#84 Love & Devotion

 

84 Love & Devotion

 #84 Love & Devotion
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Leona L. DeSimone
May 26, 2016 — February 13, 2001

LEONA L. DE SIMONE
Beloved Wife, Mother and Grandmother
1916 – 2001

This piece was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Feb­ru­ary 2017 for the anniver­sary of the pass­ing of my moth­er on Feb­ru­ary 13, 2001. It’s the per­fect piece to send again for Moth­er’s Day, for I’m proud to intro­duce you to this incred­i­ble woman who brought up four young kids on her own after our father’s ear­ly death. She was always smil­ing (except when I heard her secret­ly cry­ing as she count­ed pen­nies to feed her chil­dren). Hap­py Moth­er’s Day to every­one, for you are either a moth­er or you’ve had one.


—Feb­ru­ary 2017—

Before I release Amper­Art #100 with a big cel­e­bra­tion lat­er this year, I want­ed to include in the first 100, two specially-​numbered pieces of my art­work to hon­or my mom and dad, from whom I inher­it­ed my tal­ent:
My father, to whom I will pay trib­ute with Amper­Art #62, died at 62 years old on March 29, 1962. It will be released in March.
My moth­er, to whom I pay trib­ute with Amper­Art #84 (she died at 84 years old on Feb­ru­ary 13, 2001), which is the Amper­Art I release today.

We had huge hydrangea bush­es in our front yard, and I always asso­ciate those flow­ers with my mom. They are soft and pas­tel (ours were a mix of pink, blue, white and pur­ple), and big and round and cush­iony look­ing. I was very pleased to find this beau­ti­ful art­work which depict­ed the exact col­ors of Mom’s hydrangeas.

I always called them big bul­bous old-​lady flow­ers; today I dis­cov­ered the prop­er term (thanks to my friend JoAnn — I thought they were aza­leas). As for “old lady,” we kids were for­tu­nate our moth­er lived to a won­der­ful 84 years old, in pret­ty good health, too, all the way up until almost the very end. For the last sev­er­al weeks we took turns stay­ing with her and nurs­ing her. One thing I will always cher­ish is the hon­or, although it was very embar­rass­ing to my mom, to change her dia­pers, for that is what she did for me a long, long time ago.

Mom’s favorite col­or was deep cobalt-​navy-​indigo blue, so I chose that as the back­ground to this piece of art. The type­style is soft and friend­ly, but also a time­less face which express­es solid­i­ty and integri­ty. That’s what my mom was — nur­tur­ing, always smil­ing, but stern enough to bring her kids up as decent human beings. Well, most of us; I’m the eccen­tric black sheep. In fact I actu­al­ly hat­ed my moth­er because she would­n’t allow Dad­dy to spoil me all the time. After our dad died when I was 10 and my broth­ers and sis­ter were even younger, it did­n’t take long for me to real­ize who was real­ly keep­ing the fam­i­ly in line. I loved my dad dear­ly, but when I real­ized that his gen­er­ous and spoil­ing nature was tamed by my down-​to-​earth mom, I gained a true respect and admi­ra­tion for her. A dif­fer­ent kind of love, one that is based on sen­si­bil­i­ty, love and devo­tion to her chil­dren.

The peach col­or in the let­ter­ing is the col­or of ros­es we, specif­i­cal­ly my sis­ter Roslyn, chose for her funer­al. We expect­ed per­haps 50 – 75 peo­ple, and over 200 showed up to pay their respects. Our moth­er touched so many peo­ple with her smile and kind­ness, peo­ple we nev­er even knew, that it blew us away. How proud I felt for hav­ing such as spe­cial per­son as a moth­er that spread so much joy to strangers (well, strangers to her kids).

Mom always sang a lul­la­by to us that is still one of my favorite melodies. We had it played on the organ at her funer­al. All Through the Night (the Welsh lul­la­by, not the Cin­di Lau­per hit)You can lis­ten to it here, sung by Per­ry Como and the Ray Charles Singers in a TV broad­cast from 1958, just around the era Mom would be singing it to all us chil­dren. Appar­ent­ly it struck some­thing deep in Per­ry Como too, as you’ll notice he was­n’t able to fin­ish the song.

