Saturday, March 31, 2018


Easter was a sacred holiday, bigger than even Christmas to many Italian Americans back in the 1950's. In those golden days, when everyone dressed up for every special occasion: it was a time to say that the long cold winter was over; "I have new clothes, and let's eat!"

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 with its ever-present ‘cow-lick' was combed and I was warned: "Don't get dirty!"

We would get sent off to Mass and sit with our respective classes listening to the sermon as our stomachs growled that they 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 the two or three blocks home, smelling the sauces that everyone's house seemed to be cooking that morning along the way.

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 24 to 35 people.
Happy Easter, or as my grandmother used to say "A ‘Appy East!

People think that Italians speak with their hands, they don't they use the whole extremity of the 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. The dinners were elaborate, the china wasn't and the conversations multi-subject, in all 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. We would either go to Grandma's or have it at home, but we would take and after dinner walks around the neighborhood in our Easter finery. 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.
But dressing us up for Mass, with new clothes and shoes, haircut and any new accessories needed for the girls, getting together with relatives and feasting on Easter Sunday was a reward. Not only Lasagna or ravioli as the main course, meatballs, and sausages or rolled beef and pork stuffed morsels, roasted chicken and there were the magnificent Easter meat pies, the very tradition that defined Easter Sunday in my house. One of those pies was made with Ricotta cheese, and ANGINETTI, the Italian Easter cookies rounded out the day's feasting. It was this final act of eating that closed out the beautiful day.

It seemed every Easter Sunday was sunny and warm to me in the 1950's. ‘IN MY EASTER BONNET & HERE COMES PETER COTTONTAIL" was the magic, with our basket of jellybeans and marshmallow chicks encased in cellophane confetti!

The Easter season has always given me a sense of renewal, rebirth, and just a good memory. There lived once in my daughter's home for people with developmental disabilities a fellow by the name of Paul. Paul was a fellow that didn't speak and sat alone. He was about 40 years of age, and would not look you straight in the eye. He appeared to be very hostile and did not acknowledge that you were even there. It was on an Easter Sunday, a few years ago that I went to pick up my daughter, Ellen, to bring her home for Easter dinner. I decided that I was going to try to get Paul's attention. I learned a lesson in a hurry. I went over to where he was sitting, I knelt down and leaned into his stoic face.

"Hello Paul, How's it going?" Paul was sitting Indian fashion in his chair, his legs intertwined and he was in his undershirt, with evidence of his last meal clearly shown. Paul looked at me and kissed the side of my face. If I ever felt like I did something worthwhile, it was then, as it taught me that the old adage IS true, you can't tell a book by its cover.

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: "Be a quiet! Rafaello anda getta the vino"!

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!

Thursday, March 22, 2018


Come back another day say in 2045.

Since the end of February, all I'm hearing is how sick everyone is of the snow. We are experiencing as I write this on Wednesday, March 21 the fourth storm. It is a deceptive storm in that it predicts much but so far there isn't much. That will change soon after the storm as we have at least 6 hours of heavy snowfall to come.

Six to twelve inches are the final numbers expected. High winds, deep cold, and deceptions are all predicted. Black top and black ice, hand in hand to ruin your sense of safety are included.

The hope is that it is the last storm of the season. This is tragic news if true since all the weathermen and women will cease to hyperventilate over all the excitement.

But let's not get too excited. Early spring is no walk in the park either. It is more like a wade in the puddles, cold biting winds and occasional cold days.
We have this kind of weather until June when suddenly it is so hot, you wish it would snow, the humidity so depressing you cease to want to live or even eat.

Nothing like getting up in the morning and being greeted by deep snow, your driveway plowed in and you need to get to work because your company made no announcements about closing. Meanwhile, everything around you is closed.

So, you clean off your car and then start shoveling. You go inside to have a cup of coffee and then go out, once again, to find that SOB plowed you in again! You go inside and sit a while then the news comes of a delayed opening.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Thinking back to the old days and some of the things we used to take for granted and are no longer part of our lives can take all day.

