Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lost Legend Lingers In Misty's Memories

See video of Peter Bellwood
interviewing The Steamer

By Misty Volaski

Back in May, I found myself sitting with a fellow Nordhoff alumni, Dina Fragale, in the sports book at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. Having arrived early for the bachelorette party of another NHS grad, Dina decided to show me the ropes of horse racing while we waited. I agreed, though somewhat reluctantly. The sports book?! Um, OK.
As she explained the lingo and recalled childhood trips to Monmouth with her dad, my mind drifted over memories of my old pal, Bud Furillo.
“You know,” I cut across her story, “Bud was nuts about horse racing. He always said he was going to take me to Santa Anita.”
“Awesome track,” she replied. “We’ll have to go one day so you can see what he was talking about. Oh, look, the race is about to start, go get your bet in!”
Hastily scanning the list of race horses, I came across “ItsaCakeWalk,” a 12-to-1 chance. Grinning at that stupid name and the thought of my own cakewalk days — I usually won the cake at the St. Thomas Aquinas Halloween parties — I decided to go with him.
“Go with your gut, kid,” Bud always told me; and besides, it was only two bucks.
As the horses took off, my 12-to-1 bet was looking like just that. Dina’s horse, predictably, was in first; mine wasn’t even on the leader boards yet. But suddenly, that goofy name appeared. And kept climbing and climbing, right into first.
And then it hit me — finally, I understood why Bud was so nuts about horse racing. It begins with jingly excitement that brews somewhere near your belly button, a kind of itchy anxiety. And before you know it, you’re on your feet, beer in the air, letting out a primordial whoop of ultimate victory.
I won a whopping $21.65, which was spent on shots and slots soon after. But still. I think Bud would have preferred it that way. I can still hear his infectious chuckle and classic-movie tone: “You did good, kid. Now go get us a couple a beers.”
After all, this was the guy that spent thousands of dollars in Vegas back in the ‘60s with the Rat Pack. The excitable guy in the front row at Hollywood Park, in the spiffy suit and cocked fedora.
The guy whose friendship keeps on giving me reason to smile, even a year after his passing. He pops up when I am least expecting it — but in the most typical places, I am discovering:
• In the Colisuem, as we joined the Ericksons at the SC-Notre Dame game. He was in the 20-foot-tall inflatable SC helmet. And in the stuffed leprechauns with nooses around their necks, and in the cardinal-and-gold hats we all sported. And it was most certainly Bud who led from on high the deafening Trojan roar that went up with every Irish down.
• In a bar, when a rowdy college football argument led me to find one of his ex-coworkers for one of the best post-Bud conversations I’ve had. “He knew everybody and everybody loved Bud,” my new friend recalled. “Even the hot dog hawkers and the paper boys.”
“I know,” I grinned. And then … the inevitable. Tears did fall hard and fast before I could get a grip on myself. Again, I felt the frustration at all the things we missed doing together — horse races and karaoke and SC titles and matching Mini Coopers.
But again, I felt the warmth of the lessons Bud taught and is teaching me: it doesn’t matter who you were or what you did here. It’s the people, the memories you’ve left for those who loved you that makes you immortal.
In that respect, Bud’s turning 82 here next month.
Who’s ready to party?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very nice, misty