Sunday, May 21, 2006

Letters from Aldo



My friend Aldo Carrasco — Aldo Egbert Carrasco y Febles — died twenty years ago, May 28, 1986. Aldo was an extraordinary guy — wickedly funny, passionate about literature and music, devoutly Catholic (despite all challenges), utterly loyal to his friends, utterly intolerant of bigotry, hypocrisy, and pretension (or "pretension flambé," as we called it — my coinage). He was a "grand guy, period," as he once joked.

I first knew Aldo, very slightly, through mutual friends at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. After I moved to Boston in 1980 to work on a doctorate, our friendship deepened through the mail. As I remember, we met up at a party in the Bronx and agreed to correspond. Our friendship ran to Aldo's death — my wife Elaine and I last saw him in the hospital just a day before he died.

Aldo was a letter-writer without peer. Knowing that, I'm still astonished to see, going through boxes of correspondence, how many letters he wrote, and the length of those letters — often four or five pages, sometimes handwritten on legal pads, loose-leaf paper, sketchpads, exam booklets, paper placemats; sometimes typed, single-spaced, on a manual typewriter. Some letters are made of separate pages written over two or three days. I was evidently quite the letter-writer too, as many of Aldo's letters begin with thanks for my latest "tome," followed by a commentary on the funniest bits. Nowadays I suppose we would have "kept in touch," as they say, by e-mail, in which case much of what we said to one another might never have been written.

I've preserved all idiosyncrasies of punctuation and spelling in these excerpts. (Aldo picked up my habit of ignoring the Shift key when typing.) All ellipses are in the letters. I've omitted a few names, though those involved are unlikely to read these excerpts. I've added dates and a few notes in brackets. And I've preserved all true confidences: what was private, is private.

If what Aldo wrote on March 14, 1981, holds, I think he'd love the idea of other people reading these passages. Anyone who knew him will hear him in these words. And if, reader, you didn't know him, they might provide a glimpse of a friend whom you would like to have known.

From the earliest letter I have from Aldo:

i did not understand the first cuban idiom you sent me: something about cuchanbe or some such. i have no idea what that word means. if it's a country word forget it the closest i ever got to country living was when ricky and lucy moved to conn. while back home i never saw so much as an arbol in my life. nothing but cement for this groundhog, thank you. [December 15, 1980]
A memorable sentence in the course of a long discussion of attitudes toward love:
Marriages are most definitely not made in heaven; they're made (quite literally, crafted) on earth. [March 4, 1981]
A small slice of the life of a graduate assistant in an English Department:
There was something about __________ that I neglected to tell you and I must get some back-biting in this letter: I asked him if I could sit in to hear the lectures on __________. He said "yes." But when I showed up for the following classes, he asked me not to come any more. Every time I offered a rationale, he said apologetically "No, NO!" This went on 5 times. I got the hint. Then, today, I hear that he was looking for me all day. When I find him later in the afternoon and ask him what he wanted, he says, "I wanted you to mail a manuscript" and after some verbal wordage says, "Well I thought you're the kind of person that wouldn't consider himself put upon if asked to do a favor!" — Sometimes, I don't know what to make of anybody. [March 4, 1981]
On letters:
I for one keep all my friends' letters for a time; one usually knows when the time comes to throw them away, if ever of course. I always wait because I have never regretted throwing anything out when it was done at the right time, so I trust my instincts there where I do usually nowhere else. That's a real frightening thought — my letters roaming Boston (et, le monde!) for all eyes to see. I have a responsibility now to all those voyeurs out there; I just can't give them anything to read. . . . [March 14, 1981]
Aldo and I were given to writing various cryptic remarks on envelopes:
what do you mean by "I are out of patience"? uhm . . . How can you write anything as "personelle" outside the envelope is beyond me. I mean, the man can read, ya nowe? [April 25, 1981]

[Note: I don't know what I meant by "I are out of patience" (probably just exasperation with my life), but I know that it's a takeoff on a pun in James Joyce's Ulysses — "My patience are exhausted."]
On priorities in academia:
How often can you whip out The Tempest and start a mass-reading without being thrown out? — "__________ you wanna take Prospero? uhm? __________? Miranda? — yeah, I know, it's a tuff rôle but try to act innocent, uhm? __________! — you Caliban, you!" —; imagine that mise en scène. Disaster. They're all too busy buying Entenmann's cake for each other to read anything aloud. [May 5, 1981]
Aldo on Aldo:
I have only recently recovered from the spring semester past; I noticed that it had made me extremely vulgar — as my letters will attest to . . . I have finally returned to what was Aldo: gentle, considerate, brilliant, and incredibly attractive. [June 8, 1981]
On deciding not to continue toward a doctorate:
i may not have told you that ive decided not to go for my phd right away. now, dont panic, i didnt say ever but im very certain that i want a break. the thought of going on next sept depresses me beyond belief. id much rather teach in a HS for a while or a community college, id even gladly take my phd part time as i work.