For instance, you remember the dial or rotary phone, and the painstaking care to stick your fingers in the right holes. It took me at least a minute to do so. No, I wasn't drunk sometimes, just took my time with picking out the numbers and then running the hole to the stopper at the end of the dial.

NOW? Just push those buttons really fast. Or, have the phone do it for you.

Needed to take a picture and wished you brought your camera along?

NOW? Just reach in your pocket and there it is on your phone.

Speaking of phones, if you didn't own a phone you had to rely on a neighbor or phone booth to make a call. 5¢ local, 25¢ out of town and even more after the call for long distance. You spoke fast.

Remember the TV dial? Another round thing that you needed to go to the set, turn the dial to the number you wanted, fortunately, we had 13 stations but not all of them worked. You only had 2, 4, 5 7, 9, 11, and 13, and of course UHF I believe. The set was black and white and sometimes the antennae needed to be moved around. If you wanted to see the show again, you had to wait for re-runs and hope you don't miss it then.

NOW? Just push a button on your remote for all things large or small. Like volume, picture size, and recording. And as an extra bonus, it tells you if you wish to take the incoming call.

Recall the floor button on your car floor, for the dimmers or retaliation button. You pressed it with your foot to communicate to the driver coming the other way to dim his lights in the dark. If he didn't, you gave him your bright thus helping facilitate a head-on accident.

NOW? Just push your lever forward.

How did you do with road maps? If you didn't have someone to read it to you while you were driving you had to write it down and follow it while you drove.

NOW? Ah! The GPS or global guidance system, and it even talks to you.

Had to get into your locked car? You reached into your pocket and dug out your keys, stuck it in the door handle or lock in the door, today you just keep them in your pocket and the door unlocks itself!

Mom would spend a lot of time and hard work cleaning her oven, the backbreaking need to reach into the chamber to scrub the crud.

Now? Just set the oven to self-clean and go get a nap and cup of coffee.

That dreaded chore, going to the grocery store, and shopping the aisles then getting on a long line to pay, negotiate a broken parking lot with its potholes and ruts and then unload in your car drive then unload what you loaded

NOW? Just make a phone call and it all comes to you!

Need to buy a car? Just ‘go online' compare features and prices or colors and models, all from home then go look in the showroom for what you know you already want.

Need a college degree? Quit out of the car website and go to the online colleges and what they offer. My degree was getting on trains, hitchhiking and walking, braving the elements and having to spend the whole day in searching for my education.

Now, just get to class with a cup of coffee in your pajamas.

And so, we move along, every day something new. Instant news, immediate phone service, instant help in finding businesses, restaurants and instant messages, all at your finger-tips.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


She enters my house every other Sunday, gingerly stepping over the thresh hold of her past into a world she once knew. Looking for me she smiles and heads for her treat of potato chips and soda waiting for her on the kitchen counter.

She never speaks, not even to her parents, since the day she was born. Never having the ability due to brain damage at birth, I am not convinced what happened, but suspect; yet there is nothing I can do about it. An enigma wrapped in a riddle that defies any code breaker from solving.

‘She' is my daughter Ellen, an icon for her parents that weighs all our decisions we make. She has consumed my life and that of her mother's. But she is something else, something =r someone so strong that she can drive me to do all I can because she teaches me every day that I must work for others, must devote my life to helping and reaching out, learning compassion, understanding, and charity. ‘She' is my hero.

Today Ellen is 46, a middle-aged woman with no future other than what I can help provide for her. We are anchored here in our locality because we will never leave her, she is our daughter and we both love and fear for her, we are parents of a child/adult of developmental disabilities and intellectual non-development.

