Nov 4, 2012

Gratitude

I've used the words "Thank you" about two thousand times in the past five days.  And there is no end in sight.  How can you properly thank someone for stepping into your mess and helping you clean it up?

No shit.
It's probably too soon to start naming all the names, but I could not have gotten through this first week of Hell without the people who have fed me, sheltered me, advised me, and gotten dirty with me.

Marianna Campese and Damian Korman
Denise and Jason Smollar
Garrett Vogel
Fred Vogel
Josh "D-FENS" Kolodny
Elvis Duran
Elizabeth Fazio
Caryn Dell'Alba Pollock
Greg Atkins
Carolina Bermudez and Mark Grossman
Roseann, Tony, and Steven Scire
Greg Tyndorf
Skeery Jones
Mom and Dad

The list is in no particular order, everyone has contributed in their own way and I am forever grateful.  I know the list will grow as the weeks and months of recovery continue, and I know no one here cares about being recognized (besides Skeery, of course).  It would be twice as long if I knew all the names of the two dozen or so people who I never met before and may never meet again who showed up at my house and broke their backs helping to excavate my home, or as I like to call it, "Waterworld."

Today I found out that I can fit my entire live-in basement, minus a few big ticket items, into a 30 cubic yard dumpster.  There were few surviving items, as I expected.  It was difficult, weeding thru the muck and the mire, seeing your treasure buried and unearthing it in waterlogged pieces.  My fridge was in my fireplace, doors were torn to shreds.  Water, water everywhere.

But thanks to the help I've received, the most important item of all will survive.  My soul.  I continue to find out what friendship is, what a community is, what the human spirit is all about, and something tells me this is just the beginning.  Tragedy always seems to bring people together.  Sometimes it's temporary, other times not.  But it's always the same.  Without each other, we're nowhere.

I made this whole big stink in my last blog post about the NYC Marathon and how it would turn me from a caterpillar into a butterfly.  Now there is no Marathon and yet the transformation will seemingly still occur.  By losing nearly everything, I have already begun to grow wings.

Then there are all of you who have reacted to my thoughts here, who have called and sent texts, e-mails, Tweets and Facebook messages offering help and expressing your concern.  They have not gone unnoticed.  Frankly, I've had a hard time keeping up with all the correspondence.  That's far from a complaint.  I feel more loved than I did before Sandy infiltrated my fortress.

Before the hurricane, I was sullen.  I was down on humanity.  I was negative because my life - my music career, my business, my radio career - seemed underwhelming.  I was a hamster on a wheel that was barely turning, and I was getting older.  My love life was worse, only because it had gotten better temporarily and 'temporarily' has never been the ultimate goal.  I'm the guy that wants the Full Monty, the brass ring, the storybook ending.  Even after more than a few failures, that's still what I want, what I feel will make me feel completely whole again.  I recognized the good things I had in life - family, stability, good health - but it wasn't enough.  I was a "relationship guy" without many real relationships.  Now, materially speaking, I have about 80% less than I did last week, yet I feel richer.  Because relationships hold so much more value than all the stuff that wound up being dumped today.

Before the hurricane, I had a real-life affiliation with about a quarter of the people on the above list, and now I feel that number will grow.  I owe them all, even if they'll never ask for anything from me.  I will fulfill my promise to all who have reached out to make merry, to make music, to create, to commiserate, to bounce back from this stronger than ever.  I will become the butterfly.  This I not only owe to those who have lent support, but I also owe to myself.  Caterpillars never fly, they just crawl through the mud.

So how can you properly thank people for stepping into your mess?  No amount of handshakes, hugs, words, blogs, gifts will match this kind of generosity, the kind that asks no favors in return.  So all you can do is get yourself better.  Fulfill your destinies, lead by example, grow.  I don't consider the hurricane a learning experience (besides 'Don't buy a house in a flood zone.'), I consider the aftermath a learning experience.

Just look around.  Come to Staten Island, to Point Pleasant, to Gerritsen Beach.  Witness the hard work, the teamwork, the embraces, the sweat and the tears.  People feeding each other, digging friends and neighbors out of various holes, both big and small.  I'm just one victim surrounded by many heroes from all walks of life.  Part of me feels guilty for not doing more outside of my own back yard, but I'll have time to make up for that once I have a back yard to be in again.

For now, the cleanup continues - not just of my house, but of my life.  The water will clear, the dust will settle, and life will begin anew.  On Monday, 30 cubic yards of my world will be towed away in a dumpster, but I won't be in it (good thing, too, since I was in it for most of today).  Thanks to the love of family and friends, and the kindness of strangers, there is a desire to rise higher than ever before, to get out of the mud, to stop crawling and to start sprinting towards happier times.  Even at such a pace, it won't happen overnight, but it will happen.  Other pieces need to fall into place, but the future starts here, above an oversized dumpster filled with my grimy past.  And I hope you'll all be there to be part of it.  I want you to.  I need you to.  And I've got a lot of beers to buy.  I hope you all like Schlitz.

Notice the sign with the arrow pointed up on the lower left.  Symbolism rules.



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