Friday, January 20, 2017


Uncle Tony is the two men on your right!
Every kid of Italian heritage has or should have an Uncle Tony or an Uncle Joe! All my cousins did, and so did I. My Uncle Tony was actually my Dad's sister's husband. Uncle Tony was a mild meek gentleman who spoke broken English and really loved his booze. Married to my Aunt Angie made him that way. She was a take-charge woman, and a take charge attitude, just your average wife. (Only kidding)

Uncle Tony loved his booze so much that my aunt would hide the booze on him. Meek as Uncle Tony was, he wasn't stupid. He would arrange to play hide and seek with his kids, and would find the booze where it was hidden!

One of his favorite past times was barbecuing at any time of the year, including during a blizzard. Old Uncle Tony would announce around supper time "I make a nice a fire!" Out he would go and make the fire and cook for my aunt.

One year it was graduation time and my aunt lived in a duplex with my father's brother Joe. Uncle Tony and Uncle Joe never got along and on the rare occasion that they did, something would always happen. Both Uncle Joe who had a son graduating high school and my aunt had a daughter who was also graduating this one day. My Aunt Angie was visiting with my Uncle Joe's wife, (who happened to be my Mother's sister, two brothers married two sisters) and Uncle Tony came home from work, and goes over to my Uncle Joe's house looking for Aunt Angie who says to him "Tony, go upstairs and get dressed for the graduation tonight" Of course she meant upstairs next door. So off goes Uncle Tony. Uncle Joe comes home and is told his clothes are all laid out for him on the bed upstairs. Just as he is ready to go up, who comes down but Uncle Tony, all dressed up, and ready to go, in Uncle Joe's suit, shirt, tie, socks, and shoes!

Once, Uncle Joe and Uncle Tony went fishing in a local lake. They were sitting in a rented rowboat when all of a sudden Uncle Joe asked Uncle Tony to give him more bait, Uncle Tony decides to stand up and as he does, falls out of the boat! "Helpa, hime gonna drrrown, I can'ta swim!" thrashing about in the water. He was sitting in the water, the water up to his chest. Uncle Joe looks at him and says: You &$%@$(&! %^@$*&&^, STAND UP, AND GET BACK IN THE DAMNED BOAT! ITS ONLY UP TO YOUR KNEES!

When my Dad was dying, Uncle Tony was living in Florida and was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and somehow found out about my father who was dying here in New York. He loved my father who sponsored him in a late confirmation, goes to my Aunt while shaving: "Shine a my shoes I'm a gonna visit, Tony."

Not too much later Uncle Tony passed on from a heart attack, and when he did, I thought: "I wonder if he's playing hide and seek up there?" I missed both uncles, they help build my life of happy memories!

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Today I go into the Good Samaritan Hospital and my surgeon gets to do what many people wish they could do: slit my throat and clear out a carotid artery! The lucky winner is Dr. Charles LaRosa, a noted surgeon who won the contest. Congratulations, Dr. LaRosa, get a good night's sleep, please.

Recently the media reported that a newborn kidnapped from a hospital 18 years ago was reunited with her biological mother for the first time, after all, these years! One TV personality mentioned that with all the safeguards in place today, it is virtually impossible to do this again, with protections for both the baby and the mother. I guess the kidnappers will now turn their attention to the fathers?

As you know, with the results of the National Election, Donald Trump is becoming President of the United States tomorrow. This means that our health care insurance will be changing once again. The Republicans first said they would repeal the whole thing for two good reasons. One is that it is an Obama idea, and if it is good, Obama can't get any credit for it, and secondly and more importantly, it is the only government sponsored program with two names, which confuses them! Obama Care is what most of us refer to it by, and of course ‘The Affordable Care Act' which is its correct legal name. Since most people and Republican Congressmen didn't know there is no difference between the two, the Republican controlled congress will change only parts of it, calling it Trauma Care.

Tomorrow we install a new President of the United States. People will stand in the freezing cold to watch hundreds of soldiers, marines and sailors march past the Capitol building in Washington, DC. Now millions of Americans will have to change their habits. Learning to write 2017 on their checks rather than 2016, or turning their disgust from: "That bastard Obama!" to: "That bastard Trump!", both are traditional American customs.

