12
Mar
11

The death March

First, I need to get something off my chest.  What is up with people who back into parking spots?  Unless you’re Batman or about to rob something just park your fucking car.  What is the reasoning?  Please, maybe I am missing something, but you are stealing from our lives, taking four minutes to back your piece of shit into a Target parking lot spot.  What’s up peeps?

I hate March, I have my whole life and still do to this day.  Growing up in the Northeast, my hatred for March probably stemmed from the fact that it was usually a very cold month and  spring was just out of reach.  I’ve never been a big fan of St. Patrick’s Day.  I think it slanders Irish people, little leprechauns getting drunk everywhere?  Come on mate.  Also, it comes on the heals of Black History Month which, as the title suggests, is a whole month of celebration and not just one day focused on four-leaf clovers and green vomit.

Even as I live in a climate more attuned to my temperament, (it was 85 degrees today,) a cloud of March follows me around for these 31 days.  March is a month of waiting: waiting for spring, waiting for baseball to start, waiting for longer days of sun, for re-birth.  In March, my personal mojo is low, restoring itself for yet another year of being a wild man.  Of course, a lot of this is self-manafactured and just in my head.  Lost his mojo you say? Impossible! But this is not entirely true.  Over the past 15 years of my life March has given me plenty of reasons to curse its days.  And, all joking aside, a few of these have greatly affected my life.  To be honest, the demons of March haunt me, and at times produced a great anger and even a greater sadness.  It wasn’t until I met Katherine that some of this pain quieted.

I wear my heart on my sleeve– I always have.  Shit, I tear up at the diamonds are forever commercials. I am half-Irish, half-Italian. (As I write this I can see my little sister rolling her eyes and saying to her friend, who is probably reading this with her and thinks I’m dreamy,We’re like .003 percent German and .0005 percent Pennsylvania Dutch too.) Listen, I tan well, I have a quick temper, and if you play me a few notes on a bagpipe I’ll have mist in my eyes and a blade in my hand.  Sounds fucking Italian and Irish to me.

I don’t know when it first happened but sometime in the mid-nineties Death came to my town.  Maybe it had always been there and  we were just too young to realize it, but as our little minds left our high school halls and were thrust into reality, we were quickly taught about loss.  The following deaths affected many people, in many ways, and in my telling of their stories I in no way mean to take away from the utter sorrow of the families and mutual friends. I don’t want to seem selfish by including myself in the retelling of their lives but they all meant a lot to me and are a big part of my life, both good and bad.  No words could ever capture how special these individuals were.

Beginning in 1996, I became closely acquainted with death.  Up until then, through my heavy metal days, and into my Doors era, I would say the word, sing the word, write the word alongside stupid little Satan stars on my Trapper Keeper, but I had never felt the word.

Alison Solum was anything but typical.  A beautiful girl with strawberry blond hair, she had grown up with all of us for most of our lives.  Her laugh was devilish and for a little “preppy girl” her humor was raunchy.  I loved it.  We had grown much closer over our last years of high school, despite coming from different sides of the “tracks.We spent a lot of time together that summer of 1996.  She had been in college for a year and I would be a freshman in the upcoming August.  We spent one of the fading weekends together at the shore.  At one point I remember her asking me to zip up the back of her light red sun dress before dinner.  I remember the way she pulled her hair to the side for me, the way she smelled.  To think back to those days seems a dream.  Some summer night, suspended in time in the thick East Coast twilight. Her smile, transfixed in eternal youth.

The night of August 7 1996 is still a blur.  My buddy Tommy Glisson and I were celebrating my 18th birthday in my mother’s basement over a bottle of Absolute and  The Beatles White Album.

Alison said she would stop by on her way home from work.  She wanted to give me my birthday gifts before heading out with friends and before Tommy and I moved on to whiskey and The Doors Strange Days.  We had to run out to meet our alcohol connection for the second bottle.  When I returned, Alison had left a message on my mom’s answering machine.  She had to stay a little late at the salon she had been working at and she was running late.  It was the last time I would ever hear her voice.  The next few hours were spent in drunken blackness.  When she never showed up to meet her friends, they started calling me.  She had never made it to my house, I told them: we all started to worry.

