Monday, August 31, 2009

Peter’s Mercedes

Peter Avalone was, at least on paper, the kind of guy I generally don’t like much. We met when we joined the same golf club in the late-90’s. Peter’s slightly doughy, but never-rumpled body was always wrapped in the perfect clothes. I don’t know what he paid for a haircut, but every hair was always the perfect length – like it had been cut that morning no matter how often I saw him. It was silvery white, which added authority to an already formidable presence.

Peter was a Princeton grad and had served as an aid to New York Senator Jacob Javits before going to Wall Street, where he became a managing director at Drexel Burnham. He lived in a multi-million dollar home in one of Westchester’s nicest neighborhoods and had a wife and two kids – all with last names for first names. To top it off, Peter had a deep need to be the center of attention and “the big man” in every situation. By the time I met him he was in his late 40’s, semi-retired, and playing a lot of golf. This combination of traits would normally be all it takes to make me slide to the farthest bar stool from their owner. And yet, Peter was a very hard guy to dislike.

“Charming” is the only word I know for it; he had lots of funny stories, and often made himself the butt of his own jokes. He could put anyone at ease. He knew more people at the club after a year than I know now, more than 10 years later, and he loved to gossip –not the mean-spirited kind of gossip that characterizes club culture, but a harmless “the-king-has-no-clothes” kind that always made the most pompous, imperious members its slightly-bruised victims.

Every year the club brought in a couple young pros straight out of college. They made very little money and lived in a small apartment over the pro shop. Peter took a couple lessons a week and played almost every day, but could never get much below a 30 handicap. One summer he took one of the pros out for a playing lesson once a week and always bet him on the match. It didn’t matter how many strokes he got, he lost every time. I can’t even remember what Peter would have theoretically won had he ever beaten the pro, but I’ll never forget what he lost. The young pro had a girlfriend but no car. Every time he beat Peter he won the use of Peter’s car that Saturday night – a Mercedes SL500 of very recent vintage.

Peter began to suffer serious economic reversals around 2001, and over the course of a couple of years they caused him to first drop his club membership, and then sell his beautiful home near the Hudson. Several of us tried to stay in touch, inviting him for drinks or dinners, but he refused all invitations. After a few months he stopped returning calls and emails.

As the years went by his wife divorced him and he became estranged from his children, even missing his daughter’s wedding a year or so ago. There were stories of several found, and lost, jobs over the past couple of years, but I don’t know if they are true. He recently had a trial as the real estate authority on Fox Business Network, but it apparently did not go well enough to win a regular gig.

Last Wednesday a motorist reported seeing a man run across several lanes of traffic on the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge which carries I-84 over the Hudson River. The man was Peter. He leapt over the rail to the river 160 feet below. Dead and alone at 59. He’d been living in a hotel in Fishkill, a run-down, up-state river town for several months.

On one hand it wasn’t a great surprise, but on the other, it was an enormous shock. I’m having a very hard time connecting the dots from the person I knew to the man running across that bridge. I went to the Fox site and viewed Peter’s segment. I’m not sure I would have recognized him. He’d lost 20-30 pounds and his hair was thinner, but the real difference was that the light was out. The big personality and stupendous self-confidence had been replaced by a nervous, tentative man I didn’t know.

Several of us are trying to find out if there will be be services, but no one seems to know. I’m sorry I couldn’t help my friend. I’m sorry he died so alone and desperate. I wanted to share a little of the good and happy man I knew before fate took its unfortunate turn.

66 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would bet my life on a major bout of depression that was never treated and tricked he and his family into thinking he was becoming a bad guy when the truth was his brain very simply stopped producing enough seratonin all of a sudden. Something traumatic had to have happened to trigger the chemicals in the brain to stop producing so much.

Sad story but it happens every single day. one of my best friends was a lawyer, tri-athelete, good looking, skier, hiker, you name it and we found him in a hotel room dead of overdose on aspirin and booze.

Hankster said...

Well written and a bull's eye on the human condition.

What makes a person crumple in a slow falling tide while another fight to the last breath in a no win scenario? Perhaps it is our perception of the moment. All we have is the present, some sense of the past and a glimmer of what may be. Was Peter counting cards and sure there were no picture cards left in the deck?