It is her birthday, and to her, it is just another day, without concepts, without awareness, and without dreams. When she comes home, and I see her as she walks over to her favorite spot on the couch, if imagine her with a couple of kids, sometimes even with a husband, a little family visiting grandma and grandpa. Instead, we have the eerie silence of Nature saying nothing and offering even less.

Happy Birthday Ellen!

Monday, March 19, 2018


Every year at St. Patrick's Day, since I was a little kid I hated corned beef and cabbage. It was one of my least favorite dishes that I would never order in a restaurant, would never go out for it even on the green day.

Mom used to make it once a year and we had to eat it or starve, it was one of her great dishes to teach us the value of food and how important it was to appreciate without wasting it.

Then what do I do but marry an Irishman, swear my love for all things Miss Manning and forgo my prejudice about corned beef and cabbage? She would make it and I would think that after dinner I would sneak out and go to Burger King or something like it, and feast.

Then about 12 years ago I retired and to save our marriage, TLW (The Little Woman) decided to go to work and see the world after years of a stay at home mom. I started to do the cooking. I had to make corned beef and cabbage.

I decided to go on this adventure by trying different recipes, including Irish Soda Bread in the mix and even tried a completely different dinner one the Irish of Ireland had: colcannon and lamb. This fell like a dud, something about "Comfort foods" and what have you.

Although my suspicions were that TLW wasn't a fan of the dish itself that millions of households were having that evening, she still had to have it, it was her past.

Then a few days before St. Patrick's Day I found this recipe that changed everything I felt about Corned Beef and Cabbage. It called for Guinness Stout, brown sugar and a slow cooker and the rest is history, the best-corned beef ever!

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Nothing better than a surprise, especially early in the morning and a top o' the morning it was. After making a new recipe that required patience and hard work, I assembled a loaf of Irish soda bread for TLW (The Little Woman) for St. Patrick's Day. This was a challenging recipe that was very hard to make and handle, the dough is very wet and almost liquid.

As I worked this dough, half of which I had to wash off my hands as I went along, I felt trepidation as I transferred the dough from the kneading board to the baking pan, thinking, this is not going to be pretty. I shoved it into the oven and waited for the bread to bake.

The oven timer rang out it's warning that time was up and so I gingerly opened the oven door and extracted my ‘messterpiece' from its cozy shelf, thinking surprised that it looked like soda bread I made in the past! But, looks are one thing: taste is another.

As a test to see if it was completely baked, I turned it over and knocked on it, where a hollow sound responded to my inquiry, as did the butter knife I sent down the middle of it that I withdrew to find it dry and clean. But, looks are one thing: taste is another, as I said before.

The next morning is St. Patrick's Day and I kiss TLW good morning and wish here Happy St. Patrick's Day. I usually order by computer two breakfast sandwiches from our local Handy Pantry in Ronkonkoma and we have breakfast. But this morning TLW decided to try the soda bread, something I was avoiding to even consider.

Into the den, she comes, ceremoniously carrying two buttered pieces of my creation with a cup of coffee. It looks normal! The soda bread looks normal, even delicious! Still, looks are one thing: taste is another. I bite into it and WOW!!! Delicious, the best I ever made!

Next year more of the same! Now to worry about my new corned beef and cabbage recipe that is slow cooking right now in the crock-pot.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


Aye, another season with the Irish lassie, TLW!

Marrying TLW has been an adventure and a joy she has pizza every Friday night and makes a great sauce, what else do need from an Irishman? I have beautiful children, each gives me the joy to follow their lives, half-Irish and I hear the Irish – Italian combination yields beautiful children.

Every year I make her Irish soda bread, corned beef, and cabbage and have a few beers, usually, Guinness Stout, to round out the occasion, both in the corned beef and my glass. This year I made a new recipe for Irish soda bread and one for her corned beef and cabbage. Lately, I've been doing it in the pressure cooker, and it comes out great, not bland or tasteless but with a distinctive flavor.

