Ever since I was a little, I dreamed of doing something great for the world. I wasn’t a particularly ambitious kid. Besides my nightly prayers for world peace, I was unclear of my personal role in bringing about global harmony. Yet, I trusted that eventually I’d fall into a gratifying line of work which hoped would positively impact the planet.
Since I liked to sing and dance in private, I imagined that someday I would gain the confidence to share my talents publicly.
If all worked out, I’d become an artist of great respect like Olivia Newton John. Then, naturally, everybody would listen to and agree with me, giving me the necessary platform to tell those creating wars and other havoc to go have coffee with a friend, or think of their grandma…or just chill.
I’m not sure where this early idealism came from, given the nature of my ever-collapsing childhood. Ever since we left New Orleans on the Mars Hotel, I was a rather melancholic kid. Presuming there had to be others in the same miserable boat, I held onto the hope that someday/somehow, I might make a difference for all of us losers.
I enjoy being a parts model, but I always hoped my contribution to society would be greater than nice nail beds. I expected to have a career that fulfilled my soul and made a lasting mark. No matter how wildly successful I am as a super hand model, in years to come no one will be talking about how my cheese-pulls and pouring skills changed their lives.
Parts modeling is not exactly a highly sought after career choice for those who land in Hollywood. People come here with big dreams, hoping their talents and all their parts will be seen by the WORLD (or at least their private parts seen in a sex tape).
Point is, most LA imports aspire to BE somebody (not be somebody’s body).
After years of being judged from the wrist-down, I want to be taken seriously. In this town, it’s easy to get pigeonholed and stereotyped. Many producers lack imagination and must see an auditioning actress actually wearing a nurse’s uniform in order to envision her cast as a nurse. So you can imagine that most people who first meet me don’t assume: Hand model…I’ll bet that gal writes novels on the side.
Maybe I wish to live up to the great legacy of my ancestors. My Great Grandfather, Giuseppe Uddo, was from a poor village in Sicily, and courted by mafia.
But with a determined dream, he and his newly wed bride, Eleanora, made an arduous journey overseas, cramped in quarters below the stern of a transatlantic ship. They arrived in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1912, speaking only Italian, with a $30 dowry, hoping to introduce the southern Americans (then accustomed to butter), to olive oil and other Italian imports.
Giuseppe started as push cart salesman. He bought his first cans of tomato paste from Mr. Cusamino, a merchant on Chartres St. who sold Giuseppe the rusty cans he typically discarded.
Giuseppe brought the rusty cans back to his small apartment, which was described as ‘hot enough to melt candles’ – there Eleanora found a loose brick in the courtyard and pounded it into a fine powder. She added a solution of lye and worked long into the night, scrubbing the cans and restoring their shiny finish.
A plain white label was then placed around the can, which read: Progresso.
It’s said that Eleanora spent most of her time “cleaning and praying,” and that her hands never fully recovered from the beating they took in the courtyard and remained raw, red and rough. Not only did I inherit my Mawmaw’s mustache, but apparently some OCD in the DNA.
My other Great Grandfather, Peter A. Chopin, a French horticulturist, was another one who got down and dirty with his hands…
His passionate love of the land inspired him to bring the Easter Lily to America, and eventually made him one of the founding fathers and Vice President of FTD.
Peter’s father, Gustav Chopin, fought in the Franco-Prussian war, and was deeply motivated to document the acts of heroism and horror he witnessed in battle. There were no camera-clicking correspondents then, and didn’t have a pen or pencil. But he was so deeply determined to record history, he tapped the veins of his hands to obtain writing fluid.
When the war was over, he traveled to America as an immigrant, with his original manuscript and over one hundred poems, all written in his own blood. Unfortunately, he reached Chicago just before the disastrous fire of 1871, where his cherished book was destroyed three days after his arrival.
The stories go on…and so does my fondness in recalling these great people. Each built their lives and fulfilled dreams with their hands. Like those who came before me, I’m a fervent clean-freak, who loves to toil in the soil, and write with blood, sweat and tears…
Of course greatness comes in many forms and through many expressions. For me, my family inspired a great diligence to fulfill my soul’s ache for purpose.
As I type away, pouring my heart into the pages of my novel-in-progress, I thank god for my ancestors’ influences (and digital backup-storage). Maybe these fine phalanges have a greater purpose after all…