About five years ago, my friend Fiona moved to South Dakota. She and I became friends working together on a local TV show almost a decade before, and we would get together maybe once a year for lunch, that was at least until she moved. Fiona is one of those people who you don’t see often, but when you do you’re able to pick up right were you left off, as if no time had passed at all.
Two years ago, I was driving back to Rochester from a day in Buffalo and my phone rang. It was Fiona, and she said, “Hey Steve. I have this new philosophy about far away friends. Whenever I think about them I don’t wait, I just pick up the phone and call or text them. I was thinking about you a few minutes ago so here I am giving you a call. How are you?”
We chatted for fifteen minutes, about nothing in particular, and went on with our lives… 1,500 miles apart.
Saturday evening I was finishing up cooking dinner for my family and my visiting sister-in-law and mother-in-law. I had a few minutes while something rested on the stove, so I picked up my phone for a little spin around the Facebook.
I noticed a new post in one of my groups, an alumni group from a previous job. Normally posts to this group are fun, even whimsical, but this one was not. There on the screen held in my oven-mitted hand, was the news that my former coworker and friend JP had died.
I worked in the marketing department of Crest Audio in Paramus, NJ from December 1992 until April 1996. I have written about experiences at this job many times (links below). It was an amazing place to work, partly because it was in the business of rock-n-roll, but mostly it was the people.
I was hired as a technical writer to document a new series of mixing consoles just being released by the company. JP was the lead engineer on the project, so from day one I worked closely with him.
JP was a more efficient way to say John Petrucelli.
JP was one of those people you just instantly liked. He was so smart, that when you were talking to him, although he was giving you his full attention, you knew more than half of his huge brain was working on some other thing you couldn’t possibly understand.
JP did not eat meat, he did not drink, he slept only two or three out of every twenty-four hours (mostly in his desk chair), and he was a brilliant engineer. Other than the fact that he was a guy, he was pretty much the opposite of me.
I am a morning person, in fact I began writing this piece at 4:55 am. Back in the 1990s, computers and printers were not very fast, so I would come into the office very early, sometimes just after 5:00am, so I could get on several department computers at once and get shit done. The building was locked until 6:00am, so I would go to the door back by the loading dock and ring the bell. JP would come down the back staircase and let me in. Keep in mind this was long before the days of texting and regular cell phone use.
We would exchange pleasantries, and if he was in the middle of some intense engineering task he would go back to his desk. However, most mornings he would wander over to marketing with me, and while I flipped on PCs and printers we would talk about all kinds of things.
We were both Apple Computer fanboys, long before it was hip to be so.
One morning I was telling him about how I was having trouble getting a particular monitor to sync up properly with a Macintosh. At the time, Apple monitors had a “sense pin” on the connector where the monitor basically told the computer what resolution to spit out. I was trying to hook up a PC monitor to a Mac and it wasn’t going well. We continued talking about other things and as other marketing folks started to come in at 8:30, he quietly returned to engineering.
The next day I came in early again, but when I rang the bell, JP didn’t come to let me in. I checked to see if his car was in the lot (it was), and then I looked to see if lights were on in engineering. As a stood back from the building, JP flung the door open and said, “Hey Naz, get in here, I’ve got something to show you.”
We walked over to my desk where he had pulled my whole computer setup apart, but in the middle of it all was a custom-built monitor cable, with a bank of little switches at one end. With a wry smile on his face JP said, “Watch this.” He proceeded to turn on the Mac and once it was running he started flipping the switches. As he did so, the computer changed the resolution it was spitting out, and the monitor responded accordingly. After a few clicks of the switches, he arrived at the resolution I had been trying to achieve.
Every morning I came in early to do work, JP let me in.
Eventually, the work took a backseat to hanging out with him.
Over the years since I left that job, JP and I stayed in touch. Eventually he left too and started a new console company; APB Dynasonics (where the “P” was for Petrucelli). I did some freelance work, writing user documentation for his new venture.
Whenever I had a circuit question of any kind, JP was my go-to guy.
Before sitting down to write, I searched through my emails and the most recent communication I had with JP was from January 2010… seven years ago.
As the friends from that time in my life share stories and pictures over social media, I have caught bits and pieces of info about JP over the years, but I hadn’t actually spoken with him for a long time.
I can say with certainty that every time I find myself wiring something up, or grabbing a soldering iron, I think… “What Would JP Do?” Most of the time I have no idea what he would do, but channeling the energy of my early morning engineering buddy has always given me the confidence to take on more than I would otherwise do.
I didn’t even know he was sick.
Hearing of his passing was both sad and overwhelming. JP was one of those people you always knew would “be there” because he always had been. Every time I rang that doorbell, he answered. Every time.
I wish I had done as my friend Fiona does and given him a call, or shot him an email whenever our friendship came to mind. Had I done so, my email search would have yielded many more messages. I will miss JP, but this experience has given me a gift I will now share with you all.
Every time I think of a friend who is no longer in my life on a regular basis I will now remind myself… WWFD? That is What Would Fiona Do?
Fiona would reach out and just say hi. That’s what I’m going to do starting today and I strongly suggest you do the same.
Links to other Crest Audio Stories:
Copyright © 2016 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved.