After REDS I started promoting many nightclubs part time to help pay for college. I started in high school, when I would throw keg parties for my fellow athletes. It carried over to college. In addition to promoting clubs I started bartending also. One of the bartending jobs I already shared was at the Salty Dog. That gig turned into more than just bartending. The restaurant was failing and the bar was not doing the kind of business it did in its heyday. I thought it was ridiculous that a bar and restaurant across the street from two colleges was serving whisky to locals, as opposed to promoting college nights. So, I asked the management for an opportunity to take on marketing and promotions. Within a few months they went from grossing less than seven thousand a week, to over twenty-one thousand, with the majority of that revenue coming from the lady’s nights and college nights I was promoting. I was effective as a promotional and marketing manager. One way I promoted was to carry free drink cards with me everywhere I went on campus, give out a few hundred a day and then meet the people at the bar that night. The free drink cards always expired quickly, so people would often come for their drink that same day. I engaged them in conversation at the bar and introduced one to another. As a result, the people who I invited became friendly with each other. I loved bartending and the combination of bartending and marketing was a natural fit for me. But, it was not always so easy. There was tons of competition. The only thing we had going for us is that we were within walking distance or a short taxi ride from the colleges. The huge discos were always more exciting. I was doing everything I could to grow revenue. I would go to area colleges, including the one I was attending and seek out the cheerleaders and athletes. I would flirt with the most beautiful girls I could find. It was working so well that I bought a tuxedo, purchased roses and gave them out daily to the cheerleaders. I did not let anyone see me give out multiple roses to many girls. I only carried one at a time. I would leave them in my car, see a beautiful girl, walk up to her and hand her a rose. I would flirt with her and make believe I purchased that rose just for her. They were always flattered, often blushed and would ask what the rose was for. I would always say the same thing, “Come to my bar tonight and I will show you.” Then I would either walk away, while making eye contact as I walked, or walk her to class. I did this hundreds of times a week, for months.
I went to Switzerland to test my heart while it was still freezing in the Swiss Alps. At the time, I was living in Southern Florida. I had to leave New York, despite my life-long love for the city and the beaches of Long Island. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I was depressed, lonely and lost, as I knew no one and nothing about Florida. I did know it was over eighty degrees, year round- It was the perfect climate for walking, but it was the most boring place I have ever lived. It was like being stuck in a perma-vaction nightmare. Granted, if you were on vacation for a week or even three months and living as a snowbird, it was paradise. But to give up everything and everyone I knew; friends, clients, family, to live in Naples, was nothing short of waiting to die in paradise. I was deathly homesick. I left New York knowing that the cold winters would kill me if I stayed. I cheated death so many times, despite the fact the surgeons couldn’t fix my heart completely for almost fifteen years. I was walking a marathon (26.2 miles) every two days, seven days a week, for almost six months. I recently learned, when one has stents inside failed stents, the arteries become less flexible. When it gets cold, there is more pressure. You can feel it because the walls of your arteries do not give as much as they normally would. It could cause a heart attack. So, when I left Florida for Switzerland, I did not know if I would survive. A heart attack was a distinct possibility. Yet, this was a rare opportunity to live on a farm in the countryside, so I packed my three hundred pounds of production gear and computers and was on my way. At the very least I would know if I could move back to New York, or if I had stay and try to build some kind of life for myself in Naples. Or even more concerning, If I could survive in the cold again at all. I was going to stay with one of my best friends. I photographed her for years. On her birthday, she would always fly to NY, without her husband, to shoot with me. She did this for eight years. She extended an invitation to stay with her while we looked for backing for a feature film we started in Florida, months earlier. It was definitely an experiment. My friend was a world-class model, but I didn’t know if she would to be able to develop her acting skills fast enough to pull this off. I cared about her and we were very close, but we never crossed that line. She was married. I thought that there might be something between us, but I would never lure a married woman away from her husband, no matter how beautiful she was, or how close we had become. I had been in love, with creating with her, for at least five of those eight years.
