The early spring fog bundled the St. Paul skyline in a gossamer blanket of gray down. Light on the day had just begun to break and I was still shaking off my own morning haze. The thrumming of the meaty rubber found every imperfection on the bridge as I drove my Jeep into my nearly-hour commute to a job I abhor for a paycheck I’m desperate to collect.
Constant is the lamentation coursing through my head: this cannot be my life. There’s so much more than this to be had. I’ll sit down and write when I get home. It’ll make me feel better.
I slid a Camel out of the pack of smokes I’d thrown on the passenger seat before I’d turned the key in the ignition. I rolled down the window and twisted the volume knob on the in-dash stereo, exhaling the cloud of nicotine I’d since drawn off my cigarette. I sipped my hot hazelnut coffee from my mug and edged the dial up a few more notches.
For a factory system, the six-disc changer has got some power. The volume on the digital green display is measured numerically and I’ve found my acceptable limit at 29, though I sincerely doubt many others would find my level tolerable.
This morning, I needed Aldo screaming at me. My driver’s seat vibrated my lower back like built-in lumbar support and the rear view mirror giggled in time with every drumbeat, and my blood finally started circulating.
I wonder if he’ll actually answer me, I pondered doubtfully as I thought about the message that I’d sent the artist via Facebook, requesting permission to print a few song lyrics. Maybe he’d provide a picture or two that I could embed into my story. I hope he takes the joke of me taking him to Tim Horton’s for a donut with the $200 prize money as humorous as I posed it to be.
Not likely, but it was worth a shot. The worst he could do is ignore me or tell me no. I’m some nobody from nowhere; some kook probably planning God-knows-what.
I can’t blame the guy or any other artist who would receive such an odd, unsolicited request. Social media has provided a breeding ground of psychopaths and trolls who prey in obsession on their favorite celebrity.
But my intrigue of Aldo Nova began long before I had ever touched a computer.
In June of 1982, I was a little kid just barely in double digits who had thankfully, if not ever so briefly, escaped my bland and uneventful life on a small farm in the middle of nowhere to spend a week in the big city of Minneapolis. Trips there were so infrequent, which made the experience even more delectable. A distant relative hosted my cousin and me, showing us the sights and taking us shopping.
On an excursion to the retail chain store Target, the $18 stuffed into my pocket was on fire. I was tantalized by the clothing and the jewelry and the toys. The decision-making turned agonizingly painful as I wandered through aisle after aisle, my head spinning with sensorial contemplation and confusion. I had long since abandoned my shopping companions and quickly lost track of time I spent shifting album after album in the music section of the store.
I wanted it all. I wanted Naked Eyes and Pet Shop Boys and Meatloaf. Genesis. Yes. Abacab. It was on sale. Calculating my finances, I determined that what money remained would get me another record, but only if it was at the right price.
Madonna hadn’t yet hit the scene, and April Wine was a bit out of my league at the time. Cheap Trick was ok, but the more rows of albums I sifted through, the more I understood how deep of a well I had fallen into. No longer did what little rhyme or reason I could conjure impact my decision-making ability. I found myself at the mercy of the vinyl – stunning graphics and artistry and a giant pair of lips and a tongue looking to lap me up from the front of the Rolling Stones album.
That’s when I saw it – the midnight blue and black panels in front of which stood a black leather jacket-clad man with a lifted guitar, a faded image of the same crouched and haunting from the far left corner of the album cover.
What is this? More importantly, WHO is this? The eyes had it. Those sultry eyes. Flipping to the back of the record, I wasn’t nearly as impressed with the picture but for the boots. Those boots. A man wearing those boots. Little more could draw in a wanna-be fashion designer than a great pair of tan ankle boots.
I clutched that record in my grubby little paws as though it was a gold bar that someone had attempted to steal from me. All of the rest of the hundreds of records lined like diligent soldiers now held for me no appeal. I’d accidentally and happily found that for which I’d not even been seeking.
No time could be spared beyond the checkout counter and into the backseat of the car where I ripped away the cellophane wrapper and yanked the sleeve containing my wondrous new-found treasure. The smell of the paper was intoxicating and I breathed in the bouquet of the new purchase as though it was an expensive perfume.
