I’ve flown a total of four times with Todd. The first was when my stepfather came on the scene. He flew us to Los Angeles to visit his family. We stayed in a motel in North Hollywood and Todd and I only wanted to hang out at the pool with some kids we met there. He was eleven, I was seven. I remember nothing about the airplane, I do remember that Joe drove us by a huge restaurant called “Gale’s”. “That’s my place,” he said. It took me another ten years to discover he had been joking.
The second time was a pip. For some unknown reason, when I was 19, my Uncle Milton, a real estate mogul, decided to give us each a few thousand dollars. I know my cousin, his daughter, was involved, after becoming friendly with Todd, she decided he should do us a favor. We were to go to California to meet with him. I drove from Boston to NYC and Todd and I took a cab from his uptown apartment to the airport. We got to the gate and realized he had left the tickets at home. In those days you could actually get to the gates without a ticket. Todd raised a hilarious fuss, actually yelling “I’m flabberghasted! My associate and I must get on this plane, we have a very important meeting in California!” Unbelievably, they let us on. In L.A.. we met Milton and his daughter, Jane, who hosted us graciously and showed us the best side of the West Side.
Then last year sometime, we made a day trip to L.A. for the funeral of our cousin, Danny Morris. Danny was an excellent percussionist and drummer. He and I had only met a few times but realized we enjoyed some of the same musicians, like Mick Torn and David Sylvian. Danny died way too young. It was cool traveling with Todd like that, with a purpose. We finally had “a very important meeting to attend in L.A.,” as he had yelled twenty years before.
Yesterday, Todd was in the hold of my Virgin America flight, his cremated remains packed tightly with my sruti (Indian squeezebox instrument similar to harmonium) in my suitcase. I tried to find regulations regarding the transport of cremated remains in carry-on luggage and could not locate anything. I decided it was safest to check the bag. I’ve brought him this time but he’s got no stories, not complaints. He’s in a plastic box the size of several bricks. The TSA opened it, they must have seen it before, it was well labeled. The funeral home put a metal tag on it, with their name and a number. It broke off and fell out of my luggage like a coin you’d win from some machine at Coney Island or a locker tag from the Millburn Community Pool. I didn’t know what it was when it fell out, then I thought he’d spilled.
In January, we had a ceremony at Moss Beach, CA, sprinkling some of his ashes into the Pacific along with his dogs Tito and Buzz. But we’d saved some for East Coast family who’d requested a chance to do some scattering. On Saturday, my nephew Bob and I will bring my brother for his last ride down the Esopus Creek in the Catskill Mountains, where he’d floated, fished, swam and played for decades. Water in the Catskills was so important to him. He thought of it nearly every moment and sought it out so that he might “immerse himself” as Joseph Cornelius would say, on those hot summer days. He once built a huge swimming pond at our summer house, but that is another story.