One year I made her colcannon, a potato and kale or parsley mixture in place of boiled potatoes and Lamb chops, the real traditional St Paddy Day dish of Ireland! TLW seemed to miss her comfort food, so the new tradition is not to make it anymore.

Well, from an Italian I wish you Happy St. Patrick's Day! Monday is St. Joseph's Day.

Friday, March 16, 2018


Yesterday I visited someone in a hospital who I know for over 20 years. She is a lady in her 70’s who shares a home with my daughter for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. She doesn’t speak and is in part, physically deformed from a disease she has that causes her lungs to not function well.

As I entered her room, a cast of grey somber sadness permeated the room, as she lay there unconscious and clinging on to life, her life. It is the only thing she knows how to do well, the only thing she taught herself and will repeat her lessons on and off for the rest of her life.

When she is ‘well’ she will recognize me as I stop to talk to her while she sits in her wheelchair, reaching for me with her twisted deformed body, eying me and saying with her eyes, please don’t go away, I love the attention, I need you to help me feel human and recognized. I make it a point to take my hat off if I’m wearing one and not sound like I am talking down to her. I like giving her respect as a human being as opposed to talking to a say, a rapist.

Her head sits at an angle that was somewhat contorted and her tongue, as always is hanging out of her mouth due to her condition. The question now governing my mind is how comfortable she is and when will this suffering end. As her legal guardian and co-chair of the guardianship committee for the agency I volunteer for, we oversee her life and in the end, her death. It weighs heavily on my mind and I know the decision will be final, one that she will not participate in. How sad.

Her life is slowly ebbing away and she is unaware of that fact. The doctors speak with a finality in tone and clinical expressions that do not comfort or sooth the heart or soul.

She will leave this World quietly and without fanfare, she will not be noticed after a while and forgotten probably sooner. However that may be, I will carry this sadness with me as I go on to help others, including my daughter, seek some dignity and value from this World.

We all have to leave someday, there is no doubt about that, but we may have the comfort of someone holding our hand as we say goodbye and cross into the unknown. This woman will probably not have that unless someone calls me to hurry and come down. I hope so I don’t want her to die alone.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


For years I have been looking at the World through the same eyes. I see things both in real-time and in my mind, sometimes vividly. The reds are still red and the blues are still blue. Beautiful people still strike me as beautiful, and in fact to some degree, the superficiality of looks has been tempered with age over time.

I cannot separate what something looked like to me at 20 compared to 40-years of age. A beautiful woman is still a beautiful woman to me at any age, and the older ladies are as beautiful as they were when they were younger, only with more substance. Children still play and laugh and sing, maybe not the way I did as a child, but still they do what children do.

But a funny thing is happening, as I arise every morning with these same eyes, looking into the mirror, someone else is standing there! Who is that? Why is he standing there and where am I? Is it one of my wife’s brothers I never met after almost 47 years of marriage, or is that my father?

I see people in the gym and they struggle to workout, and I think, I can do that, just don’t. Any 70+ old man who sucks in his stomach every time he sees a beautiful young lady pass by, maybe even smiles at him, is obviously in a delusionary world, one without a time line available.

In my eyes the World is changing very rapidly and the inner youngster in my mind is living in panic thinking what he will do about it in 20 years! He sees tomorrow without thinking about getting by today.

If I go back to a place where I spent time many years ago, the place now seems smaller, maybe with a patina I never noticed before, so in essence, my eyes are better?

I see people from my high school days, some I recognized from those sweet old days and even though they changed, they seem to assume a physical resemblance that makes me think: Gee they haven’t changed at all!

I guess getting older is for fools. We are all in the same boat and not need to worry about aging, just being graceful while we do it, with each other and ourselves.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


I am currently writing and designing a book along with the storyteller that gives the reader a little glimpse into life in the late 1940's and early 1950's in Brooklyn NY about a nine-year-old boy playing on the streets.

