DelBloggolo

Saturday, December 31, 2016

QUE SERA, SERA!


You've heard that phrase time and time again. "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" In my many years of life, I often wondered what the new year would bring, Que sera, sera.

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother
What will I be
Will I be pretty
Will I be rich
Here's what she said to me
Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

When I grew up and fell in love
I asked my sweetheart
What lies ahead
Will we have rainbows
Day after day
Here's what my sweetheart said
Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

Now I have Children of my own
They ask their mother
What will I be
Will I be handsome
Will I be rich
I tell them tenderly
Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
Que Sera, Sera
Songwriters
LIVINGSTON, JAY / EVANS, RAY

That song says it best, what will be, WILL BE!

No one can foresee their own demise or that of a loved one, and the older one gets, the less he/she fears it, turns a deaf ear and blind eye to it and continues onward.
But the time of year is best for resolving to make things better, to grow as a person and to put to bed old issues. And so, I come to you Dear Readers.

The New Year is always promising in our ignorance, mysterious to wonder about and always surprising. My hope for you is that you have good health, that if you are suffering from something, it will heal, I prayer you lose no one and divest yourself of those that only weigh you down unnecessarily. That you always have plenty to eat, a roof over your head, and that many love you, and that you in kind love many.

There is one other thing I wish for you: that the memories of your childhood, and of your parents or grandparents and all who have passed are rekindled in your heart and mind and refresh your soul, laying bare who you are and where you come from. Be proud of that and live for tomorrow with the lessons of yesteryear, but remember: Que sera, sera.

-->
YES, WE ARE QUICKLY RUNNING OUT OF HOLIDAYS!

New Year’s Eve and the following day, New Year’s Day seem like the step-children of the holidays. Christmas or Hanukah are the big ones, and for the exception of New Year’s Eve partying and drinking, I can’t make up my mind if New Year’s Day is the end of the seasonal holidays or the first holiday of the New Year.

Returning back to the routine of a non-holiday season, one which doesn’t cost a lot of money unless you are a newly-wedded couple (St. Valentine’s Day), there is nothing in my way until my wedding anniversary in mid-June. There are three or four birthdays, three in March and one in April, but until June I save money.

My resolution this year is not to make a resolution. I make this resolution every year and have yet to break it since the early 2000’s when I first started the tradition.


Friday, December 30, 2016

DAD SAYS GOODBYE

With the holidays comes gifts, and some of those gifts are unwanted. As I peruse through Facebook, many are complaining of getting sick, colds, flu, and stomach viruses are all common complaints.

It was 1956, and Mom was busy making her great turkey dinner on a sunny Thanksgiving Day! I got my coffee and breakfast, a light one, after all, there was Mom's Italian sausage stuffing that was better than the turkey itself.

But oddly, something was amiss! Where was Dad? It was late in the morning and he was usually up by then and having his own coffee with a cigarette.

We lived in a small ranch house at the time. My Mother's youngest sister was coming for the holiday, and as usual, the two families would spend the holiday together. But where was Dad?

The table was being set, the turkey roasting away and Mom in her uniform of the day, an apron over her dress, quietly cooked the masterpiece. But where was Dad?

I got the gallon of homemade wine out, and placed it on the table, just like Dad wanted. We placed cloth napkins around the plates, but where was Dad?

Suddenly from out of the bedroom, we could all hear: "Lena!" It was Dad!

Mom went into the bedroom and spoke with Dad. Mom came out and called my aunt. Dad's sister: Angie. Meanwhile, we were called into the bedroom to say our last goodbyes to Dad. He was dying, and it was time to say: "Goodbye."

Dad didn't say much, just looked at us with a dogged face and cough. I was near tears, water was welling up in my eyes, and I couldn't see anything, let alone Dad. Suddenly there was a commotion at the door and my Aunt Angie appeared. She suggested before we buried Dad, to call the doctor. Mom was strangely quiet all this time, like she knew something, but would go along with Dad.

I wondered: "Would God take Dad on Thanksgiving Day? With a turkey and Italian stuffing in the over? My God! The turkey wasn't even cooked through yet!"

The doctor spoke to Mom on the phone, and after a brief conversation with Aunt Angie, my aunt went: "Ooh Fah! Tony, all you have is the flu!"

We all laughed at the sight of us all standing over Dad, wringing hands and all.

For years after that incident, every time Dad had a sniffle and complained, Mom would say: "What babies, you men are! Try having a baby. Get sick and the whole world has to stop!

Since that day, when I get sick, I go to my bedroom and close the door, I love my mother, but even at this late stage in life, I don't want her haunting me!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

I’M STILL SWEATING!

If there is one thing I hate it is the summer humidity. It generally takes me until December to start to get over the idea that humidity makes me nuts.

Many years ago, when I worked for a living, I was always off-season, kind of like a ballplayer who plays in the summer and it is winter. Marketing plans were constantly being set up for six months down the road. Sitting in my short sleeves, in my air-conditioned office, people were asking me to get into the holiday spirit!

Try setting up a scene for Christmas with a photographer who walks around in sandals and shorts while you try to make it cold looking. Thinking of products like blankets or boots or even heavy overcoats becomes a monumental task, almost repulsive.

To get around these problems, I would go back to my childhood and think about the Christmas or two I spent in Brooklyn and how magical it seemed. The thought of the smell of a new tree with its natural pine scent, the big fat tree lights strung around the tree and even the tinsel and Christmas balls hung so gaily and with thought.

There was the Nativity scene placed under the tree, a very beautiful one with life-like figures and the manger made in Italy, the pray my Mom would place behind the nativity, framed and put there year after year. This was the start of my creativity: these memories were the catalyst that brought me beyond the blank page! My family in a sense was helping me design for the holidays in the middle of July!

