“Volare” – It. ~ to Fly

“Volare” – It. ~ to Fly

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Welcome to 2015 🙂

I don’t know about you, but this time of year I find myself taking a trip down Memory Lane. So, a couple days ago – while recovering from a couple Egg-Nog Martinis – I began thinking…

It was precisely 25 years ago I was living out of my car. Surely great fodder for this month’s story…

January 1990…

My final semester at the University of Connecticut. Broke. Penniless. The prior semester I had been living off-campus with a roomate in a teeny 1-bedroom pad. He was in process of inventing a plastic pour spout for milk/juice containers and had prototypes all over the place. I never felt comfortable in that place. Besides, I worked and studied so much, I was never around. And, well, let’s be honest, I couldn’t pay the rent. So, just before Christmas break, I packed all my belongings into my beatup Honda Accord hatchback – and went home to see my family for the holidays.

Homeless

When I returned to school January 7th, 1990, I was homeless. (Um, if you’re wondering, “no”, I didn’t tell my parents). This was a phase when I was asserting my independence and refused any outside help. I was on my own. It may sound strange, but I was actually looking forward to the adventure…

My excitement was short-lived. Within weeks, strange sounds began emerging from my Honda (of course). I couldn’t afford the repairs. Through divine fate or stupid luck, I was able to “move up” to a blue and white Plymouth “Volare” (Wanna Laugh? check out the original “Volare” commercial from 1976). Believe it or not, I paid the enormous sum of One American Dollar – hornets nest and all (another story).

For the next 5 months, the Volare was my home. “Vo-lare! Wuh-Oh…” I used a shower curtain rod between the back windows to hang my clothes and kept a small battery-operated radio with casette player up front. “Vo-lare!…” My friends would start belting out the tune everytime I entered the room. To this day, thoughts of Ricardo Montelban and “corinthian leather” remind me of my beloved two-tone Volare.

I took showers at the field house. Luckily, I still had connections from playing Uconn hockey and could get the athlete “roll” – which included a clean towel, socks, T-shirt and shorts. I ate breakfast & dinner in the dorm where I was a pot washer. I delivered “Paul’s Pizza” on the weekends to make extra cash (is this considered “working from home”?). I also spent 4 days a week doing student teaching at nearby Vernon Center Middle School. Oh, and there was this little thing called “graduation” coming up which required a Senior recital and successful completion of my remaining classes. “Vo-Lare!!  Wu-Oh…”

So, What happened?

Incredibly, I made the dean’s list with a stunning final semester 4.0 GPA. My Senior recital featured my first public performance of original music (including “Opus” as a dedication to my Mom – and “a Light Exists in Spring” for tenor and piano). I received an amazing send off and appreciation award from the students at the middle school and a teary-eyed goodbye from the cooking staff at the dorm. On top of all that, I had saved $600 – enough money, I figured, to backpack Europe (yet another story) that Summer. The Volare? – I would sell it for $400 to buy my air ticket to Europe…

Volare – It. “to fly”

20/20 hindsight, It was this bizarre homeless experience which taught me so much.  I learned frugality and appreciation of food. I learned about sacrifice, hard work and dedication. Crazy. Unexpected. Surreal. There are so many ways to describe what I had just been through. But, like the chrysalis to the butterfly, I had gone through a transformation and had emerged a new person. I am so thankful and will never forget…

In the face of poverty, hunger, fear or despair – I wish 2015 brings hope, comfort and light. May this be the year you fly!

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