#51 Salt & Pepper

51-salt-pepper

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Dad­dy died March 29, 1962, over a half cen­tu­ry ago. I was 10 years old. He was 62.

Now I am 62.

You can imag­ine March 29 this year has been on my mind a lot late­ly. I am healthy, still feel young and strong (until I do some­thing stu­pid at this age), so it’s hard to imag­ine my dad look­ing like such an old man when he passed away at only 62 years old.

But he always looked like an old man to me, and I loved him for it. That’s one rea­son I’ve always respect­ed my elders. You see, my dad was 51 years old when I was born. Already he had salt & pep­per hair, and still a full head of it in the cas­ket. That’s how I’ve always seen and remem­bered him: with this beau­ti­ful, wavy salt & pep­per hair that I want­ed when I grew old. Well, I have it. Mine’s more sol­id gray, but that’s okay. It still reminds me of Dad­dy. (I nev­er called him Dad, always Dad­dy as I was only 10 when he died. So if it sounds sil­ly that I still call him Dad­dy, well that’s okay…it just sounds right to me.)

I could tell you a lot about this man I loved and admired, and I will. But one thing that is absolute­ly fas­ci­nat­ing is that Andrew J. De Simone was born Decem­ber 31, 1899. That’s the last day of the cen­tu­ry before last! Which meant he was always the same exact age as what­ev­er year it was—to the day. That’s why it’s a lit­tle con­fus­ing to com­pre­hend he was 51 when I was born in 1951. And he was 62 when he died in 1962.

Almost as fas­ci­nat­ing is that he had 3 more chil­dren after me, when he was 54, 56 and 57 years old. I guess I could kid around and say that’s why he died so young, but actu­al­ly he had health prob­lems stem­ming from child­hood malar­ia and smok­ing Kool unfil­tereds non­stop. (Mom smoked, too: Camels. That’s what par­ents did in that era. I have nev­er smoked cig­a­rettes, most like­ly influ­enced by los­ing my dad to emphy­se­ma due to his smok­ing. I’ll nev­er for­get the eerie sound of his oxy­gen machine, which in those days was a giant appa­ra­tus and tank that was sta­tioned in one place, not portable like today’s.) Though I don’t smoke, when­ev­er I get a whiff of men­thol cig­a­rette smoke it brings back warm and lov­ing moments with my dad.

I was in 4th grade when he died, but my sis­ter was only in 1st, one broth­er in kinder­garten, and the youngest not even in school yet. I feel bad that my sib­lings, espe­cial­ly my youngest broth­er, nev­er got to know him as I did. Even by age 10, I per­ceived that my father was an hon­est, gen­er­ous, lov­ing man with a soft voice and kind but mis­chie­vous grin. That Siclian look, you know. With a schnoz. Boy, did he have a bowl­ing ball on the end of his nose. I got a lit­tle of that, too.

Some­how, though, my sib­lings inher­it­ed our dad’s qual­i­ties of kind­ness, hon­esty and gen­eros­i­ty. He was the def­i­n­i­tion of integri­ty. I must say here that our moth­er was just as won­der­ful as our dad, and we got a lot of good qual­i­ties from her, too. Mom was 16 years younger than Dad­dy, a wait­ress in Chica­go for whom he always left a huge tip, she told me. When she left for Cal­i­for­nia, he fol­lowed and per­suad­ed her to mar­ry him — a sto­ry in itself. (I’ve always had a thing for waitresses…and I tip ’em big, too. Like father, like son!)

Yeah, I real­ly wish my broth­ers and sis­ter could have known Dad­dy longer.

* * *

It’s amaz­ing how my dad pro­vid­ed so well for us. We had a beau­ti­ful Span­ish style home in a nice part of Glen­dale, Cal­i­for­nia, on Bel Aire Dri­ve. There was a panoram­ic view of the moun­tains from our huge pic­ture win­dow, and Mom told me that’s why Dad­dy bought the house. He also loved the fruit trees in the back yard. Lemons, oranges, grape­fruit…but also some unusu­al ones like figs (how Ital­ian is that!), pome­gran­ates and per­sim­mons. We were prob­a­bly the only fam­i­ly in Glen­dale with pome­gran­ate and per­sim­mon trees. We were also the only fam­i­ly on our street with­out a paved side­walk. As for­tune would have it, my par­ents found this house in an estate sale and pur­chased it for pen­nies on the dol­lar; oth­er­wise it would not have been pos­si­ble. My dad was a bar­ber and Mom was your typ­i­cal mid-​century house­wife. I am glad that they found this house, for it was not only a won­der­ful home for us kids, but I know it made my par­ents com­fort­able and proud. But they nev­er bragged…that was not my par­ents’ style. Instead, they were just grateful.

