I’m Dondi’s oldest nephew. When I was younger me and Dondi weren’t the closest people but there were some memories that will always last a lifetime. There were some lessons that I was taught that maybe I should have paid more attention to. The main lesson that my uncle taught me is something that I understand a lot more now than I ever have. That lesson is live your life on your terms, don’t worry about what others say or do. But worry about your happiness first. Dondi is the only person I have ever known to live his life on his own terms. He lived his life to the fullest. He never let a moment pass by that wasn’t lived to the fullest. Dondi traveled the world. Dondi did what he loved and that was art, whether it was illegal or what some people thought was wrong, he did what he wanted to do, not what others wanted of him, but what he wanted.
My first memory of Dondi is when my mother and father used to work and my grandmother used to watch us. Grandma always used to take me and my sister and my cousin to the store to get us our favorite candy, kitkat. And of course me being the smallest one, the two girls used to take my candy. Dondi would always take me back to the store and get me my kitkat and some comic books. Dondi always made sure I was happy, whether he let me play with his toys or sat and read my comics to me. There was always love there. I remember there was a time when I had wanted to go into the basement and watch him work. Of course I was never allowed to do down there because everyone was afraid of me breaking something but that was always one of my wishes. And finally after begging enough that wish was granted. I remember it was me, mickey and tamara, and we were sitting in the corner quiet as can be, as Dondi did one of his greatest masterpieces. That piece now hangs in my father’s house. That was one of my best memories because throughout all of my childhood memories of Dondi, I always knew what he did. But never really understood the magnitude of his work. Dondi is one of the greatest artists of our time and his work was admired by many of people. But I guess at that time I was just too young to realize the magnitude of the work that moved a whole underground world.
Trying to get a hold of Dondi was always a difficult task. Whether he was off in Europe at one of hisshows or he was riding his bike. In my life there was not much time spent with him but the time spent was cherished. Whether it was he sitting in grandma’s calling me peanut head or knucklehead or making me laugh in stitches of how he stacked his cd collection. Or going to see him at his bike shop and talking about bikes. Dondi was a good friend and a mentor. The news of his passing crushed me for the fact that I didn’t really get to know the man that I looked up to so much. It’s kind of weird that I know more about him now than I ever have. And sometimes it just makes me feel worse that I never got to ask him the questions that I wanted to, or I never got to take a bike ride with him or I never got to sit in the bleachers out at yankee stadium with him. There were plenty of missed moments. But the good moments are the ones that I will always cherish. Dondi was a great man. He always had a smile on his face and he always had something good to say. Those were Dondi’s good points. It’s kind of funny, the Dondi I know, compared to the Dondi the world knew, is completely different. The Dondi I knew is a man that had love for family, not the great artist that every one else knew. But just a man that lived on his own terms.
And even though we never got to take that ride or never got to see that game, I feel that when I’m on my bike or at a game, he’s right there with me. His presence will always be there. And hopefully I can live his lesson one day and live my life the way I want to. And not worry about everyone and everything. But live on my own terms like a great man once did.
Michael A. White, Jr.
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