Saturday, April 13, 2019

Promise Broken

I promised myself I would stay out of political commentary as it has gotten both uncivil and frustrating. But when I saw this, I just couldn't resist. Maybe because he is soooo cute.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Book Report: "Christ Stopped at Eboli - The Story of a Year" by Carlo Levi

Book Report: Christ Stopped at Eboli - The Story of a Year by Carlo Levi

This book was recommended to me by my cousin Elaine who said if I was interested in learning more about the historic Southern Italy this book by Carlo Levi would offer great insights.

Levi wrote the book in 1945. Levi details his sojourn in Gagliano (pronounced ga-liano) that took place in1935 when he was exiled as an anti-fascist political prisoner to a small mountain village in Southern Italy. It was thought that sending and confining dissidents to one of these villages was worse than prison.

The title of the book, Christ Stopped at Eboli, signifies how the peasants felt about the godforsaken land of Southern Italy where they lived.

Eboli is a town about 60 miles south of Naples. The people in the southern provinces of Basilicata and Calabria would often say that they were forgotten by the State, by the Church, by their conquerors, by their landlords and by Christ himself. They were certain that Christ himself, had he been to Italy, would never have set foot south of Eboli because it was such a wasteland. They were even reluctant to call themselves Christians, a word that was equated with being human - they were merely animals, not human beings, south of Eboli.

Levi, (and certainly his translator as well), is both eloquent and down-to-earth in his descriptions of the people and events that took place during his year in Gagliano when he was embraced by the townsfolk as the new doctor. Levi had some medical background and his knowledge of medicine was a godsend to the people of Gagliano which, like the entire region was devastated by malaria. All the peasants had at their disposal to treat illness or injury were spells and magic and potions.

Levi repeatedly describes the poverty that is so ubiquitous a presence that it is an entity of itself and his story would make no sense otherwise. But he is not sentimental or sensational or detached in his recounting of the events of the people of Gagliano. He does so with a great deal of respect and even admiration for the peasants whose lives are a continual struggle against the powers that be and their own existential predicament.

The territory of Southern Italy had been conquered repeatedly by foreigners from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the Spaniards and the Bourbons. Given the perpetual state of poverty and of being the conquered, the peoples of Southern Italy devised many survival strategies which included a certain temperament of the people - a kind of balance between rebellion and despair, ancient superstitions and belief in magic and spells, unquestioned customs and rites.

My interest in the book stems from the fact that my paternal grandparents both came from a mountain town in Calabria. Although they came to America in 1910, before Levi’s year in exile, they came out of the same poverty and environment. I was able to relate my visit to the town of my ancestors in Calabria in 1968 with much of what Levi described. I can’t help but wonder which, if any, of my character traits or psyche are rooted in that ancient Calabrian consciousness.

This book may not hold the interest of most of my readers but is certainly and eye-opener for anyone whose ancestors came from Southern Italy. Most Americans of Italian descent have no idea. And today, when some Americans are so afraid of immigrants and ready to build walls, the stories of yesterday's immigrants have lessons for us.

 If interested, you can read some excerpts at Amazon.

Also recommended is the PBS Documentary Series, The Italian Americans

ADDENDUM - EXCERPT FROM MY MEMOIR:  1968 trip from school in Rome to Spadola

My fascination with Italy, my desire to learn the language, and my plan to visit Grandma’s village were all part of an unarticulated scheme to consolidate my fragile identity as an Italian and establish my right to belong, if not in Italy, then in my own family. After all, it was Grandma who once told me: “You are not-a like-a the other grandchil’ren.” Perhaps I would fit in better if I were more Italian.

During the Thanksgiving break I went to visit my father’s aunt and uncle in a small village in Calabria, in Southern Italy. Spadola was the town where my paternal grandparents lived before sailing to Ellis Island on their way to Hartford, Connecticut’s Italian neighborhood. Without much of a plan, I hitched a ride to Naples with a fellow student who had a car, and from there I was able to hop a train to Vibo Valencia, the closest station to Spadola.

In a forlorn trattoria near the train station, I ordered a plate of spaghetti and, having no idea how I would complete my journey, I asked the waiter how to get to Spadola. My inquiry was soon relayed to a group of men who interrupted their wine drinking and loud talk to huddle like members of a soccer team deliberating a strategy. One of them emerged, having been appointed by the team: a middle-aged man with several days’ growth of beard, a scruffy v-neck sweater and an English style cap. A cigarette hung precariously from the corner of his mouth sending smoke into his right eye. 

He took the cigarette with his thumb and index finger and, exhaling a lungful of smoke, he said in a mix of English and Italian, “I take-a you a Spadola, dieci milla lire, va bene?” For about sixteen dollars American, he would drive me the forty-five or fifty kilometers to Spadola.

Desperation, or at least a lack of options, made it easier for me to trust this guy. We got in his Fiat Cinquecento and we drove off together into the hills. As soon as we reached the top of the first big hill in the middle of nowhere (there is, apparently, a “middle of nowhere” not too far from everywhere else on the planet), we came to a slow roll as Guido took his foot off the accelerator. As we passed the crest of the hill and, with obvious deliberation, he then turned the key off, killing the car’s engine. He turned to me and smiled. This made me more than just a little nervous.

I asked him what was going on, “Che succede?”

“Non preoccuparti,” he replied for me not to worry.

Then he rattled off something in an Italian dialect that I did not understand as he simultaneously lit a cigarette and let the car roll down the hill. I learned that there were plenty of mountains between Vibo Valencia and Spadola but no petrol stations. Guido was determined to save gas however he could.

We eventually arrived in Spadola with fuel to spare and my driver was able to locate my relatives by asking a villager. My father’s aunt, Zi’Giuseppina and uncle, Zi’Francesco, were unprepared for my arrival, as I had never given them a definite day or time to expect me. But they and other relatives in the village were more than welcoming and accommodating.

My father’s cousin Vito, whom Dad never met, owned a small general store and he secured a piece of beefsteak for dinner on my first night there. This was a gesture of respect and honor for a relative from America—a kindness I didn’t feel I deserved. On the contrary, I was embarrassed to be the only one at the table with meat on his plate. Such gestures made me aware that I was an outsider, no matter what my bloodline. There were very few young people in the old village, most having left to find jobs in large cities. 

One middle-aged Spadolese, perhaps slightly embarrassed by the poverty of his town and with a sharp flavor of resentment in his voice, told me, in fairly good English: “You come-a here ehn you see how-a we are live. Then you-a go back-a your big villa in Ah-mee-rica and tell everybody how poor we ah’ here. You will-a never come-a back. You too good-a for us, no?”

The short time I spent in Spadola gave me a first-hand perspective on Grandma’s stories and my roots as well as three-dimensional memories to try to fit into my new identity: my great aunt and great uncle’s home with a fire pit in the kitchen and the pot of espresso brewing in the embers; the sound of zampogne—ancient Roman bagpipes—playing pastoral hymns at dawn in honor of the novena to Saint Nicholas; the hunt for wild mushrooms with cousin Vito and his two kids; the town’s ancient fountain; the church my grandmother helped to build. 

But all of these images, rather than bring me closer to my identity, only made me more keenly aware of the fact that I was very different and did not belong. Having grown up in a small New England city where we were the “Italians” among the “Irish” and the “Polish” and the “French,” I never thought of myself as“American” until some Italian university students, pointing to a group of us from the U.S. and gesturing wildly, referred to us as quegli americani—those Americans. 

I never expected my quest for an identity to entail my being an American. I would never be an Italian, nor did I feel like I would ever really fit into the Italian-American culture of big weddings, baby-making, baptisms, and huge family gatherings.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Apologies to My Readers

To my readers, (all 10 or so of you),

I just discovered at least 20 comments from readers that never got published. The comments were sitting in the "awaiting moderation" section of the dashboard.

Usually all comments are channeled through my email and I hit "publish" from the email message. I don't have a clue as to why these particular comments didn't pass through my email...and I'm afraid that those who made the comments might think I purposely deleted their comments. That was not the case.

But the posts in question are from some time ago and my posts are probably mostly irrelevant by now.

Anyhow, my apologies to all those whose comments got temporarily "lost" in the blogosphere.

- Frank

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Not What We Bargained For

Another snow storm yesterday and it is 1ยบ F this morning! It's warmer back in Connecticut! Spent a few hours digging out ourselves and our neighbors yesterday.

We're expecting to remain below freezing until Friday and perhaps more snow Monday and Tuesday.

Leon used to brag that the snow here would melt by the time he finished a cup of coffee...he's going  to be drinking lots of coffee, so we had better start brewing...

This Morning - 12-29-18

Icicles, Popsicles, 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

" 'Twas The Day After Christmas"

'Twas two days before Christmas when here in our town
The sun was a-shining and the earth was so brown
The temperatures soared to at least fifty-five 
So we got in the car and went for a drive
To Santa Fe Plaza, Zafarano and KMart
Where last minute gifts were tossed into the cart

Then the night before Christmas the town was all lit
With colorful lights that twinkled a bit
We drove around town to see the display
In our car - no horse, no open sleigh
Back home within minutes, our town is so small
We wished Merry Christmas to all

But the day after Christmas we got a surprise
The white stuff was falling just after sunrise
It coated the ground then piled up high
So heavy and thick, it blocked out the sky
The dog was excited to see the new snow
He waited for me, a snowball to throw

We had fun like we did when we lived in the east
Walking through snow, just me and the beast
It occurred to me then, that a person of snow
In our front yard would make a good show
Three balls of snow, a carrot, a hat
The silly snow sculpture appeared, just like that

Then by the fire, we wished friends all good cheer
The day after Christmas and... 
Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Needing a Hearing Aide? or Recently on Netflix

Let me begin by saying that I'm likely to be a good candidate for some kind of hearing aide soon. I've noticed a problem, especially when watching certain TV programs.

Voices range from easily understandable to impossible to decipher. Usually I get a few words, then miss the four or five words that would convey the meaning of the sentence, come-back or joke. Some womens' voices are most difficult, perhaps because of the high pitch. Increasing the volume doesn't always help.

Among the impossible to understand are Megan Mulally on Will and Grace, Melissa Rauch on Big Bang Theory, and Minnie Driver on Speechless. I'm also having trouble with Modern Family and New Amsterdam (with the irritating background music/noise). Most of the time I just give up, turn to my computer for entertainment while Leon watches the shows (which we record on TiVo so we can skip all the commercials and watch a 30-minute show in 20).

When English, Scottish, Australian or similar accents are involved, (Minnie Driver among others) it is so much more difficult to understand. (See recent review of Deep Water - a great drama but I had to have closed captions on in order to follow the story).

So last evening we watched Outlaw King on Netflix.

High marks as far as spectacular scenery, cast of thousands, period costumes, Medieval castles, ariel views of the English and Scottish countryside, and bloody battles.

Otherwise I found the story difficult to follow, 1) because it was difficult to understand the actors' speech and 2) I couldn't always figure out who were the English, who were the Scots on the side of Robert the Bruce and which ones were his rivals; or who was fighting whom.

I wondered how the Scots and the English distinguished who to impale with a sword in the chaos of battle. I also wondered how they filmed the many horses going down, hopefully without harming a single one. Unless you are a great fan of Medieval English/Scottish history, this one may not be worth spending two hours watching - not even for the few seconds of Chris Pine naked.

We got through it. Leon did not give it great reviews either.

In the total opposite direction is Kominsky Method, a Netflix series starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin. It is smart, warm, funny and entertaining. Someone called it Frankie and Grace for guys.

