Wednesday, March 30, 2016


As I sit writing this, I can’t help but remember a time many years ago on Thanksgiving Day, when Dad got sick with the flu. Mom was busy preparing the turkey for dinner and Dad would at some point after 8:00 AM come out and eat breakfast.

Mom’s turkey was on its way and she was preparing the sausage stuffing, the chopped meat and seasonings being played into her large mixing bowl while simultaneously making the stuffing for her artichokes. Things were moving along when I asked where Dad was.

Mom marched into the bedroom and there was Dad laying in bed a pillow over his head as Mom asked what was wrong. “I’m sick!” After dad’s sister came over to see him she told Mom to call the doctor, the doctor told Mom he had the flu and for the rest of his life, he was remembered for his calling his kids to his bedside to say goodbye to us as he thought for sure he was dying before our calling the doctor.

When Dad got sick, Vicks vapor rub and aspirins were what he used for his recovery. Coffee was administered in large doses and it was best to not be near him until you reached the age of accepting cursing and swearing. It took forever for Dad to overcome his symptoms and poor Mom had to deal with this.
Dad, when he was feeling good.

“You men are all babies, a little cold and you think you are going to dye. TRY HAVING A BABY!”
Mom never studied at the diplomatic school of love and marriage.

TRY HAVING A BABY really irritated Dad and he would eventually end his whining.

Mom, after 5 babies!
Mom on the other hand was a real trooper, when she got sick, which was more frequently than Dad, she never laid down, never stopped cleaning and most importantly, never STOPPED COOKING! God bless her. She would amaze me with her ability to carry on. But she did do one thing, she would say to me: “You men are all babies, a little cold and you think you are going to die. TRY HAVING A BABY!”

To this day I still can’t imagine having a baby, and to the day she died I remembered not to shame myself when I got sick in front of her.
Me and Smarty Pants

So why am I telling you this? I have a cold. It is a nasty one. Worst cold I ever had. My wife hears me say that every time I have a cold. “Worst cold I ever had!”

Me: “I’m sick, I think I’m dying!”
Her: “Worst cold you ever had?”
Me: “Shut up!”

Sunday, March 27, 2016


An Italian American holiday is what best describes Easter if you lived in Brooklyn during the 50’s. In those golden days, everyone dressed up for every occasion: it was a time to say that the long cold winter was over; I have new clothes, and let’s eat!

We would get sent off to Mass and sat with our respective classes, listening to the sermon as our stomachs growled interrupting the priest that it needed attention. We weren’t allowed to eat in those days before you went to communion, and once we were freed from the confines of our religious obligation, we walked two or three blocks home, smelling the sauces that everyone seemed to be cooking that morning.

I remember Easter Sunday as being a very festive morning; the Easter bunny had come and gone, leaving chocolate bunnies, jellybeans and colorful cellophane grass, I was in my new shoes and suit, fresh new tie and white shirt. You only wore white shirts in those days with a tie. My hair was combed cow lick struggling to rise and I was warned: “Don’t get dirty!”

If Mom wasn’t cooking, then it meant Grandma Frances was, and that meant cousins I hadn’t seen in a while, the long hallway that became the play area for all the kids while the grownups spoke in Italian in the huge long kitchen which sat adjacent to the hallway that could feed without exaggeration with two tables head to head about 30 to 40 people.

They showed up in droves, the doorbell ringing constantly as friends and relatives arrived, paid their respects to Zia Francesca, with a: “Appy East” and spoke their native tongue. They were able to speak three languages, Broken English, Italian and what I call ‘Mano-Italiano,’ making multi-syllabic statements in two to ten fingers, depending on how poetic they were. These statements were often a collection of Broken English and Italian words to accompany the conversation. Facial expression was key to understanding a conversation. Someone made a point without expression meant that they were not happy.

People think that Italians speak with their hands, they don’t: they use the whole extremity of shoulder, arm and hand with accentuated fingers. Sometimes right and left get into the act. If an Italian weren’t talking to you, he would put his hands in his pockets and just use words. Often the women would have issues with each other, and hold separate conferences in other rooms, murmuring low and careful to hold a pocket book or towel to disguise the conversation from a distance.

The dinners were elaborate, the china wasn’t and the conversations multi-subject, in all three languages. Grandma Frances would orchestrate the whole thing; run a travel service for the pilgrimages she organized, by answering the phone, meeting with visitors and cooking. That was with one hand, the other hand tasting, sampling, waving in emphasis and amazing her grandchildren with attention.

We had some real characters visit us in those days of family. There was the ‘smelly lady’ and her husband the communist, (at least that what they called him) there was a cousin from Italy, newly arrived and very handsome and married to an import from the hometown that was a striking beauty. There were distant cousins that all had the same hair color as Grandma Frances and spoke only two languages, (no English,) there was an uncle who complained that no one respected him, so we went out of our way as kids to make fun of him, and aunt who was married to him who had to be on something because she had everyone on the floor holding their sides from laughter, another uncle who felt he was Victor Emanuel the disposed King of Italy, and off course some crazy cousins right off the rack!

