I want to give a shout-out today to a writer hero of mine named Timothy Brandoff, who is an author and New York City bus driver. This blue collar author’s debut novel Cornelius Sky was recommended to me by the same editor who had read and provided me with notes for my novel A Bold & Brazen Article. This editor remarked how both books shared common themes about alcoholism and mental illness.
Cornelius Sky chronicles the life of a down on his luck stone cold alcoholic for whom the novel is named. Cornelius (Connie) works as a doorman at an upper class apartment building in Manhattan. Among his tenants are the widow of JFK and her thirteen year old son John. Connie strikes up a friendship with John and plays cards and smokes joints with him in the empty nooks of the big building. The irony here is that Connie has been thrown out of his own project apartment by his wife Maureen while his oldest son Artie looks upon him with disdain for his drunken ways. Connie ends up living in a rooming house which is occupied by several members of AA whom he initially resists. I don’t want to give too much away and subtract from your reading enjoyment, but the book offers hope to anyone who might suffer from this deadly and insidious disease. It is also a mixture of anguish and hilarity, but always an enjoyable read.
I can’t speak for Mr. Brandoff, but I write about the disease of alcoholism from personal experience. I caught my first load when I was ten at a party given by my next door neighbors for their son who was going away to Vietnam. Another kid and I were pouring beers for the adults from a keg set up in a shed outside when I got the brilliant idea of cutting the lids off of our Frank’s Soda cans and filling them with beer. A couple of hours later, I was running around in only my underwear and a towel wrapped around my neck as I tried to fly like Superman. Of course as I got older, none of my drinking escapades ever helped me to get off the ground either (unless you count the time I almost drove my car off of a railroad embankment).
As a teenager, and even into adulthood, my perception of an alcoholic was of an old wino wearing a dirty raincoat. I reflect about this in my novel. “I followed Jimmy and the gang into the alley behind the theatre. The back door opened and Jackie Cummings’ head popped out. Jackie’s father was a member of the bottle gang that frequented the Liberty Projects parking lot. In fact, there seemed to be an alcoholic father on every street. I knew of at least ten kids in school whose dads suffered from the Irish virus.”
While the aforementioned quote is fictional, it is based upon real childhood experiences and one of the common threads in the blue collar neighborhood where I grew up. I am glad that today more and more people are finding solutions to the disease of alcoholism and reaching out for help. I am also thankful that because of books like Cornelius Sky, which describes so well the sometimes comical but always despairing life of an alcoholic, which more and more people are gaining a better understanding and sympathy towards those that suffer from addiction.