The main reminder is the empty space.
It's the space that was occupied by someone who went from being a mentor whose voice came to me over the airwaves, to being a dear friend who used to get lost on the way to my house, no matter how many times he had come to visit.
It's the space that was occupied by my 'partner-in-crime', who I laughed with as we drove around looking for the many libraries and theaters where we would do our multimedia program. Sometimes - usually only when it was absolutely necessary - we would drive to our gigs separately. And that probably meant that I would nervously be giving him directions twenty minutes before our start time because he would either be stuck in traffic somewhere ... or he had made a wrong turn. His best friend lovingly nicknamed him 'Magellan'. And what was so great about him was that it would make him laugh every time he heard that nickname. But when he arrived at those gigs it was magic, and he would never fail to delight his audiences.
This was a man who many thought they knew intimately because of the time he had spent in their living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. A man who had been with them at parties, in their cars, and through some of the best and worst times in their lives and in our country's history. The great thing to witness was when, amazingly and refreshingly, these folks would find out upon meeting him 'live and in person' that he really WAS the warmhearted, funny, kind soul that they 'knew' so well. It turned out that the 'barrier' of a microphone and radio speaker between him and his audience was, in many ways, an imaginary one. And he would make all of those 'friends he had never met' laugh, think, reminisce and recapture a piece of their (sometimes 'misspent') youth.
It blows my mind to think that I'll never Pete Fornatales's familiar voice saying 'Hey Tony, it's Pete!' through my telephone ever again. I'm not ashamed to admit that I saved a few of his voice-mail messages. And his rendition of 'Happy Birthday' stands among one of my favorites of all time.
Oh, and did I mention that there are other constant reminders?
There are the many friends that I met directly and indirectly through Peter: dear, dear folks like Don and Linda Thiergard, the altruistic musical entrepreneur Alan Marzelli and his wife Ellen, Rex Fowler, Neal Shulman and Bobbi Dickerman from the Aztec Two-Step 'camp', Pete's son Peter Thomas, the complex but still wonderful Art Garfunkel, the delightfully talented and VERY funny Henry Gross, the 'Songman' Jim Dawson, the charming and thoughtful John Batdorf, the incredible Richie Furay (whose work with Poco and as a solo artist Pete so rightfully championed!), and many others who I have stayed in touch with. And we still, and will continue to, exchange stories about Pete - since he was such a 'presence' for all of us - whenever we find ourselves in one another's company.
And there is the music. There are the CDs that I would blow his mind with - like the time I pulled over on the highway to retrieve some obscure Tommy Roe album from my trunk that he had just happened to mention. There is the music of Woodstock and Simon & Garfunkel, forever linked to our presentations.
And there are the people who I see during the course of my day-to-day life - some of whom know that I worked with Pete and some who do not - who will mention 'Mixed Bag', WNEW or WFUV and the influence that Pete had on them. He was their friend, too. And so I smile with them - a sincere smile - and share in the reminiscence.
But ... despite all of that ... there is still always going to be this empty space.
And there's one thing I'm wondering ...
Did he get lost on the way to that interview with Jimi Hendrix that I'm sure he lined up pretty quickly two years ago?
Or, did his reputation precede him, and did Jimi come see HIM at that fully equipped radio studio - complete with turntables and a full collection of Poco albums?
When I get there, I'll ask him.