Episode 2 is precious, especially the funeral scene.

Looking forward to seeing the rest of the series. Recommended.

Monday, November 19, 2018

A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Anyone who knows me, knows that Christmas is not my favorite holiday...for reasons I won't go into.

But we usually do a little holiday decoration here and there: lights mostly, some greens, a ceramic tree that Leon's had for ages, a couple of stockings by the fireplace and a little one-piece sculpted nativity scene.

I heard that anyone with a saw and $10 could get a permit to cut a tree in the National Forest here in New Mexico.

So, in an effort to do my part in the monumental job of forest management, I decided that we (Leon and I and two of our friends) should go on a tree hunting expedition. I wasn't in it so much for the tree as for the day out and a little adventure.
One of our friends slipping and sliding
When we stopped at the ranger station to get our permit, I paid our $10, got a map and informed the clerk/ranger that I had, unfortunately, forgotten to bring along a rake (like in Finland?). She smiled and said, no problem.

So we were off into the Pecos woods in the Ford pickup, through snow and mud (sorry for all that mud on your truck, Leon), in search of a worthy tree.
The pines are nice, but way too big, and not right for a Christmas tree.

One of our friends trekking through snow.
Maybe we didn't drive far enough up the mountain because the trees were not really great specimens for   holiday decorating. Plenty of pines but nothing like a Douglas Fir or spruce. Not sure what type of evergreen we were finding but here is what we got. (I probably wouldn't have paid $10 for it at the corner gas station, but the getting it was worth the price).
Our "Charlie Brown" Tree
This wasn't the first for us: see here, and here.

Got a Pic of a Trio of Deer on Our Way Out
It will go out in the courtyard for the season. I'm not sure if it is even strong enough to hold a string of lights.

Well, it's not the Rockefeller Plaza tree, but it was a fun day out and we all stopped for a late lunch on the way home. Just enjoyed the ride and the company. And, well, forest management, you know.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Another Shooting



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Two Netflix Choices - Not Exactly "Popcorn" Worthy, But Worth Watching

Need some relief from politics and not looking forward to all the Black Friday advertising? Try a couple of Netflix documentaries. Not ones I'd pop corn for...but be my guest and go for the popcorn if you like. Enjoy!

Packed In A Trunk - The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkenson

The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Worse Everyday: Pence's "christian rabbi’ Ignores Shooting Victims to Pray for Republicans

With all due respect for the victims of anti-Semitic violence in Pittsburg, their families, their loved ones and the entire community, I post this entry:

I watch the news every day and I am generally expecting, (and my expectations are always met),  more outrageous news from the current administration.

All the blogs I read are commenting on the news, expounding on the outrageousness and stupidity and dangers and illegalities, and atrocities of the administration and its supporters.

So I have pretty much given up blogging about it myself, as others do a good job and, well, who reads this blog anyhow?

But every once in a while there is a story that really gets under my skin. This is one of them:

Link: Article on Pence's "Christian Rabbi"   (Be sure to read the Twitter comments in the article)

and here: LGBT Nation

Who knew there were "christian rabbis" trying to convert Jews?

And that one would be invited pray for republican candidates days after the shooting at the Synagogue in Pittsburg, rather than pray for the dead?

The height of insensitivity gets higher every day with this arrogant, ignorant, self-serving administration. Hubris beyond the definition of hubris.

I fear Pence (who is calculating and fanatic, if not outright evil) is inherantly more dangerous than our president (who is merely a stupid, arrogant, narcissistic puppet).

Sunday, October 28, 2018

I Guess This Is A Bright Spot In The Week's News

Matthew Shepard's ashes were interred this week at the National Episcopal Cathedral.

A bright spot because the interment is not only fitting and respectful, but it also serves as a strong message to all fundamentalist christians that they do not speak for all people of faith. Especially in view of the fact that Matthew's parents legitimately feared that any grave or memorial site would very likely be vandalized.

