After Michael Jackson passed, I was at Sloan-Kettering to pick up meds. My saxophonist, Rose Imperato came with me. Thats the kind of saxophonist I need in life. I said, "Let's go to The Popsicle Cemetary" to say a pray for Michael Jackson. She looked at me and said, "The wha--?
We stepped to the SouthWest corner of 67th and York. Ah there it is, talismans and adornments. "Look under the bush," I said.
There at gut level. Popsicles in the dirt, names on each, marking cultural icons. Sure, Sinatra is there. And there, between Elvis and The Pope, is Michael Jackson. "King of Pop Jackson" written in ink on the popsicle stick in the dirt.
Over the years, I've spent hours outside the hospital at night. Sloan-Kettering has felt like a rock in the wind. A wind that bites both ways. The steady stream of traffic and the breeze stopping with the light.
This day with Rose, we had the remarkable luck to meet the creator, Vincent Lepani. What a great guy. After all these years I finally met him and he regaled in our cognomi. Funny thing is, I always knew that whoever created this shrine was Italian American. It's just something you know, like when you walk by a garden with a fence made of copper pipe. When you see a planter made of a truck tire turned inside out. There's a handiwork that is unmistakeably Italian American.
Meeting Vincent was a tribute to all of our heritage. I told him my goal is to be in The Popsicle Cemetary. It's a place I worship at, more than any other. "We don't put in friends," he said. "I know, I know, I can see that. Well then, that's my reason to get fame; I gotta be in that cemetary."