id appreciate it if you didnt treat me as a literary apostate. [November 9, 1981]
On being done with M.A. exams:
Comè si va? "La vita," (that is) not "la nuova," simplemente "la vita," caro! eh! pizza! eh! —— in mezzo del camin di nostra vita . . . eh! — Arturo Fonzerelli! basta, caro! . . . passin' the Comps has made me a little crazy — yes! sì! — I pass 'em, got the letter on Saturday last. [May 10, 1982]
Aldo's letters were often embellished with French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, and Spanish words and phrases. He routinely spelled the name of a former girlfriend of mine in Greek. (No, she wasn't Greek.) In one letter he wrote out the Apostles' Creed in Latin, from memory, I assume ("Show your friends! amaze your mother!" he added). Here's a funny moment of Aldo being self-conscious about language. It begins with faux lit-crit questions about why I didn't date a letter:
should I interpret this as a signal from the aûteur that I should regard the letter as timeless? or that perhaps, it is an attempt on your part to assert the contemporaneity of the past and future with the present? my but pretension flambé has surfaced mightily this après-midi (that reminds me I must find out what the word for "afternoon" is in some other — that which is "other" —— language!) [June 28, 1982]
Aldo joked about his religious faith (which included great devotion to the Virgin Mary), but he was absolutely serious about it too. On the death of a beloved professor, Paul Memmo:
Don't let Memmo get you down, by the way. We loved him and we can cherish his memory always. I'm truly sorry for those students who'll never know of him, who will never be brought nearly to tears just from hearing him address people in that incredibly touching way he had. Remember also that this is not the last we'll see of him. There'll be a reunion . . . And there — he can't be taken from us again. How wonderful that it serves not only as a consolation, but as a Truth. Angels may not exist, but we'll see Paul again. [August 10, 1982]
On opera:
I spent the entire day reading thro' Wagner's Ring text. It was wünderbar of course but it remains one of the most tragic visions of human existence I've ever seen. I have to read the med. text Der Nibelungenlied which Wagner read and adapted for the cycle and I'm sure that it will be equally depressing. Talk about "tragic ecstasy." Yeats had nothing on these guys, I can assure you! Nothing! It's page after page of betrayal, lost love, agony, murder, injustices, etc. And the bitch of it is: once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. [August 19, 1982]

wes ooops! well here i am aging tho overdue somewhat (that should be again back there) with reason #1098 to listen to opera: re: le nozze di figaro: because i recently listened to the opera (entire but o'curse) and while i read the libretto i realized that the opera deals with some elemental issues of human existence: to wit: ridicule, incest, transvestism, lesbianism, betrayal, perfidy, intrigue, lust, love, passion, stutters, misogyny, may-october relats., violence, mock trials, forgiveness, revenge, sadism, beatings, prostitution, philandering, fornication, extortion, corruptions, class-struggle, peasant revolt and unrest, happy endings and beginnings and lots of fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [September 6, 1982]

[Note: The reference to "reason #1098" is a takeoff on then-current television commercials featuring numbered reasons why H&R Block should prepare your taxes.]
After getting his M.A., Aldo took a job teaching 7th-grade boys and girls in a Catholic school. Not as much time for letter-writing then, but he managed to work on letters even during breaks in the school day:
. . . at this very moment, my kiddies are singing "Go Down Moses" in "la classe de musique," taught by a certain Miss Indelicato. I asked her what it was her family had done in the past to deserve such a name. No answer so far. [October 7, 1982]
Aldo's first teaching gig didn't last long — he had to deal with a monstrous nun-principal in what turned out to be untenable circumstances:
It isn't that now I don't know what to do but that I know what I should feel and think before I do anything — whether it be grad. school or carpentry. I simply got a sense of my own mind, of some kind of purpose and have cleared the fog and cobwebs. I've cleaned the room but kept some of the furniture, as it wère. So there it is: most things are back to square one although I carry the benefit of experience (some) and contémplation to that first peg. I hope for the best. The best of all possible worlds. [November 8, 1982]
After leaving this teaching job, Aldo was unemployed for over a year. He knew himself well enough to know that grad school was not his vocation. His letters during this time were filled with difficulties — frayed friendships, doubt, feelings of inertia. He quotes Charlie Brown's "AAUGH!" again and again. But there are still moments of humor:
No, I am not in a Howard Johnson's "motor-lodge," whatever that is. [On Howard Johnson's stationery, February 3, 1983]