Much to the dismay of my juvenile impatience, what the album contained would have to wait for another five days. My aunt had no turntable on which I could delve into each song for which I’d already nearly memorized each word listed on the record’s inner sleeve, and I’d noticed that a song called “Can’t Stop” was dedicated to Joanne.
Who is Joanne? I amusedly wondered. A lover? His wife? Did she break his heart? Was she never his to have?
Whimsical and overly-mature curiosity filled my already-saturated head. Before I’d heard merely a note that this disc had to offer, my imagination engulfed who was this person and what life did he lead took hold of wonderment that I’d have never guessed would linger for decades to come.
And I knew. Even though I didn’t know I knew – I knew.
In the fall of 1983 I very serendipitously stumbled across Aldo’s second album “Subject”. I say stumbled because there was no internet to surf – information to which I was privy came in large form for me from the public library. I was mad about Rolling Stone magazine, but there was only so much information the periodical could hold. No mention of Aldo Nova’s newly-released album was to be had in the publication. His presence just wasn’t large enough yet.
But there it was – packed very tightly between Nazareth and the Oak Ridge Boys was stuck the black-covered album. The front cover design is a digitally enhanced, infrared photo of Aldo holding his jacket collar to his cheek. On one side of the inner sleeve is a Druid-esque figure adorned with a hazard warning-like sign pendant to which Teratai was given credit. On the reverse side were listed the song lyrics in CAPITALIZED OCR extended font.
Much as I had done with the first album, I mulled over every written word to the 14 songs without having heard a note played. “Always Be Mine” was dedicated to Dee. Who is Dee? And what happened to Joanne? That was quick…
And still I knew so little of the artist outside of the fact that his real last name was not Nova; it was Caporuscio – an Italian Canadian. That mattered little to me. The character, the protagonist that Aldo had become in my mind’s narrative became more and more enhanced as I matured.
By the time I’d lost myself in “Armageddon”, I’d already decorated my bedroom in blue and white slanted stripes, not entirely unlike those that graced the front of Aldo Nova’s debut album. I’d also gotten the boots in tan suede, the only footwear I ever recall wearing out by having worn them so frequently. The honorable emulation of this artist whose style spoke to me inspired, yet didn’t necessarily aspire. I had no delusions of becoming some rock star, but Aldo’s style screamed to the fashionista in me just bursting to break forth.
Musical tales he rhythmically told lit a fire of intelligence about that to which I dare say I would not have otherwise been exposed. At 13 years old, I learned that “Monkey On Your Back” was a euphemistic term related to drug addiction. I learned of a phantom sensei-like being known as the “Subject” that led his eager students into the realm of illusion in far corners of their psyches; a place of no fear or darkness known as a paradise that every one of them was capable of creating for themselves. I envisioned this hooded figure in the album sleeve to be the Subject himself.
As I buried myself further into my imagination and the ADHD before it was actually labeled, I avoided most teachers’ narcissistic droning in the classroom by doodling and writing.
It was my way of shaping my thoughts when I lacked all other means by which to do so. Aldo’s song lyrics slathered my notebook pages, his album designs sketched by me from memory in the margins of the paper, and his shadow overtook me like a specter that followed me closely; a guardian angel opening portals to worlds I’d have no other way to visit had it not been for his music.
On a rare occasion when someone had actually viewed the constant brain matter I’d smear daily on paper in front of me, they caught the words of Aldo’s that I had written – those which the Subject had spoken. The class chum peered over my shoulder and read them aloud.
“That’s really cool,” and they read the words again. Possessing integrity even at such a young age, I couldn’t take credit for having written that type of magic myself. I wouldn’t. Those words weren’t mine…but that wasn’t going to stop me from letting them drive my own creativity. And I remained silent to the mundane comment.
Being no different than most other 13-year-olds – physically, anyway – I was also a skulking bag of rampant hormones that did not get by unhinged by Aldo’s breathless moaning in a swooning state of weakness left him by his lover in the song “Hold Back the Night”, and I have no doubt that I joined the tens of thousands of worldwide groupies that would have quite happily bedded the hot-blooded guitarist and fall head first into the luscious bed of chest hair.
I digress – maybe that was just me.
