Segarini – A Lifetime of Imaginary Friends

It was early Summer of 1994. My wife, daughter, and I had been in Stockton California since October of 1989, a hastily made decision brought about by a late night phone call informing me that my Mother had had a stroke while driving my Aunt Alice home from a night out, and had a very bad automobile accident. She wasn’t expected to survive.

Cheryl, my wife, and Amy, our daughter, flew out to California immediately. Unable to fly, I took the train, praying my Mom would hang on untiI I got there.

We had been in the process of moving, but I cancelled that, put all our belongings in storage, and headed for the coast. In a strange and horrible way, my mother, who had spent her whole life bailing me out, once again, and without knowing it, had rescued me from myself. My life had been spinning out of control for the better part of the decade. My career was stalled, my health was at risk, most of my friends had given up on me, and I was a mess.

Now, the landscape falling away as the train sped down the track, I not only hated myself for the mess I had made of my life, but for being so screwed up that I was grateful to my Mother for helping me run away from the problems I had created for my family, my friends, and myself. I wanted both of us to recover….and thanks to my wife, who saw how badly I was doing and still failing at making a course correction, came out to what used to be our garage, but was now a state of the art screening room where I spent most of my time. After she knocked on the door, which I kept locked, I let her in.

She took one, forlorn look at me and said, “If you don’t go back to Canada, you are going to die”.

She was right. The circle of ‘friends’ I had fallen in with in California, were worse than what I had left back home. I was being enabled and encouraged, to continue my downward spiral.

The next day, I was on the train, headed back to Toronto to face my problems, and my destiny.  


1945 – 1950 – A Quick Recap

I was born Raymond Botto on August 28th, 1945, in San Francisco California, and immediately put up for adoption.

I was, and remained, an only child, raised in a home full of love, surrounded by an Italian family of Aunts, Uncles and cousins who originally sprang from the same area of Italy as my birth parents, the city of Genoa.

On February 26th, 1946, after 6 months in a Catholic run adoption centre, I was adopted by John and Mercedes Segarini, and moved to their home in Stockton California 78 miles due East of San Francisco.

In 1947,while staying at my Grandparents overnight, my Grandpa, Al “Bobo” Walters, in a last ditch effort to get me to shut up and go to sleep, plugged in an Emerson table model radio next to my bed, turned out the lights and closed the door. It did, indeed, shut me up …but I laid in the dark listening to variety shows, mysteries, adventure shows and music, all night long. The radio remained on in whatever room that served as my bedroom from that moment forward.

In 1949, my Uncle Al Figone, having recently bought a large floor model television with a 10 or 12 inch screen, gifted us with his old set, a table model with a 3 inch screen, made watchable by an 8 inch magnifying lens that fit over the 3 inch screen thanks to the slots on either side of it.

Now, when I wasn’t in my room listening to the radio, I was parked on the floor in front of the television.

Like the radio, it shut me up, but I still didn’t get much sleep, and I am still unable to get to sleep unless the bedroom flatscreen, Amazon Music, or an audiobook are playing even now.


The Three Rs – Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic

On top of being completely obsessed with television and radio, I was a voracious reader.

At first it was Big Little Books (or were they called Little Big Books, and Little Golden Books. I quickly graduated to actual books that took longer than a few minutes to read. The Big Little Books had 100s of pages, some full of short stories about the characters on the cover, and some with big letters and lots of pictures, but I would race through them in the middle of the night, fueled by the music on the radio, and usually under the covers with a flashlight. I also had a secret ‘clubhouse’, hidden at first under the headboard of my bed, then later, moved to the back of the clothes closet in my new bedroom when we moved the year I turned 12. By then it was science fiction books, mostly Robert Heinlein’s Young adult series, Asimov, and others, and comic books.

The initial jump from Little Golden and Big Little books was triggered by a series called The Bobbsey Twins, about two sets of twins who had lots of adventures together, one set very young, and the older set between 10 and 12. These books were constant birthday and Christmas gifts, or spur of the moment gifts when I would drag my mother or grandmother into The Bookmark on Pacific Avenue when we were out shopping, and wouldn’t leave until got a book. I ended up with about 30 of them. They led to the Oz books (eventually had all of those written by Baum and his first two following writers), so that by the time I hit the 3rd grade, I was turning in 100s of book reviews a year.

