Sunday, May 22, 2016

Book Report: "Call Me By Your Name" by André Aciman


I finally finished Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman. 

I can’t say it was a real page-turner for me, which is probably why I read it over several weeks. I had read several excellent reviews and hoped that this book would live up to the expectations they engendered.

The narrator, Elio, a precocious seventeen year-old becomes infatuated with Oliver, who is a few years older and a summer guest of Elio’s Jewish family living on the Italian Rivera. Oliver is a summer intern for Elio’s father, a professor. So Elio and Oliver have very intellectual and esoteric conversations, that is, when they are not having coded, innuendo-laden, ambiguous exchanges. This works for a while but by the half-way point of the book has become tedious because Elio is constantly analyzing and second-guessing what it all means. 

The reader is left guessing as well: will they or won’t they? Enough mental masturbation and teasing. I became quite impatient with Elio’s self-reflective monologues and endless rumination as well as with the prolonged cat-and-mouse game between Elio and Oliver; though I wasn’t sure who was the cat and who was the mouse or if most of it was just in Elio’s imagination until Oliver confessed to having feelings for Elio even though they both seemed to go to great lengths to avoid, not only their own feelings, but each other.

I am being much too critical here because on some level I can relate to being in Rome as a twenty year-old student and being confused about expressing my sexuality and having been infatuated with a guy that I’d said good-by to in the States - a person I’ve ruminated on and written about in my own memoir and whom I often wondered whether there was anything between us. So the story is, perhaps, at its core, believable -- but more believable in 1968.

I did occasionally like the author’s style (presenting dialogue as part of Elio’s reflection or at times, as entirely hypothetical, I think) and I found many of the author's passages beautifully worded, though sometimes to a fault.

I really wanted to read a gay love story but was left somewhat disappointed with the characters’ supposed bi-sexual proclivities. I found Elio to be presented as perhaps “gayer” than Oliver, so his sexual exploits with Marzia seemed out of character. That, and the insinuation that Oliver was also having heterosexual encounters was a real turn-off for me. I like my men Kinsey-sixes. I guess I wasn’t surprised that Oliver eventually gets married to a woman and has a family. This is a familiar story.

Back to when Elio and Oliver finally had sex: it was anti-climactic and only minimally romantic. It was once again Elio’s thoughts, feelings and self-doubts that took the excitement out of it - it was not so much sex as thinking about having or having had sex that was most real for Elio. We never really know much about what Oliver thinks or feels.

I am fascinated with endings. Too often authors seem at a loss when it comes to tying up loose ends and ending a novel. I liked the ending of this book. 

Except for the fact that, even when they meet twenty years later, both Oliver and Elio are much too young for the wisdom they’ve acquired, their final two encounters seem somewhat more real and believable. 

But Elio hasn't changed: he still wishes for Oliver to be, to say the words that would mean, everything to him. We never know what Oliver says when he says good-bye for the last time. Hopefully it wasn’t “Later!”

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Something for Mothers and.....Too Weird and Too Sad

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY

Grandma, Maria Concetta [Carlino] DeFrancesco
Grandma, Rosa [Nesta] Daversa
Mom, Theresa [Daversa] DeFrancesco
My paternal grandmother, my gramma, Maria Concetta Carlino DeFrancesco was born in Polistena, near Reggio Calabria in southern Italy. The territory was part of Magna Graecia, in centuries BC, and the name derives from the Greek, Polyxene or Polysthene. But I can’t trace my family much further back than my great-grandparents.

My gramma used to tell stories. Stories of the old country. Apocryphal stories about the saints. Stories with lessons about life and family. But she rarely if ever talked about her childhood or her upbringing or her own family.

I can only piece together a sketch of her life in Calabria from things she hinted at when telling her lessons. She often mentioned the fountain, La Fontana, where the villagers got their drinking water, and maybe only once mentioned the olive groves where they shook ripe olives from the trees onto blankets or burlap tarps and gathered them up for the harvest.

She told about how she used to skin rabbits. After making a slit in the rabbit’s skin and inserting a tube of rigatoni she would blow into the pasta tube to make the air separate the rabbit’s skin from the flesh. And she would peel the skin and fur off the rabbit “like-a you’ pajamas” she would say.

The image of grandma as a young girl peeling the furry pajamas off a rabbit still makes me smile just a bit.

Grandma never talked about her parents. I was never sure why that was.

I remember when she came to our house one Sunday and we were listening to a record album of Italian and Neapolitan songs. One of the songs “Mamma,” seemed to cause her to become a bit emotional - a side of her I’d rarely seen.

