you arrive

I was born on a cool Spring day in Buffalo, New York. I was a curious child, though nothing out of the ordinary happened to me during the first five years. Well, there was that time I ate a toad stool and they had to pump my stomach, and I guess you can't count out that time I bit into a tube of modeling glue, but everyone pounds a nail into a hose to see what would happen. Curious indeed. I do remember the day I wore my new cowboy boots on the wrong feet to pre-school. That's about it for highlights until we moved east to the country, which was about 20 miles away. It's a small, rural village called Akron (town of Newstead).

My father Joe was a passionate and successful wrestling coach, so at a very young and tender age I too became passionate about wrestling, though I didn't have much choice in the matter. I was successful as a youth and through high school. It wasn't easy, and there were some definite hard times, but in the end, wrestling has taught me many things, and given me confidence, and I appreciate both my dad and the sport for that. In fact I recently coached wrestling at Berkeley HS and am now having a ball doing wrestling photography. Funny that, the circle of life.

Our farm was small and quaint, not for profit, but it kept us busy. Cold winters, warm summers. Rustic by 1970s standards. We didn't have cable television and I had to ride my bike five miles to get to the nearest video game, I rode another five to get to a mall. I rode a lot; it was healthy for me. Except for the time I broke my hand riding (crashing, really), but that introduced me to pain killers, and thus, I learned at a young and tender age how to see the good (drugs) in the bad (pain) of life.

Elementary school is a big blur [Clarence Central Elementary]
Though I do remember some key moments, like the time Shirley Tinklepaugh (thanks for the spelling Shirley! =) sat down to go to the bathroom with a pencil in her pocket and it broke off in her thigh (she recently wrote to me to say she has no recollection of this). Or the time Gordon Klingenschmidt and I got into a fight on the bus and I knocked him on the head with a round sucker. He was also the kid that got in a fight on the bus with his friend Doug Smith and bit Doug's foot, but Doug had dog shit on his sneaker. Poor Gordon threw-up the whole way to school.

When I was 10 my parents had twins, and my siblings Benjamin and Rebecca came into the scene. They rule. They are part of why I'm lucky. They make me laugh, and make me proud. But then, so does my whole family. My mom is an amazing artist and just overall great mom. Her love is unconditional, and that's all that i ask. I used to say she's a character out of a Tom Robbins novel, but seeing as she had never read Tom Robbins, she didn't appreciate the compliment fully. My dad is an artist recently retired from teaching high school science for about 30 years. He's currently obsessed with constructing a building for each of his vehicles. My brother Mike and his wife Kathy are gracious and learned, and their daughters (my nieces) Jackie, Jessie and Jenny are cuter than dimples on a rosy-cheeked baby.

I really enjoyed high school [Clarence Senior High]
The social part, that is; my "B" average wasn't causing a stir at college recruitment offices. Maybe I was naive and didn't realize I wasn't supposed to like high school; maybe I garnered respect because I wrestled; or, maybe I was just a happy kid? I'm not sure, but I feel fortunate I didn't suffer the wrath of the high school social feeding frenzy. Nor did I participate in it (very much). I had little angst. I didn't dress in all black nor paint my face white, and in my world, the Smiths were neighbors up the street not a band. I was social and friendly.

Once I did start listening to music, it was all Def Leopard, Van Halen, and ZZ Top...you know the mix. I was definitely young and naive. The only kid in school who listened to Prince had a bit of a complex and only wore purple. He only wore one glove as well, so, now, I'm thinkin' he had several identity issues. Through this ever complete representation of funk music (one kid, one glove), you can imagine what the majority of the school thought of Prince. Ironically, later, I started DJing funk music. Funny how things turn out, isn't it? Anyway, I managed to graduate from high school in 1985 and through a "special talent" admission (wrestling), got into college!

I really enjoyed college [SUNY Buffalo]
The social part that is; my "B" average wasn't causing a stir at employment offices. I went to the State University of NY at Buffalo and for the first year lived with my brother and hung out with his friends while making my own. It was madcap. The highlight must be winning of the dorm softball league and the kegger that followed. Four-square in the dorms was also a highlight. My sophomore year I fell in love with an amazing kid named Chris, but everyone calls her Spot. We discovered the world together: the Dead, love, sex, beer, traveling, etc. We were young and in love and we stayed that way for five years. We are terribly fortunate that we live only 10 miles away from one another, and remain close to this day.

Again, I guess I just didn't realize that I was supposed to not like college? I think having Spot in my life helped. Sure I didn't know what a major was, or that you had to take a preset number of courses in this "major" thing (my second semester I only took classes that looked fun, and only one of them actually was a prereq) , however, four years later I was a senior, and had it all figured out, and graduated with a BA in Communication. Internships saved my butt, and so upon graduating I worked at the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research where I had interned. Once that went south, I did as well. In 1990 I moved to Washington, D.C., for several years.

