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Charisma often comes with a touch of madness

BIFF AMERICA
Jeffrey Bergeron
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The first time I saw Sean Casey was in 1975. He had a shaved head and wore a skirt. I had just walked into the employee entrance of the Sea Swell restaurant on Cape Cod. As I passed through the kitchen I made small talk with the cooks who were preparing for the evening.In front of a prep-table, knife in hand, was Sean. His head was completely shaved except for a pony-tail sprouting from the top. He wore a pink skirt-like-sarong and a white cook’s jacket. He was cutting carrots, singing to himself and dancing to a song only he could hear.”What the hell is that?” I asked my buddy Bruce.”That’s Sean, he’s crazy. Jake hired him when he was drunk.”Jake O’Rielly was the owner of the Sea Swell; he liked to drink, fight and scream. He ran his restaurant with a military efficiency like the Marine he once was; except when he drank, then he pretty much just scared his help and screwed things up.

I surreptitiously spied on Sean as I performed side work in preparation for my job serving steaks and lobsters to tourists. He was about 5-feet, 8-inches tall with thick arms and legs; he was built like the wrestler he used to be. His name was Irish, but his eyes looked almost Asian; they were small, slanted and seemed to twinkle and burn. I wondered if he was on drugs.Over the course of the evening, I learned Sean’s story from another waiter. Sean grew up right down the street from the restaurant. He was a local high school sports hero. His father was a mean drunk; his mother ran away when Sean was 12.After high school, he somehow got hooked up with the Krishnas. For almost two years, he lived at the temple on Boylston Street in Boston where he earned his keep by cooking for the faithful. According to legend, Sean quit or got kicked out of the Krishnas and came home to take care of his father who was very sick with a bad liver. Since Jake O’Rielly and Sean’s dad were old drinking buddies, Sean got the job.The night turned cold and rainy and the tourists stayed at home. Since the dinner rush was slow, over the course of the evening, I got to know Sean a little. When I introduced myself, the first thing he said to me was something to the effect, “Oh, aren’t you a blue-eyed pretty boy. I bet the bug-eaters just love you.” (Bug-eaters is what locals called those who ordered lobster.) I felt honorbound to not let that statement go unchallenged. I’m not sure exactly what I replied, but I’m sure it involved sticking out my chest and saying something like, “Are you calling me a wuss?”

I do remember precisely what he said in reply, “Why would I call you a wuss when I’m the one wearing a dress?”Sean and I became friends. He cut off his ponytail, and I never saw him in a dress again. He later told me he only came to work looking that way to find out who of his co-workers were open-minded.During that time, I was working on Cape Cod or California in the summer months, then returning to Colorado resorts for the ski season. For a couple of seasons, Sean joined me. Even without the dress, wherever he traveled, my friend was considered an eccentric. In his case, at that point in time, his odd behavior was appealing. With his shaved head, Chinaman eyes and boundless energy, he would literally vibrate with enthusiasm and passion and occasionally with anger and negativity. As he got older, often it was the latter.As Sean aged, his peculiarities turned from charming to bizarre. What was once a hyperkinetic, youthful eccentric with wild eyes and a burning personality becomes a scary, middle-aged man who rants, raves and talks to himself.I haven’t seen Sean in the flesh for more than 20 years. I know that after his wife left him he battled drugs, alcohol, depression and was occasionally homeless.

I was told he briefly got back on his feet and became a fanatical runner, even completing in a few marathons. He later became obsessed with the internet where he met a girl, 30 years his junior, in a chat room. He traveled by bus to Ohio to meet her. When he arrived at her parents’ house, he found she was developmentally disabled, and the cops waiting. The last I heard, Sean was on welfare. His story reminds me of a Wadsworth passage: “We poets in our youth begin in gladness; But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.” Science’s comprehension of the human body has progressed to a point where life expectancy and quality of life has been extended and enhanced. In comparison, much of the human mind is a mystery.With the resiliency and optimism of a child and a young man, Sean could endure his demons. When you are young you tend to look at your situation as temporary. As he aged, he must have come to the realization that what he was and how he felt was how it would always be. It seems he could not bear that. I’m just thankful I wasn’t there too see it happen …Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of “Biff America” can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA radio and read in several mountain publications. He can be reached at biffbreck@yahoo.com.


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