I have come to appreciate the cold weather, the lack of humidity and the uncomfortable feeling of the summer heat. I love the winter, find it always helpful in doing anything creative. I usually paint, draw, cook and write my best in the winter, and I think it stems from my issues of winter in July, and the idea that I am no longer there.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

WELL, HOW DO YOU DO???


I was on the line Monday to purchase a pocket calendar for 2017, and as I stood on line, there was a lady and behind her a couple about my age waiting behind me. Standing there I just looked about at the different displays not looking to overhear anyone's conversation. However, the conversation going on behind me was one of particular interest as I caught snippets of it. Using words like Somers Street and Eastern Parkway, Rockaway Avenue and Stone Avenue all got my attention. These were the streets I lived around while growing up in Brooklyn as a youngster.

Suddenly I was in a full-blown conversation with the couple, who lived around the corner from me so many years ago. She came from Calabria in 1955, and he was born here in Brooklyn, just like me! It is indeed a small world.

We started to talk about the old neighborhood, Spinner's the supermarket on Broadway under the el, Aiello's Bakery and Hoffman's on Fulton Street and the various markings of the area.

Suddenly I was transported back home, leaving behind my adulthood and being cast away into the merry winds of years gone by! It was the feeling of after the old conversation I would go home to the old apartment on Hull Street and check in with Mom, or maybe even go on to Fulton Street and tell Grandma.

We described the aromas of fresh baked bread, gravy or sauce on a Sunday morning being prepared and the schools and church we attended. The couple pulled me aside and took me outside to finish the conversation like we were long lost relatives finding each other for the first time.

The wife told me of her battles with cancer and how she overcame them and said: "God must have made me special to survive!" Such faith in God should not go unrewarded, so I told her He did. I said she WAS special because she was born in Italy and moved to Brooklyn like a good Italian should have.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

IT’S A NEW HOUSE


Being it is only TLW (The Little Woman) and me left in the house, life has changed, indeed. The morning after Christmas is not what it used to be, no more wrappings flooding the floor, no more toys scattered about and it is safe to walk about with bare feet.

It seems like we moved to another house, quiet and almost deserted except for TLW. If I remember correctly, this is what it was before we had children. Our first Christmas in our little mice infested apartment was a simple tree with very little to spend on each other. TLW was 6 months pregnant and I was just starting out in my career, so money was tight.

The year was 1971, and life was exciting. By 1972 we would have our first child, I would become an Uncle for the second time and I got a great case of gout to boot.

It seemed my company, a New York City advertising agency was doing some direct mail promotional materials for Lufthansa, the German Airline which required my designing abilities for 19 straight days, including Saturdays and Sundays. Standing on the platform of the Hunter’s Point Avenue subway station one Sunday, I noticed the top of my foot had blown up. A number of reasons were advanced as to why from doctor, wife, relatives and friends including co-workers. It was the rich man’s disease, it was the King’s disease it was because I was standing on a cold subway platform too long, and of course, too much rich food.

But every night when I returned home, there was an aura of neatness and order, in other words, no children yet.

Then when my daughter arrived, the trouble started. It usually began after a few minutes past midnight, when she would awaken and start crying, waking the feeding mother and the terribly bad sleeper, her new Daddy. Somehow that first year after her birth the bags under my eyes and the want to sleep, we had another child almost to the day!

If I thought last year was bad, now we had two little babies waking each other up by crying, and making for a very unhappy mommy, who would on occasion say ever so sweetly: “JOE! GET UP HERE AND HELP ME WITH THESE TWO KIDS… NOW!!! It was akin to living in a firehouse when the alarm goes off and they slide down the pole!

So, when Christmas arrived, a whole new tradition was created just for the two little siblings that Daddy and Mommy had to create, it was called: Kill Daddy if possible, but wait until he is done putting together my toys! It seems that every Christmas Eve we went to my parent’s home for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner of the 7 fish, with too much wine. Driving home we would see a jet in the mid-night sky and tell my kids the red lights were Santa Clause who was near, so they better get right to sleep or he would not come! As we arrived about 12:00 AM, TLW would put the over tired children to bed and I was left in the living room under the tree, assembling bicycles, fighting off the urge to fall asleep in the very spot I was assembling the toys and thinking: WHY DID I DRINK THAT MUCH WINE, I CAN’T STAY AWAKE!
But the nest morning things heated up, Mamma had made walnut bread that she toasted while I watched the kids destroy all the wrapping for the presents, playing with them as soon as they opened them, making it look like a war zone.

Life was beautiful!




Monday, December 26, 2016

LIFE'S TWISTS

--> You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You never noted how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms
When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head, and I cried

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You never noted how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

It's funny how life can be. Whenever I hear the song ‘Sunshine on My Shoulder' I think of my daughter. It just seems to me to be her song from me. The other song that affects me and reminds me of a child is ‘You Are My Sunshine'. I used to sing to get my son Joseph to stop crying. Both songs involve sunshine.

When he would be in pain or discomfort, we never knew which, he would cry as a 1-year old would. I would take him and hold him on my lap and sing the song. Whenever I got to the part: You make me happy when skies are gray, he would stop crying and smile! It never failed for his Mom or me.

I remember one Saturday morning, as he sat in my arms in North Shore University Hospital, I was staring out the window wondering what was in store for him, I sang that song to him as he lay in my arms attached to tubes and quietly dealing with the pain. He slowly looked up and smiled once again, it made my day, my whole day and a woven memory in the cloth I will keep forever.

It's been 37 years since he was born, the song will still bring that memory home to me, and I will remember his round little face and feel a little pain in my heart. Funny how similar it is to the pain I feel when I see my daughter. I don't know if the pain ever goes away, ask me when I'm dead. But to tell you the truth, you have to live on, you have to dance and sing and laugh and be happy because life is so unpredictable.

