Friday, January 31, 2020

HOW HAPPY I MUST BE


So, the situation with my daughter Ellen is that she was moved from the nursing home to the hospital, St. Charles in Port Jefferson. We did this with the doctors’ agreements to find the underlying cause of her lack of appetite.

There will be tests for everything possible including a toothache. Speaking to the fine staff at St. Charles, they are all into finding this problem a solution.

My wife and I have suspicions on what is going on and feel that we are running out of time. I suspect that although the surgeon, who operated on her cancer back in May of last year, may have missed something since she rebels every time I put a fork near her with food on it. This is the same reaction as when I try to give her something to drink.

We know there are infections present and probably more than once, she is ‘recovering from past issues and will continue to do so.

I hope to have some answers soon and we can ‘adjust’ to whatever the news might be.

God, how I wish I could ease her suffering!

She is a fighter, tough and feisty, will not compromise or surrender if she doesn’t want to. It is amazing how strong she is, how tough and also how pissed she is right now!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

THE NIGHT I WILL NEVER FORGET



It was 1969, and I was sitting high up in the right-field seats, in line with the foul pole and home plate. Tom Terrific was pitching that night in the middle of a pennant race with the Chicago Cubs. The date was July 9, and it was the birthday of my yet unmet wife.

As gazed over the huge expanse of outfield grass I noticed all the Met outfielders in position, set in defensive anticipation of the final three outs.

The great hall of Famer Tom Seaver was two outs away from pitching the first no-hitter in New York Mets history when Chicago Cub Jim Qualls broke up the bid with a single in the 9th inning.

When the first out of recorded, the crowd went into a frenzy of applauds and cheers and for the first time in my life, I felt afraid for my life. The stadium shook, literally making me feel that we were in danger of it coming down. I was to the point that I dreaded the second out coming, and like the first, once again the Shea faithful roared with their approval, and I prayed I wasn’t going to be in the newspapers tomorrow over a tragic demise with 55,000 others!

Seaver recorded a terrific outing: 11 strikeouts, no walks, 1 hit and a 4-0 Mets win at home.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

HE NEVER LEFT ME.

And I will never forget.


“Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.”

Joseph
Every year since 1981 there are two days I commemorate, two days that have so much meaning to me in that they teach me something important. April 6t, 1979, the day he was born and January 28, 1981, the day he passed on and was freed from the pain and anguish he was in.

I try not to dwell too much in his death, but try to keep his memory alive, because he is my son, Joseph. I know people who feel the pain of their child’s death and understand it is not easy. Especially when you have an adult child. People will criticize them for dwelling have to live in the shoes of the parent to understand it. 

My son Joseph was my third child. Joseph looked like me when I was his age, an aunt said he looked like someone had cut my head off and put it on his body. 

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on”.

Life indeed goes on and the cycle of life with death is but nature’s way of cleaning out the old and bringing in the new to replace it. 

Today Joseph died 39 years ago, he would have been a man in every respect and still my child, my son: he was my hope for tomorrow. 
Michael

All my sons are special people. One, Michael, in fact, does me proud in that he cares about the future, is starting to put his money where his mouth is, doing work for the disabled and for the community. He is passionate about what he does and seems to be intent on keeping his goals in sight. I’m proud of that and grateful, and I hope he stays his course and finds his focus rewarding that is important as being a doctor or nurse, it is about life itself, it doesn’t seem to be about himself.

Anthony
You know about my other son Anthony, a writer, wrote for The Big Bang Theory, how neat is that? But most importantly has made all the right choices in life I think. He has always worked hard and continues to be successful on a moral plane. 

Somehow, in my mind’s eye, I see these two sons as a part of what Joseph might have been, maybe I should say: ‘was’. 

So today, I will go out in Joseph’s garden I built so many years ago, and sit for a while and think of him, maybe even talk to him, and he will have his day in his father’s eyes, I will never forget him.

Monday, January 27, 2020

INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY...

Reunited survivors of the Holocaust in the Post-World War II
It is about the blackest time in human history. I see the film clips of the innocent being led away by the savage concepts of Fascism and I want to cry. I get sicker every day I hear of the uptick in anti-Semitism and can't fathom why. My heart breaks for the souls that did nothing to anyone and perhaps were giving so much more than their tormentors were at the time.