im thinking of having a t-shirt made with the following printed on it, "have you accepted the pope as your personal savior?" or maybe "only the bishop of rome binds and unbinds." el fanatico strikes at the heart of the garment industry. besides while the summer lasts such things are great conversation starters. [June 26, 1983]

St. Euphoria
St. Agoraphobia
St. Xenophobia
St. Fulcrum
Eva Marie Saint
This partial list appears in a letter signed
aldo,
king of spain and portugal,
regent of france,
friend to germany and her high culture,
governor general of the annexed province of england which lost MISERABLY when the glorious spanish armada of 1983 destroyed their pathetic womanish "fleet" and liberated ireland, ever-faithful daughter of the TRUE FAITH, from the yoke of these anglosaxon hoodlums,
liberator of ireland,
grand inquisitor,
grand guy, period [November 15, 1983]
From a Honeymooners trivia quiz:
question three: what did alice sacrifice in order to afford the fishing equip she bought for the raccoon lodges annual fishing trip? question four: what was the amount of ralphs tax refund check that he was going to spend on "one glorious week of fishing at freds landing"? question five: what was the name of the judge who was to award ralph the driver of the year award? part two of question 5: and for what was the judge best known? [November 28, 1983]

[Note: I knew and still know the answers: Going to the beauty parlor for three months. $42. Hollerin' Hurdle, famous for his $50 fines and 50-minute lectures.]
In February 1984, Aldo got a position in Butler Library, Columbia University. He was very happy to be back in an academic setting:
i went to columbia, filled in my application, took my typing test (gasp!) — and got 44 words a min no less! — and handed in my resume. the ball's in their court now, as it were. i've everyone i know throwing my name before the throne of God. the entire celestial court is rooting for me. [January 21, 1984]

now to matters of little importance. butler library hired me. i start this monday the 13th. i get to take free courses at columbia which is very nice. you may venerate me as one of the gainfully employed. [February 11, 1984]
Aldo's letters during his time at Columbia are quite happy. He took classes in German (with As) and was working with congenial people.
They're giving me a new assignment at work because I've done such a good job on the backlog of deadbeat country books. Got lots of praise that went right to my head and am now insufferable. [April 20, 1984]
He was happy for me too, as in January 1984, I'd met Elaine Fine, whom I would later marry.
if the new moon has brought about all these changes, wünderbar! la tua vita amorosa TAKES OFF!!!!! aside from vous-même, who rests happier than I? [January 21, 1984]

we have both had revolutions in our lives, both for the better. you with élaine, and me with "myself." the situations were always before reversed. i was lost in this sea of strangers without myself and you (for the most part) had nothing but. im glad to see that some kind of grecian mean has been struck. also this strikes me as one of my most substantial letters to date. i never once had to think of what to say. and very little flippancy too, i must have a fever. anyway let it resound throughout the land: aldo is happy and he dont give a flying f--- who knows it. [March 3, 1984]

[Note: It was Aldo who typed the hyphens in "f---," not I.]
Elaine and Aldo first talked when she, at work, called him, at work, and made him guess who she was. He did, right away.
Élaine rang me the other day, npi. I also received several looney post-cards. I did indeed love the work of your post-card idol; never heard of him before tho'. A cp is in the works for Élaine, la très fine, and I think it will please her. [March 21, 1984]

[Note: The abbreviations "pi" and "npi" (pun intended, no pun intended) ran through our letters. Aldo's "cp" must stand for "carte postale." The "post-card idol" might be the artist Glen Baxter, or perhaps Ken Brown, whose work was popular in Boston.]
Aldo was very happy when Elaine and I decided to get married. He offered only one warning, on the back of an envelope:
NOTA BENE

Remember though . . . . . it's FOREVER! [May 16, 1984]

[Note: "FOREVER" is underscored ten times. It occurs to me now that Aldo was offering not a joke about the woes of monogamy but a reminder that if you're going to get married, you should take it seriously and do it right.]
I can't recall why Aldo left his library job. In December 1984, he took a position with a textile importer. He was responsible for, among other things, all correspondence with European companies, which involved reading and replying to telexes in French, German, and Italian. He also had access to company (i.e., free!) long-distance, which meant fewer letters. (Keep in mind that not so long ago, long-distance calls were an expensive proposition.)