By the time I turned 15, those hormones were well into full swing, as was my rapidly-expanding view of the universe, my dating pool, my freedom with a recently-earned driver’s license, and the uneventful loss of my virginity.
Aldo Nova’s album “Twitch” was released and quickly snatched up by me, a cassette tape to add to my most enviable collection. The next logical purchase was the Walkman in which to play it and I was set.
I found some pleasant satisfaction in recognizing that at the same time my styles were expanding and changing, so were his.
For the front picture design on “Twitch”, Aldo smartened up into a black suit coat and trousers with a crisp button-up Oxford dress shirt; gone were the skin-tight pants and obligatory 1980s mullet. His darkened dishwater locks were teased and long, and his baby face morphed into the more chiseled appearance of a man on the cusp of 30. It appeared as though Nova had redefined his role of established musician along with his sound, and reined in his creative talent from the scattered wild-child that belted out “Fantasy”.
I, on the other hand, had years ahead of me that would prove out of control; those which I had no desire, ability, or means by which to quell.
At a time when Aldo was twice my age, we’d seemed to mature together like siblings following the other’s lead or friends that shared their secrets. Aldo’s character presence in my mind’s narrative grew sharper in definition and personality – required metamorphosis because the music from “Twitch” just did not do it for me.
Having already worn out Aldo’s debut album and “Subject”, I rarely listened to 1985’s release of “Twitch”. Perhaps my musical palate was becoming more sophisticated along with my entire view of the rest of the world. The third album failed to draw me in at even a fraction of the intensity, and the heightened expectation of the newly-released album fell flat. It failed to rev me up regardless of my play to find anything redeemable in the songs.
But I fought for the meaning and eventually I found one miniscule kernel in the album’s title song, “Twitch”: he laughed. Aldo Nova can be heard joking and laughing as though carrying on with band mates as the recording tape was rolling. What made him laugh? Was it forced for the sake of the song? What would it be like to hear him laugh like that for real over a beer and a smoke he mentions taking in at the local bar in “Rumors of You”?
That humorous and simple human reaction made him all that much more real to me even though to that point I’d not read an article about the man, I’d not had the opportunity to see him in concert, nor had I seen any of the videos related to his songs. I was satiated by Aldo’s lyrics and guitar riffs, his drummer’s beats and the overly-present keyboards. I gave little thought to the rest of the fluff that typically surrounds celebrity promotion; I had all of the sensory input that I required and I let my mind take care of the rest.
And I continued to know, but just failed to care.
It would take another five years for Aldo Nova’s fourth album, “Blood on the Bricks” to appear in 1991 and that on the heels of his musical contribution to his buddy Jon Bon Jovi’s album “Blaze of Glory”.
The soundtrack that can be heard in the movie “Young Guns II” won a Golden Globe and an ASCAP Award in addition to being nominated for an Oscar and a Grammy.
By that time, I had lived through the dreaded high school years and found myself a college student and a young parent to an infant son. I was still so young but with great responsibilities. I was even younger than Aldo had been when he’d made his first album almost a decade previously and that which I still treasured, and music had moved further into the center of my universe along with my child.
After I’d made my pilgrimage back to Target to collect this latest release, also on cassette tape, I raced immediately to a friend’s house to share my latest acquisition. With nearly as much fervor as I’d ripped the cellophane off the very first album, I shredded the obnoxious plastic safety case before I could get to the plastic and broke every fingernail slicing through the silver tape that bound the case.
Having talked over the title song and “Medicine Man”, the tape had reached the third song “Bang Bang”. My friend stopped talking long enough to listen to the first few lines and her reaction was hardly that which I’d expected. Her forehead crinkled and she let loose a clipped “OH!” in expression of the lyrics that obviously shocked her delicate senses. Her reaction didn’t require a metaphysicist to decipher and I turned off the music.
I was incensed. I was confused and outraged.
This is ALDO NOVA! How could you possibly NOT love this song?
She remained my friend after that…but not for long. Us drifting apart wasn’t due simply to different tastes in music; time and distance have a tendency to come between people and desires.
And I kept denying it; it wasn’t as clear as it had previously been. The mounting frustration was key indication that I was stupidly bent on burying.
