For me, junior high school was a time of sexual experimentation. Most of the kids played games like Truth Or Dare, Spin The Bottle, Seven Minutes In Heaven and a host of others. The only real difference between me and the other kids, was that I created my own game, “Sex Games,” at about the age of eleven. Unlike the other games, this was an actual board game. Yes, a sex board game for three or more people to play. I completely forgot about it until at my 30-year high school reunion, my junior high school girlfriend asked me about it. Many memories were rushing through my head when I first saw her. She was my girlfriend at the time we played the game. Mostly, we played it with her girlfriends. It was a throwback game…sort of a mix of Monopoly or Sorry with some Mousetrap thrown in. Players would roll dice to determine the number of spaces to move forward on the board. In that regard, it was like Monopoly. There were slides and ladders that advanced you past the serious sexual options. If you landed on pick a card, you had no idea what you might be asked to do. There were spaces for a “Truth” challenge and a “Dare” challenge. Some spaces would require actions similar to those from Seven Minutes In Heaven. I even adapted a spin type gizmo from another board game to determine who players had to make out with, when they landed on that spot on the board. Once, I landed on a space that required female players to change seats according to breast size. When the few girls playing kept arguing over who had the largest breasts, I was chosen to determine who was going to sit where, by feeling their breasts to make the determination. Do you think a preteen boy would create the game any differently? Life was good. The entire game was geared towards experimentation with kissing, touching, foreplay and more. And, when I say more, I mean a lot more. It was all based-on chance. I remember playing the game for the first time with my girlfriend and two of her friends. I had just finished developing it and this was to be the test. The girls loved it. As an additional benefit, I thought I could market it. I was entrepreneurial, even as a young man.
The memories of my chapters of love are quite vivid and clear in my mind. Not just the visual or auditory memories, but the actual kinesthetic feelings associated with those chapters. Recently, I watched a video that explained love at a biochemical level. They use a functional MRI to look at the brain chemistry of people who are in love, who are mourning a chapter of love and those who claim to feel love at first sight. What they found is that the same area of the brain that releases endorphins when you are in love, becomes more active when you lose love. So, at the end of every chapter of love, biochemically, you feel that you love that person more and yearn painfully for them, despite how you may think you feel. We feel more when we are longing for love than we do when we are in love. Love becomes stronger with desire, especially unrequited love, even painfully so. With respect to love, the way our brain works is the greatest mind fuck in nature. Other mammals react to losing love this way as well. Scientists have even tested people who experience love at first sight and proved the biochemical reaction is not based on lust and is identical reaction to those who have been in love long term. That is why love at first sight is more than simple infatuation. In my case, I carry the deep memories of love with me from everyone I have loved. My reflections of love, as I call them, are so clear that at times my heart races. I see and feel the love I have shared so vividly that I am often moved beyond my current state of being. The sparks of feelings that have stayed with me, my entire life, spur these vivid memories. Writing about them helps me channel that energy and is an emotional outlet for any lingering emotions that are still very much entangled deep within my heart. Many people have near photographic memories. Some for history, some for math equations, or science. For me it is feelings. Scientific research suggests that we remember through our visual memories, auditory memories and kinesthetic memories. I am extremely kinesthetic. That’s why it is such an emotional process to share these chapters of love. I am very often moved beyond words. I share them as vividly as possible to share the passion that was shared between my lovers and myself. Every one of my lovers are extremely significant to my heart no matter how long we have been apart or how long we were together. Sometimes it was the act of creating together that built so much sexual tension. With one woman, who came to live with me, that tension became unbearable. In many cases, it was unfulfilled passion that drove me to extraordinary levels of originality and creativity.
After the first few short chapters of love after my divorce, I realized that I could possibly find love again. If I met someone I thought might be my true soul mate and we spent years together, I would consider living with her. I thought if by some miracle they came up with a cure, I might even get married again. I was flip-flopping on the commitment and love thing. I had hope, but then again, I never thought I would survive, or have a life partner again. But, with each new chapter of love, and time, the crack in my heart was healing. I didn’t know it, at the time, but it was. I started to believe even more, as I picked up my camera again. I was shooting like I did when I was a younger man. All the interaction with women gave me even more confidence. Then it started. Everyone I knew was trying to set me up with someone. It was obvious to them that I was heartbroken. They wanted to help me through these rough times. I was shocked when some of my friend’s wives’ and my children’s friend’s mothers, were throwing themselves at me. I couldn’t understand their thinking. I would never fool around with a married woman, period. Then a family member set me up with her best friend’s sister, not realizing that I had been in a serious chapter of love with her best friend, decades earlier. She never told my family that we were involved. She wanted to keep it that way for some reason. I had not spoken to her in years, although I saw her occasionally. I knew she had gotten married and had children. Clearly, there was no future for us. But maybe there could be with her sister. At that point, the more absurd the possibility, the less fear I had of the opportunity. As I thought more about it, the full ramifications set in. I was being set-up with a woman who was the sister of my former lover, a woman I would have married in a heartbeat, if she had wanted me and I was not in such a wild stage of my life at the time. I was confused. This was a bit of a moral dilemma.
