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for November 12, 2003


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Fingers
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love was the eldest grandchild of four grandparents, then five grandparents, then seven grandparents, then a few more as grandparents divorced and remarried, and parents followed suit. To be honest, Christmas is no picnic, but these delightful people, characters one and all, treated a growing band of perplexed children with kindness. Last weekend, we lost one of our whip-smart grandmothers and will miss her terribly. Today, a daunting package arrived at the door containing Seal's new album, breathtaking and wonderful, and Fingers, a Harvey Keitel movie from 1978.
 
Once upon a time, A. Andrew Pastorio was a grouchy, charismatic live wire who took two or three of his grandchildren everywhere and introduced them to everything. Your Beloved recalls the time this fellow took his two doe-eyed granddaughters to Umberto's in New York, made them taste scungili ("Grandpa, this tastes like Keds.") and directed their attention to a spot on the floor. "A famous gangster got shot there." As well-adjusted girls should, these two paused to reflect, then asked nicely for octopus.
 
Grandpa - let's call him Andy because everyone did - sang and danced. (What, your Grandpa doesn't?) He came down the stairs in the morning doing a soft shoe and humming an infectious ditty. Your Beloved's first brush with diction training came when Andy sat her down with a script and a candle and instructed her to pronounce her P's without causing the flame to flicker. Andy did lots of local theater, so we memorized piles of scores. As children who could read and therefore prove very useful, we ran lines with him. Andy's rule: "Memorize the whole script, not just your parts. If someone else makes a mistake, you might have to fix it." Andy went into Manhattan frequently for commercial and movie auditions, and he had small parts in movies. It was fun for us, and thrilling, to see him on television. Once, Your Delight was dropped off at the Chrysler Building for lunch while Andy auditioned. She remembers eating a burger and reading a book in a model car.
 
In the summer of 1978, Andy succumbed to cancer. Weeks later, Your Dearest and her sister were at gymnastics camp in the Poconos when Andy's last made-for-TV movie played. Daddy, I Don't Like It Like This starred Talia Shire and Burt Young in the days when Rocky movies were the hottest thing since lava, and this was a crappy, depressing affair. What mattered was the scene where our jubilant, tuxedo-clad Grandfather raised a toast at his daughter's wedding and everyone danced. Two little girls in a barn cried their eyes out, because that vivacity was fixed in memory. That's Andy. Then, two weeks ago, a google search for "Pastorio" (read: a gossip check on Daddy) turned up this enigma, Fingers, a movie no surviving member of the family remembers.
 
It's a gamble with memory. In Your Sugar Plum's memory, he is the life of the party, with a smile on his face and an upraised drink in his hand. He pours a shot each for his granddaughters and says, "This'll put hair on your chest," as an Italian family roars. He climbs out the kitchen window to tend his tomato plants and grill steaks. He is swift retribution. He is decisive action and a whistle in the hallway and "Turn off the TV and do something." IMDB, the Internet Movie Database, says his small role is that of "Elderly driver" but Andy was a relatively young man when he died. Twenty-six years later, it's a gamble to open the DVD. What if this movie finally makes Andy an old man?
 
Fear is silly, isn't it? Your Heart's Desire is working up the courage to find out.
 

©2003 Robin Pastorio-Newman

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.

 







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