Dinner was a religious affair. Grandma was a great cook, having owned a restaurant and making it successful during the great depression, she had no cookbooks, but what an array of recipes she had stored in her head.  You started off and finished hours later. I think by now everyone knows how we ate in those days, so I won’t go into it, but I will say that unlike Chinese food you weren’t hungry an hour later, no, we ate right up to the hour later and took some home with you too!

Grandpa Ralph had a very important job on Easter Sunday. Actually it was two jobs. One was to stay out of the Republican club where they would smoke cigars, drink espresso and whiskey, and play poker or pinochle, and two: “Shadduppa, whata you say? Be a quiet Rafaello”! Grandma was the only one who could tell Grandpa these things, as they would bicker like tow little kids who in the end loved each other.

When Easter Sunday came to an ending, the kids would all be sleepy or sleeping on kitchen chairs, the parents all talked out, the table clothes stains from the sauce (gravy), the rich black espresso, and the scattering of nut shells and wine stains. Then one by one they would disappear into the darkened hallway and into the Easter night.

“A Appy East” to all!

“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy, sunshine in my eyes can make me cry.
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely, sunshine almost always makes me high.
If I had a day that I could give you, I'd give to you the day just like today.
If I had a song that I could sing for you, I'd sing a song to make you feel this way.”

Everyone should have a little sunshine in their life. Me? Mine is a few thousand miles away in the most beautiful little angel I ever met: La Principessa, Darby Shea. Being her grandfather and holding this precious child makes me feel that life has some really pleasant events to share and live for. Suddenly I am a new man, engulfed with a love for such a beautiful little creature of God, borne out of love and conceived so the world will be a better place.

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy, sunshine in my eyes can make me cry.
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely, sunshine almost always makes me high.
If I had a tale that I could tell you, I'd tell a tale sure to make you smile.
If I had a wish that I could wish for you, I'd make a wish for sunshine for all the while.

Recently I had the privilege to spend some time with La Principessa at Christmas, and introduce myself to her again. She is nothing short of amazing, and the wonderful thing is she has captured this old man’s heart. I can’t stop thinking about her, her sweet smile, her dainty hands and feet,
her alertness and curiosity, not to mention at 2-years old her athleticism, truly the child of two very smart people. La Principessa and I ran around the house, as she nimbly went about her business of play and showing off for “Ba-ba”, her head turning this way and that, climbing the furniture, looking curiously and happily, as I sung to her a little tune. All her innocence, all her beauty and all her magic, was just for Grandpa, and it is something I will never forget!

“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy, sunshine in my eyes can make me cry.
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely, sunshine almost always makes me high.
Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy, sunshine in my eyes can make me cry.
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely, sunshine almost always makes me high.
Sunshine almost all the time makes me high. Sunshine almost always:“

Saturday, March 26, 2016


As a young man, one of my dreams was to live in New York City. The idea of a Manhattan address was a dream of mine, as I started work in my field of advertising design, Manhattan was the place to be.

The hustle and bustle of the place, filled with people going every which way, the impatience of the cabs and the buses worming their way through the traffic left me with a certain excitement. Snowy days were not a challenge if you lived in the city you ran down a hole and their waiting for you was a train.

There was the theatre, the ‘Great White Way’, museums and galleries all waiting to educate and enhance one’s life. And the restaurants: every nationality possible from small hidden away intimate places to grand dining rooms for special occasions! I won’t won’t go into all the pretty girls who worked and traveled through the borough (The best in all the world).

I dreamed of working of making my mark in the city that never sleeps, and then move on. Funny thing is I also dreamt of living in sunny Southern California, with palm trees that said: ‘Almost everyday was a perfect weather day, with swaying palms and beautiful flowers all year long.’

I dreamt of meeting interesting people from the limelight, maybe being part of it, and in the end, when I retired just enjoying sunny days.

Well I did live part of my dreams but not all, and in a funny sense I am still happy because what I envision as happy one of my children is living that dream for me, and frankly I am happy for him.

My son Anthony (What else would I name him Dad?) has done it all, lived in Manhattan on Madison Avenue, worked for Time Inc., then moved to Los Angeles, works for the Big Bang Theory as a writer and married: a beautiful women who is smart and talented and did something amazing, gave birth to the most precious and beautiful, smart and athletic little girl who happens to be MY grandchild!

God is good indeed.

So although I didn’t live my dreams totally, I know what they might have been like.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Funny how when we lose our parents, they never really leave us. All the years of parental love and devotion came in examples and sayings that seemed to stick with us.

Mom was more of a teacher, while dad was more of a demonstrator. The difference was a physical one. Mom had things to say: “The way you make your bed, is the way you sleep in it.” To this day, although I understand the context, I still can’t see it in my mind! Every morning when I make the bed, careful to fluff the pillows, keep the sheets straight and the bed spread turned perfectly, every morning when I get up, everything hurts!