There were inquiries. There had been an automobile accident on route 1.  Frantic calls fluttered across the lines like birds trapped in a barn.  Around 11p.m. her death was confirmed, our world was changed, our innocence over.  I just remember running upstairs screaming, crying, waking my whole family up, my dog barking in confusion.  I remember looking into my mom’s eyes.  I was lost, hurt that she couldn’t help me.  Several days later I left for freshman year, I was broken and disillusioned.  Her birthday is March 6th.

On March 9 1999, almost three years later, Nick Giampietro died.  To say that he was a brother to me would be an understatement.  I had just gotten home from Penn State for Spring Break and again was down my mother’s basement.  My little brother came down and asked me if I knew yet.  Knew what?  Nick is dead. There has been a car accident. I almost threw up.  Nick who?  Giampietro?  I just spoke to him last night, I assured him.  There’s a mistake. The feeling of pain and blackness once again covered me as I saw in my brother’s eyes that there was no mistake.  My brother started to cry.  I fell onto my couch and those tears of terror, pain and hate filled my eyes.

Nick, me , Pat and Becker

Our town was shocked, I was shocked.  How could this fucking “God” take another one of us?  Young and selfish I took Nick’s death personally.  Nick had always been such a loyal friend.  He was born two days before me,  August 5 1978.  We were bonded together,  young Americans who had the whole world in our teenage palms.  I was the definition of selfish, but Nick was the complete opposite, selfless.  He had a great laugh and a cool temperament.  The three guys above were some of my closet childhood friends.  I always considered these guys my “other” friends, my athletic friends, the ones that provided an important balance to the friends from my neighborhood.  Yeah sure, with these guys I’d get into little harmless trouble, stink bombs at the mall, egging cars.  But, it was never serious, and nothing like I had going on back in my neighborhood.  Though our neighborhoods were different, our parent situation was different, our economic situation was different, Nick always treated me as an equal and would go out of his way to share his life with me.  He was always there, the glue that kept our group together.   Now he was gone and again all faith had been taken, all that had scabbed over from Alison’s death was quickly reopened.

Nick is the one who visits me the most in my dreams.  He seems to always be checking up on me, helping point me in the right direction when I’m indecisive.  It is strange because when I see him in my dreams he rarely talks but rather communicates through facial expressions, smiles.  He has aged in my dreams as well, keeping pace with us.  Even as I write this I have tears streaming down my face.  I miss him so much and hate that he is not here.

Erick George was better known as Bad Erick.   Bad was from my neighborhood, the infamous Valleybrook, and received his nickname because as he would walk over the hill in the morning to our bus stop the sun would come up behind him.  All you could see was a silhouette and a leather jacket.  Here comes Bad Erick, we would say, and it stuck.  Now Bad and I knew each other almost from birth. We got kicked out of Boy Scouts together, starting smoking cigarettes at age 12 together, ran away and ate worms together, and many other stories that I am sure neither of our families would appreciate me sharing.

Badd and I, mullets beginning. I "heart" Mandy carved into my left arm. 5th grade trip

I grew up with this boy, learned the world and ran the streets with this boy.  We lived in similar anger and abandonment and found the same comfort and acceptance in our neighborhood tribe.  Bad and I made a lot of bad decisions together.  That said, we always dreamed big together, always knowing one day we would get out of that town and head to California.  Through grade and high school Bad and I watched The Doors movie religiously.   After I left for college I would get random calls in the middle of the night, the voice on the other line simply quoting a few lines of Morrison and hanging up.  Bad would never admit to it, but I knew it was him,  keeping our dream there, floating above my sub-conscious, The West is the best, get here and we’ll do the rest.

