2009 category summaries12th entry – christmas 2013
The 2009 category-group contains the flowing categories:
The 2009 category-group contains the flowing categories:
This first posting was done on Saturday, July 25, 2009.
And the website – www.zinga.photos – went public August 1, 2009.
For years I’ve maintained a written journal and this is my first effort at an electronic format. This is not an interactive forum, no comments are possible, actually no comments are allowed. (It may be that eventually this will change, but in this first iteration, it is a journal not a blog. And yes, all the people that know me are not surprised. What do I care what others think…)
In spring of 2008, I bought my first camera – Nikon D60 – and began to take pics. The website and other cameras came next.
This posting is part of the travel-category calabria-09 and applies to the 2009 trip to Italy, specifically our visit to Aprigliano and Reggio. I am using the upcoming trip as an opportunity to keep a live record of the travel. (My first trip back to Calabria was in 2006 and Rose and Derrick had the cameras. For that trip we stayed in Gioia Tauro and did side-trip through out Calabria. The image is me in front of our house in Corte. The scrawl on the wall advertises that the property is for sale.)
I’m beginning this trip on my own. Rose and Derrick will join me the second week.
The black-and-white images I am using for these initial posts are off the web.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009: Arriving LaMezia Terme, Calabria
Depending on time of arrival, I will either drive into Aprigliano or stay overnight in LaMezia. (I’ve decided to stay overnight and not risk driving to Aprigliano at night.)
Thursday, August 6: Aprigliano
This first day, I’m planning to get situated and to walk around with my camera.
Friday, August 7: Aprigliano
I’ll begin a methodical route to shoot as much of Aprigliano as I can. I may go to the cemetery in the morning.
Saturday, August 8: Aprigliano
This will be the first trip out. I may either go to La Rota or I may go on to Paola.
Sunday, August 9: Aprigliano
I will go around to all the churches that are open to shoot inside.
Monday, August 10: Cosenza
Want to visit with Franco and shoot at the Domenican and Fransciscan churches that I didn’t get to in 2006.
Tuesday, August 11: This will be my last day in Aprigliano before I head down to Reggio.
This is the first time I am taking camera equipment on a plane. I have the right size bag, however it doesn’t have wheels, so I’ll be lugging it about. I spent the day trying to find a collapsible luggage cart that folds in such a way that I can fit it into the camera bag itself. No luck.
The other change was the check-baggage. I had planned to check two – the small bag and the tripod case with clothes wrapped around the tripod. Once I began packing that plan proved unworkable. That would give me three bags with no wheels. The new plan is to take a bigger check-baggage and to put the tripod, surrounded by clothes, in this bigger bag.
Also, today journal.zinga.photos went live. Before I announce it, I want to see if I can get to it from Aprigliano. I’m hoping to find an unsecured router. Or an Internet cafe.
Part of the reason for the journal is to keep notes so that I can systematize the process.
I am now debating who I tell about the journal. If I knew I would be able to access it to post while in Italy I’d tell a number of people. I may try it and let them know to check it.
In Corte, I want to go back to visit my cousin who just purchased the house I was born in. She decided after many years that she wanted more room. She even invited me to stay with her. How strange to stay in the house you were born. I’ll visit and take pics instead.
The pic on the left is me standing in front of my house before my cousin’s purchase.
I want to add a side-trip to Grimaldi, Martirano and Conflenti. In Martirano there is a great monument to the fallen and Conflenti has the Santuario della Madonna della Quercia.
I believe I have it all packed. Tomorrow morning I’ll pack the laptop and the the trip folders.
This morning I talked to Antonietta and made sure all was set. She mentioned that they had received my letter, so I re-said what was in the letter. I’m finding that writing in Italian is an easier process than talking mainly because I can edit and research. When I’m talking, especially on the phone, I slip into an mixture of Italian and English. Where this works with Ciccio and Mafalda, it does work as well with people who only speak Italian.
Tonight I learned how to add pics to the journal postings. And I’ve been using the laptop without all the addons for the last three days. I’m glad I did. It got me to change windows and other settings to fit into the 13″ screen.
Tomorrow I leave about 8:30 and head to Detroit. The flight out isn’t until 7:45.
Also found out that August 16 is the feast of San Rocco. Mario is one of the planners and if it’s a big event Rose, Derick and I will drive up to Aprigliano.
Modern technology. Here I am at the Detroit airport in the business lounge with connectivity.
I left Pittsburgh this morning at 9:30 mainly because I wasn’t sure about getting here and finding everything. Well, I got here in 4 hours and am now waiting until 7:00 PM to board, but that’s OK, I’d rather be early than stress.
Security was OK, the camera and lenses went through with no problems. The new bag is great it has the room for all the electronics.
This is my first time in the business lounge and I have to say it makes the layover OK. There’s food, connectivity, electricity and comfort. Who would have thought that I’d have the laptop and connectivity? I should be able to find the same services in Rome another place where I have a 4 hour layover.
I have a 5 hour lay-over in Rome. I hate the Rome airport, especially the domestic terminal. It is old, dirty and the air conditioning is almost non-existent. Terminal C which is the international terminal is fine, but I then have to go to the domestic terminal to go to Lamezia, Calabria. I understand that it is a busy airport, but when are the Italians going to get it fixed up?
Lamezia in central Calabria is another busy and not impressive airport.
Luggage return took a good hour and by the time I got the rental, it was 8:00. I asked about sunset, because I wasn’t willing to head out to Aprigliano in the dark and the attendant told me that it would be dark in half hour. I then went with my original plan to stay overnight at a small hotel near the airport.
The hotel was cheap and OK.
Thursday morning I left the small hotel early and headed out for Aprigliano. I was going to have to figure out how to get to the Autostrada. Italy now has traffic circles at major intersections and they are a whirlwind to get through. If you miss the exit you’re off in an entirely new directions or you keep circling. I missed the exit for the Autostrada and ended up on the coastal road. I didn’t mind that, because I wanted to see the beach area north of Lamezia. Well an hour ride through the area cured me. The area is typical low-end beach options and not all that attractive. The Lamezia area is industrial and very green, the beach area is sprawled all along the coast.
I got back on the Autostrada and headed north to Aprigliano. The exit is at a pretty, flats town – Rogliano. This part of Calabria is only flat along the coast and Rogliano benefits from the topography of the area. The town is a good size, the road in is manageable and it has a nice centro.
From the Rogliano exit to Aprigliano is a good half hour. I like the road to Aprigliano, it’s the beginning of the ascent into the mountains. It’s also a road I remember and so it was less intimidating to drive it on my own.
The driving on my own was both exciting and scary. I had this very nice small car Fiat Punta, but there was no one there to look out for signs and directions. This is a disadvantage when travelling at 80 kilometers an hour, but I believed I could remember enough of the road to get there without getting too lost.
The first stop I made was at Le Donnici. This is a small paese 10 minutes north of Aprigliano. For the first time I took out my camera and began shooting this really nice church and the flowers off someone’s balcony. It felt great to not be lost and to take pictures.
When I was back in Calabria in 2006, I realized that at home we talk a dialect, an Apriglianese dialect. And in that language Le Donnici came out I Runnici so I would be looking for signage that had the place name spelled with an R. It took me a while to understand that the correct pronunciation was different than what I had heard all my life. This is a relatively small sub-urb of Aprigliano, but it had some beautiful houses in its medieval streets.
The next turn-off was at San Nicola, a small suburb of Aprigliano. I asked two ladies waiting for the pulmine – bus if I was on the right road and when they said yes, I started shooting to outside of the church of San Nicola. Also posted outside the church were death notices. I had to shoot these. The road that is the small village of San Nicola is on the south side of the mountain valley. Aprigliano is opposite it on the north side of the valley.
After taking pictures in San Nicola, I headed to Aprigliano.
By 9:00, I was in Aprigliano. Wasn’t sure if it was too early to show up at Mario’s and Tonina’s, so I drove up to Guarno, the central section of Aprigliano, parked and headed up the street to Santo Stefano. Naturally everyone in the parking area and in the piazza gave me the once over – who is this stranger? The statue in the piazza is a memorial to those who died in WWI.
The church in Guarno was open so I went in to find four women cleaning. I asked if I could shoot. Also, introduced myself, but they didn’t know my family. It was fun walking through Santo Stefano in the morning, on my own shooting pictures.
By 9:30 I headed down to Santo Leonardo, the section of Aprigliano where Mario and Tonina live.
I got unpacked and met Alyssa, she’s the youngest daughter home from college. I went back up to Guarno and found Mario who introduced me to Totonno’s son. Totonno is my first cousin. His son Salvatore is younger than me, but looks quite drawn. I kept wondering if he isn’t ill. Mario also introduced me to all the other people in the piazza. By 12:30 it was time to go home for the mid-day meal. Mario took the steps down to his house. I didn’t know where the steps were had walked the road. (I know the steps in Santo Stefano and the once leading to Corte, by where Mario and Tonina live and the housing on that slope of the mountain didn’t exist when I live there.)
The mid-day meal is the main meal of the day. It is large and hot. Mario and I came in, and he went to change out of his street-clothes and into at-home clothes. We then sat down to eat. (I will talk more about the mid-day meal in other postings.) After eating, Alyssa and Tonina cleaned the table. I tried to help, but they would have none of it. With the meal done and the dished cleaned, it was announced that rest was in order. Me still being on Pittsburgh-time announced that I was going over to the cemetery to take pictures. They all left the street-floor and went off to their apartment on the first floor. I packet my camera and drove to the cemetery.
The afternoon was miserably hot. A fact that became a recurring experience. No one was out, the American with his camera was the only person out in the afternoon heat and sun.
I went back and rested for a couple of hours. At 5:00, Mario came down and knocked on the door to announce coffee time. We sat in the downstairs kitchen and had a coffee. This is strong espresso in a tiny cup. The coffee was the “hold-you-over” until supper snack.
Supper, a light meal, was going to be at 9:00 and afterwords we were going to La Grupa, another section of Aprigliano, for a concert. Mario also told me that if we wanted he was willing to take me up to the Rota, a small farming area half-hour north of Aprigliano, to visit with my cousin Aurelio.
We drove to La Rota around 7:30. Aurelio had just finished milking. Aurelio is a Capisciolto – the business side of my father’s family, and his mother’s side of the family. Aurelio’s father and my Capisciolti grandmother were brother and sister. The Capisciolti own land and ran businesses in Aprigliano.
Aurelio owns a large track of land where he grazes a herd of sheet, makes cheese and ricotta that he sells in the area. Aurelio is probably in his 70’s. He knew I looked familiar, but couldn’t place me. (The last time I saw him we were both young. I was a junior in college and he was living at La Rota, but both his parents were still alive and his brother was still living at home. They were all involved in the cheese production business.) I took my ball cap off and he immediately recognized me. I look like my dad and he made the connection.
Aurelio is this strapping man who still works a 12-hour day tending a herd of sheep and producing milk, cheese and ricotta. This is his career and he makes a good living. La Rota however is off the road leading to La Sila, the huge national park that covers the entire middle of Calabria and is forest covered mountains, and therefore remote. If I had stayed the two weeks in Aprigliano, I would have gone back to Aurelio’s and asked to spend the day with him out on the slopes with the sheep. Aurelio is famous in town for two things – he has never married and his herd is registered with the livestock commission making his milk, cheese and ricotta agency approved and acceptable for sale nationally. Aurelio kept inviting us to stay and eat, but I was a bit worried about driving the off-road after dark so we left.
Back at Mario’s we had the evening meal. This was a light meal made of left-overs, one recently cooked dish and a salad. Cheese was on the table for both meals and dessert was fruit. Afterwards we all got changed into less casual, house-clothes and drove to Guarno. We were going on a passegiata. We walked from Guarno to La Grupa. Along the way everyone we chatted with the other Apriglianese out for the evening walk. We ended up in a small piazza in La Grupa. The entertainment was a band singing American songs.
Mario, Tonina and I left for Paolo early. Tonina had asked me if I wanted to visit any particular place and I had mentioned Paola. She suggested we go Friday rather than wait until the week-end. The week-end would be crowded with Italians going to the beach and others going up to the sanctuary. Paola is on the coast and Aprigliano is in the interior.
The road to Paola is one of the few east-west roads in Calabria. The SS107 was built during the 50’s and it was one of the many construction projects that helped revive Calabria after the war. Mario said he would drive which thrilled me. (I had printed out directions before I left, but he knew the roads and the short-cuts.) We ended up going right through Cosenza, passing the hospital where Mafalda was taken after Connie was born. Mafalda had developed an infection and she had to be rushed to the hospital in Cosenza. In 1955 rushed meant being taken on some type of stretcher through the medieval streets of Santo Stefano and to the place where they were able to get her into someone’s car. I remember visiting Mafalda with my dad. What I remember from the visit is the gardens surrounding the hospital and my finding a plastic star on the ground.
SS107 is a scary road. It’s a narrow, two-lane superstrada, the Italian designation for two lane highways, that literally climbs the mountain, goes through a long tunnel and then descends to the Mediterranean. Along the way there are 90 degree turns and crazy Italian drivers. (I was glad to not have attempted this road on my own.) My last visit to Paola was back in the early 70’s. I got off the train from Rome and then made my way to Aprigliano by train and bus. (The mail rail-lines travel the two coasts and from there it’s a matter of taking small trains to the mountain villages.) The train was a funicular, an incline in Pittsburghese. It climbed the mountain, went through a long, dark tunnel and then descended to Cosenza. From there I took a bus to Aprigliano.
The Santuario was great. Mario and Tonina enjoy going on religious outings. The place is this restored mountain top complex full of medieval buildings and modern structures. The religiosity of the place wasn’t something that I was interested in, but the complex was amazing.
The old hermitage – medieval caves that San Francesco used – has been restored and cleaned, the medieval church is beautiful and the modern church dedicated in the last 10 years is an amazing example of modern Catholic architecture.
A great story – the grounds are sacred, because they have all these locations where San Francesco did something amazing – fought with the devil, held up the mountain, cured someone. One of these locations is a spring on the side of the mountain face. The spring is always crowded with people filling bottles of water to take back with them. I quietly walked away, leaving Mario and Tonina to drink at the holy spring. Mario comes down to me with a ladle of water from the spring. I was stuck, to refuse would have been rude and inappropriate, so I drank. The rest of the day I had visions of gastric upheaval. It never happened.
After the visit to the santuario, Mario drove into the city. Paola is a busy seaside resort that caters to pilgrims and the beach crowd. Not my kind of place.
On SS107 is the amazing village of San Fili. The village is perched on the top of a rock crag. The barren rock is crowned by this beautiful medieval village.
I was supposed to have lunch with my cousin, Maria Lucente, but we got back from Paola late, so I walked over and negotiated going over the next day for the mid-day meal. She had not cooked the pasta, waiting for me to show, but the second piatto was all ready. We agreed that we would have left-overs tomorrow. After that discussion we decided to walk to La Madonna Delle Timpe. This is a small chapel a 45 minute walk from town.
Maria used to walk this on a regular basis, but recently she had fallen on the one of the steep grades and was now hesitant about going out by herself. Given that I was going with her, it was OK. Also, she’s the keeper of the key to the small hillside chapel, so I knew we could get in and I could photograph.
We walked leisurely. Maria brought a walking stick and I my camera. It was great walking and talking with her. She is an honest and simple woman who has lived her whole life in Corte the southern section of Aprigliano. We talked about life, her life, her husband’s death and her life afterwards.
When we got to the chapel, the key would not work. That was OK, because what was more important was the time we had spent walking and talking. Also, she had gotten a chance to go back to her favorite chapel. (Her children had insisted that she not go by herself, well she had gotten someone to go with her, she had gotten to walk in the blazing sun which she liked and she and I had had a chance to laugh and remember.)
We walked back. I now have the key that did not work. Maria has a second key that works, so she uses it. I will give the key I have to Mafalda, in a shadow box, as a Christmas gift. She’ll love it.
When I came back Mario and I went to San Leonardo and I got to shoot in the church. I remember there being a wax effigy under the altar, but Mario didn’t. I may not have made myself clear. I like being in the churches by myself. It’s the one time I wish I had all the professional lighting stands. After shooting in the church, I got to go up the bell-tower and shoot from there. At one point the bells started tolling it shocked the hell out of me.
At 6:30, Alyssa and I joined a group from Corte in a walk to the chapel of La Madonna delle Timpe saying the rosary as we walked. The morning rosary was part of a seven day cycle and this was day four. There were about 15 people. Because Alyssa was new, the group leader had her lead the rosary. There I was walking with a group through the mountains praying the rosary. I recorded the group and will put the recording on the website.
At the chapel there was a short ceremony and when we were all finished we had espresso. Someone has brought coffee in a thermos and cups. There we were in the middle of a mountain path having coffee. It as the best.
When we got back home, Alyssa, her father and I had breakfast.
Given that it was still early, I decided to walk down to Agosto and try and shoot the chapel of L’Immacolata. Mario and Tonina had told me that Agosto is the least re-developed of the various communities that make up Aprigliano. I found a small neighborhood situated on the side of the mountain closest to the stream – Crati. It didn’t seem any less inhabited than other parts of Aprigliano. However, it is one of the non-contiguous sections and the most isolated. I asked around and was told who had the key. The woman was a bit suspicious about my asking for it, but she did give me the key.
The chapel of L’Immacolata was another amazing place. It was full of paintings, frescoes and statues. It finally dawned on me that these are great examples of primitive, regional art. Imagine the artists who were employed to paint all the various pieces in the many churches and chapels of Aprigliano. When I go home, Tonina and I agreed that these churches and chapels were the museums of Aprigliano.
After shooting the inside and outside of the church, I walked down to the Crati. It is a small stream. I remember it as wide and scary.
The walk back was all uphill and by this time it was almost noon. The sun was beating down. I now understand that common expression differently than I ever did before.
For the mid-day meal I went back to Maria Lucente’s. We had the meal we were supposed to have on Friday. The meal was traditional and great. For dessert we had the standby cetrioli– garden cucumbers. After eating, I went into the room that had been Ciccio and Mafalda’s first apartment.
It was also the room where I was born. Maria bought the one-room building after her husband died and renovated it into a very beautiful dining room. I took many pictures. Through the doorway behind Maria Lucente is a small room with a fireplace. Mafalda told me the three of us would huddle around the fire in the winter. (There’s an image – Mafalda and Ciccio two young, beautiful people with a baby huddling together in front of a roaring fire.) The layout was still as it had been 60 years ago. Mafalda even told me where in the room I was when I fell off the table and cut my head on a axe. (There’s a different image.)
After lunch Maria and I went to visit another Capisciolto relative – Armelia. Armelia’s husband had died in late July and she was still mourning. When I got back to Mario and Tonina’s they told me about Armelia. She and her husband came back to Aprigliano after having spent 20 years or so in Toronto. Armelia is a true Capisciolto, meaning a good business person, and she was able to operate a home-business when she and her husband returned. Mario and Tonina also told me the Armelia lives in a huge house with 4 bathrooms. I’ve only been in a small kitchen, so this was a surprise.
At 5:30 I went up to Santo Stefano, the church. The last time I was in “our” church was 1957. The church was open for mass. I got there early enough to shoot before mass started. The church is not well taken care of. The frazione– section – Santo Stefano probably lost the most people to immigration and the area is just now beginning to revitalize. (Some of the housing is being bought by young couples and renovated. This is a different process than building new. There has been some new development in the frazione, but the old medieval housing stock has been vacant for many years. Since 2006, I have noticed slow but constant move to revitalize this top of the mountain frazione.)
I shot the things I remembered – the painting of Steven being stoned by the mob, the statue of the Dolorosa, the ceiling. I had totally forgotten about the Dolorosa. This is a classic statue, with Mary in black and in a very sorrowful pose. This image has been in my head forever and I could recognize this statue in the various churches through out Italy, but I never knew where the seminal image came from. It came from the Dolorosa in the church of Santo Stefano.
On leaving the church, there was a group filling bottles from the fountain at the bottom of the church steps. It was my job, as a child, to go up every night to this fountain and fill the jugs so that we would have water for breakfast the next day.
Next I headed down to the Vico, because that church would soon be opened. The Vico is the southern most frazione of Aprigliano. It’s where the train station is. However, it also seems to be the frazione most separated. This is mainly because the Cosenza diocese has assigned a different priest to the Vico church than to the other churches in Aprigliano. This slight change has people talking about the Vico as a separate village. I don’t know if this is true among the people who live in Vico. This also means that the rituals that create the calendar that this area lives by is interrupted and having two different priests managing the church schedules. The Vico group co-ordinates its feast days and its celebrations with the churches on the other side of the valley rather than with the churches of Aprigliano.
The place was a bit intimidating. It’s also the one frazione that no one in my family is associated with. When I got to the piazza to ask directions to the church, a young man insisted on showing me the road, fine. As soon as we got away from the piazza he tried to sell me a lottery ticket. I told him no. When I got to the church, it wasn’t opened and there was a large crowd of children playing soccer in the square in front. It didn’t feel right, so I took pics of the outside and then left.
When I was walking around Santo Stefano, specifically in the vinella, Rosina Ciaccio’s door was opened so I went and knocked on the door. One of her son’s answered. It was Rocco her youngest. I really don’t remember him. He was very young when his brother and I played together. I visited with them for a while, found out Rocco is living in Padua with his family, but in the summer the whole family comes back to Aprigliano. His wife’s family is from Grupa, so she and their two sons stay there and Rocco stays with his mother in Santo Stefano. He was interesting to talk with. His brother was on his way to visit, but because it was near dinner time I left went back to Mario’s and then went back to Santo Stefano.
By the time I got back Franco was there, so I visited with them for the next hour.
I was going to go up to Portosalvo to take pics, so I drove up to Guarno, because I needed to get back in time for the 10:15 mass at San Leonardo.
Once in Santo Stefano I met a man who was heading out to La Sila and asked about the key. He showed me where it was kept and told me that whenever the key is not there, it means someone it at the church. Key in hand I made my way to Portosalvo.
The road, a dirt road one lane wide, was all uphill. I don’t remember that. I guess the last time I was there, I was so glad to have found the key that I paid no attention. This time I had the key to the front door. The chapel was dark and I had no idea where the lights were, so I used the flash. I took several pics of the bell-tower. It was in the sun and looked great against the blue morning sky. Because I had been here back in 2006, it wasn’t such a “wow” experience.
It occurred to me that I had begun to rely on the bells from San Leonardo to tell me the time. The bells tolled every 15 minutes, so I always knew what time it was. I realized that doesn’t help with being on time, it just tells you if you’re late. By 9:30 I was on my way back.
Mass at San Leonardo was another experience. The church was packed, something that Mario’s family commented on. I sat there with Tonina and all the ladies who had been at the rosary came up and said hello. Alyssa was up in the choir loft and Mario was somewhere else.
San Leonardo is the church for Corte and its bell-tower with la madonnina on top is the defining landmark for Aprigliano. The church is also surrounded by the new housing plan that Mario and Tonina live in. It’s the entrance into Aprigliano. Another reason why Agosto and Vico get pushed to the side. In actuality, San Leonardo is really in the middle of the mountain side making it the middle of Aprigliano, but because Vico and Agosto are off the main road, San Leonardo has the feeling of the gateway into the town. I remember it always having an uppity reputation, and the generation that created that reputation is now the in-charge generation. (Santo Stefano it’s rival has faded, but it seems to be on the rebound.)
In the afternoon I went with Mario and Alyssa into the archives at San Leaonardo and we found my Baptismal certificate. (It states that I was 4 months old when baptized. This information is there, because it was unusual to wait that long before getting baptized. My mother told me that I almost died soon after I was born, so they quickly baptized me. And once I recovered, they waited until spring to take me to church for the more formal baptism. Two different people baptized me. A friend of my mother’s brother who was in his early teens did the first baptism. In early spring my mother’s friend was my sponsor. No one else was mentioned on the certificate.
We also found Connie’s birth certificate and Ciccio and Mafalda’s marriage certificate.
Monday morning Alyssa, AnnaRita and I went to join the rosario walk to La Madonna delle Timpe. This time they aske AnnaRita, Mario and Tonina’s second child, to lead the rosary.
It was a beautiful morning and I took pics of the sun on the back of the church rather than any inside shots. A couple of the shots have a shadow of me taking the pic.
Unlike the Saturday rosario walk, no one brought coffee. The walk back was still pleasant and several picked blackberries to eat or take home. Also, all around us you could hear the sheep bells and the sheep dogs barking.
After the mid-day meal I went to the cemetery with Mario, Tonina and Alyssa. With Mario there I got to all the graves I could not readily find the last time I was there. I also got to see the cappelle, crypts, that Mario purchased for his family. Death is a different experience in Aprigliano. Mario and Tonina were proud of the fact that they had already purchased the crypts where they would be buried.I can’t see Ciccio and Mafalda doing that. In Canada as in the US, pre-buying your burial plot and maintaining it is not a thing people do. As a matter of fact most people would think it strange if someone did that. In Aprigliano, that Sunday morning Mario and his family went to the cemetery to clean the family crypt.
One thing I had noticed the last time I was shooting at the Aprigliano cemetery was the various crosses atop each grave. I began shooting these crosses and was astonished to discover that they were all different, that they all seemed hand forged and that some of them were truly beautiful. The one in the pic was the so unusual. The cross seems like a modern construct and yet it was atop one of the oldest tombs. I suspect that when it was put up it was the cheapest thing the family could afford. (It looks like someone found two discarded pieces of metal on the foundry floor and forged them together.) Now the contrast between an old brick tomb and a modern-looking cross is great.
Tuesday morning I left Aprigliano and headed down to Reggio. Mario had suggested and alternate route and I was almost ready to take it, but AnnaRita explained the alternate road to me when she and Alyssa came back from the rosario walk and it sounded a bit difficult. I decided that I knew as was comfortable with the Rogliano road that I had come up and that I was going to use the same route to get to the Autostrada.
The trip down to Reggio was fine, I was on the Autostrada and I had talked to the owner of the house we were staying at in Reggio and his directions sounded very simple. I was still on the Autostrada by myself and even though I had done this trip a couple of times in 2006, I was doing it on my own.
I managed to get to Pellaro with no problems. As a matter of fact it was very easy. The Autostrada ends in Reggio and becomes E90 the superstrada along the Ionian coast. The superstrada is a two-lane road. Once I got the the Pellaro intersection, I made the right followed traffic into the center of town and the owner of the house we were renting met me and I go into the house by 12:30. Rose and Derrick were due by 3:00.
Pellaro is a sea town. The house was on one of the two main streets. It was a beautiful house even if, in the inside, it was not well cared for by the young man who inherited it. It had been his grandparents’ house and he was in the first stages of making a summer rental.
The house was huge. You come in on the street level into a beautiful foyer. It still have what must have been his grandparents’ furniture. You go up these great stairs. (All construction in Italy is cement and hollow, terracotta blocks covered with plaster.) These stairs were topped with rich, dark planks of oak making for an elegant solution to cement stairs. The main floor has this large living room/dining room combination with a large kitchen, pantry and bathroom. This floor has four balconies. The third floor is three large bedrooms and a bath. The two front bedroom share a huge balcony. The top floor has a small room with a door leading onto the terrace. The terrace is the width and length of the house including the balconies making it the largest contiguous space. It is finished with terracotta tiles, railing and low walls. On the east/west sides the house has a garden and a street. It fronts one of the two main streets of Pellaro and it sits against another beautiful empty house.
The house was built in the 1920’s after an earthquake. There are a few pre-earthquake houses left in Pellaro, but much of the old housing stock was either destroyed in the earthquake or torn down to build the ubiquitous post WWII housing that is all over Italy. It’s their version of the Levittown housing that litters American suburbs.
The young man – Paolo – was very helpful and accommodating. He recommended two things that were amazing – a coffee shop, and a small boutique market. The coffee shop – Tahiti – was a gold mine. The granita was to die for and the gelati were sinfully deliciously. The small market became our food store and for the week that I was there we ate food from the market six out of seven days. Across the street was a vegetable stand with great fruit and vegs. The owner was this very generous woman who treated us well. She gave us basil, she gave us figs – the first of the season – both without charging us.
The most amazing discovery were the churches. These are the museums of Aprigliano and there are many of them. I was able to get into all but one – San Demitri – and that was because I had forgotten it was there and ran out of time.
I will begin to create separate pages for each of the small mountain churches and will post pics of the paintings and frescos .
I am in Reggio di Calabria, one of my favorite cities. (I have to write and not use any contractions, because I do not know where the apostrophe is on the keyboard. Getting the @ symbol was a discovery. Derrick knew where it was because he did a presentation in Germany a couple years back and someone showed his where it was.)
The five days in Aprigliano were great. I must have taken close to 500 pics. I also kept notes and will post them as soon as I get a chance.
Today’s agenda includes eating gelato. (The young woman showed me where the apostrophe is.)
The villa where we’re staying in Pellaro, a suburb of Reggio is a beautiful home. All the amenities aren’t there, but the owner has brought in people to repair and install. Hopefully by tonight all will be in working order.
My cousin’s luggage was not on the plane when they came in yesterday. We tried making phone calls, but in Italy phone calls are like shouts across the alley. So this morning I suggested we go to the airport and see if the luggage was there. Face to face works best.
The driving – it’s still true, in Italy traffic rules are suggestions. I was on a two lane road yesterday, but there were four cars across and motorcycles on either side. I am more confident in driving down here, because there are other people in the car that can look out for sign. In Aprigliano, first there was the sheer cliffs and there you are in the mountains and cannot see around the next bend. Here on the ocean, the land is flat and the roads are flat. There are no flat surfaces in Aprigliano.
Last night we had supper on the terrace overlooking the Straights of Messina and Sicily. An amazing view. I look to the left and there’s Etna with smoke coming out of it’s top. On the Calabria side, the foothills of the Aspromonte are all brown, there is no vegetation on the hills. In contrast, Aprigliano in the northern part of the Aspromonte mountain range is all green. Sicily is all brown. I’m beginning to think that Sicily may be an interesting place.
In Pellaro we had a house with a beautiful terrace. A terrace that overlooked the Straits of Messina – Stretto, the mountains of eastern Sicily and Mount Etna. We had dinner every night on this terrace looking at the setting sun as it died behind the mountains. This feature alone made the house and Pellaro worthwhile.
Behind us the brown mountains of Calabria surrounded the houses of Pellaro. But these was barren and uninteresting compared to the blue Stretto, rugged Sicilia and towering Etna.
Our dinners were supplied by this great boutique marked down the street from the house. Daily we went in a bought the dish of the day. We also bought the local cheese and the local wine. I don’t know what I liked best the food or the view. The view was another WOW. The food was good and allowed for an even deeper appreciation of the WOW. I took no pictures of our table laden with the local products. All I know if that we ate and ate very reasonably.
This year my cousin found a house to rent in Pellaro, a suburb of Reggio. The town is about 20 minutes south of center city. I pulled into Pellaro on Tuesday and it wasn’t until Saturday that I got a chance to shoot pictures.
The house is an inheritance and the young man who now owns it is trying to make it a rental. It was a beautiful and huge house. The problem was that we were probably in Italy the two hottest weeks and the house has no central air. The first night we had no air in the bedrooms; the second night I had air, but Rose and Derrick had to wait until the third night before they had air in their bedroom.
Some things that I really liked about the house:
– the foyer
– the stairs
– the roof terrace.
In town, we spent most of our money at the Tahiti Coffee shop, the boutique market around the corner and the vegetable market across the street. At Tahiti we had granita di caffe every morning; at the market we bought local wine and local cheeses; at the fruit stand we bought tomatoes, plums, figs and cucumbers. The food was wonderful. I don’t think we had anything that wasn’t fresh and had great taste.
The main square however was dilapidated and dirty. The streets were not clean, they were full of broken cement and there was dirt and sand everywhere. I’d wear Crocs when walking around, because my feet would sweat from the heat and I’d come home and had to go wash my feet because they were filthy with dirt.
The town had no pretensions and on one level that was quite nice, however it made for a “working vacation.” And for the most part I never mind that, the problem was there were few options outside of going food shopping and preparing meals. The one night we went out to eat, to a highly recommended restaurant, we came away very disappointed. The menu was nothing unusual or particularly good. In Italy I’ve always eaten great bread, at this restaurant we had American-style rolls. (There is a fascination with all things American, but bread is not something we Americans do well. Why would you serve American-style soft bread in the land of crusty bread?)
The best part of both the house and Pellaro was the rooftop terrace and the view of the Straight of Messina, the mountains of Sicily and Mount Etna.
Sicily was perpetually covered in a haze. That may have been, because it was extremely warm and the heat generated a foggy vapor that clung to the mountains. I kept thinking that in the fall, once the miserable heat lifted and there was no humidity the view across the Straight would be amazing. There were many nights when Etna was under cloud cover.
The other great thing about having Sicily across from the roof top terrace was the boat traffic on the Stretto and the planes landing. The boat traffic made the scenery idyllic. The jet traffic brought us back to reality and allowed us to look at the underbelly of the planes as they buzzed overhead.
The roof top like the rest of the house was under realized. A retractable awning would make it usable all day. Instead we had to wait until the sun was ready to set before we could endure the heat. Having our late afternoon drink on the terrace instead of on one of the side balconies would have allowed us more time staring at Sicily. I used up all my staring time. It was something that made being in Pellaro worthwhile.
Other years August 15 has always been a down day – the stores are all closed, the towns are closed – so this year we decided that we would plan an outing for the 15th. We had decided to go out the one of the Aeolian Islands, an archipelago off Sicily’s northern coast. And between research and a program I saw on RAI, I suggested Panarea.
We went to Reggio on Wednesday and go tickets for the 15th. On Saturday we headed out early not wanting to be late, well that was an American way of thinking. The boat was a half-hour late pulling into the port at Reggio and it was a mob scene. (This same boat was taking people to any one of the five Aeolian Islands.) And to add to the stress we were to transfer at Lipari to another boat that would take us to Panorea. I kept thinking, this will never work. The boat was a hydrofoil.
When we got to Lipari the transfer was across from us. Obviously, everything was running late. We got to Panarea and it again was a mob scene. Even the “beautiful people” have to put up with crowds. We went to a small market, got was and headed towards the beach. Well that wasn’t going to happen. Panarea as all the Aeolians are volcanic islands rising out of the sea. There is no beach, the housing in all on the clifftop and to reach the water many houses have long spiral steps that go down to the sea. The rocks were miserably hot and the sun was baking anything out. I panicked. I had avoided the sun for 10 days and now I was faced with a six hour stay with no beach or umbrella.
I went to what turned out the be the most desirable and luxurious hotel on the island – Hotel Raya -and asked if they had “day-passes” for the terrace with the umbrellas and chairs. The young receptionists had me ask the owner – an older woman. I put on my best American charm and asked her if there was any option for using the terrace with the umbrellas and chairs. For some reason she said yes.
Went out and called to Rose and Derrick and announced that we could use the terrace. After getting over the shock of having been given permission to use this luxurious promontory and after settling down from the fear of being stuck in the baking sun to wither, I finally looked out and saw … What was in front of me was a “WOW”.
This flat vantage point looked out on the Mediterranean littered with huge sailboats and even bigger yachts. And in the middle of all this money were jagged volcanic slabs punctuating the blue. (I know how to think about and talk to rich artists, rich intellectuals, the landed gentry, but I have no idea how to think about people who spend their money on yachts, people who leave port in the morning and spend the day sunning under a desert like sun rolling on azure waves. I don’t know this form on human.) But I quickly let go of that confusion, took out my iPod and headphones and began listening to Dylan … to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands with all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves.
Around 5:30 we left the terrace and went walking through the island. All the housing is whitewashed. This uniformity makes the place truly beautiful – the sky-blue water, the red volcanic rock, the green cactus and the white structures.
The island had these narrow roads and the vehicle of choice is the golf-cart. I guess when you have the Mediterranean to show off your 80 foot yacht, driving around in a golf-cart is OK. We went to the cemetery where the locals are buried. It is a simple place of simple tombs. Everything is above ground, because you can’t dig into the volcanic rock. The mountain side behind the cemetery was covered with prickly pear growing from every rook and cranny.
It finally came time to go back to the docks and wait for our boat back to Reggio. On this trip we would not need to transfer. The boat was 45 minutes late. This time I was really anxious. What were we going to do if it didn’t come? (We had gone to the Hotel Raya for a drink, and two Heinekens and a Martini and Rossi cost us $42.75. Imagine what a room would cost? Also, we suspected the waitress pocketed most of the money.) And the people-watching on the dock was depressing. I never saw so many frivolous peacocks in one small space. Men walking, as if they owned the world, get into catamarans at 9:00 at night and head out into the Mediterranean. Many time, while waiting for the boat, I kept thinking of the cliche – Mussolini made the trains run on time.
I was glad to be off Panarea and heading back to the real-world.
Reggio di Calabria the southern most city on the mainland is my favorite place. It is truly a beautiful city; a city full of art and the most spectacular lungomare in all of Italy. I discovered Reggio back in 2006 and one of the reasons I was willing to go back south this summer was because of Reggio. Between the beach, the lungomare and the two main streets that border the area you have one of the most magnificent piece of WOW. And to top it all off Cesare’s is in Reggio. Cesare’s is a kiosk where you can get one of the best gelatos in the world.
Two streets up from the lungomare is the main shopping area – a no traffic street with some of the best shops. Reggio is Calabria at its best.
The cathedral boasts a rock that St. Paul supposedly touched. The palazzi fronting the lungomare create a magnificent backdrop to the palm trees and the green strip bordering the sea walk. And look in the opposite direction and you see Messina and the mountains of Sicily. I don’t know of any other Italian city that has both the man-made beauty and the natural wonders of Reggio.
We walked a deserted city, because we were there late morning, early afternoon. I stayed in the shadows and even then I got sun. Reggion is 7 degrees north latitude of the Sahara. Imagine how hot it was.
Beautiful Scilla hugs the mountain and spills into the Mediterranean. It sits north of Villa San Giovannini, the transportation hub between mainland Italy and Sicily. Scilla fronts the northern most point of Sicily. It a a city literally built into the rock face, so walking around requires great stamina. You are going up and down the mountain. Yes, the streets are beautifully restored; yes, there is a beach section for tourists and a sea-front section where the locals moor their fishing boats, but any time you walk, you’re going up and down a mountain.
We had one of our best meals in Scilla. I had home-made pasta in a white sauce of zucchini flowers and muscles. I had to stop myself form licking the plate. The waiter was very quick to point out that the muscles were from the local fishermen and fresh.
Scilla is divided into terraces. The top of the mountain is where the locals live. The next terrace down is full of restaurant and churches. The sea terrace is divided in two by the foot of the mountain. The left is all beach and tourists, the right is all fancy restaurants and B&B’s.
Before it was a tourist destination, Scilla was a working fishing village. The statue of the boy and the sword-fish it a reminder of that long ago profile. Today the tourist industry has replaced the search for fish.
Scilla has an unusual reputation. People tell you to be careful while in Schilla. Stores and restaurants will take advantage of tourists, and guard all your belongings. For me, these comments are pure Calabrese. I can hear my mother saying, “Remember, nothing can be as good as it looks, and don’t trust another Calabrese especially one that has made it.” It could well be that Scilla deserves its shady reputation, but it’s also more beautiful than most of the other Calabrian villages we visited. And, it was clear of trash. Not something I can say of many other Calabrian villages.
The village of Gerace was a great discovery. The road along the Ionian coast is a narrow, heavy trafficked, two-way local that goes through every town between Reggion and Crotone. It’s not necessarily a pretty road given that the railroad sits between it and the sea. We wanted to go to Gerace, but we knew we would have to deal with E90 and therefore we had to push ourselves to grit our teeth and make the drive.
You can see Gerace, sitting on top of its mountain. Gerace is perched atop a 500 m vertical rock. From the E90 and we kept thinking that it was going to be a miserable uphill drive. The road turned out to be fine. The village of Gerage was another WOW. This is an excellent example of Magna Graecia – Greater Greece. Gerage was at one time the central Greek village governing this entire area of the Ionian coast.
We parked at the very top and walked into town. From the parking lot you look out at the mountain massif of the Aspromonte – a volcanic mountain range in central Calabria. The town’s leaning is Byzantium not Rome. The cathedral and other small churches look like the churches I saw in Jerusalem, not the Latin churches of Italy. The cathedral had a great display of religious art – monstrances, chalices, and statues all made of precious metals. Even the vestments on display were sewn in gold and silver. The main piazza is circled by three ancient byzantine churches. The smallest had all these icons. It looked like no other church I had been to in Italy. The largest in the group was no longer an active church and the sanctuary was all in-laid marble. Again nothing Latin about it. The windows were like those in the Crusade churches in Jerusalem. It was very disorienting, you had to keep reminding yourself that you were in Italy and not the Middle East. Take a look at the pictures of the king and queen on the wall to the right of the icon. Who are they and what are they doing in a church in the heart of Calabria. Also two of the churches we went into had domes made of inverted, terracotta roof tiles. Different.
Gerace was unspoiled by tourists and visitors. The small shops that carried souvenir type items were free of the clutter I associate with tourist traps. We couldn’t get over how beautiful the city was; how clean and well maintained it was. It was a city that people took pride in. It was a city with few abandoned buildings. It was a city of lush garden plots attached to houses. (In Aprigliano, the best they could do was cultivate the slopes nearest their homes and even then many of the gardens were quite distant from the house.) In Gerace, it seemed that every house had as attached walled garden. And these gardens were full of grapes and figs and pomegranates. It made for a beautiful sight to have the green hanging over the hundred year old stone walls. You knew that Gerace was a living city. In addition to the gardens there were the modern cars. Nothing ostentatious, but nothing banged up battered.
Scilla boasted all this rehab work. There were signs everywhere of officially sanctioned restoration. Gerace on the other hand had no official signs, but the whole village had been restored in a lived-in style. (Assisi is the Disneyland of religious destinations – pretty but sterile.) Gerace has real people living out their day-to-day lives in one of byzantiums old centers.
On September 24, I am heading up to Maine to take pics.
The itinerary is to go from Boston up to Portland driving along the coast.
The last time I was in this part of the country I was in college and it was late March early April. A group of us drove from NYC to Boston to Quebec City. What I remember of Maine is tunnels of snow-covered fir-trees. We had left New York City full of spring. Boston was overcast and dreary. Maine was scary. Giant firs looming over us. I still remember thinking – the trees are going to fall over and bury us, the car battery is going to die, it’s getting dark, I hate winter . . . Ah! the joys of college.
Quebec City wasn’t much better. One night we were walking on the Plains of Abraham, a historic site in the city, and it began to snow. April snows in Canada are never easy. You’re exhausted from the long months of winter-white and here comes more snow. I had on loafers and my feet froze.
This time I get to revisit Maine with my friend John who actually knows where he’s going. And I get to stop and shoot pictures. He’s supposed to paint, but I haven’t gotten a firm yes on this.
After Calabria, I realized I needed a camera case with wheels. I really like the one I have, but it’s miserable lugging it around. At Rome Fiumicino, I swallow my pride, found a cart and used it to wheel the camera case around. So this will be my first outing with a new, wheeled case.
The Sunday Times, in the travel section, had an article on Maine . It was about the small town where Winslow Homer spent his years painting the Maine coast.
I’ve gotten away from shooting nature, I removed the nature title from the header on the website and replaced it with structures. I’m curious to see what I’m going to do with Maine and its nature. My hope is to find the lines in the rugged coast and to present the landscape as structures. My reference for this approach are the images of Panarea. There too I was stuck in nature, but the images are of structures, volcanic monoliths pushing away the blue and the green. I concentrated on the sun on the rock-face, the white-waves of streaking motorboats, the verticals of sailboats, the pitch of sun-umbrellas, the flat blue horizon, the white-washed housing. I need to find their counterpoints in Maine.
For the time I will be in Maine, the forecast for the area is not sunny. I’m witing this, because I’m slowly learning that the photograph-image can still look OK. I was out at Ohiopyle a couple of weeks ago and I shot at the water’s edge, as a matter of fact I shot kayakers in the rapids. The sky was overcast, and yet you would never know that from the images.
The image of the kayaker has the following information: f/5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/640. I miss the brilliance of the sunlight, but I can still get a decent image.
Slowly, I am understanding how light factors into an image. Earlier I was working on a sunset and as pretty as the image was, it lacked a clear light source. Rather the light was all diffused behind the clouds and the mountains which gave me a great sunset shot, but made the overall image static. Being able to identify the light source gives an image a direction and a focus that the eye can go to. (This is probably a convoluted comment and most professional photographers would have all the right words to express this. I don’t.)
While the G20 meets here, I’m heading out to Maine. This morning I went out shooting only to find town mobbed with workers getting ready for the G20, so I headed to the North Shore. I found the great sign up on Mount Washington and decided to shoot it.
This image gives a wider perspective – the ducks, the river, the incline, the mountain and the high-rises that sit on top. The sign is like a base to the structures.
The ducks are there to remind me that no matter if the world is coming to town, Pittsburgh will always be low-key. Last night a friend described the kind of med-students that come to Pittsburgh. She said they are hard-working and smart. Then there is a group that scores well on their tests, but will not come here because it’s Pittsburgh. These gravitate to Boston and San Francisco. The comment was said with some regret and I didn’t care. My feeling is if you want to go and pay to live in Boston and San Francisco and still get the same education, go and good luck.
This image on the right is the sign – Pittsburgh Welcomes the World. I get to watch all this from a distance. As the world heads to the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, I’m heading east.
One of the things we are going to do is travel the back-roads. I always like traveling the back-roads. In Italy the back-roads with their 90 degree turns and cliff hanging vistas drive Rose crazy. This summer, I was reluctant to travel the back-roads, because I was by myself and didn’t have the courage to go it alone. However, when Mario drove to Paola using the back-roads it was great fun. When we went to visit Aurelio using the back-roads it was amazing.
On Thursday, I get to head to the back-roads of Maine.
Since Calabria, I have invested in a new camera case with wheels and a small luggage cart. Tonight I tried packing my camera equipment into the new case, but I don’t like it. Also this trip doesn’t have the lay-overs of the trip to Lamezia, so I’m going to use my large shoulder bag. The luggage cart will be fine; I tried it out.
But, I’ll carry the case. Again I’m going from home to the airport, to the gate and then I’m getting picked up at the other end. I also learned in Rome that an airport luggage cart is fine. Once I swallowed my pride and started using the airport luggage cart, having the shoulder bag was not a problem.