We met in the airport. I was so hung-over it was almost impossible to stand and talk without getting queasy. Her plane was cancelled. So was mine. It was going to be a several hour delay, a reroute via Puerto Rico and then our flights home. She was chain-smoking and walking back and forth to the airport bar. It was obvious she wasn’t happy with the delays. Personally, I didn’t care if my flight was cancelled. For me it was just a short trip back to the casinos and the girls. She had me enamored the first time I saw her. She was intelligent, laughed at every one of my jokes, had a beautiful accent, and most of all, seemed to have be sculptured by some great Nordic artist. She was perfect. Eventually, she got her flight to Connecticut, where she was living and I flew to Long Island. We immediately were on the phone and talked for hours. The Saturday after we returned, she took the train from Boston to New York. It was not much longer than two weeks and we were engaged. We eloped a few months later. I barely had time to check with the women from Saint Maarten to make sure none were pregnant. Prior to all of this, upon my return from Saint Maarten, my former fiancé came to see me. She had lost a lot of weight and was looking incredible. We had sex a few times, but I couldn’t see her again. I didn’t want to go back to a woman I knew was not ready for marriage and a family. I was also falling hard for the girl from the airport. I had already been diagnosed with the terminal disease. The doctors at the hospital didn’t know which variety of the disease I had, only that it would kill me. I never told my now unofficial fiancé about my diagnosis because I thought I could exercise my way through it and beat it. More likely I was still traumatized by my diagnosis and obsessed with having a child.
I was getting in and out of quick hook-ups and quasi relationships faster than I could get to know many of the women I was screwing around with. I knew I had to slow down. I was going night and day. What I wanted was a real girlfriend, like my friend from Allentown, but we all know how that ended up. I seemed to attract some of the most beautiful woman in the world, but every one of them seemed to have issues, or maybe the issues were with me. I started on a period of intense self-evaluation and psychotherapy, wondering why I kept choosing the wrong women. I was frustrated. I wanted a soul mate, a wife, not just a girlfriend. I was approaching the age when most men and women start to dream about having their own families. It seemed like I was a better lover and sexual partner than a life partner. Or, was I just choosing the wrong women? Mostly, they were choosing me. Typically, I was just going along for the ride and I was still as naïve as ever. By this time, I was a seasoned New York City bartender. I was working twenty-four seven, trying to build my photography business while bartending six days a week. I did not bartend on Sundays, as traditionally no one would put me on the schedule. I never thought much of it. I figured the bar was closed after the two late nights on Friday and Saturday. I would shoot at the beach all day, rush to the bar for the corporate networking events that started at five and then bartend until four in the morning, often getting home two hours later. I was working twenty hours a day most of the time. I was also hitting the psychologist twice a week. He told me I was playing the role of a rescuer in my relationships. He helped me recognize that I was naturally attracted to women with broken wings. I started to re-evaluate my playboy lifestyle. But it would be decades before I could manage my obsession with sex and my attraction to wounded souls. For a short time, I dated many fewer women. The experience with my friend from Allentown had a lot to do with that. I was also a bit wiser by then. At least I thought I was. Some of the back-story, I have not shared in my chapters of love, will help clarify where I was in my life at that time. After finding out my roommate was doing blow every day, I moved from Hell’s Kitchen to SOHO. I thought I would put some distance between us, despite the fact he was a good friend. He was in and out of rehab. His girlfriend was doing so much blow she might as well have been a dealer. I had no other real friends in the city and was starting to get lonely. All the parties and sex in the world doesn’t replace genuine friendship or love.