The story centers on a six-month period from early summer until New Year's Day. The people included in this story are friends from the streets, and family, mostly immediate members of the household.

There is one aspect of the story that touches me deeply and that is the young boy's older sister. It takes me back to those days when Mom and Dad relied on my older sister for everything, from chores to traveling to shopping, and she was just a child, a few years older than me.

All too often she was responsible for me, going and coming home from school, it was her that was there for my first day of kindergarten, making sure that I got cookies and milk for the day, and that I safely got to my classroom.

As a child, I recall my very first snowstorm, a rather nasty one that closed down transportation and the city for a few days. The snow had fallen and it was piled up on the sidewalks on top of the cars parked along the curb, unable to get out due to the plowing that was done to seal in all the cars.

I recall all the kids being outdoors playing in the snow and my sister brought me down with a large serving spoon because we didn't have any toys for the storm, her helping me up onto the pile of snow and my digging into it.

But she was always there, shopping for Olympia's Gift Shop and buying things like cartons of cigarettes and candy, going onto the subway to purchase these items and she might have been maybe 10 or 11 years old.

She taught me how to dance and how to drive, and as the years went by we grew close, we withstood family crisis and dealt with it together, and she had a protective hand always before my eyes.

Writing this book and telling the story of Pepino and his older sister has been an adventure and reminder of what life was like as a child with the benefits of an older sister.

Monday, March 12, 2018


Way back in 1988, when things were still simple in the political world compared to today, there was an unctuous and slimy politician as they can come. He remade himself into another image, one that was revered and missed. He tried to fool the American public because he wanted something, to be the President of the United States, just as his inspiration was, John F. Kennedy. Combing his hair, posturing and speaking like Kennedy. He even changed his name to create an effect and had all the ingredients of a usual politician, dishonest and scheming.

Garry Hart, aka Hartpence, was on his way to be president if he could convince the American public to accept that fact. He almost got away with it. As a US Senator, he had support from his constituency and they believed.

Then one day a little monkey business occurred and Senator Hart(pence)  was in the center of it all, cheating on his wife. He lost all hope of ever being president because the public would not have it. America would not demean the office of POTUS, would not go so low as to reward this cheater the highest office.

Now as we scan the horizon, we have a new set of rules, a new set of moral standards that we need not care about or boast of. A minority has been able to successfully do what the moral majority could not prevent, elect a man with such low ideals, a man without a moral compass, and a man who has more ex-wives than people who attended his inauguration! His supporters managed to get a shovel to dig deeper and lower than we ever have gone before and in the process lowered the high ideals of the leader of the Free World we used to cherish.

This man who calls himself President of the United States has demeaned his office and family, his mindset, that of a child and comes with his childish antics. But most of all, he has demeaned his Country: the one he swore to protect, defend, and serve.

When I see him hold a press conference, I cringe at his childish name calling, acting and parading in front of millions of people, yet he has a crowd behind him, cheering and urging him on, a crowd with no sense of what is respectable or decent.

This is the action of a pre-adolescent, pre-pubic child, one we need to send to his room without recognizable respect. In other words: kick him out on his stupid ass.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


It seems that the winter season has had its ups and downs. We went into it with a less than frozen attitude and that turned in a hurry into to deep freeze. By the time the end of February came it started to feel like spring, fooling both young and old alike into false hope. Then out of nowhere, we are facing our third Nor‘easter in a few weeks!

Every once in a while you get a cold, a respiratory infection that you can't really treat but buy all the help you can get with medicine that really only mask the symptoms, and the cold will last for weeks, never going away. You think: What do I have to do to rid myself of this cold?

Colds are just like the weather. You get to a cold season and hope that when you come down with a cold that it will only last for a week, there is nothing you can do about it.

This past flu season was particularly damaging, causing deaths of young children, I think over the past flu season the flu has killed more children and bringing the toll to 114 children this season, but experts say it's finally abating, thankfully, according to USA Today!

