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Ray Castellani's Writings


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Dear Danny,

The horror of what happened to you dear friend will last what lifetime I have left - You have given me the best tribute a person can give another - that is you wanted the principles of which I live by to prevail in your being - For the better part of 15 years you listened and executed these principles with a passion - You became a man among men - You lived your life - found your way to peace of mind - and a God that guided you -

On December 17th of 1999 you and I talked on the phone from California to Tennessee as we did many times these past 4 years - We spoke of how happy you were - of how you found a lady friend who you cared about - We talked about God and how when I met Him - I would let Him know a thing or two - and that I would make sure He took care of you - We talked this way for years for I was 17 years older than you - We laughed so much - we cried at times - The spirit of understanding grew - you called me many times to see if all was well - How I remember the moments of revelation when you got the point I was trying to make -

Well, Dear Danny - you have surpassed me in all areas - You dear friend have become the teacher - I am the student - You dear friend are with the Master - all knowing - transcending His knowledge to you - You have a most beautiful light that encompasses your soul - a smile on your face that will last for eternity -

You Dear Danny were born January 10, 1951 and on January 19, 2000 while you were asleep on the couch - fate came - even though I was 3000 miles away - I can feel the bullets enter your body - I have woken up many nights since with this vision - I cry for you dear friend - for I am only a mortal - my only wish is that it was me - Good night Dear Danny - We will meet soon and walk the path with God as eternity embraces our souls -

If one person lives long enough to look back and see his or her life and is able to reflect for a moment - a library will be filled of memories - the triumphs - the joys - the tears - the sorrows - the direction I should have taken and didn't - the ones I took and shouldn't have - the goals set that were achieved - the goals that have laid by the wayside and never achieved - a career that stumbled and yet great moments to be remembered - the death of loved ones - the time I was never able to say good-bye to my mother - for her husband at the time - took her up in an airplane when she was not to be moved because of a stroke she had and a bad heart - She died over Baltimore in that plane due to heart failure - He died - He paid a terrific price 14 months later - cancer had reduced him to nothing -He was never able to spend my mother's money - The love I had for my Grandfather and Godfather - I loved these two men with all my heart to this day - 

The loneliness I felt in that orphanage early in my childhood - for two and a half years - the tears I shed - The memory is so vivid - I can see every corner - every hall - every room - I can smell the bathroom - I can see the dormitory with 60 or 70 beds - When we were on our way to sleep - there was not one sound from any of us - for if we spoke - we would be strapped by a woman named Mary - I still remember - We were all trying to survive - We never snitched on anyone or anything - We were loyal to one another - We never showed our weakness to the people whose care we were in - for if we did we would pay for it dearly - 

I remember one time they forced liver down my throat it made me so sick - I was supposed to eat anything they put in front of me - I didn't - They made an example of me - each time - How I remember - When one of the older boys would run away and get caught - they would put us in a big hall - sit us down - put the boy on a long table - hold him down and beat him - then turn to us and say - "If anyone tries to run away this is what is going to happen to you" - How well I remember that - 

I was a bed wetter - Again, they made an example of me - telling all of my bed wetting to the throng of boys - None of the boys made fun of me or even spoke of it - They knew what was going on - But I remember - Once in a great while my Aunt would come and visit me for she lived in New York very close to the orphanage - I would be so happy when I saw her - I begged her to take me with her - When she left I cried - cried - cried - and cried some more for days -I would have such a lonely feeling inside of me - I remember when they put me in another home in Troy, New York, I ran away to my Grandfather's in Albany, 17 miles away - I planned my own escape from that one - A story in itself - I was seven at the time - I ran to my Grandfather who lived in a cellar under a nursing home my Grandmother ran - Down the stairs, I went - The door was locked - I cried and hit the door saying Grandpa, Grandpa please let me in -The lock turned and he opened the door -There he stood, 6'2" looking down at me - I cried to him saying, "Please don't let them take me back - please Grandpa, please " - He picked me up in his arms and said - "Nobody is going to take you away anymore" - Little did I know that moment I spent with him those words in broken English that he said would forever be instilled in my very soul - That was around 1940 - The moment is as fresh today 1999 as then - How lucky I am - I stayed with him in the cellar - a small bed by his side - For the next three and a half years we listened to all the radio shows of the time - Jack Benny - the Great Gildersleeve - Amos and Andy - Duffy's Tavern - etc - How beautiful - how warm my heart is even today thinking about that period of time of my life - My Grandfather all week - my Godfather on Sunday - 