By this time I was shooting for almost every modeling agency from NY to LA, as well as some of the most elite models from all over the world. I was living in Hell’s kitchen and just getting to know the city. Other than family events, or as a child, going to work with my father, I didn’t know Manhattan. For the first time in my life, I was learning the streets of New York. Not just as a passenger in my father’s car, or a school field trip, but by living and working in the city. It was a virtual playground with huge nightclubs and millions of women from around the world. I was in a single man’s paradise, as there was a plethora of opportunity and a smorgasbord of women from just about everywhere. That is why I found it so strange that I was falling in love with a shy coal miner’s daughter from Allentown, Pennsylvania. I don’t understand how I could fall in love so often, or why certain women immediately triggered that love at first sight switch in my brain. But those love hormones, like dopamine and all the others, would simply drive me wild at times. I would experience these amazing floodgates of love for certain women. She was one of them. After our first shoot I thought we would spend a lot of time together. It was a simple shoot. She modeled in a torn pair of jeans and a ripped t-shirt. She was slender and much cooler looking than most models. She carried herself like the main character in the feature film “Flash Dance.” That was the style at the time. She was definitely a tomboy, but shy. Acting and modeling was drawing her out of her shell. She had long curly brown hair. Not naturally curly, just part of the act. Kind of her unique style. She was very fashionable. She wore outfits that looked like they came out of Vogue or Elle’s sportswear section. She came off as a sexy, hot, jock, dancer chick.
When I first started modeling I did not talk about it much because I didn’t think I was going to get a lot of work. Not when I saw the competition, guys who looked like chiseled statues. I always loved photography, so I moved to the opposite side of the camera. Not only because I loved photography, but also because of my passion for the female figure. As fate would have it for a brief period in my life, I was modeling and going to interviews and casting calls. Often I would meet incredible models who looked like goddesses. They had to have super hero DNA, or the blood of actual goddesses running through their veins. They were not mere mortals. She was one of those models. When she walked down the street, everyone, stopped in their tracks and stared. People thought she was a movie star. She looked very much like a European Barbie doll. Perhaps I put her on a pedestal, but she was undeniably gorgeous. She had golden blonde hair and blue eyes, a combination I found particularly alluring. Add perfectly cut cheekbones, full lips, almond eyes and perfect curves and you have a true goddess. Every man, especially if he is a male photographer, wants his mate to be his muse, no matter what else she does. I don’t remember what the casting call was for, but only the top male and female models in the city were invited. An agent tipped me off to it. I wasn’t with an agency at the time. When I arrived at the casting call there were many female models, but only a few men. They wanted a very specific look for the male model, so the invitations were limited. As I waited my turn to see the casting team I met my goddess. She was shy. She shared a few stories of her modeling experiences. She modeled all over the world. She was staying at John Lennon’s apartment, near Strawberry Fields at the Dakota. We laughed and flirted. She was very calm and tranquil, as if she had everything anyone wanted and not a care in the world. Girls, well goddesses like her have so many opportunities it creates a certain inner confidence. In her case, it was accompanied by inner beauty.
I worked at the Palladium during the height of its popularity. I photographed many of the bartenders in NYC and played a significant role in helping start some of their modeling and acting careers. Richard Grieco was a bartender there. I photographed him in Central Park, two weeks later Elite signed him and he got the 21 Jump Street gig. The bartenders were mostly male, as Steve Rebel, the owner was more into guys than girls. He gained a reputation for being flamboyantly gay, but more so as a, tax-evading, drug addict despite the fact he created one of the most amazing nightclubs the world had ever seen. Quite possibly it was the availability of drugs that made those clubs so popular, worldwide. He would come to the main bar and impatiently say, “get me a glass of vodka.” It had to be Stoli or he would fire you on the spot. We were all coached that if Steve came to the bar to give him anything he wanted. And, if it was vodka he wanted, to give it to him quickly so he would calm down. It seemed he would always come to me when I was working the main bar. Typically, I worked the second level bar, for the celebrity parties in the Michael Todd Room. That was where Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Todd screened movies before the venue became a nightclub. On this night, the place was slower than I had ever seen and Steve was not in a good mood. He literally dumped what looked like an eight ball on the bar, rolled up a one-hundred-dollar bill and snorted it right there. Not that I had all that much experience, but it appeared to be several grams of blow. I don’t know how anyone could do that and survive. He also dumped a handful of pills onto the bar. As he was going through them, he shouted, “where’s my vodka,” many times, even when it was sitting right in front of him. Not that he was mean or even loud just totally drugged and typically intoxicated. Most nights you would never even know he was there as he was back stage with a celebrity or a musical performer. No matter what else he was, he was as cool is it got back then. He was the host of the most popular night club in the world twice. First with Studio 54 and then with the Palladium. In any case, I quickly poured him another glass of Stoli. He downed the first one like it was water. I served them up and chilled the way he liked them. Shortly afterwards he downed many of the pills and then asked who the bartender was next to me. I said I had no idea. He said, “he’s fucking ugly, fire him right now.” The guy was one of the new bartenders. He was friendly and most of us thought he was a good bartender and co-worker. I did not want to see the poor guy fired. I heard that he screwed around with Steve to get the job. It was obvious what was going on. The guy was not putting-out for him any more so he was going to fire him. I told the guy to hide, but Steve called the manager who fired the guy on the spot. I was pretty shaken up, so when the manager asked us if anyone wanted to leave early, one of the female bartenders and I accepted the offer. She saw the entire incident and wanted out of there. We knew that Steve was messed up and didn’t want to take the chance that we would be the next one fired, especially me, as I ignored his demand to fire the guy.
