Bobby Ferrando is many things: a former restaurateur, a motorcycle enthusiast, andabove alla natural storyteller. But he is not a writer.
By Matthew Borlik
Bobby Ferrando is many things: a former restaurateur, a motorcycle enthusiast, andabove alla natural storyteller. But, as the 62-year-old Palisades resident and author of My Spiritual Revelations and Other BS is quick to point out, he is not a writer.
“If I wanted to write a real book, I would have to get myself a good ghost writer,” Ferrando says.
That didn’t stop Ferrando from writing and self-publishing his first book, which he released through his own Permette Publishing in late December 2006. The 74-page paperback includes more than half a dozen personal anecdotes, some of which he would often tell to employees of his health food restaurant Food for Thought, which he owned and operated in Dupont Circle for 26 years before closing it in 1999. (Ferrando currently serves as a manager at Food for Thought’s new location in the Black Cat, owned by his son, Dante.)
One such story chronicles Ferrando’s efforts to repair the restaurant’s air conditioning unit during the sweltering summer of 1973. After two months’ worth of failed attempts to remove a troublesome 75-pound rotor, and with his restaurant perched on the brink of collapse because of dwindling business, Ferrando unexpectedly solved the problem with one gentle tap of a sledgehammer while in a Zen-like state of mind.
“Each time you tell [the story], you think of another detail. And then you wonder, ‘Now did that detail really happen?’?” Ferrando says. “The stories were accurate, but when you tell a story you want to make it exciting. They tend to grow.”
The decision to commit his stories to paper, Ferrando says, first came more than two years ago. In September 2004, his wife received a handmade notebook from a co-worker as a gift. “As my wife showed me the beautifully bound book, she commented that she couldn’t possibly use it as a common notebook,” Ferrando writes in My Spiritual Revelations’ preface. At that moment, he decided he would use the gift to write his book. It would take Ferrando over two years to see the dream fully realized.
“You think, I’ll just write the story down, just like I tell it, but you can’t do it. When you start yakking, you just run your mouth and let the story come out,” he says. “It was hard to write even two or three or four pages, which is all the stories are.”
As the title suggests, the book also contains the author’s musings on religion. Ferrando, who was raised a Catholic while growing up in Arlington, documents the first time he began to seriously question the church’s rules and rituals. In another section, he examines the “independently verifiable facts” regarding Jesus Christ and comes to the conclusion that our Lord and savior was either “one of history’s best con artists, an extremely persuasive delusional lunatic, or exactly what he claimed to be.”
Much of the book, however, is reserved for Ferrando’s own spiritual philosophy. “I try to distill it down to just two words: ‘Allow love,’?” he says. In the book’s last section, titled “More BS,” Ferrando expounds on this concept: “The source of existence (aka God) is love and by allowing love, you become a unique and unending part of reality,” he writes.
It’s a philosophy that has worked for Ferrando, but one that he realizes his readers may have a hard time grasping. “That’s the most difficult thing in the book, to try and get the ideas across,” he says. A more simplified approach at the end of the book is actually the result of a happy accident. “The book is supposed to have a certain number of pages when you bind it a certain way, and when I was writing, it came out to a few less pages,” he says. To fill the space, each of the last four pages of the book features one of his philosophical quotes at the top; Ferrando hopes his readers will use the rest of the otherwise blank pages to offer up their own interpretations of his ideas.
“At some point in the future, if people actually read the book, I might make a request: ‘If you write something on this page, send it to me,’?” Ferrando says. “Permette Publishing could put out a book of all these people’s ideas.”
Ferrando discusses and signs copies of his work at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 19, at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. Free. For more information, call (202) 667-7960.
No Spiritual BS: Bobby Ferrando
BOBBY FERRANDO HAS been a fixture in both the D.C. restaurant and music industry for the past three decades, most notably as the owner of Food for Thought, a health-conscious restaurant formerly located in Dupont Circlewhere Bistro du Coin currently resides. Though the original Food for Thought closed in 1999, its spirit and Ferrando himself remains in the Food for Thought Cafe, located adjacent to theBlack Cat rock club on 14th Street.
A couple of years ago, Ferrando, who still cooks at and manages the cafe, began jotting down his thoughts in a blank, handbound book his wife's coworker had given her. The result, "My Spiritual Revelations and Other BS," kicks off with a book release party Monday night at the Black Cat.
"It's not much of a book. I'm not much of a writer I just put some thoughts down," Ferrando explained. "Somebody gave me an article in the New York Times that talked about this online publishing, and I checked it out and said, 'Wow you can just upload your stuff and have a book.' So I said, 'Well, I'll just try and put it in book form,' and it took me two years to kind of assemble things."
The title of Ferrando'a book is not as tongue-in-cheek as one might think. "My Spiritual Revelations" is a book mostly about God or, rather, a collection of essays on the existence of God and other philosophical musings. Though accompanied by poems and a couple stories, including one entertaining tale about Food for Thought's antiquated air conditioner, they all lead back to the existence of a higher being. And the underlying theme of the book, according to Ferrando, is the last two words of the book: "Allow love."
Without high expectations for the memoir, Ferrando said, "I'd just like people to read it and if they have comments, I'd really like to hear them. People's brains are something when people have thoughts, it's interesting to listen. I love listening to people when they go off and they have something they're talking about."
The book release party is the result of a suggestion by Ferrando's son Dante, owner of the Black Cat. "Thanks to him I'm actually getting some publicity," Ferrando said laughing. "I'm here regularly, but I don't check the schedule. Evidently, they've done some book releases and it's a lot of fun for them, so I thought, ‘Hey sure, I'll do it.'"
The night's events run the gamut, from a movie to dancing. "I'll do a couple readings, answer some questions," Ferrando said. "My manager at Food for Thought the old Food for Thought, Tiiik put together a little video-type thing called ‘Afterthought,' and it's a whole bunch of images from the old Food for Thought," including footage of the restaurant's closing night, which featured a performance by Mary Chapin Carpenter. And since Ferrando is a self-described bluesman, the evening will also feature two deejays spinning blues and country discs.
Ferrando also speculated that Monday's event might bring "a number of people interested in the self-publishing aspect, not necessarily what's in the book."
There's a frequently asked questions section on the book's Web site,myspiritualrevelationsandotherbs.com, that gives self-publishing advice.
And what of the lessons learned through writing and publishing a book? "I realized how hard it is to actually write. It was a hell of a job."
» Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; Mon., 7:30 p.m., free; 202-667-7960. (U St.-Cardozo)
Written by Express contributor Katherine Silkaitis
Photos courtesy Bobby Ferrando