My Godfather died when I was eleven - What a loss - He was a member of the Black Hand - I was surrounded by these beautiful people every Sunday - I was protected on the streets in the neighborhood from any harm -The beauty parlor was the front for gambling and the numbers racket and whatever else I didn't see - I was loved so very much by all the constituents - The Black Hand preceded the Mafia - When my godfather died I cried again - That lonely feeling - one more time - Maybe it had never left - Three and a half years later my grandfather died - I was 15 - My heart was empty - I cried one more time out of loneliness - That feeling inside of me, that hurt - that sorrow has never left me - I can still feel my Grandfathers arms around me when he picked me up when I was 7 - and my Godfathers hand touching the top of my head with love ever so gently - 

At this same time around 11 years of age - I will have a moment in my life that will be forever frozen in my memory - my natural father’s name was Raymond Jay Johnston - also my name at the time - I had only seen him three times in my life before this moment - This was the fourth - A railroad station in Albany, New York was the place - My aunt got me ready - I asked her what I shall call him - She said call him Dad - He’s your father - We met him in that station - We sat alone - We talked - He held my hand - I could feel his energy - I could feel the compassion and love he had for me - When I looked into his eyes tears came - I could sense the loneliness he felt - To this day I don’t remember a word we said, if any - only feelings - Maybe we never said anything - He gave me two dollars - put his arms around me and walked through the big doors to the train yard - I stood alone and watched him leave - This would be the last time I would ever see him - As I reflected back years later - the loneliness he must have felt as that train moved away from Albany - I have a sense of him looking out a window - knowing in his heart that he would never see me again - That must have been one of the loneliest train rides - I only wish I could have shared it with him - Twenty or so years later on February 18 which is my birthday - a great sense of my father Raymond Johnston came over me - He was the topic of conversation for some reason with me - Around the end of March I received a letter from back East from my father’s brother - The letter went something like this: “On February 18 your father got up from his bed and went over to the dresser drawer, picked up these pictures (baby pictures) and said ‘This is my son’s birthday’. He was so weak he could not hold a glass of water 
in his hand. He died 12 days later.” At that moment I cried one more time - for I knew my 
father’s loneliness - The pictures were old and used - How many times did he touch them? I was told many years prior that he was dead - finding out now a different story - That lonely feeling came over me once more - I was that little boy in that orphanage again - But at that moment I knew I had a father who loved me very dearly - 

The next 21 years would be filled with glory and agony - I never learned to read too good or spell - was not good in my school work - but was blessed with a good body - so I excelled in sports - But by 18 drinking was a big part of my life also - Life was in front of me - The night life I loved and so I lived - Three years in the marine corps - started an acting career - 4 children, a 5th died at birth - a sorrowful moment - A few months prior my wife at the time pounded her pregnant stomach with hate and disdain for me - for by this time alcohol had taken it's toll on me - I was old before my time - bleeding internally - sores on my body - unshaven - very gaunt - audio hallucinations - I no longer could do any work of any kind - I was inarticulate - I was dying - 

In July 1969 I held a bottle of gin in my hand and uttered these words: "Please God help me - I don't want to drink this -" July 1999 will be 30 years - My cry of despair uttered that day in July, 1969 was heard - My career resumed very slowly - I learned how to talk again - By then my talent had diminished to nothing - I went back to act ing classes for two years - 78-79 and by 1980 I was back in full swing - I was to do a Broadway play - It hung for a year - By 1982 it was over - the money could not be raised - I had a moment in 1981 where I did a play - A director by the name of Danny Mann saw it - He directed The Rose Tattoo, Butterfield 8 and the stage play Come back Little Sheeba on Broadway - He wanted me for his play - So I did make it - even though nobody else knows it - The play never got off the ground - broken dreams one more time - 

By 1986 I was most despondent - I no longer wanted to act - I had done hundreds shows - 
always playing the bad guy - I cut all ties in Los Angeles - took off in my truck to places 
unknown - Pounding my dashboard - crying out to God to show me the way - any way - that he wanted me to go - Another cry of despair -And so it was - I was to return to Los Angeles -Much against my will I did so - It was revealed to me - not through voices - but definitely through a power - to receive no money nor solicit any money - I was to serve food to the residents of Skid Row - Thinking it was only a one time chapter I had no problem in being obedient to His Will - On December 5, 1987 on a rainy morning - 111 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were served - July 1999, over 635,000 meals have been served - A true miracle - 