It was years before I understood that not only did she leave behind her family in Italy, but that her own mother had died when she was young. Her father had remarried and he and his new wife had more children - two that I know of, Maria Antonietta grandma’s half sister, and Salvatore, a half brother.

Maria Antonietta who we called aunt Zi’Mar’Antone also came to the US. I remember grandma having a kind of rivalry with Zi’Mar’Antone and it was clear she didn’t like or respect her half-sister very much.

I think grandma held some resentment toward the woman who took her mother’s place and bore her half-siblings. But I never really knew that for certain. I did come to realize that the pain of losing her mother was something she bore for her entire lifetime.


For my mother and my grammas:





While working on this post for mother's day and deciding to post a rare photo of my mother with both of my grandmothers, I found myself easily diverted to google maps to find the town of Polistena, Calabria, Italy, the town where my paternal grandmother was born.

There I spotted a street named Via Agrati and immediately thought of Dan Agrati (Don Grady) of the TV shows,  Mouseketeers and My Three Sons. He of course was one of the first celebrities I had a teenage crush on while growing up.

As one thing leads to another, I Googled: "What ever happened to Don Grady?" only to learn that he died in 2012.


Why I felt such a profound sense of sadness, I'm not entirely certain. He was only four years older than me, and he died at the age of 68, the age I am now. Yet he is, and always will be, a teenager in my mind and in my libido.

I was reminded about the time, a few years ago, that I looked up a buddy, I hadn't seen in many years, Dennis Silva, for whom I had quite the hots back in my sophomore year of college and about whom I wrote in my memoir - where I called him Silvio DaVilla.

I knew that he was on the faculty of a small college in upstate New York, so, using that information, I  Googled him - only to find, at the top of the page, his obituary. He died in 2012 also.

There again I experienced such a profound sadness that seemed out of all proportion. After all, we never kept in touch, so it wasn't like losing a close friend.

Perhaps it was a different kind of loss. Dennis Silva, Don Agrati, both were men I had had crushes on, been infatuated with or maybe even loved in some way. I don't want these men to be dead,

Perhaps it was realizing that death is unfair, that it comes too soon, that it robs the living when it takes a friend, a love, a fantasy. When it rips a secret out of one's heart.

And though I started with a tribute to two generations of mothers, my mother and my grandmothers, I was brought to a totally different place where I reflect on the ephemeral nature of life and my own mortality.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Much Needed Kick-In-The-Pants From One Of My Readers

I have of late thought about discontinuing this blog...as I often feel I have little to say or no energy or enthusiasm to say it. 

But I received a comment today from Kathy, one of my loyal readers after posting about my meager royalties from my published memoir.  She said:

I don't know much about this sort of thing. Maybe you need to build up your online presence. Post more often on your blog and when someone leaves a comment it might help if you acknowledge that comment. Also, comment more often on the blogs you visit. I have seen some very popular blogs that receive numerous hits. One example is a blog written by a man who writes about nothing in particular. But yet he's open and honest in his telling of everyday, mundane matters. He shares his thoughts on the funny and the absurd and yes, even those things that piss him off. His blog is no different than yours in terms of content. The big difference is that he posts something almost every single day. His readership is through the roof and many people have asked him to write a book. If you can build a relationship with your audience they will think of you as a friend. It takes time and effort to build up a readership. You have to be dedicated and disciplined. I am interested in your life and when I first found your blog I went back to the very beginning and read every post. Something has changed and you have lost the desire to write. It's a shame because you have so much to offer.
"I could be telling you about the wind storms in New Mexico or the Sunday brunch at San Marcos Cafe. Or about the Community Garden in Cochiti Lake or about Leon's job at the Mini-Mart".
Why not write about this stuff? I would like to know how things are going because I am invested in you and think you and Leon have a story worth telling.


My reply:

Wow!

Thank you Kathy, for your very thoughtful and engaging comments. You are right, I have lost some of my enthusiasm for writing. Other things have become priorities, and maybe not for the better. Our move to New Mexico, while providing great topics for writing, has taken up a great deal of time and energy...

I am lousy at self-promotion and I become easily discouraged. After so many years of having a blog with less and less feedback from readers and "demands" from family and friends to keep them informed via Facebook, a format that I deeply despise, I find that I have little time or energy for the more creative stuff that I was aiming for with Reluctant Rebel.