Aldo soon took to sending short telexes to Elaine at her day job (the telex operator there was her friend). Aldo also sent telexes through the mail to our apartment. This one was accompanied by a swatch of a garish fabric named (no kidding) "Aldo":
ATT: MR AND MRS LEDDY

YOUR RESERVE FOR 1,098 METRES OF 5303, ALDO, IS VERIFIED AND ENCLOSED YOU'LL FIND A PRESENT STOCK CUTTING OF THE ALDO FOR YOUR APPROVAL. THANK YOU.

PS. HELLO MY CHILDREN: BELIEVE IT OR NOT THERE IS A FABRIC IN THE LINE NAMED — ALDO — AND IT CORRESPONDS TO THE CUTTING I SENT YOU. THEY TELL ME HERE THAT IT WAS NAMED AFTER ME. I'M NOT SURE THAT THEY'RE TEASING ME.

PSS: AIN'T IT HIDEOUS
????????????????????????? [no date]
My decision in spring 1985 to take a tenure-track position in "down-state Illinois" was no match for Aldo's wit. He consulted a map before writing the following:
chicago, local bastion of culture, is quite far far far far far far far far far away . . . so forget it. new york, le centre d'univers (or as husserl (sic) put it, "where it's at") is on venus. boston? what's boston? i'd take heart tho'; for a mere thirty miles, or so, to the west, you have the county of "christian."

during summer vacation, you can both "pop down" to metropolis il. and bid a good day to clark, lois and jimmy. somewhat to the south tho'; on the banks of the charles river, it can NEVERTHELESS BE REACHED BY MULE TRAIN . . . actually the furthest town to the south is cairo. you can take in the sphinx. take white cotton shirts, it be hot in egypt. well so much for the tour of your new home. i'll light a candle or two (poss. five). [April 29, 1985]
Aldo from time to time sent us parcels of beautiful fabrics for curtains and such. He wasn't doing anything unethical; these pieces were all "ends." This warning, sent on company stationery, must have followed several such parcels:
Be advised: __________ has contacted its law firm, the very reputable Ogilvy, Boylston and Appleton of Quincy, Massachusetts, and shall soon take action against Michael Leddy, Chic Interiors of Brookline for non-payment of services and goods. Please refer to invoice numbers 3488001, 636542, and 487760 which total $234,098,988, and that's in good ol' Yankee cash, friend . . . so pay up, or we'll have Harry (Mr. Ogilvy) break both your legs.

Yours in Christ/Abraham

the very reputable AE Carrasco [June 13, 1985]
In the fall of 1985, Aldo went back to teaching, and he finally found his true vocation, at a Catholic school in Brooklyn, teaching sixth-grade boys and girls, if I remember correctly. He loved his students, and they loved him. From one of the last letters I have from Aldo, written after his first day of teaching:
Thanks for great letter. Nice and long and all that wonderful single spacing! And no! you didn't repeat yourself.

Teaching went very well today. Excellently actually. The kids are wonderful.

The school is wonderful. The principal is wonderful. The neighborhood is wonderful. So something's going to go wrong. It has too. This is too good. Of course, it's only been one day. But I'm sure I'll feel comfortable in six months or so, and really "in" next September. Tomorrow there's a faculty luncheon. So I get free food in a yuppie restaurant in Park Slope.

I miss you both terribly and am not thrilled that I just can't indulge myself in the Eastern Shuttle. Damn. Now that Atherton Place [where Elaine and I had lived in Brookline, Massachusetts] is under enemy command anyway, what wld. be the use?

Hope that — sorry, went away for a minute and forgot what I wanted to write!

I just can't remember . . . well, I'll take this for an omen and say bye. Have to get up at the ungodly hr of 6 of the a. m.

I miss the little monsters already . . . [September 4, 1985]


Aldo Carrasco
April 24, 1958 - May 28, 1986
[Photo taken spring 1984, New York City]

A related post
A telex from Aldo

comments: 29

TRH said...

This is a heart-breakingly beautiful memorial. Thank you for sharing it. And blessings on the soul of Aldo.

--TH

Joshua Sowin said...

Thanks for sharing. Too bad letter writing is becoming such a lost art!