For 12 years I have been on the streets of Skid Row, downtown Los Angeles - I have been with the people - the downtrodden of our society - the forgotten souls of mankind - I have fought the elements - the bureaucracy of our city - I have seen harassment - I have seen death - murder - rape - I worked through my own sickness (heart problems) with no insurance, no help in sight - I know the story of life - The greatest gift I have is freedom of self - From these streets of Los Angeles to the Rose Garden in Washington DC to meet the President of the United States - I took all of the memories of each person I touched with me on that memorable day - It was their triumph - When I came back to the streets the people knew they were along side of me in Washington - 

The wisdom of God - the power of His Will has been displayed - Thousands of people have been warmed by His presence - a true miracle - My story ends here - I was obedient to his calling - Equality among the human race - compassion for all - understanding beyond - honesty through the eyes of the beholder - freedom of self within the heart of each other - purity of mind - purity of body - purity of soul - the inner existence of the making of mankind - there can be no love seeding when distrust and deceit are paramount factors in the make up of the human race - It is His miracle - I am only the story teller - the instrument used - at times most reluctantly - I have learned much since I was that 4 year old in that New York orphanage - crying in a corner out of loneliness - I still have the feelings of loneliness in my heart - I am still that little boy crying in that orphanage - When I make that final trip and meet the Master Himself - I know then and 
only then that my tears and loneliness will be only memories of warmth and joy - 

Winter, 1999

My first trip to Skid Row I met a man of 43 years of age - His name was Leo - He was from Cuba and hung on the corner of 5th and San Pedro with a Cuban contingency of about 12-14 people - We greeted each other and from that day forth - which exceeds eleven years - we remained friends -

Last month - on Tuesday November 24 - we spent the morning together - he hugged and kissed me - I gave him food and $3 - but more than that a reflection on the eleven years - for the next day he died - I did not find out until the next week - December 5th, which marked the 11th year to the day I met him - I saw him through all of his times during this period - he was stabbed in the back very seriously - he was run over by a passing car - most serious - He survived on the most tormented streets our city of Los Angeles put forth - he is a soul for the ages - He worked the first seven years on the streets with Frontline - where we survived a multitude of confrontation where 1500 people would line up on a Saturday morning and 500 on a Tuesday for Chili dogs - He befriended all of Frontline regulars at that time - Danny, Noreen, Lisa, Debbie, Frank, my son Raymond Jr. and so many more - He was a true part of the beginning of Frontline - We cried together - We laughed together - He called me Papa in his broken English - His heart could be heard -

What saddens me most - more than anything else - is that they found his body some 3 or 4 days later in his room - which means he died alone in that 5x5 room on Skid Row with no one by his side - no one to comfort him -

So my heart is most heavy not because he died - I know he is with God, most likely asking for $3 - but because he was alone in a room on Skid Row, in Los Angeles - I pray he died in peace - I pray he died without fear - He was truly one of God’s servants -

For the past eleven years I have been on these streets of Skid Row, in downtown Los Angeles - I have received no compensation - nor solicited any money - I was directed to serve food to the unwanted of our society. I have done so - 617,000 meals - God given and God inspired - a long and arduous road - I have seen death on the streets and never spoken about - their body put in a bag and shipped out - I have seen a gal with cerebral palsy get her throat cut and put in a dumpster and no authority following up on it - I have seen the people of Skid Row pushed from one side of the streets to the other - When days are hot, no water - When it’s cold no soup - I have seen prejudice beyond anything - elsewhere in our society today - I deal with the poorest of the poor - I have become a people of the streets - I see no women or men - no children or adults - I see no color or group - I see only God’s children - Equality among humans is our only salvation - I deal with four principles: purity - honesty - unselfishness and love - These principles have carried me through the past eleven years fighting the bureaucracy of Los Angeles - I could serve all of downtown with a little help - But because there is no money to be made from my organization people are afraid of it -

I only want to hold the head of my fallen brother or sister - I only want to console the mind and body of the unwanted - I want to feel their pain - The people of Skid Row ask for so little - Allow me to be an instrument to fulfill a moment in their lives - to give them a moment of peace - not to change anyone - not to give them a new philosophy of life - but to love each for what each stands for - to accept the beauty of the downtrodden - The people of Skid Row have taught me so much about life - a lesson could be learned but no body is listening.