Dad like I aid was a demonstrator, which I quickly learned could be to my advantage.
“Get out there and sweep the patio.”

Out I go, and of course my mind would wander, rather than just sweep and get it over with, I knew there was a technique to avoid the task. I start out very slow, and sweep the same spot a few times and out comes dad.

“Give me that broom, fongoola!” He then immediately sweeps the patio, all of it, giving me a dialogue while he demonstrates the art of sweeping the patio. “Here like this, then you gather it like this and then…”

Mom never demonstrated, she took out a wooden spoon, which insured that I would do the task right, only once and to her satisfaction. Mom said dad never listened to her, she was right.

When Mom wanted to discipline, she used ‘Gentle Persuasion’. One would think: kind, gentle prodding, perhaps with a firm attitude. No: that is what I named her wooden spoon. She used to get my cooperation or attention with the instrument. I named all her wooden spoons through the years. There was; “The MM Kind and Firm”, one of her favorites, “The MM Or Else”, the ever present “MM De-aggrevator” and the “MM Terminator” which lasted for a LONG time. You must be wondering what the MM designation means. It was my habit to name her spoons like the US Navy named their ships. “MM” stands for “Momma Mia’s.”

Before she passed, I thought ‘Why not present her with an “Official” golden wooden spoon; just like the one, I gave her for her 75th birthday, but with a Plaque, with the inscription: “To Mom’s everywhere. For Pasta and Obedience, as long as both are needed. The MM Gentle Persuasian II. With Love While Still In Pain, Your Favorite Son.” I was her only son.

To the day she died, whenever she bought a new wooden spoon, she would come to my house to hit me with it, just to be sure she had quality, and hadn’t lost her touch, and remind me that I was not too big or too old to get hit by her.

Some of mom’s favorite usage of the King’s English to help me get on the same page as mom:




And my favorite…
“I hope you have a child, just like you.”

Monday, March 21, 2016


Mom had a saying: “Crazy March, only crazy people are born in March!” She then went ahead and had a few crazy people herself, plus at least 2 grandchildren, mainly my daughter and son!

She thought that the weather was crazy in March, so everything else was too.

March in Mom’s house meant spring cleaning, “Taking the house apart” as she would say.
Going to school in the city back in the 10950’s, they would send us home for lunch, and so I would walk a few blocks and eat at home, then scoot off to the classroom for the rest if the day. On Friday’s Mom would wash the floor, as I entered the apartment, and there on the floor was the latest news. After washing the floor, she would spread newspapers down and we could walk on the wet floors. But in the spring, on her: “Taking the house apart” day, the windows would all be open, the bathroom smelled like a pine forest, and windows were scrubbed and floors vacuumed.  

She would have an egg salad sandwich waiting for us, and God-forbid you made a mess, she would turn your day into Good Friday, crucifixion and all! Such questions like: “What did I raise a slob?” would come from dear sweet mom as you got your ears rounded off! Of course I was the only offender, and she and I both knew it. She would eye me with lovingly sweet threatening eyes and was noted for her perfection of “The point”, a look that sad: “Mom is not happy, happy.” It was always best to eat in the hall that in her kitchen when she was in her cleaning mode.
About the time of my infraction
Usually the Lenten Season was winding down and the Easter Holiday was on the horizon, which meant a lot of church time for me. I was a particular project for Mom since she figured she should pay attention to the most likely child to get his butt burned or would sell his soul to the Devil.

Around the time of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday I was it seemed in church 24/7. Mom had a very strict pontifical policy of the fastest way to heaven was to pray, pay attention in church, and get smacked to keep on track. Now don’t get me wrong, there were reasons, for instance:

One year on a Sunday, I really wasn’t in the mode for the idea of having to go to church. It was a beautiful Summer Sunday morning. The thought of having to sit in church with Mom and listen to a guy in a long dress talk to me in Latin and then get up on the pulpit and making me feel bad because I didn’t know what he was talking about was dragging me down. I decided I needed some kind of reward for all this.

“Joseph-go wake up your father and ask him for two nickels or some change for the collection.” This was the germ of an idea!

“Dad, Mom said to give me a couple of nickels for the collection.” Dad ever so grateful to not having to get up for Mass, rolled over and grabbed his pants and fished out two nickels. AH! Perfect. On my way back into the kitchen, I stopped at my mothers’ sewing box and took two silver buttons out of her button box. I couldn’t believe how smart I was! Yes, after Mass, I would get me a bottle of coke for a nickel and a couple of powdered donuts for another nickel. Glory me!

So off to Mass with Mom I go, and enter the huge church, with marble columns and floors, statues all over the place and a huge cross with Christ on it. There were enough candles to light a small city and it was crawling with nuns and priests and an overflow of people wanting to get to heaven. The choir threw out the first song and soon the ushers were coming around. These were gentlemen who wore suits, and carried long, long handled collection baskets, to reach down the pews and get every penny they could from the worshippers.

