Friday, January 17, 2020


What Italian customs do you see fading in our culture? Things grandparents or parents did you don't see now. 

 For example, as a kid every Italian wedding had the lively Tarantella dance performed, and you got a small handful of white candy-coated Almonds in a little piece of white netting tied with ribbon. Anyone remember those?

This was posted on Facebook today and it makes me realize how much things have changed. This realization appears to be factual due to the progression of time. 

What happened?

We happened and we no longer went to tradition as Italian Americans but instead, as Americans. 

First of all the customs are Italian that once were, not American. Things like, almond sugarcoated candies in white lace wedding favors were a product of small Italian neighborhood bakeries that no longer exist as they once did. They catered to the Italian immigration experience that no longer as prevalent, the casualty of progress for Italian life.

The Tarantella? How many of us took the time to learn it from our parents or grandparents that we could dance it today? I’ve seen attempts from some of us but it never seems to work out. 

This is not to say that I don’t miss it, it is to say though that there is a successful transition going on, one that Grandma and Grandpa wanted when they arrived here on these blessed shores, to be American.

Today, weddings are between Italian and Irish or German and Spanish last names. We are melded into the American dream as it was meant to be. My wife is Irish my sisters married Poles and Japanese. We are collectively the American experiment and the American dream come true. It is good. It is good we have our heritage, one that would be wasted on our children since they never experienced the joy of growing up with Italian immigrants.

Take heart, one of the things Thomas Jefferson took back to America after a European trip was a pasta maker and pasta. He must have figured it out early on, it cooks quicker when it is home-made.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020


I enter into her room along which she shares with her roommate and search for some light, some ray somewhere that can give me clues as to how my daughter is doing this morning. What light there are seeps into the room from the hallway which runs the entire length of the large and spacious building. The building itself is very much institutional and imposing, even from the distance of the main road.

Gently I place my belongings down, find and move a chair, and slowly with caution as not to disturb anyone, move the chair and rolling table close to her bed.

She lies in her bed across the width instead of along the length, her thin legs sticking out over the side of the bed as she in her deep state of sleep, the World carrying on without her. I sit and look and wonder how she will be today. Will the excruciating pain be present once again, will she fight me or staff as we try to help her to survive another day?

Suddenly a staff person will enter with a breakfast try for her and her roommate and this will not let me disturb her. I'd rather she sleep, I know better. Finally, she stirs and looks about her eyes meeting mine, and shift to view the ceiling. I wonder what her mood is. Slowly I try to straighten her out on the bed and she gives me indications that she is not happy with me for disturbing her. I do the best I can and raise her head, her arms and legs flailing and her face contorting.

Some people think she is not dying, that I am exaggerating the whole scenario, her life is confined to a bed, hasn’t eaten a full meal or walked in months and months. She lies in her bed without any real-life, listless and idle. She doesn’t speak or understand what is going on. In her thin state of 86 pounds I wonder how much longer it will last for her on Earth, there is very little liquid intake to make matters critical. She is indeed on the precipice of life or death. I fear another illness, perhaps pneumonia, which she is prone to occurring once again and this time she loses that battle.

I look at her with her big almond-shaped brown eyes and realize how beautiful she is. I think about her life, so pointless and void. There is nothing she enjoys, nor is there any dream or future she envisions and only the pain is hers, and I cry to myself. Her eyes once showed love and happiness, now that is all gone and only pain remains.

If an aid comes near her she starts to demonstrate her anger that she will be disturbed, that the pain she has will intensify and as she can’t make sounds she cries silently, and inside I cry with her, dying a little more myself.

Outside the World goes its merry way, people move about going to jobs or schools, breakfast or lunch or dinner, each with plans and ideas, something to contribute. I will try to feed her breakfast, she will get angry at me for doing so and refuse to eat and I will die a little more.

I used to imagine her coming over to my house with her children for dinner on a Sunday, or how proud I would be at her graduation from college and her wedding. I would imagine her a leader in her field of expertise. Instead, I see what a shattered and empty life she has been given, and why, I ask myself. What does she owe this life of hers to?

People talk about God, and in their fear state that he will bless us, that he will make it right and yet my daughter says, NO.  These same people, good-hearted people, say that he only gives us what we can handle.