Dear Leo, you gave me love with no conditions - you gave me hope with your smile - you gave me courage with your being - you gave me strength through your eyes - God will take care of you for eternity - you will never be alone again -

I have been serving food to the people of Skid Row going on 12 years - This is what it seems like to the naked eye - The depth by which I see human nature far exceeds any school room rhetoric - Skid Row, Los Angeles is not an easy life for any human being down on their luck - The perception of so many is that these are people who are lazy - people who don’t want to work - people who want to sponge off society - or people who just want to use drugs, drink alcohol - prostitute their values - don’t want to work- If anyone does believe these things, please be my guest and come with me on a 2 day venture and make an effort to survive two nights on the streets -

I want to thank every participant of Frontline down through the years - every person that has put in so much as a thought - I thank the thousands of people that have supported Frontline - not one of the people that so much as touched Frontline had a malice thought toward these people of Skid Row - A miracle - This is what made it work -

I have touched in the literal sense tens of thousands - looked in the eyes of so many broken souls -rocked and held so many more - I have melded with the sweat from their sun drenched bodies in the summer - I have felt the chill of their from the rain and cold - I have visited the prisons when they were in - I have waited for them to come out - went to the hospital when they were under John or Jane Doe - I have seen the harassment of a group of people beyond the limits of human degradation - The last two years on Skid Row I have seen the attempt to clean out the whole area of humans that inhabit the streets - Talk about Albania - we have it in our city - I wonder who is responsible?

I went downtown with1,500 meals one night last summer - Made a few stops -The last one was on San Julian across the streets from the front of the new Union Mission - As I was serving 3 rent-a-cops and their boss came over to me and told me to move - that they didn’t want this element in front of their mission - "this element" - can you imagine? "This element" is Black - The people of the streets made a circle around myself and the man and his rent-a-cops - I certainly did not want any trouble - I told them so - But I was appalled and sickened by the episode -

There are many more people getting arrested on Skid Row that any other parts of the city - like this is where all the money is - If this kind of street sweeping and degrading of mankind was the order of the day, let’s say, in Redondo Beach or Beverly Hills - how long would it last? Are we not all God’s children? Or, does He segregate His flock?

I want to give water to the thirsty - soup and to the one who is cold - I truly want to comfort the soul - I want to look deep into the eyes of my brother and sister - I want to be my brother’s keeper - I want to mingle among the multitudes - I want to feel their heartbeat -I want to share their tears - I want the people of the streets to feel my presence as I feel theirs - The mutual respect for them for me and me for them is the bond - the link that cements the principle of everlasting faith between two entities depriving not the force of love -

It was dictated to me some 12 years, a calling if you will by a higher being, to receive no compensation nor solicit any money for what I was to embark on - and to serve humanity in the area of Skid Row, downtown Los Angeles - I have fulfilled the dictates to the best of my belief - 630,000 meals have been served - thousands of people connected with frontline - giving for the purity of giving - A true miracle for each of us -

I thank God for allowing me to be an instrument of His will - I thank the people of Frontline for their unselfish act of support - Truly the miracle belongs to each of you - I have survived with you and you with me - Together a difference has been made-

Fall, 1994

I am not out to change anyone, only to comfort the soul; to still the racing mind for a moment; to give back to humanity the courage it has given me to carry on; to be an example of caring; to stand among the multitudes, not ahead, nor behind; to see my brother, to see my sister, with purity, honesty, unselfishness and love; to segregate not the child from the adult, the black from the white, the men from  women, the gay from straight, the Christian from the non, the rich from the poor, the sick from the well. Our society has segregated the segregated, beyond any human comprehension, permitting the vial of corruption, deceit, hate, greed to permeate the area of love designated by the Maker, encapsuled for the future of mankind to visit. Allow the human to lay their head where it will glean the most solace.


June, 1998

The world has changed. Fear is prevailing in our society. Seeds of doubt in our justice system, overpopulation pounding our cities with decaying values; selfishness spilling over the pot of greed, surfacing to unproportional degrees.