You have given me much to think about and maybe a little incentive to get back to basics. Facebook sucks the life out of me! One feels obligated to check on "friends" from time to time, read their posts and re-posted cute sayings and trite platitudes, watch funny videos and view every comment that people make on everyone else's post. Little energy is left for thought or writing. I don't know how some writers and bloggers continue while also keeping up with FB, Twitter, and a slew of other social media.

Perhaps I will try reviving RR and only post links to it on FB.

Thank you for being such a loyal reader. I really appreciate your comments, your encouragement and the kick in the pants that maybe I need to get me back on track. People tell me that writing takes discipline - something I apparently have little of. I'm not sure I can change that character flaw, but I will have to try re-prioritizing some things. I'm not sure our dog Benni will appreciate not being priority #1, so maybe writing will have to come in at #2 or #3....

Thank you again, Kathy, whoever you are and wherever you are...and I will use this as the post for the day.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Royalties (no not Royalty)


Got my $20.98 author royalty check the other day - from the publisher. (That's not a typo). I'm not sure what that represents as there were other outlets on line besides Amazon where my account has me down for a total of 9 sales!

If that is the total of my on-line sales, it comes to approximately $2.33 per book.

I wonder how that will effect next year's taxes.

I figured I'd have sold a few hundred thousand copies by now and that Hollywood would be contacting me for the screenplay and movie rights. Well, I'll give them another year.

The thing is, it's a pretty good read if I do say so myself. One problem is that the cover price is too high - something I had nothing to do with. I know I would hesitate before spending $25 for a memoir by an unknown author. I might not even pay $25 for a great book. 

I'd give rebates if I could, but at $20.98 profit, that ain't going to happen. That's less than the price of a single copy...now that I think of it.

Hey, but if you have 25 bucks buy the book. 

But only if you will ACTUALLY READ IT. I wrote it for a reason...




Wednesday, March 30, 2016

WARNING! DANGER AHEAD!

This keeps happening in Republican controlled State Legislatures. They will try anything to turn back LGBT equality and LGBT rights. Now Mississippi!

See JMG here

Yes, I'm also on an "expose North Carolina bigotry" binge. I could be telling you about the wind storms in New Mexico or the Sunday brunch at San Marcos Cafe. Or about the Community Garden in Cochiti Lake or about Leon's job at the Mini-Mart.

But NO, I'm really pissed at the NC legislature and governor. They are backwards thinking bigots in the guise of "Protector of Women in Bathrooms"

A Sign I Can Imagine Being Posted In Pro-LGBT North Carolina Businesses: "We Do Not Serve Bigots Based On Deeply Held Religious Beliefs and You Can't use Our Rest Rooms Either"

The Keep NC Safe group is utterly ludicrous:

See JMG here

From the Huffington Post: A transgender man in Georgia summed up his thoughts on North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which blocks cities from allowing trans people to use public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.


James Parker Sheffield, 36, sent a clear and direct message to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory with a snapshot and a simply-worded tweet on March 23.



And there's this:


Saturday, March 26, 2016

North Carolina - I Can't Believe I'm Posting About This State Again!

From the editorial board of the New York Times:

 "By promoting the ludicrous idea that transgender women are inherently dangerous, the law endangers citizens who are already disproportionately vulnerable to violence and stigmatization. Transgender men go largely unmentioned in bathroom bill debates, but that could change. James Parker Sheffield, a transgender man with a beard, exposed the foolishness of the law in a tweet to the governor. “It’s now the law for me to share a restroom with your wife,” he wrote, attaching a photo of himself. North Carolina could face serious economic repercussions from the law. It can expect a backlash from leading employers, a potential cut in federal education funding and lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law."

 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

North Carolina - Shame

THE BACKLASH CONTINUES

North Carolina just took the LGBT rights movement in that state 10 years backwards. Backwards being the operative word. Backwards in time, backwards in thinking, backwards in civility, backwards in history.

The backwards North Carolina legislature passed a bill that would ban and/or nullify any local city ordinance protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons from discrimination.

North Carolina - SHAME!  We thought you were a little more enlightened.


Monday, February 29, 2016

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Donald Trump (HBO)

This is well worth a watch even if it is over 20 minutes long. John Oliver demolishes DT and it is not only true but funny.

Monday, February 15, 2016

THE HATE AND LIES CONTINUE



As one of my Facebook readers said, a rare sign for those who are
prone to express such sentiments:
All of the words are spelled correctly


As I say in the epilogue of my memoir:
"Our sexuality, our gayness, is mostly invisible to others. Coming out and being out involves being visible—both when we look in the mirror and when others see us. Sometimes, in order to be visible to others, we have to be “in their face.”

