Brian got married “around age 28. We had Anthony about two years afterwards and had Adriana in ’94.” Though he didn’t relish the thought of being “50 years old and worrying about [my daughter’s] virginity,” Brian realized that “I’ve got her now, and we’ll work this out.” Now 48, he is trim and tanned. His close-cropped hair is receding, there’s a little gray in his goatee, and the lines in his face seem more the result of a life lived in the sun than of age. He talks low and fast, his speech buoyed by energetic swells. There is a disarming frankness to him, along with hints of high emotion.
As it turned out, “we” didn’t last. Brian and his wife divorced in 1998. After Adriana’s birth, he recalls, “We knew [it would be] four years with her at home and me working by myself” — Brian is a hairdresser, currently working at Primo Salon and Day Spa in Poway — “and by the end of those four years, it was going to be tough. We were at the end of our ropes financially. What [my ex] could never have realized is that we were almost there, almost over the hump. If we’d stuck it out for another year, we would have been there by now. She’s got a job teaching — we would have benefits. We would have had a dual income. We’d be sitting pretty, instead of both of us having to start all over again.”
Brian started living in San Diego in 1986, when he moved to Rancho Bernardo from Minneapolis via Seattle. His in-laws were snowbirds who nested here, and when Brian and his wife made their annual visits to Rancho Bernardo, they “fell in love with it. Being from Minneapolis, it wasn’t hard to get away from that. I’ll never leave here. I’ll be forced into the ground by nature or by God.” He and his wife eventually rented a house, but now, starting over, he has landed in a two-bedroom apartment in a quiet, gate-less complex near his daughter’s school.
A squat stone wall adorned with the complex’s name greets me as I arrive. A green knoll swells behind it, dotted with trees — pines and maples, in contrast to the palms nearer the front, evidencing the developer’s hand. The knoll crests and then dips down toward the complex’s focal point, the pooL Nestled around the pool are parking lots and garages, the garages long, low-slung, and windowed, so that they look more like meeting lodges than homes for cars. Sidewalks wind around the knoll, disappear across the asphalt lots, and then resume winding about the surrounding apartment buildings. The buildings are classic Rancho Bernardo: pale yellow stucco, red-tile roof. A few are outfitted with protruding support beams, straining to give an impression of age and substance. Brian’s apartment is on the first floor; his small porch, crowded with greenery, sits at ground level.
Brian’s 17-year-old son Anthony has come home early today, so dinner is ready by the time I arrive. The apartment is mid-sized. The front door leads into the dining room, which adjoins the living room; the kitchen is off to the left. An oak entertainment center covers a chunk of one living room wall, containing a TV, a stereo, books, videos, pictures, and knick-knacks. The sofa faces the TV; a coffee table stands in between. A sliding glass door on the living room’s far wall opens onto the porch. The walls are decorated with posters, prints, and a few masks. A soft-jazz saxophone wails from the stereo.
“We’ve got a lemon-chicken dish with pasta noodles,” says Brian, “and a salad and some buns and corn on the cob.” It’s Monday, so we are joined by six-year-old Adriana, who stays with Brian on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays and lives the rest of the time with her mother in a nearby townhouse. “I cook when we’re all together like this, when Anthony’s not out and about with his buddies. I try to cook Monday nights and Sundays. I used to have a restaurant when I was 21, so I’m used to cooking. I was both owner and chef, it was called J’s Italian-American restaurant.”
The chicken dish is “just something I threw together, made up. I was always doing that type of stuff when I was doing the restaurant. First of all, I dipped [the chicken breasts] in egg and did the whole herb thing with bread crumbs and flour and so forth, got a crust on them, got them going. Put on onion, celery, that type of thing, get those going. Then cream of chicken, mix up the sauce, put it on there — boom. Noodles, throw that on there — all that stuff is filling.
“I try to make things for [the kids] that are going to fill them up a little bit, but I also try to keep a good enough range of different things. There’s a lot of nights when we’re doing macaroni and cheese and stuff like that, because it’s what they want. But on Monday nights, when I’ve got the day off and some time to go to the store and make a nice dinner, I’m really into cooking.”
Brian learned to cook while growing up in Minnesota, watching his mother and his Italian grandmother, who would visit from Detroit He was one of seven children, “so we older boys ended up doing most of the cooking. Mom [would say], ‘Go make something for your brothers and sisters.’ Sunday mornings, we’d make french toast, go through a whole bag of bread. That saved us, filled us up — you each got about four pieces. A lot of it is taste and feel; it just comes from working in a restaurant. It’s like...once you know the different types of haircuts, different hairstyles, different textures of hair, and what you can and can’t do with it, boom, you can improvise. Once you know your craft, you can go off with it. It’s fun to get in there and let loose.”