If you think about Ann Frank and her detailed diary, of her story of fear for a young woman and how the diary gave light to the world in such tragic and horrific moments, it did more for mankind than her tormentors ever could.

How many doctors and nurses, clergy, how many fathers and mothers and children were taken away from this horrid world by the beast of Fascism? Why, because of old archaic beliefs that dominated mankind’s thoughts and prevailed over truth?

Who has paid for this insanity against humankind? We all have. We have lost the love that could have been, we have lost the laughter that could have been, we have lost the medical and artistic help that should have been, we have lost a bit of our humanity.

Today, the curse is still real, the hatred has increased the last three years as self-anointed, weak-minded people take up a thought process that defies reason and tries to harm or kill the innocents once again.

We must NEVER forget this horrible history and remind ourselves that ill-founded philosophy perpetrated by the weak-minded and uninformed should never prevail again. God bless them all who perish and are still threatened.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

MEMORIES


If you are as old as I am, you might remember a TV show, titled: ‘I REMEMBER MAMMA’, about I believe a Norwegian family of immigrant parents and their American-born offspring. It had nice stories that spoke through the youngest daughter: Dagmar. Two of the actors were Peggy Woods as Mamma and Dick Van Patten as the oldest son Lars, and the youngest child, Dagmar, was portrayed by Robin Morgan (who later became a radical feminist activist and poet).

Although the accents were different, they seemed to meld into a giant framework of life, as I knew it, this TV life was a pretend life for mine.

Mamma always wore an apron, and you always found her in the kitchen, where she reigned as queen of the household. There was always a warm glow that emanated from the room and gave off warmth that held you by your heart and soul and told you: you were home.

Coming home from school, I would rush through the door and shout out: “Mom, I’m home!” It made me feel better from whatever day I had, from a good grade to a cuff on the ears by one of the Franciscan Brothers that patrolled the schoolyard and hallways of Our Lady of Lourdes. Throwing my coat down on a chair and dropping my book bag, I would scoot over to Ma and see how she was.

The warmth of the kitchen generated only good things, as the days grew shorter, the afternoon sun slowly giving way to the evening gloom, the smell of Mom’s menu grew stronger, and the anticipation of what this amazing woman could do would take over all my senses. As garlic would sizzle in a pan of olive oil, a large piece of fish sitting in the brown wrapper of the fishmonger’s doing, I would pepper her with questions. Important matters were discussed, what life was like for her as a child, or the inner workings of how this or that worked, causing her to pause gently and for a moment and assemble her answer. When she was done answering me, she would look at me and say: “Now go do your homework.”

When I was done with my homework, changed from my school clothes into my play clothes, I would go over to the kitchen table and watch her cook, looking at her hands and her gold wedding band that always held my curiosity as how it could hold the whole family together, such wonders.

As I got older, many evenings I would come home before I married and stepping off the train on cold winter nights, head to my car in anticipation of a wonderful meal sitting in an oven waiting for me made by Mom to come and claim it. That warm light would remind me that I was home, that she was there and how lucky I felt my dad was to have married such a great cook. He never complained about what she made of how it tasted.

There was one more thing that started to happen in later life. I discovered I could easily entertain Mom, make her laugh and that laugh became almost iconic in a way.

Yes, I remember Mamma!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

BUILDING CHARACTER


As I grew from a teenager to my early twenties, my relationship with my parents seemed to change to one of a more adult natural arrangement. Mom had put away her wooden spoon for discipline, and Dad was starting to admit I was HIS son, after all!


I was getting to the point where they needed me more and I was always available for them. Dad and I had worked together when I was earning my way through college in the summers and after school while in high school, and Mom, who didn’t drive, always needed a ride!

 Mom could usually be found in a state of hysterics, trying to stifle a laugh as I did different tricks on Dad. Oh, she lived for the tricks I played!

 One of my favorite remembrances was taking my little sister’s doll and removing a voice activator that repeated what you said; back to you, in baby talk!

 One late afternoon right before dad came home from work, I set it up under my father’s kitchen chair where he would eat dinner. Mom watched with fascination as I lay under his chair and took some white surgical tape and began taping the voice activator to the bottom of the chair.

 “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

 “I’m taping this under Dad’s chair, and when he talks, it will repeat back to him.”

 “Oh!” Then she starts to laugh.

