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Brizzolara, from the best to the last

A retrospective, on the first anniversary of his death

John Brizzolara - Image by Paul Stachelek
John Brizzolara

John Brizzolara wrote for the Reader from 1989 to 2013, including a weekly column, TGIF. John died in his sleep at Father Joe’s Villages on October 11, 2016. He was 65.

Homelessness frightens me greatly...

A Fear of Cold and Dark

One theory (and I am no anthropologist) is that the sun-worshipping cult of Southern California has a genuine, underlying fear of the cold and dark. This may well be born of the cold, long winters from which we have emigrated or, in the case of the native San Diegan, a fear of the little known. I am among the former, having arrived from Chicago via New York, but my superstitions are more along the lines of what I call a duty-free set of Catholic sensibilities.

November 4, 2009 | Read full article

I sometimes wonder if I have a retarded or inefficient genetic propensity for family matters.

Loosening Family Ties

My own immediate family: relationships with my grown son and ex-spouse were somewhat successful for several years, and though I didn’t see my son often for many years (until recently), I believe we still maintain a good relationship. The same applies with my ex, but the fact remains that the marriage ended in divorce.…

I imagine this will appear sometime around Thanksgiving, which usually involved large, mostly Italian family gatherings in my youth. I dreaded these occasions. No amount of turkey or pumpkin pie could ameliorate the sense of discomfort I would experience at the noise, arguments, subliminal disapproval of other family members. At times, hardly subliminal.

Nov. 11, 2009 | Read full article

I’ll see my son Saturday, probably, along with the woman I married in the summer of 1977.

Get Married (At Least Once)

My son will turn 33 this August, on a Friday coming up. It is a significant age for a man, at least in Christianity, and it is one-third of 100 years. He was born in 1977 in New York City at Beth Israel Hospital. It was the summer of Sam; that is, David Berkowitz and his talking dog. A blackout occurred in the city that summer. I got married that summer as ¬well.

I ¬haven’t seen my son, nor have I spoken with him, in too many months. Not that there is the slightest trace of any animosity between us; ¬it’s just that it has been a hideous year, surpassed in its chaotic bummers only by the year before.

Aug. 4, 2010 | Read full article

My first Christmas story, written in 1979, appeared in a Weird Tales paperback anthology.

Reckoning in the Heavens

Nary has a Christmas gone by without my thinking of a string of years — in the late ’70s and early ’80s — when my then wife and I would prepare ghost stories or stories of the supernatural, at any rate, to be read to each other on Christmas Eve. It is one of several nostalgic dredgings I have set aside for smiling rumination in my dotage. Some of these stories wound up in print: places such as Weird Tales and Twilight Zone Magazine. The idea was not an original one; Victorian British weirdsmith M.R. James among others (Dickens) engaged in the practice.

Dec. 22, 2010 | Read full article

What are we going to be like as a country when over half of us are doddering oldsters?

Old and in the Way

For well more than a decade now I’ve wondered, What are we going to be like as a country when over half of us are doddering oldsters? The picture is shaping up, all right; and probably its first major manifestation is the health-care boondoggle. It is clear that to some degree my peers and I really did assume we were not going to get old. On some level, we bought a kind of Peter Pan voodoo that would sprout from happy mushroom thoughts or wheat grass and good vibes or solar-powered Orgone boxes and macrobiotics.

March 16, 2011 | Read full article

"Maybe I could come back later and we could do some bidness.”

John Brizzolara’s Last Column

“Hey, brother. Can you give me a clean pee sample?”

One neighbor, whom I don’t know from Adam, came to my door one night with a small, transparent container and (without introducing himself) asked me, “Hey, brother. Can you give me a clean pee sample?”

I stood there for a good while with a look on my face that must have resembled a pole-axed flounder, and the guy (turns out his name is Turrell) says, “I’ll give you five dollars.”