My broth­er Rob took that spec­tac­u­lar pho­to of her grave­stone. The reflec­tion of the tree and branch­es are mean­ing­ful. They’re like the strength and endurance that mom always had to with­stand some tough times, mak­ing sure we kids grew up in a nur­tur­ing and lov­ing home.

You left us one day before Valen­tine’s Day, so it’s fit­ting that I sim­ply say Mom, I love you. 


chaz sez ...

Check out the new “chaz sez” blog at Des​i​moneDesign​.com, my com­mer­cial graph­ic design web­site. It’s most­ly about design, typog­ra­phy, print­ing, pub­lish­ing & mar­ket­ing, but on occa­sion I’ll divert to a side­ways top­ic that just can’t escape my rant­i­ng & rav­ing.


Production notes for #84 Love & Devotion:
Original size: 20x30 inches

Program: Adobe Illustrator
Font: Goudy Oldstyle
Ampersand: Goudy Oldstyle
Credits:
Hydrangeas: deposit​pho​to​.com
Mom’s gravestone: Robert DeSimone
All Through the Night: The Perry Como Show /​ YouTube
You may repost the image. Please credit Amper​Art​.com.
To download a full-​size high-​resolution 11x17-​inch poster, click on the image.

For pro­fes­sion­al graph­ic design, please vis­it Des­i­mone Design.

Desimone? Damn good!

#62 Shave & Haircut

AmperArt #62 Shave & Haircut

 #62 Shave & Haircut
Click image to view full size or download poster for gallery-​quality printing & framing.
This is a high-​resolution pdf & may take a few minutes to download.
Find printing tips & framing ideas here.

Andrew J. De Simone
December 31, 1899 — March 29, 1962

Daddy's Gravestone

ANDREW J. De SIMONE
Beloved Husband & Father
1899 – 1962

Before I release Amper­Art #100 with a big cel­e­bra­tion lat­er this year, I want­ed to include in the first 100, two specially-​numbered pieces of my art­work to hon­or my mom & dad, both of whom I love & admire, & from whom I inher­it­ed my tal­ent:
My moth­er, who died at 84 years old on Feb­ru­ary 13, 2001, for whom I cre­at­ed #84 Love & Devo­tion, issued this past Feb­ru­ary 13.
My father, who died at 62 years old on March 29, 1962, for whom I cre­at­ed #62 Shave & Hair­cut.

This was to be issued March 29, the anniver­sary of my father’s death, but com­put­er crash­es pre­vent­ed that. So I spent an entire day writ­ing & edit­ing the sto­ry about my dad. I have stripped out every­thing that has lit­tle to do with Shave & Hair­cut, or bar­ber­ing, and will pub­lish that for Father’s Day. Then you’ll read, besides know­ing my father as the bar­ber, why my child­hood was so rich with hap­py mem­o­ries & abun­dant love. That part of the sto­ry, how­ev­er, will begin with Moth­er’s Day. 

(#84, the trib­ute to my moth­er, is actu­al­ly the 98th Amper­Art cre­at­ed & this one, #62 for my father, is actu­al­ly the 99th one cre­at­ed — the edi­tion num­ber­ing does not relate to the order of issue. The next Amper­Art will be #100, both in edi­tion num­ber & issue. I have no idea what the theme or title will be.)

barber shears

Dad­dy was a bar­ber. Hence the title of this piece, Shave & Hair­cut. Being a bar­ber was, to me, very spe­cial. I got to vis­it him at the shop which was walk­ing dis­tance for my moth­er & me from our house in Glen­dale, Cal­i­for­nia. I loved the smell of the bar­ber shop, always a spicy fra­grance of ton­ics, & my dad “wore” that scent when he came home from work, along with the men­thol of his Kool non-​filters and Life­saver mints. And his warm smile & sil­ver hair. Here’s what I remem­ber & what I’ve been told about my dad:

Born the last day of the cen­tu­ry—my dad’s incred­i­ble birth­date. He was born in Sici­ly Decem­ber 31, 1899 & came “on da boat” to Amer­i­ca when he was 6 months old. The fam­i­ly set­tled in Chica­go. What’s remark­able about his birth­date (besides being born the last day of the cen­tu­ry — the cen­tu­ry before last, in fact) is that his age was always the same as the year, to the day. I was born in 1951, & Dad­dy was 51. He died March 29, 1962, & he was 62. (I find that fas­ci­nat­ing. If he knew his age he knew what year it was, & vice ver­sa — a mem­o­ry device I could use as I get more & more for­get­ful.) 

