A look back at an old friend…

My friend Don Oddi passed away just over a year ago. At the time I was in England and completely devastated by the news. I’d seen Don just a day before leaving, hugged him and looked forward to seeing him when I came back.  I spent 40 hours a week with him for a few years of my life and despite the 50 year age difference, I considered him a close friend.

I was less than impressed by his obituary in the newspaper.  At the time I figured I’d clear my head and pay homage to Don by posting one of my own along with some of his famous quotes. Anyone who had the pleasure of meeting Don could appreciate what a friendly guy he was. He had a million stories to tell, but more often or not he told the same ones over and over.  How many times did the guys and I hear the one about Joe Leon and the famous triple murder or the story of Adrian dying at the desk?

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Don.

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Written February 2009:

Dominic Oddi, or Don, as he was known to his friends, was 74 but told everyone he was 64. His parents were from Palermo, Italy and came over “on the boat”. He grew up on Arsenal Street and as a boy he attended Boon Street School. He’d traveled most of Europe when he was younger and proudly claimed to have been with a prostitute in every city he visited. Mr. Oddi was engaged once. His fiancee asked when they were going to get married and Don responded “But baby we were having so much fun.” She threw his ring in the snow. He worked at the The Inn for more than 20 years, making many friends in his tenure. He liked all of our girlfriends.  He enjoyed watching boxing, Syracuse games, and World War 2 movies. He liked cream filled donuts from P & C and his favorite month was October because it was the perfect temperature. His favorite baseball team was the Yankees and he thought Catherine Zeta-Jones was the most beautiful woman alive. He owned a white Fiero, but loved to walk, even in the winter time. In the summer he would walk to Sackets Harbor. He’d have a beer every night with dinner, usually a Budweiser. He was good with the cash drawer, but hated computers and Ray Canale. Don is survived by his cronies, Jack Scordo and Andy Fiamano (who have sadly also passed since this was written) and all the guys who worked with him at The Inn. He will be missed very much.

Famous Don quotes:

“Jesus fucking Christ.”

“I’m just going to have a sip.”

“That Robert is a goddamn idiot.”

“Yeah Robert, he’s a Rhodes scholar. Graduated Magna cum laude.”

“Did I ever tell you about the time I met Hillary (Clinton) down at the Library? I said to her “You are beautiful!” and she said “Well thank you!””

“Guess who I saw the other day… and she still likes you!”

“Is Andy Foster still fooling around with that broad who does the drugs?”

“Jesus Christ look at the tits on that broad!”

“Yeah like that time Jack met the spy…”

“I said Trudy, he’s not asleep, he’s dead!”

“Thirty two, that’s the perfect age to get married.”

“Remember kid, every woman has her shelf life.”

“The only drug we had when I was younger was Budweiser. And Utica Club.”

“If he was really the son of God, why didn’t he get done from that cross and teach them a lesson?”

“Joe Leon… yeah, famous triple murder!”

“Oh Jesus, here comes Jack and his Bermuda shorts with the socks. He thinks he’s some kind of college kid. Like some 18 year old girl is going to be interested in him. He’d be older than her grandfather!”

“It doesn’t cost a dime to be a nice guy.”

“I don’t know what I’d do without you kid!”

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Marissa

I pull off at a large white mansion located in some undiscovered part of my old stomping ground on Winslow Street.  Strange I can only find this place when I’m looking for it. The white wooden Victorian mansion, though towering before me, hides in the shade of colossal elm trees on a carpet of thick green grass.  Birds chirp, the summer breeze tosses the branches above me, cicadas buzz.  The mansion is wrapped in an aura of peace and innocence that are a far stride from what you’ll find inside.

Ducking in through a side door I’m met by Thornley, a scummy thirty-something, canvassed with tattoos, his face framed by a long, nappy beard.  He’s flanked by two imposing figures that stand stoic an arm’s length away, gauging my every move.  Through some manner of happening Thornley’s managed to not only become a pop icon drug dealer in this town, but the owner of the brothel in which I find myself.  Thornley is an addiction profiteer.  I classify him as such because if something is illegal, chances are he’s making a living off of it.  I tell him I’m there to see Marissa and the two of us exchange idle banter while I fish the money from my pocket.