I know I do silly things sometimes, but I do them because I love life in spite of the bad breaks that come down the pike. But those horrific breaks are balanced by good and wonderful breaks too. My other children, a truly wonderful and loving wife, one that has made a home for me, one I don't wish to leave and never did.

Maybe the tributes to motherhood need clarity. Maybe they, mothers, should be celebrated on their children's birthday. Those of us born should not take the bow, the mom that suffered through 9 months and childbirth should be celebrated. It should work so that if you have a birthday, you buy your mom a present.

Maybe when that same birthday occurs, Dads should reach in and buy Mom the present, for making it possible to be a father, and a parent, telling her ‘thank you' for creating my family.

I know that little Joseph would now be 37 years old. If he had lived I know he would have been suffering just like my daughter, so maybe he was lucky. Sounds crazy I know, but if you think about it, in 100 years from now no one will remember or little care. But if it weren't for TLW (The Little Woman) I would have never met Joseph, would never have had some truly beautiful memories along with the bad ones. But at least he lived.

So, where is the twist?

This Christmas my wife received a beautiful gift from our one and only granddaughter. The gift was a music box, with the cover showing a picture of little Darby Shea making a necklace from colorful beads that she included in the music box. It is a beautiful wooden box, a high polish on dark wood. But it is what is inside that matters. For the child we lost so many years ago, the latest family member made a deep and lasting emotional connection, the music box plays what else?

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You never noted how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms
When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head, and I cried

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You never noted how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away


Sunday, December 25, 2016

MY CHRISTMAS WISH

Dear Friends,

If Santa Claus were real under my tree these questions I would leave.

Could we send the old men who declare war on each other, instead of the young?
Is there a way to rescue the children of the World from war, hunger, sickness, and fear?
Can we in some way release our obligations to religious sects and instead worship the same God?
Should we not pray for the release of demons that plague those of us who suffer from mental and physical disabilities, giving them back their lives?

Of course, there is no Santa Clause, only self-righteousness of our beliefs in God, the need to bomb each other because of it, to subjugate children to our mindlessness, orphan children when our madness does stop, and our indifference to those who live in homes and institutions, many abandoned by their families, forgotten by society and dying alone.

And the old men who declare war on each other, can we save our young to build the World, not destroy it because the old men have no future, let the old go and fight and preserve the lives of not only the young warriors but their families too.

Merry Christmas, from a dreamer.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY

As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, Christmas Eve was a nervous night. The anticipation of Santa coming was just like getting my report card. The agony was compounded by not only how well I did in my school work, but how good I was during the year! The past crimes kept popping up time and time again, recalling all the times Mom chased me around the dining room table with her wooden spoon.

Having an older sister who would get everything because she was so good, and I would be shamed because I got nothing, ate away at me for the few hours before the arrival of Santa. Not being a worrier as I got into trouble, or trouble found me, was not to be worried about until the time came.

If I slipped during the 24th of December, Mom would say: "OHHHH, Santa is commmminnnng, just wait, WAIT until you get coal or NOTHING for Christmas!"  These crushing words would cause me to freeze in my tracks, throw myself down at Mom's feet, holding onto her ankles and begging for her intervention. She was always ‘Iffy' and would say she would look to see how the rest of the day went.

Dad never had much to say, Mom never gave him a chance to. As far as he was concerned, he was a disinterested party. All Dad had to do was show up when he was needed, usually at Mom's bidding.

But Christmas would come the next morning! The anticipation was growing as the closer I got to the dining room where the tree would stand, next to a fireplace. There under the tree was my sister's gifts… right next to mine!

Talk to you Monday!

HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY HANUKA!

Friday, December 23, 2016

CHIVALRY IS DEAD


And Merry Christmas to you too!

On my way home from Burbank California, my wife and I had a 4-hour layover in Salt Lake City due to Delta Airlines changing our flight we booked for earlier in the day to one that got us into NYC and JFK at 11:30 at night. On top of all that it was not until 1:30 AM that we put the key into our front door. Delta Airlines sucks! I will never use them again.

As we sat in the large terminal waiting for our flight, there was a flight scheduled to take off just minutes ahead of ours, and that boarding door was diagonal to our boarding door. The two crowds of people mixed with each other while the Delta staff for both flights spoke at the same time, offering confusion to all. It is also a stupid airline.

But the one thing that bothered me the most was the attitude of the passengers in the terminal. Some piled suitcases upon suitcases on seats, some spread their legs out far in front of them and some never even looked up, buried into their I-phones like mental midgets lost in some deep trance.

Amidst this overwhelming crowd, a lady was carrying a baby by herself. The baby was under a year old, maybe at the most 6-months, and Mamma was frantically looking for a place to sit. Next to me was a brain-dead young man, under 30 who stretched out stared into his cell-phone, others pretended they didn’t see her or didn’t care that she was in some kind of distress, looking down, into phones, or just watching from their seats. Finally, an old guy got up from his seat and ran to the woman to offer his seat to her and her child, which she gratefully took, asking if the old guy was sure he wanted to give up his comfort. The old man assured her it was OK, and so she sat, where she breastfed her child.

I wanted to smack everyone around me, especially that punk kid with an attitude that said I don’t give a damned about some mother and her kid. What kind of people have we become? There were a lot of young guys sitting and talking and having a great time while this poor woman struggled to deal with traveling alone with a young child. Everyone in that damned terminal should have been looking out for her, not themselves! We have become selfish and inconsiderate people and that is very sad. Just look at the highways and how we drive, tail-gaiting, passing on the right shoulder just to get ahead. Supermarkets are filled with people taking things out of packages and helping themselves or leaving frozen goods they seceded they didn’t want anymore and putting them where the products would thaw and be thrown out.

If you are wondering why I didn’t give up my seat to the young mother and child, I was the old man!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

SAY GOODBYE TO HOLLYWOOD!

Like all good things, it must end. I say goodbye to my little Hollywood starlet, La Principessa, Darby Shea!

