Thursday, May 26, 2016


He stood at 4’ 4” tall, weighted about 120 pounds, and sported a long handle bar moustache and went by the name of Zio Felice or in English, Uncle Felix.

During the Great Depression as well as World War II or “Il Seconda Guerra Mondiale” as he called it,  Zio Felice worked as a gang foreman on a construction crew, building large multi-storied complexes out of brick and concrete.

My Father’s brother Joe went to work under Zio Felice after he finished school, and was told to haul wheel barrels of concrete up a plank, and dump it, go down and do it again and again, at times climbing many stories. My uncle Joe’s hands were bleeding and raw from the hard work. This was before lunch. He goes to Zio Felice and says, “Look at my hands!” Zio Felice looks at the hands and says, “Go behind the building, and urinate on them.” This hardened the hands and after a while he never had problems with bleeding again!

Uncle Felix fathered 16 children; each and every one of them feared the little Caesar, as he commanded the respect that went beyond the call of duty for any child.

There is a story that went around the family that when he came to America, in his brown suit and black shoes, while on the boat as it sailed across the great Atlantic Ocean; that there was no macaroni in America. This made him highly agitated, and he wanted to go back to Italy, to the point of jumping ship! Probably an exaggeration.

When he landed in America and fathered all those children he insisted that they have macaroni every day! All his children had to be at the dinner table waiting for him, standing at their plates until he came home and sat down. Once Zio Felice sat down, everyone else could.

One of his sons wanted to become a priest and Zio Felice would not hear of it, and forbade him from doing so. His son then joined the U.S. Army and was killed in action at Anzio Beach, very near the birthplace of Zio Felice!

Zio Felice was also the older brother of my Grandmother Francesca. Zio Felice was the father figure to my Dad since his real Dad had died during the Great World War while in the U.S. Army, where he contracted the Spanish Influenza and died in a hospital during the cold of winter, where he tried to jump out a window to go home to visit his children.

Many years later on a Saturday morning when I was about 12 years old, my Dad said to me: “I have to take your Mother somewhere. I expect Zio Felice to come with Grandma and your Aunt to see our house for the first time. If he comes while I’m away, show him around.” Sure enough, the entourage arrives with a flourish, as the little giant steps from the car and I greet him. I immediately escort him and those that follow to the house, through all the rooms, and finally, take him back outside to the front of the house at his request. “Tella me, awhata you doer over here?” “What do you mean?” say I. He points to a spot off center of the lawn, about halfway toward the street, and says to me: Wella over here a you puta the bricks ina a nicea big circle an in the middle a here you puta the flaga pole.” “Ona the bottom ofa the flaga pole you puta the flowersa, a nicer colors. “Then I put a nicea picture ova Garibaldi” I whispered under my breath.
He died in the early 1970’s, at the tender age of 93, it might have been the DiNapoli Cigars that did it!


I know I take for granted too much in my life. My wife and kids, my health and my talents no matter how limited they are. But God forbid I should lose one of these and I will become lop-sided and lost. Stopping to smell the roses is always a great idea, taking time off from everything that dominates your life or dictates what you must do, refreshes your outlook as you stop to look around.

Years ago when I met my wife, I found her so special I wanted to be with her every day, seven days a week. Once we married things had to change, the want was there but there was no practicality to it, life took over. I got up, went to work and came home dog-tired from the day of commuting and working, of competing and trying to advance to provide for her. She was and still remains the center of my life, but there are ties I don’t think about her as often when life takes over.

In January, my daughter Ellen with multiple disabilities fell and broke her leg. Not only was it upsetting, and distressing for all of us, after a while I missed her being able to walk. As the months passed, she slowly came around and is now walking again. In my heart was broken all that time because she owns a tremendous spirit and will, she is stubborn as her father and more determined than anyone I ever met. With her disabilities, she has taught me that in life you take what they give you and use it to the best of your abilities. She can’t talk, she has the verbal and mental capacity of an 8-month old. But she finds ways for me to understand her and I try to anticipate her every need so as to not have her get frustrated.

A few days ago her agency came to the rehab house she recovering in to evaluate her progress and see if she could go home after all these months. The staff and I went up to her room and waited while the PT staff from the rehab center went to get her.

Well when she entered the room, I almost lost it. She walked into the room, and an explosion of joy rippled throughout the room, the five people from the agency not expecting her to walk in. She has made the most difficult journey since she was born, she won!