Because of his large family, Brian’s father told his children they’d have to make their own spending money. So when he was 14, Brian began working in restaurant kitchens. “All through high school, every Friday and Saturday and Sunday night, instead of partying with my friends, I’d be back in the kitchen cooking.” He moved up from dishwasher to cook to finally owning his own place, but, he says, “I had a crooked partner, so I got out after two years.”
He had already spent a couple of years at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and after a brief and unhappy turn as an insurance salesman, he took a friend’s advice and went into hairdressing. He trained in Minneapolis, worked here and there, and by the time he was 30, opened his own salon in nearby Stillwater. A large black-and-white photo of Brian in his salon hangs in his bedroom hallway, and it looks like a grand place, high-ceilinged and full of elegantly turned wood and ornate windows.
“Stillwater was a destination place, very much like Julian. Minnesota’s first town, apple festivals...a real romantic type of little town. I advertised on [the local] smooth-jazz station. He also tried to raise the town’s celebratory tone.
“At the Lumberjack Days festival that they had at the time, they had dung-throwing contests and spitting contests. They would get big dung patties [and fling them], and I said, This has got to change if I’m going to have my business in this town.’ I went to the chamber of commerce with a picture of a guy standing there hocking a big loogie. I said, ‘Is this what we want representing our city? No. Let’s change it Let’s get ourselves a new element here.’ ”
Brian points to a poster on the wall, advertising the Change of Seasons Jazz and Hot Air Balloon Festival he helped organize. “We brought jazz in, hot-air balloon races, mimes, all kinds of stuff.”
Anthony breaks in. “Mimes?”
“You brought in mimes?”
“Yeah, musicians, mimes — you know.”
"Why'd you bring mimes into your town? Try to get them out.”
“Anyway,” says Brian, ending the exchange.
Anthony turns to me. “No offense if you like mimes.” He is tall, affable, quiet but not sullen. He surfs, and he plays guitar in a fledgling punk band; he likes the fast beat and the adrenaline rush he gets at punk concerts, though he was knocked unconscious at one such event by a fellow who kicked him in the head with a steel-toed boot. For her part, Adriana, after claiming to listen to her brother’s music, confesses to a fondness for Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, ’N Sync, and the Backstreet Boys. Brian says that he tries “to keep her away from that stuff,” but the futility of his efforts comes through in his tone. Adriana, shy at first, ducks her head, but warms quickly. (After dinner, she delights in hiding a crumpled napkin in her fist and asking me to guess which hand she’s got it in.)
Brian gestures down the hall off the dining room. “That’s his room over there. Mine’s over here,” off the adjoining living room. “When she comes over, she sleeps with him. I have a little area in my room for her toys and so forth that I kept.”
We return to the subject of Stillwater, or rather, the leaving of it. Though the salon did well, six years was enough for Brian. He recalls the day he decided to leave. “It was 80 below wind chill, and there was snow up to God knows where. No business. I was sitting in my salon, listening to the hollow wind in this giant mall there going Whooooooo. This picture that I had taken down by Windansea was there, and I said, ‘Screw it; I’m going.’ That’s what got me out here.” Is the competition stiffer in California? “People here are less loyal, that’s all.”
Toward the end of dinner, the phone rings, and Brian excuses himself. I ask Adriana about her day. “First today I rode my scooter [a new Razor], and then we went to the pool. Now we’re doing this, and then maybe we’ll go on a scooter ride again.”
I notice her earrings. “When did you get your ears pierced?” I ask.
“When I was five. It hurt a lot.”
“I tried doing that to my eyebrow a while ago,” offers Anthony. “I got about halfway through my eyebrow, then heard the garage door opening in my old house. I was, like, ‘Oh, Mom’s home,’ and I pulled it out. I was pissed.” Anthony tells me he’s just bought an Epiphone Les Paul electric guitar that used to belong to the guitarist for Unwritten Law, a local punk band. The singer few Anthony’s band sold it to him at a great price when he saw Anthony’s inferior guitar.
Brian returns from the phone call dated. “Tomorrow night,” he says to Anthony, smiling. He turns to Adriana. “Are you done? Go put your TV on, sweetie.” She hops down from the table and flops down in front of the TV, tuned to Cartoon Network. Brian and Anthony begin cleaning up, and Brian explains his smile.
