I didn’t know him very well but I knew him well enough to remember him. He was a well-known personality at HHS during our years there. Pretty much everyone knew who he was.
Only during our production of HARVEY in November of 1989, where Lawrence brought him in from one of his classes to play “Duane Wilson” in grand fashion, did I get to know him at all. I learned, of course, that he was Sal’s son, and a great deal more. He was a natural on the stage and we all lamented that he had waited until his senior year to perform. I was glad he did and remember a lot of very engaging and entertaining conversations during the months leading up to the show.
We were friendly after the show closed, in which he was very good. We’d nod at one another in the hallway, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say we were ever close friends. There was no reason why not-just different people in different circles that coincided at times.
For the remainder of his senior year, I saw him at Sal’s periodically and at a few Class of ’90 graduation parties. After graduation we chatted once or twice, again at Sal’s, which if you are from anywhere near exit 8 off the NJT, should have been your pizza of record. They’ve put Little Caesars, Dominos, and that dumb place with the white broccoli pizza out of business over the years. They are working on Papa John’s now. John stands zero chance. My children still equate Sal’s pizza as the greatest ever, and they only get it on special occasions after moving to Virginia by way of Hawaii. They most recently enjoyed it after I brought one home from Jersey in the trunk of their Aunt’s car. It couldn’t ride in the car with us as I am a recovering fat guy, and that thing woulda been straight gone before we reached Delaware.
So, we’ve gone to Sal’s, my family and I for years and years. Every time I went there after ’89, I thought to ask about Alex-how he was doing, etc. As I mentioned above, I saw him there a few times and we said hello. I remember getting a “he’s doing well” one time I went in and he wasn’t there. I was glad to hear it, but over the years as I moved in and out of Jersey a few times, my visits were less frequent, but I always meant to ask about him when I went in. I always meant to ask again.
I was in Sal’s about a little over a month ago and I felt very much the same way-I was there with my mother and sister and it was my first in store visit in about two years. Even though I left Jersey in 2007, Sal’s remains the Pizza of record, so we always make an effort. Again, I felt compelled to ask about how he was doing.
But I didn’t. I hadn’t seen him in well over ten years, was sure he wouldn’t remember me, felt silly asking-I don’t know what put me off it, really. I don’t know why I didn’t ask when I was clearly thinking about him, in his restaurant. Shouldn’t have been that much of a stretch…but I didn’t ask. Maybe I’ve been out of Jersey too long, but I just talked myself out of asking.
But I wish that I had.
In the end, I know it doesn’t make much difference in either the unfortunate and tragic loss of life to the Alex’s family and their many well-deserved friends and admirers, but I wish that I had asked about him one more time, I imagine I would have received the same sort of reply that I got in the past. I wasn’t a close friend, just a casual acquaintance who did a play with him back in 1989. I certainly wouldn’t have warranted any other reply.
But I wish that I had asked because I genuinely wanted to know how he was doing. I liked Alex and thought of him every time we even drove by Sal’s, much less walked in for a slice. I talked myself out of it last month figuring, maybe I’ll catch him in there next time.
And I’m again faced with the harsh learning of a lesson that I should know by now having already buried my father, among others: allowing things to be left unsaid is rarely a solid policy. The ledger of things we allow to remain unsaid to the people in our lives, especially as they leave it, either through dying, simply leaving, or otherwise, grows only because we are afraid, or insecure, or just don’t choose to take the chance to say.
Although I won’t say I knew him well, I’ll say this: Alex never struck me as a man who left many things unsaid.
“I was at HHS with Alex back in the day-how’s he doing these days?”
I didn’t say it last month when I was in his store. I regret it. I wish I had.
And so my own ledger grows. Hopefully my wisdom will join it.
God Speed, Alex.