Category Archives: grief

death; loss; healing

Paul Yoculan Younger, Epic Prince of Entertainment.

 

Pop was never my thing, back then.  But, I secretly wished it could be.

Raised on two part a capella worship music, sung by the untrained, first listening to my father croon into my ears while he fed me the bottle I always had an affinity for a grown man who could really sing.

Paul was definitely grown. His skin betrayed his age, but he still wore a shag to the shoulders as if it were the coolest, and a denim jacket same.  And I think, but I’m not sure, that the day I stepped into Larry’s basement for my keyboard “audition” he might have already been there.

The Classmates were a vocal quartet of high school friends circa 1957, which was the year I was born. Frank, Jim, Larry, and Ronnie, three out of four second generation Italian and one black American with voices to blend. But, Paul was their friend, and became a final set fixture at nearly all our gigs. The reason he was in that set was because we always closed with “Peppermint Twist”/”SHOUT” – and, these were his signatures. Paul had spent his heyday singing them with his band, The Epics, both in Vegas and at the “World Famous Peppermint Lounge” – in New York City. The Epics were the band The Beatles came to see and hear after they played New York. It’s true; look it up.

I’d always had a solo voice, of sorts, suited for weddings and funerals, a solid Debby Booner. But, when our tenor couldn’t quite carry the Frankie Valli leads, and Frank asked me if I could, these became my own semi-signature tunes from behind the keyboard for the second set. “Big Girls Don’t Cry”; “Sherry, Baby”; my choice, the Ronnie Spector “It’s My Party” and, nod to the Beatles, “Twist and Shout”.

To Paul, I was probably the furthest cry from a female singer. I didn’t dress the part and, worse, I didn’t carry it. Frank had saddled me in the shoes of the same name when I produced my own pair and, when he acquired royal blue bowling shirts with white cuffs and collar for the guys, I got one too – along with one each of the violet and pink ruffled tuxedo long sleeves to match with black pants.

Never sure if this were on consult or his own idea, but one day Paul had me come over to his house and meet him in his basement. He wanted to coach me into singing lead. Out front. Like a real girl singer.

His wife, sweet and accommodating, provided iced tea on a serving tray. I squirmed. This man sucked on a Throat Disc and wailed like his life depended on it; how could I possibly learn from him? Ah. The arrogance of youth.

I actually don’t remember all of what happened during that session. He told me stories of his days in the circuit, and we listened to some forty fives and he talked about style. I concluded that I was probably the only female singer he’d ever met who would not be groomed for the front. He must have been convinced; we never met again, over iced tea or anything else.

But, what we did do was play out. Paul got us the best work in the big bars. He’d always be our finisher, and he was so good at it – stirring the crowd into a frenzy, pushing his cords until I thought they would just splinter out every time, I was content to crank the keyboard bass until the woofers jumped from the floor and ride all the way to the end on that Roland Hammond B3 preset like a boss. I was so happy just to be part of his show.

Paul’s show kept on, too. Long after I left that band to accept my first public school teaching job, he’d still be found singing. Few of us musicians knew he also coached baseball, and well enough to do so for major high school programs in our region. But, he would not stop singing. That voice which, to my ear and experienced vocal nodes, was always on its last legs just never gave out.

I don’t know what happened, really. Something about a heart problem, requiring major surgery, and complications, and the ICU, and then death. How does that occur, in our time, anymore? Yeah. Paul was 82. But, from the first time and every time I’d seen him over the years he was always, already older than me, old – but young. Younger than all the rest. Paul Younger.

Rest in Peace, you old crooner. Or, keep on wailing. It’s your call, Paul. You were our prince of Pop.

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© 12/29/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose first hand story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Please respect this tribute, exactly as it is written. Thanks.

 

 

Ode to Brody.

Brody was a man of many graces.
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He was humble, patient, gallant, and polite.
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True to his two breeds, he could both bark and howl, but did both very selectively.
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The Rottweiler in him was expressed rarely, but overtly: either hollering loudly at trucks which looked like jungle animals on the ride into town, or howling alone in the dogshed during the workdays when nobody was home, or gnawing territorially on a bovine knuckle. During the latter, his favorite pastime, he would snarl and growl so fiercely so as to resemble his pureblood sister, Bella. Together they would live out their primal instinct on those bones, often fighting over the one closest by.
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But, the black Labrador in Brody gave him his sweetness.
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This boy was tolerant. He needed no training. Always stepping aside, or waiting, just that much slower on the draw than impetuous Bella, he’d take his treats without biting.
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Outside, he’d amble along. In the spacious country yard, he’d be the one to head to the pond, and come out smelling like everything in it. When we took both dogs to MudPuppies for their baths, I got to bathe Brody.
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By the time I’d become part of his life, he’d already lived out most of his years. But, because I had fragile wrists and no short muscle, he was always my charge at the leash. He moved more slowly, and knew how to sit, and he endeared himself to me. I began to call him “mummy’s boy”, and every day I told him how good he was. He was such a good, good boy.
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Women who have never had children, and never will, have a certain kind of love for the souls which belong to others.
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Some become adoptive step parents.
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Others become step pet parents.
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I will miss my boy so much, my Brody Ode, because I loved him, too.
BrodyOnCushion2019
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© 10/13/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

Gather Ye Red Flags.

 

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

The girl was some blonde.

Looking at him, smirking, thinking the whole scene too amusing.

The fact that he’d called the blonde his “cousin”?  Two bright red flags, a-whipping in the wind.

But, she had not set face into the wind.

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

Next came the ones who, calling out his name in greeting, emerging from the restroom at Target or while walking up the street to the arena, she and he a date. Who does that, to somebody’s date?  Two, at once, seemed everywhere.

Always the point, a back story, from him. Tale of yet another he had seen for just a “couple months.” Red flag, number three.

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

Then, the burner phones, near the kitchen tray, some excuse about retrieving dog pix.

The dishes for two, stacking in the sink.

His wandering eyes, the ones that twinkled.

Six flags. Amusement park of fair warning.

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

Then the foghorn, in the bathroom drawer. Set for 6:20 a.m., alarming on his one day off. She’d never seen a clock in that drawer, and she’d seen everything in that drawer. She’d seen the sleeve of false eyelashes appear in that drawer. But, the clock, never in that drawer, not before that morning.

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

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© 10/9/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   All rights those of the author, the stooge, the beard. Steal at your own risk. He’s everywhere.

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