Dad­dy grew up in Chica­go with his four broth­ers & two sis­ters, was smit­ten with a wait­ress from Indi­ana 16 years his junior (& left her tremen­dous tips, she told me), & chased after her to Los Ange­les. They got mar­ried & I was born sev­er­al years lat­er. I have always liked wait­ress­es (& left them big tips) — like father, like son.Barber comb

Dad­dy had his own bar­ber shop, although ear­ly on upon set­tling in Glen­dale, he had a part­ner — his broth­er Sam. Those are their actu­al busi­ness cards in the pic­ture below. Very spe­cial thanks to my broth­ers for scan­ning and send­ing me images of the busi­ness cards, and to my sis­ter for keep­ing them safe­ly stored. There were four bar­bers among the broth­ers: my dad Andrew J., Samuel J., Antho­ny J., and Michael J. My dad’s mid­dle name was Joseph, so I assume the oth­er broth­ers were too. (I have no idea who Joseph was in the fam­i­ly ances­try, except that was their father’s mid­dle name as well.) The broth­ers grew up in Chica­go, then relo­cat­ed near Los Ange­les. 

We drove to vis­it each of Dad­dy’s broth­ers who were all bar­bers, fre­quent­ly on week­ends. I’d play with their chil­dren & enjoy some spec­tac­u­lar din­ners, both Ital­ian & oth­er­wise. I enjoyed being among the grownups as they con­versed & laughed with each oth­er. (I recall lots of cig­a­rettes, cig­ars & Miller High Life — as well as Sina­tra, Per­ry Como & Vic Damone on the radio.) I enjoyed all my cousins at those vis­its — Rosie, Chuck, Steve, Cindy, Irene, Ron­nie & Michelle.

Anoth­er rel­a­tive (whose fam­i­ly had noth­ing to do with bar­ber­ing) we vis­it­ed fre­quent­ly was my cousin Mary Ann, who was always there to take care of us when Mom was in the hos­pi­tal, or to help out in any oth­er way she could. Her father, my Uncle Car­lo, tend­ed his gar­den where I tast­ed the best toma­toes in my life. He also brined his own olives, send­ing large jars home with us, & to this day that is a cher­ished fla­vor I wish I could expe­ri­ence again.

Those are good mem­o­ries, hang­ing out with the aunts & uncles & cousins on the week­ends.

Dad­dy had two sis­ters & one oth­er broth­er, none of which were bar­bers or styl­ists. I have fond mem­o­ries of all my aunts, uncles & cousins, on both sides of the fam­i­ly. I will tell you about them when I release a future Amper­Art titled Aunts & Uncles. It will include my cousins as well.
Shaving brush

As for the bar­ber tools, I loved the sound of the scis­sors with their con­stant snip­ping rhythm. There was the smell of the ton­ics & the talc, which Dad­dy “wore” home every day after work, smelling so fresh & crisp & clean. That was mixed with Spear-​O-​Mint Life­savers & the men­thol of Kool non-​filters. A won­der­ful, mem­o­rable com­bi­na­tion.

Barber tools and business cardsAfter each hair­cut I’d get dust­ed with a fluffy brush full of laven­der talc, and then the best part of all (besides my dad’s soft voice & friend­ly smile): The Mas­sage. Wow, I have nev­er had a bet­ter head-&-neck mas­sage since those by my dad, with the machines strapped to his hands that vibrat­ed every fin­ger deep into the scalp. His mas­sages were won­der­ful with just his fin­gers alone, but with the Oster mas­sagers it was amaz­ing. (I inher­it­ed one of them, and used to mas­sage my cat with the motor­ized device. As soon as he heard me turn it on — they were quite loud — Woofer would jump on my lap & start purring imme­di­ate­ly. Most cats react to the elec­tric can open­er; mine to the elec­tric mas­sager.) I enjoy giv­ing a good mas­sage — and I’m always told “Don’t stop!” — so I won­der if I inher­it­ed that from my dad.

One bar­ber tool I did­n’t care for so much was the bar­ber strop. Dad­dy was a good father, kind & gen­tle, but in those days it was nor­mal for kids get a whip­ping with a belt when we act­ed up (I was the king of act­ing up — still am). Well, Dad­dy did­n’t need a belt — he had some­thing far more effec­tive, the bar­ber strop: two thick pieces of mate­r­i­al, one leather & one heavy fab­ric, used for sharp­en­ing the straight-​edge blade. Zowie! That stung! It’s pic­tured near the bot­tom in the pho­to of the bar­ber tools — shown far small­er & less intim­i­dat­ing than in real life.

Straight-edge razor
I enjoyed vis­it­ing Dad­dy’s bar­ber shop. I’d walk to there with mom, or Dad­dy would dri­ve me to be his “assis­tant” at the shop. I would sweep up the hair on the floor, but I’m sure I scat­tered it more than any­thing. It was fun play­ing with the bar­ber chairs, rais­ing & low­er­ing & swivel­ing them with the levers. Of course Dad­dy would pull out the boost­er seat to give me a hair­cut, and after he fin­ished I’d give him a pen­ny to tip him like the grownups. Does­n’t sound like much, but in those days, the 1950s, a good tip was ten cents. Remem­ber the dit­ty “Shave & a Hair­cut, two bits”? Two bits meant 25 cents, and I recall hair­cuts in those days weren’t much more than that — well, dou­ble, but still only 50 cents. I don’t know how we ate so well, steak just about every night with full-​on sal­ad, veg­eta­bles, pota­toes & dessert — unless Mom made her incred­i­ble veg­etable beef soup, or lasagna, or spaghet­ti & meat­balls, all from scratch — on a bar­ber’s salary.

Get­ting back to bar­ber­ing, I soaked up how my dad inter­act­ed with his cus­tomers. He was gre­gar­i­ous, cheer­ful, and always had kind words. I enjoy deal­ing with clients, and I often think maybe that’s part of my dad’s  influ­ence on me. Mom’s too, as she was a wait­ress whom every­one loved. One thing I sur­mise is that I get my artis­tic tal­ent from both my par­ents: the con­cep­tu­al & let­ter­ing side from my dad (who had beau­ti­ful hand­writ­ing) with the whim­si­cal influ­ence of Ital­ian her­itage; & the design aspect from my moth­er (who told me once she would love to have been an archi­tect) with the log­ic & exact­ness stem­ming from my Ger­man her­itage. As for my per­fec­tion­ism — that’s just a char­ac­ter defect.

AtomizerDad­dy always had a box of Life­savers (twelve rolls) in his bar­ber shop. In those days they were used as breath mints. He usu­al­ly had Spear-​O-​Mint, but some­times Cryst-​O-​Mint. I liked those; they were Cryst‑O clear. (My favorites, though, were But­ter Rum & a strange­ly minty Choc-​O-​Late, which is no longer made. Every Sun­day Dad­dy would take me, and even­tu­al­ly my broth­ers & sis­ter after they were born, to Sav-​On Drug Store to stock up on the usu­al for the week: First, each of us got a nick­el ice cream cone, & there was a lot of ice cream on them for just a nick­el. What I remem­ber most about the ice cream counter was the beau­ti­ful red & white sign with just a touch of green, spelling out Car­na­tion Ice Cream with an illus­tra­tion of a striped car­na­tion — the type that’s white, rimmed with red. We had all sorts of car­na­tions grow­ing along the side of our house. To this day the striped car­na­tion, just like in the ice cream sign, is my favorite flower. 

After the ice cream cones, we would head to the can­dy aisle where Dad­dy would get a box of Life­savers for the bar­ber shop. I don’t recall if he’d grab his car­ton or two of Kools on our Sun­day errand, or get them from the liquor store across from the bar­ber shop. Most like­ly he sent a kid over to pick them up and would tip the kid as much as the cig­a­rettes cost. He was like that.

Final­ly, back in the can­dy aisle, Dad­dy would pick up a Cup-​O-​Gold can­dy cup which was a spe­cial treat he’d give Mom. Some­times she would share hers with me. They are deli­cious (like a Reese’s peanut but­ter cup but instead of peanut but­ter there’s marsh­mal­low and almonds in a cup of choco­late) but hard to find. Once in awhile I see them & when I do I stock up.

