By Matt Walker | June 24, 2011 | 0 Comment
Matt Walker was born Matthew Bernard Walker on January 28th, 1975 to Christine and Robert Walker of Mahopac, NY. Matt became the youngest of 4 children Christine, Robert and Jean Marie. To get an idea of what Matt looked like on that very first day, imagine an orange being held up by a toothpick with super white hair and dimples as far as the eyes could see!
Matt was your typical child. He enjoyed climbing trees, going for long runs and hiding from his family members. The only difference for him was he always seemed to end up naked before any of this would occur. In fact his Nana nicknamed him “The Phantom” for his uncanny ability to make his clothes (as well as himself) disappear.
Those first few years were good times indeed. It was about circa 1980 and Matt’s neighborhood was in full swing. Some even said it was reminiscent of New York City in the roaring twenties (from a 7 year olds perspective anyway). Matt was the youngest of a full neighborhood of kids who spanned in age from his age up to 9 years older. You could walk the streets at any time of the day and find kids to hang out with or hear the sounds of “Smoke on the Water” echoing in the breeze. If you ever wanted to play ‘kick the can’ all you had to do was kick the can once and kids would flock from all around. Everything and anything was at your disposal; mud pies, manhunt, games of risk, full 9 inning wiffle ball games, mile long ice tracks for snow boating, you name it. It was fantastic.
At about age 4 or so Matt befriended a small Italian/German boy who just moved in up the block named Jon Miller. Matt was upset because he had a crush on an older girl named Elizabeth Copalongo (she was 5 years older!) and she had just moved to Arizona. As he was sitting on the drainage grate sulking, a moving truck pulled in and Jon jumped out. Even though by most standards he was a “northie” (as the kids from up the block were sometimes called), Matt was above such petty idealisms and quick became great friends with him anyway. After a few years of having Jon all to himself another John moved on to the block, his name was John Gargano. Except this John moved in right next store to Jon Miller and immediately made a move to be Jon Millers best friend. Although John Gargano and Matt became friends there was a constant struggle (A turf war if you will) to see whom Jon Miller would be a better friend with. Matt was also at a huge disadvantage because he went to St. John’s Elementary school and the two John’s went to Lakeview Elementary which was a public school and who knows what went on over there! It was a virtual smorgasbord of rumors and innuendo. Matt begged his mother to go to public school to regain some sort of footing in this epic saga, but Matt’s mother Christine always brought up some rhetoric about Matt’s soul needing all the help it could get (or something to that effect). To this day Jon Miller never declared where his truly loyalties lied, but there will always be questions as to who really won out.
Jon, John and Matt became inseparable. For years they went on many adventures and experienced many stories to tell. Whether it was walking through the woods to King Ridge pool or hiking up to the mansion to play army, they always were on the move. Some of their more memorable journeys usually included John Gargano, a roll of duct tape; a half built riding mechanism of some sort and a pair of cowboy boots (there were rumors that John Gargano summoned mystical courage from these boots). Most of their days were usually filled with building something that would resemble a go-cart and then putting John G. in the driver seat and seeing how far it would actually make it down the huge hill that we lived on before the wheels would fall off and John would realize he had no brakes. They were glorious times indeed.
Then the dark days came. All of the older neighborhood kids got even older and things started to change. One day all of the girls in the neighborhood actually started to like the boys in the neighborhood. Guys were putting combs in their back pocket and listening to Blue Oyster Cult music. Matt’s own brother Rob started to listen to Lynard Skynard and then all of the girls found sanctuary in this madness in the sanctity of Aqua Net. For some reason at this time all of the girls in the ‘hood would hang pictures of guys from 80’s rock bands on their walls and start hair-spraying away. There was a point in the mid eighties on our block where if you lit a lighter in mixed company it could be a disastrous situation. All of a sudden things weren’t’t so fun anymore. There were no more mile long snow boat trails, no more “kick the can” no more anything that would result in the older kids looking un-cool. Then the unthinkable happened; Jon Miller let us know in the summer of 1987 that he and his family would be moving to North Carolina.
Part II: A New Hope
It was early spring when Matt found out that Jon Miller was moving and everything went to hell. The older kids all went there separate ways The weirdo kids from the ridge would start hanging out with us (no doubt trying to pick on the bones and relive whatever glory moments us cool kids had left with Jon Miller).