Personally, my take is to devote oneself to the struggle, whatever it might be in your eyes, eat as low as possible on the food chain and run you engine regularly to generate endorphins and burn out the carbon.

Everything you see will be gone and fail but that doesn't mean you can't do the best with what you have.

gordon said...

Sad story. Well reported and great comments...
A+

fenway said...

Crap is all I can say. I hope nobody who read this will forget it. Perhaps the remembrance will help me fulfill last year's resolution to be kinder to others. That and Teddy, Jrs. story of getting up that hill with his father even if it takes all day. xo

carolina said...

I am so sorry. This is tragic.

I agree, though, A+ to the author.

Anonymous said...

Your comment on Peter was so on the mark. Peter was a senior banker in my first wall street job. His favorite saying was "you have to break some eggs to make an omelet." Don't know where he fell down also, but it's terribly sad to watch. Many of his former associates feel the same way.

warrenout said...

Funny, what you think of at the time as a charmed life.A real life Shakespearean tragedy.Two lessons for me. Don't play golf everday in your 40's and don't miss my daughters wedding.D your pen to paper about stuff you hold dear is great reading.

kgwhit said...

Thanks for the well written piece. We all hope that we will show grace under pressure when the cards start to go against us, but it ain't always the way it turns out.

Anonymous said...

I worked briefly with Peter in 2005 when he was putting together REIT's and financing for large hotel projects. He was indeed the consumate gentleman, with the accent on the first syllable. Classy, friendly, not arrogant at all. I left the organization and Peter made it a point to stay in touch....but in 2008 the emails stopped and never heard from him again.... I am utterly shocked at this news.

He was alone at the end, so he chose a very public way to end his life...sort of his way of saying...hey..I'm leaving this life alone, but I want you to know that I'm going. Let's pray that he has found peace

Anonymous said...

I too worked with Peter, in the 2007-08 time frame. His dry wit and positive attitude about life make this so shocking, and so sad. He and I briefly kept in touch after we no longer worked for that company, and he was truly concerned about my welfare at that point in time. Soon after, perhaps February of this year, I didn't hear from him any more.
Thank you so much for sharing this. You gave insight into a person that I saw as "larger than life" a mere year and a half ago, and settled some of the questions in my mind about what could have led to this. Most of all, you gave a warm and very knowledgable man the praise he deserves.
I hope he has found peace.

d'blank said...

Thank you all for the kind words about the writing but I am amazed that several more of Peter’s friends found their way here. I was worried that maybe I was exploiting him by writing about him this way, but am relieved to discover that you all seem to have received it the way I meant it to be received. It was the stark “aloneness” of the last chapter of Peter’s life that got to me so deeply. He deserved more than that; I didn’t want his passing to go un-noted, as well.

Anonymous said...

I now know Peter as a beautiful individual and also as Everyman. I have heard it said that suicide is silent grieving. It breaks my heart to think of the aloneness Peter and so many of us go through. Yet, having tried and failed to reach people on the brink -- and not even suspected of others -- I am certain sometimes there really is no help for it. But every day is a day to be truly present to those we encounter. And tonight I have opened up to Peter because of this essay.

Anonymous said...

Having heard this news just the other day, I must admit I've had trouble thinking about much else. Although it has been more than twenty years since I've seen Peter, watching him on his Fox News clip brought back raw memories of his mannerisms, bravado, his confidence, his insecurities. Peter, perhaps more than any of us, was real. I guess some of us are destined to live big and die big. Peter never deceived anyone about this.

I worked for him in the early 1980s at Lehman Brothers. There too, he cut a commanding presence, with big deals and big ideas. We were the perfect pairing, Peter all big picture and me, all small details.

He introduced me to Dunhill suits, Hermes ties, fine wines and the best Italian restaurants in Manhattan. He was a gentlemen of great taste, great style, great humor and great passion.