Sometimes we need to tell our stories, each of us, story after story, after story, until they “get it.”
Because “they” are still trying to define “us,” tell us who they think we are, tell us that we are objectively disordered or immoral or sinful or worse.
Who are “they” and who do they think they are?

Unfortunately “they” are not only the ignorant and bigoted, but often otherwise intelligent and sometimes even well-meaning individuals. Why do “they” think they know more about our sexuality, or us, than we do? More to the point, why do they care?

Certainly “they” outnumber “us” and we’ve always been an easy target. Does their inability to save our souls or change us, or to limit our freedom somehow make them inadequate or fearful? What is in it for “them” that they so persist?

It amazes and frustrates me that our stories—the actual lived experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals—are so summarily ignored, discounted, and dismissed.

It baffles me that many vocal and influential individuals persist in holding to and disseminating absurd, erroneous, and irrelevant opinions about us.

This is unacceptable and can no longer be tolerated.

“They” can only make their own positions tenable by repeating questionable scriptures, fabricated “studies,” pseudo-science, and OUTRIGHT LIES —and repeating them over and over as they wholly disregard us and our voices.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Provincetown For Sale

The Provincetown we have known and loved has been changing for years, and some might say, not for the better.

I have complained before how the town, the accommodations, the restaurants, the bars, the retail stores, even the coffee and ice cream have all been moving toward the outer reaches of affordability.

And now this.

McMillan Wharf has been sold  to a super wealthy marina developer who wants to bring in lots of yachts and even more wealthy people who will demand more and more expensive amenities.

McMillan Wharf Sold to Developer

So this is progress?

Provincetown is being SOLD piece by piece to the UltraWealthy. The yachts will dock and they will stay at the "boutique" hotel. 

They will demand taxis and uber drivers, the restaurant prices will increase further, LGBT folk will slowly retreat to Truro or the lower Cape, Neiman Marcus will open a summer retail outlet called Neiman Lite, and the only grocery store in town will be Whole (paycheck) Foods.
I swear if Donald Trump moves into town I will never set foot in Provincetown again.
Oh, but the sewer system will fail eventually.



The old fishermen's wives are turning in their graves, I'm sure.


Yachts will replace fishing boats

But the shark ain't in the water.

The little boats will be welcome, but can they afford a boat slip in the new upscale marina?



Monday, February 1, 2016

Another Little Blurb on Cochiti Lake

Hello to all of you. 

I wish I had enough time to tell you EVERYTHING, but I will suffice with a few brief notes.
Cochiti Lake: A tiny town on the Cochiti Pueblo Reservation with a very interesting history if anyone wishes to read it. (History of Cochiti Lake

Cochiti Lake: A tiny town that in many respects is only slightly off the radar and, while not exactly a well kept secret, is quiet enough not to attract much attention. There is no casino here as there is on many of the reservations. There is a PGA highly rated golf course, a small restaurant, a gas station, a convenience store, a Fire and EMS service and a great little library. Not to forget the Lake and the campground for summer recreation.

Cochiti Lake: About 240 homes +/- and about 500 residents +/-. It is about 5-10 degrees warmer here than in Santa Fe and a lot less snow - we have no snow on the ground as I write this, though there is a chance of snow later today. When it does snow it lasts a day, maybe a few days in the shadows. 

The difference between sun and shadow is like the moon - it can be 40 in the shade and 65 in the sun. Hoping that holds true in summer as well.
There has been a big influx of new people here in Cochiti Lake in the last year or so, and I would say young people though most are in their 50’s and 60’s - we are replacing the real old folks who are dying off in their 80’s or 90’s or moving out to retirement homes or assisted living or to live with sons or daughters.

Anyhow, the town is attractive to many artists and writers, many of whom come here to be near Santa Fe without all of the pretense and cut-throat attitudes. People are here from all over the US and some are from nearby Pueblos. 

What a very interesting mix we all are. Perhaps it is a little age and lots of life experience that gives the residents here so much character. The stories people share about their lives before Cochiti are fascinating. Even those who've lived here for many years have had interesting lives and a wealth of information to share.

Almost everyone here has a dog or two, if not a cat or two. Many of us meet in the morning to walk or hike with our dogs and the usual trek is at least two miles.

We know more neighbors here in 2 months than we did in 15 years in Bristol, CT. (In Bristol we were never in our neighbors’ homes during those 15 years; here we’ve been invited to many homes for parties, for dinner, for casual visits, for artists' get togethers, etc.)