Years continued to pass and Aldo Nova seemed to disappear from the airwaves. No new music or compilation would resurface for better than a decade.
And during those years I graduated school with a law degree and raised my son in our adventures. I worked on cars, I opened up my son’s mind to vast genres of music, and took him to every concert I could.
My turntable broke, my cassettes wore out, I began buying CDs, and other artists’ music won over my heart…but never my mind. For there forever resided, even occasionally pushed behind by daily routine, the constantly-refined story that developed and grew and persisted. A boy, perhaps. A foreign gutter snipe befriended and mentored by a talented musician.
The fictional relationship became more enhanced by my experiences of the broader globe that included trips to London, Edinburgh, Wales, Mexico.
Those travels expanded significantly with my marriage to a British man with an ancient Scottish aristocratic bloodline. Living on the off-shore tax haven island of Guernsey in the English Channel off the coast of France, I led a life that few could imagine; one that included servants, swimming with jellyfish in the blue waters of Greece and dining with the treasurer whose signature appeared on the island’s currency.
As surreal was my life, so was it dismal and black. Much of my time was spent alone, left to my own devices by a workaholic attorney spouse attempting to make a name for himself in the power ranks.
On the rare occasion when he was present, our infrequent interaction consisted of patronizing arguments stemming from his expectation of me serving as his maid; washing his laundry and making his meals.
I began running to escape – along the beautiful beaches lined by centuries-old granite bricks, I strode as though my destination was purposeful and so very close. I would put on my tennies and brave the shin splints and shove in the earbuds. “Bright Lights” is always my fallback, assured to heighten my adrenaline. I was a small town kid living big time dreams…those which I had no idea how to handle once in my grasp. I was lost. I was alone. I was an unwanted American in a foreign land.
In despair and financial straits, I returned to the United States alone, back to that which was little more than familiar. Hardly welcoming, but better than the life into which I’d allowed myself to be drawn and with no money to my name, I began rebuilding what I had dismantled to chase the dream that had quickly turned nightmarish.
Things were never really the same after that. My eyes were opened widely to the true cruelty of the world and that the betrayal of those closest to you is the blade that cuts the deepest, leaving a wound that may never heal.
I took head-on the illusion of what I thought I wanted, and I grabbed on tightly to whom I really was and wanted to do. That enlightenment of self-realization was liberating, strengthening…and isolating. Still struggling to get my new persona and beliefs in perspective, I inadvertently smashed a lot of ignorant toes by stepping on them with spiked stilettos of truth.
That’s what the world should be, right? Honesty? Loyalty? Truth? Ideally, sure. But somehow I insisted on continually shoving my square self into the round holes of society imposing upon me its perception of whom I was to be and how I was supposed to act.
It only takes a few bangs of your head against a brick wall to decide that it is painful.
With that budding consciousness, I drew further and further into myself; into my own world and my own head where it was safe and warm, and where I was welcomed. Self-imposed isolation proves a lonely existence without occupying activities, a desolation I easily quashed by reviving my story. My narrative now had my full attention with nothing externally commanding my strength, and I honed chapter after chapter and day after day of the life of my characters.
I would give them all of which I had none – excitement, intrigue, challenges over which they brilliantly triumphed, and Aldo Nova’s character resurfaced as the voice of reason to the multitude of personalities that had now joined the ever-thrilling tale. On my first-ever iPod, I had captured every one of his songs and revisited each lyric in devotion to my old-school affections.
An endless database of videos had recently emerged to take the world by storm, but I hadn’t yet caught up with the allure or offerings of YouTube. Now a middle-aged woman, I had yet to view an Aldo Nova music video or any interview he’d given. I shunned a decade early “Nova’s Dream” that, save for a few guitar licks, fell disappointingly short of what and whom I’d built up in my rampant imagination as a rock god. I reverted back to that which was my safety blanket, my education, my guidance when I was young. Songs now better than 20 years old still had meaning and depth for me, regardless of how much I had changed and grown – it was my only consistency.
Not to mention that my computer, the dinosaur that it was, was in desperate need of upgrade and I was still busy building back up the life I’d so stupidly dismantled.