The night before I leave is like when I worked and it was Sunday night, dreading that I had to work the next morning. Sleeping was troublesome and suddenly it was morning, I didn't want to get out of the warm bed in a perfect spot, and so that will be the case this time out of Burbank. I will say goodbye like a big boy and not cry or ask for my mommy.

The palm trees and sunny boulevards of Burbank with their fantastic and multiple restaurants will be behind me, gone until I return again.

When I do return, I will see once again a marked change in La Principessa, growth, and awareness, and of course, she will give grandpa new orders to follow. When she says: "NO grandpa!" no it is! "March like this, Grandpa!" march it is!

I will sing a new song that she taught me in the car, or maybe the other, but she is always singing in my heart, where she stays forever.

But there is one other lesson I have learned, and that is that a house is but a place, a home is where two hearts reside, and there will be my TLW (The Little Woman)!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

LONG AGO


In the early years of marriage and right up to 1990, Dad's last year alive for Christmas, we spent Christmas Eve in my parent's basement enjoying a seven-course fish dinner, the tradition handed down by Grandma, Dad's mother. The dinner table seated about 25 and was a pool table covered with two 4' x 8' plywood boards to protect the table top.

For me the best night of the year was Christmas Eve, all the siblings, aunts and uncles and friends would start arriving around 3:30 PM, smelling the cooking and having drinks with animated conversations. Dinner was never before 6:30 and while we all gathered and drank, chatting to our heart's content, we could smell the rich aroma of the lobster sauce that would eventually cover a plate of spaghetti.

Dad had a small bar in the corner of the finished basement, and all the men would hang out there, baseball, football, and even politics dissected to the finest points possible. Scotch accompanied the Yule-Tide and Mom's homemade Italian cookies with almonds and anisette, both before and after dinner.

Mom had all the traditional dishes made, the octopus, calamari, squid, eels, and crabs, shrimps and mussels and of course, lobster all cooked to perfection and ready to be consumed.

But the most important part of the holiday was Dad. It was his holiday and he loved it. The tradition was only half of it, there was another more important component to the evening that had Dad's attention, and embodied his spirit: grandchildren.

Dad would sit enjoying his dinner, and watch his family, enjoying seeing his grandchildren all gathered around this magnificent table, applauding Grandma's cooking as they sat there.

Recently TLW (The Little Woman) and I spent an early Christmas with #1 and #2 sons in Burbank, California with my lovely daughter-in-law and my gorgeous granddaughter. One evening we opened presents and had a ball, watching the little princess open her and everyone else's presents to boot. Suddenly, as I watched, I realized the sensation that Dad had, overcoming with joy and pride in his family, so had I.

If I ever miss my Dad, it is Christmas Eve, in his plaid shirt and workpants, getting kidded good-naturedly, and handing it back in kind, he was the embodiment of the spirit of the times.

Buon Natale, Mamma e Papa!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

MARCHING IN STEP


Friday morning, we decided that La Principessa (My beautiful Granddaughter) before pre-school would be treated to some Krispy Crème donuts.

Walking into a Krispy Crème early morning is a treat, they give you a sample donut, fresh as fresh could be, and I must tell you it is delicious. The variety of donuts, with the seasonal themes alone, are fantastic, but biting into one fresh out of the donut maker-INSANELY delicious.

La Principessa selected her donut, as Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa watched, the little lady took us to the table where we enjoyed the minutes of pure pleasure, just watching her eat, and make observations.

We decided to purchase a box of goodness to take home for La Principessa's mommy and Uncle Mike who was still asleep. Carrying the box of donuts as we crossed the parking lot, La Principessa barked out her orders: "March" and started to march with military precision and ordered all to march along with her! Carrying a flat box, a coffee cup, and her knapsack, I fell in step with everyone else, as our little leader barked out the cadence. An old man crossing our path took one look at us and laughed at me as I comically marched with the donut box and other goods in hand!

But once again she worked her magic in the car, as she started to sing:
"No, Abby, No Abby, NO, NO, NO!" that quickly became a group participation sung by Daddy, Grandma and ultimately me. Each of us contributed an order to Abby who is a rambunctious beautiful collie who lives with La Principessa and her family!

The original version created by La Principessa:

No, Abby, No Abby, NO, NO, NO!
Sit, Abby, Sit Abby, Sit, Shit, Sit!
Down, Abby, Down, Abby, Down, Down, Down!
Good Abby, Good Abby, Good, Good, Good!

You can even march to this!




Monday, December 19, 2016

EL PUEBLO DE LOS ANGELES


When you hear those famous words: "go back to your country" keep this in mind, we all as ancestors came from somewhere else. The single example found in this great country of ours is in the state of California and the city of Los Angeles.

The originality of the city dates back to the Mexican settlers who were the first inhabitants of the area. The original place of settlement is called: El Pueblo de Las Angeles. Centered around a church, today sits the home of one of the businessmen men the Casa de Avila, the original settlement house restored to its original state, and a thriving marketplace to purchase food, clothing and blankets, toys and even souvenirs. The chatter is in Spanish as the locals come enjoying their day along the continuous rows of tented businesses. Colorful native traditional garb in worn for both men and women, headdress and ritual costumes dance to the Latin rhythmic beat music of the Mexican instruments. It is an exhilarating and yet natural gayness that pervades the air.

If you step into the Church El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles (the Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels) where the Spanish civilian town was founded in 1781, you will witness the devotion to God on a high level, reverence for the Almighty, the air steep with solemnity and adoration. You see today's simple people from Mexico, in thoughtful prayer, some on their knees, some sitting with their hands on their foreheads, some standing with their hands folded and their heads down. This is true devotion, it fills their lives with love, joy, and happiness. Walking the area, many carry devotional candles, statues, and religious icons that they will carry back to their homes.

