Memories Of A Misspent Youth

Massapequa columnist releases publishing debut

This picture was taken in a hotel circa August 1978. From left: Paul “Disco” DiSclafani, Sal “The Catman” Petrillo and Bruce “Mr. B” Oehler
(Photo courtesy of Paul DiSclafani)

The English novelist Graham Greene once said, “There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” For Anton Media Group columnist Paul DiScalfani, that moment was a trip out to California in 1978 as a 21-year-old seeking adventure along with cousin Sal “The Catman” Petrillo and close friend Bruce “Mr. B” Oehler. The memorable journey is captured in Burning Through The West Coast, DiSclafani’s recently released publishing debut.
DiSclafani, whose nickname is Disco, embarked on a 10-day sojourn to the Left Coast, where the hapless trio of self-described “hammerheads” brought their East Coast hedonism to the Golden State in what comes off like a lower-key version of a Cheech & Chong movie. It all added up to the threesome drinking copious amounts of beer, smoking a lot of weed and trying to hook up with the fairer sex at every turn. Their exploits culminated with the trio scoring tickets to The Tonight Show and taking in their television hero Johnny Carson in the flesh.

It’s an epic tale DiSclafani had been telling portions of for years (with the Carson part making it into one of his columns.) But it wasn’t until the Massapequa resident attended a monthly meeting of the Long Island Writers Club, where a chance encounter put him on the path to becoming a published author.
“I was always interested in writing a book,” DiSclafani explained. “Anybody who writes, wants to write a book, but I just never really knew how to go about doing it. Once you write the book, what do you do with it? You have to get a publisher. Do you need an agent? At the Long Island Writers Club meeting, I met a woman named Stephanie Larkin [Red Penguin Books president] who was the main speaker that night. We started talking about writing and she said to go out and write the book for myself, my friends and family. I realized that I had never put the whole thing down on paper before. I started doing that and it really was a cool experience.”

The Brooklyn native started writing the book mid-March, right when the pandemic siege began. And while DiSclafani may have told the story countless times, capturing a straightforward account of the tale from start to finish was considerably more challenging. Reaching out to Petrillo and Oehler proved frustrating: Both traveling companions had trouble remembering specific details. Luckily, DiSclafani remembered he had a picture archive to draw from.

“The thing that helped me was that I actually had a photo album from that trip,” the columnist said. “I was never one to do anything with my pictures. Normally, I would just throw them in a box. For some reason on this particular trip, I not only organized all the pictures, but I wrote little blurbs about each one of them. It really helped me put the entire timeline together. It was kind of disappointing because I rely on my friend Bruce to remember everything because for one reason or another, he remembers all these little tiny details. But he couldn’t remember anything. And for some reason, I kept some of the receipts for places like [The Baja Motel] or our boarding passes. I never save any of that stuff. It kind of came in handy. So I was able to piece together the whole thing and put it together into what I thought was a pretty good narrative.”

This picture was taken in August 2020. From left: Paul “Disco” DiSclafani, Sal “The Catman” Petrillo and Bruce “Mr. B” Oehler
(Photo courtesy of Paul DiSclafani)

The stay-at-home status triggered by COVID-19 proved to be a Godsend for DiSclafani, granting him plenty of time to focus on writing his book, during a time span that stretched from March right through July. By mid-September, the manuscript had been edited and cover art had been picked out. With the book finally hitting shelves, DiSclafani is getting positive feedback from his fellow travelers, friends and family, even though his mother did ask, “‘You know, what is all this talk about marijuana?” That said, the award-winning columnist is eager to write a follow-up while enjoying the current ride.
“It was such a joy to do,” DiSclafani said. “For someone like me, I’m not really writing books to make money out of them. It’s nice to make money, but what I’m looking to do is share the story with people I know. You know what my dream has always been? When I used to work in the city, I’d take the Long Island Rail Road every day and then take the subway. I’d see people reading books and used to think how great it would be to see some total stranger reading my book. That’s why I always wanted to write a book.”

Visit to find out more about Burning Through the West Coast and author/columnist Paul DiScalfani.

Dave Gil de Rubio
In addition to being editor of theNassau Observer, Dave Gil de Rubio is a regular contributor to Long Island Weekly, specializing in music and sports features. He has won several awards for writing from Press Club of Long Island (PCLI), New York Press Association (NYPA) and Fair Media Council (FMC).

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