Like the one on my dad's shop.Like I said, my dad was a bar­ber. He owned the shop, a small 2‑chair estab­lish­ment in a nice lit­tle busi­ness dis­trict. I loved jump­ing up onto the boost­er seat to get my hair cut. And the smell of the Bar­ba­sol and of the talc on the soft brush to whisk away the loose hairs. And the metal­lic sound of the scis­sors. Best of all was the incred­i­ble scalp mas­sage that bar­bers used to give their cus­tomers with Oster elec­tric mas­sagers, motor­ized vibrat­ing gad­gets which strapped onto the back of each hand. (I inher­it­ed one of those, and my cat used to come run­ning for a mas­sage when­ev­er I turned it on…worked bet­ter than an elec­tric can open­er to reel him in.) Here’s a video demon­strat­ing the device: https://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​V​U​w​K​S​6​g​K​2zs

Mom would walk me down to Dad­dy’s bar­ber shop to deliv­er his lunch and vis­it, or some­times just say hel­lo and then take me next door to the Cop­per Clock cof­fee shop for lunch. That’s how I got to enjoy cof­fee shops so much. We’d either go there, or to Bil­ly’s Del­i­catessen (there was some­thing espe­cial­ly deli­cious about the water in those paper cone cups…and their pick­les!), or Bob’s Big Boy. On Sat­ur­days Dad­dy would some­times bring me to work with him. Some­times I’d sweep the floors, sure­ly scat­ter­ing hair all over the place, and some­times I would just enjoy watch­ing my dad cut hair, lis­ten­ing to the rhythm of the scis­sors. He did that ever so effi­cient­ly while car­ry­ing on a con­ver­sa­tion with each of his cus­tomers as if they were old friends. Actu­al­ly, I think they real­ly were, because I was told in the last sev­er­al weeks of my dad’s life, going to the shop sick as he was, his hair­cuts were get­ting shab­bier and shab­bier due to his ill­ness. But the cus­tomers did­n’t stop com­ing — they came for his com­pa­ny, his gift of gab, his warm friend­ship, and I believe to get one last hair­cut and pay their last respects. I proud­ly wit­nessed how much he was loved and admired by his customers.

tipI would always “tip” him for my hair­cut — just a pen­ny or two — to be like the grown up cus­tomers! Maybe that’s why I’ve always enjoyed tip­ping. (Also, I admit, to land a date with a pret­ty waitress.)

I guess my dad inspired a few oth­er traits in me, too. I have always been an entre­pre­neur. (I worked for some­one once and prompt­ly got fired after two weeks.) I like to hire peo­ple who are a bit down and out to do sim­ple lit­tle things and sup­ply them with some gen­er­ous spend­ing cash, like my dad used to send the local kid to the store across the street to buy him a soda or a pack of cig­a­rettes — and tip him more than the items cost. And I like sales­man­ship and deliv­er­ing a good prod­uct; not that my dad was a sales­man per se, but he had a great way of engag­ing his cus­tomers in con­ver­sa­tion while he per­formed his task. Cus­tomer ser­vice, you could call it.

The one trait I did not inher­it from my dad was how he used to dress up in a suit and tie every morning…and wear a smock over that when he got to the bar­ber shop. That was show­ing a lot of respect to his cus­tomers, and I sure admire that. But me? Not only do I hard­ly ever wear a suit or a tie, I just hap­pen to be the nud­ist in the family.

There was one thing I did­n’t cher­ish about my dad being a bar­ber: He had a thick leather bar­ber strop at home, and believe me that hurt ten times worse than a belt! (Not that he pun­ished us kids much; it was com­mon in that era to get thrown over the knee and get a lit­tle whip­ping.) On the oth­er hand, he also had a pro­fes­sion­al shoe shine kit in the garage (no longer employ­ing a shoe shine boy at the shop) and to this day I enjoy the rit­u­al of shin­ing my own shoes with the dab­ber, then the horse­hair brush, then the chamois. And spit real­ly does help the shine!