And with the decision to shed myself of that type of naivety for evermore, I brought further out into my world that knowledge. With each passing year, that truth became clearer and clearer. Had it been any closer to me, I would have tripped right over it and yet, I continued to deny that right before me that so desperately needed to be fully embraced.
I now marvel at the fact that I have surprisingly, staggeringly, maturely, and thankfully made it to my 40s. Yet at the same time I find myself at a crossroad of epic proportions.
I face the on-going challenge of chasing professions filled with either worn-out dinosaurs or self-entitled clueless millennials, but those necessary to pay mounting bills. At the same time, I’ve found my calling of prose – that at which I excel and with which I feel more comfortable than any other activity I’ve taken on in my life, but that which pays little to no salary.
Having found myself presented with entirely too much time on my hands and suffering from unemployment, I took the leap. From the recesses of my mind, from the annals of decades of silent story-telling I pulled my story and put it to paper. Being so close to me and written daily in the cloud of my head long before the term became synonymous with a virtual data portal, I was capable of spinning out a 400-page manuscript in two weeks. That’s nearly 10,000 words per day. I awoke every morning not being able to stumble fast enough to my computer to get on with the next chapter I’d create, or to edit the previous night’s masterpiece I’d clumsily typed out in a wine-induced fog.
I knew exactly what I wanted to write and the sentences flowed like a newly-thawed stream on the first warm spring day. My life-long tale of suspense traveled like lightning from my head to my fingertips and my words found their rightful home. Along with a million other thoughts that would race through my head on any given day, I’d begun writing this character in my head into a living person on a page.
He’d taken on a personality that I’d lent him and that which I perceived as being quite accurate, however abstract my belief tended to be. It was of little consequence that at times a daydream of a complete stranger would serve as an absent companion.
There was more than my long-since created narrative brought to the surface. Bringing to life my first book simultaneously recreated the person I’ve always known and I’ve always liked, but had always denied – me. I found me, I embraced me, and I solidified me along with my story that had found an interested publisher in less than three months of its completion…and that which included a character inspired, molded, and crafted after the idol who had so profoundly impacted me at such a young and impressionable age.
Sadly, an unfortunate side effect of writing that I’ve discovered is that, once put to paper, the magic disappears like ancient papyrus paper disintegrating when being exposed to oxygen for the first time in centuries. The fascination pales in comparison to that which lived in my head and witnessing the real book now in my hands isn’t nearly as satisfying as falling asleep with the dream of a story that was still as free as a wild Mustang, one that hadn’t yet been corralled by the covers of a book.
That is an analogy I can easily use when considering myself – I’m not the person in a corporate cubicle that I am in my own sanctuary. They are unrecognizable from one another.
Perhaps that is the passion behind a writer. When the mystique fades from one manuscript the only means by which to rekindle that fire is to continue to write; a lesson that I learned quickly by having completed an additional three manuscripts, non-fiction pieces, short stories and some poetry. Perhaps, as a wordsmith, Aldo has experienced the same frustration of continually chasing a Subject.
Fashioning my novel’s character after the man is my way of saying thank you through words to someone whom I’ll unlikely ever be able to thank in person. He and I have unwittingly served as each other’s muses in some ways. On a rare occasion that Aldo had taken to his Facebook page with a question prompting his fans to share what his music did for them, I boldly responded with a link to my book:
“Experience emotions. Explore feelings. Pursue passion. I grew up with your words. You’ve existed in late dark nights, hours of drunken fun, while I’m buried under mounds of bubbles…always somewhere. Your music has been like a favorite blanket – always there to provide some sort of comfort. “And your words and life have inspired me to become a published author and award-winning writer. Rest well knowing the impact that you’ve had – and will continue to possess – on the lives that you touch. Merci beau coup, mon ami.”
The thrill of a lifetime was his thankful response and indication that he’d look up my work. Not that I have any delusions that he would; I perceived it as a “call me, we’ll do lunch” response, but mine was the only statement out of almost 700 to which he took time to reply to words the depth of which he couldn’t possibly fathom. As an adult who wasn’t raised on the internet, I embraced the opportunity to bask in juvenile delight of having my life-long idol typing out words to me on a social media site.