I lived and partied with great guys from Buffalo [Vienna, Virginia]
Mike Zimmerman, Eric Zimmerman, Tony Suffoletto, and Howard "Chief" Rowley [RIP]. We had some wild times, so I guess you could say I really enjoyed my post-college, still crazy days. We called ourselves the Rotimmerlettos (Rotundo, Zimmerman, Suffoletto). Our battle cry was: "'Lonians stranded in the Nation's capital." We taught those Virginians how to party with cheap beer and "good" music. Once the first set of 'Lonians split, a second set moved in with me: Jeff Schmidt, Rick Cole, and Todd Kale.

Then, once Spot and I broke up (which, sadly, was inevitable), my friends got married or moved back home, and I became disenchanted with work, so I headed West. "Social suicide," as I called it, for I knew very few people in California.

Thus, I found myself in San Francisco, at 25, with some professional skills, and a whole lot of good energy. It was the Summer of 1992 and San Francisco was alive with pleasure.

Things fell into place for me in San Francisco
As if she wrapped me to her bosom and guided me to my destiny. Hell, maybe it was just the quality California dope? I swear, I found an apartment and a job the very first day! It was amazing. Granted, I had to commute from Potrero Hill to Marin, but I was lovin' it. I worked at a deli in Marin, learning how to make a great latte and slice an avocado. I would come home after work and walk up and down Haight Street and write poetry (no lie!). After this stint in Potrero Hill I moved into a great place in Noe Valley with a woman named Kelly and a guy named Jon. Little did I know meeting Jon and Kelly would change my life for the better (remember things were already good). Through Jon I have met an amazing array of people, mostly Cal Berkeley alumni, and secured a wonderful job at Xinet, our friend Scott's company. Jon also lead us to our friend Jamie, who is, unequivocally, the sweetest man alive.

After Kelly left, Steve moved in and we lived and played on Chattanooga Street for six years. Barbie the cat (the only female) rounded out the group. Life was good, real good.

I really enjoyed my post-post-college, have a real job, time to become an "adult" days
I have played much in the fertile woods of the Bay Area. "I have seen more than I can remember," as Buffet sang. I have been to many music festivals, traveled the West Coast, met an immense number of people, and enjoyed them all. I have been on possibly the best Green Tortoise trip ever made to Baja (Celine contact me!). I have enjoyed the desert and beaches of California...naked. I have danced all night, for many nights in a row. I became involved in the SF rave scene and that took me to places I could never have dreamed of going. It also lead me to my love and partner...Menyui.

Then, in the winter of 1999, our landlord decided the apartment was in fact so nice that he would live there. So, legally, he served us notice and we were looking for a three bedroom apt in the toughest market in the country. But, with a lot of hard work and a bit of luck we found a fantastic place on Lyon Street, north of the Panhandle, SF.

Around the same time, my Canadian partner Menyui and I decided to get married, so that one day we could live together. That was an exciting event and we hope to do it again some day (which each other not other people). Only a year and a half later she actually received her green card and moved in with us. We had a great set-up with lots of space, great landlords, and we threw some kickin' parties. Work was good, adjusting to married life was rocky, Barbie was getting lots of lap time and we were quaffing martinis as any young working household should. Menyui and I went to places like England, Amsterdam, Italy and Scotland, and I went on a trip to Australia and New Zealand. We recently went to Hong Kong, and Menyui continued that trip to Thailand.

Steve had been hunting for a house to buy for some time and in a remarkable coincidence found a house the same week Menyui and I found our house in Oakland. So, after nine years, the union that was originally the Chattanooga Boys and then the Lyons Club broke rank and went on three separate adventures. Fear not, we still see each other often and have a bond that is precious, unique, and lifelong.

Menyui and I have settled into our new place and love it. I am doing volunteer work for the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society, Open Paw, as well as coaching wrestling at Berkeley High. Barbie is doing well, ruling the roost that is our back yard. We have a two-car garage that's converted to a shop, so I tinker a lot. Our friends are starting to have babies which is great! You can't have too many kids just a phone call away. ;^)

Quick update (2/06)
It's currently about 37 hours before I leave for a 3 month trip to Thailand. This will be the longest trip I've taken and I am fully of excitement and anxiety. I am going "because I can," as M liked to say, not to escape, or run from anything. I go with a full heart and an open mind, looking for wonderment and to spread the love of the little freaks.

No longer at Xinet, still living in Oakland, happy, secure. Barbie remains delightful.

© 2006 Tony Rotundo Photogaphy. All content and images are the exclusive property of Tony Rotundo.