Here’s a salt anec­dote to demon­strate how stub­born he was:

Mom would brown bag Dad­dy’s lunch every­day, and since he could not eat salt (strict doc­tor’s orders) she sprin­kled a salt sub­sti­tute on his sand­wich­es. After his death we were clean­ing out the bar­ber shop, and — lo and behold — there was a one-​pound con­tain­er of Mor­ton Salt in the back room!

And here’s a pep­per anecdote:

When I was a Glen­dale News-​Press paper­boy, my route man­ag­er, whom our whole fam­i­ly real­ly liked, would fre­quent­ly join us for break­fast. He smoth­ered his eggs with black pep­per until they were, well, black. Just like I emu­lat­ed my dad in so many ways, I emu­lat­ed my man­ag­er and start­ed cov­er­ing my eggs in black pep­per…and even­tu­al­ly just about every­thing else, includ­ing ice cream (it’s good!). I’m not big on salt but I love my pep­per! In fact, I car­ry a small pep­per grinder to restau­rants just in case. If you love pep­per, you’ll love this site: pep​per​-pas​sion​.com

* * *

print4

There was one prophet­ic moment when my dad sat me on his lap and showed me some­thing that inspired my life-​long pas­sion and career.

I was prob­a­bly 4 or 5, because I am cer­tain this occurred before first grade. (How am I so sure of that? Next para­graph.) Dad­dy opened a book and point­ed to the char­ac­ters on the page. I dis­tinct­ly recall his show­ing me a page num­ber in the cor­ner which was the numer­al 4, and point­ing out how the let­ters were formed on the page. (I chose a type­style for the Salt & Pep­per Amper­Art that is sim­i­lar to the let­ters and num­bers I saw in that book.) From that moment on I was inter­est­ed in typog­ra­phy and let­ter­ing, adding ser­ifs to let­ters (in all the wrong places) and let­ter­ing in fan­cy scripts on my grade school papers. That always helped me get a good grade!

Before I start­ed rec­og­niz­ing ser­ifs and such, I sim­ply drew let­ters as accu­rate­ly as I could, maybe learn­ing before first grade, maybe dur­ing. But one instance I’ll nev­er for­get, which shaped my view of school and of “the estab­lish­ment” as a whole, hap­pened in first grade:

school4

We were learn­ing to draw num­bers, and if you recall, the “4” was all right angles and open at the top. Hav­ing been fas­ci­nat­ed for awhile with pro­fes­sion­al typog­ra­phy, I instead drew my “4” the way I saw it in print­ed books, the way Dad­dy point­ed it out to me, with the upstrokes end­ing at an apex on top.

bad4

Well, my wretched old first grade teacher, Miss Hel­frich (such a fit­ting name, I thought), slapped a red X right across my let­ter 4. “Incor­rect!” she said, not real­iz­ing I was repro­duc­ing a pro­fes­sion­al print ver­sion of the glyph (no, I did­n’t know that word back then). If I was any less intel­li­gent and insight­ful at the time, her rep­ri­mand could have sab­o­taged my career. It was at that moment I turned against every­thing “school,” although today I regard teach­ers as being among the most ded­i­cat­ed, inspir­ing and enrich­ing pro­fes­sion­als of all the trades. I’ve even taught a lit­tle. But I did start to ques­tion every sin­gle thing the sys­tem tried to brain­wash us with from that moment on. Still do. Thanks to my stub­bor­ness, I con­tin­ued to draw the num­ber 4 “wrong” which lead to my career as a typog­ra­ph­er and let­ter­ing artist, among oth­er design-​related endeavors.

* * *

I coud­n’t wait for Dad­dy to come home from work when he would take off his suit coat and prop me on his lap, smell the won­der­ful smells of the bar­ber shop, and feel his immense love. I was his pride and joy (until my sis­ter was born, any­way), although I did­n’t real­ize till lat­er being the first­born does that to a father, espe­cial­ly an Ital­ian. It sure did it to him. Besides all the fun we had and how much we loved each oth­er, he spoiled me rot­ten. Yeah, I picked up that trait too. I nev­er had any kids (nor ever got mar­ried for that mat­ter) but I spoil my cats to the hilt. (Anoth­er trib­ute to my moth­er is that she’s real­ly the one who kept us in line and taught us respon­si­bil­i­ty. I loved my dad and “hat­ed” my mom (I loved her on a deep­er lev­el of course) because he’d give me my way all the time but if Mom was around she’d put her foot down. Short­ly after she was bring­ing us up all on her own, I real­ized what a tremen­dous task that was being the strict one. I’m a spoiled brat, I’ll admit that, but with­out Mom’s guid­ance I’d be ten times worse. Even­tu­al­ly I admired and respect­ed my moth­er in a way I did­n’t per­ceive with my dad.)