When I met her, I didn’t know she was involved with someone, nor did I want to ask. I just wanted to get to know her. She was the embodiment of fashion and beauty, white gloves and all. I was bartending at Pierre Cardin’s extravagantly expensive Maxim’s, one of the world’s most famous French restaurants, located in the Helmsley Carlton House on 61st and Madison Ave. in New York. It was an outpost of the famous Parisian belle époque cafe founded in the 1890’s. It was a weekend and she was alone. I had never seen a woman of that beauty, dressed so formally, alone at a bar. I was waiting for the plethora of men who would soon line-up to capture her attention. I was trying to play it cool, although I could not take my eyes off her. I was pathetically shy. She had such an effect on me that I became clumsy behind the bar. I was ogling her and she liked it. I am sure she was taking a good look at me in my tuxedo as well. The patrons were extremely wealthy. Most dressed as if they had just come from the opera. Many had. Occasionally, mere mortals, from the middle class would come in. This was generally for special events such as engagement parties or anniversaries. While I was bartending I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge in the culinary arts. I would skip my lunch and dinner breaks to take lessons from the French chefs in the kitchen. I had often thought I would open a restaurant, so whenever I wasn’t bartending, I volunteered to work with chefs, for free on my lunch an dinner breaks. I probably have more kitchen hours logged than many chefs. I have mastered numerous cuisines. I can really cook! But this chapter is not about cooking. It is about this incredible woman. I wasn’t even thinking about sex when I first met her. I just wanted her to agree to pose for me. I couldn’t wait to get her into my studio, which at this point in my career were primarily the South shore beaches of Long Island. She was a work of walking art from head to toe. As I learned shortly after meeting her, she was a model, designer and also, a fine artist.
Not long after I broke things off with the cadet, I moved to New York City. I was subletting a friend’s apartment on 45th street in Hell’s Kitchen. Once I moved to New York City, my career started to take off. I was photographing many more models and making a lot of money, most of which I spent on photography gear and going out with those same models. I was photographing hundreds of guys as well. I became friends with many of them. Often, we would go clubbing or should I say, hunting. I shared some of the funniest and best moment of my life with those guys. We hunted and partied from New York to LA. My social life was on fire. I was popular and felt appreciated as a person, as well as for my photography. I wanted to help artists advance their careers whether they could pay me or not. Often, I would take things in trade. Once, I even got a python. Often I would trade those items for things I did need. It was a surreal time in my life. In addition to my wild ways, I had a reclusive side. This came out when I wrote or edited and almost always when I printed in the dark room. Occasionally, I had actual photo shoots in the darkroom, which were typically followed by sexual encounters under the red lights. I was bartending at the Palladium when I met my ballerina. Getting a job at the Palladium was not easy. It was a hot spot and there was a lot of competition. My friend who was one of those professional models knew a dancer whose boyfriend was the head of security. She was a tremendous break-dancer. After I photographed her, she introduced me to her boyfriend who got me the job with Steve Rebel. I was very fortunate. It turned out to be a tremendous experience. Like every young man, I had both wild sexual desire for a variety of women, as well as a need for real love and companionship. It seemed as if I couldn’t find both passion and an intellectual connection in the same person. So, I had many different chapters. That too I am grateful for. How boring would life be to only have had one lover and one soul mate. Boring, but perhaps fortunate. I honestly do believe that there is a novel of love waiting for me somewhere out there.