One would think that after all these years that we would have a universal flu shot developed in plenty of supply, but it doesn't work that way, each flu season is unique. The ambiguity of it all just points out how far we have yet to go.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


I live and die on the computer. I am helping to write a book and also designing what it will look like. All on both my laptop and desktop. The beauty of the cloud is I can write anywhere with my laptop and feed my desktop.

Then something happens without reason. The laptop dies, just like that and suddenly my whole world dies and falls apart. I lose my Facebook account because I don't recall my password, Facebook shuts it down because I tried too many times to sign in to it and then tried to establish another account and tried to re-connect with the old friends I had, and someone must have complained that I was hacked!

So, out I go to spend money on a new computer that I am having trouble liking. It seems to e that the Mac was a great operating system and file management was easy, now in their quest to make it easier, they've made it harder.

Writing has become a passion for me; I like to write as much a possible about all kinds of things to express myself. Things that I wrote years ago I re-read and discover I liked hat I read and can't believe that I wrote it, and that is a wonderful and fulfilling feeling.

Having no laptop for a week was deadly to my sense of peace and relaxation, without it I might as well stay in bed all day. I tried to use my I-pad to some extent, but without the use of a real keyboard, it is not good enough to make me feel comfortable.

This piece is the first thing written on my new laptop and feels strange after a week even the keyboard feels strange. I hope this is the beginning of the continuation I had going and will build on it.

Friday, March 02, 2018


You call it something else.

OK, what am I talking about?

Recently I got the news that my diabetes is getting out of control. Diet, exercise, and determination don't seem to work anymore. It seems like something is happening that I can't explain. I was just taking oral insulin and now I take a needle along with all the pills.

So, I decided that it was time to dig a little deeper and get really crazy with the food and drink. No more manhattans for cocktails, absolutely no sugar drinks or things of that nature, and plain desserts that don't have high sugar content.

I adopted a cookbook for diabetics and selected some recipes that my wife would like as well. I am not dragging her down with me to eat diabetic and ruining her life. We found one for meatloaf, so, we tried it.

The meatloaf was OK, and if you add hot sauce it is much better, yet so is the grade of indigestion you get, heartburn gripping our chests as both my wife and I had it that whole night and into late morning. This little fact does not deter me from using the cookbook one more time. This time we are making a Mediterranean Seafood with Pasta dish.

So, I look at the recipe and discover they may have moved the Mediterranean Sea up near Norway. Looking over the recipe, I see something missing! This recipe is supposed ‘Mediterranean' fish dinner with pasta, where is the garlic, where are the anchovy and red pepper flakes? There is carrot, onion, celery and both red and green peppers, but NO garlic?

Who created this recipe, Eric the Norseman? Neither Garlic or anchovy or even red pepper flakes will give you diabetes, so it's all going in.

Thursday, March 01, 2018


Do you recall if you are over 65 a show called: WHO DO YOU TRUST?

The show aired back in the 60's and it was fun to watch. Johnny Carson was one of the hosts and it made him a household name.

We now have another household name, Donald Trump.

Donald Trump when he took office, lied first about the size of the inaugural crowd and hasn't stopped lying since. His staff, twenty of Donald Trump's White House staff and advisors have been fired or resigned since last night, Hope Hicks being the last.

So many of his staff are already indicted by the U.S. Attorney's Office and Robert Mueller.

Thank God for a Robert Mueller! Even in Trump's own family, they are losing their security clearance and by the way, what the Hell are they doing involved in foreign policy, and the fate of my country?

Trump wails against what he calls "Fake News!" Yet time and again he lies to both his party and his supporters while attacking the media for fake news.

The Administration is dysfunctional and unraveling quickly, loss of respect from our allies, his own base starting to wither away and the trust of the American people all but gone and certainly suspecting what he says, so who do we trust?

I think it is time for Mr. Trump to head back to Trump Tower and find a closet and hide until 2021.