“Last night, we went to an Ottmar Liebert concert — he’s an excellent classical jazz guitarist. I’d gotten these fourth-row tickets a couple of months ago, and I didn’t find anybody to go with me. So I asked Anthony if he wanted to go, and he said, ‘Okay.’ ” Once there, Brian noticed “this incredible woman who was sitting up near me. Typically, I wouldn’t do this kind of thing, but I was watching her through the whole concert. I said to Anthony, ‘I’ve got to do this. I’ll kick myself in the butt if I don’t do this.’ So I did one of these kind of ‘I saw you from across the room’ type of things. I said, ‘I never do this.’ It was probably one of the ballsiest things I’ve ever done in my life. I said, ‘I hope you’re not too ticked.’ She said, ‘No, I’m very flattered.’
“I was really comfortable being married for 18 and a half years, so it’s going to take a couple of years until I can get back to...feeling good about myself, going out. But last night was a big step. I haven’t done that, but something about her face... I just had to go up and talk to her. Anyway, we’re going out tomorrow to the Beach House to have drinks — pretty wild.”
By this time, we are seated on the couch, and Adriana, who is lying on the floor, overhears this last bit of conversation. “What? Who?”
“That woman I met last night.” He turns to me. “She’s jealous because she’s my woman.” He play-grabs Adriana, hugs her. “This is my main girlfriend, though — my main girl. Right here, my only love. She’s been my Saturday-night date for the last two years.” The tradition started “because I had no other woman in my life that really cared for me, and she loved me unconditionally. Why not treat the best woman in my life the best, you know? She’s getting used to it. I feel sorry for her first date; he’s going to say, ‘We’re going to McDonald’s,’ and she’ll say, ‘No, let’s go to Peohe’s.’ ”
He gathers Adriana to himself. “Aren’t we always going to nice places, huh?” To me: “We take the ferry over across to some of the restaurants in Coronado, take one of those pedicab rides around downtown, go to the Fish Market and sit at the oyster bar.”
“What’s your favorite restaurant?” I ask her.
“Why do you like it?”
“Because I just do.”
“I thought you were going to say the Chicken Pie Shop,” joshes Brian.
Adriana goes back to her TV. She was born in '94, which puts her at about four years old when the divorce hit “It’s been a tough couple of years,” admits Brian. "She and I have been through a lot of Kramer vs. Kramer moments, crying it out, talking it out, getting it out. She would say, ‘Dad, I can’t handle this anymore. I want you two to get back together again.’ What are you going to do, not talk about that? No, you get it out, you tell her why. I said, ‘It’s not going to happen, sweetie; you’ve got to get over that. I feel like shit about this, Adriana. I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do about it. Mom wants this; I don’t. We’re going to have to live with this, so let’s talk about it.'
“[I said,] ‘You know what I do? [When] I get all frustrated and mad, I just scream as loud as I can and get it all out. You have to get the ickies out, otherwise, it’s going to eat you up inside and make you feel horrible.’ So she and I would be driving back from the beach, and she would say, ‘I’m going to scream, now, okay? OOOOHHH I HATE DIVORCE! AAAHHH I HATE LIVING AWAY FROM EACH OTHER!’ The next thing, we’d be laughing and just having a good time. It helped her work through things.”
Other difficulties: “It was definitely tough downsizing. We had a dog, Bailey. We had to give him away. It was really tough. He was a yellow Lab; we had just had him a year. Adriana had a real hard time with that The year before, we had lost our other dog, Quincy, who died on us. She and I were out walking him — she was on her bicycle — and he just laid down and died on us. I had to carry him home; she was watching the whole thing in slo-mo.”
Though he was older, the divorce hit Anthony as well, and it showed on his report card. But, says Brian, “He’s good about it He knew we were having problems, and he was ready for it to happen. As much of a kid and a 17-year-old as he is, he’s got a square head on his shoulders. He’s helped me. I’ve learned a lot from him myself, because he’s got a lot more patience than I do. When we were first breaking up, he was saying, ‘Oh, Dad, some people just aren’t meant for each other,’ and things like this.”
Anthony chose to live with Brian after the divorce. “I’ve been trying to teach him the art of being a roommate. How to get by making the Hamburger Helpers, that kind of thing. How to make those even better, what you can add to it, so that when he gets out on his own, he can do the same thing.
“He was opposed to it at first—‘I’m not your roommate; I’m your son. This is bullshit.’ [I said,] ‘You’re my roommate now. It’s not like it was before; we were both thrown into this situation, and you’re going to have to adapt. Probably one of the most important things I could teach you right now is how to be a roommate and not screw up your friendships.’”
He asks me, “How many friendships did you end up screwing up [because you lived together]? I had friends, they came home, slept in my bed—with a girl, ate my leftovers. It was just a lot of that” As for Anthony, “The first six months were tough, but he’s come around.” Brian sums up what he’s trying to teach: “Whatever needs to be done, do it. If I don’t have time to do it, you do it. Take the garbage out, clean your room. Be considerate of others.”
While we have been talking, Anthony has been in his room playing his guitar. The rapid notes slice through the wall like shards of electrified steel, and Brian asks Adriana to close Anthony’s door. She reports that it is closed already. Soon after, the playing stops and Anthony appears, ready to go out.
“When will you be back?”
“I don’t know. I’ll call you.”
A long pause. “Not too late.”
I remember a girl once telling me that she really liked the fact that her mother, who was single, was really more of a best friend. I thought it a risky arrangement. I ask Brian if it’s difficult playing the roles of both roommate and father. “Oh, yeah, definitely. It’s a fine line you have to play — friend, roommate, buddy, dad. ‘How come you’re being such a prick to me this week, Dad?’ ‘Because you’re not doing the things you’re supposed to be doing.’ I started being his friend at first, because this was a new thing, and I wanted this to work. But when it started deteriorating, because he was taking advantage or not helping out or whatever, that’s when I had to take a stand, saying, ‘I’m the dad, but you’re the roommate now [as well].” He is very friendly with his children, but when he tells them to do something, I sense a powerful expectation of obedience.
When Brian speaks of Anthony’s patience, his tone is one of genuine admiration. But when he talks about Adriana, there is an impassioned tenderness, and I wonder if it’s a sentiment that in some way arises from their particular relationship. She was born some 11 years after his son, and as he mentioned earlier, he will be past midlife when she becomes a woman.
“I started a diary for her from when her heartbeat started. I took my recorder, recorded her heartbeat, and every day from that point on, I’ve made a recording. I’ve got ten tapes in there to give her. ‘April 10, 1996. This is what happened today... Your brother’s doing this... Six hours of crying! God, how can something so small...?’ She had colic. It’s different from writing it down in the baby book, forgetting about the emotions. ‘Six hours now!’ I’ve got to get that emotion in. I want her to listen to this. This is what we did for you.’
“So I thought, this would make a neat book. Nobody’s ever done anything [like this] for a guy. All these guys [say], ‘I’m not getting married. I don’t want kids. Well, I got a kid now. Okay, I don’t want another kid. Okay, I’ve got this kid now.’ All guys are the same. They don’t want kids, but the wife talks them into it. And then they’re ‘Okay, I’m happy with this.’ I started this as a Diary to My Daughter from Her Reluctant Father, because I was very much a man, and [I wanted to tell her] how I did this 180-degree turn and came around and said, ‘Wow, this is the joy of my life.’ I was hoping maybe with this diary of my daughter to come up with something for guys, telling them it’s okay. This stuff happens; we all feel the same way. We don’t want to have kids, but then we do... Life can go on if you have kids; life can go on if you get divorced; life can go on if you just let yourself heal properly.”
Healing properly has been a slow process for Brian, something he can tell from his experiences with other women since the divorce. “During some of these first dates. I’ve had women say, ‘You sound so lonely.’ I’m still getting used to being alone, still getting used to my singlehood, which is really fun in a lot of ways. I don’t have to answer to her anymore, just me. I have to do this and make it happen. It’s a real survival thing, but I’m doing fine with it I’d just like to have a partner for a while, to do things with. I think that would help fill the void. I hate going downtown by myself. I really don’t know if I want to have a long-term relationship again. I won’t know until I get there. We’ll see.”
In the meantime, downtown beckons. (Unfortunately, the date with the woman from the concert didn’t work out.) “I go out to these clubs almost every weekend. I’ll go downtown on the hunt and then walk away and go home, because it’s such crap. You get to an age; in your 20s and 30s, you start eliminating friends. You’ve got your kids, and [you say], ‘This is my life now; screw everyone else.' Then something big like this happens; you get divorced, and all of a sudden, you’re sitting here with nobody. No friends, because you’ve burned all your bridges, and you go, ‘What am I going to do now?’ So you get out there and you start going to these clubs, but it’s old, and it’s expensive. By the time you go downtown, pay for parking, pay the cover charge, you’ve spent 15, 20 bucks before you’ve even bought a drink. It’s ridiculous.”