Should something go awry, however, Peter would stand up, literally, to shield me from the fallout. He was more than a boss, he was a friend and a big brother. Surely ready to bask in the glory, but also need be, the cold light of responsibility. He was a man's man. Strutting into restaurants and commanding the best table, the opening of the finest wines, a house account to charge it all to and limousines to drive everyone home.

WIth much time now elapsed, there are former colleagues who have suffered great illnesses and passed away. But Peter's passing is infinitely more sad. As I think of him living in a broken hotel in Fishkill, running across a bridge with the water rushing below, Peter didn't die from cancer or heart disease. He died from the most unnatural of causes. Peter died from loneliness.

If only I were there to catch him.

Anonymous said...

I, too, worked with Peter in the 1980's. d'blank captured him perfectly. And I think what got to me the most was viewing the Fox News clip. That was not the Peter I remember; it was a shell of what had once been, warts and all, a vibrant personality. I have scanned the local papers for an obit or notice of a memorial service. Nothing. Sadness upon sadness.

Gaga said...

DB,be careful not to get too down this time of year. Fall is always a melancholy time. And besides: the Browns will suck again, the Buckeyes will have an off year, & the Steelers will repeat. It's only the worst day of your life, so far.

Thomas said...

A well written story. I last saw Peter in 1964 in grade school. He and I were altar boys together. My wife used to play with him and his cousins.

When my brother told me about this tragic end I looked for an obit. Your story, is a fine obit.

Finally, he was a great person as a kid also. The way you describe him is exactally the way I remember him over 40 years ago.

Caryn said...

I am heartbroken. Losing Peter is an indescribable loss. And, I’m so worried that I’m not going to do justice to the memory of the Peter I’ve known for almost 40 years. We were kids in college and he was the love of my life. After college for me and grad school for Peter, we lived together in the City. He was as big as life itself and he filled my life in ways I never thought possible.

He knew me inside and out. I could share my darkest secrets, and he made me feel they were okay. He embraced my family in a way that made him a part of us. When times were troubled, he provided the bridge I needed and helped me find my way back.

I always had a fear of writing. During college, Peter would stay up late into the wee morning hours helping me write papers for class. He taught me by example, and he gave me confidence to find my own voice.

Of course, he was great looking, charming, funny and disarming. He drove a dark green MG which he attempted to teach me to drive. He almost lost his transmission through my many failed attempts. He had a way of putting me and others at ease. His big personality offset my shyness. He made me not take myself so seriously and made me laugh. And he built me up when I was more likely to tear myself down.

We stayed in touch over the years, and whether we were together or apart, he was and is a part of me. I may not have heard from him for years at a time, but I always believed he would be there when I needed him. When my dad got sick over a year ago, even though he was oversees, he kept in touch every day – making sure we were both okay.

He took to the gym over the past year or so, losing 30 pounds, and getting in the best shape of his life. He’d joke that “his body is his temple.” As if a study of contrasts, he loved pizza, jimmy dean’s, and white castle burgers.

He loved his kids most of all. He was so incredibly proud of Wallis. He sent his beloved pugs to live with her because he knew she’d love them as much as he did. Blake was his best friend. It was hard not to feel jealous of their bond. It was like a secret club that no one else could enter.

He could make me mad like no one else, and he could deliver highs like no one ever has. I don’t believe Peter planned any of this. Whatever happened on that black day in August I believe was not within his control. I only wish he would have been willing to share his darkest secrets and allow me to help him fight the demons within.

It will take time to accept that a phone call or text is not around the corner. In the end, we came full circle and talked of living together again. I need my friend and partner to tell me this too will be all right.

My heart goes out to Sloan, Wallis, Blake and Ida.

If there are friends or family of Peter’s who want to share stories, memories or just sit with people who do, I would like to organize something. Please e-mail me at carynas011@gmail.com

Susi said...

What an incredible shock... simply unbelievable. I knew him for 25 years. While I could write a book about Peter, those stories are too personal. I'll never forget him, even though there were times in my life I tried.

I last spoke with him Aug. 16th. My God, I wish he would have told me what was going on. But he didn't-I guess he couldn't.

Thank you to all who shared their kind stories. I adored him and always will.

Anonymous said...