It was not the costumes or the food or even the music that impressed me the most, it was the people, beautiful, simple people with their guard up from the hatred they sometimes get from their fellow Americans. But if you dare to smile at one, give one a friendly greeting, you will be getting back ten-fold in love and respect, as they let their guard down. They are beautiful and amazing people.

You can see the discrimination that has taken a hold on their lives, the poor paying jobs, the abuse from the upper class and government of their native country, and the lack of medical help they could use from their adoptive nation. But they live in communities for a reason, they need to survive the unfounded anger, the suspicion and hatred of people who know nothing about them but that they speak Spanish and have menial jobs sometimes, their poorness concerning only the lost prejudiced.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

TAPING OF THE BIG BANG THEORY

In the front row, we sat, in the studio of Warner Brother's lot 25, eager for the festivities to begin, the tapping of the Big Bang Theory. Two hundred enthusiastic and devoted fans file into the audience and look around to acquaint themselves with the uniqueness of what they are about to experience, a live audience in the process of taping the show. Overhead hang microphones about every 10 feet apart and row after row to capture the laughter of the happy crowd. You are encouraged to laugh and laugh often and loud. They come from all over the world; Europe, South America, Australia and even Africa, all the same kind of fan, enthusiastic and devoted.

Seeing these wonderful actors at work makes me wonder, do creative people really consider themselves professional actors or rather artists and lovers of their craft?

You see them one at a time, engrossed in their dialogue as they practice their scripts to themselves, the introductions from the comic genius that works the crowds between takes is amusing and helps the four hours it takes to tape a half-hour show. As many as 5 takes can occur to make the scenes as funny and convincing as possible, and this show is not your run of the mill comedy. It incorporates many dramatic and poignant scenes during the season as well.

What amazes me is the number of people that it takes to produce this half hour, the week of creative ideas and then writing the script, the polishing and re-writing, the wardrobe people, makeup artist and sound and visual planning and rehearsal that goes into the production, the walk through of the scenes, all comes together in the final four hours of the show, the final ingredient, the audience reactions.

As we sit there as parents, we are not only proud of our son, but that he is part of this wonderful experience, that he is our son and helps do something so successful boggles our mind. I think sometimes I'm too enthusiastic about this all, but I just can't help it. I think of my Dad, his name was Anthony too, and he would have been crazy proud of his grandson, and excited everything he saw his grandson's name in the credits, they are his, too!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

MEETING SANTA WITH A SONG IN MY HEART!


MEETING SANTA

The whole family packed up our 2 ½-year old Santa believer and off we went to see Santa. Last year we tried and it didn’t go well, all Hell broke loose and Mamma had to sit with La Principessa (Darby Shea my granddaughter) for the pictures to be taken. 

This year she dressed once again as a princess, in green and red and beautiful ready for Santa, she gingerly edged up to the jolly old man and got on his lap! This caused everyone to deeply breathe a sigh of relief. Last year she needed her Mommy to be able to take the picture.

She has become an easy target to shoot pictures with, her beautiful face and expressive big eyes make for photographic magic.

Once the pictures were done, she suddenly became alive, enjoying herself as we left the mall and headed to the car. It was in the car that she became magical herself. Taking over and giving grandpa and grandma orders, she introduced made up words and games, and we were given specific instructions on how to do it.

Giving me her two shoes, I had to clap them together and count to 8.

Me: (Clapping shoes): “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9!”
Darby: “NOOOO Grandpa”
Me: (Clapping shoes): 1, 2, 3, 4, and 4 is 8!”
Darby: “NOOOO Grandpa, you’re silly!”

Grandma and Daddy all had to do it properly and did, just Grandpa messed up, deliberately.

Having this grandchild has amused me, made me her servant, made me love like I never did before, and I hope I live for another 70 years just to watch and enjoy her presence.

Friday, December 16, 2016

SOME THINGS I REMEMBER

--> It is funny how our brains work.

Every morning when Dad left for work he had on an overcoat or jacket and a gray fedora, the basic uniform of the late 1940’s and early 50’s for visiting a church, going to work, traveling and just keeping the norm of acceptable etiquette.

Many years ago, as Dad was leaving for work when we lived in Brooklyn, Mom handed him two things: his lunch in a brown paper bag (peppers and eggs, the grease seeping through the brown bag a little) and the garbage in a brown paper bag. Dad was to dump the garbage in the garbage can that sat in the front of the house and go to work from there. Instead, Dear old Dad dumped the lunch and took the garbage to work, a terrible indictment of Mom’s culinary ability! This, of course, was not good!

One day our downstairs neighbor told us to come to their phone, Dad was on the other end calling for Mom. Mom answered and Dad told her what happened. Being how Dad was paid by the hour, he couldn’t afford to go home and get his lunch, and he couldn’t afford to buy his lunch, so Mom was to: pack a new lunch and take it to him.

We took the subway from Bushwick, Brooklyn down to Canal Street and the New York Laboratory and Supply Company. I was going to see the mysterious place where Dad worked! We find the place on Canal Street and enter the building. As we enter we are greeted by a room with a few desks and a wooden fence with a gate, a common inner office fence.

Mom explained what Dad did, and they paged Dad. Dad entered and I had the shock of my life. He didn’t look like the Dad I saw leave that morning, he was now wearing a brown shirt and matching pants. He was wearing a blue-collar uniform in brown. A fashion Faux Pas?

At any rate, the concept as I imagined of Dad and his workplace was completely shattered by reality, my vision was one of office with fancy clothes, instead, it was shipping floor and work clothes, his was honest work.

School caught me by surprise too. School was somewhere, it had teachers and books. No one told me about the other kids and the looks of strangers. The school was a place I would go to, with my mother I assumed, after all, didn’t we go everywhere together?