cream-carnation-6126393Every Sun­day Dad­dy and I would go to Sav-​On Drug Store while Mom start­ed the Sun­day meal, which was usu­al­ly a feast of lasagna or prime rib or baked ham, all deli­cious. At Sav-​On he would buy us each (him, me, and my broth­ers and sis­ter when they were old enough to “tag along”) an ice cream cone for a nick­el at the Car­na­tion Ice Cream counter (which is one rea­son car­na­tions are my favorite flower, espe­cial­ly the ones that are white with a red rim on each petal). He would also buy a box of Pep-​O-​Mint or Spearmint Life­Savers to use as breath mints at the bar­ber shop. And he always brought a Cup-​O-​Gold home for Mom. (That is a deli­cious round con­fec­tion of choco­late and coconut with a coconut cream cen­ter. Some­times Mom would give me a bite. What a treat! Hard to find these days, so I always stock up when I find them, and of course think of Mom and those Sun­days at Sav-​On with Daddy.)

Sun­day din­ners were mag­nif­i­cent. Some­times we had com­pa­ny over, some­times not. But Mom always put out the good chi­na (that Dad­dy bought her after they mar­ried). Now, my mom was full-​blooded Ger­man but she cooked Ital­ian as good as her sister-​in-​law Josephine. I guess my Sicil­ian father made sure she took “lessons” from his mama, or just set her up with some good Ital­ian cook­books. I have nev­er had spaghet­ti and meat­balls, lasagna, or many oth­er Ital­ian dish­es as good as my mom’s. Sur­pris­ing­ly, we did not grow up with wine at the table; it was always Seven-​Up or Bubble-​Up with the spaghet­ti din­ners. Still, I end­ed up not only the nud­ist but the alco­holic, def­i­nite­ly not inher­it­ed from my mom or dad. (I’m also the artist, the eccen­tric, the nerd, the spoiled brat. Cer­tain­ly not a role mod­el for my siblings.)

breadMy dad’s absolute favorite dish was angel hair pas­ta with peas and parme­san cheese, almost like a soup. I remem­ber him rais­ing the bowl to get the last of the broth. And he always, I mean always, had a chunk of bread in his left hand when there was a fork or spoon in his right. When­ev­er I want some com­fort food I make that bowl of angel hair and peas.

I could write sev­er­al chap­ters about my dad, but I wish he could have lived longer so I could write sev­er­al books.

I love you, Dad­dy. Your salt & pep­per hair, men­thol & pep­per­mint aro­ma (with a touch of Aqua­Vel­va), your warm & gen­tle smile, and all your love, more love than any child could pos­si­bly embrace.

Andrew J De Simone


listen up!

Gray and grey are dif­fer­ent spellings of the same word, and both are used through­out the English-​speaking world. But gray is more com­mon in Amer­i­can Eng­lish, while grey is more com­mon in all the oth­er main vari­eties of Eng­lish. In the U.K., for instance, grey appears about twen­ty times for every instance of gray. In the U.S. the ratio is reversed.

Both spellings, which have ori­gins in the Old Eng­lish grǽg, have exist­ed hun­dreds of years.

The pre­ced­ing is from gram​marist​.com. The arti­cle con­tin­ues at http://​gram​marist​.com/​s​p​e​l​l​i​n​g​/​g​r​a​y​-​g​r​ey/, and the com­ments are quite funny.

As a child I guess I was taught to spell “gray” which is how I wrote it up until, for some unknown rea­son, I switched to “grey” in my adulthood.

My dad loved ety­mol­o­gy, most like­ly because he was brought up speak­ing Sicil­ian and want­ed to learn prop­er Eng­lish. Now that I’ve done my research how to prop­er­ly spell the col­or of Dad­dy’s hair (and mine), I’ll spell it “gray” from now on and ded­i­cate the Amer­i­can Eng­lish spelling to my dad, the Sicilian-​born Italian-American.