I was in elementary school. After a sixth-grade graduation, I managed to convince the principal to let me have the flower arrangements at each end of the stage. I combined them into one nice bouquet and left them outside the classroom of a, very cute, girl who I was taken with. I included a note. It worked, for soon afterwards we were experimenting in my tent, playing Spin The Bottle, or Truth Or Dare. Each of those games was a popular way to tempt girls into fooling around, while at the same time being somewhat innocent. But, by this time, I was not sure how innocent I was. I had already gone through communion class. I figured I was going straight to hell for having gone all the way with my babysitter. I believed it. The nuns at church solidified that belief when I hinted I was not a virgin. There was something about going to confession I could not stomach at that age. I was not about to ask for absolution from fucking, when I was ten. It just seemed a bit much. Since I was going to hell anyway, I said screw religion. I do not believe in a God that would condemn me to hell. But, all the same, it was always in the back of my mind. I went through communion, but as soon as it was over I never went back to church again. Well, at times I had to and I always sat in the back and never ever went for confession again. I had not real mentoring when it came to religion as my father rebelled against the catholic church for beating him while he was an alter boy in a Christian boys home. We would mostly pick Truth Or Dare. We would play with other kids who knew we were fooling around. Word spread like wild fire. Not only were we the first kids in the school to be dating, we were the youngest. None of the sixth graders were dating. Most were feeling the first throngs of sexual awakening, but had no concept of what to do about it. When we started to get nervous about fooling around in my backyard tent, we thought that we could use a secluded area of the park. At first, we were going to use that same tent for privacy, but tents were not allowed. So, we improvised and took our bicycles and a blanket to the park.
I’d never been in the lady’s bathroom before. This was no way to get my feet wet, but she was making it impossible to refuse. When we agreed to meet by the bathrooms I had no idea that she was going to drag me into one, lock me inside a stall and rip my clothes off. I was working the bar and I would never just leave it, except to use the rest room. Certainly, not for this purpose. She was hot. She wore a tight red dress that hugged her body perfectly. She had an amazing body. She was all-American looking with brown hair and bright blue eyes. She was not my usual type. I was taken with her. I knew I had to get back to the bar, but with every thrust I also knew that this was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. I didn’t want to get caught away from my bar for an extended period of time, certainly not with my pants down, in the lady’s room, I just could not resist.
I did not know her. I knew nothing about her. I don’t believe I ever spoke to her. But, when I saw her, I felt I knew her my entire life. She felt familiar and connected and I recognized the feelings. This was a connection I have made many times, so it was not out of the norm. It was not just infatuation but as clear a feeling of love as I have ever felt. This was not just passion; it was a distinct feeling of love. I felt it instantaneously and I do not understand why. Not only did I feel it, but I could tell instantly she felt it as well. She was staring into my eyes. She did not blink or move, or say anything, for at least five seconds, which seemed much longer. We were standing in the middle of the dance floor. She was not staring into my eyes for any reason other than that she too was mesmerized. It was unexplainable, but it was real. Like so many times before, I was feeling love for a woman I knew nothing about. I was not manic, or drunk. I was simply drunk with love.
I wrote several songs for my rock star long after we broke-up.” Tomorrows not so far away, she’ll come back and she’ll come back and stay. So, close your eyes now and go to sleep and pray to god her soul he’ll keep… “The first couple of lines from one of those songs, “Tomorrow,” which still resonates deep within my soul. I have sung that song for other chapters since then. Love with my rock star was an organic reaction. It was a reaction I have felt and shared so many times. I still do not understand it, despite the scientific evidence proving love at first sight is in fact, a legitimate and very real phenomenon. There is no explanation for it, but some say they fell in love the moment they first laid eyes on one another. If ever in my life I was so smitten, she was the one. I had not heard her voice in over twenty years, but after a single word “, John,” my heart started beating uncontrollably and I felt the love as strongly as I did the last time I saw her. It was decades ago and it was a true heartbreak. Until I heard her voice again, I did not realize I was carrying the loss with me for all that time. She was my rock star. Anyone who looks back on his or her chapters of love knows that love can ignite in a millisecond. It doesn’t always grow stronger over long periods of time. Nor does love have to last forever to be true love. Or does it? In this case, we were together for years. We planned on spending our lives together. I had just moved back to Long Island from New York City. Not long afterwards I met her on the Long Island Rail Road. I was recovering from a relationship with my NYC neighbor that taught me a lesson about love or what I thought was love. As such, I was not looking at that moment. When I saw her, I was stopped dead in my tracks. I mustered up the courage to speak to her, as I was quite shy despite the act I put on. I do not know why she even spoke to me. She was not just pretty, but stunningly beautiful. Men would constantly stare at her. I was no exception.
