“Hey Jack, so today, I got a problem for you.  My washer busted, spilling its innards all over the basement floor.  It’s a soapy mess.  Problem is, this is the second washer in two years, and I think there must be a bigger problem.”  “Well Kev, how’s your air intake in the system?  Sounds like your washer is having a pump failure, which is probably due do overexertion, which is probably due to no air intake in the outflow.  You can’t run a pump in a vacuum for too long.  Come over here, this is the part you’re gonna need.”

Jack and I sauntered over to the other corner of the hardware store, maneuvering between stands of hoses, push brooms, and sprinkler heads.  “Here it is, good luck” he says in his quiet, steady voice.  Always composed, always pleasant, Jack helped me lift my fixer-upper home out of disrepair, and piece by piece has helped me restore a beautiful pre World War II Dutch Tudor.

Jack was born and raised here on Long Island, and came to run a company that distributed the fruit juice cups with the tear off, aluminum tops.  Once obscure, the aluminum fruit juice container is now ubiquitous, and is extensively used across all industries and markets, from hospitals to airlines to homes.  All while raising a family in Sayville, Jack played a role in growing the emerging industry, brokering large deals with major hospitals.  In his younger years, he married a woman who still occupies nearly every story he tells.  He laughs as he describes old apartments in Greenwich Village, he smiles as he relays tales of traveling in Ireland with his wife and family.  His eyebrows lift when he describes how he and his wife fixed up a few homes, and the tenants and friends that they had over the years.  Now that he’s older, he’s taken his expertise in other industries, and is that bottomless pit of knowledge, working the counter at the local True Value hardware, serving homeowners from Islip and Bay Shore for over a decade and a half.

One of the most enjoyable things about painting Jack was coming to learn a particular secret that he held.  This warm spoken fellow on the other side of the counter at the local hardware store is one of the most knowledgeable, passionate enthusiasts of Johann Sebastian Bach.  While he sat for the painting, I randomly turned some music on, on a contemporary violinist’s interpretation of a well known Bach violin suite.  He jolted in his seat.  I asked him if everything was okay, and he winced slightly.  “It’s just that Itzhak Perlman interpreted this passage just a bit differently, than, uh, than the new generation.”  He was kindly saying that this piece of music was something delicate, something of beauty, and the performer was somewhat outside the range of the composer’s intentions.  I switched over to Yo-Yoma’s acclaimed performance of Bach Cello Suite number 2, and all was well.  Jack went on to discuss the era in which Bach composed, the evolution of instruments, and the various interpretations different eras have had of his work.  For decades, his passion has been traveling to hear Bach performed in major venues by various classical musicians, a passion shared by his sister.

To paint a portrait is to pull back a veil.  As I put the last marks on the painting, Jack turned to look at the canvas.  “You captured my eyes.  There’s never been a photograph in my life that has captured what my eyes, as I myself feel them to be.  You’ve painted about me, how I actually feel about myself.”  It was wonderful to paint a portrait of Jack, and get to know the fellow on the other side of the hardware store counter.

Jack with painting, low rez

jack, final, low rez

jack, eyes, low rez

jack, face, low rez

Click the following to listen to Yo-Yoma’s brilliant performance of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1