The weather for south-eastern Maine is variable, it’s a wait and see thing.
Shooting in Maine
In anticipation of the G20, town was crawling with police. Around noon a battalion of storm-troopers was deposited on Liberty Avenue. From the Point all the way up to Seventh Avenue storm-troopers were stationed – two on either side of the street across from each other.
And I’ll be away during this whole time.
I arrived at Logan and Mac picked me up. He drove to Reading and I got to visited with Bev. They have this great house and I had a chance to shoot it. The pic here is probably one that neither of them would have thought of, but finding the picket fence at the top of their back yard, a picket that is strictly ornamental, gave me a great vantage point. I don’t know if they think of their house as having this look.
It was fun shooting this old New England house. I think of it as standing alone in a field, so I tried to shoot it in a way that isolated it from its neighbors and placed it in the background. The picket fence fools the viewer into thinking that there’s nothing else around, that the house is far in the distance. Oh yes, this is the back of the house and because the yard is on a slope it was easier to capture a far-away look.
I also discovered a fall flower-garden, in front of the picket, that allowed me to shoot the house out of focus and in the background. For me, the flowers were farmish and added to the isolation and far-away look. To get this shot I lay on the ground as close to the flower as I could get and still keep it in focus. (I always worry that someone will see me on the ground and wonder what the hell I’m doing. If I had had more time and if I was thinking, I should have changed to the wide-angle lens and shot the flowers very close.)
The inside of John and Bev’s house is beautiful, but it was all mixed up, because they’ve been renovating and I didn’t feel right shooting it in its present state, even though I really wanted to. I love what homes looks like when we’re in the middle of change; the rocking chair we cover; the pictures we lean on furniture; the small, blue vase we keep with fresh flowers even if it is surrounded by plaster-dust.
We left Reading and headed north on I-95. (I remember using I95 to get back and forth between New York and DC, New York and Providence, New York and Boston. Back then it seemed the only route through the north east.) We were on our way to Maine, to Ogunquit to be exact.
Our first stop was to see a lighthouse outside of Ogunquit. The image is deceptive, because the lighthouse is on an island that visitors cannot access and there is a channel between the island and the visitors parking lot. This was my first look at the Maine seacoast – a rugged thing with stone fingers poking out into the cold Atlantic.
My great worry with this trip was that I would not be able to figure out how to shoot nature as structure and what I found was that south eastern Maine is man-made; it has been conquered even if temporarily. Man has built beautiful structures on the rugged stones that cut into the mighty Atlantic. This lighthouse is about man building in the elements, man controlling for the violence of Neptune. The white is as bright as any wash in Panarea.
The structures here in south-eastern Maine are elegant, minimal and strong, because they have to live with the winds off the Atlantic. There is no room for embellishment, for Victorian gewgaws, a hurricane would make short shrift of any and all appendages. Even the colors used to paint the wooden structures are minimalist – pigment is used sparingly. But the red roof, the red building can be seen for miles.
Francis of Assisi in Maine, there’s a non sequitur. On our way into Ogunquit I saw a sign for a Franciscan Monastery and asked Mac to pull in. He said he had wanted to see the grounds for a while but had never stopped. The place had a 1950 retreat house, much like the novitiate Mac and I lived in at Narragansett, an old mansion that was converted into a chapel, and the grounds had devotional places where the faithful could stop and pray.
The chapel was a beautiful example of 1970’s Catholic design, a legacy to Sister Corita Kent the artist whose works became the symbols of the social upheavals of that period.
The sculpture of Francis was at the Ogunquit museum. What are two references to Francis doing in Maine, they’re supposed to be in Italy. The sculpture was a great find and a great surprise, because it captures the simplicity and power of that simple man from Assisi.
The sculpture is a fountain. The birds light on the bowl and drink. The water drips down gently from the bowl into the earth. The vertical lines are rigid and pull the eye up into the sky. Eventually it will patina green and blend into the landscape.
While at the museum I went out into the gardens facing the Atlantic and saw a sailboat going out, so I started shooting. Only later looking at the pictures on the laptop did I discover the stripe on the sail. I’ll never understand people who leave the land and go out into the sea. (Remember, I came from a medieval hilltop town.) So I always look at sailboats as structures in a sea of blue.
Sailboats were everywhere, but so were the working boats of local fishermen going out every morning to where the ocean is deep. As a land-person I can’t picture what it must be like to be in the middle of blue vastness having no idea if there are fish below when bringing back fish is your livelihood your family’s income.
What was surprising was the green stripe on the one sail. I don’t think I saw it white shooting, rather for a split second, the wind turned to sail enough to get the stripe. The buoy to the right of the sail boat was a light green and nice contrast to the dark green stripe. The image, for me, is also about loneliness and fear two words I don’t combine when thinking about land-side environments.
On Friday morning we headed out of Ogunquit going north, through the back roads, towards Kennebunk. We stopped for breakfast at this famous Maine diner and on the menu were baked beans. Baked beans for breakfast, I had to have them and they were good.
Kennebunk has this great church in the center of town. It was the biggest of the Maine churches and steeples that I had shot. And like all the other churches it too was surrounded by a graveyard. The steeple, above the main tower-base, had five sections to it. The first of the five sections had a large bell-wheel in it. The next sections had a clock – four clocks, one at each cardinal point. A weather vane on a pole topped the steeple no cross marker for these New Englanders.
So why are all these churches painted white? Here’s the answer – White paint was associated with the color of stable, enduring classical buildings; white spoke the language of virtue and simplicity. White proclaimed prosperity and class consciousness. White paint was more expensive to produce than colored paint; it was recognized as the tint of wealth. (Imagining New England, by Joseph Conforti)
Kennebunk seems to be a year-round community. I mention this, because so much of south eastern Maine had a seasonal quality to it. It was hard to imagine these beautiful wooden homes being used year-round, especially given the winter and the proximity of the sea. However, Kennebunk had many, many brick homes. As a matter of fact it had the look of a rich suburban community with cul-de-sacs and housing plans.
The New Englander in his green striped sweater and gentleman’s cap worked to repair the steps of the stately Kennebunk Public Library. His dog didn’t bark or run at me as I shot the pictures. (The man was smoking a pipe as he repaired the caulking.)
The library parking lot was full of cars. And non-working, blond women went in and out carrying colorful bags full of children’s books. (Am I reading too much into the actions of these simple people?)
Across the street a school of children, dressed in period garb, re-enacted some old, colonial pageant. (We’re too far north for this to be Salem.)
In Calabria they re-enact the medieval walk to the holy site, all the while chanting words of pleading:
Santa Maria, Madre di Dio,
prega per noi peccatori,
adesso e nell’ora della nostra morte.
The composition of this image probably reflects my prejudices – the worker bent under the white column of power and power represented by classical architecture. However, there is some hope, he gets to have his dog even if the dog is in the shadows.
Before we left for Portland, we headed over to the beach at Kennebunkport and I got to shoot in the morning light.
The sun is behind me and Mac is ahead at the edge of the beach-grass. (I’m wrapped up in as many layers as I could find, one that I had just purchased. He’s wearing shorts. Go figure!) It was low-tide and the beach was this huge expanse – wet sands in various hues of water saturation. I don’t remember seeing that kind of expanse anywhere in the Mediterranean. The only other place that had a vast stretch of sandy beach was the Pacific near Los Angeles.
I hate having my picture taken, but I discovered that I’m OK with shooting shadows. As a matter of fact, I have a whole collection of me in shadow.
The beach is sprinkled with people up early, walking alone, walking and holding hands, running with golden retrievers, and two old men, one tall and in shadow, the other in shorts and a sleeveless vest. The sands at my feet are littered with prints reminding the morning guests of last night’s lovers.
This post was written on Sunday, December 15, 2013.
I was going through the website removing all the image links and when I got to the maine 2009 category, I wanted to add to it. I wanted an image of Mac and I and I wanted to tell the story since then.
The trip to Maine was one of my first with camera in tow and the maine 2009 group of posts one of the first journal categories. The time with Mac was wonderful and yet six months after we got back we stopped talking. It’s been 4 years since I last talked to my old friend.
I first met Mac in June of 1968. I was a young man from Northern Ontario who had landed in Narragansett at the Christian Brothers Novitiate. We began to spend time together and by July 4, Mac, Bobby, Steve and I sneaked out of the Novitiate and walked down to his family’s summer home. It was such a simple walk and yet in retrospect it was a very daring thing – to leave the enclosure of the monastery without permission. I think that first excursion, that first breaking of the rules, set up the parameters that I would continue to use when thinking about Mac. But what I’ve come to accept in the last four years, in the silence of that time, is that Mac was never the rule-breaker. He may have led us down to his family’s 4th of July celebration, but he was not the proud rebel. He was a homesick young man.
Mac left the Brothers, went to graduate school, married, bought a house, had a son, worked and retired. His immigrant friend from Northern Ontario revealed himself to be the true rule-breaker. The old friend took a different path and continued to tarnish the golden rule.
When I remember Mac, Leonard Cohen’s song One of Us Cannot Be Wrong always comes to mind.
I lit a thin green candle to make you jealous of me, but the room just filled up with mosquitoes, they heard that my body was free. Then I took the dust of a long sleepless night and I put it in your little shoe. And then I confess that I tortured the dress that you wore for the world to look through. I showed my heart to the doctor; he said I’d just have to quit. Then he wrote himself a prescription and your name was mentioned in it. Then he locked himself in a library shelf with the details of our honeymoon. And I hear from the nurse that he’s gotten much worse and his practice is all in a ruin. I heard of a saint who had loved you, so I studied all night in his school. He taught that the duty of lovers is to tarnish the golden rule. And just when I was sure that his teachings were pure he drowned himself in the pool. His body is gone, but back here on the lawn his spirit continues to drool. An Eskimo showed me a movie he’d recently taken of you. The poor man could hardly stop shivering, his lips and his fingers were blue. I suppose that he froze when the wind took your clothes and I guess he just never got warm. But you stand there so nice in your blizzard of ice, O please let me come into the storm.
After the emptiness of the coast we headed to Portland. The ride along Route 1 was the beginning of the return to the real world of asphalt, stop signs and traffic jams. We did stop to shoot at Calvary Cemetery. What was great about the shoot was that I kept the wide-angle lens (12 – 24 mm) and that got me to go up to the subject and shoot it close, real close. It’s my favorite lens, because it forces me to approach the subject – to almost touch it. On a practical level, the lense produces the least amount of distortion.
I used the wide-angle lens in the Portland Art Gallery a wonderful place. Part of the museum is the McLellan House. “The McLellan House (1801) is the product of a post-Revolutionary building boom, fueled by the revival of an energetic maritime economy, that transformed Maine’s coastal towns and cities. In October, 2002, the Portland Museum of Art reopened to the public the fully restored Federal-era building.”
The house has no original furnishings but has kept the designated areas – dining room, parlor, foyer. One of the rooms was the play area for the children, and there I found the mirror.
November the Second has always been a melancholy day. My first memory of this Day of the Dead is going with my family to the cemetery in Aprigliano. I was with my parents and someone gave us a ride. As a little kid, the ride felt long. On the way, I remember seeing a road-side memorium and I remember the tall cypress trees that ringed the cemetery. (The trees have been such an enduring memory that at one point I tried to plant a cypress in my backyard. The grower at the greenhouse discouraged me, saying this part of the country did not have the right climate for cypress. Pittsburgh is too wet for this genus of tree.)
The other thing I remember from this long ago time is the Famiglia Martini Ferrari monument. It was the most notable grave site in a country cemetery. All my relatives were in small brick-and-mortar graves. I’ve kept this image, of a woman reclining with a set of books as her pillow, in my mind all my years. And when I was back in Aprigliano in 2006 and we had our own car and we could go to the cemetery, this is one of the first graves I went looking for. I also discovered that the cemetery in my mind was now the “old section.” There is some creeping of the new in the back of the monument. Cinder blocks were not in use back in the early 50’s for mausoleums. In memory it stood alone dwarfing everything around it.
Rose took this shot. It was before I began to pay attention to photography.
The monument in my mind is all white marble, there is no staining, no water puddles on the top.
I’m going back up to Harrow, Ontario this coming week-end. It’s Rainer’s 60th birthday and he and Lynne are throwing a party.
When we got together last summer, it was the time of walking through the corn-fields in the moonlight, holding on to Lynne, because I had no idea where we were and was certain that if I didn’t hold on, I’d never find my way out of the corn.
It was also the summer of the cats and learning from Lynne how they lived in the wild and how she took care of them. I’m curious to see how many are left.
It was also the visit where I sat on their lawn transfixed by the fireflies. There are images that I carry in my head, some wonderfully romantic, some exceptionally beautiful, some emotionally scary and some delibitatingly sad. The fireflies lifting into the air is one of the beautiful.
As I’m writing I realize I don’t have one image to post. The visit was still at a time where I was self-consious of walking around with a camera. Maybe this time, I’ll be a bit more brave.
In July when I was here to visit and play golf with the boys, the area was gold with grain.
I remember just stopping in the middle of a country road and shooting the wheat field. The area is very flat and fields and farms stretch to the horizon. (In Pennsylvania, fields stretch to the next rise.) I had no idea where I was and Rainer literally talked me through getting to his farmhouse. It was only my second visit and I wasn’t paying any attention to directions. All I could see were swatches of color that I wanted to capture. And I was still unsure and reluctant with the camera.
However, I still stopped and just shot. In the image on the left, the line of trees in the distance was nothing more than a demarcation, separating the blue and the gold. It’s now, six months later, that I even know there are trees in this flat terrain of south-western Ontario. And now six months later, the gold and green are gone and what remains is the brown bareness of this prairie landscape. Winter here in the southern most point of Canada is still desolate.
I got to Windsor by 4:00 and pulled over at the Ontario Travel Bureau to call Rainer. I noticed that the office was open, so I decided to go in and get maps of the area. I have a GPS, but I’m not familiar enough with the area to trust myself to driving around. Also, I didn’t want to get caught in some country road after sunset GPS or no GPS.
The woman was very helpful and suggested a wine tour for Saturday. She also gave me a great map of the area that showed all the roads and situated Rainer’s house in the middle of this vast farm area.
When driving in a new area, I’m never sure that I haven’t passed my turn off. It was very hard to drive down Howard Road – a very long north/south corridor – and not worry that I had missed the right turn onto Rainer’s road. I forced myself to keep driving hoping that I would find the turn off and that it would be well marked. It was.
Along the way I shot a Greek Orthodox church, a cemetery and a vineyard with its bare vines. The wind howled as it ripped through the naked grape tendrils and the rust colored vines were a red haze behind the bare tree.
Frank, Norma and I spent Saturday “in the county” as the locals refer to the area. Neither of them had even been to Windsor. We drove down and I took them through the University campus, showing them the house I lived in the year I was there.
This is the house that I lived in back in 1969/70. I had finished my year at the novitiate in Narragansett, Rhode Island and returned back to Canada and Windsor for university. I shared one of the third floor dormer rooms with a young man who was not a monk, but was living in the house, because he had gone to the Brothers’ high school in Toronto. His bed was in the right alcove you see and mine was in the alcove facing the river. I hated living in Windsor. I remember thinking that Sault Ste Marie was a better place to live than this miserable city on the Detroit River. And I knew nothing of the farm area that 40 years later I would visit to hook up with old childhood friends.
The house was on campus and it was the Christian Brothers center at the University of Windsor. The best part of living here was the cook. She made the best desserts. But even that couldn’t keep me in Canada and at the end of freshman year I transferred back to the United States and joined the New England/New York branch. This was the group that ran the novitiate and had the kids that I had become friends with. I’ve never regretted leaving the Canadian province of the Christian Brothers and settling in the United States.
The house is now a suite of offices for the Theology Department of the University of Windsor. (I wonder what they have in the ball room? When I lived there it was our chapel.)
I knew there would be little time to spent with Rainer on Saturday after all it was his birthday party and he and Lynne were hosting a large group, but I made sure to get to his house on Friday and visit with him. I knew I would have more time with Frank and Norma and with Gabriele – Rainer’s sister and the person whose house the three of us stayed at.
It was very nice to visit with Gabriele again. She was part of the group that grew up together all those years ago in Sault Ste Marie. Gabriele is a nurse who has worked all over the world for Médecins Sans Frontières for the last 20 years. The four of us spent both Friday night and Saturday, after the party, talking and talking and talking. It was familiar, comfortable and great fun.
Gabriele is slowly renovating her parents’ home and making it her own. Both Mr. and Mrs. Pahl, two people I remember fondly, have passed away. I spent many outings with the Pahl family going fishing in the small streams around Sault Ste Marie. I remember climbing the low, northern Ontario mountains collecting blueberries. Mr. and Mrs. Pahl never got lost. Mrs. Pahl taught me to play chess and she gave me some World War II book to read that was a seminal experience for me, because for the first time I knew what Europe and my parents and Rainer and Gabriele’s parent went through.
They were always very welcoming and their apartment was a retreat, a place with intelligent people who talked to us as intelligent young men and women. It was also the first place where I saw modern furniture. The Pahl’s apartment was decorated with sleek, teak furniture. No one else I knew had this type of chairs and sofas. My parents decorated in French provincial.
After breakfast, Frank, Norma and I went down to Windsor and first we drove along Riverside Drive next we went to Little Italy and window shopped and had lunch.
The pic is typical of what I shoot – Frank and Norma walking down Erie Street, the Little Italy of Windsor. The street was empty. We being city people couldn’t understand why. A similar street with great restaurants and specialty shops in either Toronto or Pittsburgh would be teaming on a week-end close to Christmas. Instead we had the place to ourselves. I believe this is because in Windsor this is a local street for the people who live in the area. We stopped in a small grocery store and it was busy with people who lived in the neighborhood.
We did manage to find a place for lunch and being true city nerds we had to find another place for dessert and espresso. I always enjoy spending time with Frank and Norma. We fit well after all these years and can enjoy hours together. (The pic is unique, because on the cloth sign above the MEZZO marquee is an ad and the script spells Mario.) After dessert we headed back to the county and visited one of the wineries – D’Angelo Estate.
The birthday party was well attended. I didn’t realize how big their renovated farmhouse is until I saw it full of people and there was still room to walk around. We were there for about 4 hours. Got to visit a bit with Ron and met a friend of Gabriele whose grandmother had the original Crown deed that granted the family the land they farmed. Also got to meet Rainer’s brother in law, he and his wife are the present generation farming the land. He said that a farmer needs between 600 and 800 acres in order to make a living off the land. (There’s a tipping point Malcolm Gladwell hasn’t considered.)
On Saturday, we got 6 inches of snow and on Sunday I went out and shot pictures, especially of West Park. I really like shooting snow landscapes.
I also began shooting in Manual. (Not sure why or what prompted me, but I turned the dial to M and have left there.) Walking to the park, I was hoping for the sun, but it never came out. Pittsburgh in December is colorless. It reminds me of Narragansett all those years ago when there was no let up from the grey Atlantic, and the grey skies. Even Christmas Eve in the monastery chapel with its songs, candles, liturgy and friends was bleak.
This year Christmas is on a Friday and for the first time since we opened City High, I decided to stay in town for a couple of days and head out for northern Ontario closer to Christmas day. (It also happened that neither of my cousins were available for our pre-Christmas get-together.) This change has meant that I’ve been home the last four days.
I’ve been unhappy that I haven’t been out doing more shooting, especially when I was driving into work and the morning sun bathed the rivers, so once home for vacation, I’ve gone out every day. Yesterday I did some follow-up shooting and began to notice the many doors decorated for Christmas so I turned the camera and photographed them. I found a great shot that ended up as the main image on the website. That shot suggested that I change the focus of the next gallery and make it all doors.
The shot is of two doors side-by-side with a wreath on each. It’s my kind of shot, a composition that is dark but unusual in its recognizable and mismatched ornamentation. I was amazed to get home and find this image. (I don’t know if all photographers have that wow experience when they see an image that they shot, that surprises them.) I don’t know what I like best, so I’ll list my wows – the red ribbon on the dark-blue door, the white ribbon on the wooden door, the placement of the two ribbons – one in the bottom right, the other on the top middle, the house number on the left door, the white trim on the wooden door.
The other unusual thing is that I have no decorations in my house. I wonder if I’m compensating.
I headed out for the trip to northern Ontario on Wednesday with the goal of getting there Christmas Eve. (I do the trip in two shifts – Pittsburgh, Detroit/Detroit, Sault Ste Marie.) And the roads were great except once I crossed the Mackinaw, a bridge that I hate driving on, miserable winter hit and for the next 30 miles I was driving through snow blizzards and on snow-covered roads.
Once I got to my parents, the skies were grey and depressing, but I did go out and began to shoot.
The pine tree is the first thing I wanted to shoot. It sits in my parents’ neighbors’ front yard, but it dominated both their house and my parents’. I remember it as a two floor dwarf and thinking it would never grow to anything worthwhile.
I also shot it, because in the background, on the right is the building where the Pahls lived. (This is where Rainer, Gabriele and their parents lived. Mr. Pahl worked at the Tube Mill and he liked being close to his job.) I have fond memories of visiting them in the second floor apartment. The two windows on the second floor were the kitchen.
Sault Ste Marie in the winter, covered in Christmas snow is pretty, deceptively pretty. In the white wonderland it’s easy to forget the isolation and remoteness of this northern Ontario own at the confluence of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
The street where my parents still live and where the Pahls lived still has many of the same families that were there 40 years ago. However, the Pahls are gone, Rainer and Gabriele live in Harrow, I live in Pittsburgh and the Tube Mill has been taken over by a multinational – Tenaris.
Christmas Eve is always at my aunt and uncle’s. The list included – Ciccio, Mafalda, (parents) Gina, Emilio, (aunt and uncle) Teresina, (uncle’s step mother) Rose, Derrick (cousins) and myself. Connie (my sister) was in Toronto and Mary, Domenic (cousins) and the kids are at Dom’s mother’s. I decided to take the camera and the audio recorded this year.
Rose and I had talked back in August, in Pellaro about getting the old stories from everyone and I promised to do that at Christmas. I’ll create a page in the People section of the webpage and add the recording from Christmas Eve. It was interesting to find out that back in Italy, in 1957, Mafalda had exchanged letters with Teresina hoping to meet up on the boat in Naples. Teresina was leaving Martirano and heading to Sault Ste Marie the same time the Zinga family was leaving Aprigliano and heading to northern Ontario.
The pic is my uncle – Emilio – and Mafalda is in the background doing dishes. Christmas Eve is one of my favorite meals. It’s still the ethnic meal of my childhood with pasta and sardines, rapini, curdurilli e sarde, and baccala. Other dished have been added to these staples, but I don’t eat them. The most notable change is the addition of other fish besides the cod. I hate cod and if I have to eat fish, I’ll try the others. Many people ask me about the Christmas Eve meal and the 7 dishes of fish. My answer is that the seven fish meal is a sea-town tradition. In the mountain-top towns, the only fish we would eat on Christmas Eve was cod and that’s because it was the cheapest fish to buy. But the cod prepared in at least three different ways – sauted in red sauce, sauted in a white sauce and baked. I hated it all.
In the pic, Emilio is dishing out the fennel. The main meal is over and we’re on the dessert. And yes, fennel is one of the dessert items; maybe even my favorite.
Christmas day I went to pick up Christian at the airport and on the way I had time to shoot in Prince Township.
The Township is a vast lake-plain bordered by low, red-rock mountains. The mountains are part of the Canadian Shield – a broad region of Precambrian rock that encircles Hudson Bay and extends to the Great Lakes. It’s always been one of my favorite areas to shoot. Friday was an overcast, dreary day. The image on the right is one of the most Photoshopped pics I’ve ever created.
I went shooting, because the plane was supposed to be late, but in the middle of my shoot I start getting text messages that the plane had landed followed by, “where r u? i’m waiting.”
The pic is of a house at the base of the mountain chain. The property is vast and there are 8 garage spaces.
After dinner on Friday, I started taking people pictures. (I hate doing it, but I’m forcing myself and each time I learn something.) Many of the pics were not well lit, and it took me a while to find the best shutter speed and aperture measure. And when I did get my settings figured out, I began to shoot the women in the family.
Following a matrilineal path, these are the Savaia women – descendants of Maria Savaia my grandmother. Maria Savaia left Aprigliano and came to Sault Ste Marie in the early 50’s. (left to right) Seane, Alyssa, Rose, Mafalda, Mary, Connie. (Missing from the line-up is Gina, Mafalda’s younger sister, and Rose and Mary’s mom.)
Maria Savaia’s female descendants:
– daughters – Mafalda, Gina
– grand-daughters – Rose, Mary, Connie
– great-grand-daughters – Seane, Alyssa
I go on about the assertive, intelligent women in the family and I always group them with Mafalda and her side of the family – the Savaias. I don’t mess with anyone in this group.
The 2010 category-group contains the following categories:
It was late afternoon and grey only as New England can be grey in winter. I’m slowly beginning to learn how to shoot in this light and some of the images I got, I like very much. Also processing them through Photoshop can alter them enough to compensate for the grey and the diminished light.
My goal in walking the Common was to shoot the Augustus Saint-Gaudens relief – The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial – commemorating Shaw and the Afro-American 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Saint-Gaudens is one of my favorite sculptors. (The other piece I’m determined to shoot is the Adams Memorial in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC.) I shot the relief with little light remaining and yet I think the image works.
I walked through Boston Common with Ryan Oliver. The area is a great place full of people – students, street performers, policemen on horses and workers heading home. The Common is dotted with great statuary and they were fun to shoot in the dying light. The last time I was here must have been some thirty years ago and never in winter.
The second pic is of Mr. Oliver walking towards the Massachusetts’ State House. (I had to get stern with Mr. Oliver who wanted to turn and mug while I shot.) I’m using the pic to place the Shaw Memorial. (Sorry Mr. Oliver.) The back of the monument is on the left hand side, in the middle of the pic. It sits across the street from the State House facing the golden dome.
Oliver had lived in Boston for a good six years so it was great to have him guide through the city. Boston is more like New York than it is like any other city I know. However, it doesn’t have the oppressive feeling of NYC.
I always think of Boston as America’s Jerusalem – the Golgotha where England was killed and a new nation resurrected.
The first time I ever shot in a museum was last fall in Portland. That experience was interesting mainly because I ended up using the wide-angle lens and focusing on items I could shoot with the flash. And by getting real close, the lens gave me some great pictures. (I keep forgetting the adage – walk to the subject, don’t zoom it.) On Saturday, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the Boston Fine Arts with my camera. This time I mounted the 18-200mm – f/3.5 not sure what the results would be. This is my work-horse lens. What I didn’t expect was a well-lit environment. Can you imagine, it never occurred to me that objects in a museum would be well-lit. Once I figured that out, I shot everything I liked.
The image on the left is probably my favorite. It’s my ‘Antonioni’ picture. I’m referring to the poster for the film BLOW-UP, Antonioni’s first English language movie, released in 1966. I may not be straddling super-model Veruschka, but the image is as close as I’ll ever get to the iconic pose on the famous poster.
What you’re looking at is a reflection. I am shooting the image in the mirror. The mirror is the base of the display – Endless. The bottles above the mirror are the actual display. The black swirls are in the wall paper I’m kneeling in front of.
After the cemetery Mac and I went to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. All the time I visited Mac in Boston when he was in grad-school, we never went to the museum. Forty years later we head to The Fenway. The museum is undergoing a huge renovation almost doubling its size. In the process it is surrounded by fencing. The sculpture, with its green patina, is in front of the museum’s original entrance, now re-opened to the public.
I’m using this image of the Indian pleading to heaven, because to me it has some of the same sentiments as The Shaw Memorial of the Afro-American Volunteer Infantry in the Common. I find it strange that prominent in this first of American cities are two pieces – one to the conquered and one the oppressed. After all, it was the colonist who took the land from the people they found in the new world and in ’67 Boston was the site of some of the most violent race riots of the era. Yes, Massachusetts is one of the most politically liberal of states, but I never think of it as progressive towards its people.
I will add pictures of the museum in the Additional Pages on the places text-section of the webpage.
Saturday morning, Mac and I went first to Forest Hills Cemetery and then to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts .
Forest Hills, chartered in 1848, is among the first ‘park-cemeteries or rural-cemeteries’ in the nation. (Allegheny Cemetery, opened in 1845.) The entrance is Victorian and massive. What I really liked is the bell-tower. In the pic, it’s on the left in the background. It’s a functioning bell-tower and tolls the hours. I haven’t found any other cemetery with a working bell-tower. The picture composition was serendipitous, the car drove through as I was shooting. And I must have shot at the right time to capture the car without any streaking.
I will add pictures of Forest Hills in the Additional Pages on the cemetery text-section of the webpage.
The pic on the right is taken from my window at the Clarendon Square Inn, a B&B that I stayed at.
The neighborhood is full of Second Empire houses, old brick five-story structures with mansard roofs that have been reclaimed and made beautiful again. The B&B is located in Boston’s South End. I had a room on the 5th floor and from my window I could see the high-rises of downtown Boston. The South End reminded me a lot of New York’s East Side.
We have little Second Empire housing in Pittsburgh. One of the owners of the B&B was surprised to know that the Western Pennsylvania region has more Arts and Crafts housing than French influenced architecture. (My neighbors across the street have a mansard roof on the third story.) Pittsburgh, the original gateway to the west, is European in character but American in architecture. The European, upper-class look isn’t here, but Frank Lloyd Wright and H.H. Richardson have left great legacies.
The picture was taken Saturday morning. I’m shooting from the alley-way across the street.
All day Friday, the news media was hyping everyone up with their predictions of snowmageddon. Rick, Sarah and I had a previous date to go to Joan Brindle’s gallery opening and we ignored the hysteria and went to the opening. I drove home proud of having made it from the east-end, via Wilkinsburg, Squirrel Hill, Oakland and to the North Side. The roads were snow-covered and given that the media had scared everyone home, there were very few other cars to navigate or be careful of.
I went to bed thinking that I’d get up early and go take pictures. At 4:00 in the morning I realize that my alarm clock is off and that there’s a chill. I get up and check things and figure out that the electrical had gone off at 11:30 last night. The dogs were not happy in the darkness. A couple of hours later, I get up, make espresso and have breakfast, but still no heat or electricity.
I open the back door to let the dogs out and find that they yard is covered in almost 3 feet of snow. The dogs jump in only to sink and get all snow covered. After the shock of sinking, they begin to eat the snow. They love to eat the stuff. After a lot of shouting I round them up and bring them in only to spend the next half-hour drying them off.
This was the headline in today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And given that 21 inches of snow fell in 14 hours, and that we were without electricity and heat for 17 hours, the title seems to fit. (A state of emergency was declared throughout Pennsylvania.) I’m using an image shot yesterday. It conveys the amount of snow without the filth of sand and melt.
Yesterday morning everyone was in a great mood. Taylor Avenue was filled with people we all laughed and talked about the fact that none of us had power. Here we were, Pittsburgh’s urban pioneers enjoying a beautiful snow-drenched morning. The sun and snow made it easy to forget that we had no heat and no electricity. That discomfort didn’t set in until sundown and the house was cold and dark.
In the afternoon, I went out and sat in my car for a half hour charging my iPhone and Kindle. (I don’t believe I’ve been alive long enough for such an admission to make sense and to not be embarrassed by this comment.) My neighbors went to a coffee shop in the neighborhood to charge all their peripherals.
The electricity came back this morning at 4:00 – seventeen hours after going off.
I’ve discovered the outside murals in Pittsburgh. These have been around for a while, thanks mainly to the Sprout Fund that has been spearheading the effort with a very strong grant program to local artists. On the North Side, the artists living in the housing owned by City of Asylum Pittsburgh have been using the outside of the building as their canvas. Huang Xiang began it all. In 2004 he covered his residence with Chinese calligraphy — his poems, a joyful and celebratory response to his freedom from censorship. (The image on the left is from the Pittsburgh-Burma house.)
The detail is from a mural on the North Side done by Burmese artist Than Htay in resident at City of Asylum Pittsburgh.
The slide show on the main page is images from a mural in Regent Square. The artist is Kristin Williams and the piece is titled Bird’s Eye View.
The other day my D90 gave me an error message and then shut down. I removed the battery and it started up again only to shut down again. Went online and started reading blogs and several postings talked about this particular problem. It was described as an electrical problem in the body of the D90.
Next, I called Nikon and they said the same thing and that I had to ship the camera in for repair – shock to the system. I packed it all up and went down to UPS. I was without a familiar camera. Even though, I recently purchased a D700 when offered a “pick-yourself-out-a-gift” offer. But I was intimidated by the fancy, new camera and had not yet used it.
On my way down to UPS, I decided to take the plunge and use the D700 in Auto mode. (I know, I know this could get me drummed out of the “club.”) But then it wouldn’t be the first club I got thrown out of. I read the manual, switched it to Auto and walked out the door.
My neighbor’s kids were playing and I asked them if I could take their picture. (As if they were going to say no.) Here’s one of my favorites.
I agonized over buying the D700 – it’s considered a professional camera and I’m nowhere near that level of proficiency. And never mind the price, even if it was a gift – a gift that was offered back in January. It took me three months before I called and order it and then it sat on my dining room table for the next two weeks. I kept telling myself that I didn’t have time to learn it. It’s funny how things work out. Nothing like necessity to force us to do things we’re afraid of. (At one point, I considered going back to my office and getting my old D60. After all I knew how to use that one and I was already in the car. A short trip to downtown would be easy.)
If I remember correctly, I did the same thing with my first camera – put it on auto and concentrated on composition. It has taken me two and a half years to get to a point where I know my way through the technology to shoot in manual. I hope it’ll be a shorter time with this new, fancy camera.
I was out in Westmoreland County, the sun was out and I decided to drive out to St. Vincent College to shoot with the D700.
The doors to the abbey were open so I made a bee-line to the entrance. When I got there, behind the massive wooden doors were two sets of glass doors, and there staring at me was a reflection in a reflection. I couldn’t pass it up.
Now to try and explain the layers – the gold statue is behind me, and its reflection is in the first set of doors. The rolling hills are the western ridge of the Appalachians. My larger reflection is also in the first set of doors. The smaller, full-body reflection is in the second set – the interior doors. The floating, vertical rectangle with the insignia is on the interior doors. The shield is the College’s logo.
Inside, I shot the empty, sterile church of Holy Week. By Sunday it will be festooned in lilies and filled with Halleluiahs. Outside, I found the pond for the old grist mill. (At one time the monks grew wheat, ground it in the mill and made great bread. But those days are gone.) The pond is home to some of the largest gold-fish/carp. And, a group of gold-fish was huddled under rotting leaves. The bright red was in contrast to the browns and dirty-greens of the old autumn leaves.
BTW, I learned that I don’t have the D700 set up correctly. I guess ‘auto’ is a selective feature, not an all encompassing one.
The old gristmill at St. Vincent still has the pond that for years dammed the water that turned the wheel that ground the wheat that became the monks’ bread. Today the mill houses the College’s maintenance and the pond is a nice place to visit on a spring day.
I was standing there shooting the grounds and looked down into the green water and saw all these carp, some of them huge. Farther out, under old leaves and other winter debris was a small group of fish all red and golden. I aimed the lens and shot. The dirty-grey winter leaves, the red carp, the reflected tree-limbs all floating in the cold-green water created an image that reminded me of Monet’s Water Lilies.
St. Joe’s Island is a place I keep going back to whenever I’m in Northern Ontario. The island sits at the end of the St. Mary’s Rivers in Lake Huron.
As kids, Rainer’s mom and dad would take us to St. Joe’s to fish and to pick blueberries. We would do the 20 mile drive following the St. Mary’s River through the Indian Reservation and end up at the dock to wait for the ferry to take us onto the Island. The ferry held maybe 10 cars. I remember rough, white-capped waves and staying in the car while the ferry navigated the narrow channel. In the late 70’s the Provincial government built the current bridge. The image on the left is the bridge going over to the Island.
And this morning I got to shoot a photograph that echoed back to one of my favorite paintings – Casson’s “White Pine”. AJ Casson was one of the Canadian Group of Seven – artists who, after WW I, fled Southern Ontario for the Georgian Bay and Algoma areas to paint. Reproductions of their famous landscapes were in my basal reader. I remember being proud to see the landscapes that I saw everyday living in the Sault captured in canvas, reproduced in color in my reader. (It was great to see recognizable wilderness instead of Toronto streetscapes and Ottawa parliaments.)
My two high-end cameras are in the shop. And after 3 tries it looks like the problem is the batteries. Nikon has my D90, D700, my 18-200 lens and 4 batteries. (I suspect they may finally be on the right track, because the 18-200 lens is not a problem with the D60.) Also, today was my first day without travel, prom, travel and graduation on my plate. I could finally go out and shoot.
My first outing was to Sewickley hoping to find some interesting things to shoot, but didn’t. What I did find were some great windows for reflections.
This is my first trip shooting in the area in quite a while. I’m troubled, because I want my two cameras back; I really want to shoot with the D700; the picture quality is great. However, I am shooting with my favorite lens – Nikkor 12-24. And regardless, it’s through the lens that I zone out and make pictures.
I walked the main street and was disappointed to find it was deserted and not very interesting. Most of the shops are directed at women and all were closed and shuttered. It doesn’t matter the goal was to get back out there and make pictures.
The picture on the left is fun. There I am in the middle of barrels, candy, fluorescences, ads and a Sewickley frame-house. The ad in the bottom right of the all-American child in the same image as the old immigrant is my sense of fun. I turned the camera to myself out of boredom. Fancy Sewickley had nothing worth shooting.
After my disappointing trip to Sewickley, I decided to revisit my two favorite angles in Homewood Cemetery.
I was hoping to find them dripping in evening light. The smaller angel on the left, was in shadow but the large majestic one on the right, holding a bouquet of poppies, still stood in twilight.
The Gulentz Angel on the left is the smaller of the two and has a whimsical quality. Her outstretched arm giving her both a melancholy stance and a breadth that encompasses the entire sarcophagus.
The Schoonmaker Angel is elegant and grand. She stands holding poppies in one hand and resting her left hand gently on the sarcophagus, soothing a sleeping child. She is herald, she is mother.
I have all my cameras back. And tomorrow I should have the Canon point-and-shoot. I’ve wanted something that I can have with me all the time and the PowerShot G11 was highly recommended.
There’s no way of knowing if the problem has really been fixed, however this time the techies seemed to attack it more comprehensively. The support manager in California that I’ve been dealing with got the technical manager in New York to work the case. It was the New York person that asked for the lens and batteries. What they found was that two of my four batteries were defective. Also the battery chamber on the D90 had cracked and that got repaired. The battery problems seem right. I already threw away one of the non-Nikon batteries, because it would not keep a charge. But it never occurred to me that what I was buying at a chain camera shop would be defective. I’ve ended up buying and throwing away 3 batteries.
The image on the left was shot with the D700 after a thunderstorm. I put together the D700 with my favorite lens – Nikkor 12-24 – and went out to the back yard. I really like the images from the D700.
The other thing that I did tonight was hang 6 pictures of flower photographs that I shot. (Last fall in Maine, Mac mentioned that he rotated the pictures in his house. There’s what I could do with my photographs – print them, frame them and hang them on a rotating basis.) I gave my friend Scott six flower images that I really liked. He Photoshopped them, printed them and framed them. I know nothing about printing, and I suspect that I will have to learn something about it.
I spent the week-end in Harrow. Unlike last year, I decided to take pictures of the farm. (The architecture of these Upper Canada farm-houses is consistent all throughout Southern Ontario.) Rainer and Lynne bought the farm-house some 4 years ago and are slowly renovating it. When Rainer first took us to see it, I assumed it was a generic Canadian farm-house, but the back-story is more than generic.
Lynne told us that the house belonged to a Mr. and Mrs. Fox and that it was the farm-house that her grandparents and aunt worked at when they came from Portugal two generations ago. Lynne said that the farmer’s wife would not tolerate the three Portuguese workers in the house.
Fast forward 80 years and the grand-daughter of the Portuguese immigrants now owns the farm-house.
A term that the people in this part of Canada use readily is severed. They all talk about how the farm-house has been severed. This means that the house and some added land is separated from the larger acreage and sold. (The original Crown deeds, in this part of Upper Canada, were 150 acres.) Rainer and Lynne’s house was severed from the farm land that surrounds it. And to add one more twist, the house that Lynne’s dad and his wife lives in, is the same house that his wife was born in and grew up in. The house was severed and they bought the farm-house from her family – the Howies. The property includes the original barn with the R. Howie name on it.
It become clear that the community, in this farm region, has many families that have been in the area for generations. The families have intermarried and consolidated and re-divided the original Crown deeds to create a new patch-work of farms.
The inter-connectedness reminds me of the hill-towns in Calabria. Just as Lynne can point to all the families that are inter-connected in Harrow, I can point to all the families that are inter-connected in Aprigliano.
This is one of my favorite images – Seane, Connie and Christian.
The light-green finger, the white tank-top, the blue hair-clip, the black hollow, the sun tanned shoulders, the brown T, the yellow-green leaves, the grey culvert, and the checker-board shadows; Sean protecting, Connie leaning, Christian walking over; serendipity.
Northern Ontario, in early August, still has a summer sun. The evenings are deep-red and soft. Twilight lingers.
It was Christian’s birthday, we had just finished eating and went walking in the evening light; three of us led by an adventurous aunt.
When they got to the culvert, they walked right out onto it. As the reporter and interpreter, I can assign motivation and action to the characters in the image – Connie needs to see what is in the water; Sean is hesitant and cautious; she’s trying to make sure her aunt doesn’t tip into the stream; Christian meanders; the uncle stays back, pushing the shutter-release.
In lieu of Italy, I spent a week in northern Michigan. Actually on the north-eastern shore of Lake Michigan. The area is nothing like Northern Ontario and the other Great Lakes. It has dunes, sandy beaches, resorts, cherry orchards, golf-courses and cultivated pine-groves. The image on the left is Dom, Alyssa, Mary and Daniel getting ready to climb the dune in the National Lakeshore Park.
It was a surprise to find National Lakeshore, I had no idea that the east coast of Lake Michigan is protected parkland. (In all the years that I’ve been traveling through Michigan, this is the first time that I ever visited the eastern shores of the Lake.)
I always assumed that Lake Michigan would be much like the other Great Lakes rocky and rugged. Instead it’s sand and gentle, rolling hills. It’s fields of sunflowers and beautifully manicured greens. It’s farmland and orchards. It’s the refuge of the car-manufacturing gentry escaping the industrial south for the dunes and shores of the “up-north”.
One of the things I enjoyed best about the trip was spending time with Daniel and Alyssa. The image on the right is a reflection – Daniel is being an eighth-grader and messing with his sister. (I’m glad to see Alyssa is still patient. Hope it lasts.) The five of us – Mary, Dom, Daniel and Alyssa – decided to spend an evening walking the downtown. The children and I ate gelato, dissed the tourists and mugged in every window.
Traverse City is beautiful. It has a nice balance. It is not some cheap beach-town littered with souvenir shops and trashy stores or some northern Michigan back-water, hick town. Rather the downtown is manned by local merchants who have managed to keep out the national chains, the graffiti and the garbage. They offer coffee shops manned by local kids, t-shirts designed and printed by local artisans. A canal edges the downtown allowing boats to dock; boaters to pick up pizza; ducks to swim and dive for food; tourists to shop for taffy and t-shirts; locals to work in a tourist environment without being swallowed up by the outsiders. The harbor is filled with motor-boats and sail-boats. It is landscaped with retaining walls and slips. And the sunset colors it red.
Our fall-foliage trip took us through Westmoreland County. I’ve traveled the turnpike for years, but have never gone exploring the country roads that surround it.
What made the shoot at this furniture store was the tile silo and the blue-blue sky. I haven’t had the opportunity to aim at the blue vastness and the white clouds in the while. The fields that bordered the landscape were gold with cut-wheat and cut-corn. The soybeans dried tan and added a haze to the horizon.
Other silos that I’ve shot have been skeletons – white-washed, cracked and empty – of bygone days. This one near Pleasant Unity, Pennsylvania was made of shiny tiles that were in great shape and it sported a weathervane on its copper cap. The bottom tiles still held their original burnt-red tint. I suspect this section was originally buried and uncovered when digging for the parking lot; or during the renovation when the barn was converted into a furniture store. The tiles on the tall section are shiny black, probably stained by the coal-soot that filled the skies of Western Pennsylvania in the long ago.
But Saturday the ebony silo, the golden fields and the marshmallow clouds filled the indigo skies – what joy.
This date is so tied to my memories of Aprigliano. (This summer we didn’t go back to Italy. The uncertain economy is scaring everyone.) I’ll write of another memory associated with that long ago time. (I’m not sure what image to use with this post, but given that last year I used an image from 2006 I have an open field.) I decided to go with a pic of La Dolorosa. We lived in Santo Stefano; the parish at the top of the hill; the parish with the largest of the church of the hillside neighborhoods. (Saint Stephen is a common saint throughout Italy. And there are many churches and parishes named for him.) Our church was also the church of La Madonna di Porto Salvo and her feast-day was a great celebration in Aprigliano.
In the sanctuary, there were three statues – Santo Stefano in the middle, San Francesco di Paola on the right and La Dolorosa on the left. La Dolorosa is Mary represented as she would have been at the foot of the cross watching her son nailed to the wood. Most statues of the mourning mother represent her in back attire with her hands together and looking up. This statue is one of the best in the collection of such representations. (This particular representation has gone out of style in modern-day Italy. It was most popular during the interwar period – the 1920’s and the 1930’s.) I’ve always liked this representation of Mary, it’s the most human; it’s the most accessible. And it fits the Italian character perfectly. (I don’t know if Mary as the mourning mother is represented in any other European Catholic culture as pervasively as she is in Italy.)
This statue is tied to those that have died. It was a perpetual reminder of the dead. (In the modern world, remembering the dead is not cool. The media tells us to forget our loved ones that have died and to go shopping.) Many of the women of Aprigliano saw this statue as representing their lot in life, a life that after The Great War had them associating with the sentiments the statue evoked. Many of my relatives had died in The Great War. My aunt Teresina’s husband never came back from the war; my grandfather’s oldest brothers were lost in that massacre. Where I never knew these people, may parents did. And I take my attraction to this representation of a grieving mother from them.
I’ve been listening to the American group Colcannon, and in the wistful song Bermuda Line I found a great phrase – and the warmth of the kitchen with all the outside dark. The more I played the song, the more I kept seeing all the various kitchens I’ve known. For me, kitchens are safe places, places of great memories. I’ve grown up, laughed and cried in kitchens.
I think back to childhood and our kitchen in Aprigliano and all the fun I had in that room. It was big, at least in memory, and in one corner was my bed. What joy to sleep in the kitchen. Its window framed the mountain slope on the other side of the valley. The mountains were where the brigands lived – oooh! But they couldn’t get me in our kitchen. It’s the place where I picture my dad making Sunday dinner. It’s where my mom set up the brazier in the winter. Its circular, wooden frame was my race-track for hours.
I could sit in the huge fireplace and eat my dinner. One night I sat there and flicked fava beans into the ashes. (I hated fava beans.) When the first one disappeared, I believed I had found the promised land – free, free of fava beans. My stay in heaven was short lived. The next morning, my mom told me she had found the favas in the ashes.
On January 5, I hung my stocking on the fireplace hoping the befana would bring me torrone and toys and praying that she would not bring me coal. After all, I was a good boy. That particular year, the befana did not agree with my self-assessment and there were lumps of coal in my stoking. I was mad. Fifty years later, my mom and dad still remind me about the year the befana brought me coal.
The image on the left is my first kitchen-picture. It’s my kitchen here in Pittsburgh. The espresso makers are all from Italy. (No electric espresso machine for me.) I love making espresso on week-ends. It’s 5:00 in the morning; the dogs and I are in the warm kitchen; they wait for some banana; I grind the beans; decide which espresso maker to use; fill the bowl to heaping, because I like my espresso strong; next I make toast then sit and read the New York Times – heaven.
I’m going to start shooting kitchens – my parents’ many kitchens, Rose’s kitchens, Mary’s kitchen, Connie’s cottage kitchen, Dave and Isabel’s luxurious kitchen, my friends’ kitchens, . . . any kitchen I can get into.
A while back I found Roberto Donna’s webpage and discovered that he had an entire section of old photographs of his family in Le Marche. Now, I’d been collecting family photos for years, but I had no idea how to digitize them. Talked to a local photographer who said he does that work. I gave Scott a bag-load of old pictures and he scanned them. I now have the first batch of these old family photos as JPGs and RAW images.
The image on the left is actually a photograph-of-a-photograph. The original was taken in May, 1957 on the boat – Saturnia – that my family came to Canada on. Front row, left to right – Salvatore, my cousin on my mom side, me at 8 years old, my mom, my sister Connie, two years old, and my dad. The tall man holding the small flag is Carmine Belsito a friend of the family. The gentleman on his right is someone else from the Cosenza area. We were all heading to Halifax. Everyone, except for my mom, seems happy about the future. She admits to not liking Canada and wanting to return to her life in Calabria. (It’s one of my favorite photographs.)
Rose, Derrick and my aunt came over to my parents’ to make a batch of cullurielli. These doughnut-like fritters are a Christmas staple. The dough is made with potatoes, flour and water. And they are shaped into rounds and longs. The longs have sardines in them. They are first eaten on Christmas Eve in place of bread. (My favorites are the ones with the sardines and I like them straight out of the freezer. Everyone in my family already thinks I’m strange, this culinary choice reinforces their prejudices.)
Part of the reasoning for a second batch of cullurielli was getting Rose, Derrick and I to see how to make these Christmas bread-substitutes. The process took the whole day. We began by mixing the dry and wet ingredients, then kneading and kneading the rough dough. This was followed by leavening and an hour later we were rolling the rounds and the longs. I had no idea who was going to eat all these cullurielli. I refuse to take any home, because after all the ethnic eating I need to get back to a sensible diet. . . (left-to-right – my dad, rose, my mom, my aunt, derrick)
The 2011 category-group contains the floowing categories:
I’ve been trying to figure out the focus of the next old-photographs text-page. And today I may have gotten an inadvertent push.
The picture on the right is one of my favorites. It’s Christmas 1964. And it’s my dad, my sister Jo’ and a young me. I put the image on the desktop of my new laptop. And our tech-manager saw it and said it looked like people from the Sharks and the Jets. The idea that the three of us look Spanish and New Yorkish never occurred to me. Maybe I should do a text-page on the parents and correct any misimpressions of who these two immigrants are. (I have some great pics of them.)
The picture was taken in the original house before the renovation and the expansion. The living room was long and narrow and the Christmas tree had to be put in the corner.
The tree was cut in some field. It never occurred to my dad to buy one, not when there was an axe in the basement and open woods all around us. The decorations were new and shiny. I bought them at the Woolworth’s and Kresge’s. The lead tinsel disguised the gaps in the branches. (I never used the fiber-glass angel hair. That came when Connie took over decorating.) The star and the ornaments have survived. They now hang on a perfectly symmetrical and gap-less plastic tree.
For me, the image is about a young Ciccio holding his new daughter and a young man on the cusp of adulthood. Ciccio was 38. Jo’ was the wonder-child of his thirties. The young man was looking forward to high-school – St. Mary’s College, Catholic Boys High School run by the Basilian Fathers.
I love the smiles. It was an innocent time.
Oliver and I went down to Narragansett. He was interested to see if it was somewhere he and Luz could spend a weekend. I was interested in seeing the Novitiate, the rocks and the beach.
We began at the northern end, at the surfers’ beach, and then drove south on Ocean Road to the Novitiate. I got to tell about my life in the monastery and Oliver was amazed by the story. (I guess thirty-something Jewish Californians don’t know about Medieval European monasticism.) It was also fun being on the Novitiate grounds with someone who was neutral to the idea of my having lived there as a monk.
The next stop was Black Point. This is a small state park, an ocean-access area, across the road from the Novitiate. The strip of land is wooded and has a path down to what we called the rocks. This is an ocean-front of rock and shallow pools. We would walk down to the rocks at least once a week. I remember seeing star-fish in the shallow pools. I took one back to my room, thinking that it would dry and I’d have a souvenir. The smell of rotting flesh was enough to convince me to never try that experiment again.
In January of 1969 a group of novices rescued three fishermen that had run aground on the rocks. We formed a human chain and pulled the men out of the freezing ocean. We made all the local papers. The headline read – Brothers to All.
There is a famous picture of me in profile and with hair, sitting on the rocks and wistfully looking out to sea. It was my last summer at Narragansett. Bill Green took the picture without my knowing. (He gave it to me when we were leaving the Novitiate.) Bill’s photograph is soft, pretty and romantic.
I’ve always wanted to take a similar picture and I got the opportunity with Oliver as the subject. The above-left picture is my version of the 1969 photograph. Gone is the summer, gone is the longing, gone is the innocence.
Welcome to blue and black, welcome to geometry.
It was a cool Monday evening in July; it was 1969. We had finished Compline – evening prayer – and Tom and I had gone for a walk around the grounds. We ended up in front of the chapel beneath the statue of John Baptist de la Salle. We sat on the edge of the flowerbed looking up at the night sky.
Three-hundred-and-eighty-four thousand miles away, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar sands. Apollo had landed.
The photograph on the left is the front of the chapel, but it’s forty-two years later. The flowerbed now holds a Japanese maple and snow covers that summer’s memories. But as I focused my lens on the statue, the signage, the flowerbed, it was easy to see the two eighteen year-olds sitting on the shelf and looking up at the night sky.
It was a summer of great change. In a month we all scattered and left Narragansett forever. The young brothers and the teachers that had lived together were all re-assigned back to their districts. Most I never saw again. (I went back to Canada and the University of Windsor, Tom went to DC and Catholic University.)
But I always remember where I was and who I was with when the Eagle landed and Armstrong anointed earth’s moon.
I’m working on a Novitiate text-page and it’s slow going, mainly because I’m not sure how to tell the story. The narrative of my time in the Novitiate is a bit complex. Which story do I tell – the John Veale one, the Benilde story, the house-driver story, the dorm-cloister story, the windmill-cottage story, the wrestling-in-the-grass story?
The Brother John Story – I had placed this grave-marker image at the end of the set, the last one on the text-page, but instead decided to start the series and the narrative with it. I wanted to lead with it as he was such a huge figure in that long-ago time. He was the Director of Novices and he still permeates the perimeter of my feelings about that long-ago.
Each novice met with the Director once a week. It was my first experience with one-to-one counseling. I remember complaining to him, because the Brother Provincial would pull me out of afternoon Manual Labor to play tennis. (Manual Labor was one of the rhythms of novitiate life.) Can you imagine complaining about not doing manual labor? And my Manual Labor assignment was cleaning the common rooms on the ground level. I hate cleaning. I refuse to do it now, but back then I complained about not getting to do it. Actually, I did not like being excused from the Manual Labor assignment when everyone else still had to do it. (Even back then I had socialist tendencies.)
I’ve got the text-page done, but am procrastinating on the captions. The story-telling happens in the captions. Now, I can make the captions as cryptic as I want after all I am the author and who’s going to challenge their authenticity?
The photograph is of the southern corner of the Novitiate property – Ocean Road and Rhode Island Avenue. (The chapel is in the background.) This is the corner we always used to exit the grounds and go down to the beach or go walking through town. We would change out of our religious habits and into street clothes and head out across the front lawn. In the dark we were smudges on the manicured grass. We would climb the stone wall, both literally and metaphorically and walk out of the enclosure.
Thirty years later the top stones, at this southern end, are still missing. The breach is still there. (The cap stones lie piled on the lawn-side and serve as steps and ramp to the top, to the gap.) The corner is obviously still an exit-point.
Let me talk about the ‘Dead End’ sign. I intentionally included it in the photograph when I first saw it through the view finder. Second, I refused to Photoshop it out even if it’s going to be seen as a blight on the winter landscape. And third, I’m using a larger image-format so as not to lose the sign.
Is the yellow diamond, like the wall, both literal and metaphorical? Was the thought process that brought it into the photograph a subconscious statement?
I’ve waited to write this entry, because I wasn’t sure what perspective to take. And I didn’t know how to tell about a place that was nothing like anywhere else I had been.
When we were trying to find a mid-way point between San Francisco and Pittsburgh that was warm, New Orleans popped on the radar. I headed south with little thought of place. I was more interested in the fact that I was going to visit with one of my oldest friends and that it was going to be warm.
Flying in and circling the gulf was amazing. The flat waters were littered with rigs and other oil producing super-structures. It reminded me of a spring garden – all pegs and stakes waiting to be covered with summer green. And heading into the runway, you saw the famous levees like giant potholes scratched in the landscape. We stayed downtown on the edge of the French Quarter.
Friday night we walked the area around the casino. This is all new construction. We found a decent beer garden and sat and talked in short sleeves. (The last time I was in warm weather in February was 2001 and never before then.)
Saturday morning the whole area was wrapped in fog. And not knowing the surroundings I had no idea what the fog was hiding. This time we did get into the French Quarters and I had my cameras.
The young man in the photo reminded me of Paris twenty years ago where I saw similar performance artists. They are living statues spending the whole time immobile. The difference was that in Paris they were all dressed as angles or devils. I guess in 21st century America musicians and robots are our angles and demons. (Will these present-day saints take requests? Will they hear my prayers and intercede?) The black and white cones on the right are for the tourists to deposit their offerings.
It wasn’t until Sunday that I began to see the old world in New Orleans. The first time through the Quarter, I was too disoriented and in a fog to pay attention. But the second time through I could look and see the muted colors of French country houses, the now-memories of long ago, the shutters, the floor to ceiling windows, the lace-iron balconies.
The shutters and louvers of the windows in the pic on the right, remind me of the country houses we saw on our road-trip south from Paris to Ronchamp. Back then, the five of us – Rick, Sarah, Shana, Mim and I – stayed in a farm house before we headed to Ronchamp. Back then, I saw the chapel in the rear-view mirror and I was lost. Back then, we climbed the mountain-road to Notre-Dame-du-Haut. Back then, in Corbusier’s chapel, I knelt and prayed. (How is it that 20 year old memories and 40 year old feelings find their way back to the present?)
Sunday morning the Quarter and the square in front of the Cathedral were filled. This was the pre-Mardi Gras crowd. The taxi driver, who took us to the airport, told us that by the week-end the place would be crawling with out-of-towners. (The city had already placed road barricades up and down the parade streets.) On one level I was glad to be heading home and away from the pre-Lenten ritual.
The pic of the shutters and louvers is from the courtyard where Tom and I had breakfast Sunday morning. The fog was gone.
If I had remembered the death-march that is this third month, I would have suggested to Tom that we go to New Orleans in March. But I guess the mind forgets our misery and pain otherwise mothers would never have a second child.
Today was the switch to daylight-savings-time and I went out and shot the snowdrops at 7:00 PM. (My grandmother used to tell us that the actions we performed on New Year would repeat throughout the coming months. I want the old saying to apply now when I’m immobile with winter. I want the wish and action of shooting in early evening to repeat over the next many months.)
The snowdrops have been coming up in the side-bed for the last 20 years. And they are a welcome in the over-cast days that fill the month. There are many things that I like about Pittsburgh, but the fact that we have only 59 sunny days a year is not one. Outside March was dreary and winter-gray.
In Italian snowdrops are le bucaneve literally, make-a-hole-through-the-snow. And there have been many years when the flower-bed was covered in white and they poked through the March snows. This year they lifted through the litter of rotting leaves and twisted twigs. Not the spectacular contract of green on winter-white, but still welcomed. I’ve tried to fill the bed with snowdrop bulbs, but the same cluster comes up year-after-year.
This post may have the appearance of narcissism, but it’s more about discovery – finding an image, a suggestion in a photograph that I didn’t see at first glance.
Background – For some reason I decided to shoot some reflections, mainly because I wanted to photograph a red-and-black letterman jacket. (The images with the jacket didn’t work.) One of the best places to shoot reflection is in my bathroom mirrors. The photograph on the right is one of the reflection images.
I read the original as a picture of an old man with a striped white shirt and a green-brown tie. He’s holding a nikon that has a black camera-strap. There is a white towel in the background and the light source is coming over the left shoulder creating a reflection on the forehead. The camera and the hands hide half the face.
My first thought was to use this new image to replace the pic on my facebook page. So I began to make adjustments to get the best resolution and the correct size. I uploaded what I thought was a workable picture. But the webpage displayed only the top portion of the picture. I liked this truncated image, so I decided to go back to the original and create the partial that facebook had generated.
The New – The severe cropping changes the perspective. The vertical references – tie, torso, strap and towel – are gone. The new image is about someone looking out from behind a set of hands. (The camera, the big black spot in the middle, is balanced and neutralized.) The left hand has a wedding band. The reflection on the forehead is gone. The person is wearing glasses. The nose-bridge is silver, so is the left temple, so is the hair. The single eye is the focus.
Also, the hands seem separate from the face behind them. Are there two people in the photograph? Do the hands belong to the old man? If not, who’s the other person? In this rendition, the eye is at the center. All of a sudden it’s about looking out, looking at.
I never understood authors who said they didn’t know how their new book would end. I wanted to yell, “What do you mean you don’t know how it’ll end, who the hell is writing it?”
Well, I finally have my own example of an ending that wrote itself; an end-image that I didn’t plan. When I started, I had no idea what the finished photograph would look like.
Here’s looking at you kid.
Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea
and frolicked in the autumn mist . . .
Our first trip, Sunday morning, was to the beach at Hanalei Bay and Rose and Derrick pointed out the mountain range that in local legend is associated with the Peter Yarrow song Puff the Magic Dragon. The long line of mountain bumps and humps is supposed to be the dragon’s back. He’s lying on his stomach with his head flat on the water. The image on the left is the snout and eye of that rascal Puff.
The small town of Hanalei and crescent Hanalei Bay are magnets for the left-over-hippie set, the natural-food-beauties, the gel-haired youths on fancy boards and the 30-something, over-weight surfers. The bay was covered in mist and Rose and I tried figuring out the words to Peter Yarrow’s child-song.
Earlier that morning, as I stepped onto the lanai that surrounded the two-bedroom condo, a rainbow arched the mist. Its right curve was anchored in the manicured Makai Course and its left curve on the mountain slopes. My very own welcome mat.
We decided to walk down to the St. Regis, the 4-star hotel in Princeville, for mimosas. The view from the restaurant terrace overlooks Hanalei Bay. I asked the nice waitress to take our picture.
The visit continues our pattern of dropping in on fancy hotels. In Panarea, we sunned on the deck of the Hotel Raya. I went up willing to pay for a day pass to sit under an umbrella and away from the over-heat, the old woman who owned the place must have like little, old me and offered us the patio; in Gubbio we sat in the courtyard of the Bosone Palace and had gelato and caffe; in Princeville we paid tourist prices to drink tropical mimosas with the well-heeled.
Priceville is in the north and is a self-contained, gated community of up-scale homes, condos and golf course. The condo we stayed was on the 12th Tee; the Pacific on the horizon, the bunkers and green holding up the blue.
The St. Regis is at the end of the compound and cascades over the cliffs that hold Hanalei Bay.
On a catamaran – we sailed from Port Allen on the south-western shore into the blue Pacific and the Na Pali coast.
Before heading out there was all this talk of seeing Spinner dolphins and whales. I assumed it was all an exaggeration to get well-heeled tourists out on a day-trip. Also while waiting to board the catamaran, our fellow passengers were not only well-heeled, but some of the strangest body-types I had ever seen in swimsuits. (Some people should just stay covered. Because you’re in Kaua’i, doesn’t give you license to wear a bikini.)
The south western coast is the beginning of the dry almost desert part of Kaua’i. The beaches as empty, and beyond Polihale State Park there are not roads only cliffs that fall into the ocean. We followed 40 miles of coast.
We weren’t too far out when we spotted the first dolphin. This was a loner who stayed around while the tourists ran from one side of the boat to the other hoping to capture on digital its jump out of the blue waves. This excitement was followed by a whale sighting. Now I was interested. (The dolphin was a single and not worth chasing across the deck of the catamaran.) The whale on the other hand was huge. I’ve seen pictures, but nothing prepares you for the actual thing. It is so big that after it dives, it leave a footprint – a flat water area the size of the mighty beast. The legend of dragon in the sea, comes from early sailors seeing two of these giants frolicking in the waves. Having seen the whale, I can see the dragon stories.
Eventually, we did see the Spinner dolphins. they travel in schools and are very playful and they do jump out of the water and spin before they fall in.
The sea creatures were nothing compared to the cliff of the Na Pali Coast. Sheer green-covered lava-rock rising into the clouds from a deep-blue ocean. (No Photoshop enhancement was needed to get the blue. It’s natural.)
On Wednesday I did a north shore shoot with a local photography company. Five of us tourists spent the day in van being driven around the north shore. The young man who led the tour was very good. He took us to locations that were off the beaten track – great overlooks, small waterfalls, secluded beaches, state parks, the lighthouse, and the taro fields.
Taro is a root vegetable and is sometimes called the potato of the tropics. At one time it was the staple that the Hawaiian diet was based. But it has long been abandoned and the modern American diet is now default. The plant grows in conditions similar to rice – in paddy fields.
The last remaining commercial fields in the state are on Kaua’i in the Hanalei River valley. The flats on either side of the river are flooded and filled with taro plants at various stages of growth.
Outside of the over saturated southern shore and the northern gated community of Princeville, the coastal plain is green. It’s culture rural with a slow tempo. The taro fields – commercial and family fields – look back to an old time.
Talk about a cliche title. Rather, two weeks ago I was looking out from the balcony and saw the cloud, the ocean, the palm trees and the golf-course. Tonight, here in Pittsburgh, I got to sit on my porch and write in my journal. It was the first writing session of the 2011 season. Below me the garden is beginning to grow into the new green of spring.
The dove is back in its nest in the Japanese lilac; the chives are reborn; (I had some in my salad tonight.) the hosta and peonies are soft and new-born green. Soon they will fill the backyard with color and leaves.
Twilight is sweet on this night that is free of rain and severe cold. (Tonight, I was wrapped up in sweat-pants, sweat-shirt, and a red, Lifa toque.) In Kaua’i, I was wearing shorts and enjoying the heat of twilight.
I want to frolicked in the autumn mist, in a land called Honah Lee.
Two of my favorite plants have shown up in my back-yard. The lily-of-the-valley rhizomes that I planted years ago and to which I’ve diligently adding to, have become a bed of green with white bells perfuming the west corner.
Yes, they are mid-spring flowers that disappear and never return until next May, but I love the scented whites and I cut the bells and bring them inside to my desk. They were one of the few spring flowers we would find in the woods of Northern Ontario. The broad leaves grew near the evergreens and finding the fragrant, white bells was proof of winter’s demise.
It took me a while to find a place for them in the back-yard, but when I added the raised beds on the north-west side, I needed something that would grow in the shade in the corner. And I remembered the lily-of-the-valley of those long ago forages into the Cambrian Shield.
My second favorite plant will produce fruit I’m ravenous for.
My fig plants are shrub-like with four or five stems. (They never make it into trees, because they can’t survive the Pennsylvania winters.) The cuttings came from my cousins in St. Catharines who smuggled the original cuttings into Canada from their family farm in Calabria. I brought them to Pittsburgh. Rose and Derrick have cuttings in suburban Detroit, Rick and Sarah have cuttings in nearby Wilkinsburg.
My plants are white figs. They are the early figs – the more rare and prized figs. Harvest will be late June, early July. (Rick/Sarah, Rose/Derrick have cuttings of the black figs my cousins brought over from Calabria. These are the more common and familiar figs and harvest in the fall.)
Some Fig Stories
-In Narragansett, my friend Tom was in charge of getting old Brother Leo from his greenhouse to Vespers. Tom remembers being told by our director ‘to make sure we don’t find Brother Leo facedown in a potted plant.’
Brother Leo had a huge fig tree that reached the roof of the greenhouse. He was very proud of it and I remember him showing it off to me. But he never offered me any figs.
Tom likes to remind me that Brother Leo offered him figs all the time. All I can say is that Tom never shared.
-In Calabria, Derrick has no shame about going into people’s gardens and picking the figs especially the ones that overhang into the road. Rose complains at him and I walk farther away. But once we round the corner, Rose and I demand that he share the figs he gathered.
-In Pittsburgh, Paul goes on and on about the alien looking plants that take up most of the side-yard, but never produce any figs. This year, the plants are loaded and I’m not sharing.
My paternal grandmother – Concetta Capisciolto – died 70 years ago today. The pic on the left is the only one we have. It’s always been in my parents’ house. It’s one of the items that travelled across the Atlantic with us.
It’s the Capisciolto side of the family that still has land in Aprigliano. It’s the Capisciolti that were large land-owners and farmers in the Santo Stefano parish. And when they migrated, they contributed to emptying the parish. Today, the Capisciolti are spread across the globe from Canada, to Argentina, to Australia. Aurelio and his sister Emilia are the last of the family in Aprigliano.
My cousin Aurelio who in his 70’s still runs a heard of goats and makes market quality goat-cheese and ricotta. The last time I saw him, he went on and on about how I look like ‘Ciccio’ his favorite cousin and my dad. My cousin Emilia returned to Aprigliano after many years in Toronto. When her husband became ill, they left Canada and returned to their land in Calabria.
My grandmother married outside of her social and economic group when she married my grandfather – Francesco Zinga. (The Zingas were sharecroppers.) My grandfather died soon after his son was born and Concetta was given to her husband’s next unmarried brother as his wife. Concetta died some three years after her second marriage.
When Concetta died, her family took her body and buried her in the family plot. Her grave is still there. On the west side is Concetta and on the east side is her sister Teresina. (There is no grave for my paternal grandfather. The sharecropper Zingas had no money for a fancy tomb.)
Tonight is the Mattress Factory’s annual Urban Garden Party. This year’s theme is Hollywood. It’s Hollywood on the Mon.
It is the event of the summer season and it’s always scheduled the last Friday of the Three Rivers Arts Festival. All the glitterati, a who’s who of western-pennsylvania’s art community, come out in clusters. And party through the night. The back alley becomes the River Styx separating the domestic from the imports. It’s closed to regular traffic, but open to the rolls, mercedes, and jags that ferry the blue-bloods to the Northshore.
Charon’s fee is variable – green-backs, euros, pounds, glamor, beauty natural or manufactured, celebrity, youth, gender-bending. The young man in the white polo moors the boat while the four drag-queens – pink, leopard, white/blue/red, and black – help the passengers off.
And the little old Italian with his fancy camera and telephoto lens stands on his porch and snaps the show.
The blueberry patch is speckled with berries. It seems to be a good year for figs, berries and grapes. All three are abundant and ripening. (The berries are first, next will be the figs, but the grapes won’t be ripe until fall.)
There are eight bushes in all, four of which are over twenty years old. They were some of the first plants I put into the garden that are still there. I build the bed they are in specifically for the blueberry plants. Also, the plant is beautiful in the fall. Its leave turn a yellow orange.
I took out the micro lens and rooted in among the blueberries. I always like shooting with this lens, it can make the tiny fruit look like giant hot-air balloons. The lens allows me to almost touch the fruit. And I generally shoot flowers with it, but this time I turned it on the blueberries.
The dogs love the blueberries. The female insists on going out every hour so that she can beeline right to the berries and rip and swallow as many as she can before I get there and push her away from her prize. She started back in March with the blossoms. And now that the fruit is ripe, she has made it her mission to eat as many as she can sneak.
It’s taken me almost three years to come up with a new design for the back-yard.
The only maintenance I did was get someone to clean the weeds between the bricks, but didn’t seem to care that things were all over the place and that there was no unifying design. If I had to spend time outside, I just went up on the porch and avoided the back-yard. I knew I wanted to get rid of the last remnant of the bonsai shelves, but I took no initiative to dismantle it.
The shift came, because I’m on vacation and my plans got changed so I have a couple of days without having to run off to catch a plane or drive to northern Ontario. Yesterday, I took the hammer to the shelving and used the chainsaw to get rid of the posts. (I left one set of posts as a decorative piece of architecture.)
Next, I moved the large terra-cotta pots with the lantana and the ginger-jar pot with the geraniums into the area where the shelving had been and created a planting area. I also cleaned up the area where I’ve always kept the herbs pots. Moved them down so that all the pots are now in one area. I really liked the shelving posts and ended up putting two of the vertical bonsai pots on the posts. The verticals have vogue in them. I put the shelving on the ground creating a floor and arranged the pots up on the wood decking. To cover up the rough ends, I added some of the large rocks along the perimeter of the decking.
My last task was to re-distribute the wall pieces.
The last time I was at the Paris airport was 20 years ago. I was with the Wertheimers and once we retrieved our luggage we headed into town.
The Charles de Gaulle airport is all renovated. Security is double what it is at any other airport. (Twenty years ago there were soldiers with machine guns walking around.) And the French are efficient, but miserably detached and non-friendly. (The Zingas are originally from France that may explain some of the family characteristics.) It’s the only airport where they had me take out all my camera equipment and put it into one of the security trays. And on the flight from Paris to Rome, the pilot and attendances would give these long explanations about Genoa, Torino, the Alps in French and then two sentences in English. At first I thought they just don’t have the facility with English that they have with French. Wrong! (It’s the French, F the rest of us.)
One of my anxieties about the trip was getting from Fiumicino – Rome Airport – to Stazione Termini – Rome Train Station. (The Roma Termini pic is something I found online.) I had all these concerns that I would get a rogue cab-driver. Instead I ended up with the airport taxi-group. The driver had on a shirt-and-tie and a jacket, very professional. The ride into town was 50 Euros, around $80. (That is what I had expected.)
Stazione Termini was the best. First there were support people everywhere. And the people . . . If it’s wasn’t my first time back in 40 years, and if I wasn’t exhausted from the flight, and if I was with someone else, I would have taken out my camera, assembled the lens and shot and shot. The place was crawling with humankind. These people were all real, they were alive. They were the regular-folk wrapped in their Felliniesque costumes and Italian manners – muzzled dogs leading owners, cigarettes dangling from red-red lips, stiletto heels holding Rubenesque calves, man-purses slung on narrow shoulders, left-over hippies looking for their euro-rail passes, and young kids slumming it, because it’s cool to take the train with the regs.
The train left on time and got to Fabriano on time. It stopped at Spoleto and I was nostalgic for that trip, because it was a great one. On the way I texted Rose and Derrick to tell them where I was and once got off at Fabriano, there they were on the platform.
From Fabriano we drove through the country to the house in Isola di Fano. The landscape was magnificent.
We rented a renovated workers’ cottage. (When I told my dad where we stayed, he laughed. He grew up in one of these workers’ houses. It was home to some 18 family members who worked the padrone’s land. The first floor housed the animals; the sharecroppers all lived on the second floor. The sharecropping system, abandoned after the war, left many workers houses vacant. In modern times, these cottages have been reclaimed and rehabbed.)
The image below is the view from the kitchen window.
Rose’s comment was, “When you have this outside your window, who needs a painting?”
Large farms cover the northern section of le March. They crown the hills and the tree-lines serve as fences separating one farm from the next.
One of the things that I’m doing in this set of journal entries is using larger images. I really like this one.
After getting off the train in Fabriano, I said to Rose and Derrick that I needed to do something that told me I was in Italy. (Up to then, I had interacted with traveling attendances – memorable are the nasty airport workers at CDG – but no Italians, no landscapes, no art, and no food.) Well, first came the drive back to the house in Isola di Fano. There was the landscape; nothing like it anywhere; yes I was in le Marche. The house – cale cerque – was the next surprise. (The branches behind Rose are le cerque the oak trees that give the house its name.) Set in the rolling hills, its beautiful yellow-orange stucco blended with the natural colors of the plowed earth that sheltered it. And finally came the food and the wine.
Rose and Derrick are always ready for meals. They spend time shopping for food, cooking it and then sitting down and enjoying it. Dinner was a simple affair. Pasta with fresh tomato sauce, cheeses, a salad and wine from the agriturismo they were at before heading to le Marche. The table is on the upper portion of the property, it’s under a pergola and back-dropped by rolling farmland. This is the northern section of le Marche.
As the moon silvered the twilight, we ate, drank and laughed. I had gotten there late, but I was in finally in Italy doing the things Italian do.
On Thursday we decided to go to Urbino. From Isola di Fano it was a half hour ride. This hill-town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (When I told Paul we had gone to Urbino, he announced that no one knows where that is. I hope it stays that way.)
I love Piero della Francesca’s painting of The Duke of Urbino.
(I want his hat.) How did he produce the red pigment that he used for the hat and the coat?
We approached Urbino from the south-east finding it on the horizon whenever the tree-line broke. It sat across the valley, its cathedral a blue crown.
We entered through one of its ancient gates to find a lived-in, medieval town absent of tourists. (For me that was the best. It’s hard to not find tourists in Italy, in August.) The rock-paved streets are wide letting the August sun in and the cars through without scraping the walls or the walkers.
Reminders of its Papal State status are everywhere in the city center. The cathedral and ducal palace are riddled with papal crests, statues and sacred liturgical artifacts.
Urbino is also the birthplace of Raphael. And that artistic legacy is embraced by the university. As we walked, hiding in the shade, students were going in and out of palazzos that have been turned into classrooms and offices.
On our way home from Urbino, I suggested we go up to the monastery and then back down to the cemetery in Fossombrone. (I had noticed the signs and today we had some time.)
The road up to the colle dei Cappuccini was out of a Calabrian nightmare. In a province covered by round, cultivated hills, the road was narrow, scratched with 90 degree turns, and ledges that looked down and down and down.
Rose was beside herself. Derrick and I were surprised to find this mountain road. At one point we met a driver coming down. He had to back up and make way for us, because there were two cars going up. Also, we had no room on the right to pull over. The over was into the valley.
It took us a good half-hour to reach the top. And there was the Cappiccin Monastery. But the view was the thing. Before us was the valley of the Metauro and the terra cotta roofs of Fossombrone. (I am in front of the monastery, at an overlook and I am shooting into the valley.)
The monastery was established in 1528. I cannot image walking to the summit, let alone bring up building materials.
The expression in Italian for someone going into a monastery suggests that the person is going away from the world. Up here at the summit of the colle dei Cappuccini I finally understood the expression.
The church, swaddled in green gauze, was part of the original Cappuccin complex before two monks left and went up to the mountain to find solace and solitude and ended up founding a new branch monastery. The old church and monastery cemetery are now the modern cemetery of Fossombrone. After years of neglect the old Cappuccin church is being restored.
The cemetery is one of the most efficiently designed and planned burial ground that I’ve ever seen. (In mountainous Calabria where flat land is a premium and the ground is rock, level expanses are given over to the fields of the dead. And tombs are wide-spaced, stand-alone and above ground.) Here in Fossombrone the cemetery is probably half the area of the one in Aprigliano, but holds double the number of dead.
The tombs are all underground crypts and the bodies are stacked one on top of the other. The mausoleum on the right already has 13 people buried in its crypt. And there’s probably room for another 10 or so. All the family crypts have a decorative marble/stone cover.
On the inside, the perimeter wall is lined with porticoes and under each arch is a family mausoleums; evidence of the wealth in the region. On a second ring of porticoes were many crypts in modern design. This was a surprise. And in the middle of the old cemetery were single graves with mounds of earth and stone. The grave-markers on these mounds were make-shift and temporary. (I would not be surprised if these are temporary graves and the family is waiting for room in the new, mausoleum.
There are so many shelves on the above ground crypts that the cemetery provides ladders so family members can reach the flower vases. (It looks like Home Depot with its ladders-on-wheels in the middle of the isles.) These modern hives are two stories and so well planned that the street-level is a piazza like space.
The emotional effect of this planning is a less morbid environment. I was more intrigued by the design, the traffic flow and the lack of funereal boxes than the atmosphere of a place of the dead. It all made for a neutral response. (I don’t know if families who come to visit their loved ones have the same detached response.)
We left Fossombrone and headed north-east to Ferrara. Our last visit to Emilia Romagna took us to Bologna. We went there to eat and were not disappointed. (We have now been in Emilia Romagna twice and the food is absolutely the best.) This trip, I suggested Ferrara hoping for the same eating options. And we found them in droves. And because it’s off the tourist route, prices were amazingly low and the food was amazingly great.
Also, Ferrara is the city of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and a memory in Stephen Sondheim’s dreamy Liaisons.
Is this the room and ceiling Madame Armfeldt (Hermione Gingold) was dreaming about as she remembered her life in A Little Night Music?
At the palace of the Duke of Ferrara
Who was prematurely deaf, but a dear.
At the palace of the Duke of Ferrara,
I acquired some position, plus a tiny Titian.
What’s happened to them?
What’s become of them?
Some of them
Hardly pay their shoddy way.
This is the ceiling of one of the street-level reception rooms of Palazzo Constabili. The corner frescoes represent the four seasons.
(The grand palaces of Ferrara are all brick-faced. Absent are the smooth, marble facades of Tuscany.) This Renaissance palazzo is beautiful even without external ornamentation. However, the interior of the Palazzo Constabili was amazing – the courtyard-garden rippled with thistle and hawthorn; cicadas sang in the pines; and the stone well was topped with lacey, wrought-iron sunflowers; on the main staircase, the risers were written with curlicues of inlaid black-marble; upstairs the piano nobile boasted the largest Etruscan collection in Italy; (The artifacts are from the ancient town of Spina an Etruscan port that flourished between the 6th and 3rd centuries.) and the ball-room had been re-decorated with murals of Spina, the old administrative divisions of the province and maps of the Nazi occupation of Emilia Romagna. (Talk about contrasts.)
It’s been years since I was in Rome. (The Rome airport doesn’t count. BTW, I hate the Rome airport. It is one of the most difficult airports to begin a trip from; checking in is miserable. And the domestic terminals are over-run with passengers, and not very clean.)
We left Ferrara Monday morning and drove down to Rome. (We were going to return the car and stay overnight at the airport Hilton. My flight was at 7:30 in the morning and I headed over at 5:30. It took me an hour to check in. Why I hate the Rome airport.) Part of our plan was to take the hotel bus into Rome and spend late afternoon and early evening in the city.
This part of the return trip was the best. I loved being back in Rome. I had forgotten how great the city is. In Rome everything is exaggerated. The churches are grand, the streets are wide, the buildings are refurbished and elegant. And most of all, the city is big enough that you can avoid the tourists. Santa Maria in Trastevere was beautiful; Piazza Navona was over-run by tourists and we left quickly; the Pantheon was closed; Piazza Venezia was roped off, but still magnificent; and the Campidoglio was a wonderful surprise.
My favorite discovery was what has been done on the shores of il Tevere. I remember il Tevere in late August as a muddy trickle. I had never gone down to the river, because it felt unsafe. It was far down to get to the river and hardly anyone went down to the edge, especially when all that was down there was a muddy, shallow stream littered with garbage. (Different than Paris, where the banks of the Seine were full of people enjoying a stroll.) Well all that has changed. The water it high and the banks are filled with theatres, restaurants, walkways and people. The street noise if gone and you are surrounded by tents and tables; one restaurant had hookah pipes to smoke and pillows to lounge on as you watched the Romans and wannabes stroll by. Welcome to Lungo il Tevere … Roma.
The last three days began the fall into autumn. Leaves litter the backyard; it’s dark at 7:00 in the morning; and the sun sets by 7:30. September always has a cold week and then we settle into the cool of autumn. This year the cold week came early.
It takes me a while to work through the many features on my fancy cameras. This summer I moved totally away from the auto setting and began to shoot with aperture preference. I wanted the depth of the le Marche landscapes, and therefore I had to abandon the flat renderings auto setting even if ease of use had to also be abandoned. I also had to make adjustments for my indoor shots and that too put me into a more manual approach. Each step I take away from the auto setting I get more control over my shots. But I always take a while getting to where I can influence the technology. (I’ve spent more time in the post-shooting phase and have learned Photoshop better.)
My most recent venture has been into Picture Control. I wanted to shoot the flowers in my back-yard in ‘vibrant’ mode, mainly to get used to the setting. I’m going to leave it on this setting for the next couple of months while I shoot various landscapes. The vibrant setting will capture more primary colors.
For many years we’ve been collecting at Mary and Dom’s for Canadian Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite family holiday. And this year we got to christen the new kitchen and dining room.
left to right: Rose, Dom, Daniel, Ciccio, Dave, Mafalda, Christian, Seane, Alyssa, Derrick, Milio, Gina, Christine, Dana
(Mary and Mario are missing. I’m taking the picture; I don’t know where Mary is.)
I head out Friday night and drive 2 hours to Fredonia, NY; stay overnight at a B&B and in the morning head out for Toronto. Saturday, I saw Dave and Christian before they went off to play golf. Also saw Isabelle before she went to church services.
Seane, Ciccio, Mafalda and I had lunch on the cedar deck with its cathedral roof framing the autumn trees. We then headed out to Mary and Dom’s. (The QEW and the 401 on a weekend – an LA experience in Canada.)
The eating and drinking begin as soon as we get there. The wine comes out, we start laughing and messing with each other. This year the messing was about my hair. Gina kept telling me it made me look old. My answer, I am old. The rebuttal, But you don’t want to look it. Me, I don’t care. Next, Mafalda threatened to cut it. At one point she came up behind me with scissors. I looked to Alyssa for support, because at a younger time she had cut her hair while playing with her dolls and we all mess with her about that. I was hoping she would be on my side, BUT she would never go against zizi Mafalda. She likes zizi Mafalda way more than she likes me.
Christine and her daughter Dana joined us this year for the afternoon bantering and the mixed-up dinner. (Dinner begins with Gina’s lasagna, this is followed by turkey, my American stuffing, mashed potatoes, Italian rapini and Canadian desserts.) Christine has become family. And she can mess with the best of us.
Christine reads the journal and then reports to Mary on my whereabouts or reflections. (She has been secretly wishing for a mention. Honey, this is your debut – a pic and two paragraphs.) I have to be careful what I write, Christine is good at reading things in the entries that I think are hidden or not there. She can recognize nuance and interpret it.
Around 10:00, Dave, Christian, Seane the parents and I headed back to Oakville. I usually leave to come home Sunday morning at the crack of dawn. (Anything to avoid the QEW jams.) This year I had made arrangements to visit with Frank and Norma, so I was there Sunday morning to spend time with Seane and the parents.
At noon and headed back into town to visit with Frank and Norma. (Francino and I first met back in 1964, the summer before 8th grade. Two Calabrese kids living in the Soo. He’s from San Giovanni in Fiore and I’m from Aprigliano. The hill-towns are 45 minutes apart. We have been in each other’s lives through schooling, college, weddings, births and deaths.)
I missed visiting with Norma. She was out with her cousin. I enjoyed my time with Francino, but then I always do.
Woke up this morning to the chills of autumn, one of favorite seasons.
The white roofs on the houses in the alley, remind me of September mornings in Sault Ste Marie when I’d walk to St. Veronica’s Elementary. The chill made the air clean and raw. The roofs painted with thin white frost were fingers pointing to December snows. But at 13 who cared that those cold fingers scratched at the memories of a warm Calabria my parents and grandparents treasured. Winter was coming, we could play street-hockey, go tobogganing, unwrap presents. Calabria was a faraway place, lost in memory. It didn’t belong to me. I was running to assimilation.
Forty-seven years later, I still like the white roofs, the raw chill of fall. However, this time ’round, it’s me who clings to the memories of a warm Calabria; to remembrances found and finally understood. And I’ve discovered that assimilation is only one lane of the track; it’s only one of the markers at the cross-road.
I can run on both the inside and outside lane. I can read the signs regardless of language. And winter has lost its appeal. Like my parents and grandparents before me, it has become a season of memories.
This the 10th year anniversary of the attack on New York City. This is the 10th year anniversary of Jo’s death. The image with this post is of another young person who died at an early age. The memories for this post are of the funerals in Aprigliano.
One – I am walking down to Corte and passing a house where the family and friends were sitting around a coffin. A woman had died. The coffin was in the middle of the room, shrouded with a black lace covering. Around the coffin were tall candle holders and the candles in them were all lit. Around this were chairs and people saying the Rosary. Whenever I’m in Aprigliano I walk by this same house. It is now empty, abandoned.
Two – The coffin would be taken from the home of the deceased to the church for the Mass of the Dead. My friends and I are running through the side-alleys to watch the procession from the home to the church. It was about catching a glimpse of the procession.
Three – A baby died and for the first time I saw a baby-size coffin. It wasn’t black; it had gold slats on top. The child’s mom walked behind the coffin crying. It was a sunny day and they were taking the coffin to the cemetery. The mom was a Belsito. That image is still in my head. I can picture the woman on the road leading from Santo Stefano towards Guarno and then onto the cemetery.
Spent the weekend visiting in Toronto. No snow and no miserable winter weather.
Today was sunny and balmy, so I decided to head down to the small watershed park behind the Thorman’s. Looking up at the house its clean lines were lost in the brown of dry leaves and the bare of winter branches. But the sun caught the back of a dead leaf and for a shutter second gave it life, painting it summer-yellow.
The misty house in the background, the leaves and the branches in the foreground create a New England landscape in suburban Toronto.
Yesterday, had dinner at Frank-and-Norma’s. The before dinner treats included roasted chestnuts. (David, their oldest, and I polished them off.) The main course was roasted goat, oven-roasted potatoes, green beans and salad. (The goat-and-rosemary was a recipe from Frank’s mom.) Dessert was prickly pears and poppy-seed cake.
Daniel and his girlfriend joined us for dinner. He’s working on a documentary for his final project in his journalism program.
The drive up to the Soo was free of snow and ice. And the time is always an occasion for self-reflection and anxiety about the upcoming holiday. (The anxiety is a new awareness, in the past I suspect it was hidden in anticipation, but I guess age strips away the need to hide.)
I went up early, because I could not stay beyond the 25th. This gave me time with my parents before the onslaught. We’ve established an easy routine – 11:30 and 5:00 my dad calls us to eat and the three of us talk all through the meal. (Let me mention that the TV is on all day, playing out the sordid details of the soap bimbos and bimbettes. The American and Italian soaps are populated by similar replicants. The difference is the words and the landscapes. The tits are similarly perky and the angst is all consuming regardless the longitude.)
Today I decided to go up to the old St. Mary’s and shoot some pics. The image below is the landscape we saw every morning as the yellow bus pulled up the hilltop and deposited us at the front door. Even though the the new St. Mary’s is a French immersion high school, students still use the same front doors we used 50 years ago. (The old St. Mary’s – Boys Catholic High School, is now at the bottom of the hill in a building that used to house a vocational high school. Also, the school is no longer single sex; it is now co-ed.)
The bridge is the gateway into the Upper Peninsula and the United States. (It’s the road home.) The smoke on the right is from the steel mill. (I worked in the rolling mill the summer of my junior year.)
A visit to the parents now includes a trip to the cemetery. Let me say it this way, my mom and I go to the cemetery. We begin at my grandparents’ grave and then go visit all the people I knew when I was growing up in the Soo.
In the last couple of years the trip has included a visit to Sam’s grave. Sam is Frank’s brother and we all grew up together. (In my head, I can still hear his mother, her distinctive pitch, calling “Satu” – the old Calabrese diminutive and endearment for Salvatore.) Frank and I had given up the old words. We traded them for assimilation into the new Canada. We called him Sam.
I didn’t do well in the hyper-hockey environment of 1960’s Sault Ste Marie and Sam didn’t play hockey because he was crippled by polio. I was his brother’s friend; I was 3 years older than him; I was another immigrant; I was another Calabrese. Sam and I got along. He had an amazing sense of humor and could make me laugh or embarrass me with his observations. All of us would be sitting on the floor in his parents’ living-room on Carufel Avenue, watching TV and he would make a comment that had me laughing out loud; that had me speechless; that had me sweating with embarrassment. It was never anything crude; it was never anything cruel. He just knew how to hit the right nerve, suggest the right nuance, play the right ambiguity.
I wish I had known him as a grown up, because now I could appreciate his nuances, his ambiguities. Now, I could give him a run for his money and we could laugh … even louder.
The 2012 category-group contains the floowing categories:
On December 26, I left the Soo and headed home. The day was sunny so I drove through doing the 10 hour trip in one sitting. And the weather has continued to be bright and mild. Last weekend it was warm enough to put my rosemary plant out in the sun. The plant had buds, and I wanted to expose these white nubs to the warm winter sun.
I positioned the rosemary in front of my big-blue-marble and shot it in Vibrant mode. (Note: not a good setting in winter light.) I looked down the side flower-bed and noticed that the snowdrops were out. These harbingers of spring have never poked their heads out this early. (My friend Tom, who lives in the rarefied city of fog and mild climate that is San Francisco, tells me about playing golf and seeding new plants in the middle of January.) I like my seasons here in the North East with their distinct experiences, their punishing temperatures, their frozen earth, their dead greens, and their soft springs.
But things seem to be changing, so I have to ask; has the solar orbit gone a whack; has Washington lied about the blue haze of carbon emissions; has Michelle Obama inaugurated a new Camelot? Is there a legal limit to the snow here? Is winter now forbidden . . . all together?
A winter that had been truant for a month made a striking comeback.
But the parsley seems immune to winter’s frigid breath. Yes, it sprawls lifeless on the bricks when the temperatures mingle with the teens, making me think that it has lost its battle and given up its green to winter’s white. But today, it ducked the January winds, raised its stems and invited me to pluck its green, flat leaves and add them to the potato salad.
I was thinking they would be void of flavor and serve only to color the Yukon Golds flat faces. I was wrong; the pungent taste survived winter’s freeze. The chopping released the oils; the green flecks spotted the golden wedges and reminded all the dinner guests that we had not lost the battle to the Arctic winds.
I’ve been listening to the song Where is Henry Ford by Micah Schraft and Eduardo Machado and it brings back memories of a bucolic Upper Peninsula and an industrial Northern Ontario. In that time, our eyes were all on Detroit, the powerhouse of the Midwest. It called many Southern Italians to this snow-bound land; its tentacles reached into Canada and it gave me the opportunity to work in the steel-mill and make enough money to pay college tuition and board.
But in my rush to liberation, to long hair I left behind the winter landscapes, the nights of conformity, the generation that had sacrificed to educate me. It was the 60’s, the time of the hippies and navel gazing.
We left behind the mills, the assembly lines, the unions, the suburbs and the sacrifices. I didn’t carry a lunch pail; I worked in mid-town Manhattan; I lived in Park Slope; I subscribed to conspicuous consumption. Michigan and Northern Ontario belonged to my parents. To the generation that had not gone to college, that had not found nirvana, that knew nothing of Timothy Leary, Mick, John and Ringo. We were going to remake the world. It was a new dawn.
We are children of decay
Living in a land that’s built on diesel fuel and clay.
We fight to see the Stars and live another day.
Fifty percent of us can’t read
Too many vacancies and hungry mouths to feed.
The country watches as our Motor City bleeds –
Empty houses under water, broken spouses, sons and daughters.
Question now is; where is Henry Ford?
We now anticipate a dawn
Born from the ashes of this destructive porn.
We’ll build a future and accept the past is gone.
So, why are our sons and daughters identifying themselves as children of decay? Didn’t we give them everything the new world had to offer? What do they mean when they claim to build a new future and accept the past as gone? Am I their past?
I spent the Easter week-end at Rose-and-Derrick’s. The sky glimmered azure blue, the wild-almond swayed feathery white, yellow-green leaves sprouted from winter-wood and the subdivision residents sprawled on their concrete driveways.
Derrick decided to go kayaking and I went with him to take some pics. The lake was a mirrored-blue glass. After getting into the yellow kayak he skated on the frigid waves. I headed back deciding to walk through the subdivision and take pics of the spring bloom. I first came on a group of kids shooting hoops and normally I would have asked if I could shoot them playing, but for some reason I didn’t feel comfortable doing that, and I walked on. (Should I have interpreted that feeling was a premonition?) Next, I came on a second group shooting hoops; these guys were in their own driveway. Down the street from them was another young man, he was laying bricks. He belonged to a construction company working on a neighbor’s front yard. It was Good Friday. The contrast was amazing – the young priveleged and the young indentured. My next stop was the most jarring.
I came upon a house overly decorated for Easter. The yew bushes were dripping with plastic, pastel eggs, the front door was ringed in Easter bunting and the mail-box was a kaleidoscope of sixties colors. I began shooting. Immediately a gentleman in his 50’s, balding came out demanding to know what I was doing, who I was, if I was from the area, … He took my picture with his cell. I haven’t met anyone this aggressive in years. I answered all his questions and at the end I apologized for giving him any wrong impressions. He left saying that he felt better after talking to me.
So, what am I supposed to make of all this? He obviously thought I was dangerous. He must have thought the fancy cameras were a disguise and that my real purpose was to case-the-joint. What must be the world view of a person living in a gated community, in south-eastern Michigan who on a sunny day, seeing an old man shooting pictures of his over decorated house interprets the scene as dangerous? Does the fact that the largest Muslim community in the US lives 20 minutes south on I75 have anything to do with his reaction? Does he belong to one of the new political factions that want their country back?
1st entry – kaua’i 2012
This is my second visit to Kaua’i.
The image on the right is of Rose and Derrick looking up at the time-share. The complex is in Princeville, and is situated on a golf-course. (Rose and Derrick are on the cart-path looking up at the apartment we are staying in. The lanai overlooks the 12th tee.)
Once we landed, we headed to Costco to shop for the week. Tomorrow we will go to the farmers’ market in the south and stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables. We will eat breakfast and dinner on the lanai. It’s two of my favorite times. The morning sky is a soft-blue raceway that clouds speed from the ocean to the mountains. In the evening, the sky is star studded.
We are sitting drinking a wine from Puglia and Orion looms above us. To his left is the brightest star in this Tropic-of-Cancer sky. I think it’s Aldebaran, part of the Taurus constellation. Its name – Follower – comes from its position below the Pleiades. (Probably my favorite word in the English language.) Who wouldn’t want to follow the seven sisters? One of them has to be beautiful.
This year we decided to do more walking. And this morning we hiked through the golf-course and down the path beside the fancy Westin Resort to Anini Beach. (As a non-sun, non-sand, non-snorkeling person this is my favorite beach. Yes, I can just hear the reader say, then what the hell are you doing going to Kaua’i?) The waters of Anini Beach sit between the coral reef that surrounds Kaua’i and the white sands of this northern cove. Absent is the under-tow, absent are the mighty waves. Its languid surface is a respite. Its flat waters make it a favorite for first-time triers of parachute surfing.
On our way back, we decided to circumvent the golfers and made a wide arc to the next hole. And there sitting beside the cart-path was an albatross chick. It was bigger than a Thanksgiving turkey. The sign labeled it a Laysan Albatross. There was no evidence of its parents. They must be out with the parachute surfers riding the thermals.
The St. Regis is the fanciest resort on the island and it’s a short walk from the time-share. Last year we went there for mimosas and a glimpse of Puff frolicking in the mists. (The price to see the dragon was exorbitant for a hide-bound budget.) This time we took the steps, along the side of the resort, for our trek down to Hanalei Beach. The resort is built on the cliffs that overlook the bay.
On our way up, we went through the hotel. (It amazes me that you can walk into this super fancy resort and no one asks if you belong. There we were interlopers mingling with the rich-and-famous.) BTW, going back up the cliff through the resort was much like the experience in San Marino where elevators are carved into the mountain and you can ascend to the top in Disneyland comfort.
The elevators ascend through a series of levels, and because you are on the cliff slope, you periodically get off one set of elevators, walk through a fancy lobby to the next set of elevator banks. And even these secondary lobbies are decorated with the best of stuff. I loved finding the orchid in front of the mirror.
(I suspect one of the reasons no one asks if we are staying at the resort, is because I’m walking around with two expensive cameras on my shoulders. I guess looks can fool most of the time. It’s Rose and I in the mirror.)
In the morning, we crashed the posh, frou-frou St. Regis, in the afternoon we headed south – the Maha’ulepu area – and drove a dirt road paved with ruts in search of secret beach. (Whenever we go on one of our off-road adventures, Rose is anxious and back-seat drives; I am in the back seat and remind myself that Derrick is a really good driver.)
Secret beach wasn’t as secluded as I had thought. (There are three beaches in the area and we lighted on Gillin’s Beach.) It was full of kitesurfers skating the waves. (Yes, I know the thrill of skating an ice-rink alone in the early dawn – gliding the corners, flying the straight-ways, spinning and pushing backwards. And I love speeding hills on long, waxed skis. But, I’ve never had any desire to surf until I saw the kiteboarders.) The surfer is on a board and attached to a parachute/kite he maneuvers to ride the waves. There were easily a dozen kites harnessing the wind. Their red, green and yellow sails streaked the blue sky.
My favorite part of the show was when the wind would lift the surfer and for a brief moment he was airborne and free. I kept thinking of William Woodsworth’s Daffodils –
The waves beside them danced;
but they out-did the sparkling waves in glee.
I gazed and gazed but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought: …
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
The trail at Ke’e Beach was something that we didn’t get to last April, but I wanted to walk some of it this year. We drove to the end of Route 56, parked and headed up to the trailhead. The park ranger explained the difficulty and the cautioned us against dismissing his comment as over-cautious. (I announced that I was willing to do a mile-and-a-half in. And given that I had a pedometer, I got to monitor the trek. I’m always over-cautious so the ranger’s warning was just a second super-ego affirming my plan.)
To my surprise the trail is well maintained, well marked, well planned and accessible to hiking novices like us. We climbed over rocks, we walked on packed red earth we walked through streams down into the valleys and back up the mountain side. The amazement were the vistas down to Ke’e Beach, the vistas of the Na Pali coast.
Last year I saw these coastal mountains from a catamaran, this year they stretched in front of me. Each bend framing these green giants with their fingers reaching into blue waters.
Kapa’a is the everyman town in the north-east sector. (Hanalei is for left-over hippies. Where else would old, bald counter-cultures land, than where the dragon frolics in the autumn mists?) The image is of the railing on the walking-bridge over the Wailua River. The pineapple filigree – a memory of long ago plantation indenture – borders the bridge-deck.
The locals fish from the deck, from the river’s shore, oblivious of the tourists in their Crocs and Keens. In Kapa’a the locals dress down. Here the locals go to bingo-night in cinder-block community centers. Here people have heft; their bodies have curves; their skin is brown; their eyes are coral-black; their hair is straight. (Here the resorts have security patrolling the disneyland grounds, keeping out them locals and making the gate-community native-free.)
The long beach that lines Kapa’a is populated by these locals, these real people who work 8-hour days and can’t sit by the pool basted in SPF 100+ sunscreen. They are the store-clerks, the construction workers, the park-rangers, the teachers. At one end, families fill the pools created by a barrier reef that is 20 meters from shore. At the other end, the reef is broken and surfers ride the waves that sneak through and run to the shore. In between, tourists monopolize the sands, but share the sun.
Along the beach, the town has built a trail that tourists walk. (There’s a voyeuristic element in walking the flat, concrete trail. It’s like come on down and see the real Kaua’i – the old men, their faces cracked like the glaze of ancient pottery, the skinny surfers riding cheap boards, the multi-generational families with no blond children.)
All this sounds rather duplicitous coming from someone who walked the trail, photographed the locals, wears croc slip-ons and keen sandals. Too bad, it’s my journal/blog; I’m the author; I determine content; and I don’t allow comments.
The read this series in chronological order,
click on the category title – Kaua’i-12.
Waimea Canyon, last year shrouded in mist and rain I saw nothing of the gorge. This year, the weather held and there were the green depths, the vermilion sands, the blue skies, and purple waters.
(I rarely post pictures of people, let alone a pic that I’m in, but I thought I’d try it. Some nice tourist took the pic. I set up the shot and told her to keep snapping. She was surprised that I was willing to let her take multiple shots, and once over the surprise, she began to compose shots, change angels, even come in closer. This is the one I like best. I cropped the bottom portion, because I was wearing my bloomer swimming trunks and my legs look like match sticks when I have them on.)
The canyon, on the south-western side, was created by the collapse of the volcano that created Kauaʻi – the oldest island in the archipelago. This canyon, painted in Crayola colors, is part of the Waimea Canyon State Park, one of those government creations that we now seem to dismiss as we wallow in anger and hate in our political discourse.
There are several vantage points, the first is where all the tour buses stop, but we headed for the highest outlook. And there below us in verdant depths, its sides streaked with ochre fingerprints, lay the grand canyon.
Salvatore De Fazio
Sam was my mother’s cousin. (His mother and my maternal grandfather – Eugenio Perri – were sister and brother.) He died today after a two year bout with cancer.
In the picture, he is in the front row, seated on the far left. (Seated – Salvatore, me, Mafalda, Connie and Ciccio.) As a matter of fact, Salvatore gave me this picture. Our copy is lost somewhere in my parents’ house in Sault Ste Marie.
Salvatore’s family is from Corte. His mother was a Perri. My parents lived in Corte after getting married and it’s the neighborhood where I was born. (Our house was next door to Salvatore’s family.) My mother favored her father’s side of the family and many of her best friends are from that branch. (My grandmother’s family is from Santo Stefano – the neighborhood up the hill. And her family house was in that parish, so that when they left for Canada, my parents inherited the house and we moved up the hill. But all my favorite relatives were down in Corte and I constantly went up and down the hillside visiting.)
Salvatore left Aprigliano at the same time we did; we traveled to the new world together. Salvatore was there that first night when I ate-up all my soup only to throw it up into the bowl I had just emptied. He was there below deck as I stood and stared at the Orthodox priest and his wife. He was there as Mafalda hid Connie’s chickenpox from the authorities in Halifax. He was there with me as I leaned out the train window and saw a priest in his cassock crossing the rails in the Montreal train-yard. But then he left, taking a south-bound train to St. Catherines. We headed north to my grandparents and Sault Ste Marie.
A couple of hours ago, Mafalda called me to tell me that Sam had died. (I knew Salvatore was very ill. I chose not to go visit him back in October, because I didn’t want to see him dying.) I was in DC, at a bowling alley, with my 10th graders when my phone rang. I stepped into the night into the rain and listened as Mafalda cried. Mafalda’s best friends were from this side of the family, and I too liked this branch, in fact Salvatore was one of my favorites. (From this favorite branch, only Maria Lucente is left in Corte and I always visit with her when I’m in Calabria. BTW, the room she is in, is my parents’ first apartment and I was born in this room.)
Among the extended family, in Canada, Sam is known for his amazing fig-trees. And the fig-trees that grow in my backyard, that grow in Rick and Sarah’s backyard, that grow in Rose and Derrick’s backyard are from Sam’s garden in St. Catherines. (The original cuttings come from the mature trees on his family’s land in Corte.) Mine is a white fig, Sam’s favorite.
Sam, I’ll always think of you, of Corte, of the boat, of the ocean we crossed all those years ago when I look at the fig-trees.
I used to live in New York City; everything there was dark and dirty. Outside my window was a steeple with a clock that always said twelve-thirty.
Outside my window, here in Pittsburgh, are the corporate towers of the Golden Triangle. At one time this city was the gateway to the west. It was at the confluence of the Monongahela and the Allegheny that Lewis and Clark began their great adventure. Later the city became the industrial heartland of a continent preparing for war. In the 50’s and 60’s it took its place among the corporate elite and later still it re-invented itself into the Paris of Appalachia, the City of Bridges. Its new colors are sustainable-green and finished-steel blue.
Outside my back-porch is the beautiful Japanese Lilac of the above picture . For a week, every spring, it blooms in glorious clean-white. The new Pittsburgh moves through its seasons, its hours in monastic rhythms. Its sports teams announce the seasons; its church bells the hours. And the hollows and rivers celebrate its neighborhoods.
Young girls are coming to the canyon and in the morning I can see them walking. I can no longer keep my blinds drawn.
In New York City, I could never figure out my geographical boundaries. I don’t know if it was the immensity, the canyons that hid the sun, the silence, the traffic chaos, the windows that would not open, but I always felt at loose ends – where did I belong? If I walked too far east on Flatbush would I still safe? Where did Park Slope end and Bed-Sty begin? I never figured out how to use 8th Avenue, Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park to define my neighborhood. In Pittsburgh, I know where I belong – the Mexican War Streets, the North Side. I know the boundaries. Friends remind me that it’s the topography that gives me the boundaries I like. I think it’s my reptilian brain remembering the hills and mountains of Calabria.
The present building has no windows, no classroom doors to the outside, no immigrant children making new friends.
In June ’63, my family moved to the West End and for 8th grade I had to go to St. Veronica’s. It was an old school building. Each classroom had its own door to the outside; the exterior wall was mullion windows; and for the first time ever, I had a nun teacher – Sister Drusilla. It’s also the school and the part of town where I met – Frank, Ron and Rainer – three of my lifelong friends.
A memory is of the four of us playing basketball on the outside court on a Saturday morning and my looking up and seeing the hills golden and crisp with fall. It’s an image still running through my synapses.
It was here we played football and baseball, watered the ice rink for hockey and waited with baited breath while they build a small gym on the creek side. (We got to use it once or twice before we graduated and left for St. Mary’s College, never to use it or visit again.) And it was in our eighth grade classroom that on November 22, a Friday afternoon, Sister Drusilla announced that President Kennedy had been shot.
Fifty years later, the walls are streaked with graffiti, home-plate is littered with broken glass, and chain-link perimeters the creek. The fields and the old-school are waiting for the bulldozer, for the children now grown to visit one last time.
St. Veronica’s is the church where I served as an altar-boy, it’s also the church where Dave and Jo’ got married. It was a simpler building back then without the elaborate, two-part entrance.
I purposely left all the grey in the pic, to remind me of the gloom that was winter in Sault Ste Marie. I remember painting this metal fence the summer between 8th and 9th grade. Back then the parish supported the Catholic Boys High School that I went to and it wasn’t unusual for the parish priest to get work out of the boys that attended St. Mary’s High School on tuition-support. I was in the renovated church four/five years ago when Mimi and I went walking and found it open. The parish priest allowed us to shoot in the sanctuary. It looks nothing like it did 40 years ago.
The parish still has a good size population and I’m glad to know that the area hasn’t been abandoned for the new subdivision plans.
Time period: June 1963 to August 1964
Location: Sault Ste Marie, Northern Ontario
Sentiment: Quiet longing
My family bought a house in Korah – the north-west end of town. I remember going with my dad to look at houses. The realty agent showed us two houses on Turner Avenue, a large older house, which I liked and the smaller house next door which my dad liked. The small house had a truncated roof-peak.
Korah was a neighborhood of older homes and my dad bought the small house on Turner, because it had a double lot and he could expand or even rebuild. (I was more concerned that it was up-the-street from the Tube Mill.) In early July, we moved out of my grandparents’ to our new house. My new school would be St. Veronica’s Elementary.
The journey begins the summer of ’63, when I met the guys that would become my best friends. These were the kids that I played softball with; the kids that I went fishing with. We were the four teenagers that rode double on our bicycles in order to go swimming at Leigh’s Bay. The four friends – Rainer, Ron, Frank and Mario – that played Canasta at Ron’s; that snuck into the Boat Club and played tennis on the fancy courts; that piled into Ron’s car and headed into the back-country.
now I’m going back to Canada, on a journey through the past
My thinking is that I will use this second entry to situate the time and context for this series.
The image on the left is of Mr. Murphy my principal at St. Theresa’s. He was my first principal in Canada. When we came in 1957, we lived with grandparents and the school I was enrolled in was St. Theresa’s. (Even though I was 8 years old, Mr. Murphy put me in second grade.)
And a memory that is forever burned in my brain is of him giving me the strap, because I was loud and playing on a slide-mound during recess. (He was both handsome and scary.) I never quite figured him out and was glad when my parents bought a house on Turner Avenue and we got to leave St. Theresa’s.
The image of Mr. Murphy reminds me of how empty the area was: there are some bungalows in the background. In the late fifties this was a new subdivision. St. Theresa’s was a newly built school. Most of the families who moved here had left old James Street – the Italian ghetto – for the greener fields of the northern section of the west-end. There was still enough undeveloped land, around the school, for my friends and I to play hide-and-seek in the surrounding fields. And the parish church for the area was St. Gregory established in 1954, three years before we came to live the Soo. The original church was a long rectangular box with a flat tar roof. The idea was that the super-structure would be built once the area filled up with families. (When they finally built the new church in the early 70’s, the basement was demolished and a very different footprint was used.)
I’m heading back up to Sault Ste Marie for the Christmas holidays and am hoping to find some old pictures of old St. Veronica’s Elementary School. BTW, the date on this entry is really December 5, 2012, but I’ve changed it to fit in with the other 8th Grade post.
We had moved from my grandparents’ to our new home on Turner Avenue. (I remember going to look at houses with my dad and liking the big old house next door. It’s the house in the pic. The big old house offered 2 floors and lots of options for my own space.) The house they bought was small, but it sat on a lot-and-a-half of land and my dad wanted the added space for a garden. He also believed that the smaller house would be easier to remodel and enlarge. The big old house would be harder to renovate. (My dad has always needed something to renovate or remodel. The little house with the truncated roof-peak was a fixer-upper, right up his alley.)
Shortly after moving in, my dad began to dig out a basement and it was my job to carry the cinder-blocks from the pallet to the mounds of earth that lined the perimeter of the dig. (I hated the job, because it meant chores rather than going out to play with the new friends I was making.) And yet watching my dad, his friends and relatives dig the earth from under the house was an adventure. I could jump down and walk the footer, inspecting the cribbing columns and hydraulic jacks that now held our house. (But never far from my mind, in that summer of 1963, was the fact that in a couple of months I would be going to a new school – St. Veronica’s.)
The actual date of this entry is Sunday, February 17, 2013.
The summer before 8th grade, I went to Toronto with my uncle, aunt, Rose and my grandmother. On the ride down, I remember going in and out of rain-showers. We were driving Highway 17 and we’d go through sheets of rain and then come out onto dry weather only to go through the next sheet. It’s an experience you can have only traveling in a car.
The image on the left is us in Niagara Falls. (Left-to-right: Maria, Mario, Rose, Egilia, Nunziata) It must have been a side-trip. I bought Mafalda these Niagara Falls decorated shot-glasses that she still has 50 years later. The other memory I have of that trip was my staying at my grandparents’ rather than with everyone else at Nunziata’s. (That too felt grown-up – being allowed to go on the trip and then being allowed to stay somewhere on my own.) The trip was also the end of a period in my life, a time I associated more with the Perri side of the family than the Zingas. It was the bookend to our trip from Calabria, because the next phase was really about being Canadian. Living and being with the Perris was the first experience after immigrating. Now, on Turner Avenue, I would be able to write my own story.
This is the first time I’ve connected the trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls to the summer of 1963. (It was an amazing year for change – moved to Turner Avenue and away from the connection to Calabria, went the Toronto and Niagara Falls without my parents, went to a new school and met the crew that would become my best-friends.) Had no idea these events all occurred that year.
The actual date of this entry is Sunday, February 17, 2013.
Sister Drusilla was the principal of St. Veronica’s School. She was also the 8th grade teacher. And she was a Sister of St. Joseph. It was the first time I had had a nun as a teacher. Back at St. Theresa’s there were no religious teachers, all were lay-people. Only the older elementary schools in the older neighborhoods had nuns and St. Theresa’s was one of the new schools in a newly-built, Henrietta Street community.
Having a nun as a teacher was strange for me. My memory of nuns was from when we were living in Aprigliano and Mafalda took me to Pietrafitta – the next hill-town over – to visit a preschool. The experience was horrendous. I hated the nun who walked us around; i hated the jail-like building; and I hated my mother for taking me there. I still have pictures in my head of massive, wrought-iron gates blocking cells and rooms and of a big, fat nun with a huge smile who I was sure was going to lock me up and beat me if my mother left. Mafalda tells the story of an out-of-control child who embarrassed her – screaming, carrying on and holding on for dear life; a child who had to be taken home and promised never to be sent back to that place. (My dad, being a man who didn’t trust nuns, was an ally.) And for the next 10 years, I was nun free.
There were two Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Veronica’s; the second one taught in the lower grades; and she was younger than Sister Drusilla. They were driven to school every morning and picked up every evening and taken back to their convent at Mount St. Joseph College. The image on the right is Mount St. Joseph College as I remember it. The right hand side was the girl’s high school; the left hand side was the convent.
I have to say that I got along with Sister Drusilla. Not that she was warm-and-fuzzy, there was nothing nurturing about this Irish-Canadian, but I could appreciate her sarcasm and mean sense of humor especially if it wasn’t directed me.
The actual date of this entry is Tuesday, February 19, 2013.
Francesco Bitonti and I have been talking a lot about our experiences in 8th grade and I keep being surprised by how different the two sets of memories are. He had lived in the West End and done most of his elementary schooling at St. Veronica’s. I came in 8th grade and did one year. He knew everyone in the class; they had been together the last six years. I knew no one and I don’t even remember how Frank and I met.
So, I asked Francesco if he was interested in conducting a dialogue. He’d write about topics and memories as I would, and we would comment on each other’s remembrances. Here is one of his first entries. The rally was in May of 1964.
Marian Day Rally and My Second Strap at St. Veronica’s
I don’t know if you recall this, but the Marian Day Rally was a Catholic procession in praise of the Virgin Mary held on the first or second Sunday in May. We had promised Sister Drusilla to be part of the rally with other students. However, on that Sunday, my dad needed our help, Joe and myself and even Nicky Porco, to nail down some roofing shingles on the garage. I don’t recall how Mike Rossi got into the picture. He was probably just watching us doing the shingling. Not one of us – Joe, myself, Mike Rossi or Nicky Porco – attended the Marian Day Rally that day. We had all committed to being there. On Monday, we were grilled by Sister Drusilla, who then proceeded to call in Mr. Tokar to strap the four of us because of our spiritual indiscretions. When my dad got wind of this, he was livid and was going to go down to the school. We begged him not to go. He took our advice. The scars healed easily.
I have no memory of a rally or of being invited to participate. Joe is Frank’s older brother, Nicky Porco lived across the street from Frank and Mike Rossi lived down on Douglas. The three of them were a year older than Frank and I. Also, I vaguely remember a Mr. Tokar. Frank says he was the 7th grade teacher.
The actual date of this entry is Thursday, March 7, 2013.
This next memory from Francesco had me laughing out loud. (I read the email, while at my desk at work, and I began laughing. The other three admins in the office all wanted to know what was going on. I told them that once I had incorporated the info into the journal, I would send them the link to the hot Italians.)
End of the Year Party – Hot Italians
I don’t know if you remember Kenny Gibbs. He was this preppy, blond kid in our class. He got a lot of attention from the girls. It was June of 1964. Joe and Mike Rossi were planning this grade 8 end-of-year party at someone’s place. I remember that it eventually was held at Tony Guzzo’s house. His father was quite liberal and saw Tony as the next Ringo Starr.
At any rate, sister Drusilla somehow found out about this private party and she apparently told Kenny Gibbs to tell the girls to be very careful because Italians can get very hot. Even at early stages of puberty, I understood the implication. Nature had damned Italians to an uncontrollable sexuality. I don’t know if you were at the party or not. But there was some spin-the-bottle and a few innocent kisses but not much more. The Drusilla curse had struck!
I don’t remember a Sister Drusilla that was that connected to what we as kids were doing. In my memory she was this distant, tiny woman with a wicked sense of humor. And no, I wasn’t invited to the end-of-year party.
The last time I saw Frank in late February, he talked about the various sports and teams that were organized all through the West End. He talked about having played ball and hockey on neighborhood teams while growing up. And that these peewee teams were a strong tradition in the area. I knew nothing about the teams or their organization. Moving into the neighborhood at 8th grade and then going off to a high school at the other end of town kept me out of the network. And as the new kid, it also kept me from getting invited to parties.
Years ago I lived in Highland Park, in the highrise on the horizon, and the walk around the reservoir was a discovery – a jewel in Pittsburgh’s East End. The walk around the upper two reservoirs is a three-quarter mile trek and an experience unlike anything available in any other American city. (The walkway reminds me most of the paths on Le Mura di Ferrara – the old walls around the city of Ferrara.)
I’m sitting on the back-porch above the rooftops, my D700 on the bench beside me and I look up at the sky, at the last light of day. On Samsonia, the setting sun is crawling the peaks of the row-houses as it struggles to stay awake. (In Aprigliano the day is asleep, settled into its cradle, breathing softly on its back and dreaming of tomorrow’s dawn.)
But on the North Side, in the northern latitudes, summer’s rays still color the twilight and yesterday’s clouds streak the indigo sky. Broadcasting tower and electrical wires write on the night-blue canvas. This is a city-scape. And here romanticism must undergo the over-paint of urban operatives; and here nostalgia is bleached of its sepia melancholy.
But espresso and Sambuca can soften these ragged edges and let the mind’s eye play in the dying light.
The sentinels line the drive; stand guard against the invading maize. In Tuscany they would claim cypress heritage, but here in Harrow they pledge allegiance to the arborvitae. The setting sun exaggerates their height. And these giants bar the stalks that march in goose-step through the land-grant fields, from reaching the driveway, from reaching the house.
They’re the markers I look for when I scan the horizon while driving north on Erie Road. They’re the beacons in a sea of corn. They tell me I’ve reached land – Lynn-and-Rainer’s farm.
It’s odd to write about Harrow, Ontario and reference Tuscany. But the beauty I associate with that Renaissance state is mirrored in this languid landscape, in this new world of Upper Canada, in these tall sentinels that border Lynn-and-Rainer’s farm. In Tuscany the rolling hills provide the privacy and the cypress the boundaries, in Harrow the genetically modified corn wraps the property in its green arms keeping out the rest.
Bet the British never thought that some old Italian immigrant would compare the land-grant fields they doled out to the land of Botticelli. Bet those early settlers never thought that the daughter of Portuguese itinerants would own their manor homestead. Bet those early Canadians never pictured a bunch of immigrants – German, Portuguese and Italian – sitting on the porch talking and talking into the night and never thinking about working the fields.
I woke up Saturday morning to this scene. Actually, after they realized I had no food and meowing didn’t change the fact, they abandoned their whining and went to sit in the morning sun. Immediately their cat-eyes were at half-mast. (The orange tabby was too rambunctious to sleep and she had an itch to scratch.)
Rainer told a gruesome story – a couple days earlier he was woken up in the middle of the night by loud screeches. He went downstairs, opened the door to see a coyote on the porch, one of the mother-cats in its mouth and blood all over the cement flooring. Startled, the coyote ran back into the corn, but not before leaving behind two dead kittens and the recently mothered cat half dead. Lynn helped the dying cat out of her misery. But the two remaining kittens, from that litter, are now orphaned. (The greys are from the litter whose mother was killed by the coyote.)
Lynn and Rainer feed and interact with the feral cats on the property. This pride is healthy, free of fleas and almost not-feral. They are great fun to watch. The kittens do all the silly things you expect, but their behavior is exaggerated given that there are over ten of them. (The kittens are from three mothers.)
Left home yesterday to make a 5:40 flight to Philadelphia. Between engine trouble and delays, didn’t leave until 7:00. My flight from Philly to Frankfurt also got delayed. Supposed to leave at 8:30, but didn’t leave until 10:00. (BTW, the Philly airport is new, and very nice. Even had charging stations, so my kindle and iPhone were fully charged.)
Made it to Frankfurt with an hour to go. (They had already booked me on the 6:00 pm flight assuming I would not make my 12:40 connection.) From the air Germany looks a lot like Pennsylvania in that it’s very green. The difference is in the clustering of the towns. For us, rural Pennsylvania is spread out. Rural Germany is clustered very close together and the surrounding area is all woods or small farms.
I made sure to deplane as quickly as possible, then at Passport Control I asked if I could go first and the efficient Germans let me. Next, I ran to the gate and made it with 20 minutes to spare. Rose and Derrick were happy to see me, otherwise they would have had to wait in Bologna until the later flight got in.
With all that hassle out of the way, the next worry was luggage – would my bag make it onto the Bologna flight? It did, we landed at 2:00. But the line from hell was waiting for us.
The next step was to pick up the rent-a-car. By 2:15 we were in line at Budget. We didn’t get up to the counter until 4:00. The drive to Earle-and-Suzanne’s (Isola di Fano) was supposed to be an hour-and-a-half. It took us three hours. On the Autostrada, we met up with all the Italians who were heading to the beach for the weekend.
We got in at 7:00. Ran down to Fossombrone to the grocery store, came back showered and had our first dinner in Italy. We polished off two bottles of wine between the three of us.
The farm up the road from us, has turkeys and goats. I love the billy-goats. And like Rainer’s cats, when I walked by they expected food – sorry guys!!
(It’s time to cook and eat. I’ll come back after supper.)
Today was a get-adjusted-to-the-local-time day, so we decided to explore the surrounding area. We went to the Gola del Furlo. It’s the valley and gorge of the River Metauro. It’s also the old Via Flaminia, the ancient road from Rimini to Rome.
So first about the house and my morning trek – the fields are different than last summer. Cut wheat-stalks cover the fields that last summer were plowed. There are no farmers plowing into the night, instead the fields are yellow with mowed wheat and bales of new-tied hay. At the farm next to us, the turkeys are still there and so are my favorite billy-goats. (This morning there was a breeze from the north; could it be the tramonto? And it perfumed the air with cow manure.) The waking sun crested the hilltop. I wanted to walk the field the sun lifted from, but it was too far away; maybe tomorrow morning.
At 8:30 the valley was alive with church bells. Yes, it’s Sunday and the bells called all to Mass. For me, the bells pulled memories of long ago. They are the Pavlovian bait that grabs me and throws me back to Calabria, to the late 1950’s; to a time when the rhythms of my life were governed by the agrarian and Roman Catholic calendar that acculturated me.
It’s midnight. Rose and Derrick have gone off to bed, and I’m blogging. I’ll finish the posting about the Gola del Furlo tomorrow morning.
We decided to explore the gorge – Gola del Furlo – not realizing that the tunnels through the gorge were chiseled out by the Romans and their slaves. Who knew that the old Roman road la Via Flaminia was less that 20 kilometers from Isola di Fano. (Vetruvius was supposedly the architect for the tunnels through the gorge of the Metauro.) It’s amazing to realize that the two tunnels were hollowed out by hand. The pick marks are still there.
The structure on the left of us is a small un-consecrated church. (Also, between the two tunnels, was a grotto and some Italian put a statue in it. Whoever said stereotypes are not valid just has to look at the grotto with its madonna, votives and plastic flowers.) There was a young man, a volunteer, who told us all about the Via Flaminia. (In Italy, it’s young men who volunteer at churches and local museums. No sign of the old, retired ladies that volunteer at similar places in the U.S.)
The Italian word for tunnel is galleria. Rose keeps saying that the words sound so much prettier in Italian. The German overtones that permeate English are not there in la bella lingua.
It’s Sunday, it’s August, the natives are no where to be found and nothing is open. (We knew that, hence the mad rush to the grocery store last night.) So we had to figure out supper. We settled on pasta with a sauce of fresh, sauteed tomatoes, chopped artichokes in oil, sauteed red pepper, and porchetta – a pork roll stuffed with wild fennel and garlic.
The pergola is an al fresco dining area on the property. We waited until the sun went down and then brought our food to the wrought iron table under the canvas awning.
The image is a repeat from last summer, when we sat down for my first meal in Le Marche. Then too Rose had made pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, and like last summer we ate under Earle-and-Suzanne’s pergola. It’s actually a stretch of the word, but it’s a wonderful structure, so un-Italian.
The property looks different than last year. Earle-and-Suzanne have tackled the garden area and are beginning to make some real changes to the ivy covered bank that is the base for the top-half of the property. (I love it when a property has different elevations, even if only a difference of two or three meters. My dad’s vineyard in Calabria was on three different elevations, and I remember how fun it was climbing the into-the-hillside steps between the three fields.)
For Welch …
We got up early and headed down to Fossombrone for the weekly farmers’ market. (Fossombrone is the municipality that the house we are in, is part of. Isola di Fano is the village that the house is in.) The markets are a mishmash between fresh fruits-and-vegetables, household items and clothing. In my mind, it’s the mall coming to the consumer and therefore my kind of thing. Young Italians are more willing to go to the indoor box-store malls with parking and chain stores. However, so far there is not a critical mass heading to the box-store malls and the outdoor markets are still busy and vibrant.
I love all the fresh fruits and vegetables, my kind of thing, and not having to go to a mall or a Giant Eagle kind of store is an added perk. We walked around looking at all the products and then we settled on the one or two vendors we liked. This ‘liking’ is a gut feeling consisting of answers to questions such as – do they have nice looking sales clerks? are they pushy in their sales pitch? are they helpful and tell me things I don’t know? are they willing to let me pick out my own tomatoes? are they snobs with airs? (You have to ask this of Italian vendors. Snobby usually means a 10% increase on the sales price. And given that I can be snobby with the best of them, I can pick them out immediately and I’m not giving my money to snots. I may be one, but I’m not paying extra for the priveldge of being with my kind of people.)
When I go with Rose and Derrick to these things, I’m the voice of reason. Left to their own devices, they would buy everything in sight. When it comes to food buying their frugal approach to life goes out the window. Derrick saw the cranberry colored beans – faggiole Borlotti – and then decided to buy three kilos. Now the debate is – “Do we take them home to Michigan or eat them here?” Even my mother urged them to eat them fresh and cook them immediately. (They decided to take them home to Michigan.)Once we got back fromt the market, they sat on the porch and husked them into a bowl. (I love the fact that an iPad is on the table as they surciano le surache an old Calabrese expression for shelling beans.
Lunch was fresh tomato salad with green onions and basil, a picante local cheese and these wonderful cucumbers. Rose and I put as much bread into the salad oil as we could jam. There is nothing as wonderful as Italian bread soaked in tomato salad juices.
The afternoon adventure was a trip to Fano to the TIM’s store to put in a new sim card into Derrick’s phone so that next week we could use it as a hot-spot. (Earle-and-Suzanne’s was not available for our second week, so we booked at an agriturismo – La Tavola Marche – and they do not have Internet.)
Earle-and-Suzanne’s house is in the Metauro River valley; it’s on the northern slope of the rounded hills that form the valley below us. Each morning I look out and see the hilltop towns of the next valley, and I’ve wanted to go exploring these structures that shape the horizon. Today was the day to explore the next valley to the south of us. We drove down to Isola di Fano and then up the mountain and into the next valley. (Derrick had put in ‘off-road’ when he was setting up the GPS, and Rose yelled and yelled. The off-road trip would have taken us 3 hours, the fastest-time trip had us at Fratte Rosa the hilltown we see from the kitchen window in 30 minutes.)The interior of Le Marche is these cultivated, rolling hills. And this patchwork is one of my favorite landscapes.
Our first stop was to Fratte Rosa and immediately there were signs of foreigners. The entire town has been beautifully refurbished; all the houses have been cleaned and pointed. (It reminded me of Assisi. Modern day Assisi is the disneyland of Catholicism. The entire town has been refurbished to keep the tourists with loaded pockets coming. Forget the fact that Francis made poverty a virtue, modern day Assisi is anything but poor.)
The next evidence of foreigners was in San Lorenzo in Campo. (It was full of tall, blond Germans.) I did forgive them their invasion, because we found a Frutta e Verdura shop where the owner sold us the best Visciolata wine ever. This is a dessert wine made in Le Marche. It’s made from wild cherries mixed with wine. I walked in and asked if he would sell us a bottle of wine and then open it so we could have it for lunch. Of course he would. Well, he ended up having to uncork two bottles before he was successful at getting the plastic cork out. He put those two bottles aside and he picked out a third with a real cork that he was able to remove. We now had our wine. Earlier I had bought two slices of pizza with bacon and eggplant, Rose and Derrick had paninis stuffed with porchetta. (I told the owner of the Frutta e Verdura that in America it would be illegal for him to open the wine and then sell it to us. He said American is very open, but very contrary.)
We drove to the next small town and sat in the piazza in the shade and had our picnic lunch. Oh yes, the man from the Frutta e Verdura packed us three plastic cups. After our piazza lunch I went over to the local real estate office. (It was the only business still open.) It listed all these farm-houses for sale. Some were completely restored,, others were ruins. The prices were beyond high. They were so over-priced that I couldn’t believe people were paying these prices. I guess the Germans dodn’t see the prices as exorbitant, highway robbery, out-right stealing …
The Viscolata we had after dinner with fresh melon. (Rose is already planning a trip back to San Lorenzo in Campo to buy more Viscolata. She’s planning to take at least one bottle back to Michigan. I’ll think about it throughout the year and it will become another reason to return next summer.
The weather has been miserably hot, but last night it broke. And at 2:00 in the morning the farmer from the next property was still plowing. I understand working in the cool night, but am amazed by the practicality of it all.
In many ways that’s what keeps surprising me about Italy – how practical everything is organized. The problem is that this orderliness is severely taxed in the summer months when the country is overrun with mobs, and I mean that in a literal sense, of foreigners. And then we all whine about things being inefficient. I wonder if any country can efficiently manage the millions that descend into Italy each summer. Disney can do it at a theme park, could it do if for a whole country? Especially when the locals have to continue their day-to-day routines – go to work, cook, visit, go to doctor’s appointments, go food shopping – all while the tourists, who have left their day-to-days back home, want entertained, want no interruptions, want immediate service, want no traffic jams, want cool days, want people who speak English …
This morning the farmer is back out, I heard the tractor as early as 6:00. He’s spreading manure in the lower field, and because the wind is blowing away from us, there is no perfumed air.
We decided to head south to the caves at San Vittore. This southwestern region is full of caves; the best know are the Grotte di Frasassi. To get there, the GPS took us on the provincial roads that hug the mountains. (In Italian there are different words for mountains depending on their shapes. In Calabria, with its Sila peaks, they’re montagne. Here in north central Le Marche, with its tall rolling hills, they’re colline.I love the ride through the center.
These are the provincial roads and the only arteries into the country with amazing vistas. (The tolled Autostrada and the non-tolled Supra Strada run in valleys, on flat terrains, along the coast, along the side of mountains, through tunnels in gorges. They are full of traffic – foreigners and locals. For the Italians speed limits and traffic laws are only suggestions. This drives the foreigners crazy. I like the Italian word for foreigner better than the English. In Italian foreigners are stranieri. Our word strange is wrapped up in the Italian comment about people not like them.) The provincial roads are the only access points for people living in the interior. They lead to all the postcard-perfect hill towns we see in travel brochure. But because most stranieri aren’t willing to deal with the roller-coaster ride that the provincial roads offer, they avoid the interior.
The image in this post is the gorge where the Grotte di Frasassi are located. Before we got here, we stopped at a local supermarket and bought lunch. You buy all the ingredients for a panino and the clerks assemble it. We left the store with two panini, two slices of pizza, some olives and both carbonated and non-carbonated water – lunch. There was a picnic table on the right. We sat there and ate out grocery-store lunch. (My pizza was bland, but that’s what I expected when I bought it at the large, chain store.)
It’s 10:00 pm local time and the farmers of the valley are plowing. The evenings are cool and the night sky is black with stars. The farmer from up the road is driving his blue tractor making patterns in the hillside. If last night is any indication of his work schedule, he will be at it all through the night. The farmer is using a huge tractor to plow. I shot a series of pictures as he came down the hill, the plow into the earth. (The gold haze of the mowed wheat fields is one of my favorite colors.)Coming from a country and city where farm rhythms are things of the past, it’s hard to put my head around the work routines here in rural Le Marche.
Today we drove through Senigallia, one of the premier beach resorts on the Adriatic. I bet no one there works through the night plowing fields. I bet no one there knows anyone who makes their living plowing fields.
After supper, Derrick and I took a walk up to the old abandoned house I found the other night when I went into the fields to shoot. The field is the highest point on this side of the valley and I wanted to shoot from that vantage point. And there in the trees at the top was an old farmhouse. I figured out where the driveway was and tonight we make the trek back up the house. The view is truly spectacular. From the property you have a 360 degree panorama.
Today we drove to Pesaro and the northern coast. Where Senigallia is overrun with tourists and frantic, Pesaro is full of locals and slow. The streets in the old town are shadowed by trees, and the beaches are orderly if riddled with umbrellas.We got there early enough to walk the streets with the locals. Near the government center, an old church had been retrofitted into a post office, and I decided that would make a great shot, so I walked across the street to shoot the facade with the yellow postal sign inside the main entrance. A young man came up to me and began a harangue about the injustice of having retrofitted a church. He then asked if I was from Pesaro, I went into a full-American pretending I had not understood him and that I was a lowly tourist. He looked disgusted, but left. (So, was the disgust about the injustice of government taking over a church or that I was an American who only spoke one language – American English?)
BTW, most of the English you find here is British English – axioms, spellings, terminology. For example, at lunch the menu had an English translation. I wanted a salad, and I’m looking at the ingredients in English and one of the items was ‘rocket’. What the hell is rocket? There’s no such vegetable with that name. Rose told me that rocket is arugula. And that the British call it rocket. What!! (It may come from the other word for arugula – rucola. But how do you get rocket from rucola? Only a culinary challenged society could call an edible grass a rocket.) Another item for my list of Things-to-Hold-Against-the-British.
I probably need to re-examine my comments. The young man from Pesaro was ranting against the government take-over of church-owned buildings, I’m here ranting about the British. I guess all Italians have something to harangue about, even old ones who now live full-time in America.
World War II still shapes the Italian character. My family left after the war, and here I am back.
People of my parents’ generation lived through the war years and their children carry that legacy without even knowing it. It took me a while to understand how the war changed my life. Because, my parents were too young to participate, I never thought that their actions and decisions were the result of what the war had done to their homeland. I just assumed we left for Canada, because all the grandparents were there. Certainly never thought about the fact that the economy of post-war Italy was in the toilet and my dad could not make a living.
And growing up in Canada and the US, the war stories were about winning. The books we read in high school were about British men and women who fought valiantly and won. I didn’t hear about the holocaust until I moved to America. And still no one ever talked about Italy in the war except to mention Mussolini. (I came to hate Winston Churchill’s writings. They tell a one sided story. In the writings he has no understanding of what the regular people of Italy and Germany suffered. He has no empathy for the victims of the war. Instead he brags about the resolve of the British people and the low character of the Germans and Italians.)There are World War I memorials in all the piazzas of all the small towns. World War II memorials are rare. The one in Pesaro was disturbing. It’s a wall of funereal pictures of the freedom fighter.
This part of Italy was the Gothic Line – The Gothic Line – Linea Gotica – formed Germany’s last major line of defense in the final stages of World War II along the summits of the Apennines during the fighting retreat of German forces in Italy. The Allies breached the Gothic Line on both the Adriatic and central Apennine fronts during Operation Olive also known as the Battle of Rimini in the autumn of 1944. Over a million men participated in the battle.
How can I pass up a title like that, even if it doesn’t mean anything to people who read this?
After Pesaro we headed north on the winding coastal road that runs along the top of the Apennine ridge; the vistas down to the Adriatic are wonderful.
(Some facts – the road on the ridge is lined with Renaissance mansions. Rich Italians, to escape the blistering summer heat, went to the mountains not the sea. Only poor people, who lived in the mountains throughout the year, would go to the beach for a summer break. The villas of the rich look out onto the Adriatic. The servants would open the house sometime in June and spend the next months cooking the local cuisine. The landowners sat on their verandas and were waited upon.)
The cliff area, outside of the Pesaro, is a national park. And during World War II, this was the Gothic Line that the Germans defended until they lost it in the Battle of Rimini.
At the end of the ridge is the resort town of Gabicce Monte a small quaint mountain-town full of restaurants that cater to the beach crowd. We had lunch at one of these restaurants. I ordered a salad – I can’t do a full lunch and not go back to the house and sleep for the afternoon. (In this way, I’d fit in perfectly with the Italian afternoon routines.) Rose was scandalized that I would order a simple salad when I had a full menu of Italian specialties to pick from. (This was the menu that listed ‘rockets’ as an ingredient in my arugula salad.)Below us, Gabicce Mare is the small coastal town at the north-eastern border of Le Marche and Emilia Romagna. The area is actually two towns, Gabicce Mare on the Le Marche side and Cattolica on the Emilia Romagna side. The pic is shot from our table at the restaurant that served rockets in my salad. The lines in the water are breakers – stone walls to keep the tides away from the sun-bathing public. (I suspect that there are no dermatologists in Italy. No one would pay any attention to their advice about staying out of the sun. Remember, the Italians embrace the sun – O Sole Mio.)
Today is our last full-day at Earle-and-Suzanne’s. (Tomorrow we head over to La Tavola Marche.) We decided to have dinner at a restaurant, in San Lorenzo in Campo, that specializes in farro dishes. San Lorenzo is in the next valley to the south of us and to get there you literally go over the mountain and through the campi.
Because of our dinner reservations, we decided to explore close to the house and Urbania fit the bill. It’s claim to fame is a Befana festival in early January. It’s a small town on the cusp of renewal.
The town was quite lively and full of Italian tourists and foreign students. (There is an international school here and kids come from all over to the music academy.)
After our exploration we stopped at a gelateria and it had a Nutella flavored gelato. I had to have one. It was really not good – too much Nutella and not enough gelato.
The next eating adventure was at the Farroteca in San Lorenzo in Campo. The drive over, as I said, was over the mountain. (We go by one of my favorite hill-towns – Fratte Rosa – and I think I like that valley more than the one we are in.) We parked in the main piazza and walked the short distance to the restaurant.
The place is on a property with three structures – a villa, the itinerant farmers’ residence that is now modernized and the old animal shed that has been renovated into the restaurant. The owner – Lea – is this vivacious older woman who had us laughing throughout the entire meal. (She complained loudly about the Italian version of Socialism and was taken back when I told her that millions of Americans don’t have health care. Her answer was, “Questo non e gusto.” – That is just not fair.
Dinner was great. It was a fixed menu. We began with a farro salad. (The olive oil is from her property across the valley – Monterosso – and tasted amazing.) This was followed by cheese with prosciutto and small farro breads topped with olives and zucchini. The third course was a fresh, soft cheese on farro pita. The primo piatto was ricotta ravioli with porcini mushrooms. This was followed by sweets served with the local dessert wine – Visciolata – and espresso finished the meal. (We had a bottle of red wine from her vineyard and two liters of sparking water with our meal.) The entire dinner cost us 75 euros.
Today is our last day at this great house.
Last year, Rose found this listing and we decided to take a chance. I believe our expectations were what they had always been – probably looks better online than it really is. We were wonderfully surprised.
The house is a restored itinerant farmers’ house. (My dad’s family lived in such a house in Calabria. The property owner housed the workers in various such houses on his property.) The ground floor was where the animals were kept and the first floor was where the family lived.
Earle-and-Suzanne have restored the ground floor and they live there. The first floor is the rental. The tall beamed ceilings are all visible, the kitchen is very efficient and comfortable. There are two bathrooms, one en-suite and very large second one. One of my favorite things about the house, and I know there are many, are the views. You get up in the morning to the manicured valley. (The house sits on a hill in the middle of the Metauro Valley.) We sit on the porch and have our morning espresso.
We’ve been going exploring late morning and early afternoon, but we are back by 3:00. We rest. The natives have been home since noon, but we tourists add some extra hours to the first part of the day. We begin preparing for supper around 7:00 and go and sit under the pergola for our evening meal.
For us, the house fits perfectly. It’s convenient to the provincial roads and the Autostrade. There is a small hamlet at the bottom of the hill for bread and cheese and Fossombrone is twenty minutes away.
We left Earle-and-Suzanne’s this morning and drove to La Tavola Marche. It’s a combination agriturismo, cooking school and mountain retreat. We showed up around 12:30 and we got settled in. We’re on the top floor. Our apartment is very nice, very roomy. After we had unloaded everything, especially the food, we had lunch and headed over to the pool. It was so nice to just sit in the sun and when it got too hot, jump into the cool water.
The image is the mountains outside our kitchen window – a very different landscape from the Valley of the Metauro in Fossombrone. (Ashley told us that the top of the mountain is really Umbria.) We are in the south-western section of Le Marche. The area around the farmhouse is void of human traffic. The only things you hear are the cicadas, and the other guests at the pool. And if the guests are taking their afternoon nap then the place is silent.
In order to get Internet, we have to go down to Piobbico, a ten minute drive down a dirt road. My strategy this week is to do all the Photoshop and writing off-line and copy and upload everything when we are in town. (Piobbico is the town where they have the Ugliest Man and Woman festival.)
It’s 6:18 pm. I’m sitting outside at the Cafe del Corso in Piobicco, eating a cooffee granita and finishing this posting.
Rose took a picture of the old man, blogging. Once she sends it, I’ll post it.
If it were up to me this is the kind of pic that would never see the light of day, but it’s a record. I’m sitting in Piobicco and that is a coffee granita in front of me. And for those truly observant anal retentive friends – yes, I’ve shaved the beard. (Another reason to bury the pic in some directory where it would never be found.)
All the foreigners come here to get Internet access. It’s mainly Dutch and German tourists. They flock here because of the hiking.
After we finish with our online fix, we are heading back to La Tavola Marche and will figure out what to have for supper.
Decided to add to this entry, because I always like to fill up the space around the pics. Yesterday and today, I prepared everything before we come down to Piobbico and then sent it up to the journal while at the Cafe del Corso. I think that writing the entries ahead of time has resulted in text almost free of tension. I’ve been leaving out the edge. An edge, a sarcastic voice that had found its way in as I sat, leisurely reviewing the day.
Today at Cafe del Corso there are more locals than foreigners. The three of us are the only ones sitting together, but not talking. We are busy with our various devices. The Italians around us are all yaking away. (There’s lots of complaining about various family members.) Tonight’s crew is older and probably on a passegata before heading home to the Sunday light meal.
My mandatory drink tonight is a cold chocolate. Still not great, but better than last night’s. Buy something and get Internet connection. Not a bad deal.
BTW, I was telling Rose that I get most of my protein from cheese and she was surprised and had to look up the protein value of milk products.
I love being in the mountains. (Earle-and-Suzanne’s is urban compared to where we are this week.)
This morning I walked down the road and there were all the farms that dot the valley. Came back and started shooting the sunflowers – le girasole – on the property. And the bees … (It was really the dark, dark blue.) There are hives on all the farms we pass, and now I know where the bees end up. Also, found that the plants that look like corn are pig corn. It grows nothing like American, genetically modified corn. The pig corn grows a single cob, a plume at the top of the leaves, with no husk. Here corn has always been something farmers feed the animals. Humans do not eat corn-on-the-cobs in Italy. But, there’s a whole food culture in northern Italy based on polenta – a mush made from corn flour – as the staple.
Today we decided to explore Sant’Angelo in Vado. We expected a back-water town and it turned out to be a great little town. We got there after Mass let out and it was teeming with locals.
To get there we literally went up and over the mountain. The road is this twisty, steep slope heading forever down. The name is Saint Angelo in the Valley. Guess we had to get down the mountain and into the valley. When we got there, we followed the town people into the Cathedral. (I didn’t take pics. There were too many of the faithful still milling around.
We found a store and bought dinner – roasted rabbit in wild fennel and garlic, stuffed zucchini, eggplant and peppers.
We left Sant’Angelo in Vado and did not want to go back up the mountain road, so we headed into Umbria and the provincial roads. We might as well have gone back up the mountain. We traded one mountain for another and headed down the next steep incline into another valley. (The speed limit is 70 km/h. I don’t know how they do it on the mountain roads. Even the bikes are racing the roads. BTW, everyone here wears helmets. There are signs everywhere reminding drives of the dangers of not wearing a helmet. Too bad Americans put machismo ahead of safety. But then they aren’t driving the mountain roads of Italy.)
Today we drove across Le Marche and then south to Loreto, the city of the holy house. (Supposedly, angels carried the house that Mary lived in from Palestine and deposited in Loreto.)
The Basilica is this huge structure with a square in front. The square is surrounded by porticos. One side is the Apostolic Palace – Church offices on the piazza level, Church residences on the second floor. These are grand residences that are now a museum and it’s clear that the Church officials who lived in these rooms were nobility. There is no poverty here.
A young man was painting these chalk-drawings on the floor of the piazza. He had three baskets for donations under each. (Hey, if Mother Church can collect from all the pilgrims that flock here, why can’t he?)
Loreto attempts to do the same thing that Assisi does – create a destination for pilgrims. The difference between the two locations stares you in the face. Where Assisi has historical significance – the birth place of Francesco di Bernardone – and artistic significance – Giotto’s famous frescoes line the walls of the Cathedral; Loreto is fictional Catholicism. The Church made up this place.
Inside of the Cathedral, behind the main altar is this four-sided, open box of marble, beautifully decorated with carvings and reliefs. This external box is amazing in its complexity and artistry. The inside is lined with rock – supposedly from Palestine – but open to the dome. The ceiling is early Signorelli. In Orvieto, we see the mature master depicting the Apocalypse with its avenging angels assigning the locals their place in a tableau of eternal-rest. (In Loreto the avenging angel is in grey armor. In Orvieto he’s gloriously naked. In Loreto he’s a two meters tall controller, in Orvieto he’s a 10 meters tall beautiful avenger, the central figure in the tableau.)
It’s hard to walk through this box and think of the young Palestinian woman who was supposed to have lived here. There are frescoes on the stone walls, frescoes of angels. (Judaism does not depict heavenly creatures. The frescoes are Italian in execution and culture.) There is a marble altar in front of the back wall. There are gold candle holders on the marble altar. And the stones look like they could have come from any quarry in the area. And there are small niches with other gold ornaments. It’s absolutely clear that this whole complex was created and given meaning by some Church official. There is no theological, archeological, or religious base for anything here. It was created as a place that would attract pilgrims, that would attract pilgrim money. It is extremely successful. Four million pilgrims a year journey to Loreto.
I always understood Martin Luther on an intellectual level. After being in Loreto, I understand him on a gut level. Seeing the Disneyland house and realizing it’s a for-profit operation, makes Martin Luther a visionary, a prophet that the Catholic Church could not accept or learn from. And like all true prophets, he was persecuted and ostracized.
Oh, BTW, the Madonna of Loreto is a black Madonna.
Last night I drove from the agriturismo into Piobbico on my own. It was my first time driving the rent-a-car. (It’s only registered in Derrick’s name.) I was cautious and wanted to get back before sundown; I didn’t want to drive the unpaved country road in the dark.
BTW, the Musa is the Lancia rent-a-car. It’s a great small car. (Wish we had access to some of the small car models they have here.)
We come into town daily to check email and blog. (The agriturismo is in the mountains about 1,400 feet abovee sea-level and no Internet.) For some reason, tonight I could not get Internet access anywhere in the cafe. Even moved my seat to two different tables.
So after calling Leger, because I had a phone connection, I headed back.
I like driving in Italy, it’s never boring. (There’s not a straight road anywhere.) Yesterday we spend most of the day on either the Autostradra or the provincial roads. These are fast arteries on the plains or the side of the mountains. The road to and from the place we are staying at is unpaved and the dust clouds hide the car as we drive its ruts and shoulders.
Today was a recoup. We went into Piobbico for the market and for coffee; and then headed back to La Tavola Marche to sit by the pool. (The Dutch family with its four, loud children left for the day; we had the pool to ourselves.)
It is incongruous to be in the mountains of Le Marche and to sit by a pool full of clear, blue water. It’s Italian and American at the same time. (The two young owners of La Tavola Marche are Americans.) To add to the incongruity, the water in the pool is from a sulfur spring on the property, and every morning it’s treated to make it clear and sulfur free. And finally, Natalie Merchant is on my iPhone singing:
I do like being in the mountains. It really is the summer vacation of my youth. Many families in Aprigliano would go up to La Sila for the summer months. The mountains were their retreat from the summer heat. When she was a young woman, my mother went up with my grandfather, because he lived up in La Sila with the sheep during the summer months. My dad went up to La Sila to work, to hunt, to pick mushrooms. And even though I never went, I am of that generation most associated with my parents and their narrative became my early reference point. I just assumed sooner or later we would go up to La Sila during August. (Nah, we went to cold northern Ontario.) It’s with Connie that my parents’ narrative lost its meaning. She was two when we left Aprigliano. The narrative she heard was of her parents struggling to make a better life in Sault Ste Marie and how she would benefit from their struggle.
It takes a long time to situate oneself in a family continuum and age helps to figure out one’s placement in that family line. That awareness is faint during the time when we are building careers and families. (For me the awareness has come when those two accomplishments have been safely established.) Spending the last 8 summers here in Italy brings me into the continuum that is my family’s legacy to its oldest child.
The idea of going to the sea – al mare – during the summer is a modern protocol. I guess the way we know we are old and the mantle has passed is when the next generation begins to create its own routines. All my cousins in Aprigliano now talk about il mare throughout the summer. They send me pictures of them sitting in the maze of beach-chairs and umbrellas along the Mediterranean coast. I try and explain to my parents that they are on holiday, but the idea is not something they can associate with Calabria. For them, the beach in the summer is an American experience. (Last night we talked to them, and I kept telling Rose to just say that we are in a place like La Sila. As soon as they heard that reference they knew exactly what the area we are in looks like.)
Today is that magical holiday in Italy where everything is supposed to be closed and everyone is away on vacation. (It’s the feast of the Assumption and the Italians are supposed to bee in church.) Since we’ve been coming, we’ve seen this tradition change. This morning all the cafes, on the street are open and I’m sitting in Crazy Bar, with Internet access. (I have no idea why Italians think that using American names for their establishments is great PR.)
The first couple of days we just looked at all the locals down the street at the Crazy Bar. None of the tourists ventured down there. Well, given that Internet access was sporadic at the other location, I walked down, plopped myself among the old me and flipped open my laptop. They looked over and I said, Bongiorno without a trace of a foreign accent. They went back to their card-playing, I went back to blogging.
When we were in Cosenza, everything was closed for ferragosto. And given that Le Marche is similar to Calabria in its history with poverty and Church control, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that the marchegiani seem to have thrown off the shackles of Mother Church.
Later we will head down to the river for a picnic. That will be our contribution to ferragosto. The tourists that come to this area of Le Marche spend their time trekking the trails around the river beds. (At this time of year, the rivers that in the spring are torrents are trickles of water. This makes the river-beds great trails to walk and explore and picnic along.)
Tonight, on ferragosto, we went to a Sagra del Polentone alla Carbonara in a small town – Cagli – between Piobbico and Aqualagna. (I hate polenta, and here I am going to a fish-fry type event that will serve nothing but polenta.) My mother and Leger will give me a very hard time about this. The sagra was in the parking lot of a Romanesque, country church – S. Maria A. di Naro, Chiesa Romanica, (sec. XI) – built in the eleventh century.
Tables and tents were everywhere. We went early; the polenta was being made as we got there. And within 15 minutes we got our food. The carbonara sauce was super rich, so here I am eating a gelato to balance the grease. BTW, the cafe down the street from us has a DJ and he just finished playing Everybody is Talking at Me.
Tonight we will have a quiet evening and tomorrow we are going exploring the small towns around Fossombrone. We really like that part of Le Marche.
This morning I finally got up early and headed down the road for a walk. (There’s an abandoned cemetery and I wanted to go shoot it.) Mornings are amazing, the sun is just rising, so you don’t get the onslaught of the mid-day heat and the bugs are sleeping. The mountains at this time of day are silent. It’s taken me all these years to finally get into the mountains. (There are side-roads off the unpaved main road, but I didn’t have the proper clothes to trek up these paths.)The pig-corn is still a wonder for me. I’ve not see anything like it in America. (I’ll have to google it and Wikipedia it and see what comes up.) I also found a wide path down to the river – a tributary of the Candigliano which in turn is a tributary of the Metauro. However, the find of the morning was the cemetery. There are less than a dozen graves left. (Ashley said that all the people buried here are from the same farm-family up the road.)
The cemetery has a wall around it. The wall opposite the gate has the chamber that would have been used to keep coffins in the winter. The repository chamber is open, so I went in. Inside were all these wrought iron crosses, no two are the same. (In the cemetery in Aprigliano, I was amazed when I discovered all the different crosses that topped the small mausoleums. All were different.) These abandoned crosses are made to put into the ground as markers. Given that the whole left side of the courtyard is empty, these abandoned crosses must have come from that side. (It’s not uncommon in Italy to un-inter a coffin and re-bury it in a new, better, more prestigious location. (Most of my paternal grandmother’s family in Aprigliano, has been moved from the old cemetery in to the newer section. My mother told me that as soon as they build the above-ground crypts in the Soo, many Italian families un-interred their loved ones and placed them in the above ground crypts.) I suspect that many coffins were moved from this small mountain cemetery to the new cemetery in Piobbico. The only remaining graves are on the wall to the right of the chamber. These are the graves of the Gnucci family.
On my way back, I kept thinking that landscape can shape character just as much as family. Italy, except for the coastal plains and these are narrow strips, is a country of mountains. People live in these unique communities with mountain barriers separating them. (In Pittsburgh we talk a lot about the different neighborhoods and how the topography isolates communities and how these communities have developed distinctive personalities.) Well Italy is a whole county of such distinctive communities. No wonder it took forever to unite the country. It also explains the lack of national identity and the focus on local identity. (Pittsburgh too is famous for local identities and a lack of municipal consciousness.) Italy has been dealing with one other variable that only now America is recognizing – bad central government. The lack of trust in a central government, a by-product of living in isolated communities, has added to a strong township allegiance.
In the afternoon we drove to Mondavio and then Corinaldo. Corinaldo is the birth place of Maria Goretti. The only thing I remember about this saint is that she died rather than give up her virginity. (I remember a lot of jokes about her being the only Italian girl to say, “No.”) Well today got a different story, one that has me thinking that the Church in Le Marche has done some very unusual things – declaring that angels brought a house over from Palestine; declaring that a young girl from a migrant-workers’ family is a saint, because she put up a fight rather than give up her virginity to the landowner’s son. The son frustrated by of her refusal, stabbed her to death. But, before she died, she forgave her would-be-rapist.
The story continues – the son then goes up to Goretti’s mother – Mamma Assunta – and asks for her forgiveness. The mother tells him that since her daughter forgave him, he was forgiven. He then goes to live with a group of Franciscan monks, but never takes vows. Goretti is buried in the church of Santa Maria Goretti in Corinaldo in the crypt, her mother is buried on the left side of the nave and her would-be-rapist on the right side of the nave.
Now, my version of the story – The landowner’s son is the would-be-rapist that part of the story is consistent, but I suspect that his well-connected father went to the local Franciscan prior and made a deal. – “Declare Maria Goretti a saint, but let it be known that she forgave my son before dying. House my son in one of your monasteries and I will give a large donation. The Church gets a new saint from the peasant class, think of how many donations that will bring in; after all the villain is the landowner’s son, another plus in the class warfare propaganda the Church likes to traffic in, but don’t forget that she forgave him proving her worth to be a saint. Plus let’s not forget my sizable contribution.”
Nowhere in the story is law enforcement mentioned. And how is it that a migrant-worker’s family, who was as poor as dirt, can get through the bureaucracy that is the Roman Catholic Church to get their daughter proclaimed a saint. Nah, there were other more powerful forces at work. And for me those are the rich landowner, the Franciscans, and the local law enforcement. All had to agree on the plan and all had to get something from it – a win-win situation – in order for it to work.
The Italians had a new saint. Le Marche had a second site to attract tourists with religious leanings who hopefully will put money into the offering boxes.
Today we headed up to Urbino. It’s my favorite place in Le Marche. It’s the Milan – modern, organized, clean and rich – of the province. The old centro is vibrant and well maintained. The surrounding suburbs are modern and development is controlled and well managed.
The old city-center was full of bancarelle – vendor-booths to celebrate La Festa del Duca. We got there as the vendors were setting up. (All the stalls used bales of hay to mark their perimeters. Guess it’s to go with the medieval look.) In the evening more actors would be out participating in processions, jousting tournaments, theatrical performances and other dress-up events. (We didn’t stay for this part of the entertainment.)
The image above was too difficult to resist. (I did take it with the zoom, wasn’t sure it was polite to shoot it up close.) For me, it’s two medieval characters – one playing at dress-up, the other wearing her required uniform; one representing the merchant class of the Middle Ages, the other representing the corporation that ruled at the time. (In the future, will some men walk around in Armani suits when everyone else is wearing unisex spandex and riding segways or landspeeders? Will cities host Sagra di McDonalds or Bill Gates Festivals?)
Urbino’s palace culture gave rise to the first-ever painted images of utopian cities in the form of a trio of intriguing panels, all now known as “The Ideal City,” one of which remained in Urbino, the other two are in Baltimore and Berlin.
Years ago, I spent part of my junior-year at the Universita per Stranieri in Perugia. At that time Perugia was this sleepy, Umbrian hill-town in the middle of Italy. We lived with the locals. And Corso Vannucci – the main thorough-fare was full of local vendors who tolerated us. There was this great bakery/cafe that had the best pastries. The owner was this very masculine looking woman who ran the register. And after having our espresso or a granita-di-cafe, we had to get up the courage to go up and pay hoping that the she wouldn’t insult or berate us. (For the longest time, I pretended to not speak Italian because I didn’t want her telling me that I had a Calabrian accent. Il Mezzogiorno – the provinces south of Naples – were in great disfavor and looked down upon. I certainly didn’t want to be associated with them people.)
Perugia has changed radically since those long-ago days. All the local vendors are gone from Corso Vannucci. Guess Jeans, Armani, Starbucks and McDonalds now rent the store fronts.Urbino never went through this type of transformation. Instead it managed its transition into the modern world keeping the old centro in tack and economically viable for local vendors; its suburbs orderly; its new construction architecturally cohesive; and its university for Italians. It bills itself as la citta ideale – the ideal city.
Everywhere in Urbino is an energy that you find in all growing, vibrant cities. The streets are free of filth; the medieval walls are pointed and cleaned; the old city is full of people; the cafes and bars cater to the locals rather than the tourists.
The above tag is from an exhibit – La città ideale, l’utopia del Rinascimento a Urbino tra Piero della Francesca e Raffaello – The ideal city. The Renaissance utopia in Urbino from the time of Piero della Francesca to Raphael.
We are leaving La Tavola Marche and heading to Bologna. I wanted that iconic “Italians in the window” shot, so I asked Ashley if she would take the pic. We are leaning out of the dining-room window looking down onto the courtyard, the outside dining space. (I need to explain the close-up feature of the camera. All the people that I asked to take our pic never zoomed in. Are they uncomfortable with the big camera?) Ours was their largest unit. We had two large bedrooms with en-suite baths and a nice sized living-dining-room/kitchen.
I enjoyed our time in the mountains. It was a surprise to hear nothing but the whirring of the cicadas. And I like my attic room with its tall ceilings, beams-and-slats, wooden shutters. (It reminded me of our house in Calabria, me lying awake in bed looking up at the ceiling. And the twin beds certainly stirred the old synapse awake.) The shutters stayed shut all day to keep out the blistering sun, but at night I kept them partially opened to let in the cool night breezes. (I really liked the mechanism that, when open, kept them flush with the outside walls.)
According to Ashley, the third floor was where the family, that owned the house, lived. I find that odd, because the more common arrangement is that the animals are housed on the first floor and the family lives on the second floor. (The only thing I can think of is that it’s a huge house and may have had more than one family living in it. And that the owners chose to live as far away as possible from the smell of the animals.)
We flew into Bologna thinking that it would be a shorter ride to Fossombrone than driving from Rome. Distance wise it is shorter, but we totally forgot about ferragosto and beach traffic. Two weeks ago, it took us four hours to get to Earle-and-Suzanne’s and today it took us five hours to get back to Bologna. This time we hit all the traffic going home after the August 15 holiday. (It should have been a 2 hour drive.)
We also flew into Bologna knowing that we would have a day there to walk around, visit our favorite restaurant, and visit our favorite cheese and salami store. (The food in the Emilia Romagna region is worth going out of one’s way for.) This time there was an added treat. They are repairing the weather damage to exterior of the cathedral and for 3 euros, you can climb the scaffolding to the top and see the city from on-high.
The shot is of the Neptune Fountain in the north western section of the piazza.
The front of the cathedral has no fancy marble facade. The Reformation put an end to the steady stream of cash and the cathedral was left unfinished. It’s amazing to realize that the Reformation destroyed the economy that the Catholic Church had created. (It’s always presented as a theological threat and never explained as the trigger that ended the reign of a corporate giant. I guess Martin Luther didn’t believe in “too big to fail”.)
One of the main reasons we flew into and out of Bologna was because we wanted to eat at Ristorante Alice. We had eaten here three/four years ago and really liked it, so we were determined to get back to it. (I kept reminding Rose that the restaurant may not be there. After all, our favorite enoteca was gone. We resigned ourselves to that loss and had a glass of Sangiovese at a tourist joint.)
The things we remembered about ristorante alice were the antipasti, the wheel of cheese, and the pasta. Rose had kept the phone number, so I called and made reservations for 8:00. (Italians are just getting dressed to go out at 8:00, we were at the restaurant ready to eat. Whenever we go out to dinner, we are always the first to arrive.)
The restaurant is in the old city – via d’Azeglio – and its outside tables are under one of Bologna’s many porticos. The streets of the old city are lined with these beautiful and practical overhangs. Some are plain and some decorated with frescoes. However, all keep the sun off your head and the rain off your clothes. (In the area of town with Bulgari, Prada, Bottega Veneta, Armani, the porticoes are covered with frescoes.)
We began with the antipasti and the waiter brought out three – grilled zucchini, eggplant, and chick-peas in a balsamic reduction. We just kept smacking out lips and I complained about there being only three. Rose told me to just hold on and the rest would come out slowly. And they did. There was grilled zucchini, buffalo mozzarella, chickpeas in a balsamic reduction, grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, cabbage, dry sausage and prosciutto, roasted turkey with potato dumplings, Borlotti beans with tomatoes, and frittata topped with tomato sauce. We then decided to have a primi piatti, Derrick and I ordered the home-made fettuccini with porcini mushrooms. Rose ordered the ziti with a tomato sauce. She complained about the fact that once again she had missed out on getting the really good pasta. And she had. (The problem was that it was way too much food. I’m not used to eating three full meals a day. One thing about going home is that I will be able to get back to a more restrained eating regiment.)
The read this series in chronological order,
click on the category title – le Marche-12 – on the right.
I’ve always wanted to steal lines from John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane and I finally got the opportunity. (I took the shot from the scaffolding covering the front of the Bologna cathedral.)
At 4:30 in the morning even the tourist-packed, under-renovation airport in Bologna is empty. I was the second person through security.
The story of the return trip happened at the airport in Frankfurt. I was one of the first to board the US Airways flight to Philadelphia, so I’m sitting there across the tarmac from an EL AL plane. The entire ground around the plane was roped off and there was a police vehicle at each corner and an armed guard patrolling the perimeter. (The guard had an Uzi strapped across his chest.) Any airport worker coming into the roped-off area was frisked with a metal detector; the perimeter was so secure nothing was allowed to breach it without a full body inspection. There were two layers of security that workers had to maneuver around – the outside layer with the police cars and guards, the inner layer with about 10 supervisors. The police and guards kept people from coming in, the supervisors managed anyone inside the security zone. I don’t know if this is standard-operating-procedure for any and all EL AL planes, or if this only happens in Germany. (I’ve never been on the tarmac next to an Israeli plane before.) I watched for almost 45 minutes and all movements were scrutinized and recorded. Yes, the supervisors had clip boards and made marks every 10/15 minutes.
The trip home, compared to the trip there, was uneventful. (My conclusion is don’t book a trip that has me going through three different airports.)
Walking home takes me through Point Park, over the Fort Duquesne Bridge and then through West Park. I began noticing the oak trees the rigid verticals that canopy these two urban gardens. And today I decided to collect the acorns and the caps that littered the grass under the great trees. (Compared to the oak trees – le querce – in Italy these are truly great trees. It’s a wonder what rainfall does to trees. The oak trees in Western Pennsylvania are giants compared to those in Italy.) The image is of acorns I collected from under a moderate sized tree. I gathered these and took them home. This year they are the indicators of autumn.
I began paying attention to le querce, because there have been recurring references the last couple of years to these interesting trees. It all began back in Calabria, in Conflenti when I went looking for the Santuario della Madonna della Quercia. (Never got there, but that didn’t stop learning all about the sanctuary from my uncle whose family lived in the valley. Also, my office manager had gone down to Conflenti to the Santuario and she brought back a brochure that she asked me to translate.) I had to teach myself the correct word for oak tree, all I knew was the Calabrian word I had learned growing up and phonetically it was the Italian word pronounced using French phonetic rules. (The q-sounds became French k-sounds.)
The next references came in Norcia, the city of the cinghiale – the wild boar. (We ate our way through the many shops that sold cinghiale salamis and other cured meats. In a small park, down from the main piazza, we ate paninis, stuffed with cinghiale prosciutto.) Acorns are a staple in the diet of the wild boar. We now look for wild boar options whenever we eat at a restaurant.
Most recently the word came up in the name of the house we stay at, in Le Marche. Earle-and-Suzanne’s house is sheltered by a cluster of oak trees. The soft, rolling fields surrounding the house are perimetered by oak trees, but these are half the size of the majestic oaks here in Pittsburgh.
The title is from Dylan’s new album – Tempest. I don’t know if the entry will have anything to do with the title, because I’m going to write about olives, One Young World and probably anything else that comes to mind.
This year, the olives came from a produce distributor on Penn Avenue in the Strip. He charged a fortune, but then when you’re the only vendor in town you can do that. Unlike other years when the olives came directly from the growers in California, this year the distributor bought 500 pounds and re-packaged them into 10 lbs. boxes and sold them for $30.00 a box. They are Sevillano olives and it was a mixture of olives at different stages of maturity – baby greens, young maroons and mature blacks. I’m hoping that this will add flavors to cured, finished product. (The other olive story is from 3 years ago – the customs official in Buffalo took the California olives that I had bought in Toronto and threw them into the garbage can next to his booth. A nasty man.) The image on the left is a sample of the olives, the stems on a porcelain plate on top of a pallet of bricks.
It was nice sitting in the back deck, cutting the olives. For the second year, we cut them. In the past we cracked them. I told the story of back in Calabria my parents giving me and my friends the job of cracking the olives. In my head there’s a picture of me, Franco-e-Crocca and Corrado cracking olives on the cement in front of our house. When we got bored we’d throw the olives at each other, but stopped when my mother, realizing that laughter meant no-work and mischievousness, came out and yelled at us.
Welch joined us. She wanted to see how we cured the olives.
One Young World
The One Young World conference was in Pittsburgh this year. First year it was in London, last year it was in Zurich and this year Pittsburgh. (And naturally everyone is surprised. Will I live long enough to have Pittsburghers realized what they have here? To realize that the rest of the world understands what we have better than the locals do?) The keynote at the conference was President Bill Clinton.
The conference featured an educational component and they invited three local groups who represent educational reform to speak to the delegates. City High hosted the session. There I was on a Saturday afternoon hosting a bunch of “children” from all over the world who had come to my school to see what we are doing. (Propel Schools and the Pittsburgh Public Schools were also invited and I hosted it.) The person from Propel and the person from Pittsburgh Public Schools were examples of groups that adopted many initiatives and procedures we’ve been doing at City High for 10 years. So when it was my turn it was fun to break the mold – the old man as a young thinker – and to realize we at City High are the trailblazers. There I was, one of the grandfathers of school reform in Pittsburgh. It was a dark illumination.
Today on my way home I had the D700 with an old, used 70-210, f/4.5 lens. (A great piece of glass.) I’m having to learn this lens, because there is no manual. So every chance I get I shoot with it.
Also, I’m shooting Manual, but that is somewhat misleading given that the lens a fixed f/4.5. The image on the right is really a slice of a larger shoot. I was trying to capture that fading sun, but in the larger image the surroundings just got blacked out. And in the center of the black was this soft silhouette. (The only thing I did in Photoshop was crop it to its current size.)
I was on the Fort Duquesne Bridge going home to the North Side and I looked across and saw the sun coloring the tops of the buildings over in Allegheny West. (The buildings are on the horizon.) The steeple is Calvary United Methodist a Tiffany decorated church. (It looks like a European landscape.)
In a time of politics, an old Italian is putting up an image of old glory.Let’s hold the snickering down to a whisper. It was an artistic decision. The reason the pic is here is because I like the composition. I’m working with an old lens – 70-210, f/4.5 – and am amazed what I can get from it. (Yes, I took many shots to get one that worked.)
I’m in Point State Park, walking home and annoyed that I missed the sun again. (I’ve been trying to get to the blazing trees, and have now missed two days of shooting.) But over Mount Washington the sky is dramatic and I’m shooting at it repeatedly, hoping to capture the rays of the setting sun. So when I got a pic with the rays, who cares that the flag ended up in the composition. (Sarcastic and utilitarian to the end.)
The presidential election is 10 days away; is America going to stumble because she afraid to be inclusive? Is she going to lean backwards believing that going back is the way to move forward?
New York Times – Opinion
The Self-Destruction of the 1 Percent
By CHRYSTIA FREELAND
Published: October 13, 2012
In the early 14th century, Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe. At the heart of its economy was the colleganza, a basic form of joint-stock company created to finance a single trade expedition. The brilliance of the colleganza was that it opened the economy to new entrants, allowing risk-taking entrepreneurs to share in the financial upside with the established businessmen who financed their merchant voyages.
Venice’s elites were the chief beneficiaries. Like all open economies, theirs was turbulent. Today, we think of social mobility as a good thing. But if you are on top, mobility also means competition. In 1315, when the Venetian city-state was at the height of its economic powers, the upper class acted to lock in its privileges, putting a formal stop to social mobility with the publication of the Libro d’Oro, or Book of Gold, an official register of the nobility. If you weren’t on it, you couldn’t join the ruling oligarchy.
The political shift, which had begun nearly two decades earlier, was so striking a change that the Venetians gave it a name: La Serrata, or the closure. It wasn’t long before the political Serrata became an economic one, too. Under the control of the oligarchs, Venice gradually cut off commercial opportunities for new entrants. Eventually, the colleganza was banned. The reigning elites were acting in their immediate self-interest, but in the longer term, La Serrata was the beginning of the end for them, and for Venetian prosperity more generally. By 1500, Venice’s population was smaller than it had been in 1330. In the 17th and 18th centuries, as the rest of Europe grew, the city continued to shrink.
The story of Venice’s rise and fall is told by the scholars Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, in their book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty,” as an illustration of their thesis that what separates successful states from failed ones is whether their governing institutions are inclusive or extractive. Extractive states are controlled by ruling elites whose objective is to extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Inclusive states give everyone access to economic opportunity; often, greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity, which creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness.
The history of the United States can be read as one such virtuous circle. But as the story of Venice shows, virtuous circles can be broken. Elites that have prospered from inclusive systems can be tempted to pull up the ladder they climbed to the top. Eventually, their societies become extractive and their economies languish.
That was the future predicted by Karl Marx, who wrote that capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction. And it is the danger America faces today, as the 1 percent pulls away from everyone else and pursues an economic, political and social agenda that will increase that gap even further — ultimately destroying the open system that made America rich and allowed its 1 percent to thrive in the first place.
The entire article can be found at: The Self-Destruction of the 1 Percent
This is the third image using the 70-210, f/4.5 lens. (Now I have to figure out why I’m using the jet plane title.) Think I want to continue the political harangue of the previous post. And inside the aggressive ramblings is the fantasy of leaving and taking the same road Stein and Toklas took to Paris; the road that led them back to the old world; the road that led them to being expats.
America is a different place than when I first come south in the early seventies. The feelings of joint enterprise, of being in it together are gone. We are a nation of I’s with our iPhone and iPads and iTunes, and iBooks and iCars and iHouses. The media is littered with programs where the celebrity’s name is the cache – the drawing card. We seem to not care about anything except things that entertainment us. (It’s not a presidential race, it’s an entertainment event where the gaffes and missteps are reported not the substance. We know we’ve made it if we live in a suburb and our living rooms are frilled with dust-catchers from Pottery Barn and Crate&Barrel; and our double-garage stores a Lexus in one bay and an Audi in the other; and our home-offices are equipped with fiber, iMacs, flat-screens, TiVo, tablets and game consoles.)
I don’t believe that Europeans are any less self-centered, rather it’s not a culture or economy built on anti-intellectualism, conspicuous consumption, frozen foods or home entertainment centers. It’s been around long enough to remember its writers and artists, to remember the horrors of greed, to understand the pleasure of sitting in an outdoor cafe in a piazza. It’s been around long enough to remember its adolescence – the 1900’s.
This far inland Hurricane Sandy proved a whimper.I took the pic last week and by now behind the storm-soaked clouds there’s a full moon.
I’m continuing with the set of images using the 70-210, f/4.5 lens. I’m looking up at the ramps for Interstate 376-South. I like the progression from the yellowish haze of the setting sun, to the pewter sky holding an almost full-moon, to the dark and empty gray.
Today is Connie’s b-day. She’s 57. The image below is from high school.
It’s funny to remember back to when she was born. The memories are scattered – I remember going upstairs to my parents’ bedroom and finding my mother in bed holding the new baby. The baby was all wrapped up in swaddling and looked very contained and quiet. I don’t remember if I was allowed to hold the new baby. I guess at 6 it wasn’t an option.
I also remember being allowed to use the outside stairs to go up to visit my mom and the new baby. I remember pushing the big door and it opened. At one time our house must have been two separate apartments and the outside steps, to the second floor, remained. We never used them, but the midwife la levatrice had used them when she came to the house. I remember telling my friends, for days afterwards, that if la levatrice came to your house she brought you a new baby.
My friends and I ran up and down these outside steps; we played cards on the narrow ledges; we played castles and knights on the landings; and from the very top steps, we spied on the neighbors. But the door to my parents’ bedroom was always locked except now that la levatrice was visiting. The only other time the door was open was at Christmas. My dad would get us a small pine tree from La Sila and put it up in this upstairs bedroom on top of his dresser. Friends and relatives would bring oranges with stems, torrone in cellophane and chocolates tied with ribbon to hang on the tree. For these holiday visits, the big second-floor door would be open. (On Christmas day I was allowed to eat all the tree decorations.)
I’m trying to continue the commemoration of this most solemn of days. In Italian it is identified as Commemorazione dei Defunti. In my Italian elementary reader, the story for November 2 is about a dad explaining to his children the culture of the dead. The feast required us all to make a pilgrimage to the cemetery.
This summer in the mountains of Le Marche I shot a cemetery that was no longer in use. (The farm families have abandoned the rural cemeteries and have started to bury their loved ones in the more modern, bigger cemeteries on the outskirts of the towns that the farms surround.) The small chapel on the left was holy in its simplicity. It had been deconsecrated, but the silence evoked the stillness, the sanctity of the campo santo. (The common term for cemetery is Camposanto, or Campo Santo – holy field. It’s an ancient term suggesting that Christian cemeteries were originally built on soil from Golgotha brought back to Italy by the Crusaders.)
My first cemetery experience outside of Aprigliano was my grandmother dying in Sault Ste Marie. (When you move to a new country the young immigrate. And for almost 20 years no one in my family died. My grandparents were in their 60’s, my parents in their 40’s and then we the kids were next. All the old family members were back in Calabria and even though my parents would tell us when someone died, I had started to forget who many of these people were and someone dying back in Calabria was such a distant occurrence that I could forget its impact.) I remember the holding chapel where we left my grandmother’s coffin. It was a damp moldy space. I don’t know why we did not have a grave-side ceremony. The holding chapel was nothing like the one in the pic.
This November 2, I remember Salvatore DeFazio. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine.
Grenadier Pond is in the south-west quadrant of High Park and also forms the Park’s south-west boundary. Frank and I walked the trail from the baseball diamonds and hockey rink down to The Queensway. (Naturally I went on about the British nomenclature that still lingers in Canada. Grenadier Pond, how much more British can you get? Oh, I forgot The Queensway, the QEW Expressway, The Kingsway.) The Pond was a pleasant surprise. The woman in the picture is taking a picture of the ducks with her cell.
On the opposite shore and up the embankment sat a line of upscale homes – the houses of Grenadier Heights. This neighborhood, south of Bloor is one of the fancy west-end enclaves. High Park is surrounded by quiet, upscale neighborhoods. Also a surprise was the supposed safety of the park. (In America many urban parks are bordered by unsafe neighborhoods. And the parks are scary along these boundaries.) The people we saw on the trails all seemed, like us, out on an afternoon walk. (Toronto is such a diverse city. I really enjoy the mix.)
My grandparents lived north-west of the Park on Jane Street. (In those days, Italians did not live in this part of Toronto. My grandparents were the only Italian immigrants in this German, English section of town. In recent years, Czechoslovakian immigrants have taken over many of the stores along Bloor.) I remember my mother and I walking from Jane, down Bloor to the Park. (My grandparents were very proud of their proximity to High Park.)
and the years are rolling by me … i am older than i once was, younger than i’ll be
I started traveling to Toronto on my own, back in the late 60’s when I was in high-school. (There’s a picture of me, a very young man, at the Sault Ste Marie airport with my tennis-racket heading out to Toronto. Frank and Ron are there to see me off. It’s dated June 24, 1967.) In those days, I was going back and forth getting my paperwork ready to enter the monastery. One of the trips was to take a psychological.
I always stayed with my grandparents when I went down. Brother Lucien would come get me at my grandparents and take me to the Christian Brothers’ Motherhouse in Scarborough for the various interviews and form filings. (Back then Scarborough was farms.) My grandparents lived in Toronto’s west-end and the Motherhouse was in the eastern reaches. To get there we would drive the Gardiner Expressway and pass St. Joseph’s Hospital. The hospital became one of the mile-marker I used to teach myself where I was on the Gardiner. Another marker was the TipTop billboard and a third was the Canadian National Exhibition gate.
Those were my Simon & Garfunkel and Dylan years, when Sound of Silence, Scarborough Fair, The Boxer and Blowing in the Wind gave words to my thoughts. And I assumed that once I left for the monastery, I would never see Toronto or Canada again. I would live my life in America. Not true. I left the Brothers after 6 years but I’m in Toronto on a regular basis. And now, when I’m alone and driving the western leg of the Gardiner, it’s not unusual to turn on the old music and remember another time when – I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.
This afternoon, Frank and I went walking through High Park and we ended up down on the Queensway – the road in the picture. And there in front of me was St. Joseph’s Hospital – the same grey-brown facade, the same squat structure. I never knew where to situate it, because it was something I only saw from the Expressway. Now I knew where it fit. Actually I came away from the weekend feeling like I understood Toronto’s west-end. I have a picture of it in my head; I know where buildings stand; where streets and avenues intersect; where the indoor tennis-courts sit.
after changes upon changes we are more or less the same
I spent the weekend in Toronto and visited with Za Nuziata and her family. In Aprigliano, Za Nuziata lived next to us in la vinella – the small alley-way that was our street. Nuziata’s grandmother and my grandfather were brothers-and-sisters. This is another branch of the Perri family.
When I visit Za Nuziata, I am Marru or Marruzu Mio – an endearment of long ago; an endearment that puts me back in la vinella playing hide-and-seek in the doorways, running up and down the stairs, aiming my slingshot at the swallows’ nests.
Nuziata is the youngest of 5 children whose mother died when Nuziata was 22 months. And her father’s sister – Za Peppina made a decision not to marry and instead raise her brother’s children. The image is Za Peppina in front of her house. The door – il portone – led into their house. The small opening in the low wall, at the end of her house was the stairs down to our house. There was a second, smaller door into Za Peppina’s on the stairway that led down to our house. I have memories of going in and out of that side-door.
Za Nuziata’s nephew – Gabriele – was one of my best friends. Gabriele, Franco-e-Crocca, Corrado and I were the group-of-four. (In our Calabrese dialect, Gabriele got its r-consonant switched and became Grabiele.) Franco and Gabriele lived next to each other. Our days were spent going back-and-forth between one end of la vinella – my house – and the other end of la vinella the road that led to Corte, to Santo Stefano, to Guarno.
Gabe, as he’s now called, owns a large construction company. I co-founded a charter school that runs a 10 million dollar budget. Franco-e-Crocca is a partner in and accounting firm. (Three of the group-of-four made it into partnerships, company founders or presidents. Corrado is the only one didn’t aspire to corporate heights.) Gabe lives in Toronto; Franco-e-Crocca and Corrado live in Cosenza; I live in Pittsburgh.
A Brother and A Sister – Gabriele Vigna and Giuseppina Vigna
The Old Names
Gabriel is the messenger, the angel of the Lord. Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
In old Apriglianese, Gabriele became GRABIELE. It took me years to drop the R-sound at the beginning, but if I’m talking with my parents and we mention the Vigna family – Za Peppina or Zu Grabiele – the R goes right back.
Zu Grabiele’s first grandson was named after him. And we still refer to him using the old dialect. Just as I’m Marruzu, he’s Grabiele.
Giuseppina means the Lord adds.
My youngest sister was supposedly named Giuseppina because she was born on March 19 the feast of St. Joseph. My mother also told me that she was happy to name her youngest child Giuseppina because it was the name of her best friend’s daughter, who also happened to be Zu Grabiele’s grand-daughter. But our Giuseppina allowed only her mother to call her Giuseppi, the rest of us called her Jo’. Would she have become Peppina in her old age?
Coincidence1 – Zu Grabiele’s wife was a Giuseppina. (Her name got reduced to Petrina.) She died leaving 5 small children. Zu Grabiele’s sister was also a Giuseppina. And she took on the task of raising her 3 nieces and 2 nephews. (Her name got abbreviated to Peppinella. And by the time I came along she had matured into Za Peppina.)
Zu Grabiele’s younger son Cristinu – Christian – married my mother’s best friend Giovanna. Cristinu e Giovanna had two children – Grabiele and Giuseppina. (Who were they immortalizing in naming their daughter Giuseppina, her grandmother Petrina or her aunt Peppinella?)
Coincidence2 – Giuseppina Zinga and Dave Thorman named their first child Christian – Cristinu.
Zu Grabiele was born on January 2, 1887 and died October 14, 1971. He was 84.
Za Peppina was born May 5, 1905 and died March 12, 2008. She made it to 103.
The image on the left is Za Peppina, Zu Grabiele and young Grabiele. It’s the same gate as in the picture below.
I saw young Grabiele years ago when he first came to Canada. We met in the Toronto subway. I remember us sitting in the train. I also remember him telling me he was studying to be an architect.
(In Canada he goes by Gabe.)
The image on the right is Zu Grabiele, Za Peppina and young Giuseppina. At this age, Giuseppina looks like her mother. (This is my favorite picture of Za Peppina.) What is the plant in the plastic pot on the whicker seat of the old kitchen chair?
My mom was asking me if I was at Giuseppina’s wedding. I have no memory of seeing Giuseppina in Canada. And I don’t remember her when we were kids growing up in Aprigliano. I think I was gone from Calabria by the time Giuseppina was born.
I began the trip yesterday, hoping to get ahead of the storm, but where the drive was through flat Ohio corn-fields and gray skies; the severe weather was also moving west and got to Northern Michigan by the time I reached Oxford north of Detroit.
There is a storm warning for Gaylord – the middle of the state, an I-75 corridor and a snow-belt area. The cameras for Michigan State Transportation show a snow-covered I-75 North in the Grayling/Gaylord area. (I’ve always wanted an opportunity to use those two names in a posting, guess it finally came along.)
So, I’ll stay at Rose-and-Derrick’s at least today. We’ll see what the roads look like tomorrow and decide if we’ll travel or wait till Saturday.
The image is of Rose-and-Derrick’s neighbor’s house. I couldn’t do a wreath and this was the next best thing – a blurred wreath in the background and bare branches in the foreground.
I’ve never tried to understand the gray-gloom of this time of year, mainly because I’ve always been focused on the long ride to Sault Ste Marie and getting there without hitting bad weather. But this year it seems that the gray-gloom was all-encompassing. Pittsburgh was cloud-covered and everything was a miserable-gray. And today, it’s raining and gloomy here in Southern Michigan. I finally figured out that the season begins with the gloom and end with the sun. No wonder Mother Church decided to re-structure the Roman Saturnalia and the coming of spring. (Whoever figured out to do Christmas in the gloom and Easter in the brightness of spring was a genius.)
The weather is really frightful; we are getting the rain-band of the storm. We’ve decided to stay in and enjoy the luxury of not having to go anywhere or do anything. And Sambuca makes doing nothing even more pleasant.
The image is of the presepio on top of grandma’s old sewing machine, the stairs festooned in garland and me in the mirror with camera and quilted jacket. The presepio is an old world, Italian tradition we’ve all maintained. They’re no longer the hand-made, hand-painted, paper-mache, Neapolitan figurines, now they’re made in resin molds and colored in bland, faint earth-tones. (The Neapolitan angels drape the Christmas trees at The Metropolitan in NYC, The Carnegie in Oakland. And the mangers scenes, celebrating the poor of the world, spread out under these artificial evergreens.) My presepio was a gift from Jo’. One of her friends had gone to Italy and she got her to buy me my manger figures. (The one I assembled when we first came from Italy is at my parents. It’s figures are Neapolitan and paper-mache.)
Rose talked to both Mafalda, my mom and her mom – Mafalda’s sister and my aunt. Both understand the interference the weather has brought, but are confused about the fact that we just didn’t drive up. (My aunt mentioned that the schools were closed in the Soo, because of the weather. And yet we’re supposed to drive up and visit with them.)
We had a great supper – pasta with herbs flavored olive oil, salad and dessert. The dessert was wonderful. Derrick roasted chestnuts out on the grill, in the rain and I suggested we have the Visner di Pergola that they had brought back from Le Marche. The Visner is a sweet wine – wild cherries from the Macerata area blended with Sangiovese and Montepulciano wines. The wine gets its name from the wild cherries know as visciole. Throughout Le Marche families make their own version of Visner. And the quality varies just as the quality of the home-made wines we will soon drink up the Soo varies. (I’m curious to see what my dad’s wine will taste like this year. With him it’s always a surprise. My uncle is more consistent with his wine from year-to-year.)
Even though it has been a great day relaxing and not having to worry about driving, the news is all about the storm and the havoc it is wrecking across the mid-west. We may not leave until Saturday. By then it will have made its way through Michigan. Also, by Saturday, the Interstate should be in decent shape.
The image on the right is of a Christmas sock on Rose-and-Derrick newel-post.
The snow made it to this part of the Lower Peninsula. Detroit was spared, but we’re 70 miles north of the city.
Went outside to shoot some pics and it’s not all that cold, but you can feel the thin layer of ice on the concrete. After all it rained and rained all day yesterday.
The Michigan Department of Transportation’s camera still shows snow covered roads in the Grayling/Gaylord area. And the decision is to stay put one more day and to head up tomorrow. By then the storm will have moved out of the area and the roads should be in better shape.
Leger texted me to say that Boehner can’t get the votes he needs from his fellow Republicans to pass a Plan B bill. I know this makes me old, but I do remember the same thing happening to the Dems when their run was over. The country had changed and they were still running on a liberal agenda. (Nixon was the symbol of the change of the end, but the Dems wouldn’t look.) Well guess what, the country has changed again and the Republicans still thinks that white-men rule. (Obama is the new symbol and there is just as much cultural blindness now as there was 45 years ago.)
The world is beginning to get back to a non-sullen routine – the skies are losing their gray pallor; the winds are running empty; the snows are drifting slowly; the reds and greens of the season are twinkling bright.
My dad doesn’t like the fact that we’ve been stranded by the weather and readily expresses his displeasure. (Even Connie couldn’t leave for Toronto and the Thormans. All flights out of Sault Ste Marie were cancelled yesterday.) The storm was correctly named – Draco. (JK Rowling would be pleased to know that the characteristics she gave her fictional antagonist have also served to define the storm.) BTW, did I just mix my metaphors – The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter?
The drive north from Oxford was OK except in two places – 30 miles south of Gaylord and 30 miles before the Soo.
Gaylord is the center of the snow-belt, in Northern Michigan, and the trees surrounding the highway were amazingly beautiful in their snow covers. The winter landscape was worthy of a postcard. (Draco left behind a winter wonderland.) But all I kept thinking about was the snow storm – what it must have been like two days ago on this stretch.
After three hours of snow-free roads, I-75 became a problem. The right lane was covered with packed snow. Not a big problem given that it hadn’t iced, but the packed snow made it difficult to drive casually. Such conditions are two-hands-on-the-wheel-and-no-music driving events. All the cars got into the left lane and we followed each other down the highway like goslings following mother. And because the left lane was clear, we were able to maintain speed. After Gaylord, the road was clean and I thought, “If that is the worst I’m going to get then I’ll thank some higher power.”
There are certain markers that I use when making this trip, Gaylord is one; the sight of the south tower of the Mackinac Bridge is the other. (Once I hit the bridge, I have to steel myself for the crossing. The span is an engineering marvel and a magic string over the straits, but the roadbed and the low railings scare the shit out of me. The low railings and the missing road-shoulder make riding in the right lane feel like I can hurdle into the roaring waves at any minute. The left land is an open metal grid – supposedly the grid allows for wind currents and thus stabilizes the Mighty Mac. But riding on the inside lane is nerve-racking and feels like the car will slip and slide. But that sensation is easier to deal with than the fear of being hurled over the side, so I drive the inside lane. Throughout the ordeal, I keep telling myself that the trip is coming to an end.) Once I crossed into the Upper Peninsula the road was a mess. The north bound lanes were not clean and I drove the last 30 miles on packed snow. I just kept looking for the steel mill smoke stacks. I-75 ends at the International Bridge over the St. Mary’s river, the boundary between the U.S. and Canada. On the Canadian side of the river is the steel mill.
My favorite room in my parents’ house is the sun-room. It faces the garden and its windows are always curtain-free. It’s also the view that has the most memories.
Behind my parents’ garden is the Coccimiglio’s house. Giselle Coccimiglio was the beauty of my generation. (She was the classic Italian young woman with beautiful long black trusses.) And like all the immigrant daughters was very restricted in who she could talk to and who she could socialize with. (I remember thinking that her parents were more like my grandparents in their over-protectedness.) Giselle was not allowed to socialize with anyone in her class. (Frank, she and I were all in grade 8 at St. Veronica’s.) My mother would tell me about all the kids I had grown up with and she told me that Giselle married some older Italian man that her family selected. Giselle died young of breast cancer.
To the right of Coccimiglio’s is Colleen’s family’s house. We played softball in the field behind Colleen’s house. She was the only girl to play with all us immigrant boys – Frank, Rainer, Ron, Jackie, Mike, Joe, Carlo. And everyone wanted her on their team, not because she was attractive, but because she was the best ball player in the neighborhood. Even Ron with his natural athleticism and fluidity couldn’t hit as far as Colleen. Every time she was up to bat, all the fielders would move back to the road knowing they had to prevent a home run. (I don’t remember any of us caring that she was a girl and could hit and run better than us.)
Next door is Concetta Sirianni’s house. She is this gregarious woman full of bawdy language and extreme opinions. And a welcome breath of fresh air into a very proper Calabrese family. (The two Perri sisters come from families that prided themselves in a sense of propriety. A propriety that set them apart. Afterall their mother came from a family of small business people – lace makers – and their father had made it to l’America and prospered there.) Mafalda told me that Concetta has “buried two husbands” and is now involved with a social group of widows and widowers and having a great time. Mafalda wonders if she’ll find a third husband.
Sitting here drinking my morning espresso, three crows flew into the yard. (I associate crows with winter. It seems I only see them during that time of year.) I quickly got my camera and started shooting. The crow is flying away lighting over the Coccimiglio’s house.
Today I sat down with Mafalda to ask about the Perri family’s geneology.
My grandfather was one of six children – Assunta, Eugenio (my grandfather), Gulia, Emilia, Stefano and Concetta. My great-grandparents were Angelo Perri and Luisa Carbone.
The family story is that my grandfather – Eugenio – came to Canada and sent money back to the family in Calabria. My great-grandmother supposedly used the money as dowry for the girls and to purchase a house in Corte. (My great-grandparents raised their family in one of the torre in the hills surrounding Aprigliano. And with my grandfather’s money, they left the country-house and moved into town. The pic on the right is me standing in front of the house that my great-grandparents lived in.) But when my great-grandmother died, my great-grandfather went to live with his son Stefano and gave Stefano the house deed, even though it had been purchased with money his brother, my grandfather, had sent from Canada. (My grandfather believed that his mother had saved the money he had sent and that he could return to Calabria and make a living using his savings to buy land. Instead, when he returned he found that all the money had been spent. He packed up and returned to Canada.)
When my parents married, Mafalda’s uncle Stefano rented them the house in Corte. I was born in that house. (Mafalda tells the story that she and my dad had missed one of the rent payments – 700 lira a month – because times were hard. Her uncle Stefano came over with his shotgun and told her that if they missed any other payment, he would use the gun on them. Mafalda was outraged, because this was the house her father’s money had purchased.) I never knew that the house in Corte had been the Perri family house in town.
My great-uncle Stefano died at work. He fell while he was pruning on olive tree and the fall killed him.
Assunta was the oldest of the Perri children. She married Eugenio Vigna and there were 6 children.
Gulia married Giovanni De Fazio. She died young and left behind 5 children.
Emilia married Luigi Carbone and they had three children. I visit with one of those children – Maria Lucente when I go to Aprigliano. Maria bought the old Perri house where my parents first lived and where I was born. She incorporated the old Perri house into her house.
Concetta married Peppino Giordano and moved to Pietrafitta the next main town on the SS178 after Aprigliano. (Mafalda remembers the least about this aunt.)
Za Nuziata is related to us through her grandmother. Her grandmother Rosaria Perri and my great-grandfather were brother and sister.
Let me begin with Christmas Eve. We always go to my aunt-and-uncle’s for this meal. (Years ago, they agreed that for one family to host both the Christmas Eve and the Christmas Day meal was not fair or practical, so the two days got split between my aunt’s family and my family.)
My favorite dish is the spaghetti dressed with olive oil and anchovies. The other pasta option is a red sauce flavored with calamari. (They still follow the old Catholic tradition of no meat dishes on Christmas Eve.) The white spaghetti with the anchovies is for the 4 remaining Apriglianesi – Egilia, Mafalda, Ciccio and Mario. My uncle and his step-mother are from Martirano and don’t eat the white spaghetti. Rose and Derrick follow the Martirani and use only the red sauce with the calamari on their pasta.
My uncle always has some surprise at this meal. This year it was Strega – a yellow herbal liqueur from Campania.(He pointed out that this particular bottle was direct from Italy and not purchased in Canada.)
This led to talking about the process that one had to go through to buy any alcohol product in Ontario. I remember the Liquor Control Board (LCB) store on Albert Street. It was lined with shallow shelves and above the shelves were pictures of the various products you could buy. The customer filled out a card with the product name and its number and took the slip up to the counter. One of the agents would go into the back and bring out your product. And my favorite product was a liqueur called Millefiori. It too was a yellow liquid, but inside the bottle was a branch and the branch was coved in sugar icing, clear sugar icing. It was a beautiful presentation. (I’ve been looking for a bottle for years with no luck. Rose said that she had also looked in Italy and was told the company no longer make the product.) My uncle claimed that Strega has a similar taste. I didn’t know Strega, so he rummaged around in his “bar” and brought out a bottle purchased in Italy not at the LCB, and we opened it and had a drink. It does taste similar to Millefiori just not as sweet. But then there isn’t a branch covered is sugar inside the bottle.
Today the meal is at my parents’ and we’re expecting a minimum of 20. And Ciccio has been cooking since this morning at 6:00. Right now the two old people are in the downstairs kitchen arguing about how many will be for dinner. (I had lunch; yelled at them for arguing with each other; (The argument was whether Ciccio should break open his 5-year-old barrel of wine. Mafalda claiming that this was a good occasion, Ciccio claiming that he had no empty bottles to transfer the old wine into.); I left them to their own devices and came upstairs to do this entry. I guess at 85 and 86 arguing may be healthy.)
There will be two distinct meals – an Italian set of dishes and a Canadian set. The Italian foods include capelletti in a chicken broth, lasagna, and various greens – rapini, broccoli, and salad. The Canadian foods include fried shrimp, fried clams, turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. I eat the Italian stuff.
The pic is of the tables in the downstairs kitchen. My mother is at the sink preparing some food.
At dinner my dad got sick, because he ate a bad clam. (I never eat their non-Italian food. I believe they should stick to the foods they are familiar with, but then they wouldn’t be Canadian; they would still be immigrants. And in this family the tension between the two cultures is always a fine line that all of us tread.)
Last night, my dad was going on and on about his cousins who spent Christmas Eve at home rather than join their children at a restaurant. Ciccio was outraged at this break – going out to eat on Christmas Eve rather than cook and host all the family – with tradition. I kept saying that it was OK given how much work it was to host a large family gathering.
The bad clam incident led to a memory dump of all the other times that Ciccio inflicted his experiences on the rest of us at Christmas…
There was the time that the neighbors came to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Ciccio visited with them. They came just as we were getting ready to sit down to eat. The visit got extended and we all left the table hoping that they would get the hint, but Nah, they stayed with Ciccio for at least another 45 minutes. By the time we ate the food was cold.
There was the time when the chimney caught fire just as we were sitting down to eat and Ciccio decided to go on the roof with the hose and sending water down the chimney that was shooting out sparks. The fire department came, made sure there was no chance of fire and left. We all went back in to eat.
The pic is of Christian, with his aunt Connie in the background. He’s sporting a beard. (Connie claims he looks like his nonno when Ciccio was young.)
Connie gave me a new red espresso pot. It will add color to my kitchen.
The British live on in Canada – today is Boxing Day. (By the time I got up, Ciccio had taken down the two extra tables and set them by the stairs. I got Christian and Clay to take them back out to the garage.)
Because the sun was out, I decided to take a walk to St. Veronica School. (It’s funny how my one year at St. Veronica’s – 8th grade – is a stronger memory than any of other elementary school experience.) I followed the route I used when going to school in the winter of 1964. In the fall, I would go through the wooded lot between Douglas Street and the school then known as the bush, but in the winter I would use the streets.
The pic is of the corner of Douglas Street and McFadden Avenue. Ron lived on Douglas, in the house on the right. (Much of the housing stock that was there in 1964 is still there. Newer houses fill in the lots that were empty back then.) Growing up, Ron’s house was the place we would all hang out at. It was where we would meet in the morning to decide what we were going to do. Frank lived at the end of McFadden.
I didn’t crop the image, because I wanted to show the snow. The banks were easily 5/6 feet high.
By 10:30 I was on my way home. I drove the first half today and tomorrow will head east to Pittsburgh. The Customs’ agent was this really nice person and we talked about how I became an American citizen. (Going through Customs is usually an ugly experience.) Getting through Customs is the first step home and crossing The Mac is the second.
I’m trying to figure out how to situate this last post and I decided to play with the idea of memory.
I went out for an early walk, my last before leaving for another year and I was coming down McFadden and there, on the horizon above the pine trees, was the symbol of 1950’s Sault Ste Marie – huge black chimneys bellowing white smoke and narrow chrome chimneys spouting open flames.
My family came to this northern outpost, because in the late 50’s, after the war, Canada was building its industrial base and recruited laborers in the devastated cities and towns of post-war Italy. It almost emptied out Calabria. There are more Calabrese in Southern Ontario than there are in Calabria today.
The Canada of the late 1950’s and the 1960’s was a nation on the move – new roads, new airports, new cities, new suburbs, new universities, new museums. The immigrants, who crossed the Atlantic, saw it as the land of hope, the land of work. My dad worked at the mill and made a living for his family. All his children got a university education and the opportunity to make a good life. (While in college, I went home for the summers and worked in the mill. Made enough money to pay my next year’s expenses. That’s how I paid for Junior-Year-Abroad.)
But modern-day Canada is selling its natural resources to the highest bitter. In July, the Wall Street Journal reported:
Cnooc Ltd. swept into Canada with China’s biggest overseas acquisition yet, a $15.1 billion deal to buy one of that country’s largest energy producers that reignites a debate over the role of Chinese state players in North America’s energy industry.
If completed, the deal for Canada’s Nexen Inc., would mark China’s most ambitious push into the continent’s oil and natural-gas fields. It would give Cnooc a key role in technologies reshaping the energy landscape and open the door for it to operate in North American fields alongside such oil-and-gas giants as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Statoil ASA.
The entire article can be found at: China Push in Canada Is Biggest Foreign Buy
To read this series in chronological order,
click on the category title – Christmas-12.
The drive from Oxford to Pittsburgh has a couple of unpleasant spots, but it also has the pastoral Ohio Turnpike.
The first tension-step is getting on I-75 South. This morning traffic was light and getting on was easy. Two or three miles down there was an accident and a long backup, but I got through it quite quickly. The next tension-spot is the exit towards Toledo. (It’s actually the continuation of I-75 South but it veers west away from downtown Detroit.) From the exit and until you enter Ohio, I-75 is miserable. The landscape is Blade Runnerish. I-75 through south-east Michigan is an ugly environment and the section south of Detroit the worst. The run through the Marathon Oil Refinery area is surreal. (I hope replicants run the machinery?) When I see the Welcome to Ohio sign it’s a relief. I’m out of Michigan.
I-75 through Ohio is beautifully landscaped and the Cable Stayed bridge in Toledo is elegant. Next is 280-South a connector to the Ohio Turnpike. Going through the gate at Entrance 155 and heading east is another marker on the road home. The Ohio Turnpike is really well designed. Huge cement walls separate the east and west bound lanes, and the service centers are new and very modern. The topography undulates through corn-fields and today they were white with December snow.
I missed both recent storms.
Today the snow started coming down early and by the afternoon had left very pretty images. (I’ve been waiting a long time to get a picture of birds in a leafless tree and today I got it.)
Throughout the trip to Sault Ste Marie and then home, snow-covered landscapes made for beautiful scenes. Going up the snow-laden evergreens south of Gaylord were amazing. There were places where I was driving through tunnels of snow-covered trees. On the home trip, the fields of north-western Ohio were blanketed in wisps of snow. All remnants of the first two winter storms. And yet how is something so pretty, so difficult to live in? I hate shoveling driveways; I hate cleaning the car of snow and scraping the windows of ice; I hate the parking on city streets clogged with snow; and I hate the cold. (And yet, I remember a time when winter was about playing hockey on school-rinks and snow-covered streets, going tobogganing down Garson’s Hill, going cross-country skiing at Hiawatha Park. Now, I count the days until I leave for Kaua’i.)
These are collections of postings.
Kaua’i – 2013
le marche – 2013
christmas – 2013
Capodanno is New Year, literally – beginning of the year.
Decided to take a walk – North Side to Downtown and back. The skies are gray, not a hint of sun. (Don’t think this is much different than up north in Sault Ste Marie, but it all feels less claustrophobic. I have not been able to figure out why it all feels so close up north. It must be psychological and experienced emotionally.) Took a bunch of pics and kept having to use a large open aperture to compensate for the gray.
I found the New Year’s hat in the snow on Federal Street across from PNC Park. The brim on the right was ripped off and on the sidewalk. New Years festivities are such a constrast to Christmas. Christmas is family and presents. New Years is strangers and indulgence. There is a great expression in Italian – Natale con i tuoi, Capodanno con chi vuoi. Christmas with your family, New Years with whom you want.
La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
e vestita alla romana
viva, viva la Befana!
The rhyme tells of an old woman who comes by night, riding a broom and delivering presents. Her shoes are all ripped and she is dressed like the beggars of ancient Rome. And yet, she is cheered. (The image on the left is a sanitized rendering of the old hag.) La Befana was the character that brought us gifts during the Christmas season. There was no Santa in post-war Italy. The late 40’s belonged to the old hag. American culture was still contained in The Lower 48. La Befana came on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. The feast commemorates the occasion when the Christ child received his gifts from the Magi.
Before going to bed, on the eve of the Epiphany, I would hang my dad’s sock on the fireplace mantle (His was the largest sock I could find.) and pray that La Befana didn’t bring me coal. Good children got candy, money and small gifts; bad children got lumps of coal. I remember one time when at the bottom of my sock were lumps of coal. My parents laughed and laughed at my reaction, I was outraged. How could the good child get lumps of coal? My mom says that I threw the sock against the wall and cried and cried, insisting that I had been a good boy.
I recently saw a video of a mom and child talking all about La Befana. The best part was the last exchange. Mom asks about Santa and what they had left for him on Christmas Eve. The child answers, “Cookies and milk.” Next, mom asks what they are going to leave for La Befana and the child answers, “A glass of red wine.” My people…
Had to have the sewer pipes dug up, because water from the shower was finding its way into the basement.
The image, right to left – the green kitchen window sill, the outside kitchen wall, the outside-stack that drains the toilet, bathtub and sink, the downspout, the alley and the fence. (Click the small thumbnail to see the large image.) The break that brought water into the basement was at the base of the outside-stack. (Very lucky to have the break this close to the surface.) The reason we were only seeing water is that the break was a crack in the terra-cotta pipe and as such didn’t let waste products through. The water created a sink-hole that brought the water down, and through the basement walls. The sink-hole is where the stack is connected to the blue plastic pipe.
The job is to reconnect the downspouts to the storm-drains and the stack to the sewer line; then fill the hole back up and wait for it to settle before cementing the area.
Today, even though it was miserably cold – a wind chill factor dropping temperatures below zero – the plumbers did all the pipe replacement. The inspector even came by.
The dig represents an even bigger hole than the one shown in the last post. On Saturday, we made a decision to dig to the basement-wall and replace all the terra-cotta coming from the basement to the end of the dig. The new hole is easily 12 feet long and 10 feet deep.
New PVC was also inserted into the 6 inch terra-cotta still in the ground and going to the sewer. Fifteen feet of new PVC went into the old terra-cotta.
The last work is to put back all the dirt. (Yes, the PVC has to be trimmed, but that will take little time.)
Home repairs are a quagmire. I got three bids for this job. The first one came in at $26,000 with the plumber claiming to bring in a conveyor belt that would move the earth to a dump-drunk in the alley. And he would line the terra-cotta with a resin. (Lining the terra-cotta with a resin sheath is for environments with large trees. The sheath prevents the roots from breaking and clogging the sewer pipe. There are few trees in my neighborhood and tree-roots invading sewer pipes is not an issue in this part of town. Also the resin sheath is very expensive.) I did not go with this bid.
The next bid was for $20,000. The contractor told me that this was not the kind of work he did, but given that no plumber was giving me a workable bid, he would dig and subcontract the plumbing. He was clear about over-estimating the bid, because he didn’t know what was involved and he wanted to make sure all OSHA guidelines were followed. I did not take this bid.
The third bid was from a Calabrese plumber that I had used before and who had done good work. I had contacted him about the job back in October, but he was busy and didn’t get back to me until Christmas Eve. We were able to negotiate a decent time-and-materials contract and he got the job.
Day seven has been an inside-work day. The temperatures stayed below zero. The only bright spot was the lack of howling wind to dip them even lower. And the plumbers went to another job site that had them working indoors. I’m hoping that by the end of the week, they will have all the PVC connected, the hole filled, and the debris hauled.
The image shows the hole with the three pipes. The pipe with the elbow is the connector from the outside-stack and into the sewer. (The black lines, on the top right and below this pipe are frozen water. This is the sink-hole that the leak had created. And the sink-hole was steering the water from the bathtub and sink into the basement.) One of the vertical pipes is a vent and the other is the connector for the downspout carrying the rain water. (The PVC lying on the ground will be used to connect the downspout to the system.)
In the bottom of the image is the connector-ring into the existing terra-cotta sewer line. (They used the yellow extension cord to hook up a heater. I don’t how they worked yesterday in the bitter, bitter cold.)
I’ll have to revisit these big-dig posts and rename them. (However, I do like the alliteration and the fact that the ultimate Big Dig was in Boston.)
The weather has messed up the schedule wildly. Something that should have taken a week has gone on for three, because the ground is frozen and the outside temps are super freezing.
Now the question is, will my back-yard be cleaned up for spring? I keep telling myself, that come spring, there will be no evidence of the digging and mess that is the back-yard now. That has become my mantra each time I look out back. The only convenience of the freeze and snow is that the mud covering everything is frozen (The brown swirls on the bricks is, in warmer weather, mud.) and I can let the dogs out into the back-yard. For three days this week, when the temps were in the 60’s, the dogs had to go for walks. Hate that routine.
Last weekend the groundhog saw his shadow and this weekend is supposed to end winter’s grip on the land.
The last time winter ruled with an iron grip was four years ago, and I’ve forgotten how tight and chocking that strangle-hold can be. Well the winter of 2013 is reminding me. But that reminder acts like a tease swinging between extremes – one weekend it’s severely cold, the following weekend is spring-like. One week I’m wearing three layers, a scarf wound tight around my neck, a tuque fulled down to cover all my head. The next week, I’m wearing a sweat shirt.
The week of January 22, the temperatures were below zero. This past weekend, everyone was out in shorts. It’s the wild swings I don’t remember. (In my memory winter was a long, slow march with hope and light coming late in February.) And of course the pundits tell us there is no change in our weather patterns and those of us who think there is must be left-wing liberals.
The cards and gifts of Valentine’s Day.
You’re looking at my desk, shelving, printer table and floor overwhelmed with stuff.
– over 50 cards
– a candy-box in velvet
– a Text-me pillow
– a hedgehog teddy-bear
– a white ceramic box
– heart decorated coasters
– heart bubble wands
– paper-airplane kits
– heart streamers
– heart-shaped ornaments
– three candy dishes
– huge butterfly glass dish
– a primrose plant and
– a Justin Bieber card – It’s all in the attitude. And the eyes. Definetely the eyes.
St. Valentine was martyred north of Rome on the Via Flaminia. In our time, on a daily basis, we drive the SP3 following Gaius Flaminius’ ancient route through Le Marche.
The warm weather this week allowed the plumbers to finish the stack-and-sewer work, fill in the hole with gravel, remove all the muck and clay they had dug up and wash everything down. The back-yard and the side-yard look great. (Mr. Merante came today to trim and cap all the above-ground pipes. Yesterday there was still this tall, white plastic pipe in the middle of the grey gravel.)It’s hard to believe that last week there was still a 12-by-15 feet hole on the side of my house. A hole that went easily 10 feet down to the sewer pipes.
The next project will come in the spring when the contractor can cover the gravel with cement. In the meantime, he will expand the landing, outside the door, over to the new fence. BTW, the flower pot is a place-holder, breaking up the monotony that is the grey gravel. (The narrow area beside the landing was not dug up, so there is no need to wait and see how it will settle. I am curious to see the settlement on the newly filled hole. )
It took me going to Cambridge, Mass. to realize that in the big dig, I had lost the snowdrops; to realize that I used these early harbingers, questi bucaneve, to remind me that winter was waning and the spring sun was coming back.
Saturday morning, coming out of the Guesthouse, I saw these things pushing out from the wet, black earth at the bottom of the steps. Didn’t pay any more notice. Later in the day, the Brother talked about making connections and later still, while writing in the journal, it hit me that the things pushing out were snowdrops. And that in Pittsburgh, on the North Side, in the War Streets, I had lost the galanthus that for years had filled the flower-beds in mid-February.
In Northern Ontario, in high school, during a mad March snowstorm we would rummage through the ski gear for the LF10/Yellow hoping for one last run. March snows are wet, heavy and short-lived. But with enough Yellow wax we could pretend to glide the tracks like we did in January. It never worked. One kilometer into the run and we were hitting roots; two kilometers in and our feet were soaked. Winter was done; the skis needed to be put away.
Today madness came to Pittsburgh and schools were closed, but by one o’clock the ground was snow free.
The image is of the Allegheny River, Point State Park, Fort Pitt Bridge and Mount Washington taken from the Fort Duquesne Bridge.
March has to be one of the most contrarian months of the year with hope and dread vying for attention. (Even the soothsayer gave warning.) Half-way through and we’ve had 600 and 200 weather all in the span of a week. During the 600 lull, and before the warning, I walked downtown and stopped at PNC Park and shot the 1949 brick-marker.
The marker is personal after all I was born at the beginning of that year. And, I’ve want to do a journal entry around it. So, I decided to do a critical events list of 1949 with the day-of-the-week as the lead. Now to find the contradictions…
Saturday, January 1 (new year’s day); Saturday, July 2 (film – fountainhead – released); Sunday, December 25 (christmas); Monday, January 3 (mario born); Monday, March 28 (ciccio’s b-day); Monday, April 4 (NATO treaty signed); Tuesday, March 15 (beware the ides of march); Wednesday, March 2 (mafalda’s b-day); Wednesday, June 8 (orwell’s 1984 published); Thursday, October 27 (francesco’s b-day);
Friday, January 21 (rainer’s b-day); Friday, July 1 (membership in a communist party meant excommunication).
My sister Jo’ was born on Tuesday, March 19, 1963. She died Saturday, June 30, 2001 at 9:30 am. Were she still alive, she would be celebrating her 50th birthday today. Happy birthday kid.
(So what image do I use for this posting? There are many pictures from back in the Sixties when we were all kids in Sault Ste Marie, to images taken three and four months before she died. As you can see, I went with her wedding picture from 1989; the picture with the big hair; the picture with her big eyes.)
On Friday June 29, I drove up for the weekend and got to the house on Arkendo around five. My parents and aunt were also visiting. It had been three weeks since my last trip and what I saw scared me. The cancer had eaten her body. She was skeletal; her big eyes were sunken, clouded; her skin pallid; her speech slurred. She couldn’t feed herself. I sat with her and helped her with the broth. After the simple meal, she tired quickly and Dave and I carefully got her to bed. (We had moved her bed to the first floor, to the dining room.)
I spent the rest of the evening on the couch with the kids – three lost souls wrapped around each other.
Next morning Dave, Ciccio and I were in the front-yard planting a peony. Dave went in to help Jo’ with breakfast. Shortly after, my aunt came down opened the door and told us that Jo’ had died. My dad and I went into the silent house and up to the dining room. I walked to the bed, gently closed her eyes and kissed her.
Last night, we had had one last visit. She had waited for me. I miss her.
I woke to a winter wonderland, to a silver-white morning. The streets were lost under shimmering blankets; the trees were full of new snow; and a sweet breeze ran through the branches flicking wet-snow on my nose and eyelashes. Walking through this white, camera in hand, was surreal. Warm woolen mittens covered my cold fingers between shots. Hadn’t the Druids danced at Stonehenge on Wednesday? Why is winter lingering? Who is giving it license?
The image is taken in Point State Park looking south to Mount Washington. The red parallel lines are the tracks of the Duquesne Incline.
I know the giddiness of the first snows of winter; when big, soft flakes land on your tongue and stir the tastes of Christmas. And I know the relief when the last snow falls; when a winter-weary soul leans into the whirls of spring.
Today, Jadis-of-Narnia looked out her bedroom window and spied the orange branches of the blueberry bushes.
She cried her reign. April is coming and her winter-white is lost to memories of sleigh-bells and Turkish Delight.
april come she will, when streams are ripe and swelled with rain; may she will stay, resting in my arms again.
I was in Sault Ste Marie the last week-end of March and went driving down old Highway 17. There is now a by-pass north of Garden River and Echo Bay and the old highway had become the local road through the small hamlets and reservations along the St. Mary’s River. I always drive the old highway, because it’s the road I remember from when I lived there. It’s also the road with the declaration – THIS IS INDIAN LAND – scrawled on the rusting train trestle over the Garden River.
Parallel to the old highway are the CPR train tracks and for the first time, I realized that those were the tracks we rode on the last leg of the journey that brought us from Aprigliano to Sault Ste Marie.
We had begun the journey in Aprigliano. As my childhood friend said, the walk from our home to the town square where we got into a friend’s car was like a death march. He and I held hands as we walked in silence. Two little boys not knowing what the future would bring.
We got onto a train in Cosenza and the next stop was Naples where we boarded the boat that brought us to Halifax. And from there we were put onto trains to make our way to Northern Ontario and my grandparents’ house.
April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.
Eliot’s quote has me thinking of last year and the early spring that banished winter in February; of forsythia, wild almonds, snowdrops and crocus coloring a March landscape. But this year, my wishing for spring started months ago in the middle of a miserable winter full of arctic air, frigid rains and sunless skies.
Bur as the equinox approached and I began to believe winter was leaving, I headed north where snow-banks still towered over my head, sidewalks still hid under soot covered snow, rooftops creaked under the spring melt, and the old still believed spring would stir their dull roots.
The image on the left is the creek bank and the trees above it. These bare branches make up the bush of memory, the shortcut that Frank and I would walk to get to school when we had lollygadded our lunch time away. (I’m standing on the wall that lines the culvert that steers the creek as it goes under Douglas Street.)
To read this series in chronological order,
click on the category title – kaua’i – 13.
This is a preliminary entry to get the formatting set up and tested for this new category.
The image is of my cousin Rose’s hand holding a plumeria flower which we found on the ground as we walked the suburb south of the Princeville condo compound. I like the 4 pieces that make up this image. (left-to-right – the black, the fingers, the white and yellow blossom, the second black bracketing the flower, and finally the blur of white and skin-color.)
I head out Friday, April 12, leaving Pittsburgh at the crack-of-dawn and getting into Lihue 13 hours later. (The good part of this long, outbound trip is that I get to Kaua’i at 2:00 in the afternoon – traveling with the sun and getting added time whoa!)
To read this series in chronological order, click on the category title – kaua’i – 13.
The flights to Kaua’i were all on-time as a matter of fact got into Phoenix half-hour early, but then had to wait for a gate assignment. (Sky Harbor is fast becoming the Kennedy Airport of the west.)
Coming west is always great, you gain time. I got here at 2:00 in the afternoon and had the rest of the day. (I was done by 7:30 and just went to bed and slept the next 10 hours.)
This morning we hit the farmers’ market in Kilauea. It has grown from last year – many more vendors. Naturally we walked out with so many fruits and vegetables that a woman from California who saw us carrying our stash to the condo, stopped us to take a pic. (The above pic is of our purchases – beets, limes, green-onions, papaya, eggfruit, carrots, kale and avocado.)
Been wanting to taste coconut-water for a while and this morning I went and bought a fresh coconut. It’s a relatively bland drink, but supposedly full of nutrients. (After you drink the water, you bring it back to the stall and the farmers splits and scoops out the coconut pulp. The white pulp was too soft for my taste.) Our discovery this year was eggfruit a fruit that reminds me most of persimmon, but a hard-boiled egg consistency.
To read this series in chronological order, click on the category title – kaua’i – 13.
Let me begin with the beets. At the farmers’ market, Rose and Derrick bought a bunch of beets. Surprising, but I chalked it up to over-enthusiasm. When we got to making supper, Rose put the beets to boil, but had the green tops in a colander ready to fry. What, I had never heard of eating fried beet greens. They were delicious, as good as rapini. (I eat beets with Sarah and Welch, never knew Derrick grew up eating beets.)
It’s Sunday morning and it looks like the rain is on hiatus. Sitting around having coffee and up in the mountains I saw the left arc of a rainbow. Shot some pics, but not the best. (Am working on using Manual with the D700 and Aperture priority with the D800e. Am not always getting the exposure I want, but I’ll never figure it out if I don’t keep at it. So far my most difficult step is relying on the bar-graph that lets me know if I’m over-exposing or under-exposing. I need to learn how to associate the numbers with these rather than the bar-graph.)
The above image is from the lanai looking north. It’s the clouds above the 13th hole.
and yet I passed along the enchanted way . . .
First, the image – it’s the seabirds at the wildlife refuge at the Kilauea Lighthouse Photoshopped into green hues.
Second, the fantasy – the enchanted way. (The title and first line are from Patrick Kavanagh’s poem On Raglan Road.) The island is surreal. One side is wild and inaccessible and the other side is Disneyland houses and gated communities. This morning we walked the Prince Golf Course and it was littered with young men playing in the fields of the One-Percent. The cart-paths were a magic carpet. And walking these undulating landscape you can pretend a new reality – everyone is young, everyone is rich, everyone is white and everyone is straight. The old ghosts have been banished, but the new gods have clay feet. Fuck!
I’m continuing to use pieces of Patrick Kavanagh’s poem On Raglan Road. The title is a line from the third verse.
This was our first day on the beach and in the sun.
The North Shore has been overcast and rainy the last three days so we headed south. (The northern part is one of the wettest areas on the island.) Forecasters promise a cloud free end-of-the-week. But the stone and rain gods that live in the mountains behind us may not agree. (The cloud cover is absent in the morning and at sunset. The image is from the lanai that wraps the condo and provides an outdoor space where we sit, eat breakfast, dinner and hope for blue skies. I took it early in the morning and it’s been tinted and pushed into purple)
The beach at Maha’ulepu is the southern most accessible point. (Last year this was where we saw the kite-surfers.) The road is red clay and full of holes and requires a slow, slow drive. But once there, you are free of the One-Percenters who have turned off their brains and turned on their appetites.
I use this trip to figure out what cameras and lenses to bring to Italy. So, I brought the D700 and D800e. I am enjoying the 38.3 megapixel images, but these two high-end cameras are better in slow and controlled environments. In Le Marche there will be enough situations – churches, museums, mirrors – where I’ll need the auto functions of the D90.
The North Shore was ablaze today. (The image, shot from the lanai at the condo, is the sunset over Hanalei Bay.)
I spent the morning at the Princeville Botanical Gardens shooting the amazing flowers and native plants. I have all these images for a new gallery. It will be my first flowers gallery in several years. It was a great tour with information on local flora and fauna and a chocolate tasting lesson. The family that owns the land is beginning to grow cocoa and making their own chocolate. The lesson had us tasting various chocolates and trying to identify the surrounding plants, because they gave the cocoa bean an added flavor marker. My favorite was dark chocolate from E. Guittard a San Francisco based chocolatier.
In the afternoon, I joined the One-percenters at the pool – distesi al sole.
The trek down to The Queen’s Bath is difficult, but the views from the lava-rock cliffs are amazing. The trail-head is in one of the priciest sub-division on the island. Senator Barbara Boxer has a condo in the complex. The trail is steep but scenic following a stream that trips into a waterfall and then spills dramatically into one of the ocean lagoons. (Two years ago a local was showering under this waterfall. All I could think of was – left-over hippie.)
At the bottom, there are signs everywhere cautioning visitors that this is one of the most dangerous spots on the island and yet people still dive from the cliffs into the small lagoons-pools or dangle over the lava-shelves to better see the giant sea-turtles. What’s misleading is that the cliffs are relatively low giving a false sense of safety. Nowhere else on the island are the cliff-faces low or accessible.
The image is of a hollow crab-casing that some industrious sea-bird left behind after it feasted on the sweet white meat.
I’m using this trip to step away from the auto settings of the D90 and into the more controlled setting of aperture-priority. This has always been my default mode, but I want to become knowledgeable enough with it to anticipate what the image will look like.
make way for other toys. One grey night it happened . . .
We were determined to shoot the sunset and this morning on our way down to the Queen’s Bath we saw the perfect spot for our night shoot. All evening we kept vigil and at 6:30 we took off, (It was a two camera shoot.) and drove down to the fancy suburb. The first empty lot did not have a path to the golf course, to the cliff. We tried the next empty lot and there on the left was a path. As we walked down a woman with a glass of white wine looked down from her cantilevered deck and reminded us that we were on her property. She didn’t get cranky, she actually said it was OK for us to walk through. (Did I look upscale, part of the 1%, with my two fancy cameras slung over my shoulders?)
The shot is taken form the 7th Tee. That is what you see at the bottom of the image. Below us is Hanalei Bay and the sleeping dragon.
far away over the sea are calling, calling . . .
The shot is from the ridge of Waimea Canyon. We went hiking and when the mists moved through the valley there was the Pacific and there was the sailboat. The entire hike was a hide-and-seek experience, one minute you saw nothing, at the next outlook the mist had moved enough to see the ocean. The trail straddled two canyons – on the left the drop led to blue water, on the right to lush green inland. This morning the mist played on the ocean side.
The south western part of the island – Waimea Town area – is large scale farming. You don’t see the black lava-rocks of the north or the hard red clay soil of the East Side. Instead the ground is covered by rich soft earth, buganvilla is everywhere and below the canyon mountains the plain runs flat to the sea. This haven is not a large area and a short drive north leads into desert.
Coming back East and finding blue skies and cool temperatures was a welcome. The seasonal boundaries are markers just as are the snowdrops and lilies-of-the-valley. They are markers I understand and know how to calculate from. (Once the snowdrops appear then winter is on its way out; once the lilies-of-the-valley sprout then sharp fragrances, green leaves and May flowers will fill the void.)
In my family there’s an expression – cal’a pasta, literally drop the pasta in the boiling water. (The old Calabrese is so much more elegant with its internal rhyme and brevity than the translation.) It let us know that the guests had arrived and that supper was imminent. The snowdrops and the lilies-of-the-valley let me track time; they let me know how to think about March and April, about winter ending and spring beginning. This method of tracking is old. It’s from a time of church-bells announcing the Angelus at noon, of fave announcing spring, of hill-top towns using sun-dials. It’s a medieval system that lingered in post-war Calabria. It’s my circadian rhythm in a digital time.
This morning downtown Pittsburgh was shrouded in fog.
And the haze jarred a memory from when I was a child in Aprigliano. It’s late October, and I am walking/hiding in the morning fog, lingering in the heaviest banks, while making my way to Za Rachela’s. I’m late, so I run down the alleys, weaving through the mists, shrugging off my long red coat and wearing only the hood I flap it like a cape, creating swirls around me. I make Merlin magic.
The memory always reminds me of the 1973 Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland film Don’t Look Now with its impressionistic imagery, often presaging events with familiar objects, patterns and colors. (The thumbnail is from the film.)
The city doesn’t have the canals or claustrophobia that gird Venice, but this morning the cold waters of the Allegheny are flat and they feed the mists that I walk through in hidden delight. They lift slowly revealing a spring landscape of blue water and green hillsides, a tugboat pushing loaded coal-barges and a golden bowstring bridge spanning the horizon. The red coat has been replaced by an 800 and the magic is now digital.
We are finally done with winter, the digging, the dirt-mound, the mud and the wet basement. It’s even been long enough for the fill to settle and the nest step is to cement the area with the dark-gray slag.
The first step in getting the side-yard renovated was to widen the platform in front of the back-door. (In the post – the big dig5 – the trough, that had been the far-end of the flower bed, was still there.) The new platform goes all the way to the new fence. The bricks now have a subtle pattern, the big-blue marble and the two flower pots decorate the pad. And two severely shaved dogs, that as recently as last week looked like matted sheep-dogs, round out the image of the next phase in the renovation. (Bilby is in the foreground, Gurl is in the back.)
Once the cement is poured, I will put four large pots with shade-loving plants on the new surface. (I’ve decided to go with the composite pots rather than the Italian terracotta, because I intent to leave them outside all year. The terracotta pots deteriorate when left out all winter.) I’m going to fill one pot with flag – iris. (There are huge cement pots in front of the boiler plant on Federal Street filled with flags and the iris seem to do well. So, I’m going to try the same thing in the side-yard.)
Alarm-bells were ringing
To hold back the swelling tide
Friends and lovers clinging
To each other side by side
In the dark illumination
He remembered bygone years
He read the Book of Revelation
And he filled his cup with tears
When the Reaper’s task had ended
Sixteen hundred had gone to rest
The good, the bad, the rich, the poor
The loveliest and the best
Tempest – Bob Dylan
After almost three years, the doves have again built a nest in the Japanese lilac. (Wonder if it’s the same mating pair?) The hiatus was caused by an ambitious raccoon that had traveled up from the park, crawled up the tree, discovered the nest and ate the eggs. But the murderer has been absent these last years and his crime forgotten by the cooing pair.
I can’t tell if there are any eggs or squabs in the mess that is the nest. Doves are terrible nest-builders. It’s more a bunch of twigs and sticks at the fork of trunk and branch. It’s such a haphazard collection, with no mud and in constant need of new twigs and sticks. (The bricks under the tree are littered with sticks and grasses that have fallen from the badly built nest.) Over the weekend, when no bird is roosting, I’ll check for eggs or squabs. (One squab has already fallen out and Gurl almost made a meal of the dead baby.)
The image is through the glass at the back of the Chapel of the Transfiguration at Emery House. (I’m outside, shooting into the chapel.) So, what can you see – my head, red azaleas, outside steps, green hillside. Inside, on the left is a schefflera, (The superimposed ferns are outside, behind me and reflected in the glass.) then the altar with candles, a wooden statue of Francis of Assisi, mother-in-law’s tongues, chapel chairs, philodendron leaves. The layers in this image are what I like best especially the steps that cascade through the middle.
The post-title is from the 1961 Ingmar Bergman film of the same title. And he took it from 1 Corinthians 13, verse 12. Through a Glass Darkly is the first film in his Silence of God trilogy. I don’t like Paul’s New Testament diatribes, but I like Bergman’s films. The old construct is from the King James. The modern translation – Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror – turn this prepositional diamond into dollar-store bling.
The seasons in Newburyport, Massachusetts are about two weeks behind Western PA.
I’m walking the trails on the Emery House property through meadows full of yellow dandelion and dandelion seed-heads. And low to the ground another genus sprouts among the tall green grasses. The white petals are wet with dew, they twinkle in the morning light. (I had thought of bringing my iPod, but once I was out in the sunlight, hearing the birds, the iPod would have been the antithesis to the naturalness around me.)
The western sky glowed with the setting sun. We had just sung Compline and I was walking the road back to the cottages and decided that I needed to shoot the evening clouds. Clouds laced with the fading light of day.
After Compline, The Great Silence begins. There’s a map in the office of Emery House designating the area where The Great Silence is to be observed. (Did the monks in medieval Europe have a map delineating where one could talk?) It’s amazing to me that I am on a 150 acre farm north of Boston, in Yankee, Protestant New England following Catholic monastic rhythms.
maker of all to you we pray. that with your ever watchful love, you guard and keep us from above.
help and defend us through the night, danger and terror put to flight. never let evil have its way, preserve us for another day.
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.
in the middle of my late years, i find myself in a dark wood
Title – The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
Quote – La Divina Comedia, Canto Primo dell’Inferno, Dante Alighieri
With the erratic weather systems controlling all our lives, the spring flowering cycle is totally off-kilter. And roses that should have been the harbingers of summer are now blooming in mid-May. Their role as precursors has been usurped. The only good part is that there are roses everywhere. Bushes that lay dormant for seasons are now full of flowers. The ever-blooming hybrids are heavy with buds; the heirloom stalks are dripping with petals; and the climbers have invaded the fences.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to shoot flowers. The micro lens is in its cloth bag and the tripods are collecting dust in the corner. But the 800e compensates, collecting 36.3 mp of data. I’m learning to shoot with the 800e, experimenting, getting comfortable with aperture priority. (I’ve even ventured into using the flash for effect rather than for need. It’s how I got the black background on the pic.) The image on the left was a surprise, but I still manipulated it. The pink middle was exaggerated with Photoshop, and the contrasting black and green were the results of the flash.
My neighbors – Joe and Rose – used to have peonies, iris and bleeding hearts, but a new fence hides the old flowers. As a tribute to these two gentle people, (They have moved to an assisted living complex.) I’ve planted many of the old flowers on my side of the fence. I put the iris in a huge plastic pot and am hoping they will fill it with their creeping rhizomes. My flower-bed that shared the wrought iron fence with the neighbor’s, was removed in the big dig. (I lost the snow-drops in the removal and didn’t realize it until I was in Cambridge at the monastery and spied a cluster jutting from the frozen earth. In the seeing, I realized the loss.) The new side-yard design eliminated the flower-bed and I’m using large pots, on the cement ground, to bring greens and yellows into this sterile surface. The iris on the left is from one of these large, plastic pots. There were buds on the plants that I selected at the nursery, hence instant flag. (It’s only in Pittsburgh that I’ve ever heard people call iris flags. Yahoo! Answers says that the German Iris are often referred to as flags. Well, western Pennsylvania is full of families from old Germany.) I don’t if the rhizomes will bloom next year, but if they don’t I’ll still have the rigid green leaves. In the image, the blurred background, at the top, is the new wooden fence.
I’m continuing to work with the 800e. For the image in this post, I shot with an 18-300 millimeter lens and used Photoshop to adjust for brightness and contrast – the yellow ruffles, the deep orange beard are beautiful.
My two, white-fig trees are full of fruit that should ripen by the end of the month. White-fig is a literal translation of the Calabrese name for the plant. On the outside the fruit gets yellow-green, on the inside when ripe it’s yellow-white. The trees are from cuttings from my cousin’s land in Aprigliano. Sam was the Johnny Appleseed of his generation. (My grandfather and Sam’s mother were brother and sister.) He supplied fig-tree cuttings to any and all family members who were willing to try to grow them. In Coraopolis, Bryan has a cutting rooting in an old dry-wall mud pot. In Wilkinsburg, the Wertheimers have a black-fig tree that came from Sam’s stock. They’ve become honorary family members.
Back in the 70’s, on one of his trips to Aprigliano, Sam decided to bring back to St. Catherines, cuttings from the fig-trees that littered the hill-sides of the family farm. He smuggled back two small cuttings – a white-fig and a black-fig. And from these two cuttings he grew a grove of fig-trees in his garden, in southern Ontario.
The white-figs with the yellow-white centers, ripen in early summer. The tree is not as bountiful as the black and therefore its green, round fruit is considered a delicacy, a rarity. The black-figs are really a maroon color with an elongated, oval shape. These trees produce ten times the number of figs and the dark brownish-red fruit ripens in early fall.
Every year in October, at Canadian Thanksgiving, we would all trek down from Toronto to St. Catherines to gorge on the transplants, the black beauties from Calabria. (The picture on the left is of Sam and my uncle Milio stuffing figs.) There were so many figs that we would eat and eat and eat and worry only about not eating enough.
These black beauties would be gone with the first frost and stories of Calabria and figs on the dinner table would be silent for another year. By Thanksgiving Monday, many of us would also be gone heading north, west and south into the pallid isolation of a coming winter.
When I was up in Maine with Mac, we went into this art gallery in Kennebunkport. It had these great windmills and I really wanted one. But the cost was also great, so I had to be satisfied with window-shopping. Today, on my last trip to the greenhouse to finish off the backyard I saw someone looking at these double windmills. (The place was empty, so I got to see inventory that has been hidden behind the mobs buying plants for their summer beds.) I went over and saw that they were interesting and that the price was reasonable, I bought one.
(Right now it’s in the middle of the backyard, but don’t know if this will be its final placement.) The entire back corner is new. (Originally the bonsai racks were here, but a couple of years ago I ripped out the racks and started putting pots on the ground.) I’ve had to replace most of the terra cotta pots, because they did not make it through the winter. And given that I was also redoing the side-yard, I decided to get new pots that I could leave out all year.
In the mix are two pots of Rosemary, four posts with eggplant and a ficus tree bonsai. The rest are all flowers. (I made the change the summer of 2011. I was in town for an extra week, because Paul had had surgery and while sitting out, I decided to rip out the bonsai racks and began to redesign the area.) Two years later, I’ve been able to create a setting that from year to year I can fill with my favorite annuals – Lantana, small Petunias, and Begonias. The perimeter rocks I pulled from under the Cypress and Pine where they had become lost under the ground-cover.
For the rehabbed backyard, I bought two types of pots – plastic-composites and ceramics. The image on the left are the two glazed ceramics, both have ever-green shrubs in them. The thing sticking out of the ginger jar is a copper dragonfly on a long, thick wire.
The third item is a hollow, blue, ceramic sphere that I bought in Oakville, in 2001 after the funeral. I bought it in memory of Jo’ who had died the previous Saturday and was buried Tuesday, July 3. It’s my monument, my grave-marker for my baby sister.
The new side-yard looks nothing like the old. The flower-bed is gone and in its place is a new wooden fence, a new brick platform in front of the back-door and eventually new cement down the alley. The new plastic-composites replace the flower-bed. (I’ve decided to plant the replacement snowdrops in among the blueberry. They are the only things I miss from the old flower-bed.) The new is very formal, very linear and very minimal. Characteristics that I highly value. And except for the lost snowdrops, a welcome change.
Shooting with the 800e has been a very different experience. It has no Auto option, and so I’m working in a semi-manual format – aperture priority. And with each shoot I learn something. I’m doing a lot of experimenting, using the flash in daylight, closing the aperture to get a darker image, reading the RGB histograms to determine vibrancy. (I really like the results.) I have to get better at predicting what the various settings produce so that the knowledge is intuitive. Instead of muscle-memory, I need settings-memory. Now I just take multiple images deleting anything that doesn’t work. (I don’t know how people learned when film was the only option. I remember shooting, sending the film away and not seeing the pictures for a couple of weeks. No way could I remember how I shot an image.)
In the above image, the Mandevilla Sanderi, commonly known as Red Riding Hood, sit in two old bonsai pots. (The green stake in front of the brown pot, is from the eggplant. For some reason, I can’t hammer it into the ground.) Looking over the various pots, one would think that I have a thing for the color red. Six of the ten flowering plants are red, two are yellow and two are mixed with some red in them.
Perpendicular to, and under the land-bridge that connects the Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne is another bridge, over a reflecting pool, that leads into Point State Park. The pool floor is decorated with a rock mosaic and flooded with fluoridated water. The entrance tunnel is divided into three vaults, and each arc is lit from a base fixture. The image on the left – the Holy of Holies as a Euclidean dream – is the middle arc with its reflecting pool, lighting fixture, back-drop and the seam-line.
Point State Park has undergone a huge renovation – the fountain at the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers was retrofitted, the grasslands in the park were re-sodded and the plantings were weeded and re-stocked all in time for the 2013 Three Rivers Art Festival. Also, the under the land-bridge entrance was rehabbed – plastered, painted and power-washed.
During the Art Festival this middle arc served as a niche for a giant transparent inflatable Buddha – Floating Echo. (The sculpture is the creation of Chang-Jin Lee a Korean-born visual artist who lives in New York City.) The Holy of Holies was desecrated. A rule-religion’s sacred site was violated by a nature-religion’s inflatable god. Floating Echo was worshiped, for 10 days, in this Euclidean sanctuary.
Oh, make-believe town,
Oh make-believe town is a mess.
It’s a mess because all the animals talk;
It’s a mess because they all draw with chalk;
It’s a mess because all the hunting hounds
go no more a-hunting, a-hunting, a-hunting.
The neighborhood children spent the hot humid hours, drawing on all the sidewalks on this side of the street. (The tableau included many other items, but nothing as distinct as this drawing.) And I had just purchased Make-Believe Town from the Peter Paul and Mommy album, so I went out and shot the side-walk art. As the adult/spectator, I want to know: why is the left leg and the space in between pink; is he wearing a hat; is that a dollar sigh on his shirt; why does he have only six fingers, but two thumbs? And why can’t I draw with big fat chalk on the sidewalk? Because I would pick yellow and blue chalk for my figures. But I may have answered my own questions with that initial identifier.
In my grammar-school basal reader, the story about the Canadian prairies had a drawing of a mother quail, followed by her brood, walking through wheat fields. For whatever reason, that image has stayed with me all these years. I have no idea what the story was about, but the picture is vivid in my memory. I think I tried to read the story, but the memory impression is that it was boring and a disappointment compared to the vibrancy of the picture. The earth tones, the brown-orange plumage the golden wheat were all beautiful – a romantic impression of the far away prairies. (I think the image referenced some seminal memory of wheat fields, full of poppies, in Calabria.)
Last Friday, a number of creatures made their way into our backyard. There was the outside cat that decided to curl up under the hose-box. A family of quail that took over my neighbor’s back-yard. There were two adults and four large chicks. Two of them decided to fly up onto the top of the fence. (I wonder if the cat was really stalking dinner hoping the immature cheepers would jump down into my yard.)
I’ve always loved hollyhocks, and yet have never been able to grow them. In Sault Ste Marie, down on Wallace Terrace and Korah Road lived an old Italian lady and the perimeter of her double lot was planted with hollyhocks. These solitary, fuzzy, tall plants marked the borders of her property. I could never get up close, there was a wide ditch between the sidewalk and her fence. And the hollyhocks were on her side of the wooden slats.
I don’t like the modern incarnations – the double hollyhocks. Just try and find the old plants. The nurseries assume that if someone is going to plant hollyhocks, they would want the doubles, the full bloom variety. They are no longer the simple farm flowers of old. To me they’re addicts nursed on the chemical tit of modern agri-business. (The hollyhock is native to the far East. In Japan it’s incorporated into the official seal of the Tokugawa shogunate.)
I like the buds as much as I like the paper-thin flowers. The buds remind me of hazelnut pods. (Another of those instances where an item pulls out the primal memories of childhood. But these memories are all mixed up; they are in pieces jigged together to form new pictures. There are image-pieces from growing up in Aprigliano and collecting hazelnut husks; there are image-memories of drying the hazelnuts at Christmas in order to play with them. We would roll them down a ramp. You kept rolling them and rolling them hoping one would hit. If one hit, you got to collect and keep all the nuts on the floor.)
This will serve as the prologue for the journal entries of the 2013 trip to Le Marche.
It’s early June and I’m exactly two months away from leaving for Rome, but I want to tell the story of the horror that is booking through Alitalia.
Back in October, we booked three seats from Toronto to Rome to Ancona. We would be flying Alitalia all the way. But, the tickets were booked through Delta. (We were willing to drive to Toronto so that we could fly into Ancona.) We’ve been experimenting with flying into smaller cities to see if we can make the trip to Isola di Fano shorter and easier. Last year, we flew into Bologna but that became an experience we never want to repeat. Unknown to us foreigners, Bologna is the entry point for vacationers going to the Adriatic beaches. First it took us 4 hours to get through the rent-a-car line and then a trip that should have taken an hour-and-a-half took us 5 because of beach traffic between Bologna and Rimini. For this year we settled on Ancona, believing that we would not hit beach traffic.
Ticketing was a bit difficult, but the Delta agent got us seats and just asked that we check with Alitalia to confirm the seats between Rome and Ancona. By the end of November we had all our seats. (I was a bit anxious, just because it had been a lot of work to get the tickets. And in Kaua’i we agreed to touch base with Delta and make sure everything was on track for the August trip.) Last week, Rose got a phone call saying that the Rome – Ancona leg of the trip had been cancelled by Alitalia. The next couple of days were horrible. She called Delta repeatedly, but they had no access to Alitalia’s new partner for flights between Rome and Ancona. Alitalia would not help, insisting that the ticket was booked through Delta and therefore Delta was obligated to fix the problem. (I even spent a couple of hours at the Pittsburgh airport with an agent to see if she could help. Nothing!) Delta could not get seats from Alitalia, and Alitalia would not let us book on its new partner. (We had already booked a rent-a-car at the Ancona airport. We had already booked hotel rooms for the Saturday before the trip home.) Alitalia refused to help in anyway shape or form and no one at Delta knew how to get to Alitalia. Delta’s option was to refund the ticket.
After much cursing and swearing, we agreed that we would not win against Alitalia and that we had to re-group and figure out how to minimize our financial losses. Rose came up with an absolutely elegant solution. She re-booked the three seats through Delta. I’m flying from Pittsburgh to Detroit, meeting up with Rose and Derrick in Detroit and then fly on to Rome. The return is the same. So we don’t have to drive to Toronto, pay airport parking for two weeks and then drive home. In Rome we will pick up a car and drive the 3 hours to Isola di Fano.
Last summer we walked into this church in Pesaro and taped to the podium was this wonderful poster – Tu sei bellezza – announcing the pilgrimage from Loreto to Assisi. When I got home and did some research, I found that the walk is an annual event sponsored by the Frati Minori d’Italia – Franciscan Brothers of Italy. The poster is what I was amazed by – its design, its concept, its colors, its use of the Gothic Annunciation to frame the title – Tu sei bellezza – You are beauty. Every year in late July, early August the pilgrimage goes from a religious center in central Italy to Assisi. Given that the 2012 walk went from Loreto to Assisi, using Mary in the poster was correct, consistent and celebratory. The designer of the poster cropped the figure of the Virgin from the altar piece – Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansanus – by the Italian Gothic artists Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi. The poster is built around the cropped image of the reluctant young woman receiving Gabriel’s announcement in her study. The altarpiece has the following words coming out of Gabriel’s mouth – Ava gratia plena Dominus tecum (Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee).
This year’s poster announces Chi Crede Cammina – Who Believes, Walks. It features two figures, a young person and a Friar with back-packs, walking on shallow water. In its Italian incarnation the title is all about alliteration. Each word begins with a hard c sound. (BTW, the titles of both the 2012 and 2013 posters use a 6 syllable phrase. Tu sei bellezza is six syllables, Chi crede cammina is six syllables.)
This post is really about the differences between our American approach to religion and the Italians’ view-point. In American, religion is about God and Jesus, superiority, it’s about pointing out others’ faults, it’s about voting against, it’s about Puritan self-righteousness, it’s about the rich being God’s favorites, it’s about suppressing women, it’s about paternalism, it’s white, it’s about social division, it’s about separation, it’s about rejection. It’s not about loving your neighbor, it’s not about taking care of the poor, it’s not about contemplation, it’s not about prayer, it’s not about self-sacrifice, it’s not about ritual, it’s not about holiness, it’s not about Mary, it’s not about Joseph, it’s not about the saints. And it’s certainly not about art. As a matter of fact art and artists are viewed as anti-religion in America.
The Frati Minori are hiring some amazing artists to create art that will publicize the annual pilgrimage. American churches use artists to blow up images of fetuses that are carried in rallies. Posters are homemade and announce doom and gloom or personal hatreds. None of the images of American Christianity are about beauty, inclusiveness, humanity, self-sacrifice, self-reflection.
In the back-yard, on the left side of the path, are three trees – the white fig, the cedar and the pine. The fig is from Calabria, the cedar and the pine began as bonsai. The pine still has its small decorative pot. The white fig produced a bumper crop this year, the cedar stands sentinel and the pine leans right, trying for wind-swept.
I left the writing long enough to go out back and hack off a huge limb that interfered with the wind-swept alignment. And it’s put-out-garbage night so I hid the sap-seeping branches in a steel-strong bag and threw it into the dispose pile. No one will know I ripped a limb from its trunk, chopped it into small pieces and stuffed the severed branches into plastic bags.
The heavy snow-falls, of the last two winters, have required that I put some kind of support under the wind-swept arm. Back in November I put a piece of wolmanized under the reaching branch. It totally destroyed the feng shui of the back-yard. (Controlled nature and pressurized lumber don’t mix.) So, I’ve been looking for alternatives and opportunities to replace the green-glowing two-by-four. I’ve been keeping a saw in the car thinking that if I find myself in an isolated area and see a tree-trunk with sling-shot like branches I would cut it down. In 9 months, nothing has come my way.
A couple of weeks ago, I began to clean up the fig trees getting rid of any new growth that would not make it through the winter or would sap the tree’s ability to build robust limbs. The oldest of the two trees needed radical pruning. In the trimming, I ended up with a trunk that leaned too far into the middle. I started cutting all the small branches hoping to salvage the thick trunk, but got lost in the removing and ended up with a naked trunk. No problem, I could use it to support the pine tree.
Last night I cut the naked trunk and drove it into the ground under the wind-swept branch. (In the image, it’s the thin trunk on the right, in the foreground, under the green foliage.) As I was digging the hole it occurred to me that the trunk could sprout. Figs are a weed and will grow anywhere from any cutting. Next summer, will the supporting trunk be full of fig leaves? Calabrian fig leaves and wind-swept pine needles – harmony.
This is a first – I’ve already written a prologue and two posts for the journal le marche 2013 and I haven’t even left Pittsburgh.
I was watering earlier and when I got to the Mandevillas all wrapped around the Magdalena statue, I had to get the camera. (The sculpture is Alfonso Iannelli a southern Italian immigrant who at 10 years old moved with his family from eastern Campania to the windy city. He worked with Frank Lloyd Wright creating many of the Sprite statues, but Wright never acknowledged Iannelli’s contribution.) The hair, the hair-band, the braids, the vines, the green, the cement, the discreet gesture, the turned head, the lip-stick red trumpet.
The image on the right is all about using a lens made for landscapes to shoot closeup. I discovered this in Maine. Mac and I had been out walking the shoreline in Portland and we headed up to the museum. When we got there, I realized all I had with me was the 12-24 mm lens. In statuary hall, I started getting right up to the pieces and found that the wide-angle gave me great images when I shot real close.
If this post is about technical issues and throwing around a dead architect’s name, then why the reference to the Renaissance city of Ferrara? · · · It was August 14, 2011. We were on our third day in this left-leaning, Emilia-Romagna jewel and walking, in the meager shade, to the museum. And there behind wrought iron posts, on a windowsill littered with dirt, was a single Mandevilla – the image on the left. Of course I stopped the trek and shot the lone plant jailed behind rusting bars. (I had bought Mandevillas for the first time that summer and seeing them in Ferrara was a glimpse of home. I’ve planted them every year since.) It always surprises me to see plants in Italy that I grow in my own back-yard. I’m surprised because I keep thinking that the fauna and flora of Italy should be different than what we have in Western Pennsylvania.
The Mandevillas have now become harbingers of my trip to Italy and from the day I plant them, I begin a count-down to the date I leave. (I’ll have to be more conscientious and protective of this harbinger. Remember, I forgot all about the Snowdrops, the harbingers of spring, when the flower-bed on the side-yard was ripped out.)
Next week at this time I should be on plane heading for Rome.
The shot is from the porch on the second floor. On the right is the edge of the new fence and my neighbor’s garage wall that I hang all the reliefs and ornaments on. In front of the wall is the base of the Frank Lloyd Wright Sprite statue. The left of the image is the older fig-tree.
Back in January, the back-yard was a mound of frozen mud – the big dig4 – covered in a blue plastic tarp. Today, it’s totally green and overgrown with fig-trees, Japanese lilac, Cedar, Wind-swept Pine and pots and pots of flowers. Let’s not forget the four pots of eggplant. And let’s not forget the fact that for the last four weeks I’ve been trimming and pruning. The fig-trees got the most branches removed, followed by the Cedar. With the Cedar, I keep removing the lower branches so that all you see, at back-yard level, is the straight red trunk.
I think what surprises me most is the canopy. I’ve been nursing the two fig-trees for years and this summer not only did I get a bumper crop, but the two trees have taken over creating an amazing leaf-cover. No one looking at the image would think it’s an urban garden, on Pittsburgh’s North Side or that the canopy is from a cutting from a fig-tree in Calabria.
I began Friday, August 2 by going into work. It was a half-day for everyone and there were items that I was in charge of at the morning meeting. Got home by noon, had a quick lunch and got ready to leave. (Dan and Ellen drove me to the airport.) And given that I like going early, I got to the gate two hours before departure. We boarded on time and then began the nightmare. First, the plane had hit a bird on its way from Detroit and that residue had to be cleaned; next we were over-weight and two airline employees had to get off; then we pull away from the gate only to wait on the tarmac for 45 minutes; by this time the couple behind me who had been on the phone to the airline trying to figure out if they were going to make their connection in Detroit, when it was obvious that they had missed the connection, decided that they would rather remain in Pittsburgh than overnight in Detroit; we went back to the gate to let them off. It was now 4:30, an hour delayed. The flying time was only 38 minutes, but we had to get in the air before that applied.
It was 4:55 before we were in the air. I got off in Detroit at 5:45, and began my sprint to terminal A. (Terminal A is the opposite end of the airport. The whole wait-time I had been in contact with Rose and the were just as anxious because we were going to have to deal with the consequences of my not making the Rome flight.) I literally ran the whole way and got to the gate by 6:00. The lounge was empty, and they had to special open the door into the jet-way. I got to my seat with 10 minutes to spare. (As a sat down the thought of my luggage kept floating through my head. Did it make it onto the plane? If it didn’t how was I going to retrieve it? Was I going to have to drive into Rome on Sunday?) The plane to Rome was this luxurious, huge thing so at least the flight was going to be comfortable.
We got to Rome, the line through customs wasn’t too annoying, my bag was at Baggage Claim, and because we got to the rent-a-car before the crowd, we got our Punta and were on our way by 10:00.
The original plans for this trip were to fly into Ancona, but those fell apart and we were back to driving from Rome to Earle-and-Suzanne’s. Driving out of Rome is like driving out of any modern metropolis. Driving time was three-and-a-half hours and we weren’t scheduled to have access to the house until 4:00. We kept debating how to stretch the time. We settled on stopping in Todi for lunch. We like Todi.
We got off the highway and made out way up the mountain to beautiful Todi. (The GPS is totally annoying as it keeps repeating – Recalculating, recalculating …) We actually go in to see the inside of the famous church outside the walls of the ancient city. (The last time we were here, the church was closed and a couple from the UK took our picture sitting on the wall outside the church.)
Parking is always a problem in the hill-towns, and we were practically outside the walls before we found a spot. As Rose and Derrick were negotiating the parking machine, the owner of the restaurant came out to tell us that on Saturday parking was free between 1 and 4. I looked at the place he came out of and decided that we needed to go in there with the locals and have lunch. It was a great first meal.
This year the farmers from up the road are running two tractors. Both the old farmer and his son are plowing. Last year one plowed while the other spread manure. This year, the manure was all spread when we got here. Earle mentioned that they have been plowing every day for the last two weeks. And they are plowing the fields around Earle-and-Suzanne’s. In the morning they are outside the the kitchen window. They begin at sunrise, and go till about 11:00. They will begin again around 5:00. (I want to ask some questions – what is the family’s name, why are they running two tractors, given that they leave behind huge lumps of earth, will they re-plow when it’s time to plant, what is in line for planting, and who do they sell the harvest to?)
The family name is Finocchi. The old man is the father and his name is Fausto;
the younger man is his son and his name is Fabrizio.
They will re-plow in the spring before planting. (OMG, do all that plowing again!)
The sunflowers are planted every four to five years and only the heads are harvested;
the stalks are plowed under to replenish the soil.
The farmers in the valley belong to a farming co-operative based in Isola di Fano.
Also, this year the region is much greener. Last year it all looked and felt dry and dusty, parched. And this summer that desert feel is gone. They had a wet winter and the water table is much higher. The Metauro has water in it. (Last year the river bed was wet with puddles here and there.) The garden is green; the oleander is tall and full of flowers; the lavender is a rich gray and sprouting blue plumes; the oak trees are dense and a deep green.
Monday is market day in Fossombrone. And the first 5 images in the header slide-show are from the there. (The five images are: olives, zucchini flowers, hot peppers, tomatoes, and Borlotti beans. And my favorite is the zucchini flowers. Rose asked me if I wanted to cook them and I passed. If next week they have them, I’ll buy them and make fritters.) The image on this post is the tray, from one of the non-food vendors, brimming with all the trinkets/charms available to string into a necklace.
For the first time in 3 years, we sat and had lunch on the veranda. (In the past, lunch was a pick-up on our way to somewhere. Many times it was something we bought at the Co-ops and then ate when we got to the next town. Most of these experiences satisfied hunger. The quality of the food was sub-par. The only good experience was last year in San Lorenzo in Campo when we met all those great people. The shop-keeper introduced us to Visner and he even uncorked a bottle of wine for us to take away.)
We had bought this great cheese at the market and lunch gave us a change to eat it slowly and with a glass of wine. The table has on it left-to-right – bread, sopressata and prosciutto, wine, sliced cucumbers, ricotta, and various pecorino cheeses. It was totally relaxing to sit and eat and know that we could still get to an outing. (After lunch we went to Monestario Fonte Avellana – an amazing place.)
Today, there will be three separate postings.
– Fonte Avellana
– after dinner conversation with Earle-and-Suzanne
The Monastery of Fonte Avellana has a checkered history. There were periods when it had a notorious reputation. Today is boasts a library full of ancient manuscripts that the monks diligently copied, wrote and acquired.
It is a sprawling complex in an isolated wooded valley at the feet of Mt. Catria (elev. 5,600 feet above sea level) The monastery was founded in 980. Dante, who stayed here for a while, mentions it in the 21st canto of Paradiso.
Today, the monastery is a shadow of its former self. A community that at one time numbered a couple of hundred is now down to under 20. However, the Italian, Catholic tourist industry has stepped in and the monastery has become a pilgrimage site. The grounds were crawling with people who had just had lunch in the refectory and were waiting out the clock, to getting back on their tour bus, at the picnic tables that littered the visitors area in front of the monastery gift-shop.
The image on the right is of the window in the small refectory. All the windows in the chapter house and chapel are modern stained-glass and beautiful.
This has become the signature picture of each of our stays here at Earle-and-Suzanne’s.
We had an almost vegetarian meal except for the porchetta – rolled pork seasoned with wild fennel and garlic. It’s a local preparation and very popular. (I discovered the rind, baked to hardness and smothered with seasoning.)
Earle joined us for a glass of wine and began talking about his trip to Puglia. I suspected that it was connected to his interest in restoring some ruin. And sure enough he told us that they are close to sealing a deal to buy and restore and four-cone trulli. These are the farmhouses of Puglia, where the itinerant farmers lived and worked the fields for the padrone. They are unique to Puglia and their cone roofs are famous. They will restore it and rent it out much like they do the house here in Le Marche.
We will be one of their first renters.
Today we decided to venture close to home and go looking for the pecorino cheese cured in a hole in the ground. Cartoceto was our destination.
We had never been to this area and I kept thinking that it would be nothing like our little corner of Le Marche. And again the idea that Le Marche is really found off the main roads proved true. (I kept thinking that nothing off the SP-78 could be worthwhile and yet today was wonderful.)
Cartoceto is another hill-town and on the ridge. This area of Le Marche is about owning the hill-tops and leaving the valleys to the farmers. (Our area is about owning the valley, because that’s where the Metauro runs, and leaving the sides of the valley to the farmers. Here the water of the Metauro is the currency of power.) What I liked best about Cartoceto is that across the valley was its cemetery. The town’s windows look out onto the valley and onto the cemetery on the opposite ridge. (Aprigliano has the same set up. Looking south-east, the Apriglanese look onto the cemetery.) In the image, the cemetery is at the top of the ridge on the left. We drove there hoping to take a picture of Cartoceto from the opposite ridge, but the cemetery was a walled enclosure with no openings
This year the sunflowers – girasoli – are everywhere. Earle said that they are more of a replenishing crop than a cash crop. The heads are harvested and the stalks plowed back into the ground.
We stopped in a field of sunflowers outside Todi and then yesterday on our way home, we saw a field with yellow heads above Isola di Fano and stopped. Unless the plants are young and you are shooting them as they reach for the sun, they are not interesting. So, I’m looking for a field of recently bloomed plants and a field I can get to where the flowers are facing me. (The Italian word – girasole – means turns to follow the sun. I need to find a field where they are turning and looking at me.)
We went south specifically to see this painting. It’s in the cathedral in San Ginesio.
We walked into this dark church and are looking everywhere, and I spot it behind the altar. We start taking pics, but it’s a weird angle, so I go up the gate and find that the lock is not closed. Derrick and I open the gate and walk into the monks’ stalls and now we’re shooting the painting right on. Don’t you know it, this pretend priest comes in and at first says nothing and then goes off yelling at us. (He screamed something about an alarm going off.) We played the tourist card and left. But I got the shot.
When we get back to Isola di Fano, I’ll add more info about the painting. (The connection here at the hotel is sporadic and I’m amazed it stayed on long enough for me to do this post.) Tomorrow on our way back, we are stopping at another small town to see another rendering of La Madonna della Misericordia – Our Lady of Mercy. It’s a new awareness learning the word misericordia, because it sounds like another word in a famous Italian curse – porca miseria. I grew up listening to the old Italians cursing, and to re-imagine the new word as connected to Mary saving people from the Black Plague, and not to remember the cursing is work.
This particular rendering has a name – Madonna del Populo – by Pietro Alemanno; it is signed and dated 1485.
Ascoli Piceno has the same problem as Reggio di Calabria. Everyone refers to these two cities by the first part of the name.
Also, the people at the hotel kept saying Ascoli with the emphasis on the first syllable. And this morning, two other guests were talking about Offida again putting the emphasis on the first syllable and it dawned on me, that I’ve been pronouncing the words wrong. Also, that once you say the word with the emphasis on the first syllable, there is no need for a second consonant sound at the end. (I’ve been wanting to spell Orvieto and Loreto with double t’s.) Now I understand that the double consonant at the end of the word is the clue to changing the emphasis from the first to the last syllable. The example is Abruzzi. The emphasis is on the last syllable. (It’s taken my a long time to figure this out, but then I’m finally using Italian enough to begin to relearn the language.)
American English generally puts the emphasis on the last syllable. This tends to slow the language down. Italian with its emphasis at the beginning or the word allows for a much faster speaking speed, because you don’t stop to emphasis the ending, rather you are speeding up and onto the next word.
The images is of the top of one of the two matching fountains in the Piazza del Duomo. (An inland city dreaming of sea-horses and fish?)
Ascoli’s Piazza del Popolo is both beautiful and famous. It’s one of a few main piazzas with large, flat paving-stones rather than the more common single stone to make the flooring. One guide-books refers to it as Le Marche’s living-room.
In one corner is the famous Caffè Meletti. The Caffè opened in 1904 and still has period decor. We went in last night and ordered their famous Anice. I like it way better than the Sambuca, because it’s more herby and less sweet. My goal once I get back home is to figure out where I can buy the Meletti Anice.
I really liked Ascoli and would gladly go back, I just have to figure out how to identify a decent place to eat, because the suggestions from both the hotel and the people online were not very good. (I suspect the hotel people were pushing restaurants that they had a connection with and the online people are too jaded to recognize a good restaurant.)
For the first time in 3 years it rained – unbelievable!! After the rain, the sky was a wonder and I shot it from my bedroom window and then I ran up the road and just shot and shot. The red is the sunset hitting the clouds; the horizon is the hilltops looking south-east. I brought the tripod thinking I would shoot the full moon, but I missed it, (Tonight there’s the sliver of a new moon.) but never expected to shoot the night sky after a rain.
We had spend two days down south and coming back north, it was great to have rain and to see the northern sky after such and unusual disturbance. Fausto Finocchi started to plow, but left when the thunder-gods began to argue. All the soil, in fields around us, has been turned over; we live in an undulating landscape of earth tones.
We had supper on the porch and watched the sky redden. I had to run and shoot it. (The last time i shot a sky this red was two years ago in December in Sault Ste Marie.)
Sarnano is a small town in the foothills of the Sibillini the mystic mountains. (The dark-green fungal circles marking the grassy hillside are where the goat-footed witches come to dance at midnight. And from caves in the craggy mountains clairvoyant sibyls delivered prophecies in ancient times. Countless female-centred cults held sway in these mountains at one time or another, and one modern academic points out that, viewed from the air, seven ancient churches scattered across the Sibillini mountaintops replicate the arrangement of the stars in the constellation Venus. Witches, soothsayers, devils, goblins. How could there not be such things in such an otherworldly landscape?)
The medieval borgo with its narrow, steep streets culminates in a silent piazza at the top. There in a small church is a second Madonna della Misericordia by Pietro Alemanno. The central figure is very similar to the one in San Ginesio, but her robe covers fewer people. (It’s too bad that the painting is not displayed as well as the one in San Ginesio. In front of the painting is a smaller one of the crucifixion. Apparently this smaller piece is paraded through the old town on feat days.) In the crypt are two frescoes attributed to Alemanno. (On the pews were the weekly missals, the cover was Alemanno’s madonna cleaned up and minus the smaller crucifixion. Rose borrowed one to take back to Michigan.)
Sarnano had Wi-Fi signs all through the old borgo. It like Gubbio gives anyone in the old town access. I guess it’s the least they can do for anyone still willing to live in its steep, stone paved alleys.
The heat spell may have broken. We can only hope. We even have the windows open, there’s a breeze and the sun is, at times, hidden by huge white clouds. (When the heat and sun reign, the house is all shut and you live in the dark. Not something I really mind, but Rose has a very hard time with the enclosed atmosphere.)
One of the things that I like about staying here is that we can eat at our own pace and we can eat what we want. The Italian schedule of eating lunch before 1:00, because all restaurants close for the afternoon, and supper after 8:00, when the heat is gone, is hard to adapt to when you are a tourist and not used to the rhythms. We usually get to a place close to 1:00 and it’s a mad rush finding somewhere for lunch. And in Ascoli, the two places we ate at were disappointing.
I walked down the hill, because I want to shoot Earle-and-Suzanne’s and the Finocchi’s farm and land to try and capture the vastness of the mountain-side that these two properties sit on. However, a totally different image became the highlight of the afternoon descent. The image on the right happened after I had shot the mountain-side and was on the provincial road. (At 2:00 in the afternoon, no Italian would be caught dead outside. It’s too sunny and too hot. But today there was a nice breeze, so I figured I could try and walk. And I also figured it would be safe walking the busy road, because everyone would be home hiding from the sun and heat.)
I’m on the provincial road and listening for traffic so that I can make sure to be off the road when the cars speed by. I hear a motorcycle and as it comes around the bend I see a young man on a Vespa with no helmet, standing up, arms extended, yelling and screaming for joy while speeding down the road. I got the camera and shot. Wasn’t able to get a clear image as he raced by, hence the blurred one on the right. (He looks a lot like Christian. My nephew wouldn’t do anything like this, would he?)
We ate under the pergola. Dinner was a tomato salad with lots of oily juice to mop up, and a Borlotti beans salad. We had lunch on the porch and supper on the upper terrace. Because the temperature had actually gone down we were able to sit and watch the sun set. The various shades of rust and brown are just comforting and they make the contrasting greens vibrant.
Each year I learn something new, this year I’m learning about fagioli Borlotti. (I have a built in prejudice against beans. In my family beans were associated with poor people and people who lived on farms, not people who lived the the medieval borghi that the Perri family called home in Aprigliano.) We’ve bought a kilo at the farmers’ market in Fossombrone and another at the market in Fano. Last night Rose flavored the beans with a soft sausage from Sarnano. The reason I like them is that they have a soft skin and no bean flavor.
I’m shooting from the upper terrace. The chimney and the clay roof-tiles are on the entrance to Earle-and-Suzanne’s, the second story shutters are on the bedroom Rose and Derrick use, and beyond is the clay hill-side of plowed earth.
Today we traveled to Sassocorvaro in the Urbino province. To get there, you take the road to Urbino and keep following it west into the mountains. The drive along the provincial roads was amazing, everything from Fossombrone to Urbino is new and wonderfully paved and designed. The road down to Ascoli was equally well maintained.
I began to think about legacies. Urbino was a Renaissance center and here we are all these years later and it still is a jewel. Pittsburgh is no longer one of the three corporate centers in America, but we benefit from the legacy of the time it was. The road to Urbino is new, modern and well maintained. (It’s too bad that the roads down south where there in no Renaissance legacy are still narrow, not well marked and full of 90 degree turns.)
Sassocorvaro is a hilltop town above the reservoir in the above pic. It’s a busy place; they were setting up for some kind of festival tonight and the town is full of small restaurants and tourist favoring shops. We seem to be following a couple from Milan the whole time we were in the hill-town. At one point they were talking to an old resident who was explaining where he lived as a young boy. He lived two streets down the mountain-side. (The above pic is of Mercatale, the town at the bottom of the mountain and next to the reservoir created on the Foglia River.)
We had a picnic lunch at a park beside the reservoir and then had a cold coffee at the park restaurant. Nine pine trees were integrated into the restaurant’s interior. The tree trunks were part of the restaurant decor.
Dinner was spaghetti with a light fresh-tomato, onion, garlic and hot spice dressing. We then threw fresh arugula on top. (My dad would be making all sorts of comments about the Americani and how they have no regard for food traditions. Green leaves on top of spaghetti, NO!) We saw the arugula on top of pasta at the restaurant with the pine trees growing in the dining room.
Given that it was a pleasant night we stayed longer under the pergola, long enough for the new moon to become visible in the night sky. We began talking about the next trip that is planned for September 2014. What will be fresh at that time of year? The tomatoes will probably be done, and so will the Borlotti beans. Will we be eating lots of squash, potatoes, cabbage and root vegetables? I kept suggesting that there may still be summer vegetables given the different climate. Don’t think I convinced anyone.
Regardless of the fresh vegetable, it will be nice to be here when the weather is cooler and the mobs are home.
Today was market day in Fossombrone and we went expecting to buy some tomatoes for salad. Almost $80 later, we came out with bread, cheese and more cheese, 4 kilos of Borlotti beans, honey, half a kilo of hazelnuts, and a dozen cucumbers. (Derrick is taking the 4 kilos of Borlotti back to Michigan. This time he is leaving them in the shell and packing them in zip-lock bags. I’m always amazed customs doesn’t seize the various products they bring home.)
Rose and Derrick love the market and I can take pictures of all the various stalls. Today, the cut flowers vendor had some beautiful lavender.
Suzanne was up and telling us that for some reason there are many more people in Fossombrone this August. She suspects that children came home to visit family rather than head to the beach. (Last year the are was almost deserted. Today the parking was very busy and the market was full of people.)
After our expensive market trip, we decided to have lunch on the veranda and then go driving along the north-west ridge of the valley. (The Metauro River is at the bottom of the valley. And Earle-and-Suzanne’s is on the south-east slope.)
We began at San Ippolito another of the Medieval borgo that spires off the ridge. From San Ippolito, using the telescopic lens, I was able to see back to our side of the ridge and make out the Finocchi farm. Next we drove down the provincial road and stopped at Sorbolongo a small borgo that is famous for its snail festival. The valley on the other side is rolling hills and plowed fields, just like our side. Each borgo is situated atop a promontory and looks out at the fields below. The next Medieval fortress was Barchi and the image on the right is the entrance to the old borgo. On either side of the gate are two columns of wicker baskets. Last night they had a festival and these are left from then. In the old town saw a house I would be willing to live in. The house was totally restored, overlooking the valley and the best feature was its walled-in garden. My idea of a house. The garden was like a courtyard well sealed from the world.
The last borgo on the tour was Orciano di Pesaro. It had a modern plaza that was part of the rope climbing museum.
On our way back I wanted to stop at a convent outside of Fratte Rosa, but the GPS is programmed to take us the shortest route and it always messes us up at Fratte Rosa. The white-road back to Earle-and-Suzanne’s was over the hills and through the woods, so we missed the convent.
The first year here everything was new. Last year we explored the area. This year most of the novelty and drive to tourist are gone. We plan market trips and grocery store outings instead. (I guess that happens when you’re familiar with your surroundings. The day-to-day activities become the ordinary.) The following post is a reflection.
I’ve been trying to figure out why I like being here at Cà le cerque. Is it’s location at the top of a hill, the farm-land that surrounds it, the lack of city noises? The answer is the remoteness of it all. (In Israel, when we were in the Jordanian desert, I understood the stories of the prophets’ finding Yahweh in the desert and in the desert wind.) Here I understand why all the monasteries are in the mountains, why all the holy places are up in the mountains. Guess in ancient lore the sacred and the profane chose to live in the emptiness.
Just like Ferrara made me aware of traffic noise by its absence, Cà le cerque makes me aware of all the ambient noises – TV commercials, iPod music, children, elevators, air-conditioners, humming laptops, phone rings, microwave dings, car radios, garbage trucks, highway rumblings – I live with. Here the cicadas dominate. Their mating calls fill the silence.
After a day of touristing, we come back the outside world is forgotten. I stop thinking about the mobs at the Fano market, the demons speeding the provincial road. The earth tones, the oak trees, the grapevines block all the noises from memory.
Last year we tried to go into the Medieval town in Piobbico – the town of the ugly people – and we got stuck on the narrow road that leads into the borgo and we had to back out carefully making our way out. The road was very narrow, there were cars parked on the right and a fortress wall lined the left side. It was a miserable experience. This year we decided to go back for a caffè shakerato – a cold espresso with sugar syrup and ice shaken in a Martini tumbler and poured into a long stem glass – at our favorite bar. (The young woman asked if we wanted it from the machine or made a mano – done by hand. Obviously we asked that she do it by hand as we watched. She got three low glasses, added ice and a shot of sugar-syrup and brewed the first espresso. She threw the espresso into the glass with the ice and syrup, shoved the glass into the mixer tumbler and vigorously shook it. Then using the sieve on the mixer, she poured the concoction into this elegant glass. It was 1.40 euros.)
After our caffè shakerato, we headed up to the old town. It’s a 15 century fortress complete with ducal palace that Holy Mother Church appropriated. The entrance into the palace is now a courtyard in front of a large church. The rest of the palace is the property of the historical caretakers. (The image is of the campanile of the fortress chapel.) The small borgo is being retrofitted with sewers. I can see it being a very tony place, full of tourists, in a couple of years.
I like the Italian title for Van Gogh’s painting; it’s the title of the post.
Yesterday on our was to Piobbico, we stopped in Acqualagna. It’s the truffle center of Italy. In late October early November the place and the surrounding hills are over-run with Italians going mushroom hunting. The above was a huge piece of fabric hung above the narrow street. The town itself was unimpressive, (Other years, we were never there in time to see anything open.) but Rose and Derrick found a butcher shop that sold wild-bore sausage and they got some.
It’s Van Gogh’s title, it’s the name of the town, I like those sounds. (Alabama is an American word with all a’s, but none of the interesting consonant combinations. The cq and gn are uniquely Italian.)
Everywhere you go in Italy there area idols. Holy Mother Church has legitimized all these by calling them saints, but they are statues of things people idolize and worship.