Mom is in her prayer trance and the basket passes under my nose, I slip in the first of my buttons. Mom puts her money in and we continue our religious experience. The second collection attempts arrive and once again as in the first instance, I drop in my other button, Mom drops in her money and once again we move on to the conclusion of Mass. I can taste the donuts and coke, once I climb the two flight of stairs, change into my street clothes I get my reward!
Years later and Mom was handling things better, with a certain amount of resignation!
As we leave the church and head home I start to talk to Mom, but mom is not answering me! Hmmm. This sounds like a problem from previous experiences! We climb the two flights of stairs and I decide maybe it is better to just disappear back down the stairs.

“Well, I’ll see you mom, I’m going back downstairs.” As I turn to go down the steps, this vise-like grip is upon my shoulders, and I am be reeled backward into the apartment, and the words: “EMBARRASE ME WILL YOU?” SMACK! “EMBARRASE ME WILL YOU?” AND ONCE AGAIN SMACK! YOU are going NOWHERE!” WAIT UNTIL I TELL YOUR FATHER!

In I go and dropped in front of dad’s presence, who is enjoying his first cup of coffee. “Tell your father what you did.”



Menacing she hovers over me.

“OK, I put a couple of buttons in the collection baskets.

My father literally spits out his coffee. (Probably on Mom’s clean floor) Dad is laughing so hard that Mom is now yelling at him, and points out that if he went to church once in a while, I might be behaving better.

So you see, March hasn’t always been good to me.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Yes, today is my oldest child’s birthday, she is 44 years old today! Being a person with developmental and intellectual disabilities, she doesn’t know the day is special to us, or that it is all about her. To add to the sadness, she is in a rehab center recouping from a broken leg.

44 years ago, I was a young man working in Manhattan on my first professional job. It was a Tuesday, and my wife dropped me off at the train station and reminded me she was going to the pediatrician that day. I reminded her to call me so I would be up to speed.

She's STILL my baby!
Being a new designer on a team of people with years and tons of experience, I figured I should know my place and not be intrusive in any manner. There was a weekly staff meeting on Tuesdays that was attended by the powers that be, not me. As I sat in my office, the phone rang and I was it was my wife. Picking up the phone she informs me she is on her way to the hospital, after just visiting the doctor!

I don’t know what to do! Do I bust into the conference room to announce I was leaving? Do I call the room and speak to who? I tell the secretary and she suggested a unique plan: why not let us tell your boss, meanwhile you just go? Clever!

Late morning trains for and from Manhattan is a problem, they are not as frequent, even for an expecting father. The Long Island Rail Road was an even larger one. I’m in a hurry to see my wife.

And so the journey began. If the trains were a problem, the taxi cab was a nightmare. As I descend the steps of the LIRR car, there sitting in front of me is a taxi, with the driver leaning against the car. It was the cabbie ride from Hell!

“Where ya goin?”
“To Southside Hospital, you going there?”
“Hop in.”
I hop in.
I tell the smuck I am in a hurry my wife is at the hospital as we speak about to give birth.
He nods and is driving at a leisurely and slow-motion pace. But wait, he is going a little off course, stopping at a house where a nurse gets in, then another house where another person waits for us to arrive, he is still off course as the latest rider is dropped off and still yet, another person is picked up! I am ready to explode, as it is now too late to be with my wife for the birth.
Arriving at the hospital, they direct me to a waiting room, smoked filled and overcrowded with husbands, all pacing. I sit and wait, as one by one they disappear until I am all alone. The nurse appears and tells me to go to the nursery a few floors down. I run to the elevator, and as it stops at one floor, I see this incubator rolling out and my last name on it, with this beautiful little pink face! It’s a girl! All is forgiven in the world!

Saturday, March 19, 2016


When I was a wee one back in Brooklyn, St Joseph’s Day was a big deal in the Italian/American neighborhood, and if you were named Joseph, better yet. People, mostly adult Italians would see you and say: “Giuseppe!” give you the two finger squeeze of the cheek and laugh. Some would give you a dime, and even a dollar if they were really happy.

Having THE name, meant that crème puffs were coming your way too. You got the first and fattest crème puff there was, and just ask for a little more sugar and you got it. Zeppoli and sfinge, was worth all the cheek pecks there were that day.

If I saw my grandmother that day, she would clasp her hands in a prayer like shake and repeat my name in Italian, of course. One would think they closed down Italy for the day so people could eat the bakery goods.

This of course was not a day of rejoicing for my sibs, since they had pedantic feelings about the whole scene, and me in particular. But it was no matter, after the dessert came the nice meal that mom would prepare, whatever I wanted that day, which usually ended up being Rigatoni my favorite macaroni with meatballs. Life was good.

Then one day I did something stupid, I grew up, and when I did, there were no more crème puffs, unless I went to the bakery. Married to an Irish wife, there was little if no recognition for the big day.