When clubbing gets too frustrating or too expensive, he holes up in a restaurant — he calls it a “yuppie meat market” — orders a beer and chicken wings, and watches and writes. “I’ve been writing down there for the last year now—taking situations, conversations, feelings as a divorced father out there again on his own. I’m doing a screenplay right now called Life’s a Beach, just dealing with the feelings, what it’s like. I don’t think anything’s been written from a guy’s point of view since Kramer vs. Kramer. It’s always, the guy’s a prick. He’s been screwing around, he took off — it’s always from the woman’s point of view. Nothing’s been done by the men about what it’s like to be rejected, to be on your own, to be by yourself, to be lonesome.”
He laments what he sees as the comparative ease with which a woman can find company in a social situation, while he risks being seen as an old letch. “It sucks. The girls have their friends they can play off, and they can turn guys down until they want one. Whereas we go out there and it’s ‘Yeah, right. Sure.’ It’s tough, it’s really tough, so I’ve been writing about it, just getting it out. It’s been a nice venting thing for me?’
He lets me read what he’s written. In its present form, it’s not quite a screenplay — there is no dialogue, just an observer privy to the thoughts of the lonely man at the restaurant. High emotion is spilled across the page, along with some blunt honesty. He writes admiringly of various women’s bodies as he notices them but comments, “His interests are high, but his emotions are mixed and scrambled. He’s so horny, which is the reason he’s in this situation in the first place, but yet not really wanting to be there at all. He’d rather be home with his children, wife, and dog, nestled up watching television. But no, he’s sitting here, out on the hunt, looking for a piece of ass, or at least someone nice to talk to.”
He returns to the theme in the next paragraph: “...he forces himself up and onward in the relentless quest for a piece of ass. His honest desires, however, still overwhelm him. His true quest is the pursuit of his true soulmate. Amongst the sea of beauty, he stands alone in his solitude.” I admire his effort to catch the simultaneous tension and unity between the desires of his aching loins and his lonely heart What he wants is really one thing — union — but he experiences his desire in disparate ways. The piece also details several of the topics he has discussed with me— his son as roommate, talking things out with his daughter — as well as the general atmosphere of the bar and a letter/poem to his ex, expressing his sorrow at her departure.
Eighteen years seems a long time to stand against erosion; I find myself imagining that it would require a trauma, some enormous break from normalcy, to sever a tie that had lasted so long. An affair, perhaps, or an enraged fist. But, says Brian, it was not so. Further, it was not so for his parents, who got divorced “after 37 years of marriage. Seven kids and 37 years later — it was like, ‘You’re what?’ It happened right in my salon back in Minnesota. I see my mom out there pacing; I’m doing my dad’s hair. All of a sudden, she comes in — ‘You son of a bitch!’ — and she’s beating on him, and you can see the embarrassment and the hurt, all these things that are going on in his head coming out through his eyes.”
Why? “Supposedly, it all came back to when the Pope said, ‘Don’t take the pill.’ So, she didn’t take the pill. He didn’t want all the kids, but she didn’t take the pill, and it affected his — supposedly, it affected his ability to continue going to school, to become a chiropractor, to finish his dream. That initiated the whole thing; way back then is supposedly when it all happened. So blame it on the Pope.”
Brian says that in his case, the trouble was money. In the corner of his dining room, an umbrella stand is stuffed full of gnarly headed canes. Some are painted to look like animal heads, some are gilded in gold. No two are alike. “San Diego magazine did an article on my canes. It’s cane that washes up on the shore — our beaches get loaded with this cane. I was walking on the beach one morning and picked up one of these canes. I thought. This is a nice little walking cane.’ Canes, cane. I call them Able Canes. Canes are able to hold you up, Cain and Abel — ha, ha.” He shrugs. “It works, they sell. I carve the handles out of the roots and sell them out of a little shop down in P.B. — Mrs. Milton’s Sea Treasury at the Crystal Pier. They’re usually 20 [dollars], but they’re marked down now to 15 and 10. It’s a true San Diego product, from the beach to your hands.”
Besides the simple creative urge, ventures like Able Canes “started [because of] my ex. She was really money-motivated — ‘You’re not making enough money, you’re not making enough money, do something else, do something else.’ She was never used to my job, which is a sales job. Sales are up, sales are down. It’s not consistent. So that was eventually the demise of our marriage. I had had it. So, I was always forcing myself to do new things.”
