A Fighting Spirit Never Dies

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, beard*Written by Greg DiPasquale

Right now it’s about 7:30 pm on Sunday March 12, 2017. I’m sitting here listening to “This Is Your Life” by Dio. Like lots of Dio songs, the lyrics are quite reflective about the human experience and the magic that exists in everyday life. Today, the world is a little less magical. I saw my friend Tony Lorenzo for the last time, and what I really wanted to do was tell everyone I saw about how important he was to me and how much I’ll miss him. Time allotted, and decorum presented, really didn’t make that a reasonably pragmatic possibility. Not to mention, it’d have been a dick move for me take up everyone’s time at a gathering where everyone needed everyone else the most to get through this.

Why do my feelings matter? Well, they probably don’t if you don’t know me, and maybe they don’t even if you do. However, I have this forum at my disposal to help make me and others smile, and to help make sense of this, so this is what I’m doing. I first met Tony in early 2003. I was 21, so he had to have been like 16. He was a young dude trying to get a band off the ground, and we’d see each other at shows, the occasional party, and whenever he’d stop by the gas station I worked at en route to his job at Media Play, or to see Joe Siracuse.

By early 2004, Sons of Azrael started picking up some steam locally, and at that point we became peers as SOA was playing the occasional show alongside my band at the time, Herod. I enjoyed the band because they were doing more of a death metal thing, which in Buffalo at that time was not very common. In mid 2006 Herod broke up and all summer I just partied and went to shows. I had started to become pals with the SOA guys due to the familiarity that inevitably comes with running in the same crowd.

By August 2006, SOA was looking to make a switch at the second guitar position and came a callin’ for me. It took one test drive jam with the guys to realize that this was meant to be. We were all young, wild, ready to go, and everything after that came rushing up fast. A record deal, finishing writing/recording the debut album, and tours all followed each other in rapid fire succession, and we were off. We were now a national act.

Touring brought about some interesting dynamics with Tony and myself. We both had a strong belief in our, uh, beliefs, and the combination of differing opinions and Italian blood led to more than a few verbally combative situations for sure, but it wasn’t initially problematic; it’s just how we were. One day we wouldn’t speak to each other because of an argument about Human Remains, the next day we’d be buying each other sunglasses and Vio-Lence cassettes. It was never boring. It worked, and was great for a bit until we started writing for album #2. Tony and I are songwriting alphas and we pushed each other real hard, and what had started as competitive one uppery, slowly became creativity snuffing, and then eventually became a complete shutdown of communication. Clearly, I had overstayed my welcome, and it was Tony’s band, so I left SOA in May 2008.

What happened next was kind of unexpected. After a couple months out of circulation, Tony and I started talking and hanging out again. It was like none of the bullshit ever happened. We were the same dudes, but we just removed business from the equation. It was nice, more importantly, it was fun. We weren’t posturing for position anymore. We were just dudes learning shit about each other that we probably should’ve learned before we tried to be in a band together. We understood each other now, and there was much more common ground than we probably ever thought we’d have. Leaving Sons of Azrael was easily one of the best decisions I ever made because it allowed me the opportunity to get a second beginning with Tony. From late 2008-2017, we were aeons closer as dudes than we were from 2005-early 2008. 2011 was a game changer, to say the least. Tony and I hung out a lot that year. We had the Sons of Azrael reunion gig in April, then rolled that right into him jamming with Seplophile and preparing for the Kam Lee/Massacre set at Day of Death 2 in July. We spent like half the year hanging out and playing guitar. We had the spirit of us at our SOA best, only we were 4 years better and had way more fun. He was riding high and he was stoked about jamming with Derrick (Sadkowski) again in their new band Ritual Quarantine, but then in late October, the shit got real thick and real dark, in the blink of an eye. There’s no real need to rehash the sordid details. If you know, which you probably do, you just know.

It is, was and forever will be total bullshit. A dude actively seeking out as much life as possible was left laying, clinging to whatever life he was being allowed to have left. It was awful for his friends, obviously even worse for his family. I’ll never forget being at the hospital that day, and the 100 days after that over the course of the next year into 2012. I hope I never have to go to that place ever again, but in that shithole I learned a lot about Tony’s will to live. I remember going with Tony to a handful of his physical therapy sessions and watched him struggle mightily with what would’ve been a mundane task months earlier, but he busted his ass doing it. He wasn’t going to be denied. This was all just a temporary inconvenience for him. He was always talking about the future, was really looking forward to getting out and playing again. There was no “if”, only “when”.

His family was rock solid throughout this whole ordeal, and any chance they had to get him out of the hospital, if even only for a few hours, they would take it. His mother Caroline, stepdad Edwin, and Uncle Frank are some of the toughest, kindest people I know and walked through hell every day to see Tony through this. No ifs, ands, or buts about it, I’ll respect them forever. Ultimately, Tony even got out to play a show in July 2012, and luckily was also able to get out for my wedding too that September, which meant a shitload to me and my wife. Life was different, but it was still there. By December 2012, he was finally sent home from the hospital. From late 2012 until his death last week, it seemed like life was a constant trade of peaks and valleys for Tony. Obviously the multitude of residual health issues that comes was the type of injuries he sustained complicates everything but I never got the feeling from him that he was ever out. It was heartbreaking to watch him improve and decline as often as he did because he was always working so hard, and it seemed like so much of it was out of his control. It was his struggle, his battle, but he would prevail. He never stopped planning, never stopped dreaming, never stopped doing. You believed he would win because he always did. In a way, I still think he did simply because he didn’t allow his story to end where it could’ve.

Like the Sons of Azrael song “Mortal Human Form” says: “The human form will one day be mourned, but a fighting spirit never dies.” I’ll always think of Tony when I hear that now. He had so much more to give us, but we’re just going to have to cherish the memories that much more to compensate for what we lost. He was my friend, he was my brother. I’m thankful for every argument, every laugh, every tear, and every note I shared with him. He was who he was and if you wanted to tag along, cool, if you didn’t, you could fuck off. In a tiptoe world he had sledgehammers for feet, and it’s going to take something much bigger than death to remove him from this world. He’s the thunder we hear, and the lightning we see. He’s in all who knew and loved him, and it’s up to us to carry him around now that he cannot. Remember him, and remind those who may forget. Thanks for reading.

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