The first day of school was Kindergarten, and the first thing I did was get cookies and milk for a dime or quarter. They handed me chocolate milk and a small package of Oreo’s and every day after that, it was plain milk and cookies, never the chocolate milk I loved.

One of the things I was first introduced to was music in kindergarten. Every one of us was given an instrument to play. I was given two sticks that I had no idea how to use, waving them like batons! The nun had to come over to me to show me to bang them together instead. It was my first awkward experience in public, feeling silly ever since.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

THE JOY IN SADNESS

Sometimes it is very hard to control one’s emotions, as in a moments time they can run from joy to anguish.

Every year at this time I am asked to play Santa, a job which pays very well in joy and satisfaction. Those that visit Santa are adults with disabilities ranging from mental to physical and usually both. They still believe in Santa, and as Santa, I can peek into their world of courage, pain and sometimes disappointment.

There is usually a long line of people waiting for a chance to talk to Jolly Old Saint Nick. They believe, they come and they are eager to speak with him. Santa likes to compliment them on how they look, a red sweater, and a string of blinking lights around their neck, a smile, and greeting: “HI, Santa!” Some can walk on their own, some need walkers or wheelchairs, but they come, Santa is a ray of joy, hope, and a person that they trust, he is Santa.

Some of these wonderful individuals have no family, maybe were abandoned because of their disability, some their parents have passed, and now the Agency is their Mom. There are those who have parents that still live, but barely, and the infirmed are weighing on the minds of their children. They ask Santa to make them better, an impossible trick by any means.
“Santa, can you make my mom better?”
“I will ask God to help us.” That is all I can muster, not only is my heart broken, but I need to stand my ground as Jolly Old St. Nick.

By the end of the night, facing countless flashes of the camera, the heat that builds in the suit, the pain or arthritis that takes over from sitting too long in one way, in one spot I take off the suit and am me again, and I think of those poor souls, all fighting their own battle in life, all having fears about themselves and the world they inherited and I get angry. I see beautiful faces, faces that were once touched by the lips of God and I want to cry about how damaged they have become. I see elderly ladies losing all their hair, their faces distorted and their bodies crippled and I want to go hide from the shame I have when I complain. I guess I could say: Thank you, God, for it is not I. But then I think: why them? What is their crime?

Christmas is supposedly about family, about Jesus, about love, peace, and joy, as we spend our times together while many of us in this world are abandoned, their investment in the “Holidays” is a void that can’t be explained, that can’t be measured in joy or pleasure or shopping for gifts. Many of us will close our awareness to the plight of many of these brothers and sisters, and forget them.

Once we invited my daughter Ellen’s housemates to our house for Christmas dinner. There were seven and along with my daughter who sat at the dining room table as a family. They all had one thing in common, they loved each other, why? Because there was only peace and joy emanating from them.

In ten days we will celebrate another Christmas season. We will bake, cook and plan for gift giving, yet we will not accept the greatest gift of all, those who have nothing, need to be appreciated as fellow brothers and sisters, a chance for us who have to give to those who have not, even if it is only as a candle in the wind.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

JOHN GLENN AND BEYOND


Funny how fast life passes us by.

In 1962 I was in high school, discovering the world, planning for college and living in a crazy and unstable world. The Cuban Missile Crises took us to the brink of nuclear war, the Cold War being in full drive, and NASA was starting to take us closer to the moon. John F. Kennedy was taking us onto a “New Frontier” and as a student I became more politically aware, having adult discussions with dad about politics.

The ‘sub-orbital’ flight of Alan B. Sheppard and the first orbital flight of John Glenn three times around the Earth captivated America’s imagination after it was stunned by the Russians with Sputnik, a devastating assault to our national pride. How could anyone in this world do it better than America? I learned that they didn’t do it better, they just did it first, we got to the moon, and that was the objective after all.

Rock and Roll was the music of our times replacing the 40’s music of our parents, and cars were changing in design every year. The death of Marilyn Monroe, the biggest sex symbols in history, was a result of an overdose of sleeping pills, with an additional overdose of conspiracies surrounding the incident. Some said that her death was involved in covering up her alleged romantic relations with the late President Kennedy, by his younger brother Bobby Kennedy.

When I found out about the death of John Glenn, it took me back to 1962 once again. Dad with his old cars and his devotion to his job, Mom, the center of the universe as it appeared to me and my own part-time jobs saving for college and helping out the household as I did.

But that is past, just like john Glenn, forever gone but never forgotten. But it seems like yesterday that very handsome astronaut reported back to Earth on his voyage into history, the TV set to the live feed back to Earth. How was it all possible, and would be realize the unimaginable: the moon?

Kennedy took hold of our imaginations as youngsters, and Glenn took it into space, the world was a young person. The hope and dreams we all shared were funneled either through the White House or the floating down in the middle of the sea of a capsule, American of course!

But 1962 and John Glenn will forever be the beginnings of the modern era, separating the past from the future, so we as young adults could find the future and look for the new days ahead.

Monday, December 12, 2016

WHAT TIME IS MASS?

Dad was a piece of work, not even God could hold him up.

Years ago, Dad told me a story that happened to him. It was a Sunday afternoon and Dad was going to the candy store to purchase a Sunday newspaper. As he reached down to the pile of newspapers, he sees the pastor of the local Catholic Church, a bastion for Italian Americans who built the first Italian-American church, built by Italians and with marble and stone from Italy called: Our Lady of Loretta Church on Sackman Place in Brooklyn.

The priest, who happens to be an active fundraiser, is also a very good friend of my grandmother, who happens to organize all the trips for the church to raise money. Trips to Italy and bus rides to upstate in New York, are Grandma's trademark.

