Monday, January 16, 2012

Human Race 1, Pinks 0 || Thank you Joseph Izzo, Jr || Oct. 21, 1950 - Jan. 5, 2012

Strike it up as a victory for all mankind.  Joe Izzo walked this earth and left an indelible mark that will stay with me and I am sure many others for all of our entire lives.  He was a true individual that saw the world in a unique perspective and passed that view unto others.  It's known as being a teacher who is also an artist.  He was one that could surprise the hell out of you, still if you had the opportunity to hang out with him more and more, one began to crave the surprise.  You never were really quite sure what you were going to get but that was the true beauty behind Joe.  Let me tell you how Joe and I came about to be friends.

The first time I met Joe was at a dinner party at my venerable Uncle Craig's house around 1995.  Him and his lovely wife Lisa were in attendance and the first thing that struck me about Joe was not him, but Lisa.  She had brought her Banjo and strummed it along to passing guitar chords assisted by my uncle all the time singing  protest songs that she learned many years before while marching with Cesar Chavez for immigrant worker rights.  This fascinated me.  The look on Joe's face was pride mixed in with some subtle concern.  Who were these people?  My freshly marked "educated" brain was just entering the work-a-day world and interesting people have always perked my curiosity.  Joe and Lisa fit this mold.

Our next occasion for really hanging out came to be known as "Tuesday's with Izzo" between me and my uncle.  At 6am I would wake up and out in front of my little apartment in Los Gatos would be the surf sled with Joe behind the wheel and Craig riding shot-gun there to pick me up.  Always a smile glued to both of their faces.  We were going surfing.  I always sat in back and they would usually just ramble on about anything that was on either of their minds.  We'd roll up to the point, suit up and jump off the mothership and paddle out into the deep blue spacious swells generated by mother nature.  Such a good way to start your day.  Joe and I would usually do most of our talking out in the ocean waiting for sets.  This is where I learned about the legend of J.J. Moon.  Joe turns to me one morning amongst chit-chat and says, "Chad, you wanna know why I love surfing so much?  Because just like J.J. Moon said, if they want you, they gotta come out and get you."  Surfing is a time where we could really leave all of the worlds problems on the shoreline and just focus on living.

The most memorable car ride to go surfing can easily be pinpointed out as the time where I learned about the Mai Tai.  We were headed to Santa Cruz early one morning. For some reason, be it possibly the kentucky derby, Joe was discussing Mint Julip's with my uncle and the topic quickly changed to a Mai Tai.  I woke up from the back seat blurted out how I had never had a Mai Tai.  Joe turned his whole body squarely facing me all the while still behind the wheel on the 17 and said, "You have never had a Mai Tai?  Well, we're going to fix that!"  A plan was quickly hatched about how we were all going to review the Thai restaurant around the corner from my apartment.  When the evening arrived so did Mr. Izzo with a box of ingredients.  He showed me exact instructions of a personalized recipe all his own, then left the box of delictable juices and told me to practice.  Which I did.  And from that spawned the annual Mai Tai parties.  I had to pass on this great treat.  And I still do.

Another thing that I learned about Joe was the true beauty behind a good meal.  The guy was a food critic.  A job he took seriously.  It may have been the passion in his soul that made it so much fun.  Whatever it was, it was always a good time meeting him out at a restaurant and reviewing it for the benefit of others.  Though it was I who lucked out the most.  I gave my input on many a review but, easily, the funnest was when Joe, Birk McCandless and myself all went to Michi Sushi for a review.  See, this was a favor.  I had a good friend, Randy, who had just started as a sushi chef and was really doing some good work behind the bar.  Joe said, "Let's review it!"  We went down there one evening and sat in the tatime room and were treated like royalty.  We ate until our hearts were content, drank with the owner and were rewarded with shirts for our good behavior.  Laughs, gags and giggles were exclimated through the night.  I don't believe I have ever eaten sushi like that before.  Needless to say the review was glowing.

How Joe and I really grew close was through writing.  As many of you know, Joe always loved a good rant and was always prepared with one (or ten) in his back pocket ready to light up at a moments notice.  When we first started surfing together an email relationship developed.  Joe and I would exchange thoughts, ideas, concepts back and forth, but the real bread and butter were the rants.  I still have many of these emails, because I hold them dear to my heart.  Here is a little sampling of the goods that Joe would spew out:

  "I heard that you and the Friar were making music on
Sunday. I cannot reveal my source for this person
remains underground and lost to common hearing
devices. This could be good, or not, depending on what
preceded the session. I expect a full report on all
activities. so does Bob, and your parole officer, who,
by the way, is becoming very suspicious of all
activities in and around your domicile. Friar Leiker
is under the closest scrutiny for his continued
transgressions against the color pink. You could be
soon, but so far, have avoided coming under the eye of
the dead fish." 

They were true rants & uniquely Joe.  I loved them.  Joe was a storyteller.  He encourage that in others.  He was one of the first persons that heard me play an original tune on the guitar and fell over backwards letting me know that I need to "keep it up."  He was a teacher that could light a fire of encouragement to anyone that needed it.  In the end he really encouraged himself.  Which in my opinion is living.  He did this by following through on a life long dream of writing, editing & producing an entire feature length movie with some friends.  This kept his mind focused and his soul going.

Uncle Louie was a gift to all of us.  Probably three or four edited versions into the movie is when what I realized that Joe was giving us all a gift of Joe.  It is filmed at his house, in his town.  We journey with him to some of his favorite spots.  We see his cars and his friends and his family.  We hear his stories and experiences.  And if you look really close, you even see a cameo.  This is a true gift to anyone who wants to know Joe better.  Upon discovering this, I balled like a baby in the middle of my living room.  I had discovered what he had done and I was overcome with happiness.  It truly is a beautiful thing.  And to be a part of it was a real treat.
The Majestic Scribes

The past 365 days were special.  We knew by now that he wasn't going to get any better.  Joe knew it too and preached it.  But he would keep on living.  He got heavy into his Mandala's and I cherished our weekday walks for coffee with my daughter, Makenzie.  We would shoot the bull and talk about all the great art and aspects of life out there.  The trip to Buffalo, New York was the best.  I got to see him with his other comrades, the majestic scribes, in which I proudly became their chauffer.  Oh the anitcs!  They're all individuals that spawned a commmon bond of looking out at that world in a unique way, all the while giving a polite bird to all that were dressed in the color "Pink".  This not only let me grow closer to Joe, but the other majestic scribes, Joe Mangelli and R. Allen Russell.

The last time I saw Joe was on December 20, 2011.  Two weeks before his journey into the great beyond.  He was still trying to work hard on his new screenplay, Peter Knorll.  I kept encouraging him (and myself) by asking to get a copy of the script.  I told him that I was going to take a first pass at writing some tunes for his new movie.  On that day I delivered him a 5 song CD that were the first demo's for the new movie.  I figured it was what I could do to show that I was still 100% behind him and his new project even though we all knew that his walk from this earth was near.  To quote Joe upon receiving the CD he said, "Chad , you do not know what this does to me.  This is like a shot of adreline straight into my arm."  It was the least I could do.  Along with that he asked for one more favor.  I told him the story about my prior visit talking with his wife Lisa upon leaving.  She told me about how her Dad used to play the ukulele and she had always wanted to learn.  Joe asked if I could get Lisa a Ukulele.  I did.  And I dropped it off on their doorstep Christmas eve.

Joe will never be forgotten.  He was a catalyst of a higher power whom walked this earth with the one intention to make people better people.  Who could not love a guy like that?

A morning walk with Joe

In Buffalo, April 2011

Joe & the writer, April 2011 - Buffalo, NY

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