One of the worst times in my life was also one of the best – and one of the funniest, with retrospect. Giving us one of the most endearing memories of my father, it is an event that would provide direction to our whole lives.
What puts it into the category of catastrophe was my age at the time. A brand new teenager, 90% emotion, think of all the build-up, as dad told me to pick three buddies for a week-long graduation vacation to Wildwood-by-the-Sea, New Jersey, as close as you could come to Heaven at the time!! Better than 8th Grade Graduation itself would be this trip of a lifetime with my buds. And so the day came, the long drive to the ocean on a cloudy drizzly day. My father assured us, “Oh, this is nothing. It’ll all break up, boys, I promise.” We all unloaded, then took a seat at the table for some Rummy. My dad, the infamous Howie Robinson – in white tee and boxer shorts, Phillie Cheroot dangling from his mouth, a cloud of hideous cigar smoke matching the ones outside – began his seven day (count them) stroll from the kitchen to the door, declaring more times than we could have counted, “It’s Breakin Up Out There, Boys!” As it rained and rained and rained and rained!! Total Tragedy! Brother Sun began to shine 165 hours later, three hours before we drove home. Here is a photo of Johnny Williams and John Iorii, released from captivity on the best beach resort of the Northeast.
Thus one of the legendary phrases of my Father was born, not just a phrase but an attitude, a way of looking and a way of living. Who knows how many times it enabled my family and my pals to carry on in life? i am certain that my daddy’s HOPE helped Jimmy Peltz in his nearly forty marathons, to find that extra srength. i’m sure that my dad was in John Iorii’s heart and soul, when his young wife, Deb, was dying, and that lifelong “pal o’ mine” wanted to die with her. He would make it, it would break, and the sun would shine again. Good ole Mr. Robinson would help Johnny Williams to battle cancer…and now help me to do the same. Come on, boys, it’s breakin up out there. It’s a great life, a great adventure. We must forge ahead.
These days, when i think of my father at that door, i think of my dear dear friends, Gerry Straub and his sweet wife, Ecarlatte, in Haiti. i have blogged on Gerry before. As the Pope stood on Rocky’s “Stage” as the World’s Prophet of Hope, i wrote of Gerry as one of the reasons WHY the POPE has HOPE, one of Hollywood’s “stars” who chose instead to give up the limelight to take on the darkness and to trade the comforts of Tinseltown for the slums of Haiti. Gerry had already delivered hope to the homeless of Philly. But, then he got the message – EVEN LOUDER AND MORE CLEARLY – from St. Francis and St. Clare, that the BEST solution to world poverty is the Christ Solution, which is no less than BECOMING ONE WITH, ONE OF the poor. Gerry’s true home now is in the midst of “the poorest place in the Western Hemisphere” at the service, especially, of the children. The problems there, the sufferings, are of such intensity, that one could easily lose all hope. But my buddy and his wife choose to GO and BREAK IT UP THERE, boys!!!Even if it means bringing food one morsel at a time and Joy one smile at a time. They see the ecstasy of children wearing two of the same shoes in the same size! Can you imagine?! So many are used to wearing two different shoes, whatever the closest fit, whatever they could find in the city dump. Bit by bit by baby bit, it IS breakin up down there!
When my kids were little, we all fell in love with Atreyu of the modern classic, “The Neverending Story.” The boy, whose name means selflessness, sets out to battle a force which seems infinitely larger than him. It is called the “Nothing” and its powers and effects everywhere. There are times when the lad appears just too small, way too weak, and there is almost no reason, no sense to carry on. That notion definitely appeared to my friend, Gerry, during the earthquake there. He was just like Atreyu in the Great Swamp of Sadness, about to sink. The scope of the suffering was beyond imagination. Hey, all that he had to do was to go to the airport, hop on the next plane, and return to Burbank, to the sweet California scene with its cool breezes and cool chicks, have a good stiff drink, maybe a bottle or two, and get back to business.
But, this is Gerry’s business now. An atheist’s trip to Italy years ago put him on a brand new road, and there was no turning back. There was only ONE ANSWER – like i said before. Jesus said, It’s not enough to feed the poor, Gerry. You must BE the poor, and then you will BE the Hope for the Poor. THERE lies all of the difference. Gerry did not give up. Furthermore, Gerry knew that he could only fight the Gloom from within. So, he dove right into it. It did not swallow him, the way that the Sadness almost swallowed the boy. What is known as the Great Paradox of the Cross, embraced to perfection by St. Francis, is being tested and proven once more in the Straubs. Gerry “beats the Nothing” by becoming nothing. The more he is emptied, the more he is fulfilled. “If you want to be rich,” promised Jesus, “embrace poverty.” Gerry and Ecarlatte dove right in, KNOWING that they hold SOMETHING STRONGER and GREATER than the Darkness. They have Faith, and they have Hope, and most importantly, they have LOVE.
So, it’s breakin’ up out there, alright! Because the Straubs are not giving up. Howie never gave up. Jimmy never gave up. John n Johnny never gave up. i sure ain’t giving up. Heck, if i ever dared to try, these guys would kick my butt!!!