Sunday, October 28, 2012

Talking to the Dead

About two and a half years ago I made a friend Joe Cannava. Joe was a triple Scorpio. Everything was serious business for this water sign. The first time I met him I made a joke. Joe, having a good sense of humor, told me that I seemed like a nice person and wouldn’t feel his sting. Despite the fact we had many a Chelsea boy in our circle, frilly and for the most part dying to hit the gym or the next cool overpriced brunch pad, Joe was seemingly the opposite. He was quiet but not shy. Joe was very intense, taking every task he did seriously. Usually armed with a cup of coffee and a cigarette he was passionate about his art. He worked as a celebrity personal shopper and freelance set and window designer to support his painting. Whenever you would walk down the street with him, Joe was always saying hi to someone on some movie set. It was hard not to like the guy.
Like most Scorpios, Joe preferred to be an observer/man behind the curtain rather than the center of attention. He took in every little piece of information and was listening to everything you said at all times. He had a memory that was amazing, and would remember every little thing you told him. As a result he would remember you confessing to something, how it got you in trouble, and he would remember the anecdote and talk you right out of your scheme. Joe like all Scorpios was loyal, and once he was your friend he didn’t budge unless you screwed it up. Then you were pretty much dead to him.
Joe became sort of a big brother to me. He was around the age of my actual older brother so it wasn’t that much of a stretch. Usually I would be armed and dangerous with some stupid scheme either to get revenge or to get some guy that was bad for me. Being a Scorpio Joe would chuckle at the revenge part. Being a gay man Joe would understand the lure of the bad boy. But Joe was my friend and he wanted what was best for me, therefore he would put a stop to it immediately. Joe would look at me with his deep brown eyes and beard he always had and say, “April, that is fucking stupid. I am not going to tell you not to do it because you already know it’s bad.” The words were never like a simple jab but a long drawn out slap that stung for days. He didn’t yell, he said it in a straight calculating manner. Somehow it would have been better if he yelled in my opinion. While the Chelsea boys would squawk and make a joke there was no time for that. Joe was like an older brother or dad. The answer was no, it was not up for discussion. And you got that immediately.
Or whenever I would make a goal and not commit to it Joe would command me by saying, “Get on that.” And I would get on that.
Joe always told me how much I made him laugh when I told stories and said that he imagined I was a good comedian because I was, “very, very funny.” During this period I had some career setbacks but Joe was always encouraging telling me that I was too funny to be ignored and one day the tide would change. I was like, “When?” And Joe would laugh again and told me to have faith and not to push too hard. To let it come to me.
At the time I had just scored a freelance writing job for a rag and told Joe all about it. Joe encouraged my writing because he was dabbling there too. I remember once he read my column and knew I also did the singing telegram delivery job. Joe asked me why I was writing the drivel about my ex-boyfriends. Actually he referred to them as losers but that is a different story. I had mentioned wanting to write a book at some point and Joe asked me why I didn’t write the book. I told him that I was scared that I wouldn’t know where to start. Joe asked, “Are you afraid or just lazy April?” My mouth hung open. “What can I say, when you talk people listen. You better get on that April.”
For the next few weeks everytime he saw me he would ask how my book was going. I lied and said I was working on the great American novel just to get him to back down. He wouldn’t stop so finally I just put the petal to the metal and wrote. The following summer I began to take steps to get it published. I wanted to reach out to Joe and give him the good news. He used to tell me how much I made him laugh and how proud he was of me for going for my art. That’s the day I found out he died.
My group of friends struggled to accept his death, and the Chelsea Boys who outsiders would believe had no substance were vocal about how they missed him. Everyone liked him, it wasn’t hard to do. Folsom Street with the leather boys wasn’t as much fun they said, and Bear Fest had one less cub. What broke my heart was that I didn’t get to tell him about my book and how it was finally published. Joe had pushed me to write a book. And I didn’t even get to tell him it was finished. When he died I began to miss he big brotherly advice and the gentle but firm smacks in the head. Sometimes people will encourage stupidity, either because they want a laugh at your expense or because they are there themselves. Joe was neither. He was a true friend and always made sure I was flying right.
About a year after his death the wheels for my book were in motion, and then a friend of mine who books plant callers on the radio approached me with a gig about calling a ghost whisperer by the name of Thomas John. I was like hell no. My friend told me it paid. I said that no amount of money would make me waste my time and energy with that stupidity. Plus they would all be plants, right? My friend told me for the most part that they were real people. Then he pressed me to ask about my book. I figured why not? I would ask about my book and ask if it got Joe’s blessing. When this guy turned out to be even crazier than anyone on those UFO shows at least I could get a good laugh, right? There would be Ouija Boards, UFOs, and someone with tin foil on their head.