 Mom did housework, she didn’t have time to think of these things, and I took that on. (Someone had to do it!)

 Dad comes home that night, and Mom puts the dinner out, and Dad pours himself a glass of wine, and I start in.

 “So Dad, are we working on Saturday?”

 “As far as I know!”
 (Echo repeats in a child’s voice.)

 Dad jumps out of his chair and stands behind it, looking confused.

 Mom is trying to stifle her laugh, choking as she does, and I look up and ask:

 “What’s the matter?”

 “WHAT THE HELLL WAS THAT?”
 (Echo repeats in a child’s voice.)

 Dad looks at me bug-eyed.

 “YOU DIDN’T HEAR THAT?”
 (Echo repeats in a child’s voice.)

 “Hear what?”

 Mom cannot control herself anymore and laughs out loud.

 Dad is starting to get a grin that says it all:

 Come OOONNN! Fong…”
 (Echo repeats in a child’s voice.)

 “Jesus Chr…”
 (Echo repeats in a child’s voice.) Now I’m laughing harder than Mom, who is holding her sides, and I can’t even hear anything from laughing so hard.

 “OK, what did your son do?”
(Echo repeats in a child’s voice.)

 I was HER son to Dad when I did something unusual or wrong.

 “Who? That character? What makes you think he did something?” She is laughing and can’t speak her words well.

 “Sure, and you helped him. That dopey…”
(Echo repeats in a child’s voice.) 

 But Dad got his revenge one night. Mom had her TV shows, usually a comedy, and Dad had his shows, usually a murder mystery, they never watched TV in the same room. Dad had a remote that he used in the bedroom that operated the TV in the den also.

 Mom was watching her show, and Dad struck, sneaking up on Mom, who’s back is to the doorway. Dad changes the channel on Mom! She doesn’t realize it at first.

 Suddenly she realizes she’s been watching the wrong show, and can’t figure out how!

 She changes it again to her show, and Dad waits then strikes again!

 Now Mom is scared, and can’t figure it out still! Dad is getting his revenge, and happily so. Finally, she changes the channel again and as Dad stands there with the remote, Mom catches his reflection in the TV screen and gives chase.

 Yes, my parents, acting like children!

Friday, January 24, 2020

MASTERS OF DECEIT.

ORANGEMAN
What place in America is there for the wholesale room for deceit? Where in America can we find disingenuous fakes and frauds, ones who sign onto the pledge that they require themselves to be defenders of the Constitution and then toss it aside for political expediency? You need to look no further than the US Senate and the Republican ilk.

To be told the truth, to be given the proof, both that was presented to this body and by the mere action of withholding evidenced by the White House and yet all is ignored and not considered, is a criminal act, one of treason to our Constitution, our values as Americans and so-called Christians.

How can you uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and allow the conduct of this sitting so-called President to remain in office, based on political reasons with the scope of high crimes and misdemeanors? · Misdemeanor. Offenses lower than felonies and generally those punishable by fine, penalty, Forfeiture, or imprisonment other than in a penitentiary. Under federal law, and most state laws, any offense other than a felony is classified as a misdemeanor.

As the Democrats made their case in the Senate this week, the Republican Senators were either absent from their seats, roaming the halls or talking among themselves instead of listening to the fact and accusations, the evidence that is overwhelming and the truth, as sad as it might be, for them to make a logical and honest conclusion. What are they doing? They are turning their backs on America, the very ideals she stands for, and instead enabling foreign powers to influence our elections, inviting foreign powers to interfere. SHAME ON EVERYONE OF THEM.

A delegation of Republican House and Senate members should have long ago visited the orange blight in the White House and told him to go away, far away, maybe build himself a ‘Trump Tower’ in Siberia and stay there for life.

I see where the Republican Senators have made up their small minds in that they will pre-judge the liar, with lame excuses like Democrats, were plotting to remove him before he even took the oath of office. If you take into account all that he said and did prior to his election, it is as plain as the noses on their simple looking faces that he was unworthy then and is unworthy now as President. Who the hell are they kidding?

Orangeman keeps making America Irate again.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

KEEPING UP WITH THE TRENDS

It seems to me that there is a lot of concern about everything. Everything from:
LOW-FAT • GLUTEN FREE • LOW CAL •LOW SALT • CHICKEN VS STEAK • DIET DRINKS WITH FATTY MEALS, • High Fiber.

These are all capital issues that seem to dominate how we eat these days.

Grandma lived to 97-years old, ate whatever she wanted and as much as she wanted. She was an immigrant who couldn’t read English but could count money in both Italian and English and knew how to cook, and cooked like she knew what she was doing.

When grandma shopped she didn’t look at calories or sugar content, salt was never a problem. Gluten, what was that?

She was a steak-eater who hated turkey and rather have capon for Thanksgiving Day. Seafood was her passion and good cheeses, salami and pork products were always in her possession.

One year as she was returning from a pilgrimage to Napoli on a ship she had a trunk filled with Italian produced salami, hams and cheeses along with figs and other delicacies. This was a NO-NO as far as the customs people in New York were concerned. As luck would have it, the harbor police or immigration authorities came sniffing around with dogs to smell out what was being slipped by their noses. Grandma got caught and the whole cache of delights went floating in the Hudson or East River or wherever they unloaded the stuff. Unfortunately the custom agent, he got a swift well-aimed kick in his ankle and a blessing that can’t be repeated either in English, Italian or Pig Latin!

Grandma had a recipe file she kept hidden and took with her when she passed. This file was coveted by daughters, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren that she kept in her head even as she died.

Owning one of the biggest pasta pots I ever saw, probably leftover from when she owned a restaurant in the 1930s and 40s, she would feed on any given holidays four to eight families including children and friends.

Worrying about content was not something Francesca cared to do, just give her the damned stuff and she would make everyone happy.

One year at tax season, my Dad and I went to the old neighborhood in Brooklyn to see Dad’s tax person, a friend of the family that did your taxes on her kitchen table with a cup of coffee and some cake, taking your shoebox filled with recipes and making sense out of it all. After that visit, since we were in the neighborhood on this particular Saturday night, Dad decided to visit his mom, Grandma. Arriving unannounced she was surprised to see us and immediately pinched and squeezed my cheeks then flew down the basement to her gas stove and tossed two large steaks on the burners in an open flamed rack. Delicious! With those steaks, she laid out pepperoni, hard cheese and olives with the best crust Italian bread you could find! Then came grandpa’s homemade wine and a salad with grandpa’s homemade vinegar! That vinegar is the best I ever tasted!

Grandma died at 97 and never looked for low-fat or low cholesterol products. Gluten? Who knew gluten?

Mom, on the other hand, lived to 96, she was fooling around with low salt, that got her in the end, I think.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

MERKLE AND THE PRINCE Mr. WINDSOR!


It seems to me that something is amiss in Buckingham Palace, where’s Harry, and where are his pants?
Former Prince Harry has been apprised that he is no longer the ‘Prince’ of the household, and to make it more so, Merkle has moved him to Canada.

I remember reading about Prince Edward and Mrs. Simpson pulling the rug out from under Eddie back in the thirties. Edward gave up a kingdom for someone who was plainer than the ears on his head! Because of him, the English got stuck with Prince Charles!


Prince Charles was another one, married to a princess in every sense of the word in Lady Diana. Loved worldwide and a stunner who did more charitable work than almost even Mother Teresa! I think they were considered equals in the world of charity and kindness. Plain old Charles got an inkling to fool around with Camilla of Cornwall and the Princess knew it.

The People’s Princess planned to wear a beautiful outfit at a party that Camilla, now the Duchess of Cornwall, would also be attending, according to claims in the Daily Mail.
But when she donned the raunchy undies in front of the mirror, Charles allegedly put her down with three cutting words: “You look ridiculous”. Obviously, he didn’t understand the word “MARVELOUS’!


During the party, Diana confronted Camilla when she spotted her sitting with Charles and another friend.

According to tapes revealed by an English Channel 4 documentary, Diana told Camilla: “I would just like you to know that I know exactly what is going on.
“I’m sorry I’m in the way. It must be hell for both of you... don’t treat me like an idiot.”

Prince William and Kate Middleton are perhaps the real things as far as British Royalty goes as they have been married for a while and still living in Britain. Kate is a beautiful princess and hopefully will take the void up where Diana left off. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, although they are a modern couple in many ways, William and Kate carried on a long British tradition of elaborate and glamorous royal weddings with their big, big day!

In the end, I suspect the British public will finally realize they are bankrolling something that is
unnecessary and archaic and needs to end. There are way too many people in Britain that need help financially, and the sums paid out to the Windsor’s are just insane, immoral and very expensive.

Monday, January 20, 2020

THE QUESTION

Once upon a time in better days
Yesterday my wife asked me if I thought my daughter was not going to make it and I answered her in the affirmative. She hasn’t eaten or drank much, she is extremely skinny and boney, her legs look like a bad anatomy drawing. She is sleeping most of the time and does not engage us at all.

My wife and I feed her a shake mixed with Coca Cola because it is the only thing she takes now, 350 calories is it, in the morning and sometimes at lunch. Some days she only takes some of it.

How much do we hold off the inevitable and admit to the truth? We watch her helplessly as she fights any attempt to feed her, adjust her position in the bed, give her medications or engage her.

We come home totally disappointed, downcast, fearful and worried and add to our steady diet of anguish and emotional pain.

A while back we made plans for her burial and it is with her grandparents who so dearly loved her and I’m sure would have welcomed their daughter’s plan for her child as I do.

Someone once made mention of the fact that I said she was slowly dying as she is and I will not deny it, but dismissed it as an exaggeration. Some shitty exaggeration, as I watch her disappear in every aspect of her life.

Don’t waste your time praying for her it doesn’t work.


Sunday, January 19, 2020

PUTTING PLANS IN PLACE






I like to tell jokes on Facebook because I love to laugh. God only, knows the sorrow in this world that I have faced all my life. There are some bright spots along the way but there are very many dark moments, too.

With my jokes that I tell, comes an Italian accent I write into it so that it has a little flavor to the many of Italian-Americans that read them, and as a finishing touch, I try to add a photo to relate a little from either a character in the joke or me telling the story.

Recently I took stock of all my photos and discovered how many hats I own, from baseball caps to Viking horned helmets, from Santa to the Easter bunny, hats from Florence, Italy, and Boston, from Savannah, Georgia to Los Angeles, I must own well over 25 to 30 hats!

Over the years, my wife has told me in no uncertain way that I should “Go shit in your hat!” for some minor disagreement or so, and I have always resisted the order in spite of my being a dutiful husband.

After taking stock of the number of hats, if I did comply with her wish, it would be all day until I found THE hat to do it in, thus making her happy.

Friday, January 17, 2020

ITALIAN WEDDINGS

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

HER EYES TELL ME

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.

Bullshit!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

THE BIG CHANGEUP!



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

UP, UP, AND AWAY!

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.

NAH!

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

THE RUMORS OF MY DEMISE.


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.

"Hello?"

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

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

"Please"

"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

TRANSFORMATIONS

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.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

A LITTLE LOVE

Her name was Cookie, and she lived with her grandparents on occasions on Hull Street, Brooklyn, why, I never knew. She was a budding Italian beauty and I was falling in love. Beautiful almond-shaped eyes that seemed to be lent to her from some ancient Roman or Tuscan beauty you see in art history books.

She would stand on the top of the steps of her grandparent’s stoop and watch the world go by, and when she did, she held my attention. My whole world seemed frozen in time.

Cookie had an older brother named Jerry, a likable kid who I walked with once to buy Italian bread for his family. But still, I never spoke to Cookie. Her grandpa was a bocce player, tossing the ball with style, his delivery followed by a few Italian choice words, his feet scraping the pebbled driveway that was the playing field.

On the side was a table that held cups of coffee and vino, with cigars and cigarettes strewn haphazardly for the other players to imbibe in. Cookie would watch from the stoop and listen to the old men talk in Italian. I would fantasize playing the old guys and beating them soundly, Cookie watching in admiration, her grandpa showering me in praise. Instead, I watched Cookie watch her grandpa.

Then one Sunday night just as the sun was going down, there she stood, off the stoop and instead was standing at the entrance to the driveway. Summing up my courage I made my move, sliding into position in front of her! Her eyes looked more beautiful than usual as the Brooklyn sun dropped behind the apartment building across the street. Yes, Brooklyn was beautiful at that time of day!

As we talked and I made her laugh, I looked up at my apartment window and Dad was leaning out the bedroom window listening to everything. Suddenly I lost my boldness, Dad was for sure going to tease me to no end and I knew it.

I bid my first true love goodbye and slowly slumped up the two flights of stairs to my apartment where I presented myself to the slaughter of my dreams.

Monday, January 06, 2020

WHAT EVIL LURKED?

My grandparents had a cellar, an interesting place as any I’ve known in my life. Down in this cellar was a treasure of antiquity and mystery, history, and tradition as ever there was in any such a place. The cellar ran the length and width of the house, and it was broken into three main sections. There was the majority of the cellar, and two small separate adjacent rooms, one housing a wine press and one for canning.

 In the main section, it had just 2 overhead exposed light bulbs with a string hanging from them to pull on and off the light. The floors, cast in cement offered no comfort or welcome as did the surrounding atmosphere of darkness and mystery.

 As you entered the cellar from the long hallway that had this almost visible portrait of a devil from the harsh paint strokes that dried on the outer door, (It was my imagination) telling you to tread cautiously and don’t wake up the demons you descended the steps and immediately things started to happen. You came to an old Victrola, with the dog looking into the sound system: “His Masters Voice.” label on the grammar phone or speaker with the big knob-like needle holder that you manually placed on a record. On the sides, it had moveable slats that looked like large vents to direct the music.

 As you moved past the Victrola, there was a free-standing room with doors making up the walls of this room, and I wondered if my grandfather kept a monster in the room, as I gently pressed my ears against one of the doors. I would hear noises coming out of it and would back away, my knees shaking and the urge was to run. (It was the furnace!)

 There were used oxygen tanks from before the war and after when Dad made glass novelties and other things that had an interest to me, but the thing I always went to look at was, my grandfather Joseph, fresh off the boat when the picture was taken. He is in a black pressed suit, black bowtie, a stiffly starched shirt and black shiny shoes, topped off with a boutonnière on his lapel. This picture amazed me as it had him standing in front of this grayish background from an almost Draconian set next to a table that stood on three legs, as it was a small table. The picture must have been about 30” x 40”, and although I was named after him, I never met him. His sharp black mustache trimmed to a pencil thickness dominated his face, and his eyes seemed to tell so many mystic stories. Here was the cradle of American life born from the “other side.”

 There were two long factory tables, probably where all the glass novelties were placed and sorted before being shipped to customers. Flags, American in-kind stood in one corner of the room and pictures of haunting poses of saints occupied the other walls, and as you walked the length of the cellar you could almost hear the echo of days past, each object with its own tale to tell.

 Then there was Grandma’s gas stove and the wonderful steaks she would make on it. She had what best can be described as an iron wired contraption with a long handle that you lifted to place a steak in, you closed the handle and placed the steak on one of the burners and there you roasted or bar-b-q the steak, leaving a mouth-watering smell that drove you crazy if you were in the least bit hungry!

 The canning room had shelves lining it with jar after jar of tomatoes, eggplant and other canned delights that once extracted from the darkness of it’s home and placed on the plate created all the sunlight you needed in your life.

 When Grandma cooked, she reduced things down to the simplest of terms, she cut her garlic over the pan, she tossed her spices by the pinches and stirred her magic to perfection and completion, leaving the diner totally satisfied. When the canning room came alive, while processing the tomatoes, in particular, there were flies everywhere, but grandpa rigged a big fan that kept them out of the room.

 Oh, I would give anything to once again see my grandparents, to feel the special love that came from them in their zest for life, their kindness, and generosity, their love of food and family, because it was family and love that fueled the engine they drove.

 I can cry that I miss them, and laugh at the memories, yet take comfort in their lives touching mine.

 So what lurked in that cellar?

 Love.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

THE GRAPES OF WRATH (AND I DON’T MEAN WINE.)




Growing up in my family under the loving care of my mother and father was a dynamic structure that I lived under. This structure was by design made to foster my total obedience and understanding that I would stay in line or else.

 There was never a way to avoid it, God knows, I tried many times! Mom’s toolbox to rearing me, in particular, was sparse, just one thing was employed, her wooden spoon.

 Being a fan of history, I often recall Teddy Roosevelt and his policy of: “Speak softly and carry a big stick!” Mom’s was somewhat like Teddy’s: “Yell once (OR MAYBE NOT) and wave the wooden spoon.” She was a master of wooden spoon diplomacy, She could throw it at 10 yards, have it curve around a wall and out of the blue land on my head. I suspect she had an implant of a honing device to my head and the bowl of the wooden spoon!
  
There was a psychological component to Mom's methods, obey or deal with the consequences based on my behavior. Whatever I did intentionally wrong would be based on my decision or forethought and was subject to what loomed in perhaps a very limited future. To this day, whenever I am tempted, I see her face in front of me.

 "WAIT ‘til your Father gets home!" This was to say that there is always a two-part plan to keep me in line: 1) The wooden spoon, 2) Dad. When Mom advised Dad: "Do you know what YOUR son did today?" Dad would listen and maybe shake his head, cross his eyes and look at me.

 At the tender age of 5 or 6, I was known as a ‘rip'. What's a rip I don't know, but I was one.

 In her psychological war using words only, she often used: "WAIT, Just Wait to you have children like yourself" or "Someday, I HOPE you have children just like yourself!"

a rather mean thing to wish on me.

"The way you make your bed is how you will sleep in it!" This statement was made to confuse me I had NO idea what she was talking about! "WHAT YOU DO TO ME, I HOPE YOUR CHILDREN DO TO YOU, NO, TWICE THEY SHOULD DO IT!"

 Most of the trouble I got into was simple things like teasing my younger sister who was always on the verge of "Poor me Mamma"! A situation might materialize like this:

 "Ma! He's looking at me! He’s sticking his tongue at me!"
 "JOSEPH, stop looking at your sister!"
 "Ma! He's still looking at me!"
 "Then don't look back!"

 Guilt was an effective tool to use on me, as often Mom would yell, ‘STOP, YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE ME BUST!" I, of course, would stand back in fear of the explosion. Her usual declaration before corporal punishment as she reached for the wooden spoon was: "OK, I've had it UP TO HERE!" This was the trigger for lightning-fast foot movement!

 Mom was very skillful as a negotiator.

"Ma, can I have a bike?"
 "No."
 "Why not?"
 "Because I said so!"
 But Gerry's father got him a bike."
 "Good! Go ask Gerry's father for one."

 Every morning before school she would hand me my lunch in a lunch box with Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans on it. (I was in love with Dale and wished the bad guys would finally get Roy so I could make my move.) As the lunch goods were transferred to my possession it came with a stern warning with her index finger pointing straight at me: “If I find out that the teacher had to discipline you, when you come home you will get the rest!”

 There could be more!!!

For years under I grew taller than Mom I thought she looked liked an index finger!

 Ah! ‘The house of discipline’ designed with me in mind.

 I love my mother, without that love I could have turned out worse, thanks, Ma.

My mother was a diplomat, God rest her soul. She could negotiate with her children in simple terms, imposing simple solutions for our dislike of whatever she needed from us.

 I was her biggest difficulty when it came to negotiations, having to say it once and then look like she meant it. The instigation of hi-jinks against a sister, the retribution for acts of ratting me out and all other acts considered high crimes and misdemeanors by me were all met swiftly with reprisals, sometimes the wooden spoon hurt more than usual since it was just used for stirring the pasta in the hot water!

 There could be more!!!

 Mom had a special place in her heart for me. Actually, she had two special places, one being her heart as her child (however unbearable that might have been) and one in the corner where I spent most of my time.

 Her teaching tool was her wooden spoon and being Italian it was a utilitarian bonanza, ‘cook’ and ‘discipline’, how great was that?

 I swear she had a strike counter each time it was applied to my head. After so many strikes she would replace it. We weren’t rich, Mom had no special jewelry until later years, but she did have that one prized possession, her wooden spoon. As I would walk into the house and announce: “MOM, IM HOME!” she would wave it as an acknowledgment of my greeting and subtle meaning: ‘don’t destroy my mood.

 I, on the other hand, knew that I had to stay outside of her arm range. Often the times we would race around the dining room table, me running and waiting for the first whack and her with her ever menacing spoon looming mere inches from my cranial cavity, empty as it was. If I felt particularly robust that day and caught Mom off her game, I would take pity and we would stop, sit on the chairs and when she was catching her breath I would ask, ”You ready again, Mom?” Somehow I like to think I was being considerate. She reached the age or retirement once I married, where she gave me the spoon and I painted it gold and she named it: “GENTLE PERSUASION”