I was working at REDS as a promoter. Each week I would recruit thousands of teenage girls to come to a REDS Teen Dance Party. I originated the idea, handled the marketing, business development and exclusively promoted it. The lines around the club on Sunday afternoons were longer than the lines at the movie theaters. They were not paying me the way they promised, so I said screw it, and started to work as a bartender and part time manager at the Salty Dog. There are so many stories from my time at the Salty Dog, I could probably write a book about those experiences alone. However, the one that stands out as the most memorable chapter of love, was with the coat check girl. She was not the coat check girl when I started bartending there. Over time, she hung out at the bar so often that the GM gave her the job just to keep her busy. She was very beautiful, petite, black hair and a body to die for. She was down to earth and smart. We talked all the time. She became a good friend. There was a lot of sexual tension between us. But, she was shy and also, engaged. I don’t know why her engagement ended, but as soon as it did, the flirting became much more extreme. I started hanging out at the front door, with the bouncers, just because I wanted to spend more time with her. She started working just before the holidays. It was cold, that year, so there were always tons of coats. In fact, there were so many that they could barely fit in the coatroom. Often, coats would be tagged and brought to the second floor. That was the restaurant area. That area closed at about ten pm so all the booths became another spot to store the overflow of coats the de facto second floor coatroom so to speak.
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.
The same day I was diagnosed, I quit my job and started spending eight hours a day at the gym, or working out elsewhere. I would walk around the indoor track so many times I would lose count. When I couldn’t handle the gym anymore, I would ride my bicycle in the park, at least ten miles. I was up to a few hundred crunches a day and lost at least fifty pounds. Not that I was fat, but I could be as in my past, extremely skinny. Prior to my fitness commitment, I hadn’t been eating well, but I had been eating a lot. Money was plentiful and so were my restaurant visits. Salad was hardly an intimate acquaintance. In between the exercise sessions I would cry. In fact, I’d cry all the time. Why I cried, I did not know. I was never afraid of dying, at least not consciously, but I was concerned for my parents. They had suffered so many heartaches. I didn’t want to be the biggest one. That was what helped me through some of my toughest times. I was not sure if I was going to live long enough to go on what was supposed to be my honeymoon. However, as the months passed, I began to realize that I might live long enough to do so. At the time, I was being paid ongoing commissions despite the fact I left my job. I was also working part-time as an analyst, after I resigned from AT&T. I think I was having a nervous breakdown. I told my sales manager that I would be dead in mere months. A more empathetic company might have put me on a trauma-based leave of absence or on disability. Instead, they just accepted my resignation. I was experiencing major chest pain when I exercised. For some reason my hips hurt as well. I thought from riding my bicycle and walking so much, but as it turned out it was related to poor circulation. I went from out of shape and just a bit overweight, to a rock-hard cardio machine. But, I knew something was very wrong. My second set of blood tests showed my numbers were off the charts. What made it even worse, was no one could even tell me what I had. It would take a very expensive blood test and genetic mapping to make that determination. That technology did not exist commercially at the time. One doctor concluded I had asthma and another said I had asthma and eczema on my elbows. They could not have been more wrong. Another doctor told me it was my inner ear that was causing the issue and put me on steroids. The doctors were literally just guessing and the plethora of diagnoses made a dire situation even worse. My hands were turning orange and xanthomas, growths of rock hard cholesterol, were growing all over my body and inside it as well. It was disgusting to say the least.
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 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.