PRODUCTION NOTES:
Original size: 20x30 inches
Programs: Photoshop, Illustrator (to create the & holes spacing guide)
Font: Century Schoolbook (similar to my first exposure to typography)
Photography & retouching: Chaz DeSimone, Lumix ZS7
CREDITS:
Barber pole image: williamsport​bar​ber​.com
Tip image: think​stock​.com /​ article: leave a big tip
Carnation and bread images: dream​stime​.com
Gravestone photo: my brother Rob
Salt/​pepper shaker top:  “acquired” from one of Chaz’s favorite coffee shops
Enjoy & share…

16 thoughts to “#51 Salt & Pepper”

  1. Wow Chaz, what a beau­ti­ful heart­warm­ing sto­ry. How won­der­ful that you had such an amaz­ing and lov­ing g dad. I wish I could have had a dad like him. Fathers makes such a dif­fer­ence. After read­ing this I feel like I know you and under­stand you so much more. Thanks so much for shar­ing it with me.
    Warmly,
    Morgan

  2. Chaz, what a beau­ti­ful trib­ute to your father (and moth­er). I’m a lit­tle teary today, miss­ing my dad, who’s been gone 8 years. I was blessed to have him into his 80s. Still miss him every day.

  3. Chaz, what a beau­ti­ful trib­ute to your father and moth­er. I’m a lit­tle teary today miss­ing my dad, who died 8 years ago. I was for­tu­nate enough to have him into his 80s but I’d give any­thing to have more time.

  4. Anoth­er great arti­cle Charles. I remem­ber you always as Charles
    Thanks for includ­ing me on your list. I enjoy read­ing about your rich fam­i­ly his­to­ry thanks again. By the by I always print­ed out your posters and hung them up on the office bul­letin board. Cheers

  5. Chaz, I love that man, right up my ally… Hit home with what I’m look­ing to accom­plish show­ing the love for dad and the impact he had on your life!

  6. Oh Chaz, this was such a beau­ti­ful bou­quet of mem­o­ries! I would love to read more of your nos­tal­gic ear­ly life in California…it sounds so sim­ple and won­der­ful in so many ways. Your lov­ing words about your Dad­dy, your Mom and your fam­i­ly warm my heart and make me feel hap­py (and, yes, you have inher­it­ed SO many mar­velous qual­i­ties from your kind, gen­er­ous, thought­ful, lov­ing parents!)Finally, I love (and have always loved) your writ­ing style..it is so engaging…just draws you in! I very sin­cere­ly hope that your hard-​bound, clev­er­ly illus­trat­ed & won­der­ful­ly writ­ten, Amper­Art book is pub­lished soon!
    Lisa

    1. I’m think­ing of cre­at­ing the amper­sand shak­er (would only need to man­u­fac­ture the cap). It could con­tain any­thing at the lunch counter!

  7. Char­lie,

    Wow! What a great sto­ry of your child­hood mem­o­ries. I remem­ber a din­ner at your mom’s house and what a great one it was! You should write a book of your child­hood mem­o­ries and Glen­dale in the 1950’s & 60’s. A lot of great and funny
    stuff hap­pened like the breath­ing bush.
    Your old friend, Joe.

  8. I was real­ly impressed by what you wrote about your Dad who was my Uncle. He was my moth­er’s old­est broth­er and her favorite. He was a won­der­ful hus­band, father and uncle. It was a shame he nev­er got to see his chil­dren grow up and to enjoy his grand­chil­dren. He’ll always be remem­bered for the man he was.

  9. One more thing: I agree with Nan­cy. You could write a great book about your child­hood, your fam­i­ly, and grow­ing up dur­ing the nos­tal­gic fifties in Cal­i­for­nia. You could cre­ate an ebook at no cost. That’s one of my areas of inter­est and expe­ri­ence, so if you decide to do it and you need any help, let me know. I can send you com­plete instruc­tions on how to turn it into a Kindle-​ready ver­sion. Of course, you prob­a­bly already know all of this anyway.

  10. Chaz! What a won­der­ful sto­ry of your child­hood and your equal­ly won­der­ful father. I have a ten­den­cy of get­ting a bit emo­tion­al when peo­ple speak of their fathers, because I also have fond mem­o­ries of mine, so I total­ly under­stand where that love and respect comes from. Thank you so much for shar­ing such a per­son­al part of your life. I tru­ly enjoyed it. By the way, you are an excel­lent writer. 

    P.S. I love the Salt & Pep­per Amperart.

  11. Wow, you real­ly could, and maybe should write a short biog­ra­phy about your dad, and could include more of your fam­i­ly’s sto­ries. Very heart­felt and interesting.

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