Debbie loved to cook fresh Dungeness crab every New Year’s eve. Up until that point in my life I'd never had fresh crab (artificial crab doesn’t count right?) Hell, I’d never seen a live crab cooked before. So as she started placing the live, still moving crabs into the pot of boiling hot water, my instant reaction with was to go into mock-tortured-voice of what the poor crabs were saying, screaming in pain “aaaaaaaagggggh", "Debbie stooooop," "the water sooooooo hot, ooooouuucccchhhh”.
Needless to say she was thoroughly annoyed, “OH STOP THAT!” she yelled. And I was howling with laughter. In fact, I was howling with laughter so hard, she then started with howling with laughter. And there we were both howling with laughter.
We shared a lot of laughter together, back in the 80s I dated her daughter Gina, and I spent a lot of time around her and her family, living at her house on and off. She was one of the most spirited, fiery, spicy women I’ve ever known in my life, and she was downright fucking amazing.
In many ways she was a second mom to me.
She had a devastating wit, she had the ability to size somebody up, find all of their cosmetic flaws, and then make a devastating joke about them if need be, and the time arose.
Later on, Genevra and I would go out to sushi with her on a regular basis, and we would have these incredible conversations long into the night, well after the restaurant had closed it’s doors and all the patrons had left. We would drink sake and talk, laugh, and sometimes cry, and pontificate about life and the world.
She was tough as nails, so many battles with cancer, and she beat them left and right. She lost a breast and didn’t blink an eye, would make jokes about it being gone!
She also was one of the most giving people I know, almost to a fault. She funded most of the Bay Area metal scene in someway or another, often times not getting paid back.
Her funeral with a who’s-who of metal royalty. Hetfield showed up and spoke at it, which was very, very cool of him. The first time that I ever hung out with Hetfield with at Debbie’s house before going to the 49er game with her, her son Ricky, James, and Gina. Fun fact: we went to sushi after and that was the first time I ever ate sushi.
Her death was only slightly overshadowed by the death of Ronnie James Dio the same day, I paid tribute to the 2 of them by covering Black Sabbaths incredible Dio-era song “Die Young”. If you’ve never heard it, you can listen here:
10 years... man… that’s crazy… I'm glad you were part of my life Debbie Abono, the words of wisdom that you gave me during our long conversations will stick with me forever.
Photo: Gene Ambo