I still remember the first book I ever checked out from Woodrow Wilson elementary school …The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, about 2 boys and a chicken (well, the chicken didn’t help build the spaceship), that build a spaceship and, with the help of a mysterious scientist (who turns out to be an alien FROM the Mushroom Planet, make the trip and live to tell the tale. Must have checked that book out 3 or 4 times, but never owned a copy. The chicken  survives the trip too, as I recall.

With the exception of English and spelling lessons, and being able to read constantly, school was a dreary exercise in wasted time to me.

I discovered more in the pages of the books I read, learned more about life and science and geography, exotic cultures, and faraway places than anything taught in a school room. Radio also informed me. From the science and news programs, the interview shows, and the documentaries, and television helped raise me. From Miss Francis and Ding Dong School, to Mr. Wizard, to the news programs, even the variety shows, adventure shows, and sitcoms, contained tons of information I soaked up like a sponge. You could watch live dramas, Broadway shows written by the finest playwrights, and acted in by the best actors of the day, directed by award winning men in the field, and offered up in your living room at no charge.

Tragically, my grasp of numbers and math was non-existent. Still is. I could not get my head around it, try as I might. To this day, I am reminded that I am a “Fiscal Moron”, and in truth …I am.

Socially, school was alright, I suppose. Fell in love for the first time when I was in Kindergarten with an adorable girl named Cheryl Ramos. I went to a Halloween Party at her house dressed as Superboy. My mom took us on a date toa movie when we were 6 or 7, and sat in the row behind us to make sure there was no hanky or panky. …and I made 2 friends that lived on Ellis Street like I did. Pete Gormsen and Doug Dahl. Pete’s mom was a single mom …a nurse named Lilah, and Doug’s dad was the manager of Chase Chevrolet. We palled around the neighborhood and rode our bikes together, but other than that, they weren’t interested in the same things I was interested in.

Being an only child has some good points; lots of attention from your parents, being spoiled (a double-edged sword in life), time to yourself, and, as long as you didn’t try to burn down the house or flood the basement, very little discipline or many rules.

I was a good kid.

My mom worried that I didn’t have enough friends, even though I had enough young cousins to start a small country.

My Dad and I engulfed in Cousins …and these are just the ones who lived on Ellis Street …and some of them aren’t present …and there isn’t a Figone in sight!

Soon, I had a fine selection of real, flesh and blood friends, kids to do stuff with like ride bikes, hang out, and other stuff that kids do. …but my passions …the things I loved that were ingrained in me …a vast wealth of interests that ranged far and wide …there was no one who shared that unquenchable thirst, and I could bore everyone to sleep if I got started on any of them. It’s still pretty much the same for me today. So I found ways to fill the gaps.

Three of my eventual real-life Peeps. Gary, Whitey, and Jeff.

In fact, I had 100s of friends. Some from the radio, some from television, and some from books. You can call them imaginary if you like …but they were far from imaginary to me. They were as real as you or I.

I still have a lot of Imaginary Friends …and I will introduce you to some of them next week.


Segarini’s regular columns are available at Arnold’s Drive-In, The Daily Planet, Strickland Propane and Propane Accessories, and Central Perk

Please leave any comments in the “Reply” section below


Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

One Response to “Segarini – A Lifetime of Imaginary Friends”

  1. Jim Chisholm Says:

    Cool read Bob. I had a pair of friends who lived a couple of blocks away from us in Chomedey and visiting them was always a real eye opener and a brain stimulant. The brothers had the best comics and books and cable tv before anyone else seemed to have it. I always dug visiting those guys but as the long years went by, I forgot which of my old friends were the ones who lived there . . . until a week ago. An old friend who had been a facebook pal for a few years, came to my gig at the country market to reconnect. Go figure! He and his brother were those two guys from my past. So we have some catching up to do. Thanks always for sharing.

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