These go to eleven.
Famous quote from This is Spinal Tap. And that's funny, right? Funny quote, funny movie. Comedy.
But today is eleven. These years, they now add up to eleven. And that feels heavy.
There's no denying my sadness. For a change on this anniversary, I thought I'd shift from the tragedy of the circumstances of losing Joey, and write about the lighthearted aspects of his personality.
For example, the fact that he had an uncanny ability to repeat movie lines verbatim, with the same delivery the actor used. One early favorite between us was from The Pope of Greenwich Village, Mickey Rourke to Daryl Hannah. They are discussing dinner, and she offers to cook. Mickey says, "you CAN'T cook". I would giggle every time we'd talk about preparing a meal and he would use that one liner on me. I tried a few times to start making something to eat and he would shoo me out of the kitchen saying, "seeing you in the kitchen makes me nervous, Laura..." Then we'd both laugh.
One of our rituals was watching Saturday Night Live together, because it was HIS ritual. I can STILL hear him laughing so hard he could barely breathe when Will Farrell and Christopher Walken performed the Blue Oyster Cult Behind The Music skit featuring the now famous more cowbell dialogue.
Hearing his laugh was infectious, would spur me to laugh harder and then the skits or movie quotations would become part of our off the cuff banter. Joey's talent for retaining quotations and pulling them out was then, and remains to this day, unparalleled in my world. Caddy Shack, Saturday Night Fever, Forrest Gump, When Harry Met Sally, Let it Ride, Office Space, the list goes on. He was like a walking IMDb repository.
One conversation we had two months before his death is still etched in my memory, as if he were standing in front of me last week. We both knew he was on a downward spiral. He was scared. I felt helpless. He took my hand and said, "Laura, if something happens to me, you have to promise me you won't let them say the I was the guy who could have had so much," and tears immediately appeared in both our eyes. This has been an impossible promise to keep. Because he was the guy with great possibilities. Out beyond the addictions and the chaos that would swirl around when he was in peril, there was the beautiful, funny and more than likable character of Joey V.
I finally went to see Silver Linings Playbook. Joey loved De Niro, and I think that he would have not only enjoyed the movie, but in particular the dance competition scene, where Pat Sr. is watching the football game on TV in the lobby of the hotel and then runs to see Pat Jr. and Tiffany perform their less than stellar, but still a "5" dance...I imagined him sitting next to me laughing. In particular my guess is he would have connected to the intricacy and detail in the scene where the bet was devised. As tragic as the gambling addiction was for him, and it was...I've given myself permission to see the comedy in these fictional scenes.
It's good to have this ability now, to be able to laugh without crying. I still have grief waves. Yesterday I walked into ShopRite and "No Sugar Tonight" was playing. It did bring forth a few tears. But then a smile--because I can remember driving around our hometown singing these songs, and then laughing. Because it was fun. It was just plain fun.
For those of you reading this blog entry who knew Joey, think about that great smile, those beautiful blue eyes, his penchant for enjoying the tiniest detail of a moment. Remember the good times together. Allow his story to help save others, and keep the loving Joey V close to your heart. After we strip away the tragedy of his passing, what remains is his essence. His unlimited capacity to laugh, his kindness, and of course, cool. The very definition of cool personified.
Here's to you, Joey. I promise to think beyond what I was doing eleven years ago in this moment, and focus instead on all the gifts born out of our time together. And to laugh today. I may cry, but I will also laugh....
The comedy and the tragedy of ELEVEN.
Joey and the gang, fishing on Wireless, MD Tuna Tournament, 1999