I missed her walking because her not walking depressed me. She so very little in life as it is, but to take her freedom away from her, her ability to walk just killed me

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Back in the 1960’s, there was a family of close-knit Italian Americans who lived all on one street. Three sisters who loved each other raised their families under the eyes of their parents who also lived on the same street.

Carmela and ‘Pop’ lived with their widowed daughter who raised two kids with their help. Having lost her husband in World War II in North Africa, Josephine let nothing get her down that I could tell, a wonderfully spirited woman. She was a hard working mother of my friend Ernie and his older sister Carol. Across the street lived a daughter Anna and her husband Tony with a few kids and next door to me lived ‘Aunt’ Nettie and her husband Mike, an auto mechanic and great father with about 5 children.

But it was Carmela who seemed to tie the family together, and her wonderful husband Pop who supported her.

Carmelo and Pops home.
When I saw these people back in the 1960’s, the impression was that I would want my life to end like theirs was, two people who loved each other, their family and the wealth of grandchildren they had.

Pop was great at raising grapes, and his vineyard was sophisticated, crossing one kind of grape with another to develop a hybrid. He had a great garden that could rival a farmer’s anytime. Ripe red tomatoes and zucchini, and anything else he wanted. Many a morning he would leave a bag filled with his produce on our front steps, and we were grateful. He always had a big bottle of beer opened to carry him through the day, especially those hot humid ones. He was a wonderful man who resembled Popeye.

Carmela was the queen of the road, a sweet and gentle woman sitting in her little kingdom or visiting the principalities of her children, as she would stoop over and pull a weed on one of her daughter’s property, stop and chat and it didn’t matter how old you were, she was interested. A simple woman that anyone would give their all for if they could. I would pal around with her grandson and when I went over, she would offer me food!

Her children were just the best and they were the street I lived on itself, Maple Avenue, they were folksy neighbors with an attitude that said: “Welcome.” When we moved onto the street, that was what they did, welcomed us.

These were Italian/Americans, transported to America from Italy (Pop and Carmela) and created a wonderful memory for me and my family. Steeped in the history of the street, they built the first house on the street, they knew everyone and everyone loved them.

It saddens me that they are no longer in their habitat, that Pop and Carmela are gone as are their children, but at least I see or hear from the grandchildren on occasion and it all comes back in a flood!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


It was a very hot and humid day in Washington D.C., many years ago. Mom, Dad and my wife and two kids along with myself had just visited Williamsburg, Virginia and we were very tired, thirsty and hungry. The heat and humidity dried out our throats, and consumed our energy, we weren’t sure if we were hungry or thirsty.

We drove around Washington for a while looking for a place to eat after our day at the historic village and came to this modern mall in Washington and found a pizzeria, very slick looking and void of any customers. This should have been a clue not to go in there.

The first thing we ordered was a pitcher of coke and then decided on our dinners.

We all ordered something different and some of the plates had tomato sauce on them. Dad’s happen to be one of them. Uh oh!

Sitting through his meal he became very grumpy, complaining that the sauce was absolutely terrible. Having been raised in an Italian restaurant cooking in a small hotel many years before, he knew how to cook and this sauce was not to his liking!

He complains to the waiter, a teenager who could care less and the kid shrugs his shoulder, telling us he only serves it. The fury was building: this could not stand. We get the check and pay, all at once getting up to leave, while dad is still mad and complaining. As we reach the exit, there is no dad! Where’s Dad? Suddenly we hear yelling in the kitchen, as he has the poor cook up against a wall and he is tongue-lashing the guy, as the poor bastard admitted he pour the sauce straight from the can!

Dad walked out smug, “I told you so,” he said.

Monday, May 23, 2016


This is the first election year that I see no clear choice on who to vote for. Wrestling with making a choice should be a good thing, but this year it is not. In baseball, they say you can never have too much pitching, and making a choice is a dream-like event for the manager of the team. But the political system has let us down!

Let's look at some of them.

After the disaster of the GOP primaries, the choice came down to one candidate, a multi-millionaire at the least who represents the system as it exists today. It is a system of big business that is corrupt and doing daily damage to the middle and lower classes. It strives of promises that are deceiving, misrepresenting themselves and after the Enron scandal, ruining the system.

