 2008 she, herself, would lose a hard fought battle with cancer.
That month I would purchase an iPhone and install the Facebook application (or "app" as they say). I would see a girl named Jodi in a tiny photograph on the application's homepage who I thought was someone I used to work with years ago. I would request her to be my Facebook friend and she would begrudgingly accept. She would turn out not to be the person who I thought she was and I would completely forget the whole event ever occurred. "I don't think it's possible that we know each other ... but you seem harmless enough to befriend," was her response to my request.
Two months later I would buy a house and start another chapter of my life.
And shortly before I moved in, on November 14th I would be surprised at a benefit concert by the approach of a girl with a sassy lean and a good dose of moxie telling me that she had deleted me from her Facebook profile. I would then nonchalantly and totally deflate her flirty exuberance by the mere fact that I had no idea it had even happened ... because she wasn't even the person I thought she was to begin with.
And then, one year ago, on January 11, 2009 I would have another very important event happen in my life.
I remember only so much about the day. I remember that I was extra emotional because not only had my mom been gone for two years now, but my aunt was gone too.
I had agreed to judge a battle of the bands contest at the local music club, and I didn't want to go. Strangely enough I recall wanting to stay home and watch the Golden Globes on TV much more than going out and being in the public eye. It was snowing pretty hard and I called one of the other judges to see if there was any way they'd cancel the evening. He said there was no chance but he gave me the phone number of the promoter, Mark Sheehan. I called him and he said it was very much still on. I asked him who the other judges were and he told me there was some woman named Jodi involved who had seen over 400 concerts.
"Oh, jeez," I remember thinking. "This ought to be interesting."
I remember that my old bandmate, Terry, called me up as I was putting my gloves on to leave. I waited by the phone and listened to the machine and heard him telling me he was thinking of me on this important day. I called him back on my iPhone on my way to the club and we talked a bit while I sat outside the club in my car.
Then I got out and trudged through the two or three inches of annoying new fallen snow on the sidewalk and entered the club.
I walked in the door into the dark club and there she was ...
It was the girl from the benefit for my friend who had had the catastrophe. The very attractive, younger girl with a perky hairdo, big, hazel eyes and a sly smile who had deleted me from her Facebook account. And she was about to spend the next three hours sitting at a table with me and three other judges while we listened to a number of new bands who could potentially be good or terrible.
And I just closed my eyes for a second and thought to myself, "Oh, Mamma ... what have you gone and done now?"
And we spent the night flirting. I remember the fateful tap on the shoulder with her pen that got me to turn around during one of the performances. I'll never forget that look ... the look that says, "hey ... you seem like someone who I might like. Come talk to me near my ear and look me in the eyes a little bit closer because I'm not sure, but I sure want to be surer before I prove myself wrong again."
I remember we had this joke about people wearing scarves onstage, under the hot lights--"intentional scarfing," we called it. It was our first joke. And then we took a picture of the four of us (our fifth judge, Christian, being unavailable for the shot) with scarves on our heads, looking silly at the camera.
I remember thinking then, "This is nice ... It's never been this nice before."
And I meant it.
The night soon came to a close and I told Jodi the concertgoer that I was so relieved that we could get past all that Facebook deletion mess and start anew. I suggested that I "friend" her again intentionally, now that we had talked and laughed and had a bit of fun, and I hoped she would accept it for real this time. She said she would. We had a brief but meaningful hug and I went home and immediately looked her up and impatiently--without even waiting the night--requested her friendship at 1:50 in the morning on January 12, 2009.
I remember thanking my mother that night before I went to bed. I thank her a lot for so many, many things. Often it's for something she taught me or a trait she passed on through her genes. Other times it's because my spiritual side feels that she has exerted some kind of will over the events of life here on earth.
Tonight, as I turn off the light, I will thank her for all of these things. Because she not only gave me the sense of humor to laugh with a nearly complete stranger for three hours, but she gave me the confidence and the courage to believe that if I kept a level head about me and was true to myself that there was no reason I couldn't find someone out there to love me like no other.
And when that night came to leave the house two years ago, with the Golden Globes on television, the snow falling quick and sharp, and a heart heavy in the knowledge that new words would no longer be heard from deep within her ever again and hadn't for an interval of time which might warrant me staying home to cry myself to sleep while a panel of judges met at a club downtown that was having a battle of the bands contest ...
Well, I think she knew that she was giving January 11th a new meaning in my world.
Thank you, mom. I miss you more than words could ever express.
Thank you, Jodi. You are my one, true love.
Happy January, 11th.
It's a good day again, forever and ever.
From L to R: Jim Neill, Ken Maiuri, F.A.J. and Jodi (intentional scarfs and all). Taken at the Happy Valley Showdown, The Elevens Nightclub, Northampton, MA on January 11, 2009.
Thanks for reading,