"Good morning Tony!" says the good father.
"Good morning, Father!" says Dad.
"Did you go to Mass this morning, Tony?"
"Yes Father," says Dad. "%:30 this morning.
"Tell me, how is your mother?"
"She's fine Father," says Dad.
And your Dad, he is doing well, too?"
He's fine Father"
"And you two sisters, are they well?"
"Oh yes Father, they are doing very well."
"And tell me Tony, what about your brother, is he doing well?"
"Oh yes Father, he is doing very well."
"Well, Tony, glad to hear all that, have a great Sunday afternoon, and by the way, there is no 5;30 Mass!"

Sunday, December 11, 2016

MAKING A DATE

Finally, I have a resolution for my carotid artery after visiting the surgeon. After a test or scan or whatever they call it, the doctor says we need to operate. The artery is 80% block, which is the threshold for operations or inserting a stent. Taking the stent would be too risky, the chances of a stroke are still there, the operation allows them to clear it out and eliminate the possibility of having one.

On January 12th, I will report to Good Samaritan Hospital and they will cut my throat, something that will make many people jealous. According to the good doctor, they make an incision, divert the artery through a shunt so I don't have a stroke and at the same time keep the blood flowing.

Once they cut, there is a chance that my face will be numb on the area of the incision, and perhaps for life, as they will be affecting nerve endings. I can't drive for a week and the scar may not be bad since the neck area heals well. I might even be able to go home after the operation.

So, I can't cry for my mommy, and most importantly; it won't affect my appetite!

There is also the procedures I have to go through, two weeks before the operation I need to call about scheduling pre-testing at the hospital, I need to get medical clearance from my PCP, who will tell me what medications that I take and can't and also my cardiologist needs to know.

If I don't live through it all, I died trying to un-carotid my carotid artery!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

SHE’S CHEEKY!


Recently I accompanied TLW (The Little Woman) to the hospital to have a cyst removed from her cheek, just over her left jaw bone, a procedure that requires a surgeon or do-it-yourself surgery kit. We opted for the surgeon, a very happy and corny man. We’ll call him Dr. Ono, who stands just over 4’6” and is wearing platform shoes.

TLW described her first visit to the good doctor as an almost homecoming. Dr. Ono met with her in his office and explained the procedure and as she departed, he hugged her goodbye. Nice way to have confidence in your surgeon.

The hospital was St. Catherine of Sienna in Smithtown, NY. At one time, it was Saint John’s Episcopal Hospital, but there weren’t enough sick Episcopalians doctoring so they sold it to the Catholics, who it seems are always ailing about something or another.

We arrive at the prescribed time of 6:45 AM, where we were immediately set into motion, that is, she was escorted to a bed while I was told to sit and wait, something I’ve had to do all my life one way or another.

The joy of waiting is not something you take for granted, especially when your doctor is not expected at the hospital until 8:00 AM and you are not the first patient on the schedule. Give a medical schedule maker a little power and they will keep you in their power with waiting and rules. You must have rules: “NO EATING FROM TUESDAY THE WEEK BEFORE THE PROCEDURE, NO MEDICATIONS 5 MONTHS PRIOR TO THE PROCEDURE AND OF COURSE, NO JEWELRY ON THE DAY OF THE PROCEDURE!”

The real fun of the ‘procedure’ of course is the uncertainty, as they call me in to sit with TLW. She is a trooper, a great example of a good patient in her rubber bonnet and funny socks, sitting there waiting for me with a smile on her face. I find her surgical section bed along with a long line of beds with patients. No one under the age of 60 is allowed in this area and even the nurses and aids are all over the minimum age. This is important as one can then complain and they will give you the standard reply: “Are you telling me! Let me tell you…”

By 8:00 AM I’m starting to think about food, lots of it, and I know where there is some, but won’t (out of loyalty) go and eat while TLW has to suffer, but boy, once they take her away for the procedure, off I will go for a cup of coffee.

Someone comes to push TLW to the operating room, and healthy as he is, I almost want to help him push. We arrive in the pre-operative room where we will be interviewed by the total population of Smithtown asking the same questions we already answered ten times since we got here, and of course, the very same questions we answered on countless forms prior to arriving here in pre-operative visits to the doctor’s weeks before. I guess the ink they use is only good for a short while.

Everything was going fine until the esteemed Dr. Ono arrived, who looked at her cheek, marked it, (He hates to make mistakes) and told me there should be no hickeys on that side of her face for a while. I asked about the other side and said: “Why not?”

Friday, December 09, 2016

FINISHING OFF 2016 WITH A SLICE!

No, not pizza but from the surgeon's knife.

Yes, it wasn't enough that my daughter Ellen needed surgery, that my #1 Son needed surgery, and now we just finished TLW (The Little Woman) with some surgery, I go tomorrow to see the surgeon who will tell me I need some surgery! The only one missing is #2 Son (Thank God) and we would have the Round-Robbin of surgery for 2016!

I remember so long ago when we were all young and there was nothing to think about. Surgery was the last thing on our minds, and now that occupies our thinking. I have spent countless hours in hospitals this year and have covered both the East and West coast in doing so.

Most of the surgery done on us so far have been very important, the broken bones in my daughter's right lower leg, the fibula was snapped somehow and we don't know how.

Then there was the open-heart surgery for #1 son, a triple bypass out in LA.

Today we removed a cyst from TLW's neck or lower jaw.

Tomorrow I go to see my surgeon, he will tell me I need an operation on my carotid artery, that is 90% blocked, and am in danger of a stroke. (By the time you read this I will have been there to see him.) Can I possibly have a better year for my family? I really don't mind my surgery but that of my wife and kids is another story.

Wish me luck, I'm not ready to die yet.


Thursday, December 08, 2016

THERE'S THAT FIRST TIME!


The old adage: "There's a first time for everything", has reared its ugly head.

This past Sunday as I went to the diner with TLW (The Little Woman), to enjoy our usual Sunday morning breakfast. One of the things that come with the breakfast is the free juice of your choice, either apple, orange or tomato, served up along with your first cup of coffee.

