"Picture this: Sicily 1960..." - wait, wait, wait, Sofia. Let me tell my own story. I was really born in Ville de Lens, France- near the city of Lille of Sicilian emigrants who hailed from Valle Dolmo and Polizzi Generosa- Palermo. I was raised in Northern Italy in the city of Torino- better known as Turin where a shroud also resides. Torino is also the automobile capital of Italy, with a fabulous New National Cinema Museum in the Mole Antonelliana as well. Torino is known as the Industrial North, but compared to American industrial cities, it is wildly beautiful. Sometimes I wonder why I ever left. Perhaps it was the provincial attitudes that I found so repelling. I guess the U.S. has since caught up.

I grew up in, what was then, the outskirts of the city, in a typical early 18th century remodeled farm house (yes we had indoor plumbing). We had a lot of fields to play in, and play we did. My mother always worked and when I was four our landlord used to take care of me (Luciana Narduzzo). She was married to Narciso, who owned the auto body shop, so I used to help them out. The most important thing I learned from them is that you have to work diligently, and that honesty pays off. I have nothing but fond memories growing up on Corso Grosseto 71, although since I've left, I've never been back to that address.

My family decided to come to the U.S. in 1972. After only 3 years, my parents decided that it was best for the children (Right!) if we go back to Torino. At the time I loved the idea. I never really integrated into American culture (and I missed hearing Mina and Lucio Dalla on the radio), plus I wasn't jiving with my father and eldest brother- both of whom remained in the States.

Back in Italy, I went back to school and worked in the same auto body shop, and did woodworking for a remodeling company that specialized in historical building maintenance. It was really hard work- tough people. That's when I learned that sometimes, no matter what you do or how good your work is, it is a lot harder to please people who are unhappy. So that's how I learned to always smile.

In December 1982, I came back to the U.S for the holidays and decided that NYC is where I really wanted to live. Although Torino is a beautiful city- surrounded by hills with mountains on the horizon, traversing rivers, beautiful castles from the Savoia Royal family, and gorgeous statues- the majority of the people were very stodgy and narrow-minded. I was not going to grow as an artisan (or as a self-realized gay man). So my grandmother and I packed our bags, and at 5 AM on December 18th 1982, we came to New York via Paris. That's where my real journey began, determined that I never wanted to remodel anything again- not even my own apartment.

For a few months I worked with my brother delivering and selling auto parts. That really never panned out, so I briefly went to work for my father's new wife who owned a beauty supply store (how many Eva Gabor wigs, L'Oréal lipsticks and haircolor I sold, I can not BEGIN tell you. Retail is such a bitch!). Finally I landed a job as an assistant in a corporate dining room as a waiter/sous chef, while working part-time for my friend Linda Lalli's catering enterprise. My second career had just begun. Catering had become my destiny, or so I thought, until I went to work for John Lalli, a Long Island painter. That rekindled my "construction bug," and for the last 17 years I have been torn between two distinct careers, which both give me great pleasure. I am 90% committed to remodeling jobs. But like my dear friend Jay Lesiger, owner of Chelsea Pines Inn said to me, "You never close a door behind you."

I have lived for the last 15 years in Brooklyn with my husband, artist and educator- Frank Jump- who also designed and maintains this website. CLICK HERE to see my personal photo history.

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