Adlai Carrasco said...

As Aldo's younger brother by six years,I lost the benefit of being a true adult simultaneously with my brother and enjoying our friendship on a deeper level.

These excerpts reinforce what I will always remember about Aldo; he was one of the most loyal, intelligent, caring, loving, affectionate and unselfish people I have ever met. I was truly blessed to be his brother, because he enriched my life through his heart for the rest of my life. I am, without a doubt, a better person walking this earth because of him.

Michael, thank you for keeping his memory alive in such a special way.

Adlai Carrasco

Michael Leddy said...

Adlai, I'm so glad that I can share Aldo's words in this way. TH and Joshua, thanks for your comments too.

Genevieve said...

I enjoyed the excerpts and the glimpse of the person behind the pen.

I regret that I have discarded some letters from my girlfriend of 40 years that would amuse me to read now. We wrote to each other madly for a number of years when we were young. Now we are not so earnest in our communications.

I also foolishly burned the letters that a boyfriend sent from Viet Nam. (It seemed cleansing at the time.)

However, I have kept all the letters from my mother who was a prolific letter writer. She would have been a wonderful blogger. Her letters were both news and commentary. I also have many of my letters to her that she had saved. I haven't organized them, though.

Ben said...

Dad, reading this entry has shown me what a great man Aldo was, and I understand how great of a friendship you had with him.

-Ben

Michael Leddy said...

Genevieve, I'm glad you have your letters from your mother. It's amazing how much old letters bring back.

Ben, I wish you could've known Aldo.

ahking@stthomas.edu said...

Dear Michael and all:

I am re-reading this blog for the fourth time, and it is wonderful to have. I actually knew Aldo before my brother, Peter, and we were great, great friends. My friend Mona Logarbo was studying for a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies (concentration English) and she introduced me to Aldo early on in the '80's. I remember many wonderful times, and Aldoisms; I may even have met you, Michael -- it's been a while.

One of my many cherished memories of Aldo is showing me what he had written in the margins of a student paper at Fordham (If you can't stick to a verb tense then GIVE IT UP!!!) and worse. I laughed until I cried. I ultimately moved in with Peter in Pittsburgh and got a job in Minnesota (this elicited great sympathy after the "WHERE"?? comments from Aldo) and talked with him on the phone fairly constantly that spring before his death. We had dinner together the previous January when I was in NYC. He called one day in February to ask if I thought his dream was crazy (I'm one of the theologians in the bunch) -- it was beautiful. He was in pain, hard to sit. He dreamed that Our Lady put cushions down everywhere he moved to in his restlessness. It was a beautiful dream, also very Aldo.

I was away at a conference at the time of his death and devestated to have missed the funeral and any tribute at the time, aside from mine own.

So, on this twentieth anniversary, I send my love and honor him, not just his memory -- he is with me in the communion of saints all the time.

Anne King

Michael Leddy said...

Hello Anne,

I've read your name so many times; it's wonderful to "meet" you here via Aldo. (More in an e-mail.)

Griseledis Carrasco said...

Dearest Michael,

Thank you so much for your heartfelt tribute to my son, Aldo. The pain of losing a child cannot be described. He will be in my heart forever. Seeing the love his friends still have for him, I know that his life was meaningful and will be everlasting. It means the world to me that you have shared your love for Aldo in this way.

Michael Leddy said...

It means a lot to me that you read this. Thanks, Griseldis.

Mona Logarbo said...

Dear Michael,

Thanks for sharing these excerpts from Aldo's letters. It is good to hear his voice again and remember his wit, honesty, compassion, and total aversion to pretence (and those who displayed it) among a host of other traits which I'm sure continue to find expression in his "celestial court". It is hard to believe that 20 years have passed since he died, but maybe that's because for those of us who know him, he continues to be present in the many memories we have of him and the times we all had together. Included in this circle of friends were people some of us at Fordham had only heard about through Aldo. Michael, I only met you and Elaine when you came up to visit Aldo just before he died, but felt like I had known you from before thanks to Aldo's ability to bring people together. He would always introduce people as if they already knew one another.