I went to high school with Peter, and sadly, I must say that I am not surprised that once everything went south, Peter followed. I'm afraid that from high school through college and after, I saw Pete lose himself in his new found identity, when, in fact he was from a lower-middle to middle class Italian-American home and neighborhood in New Rochelle. It was forgetting who he was that ultimately destroyed him. He became - in my book - a snob, and when he felt the patina of his high-rolling life was dulled beyond polishing, he pulled his own plug. He invented a new self, a self we all knew was not really him, and when that collapsed, he could not find his way back home spiritually.

Keep in mind The Great Gatsby. “...his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God...and he must be about His Father's business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented...Jay Gatsby...and to this conception he was faithful to the end.”

Anonymous said...

By the way... I wrote that Peter grew up in New Rochelle. Of course, Chester Heights is in Eastchester.

Anonymous said...

Umm, Caryn, did Peter by any chance borrow a lot of money from you at the end?

Paul said...

I knew Peter here in the UK. A very good guy......unlike the anonymous individual from october 12.

Anonymous said...

Remarks of anon individual/Oct. 12 are spot on. Peter said his father's family was French-Swiss; that as a kid he'd wintered at their Palm Beach house; that William F. Buckley Jr. taught him to play the harpsicord. That goes beyond embellishing, no? Also Darlings he graduated from Colgate U. not Princeton.

Caryn said...

Thanks, Paul, for speaking up. Anonymous should have the courage to share his name and stop disparaging someone who isn't around to defend himself.

By the way, Peter went to Colgate and Princeton.

Anonymous said...

And the Princeton degree was in .....? Of course Peter went to Princeton - for lunch.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, Caryn. Peter was the love of yr life? Funny, his wife of two decades had those same feelings.

Your heart goes out to Sloan - charming!

Anonymous said...

Oh for Heavens' sake, Caryn. Annymous is disparaging you, not Peter. Get over yourself.

Amy said...

As Caryn's and Peter's friend since Colgate, I'd like to honor the intention of this site as a public memorial. I thank d'blank for creating a place where those of us who knew Peter can take a few moments to remember him and his life. Let's use this site as it was intended -- to be respectful of Peter and one another's efforts to honor his spirit, his accomplishments and share how he touched our lives.

Anonymous said...

When did this blog become a public memorial to Peter and Caryn? It doesn't appear that a "public memorial" was Mr. Blank's intention(read his original post).

Brian French said...

Oh my God. I may cry.
I knew Peter well up until 2008. He was as you described a role model for anyone to admire and emulate.
I was there as things started to unravel - not of his causing.
All I can say is how sad this makes me.
I found this by googling him to catch up. I'm so, so sad.

June said...

Presumably Peter had a Christian burial. Should anyone know where he's buried,kindly let me know. I'd like to lay a wreath during Christmas. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I wrote on October 12th and now write again. Telling what one sees as the truth of life disparages no one, and perhaps it even ennobles the dead by painting a full picture, rather than a handful of simplistic pieties that present one dimension only. I saw what I saw, I tell what I know about Pete. (I do so in sadness, since I first became friends with him when I was 13 and he was 14 years old.)

However, I would add another observation that, I believe, illuminates perfectly the charades he continually composed in life and leaned upon so heavily: the very dramatic nature of the method of his suicide. We all know that conventional wisdom tells us suicide is the product of despair or some sort of depression. Perhaps. But it also presents a stage for an actor to stand on. One can take a handful of pills, or sit in a garage and let the car run. A certain kind of actor will jump off a bridge and make a grand statement. It still seems to me that Pete was all about gesture and image, and to himself he was true to the end. Make a lot of money, lose a lot of money. Jump off a bridge because you didn't make anything else but money in life. If all you ultimately are is your bankbook, what are you really? If only we could ask him.

Anonymous said...

And by the way Caryn... when I click on your name, which should have a profile if, in fact, you wish to proclaim yourself, there is nothing. So, please... let the scales fall from your eyes. Suffice it to say that I went to Iona Prep with Pete, played two sports with him, and his mom and mine were fairly good friends. So stop bellyaching about anonymity. Whaddaya want? An address so you can stalk me and stop me from telling my version of the Pete Avalone story?