I have met with the new writer’s groups here - there are about six of us. It is quite unstructured at present, but the writing the others shared was quite powerful and enticing. All of us have been published.

Yesterday one of the local artists held a get-together for the town's artists - I thought I qualified on some level, so went. 

There were 12 or 14 people there: Painters, stained glass artists, wood carvers, photographers, pastel painters, other visual arts, writers, potters and ceramics, and combinations of the aforementioned. 

If you get a chance, go to Mountain Meadows Cemetary Chapel in Seymour, CT where you can see an example of the beautiful work of one of our artists, Krysia Napiorkowski of Terryville, CT: http://www.krysiadesignsstainedglass.com/stained-glass-commissions.html

(Yes, my neighbor Krysia up the street in Cochiti Lake is from Terryville,CT - the neighboring town to Bristol, CT! She is a sweetheart. She did a whole series of windows for that chapel. Really spectacular.)

Sometimes I can't believe we are really here - that we are so far from what we were used to for so, so many years. But sometimes I feel right at home. 

Almost everyone we meet was somehow drawn here by either the beauty, the climate, the views, the sunshine, the quiet, the remoteness, the art, the culture, dare I say the spirituality - OK, I'll hold off on that one - and most seem happy with their choice.
Cochiti Lake: A tiny town, remote without being too far from anything - 35 minutes to Santa Fe, 45 minutes to Albuquerque - shopping, culture, restaurants, entertainment. 

However, if you must satisfy your craving for Chinese at the drop of a hat, sorry. Take-out is not around the corner.

But otherwise, it is quite the place.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Bicycling on Cochiti Dam

Went for a bike ride with the neighborhood ladies on the Cochiti Lake Dam.  Leon was off hiking with the dog and Len.

My old 6-speed did OK; my old bones and muscles did pretty much OK too; the hill back to the gate was a little tough, had to stop twice, but made it. 

Linda is the Iron-Woman on an electric assist bike; Angie also on electric assist. Linda and Angie have the hight-tech helmets with rear view mirrors and Linda has the fancy flashy wind breaker. Wendy rode her tricycle; Wendy and I went in more traditional outfits: no helmets, jeans, sweats, down vest. 

We are trying to figure out where to get Cochiti "Lobsters"????












This all just to offer a contrast to the East Coast weather which I hear is pretty normal this time of year. 

It was a bit chilly here this morning, probably about 45 degrees when we went biking. It warmed up later, which it does here - there can be a 30 degree difference or more from when we get up in the morning to mid afternoon.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Not Much New

Not much new here except for the ever changing scenery - the changing light and shadows, sun and clouds, ground and snow, mountains and clouds make for extraordinary views from our deck and along the surrounding trails. Snow in Cochiti Lake: here yesterday, gone today.

Leon and I have both started looking for jobs...I prefer part time, Leon is looking for one good full time position...wish us luck.








Saturday, January 2, 2016

Having Fun With Leon Somehow Always Involves "Work"

We (Leon) decided it would be fun to drive the Dome Road again as last time we only went a mile or two due to time. The road is 17 miles to Route 4 near Los Alamos I believe. I say I believe because we never made it the entire 17 miles. We did a little over 9 miles before we got stuck in a snow drift.
Starting Out Near Cochiti Golf Course
We started the trip in Cochiti where there is barely a dusting of snow, but as we got further the snow covered the ground more and got a bit deeper and then the snow drifts across the road got more numerous. I always have confidence in Leon's ability to drive through anything under any conditions. But we GOT STUCK.

We're usually prepared for things, but of course we had no shovel or chains. Leon dug the snow out from under the tires with the dog's bowl while I went and stripped bark off the dead pine trees. Getting unstuck is WORK.

Thank goodness for the pine trees which perished in a forest fire years ago, because there wouldn't have been bark or anything else to use for traction.  Putting sheets of bark in front and behind the tires kept them from spinning once the tires grabbed the bark. I may not have been a boy scout, and I'm not exactly MacGyver, but I'm not too shabby when it comes to problem solving.

I never have the camera out during the height of any drama. Here are some other photos of the trip.
Starting out on mostly dirt
Using A HulaHoop May Cause Trees To Fall On You
Rocks Fall On Cars Or Come Close


Cochiti Lake


Where We Got Stuck (the first time)
On More Solid Ground (Snow)
Leon: Smile For the Camera
Me:I Knew You'd Get Us Out Of Here Before Spring
Benni: I Dunno, I Was Plenty Worried
Headed Back Down



If We Got Stuck In The Mountains Until Spring
Would We Have Had To Eat the Dog?



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