It is hard to think of Aldo and *not* have some Aldoism or anecdote
come immediately to mind. I was Aldo's cubicle mate in the English department, and he is one of the first people I met there when I arrived in 1980 as a doctoral student in Medieval Studies at Fordham. I can still see him peeping over the cubicle door to introduce himself as he was passing by one day before classes started. Thinking of that cubicle door reminds me of one snowy day during finals that first semester. I had come up to the cubicle with such earnest intentions to study for my Chaucer exam later that day. I found Aldo there, ostensibly to study for the same exam, although neither of us was inclined to do much of anything but sit around and moan that we really wished this exam were over; that we would sit, pen in hand, paralyzed by idiocy when it came to answering the essays, etc., etc. Aldo said it would probably take him all of 30 seconds to inscribe what he knew in the blue book.

Soon, though, Aldo found a way to remedy our intellectual torpor, showing both his appreciation of the finer points in the *Canterbury Tales* and his ability to amuse himself with whatever happened to be lying around our cubicle: He began typing up sexist quotes from the *Canterbury Tales* (mining most of his ore from the *Clerk's Tale*) on index cards and taping them to the outside of our cubicle door. He then pronounced that the clothing of the Canterbury pilgrims was *the* significant critical axis of the work. When I queried something like, "You mean in terms of revealing character?" He said, imparting a note of dire seriousness and religious depth to our failed study session, "You know nothing of original sin".

During the final, contrary to all expectation, we did not sit dumbfounded. At one point, I came up for air, and when I looked across the aisle at Aldo, he was scribbling like a *fiend*, no doubt clarifying the significance of some sartorial detail in the *CT* in a manner which would have made St. Augustine himself intone one of the psalms. I almost laughed out loud, thinking that right then this self-confessed maven of the 30-second essay probably (like me) could have used a back hoe.

For this and many more moments, I am happy to remember Aldo, and know that in the spirit of the communion of saints he does the same for us.

Mona Logarbo

Michael Leddy said...

Mona, what a great story. I can hear Aldo's voice so clearly in it. It's wonderful that so many people close to Aldo are now here together in these comments.

I knew you as just "Mona," mentioned many times in letters. I remember meeting you of course, and just mentioned that yesterday in an e-mail to Anne.

Dealy 5th -- I too called it a "cubicle." Was anyone up there so immodest as to call it an "office"?

monall@umich.edu said...

Michael,

I don't think our cubiculum was ever called an office by any of us; we'd just say, "I'll be up in the English Dept." or "Meet you later in the English Dept." and all parties involved knew a cubicle encounter was to come. Now that I remember, though, both Aldo and I both had squatter's rights in our cubicle after we graduated. Indeed, I believe some of his unclaimed books were still on his desk when I finally gave up my key, quite a while after I had graduated in '86.

I've since graduated from cubicle to cage (or "the Cage," more formally) here in the U of M library where I work on the EEBO (Early English Books Online) project. It's a very long boxed-in area, not very wide, where we workers have our desks right next to each other. I can literally reach out and touch the person sitting next to me. Fortunately, all of my co-editors are very likable people, easy to get along with. The back "wall" of our giant rectangle is a row of windows, and even though the view is not interesting, at least we don't feel so entombed. It does, though, make Dealy 5th seem like luxury accommodations.

Mona

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to Aldo. I knew him when I was in the doctoral theology program at Fordham. I was fortunate enough to fall in with people who were there before I, who already knew Aldo.

I remember so many things about Aldo, it is difficult to pick out just a few. I remember one incident, having a “grad student” mean of soup in a diner in the Village. The waiter had charged Aldo for a second cup of coffee, which he did not have. The waiter argued, Aldo looked him straight in the eye and said, “Sir, I do NOT sell my soul for 40 cents.”

I remember coming home from Holy Thursday Mass in 1986, and getting a phone call from a friend saying that Aldo was in the hospital. I sat and cried my eyes out. My wife told me I should fly to NY to see him. Money was tight. We called in my son, who was 7, and explained that Aldo (whom he had met) was very sick. We told him I could fly to NY to see him, or we could replace the VCR that had been stolen from our duplex. He sat beside me and said, “Dad, I think you should go to NY.”

I did, and when I got to his room, I gave him a rosary I had brought for him (my students had made rosaries). We prayed together (friends called us both "Mary's other sons"). That was one of those special moments I will remember forever. He told me later about his dream, said that in his dream he remembered something I had told him: when he was too tired to pray the rosary, just to say the first lines of the prayers. But Mary invited him to sit down for a while.

I called him about a week before he died, and told him I loved him. When I got the news of his death, I was in St. Louis for a family wedding, and because of circumstances, had to deal with my grief on my own. I have his birthday and what I call his Feast Day in my pda calendar, and remember him especially on those days. I talk to him fairly often, and sometimes, I swear, I can hear his voice answering. And, by the way, he is STILL sarcastic.