As we sat, the first thing to annoy me was a fly. WHAT THE HELL IS A FLY DOING, FLYING AROUND IN DECEMBER, DAYS AWAY FROM THE FIRST DAY OF WINTER???

OK, I'm a big boy or an old man, so I'll get over it. We ask for tomato juice because we didn't want to knock ourselves in the head thinking we could have had a V-8!

Out comes the juice for TLW and me when I take a sip and am shocked. Having put in pepper and a little salt, I wondered just how much pepper I put into it, as a shocking spiciness goes from my lips all the down to my stomach, leaving me in surprise. I watch TLW take her first sip, and she raises her eyebrows and looks at me. "Ah!" I thought I didn't put in too much pepper after all! She's willing to brave it out, I'm not. I call over the waitress and tell her the drink is loaded. Her eyes brighten and realize what happened, she had taken the wrong juice, the one with the Bloody Mary mix instead of the tomato juice.

Ok, she brings me a new juice with a straw in it, and sure enough, it is right. Immediately following the delivery of the juice my cheese omelet comes with the toast etc., and the food is placed down in front of me. I start to make room for the toast, to bring it closer when my arm hits the straw knocking over the tomato juice onto my lap, seat and floor, and as I am reaching for a napkin, I knock off the fork onto the floor! That was the first time in my life I ever did anything like that!

Totally disorganized, embarrassed and surprised, I don't know what to do first, the waitress running off to get towelettes and towels to soak up the tomato juice. I scamper all over, wiping my pants, seat and trying to get my fork off the floor, I realized: I should have ordered a V-8!

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

A SIGN OF THE TIMES

crunched-up gathering of one or both hands,
If you are Italian/American, then you know the importance of the hands. Italian hands can do it all, from delicate cooking and baking to stone and masonry. While it labors out of love, it also can communicate messages far beyond the written and spoken word. To be Italian means you are multi-lingual, communication with both speech and hands.

The hands have a power by the movement Italians impose on them from a prayerful wave to a crunched-up gathering of one or both hands, we do need to be understood. The beauty of the Italian communicant is he or she can raise the level of the voice or the position of the hand to convey once or more than once the same message.

Grandma was a hand user to the nth power, and often under the flurry of words came the flow of movements. You never saw her mouth move because her hands were in the way! You got the message, she didn't have to point. The thing is when she spoke, her hands flashed from all the rings she was wearing, it is amazing she got them high when she was raising her voice from the weight of the jewelry!
Grandpa, on the other hand, was a quiet man, never raised his voice or hands above his hips. One hand motion lasted the whole sentence while Grandma needed many motions to complete a sentence.

We had a cousin Mauro who was deaf, and we always spoke to him in sign language, that is with our hands very high in the air.

English sign language is very different from Italian, there are more symbols to spell out although there aren't as many letters.

When we all got together on the holidays, Grandma's kitchen was crowded with women that let it all loose, hands flying everywhere, the air vibrated so much you needed a sweater! The din alone from Aunt Tessie telling a story and asking for confirmation from Uncle Joe added to the noise level, causing the National Seismograph Association to report of tremors in the heart of Brooklyn!

If you broke a hand or had it in a cast, what could you say?  One aunt was very quiet, and everyone thought she was angry, turns out she was just sitting on her hands.


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

THROUGH THE YEARS


I can't remember when you weren't there
When I didn't care for anyone but you
I swear we've been through everything there is
Can't imagine anything we've missed
Can't imagine anything the two of us can't do

Through the years
You've never let me down
You turned my life around
The sweetest days I've found
I've found with you
Through the years
I've never been afraid
I've loved the life we've made
And I'm so glad I stayed
Right here with you
Through the years

I can't remember what I used to do
Who I trusted whom, I listened to before
I swear you've taught me everything I know
Can't imagine needing someone so
But through the years it seems to me
I need you more and more

Through the years
Through all the good and bad
I knew how much we had
I've always been so glad
To be with you
Through the years
It's better every day
You've kissed my tears away
As long as it's okay
I'll stay with you
Through the years

Through the years
When everything went wrong
Together we were strong
I know that I belong
Right here with you
Through the years
I never had a doubt
We'd always work things out
I've learned what life's about
By loving you
Through the years

Through the years
You've never let me down
You turned my life around
The sweetest days I've found
I've found with you
Through the years
It's better every day
You've kissed my tears away
As long as it's okay
I'll stay with you
Through the years

This is one of my favorite Kenny Rogers songs. It is not only beautiful with the lyrics, but more importantly, the sentiment that goes along with it, it is how I feel toward TLW (The Little Woman). Corny, I know, but give an old fool his time.

I decided to take better control of my life recently and decided I needed to throw out things that at my age are no longer relevant or useful. I have my memories and tokens that I kept, but there are things that are no longer needed and are just taking up space.

Discovering in my 45 years of married life I owned an awful lot of wristwatches, gifts from my family and friends, cufflinks, fancy and dandy, initialed and studded with all kinds stones and pearls, gold, and silver, some showing places on them and some with beautiful designs. I found three pocket watches and one stopwatch.

Another collection I found was old eyeglasses. So, I decided I would take them and wear them by switching them during the day to confuse TLW. She noticed one pair, but not t the other. Life can be fun.

Then I found 45 years worth of hotel complimentary soaps, shampoos, mending kits, and body lotions that I amassed. My philosophy until recently was they are free, so take them home. Why? I have no idea, but between my armoire and my bedroom closet I had amassed quite a horde! I found a ring my grandmother gave me for my high school graduation and a pocket watch my boss gave me for Christmas back in the 70's!

But the best thing I found among the old cards TLW sent me was a beautiful letter she penned 35 years ago. I won't say what she said, but it did touch me very deeply, and when I read it, with all the memories I had just gone through, the Kenny Rogers song started to play in my head, and so there you have it.