That is a sad commentary on the state of our world.

Over the past twenty years we LGBT folks have seen so much progress: we've won Supreme Court victories, we've gotten marriage equality, we've had LGBT celebrities come out, we see sympathetic, multi-dimensional and mainstream LGBT characters on TV and in movies. We've gotten the sense that we've arrived, that we are not only tolerated, but accepted and even admired; that the world we live in has become safer and more enlightened and that our country's values have evolved.

UNTIL the new wave of hatred, intolerance and bigotry arrived on the heels of this current president's campaign, beginning in June of 2015.

The floodgates were opened further on election day 2016, when many of his supporters felt that their hateful opinions were given legitimacy and they became hell-bent on un-doing and destroying everything that Mathew Shepard and the LGBT community had fought for and achieved.

It is just inconceivable how we have arrived at this place.

It is wrong and discouraging that we should have to see our fortress being dismantled piece by piece, or that we should have to fight the good fight all over again.

And all those allies and friends sometimes really don't seem to fully get it. There is danger afoot in this administration and among it's rabid supporters. Stay vigilant.

We will not be shaken, we will be strong. Stay strong my friends, stay strong.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Leon & Frank - 4th Anniversary October 25th, 2018

This is for my hubby, Leon, in celebration of our 4th Anniversary and 30 years of sharing our lives with one another. So I am posting this little slide show of some of our moments together. It maybe a bit pretentious, but hey, it's my blog.

I, we, Leon and I, have been truly fortunate.

During my many years of self-doubt and anguish I never believed I would have a boyfriend, a lover, a partner, a spouse, let alone 30 years of friendship and love. Such things were not even in my realm of imagined possibilities.

But here we are. After 30 years, still going strong for one another.

Thank you Leon, with all my love:

Music: Jeff Krassner, I Will Be Strong For You from the album of the same name.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Popcorn Movie - Deep Water - Netflix

Sunday was a stay-indoors Netflix day: cold, wet and dreary. We decided to binge-watch an Australian 4-episode miniseries called Deep Water. 

Australian Detective Tori Lustigman gets deeply  involved in investigating the murder of a gay man near Bondi Beach. She and partner Nick Manning are led on a trail of evidence that goes back to a series of gay-bashing murders that took place in the 1980s and 90s that were never solved or pursued by the authorities.

Intricate threads of evidence and connections are revealed as the story evolves and the many loose ends keeps one wanting to watch and learn more. There is not only the mystery being solved, but also the many deeply emotional scars that the characters reveal during the investigation that make the story compelling. (not to mention some eye-candy) We had to watch it through to the end of the 4th episode to see how the many loose ends are finally resolved. Definitely recommended (but if you are anything like me when it come to other than American English), with this caveat:

USE YOUR CLOSED CAPTION OPTION because the Australian accent is very strong (especially that of Chief Inspector Peel). The closed caption made a world of difference as I was getting exhausted trying to translate Australian to English in my head and missing much of the dialogue. Did the rewind from the beginning after 10 minutes, with captions...much better.

The story is based on actual cases of a large number of murders of gay men that took place along the Australian coast in the late 80s and early 90s. *

After a whole day of cold, dreary rain on Sunday, we woke up to this, this morning:

Much too early in the season for snow and freezing temps in this neck of the desert. Hope I can save some of those tomatoes!

* Note: I have been irritable, angry, cranky, depressed and disturbed all day today (Monday) and I think it has something to do with after-effects of watching the "Deep Water" story. The fact that gay men were (and in many cases still are) bashed and murdered for being who they are, is disturbing to the core. 

As Wikipedia states "The drama is based on the historical, unsolved hate murders of possibly 30 to 80 gay men in Sydney's eastern suburbs and beaches in the 1980s and '90s."  A documentary was aired by Australian TV at the same time as the series.

Links to the documentary here: Part 1
Part 2

I haven't watched the documentaries yet...I'm not sure I'm ready emotionally to watch.


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