Ed

Anonymous said...

Addendum: This past May 28, I had the privilege of attending Mass in Ephesus, Turkey, at Mary's house. The main celebrant was an Italian Franciscan bishop. I think Aldo would have liked that.

Ed Shirley (I can't figure out how to post my name, and don't want to be an "anonymous" again)

Michael Leddy said...

Hello Ed,

Another Fordham person I never met 'til now. Hello! Thanks for sharing those stories here.

Adlai Carrasco said...

Michael, et. al.

I am truly enjoying, albeit with mixed emotions, the sharing of stories and the obvious love his friends have for my brother, Aldo. Despite being 6 years younger than Aldo, he and I were able to forge a relationship that to this day I cherish.

He had justifiable reason to resent me when I was young. My dad, Aldo Sr, and Aldo struggled with their relationship. My dad never understood my brother's persona, and exhibited favoritism toward me. Yet Aldo never resented me, and demonstrated only unconditional love and affection for me. What a good soul he was. My dad passed away in 1984. I like to think that they have had twenty years together, in peace, and are enjoying each other's company.

Aldo is responsible for exposing me to the Arts, Opera, Classical Music and Literature. When I was entering High School, I actually considered pursuing a career in art. His reaction: "I refuse to be related to an ignoramus", given that I was accepted into Fordham Prep. His advice: "pursue your art skills some other time; your education is infinitely more important." He was right, of course. The foundation that Prep school built for me continues to offer me advantages over what Aldo would call "inane drones" that I encounter every day in the business world.

Aldo and I could not have been more different in our interests. I was a typical sports loving, girl chasing, weight lifting teenager. Looking back, I gave him so much material for his sarcastic observation of my 'macho' existence. He always kept me honest, however, pointing out that 'real' men should not be afraid of being affectionate, loving or gentle. He was right, of course.

Aldo loved watching Star Trek, The Odd Couple and The Honeymooners with me. He would lament when I opted to watch baseball, pointing out the irony of, as he would put it, "grown heterosexual men in tight pants patting each others' asses."

As I matured, he felt comfortable sharing his personal life with me. He needed that in his home life, I believe, despite having such rich relationships with his friends. Yes, I knew then how much he cherished his friends, and that there was not an ounce of hypocrisy in his bones. His loyalty to his friends was unwavering. I also knew how much he longed for a long term relationship with a consistent partner. Someone would have been very lucky to have had his loyalty.

...just a few thoughts I wanted to share.

P.S. Note to Mona: I think I took your Creative Writing class when I was an under-grad in Fordham U, and you were working on your PHD. Do you recall?

Adlai Carrasco

Anonymous said...

Michael,

My sincere appreciation for putting these wonderful "pieces of Aldo" online. Indeed, what better tribute could one receive than, after having passed, to have one's words remembered by friends in such a manner?

"St. Euphoria
St. Agoraphobia
St. Xenophobia
St. Fulcrum
Eva Marie Saint"

Now THAT'S the Aldo I'm sure we all like to remember; the irrepressible spirit we were fortunate to have known.

Again, thanks so much for sharing Aldo's very own, and most entertaining, words with us.

¡Viva Aldo!

Chuck Catalano
Cardinal Hayes HS '76
Fordham University '80, '81

Michael Leddy said...

Chuck, thanks for your comment. I'm glad we got in touch.

Adlai, that's a beautiful tribute to your brother.

monall@umich.edu said...

Adlai,

Of course I remember having you in my English class, but it was English Composition (which legitimately could be a subset of Creative Writing--or the other way around!). I did enjoy my grad-student teaching at Fordham. Once, when I was teaching the literature survey, Aldo asked if he could teach the class on Keats' Odes. My students really enjoyed Aldo's class, as did I, and to this day I can still recite parts of the Odes thanks to his enthusiam over them.

Although Aldo might not have been as enthusiastic about "baseball," I know that he really appreciated having you for a brother. I had known Aldo for a good while, and for some reason, I thought he had at least a couple of brothers. When I told him this, I can remember him saying "God gave me only *one*," and (I don't remember the exact words here) that God couldn't have given him a better one.
Seeing your note also reminded me that you had gone to Fordham Prep. I taught there full-time in 1986-87 (9th Latin and 11th English) and then part-time in Spring '88 (9th World History). All college and university teachers in all subjects wish their students were that well prepared for their courses.

Mona

Adlai Carrasco said...