The Ridge was this area up the street where the kids always seemed a bit off. On the surface it was always nice to have these extra group of kids to play with to mix things up a bit, but they would always take things too far. Like you would be playing a game of manhunt or something and you would hide in a tree so no one could get you. A normal kid would complain how it is unfair; a ridge kid would throw a rock at you, hit you in the head and then tag as you lay in the ground bleeding from the head.
Once they got involved, Matt got very concerned. What was he going to do? Who was he going to hang out with? John Gargano was fun and all but could he trust him? Although he was Matt’s friend they were always adversaries on some level and how did Matt really know if he could be trusted? And what about those ridge kids? What if John G started to hang out with them? There were just so many questions and so few answers.
Then one day Matt sat on his stoop (just like that day on the drainage grate all those years ago) and something happened. There were kids laughing and playing and having a great time. They were at the bottom of Matt’s road and he didn’t’t know what to make of it. In all of Matt’s years on the block he never ventured south of his driveway. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing after his house on the block, the world ended there. “Who were these people?” he thought? Where they the Cuddy Road kids he had heard about in passing? There were rumors and whispers of an upstart bunch of hellions hanging out on the bottom of Matt’s road, but were they that group?
So Matt mustered up the courage and went to talk to the Cuddy Road kids. The kids were pretty apathetic to Matt’s request to join them in their game of Manhunt. Matt was not sure how to proceed in his dealings with these new kids but then something happened. The game started and the kids just became kids and everything changed. All of the new kids started having fun and started teaching Matt new swear words. It was one of the most important moments in Matt’s life. Not only where they new kids to hang with, but they were a cornucopia of curse words, mom jokes, spin the bottle games with the girls on the corner and bike trails! Matt’s neighborhood might have been dead, but there was a new neighborhood forming and Matt lived just close enough on the edge to gain acceptance. It was like one of those kids that actually live in one town and go to school in another because of some post office zoning issue. It might not make geographical sense, but he got in on a technicality! Matt was in and everything was about to change.
The only concern for Matt was that he had one last loose end to tie. Jon Miller had not actually left yet and Matt was so caught up with his new friends he forgot to tell the others that he had moved on to greener pastures. The Johns were not so happy. Jon Miller could not believe that Matt could move on so quickly, but times were tough back then and new groups of friends were not so easy to come by. Plus, the last Matt had heard, the Johns were using the same old jokes and never said anything disparaging about his mom. How could he go back to that? So Matt moved on to his new friends and invited the Johns to come along. The Johns came along hesitantly. At first it was like when the Professor and Mary Ann were guest stars on Gilligan’s Island. Sure they were on the Island, but they were never going to be members of the fearless crew. After all, they were still cavorting with those damn ridge kids, and who knew where that was going to lead? Then a funny thing happened. John Gargano got tired of the guest star credit and made a play to be a full time cast member. John (although still a northie by common standards) was given an exemption and made a member. After all how could you not accept a guy who would crash into stuff at full speed and then do it over and over again until he had to be rushed to the emergency room?
So after a few months poor Jon Miller was off to North Carolina and a new crew was born. The Cuddy road kids were always led by a scrappy 7th grader with a flat top and a mullet named Paul Volpicelli (Volp). Paul was a year or two older than the other kids so he was much wiser than the other guys. When Matt (who is Paul’s age) joined the group the two became co-leaders of some of the most diabolical and crass adventures that neighborhood has ever known. Through their joint leadership Paul and Matt developed a close bond that could only be formed by two men who had gone through the rigors of hell only to laugh in the face of the unknown. For the next few years and all through high school the two embarked on countless acts of chicanery and tomfoolery like the world has never known…
The Later Years
The high school years of Matt’s life were glorious times. Matt’s parents decided that Matt should go to Kennedy High School a local catholic school and again he was faced with the same dilemma as before; How does he maintain street cred with the neighborhood public school guys while going to catholic school in now a whole other town? How was this going to be able to work out? Going to high school was a strange experience for Matt at first. The way the buses were set up, Matt would have to take the public school bus to Mahopac high school and then take a second bus to Kennedy. It was Matt’s first taste of public school life and it was a little daunting at first. Not only did these kids not have to wear uniforms, but they were also all clad in mullets, Cavaricci’s and God knows what else. For Matt to not have to wear a tie to school was a huge deal, but to these kids it was so much different. The girls were wearing tight pants and were half dressed and it was a wonder how the boys could even think about school at all. So the real question was “How could he harness this vast new world of good times and women of loose morals and use it to his advantage”?
