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GABE'S HAIRCUT

When he was growing up, my son, Gabe, always requested the same dinner on his birthday: lasagna and mashed potatoes. These days we skip the mashed potatoes, but still honor the tradition.Forget the gifts; don't worry about the cake. The only thing Gabe really wants for his birthday is a meal worth remembering. An Italian meal.

And since he lives in Rhode Island, we have a lot of choices. If there's anywhere outside Bologna that has more or better Italian restaurants than they do in Rhode Island, I'd like to hear about it. This year, a small, unpretentious place in Smithfield served up the most awesome bruschetta with cannellini beans and eggplant rollatini I've ever had.

But the best part of the meal was fervent conversation we always have. We are the kind of family who talks so much, each excitedly waiting for a turn to speak, that when we finally look up, there's no one left in the restaurant but the employees. (As a waitress, I hated people like us, but we at least, we always tip well.)

Right now Gabe and Nicola are hard at work promoting their new business, RentProv. That means going out and getting to know the communities they want to serve. It means walking the streets of various towns and neighborhoods, talking to people about what they do, and what they hope to do. Or just talking to people, which has always been Gabe's favorite activity.

In the smallest state in the country, are still a lot ofof small family-run coffee shops and bakeries, sub shops and delis; and Gabe is determined to sample the food and meet the regulars in all of them. He's also learned that it's those small businesses, the heart of any community, who are willing to post his flyers, to take an interest in his dream, and offer to spread the word.

Last week he was walking through a somewhat downtrodden, but friendly neighborhood in Providence when he noticed a barber shop. The windows looked as if they hadn't been washed in a decade, and there were no lights on, but when Gabe tried the door, it was open.

The first thing he noticed in the empty shop was the overwhelming scent of urine. The second thing was the barber snoozing in chair, with a very large, tabby in his lap, one mistrustful eye open. Gabe estimated the barber's age at somewhere between eighty-five and ninety.

A lot of people would have slipped out before the man woke up, but Gabe decided on the spot that what he needed most in the world was a haircut from an octogenarian barber.

He had to poke the poor man three times before the barber leaped off the chair, blinking in bewilderment. "A haircut? What? Well, sure!"

So for six bucks, Gabe got himself a haircut that was reminiscent of the ones I used to give him when I bought my first set of crazy clippers, and an hour of talk about the history of the neighborhood where the barber had done business for over fifty years.

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Hi, Patry

Thank you for a stroll through your neighborhood and a day in Gabe's life. It brought tears--the prodding of the snoozing barber. This is what I love best about redroom.com, to be able to peer into a moment in our writer friends' lives.

Reading your bio, I recall now that my old beau's grandfather was friends with Rocky Marciano of Brockton in the former capital of shoes. How the economy has changed. Being from California, it was enchanting for me to drive to Brockton and seeing one distinct township with their mature trees, rather than the aphid-like crusting of indistinguishable cities.

Your message to last blog to me made my month. You must have ESP. And I am indeed sending good thoughts for the next step in your journey to busting-at-the-seams good health.

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Rocky Marciano!

Rocky and my dad were pals, too! Don't you love the richness of these connections? I love that reading about my hometown triggered memories of the boyfriend from your past life, and that your post about your birthday month made me want to celebrate my own. Someday, whether in Brockton or in California, we WILL meet.

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Patry...

I posted this on your MySpace page, but I want to make sure you get it:

Just to let you know I read your book in one day, I loved it so much. My jaw dropped so many times I lost track! I think it would be a great movie with Toni Collette as Jeanne, Tilda Swinton as Ali and John Slattery as Gavin. I hope you are feeling better and I send healing thoughts your way.

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Thank you, Jennifer!

It's now about 10 p.m. and I'm writing on my laptop in the dark so as not to disturb my hospital roommate. I haven't been on MySpace for a while, so I'm glad you tracked me here. Hearing that you loved my novel made my day.  Your healing words couldn't have come at a better time!  I like your casting choices, too--though I'm not familiar wth John Slattery. There's been some movie interest, but so far nothing has worked out. Maybe now that the writer's strike is over.... 

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John Slattery...

His most recent role was the latest husband of Gabby in Depserate Housewives, and he's also been in Mad Men as well.