From 'Bad Guys' to 'Butterflies'
Salvatore 'Sonny' Grosso has been in the security and private investigation business for many years "breaking necks and cashing checks" as they say. Born and raised in New York/Long Island, Sonny's tough guy, private eye exterior hides a much softer and gentler side which comes through in his writing. He has published over thirty poems but this is his first book, 'The Butterfly and The Dinosaur'.
I recently caught up with Sonny to ask him some tough (and not-so-tough) questions about his beautiful book.
What inspired you to write The Butterfly and The Dinosaur?
It could be a special love, a friend or even a parent letting a child go to live their life. We tend to grasp them tighter selfishly (although unconsciously). The old saying about letting someone go and if they come back it's meant to be is a scary and painful thought for most of us. But the true joy of any relationship should be the happiness of the other. I came to know and love a very special person who touched my life and opened my eyes and my heart, but eventually had to let fly away like a butterfly for their happiness.
It was a painful yet satisfying decision. I realized that there are kids, young adults and even we grown ups who face these kind of decisions every day. So much ugliness in the news across the world. Relationships breaking up and ending tragically, students not being accepted and bullied also ending tragically. I wanted to help, send a message, a lesson. Sometimes letting go, means letting grow.
What was the hardest part about getting this book into print?
Sonny: Initially it was the insecurity that comes with the process. You ask yourself, why would anyone want to hear what I have to say? But I began to think, if a dinosaur like me can learn a lesson, why not someone else? I wanted to get out the message and help others, it then became easy. The hardest part was waiting. I have a tendency to be just ever so slightly impatient at times.
Can you tell me a little bit about your work in the security and private investigation business?
Sonny: I have been in the security, protection and investigation business for over 30 years. I spent 25 years with A&P/Waldbaum Supermarkets. During my career there, I had apprehended and arrested hundreds, if not thousands of individuals doing some not so nice things. While that made the bosses happy, I was always let down. I would travel around the country holding seminars for management, senior level too, teaching them to be PROACTIVE instead of REACTIVE. In other words, put the programs in place to stop someone from turning bad. In other words, protect each other from making bad decisions.
After retiring, I started my own company in 2002, InterSec Protection Inc. I had the absolute pleasure of providing security coverage at Adventureland, which I still do today. That was it for me. To see the smiles on the kids and families faces is worth the long hours. Getting to know the workers there also inspired me to the book. I became Uncle Sonny there and always had time for them.
I realized that even in 2010, the dilemas, pains, insecurities of growing up, relationships and life in general have not changed since I was 16. I also provide security at schools and had the time of my life in 2008 when I worked at Holy Family Elementary School in Hicksville. I became known as Uncle Sonny there too. Anyone who doesn't love kids and who doesn't realize that they truly are the responsibility of all of us, needs to re-examine themselves.
Given your background, what was the reaction of your friends and family when you told them you were writing a children's book? Was anyone surprised by your softer side?
Sonny: Well, there were some very mixed reactions. Some were surprised that I could draw, (I did the illustrations). Some flat out didn't believe that I did it at all. I have to be honest, sometimes I cannot believe it myself. I have heard that some people snickered behind my back and quickly apologized when they read the book. I have received many glowing, loving and positive responses from all across the country, Canada, England and even Italy and that completely floors me.
I wonder if some of the people I tangled and wrestled with read the book, what they would think. But in all honesty, it doesn't bother me. As I have done my whole life, I gave it my all and I am proud of the outcome. My son had the best reaction of all..."Holy Crap! This is soo good Dad" Hahahahahah, gotta love it!
What do you hope children (and parents) hope to gain by reading your book?
Sonny: I hope that everyone who reads The Butterfly and The Dinosaur sees a little of themselves in it. Realizes some mistakes they have made and maybe are making right now. My goal is for us to realize that we are all we have on this planet and we should start treating each other with respect and love and unselfishness. The whole concept sweeping the world is "live for today" and "look out for number one because nobody else will"...I don't believe in that. I believe that we need to live each day to the fullest but not selfishly.
On my facebook page, I post a daily "Thought for the day" and in it I try to reinforce these philosophies. Smile at strangers, pet a dog, wave hello to a kid sitting in a car on the LIE, open a door, tell someone you love them, etc. This attitude is free, it costs absolutley nothing, yet some people act like it costs them their very soul or persona. If the end of the world came tomorrow, what would you regret the most?
Do you do school visits or readings here on Long Island?
Sonny: I have several school visits and readings in the works. They are listed on my website www.dinomish.com and will be updated as events come. Please visit and say hello, see the reviews. But I refuse to do the readings. I would rather involve the students. We have drawing contests, the kids read the parts of the characters and the narration. I picture myself in the audience listening to some guy reading his own book to me, and I shudder. Now they are involved and it's a fun learning atmosphere.
What else would you like readers to know about you?
Sonny: In the 70's and 80's, I worked several clubs as a bouncer and although things got crazy sometimes, I almost never had to use my hands. Words are the power. When I was locking up a drug addict for stealing, I bought them a soda or a hotdog. I remember one day while working at Adventureland, I noticed a guy with his family staring me down. This went on for over an hour.
My gut was telling me that whatever contact we had in the past, it wasn't positive. I stayed alert and kept my distance. Finally, he approached me and asked if I was Sonny from Waldbaums? I said yes and took a step back ready for whatever was about to come. He lifted up his hands, came towards me and hugged me. He told me he wanted to thank me. I had caught him in an embezzlement and prosecuted him. So why was he thanking me?
What people don't know is that I went to each of his trials, spoke with the District Attorney and helped him find a job. He brought his family over to meet me and in true Uncle Sonny form, I got them free passes for the next time they came. That is what it's all about, making difference, looking in the mirror and just being nice to each other!
I have published over thirty poems, (another secret revealed). I have a son nicknamed "The Clone" who is finishing college at Methodist University in North Carolina this year. I am lucky to still have my Mom and Dad, I have three sisters, two nieces, two nephews, six godchildren, love the Yankees and Elvis. I make a Christmas Album every year. But aside from this book and some other things you may not have known, here's another. The opening and closing song you hear at Adventureland every day is me. So come there, enjoy yourselves, but the book in the gift shop and smile at the people who may bump into you BY ACCIDENT!!
Lastly, I want to thank The Butterfly who made this all possible!
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