Away at college, I left Bad in the deepening troubles back at home.  Our once laughable run-ins with the law were now beginning to get serious.  As I emptied my anger out in bottles of booze at Penn State, Bad, along with my other Valleybrook mates got into more dangerous escapes.  Towards the end of my senior year at Penn State Bad and I had been talking a lot.  He was really trying to get things together.  There was talk of him even joining me when I moved out West.  I sent him this postcard the previous summer while I was visiting San Francisco.  An artifact given to me by his mom. Found, as she sorted through the pieces after his death.

Sent to Badd from SF the summer before his death

The next time I did cross the country was for good and Bad was with me.  Things had gotten to hard for my old friend and he only saw one way out.  His mom sent some of his ashes with me, along with some pictures of us and a copy of this postcard.  When I arrived on the coast I felt like I was living for the two of us.  I wanted him to know we had made it, they said we couldn’t but we had.  Erick George died on April 4 2001, he was buried ten days later on his 22nd birthday.  Please click on his name above and visit his memorial site.  I know his mom would appreciate it.

This March 20th will be the second anniversary of my grandfather’s death, which again, was a devastating blow inflicted on me in the month of March.  In honor of him, and with concerns for you. ( I don’t want everyone to walk around sad all day.) I will save his story for a future post.  But as you can see, unlike Caesar, I heed to the warning of the Ides of March.  I have been touched too many times in the past not to.

They are waiting to take us into
The severed garden
Do you know how pale and wanton thrillful
Comes death on a stranger hour
Unannounced, unplanned for
Like a scaring over-friendly guest you’ve
Brought to bed

Death makes angels of us all
And gives us wings
Where we had shoulders
Smooth as raven’s claws

No more money, no more fancy dress
This other Kingdom seems by far the best
Until its other jaw reveals incest
And loose obedience to a vegetable law

I will not go
Prefer a Feast of Friends
To the Giant family

-J.M.

In memory of

Alison, Nick and Bad

Love,

A friend.

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9 Responses to “The death March”


  1. 1 JoAnne Hurley
    March 12, 2011 at 11:40 am

    You just brought tears to my eyes Mike. I was just thinking to myself on the anniversary of Nick’s death that 12 years have come and gone so fast. Thank you for this blog…makes you think about how precious our life really is!

  2. 2 chrisy thompson
    March 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Beautiful. However, I have one correction…March 6th was Alison’s birthday:) I sure do fucking miss you Micheal A Crowley. I promise I won’t tell anyone what the “A” stands for…promise:)

  3. 5 Laurie Kelly
    March 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Mike…I truly enjoy reading your blog. This one made me cry…not in a bad way, just a cleansing way. It’s so hard to believe all this time has passed. Thanks for writing! 🙂

  4. 6 Craig Donaldson
    March 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Mike, great blog…this is how you keep the memory alive of loved ones lost. I am happy that you made it out of the area. It was beginning to consume me and if I did not get out life would definately be different.

  5. 7 Jill Durning
    March 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Hey Mike,

    It’s great to hear someone talk about Alison. I have thought so much about her all these years. I can’t believe so much time has passed!! As a fellow Valleybrookian it’s great to hear all these stories!!!

    PS…Why did you not have I “heart” Jill on your left arm?? I thought this was when we were “in love”!! LOL!!!

    Love ya Mike!

  6. 8 nicole k
    March 14, 2011 at 6:36 am

    Mike,

    that was the most moving blog i have ever read thank you its sad how we all lost so much and many others merk stands out in my mind the most life is full of heart ach we just have to remember the good times and keep them close in our hearts just remember they are all looking down on us so we make the right decisions they will always be a part of us love u bad n merk

    love u too mike

    nicole

  7. 9 Tom McGarvey
    November 14, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Mike,

    Very touching and well-written. All those mentioned will always be missed. The part about Alison is particularly difficult for me to read but very accurate. The world lost when she died. One less loving person. My time with her holds a special place in my heart. Take care buddy.


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