Saturday, March 8, 2014

R.I.P. Thomas S. Drago

Scary, huh?  You can only imagine how I felt when I was 15-years-old and first saw my own name on a gravestone.

I can clearly remember the day my grandfather died.  I came home from school with my older brother after wrestling practice (yes, that was about as hilarious as watching my son play lacrosse) like any other day.  I was sitting at the kitchen table rushing through my algebra homework so I could go play sock football with little brother when my uncle called and asked to speak to my dad.  Before he picked up the phone, I heard him mumble under his breath, "Why the fuck is he calling me during the middle of the day?"  Back then, we didn't have cell phones or the Internet and didn't have the constant contact we have today.  A phone call from a family member all the way across the country usually only came on holidays.  While talking to his brother, my dad only said "OK" twice and then hung up the phone.  He later told me my uncle said, "Pop had a heart attack."  ("OK.")  He didn't make it.  ("OK.")  Then my dad went into the living room, sat on the couch, and started weeping.  Honestly, I can't remember ever seeing my dad cry up until that point.  Not sob, at least.

Let me interject here for a minute so I can tell you where this is going.  Stephen King (yes, you'll see his name a lot here) says repeatedly that "Where do you get your ideas?" and "Is horror all you write?"are two of the questions he's most frequently asked by fans.  (For the record, I never asked him those two when we corresponded in the early '80's.  I always asked him for writing advice.  He regularly obliged until he became a brand name and started sending out form letters. He hand wrote me an apology on the first form letter I received.  Cool, right?  That was about the time the Mets beat the Red Sox in the World Series.  Thank you, Bill Buckner.)  Of course, I don't have many fans and rarely get asked those kind of questions, but when I do (and this happened mostly in college creative writing courses, mind you), they usually start out like this:  "Do you do drugs?" or the even funnier, "Were you abused as a child?"  I laugh at both.  No drugs.  I don't drink.  I'm proud of my imagination as is.  And sure, my parents had trouble getting along with each other when we were kids, but they did the best fucking job they could raising the three of us.  They supported everything we did.  Gave us plenty of love.  Made it very clear that nothing mattered to them more than their three boys.  Italians fucking yell at each other.  Get over it.

I think my grandfather's death was the second major event in my life that affected my writing.  That fall, we had a flash flood and were all sent home from school.  I sat at that same kitchen table and wrote what was genuinely the first disturbing story of my entire catalog.  It's called "The Basement" and is about a little boy who receives his grandfather's remains in the mail and hides them from his dad.  I can barely type this out without tears.  I can still remember how frightened the little boy was that his dad might find out his grandfather had died.  (Of course, the corpse reanimates into a zombie at the end, but by then, the terror was so real, the cliché punchline didn't matter.)

The first major event was when my mom lost her baby girl, but I can't take that up right now.

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