As the modern days pass, I recognize how ironic life can be. When I was younger, I had a life with which I was satisfied but that in which I existed as a person that was always wanting more or something different. Now I have a life that could hardly be more unbearable, and I’ve never experienced such a definite level of calm and self-assurance before in my life.
But I don’t feel like I used to. I don’t express emotions but for rarely nowadays. Family I was never really close to has become more estranged, friends I thought I could trust turned out to be not so friendly, and relationships are more fleeting than displaying potential. But Aldo Nova and his music for me have remained a constant in my world, continuing to fuel my passions as they ebb and fade.
In my recent spare time, I’ve watched ALL of Aldo Nova’s music videos and interviews on YouTube. I’ve read articles written about him, few in number as they are. From what little information there is to be had of a private individual, I’ve found indication that he is a recovering drug addict, a fact not entirely shocking for one who hit the music industry so strongly at such a young age. He continues to devote his musical talent to production and writing for other artists, and that for which he’s won various awards.
In his determination to overcome his demons, the “Monkey on His <sic> Back” he’d sung about so long ago, and to go on devoting his talent to his own work and that of others makes him a survivor.
He and I have that in common along with the undeniable supposition that the darkest times in both our lives shaped the people we now are.
With similar battle scars earned, I imagine his perception of the world and the people in it not to be unlike mine – frustration with the fakes, oneness with achieved peace, intentional hiding in the shadows, and inclination to let few within our own sacred circles. And unbreakable stubbornness that we Mediterranean descendants are notorious for possessing, along with hot-blooded passion and temperament.
To date I’ve still not seen the man in concert, but to be fair, he’s not been on tour in years. I own no souvenirs, I have no autographs or ticket stubs or concert t-shirts, pictures or posters. I have a CD, two cassette tapes, and two very worn-out 30 + year old albums. I now require my cheater reader glasses to clearly see the lyrics on their faded sleeves. My own son is now older than Aldo was when his debut album was released and in November of this year, Aldo Nova will reach his milestone 60th birthday.
Months ago I’d offered Aldo my writing services by suggesting that he allow me to write his biography with completion slated for just about the time of that significant date, though he’s yet to take me up on the proposal.
On occasion I’ll come across a post on a social media site that poses the question, “If you could spend an hour with anyone living or dead, who would it be?”
Okay, so my first answer would be Queen Elizabeth and chances are I’d have just as much of a shot at meeting Aldo Nova as I would the monarch, but she’s got one up on him because I’ve actually seen her in person several times. I’ve thought often of the remote occasion ever presenting itself and wonder what I would say should I find myself in his presence.
I assume that, once I was picked up off the floor from having fainted and I regained my voice, I would first and foremost thank him…for his words and for every misery that his music removed from a frustrated adolescent’s life, and for the impact his lyrics had to encourage an unsuspecting adult to put forth similar creativity enough to win awards for her words, too.
If I was given a few more minutes, I would undoubtedly pelt the guy with a barrage of questions about his life and his creative process. However, I second guess that desire to lay eyes on the real thing with the fear of – much like my mind’s words being transcribed to paper – the deity-like imagine built up in my mind potentially disappointing. Imagining him tumbling from my pedestal on which I’ve always had him rested would be too much to bear. Maybe the dream is best left at that: just beyond the reach of fingertips.
That doesn’t prevent me from daydreaming about being at home in front of my computer typing away and suddenly finding him at my front door ringing the bell. Having a writer’s mind that never turns off, I find a remarkable sedative being a scenario of sharing an Italian meal with him at one of his favorite Montreal haunts. That sketch is one that gives me decent repose.
Never once have I considered these thoughts ridiculous. They’ve been in my imagination so long that they have become as commonplace to me as a favorite pair of shoes or my need since I was eight to wear contacts. It all seems very normal to the function of my daily life. It is all alive largely in my head anyway, and I have dismissed the entire storyline as being that of some sort of celebrity crush.
Everyone has at least one in their lifetime anyway, haven’t they?
Some people may call me insane or accuse me of being obsessed. No one’s done so directly to my face but if they ever did, I’d counter their doubting by explaining away my necessary daydreaming about someone who is fictional in more places than my novels.
It’s all just a FANTASY.