Donald Trump has no experience in running any form of elected office, plain and simple. He says things 10 years ago and flip-flopped for the benefit of being elected. He knows nothing about foreign policy which is crucial to the future of the US, as China and Russia become more assertive. His lack of experience is covered up with vague promises that are covered for his lack of knowledge in that field. He is big business with a lousy haircut. He will get votes because the other front runner is a bigger liar.

Hillary is nothing but a carpet-bagger power hungry anti-man who seeks to get the power for power's sake, an unsettling thing for many voters. She has been involved in one scandal after another since her involvement in Whitewater, way back when. It seems everything she touches has tell-tale smoke coming from it. She can't even follow the rules as an appointed cabinet member of the Obama Administration. She is currently under more than one investigation into what could be a criminal activity with her personal server, Benghazi and whatever else they will find. Somehow I think there are other scandals to be uncovered as the FBI continues its investigation. I'm sorry, as a candidate, she must be avoided. She has made a fortune from the treasuries of big business repeatedly!

The least offensive of the group is Bernie Sanders. He is a socialist, and that is a bad word to Americans. Why, because the advent of communism until the fall of it in the Soviet Union has always conjured impressions of underlining socialism. But socialism doesn't have to be a dirty word, it can be a panacea for the middle and lower classes in America. If applied right, it could be beneficial so that the rich stop getting richer and more privileged at the expense of the poor and middle class.

Bernie needs to explain his plan in economic terms to the public, so in general, it will understand the benefits of it.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


I have been deaf or near deaf for most of my 70 years. From the time I was 5 when I caught a severe case of the mumps, which destroyed my hearing and set my life to a lot of misery.

Getting through school, especially an elementary school that considered nothing but excellence, having a hearing loss was a major obstacle. Many a day it led to humiliation and a deep sadness that prevailed all my life. No one knows the feeling of frustration from not hearing, missing a key word or feeling the wrath of an uneducated teacher who only knows that you must answer correctly.

Being a child of misfortune my parents had no idea what was wrong. They were disappointed and I was told I would never amount to anything. My mother was quick to discipline my misfortune with a slap or sometimes a beating. I was made to feel stupid, foolish and insignificant, I was an embarrassment. I even tried to hang myself once for the shame I was bringing down on myself.

Then one day I was fortunate to move to Long Island and a school nurse discovered my problem. For the first time in my life, I took a hearing test and discovered I had a major problem, I couldn’t hear well. This ‘Bad’ news was a catalyst to a new self-conscious awareness of self-worth. Maybe I wasn’t so dumb, maybe I could do something to make my life better.

Mom started to realize I had a problem, that I would need some help, sit up front in class, work harder. Dad was a little less understanding, thought it was an affront to him, he once called me a deaf mute because I accidentally hit the table he was working on. The words sunk into the pit of my stomach and I had to retreat to the confines of my room where I sobbed and hated myself, I was 11-years old.

And so the journey through high school and college became a struggle, one of working late into the night to review the day’s lessons and make sense out of it.

Then one day the miracle of miracles occurred, I graduated college, I was on my way. I got a job in NYC, as a graphic designer and soon I was an art director, then moved to creative director, I had arrived. The struggle was eased by my talent, no one wanted to lose my talent!

So after all this, I come to today.

Recently I went to get new hearing aids. They are the latest technological innovations ever: it has given me great joy! These aids allow me to listen to music like an I-pod, to answer my I-phone without needing to hold the phone next to my ear and speaking into it, to listen in a restaurant without background noises. Suddenly, these simple things I have, and I’m loving it!

Saturday, May 21, 2016


It is now about 12 weeks, and the bird keeps crashing into my window! This bird is the epitome of the usage: “Bird Brain.”

On the side of my house, where my dining room sits there is a trellis, which is the entry to a side garden. On the trellis birds will on occasion land and rest for a while. After resting they will fly off and return to their nest or perhaps continue their flight to somewhere I know not. But they came, they sat, they left, and all was well.

Then one morning as I was getting up at 5:30 AM, I heard this constant knock coming from downstairs. I wondered why my wife was mopping the floors at such an ungodly hour! It sounded like the mop was hitting a wall or some object, but thought nothing more of it.

Arriving downstairs I got my customary cup of coffee and sat in the den with TLW (The Little Woman). I hear the noise again, and ask what it was. She shrugs her shoulder and says it sounds like it is coming from the kitchen between the den and dining room. I go to investigate, hear it again, but not in the kitchen! I investigate further and go into the dining room and hear it one more time. A robin is flying into the window! He would fly into the window, crash onto the ground and fly up to the trellis again and do it all over again! When I got close to the window it flew away, leaving me thinking: “Crazy bird!”