But as Dad (Tony) used to say: “St. Joseph’s Day, ha! Everyday is St. Anthony’s Day”


Dad was a softy, he never liked to see people unhappy or struggle. When it came to his own family, he was particularly diligent and aware of everyone’s aches and pains. In the early 1950’s, Dad decided to book a little fishing trip, with me and Grandpa.

Getting grandpa out of the house on Fulton Street in Brooklyn was a major effort, Grandpa didn’t like to go anywhere that required his traveling for more than 15 minutes, but that had to be round trip.

Grandpa's bride (in black, of course)
Being how we were living on Long Island, Dad decided one summer to get grandpa and take him fishing; “We have to get Grandpa outta the house!” He went go to Mastic Beach one Saturday and rented a row boat, got a few rods and reels and bait, and set out to fish.

My thinking was that that was all the equipment we would need, since we were fishing we would eat what we caught. Build a fire on the beach and cook our catch. Dad and Grandpa both seemed perplexed by my plan, and since I was only 11-years old, what the Hell did I know. The problem with the plan was there was a huge package coming on board the ride to the beach, it consisted of six to eight Italian heroes, packed with peppers and eggs, chicken parmesan and a chunk of provolone cheese and a genoa salami, along with a gallon of homemade wine, courtesy of the grandfather of the group. This was sent via his bride, Grandma Frances.

Being the ‘city type’, both Dad and Grandpa dressed for the occasion. Dad wore his shorts, sandals and black dress socks, while Grandpa never changed. Grandpa wore his work pants, brown unpolished shoes and white shirt, along with his fedora, which he camped under come rain or shine, baptism or wake.

Dad became the grand admiral, directing me, the only crew member that showed up that day to man the oar, bait the hooks and full steam ahead.

As we set ‘sail’, we each had our position on the boat, Dad sat up front with his rod, tossing it in into the drink  (literally), and I trying to get the hook that caught me in the neck was sitting mid-ship so to speak, while Grandpa sat, in the back, legs crossed serenely holding his rod, eyes closed, dreaming of home.

Suddenly Grandpa caught a fish, then another, then still another! Dad was still fishing for his rod, and I was almost done getting the hook out of my neck and ready to fish.

After a while with Grandpa’s success, I asked him how he was able to catch so many fish.

Grandpa looks at me, squinting in the sun and says: “SSSHHH”.

I looked at him and he says, “SSSHHH, thatsa how you catcha da fish!!”

Across the street is where my grandparents lived on Fulton St.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


If grandma had taken better care of herself, she would have been 119 years old this past January! But no, she ate whatever she wanted, drank anything she wanted, and worked long hard hours. She passed at 97, much too young to go. Her idea of a vacation was a pilgrimage to Italy, to support an orphanage she created for children who lost their parents during the warand the Church named it after her, or organize bus rides to upstate New York for those very same children.

She, like all the Italian grandmas in Brooklyn: wore black. This was very unsettling for grandpa, and he always avoided naps.

Grandma ran the house, the family and my grandpa like a prized stallion, he always was doing something because of her. Every little creak was attended to, the house was in tip-top shape and it was almost a religious experience for grandpa.

On Sunday, he would sneak out to the Republican Club next door door for a di Napoli cigar, and a demitasse, while holding his own in a pinochle game and some rest or respite from grandma. This of course irritated grandma who wanted him attending Mass on Sunday. The Sunday ritual was after Mass at Our Lady of Loreto, grandma would cook her sauce for the dinner or should I say feast that would follow about one or two o’clock that afternoon. On her gas stove stood a pot that could hide a fat man over 6 feet tall. Her kitchen was the size of Texas and everything was done in it. Cooking, sewing, yelling and eating, plus laundry and paying the bills. She ran a self-sustaining farm with every kind of vegetable and spice she could fit in it, the ground lovingly nurtured by grandpa, down to the marbles he had scattered for some reason. With all those marbles, he never lost one!

In the garden stood a fig tree one which was wrapped in the winter in linoleum carpets, and grapevines that overhung the cement patio. Figs were a big part of the diet, you ate them with a glass of wine, and they were sweet and delicious, and inviting when I looked at them. The grapes were sour white grapes, that would eventually turn red and sweet, for his homemade wine. In his cellar he pressed them and then after a while everything was bottled.

Grandma did have one habit that stuck with the whole family. On Saturday night, she would cook up a steak. As I grew up in Brooklyn, steak was the meal for Saturday nights, as it is in my house every Saturday night. But grandma’s steaks were special, nothing fancy but they were cooked over an open flame on an old gas stove in her basement. The smell was just so temping, so delicious and so darn good. When mom sent me off to confession of Saturday afternoon to lie to the priest, I would be getting hungry knowing that a steak was in my future in an hour or so, cooked on an open flame, just like grandma’s.

Grandma never smoked and had her daughters and nieces hiding from her so they could puff away, but in the end she didn’t care if you smoked, after all it was another nail in your coffin.

