Monday, October 4, 2010

"New York State of Mind" (Thanks to Billy Joel)

Last weekend, Derio and Liesa were Fern Forest’s two most beautiful people—and the most altruistic. Liesa left her home in Germany last January to come to New York and work as an au pair, taking care of the five children (all under age twelve) of two doctors. She’s considering her next step, which she hopes will be working with special needs children either back home in Deutschland or in the U.S. Derio is contemplating a career as a teacher, having left his graduate studies in theology. At one point he thought he might become a chaplain for military soldiers, and he enjoyed doing spiritual counseling with inmates at a medium security prison so much that he still thinks a career with the church might suit him.

Liesa has weekends off from her job, which involves ferrying around the older kids to their athletic practices and music lessons. The three-year-old is handful. He has his own iPhone, which he uses to play games and watch videos—and don’t try to take it away from him. If he gets scared in the middle of the night, he wanders into Liesa’s room and crawls into her bed to finish his sleep. In the evenings she cooks and disciplines, teaching the youngsters Old Country manners, especially at dinner time. She comes from a family of givers. In addition to their own five offspring, her parents have two foster children and also take in recovering addicts, giving them jobs on their farm feeding chickens and taking care of livestock. They’ve taught their sons and daughters the value of giving to those less fortunate.

Derio also comes from Old World values. His grandfather was from Puerto Rico and married an Italian woman. His mother is Swiss. He was taught to respect his elders, to follow society’s rules, and to honor God. He politely declined the beer and wine we offered him both nights he was with us.

For a couple in their mid-twenties, they’re pretty unusual, I think. Saturday they hiked up Mt. Abe and when they came back to shower before going out to dinner, we had some time to have a nibble and get to know them better. Derio played bass in a band before he went to graduate school. He mentioned that his dad plays saxophone in a band, and when I asked him what band, he said, “He has played in a few.”

“Like, which ones?” I said.

“Billy Joel, for one,” he said.

“‘It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me’ Billy Joel?”

“Yeah,” Derio said. “Billy’s a really nice guy. My dad played with Ringo Starr and his All-Star Band, too.”

“Ringo of the Beatles?”

“Yeah. Ringo’s a really nice guy, too.”

“You met Ringo Starr?”

“Sure,” he said. “I went with my dad to Ringo’s birthday party, and Paul McCartney and Keith Richards walked in.”

“Like Sir Paul McCartney and Richards of the Stones?”

“Yep,” Derio said. “All nice guys. Elton John, though—I had a hard time talking to him.”

So would I, Derio.

I looked up his father, Mark Rivera, and found that he has played with Billy Joel’s band for 27 years. He’s accomplished in soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones as well as guitar, percussion, keyboards and vocals. He also has performed with Hall & Oates, Peter Gabriel, Simon & Garfunkel, John Lennon, Edgar Winter, Billy Ocean, and Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh. No wonder Derio lives at home on his parents’ hundred-acre estate just outside the city. And all it took were a few carrot sticks and some hummus to dig this information out of him.

Of course, I had to tell him that I spent four days at a writing conference at the Hotel Richelieu in New Orleans, where McCartney lived for a couple months with Linda. One of our workshops met in the McCartney suite, a capacious two-room habitation with kitchenette and deluxe bathroom. I had to use the bathroom at one point, and while I was sitting on the stool, I realized that Paul McCartney himself most likely used this same seat. So I can probably brag a more intimate association with the former Beatle than Derio had with him.

In my opinion, Derio and Liesa are perfectly matched. He’s the epitome of cool, and she’s starlet gorgeous. I hope they figure out how to keep the flame alive when Liesa goes back to Germany this winter.

When we bid them farewell Sunday, I said, “Derio, tell Ringo he’s welcome at the treehouse anytime.”

“Ringo would like it here,” he said.

Hear that, Ringo? And just to make sure you’re not singing “It Don’t Come Easy” when you visit, H will even give you a boost up to the sleeping loft.

1 comment:

Carol Suchecki said...


I love your stories about your tree house. Each story is a whole world!

Thank you for sharing them,