Dear Michael and Caroline,
Carmine D’Intino lived on the floor below me with his girlfriend Diane. This was the fall of 1976, at 18 East 23rd Street, a three-story apartment building across from Madison Square Park.
Carmine was short, maybe five-foot-five, stocky, maybe 140 pounds, with thick, glossy hair that always landed just right, and he looked a lot like Al Pacino, especially because of his big brown, beagle-puppy eyes.
I got to know him soon after moving into my studio, the smallest in the city. We must have met in the hall or the laundry room or coming and going near the building entrance.
Whatever the case, we got to talking and liked each other. Soon we were taking walks and maybe we went to a bar for a few beers.
He talked a lot, usually clocking in at about a mile a minute, always improvisational and free-ranging and entertaining. He was largely self-taught, the result no doubt of voracious reading, and had ideas about everything, though none I can remember. A wild talker, jazzy, roaming across politics and philosophy, anything you can imagine.
I was then still new to living in New York City, all of 24 years old. Working my first job at a weekly community newspaper, all the hair still on my head.
What can I say about Carmine expect that he fascinated me? He was just about everything I would never be – a risk-taker, spontaneous, adventurous (much like my current pal Al Viletta).
So we became friends of a sort.
You might as well know a little about him, I figure, and you know why. Back then, more than 30 years ago, little did I suspect that he would soon become, at least for a while, the most important person in my life.
He came to my apartment on the third floor, my private estate spread out across roughly 200 square feet, to knock on my door on a Friday night in early October.
Come out with us tonight, Carmine said, me and my girlfriend and her girlfriend.
I’d just gotten up from a nap – Carmine might have awakened me – and was in no mood for anything social, much less meeting a new girl.
Nah, that’s okay, you go ahead, I said. I’m feeling kind of tired.
Come on, Carmine said. We’ll have fun.
And I had no reason to doubt him. He was loud and crazy and knew all about fun. So I changed my mind. Or, rather, he changed my mind. And out we all went.
And that’s how I met Elvira. And within just a few months I relegated Carmine to the status of only the second most important person in my life. And that’s because by then he’d already introduced me to the person who had quickly become (and remains) the first.
P.S. — Here’s the version that appeared today in Newsday: http://www.newsday.com/opinion/oped/expressway-cupid-lived-one-floor-below-me-1.3520829