I never knew
anyone like Philip before, or since. He had such a zest for life. Philip would
say it was because he never thought he'd live long. For the longest time, he
thought he wouldn't live past twenty-four, so he packed as much living in as he
could every day.
He used to tell me that I wouldn't have liked him before his accident. He was always moving, doing and fixated on his life's vision of becoming an actor. As for me, I wish I knew him his entire life.
I wish I knew him when he'd dress up like Zorro and he'd climb out of his bedroom window and go to all the neighbor's homes for spaghetti dinner. Even though Philip's family is Italian there was no Thursday night spaghetti night in his home, but all of his neighbor's had it and he didn't want to miss out. He'd return home, his parent's none the wiser and he'd eat whatever mom or dad made for dinner.
I wish I knew him when he, and his buddy painted his big-finned Cadillac baby blue. His best friend, Bobby, and he did the deed on Bobby's mom's front yard leaving a ring of blue on her grass, which didn't make her very happy. Bobby's dad was a sign painter so they mixed all the partial cans of different hues of blues together, then took baby rollers and painted the car.
It was obviously a sight because days later Philip was stopped by a policeman for the fumes spitting out of his tailpipe. The officer pulled him over and said, "Son, your car sticks out like a sore thumb." Without missing a beat Philip replied, "So does yours, but you don't hear me complaining." Needless to say, he got a ticket.
For years after Philip's accident he couldn't wait for a police officer to pull him over and ask him to "Step out of your vehicle." Finally it happened, I was with him, and he proclaimed to the policeman, "I would if I could, but I can't so I won't."
The officer was ready to become more forceful, when Philip added, "I'm in a wheelchair, officer, it'll take me some time." Luckily, the officer reconsidered his order. But, for Philip, it was a moment of pure delight.
It reminds me of the time we went to a Broadway play in New York. It was before there was handicap seating. Philip rolled down the aisle to our designated seats and parked his wheelchair in the aisle next to me, as we had always done.
However, this time was different. A young usher came over and informed Philip that he couldn't sit in the aisle; that he'd have to transfer to a theatre seat. Philip explained to the young man why he couldn't and that we planned on staying right where we were.
The young man left visibly confused and bewildered. He soon returned and told Philip that he would have to take his wheelchair. After explaining why that was not a practical idea, especially in case of a fire, we were sure the issue was closed. We were wrong. He came back insisting that he had to take Philip's wheelchair.
That's when Philip told him, "Ill make you a deal. If you leave me your shoes, then you can have my wheelchair." He left and never returne
I wish I knew him when he took dance from Martha Graham at Neighborhood Playhouse, and he discovered muscles he didn't know he had, and consequently; he could barely walk. Slowly, achingly trying to navigate the stairs in Grand Central Station (in NYC), a man yelled at him to "Move it, bud."
Philip's reply, "Nice way to talk to a Vietnam Vet." Embarrassed for talking to a Vet that way, the man grabbed Philip under the arm and helped him to the train and once on the train made certain that he got a seat!
A week later, the aches gone Philip was now dancing Fred Astaire style down and back up the steps. When he realized, "I hope the guy he lied to doesn't take the same train today."