It was hard to say goodbye. Grandma would see to it that everyone had a private audience. Saying goodbye meant that you would receive special attention as you tried your darnedest to get out of the house. There was a long whispered conversation, filled with expressions that told stories you couldn’t understand, hand gestures that punctuated the thoughts and little children, standing next to their mothers fighting off sleep. Husbands would be yelling at their wives to get going they had to work in the morning. Gossip was saved for the end.

In grandma’s cupboard in her kitchen was a collection of wedding favors, all wrapped with sugar coated almonds in a lace like material, that was distributed at Easter Sunday for a small snack before the nuts and pastries. Life was good and so were the pastries. Grandma must have attended at least one wedding a week because she knew so many people, people she sponsored or financially helped, people who needed favors and she went out and get it done for them, people who needed her and she needed to have them need her.

Grandma was a big deal in the church. She made the pilgrimages for orphans but also for the special needs of the church, building funds, repair funds, dances and whatever Jesus called her to do.

And so her grandson writes about her, thinks of her bravery as a 15-year-old girl who couldn’t speak English and yet owned a fruit and vegetable store, a restaurant and apartment houses, and wonders: was that the American dream? I love you grandma, you make me proud.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


One of the features of life in the Italian family back in the early 50’s was the wedding. If you had a daughter, it was very important that she got married, otherwise she would be considered an ‘Old Maid’ and Poppa couldn’t have that.

Like any engagement, the announcement was presented under a cordial and some cookies, “Salute” was the word and ‘Whewww’ was the whispered word Poppa used when it was finally announced.

Daughters had the extra or added burden of Mamma, who would assume command of everything and everyone, there was the cleaning of the house, the cooking, the hall, the cooking, the church, the cooking and the wedding dress, and don’t forget the cooking.

In the old days, fear of grandparents from the ‘other side’ was the norm, and who you were marrying was important to the grandparents, thus important to you as the parent of the bride. First the criteria: Had to Italian, from the same home town, e.g. Napolitano or Siciliano, Catholic and the opposite sex helped too. However this need proved to be untrue!

My oldest cousin was poised to get married. She was breaking all the rules, and everyone was worried Grandma would find out. She was marrying a gentleman of German extraction, was a Lutheran and God only knows what else he was. Someone would have to approach Grandma and lay it on the line. Fear was high that she would be unhappy, angry, mad and not pleased. The job went to the stranger who had nothing to lose but his bride. He told Grandma he was a German Lutheran! He actually told her that!

Well when the smoke cleared, and the dust settled, there was Grandma making her announcement. She announced in her own words, part Italian and part Broken English that she was pleased! Was she hitting the sauce? No, she thought that that might happen but then again, that was one of the reasons she come to this country to escape the poverty of prewar Italy in the early 1900’s.

And so the happy couple would march down the aisle into wedded bliss, as soon as my aunt was done giving her wedding orders, fussing with the bride’s dress and giving my uncle Hell for acting like himself, a slob and not comfortable in his new shoes and tux. It was a football wedding, a live band and I will never forget it! Grandma was ahead of her time, and wiser than her children, and my uncle couldn’t smoke his di Napoli cigars.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Growing up a good Catholic boy meant following all of the rules. This meant no meat on Friday, Mass on Sunday, ashes on Ash Wednesday and palms on Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday Mass and sitting in the dark church with all the statues wrapped and not looking at me, Good Friday was anything but good, not being allowed to watch TV until after 3:00 PM, and of course there was Catholic school. Swearing had to be done under cover of darkness, away from parents and clergy and the church building, cramping my style at a young age.

Some of the best meals I had were on Friday and during The Lenten Season. It was the lack of meat that mirrored the Great Depression and it’s need for frugality that taught me about another era and the treats that were in fact, what I pay a fortune for now.

There was peppers and eggs, potatoes and eggs, eggs and cheese that resembled chicken cutlets and I swear Mom must have made eggs and eggs, beans and macaroni and fish. Mom made fish with onions and tomatoes, olives and capers, there was puttanesca sauce and broccoli and macaroni. These of course were some of the meals that were made without meat, but the list could go on forever, as long as the cook was Italian and knew that there were no real recipes, just what was in the house.

The food was just an another way of getting the family together. We would sit and enjoy something different, talk and laugh, and the next night we did it all over again. On the cold nights in our top floor flat, without heat of any real kind, except for an oil burning stove that was suppose to heat the whole apartment, the kitchen having the only heat in the house, I learned to sleep and enjoy a cold bed, I slept soundly, and still do today.

But everyday was tuned to the Catholic Church. The nuns and brothers and lay teachers Monday through Friday in Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school on Aberdeen Street in Brooklyn, Saturdays I was required to visit the priest in the confessional, and of course the Sunday Mass at 9:00 AM. Not only was I required to go, I also had to report to my classroom for Mass attendance and if I went to Holy Communion!

