Saturday, March 31, 2007


It was the summer of 1972 when I became a landscaper.

I went to high school with the person who got me the job.

Dave was a very tall guitar player who chain-smoked unfiltered Camel cigarettes.

(I inhaled an unfiltered Camel cigarette when I was 6 years old and passed out.)

My co-workers and I were a bunch of slow-moving, coffee-gulping landscapers.

I know that caffeine is supposed to increase metabolism, but it didn’t help us.

We would sit for as long as possible imbibing our coffee rather than landscaping the earth.

One landscaper was Paul Santoro.

Paul Santoro became both peer and mentor to me.

He was six years older than me.

He once said to me:

"I'll be your guru."

That line became part of an unpublished song we called "Don't guru-jew me."

I remember when we were in his faded-blue Volkswagen bug, slowly crawling down Pearl Street.

It was a bright, beautiful, cold and snowy day.

I forget exactly what we were discussing, but at one point in the conversation I told Paul that I thought he sometimes “got too heavy for me.”

Paul replied:

“Yeah, but just remember, heaviness descends from the heights.”

This statement made me poke my head out of the bug’s window to look up at the sky.

Paul’s words were as powerful as another quotation that has stuck in my memory:

“Everything that rises must converge.”

And many years later I would read these words:

The seal of Solomon known as the six-pointed Jewish star, contains the old wisdom: "as above, so below".

Paul was the same age as Bob Dylan, and he told me this one afternoon while we were walking on the side of a mountain, looking for moss-covered rocks.

He said, "I could have been Dylan. I traveled to the same places that he did."

Then Paul picked up a rock and found a black widow spider beneath it.

He picked the spider up and then said in his raspy voice:

"Look at this. It's beautiful!"

I was stunned when he picked up the black widow.

I was surprised when he gave such praise to this feared arachnid.

It was an impressive moment under the summer sun.

Paul played acoustic guitar in various restaurants.

He liked to play Bob Dylan songs.

His raspy voice was pretty good.

I enjoyed listening to him sing.

I showed Paul some of my poems, but he didn't seem too impressed, and he would recite a few of his own from memory.

Paul and his girlfriend Linda broke up, and then he moved to California.

I heard that he married a woman from France (or Italy) and had a child.

I believe he named the child Ivan.

I bet Paul is still strumming his guitar.

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