Lewis Brancati

My nephew Lewis Salvatore Brancati was born March 27, 1996, and died September 20, 2017. I miss him a lot. Here are my notes from my remembrance of him for his memorial service:

Jessi’s remembrance at Lewis’ memorial, October 2017

It’s hard to be here. But in doing this together, we are strengthening our picture and sense of Lewis, sharing memories so we can keep him vivid and warm and present in our hearts.

I only visited occasionally while Lewis was growing up. Lewis was the highlight of my visits. He loved the stories Greg invented for him. He loved playing and joking – and sometimes arguing – with Greg and Amy. He enjoyed and appreciated everyone in his extended family. I brought scarves from the thrift store, tied them on him, and we danced to the Gypsy Kings. Any other music was “too boring.” At night, he would fall asleep to rap on the radio, four-letter words and all.

Lewis was in love with quirky humor and ideas and fashions (like his t-shirt I’m wearing) and music and the Internet. He was so curious and wanted to learn all the things – from building computers, to playing an accordion he picked up at a thrift store, to reading unusual books, cooking lasagna with Luke, and learning his father’s skills. Greg had been setting up workbench space for them to work together.

Lewis was still exploring life. He hadn’t found his life’s work to hold onto. But he held onto people. He had so many friends, and was so accepting and compassionate. He collected things, but he also collected people.

He was so generous from an early age. We were at a concert in the zoo, and we heard a baby nearby. Lewis decided he had to share his grapes with this baby. Amy and Greg told him not to pester the family, but Lewis insisted. You just had to give in, he was so stubborn.

Later as a teen he asked Amy and Greg to share their home (specifically the treehouse) with a couple of friends who did not have a good place to stay.

Sometimes he could be shy, even withdrawn sometimes, or maybe I was only seeing him mirror my tendencies in our relationship. Regardless, I’ve made a resolution to reach out even when I’m pulled to isolate.

I still sometimes get upset with the universe that he’s gone and upset that sometimes he felt the harsh aspects of the world very strongly. A couple of weeks before his accident, he changed his Facebook profile picture to show the lyrics from a very sad song, Mad World.

But I will keep Lewis with me. Any time I try something new and feel the flame of curiosity and think, Lewis would be so interested. Any time I reach past my shyness to connect with new or old friends, Lewis will be with me. Any time I laugh with someone in delight, not at them, Lewis will be laughing with me. And any time we, the people who loved him, are together in this mad but also beautiful world, Lewis will be with us.

Meet Donald McKayle and Remy Charlip

Fans of the Peppermint Tree and Sometime Anytime albums, it is my pleasure to introduce to you two of their creators. Donald McKayle is the singer on both albums, and Remy Charlip painted the cover art for Sometime Anytime.

I hope you are as thrilled as I am that Donald’s daughter, Gaby McKayle, got in touch. She very kindly shared some information about her father and the artists he collaborated with on these albums.

I was surprised and intrigued to learn that the connection between these men, as well as Evelyn Lohoefer, the composer and pianist, and Claire Mallardi, the musical advisor on Sometime Anytime, is dance! Remy Charlip (who also wrote and illustrated wonderful children’s books) is sadly no longer with us, but Donald, Remy and Claire all are (or were in Remy’s case) dancers and choreographers. Evelyn was a dance accompanist.

I am starting to realize that when a book or recording touches our lives, as important as it may be to us, it is only a tiny glimpse of the wonderful mind and life of the creator. The children’s albums these artists created, as fabulous as they are, are only small leaves on the tall flourishing trees of their creative minds, expressions and lives. I wonder if those trees are peppermint trees? Would you like more glimpses? Of course you would!

Meet Donald McKayle (although the man pictured below is not Donald!):

Meet Remy Charlip:

Remy Charlip’s website
Donald McKayle’s website

Many thanks to Gaby McKayle for her sharing so generously. Gaby, I am so grateful for your help in learning more about your father and some of the artists he worked with.

To Donald McKayle, if you read this, you touched my childhood with wonder, beauty, and laughter. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Starting over

Hello friends, acquaintances, and the world at large. I don’t really know what my website is any more, if I ever did. But I have decided, after a years-long hiatus, to post some personal updates. So to get the ball rolling…

I lived in Santa Cruz, California from the early eighties until 2013, when I got laid off. I moved to a suburb of Seattle and into my sister’s house. I spent ten months unemployed, five months as a library volunteer, fifteen months as a book shelver, and finally I’ve just been hired as a library assistant (person at the checkout desk). They say when you’re estimating time, double it and increase the units. I thought I’d find a liveable job in a month; it’s taken two years, so that’s about right!

It’s thanks to my family, the co-counselors of the Duwamish area, online community college classes, and old friends on Facebook that I’ve held onto my sanity and made it this far. My nearest and dearest know my ridiculous susceptibility to gloom and doom, but my prospects are lightening up now. It’s about time I get back to being my cheerful and silly self.

More details later. I will also be posting some projects from my library classes for my classmates to access. Welcome, all!

Custom search engines

Google has wormed its slimy tentacles into my life and I’m trying to chop some of them off. But I’m really fond of a few of those tentacles; sometimes they can be so handy. Case in point: custom search engines.

I’ve got two on this website: a music search engine and a libraries and technology search engine I threw together while taking a class on Computers in Libraries. I haven’t found the time to make them look real nifty, but they work. Feel free to use ’em.