I wrote this preceding paragraph several years ago. Much to my dismay, the picture has not changed.

As I have grown older and the importance of self has diminished, I feel with great intensity the feelings, both joyous and tragic, of humanities' swirling existence. When that girl drove those two children into the lake a few years ago, the picture I will never forget is when the diver found the car, and how the babies' hands were clutching the window. I relive that moment when the car was submerging, those two children wondering for a brief moment where their mother was, and what was going on, before fear and epic tragedy set in. Oh my God. I feel their horror, I feel their pain, I feel their fear. The only solace in my heart is knowing they are sitting with God, warmed by his thoughts.

It does not only hold true for this side of the spectrum. Experiencing the joy of giving and seeing the face light up of another, the triumphs, the successes of others, to be able to sense the love generated within a wolf pack for each other, to sense the loss of a bear cub when her mother is shot, a fallen deer brought down by the hunter in the wilds-- her fawn looking on, there are all sorts of feelings that I feel when freedom of self prevails: loneliness beyond reproach, understanding of others, the agony and ecstasy of life itself. The freer I've become, the less obstacles are in the way between myself and the truth. Truth and principles have become one, justifications obsolete, rationalizations extinct. The wonderment of seeing a sunset on the ocean is a reality uncluttered by the cacophony of our society.

There are tears in my heart for the human race. There is pain in my frame for humanity. Mankind teeters on the brink of self-destruction--the animals are being crowded out of their habitat. When all the wildlife ceases to be . . . Are we next?

The Touch of the Master’s Hand

by Ray Castellani, September, 1998by Ray Castellani, September, 1998

One of the greatest - no, the greatest treasure of  life, I firmly believe - is freedom of self - to stand amid the center of a hurricane and have calm of soul - the awareness I sense - to know and feel tranquility within my heart - not to be ruffled or swayed in any direction - nor to be steeped in fear - worry or discontentment - the eye of the storm centered in my being - relinquishing only love - compassion and understanding - for the human race - to be able to put the welfare of others ahead of my own - to be able to feel someone else’s pain or to share in their dream - to avoid argument and retaliation - to respect the viewpoints of others - to be able to listen -

There were years I was involved with self - The lack of freedom - disallowing the comfort of giving freely - the fears that are attached to the constant thought of myself - echoed consistently through my very existence -

This is why I believe freedom of self is the greatest gift I received in this world of ours - I believe this is why I love the streets of Skid Row so much - I feel the intensity of humanity - It is an honor for me to serve the people of the streets - a privilege to be used as an instrument -

Eleven years will be coming up soon - I am as excited now as I was on Dec. 5, 1987   - to pull my truck up at 5th and Crocker, downtown Los Angeles -I am as humbled now as I was when I left downtown the first time - I take no credit for the demonstration of this powerful miracle for the betterment of mankind - It was orchestrated by the Master - truly the Touch Of The Master’s Hand -Not only did He involve me, but thousands of others contributing to His pure entity of love  - for His children of the streets -

But are not we His children also? A circle of compassion - a ring of hope - a smile for many - a tear for some - Thank you again dear people for being involved on this journey - for without you - the journey would be but a dream devoid of action -

November, 1996

What better gift for me to give my fellow beings but a smile, a look of love into the eyes of the despaired, to have acceptance of what a human being is rather than to try to change the soul, to be an example of purity, honesty, unselfishness and love, to have no motives, to be free of all ideology, to focus only on the betterment of mankind.



November 1995

If I had ever been told in 1987 that I was going to be approaching 1/2 a million meals served to the society known as Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, and that eight struggling years were to pass, I might have let the boat go by.

Instead here it is, November, 1995. The world has changed. Fear is prevailing in our society, seeds of doubt in our justice system, overpopulation pounding our cities with decaying values, selfishness spilling over the pot of greed, surfacing to unproportional degrees.

Yet I have seen through my own experience the communion of people, the caring, the love, the dedication,  tireless volunteers working to serve humanity, where everyone is equal, color has no value, and religion is in God's hands.

To each and everyone of the thousands of people that have contributed to Frontline in any form, it is an honor to thank you, to be alive to say thank you. You the people are a tribute to mankind. You have restored dignity for a brief moment to the unwanted, despaired of our society. For that moment the communion of humanity is complete.