Mom gave me the standard wording for the confessional: “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been one week since my last confession. I aggravated my mother and father and teased my sisters.” That was it, no more, no less. Then one Saturday I decided that my confessions lack imagination and so would confess to some real sins. But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find an interesting sin, so I would make one up! As I headed toward the church, a revelation occurred, like the Holy Spirit smacking all those apostles in the head: if I make up a sin to tell the priest, it would be a sin in itself, and I wasn’t sure if I said something bad enough the priest would tell my parents. So I was back to safe sins once again.


Thursday, March 10, 2016


Dear GOD!

Today is not a good day for me. I got up this morning feeling optimistic that nothing would hurt, but you know how that went. When my feet touched the ground, the rest of my body was still prone on the bed, causing me to wonder where this sudden pain was coming from.

Hoping to go to the gym, my back went out without me, it does that a lot, it even has more friends than I do. So instead of the gym, it was the medicine cabinet. Funny, I’m getting to know all the pills I take by shape and color but not what they are for, it is breakfast after all!

Me when I was younger!
The Mrs. asked me to go to the Handy Pantry convenience store and buy eggs and bread. As I left the store and was walking toward my car, I realized I bought milk, not bread! This troubles me, since I have three quarters of a gallon at home already. When I returned to the store, the young lady working there said to me: “Weren’t you just here before?!” I answered her in kind: “The question lady is HOW MANY TIMES BEFORE!”

I don’t get along with my I-phone, my TV and my I-pad, my dishwasher hates me and refuses sometimes to wash, just gives me errors on the control panel.

My kids still ask for “Mom” when they call, and: “Where’s Mom when they visit. My mirror even refuses to acknowledge I’m in there!

If I meet someone for the first time and am introduced, I try a little trick, associate their name to something so I can remember their name. Trouble only comes when I try to remember their name but can’t recall what the trick word is.

So Lord, I was thinking… maybe it is time for the home? You know, that place where you get bed sores from neglect and you are forgotten that you have an existence? If they starve me that would be fine, since I am a little overweight anyway. If left alone, nothing could go wrong, I could just sit in front of a TV and watch all the other residents fall asleep in their wheel chairs. I could even learn to predict who falls asleep first.

I would like a home with a lot of windows, so I can look out to see if anyone is coming, then feign sleep when they arrive. A lot of pretty nurses wouldn’t hurt either, as long as they are young, I don’t plan on running off with them, mainly because I forgot why.

Well that is all for today, you know how to find me.


Wednesday, March 09, 2016


Her face is so beautiful that it defies description enough to tell, only to see. Her sweet smile captivates me time and again, her laugh is like the chirping of the birds on the first spring like morning, glorious and new.

Her movements are young ones, only beginning to journey across her life, and with it will come grace and dance-like movements so splendid and fluid, that all who know her will dance to her cadence. It will be a happy dance, and dance that carries the soul through the paces of love and laughter.

When I see her, a certain smile creases this old face, and makes it young again, and wishes it could be even younger as it smiles, a smile that reaches down into the heart and fills the chest with pride and joy, it should, she is the joy of living.

As I see her play about, tumbling, climbing, dancing, I feel her youth, a youth that has long ago left me. But I try to see life through her eyes and know that she will always seek new life and places to dance and be free.

Some day I will not be here anymore, I will not dance in my heart when I see her, I will cease the celebration of life, as it will have passed me by, but I will take with me the feeling of great pleasure of having witnessed her beautiful face, her charming dance, and all the love I have for her, and that will sustain me for eternity

Tuesday, March 08, 2016


I try to be up to date with modern society. Nothing worst than being left out of something, especially if it is all the rage. However, it can make me rage with fury!

You must be wondering: “What the Hell is HE complaining about now???

Glad you asked.

The cell phone, or is that cellphone???

Recently on the news, there is a picture of a father and son at a baseball ballgame in Florida. The father has his arm stretched out in front of his son’s face, while a loose baseball bat is flying straight to the kids face! The kid is totally unaware of it since he is on his cellphone, oblivious to what is going on around him.  

Notice no one else is holding a cellphone, they are all aware!
I go to a restaurant and I look about. There is a typical American family, seated and waiting for their dinner to come, all five are staring into their cellphones!

I’m in a meeting, and I look around and see some members of the meeting: staring into their cellphones. You wait on line somewhere, you are walking somewhere, and worst of all: driving and some moron is on his cellphone instead of paying attention to the road. On my way up to Troy NY for a meeting last week, I’m in the passing lane, doing about 65 mph and all of a sudden Stupid in the lane next to me decided to pull in front f me, no signal and drive at 40 mph! This of course causes a sudden step on the brakes and a slow down of everyone behind me. I go around him in the express lane, and there is stupid, with his cell phone in his ear!

Maybe I’m just old, maybe it is me, maybe I should have my head examined, but what gives? Is life so uninteresting that we need constant e-stimulation from a cell phone? Text messages are another thing I don’t particularly like. Why text when you can say it more clearly, and even expend your thoughts or hear someone else’s thoughts. Is texting a way to avoid speaking to someone? Is there anything that needs to be texted that is so important anyway, that can’t be said on a phone conversation? Rather than spending time texting, all day long, why not put all that thought together into one phone call. It will save time.