After 148 years, the animal rights groups have achieved something, closing down Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baily Circus. These are protestors that have never had a childhood and never experienced the thrill of going to a circus, smelling the popcorn or elephant poop. This is also a big help to the Handsome cabs that run along the New York Avenues, they won't have to wait for the circus to go by.

Birds took the blame for bringing down the jetliner that "Sully" Sullenberger landed on the Hudson River eight years ago this weekend. They have been paying for it with their lives ever since. An Associated Press analysis of bird-killing programs at the New York City area's three major airports found that nearly 70,000 gulls, starling, geese, and other birds have been slaughtered, mostly by shooting and trapping, since the 2009 accident, and it is not clear whether those killings have made the skies safer. However, the National Association of Car-Washers has noted a 56% decrease in business!

Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz has been ordered to step down at exactly 12:01 PM on inauguration day. This perplexes the general of all the troops on the streets and across the country, after all, says the general, he wouldn't leave a mission in the middle of a battle, so he doesn't understand why he is being asked to step down in the middle of Donald Trump's inauguration. My big concern is replacing an experienced general like Schwartz will place DC in deep jeopardy on January 21st, when the Women's March on Washington begins! There could b around 500,000 women marching! NO country has the manpower to handle that many angry women all at once!

Singer Jennifer Holliday has backed out as a performer at next week's presidential inaugural, saying she did not realize that her participation would be interpreted as a statement of support for President-elect Donald Trump. I guess she doesn't realize that Michele Obama, along with her husband WILL be there at the inaugural!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


When I was just married, and living in an apartment in East Patchogue I happened to watch a news magazine program one Sunday afternoon, between football games while I uncontrollably anticipated dinner. The subject of the show was surrogate parents and adoptive children. My young and beautiful wife (she's still beautiful) was pregnant with my daughter, and being how we didn't have children yet, it was a little difficult to fully appreciate all the issues raised in the program.

I was sitting in the living room while the little woman was rattling those pots and pans, when the host of the show asked the question: What would you do if there was a knock on your door and a child was standing there and said: "Hi, I am your spouses' child?" Well, I couldn't wait to open my BIGGGGG MOUTH, and jumped up from the couch and yelled out to the Mrs. "Hey Ellen, what would you do if there was a knock on our door, and a child was standing there and said, "Hi, I am your spouses' child?" Well she came into the living room and repeated the question to confirm it, and answered: "I would tell the child, excuse me for a moment, leave, come back to the child and say: I'm sorry, your father is deceased."

I can assure you one and all, there are NO unclaimed children in MY past.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


--> Growing up in Brooklyn, in the grimy streets, I always looked forward to visiting Patchogue on my summer vacation, and where my cousins lived. Patchogue was the country, the place to roam and run and enjoy the green, green, grass of freedom and joy.

Patchogue held a special spell over me, I loved to visit both my aunt and uncle's homes on Norton Street, a duplex home fueled by coal deliveries, pebbled driveways, and porches as I went about shoeless and wearing light summer clothing, it was heaven for the kid from Brooklyn.

There was a certain excitement to visiting Patchogue, it was a special vacation place for me. Carvel ice cream, eating outside and visiting fireworks or special events like air plane shows, made me feel happy that this place called Patchogue existed.

Somehow being in Patchogue created a comparison for me of the sidewalks, buses and Catholic school discipline of Brooklyn to the happy casual feeling of careless life that Patchogue offered. I was free and carefree. My cousins seemed so relaxed and willing to share their joy.

Often, in the early morning, when the dew was prevalent, I could hear the distant sound of the Long island Railroad train engine, tooting my awake in the morning sunrise, sounding so special and making me want to arise from my bed and go out in the joy of Patchogue and enjoy the day.

I would give anything to relive those memories once again, to feel the sense of fireworks exploding through the air on a dark summer's night on July 4th, having a Carvel ice cream or visiting the dock to scoop out a crab, Patchogue you will always be my first love!

Monday, January 16, 2017


Take my imaginary hand, and let me take you into my past to one of the fascinating places I ever went to.