I waited on the phone where Thomas John was interviewed by the host, informing us that he had been a medical student but quit medical school once he realized that he could see people that had journeyed on and relayed messages. He talked about his first encounter with an undead had happened in Starbucks and he had successfully relayed the message from a deceased person to their relative in line. I kept thinking, “Carmel macchiato with a side of dead grandma who has a message, don’t marry that idiot.” And then I could also think of another thing, “Fraud!” I rolled my eyes back. Wow, this dude was better than any idiot they had dug up on television in the past. I found myself trying not to snicker on the other end.
Person after person came onto the phone and Thomas John began talking to their deceased loved ones. These people seemed legitimately surprised and touched. Perhaps this man wasn’t a phony after all. They all exclaimed, “How did you know that!?!?” I was beginning to soften but still had my doubts. Maybe they too were actors. Some of these people were really blubbering away and crying. If they were real they struck me as slightly insane. I found myself trying not to laugh at some of these people who had bizarre questions for their deceased loved ones. I believe one woman had a question for her dead husband about their dog and what food he preferred. Then again, only bizarre people went to people that could talk to the dead. It probably took a certain amount of insanity to buy into that. I could just picture the deceased loved ones hitting their head against the wall in the afterlife if there is such a place or a journey. They probably thought death would get rid of the crazies and they could finally find peace. No such luck. That is if this Thomas John wasn’t a complete goon ball or charlatan. I had seen Ghost where the Whoopi Goldberg character took advantage of people only to actually have a heart attack when Patrick Swayze showed up.
Then the producer told me I was next in line. The second I was on the phone with Thomas John I blurted out my question. That’s when without a hitch he said, “Joe says that you are very, very funny.” My mouth dropped open. Thomas John didn’t know Joe and he most certainly didn’t know me, but those would have been Joe’s describing words about me when we had spoken on several occasions. I still wasn’t sold yet, maybe it was my voice giving me away. Or maybe they told him I was a comedian. Still this was getting interesting.
“Yeah.” I said waiting for the next piece of info. Thomas John continued to reveal that Joe said the book wasn’t quite finished. This in fact was true. I was still finalizing editing, cover design, and was contemplating removing a reference. I agreed again. However, Thomas John informed me that Joe said that there would be sequels. I could live with that.
Thomas John said that he could hear laughing from the past, but people were laughing at me and not with me. And there had been some doors closed and some setbacks in my career. However Thomas John told me the tide was starting to change, people were taking me seriously, and that doors were starting to open. This had been the past year of my life! OMG this was insane!!!
Then I remembered Joe talking to me. Joe had told me that I had been too funny to be passed over, that all of these things were just temporary and that my luck would change soon enough. Not only was all of this true, but these were Joe’s exact words. Thomas John was the real deal.
He said he saw a television screen and didn’t know whether or not it pertained to the book, but there would be television appearances. Then Thomas John told me that Joe wanted me to relax and not to push so hard for everything, to let it come to me more. I had been pushing so hard for everything and felt tired. This would have been the Joe advice I needed and something he had told me before.
And then Thomas John informed me that now that things were happening for me that there were some people saying nasty things. It was true, they had been. I had an incident with a person I thought was my friend two days before when I had really just invited Judas to dinner and it was still upsetting me. Joe then told Thomas John to tell me to tune them out, and not to listen to them. That they had nothing to say. It was cut, dry, and to the point just the way Joe could have delivered it.
I could feel my eyes water. I asked if Joe was okay. Thomas John said that yes and that he could only talk to spirits in good standing. I was like wow and Thomas John said to keep my head up, good things were coming. Then the host said, “He is telling you that you are going to be successful darling.”
I said, “Yipee!” And then they cut me off as to keep the show moving. If Thomas John was a fake he was damn good. But after this encounter I didn’t think so. As a matter of fact I think he was the rare real deal that one gets in the ghost whisperer business. I know in my heart he was speaking to my friend Joe. The words were too parallel and the wording and advice was dead on, no pun intended.
Later that night I answered a friend’s invite on facebook. In their massive clicking they invited everyone they knew. Right in front of me on the list was Joe. He was right there. I know that was not an accident. He was letting me know he was still around, ready to give older brotherly advice because even though he was gone I so desperately needed it. And also to let me know that he was proud of me for publishing my book and that I had his blessing. I began to cry. Then I realized that as a gay man he would have never wanted me to ruin my mascara.
Either way I have not been pushing too hard for things to happen with this book and as a result everything has been falling beautifully into my lap. Joe, you still are a wonderful friend with words to keep me on track even in the afterlife. RIP Dear Heart.
Love April
I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl