And It’s True That I Stole Your Lighter


When I was making my first baby steps towards recovery from Devastationalism, at the sunset of the 90s, one of the angels the universe sent my way was a gushingly creative, spiritually magnetic man called Steve Pagnotta. Steve was an owner/manager of Tortilla Flats (which made him my ostensible “boss”) and he had the rotten luck to see me at my worst, night in and night out over a period of years. I know he loved me, but he absolutely hated dealing with me too. It must have been murderously frustrating for him trying to get through to a tequila-soaked brick wall that reflected nothing back but a big “Fuck You” in wobbly neon letters. I wonder if he has any idea how much of what he said to me over the years did ultimately get through and how much I owe him.

It was Steve who first articulated for me the idea that life was a gift, that the world was full of unimaginable wonders, that every moment of life was precious. It’s corny, basic stuff, but everybody’s gotta learn it somewhere. And Steve, for all his wide-eyed spaciness was no ingenuous sap. He had a hard core, and no illusions. His motto was not some New Agey mantra, but the grimy and hard-won conclusion of a somewhat rumpled, slightly seedy blackjack dealer. “Life,” he used to say to me, “is the best deal you’re ever gonna get.” And the way he said it was a little bit mean, too. Like you had to be an idiot if you were seriously holding your cards waiting for something better to come along.

He was right, of course. Being a human being is the best deal going we know of. And to not take responsibility for bearing that gift is beyond pathetic — it’s a bloody tragedy. To refuse desire is to refuse everything that is rewarding in life. And to disdain active agency — the freedom to choose and go after the things you want — is to turn your back on the ultimate joy and privilege of being a human being. Not that you always get your heart’s desire, of course — but it really is all about the journey.

Thanks to the magic of iTrip (the magic being that the cheap little hunk of plastic works at all) I am becoming well reaquainted with the thousands of songs that dwell in the murky depths of my iPod. So many little Devastationalist wonders about which I had forgotten completely.

To Cry About (Mary Margaret O’Hara)

Mary Margaret O’Hara



6 Replies to “And It’s True That I Stole Your Lighter”

  1. You were practically in my neighborhood, Philip. The Strand Theater (a fine old movie house) is in Dover, the nest town over from Dover, where I live. I drove right by it just yesterday. The other two shots are a little farther away, but still within a 25-mile radius. The weird thing in the background is a “Seabrook Siren” designed to go off if the Seabrook Station nuclear plant melts down.

  2. Paula — Dude! Of course I did not know that, though, why am I completely unsurprised?

    Wintor — Been awhile since a “stranger” (if indeed a “stranger” you be) has been brassy enough to post here. It makes me very happy. And yes, that’s an absolutely loveable (road) song. PS: The photos on your blog are beautiful.

    And Tim — Contrary to widely held opinion, I am actually aware of my own geographical location 90-95% of the time! Though I had no idea what that weird meltdown sensor was — thanks. I wonder if it works on humans.

  3. The Strand Theatre in Dover, NH (whose classic marquee is shown in the first picture on the post) will be auctioned off on November 19, according to an October 31, 2009 news story in the Dover NH Daily Democrat. It isn’t technically under foreclsure, but the owner, Michael Spinelli of Spinelli Cinemas, has been in financial trouble for a year or two (like millions of others.) The Strand was the flagship of a small locally-owned cinema chain which also recently closed down its other locations.

  4. The Strand Theatre has been bought; some work seems to be going on inside; and the marquee says it will reopen in October 2010. Hopefully the marquee is accurate 🙂

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