My mom and dad wanted me to be a happy kid. My greatest childhood memories are them simply telling me that they loved me, which was always, I know they did their best for me, but the reality was that they lived very hard lives.
I was born late in their lives. I was referred to as their love child, and that title was very cool. But something went wrong. I began to witness their physical and emotional pain. I experienced stuff that I just didn’t understand. At the age of 13, my brother and sister had already married and moved on. My dad was disabled from the trucking business, so he gambled and hung with his friends. My mom was always at work, and I returned from school to an empty home. I felt lonely. I was frustrated and angry. I accumulated an odd list of complaints as if the arrangement wasn’t working, and chose to use the same breath God graciously gave me to curse him.
I took to the streets playing the role of a tough street kid while aligning myself with a species so deceived they lusted for God’s job. I was assured that I would be strong by their side. Within a short time, I witnessed tragic stuff, and eventually, I went to jail. When I got out, i excelled in school and all sports. My goal was to further my participation and become a sports professional. I was chosen to matriculate in the first vocational high school in New York.
Aside from athletics, my hobby was to read about famous living people and then write to them. They would reply to me with letters that had amazing content and financial value. Through my writings, I became friends with Maime Doud-Eisenhower, George Burns, Andy Warhol, and Senator/VP Walter Mondale. In my mailbox, it was not rare to find a handwritten letter from Dr. Christian Barnard with a hand-drawn diagram of his first heart transplant. William Schockley sketched his blueprints for the transistor for me. Neil Armstrong would overload me with handwritten moon-walk quotes.
These experiences enabled me to be recognized for my unique approach. I began encouraging students to embrace the hobby. I consistently requested to speak at various upscale conventions and auctions held in New York Cit. I gained membership at clubs; like the Manuscript Societ, Pen and Quill, and the Universal Autograph Collector’s Club. I had gained unrivaled education in this field and as a teenager, I amassed the largest collection on the east coast. Soon thereafter, I converted from collecting to dealing in presidential documents and sports memorabilia.
In the course of my journey to Manhattan, I met journalists for pro wrestling publications and was invited, as their guest, for the wrestling matches behing held that evening at Madison Square Garden. Subsequently, I was invited to join the private get-together at the wrestler’s hotel, where I was approached by a well-known wrestler/manager. Lou Albano asked me if I would consider becoming a wrestler. Although I was in my early teens, I understood show business. Being a big kid, I would fit the part.
I quickly learned this unique trade, fashioned my appeal and gimmick. Even though I wasn’t of age, fellow wrestlers vouched for me to the state athletic commissions. In those days, formal proof of identity wasn’t significant. If my cause was backed by famous pro wrestlers, then that was good enough for the politicians collecting a share of the ticket sales. I was to become an attraction. Here I am, a Jew to the bone, playing the role of an Italian wrestler.
I dropped out of high school trusting I had met my aim of becoming a professional athlete. I journeyed to incredible cities and was making unbelievable money. Moreover, people believed I was special. They desired to be around me. The more attention I recieved, the more I began expecting. In due course, I craved attention.
I was exposed to the popular drugs of the 70s and was attracted to the lifestyle. By age 18, my identity was governed by drugs and a need to be valued. Several years later, the state athletic commissions learned that I falsified my initial wrestling application; that I had been untruthful about my age. I failed to reveal my juvenile justice intervention. I was suspended for two years. I was shattered.
Although i continued to use drugs, I did accomplish much. I completed school and studied the law. Many were optimistic for my future. I lingered around other sports, where I developed into a prospect. I began a small dry cleaning business and sports marketing promotion. Yet, regardless of what I accomplished that I perceived as good, I was unable to hold onto it.
By age 18, I habitually depended on drugs and lived an extreme lifestyle which led me to jail. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life incarcerated. My only contact with religion while in prison was when a chaplain called to tell me someone died.
Amidst the tragedy of September 11, 2001, my son Johnny, who was 6 at the time, says to me, “God bless the people who died. God bless God! God bless Jesus! God bless everyone! God bless me and you forever.” Although I didn’t know where this “God stuff” was coming from, I was grateful that I chose not to point to the burning towers as an illustration; as proof that God doesn’t exist. Since that day, I’ve slowly been transformed. I’ve learned that trying to prove God exists is like defending a raging bull.
As I was awaiting another prison sentence, I met my now good friend and brother, Mark, and I was introduced to Faith Farm. Although I refused to insult the court and request going to Faith Farm as an alternative to prison, I made a commitment with mark to stay the course and enter Faith Farm upon release. I kept that commitment.
Upon arriving at the Okeechobee campus, I was given the work assignment as a calf caretaker. My thinking was muddled because I believed I was better than that. I believed I had the skills to make a difference in other work assignments, like trucking. I had no problem if they wanted me to make pizza every day, or even an office position…but cows?
The time had come for me to do what I said I was going to do. I went out to the pasture and the transformation was awesome. Upon my arriving at the calf field each morning, those little baby calves would see me, and they would skip around and make funny sounds, which I perceived as sounds of joy.
I am certain that it was God’s intent to take this 50-year-old Jewish kid from Brooklyn, place me in a perfect paradise, and brand me a cowboy. God organized my heart to observe my supervisor Bill, who loved those calves. This is where I began to comprehend what God’s love was like. This is where I began to experience genuine love. I quickly recognized that i needed to see someone love something before I could love it myself. God answered prayers on that calf field. Nature has become a part of my relationship with God, and I’m grateful for those babies.
My dream today is so big that only God can fulfill it: It’s remaining in relationship with Him and living a loving lifestyle; to be a father to my son; to help others and hurt no one. i need God’s elp and your prayers for that.