My grandparents had a cellar, an interesting place as any I’ve known in my life. Down in this cellar was a treasure of antiquity and mystery, history, and tradition, as ever there was in any such a place. The cellar ran the length and width of the house, and it was broken into three main sections. There was the majority of the cellar, and two small separate rooms, one housing a wine press and one for canning.

It had just 2 low Watt overhead exposed light bulbs with a string hanging from them to pull on and off the light. The floors, cast in cement offered no comfort or welcome, as did the surrounding atmosphere of darkness and mystery. It wasn't until you opened the lights did things come into view.

As you entered the cellar from the long hallway that had this almost visible portrait of a devil from the harsh paint strokes that dried on the outer door, (It was my imagination) telling you to tread cautiously and don’t wake up the demons you descended the steps and immediately things started to happen. You came to an old Victrola, with the dog looking into the sound system: “His Masters Voice.” label on the grammar phone or speaker with the big knob-like needle holder that you manually placed on a record. On the sides, it had moveable slats that looked like large vents to direct the music.

After inspecting this relic from the 20's, you moved past the Victrola, there was a free-standing room with doors making up the walls of this room, and I wondered if my grandfather kept a monster in the room, as I gently pressed my ears against one of the doors. I would hear these noises coming out of it and would back away, my knees shaking and the urge was to run. (It was the furnace!)

There were used oxygen tanks from before the war and after when Dad made glass novelties and other things that had an interest to me, but the thing I always went to look at was, my grandfather Joseph, fresh off the boat when the picture was taken. He is in a black pressed suit, black bow-tie, a stiffly starched shirt and black shiny shoes, topped off with a boutonnière on his lapel. This picture amazed me as it had him standing in front of this grayish background from an almost Draconian set, next to a table that stood on three legs, as it was a small table. The picture must have been about 30’ x 40”, and although I was named after him, I never met him. His sharp black mustache trimmed to a pencil thickness dominated his face, and his eyes seemed to tell so many mystic stories. Here was the cradle of American life born from the “other side, an immigrant”!

There were two long factory tables, wooden tops with metal adjustable legs probably where all the glass novelties were placed and sorted before being shipped to customers. Flags, American in kind stood in one corner of the room and pictures of haunting poses of saints occupied the other walls, and as you walked the length of the cellar you could almost hear the echo of days past, each object with its own tale to tell.

Then there was Grandmas gas stove and the wonderful steaks she would make on it. She had what best can be described as an iron wired contraption with a long handle that you lifted to place a steak in, you closed the handle and placed the steak on one of the burners and there you roasted or bar-b-q the steak, leaving a mouth-watering smell that drove you crazy if you were in the least bit hungry!

Then there was a canning room that had shelves lining it, with jar after jar of tomatoes, eggplant and other canned delights that once extracted from the darkness of its home and placed on the plate created all the sunlight you needed in your life.

When Grandma cooked, she reduced things down to the simplest of terms, she cut her garlic over the pan, she tossed her spices by the pinches and stirred her magic to perfection and completion, leaving the diner totally satisfied. When the canning room came alive, while processing the tomatoes, in particular, there were flies everywhere, but grandpa rigged a big fan that kept them out of the room.

Oh, I would give anything to once again see my grandparents, to feel the special love that came from them, in their zest for life, their kindness, and generosity, their love of food and family, because it was family and love that fueled the engine they drove.

I cannot cry that I miss them, but laugh at the memories and take comfort in their lives touching mine.

So what lurked in that cellar?


Sunday, January 15, 2017


We arrived at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip and checked in for the "procedure". The "procedure" is something I had done years ago before I had a triple bypass. I was very apprehensive since I had the experience and it wasn't very pleasant.

Remembering the room and the fact that it was very cold, a small monitor overlooked the table and the cardiologist inserted a probe through the arm, causing a painful reaction. I started to sweat under the lead blanket they placed over me and I wanted to heave. The cardiologist asked me if I ever lifted weights since he could penetrate the muscle in my arm!
My life flashed before my very eyes!

