Bobby Ferrando is many things: a former restaurateur, a motorcycle enthusiast, and—above all—a 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. 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.