Though the canes sold, they didn’t relieve all the financial pressure. “I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll do something cerebral. Maybe she’ll really get off on something cerebral.’ So, I tried screen writing.” At the time, Brian was working at the Golden Door, a luxury spa in Escondido. Besides the wives of captains of industry and prominent politicians, “all these Hollywood wives go there; a plethora of Who’s Who. I worked there for about nine years; it’s a real cool place. I started to think, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be neat to do some mind control with these people? Something subliminal in the rooms at night, or something in the massage oils. All these presidents’ wives would go back and try to persuade their husbands...’ Anyway, that’s how I started my original conspiracy-theory movie.” Working with a writing partner, he began researching “these groups that are supposedly running our lives and so forth” and put together a screenplay. “It was called In Sheep's Clothing, and as we were about finished with it, Conspiracy Theory came out and blew us out of the water.”
The two writers were undaunted. “We knew we were on the right track. We came up with a cloning movie, decided we were going to do Jesus Christ from the Shroud of Turin, but then we thought that would be too controversial. So we decided to clone the Pope. We called it The Papacy and The Progeny. The stories are copywritten and they are registered, [but] so far, I haven’t been able to...get anybody to look at it or anything. We go up to these pitch-fests up there, and there are 300 other screenwriters with their fingers up their noses. They’ve got 20 screenplays under their belt, and they haven’t sold anything. We looked at each other, and we were, like, ‘Shit, is this going to be us 20 years from now?’ What a drag, you know? But the thing that’s addictive is that one little saying they always say; ‘Well, it only takes one.’ ”
Even before he failed to sell his work, he failed to win over his wife. “I finished the [first] story after a year and a half of working on it, and she said, ‘That’s not the kind of thing I like to read.’ ‘I created this whole story — these characters, their morals, their lives — read the goddam thing, will ya? Jeez Louise, what is this? What do you mean, “not my kind of story”? Read it! I value your opinions, read it!’ So, it wasn’t good enough.”
His marriage is over, the impetus to turn creative work into profit remains, aided by a dose of adoration for his daughter. He takes me into his room, pointing out the signed photo of the Charger Girls above his desk. Primo got the contract with the Charger Girls, and since Brian works for Primo, “I do hair for the Charger Girls and for the Gulls Girls. I do their hair before games, before all the calendar shoots. It’s really a kick.”
Next to the desk is an easel, and though Brian took up drawing again after the divorce, the easel’s main employer is Adriana. Next to the easel, a set of shelves lined with toys — things for her to play with when she visits. And on top of the shelf, the night-light. “This is a night-light I made for her. Her first visit to Disneyland was on the last day of the electric-light parade. So, I bought one of these bulbs. Then, I had taken all these pictures — Mickey Mouse and all these different guys. I blew up the main picture [of the statue of Walt and Mickey, with the Magic Kingdom castle in the background], and I shrunk down all the other ones [people in Mickey, Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pooh, and Tigger costumes]. I cut them out and repasted them on the [main picture]. I got a picture of her, pasted it on the middle of that, reshot the picture, and put it on this [Lucite backing]. Then I had this three-dimensional thing [in which the Lucite behind the figure photos is pushed forward, raising them from the background]. I made a little stand here, and this is what it came to. I actually was going to take this idea and sell it to Disney, have them sell it in stores. Just take any girl and put them in.” It seems a plausible idea; the sentiment evoked is dead-on.
In the living room, he shows me a cast of his hand, mounted on a wooden stand. His cast of Adriana’s hand is at his work. “I originally made these hands because I wanted to cast her hand somehow. I’ve got to be able to hold her hand forever. So I came up with this process.” I gather that it uses some sort of algae mask, used to form a mold. “I made her hand, and I did Anthony’s hand, and I did my hand, too. I mounted them, had them gold-plated or chrome-plated — whatever you want to do.” Anthony’s hand is flipping the bird — “the typical thing. But with this algae, you get a lot of detail — every little pore.”
I comment that, as mementos go, it beats bronzed baby shoes. “It beats baby shoes, it beats just a little handprint Twenty years from now, I can literally hold her hand, her four-year-old hand. I’ve got that forever now.”
There is obvious pleasure in his voice as he says this, as he thinks of some secure, certain source of future happiness, some assurance of stability enduring after the breakup of his family. What follows are not his parting words to me, but I will end with them nonetheless: “Stay married, dude. It’s not fun to start all over again and change around and split up the furniture.”