Tuesday, January 14, 2020


I have been following baseball for over 68-years. In those years I have seen how things changed. The simplicity of what once was a beautiful game, one executed in poetic standards and ballerina motions has taken on a new twist.

Years ago, cheating meant watching the catcher’s signs if you stood on second base, or throwing a baseball with some saliva or petroleum jelly. Maybe you inched off the first base a little more than you should before a pick-off throw was invited.

Stats about a pitcher or the arm of some outfielder or infielder’s range were recorded in your head or even on a notebook, this was not cheating, it was common sense.

Today, the whole world of baseball has changed. Some nerd, knowing nothing about the nuances of baseball and its play, but everything about the averages of probability, has introduced a thing called ‘analytics’.

The once simple scoreboard that overlooked the outfield was changed manually by someone to place or replace digits to keep the fan in the stands abreast of the progress of the game. Today, Jumbo electronic messages changed in a Mila-second are flashed across the whole stadium as fans are kept up-to-date about the current game across the country and all games coast-to-coast and in between.

There is a thing called the ‘Designated Hitter” that has once again changed the symmetry of baseball, the perfect balance of fielder/hitter and the values thereof. Even dress has made inroads into the simplicity of the game. Teams wore stirrups and everyone was uniform to his own team, now they wear their pants down under their heels, look sloppy and unprofessional.

Ballparks once were asymmetrical, went the way of symmetry like cookie-cutters laid them out, realized how bad it was and went back to the asymmetrical look, that reflected the neighborhood they stood in, not the vast parking lot they now exist in.

Recently the Houston Astros and later the Boston Red Sox were implicated in cheating scandals. Cheating was always part of baseball as we know, not only did they load the baseball, but the bats were sometimes loaded with lead or cork or some substance hidden in the barrel of the bat. It was cheating, as we knew it and it was accepted by the powers that be as they tried to curtail it. Records were not expunged or erased and games were not stricken from the record books, baseball was asymmetric and beautiful.

Saturday, January 11, 2020


I walked into my daughter Ellen’s room this morning at the Medford Nursing home to find her in her usual sleeping mode. The blanket is over her head and the World is tuned out. This is an early sign that Daddy better watch his steps.

Ellen shares a room with another woman, a nice lady who is recovering from some issues. She is 85-years old and her family is heavily involved in her rehab. Her husband comes by most days and they eat lunch together and sometimes her two daughters show up, usually one at a time to visit and boss her around. Everyone gives her a lecture about what she should do and how to do it.

This morning at 7:30 A.M. I find her up and sitting in her wheelchair watching TV rather passively.

Me: Good morning!

Her: Good morning, how is it outside? Is it cold?

Me: No, it is quite nice out, like a spring day! What are you doing up so early?

Her: My family wants me up early, so I can have breakfast.

Me: But its only 7:30 AM, breakfast doesn’t come until 8:00!

Got me thinking of my own kids and what they might do. Since this poor lady is cosigned to a bed for most of the day with nowhere to go, what difference does it make for her to be out of bed so early?

My kids might want me to stay in bed, all day. Don’t get up today Dad, stay in bed, all day… if we need you we’ll let you know.


Maybe not, but it would be a convenience if I was for me. Then no one would need to visit me since I am already here.

Friday, January 10, 2020


He was a great patriot, a humanitarian, a loyal friend - provided, of course, that he really is dead.    
There seems to be a rumor out there that I have passed, I know this for a fact because I am the one spreading it. 

Since I signed up for the so-called: ‘DO NOT CALL LIST' the calls to my residence and cell phone have risen dramatically, somewhat akin to being Jewish and running through the Middle East with a target on my back and the words: SHOOT ME, I'M JEWISH.

In the course of my ordinary day, especially at 3:00 pm and later the calls start coming in. I have wanted to have fun with these calls to avenge the nerve of the caller for disturbing me, to amuse myself on an otherwise slow day, or to try out new ways to aggravate people to the point of suicide.

Unknown, Anonymous and Private Caller are all fair-game for my actions of levity and also disdain. I can answer them with a civil ‘Hello" or a rather gruff and angry tone. The later sets the mood for the caller to decide whether to say ‘Hello' or just hang up before engaging me.

I used to get the same call every afternoon around 2:00 pm from the New York Times. The same caller would ask me to subscribe to their paper. After about two weeks of this incessant calling, I decided to tell them what. The calls started with:

 "Good afternoon, may I speak with Joseph? Is this Joseph?"