Not five minutes have gone by when I hear the noise again, I get up to see and the damned bird is at it once more! I run to the window this time and shoo it away, thinking I scared it and it will not return. And so for the rest of the day, this went on, the stupid bird flying into my window.

I start to think that maybe I should put some up so it doesn’t hurt or kill itself, and TLW puts some newspapers on the inside of the window, hoping that will do the trick. Nope, back it comes again! After a few days of this, I go out to the trellis and spray some vinegar on the trellis, hoping the smell might discourage it, it lands on the vinegar (maybe looking for a salad) and the process still continues.

We go on the internet and look up ways to discourage the bird from attacking my window. TLW says it might be in love with me or some smart aleck remark like that. But on one website it is suggested that marking up the window with soap will do the trick! GREAT!

I grab a bar of Ivory hand soap and march outside and smear the window, taking my frustrations out on the bird by writing him/her a note: “GO AWAY YOU STUPID DAMNED BIRD!”

It was immediately after reading what I wrote that I realized that the bird was not the only one who was a bird brain in this affair, I had succumbed to its trickery! However, the frustration was alleviated at least, and so I left it there. In fact, my neighbor posted a picture of it on her Facebook page!

And so March turned to April and April to May, and here we are, with no resolution in sight on how to rid this bird of its illusions. Some theories are they bird sees itself in the reflection and wants to mate, it sees one of my paintings on the wall and is confused, and so on and so forth.

If it is any consolation, the bird has cut down on its frequency of visits, stays away on rainy days and only comes once or twice a day for a little while.

It has got me wondering if it is one and the same bird or maybe more than one.

Friday, May 20, 2016


The dance was flowing smoothly, and it was one number after another. TLW (The Little Woman) decided to purchase some 50/50 raffle tickets near the entrance to the church hall. Behind the table selling the tickets was a young woman who was pleasantly endowed. She was doing a brisk business with unusually happy husbands and spewing, hateful, and unusually silent wives with long faces.

“Did you see how that woman was dressed?” inquired TLW after the purchase.

“Gee, No!” (A lie)

“You mean you didn’t notice her cleavage?”

“Gosh, I’m sorry! I’ll go take another look. You know I only have eyes for you!” (OK another lie)

“She really was dressed inappropriately for a church dance!”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk!” (One more lie, actually a three-parter)

A few days later, my good buddy from one of my fundraising committees tells me he found someone to help out on the Golf Committee I was heading.

“She sold 50/50 raffle tickets at the dance. Did you see her?”

“Yeah I saw her!”

“Well she dressed that way to sell tickets, we sold a lot of tickets.”

“You mean I bought a lot of tickets!”

“Well she is willing to help you out”

“Of what?”

“On the golf thing there!”


“She runs a restaurant and works there after 8:00 pm every evening. I told her you are coming to meet her.”

“Gee thanks!”

Now I had to figure out how to tell TLW. I decide to tell her straight out, get the lecture and/or disdainful look out of the way, and suck it up like a man and visit the woman.

“Toots, I’m going to meet the lady who sold us the 50/50 raffle tickets at the dance.”


“She wants to help out on the golf committee thing.”

“Did you see how she was dressed that night?”

“Gee, No!” (still lying!)

“You mean you didn’t notice her cleavage?”

“Gosh, I’m sorry! I wish I had now. You know I only have eyes for you!” (yup, still lying!)

“She really was dressed inappropriately for a church dance!”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk!” (Once more before I hit the road to Hell for lying!)

Unfortunately, like the raffle tickets, she has something I want. (To speak with her. Get your minds out of the gutter!)

But, alas, (A little Shakespearian I learn) she is running late. I decide to wait. Having dinner, I felt it safe to go into this establishment. Waiting I see signs for food, nice signs. I see a sign for ice cream. Two big mounds of vanilla ice cream. I love ice cream! That reminds me I’m there to see the lady. I lose, I order a hot dog, eat it and wait some more.

Finally, she arrives, we speak, she is very modestly dressed and very pleasant, exchanging information, I leave.

Arriving home, there sits TLW, in her chair, waiting.

“How did your meeting go?”


“Did you get something to eat for free?”

“No” (Half a lie, I paid for it.)

“Hmmm, I’m surprised?”

“It would be wrong!”

Old habits never die!