June said...

How true. Peter was an accumulator of debt and a citizen of la dolce vita. I'd still like to know where he's buried.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, hey, you're sort of brilliant. Are you single?

Anonymous said...

PS Anonymous, are you heavy set?

Anonymous said...

i heard that he was cremated for those who want to know. only his mom and brother were present for the service

June said...

May Peter Rest in Peace. My prayers are with his brother and mother.

anonymous said...

Like most of what I have read here since his tragic passing, even the above comments about Peter's burial are inaccurate. His private service was well attended by family and immediate friends.
With that said, it is now time to give final thanks to The Daily Blank for bringing attention to his life and death and for all of us to move onto another interest.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. Other reports indicate Peter's family except for his mother and brother was not present at any service. Where was the service and where is he buried?

June said...

Whether or not Peter was buried is extremely important. I can't move on from this until I know.

Aidan said...

Anonymous is spot on. I also went to Iona with Pete ... and it was all in evidence way back then. He was never comfortable with the simple truth ... always had to whitewash stuff well beyond the reality of it all. Nice enough guy, just not very real ... and not very content with what his circumstances had delivered.
No use to beat him up here ... he was what he was ... just a guy unhappy with what most of us would term "ordinary" ... which can be very fine stuff. To bad he seemed to miss the bell about what was truly important in this go around called life. I feel dreadful for his kids in particular ... I've got a trio myself, and this has to punch a hole in their hearts.

Peter was a slave to approval ... and I have to tell you, he would've been an A-OK chap without all the bs ... if he had just found a little comfort in his own skin. Hope he's in a sweeter spot now ...

Christopher said...

I went to high school with Peter Avalone. Seemed like a nice guy then, but I hadn't seen him since. A rather sad story. I don't approve of suicide, but then it's best not to be too judgmental either. Sometimes people become so depressed they can't think straight.

Anonymous said...

Through a long chain of associations (God bless the 'net!) I just googled "Peter Avalone" and was deeply saddened to receive this news.

I first met Peter back in the early 1980s, when he was at Merrill Lynch and I was at another firm. I remember competing against him for a deal, and winning it away from him, even though he had solidified it by showing the client-to-be pictures of his kids and asking, "Do you want these kids to grow up poor?"

I later had the opportunity to work with -- and for -- Peter at Lehman Brothers, and I can only say "Amen" to everything posted about him above. He was one of the most unforgettable characters I'd ever met, a real-life Gordon Gekko but with a heart of gold. He could be infuriating (and often was), but always irresistibly charming, and a very supportive boss. I will never forget his telling me, many times, that whatever I had just done wasn't the most productive use of my time or talent -- as if I were destined to do great things that would forever lie beyond my reach.

As to the Anonymous blogger who compared him to Gatsby, I must say "Amen" to that too. I never knew him before his ascent to the Street, but I always sensed there was something about his over-the-top style that bespoke a certain sense of fraud underneath, but again (to me at least) a kind of winning, W.C. Fields-style fraud. (Remember, the client who was shown his children's photos fell for the guilt trip!) Always smiling and ready with a hearty "Hey, buddy!," he still seemed to harbor a deep unhappiness. His personal problems, even back then, were common knowledge, and while they never seemed to take a toll on the perfectly composed exterior, everyone who knew him could tell they were eating him up inside.

It seemed to me that early in life, Peter decided to be a man who would spend his years dancing as fast as he could. When the music stopped, so did he. I am sad that the world has lost him, and sad that he never seemed to find within himself the riches that he looked for outside of himself, but that we all knew were there.

Anonymous said...

Peter went to St. Catherine's in Pelham, and grew up in Pelham.

June said...

Oh so what happened to Bronxville and PB?

Alex said...

Very sad. I last spoke to Peter when he called to tell me about his potential gig on FBN. We had worked together in the 90's, and we were friends. I tried to call him today hoping to ask him a question. None of the numbers worked. My heart sank as I typed his name into Google and it became apparent that something truly terrible and senseless had occurred.
Yes, Peter had crafted a persona for himself as noted in several earlier posts. It was the persona of the Investment Banker, a profession in which he had achieved a measure of success. He was intelligent, engaging, and self confident. He was fiercely proud of his family, and particularly his children's academic achievements. What led him to take his life is between him and god. He will be missed.