"Yes, I'm Joseph."

"How are you today, Joseph?"

"Well, if the truth is known, the doctor told me I have only a few more weeks to live!"

"Have a nice day, Joseph."

I never heard from them again.

Since then I have improved my techniques with other ways to annoy or scare off the sales calls.

One day I got a call from a salesman asking for me, with caller I.D. I knew this was going nowhere for him.


"Hi, this is Custom Vacations, is this the breadwinner of the house?"

"No, do you want to speak with him?"


"Hang on, I'll get him."

I call out: Hey Jerry, phone call for you!" I then say: "He'll be with you in just a moment. After half an hour I go back to the unanswered phone and hang it up. I do two things with this madness: 1) I tie up the phone for half an hour and no stupid calls 2) it frustrates the caller who is waiting for someone to come to the phone.

On the rise is an avalanche of calls from diabetic supply companies, banks, and home improvement companies. They think I have nothing else to do but answer their phone called sales pitches. One such call came in one day with:

"HaLoa, may hi speek with de diabetic of da house?"

"I'm sorry, she died yesterday."

"Hokay, have a nice afternoon!

And so, it will go, new calls on new days with the need for new responses, so little time and so many calls to answer.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Tear Drop

In Bayonne, New Jersey sits a secret that few people know of, Tear Drop. It is overshadowed by the great memorial to the victims of 9/11 that sits at the end of Manhattan Island at the Battery where the Twin Towers once stood. Yet, it too is a memorial with the same purpose: to venerate, consecrate, and to memorialize the people, the many victims, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, and friends who died innocently because of hate and anger that lives in this world.

I refer to the 9/11 memorial gifted from the Russian people to the American people. Tear Drop, a beautiful 100 foot-tall monument sits alone and almost forgotten and unheard of as it faces the across the entrance to New York Harbor.

The cracked facade breaking forms the shape of the two towers, the giant suspended teardrop signifying the tears of the entire world that day.

Is it not so ironic that the gift came from the Russian people? Do they, as we do, wish for peace in this world? Does it not point out the real truth, that it is governments and not their people making war, destroying cultures and dividing us as human beings?

Wednesday, January 08, 2020


Long Island Newsday put out a special edition on the transformation of Long Island. What was once is not now, so it seems.

Looking back over the last 50 years or so, I have concluded that you can only maintain your balance for just so long, when modernization takes over and leaps above your capabilities, as you get older.

While in the business world I was one of those who choose to modernize my profession from a handcraft to a computer-oriented profession. I was trained to create all my ads by drawing them up on paper, using skills I developed to create a feel and sense of the subject matter. You tried to imitate type styles, draw photo images and use color to dramatize the mood.

Then along came computers to do what took you hours to develop and do it in moments! As I progressed through the years I had to adjust to new computer programs and learn newer methods until I retired, when I decided I was too tired of trying to keep up with the innovations that kept on appearing. The innovations were more time consuming than the creative side of my work.

Recently I went to my local supermarket. It has given the name supermarket a truer meaning. Once when I entered I knew where everything was. I could spot what I needed by instinct. Then another supermarket came to town and created a super-duper market, big, intimidating, complex and confusing. Along with that came the unfamiliarity of the layout and the logic that still escapes me as I peruse through it. This, of course, set my old market to imitating the new one so that it too became equally confusing.

Not only were there self-checkout (an old nemesis of mine) but hand-held scanners to take along the aisles as you shopped to read barcodes.

Today, when I get into my car, a 2019 model, I get all kinds of technologies that seem to guide me onto the freeway of life. GPS, driving grade, warning signals in mirrors, all I-phone dependent, all for an old guy who wants to slow it down a notch or two and take a nap.

My grandpa and dad never dealt with the technological innovations that I need to deal with to survive these days. Grandpa had his radio and newspapers, Dad had his TV, Radio, and newspapers and life were easy to maintain. Me, I have my TV, Radio, newspapers, I-phone, I-pad, laptop, and desk computers, all at my disposal with the encryptions and passwords that can drive me nuts. GPS, Cloud, Apple watches, etc. all designed to make life easy, yet has complicated my life to no ending in sight!

Pray for me.