Then an idea surfaced that might have been the key to the fantastic times that would lie ahead. Why not use Paul’s contacts at Mahopac high school and mix it in with Matt’s ties at Kennedy high school and create a sort of bi-lateral popularity? The idea was perfect. In the next 4 years Matt and Paul embarked on a mission to make any party or gathering of note between the two schools and the plan was perfect. There was only one problem…what about the younger neighborhood kids? Was he becoming the same as the older neighborhood kids that left him behind all of those years ago? Lucky for Matt and Paul a large contingent of the younger guys had started to move away. The ones who remained were old enough that they could corrupt them with beer and alcohol based campouts that brought their level of debauchery to an even higher level.
Soon many irreplaceable high school experiences like Football, Lacrosse, Island parties, huge campouts in the woods, sleeping in abandoned houses and so forth had started to come to an end. All that was left was picking a school and moving on to the next stage in life. All of the mom jokes, tree fort building, woods parties, funneling, keg stands and Paul’s car accidents had made Matt fully prepared to enter the real world (well as close as college is anyway). Matt ended up going to the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in NYC primarily because his grades were so bad that no other football school could get him in and you have to pick safety schools for a reason.
The FIT years were a pretty good time. For most people college is the time where they embark on all of their adventures and good times, since Matt did all of that in high school and FIT was not exactly party central, college was actually a lot quieter for him than high school. If going to high school and seeing public school kids was daunting than this was the daunting equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. What a bunch of weirdo’s that went to that school. The first few days were just like hanging out with normal kids, but by the end of the first week everyone had tattoos, pierced everything (before the average person pierced anything but their ears), died hair in the shape and color of bozo the clown, drugs, hackey sacks, and anything else you can think of. Matt’s first roommate was a very large man by the name of Rannell. Rannell (which was pronounced Ran-nell) was a very large man who resembled King-Tut from the old Bat-Man TV series. The very first time Matt and his mother and brother entered his new dorm Matt’s mother and brother entered the room a few minutes earlier and were pleasantly surprised to see a large hulking farm-like looking man who seemed down to earth and as common as apple pie. When Mrs. Walker proceeded to say hello, Rannell got up and dipped his hand towards her and said “Hello! (Very high pitched), my name is Rannell (he changed it to Ra-Nell to sound less hokey and more stylish), I am a Fashion Designer!!” That very action proceeded to make Mrs. Walker to start weeping almost instantly and she proceeded to mutter for the next hour and a half ride home “How could I leave my baby in such a horrible place!?!”
The next three years that Matt was at FIT were relatively fun. Matt met some great people that he has maintained great relationships with to this very day. Matt had gone on to become President of the student body and an influential member of the state student assembly. So other than the completely strange and outrageous acts of human behavior that he witnessed on a daily basis things were relatively simple and fun.
After he received his two degrees and moved home, Matt decided to enter the work world and the thrilling area of Graphic Design (His chosen major). After commuting for a while on the train to Manhattan, Paul had come home from school and the two decided to get a place in Riverdale (just outside of Manhattan) and restart some of the glorious times that they had in high school.
Those first few years were a little out of control. Paul and Matt would go out all night and catch up with one another back at the apartment at 8am or even later. They threw numerous parties and went anywhere there was a good time to be had with nothing but a backpack filled with some survival supplies(energy bars, clean pair of underwear and a metro card). Between going to the shore in the summers or going to Hunter Mountain in the winter the two of them had their share of good times. But then something happened. After awhile the parties weren’t as fun or the stories from the night before didn’t have as much oomph as they did before. Things were starting to get old and the guys were starting to get older as well.
Then something happened that made everything new again. Vic (one of Matt’s friends who if standing in the woods at night in the right lighting could resemble a Wookie) asked Matt to go to the Rory Dolan’s (a local Irish Bar). When they got there they met some of Vic’s friends and they were having a good time when Matt asked this girl Carla to introduce him to some of her friends. That is when Matt met Erica and all of a sudden things weren’t old anymore. Things were new and different and great again. And just like all of those other times in his life when things would get old and it was time to move on, life served him up another great moment and things started to move forward once again. Life had offered up another chapter in Matt’s life only this chapter isn’t going to end, it is only going to continue like a brand new book with many thrilling and exciting chapters to come.