I sat in the pre-op room for a few hours, in a hospital gown and no underwear! I missed my underwear. When I pulled back the curtain after getting into the gown, standing there was a nurse who seemed to appear out of nowhere. The round of questions began, and a second nurse arrived with a nurse's assistant, young and sweet.

The first nurse started to ask me questions about myself, what I had for breakfast, when and the time, what medications I took and what they were for. As she is asking, the other nurse is sticking me with a needle, that hurt so bad I stood up almost. Here I am getting stuck and in severe pain and the other one is asking questions. Well, the sticking nurse blew it, causing a big black and blue swelling and she had to switch to the other arm.

Now they have me laying down under a sheet that comes up to my chest. While they are re-sticking me, I ask the sticker to guarantee me that when I leave this place the sheet is no higher than my chin.

The first nurse continues her questions: "Did you come here with clothes?" I look at myself, a hospital gown and little sickies on and reply: "I sure hope so, I know I didn't come like this!" This causes the sticker to start laughing out loud, while the inquisitor makes an annoyed face.

After just a few hours, my ticket is picked for a command performance that I am there for. They roll me out and into this room that has a few nurses and a technician named Joe. It happens he comes from my neighborhood, and we get along famously, talking about the neighborhood. The nurses are all working behind a glass enclosure of some sort, and one is complaining there is no blood pressure! I think: from high blood pressure to no pressure at all, is that sheet going over my head???

The nurse comes out and looks at me and starts to shake her head sideways. "This is not good: your toes have no pressure. This is really not good! She drags the blood pressure thing from my foot and wraps it around my arm!

Then the surgeon comes in, takes a few moments and declares; He's good to go, no need for a stent, medication will take care of the blockage. He was through, I was expecting the worst to come and it didn't happen! What remarkable strides science and medicine have made!

Saturday, January 14, 2017


If you were to ask me what were my greatest, fondest or sweetest memories, you might think I'd say my childhood, where I have written extensively, for various Facebook pages and that would not be so! My greatest memories are of my children, my sweetest ones of my wife and my fondest of them both.

I have written about growing up in the Italian-American experience, and it was both educational and historical, as I watched a transgression of lifestyle and assimilation into the fabric of American culture by Italian immigrants. But if I look back, there is a certain air that pervades my thoughts, an air of nostalgic warmth, a certain sweetness that will never be forgotten. The family I helped raised.

There is always a feeling of home when I think of my mom and dad, a certain love and warmth that goes through my veins, yet it is the past, what was, not is anymore. Now when I see my wife or a child of mine, I still see that little kid, the one I would seek to entertain, worry about and most importantly, love.

I look at old pictures and see them once again the way I feel about them now, as a small child, innocent of all wrong-doing and playful, filled with joy and innocence, and no worries in the world, the good of it all!

I see a younger woman, the one I married and yet she is still here, with me, sharing my tears, my pains and mostly my joys! How much more could I want? Where would I go with it anyway? She has made the days and years special, she looks out for me, gives me presents of love and affection not with a material, but with her thoughts and kindness toward me. Anyone who has doubts about me, she ignores knowing I am who I promised I'd be to her so many years ago. She, in turn, has kept her promise too, but enhancing it many times over.
I can remember all the years we spent together, quietly side by side in our den, reading or watching TV, knowing I was happy because she sat there, sometimes talking, sometimes not, just there made me happy.

I can recall the despair of losing a child, the strength came from love holding me up for the other children I had, the pain of losing a daughter to a disability that would ruin her life, and greatly sadden us, as we mourn her every day of our lives. The anxiety of depression that invaded our lives, how hard it was for me to adjust to this attack on my children, how I needed to comfort both the child and mother.
I recall the baseball, basketball, and sports my sons played, how we rooted and gave support, how proud an accomplishment was to me! I remember the potty-training, the ‘advice' rendered by a three-year-old, the joy of bringing them to work with me for the first time and their meeting my bosses and co-workers and crew, all giving me rave reviews.

I see this all in the memories of the photo box, all four playing once again, smiling, speaking and bringing joy to me as I sit here getting a little older.  Do I wish I was there again? No. Because it would deny me their successes as adults, I'll keep the pictures and take new ones, maybe a get to know the next generation and look back with my wife and think: Look what we did!