Barber comb

Dad­dy died at 62 (in 1962) from emphy­semia, & I’ll nev­er for­get the eerie wheez­ing sound of the oxy­gen machine he sat at for 15 or 30 min­utes every day for the past months or years of his life. They weren’t silent portable devices like they have today, but a large met­al appa­ra­tus with shiny steel arms & a huge floor-​standing tank with knobs & guages & a hor­ri­fy­ing mask. I can still hear his tremen­dous cough­ing echo­ing in the tiled bath­room, espe­cial­ly in the morn­ing as he was get­ting ready for work. I under­stand he had malar­ia as a child, but no doubt it was the Kool non-​filters that killed him. I have nev­er smoked for that rea­son. (In those days, the mid-​20th cen­tu­ry, smok­ing was the norm. But our mom quit even­tu­al­ly, & lived to 84.)

Towards the end — pri­or to the stroke that caused him to go blind for the last days of his life — Dad­dy’s health was get­ting pro­gres­sive­ly worse. But he kept suit­ing up & show­ing up to take care of his loy­al cus­tomers. (My dad would dress up in a crisp white shirt, suit & tie every­day that he served his cus­tomers, then add a white bar­ber smock over that when he got to work.) His cus­tomers were tru­ly loy­al. As his health dete­ri­o­rat­ed so did his hair­cuts. Shab­by as they were, his cus­tomers would have no one else cut their hair. They sim­ply loved my father. That’s one of the finest tes­ti­monies I have ever heard about any­one. And right before he took his last breath, he told my mom to grab an enve­lope out of his coat pock­et & give it to his broth­er. It was pay­ment in full for a loan. My dad had integri­ty. 

I may or may not have cried between his pass­ing & the funer­al; I don’t remem­ber. Was I try­ing to be brave, now “the man of the house” at just 10 years old? Did I not tru­ly com­pre­hend my father’s life had end­ed? I’m not sure. But I vivid­ly recall burst­ing out in tears upon see­ing Dad­dy lying still in the cof­fin. It final­ly hit me. I can actu­al­ly feel that moment right now.

After Dad­dy died & we were clean­ing out the bar­ber shop, we dis­cov­ered proof of what a typ­i­cal­ly stub­born Ital­ian he was. Mom brown-​bagged his lunch each day, and sprin­kled a lit­tle Adoph’s on his sand­wich­es. (Adolph’s was a salt sub­sti­tute, as Dad­dy was­n’t sup­posed to have any salt which he loved as much as the ton of sug­ar he put in his cof­fee.) In the back room of the shop — you guessed it — we found a one-​pound con­tain­er of Mor­ton salt!

barber shears

Dad­dy, you were the fuzzy warmth of the gray sweater you always used to wear & the crisp scent of ton­ic, mint & men­thol. You were kind­ness, love & integri­ty. I wish my broth­ers & sis­ter could have known you as I did, but then I wish I could have known you longer as well. You live in all of us, I can tell, as I see your hon­esty & and gen­eros­i­ty & kind­ness in all your chil­dren. I admire you & I love you.  I’m proud to be your first-​born, too, the spoiled brat that I was (and still am).

Carnation


chaz sez ...

Check out the new “chaz sez” blog at Des​i​moneDesign​.com, my com­mer­cial graph­ic design web­site. It’s most­ly about design, typog­ra­phy, print­ing, pub­lish­ing & mar­ket­ing, but on occa­sion I’ll divert to a side­ways top­ic that just can’t escape my rant­i­ng & rav­ing.


Production notes for #62 Shave & Haircut:
Original size: 20x30 inches

Programs: Adobe Illustrator (ampersand), Photoshop
Font: Rockwell
Ampersand: hand-​drawn
Credits:
All barber-​related images: deposit​pho​to​.com (modified)
Daddy’s gravestone: photographed by Robert DeSimone
Business cards: archived by Roslyn Clark, scanned by Andy DeSimone & Robert DeSimone
Carnation: someone’s garden
You may repost the image. Please credit Amper​Art​.com.
To download a full-​size high-​resolution 11x17-​inch poster, click on the image.

For pro­fes­sion­al graph­ic design, please vis­it Des­i­mone Design.

Desimone? Damn good!

#51 Salt & Pepper

51-salt-pepper

Click to view full-​size or download hi-​rez image for gallery-​quality printing and framing.
This is a high-​resolution pdf & may take a few minutes to download.
Find printing tips & framing ideas here.

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. Read More