Mona,

Thank you so much for that. It was sweet and it touched my heart. I am truly a lucky man, because growing up I had nothing but affection, love and encouragement from both of my parents and my brother. Aldo was even more special, because few siblings provide as much affection and encouragement as he did. It was unwavering. He would even brag about how 'wonderful' I was in front of others. As embarrassing as it was, I still loved it. Today I live a confident existence. Some would say that I am a very giving and affectionate person (at a minimum, my mom and my wife would say it). There's no doubt where these traits are rooted.

You should know he was very protective of you, and his female friends. I would joke with him about how 'big brothers' had a duty to fix up their little brothers with his friends. Aldo wouldn't bite. He said his friends were off limits and I should fend for myself.

He was unbelievably proud of my decision to attend Fordham Prep. I remember his shock that I had to read The Four Quartets my Freshman year. He helped with it, because I didn't understand a word of it. Aldo took such tremendous joy when I would sit down (which was a challenge in my teen years) and listen to pieces of Mozart, or chosen Arias from his favorite operas. I recall his love for the love duet in 'Tristan & Isolde.' I remember being impressed, if not amazed, at his ability to name each instrument as we listened to Bolero. And yes, I asked him to play it for me after I watched the movie '10.' I couldn't help myself.

He helped me through my Existentialist phase. I couldn't get enough of Camus, and lamented to Aldo how meaningless my life was. He set me straight.

One of the more difficult emotions I continue to deal with is, as I age (I will be 42 later this year), I nevertheless think of Aldo as my 'older' brother. Yet he will forever be 28.

He was EXTREMELY happy that I took your writing class. The idea of his two worlds interacting brought him so much joy. He reminded me, however, to stay away from you socially. After I received an 'A' in your class, I remember needling him that it was because you liked me. He didn't buy it. :)

I cannot express how much I appreciate what you, Michael, and everyone have shared in this blog, and how much I appreciate being able to share my own thoughts and memories.

Adlai.

adlainy@yahoo.com

Irene Tomaszewski Vaught said...

Dear Michael,
Thanks for making me laugh and cry in rapid succession as I remember beautiful, bombastic Aldo! I recently re-read "Confederacy of Dunces,"which always reminds me of him. I have a great Aldo story involving a French exam, but I need some time to re-live it and write it--will post it soon. Mona, do you remember me?

monall@umich.edu said...

Dear Irene,

You bet I remember you. I was hoping you had seen these letter excerpts and all the great blogs; it is so good to remember Aldo and the circle of friends from Fordham (talk about a Confederacy of Dunces). Are you still in New York? I have been in Ann Arbor for almost 17 years now, and still feel that no place will ever quite measure up to the Bronx. (And it goes without saying that that is true for New Yorkers as well.)

Mona

Ellen C Neufeld+ said...

It may be too late to get aboard here, but I will try.

Recently a mutual friend contacted me after many years of being disconnected. She sent me this website. Thanks, Michael. After some thought I remembered your name.

Anne and I shared an apartment for a while during the Fordham years. Often I would make a big pot of soup or pasta and lots of starving grad students would come to share a meal and some lively discussion. At some point Aldo floated in on the tide, probably with Mona. He became a good friend and the resident Wit.

One of our friends in the Theology Department was from England. On a particular occasion he said something that seriously annoyed Aldo. Aldo sat writing for a few minutes and then tore off a sheet of paper which was posted on our refrigerator. It remained on all my subsequent refrigerators for many years, but is now somewhere in the bottom of a box of papers.

I am trying to reproduce what Aldo wrote from (somewhat faulty) memory. I will do my best. It was quintessential Aldo:

The Great Chain of Being

God

Wagner

Shakespeare

Me

English Department Students

[Various Authors]

Theology Department Students

Fauna

Flora

Pond Scum

Englishmen

Michael Leddy said...

Hi Ellen,

What a great great chain of being! Thank you for posting it. It's wonderful to see so many people sharing their memories of Aldo here.

Miguel Jimenez said...

Aldo was my closest friend all through grade school and high school. We had a falling out and we lost touch. About a year ago I came across his brother Adlai while web surfing and I was very saddened to hear of his passing. I am pleased that he had a great life albeit a short one. He was a great guy!
Miguel Jimenez (mjimenez05@snet.net)

Michael Leddy said...

Miguel, thanks for writing and for joining everyone here in remembering Aldo.

John Guzlowski said...

Michael, thanks for writing this piece about your friend.

I wish I had know him.