Robert Sibiga said...

When did this happen? Post is from 2009 but Fox Channel news shows May 6, 2011 as the date Peter was intervied there. Can someone please help me understand it? I met Avalone family long time ago and always wondered what has happened with them. Now, sadly, I found out...

Jasonxxxu said...

i heard that he was cremated for those who want to know. only his mom and brother were present for the service

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on inside casino. Regards
Here is my homepage best online casinos for usa players

Anonymous said...

Good respond in return of this difficulty with genuine arguments and describing everything on
the topic of that.
My site - online insurance quotes

Anonymous said...

Undeniably believe that that you stated. Your favorite reason seemed to be
at the internet the easiest thing to understand of. I say to you, I certainly get irked while folks think about concerns that they plainly do not understand about.
You controlled to hit the nail upon the top as smartly as outlined out
the whole thing with no need side effect , other folks can take
a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks
Also visit my weblog - andrit.com

Anonymous said...

I just like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
I will bookmark your blog and check once more here
regularly. I am rather sure I'll learn many new stuff proper here! Best of luck for the next!
Here is my site smoking hypnosis rates

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
Look advanced to more added agreeable from you!

However, how could we communicate?
Feel free to visit my webpage - hong kong internet marketing

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run into any browser compatibility issues? A few of my blog readers have complained about my site not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari. Do you have any recommendations to help fix this problem?
Stop by my homepage :: http://sherwood.iupdhc.org/

Anonymous said...

Genuinely no matter if someone doesn't be aware of afterward its up to other viewers that they will assist, so here it takes place.
My blog post : cheap lrg clothing

Anonymous said...

Have you ever considered writing an ebook or guest authoring on
other blogs? I have a blog centered on the same subjects you discuss and would really
like to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would appreciate your work.
If you're even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e-mail.

Also visit my web site beauty salon products
Also see my site > didaktik.mathematik.uni-wuerzburg.De

Anonymous said...

I just couldn't go away your web site prior to suggesting that I actually loved the standard information an individual provide in your guests? Is gonna be back frequently to check out new posts

Also visit my page; stop smoking tips

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another informative website. The place else may just I am
getting that kind of info written in such a perfect means?

I have a challenge that I am simply now working on, and I have
been at the look out for such info.

my webpage - health benefits
my web page: coq10 benefits

Anonymous said...

Thanks , I have recently been searching for information about this
topic for ages and yours is the greatest I have came upon so far.
But, what about the conclusion? Are you positive in regards to the source?


Feel free to surf to my website; costume shops

Anonymous said...

Howdy! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog.
Is it difficult to set up your own blog? I'm not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I'm thinking about making my own but I'm not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Appreciate it

Also visit my homepage order bank checks

Anonymous said...

In fact no matter if someone doesn't know then its up to other users that they will help, so here it happens.

my web site - espresso coffee makers

Anonymous said...

I was very pleased to uncover this great site. I want to to thank
you for your time just for this fantastic read!!
I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have you saved to fav to see new things on your blog.


My site - http://ticketsfor.info/you-can-find-great-junior-clothing-stores-online

Anonymous said...

Highly energetic article, I enjoyed that a lot. Will there be a part 2?


Here is my web site ... http://gown4wed.com/the-best-way-to-find-vintage-clothing-online/

Anonymous said...

Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I
clicked submit my comment didn't appear. Grrrr... well I'm not writing all that over again.

Regardless, just wanted to say great blog!



my web blog - http://www.topgoldstorejewelry.com/the-facts-on-swift-products-for-modcloth-coupon/

Anonymous said...

Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your
article seem to be running off the screen in Firefox.
I'm not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I'd post to let you know.
The design and style look great though! Hope you get the problem
resolved soon. Cheers

My web site - http://groupbuyingindia.com/property-deals/tall-womens-clothing-fill-your-wardrobe-with-trendy-clothing/