When I walked the runway for Macy’s in Roosevelt field, I thought I was acting quite professional and looking supremely confident, but it scared the shit out of me. At this point in my life I was no performer. I was still growing up and becoming comfortable in my own skin. Being the subject of cameras or on a runway, in front of so many people, frightened me. But, modeling was proving to be a great way to meet gorgeous women and to score great clothing for free. I was building my wardrobe and getting paid! I couldn’t believe people were willing to pay me to stand in front of their cameras. But walking down a runway in front of hundreds of women was embarrassing, especially because I had a hard-on the entire time. And it showed. I did not model for long because I was shy and I preferred photography to modeling. But for a moment, I was modeling professionally. At first, it was kind of an ego thing. It felt good that professionals wanted to photograph me and pay me for it. As happens with most who model, it gave me a confidence boost and of course it was profitable. I had a pup tent in my pants every time I went behind the runway to change. Backstage there were always ten naked, beautiful older, well-developed models. They were exceptionally beautiful women. Two of them were assigned to undress me and re-dress me super-fast. So fast, that they did not have time to get dressed in between walks. So, they were nude. They were models. They were beautiful. And there I was, naked, in a small tent like changing area with them. To top it off, I was the only guy in the fashion show. The music started and every time one of the females was walking the runway, two of the models were ripping my clothing off and quickly getting me into a new outfit. They did not want me to wear underwear. Looking back, I believe they knew what they were doing. The pants were designed to show the male anatomy quite effectively.
Obsession is typically defined by a thought that preoccupies or intrudes into one’s mind to such a degree that he or she is powerless to resist the object of that obsession. It is an all-consuming passion that takes hold of your thoughts until you are totally dominated by your compulsion and persistently overwhelmed by your desire. There is no question in my mind, that without ever realizing it, most of my life was spent powerless to my obsession with romance. I was so obsessed with romance, that for the better part of my life, I spent most every waking hour searching for it. Typically, I would find women who were also obsessed, but most of the time, with me. I would go so far as to say that most of my relationships were based on obsession… not love. I was powerless. I spent much of my time pursuing that obsession. Photography was a means to feed that desire because I would meet thousands of women from every corner of the world. Typically, I would be alone with those women and we would almost always be shooting in the most intimate of settings. I am not sure what came first, the camera or the obsession, but they fed each other. Not that there is anything wrong with a healthy sexual desire, but I was consumed. Beyond consumed. That is one of the reasons I stopped dating. I wanted to break the addiction. But, as hard as I tried, it did not work. I literally had to take medication to stop myself from obsessing so enthusiastically.
One night while working late, I received a video chat request from a beautiful actress I recognized from her television appearances. She was not only a romance novel cover model, but also acted with very famous people, in some major roles. While she was not as famous as those she acted with, she was a very successful actress and model. So, of course I answered the call. When I picked up, she asked me if she had reached a depression outreach service. I said no. She said, I am often up late at night and wanted to volunteer. Within five minutes, I knew that it was not volunteering she was calling for. She was in trouble. Serious trouble. I stayed on the line with her all night to make sure she was ok. I was still living down south, as I had not yet reached my target weight. I had at least seventeen pounds to go and nothing was going to stop me. I had already gone through massive surgeries and walked thousands of miles to rebuild my circulatory system, but still, I was not myself. That being the case, I was not exactly sleeping around. In fact, I was intentionally avoiding relationships. The last thing I needed was a passion induced heart attack while I was recovering. Also, the surgeries were so challenging and caused such a massive amount of pain that in time I became immune to the effects of pain killers. I suffered greatly. In retrospect, I likely suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was in agony and the recovery period was beyond intense. I reasoned that if I walked thousands, or even tens of thousands of miles, my arteries would grow stronger and my heart would follow. I was ready to move back to New York and almost ready to test out the ticker the hard way. But, at this point in my life I did not want to engage in casual sex. I decided that the next time I was going to be with a woman, it would be for love, not a hook-up or anything remotely casual.