She’s a popular girl you know.  Probably one of my best.

He blows a line of coke with the money I give him then offers me some.  I politely decline, but he pushes it in my face.

I ensure him:

Next time.

He laughs, knowing full well that I’m bullshitting him, and waves me forward.

As I climb the narrow wooden stair case to the top floor, I try to recall how many times I’ve been here.  Six?  Seven?  More?  Each visit separated by months or years, but always for the same.  Always for Marissa.

I proceed through a paint flecked wooden door into a stunning chamber. Where one might expect a dark, seedy lounge I find a grand hall ringed by a massive balcony and lit by shafts of sun that stream in from tall windows.  Long hallways spiral off from the main room leading to dark interiors.  Young bartenders serve drinks from troughs of ice in the center of the room; soft pillowed couches serve as nests for young lovers.  I’m awestruck that the coke snorting hippy vagrant at the bottom of the stairs has built such a beautiful empire.

I wander through the room, straining to keep my focus, responding to seductive smiles with the coy curve of the corner of my lips.  I don’t belong, but I need to be here.

Then I spot her.  Marissa paces towards me with the brilliant smile.  Her petite body is wrapped in amethyst and cherry, curves of tan skin peek from beneath her garments, her chocolaty brown hair cascades down her back.  Seeing her pulls the air from my lungs.  My heart flutters and my hands quake.  I struggle to stay calm.  She is too beautiful for this place.  She could be in every magazine, every billboard and on every channel and the world would still want more.

I heard you were here.

She welcomes me with a kiss on the cheek.

It’s just to talk.  It’s about your writing.  There are things I need to know.

It’s always just to talk.  Go find a place and I’ll meet you in a few minutes.

She disappears into a side hall and I stroll to the bar with half interest in the world around me.

I’m in a sea of business men and bare skinned goddesses; cavorting, copulating.  This is a place where any man, or woman, can find what they seek.  For me, it just happens to be information.

I’m alone in that respect.

Marissa is a writer.  Despite the career to which she submits herself, a pen and paper in her hands are more dangerous then all moves her petite body and resourceful mind could ever concoct.  Her words are something more powerful than flesh and bone.  The thoughts that stream through her mind are more intoxicating than any pheromone.

I watch her as she reemerges with a notebook under her arm.

And before we can share another word, I’m shaken awake by the rhythmic thumping of a helicopter taking off outside.  The chamber falls to pieces, Marissa’s beautiful face replaced by the flat and feature less painted ceiling.  I’m left in the wash of overwhelming disappointment having been pulled from my imaginative state.   All I can do is groan and pull the pillow over my head.

—–

And so that was my dream, this nondescript Friday morning.

This beautiful Marissa character is someone I’ve dreamt about for years.  I haven’t a clue where she comes from.  She embodies qualities that I can find in a handful of my female friends, but none of them are quite her.  She is the precisely the person I crave embroiled in a lifestyle so far from my own.  And her appearances in my nocturnal chronicles are so scarce that when she appears my world is shaken.

I love to dream.  I feel fortunate that I’m able to recall them quite easily, though I don’t always understand them.   I’d love to say that dreams are premonitions of the future or visits from some all knowing spirit guide struggling to keep us on our path.  But the truth is there’s no evidence that dreams are anything more than our subconscious working out internal problems in the most creative ways possible.

I’ve been wrestling with the desire to write lately, but haven’t been able to find the time.  Today I conquered that obstacle.  This fictional, incredibly lifelike encounter motivated me to grab my laptop and immediately start writing.  The dream has echoed through my head all day like a song.  I have nothing but respect for the subliminal inner workings of the human mind and the swift kick in the ass it has given me today.