Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Marino L. Tripoli - Artist of a Lifetime

Marino L. Tripoli
June 10, 1929 - Nov. 22, 2013

This is going to be a tough posting to write, because it is about my father, Marino L. Tripoli, who passed away last month, on November 22, 2013, the 50th Anniversary of the JFK assassination.  Dad was with us for 84 and a half years, he would have been 85 next June 10, but it still doesn't seem like enough time.  So please indulge me while I dedicate my "Artist of the Day" feature to honor my Dad.  This time around, there will be no links to other websites, or Facebook pages, or Etsy Shops, etc.  In fact, there won't even be links to artwork, because I don't have a single drawing or piece of artwork that my Dad left behind.  But make no mistake about it, even though all I have are memories, Dad was one heck of an artist.  He could draw anything, and cartooning was his forte.  Growing up, I remember we used to love to put paper and pencil in front of him and ask him to draw whatever images our hearts desired - cats, dogs, horses, cowboys, you name it.  He would take hold of the pencil, go through a few "Nortonesque" flourishes (ala Ed Norton in The Honeymooners), and before you knew it, the image requested was on the paper.  I'll always remember the various school projects he helped me with, and remember taking particular pride in the fact that in the 3rd Grade (Miss Moody's class), I was the "go to guy" for one project in particular - our class' depiction of the first Thanksgiving, featuring Pilgrims and Indians and a forest background, etc. I did most of the layout work and figure drawing, while others in the class followed behind me adding color and background.  So I would have to say that any innate artistic ability that I have is a direct result of my Dad's influence and DNA.  

At the Keyboard
 Not only was my Dad an artist/cartoonist, he was also a musician.  His instrument, from his early years, was
the accordion.  Whenever we had a family function, and with a big family like ours, we had many - out would come the accordion and Dad would be the entertainment for the evening.  I don't think there was ever a party that didn't include, at some point or other, The Hokey Pokey, with everyone getting up and "dancing" to my Dad's accompaniment. I think his accordion was a permanent fixture in the trunk of the car, so that no matter where we were, it would always be handy.  One of the stories recounted for my Dad's Memorial had to do with the time he and my Grandfather (Mom's dad) where out for a drive in our new car.  My Grandfather was a smoker, and flicked the butt of his cigarette out the passenger's window. The wind kicked it into the back seat, where it lodged between the cushions unbeknownst to Dad and Grandpop. An hour or so later, with the back seat smoldering, the fire department had to come to the house to put out the fire in the car.  Grandpop was very upset over having caused the fire in the new car, but Dad handled it the best way he knew how.  He grabbed his accordion and started to entertain everyone to lighten the mood and relieve the stress.  When I was in the 2nd, or 3rd Grade, maybe 4th at most, they were signing up kids in school for accordion lessons, and I wanted to sign up so I could play, just like my Dad.  I guess he did not have real fond memories of his early accordion lessons, so he didn't want me to take it up.  Instead, I took drum lessons, and was in the school band and also the Fife and Drum Corps for a short time. One day, when I came home from school, there was a new addition to the dining room - an electric organ that Dad had recently purchased.  He applied his knowledge of the accordion to a different type of keyboard, but what was really amazing was that he played both instruments by ear.  He never did learn how to read music.  Needless to say, it wasn't long before I was teaching myself to play the keyboard as well, so it all came around in the end.

In addition to being an artist and a musician, Dad was an inventor, of sorts.  When my Dad was growing up, on South Street in Elizabeth, NJ, the family business was a neighborhood grocery - Tripoli & Sons.  Somewhere along the way, Dad got an idea for a collapsible shopping cart, which would fold up and make it easy for the moms on the block to haul their daily shopping home.  He even patented the idea, and I vividly remember him showing me the specs of his design. Well, I guess he was never able to come up with any financing to fully pursue production of his plans, and after 20 years, the patent lapsed.  He was never bitter about it, it was just one of those things.  Ironically, I now have a collapsible shopping cart in my garage, very similar to the one I saw on paper all those years ago.  I wonder if it is possible to check back on old patents and find my Dad's original specs. Maybe LegalZoom could point me in the right direction, if there is one.  I'll have to check it out.  For now, I'll just say goodbye Dad, we'll all miss you, and I'm thankful that I got to spend that last week with you, but it still wasn't enough.