Friday, December 16, 2011

Brooklyn: New York: A Grim Retrospect

Growing up is not easy when you are impressionable, trying to fit in and not really focused on doing the right thing. Living in an environment that breeds the wrong type of behavior author, singer and writer Jerry Castaldo tells a gripping and compelling story from the start of his life starting at age 16 going downhill from stealing, hammering someone on the head, getting hammered himself and living life large as they say it before realizing that a change was needed and much more. Fitting in does not mean joining in. From stealing cars, to drinking to helping out a friend in time of need you won’t believe to what lengths Jerry would go to help someone out, get himself in hot water and make sure he took care of his mom.

From the beginning he seemed to be born under the star of the wrong side of the tracks. Friends calling upon him to steal radial tires but instead using his new car then finding himself riding with a friend who starts a verbal argument with guys in another car the end result is he winds up in the hospital and never knows what really happened to the other guy he ran over with his car. Bold, daring, taking chances everyday of his life but deep down just trying to find a place for himself Jerry Castaldo’s story is gripping, compelling,

From remembering his Dad was not always there for him to learning how to take care of himself Jerry managed to stay in trouble for most of his teen years. Stolen cars, well in his case he just borrowed them for a while to get the driving bugs out of his system. Reading about how his mom stood on line waiting to get food stamps reminded me of the many times I had to fill out the forms for my mom for the same thing. Wrong documentation, incomplete information, people in positions they thought were of power and could lord it over the rest of us. Not in my case because I learned to fight back but back when Jerry’s mom stood on line for three hours and was turned away by some rude worker, she had no choice but to leave. No one deserves that kind of treatment.

Many people, even today, make the mistake of leaving their keys in the ignition of their cars thinking they can go and get something from a deli or candy store leaving the car on for just a minute. That is all it takes for someone go open the door, climb in and take it away. Just as Jerry was about to get into a car would you believe he fun was foiled as his mother and her boyfriend were driving by wondering just what he was up to. But, things would still go on a downward spiral as he was picked up by someone called the Boss for stealing his car, got stopped by the same man to pay back what he would call what he stole but in spades and if Jerry continued on he might not make it past 17. Recounting in vivid detail the neighbor he lived in the crimes committed the excitement over having Saturday Night Fever filmed where he lived and the understanding that if he did not make some life changes he might wind up in prison or worse. Family members getting stabbed, visiting a cousin in the hospital and getting caught smoking a joint, Jerry took life as one big risk and never looked back but not before he had one night with one Amazon that he would never forget.

Taking this journey along with the author and the reviewer many kids today will learn the hard lessons that he did back then, as he is now age 20 and needing stitches on his face. But, the night was not over and one girl named Nilda would make it more interesting to say the least as she chased him with a knife, assumed she was his girl and yet when he knew that she was in trouble he came to the rescue.

Next stop the army where his first bit of encouragement came from one Sergeant who recognized his talent. From basic training to Germany where he would learn many more life lessons. Working out, working hard and getting a great job should have changed him. But, did it. Going to Paris and running away from Germany because he kept getting into trouble and could not find one place for himself. Always searching and reaching for a new start in life, yet never really finding one. But, his nightmare had just begun as he had more trouble with the police, the MP’s and wound up committed.

Working on Wall Street and finally in a club called Pips Jerry’s life began to turn around ad Andrew Dice Clay introduced him and things started to look up. Working with Anne Rebold he entered a contest singing Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin and won. But, that did not stop he reign of wrong doings as he stole a car, total Anne’s car wound up in rehab and still did not get it straight.

Jerry finally got a job as a personal trainer and really enjoyed helping people lose weight. One phone call would really rock his world in the right direction as someone called and the receptionist handed him the phone and the person on the other end agreed to his price and wait until you find out who he was going to train: many celebrities. Andrew Stein became his client and from there let’s hope it is an upward spiral staircase for Jerry. But, life still had its twists and one woman named Shelly Malone would show him the high life but Jerry would soon learn the hard facts of life. Warned to be careful by his own mother and remembering his station in life, he slowly fell back into his old pattern and what happens did not endear him even to himself. But, Jerry Seinfeld would turn things around for him when he walked into the health club where he was teaching. Things would change for him and then Shelly reentered his life but Jerry learned the true meaning of betrayal, lies and deceit and then had to decide where his life was going.

Jerry brings to light in this compelling and introspective memoir many important lessons so many young men need to learn today. Friendships change, opportunities are not always what they seem headstrong does not work but having faith in yourself will help you to prevail. Through it all you can hear his inner voice, his thoughts, feel his frustrations, fears and stand up and applaud every time he succeeds as Jerry Castaldo did not give up on life just look at where he is today.

How this all turned out and what lessons he learned you need to read for yourself at the close of the memoir. Life is not easy and learning from your mistakes as he did even harder. Although he is a success in his own right Jerry knows that he still needs to protect himself from his past and never revert back to what he was before. Sober for 20 years is a great accomplishment and knowing that his family, his friends and those that care about him support him, have faith in him, that includes me this reviewer, I know that his spiral climb to fame will never be downward again. This is one memoir that everyone should read and embrace what he is saying and more important Jerry: you have so much to offer and you do have a heart of gold, parents that care and so much talent that I am glad you never lost sight or who you really are and want to be. One compelling memoir. One great singer: I listened to interviews on Utube and heard him sing my favorite song My Way. You are truly amazing. Turning your life around was really the first day of your amazing life and career. Stand Proud!
Fran Lewis: reviewer 

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