Monday, March 07, 2016


Let’s face it, at 70 years of age I’m an old fogey! Hard to believe with these boyish looks and body, that that is the case.

It all starts early in the morning. What time is early? For me about 4:30 AM. My wife has been up for a while already!  I awaken from my beauty rest or sleep and realize something is calling me.  It is my bladder telling me it needs to unload. This is a problem because I don’t feel like getting out of bed. No, in fact I am afraid to get out of bed. The spot in the bed I occupy is perfect.  The temperature is perfect, my body is feeling like it never felt before, in perfect harmony with the temperature, after all night of finding the right spot. Last I looked it was 3:00 AM, and then suddenly it was 4:30 AM, leaving me in complete surprise that an hour and one half goes by in seconds.

There is also an underlining problem to consider, mainly, my cranky old body if I move to get up, certain body parts would kick in in protest, reminding me that they hurt. Sudden movements, upward or sideways, will cause me to regret moving, causing me to wish to lie down and die to get it over with.

A raging debate now begins. Do I in lieu of the aches and pains, subject myself to a gym session? Will it hurt if I go? I can imagine the pains protesting on the gym floor, I will suffer! Maybe I should not go, then I prevent myself from suffering serious injury. But then, if I don’t, I have pre-paid for these sessions, that would be wasteful. I decide to go, and if the slightest thing feels wrong, well I’ll just jump off the old treadmill and go on home. Maybe even stop at either Burger King or Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast. I think about that and remind myself that such behavior on my part results in guilt. Who cares. I could even stop at the diner.

I don’t shower, I put on my gym clothes, not showering since I will be working up a sweat soon.

Downstairs I head, to get a cup of coffee with my early morning snack: about 100,000 pills, which are ingested with orange juice, followed by my coffee. It is here that I indulge in self-torture, putting on the CBS morning news and subjecting myself to John Elliot, the so called weather man. This is a man who irritates me, why? Because he thinks the news is about him. Rather than give me the weather he gives me stupid opinions and dopey jokes, accompanied by his exaggerated body movements. I would like to kill him, but the TV is new. TLW (The Little Woman) asks me: “If you hate him so much, why do you watch him?” She doesn’t understand, if I don’t watch, and he doesn’t irritate me, I might as well go back to bed, there is nothing to live for. I know, pretty sad.

I watch and sip my coffee, swear under my breath at the weather and the news in general, and run a check on my body parts, they are still attached so off I will go to the gym. Now you can’t just go off to the gym if you are Joe Del Bloggolo, no, there is preparation to do. Get a clean towel to sweat into, put my cell phone into a black bag I carry along with my wallet and car keys, the bag, is a travel bag and also contains my workout gloves and lock for the locker, and finally get my water thermos that registers how much water I am taking in.

The gym is a happy place for me, except for the stupid scanner that never reads my bar code, either the one on my key chain or on my phone. This lunacy goes on every morning, I scan and the young lady shakes her head ‘No’.  In the lower level is a movie theatre to walk on the treadmill and watch a movie, making the time fly. But I have a certain locker, one that I use every morning, and if someone is in it before me, I think of how I could kill them. I could sneeze on their lock, maybe do other terrible things to it, but then I get over it and move on to the closest one available. This also holds true for the treadmill I like to use and the cruncher I work on. People have to go away. Man they’re annoying!

Once my workout is over, I climb the steps to the main floor and out the door.

Now in the old days, when a young lass wore something very tight, I would marvel at it, congratulate myself for catching a look at it and think it is a good day. Now-a days, if I see that, I wonder how she can walk. That is getting old!

Coming home, I look for my newspaper that comes so late in the day that it is almost yesterday’s newspaper. The dummy news delivery man just tosses the paper, and where it goes is anybody’s guess. I wish the moron terrible things such as paper cuts, and no tips. I fiddle with my keys, I have so many I don’t even know what some of them are for anymore. I pour that second cup of coffee, get a yogurt and add some walnuts chopped on top and that is my breakfast. At that point I get mad looking for my appointments book, find it and discover I have a meeting early in the day, there is no time for anything else, or I go to Southampton to visit my daughter in her rehab center.

It is getting on the road that I am the most cranky. It seems there are a lot of morons driving around, some of them should not even be breathing, let alone driving. There is Stupid who tail gates, he has to slow down to a crawl until he passes me, making me very happy, there is Moron who drives like a snail, there is the dopey moron who suddenly pulls in front of me in the fast lane and slows down to a snail’s pace. These people need to be killed at once. Oh course Dopey Banana is always on the road, he likes to ride both lanes so you don’t know where he is going.

I won’t go into mid-morning because I’m tired of typing.

Actually I’m a sweet heart, just cranky.