Reaching behind the door to the kitchen table, I picked up my weekly med dispenser with about 30 pills for AM and about the same for PM. I showed him the contents and told him, “Can’t help you, man. I take, like, 40 Vicodin a week, Percocet, let’s see…”

By John Brizzolara, March 21, 2012 | Read full article

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John Brizzolara - Image by Paul Stachelek
John Brizzolara

John Brizzolara wrote for the Reader from 1989 to 2013, including a weekly column, TGIF. John died in his sleep at Father Joe’s Villages on October 11, 2016. He was 65.

Homelessness frightens me greatly...

A Fear of Cold and Dark

One theory (and I am no anthropologist) is that the sun-worshipping cult of Southern California has a genuine, underlying fear of the cold and dark. This may well be born of the cold, long winters from which we have emigrated or, in the case of the native San Diegan, a fear of the little known. I am among the former, having arrived from Chicago via New York, but my superstitions are more along the lines of what I call a duty-free set of Catholic sensibilities.

November 4, 2009 | Read full article

I sometimes wonder if I have a retarded or inefficient genetic propensity for family matters.

Loosening Family Ties

My own immediate family: relationships with my grown son and ex-spouse were somewhat successful for several years, and though I didn’t see my son often for many years (until recently), I believe we still maintain a good relationship. The same applies with my ex, but the fact remains that the marriage ended in divorce.…

I imagine this will appear sometime around Thanksgiving, which usually involved large, mostly Italian family gatherings in my youth. I dreaded these occasions. No amount of turkey or pumpkin pie could ameliorate the sense of discomfort I would experience at the noise, arguments, subliminal disapproval of other family members. At times, hardly subliminal.

Nov. 11, 2009 | Read full article

I’ll see my son Saturday, probably, along with the woman I married in the summer of 1977.

Get Married (At Least Once)

My son will turn 33 this August, on a Friday coming up. It is a significant age for a man, at least in Christianity, and it is one-third of 100 years. He was born in 1977 in New York City at Beth Israel Hospital. It was the summer of Sam; that is, David Berkowitz and his talking dog. A blackout occurred in the city that summer. I got married that summer as ¬well.

I ¬haven’t seen my son, nor have I spoken with him, in too many months. Not that there is the slightest trace of any animosity between us; ¬it’s just that it has been a hideous year, surpassed in its chaotic bummers only by the year before.

Aug. 4, 2010 | Read full article

My first Christmas story, written in 1979, appeared in a Weird Tales paperback anthology.

Reckoning in the Heavens

Nary has a Christmas gone by without my thinking of a string of years — in the late ’70s and early ’80s — when my then wife and I would prepare ghost stories or stories of the supernatural, at any rate, to be read to each other on Christmas Eve. It is one of several nostalgic dredgings I have set aside for smiling rumination in my dotage. Some of these stories wound up in print: places such as Weird Tales and Twilight Zone Magazine. The idea was not an original one; Victorian British weirdsmith M.R. James among others (Dickens) engaged in the practice.

Dec. 22, 2010 | Read full article

What are we going to be like as a country when over half of us are doddering oldsters?

Old and in the Way

For well more than a decade now I’ve wondered, What are we going to be like as a country when over half of us are doddering oldsters? The picture is shaping up, all right; and probably its first major manifestation is the health-care boondoggle. It is clear that to some degree my peers and I really did assume we were not going to get old. On some level, we bought a kind of Peter Pan voodoo that would sprout from happy mushroom thoughts or wheat grass and good vibes or solar-powered Orgone boxes and macrobiotics.

March 16, 2011 | Read full article

"Maybe I could come back later and we could do some bidness.”

John Brizzolara’s Last Column

“Hey, brother. Can you give me a clean pee sample?”

One neighbor, whom I don’t know from Adam, came to my door one night with a small, transparent container and (without introducing himself) asked me, “Hey, brother. Can you give me a clean pee sample?”

I stood there for a good while with a look on my face that must have resembled a pole-axed flounder, and the guy (turns out his name is Turrell) says, “I’ll give you five dollars.”

Reaching behind the door to the kitchen table, I picked up my weekly med dispenser with about 30 pills for AM and about the same for PM. I showed him the contents and told him, “Can’t help you, man. I take, like, 40 Vicodin a week, Percocet, let’s see…”

By John Brizzolara, March 21, 2012 | Read full article

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