This morning we went to the restored little hill-town of Torricella di Fossombrone. (Last night the GPS took us all the way down to Pergola, 30 kilometers away, because down there is an official neighborhood called Torricella. When we asked the women, sitting around on the benches outside their homes, if this was the Torricella that had been all restored, they told us that we were looking for Torricella di Fossombrone. Rose had seen the blue sign on our way, close to Earle-and-Suzanne’s, but her suggestion was ignored in favor of the technology.) Sure enough the blue sign led us to the restored fourteen century hamlet.
The reason for the titles is because once again, while trying to do something related to a church, we ran into a mean old man. First the fool in San Ginesio who left the gate open and then yelled at us for going into the sanctuary, today’s mean old man told me that yes he had the key to the church of San Giorgio, but he didn’t give it out. What the hell were we going to do, steal their craven idols? He then condescendingly suggested that I take pictures of the outside of the hamlet. Being a good tourist is hard when you want to give someone the finger.
Meanwhile one of the women that was there with the mean old man was very helpful, telling us how the residents had all worked together to restore the houses. (It’s been a 30 year project.)
Pesaro’s main street goes from the old city center down to the Adriatic. At the terminus on the beach-front, the city put this huge bronze sculpture, the image on the right, which has taken on the name of the artist, rather than the name of the piece. This is all helped by the fact that the sculpture’s last name is the Italian word for tomato. Everyone knows and refers to the sculpture not by its name – Sfera Grande – but as il pomodoro – the tomato.
We went to Pesaro to tour Villa Imperiale, the 14th century castle of Francesco Maria Della Rovere, Duke of Urbino. This was a summer-palace/hunting-lodge for the family. The villa and grounds are still privately owned by the Della Rovere family. And the castle is open to the public one day a week during the summer months. The Della Rovere family like all Italian noble families are closely linked to the papacy. And the narrative of the castle is all tied to the story of the papacy in the 14th and 15th centuries. (I think it’s easy to think that Italian nobility, because it is so tied to the Roman Church, is different than all others. Not true. The difference is that women are totally missing from its ranks, unless you count all the Mary substitutes, and the powerful men all wear Cardinal red.) The villa boasts a series of frescoed rooms the last of which is a portrait gallery of the papal court of one of the Della Rovere popes. The walls are littered with men in red hats.
Across from il pomodoro we got on a tour-bus to go to Villa Imperiale. It’s my first Renaissance palace. The villa’s grandeur is certainly a faded dream. It’s claim to fame these days are the frescoed rooms.
The image on the right is taken from the second floor terrace of the new villa. The original fortress is the building on the right. Francesco Maria’s wife Leonora build a second villa and attached it to the original. The second villa is about open spaces – courtyards and enclosed gardens.
The tour guide did a running commentary in both Italian and English. The Italian had all the juicy pieces, the English version was the bare facts. In Italian he talked about how Francesco Maria, from the family that ruled Urbino, moved the duchy seat from the Renaissance city on the hill in the middle of Le Marche to the coastal city of Pesaro. And ever since there has been a rivalry between these two towns. (The guide being from Pesaro was pre-disposed to his side of the clashes.) The two cities are certainly the cultural centers for this region of Italy. The other large cities of the region are industrial power-houses with little memory of a time when noble families held sovereign control. (One of Francesco Maria’s brothers, didn’t like the fact that a faction in Urbino rioted against him because he raised taxes, after all he had to keep his court in the style it had become accustomed to. So he arrested the leaders of the group brought them to Pesaro and killed them. It’s a good thing the Tea Party ideologues don’t read history.)
The image is the logo of a group that is re-introducing, into the small hill-town of Fratterosa, the old fava beans of their ancestors. The young man at the stand talked about how the old contadini, who lived on the farms surrounding the hill-top, relied on the fava bean for a large part of their diet. (Sarcastic me told him that all the old contadini had left and gone to America. He did laugh.)
Fratterosa is on the hilltop on the opposite side of the valley. We look out our kitchen window and its church tower silhouettes the horizon. The town is also know for its ceramics and tonight they are having a festival celebrating both the fava and the ceramics. (Where last August 15 we went to the Sagra di Polente, this year we are going to eat fava.)
The title only makes sense if you know that fava is an early spring plant. You plant in the fall and the seeds winter in the ground. They are sprouting by early April and the fava is ready to pick by the end of the month. (I remember trying to find fava in the Strip, in Pittsburgh, in late June and the guy told me, they are an early spring bean. I had forgotten that, because in Sault Ste Marie the beans are ready in June. Well that’s because the ground doesn’t defrost until late May.)
We were supposed to go back to Piobbico for the Sagra di Polente, because we did not know enough about other August 15 events in the area. However, Rose strongly suggested we go visit Fratte Rosa and we got to see the set-up for their Ferragosto/Assumption event. It looked interesting enough that we decided to fore go Piobbico and go up to fair in Fratte Rosa. And we’re all so glad we did. (Tomorrow we leave Earle-and-Suzanne’s and begin our trek home.)
In the afternoon we saw signs for a wine-tasting in a sub-basement. (Rose and Derrick read the sign and knew that it was free.) We also saw the menu for a restaurant that featured fava dishes and rabbit. Derrick announced that he wanted to try the rabbit. (I was skeptical of it all, thinking that it would be like the sagra we went to last year – chaotic and not all that interesting.) The event turned out to be amazing.
We began at the wine-tasting for the Terracruda Vineyard. (They were running late and it was 6:30 before they took their first tour. I was thoroughly impatient and was ready to leave. The young man running the testing was very pretentious, but he proved to know his stuff and was an excellent host. We learned about Aleatico grapes. And ended up buying a 3 bottle pack. We so liked the wines that Rose liked their Facebook page and once we get home, we are going to see if we can buy it in the States.) Next we went to the restaurant advertising the coniglio – rabbit. Rose and I ordered the pasta, Derrick the rabbit. The pasta was great, and I asked Rose if she wanted to share a rabbit and fava. We did, and it was amazing.
We came back all hyped about our experience at the Fratte Rosa Ferragosto festival. Because the whole town was part of the festival, you go to go from booth to booth and see many different things. One booth taught how to make pasta. And because it was spread out throughout the whole town it did not feel crowded or oppressive. The pic is of the three of us eating at one of the many tables throughout the town. (Two kids and a stroller behind Rose and I got Photoshopped out.)
Here on a hilltop surrounded by the peaks of the Sibillini, the world of work and responsibilities is far away. This morning we begin our integration back into the rhythms of our day-to-day world. We leave early afternoon and head down to Ancona for the day. We stay overnight and tomorrow we drive down to Rome.
I’ve never been to Ancona. (Frank remembers it from his time here and said the view of the Adriatic from its famous boardwalk is phenomenal.) The hotel, in the center of town, told us we could hang out at the pool while we wait for our rooms to be ready. The integration will be gradual – city, pool, restaurants, tourists.
Tomorrow on our drive to Rome we are stopping at the gardens in Tivoli. There nature has been tamed into ordered gardens and water features. (Did Walt Disney visit Italy before creating his fantasy lands?)
The slide show will also begin to change leaving behind the russets and greens of the valley for the formality of urban life.(The image is of the moon on Ferragosto over the rooftops of Fratte Rosa.)
We got to Rome early and headed over towards the Vatican. We decided to walk Corso Vittorio Emanuele rather than along the Tiber as we did back in 2011. The Vittorio Emanuele bridge that leads into St. Peter’s Square has two columns topped with angels. The image on the right is one of the two angels.
Rome is so unlike any other Italian city. Its wide streets and boulevards were build during the Renaissance and reflect the grandeur of that fabled time. (I believe that what makes this obvious is the size of the city. Rome, Florence and Venice are the three jewels of Renaissance Italy, but Rome is the grandest.) Rome has none of the oppressiveness of the Medieval borgos. It’s airy, full of green spaces and giant sycamores line the banks of the Tiber. The river is no dried-up bed; it’s been dammed and therefore full of water.
We walked through Campo de’ Fiori – the old ghetto – hoping to find a wine bar or restaurant, but Rome is empty of Romans in August and full of foreigners. We ended up in a horrible restaurant where the wine was terrible. The only thing was that it was air conditioned.
It’s been 40 years since I was last in St. Peter’s Square. (I visited during my junior-year-abroad.) Back then, the square was grey, its columns and facades tarnished by soot and age. Also, back then you could walk into the basilica; Michelangelo’s Pietà on the first altar on the right with no glass in front of it.
Today, the square is awash with tourists and security forbids entry into the church without first going through a metal detector and then showing everything in your bag. Also, the thing that amazed me was the brilliance of the white stone columns. In the blue afternoon their white luster radiated off the blazing sun. They are white marble, who knew.
My memory of the colonnade goes back to 1954. My family had come to Rome to secure the documents we needed to travel to Canada. After getting our passports, we went to St. Peter’s. I remember having lunch in the colonnade, its grey pillars a forest sheltering us. After eating, we went into the church and rubbed St. Peter’s foot and prayed for a safe journey. We also brought a souvenir of the statue to give to my grandmother when we got to Canada.
Sixty years later, the square is full of Chinese tourists hiding from the Italian sun under multicolored umbrellas. (Orientals under polka-dotted umbrellas seemed out of place in a Renaissance piazza.) The grey pillars have been cleaned of their memories of southerners looking to leave, looking to find hope in a new land. A land of the British empire, a land antagonistic to their cherished Catholicism.
This was my sixth summer in Italy and a bunch of things fell into place. For example, I learned that I:
need to stay out of the right lane when coming up on a highway exit
(After the exit is a very short entry lane and drivers tend to be aggressive about pulling into traffic.)
This entry is so after the fact. It’s Sunday evening, September 8, three weeks after the trip to Le Marche, but because I want to use the pic on the right, I’m pretending time travel back to Saturday, August 3 …
We’re driving from Rome to Earle-and-Suzanne’s and decide to drive through Todi, one of the towns in Umbria we really like. On the plain below the town, we saw this huge field of sunflowers that still had their yellow petals. We stopped and shot pictures. Rose lifted her iPad and took the image on the right – an old immigrant in a sea of yellow with a sweater complimenting the flower petals.
I’m putting this image in, because it captures the elation, the giddiness of the beginning of the trip. The walking into the field is like a step into the looking glass. We’ve been staying in rural settings the last three years and have never found a field of new sunflowers. It seems that by the time we get here, all we find are mature plants with heads heavy with seeds and ready to harvest. (Found out from Earle that this was a sunflower year, meaning that the crop rotation had come full circle and the farmers were planting sunflowers so that the stalks could get plowed into the soil to replenish the nutrients lost during the last three growing seasons.)
The bookend to this posting is the fact that I left the yellow sweater in the closet in the hotel-room in Ancona. (I never use closets in hotel-rooms, so I never look in them when checking out. In 2009, I left three dress shirts in a hotel closet in Lamezia.) Is the leaving behind part of the sadness, the lethargy of the end of a trip?
When we were in the south, we headed to the Adriatic, to San Benedetto del Tronto hoping to find the Paolo Annibali sculptures along the waterfront. We couldn’t find them. However across the street from the beautiful ocean-front park were two proclamations, scrawled on the white walls of a fancy hotel, exposing the modern condition of isolation-and-sickness through that most virulent of art forms – graffiti.
Some of my countrymen seem to have figured out that affluence is not a gift from God regardless what the Calvinists claim, but a yellow badge that confines the human soul to a gated colony of lepers. And that beauty, as defined by modernity, is more about prosthesis and enhancements than symmetry, elegance and wisdom. (Last summer, the Franciscan Friars proclaimed tu sei bellezza about the Virgin Mary. This summer, in San Benedetto del Tronto, the young anarchists diagnosed beauty’s current condition . . .)
The rich are living in ghettos and the supermodels are dieing of beauty.
It’s Saturday, August 17 and we’ve gotten into Rome early with a goal of getting into St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museums. The Hilton bus leaves us off at the Campidoglio and we walked down Corso Vittorio Emanuele towards the river.
We crossed over on the bridge with the angels and headed down to Via della Conciliazione – the grand boulevard leading from the Tiber into St. Peter’s. It’s the connector between the cloister of the Vatican and the open city of Rome. Forget its symbolic significance, in modern times it’s the street where the pilgrims huddle during papal pronouncements, it’s the street with the Pontifica Academia Pro Vita, (Who said the Italians don’t steal from other cultures? So what that it’s one of America’s most cynical ideas? So what that the word pro isn’t in the Italian dictionary?) and it’s a street with the money changers. You want a knock-off handbag, it’s stacked on the paving stones ready for you to buy – no tax, no receipt.
Does anyone really buy these knock-offs? I can understand getting caught in a rain-storm and resorting to buying an umbrella from a street vendor, but what’s the circumstance that gives one permission to buy a knock-off purse?
Am I that removed that it’s hard for me to believe someone would actually give their money to buy a cheap repro just so that they can pretend to have a designer handbag? What have we done to women’s minds?
The workers are all Africans making their way into a first-world nation, hoping to secure a place in the new world for their children and grandchildren. The Eastern Europeans head inland to work on farms and as domestics, the Africans head for the cities to manage the bancarelle one finds all over Italy. These new immigrants are at all the farmers markets, all around the major piazzas, the famous museums, the famous fountains, the ancient ruins, the empty churches.
I’m trying to identify a vegetable that would indicate fall is coming and I think the eggplant may qualify. (I’m Calabrese, so jack-o’-lanterns don’t work.) My spring harbinger is the fava, watermelons tell me that summer is here and now the shiny aubergine announces fall. (Background – when we came to Canada, fave were disparaged and downgraded to horse-beans. Who in their right mind would want to eat something that suggested a food fed to horses; certainly no one who wanted to camouflage their immigrant origins? Anguria is the Italian word for watermelon. In my family, the Italian and the English got remixed and all of a sudden we began to refer to watermelon as melone. The Zingas have always been practical – take the second word of the English compound and make it Italian; all you need is a vowel. I had to re-learn anguria, because melone is cantaloupe, a different fruit entirely. In Spoleto, I remember ordering melone and expecting red fleshy sweet watermelon, only to be disappointed when they brought out cantaloupe. And finally, aubergine – what can I say, the French is so much more elegant than the English.)
The four plants that I put into pots have all done well producing 3 to 4 eggplants each. Tonight for supper I cut the last remaining ones and stuffed and baked them. To supplement the garden eggplants, I got a couple from the grocery store. The filling is made from the pulp and I always like to have a lot of pulp when I mix it with bread-crumbs, cheese and eggs. The dish had a great eggplant taste. This is unusual, because when I make it from only store-bought eggplants, the cheese and herb stuffing dominate. The freshly cut eggplants added a dimension that I had totally forgotten about. (I remember my mother preparing the dish using eggplants she had just cut from the garden and after assembling the dish taking it to the communal oven. It was a dish made on bread-baking day. The casseroles were baked on the embers after the bread was done.)
Last week, I was in the Laurel Highlands and driving the wooded mountain roads, I passed many houses that could be second homes – cottages away from the urban hum. All these retreats were under tall pine trees in shaded glen and groves; some were perched on small rises with rolling meadows off their front porches. This bucolic landscape made me sad, made me want to drive back into town and away from its cloying disposition. I kept trying to understand the feelings, but no reasonable explanation came. My internal monologue went like this – I like the isolation of the Italian countryside, why am I reacting so negatively to this isolation? I love the browns and earth-tones of the fields that surround Earle-and-Suzanne’s, why are the greens of the Laurel Highlands depressing? The far horizons of church steeples and Medieval towers open the world to me, why do the enclosures created by the pine trees make me feel like I’m suffocating? Why did I never buy a cottage in the woods of Northern Ontario? (These houses, tucked into the shadows of the Laurel Highlands, look most like the camps one finds in Sault Ste Marie.) I obviously like the distance away from the madding crowd. Walking into the closed, dark house at Earle-and-Suzanne’s was always a relief. The dark was settling, refreshing. Then why is the dark that surrounds these Laurel homes oppressive?
The above image seems to capture all these feelings. It’s an empty house, surrounded by tall hemlocks, on a huge track of land.
The concrete has been poured and the project that was begun last fall is almost complete. The last piece is the gate that belongs at the end of the slab, below the step. The wet summer was the problem. Could not coordinate a cement delivery with a rain-free date. They poured 4 inches of concrete covering the vents and the gravel. (It’s hard to believe that I have a paved side-yard and that now I can figure out what I want the whole to look like.)
My original design was for a cement wall and a cement flower-bed. The price for all that concrete would have been exorbitant and it would have not fit anything that is back there. It also would have changed the draining pattern of the area and would have required a whole new set of drainage pipes to be laid. The wooden fence and the small concrete area work so much better with the overall back-yard layout. (I lost the side-yard flower-bed, but it was always a difficult location for plants. The only things I miss are my snowdrops, but I now have a new location and ordered some 30 bulbs to seed.)
The hose-box, the garbage can and the collapsed lawn-chair are the barriers preventing the dogs from walking on the uncured cement.
The culture of the Roman Church permeates my psyche. And until I was 26, I lived in communities – my family, the Christian Brothers, the extended family in Toronto – that followed the rhythms of Catholicism. Today, I have nothing to do with Holy Mother Church, but its tendrils are deep in me.
I shoot churches all over Italy. I love going into the country chapels, monasteries, cloisters and shooting the statues, the ceilings, the crucifixes, the tabernacles, the frescoes, the votives. These items have intrinsic meaning, they are recognizable, they are hard-wired into my synapses. And the Latin has this liquid flow that blots the need for translation.
BTW, I never go anywhere near the churches if there are people and priests in them. But the empty sanctuaries are private museums, shelters from the summer heat, time capsules of a by-gone era – a time when the Church ruled, a time of visual learning and fiery oratory, the time of Botticelli and Savonarola.
I wanted to shoot the reflecting pool and entrance into Point State Park in morning light. The above image is the light fixture, pool and ceiling. An earlier shot of this location had me referring to it as the Holy of Holies. To me, the environment looks like a tabernacle, a place of worship and therefore the titles. In the Catholic Mass, the Sanctus ends the first half of the Liturgy – the Preface. Also, part of the Sanctus is adapted from the book of Isaiah and the prophet’s vision of the throne of God surrounded by ministering seraphims – Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Catholicism aside, I love the geometry of the image, its lines of symmetry, its mushroom cloud.
Mornings at this time of year can be full of ominous colors. Gone are the turquoises of spring and the indigos of August. Instead the sun is blinding in the eastern sky, its light a burnt-orange. And yet its rise across the heavens is rushed – its stamina waning.
I’m in North East, Pennsylvania a state-line community on Lake Erie. Vineyards cover the rolling fields, Concord grapes perfume the air and harvesters roam the side-roads. The morning light is grey and the skies overcast and yet the horizon is on fire. But in months this phoenix, born in the dark days of 2012, will expire.
The title is from the 93rd Psalm. I went looking at the Psalm selections for Matins and Lauds hoping to find something about the rising son. Instead found hymns to a glorious God, so I truncated the lines and used the words I liked.
We are in the middle of a Festival of Firsts, and one of the events is Dutch artist Florentijn Hoffman’s giant Rubber Duck docked off Point State Park. It comes to Pittsburgh, its first US appearance, from a world-wind tour that includes Amsterdam, Osaka, Sydney, Sao Paulo and Hong Kong.
The yellow monster has proved extremely popular and families, from all over the region, are coming into downtown for the first time in years. The kids love the duck. I walk home through Point State Park and all week it’s been teeming with ordinary people and screaming children clutching their rubber duckie toys. (In old times, pilgrims brought their rosaries to the Vatican to be blessed. Are modern children bringing their miniature ducks to the Great Mother?) The downtown merchants are giddy with profits. Also, the 2013 Carnegie International opened this weekend, bringing into town the glitterati, but it’s the rubber duckie that’s attracting the crowds.
It’s such and odd sight on the Allegheny side of the Point. There’s nothing unique about it, except for its 40 foot stature. And I don’t understand how making a 40 foot version of a toy is art. (Maybe it’s performance art.) But Pittsburgh is the perfect harbor for this hyper sized duck, after all just blocks north of the floating goddess are the original god’s paintings of the Campbell Soup Cans.
The profile is the duck floating on the Allegheny with the West End Bridge and Mount Washington in the background.
Last year at this time I collected acorns down in West Park, brought them home, put them in a saucer and photographed them on my dining room table. (I left them on the saucer for a few days, and when I came back, a small white worm had eaten its way out of an acorn and died on the table cloth leaving a white stain that I have not been able to remove.)
This year, I went with Marroni chestnuts as the autumn indicators. I found the term Marroni in a rhyme on a Calabrian Facebook page; discovered that it was a variety of chestnut that grows all over Calabria. I also found a farm in California that has started growing Marronis and that October was harvest season. I ordered 4 pounds. They’re in the refrigerator and every day I’ve been eating a handful. I like them best raw, but this weekend I’ll roast some. The storage directions suggest keeping them in a cold place until ready to eat them. This will prevent them drying out. When I told my dad this he laughed. They never keep them in the frig.(I can just hear him going on about i ciuti americani putting chestnuts in the frig – crazy americans …)
The Marroni were mentioned in writings of Homer and Pliny and cultivated throughout the mountains of Calabria. In the early 1900’s, the economy of Aprigliano was based on the Marroni chestnut. Hog farmers from Cosenza would bring up the animals to Aprigliano and let them graze on the fallen chestnuts. They would pay the Apriglianesi land owners a grazing fee for each hog in the drove.
This is a variation of the classic Dolorosa – black-draped, gold-trimmed and mourning madonna. Most renditions represent Mary as distraught, forlorn as any mother would appear witnessing the crucifixion and death of her son. The rendition I remember best is –
La Dolorosa in Santo Stefano in Aprigliano.
I found this Mary in a small chapel in one of the hill-top towns on the opposite ridge from Earle-and-Suzanne’s. (The sun burst is really the background of the altar crucifix, but I like the image better without the cross and instead a hint of hope from the rays behind her.) The black drapery has given way to a dark blue cloak and the ringing hands, usually down below the waist, are up in prayer and supplication. (I also like the elongated neck and purple under-garment.)
This afternoon, in flipping through channels, the Mass on EWTN had the celebrant wearing black vestments. An old custom that has since given way to white, to remind the living of the joys of heaven in the life here after.
This year, the feast day is a time of remembrances.
It’s that in between time when the morning sun wakes late and falls back below the horizon by 5:00 in the afternoon. Soon, both my morning walk to work and my trek home will be in the dark; soon the reds and yellows will be gone and bare trees will line the mountain side; soon the fountain at Point State Park will be turned off; soon December will clock the season and end the interim. And spring will be a longing a hunger consuming my winter nights.
The above image was taken early in the morning on my way into work. I am on the foot-bridge that connects the Northside to Point State Park. It’s such a common shot that I concentrated on altering the image rather than reporting what the camera saw. The picture is heavily Photoshopped – the apartment building that cascades down Mount Washington is clone-stamped out as are the entrance to the Fort Pitt Tunnels, the highway signs on the bridge and the light on the fountain pumping station. (When the electricity runs out and the new dark ages come, will some archeologist find this image on a working server and spend all his time trying to figure out why the bridge leads into the mountain side?)
On Friday, November 22, 1963, I was sitting in my 8th grade classroom at St. Veronica’s when Sister Drusilla came in to announce that the president of the United States had been shot. This was the Catholic president of the United States and as a Catholic Canadian the news was shocking.
It was my first year at St. Veronica’s. (My family had bought a house in the West-end; we had left my grandparents’ to live on our own.) The classroom, compared to the one I came from, was old fashioned. We had wooden desks with holes in the upper right hand corner for ink-wells. And filling them was the jobs of the “good” kids. There was a piano in the room and Sister Drusilla taught us to sing while sitting on its long bench. (Our music book had Santa Lucia in it. Well, the English version of the Neapolitan song.) Above the piano was a bulletin board and Frank’s birdhouses, that he build for his Science project, hung there. That Friday, we had one of the itinerant teachers and Sister Drusilla kept coming in from her office to give us the latest news on the President. When she came in to tell us that he had died, I remember looking up at the black-framed, round, analogue clock and saw that it was a-quarter-to-four. (In those days no one said, 3:45.) Sister Drusilla’s announcement seemed to suggest that even though one of our own had finally made it, they had killed him. Was she suggesting that the American president was like Jesus?
Frank and I went home that afternoon confused by the day’s events, but knowing something important had happened. And even though we lived in a small town in Northern Ontario, we were somehow part of it.
Five years later, I would leave Sault Ste Marie and Canada forever and make my way to the land of President Kennedy, to a more congenial spot for happily-ever-aftering.
The date of the first Sunday of Advent of 1963 was December 1. Fifty years later, the first Sunday of Advent again falls on December 1.
I’m beginning the christmas 2013 posts early, because I’m going to organize them differently. I’m linking these posts to the 8th grade category, because I want to wrap them around some memories of nineteen-sixty-three.
We had moved to the west-end in June and this was my first Christmas at St. Veronica’s. I was curious to see how it would go, because for the first time I had a nun teacher. Was she going to deal with Advent differently than all the non-religious teachers I had had?
The Monday of the first week of Advent, Sister Drusilla lined us up in the hallway – the upper grades were in the old hallway and the younger kids were in the hallway leading to the new wing – and with the sign-of-the-cross she began the Advent service. The young nun who taught first grade picked up from Sister Drusilla reciting the Advent prayers and readings. It ended with us singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel. I liked the Advent service. We certainly didn’t do anything like this at St. Theresa’s.
The time before Christmas was full of anticipation and even though I knew all about Liturgical Advent, it never seemed real hearing about it only on Sunday at church. We did not have an Advent wreath at church, but having the service at school with the wreath on a small table in the hallway with candles that Sister let a kid light, made the season of Advent real.
(For the image, I wanted something that was both modern and non-realistic.)
|Old Calabrese||Modern Italian||Dates and Feast-days|
|quàttru Barbara||quattro Barbara||December 4 – St. Barbara|
|e sei Nicola||e sei Nicola||December 6 – St. Nicholas|
|gòttu Maria||otto Maria||December 8 – Immaculate Conception|
|tridici Lucia||tredici Lucia||December 13 – St. Lucy|
|e ru vinticinqu lu Missìa||e il venticinque il Messia||December 2 – Birth of the Messiah|
When we first got to Sault Ste Marie, my grandmother whose her image is on the left, taught me this rhyme and I remember thinking it was a fun way of marking off the days until Christmas. But as the years went by, I forgot the last part and could only remembered the first couple of lines. I’ve been trying to find the rhyme online, but have had no success. Finally, I took a chance and wrote it phonetically, in Old Calabrese, into the Google search-box and found it posted by Francesco Pecora on his Facebook page. Francesco lives in Polistena a small town in south eastern Calabria.
Below is his text:
Il detto descrive il modo con cui i nostri antenati annunciavano le feste nel periodo dell’Avvento; Il 30 Novembre, infatti, si festeggia S. Andrea Apostolo, che introduce le festività di: Santa Barbara (4 Dicembre), San Nicola (6 Dicembre), l’Immacolata (8 Dicembre), Santa Lucia (13 Dicembre) e il Santo Natale (25 Dicembre).
By the time we moved from my grandparents’ house to our own, the rhyme remained only in my head. In 1960’s Canada, the only feast-day celebrated before Christmas was the Immaculate Conception. At St. Veronica’s, Sister Drusilla insisted on using only the Advent cycle to mark off the days until December 25. And the rhyme lost its purpose when TV began running the Jingle Bells cartoon counting down the shopping days till Christmas. Who cared about Santa Barbara and Santa Lucia when there were gifts to be had.
The newel posts on the wrought-iron fence, at the end of the street, are decorated with boughs of blue pine tied together with red ribbon. On my way home, I decided to head back down and shoot the boughs and ribbons. The sun was at the horizon, but by the time I got down to the house it had set. It was 4:30. (Yes, I know what’s coming – the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice . . . the darkness.)
Earlier today I was doing some research on the feast-days, listed in the previous post, to see if there was any evidence to support the idea that Andrew the Apostle had created these markers and organized them as precursors to Christmas. Found no information to support this. Instead I found a tradition associated with the feast of Santa Barbara – December 4. In Medieval times, Christians would cut leafless boughs from a cherry tree, bring them indoors and set them in a bucket of water in their kitchens. The belief was that if a bough bloomed then the new year would bring joy. The superstition had ties to the prophecy from the Old Testament from the Book of Isaiah — There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. (Santa Barbara was removed from the liturgical calendar of the Roman Rite in 1969. No real evidence that she existed. It’s a good thing them cardinals are selective with this criteria.)
Because the 8th grade stories are about the Advent period of that long ago at St. Veronica’s Elementary, I am using lyrics from the hymn – O Come, O Come Emmanuel – as titles to connect the 8th grade category and the christmas 2013 one. And the image of a pine bough with its scarlet ribbon is a good fit for the title.
Like all good Catholic school children, we got to draw Christmas themed pictures at this time of year. We got to use colored pencils and large paper. The itinerant Art teacher, who came in once a month, made the December lesson great fun. I remember that Mike Bondar drew a picture of the Christ child in a cradle holding a crucifix. (This is the Bondar family of astronaut Roberta Bondar fame.) Sister Drusilla, ever the sarcastic nun, scoffed at Michael’s rendition. He tried to explain that he was foreshadowing what was to come, but Sister would hear none of it. Considering that Michael was not one of the guys I hung with, I shouldn’t have cared that he was being insulted, instead I thought Sister was being overly harsh. He had a good idea and had executed it well. (Lesson learned – stay inside the lines or Sister will yell at you.)
Sister Drusilla was way too literal and closed minded for the likes of thirteen year old Michael or sixty-five year old Maruzzu.
The hymn O come, O come Emmanuel – Veni, Veni Emmanuel – is a synthesis of the great O Antiphons that are used for Vespers during the octave before Christmas (Dec. 17-23). These antiphons are of ancient origin, dating back to at least the ninth century. The hymn itself, though, is much more recent: it first appeared in an 18th century psalmster. There are several arrangements of the hymn. The most common arrangement uses the last of the O Antiphons as the first verse with the next six following in correct order.
It is interesting to note that the initial words of the antiphons in reverse order form an acrostic: O Emmanuel, O Rex, O Oriens, O Clavis, O Radix, O Adonai, O Sapientia. ERO CRAS can be loosely translated as I will be there tomorrow. And tomorrow is Christmas Eve.
|The Hymn||O Antiphons||Dates|
|O come, Thou Wisdom from on high||O Sapientia||December 17|
|O come, O come Thou Lord of Light||O Adonai||December 18|
|O come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem||O Radix Iesse||December 19|
|O come, Thou Key of David, come||Clavis Davidica||December 20|
|O come, Thou Dayspring from on high||O Oriens||December 21|
|O come, Desire of the nations||O Rex Gentium||December 22|
|O come, O come Emmanuel||O Emmanuel||December 23|
I decided to use this post to write about the various Christmas hymns and carols. O Come, O Come Emmanuel was really not a carol that was being widely heard in the 1960’s. (It certainly wasn’t in any muzak collection piped into the stores during the December shopping frenzy.) It was restricted to Sunday Mass. I first heard it, outside of church, at St. Veronica’s during the Advent service led by Sister Drusilla. But it wasn’t until this year that I began to do some research and situated the hymn and the O Antiphons in my Novitiate Breviary in the Advent cycle.
In my mind, I categorize Christmas music: Catholic Christmas music is Latin – Adeste Fideles, In Dulci Jubilo; Italian music is about the child – Gesu Bambino, Tu Scendi dalle Stelle, Mille Cherubini; German and French Christmas music is romantic – Il Est Né, Minuit Chrétiens, O Tannenbaum, Stille Nacht; and American Christmas music is secular – Frosty the Snowman, White Christmas.
Image – Point State Park is all decked out for the holiday. The image is the downtown section of the park looking towards the Northside; the river section is on the other side of the parkway underpass. The entrance to the underpass is on the left of the image.
This posting is going to be a ramble. The monks of The Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge have begun a set of video reflections on the O Antiphons. In two days, I head up to Northern Ontario.
What I remember most of the winters in Sault Ste Marie, before there was central heating and you heated the house with a coal stove, were the windows decorated with ice-crystals. The sunlight through the frosted glass was bright. At St. Veronica’s the classroom windows did not frost over. And many times I’d look over at the stunted willows that bordered the creek next to the school. (I still can picture the insects that seemed to skate on the water.)
Winter light that far north was always grey. And waiting for Christmas vacation was more about not being in school than presents and family. Tobogganing and street hockey were things to look forward to, but Christmas day had lost some of its luster and I remember thinking that once the noon-day meal was over, a malaise would set in. The local network ran commercials of local businesses wishing us all a Merry Christmas. And daylight was done by 4:00. It was in this down atmosphere that Frank would introduced going to the movies on Christmas Day.
Today is shortest day of the year. And with this end begins the new light.
The drive up was miserable, not as bad as last year, but through the snow-belt – the area between Grayling and the Mackinac Bridge – I75 was a one-lane road. (I saw at least 5 vehicles that had slid into the ravines. And I decided that this would be my last car trip to this part of the world during December.)
Before leaving, I had decided to figure out how to get access while I was up here. I had talked to Bell Canada and the person I talked to assured me that I could get a hotspot device to connect to my laptop. My dad would have to sign for it, because I was not a Canadian resident. I called the Soo office to verify that they would have the device, but the woman I talked to had no idea what I was referring and insisted that there was no such device in the store. My next scheme was to see if one of my parents’s neighbors would give me access.
Yesterday evening I walked over to Gerry Pozzebon’s and asked if he would give me access. (The Pozzebons live across the street from my parents. Connie was friends with their daughter, but Gerry was too young to play with us.) Gerry offered, but believed that it would be hard to connect to his router from across the street. He suggested I use my iPhone as a hotspot. I knew nothing about that. His son talked my through it and I went back to see if I could set up the connection. The Verizon represented that the feature had to be activated from a Verizon tower in the US. I told him I was in a border city and could get to the US. He did all the configuration on his side and today I drove to Sault Ste Marie, Michigan to turn my phone on and off and sure enough I had a hotspot connection.
The hotspot worked perfectly well, but the roaming charges are phenomenal, so I turned it off. (I got an email from Verizon telling me that I had incurred a $40 roaming charge.) But for one brief moment there was a time when I could claim that I had Internet access from Ciccio-and-Mafalda’s.
The weather is the topic of all conversations and news commentaries. Southern Ontario is having ice-storms and all travel has been impacted. Here the snow is falling poster-card pretty. (I just keep hoping the by Friday the weather system will have worked its way out of the area and I can go home without dealing with weather warnings.)
Today, Derrick and I went to exercise at the YMCA and like last year they did not charge us. (The Y is one of the best facilities in town.) And while waiting to get our free admission, noticed that in the lobby/café area there is free WY-FI. Tomorrow, I’ll bring my laptop and upload this post.
Eating is still as regimented as a monastic schedule. My dad hollers up, telling me come down to the basement kitchen. Lunch is at noon and dinner at 5:30. You can set your watch on his eating routines.
The other topic of conversation is what I am going to do once I retire. I am amazed by the topic. I’ve never had an interest in anyone else’s retirement plans. Why people are interested in mine is beyond my comprehension.
The image is of St. Theresa School. I was here from 2nd to 7th grade. The classroom on the right was my 6th and 7th grade classroom and our teacher was Mr. Orlando. This is the classroom where on a spelling test I spelled the word does DUZ and Mr. Orlando had me go up to the board and write my spelling of the word. I had no idea was I was wrong, but the experience contributed to my insecurities with spelling. (By the time I got to City High, my kids were trained to know that I did not know how to spell and that it was their responsibility to help me.)
This morning we woke up to 3 to 4 inches of new snow and a temperature of 2 degrees. Ciccio insisted on doing his vegetable shopping first thing this morning, so at 8:00 AM we were one of three cars at the No-Frills grocery store.
And for some reason, the public library came to mind as a place for Internet access and sure enough, here I am at the Centennial Branch on Bay Street, with free access. The branch was built in 1966, Canada’s bi-centennial and I remember coming here after school with a bunch of kids to do pretend homework.
The image is taken from inside the SSM Public Library. This is the building built in 1966 to commemorate Canada’s centennial. I keep being surprised by the condition of this building and the YMCA building. Both were built when I was in high school and both have held up remarkedly well. I say this, because the weather here in the Great White North is very difficult on shoddy construction. I guess these two buildings were well built.
The temperature this morning was at -9. I don’t know how people live here, but sure enough the mall parking lots are filled, the library has patrons and the streets are being cleaned. (The only good thing about this temperature extreme is that the sun is out and the sky is a beautiful blue.)
Tonight begins the eating. I’m going to take my camera and shoot pics at my aunt-and-uncle’s. Have never done that and I don’t know why. I’m also interested in shooting their two kitchens and beginning to add to that category. The Christmas meal will be at my parents. I always wish the events were reversed. My parents do a great rustic meal which is what the Christmas Eve dinner is; and my aunt-and-uncle do a great formal dinner which is what the Christmas Day meal is. At one time that was the routine, but then the Thormans decided to do Christmas morning at their house and Christmas dinner in the Soo. Ciccio-and-Mafalda changed their plans and now they host dinner on the 25th. It’s always been a odd event, because they insist on serving both an Italian set of dishes and the traditional Canadian turkey. (They make a terrible turkey, but can’t say that, because it’s not about the bird. They make the bird so that the grown children can believe that they are not immigrants and that they have assimilated into Canadian society. Another sarcastic comment from the outsider that crazy Americano. Or, they do it because they want the Canadian additions to the family to feel welcomed. Sarcasm is much more entertaining.)
This will be my last post from the Soo. I will be able to post again on Friday from Rose-and-Derrick’s. (The library closes today at noon and doesn’t open again until Friday. Boxing Day is a holiday here in what used to the British Empire’s outpost in North America.)
Christmas Eve dinner is over and before we move upstairs, my uncle makes sure there are 9 dishes left on the table – an old Italian tradition of leaving 9 Christmas Eve dishes on the dinner table so that when the Christ child comes there will be food for all in his retinue.
The meal is always in the downstairs kitchen and dessert is always in the upstairs kitchen. The pic is my aunt and uncle and my dad. My aunt has been going on about not having her pic on the Internet, not that she knows what that means or has ever been near the Internet. (This all started last fall when Connie told her that there was a picture of her online and that it wasn’t a very flattering picture.) So we now tease her about it all the time and I promised to put her pic up online much to her horror. And here it is. My uncle decided to get into the teasing and started making finger gestures at Egilia. (The names in the title are not the people’s formal names, rather the truncated versions used in the family.)
When we came to Sault Ste Marie, there were two families from Aprigliano that my parents were close with, the Belsitos and the Sanguinettis. Cum’amulia e cump’armunte Sanguinetti lived on James Street the old, immigrant neighborhood next to the steel-mill in the west end. And I remember us visiting them in the tall house with the narrow driveway. The Sanguinetti family was Armando, Amalia, Marisa and Joe. I babysat Joe when he was still a child in the crib. I associate the babysitting with reading Burroughs’ Tarzan. It was a thick, hard-cover book. And while Joe slept, I read.
My parents baptized Joe, establishing a formal connection between the Zingas and the Sanguinettis. The thumbnail was taken at Joe’s baptism. Left to right – priest, Mafalda holding Joe, Ciccio holding a candle and Connie. (It’s one of my favorite images of Mafalda.)
In June of 72, I met Marisa and Joe in Aprigliano and we spent a month hanging out. They were visiting their grandparents, and I was visiting za teresina e zu milio. It was a vacation for me while I waited for classes, at the University at Perugia, to start – Junior Year Abroad. The best memory from this time is of Joe and I going cherry-picking. We went to the orchards below Portosalvo, climbed the trees and filled a panier with plump red cherries. We were very proud of our efforts, but when we got back to Joe’s grandparents, cum’amulia split the cherries to make sure they were edible and found tiny white worms in all of them. (Joe and I had eaten our fill while picking. Thank God for those strong stomach acids.)
From the three couples, the Belsitos, the Sanguinettis and the Zingas, only 3 remain – Amalia Sanguinetti, Ciccio and Mafalda Zinga. Cump’armunte died Tuesday evening December 24, 2013 – Christmas Eve.
I always liked cump’armunte. He was the only friend of my parents’ who interacted with me beyond the standard Hello, how are you. He once told me about a run-in he had had with a priest when he was a kid. His disgust played right into my own disgruntled attitude with Mother Church. Other times, we would sit and talk about all that was wrong with Calabria with our beloved Aprigliano. In later years, we would compare notes on the state of modern Italy. He would get out his fact-book on Aprigliano, and I would bring my recent experiences, and we would talk about how them there Apriglianese weren’t making good decisions. If they would just listen to us, after all we had all the answers. I really liked his brash approach, his take-no-prisoners stance.
I did not go visit him those last days in the hospice. I wanted to remember the firebrand, the iconoclast who had been a role-model for a bright kid afraid to let anyone know he was smart. I did not want my last memory of this wonderful man to be that of a cadaver desiccated by cancer. He did not suffer fools gladly and yet he interacted with me.
I am glad to have known him.The titles and italics are in old Apriglianese, our dialect.
I gave Seane the camera and she shot the group. (I insisted that Alissa join the rowdy boys on the sofa.) There were 20 for Christmas dinner.
We all ganged up on my dad and insisted that he cut down on the food. Gone were the fried shrimp, fried clams, fried baccala and all other fish products. I took care of the turkey, stuffing, the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. My parents added soup, lasagne, broccoli salad, rapini, cold green-beans and salad. Dessert consisted of cantaloupe, honey-dew, and fennel. (My dad brought out the wine he’s aged for over three years and everyone drank it, even his son.)
And the gift exchange was minimal.
Seane, Lilly and I went out walking the neighborhood. We’re on Douglas, the street perpendicular to my parents’. The pavement is hidden below the snow-pack and will probably stay out of site for the next couple of months. The snowfall this year has been heavy and early. Already the snow-banks are over 3 feet and winter just started. Yesterday we got 3 additional inches of fresh show. I shoveled my parents’ 30 foot, double driveway, but my dad didn’t like my work and got the man he contract with for snow removal to re-plow.
Boxing Day in the Soo is still fully observed and no stores were open. Merchants in Toronto defy the law and open. They pay the fine and still make a profit on all the shoppers looking for a discount. (It’s Canada’s Black Friday.) According to Wikipedia – Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box”, from their bosses or employers. (Isn’t that generous – the upper classes giving to us low people.) Boxing Day is observed in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and other Commonwealth nations. (Will Canada ever give up its connection to good old England?)
I think if the drive home in 8 pieces – the UP, the Mackinac Bridge, the Isolation, Gaylord, Grayling, West Branch, Saginaw, the Old Road, Frankenmuth and Birch Run, I-475 through Flint, I-69 East and Michigan 24 to Oxford.
1. The UP
Traffic on the International Bridge was heavy and it took me 45 minutes to get through customs. I-75 through the Upper Peninsula is a road in the middle of nowhere. That stretch of the interstate is very pretty and with all the snow a winter wonderland. It’s the beginning of the trip and I tend to be happy about heading home.
2. The Mackinac Bridge
This year, both driving north and on my way home, I rode the outside lanes. These are concrete floorings and less scary than the metal mesh flooring of the inside lanes. However, I have to use tunnel vision and not look to my right. The railing is so low that it looks like you are riding railing-free and the Straights of Mackinac with their swirling waters are just off you right. (Every Christmas as we’re sitting around talking someone brings up a horror story about a car that was blown off the bridge and into the waters below.) The weather had dumped much snow in the area and the middle lanes with their wire mesh flooring seemed slippery and even more scary.
3. The Isolation
After the Mackinac you enter Michigan’s snow-belt. That the area on the other side of the Mackinac and all the way down to Grayling. The snow-belt has two distinct areas. Between touristy Mackinac City and Gaylord is the most isolated and frightening section. The road is never fully cleared; it’s common to have only one lane of the highway plowed. And even as the land around me looks postcard beautiful, the worry of breaking down in this desolate landscape is also on my mind. Gaylord is the middle of the snow-belt and the beginning of the second section. This part of the winter-land is less forbidding, because you begin to see signs of civilization – gas-stations, rest-stops, fast-food advertisements.
4. Gaylord, Grayling, West Branch and Saginaw
Even though these small towns are in the snow-belt, they are also the beginning of civilization. In Gaylord, along I-75 there are large stands of pine trees with all their lower branches cut. Grayling is insignificant except to note that it is the southern border of the snow-belt. And West Branch is the half-way point of the trip south to Rose-and-Derrick’s. The highway bridge at Saginaw is the official entrance into southern Michigan.
5. The Old Road
Much of I-75 has been repaved, except for the area south and West Branch and almost to Frankenmuth. The lanes are full of ruts and it’s a bumpy ride.
6. Frankenmuth and Birch Run
The area is a shoppers paradise. And I hate it. The only carrot is that the highway becomes 3 lanes.
7. I-475, Flint and I-69
I really hate this part of the trip. It’s side roads to avoid taking I-75 down to Oxford. They are supposed to be shortcuts, but they go through some ugly areas. The i-475 spur through Flint is surrounded by the old city of Flint. The I-69 portion is through sprawling suburbia. This time the ice-storm had covered all the trees and at least that was pretty.
8. Michigan 24 South
This is the last road before Rose-and-Derrick’s. And for three quarters of the way was lined with ice covered trees and bushes. Beautiful.
……………………………………………………………………..2014 is a milestone year for me – I get to retire in July.
The image on the left was taken almost a week ago as Seane and I walked the creek next to old St. Veronica’s school. It was the day after Christmas and the sun made the winter sky blue and the snow bright. White covered everything and glistened in the sharp daylight. The image was my homage to the ice covered wonderland in Southern Ontario.
An Italian saying associated with New Year – Natale con i tuoi e Capodanno con chi vuoi. – Christmas with your family, New Year with whom you want. The other saying I think about is what my maternal grandmother – Maria Perri – would tell us: Whatever you do on Capodanno, you will repeat throughout the year. I’ve always spend New Year’s Eve with friends and I’m always conscious of what I do on New Year’s Day, believing that I will repeat those routines throughout the coming year.
Last night, like every other December 31 for the last 30 years, we spent with Jerry-and-Diane and their kids. John and Joanne joined the group a while back so, we are now up to eight for dinner. The meal has two of my favorite dishes – a chicken livers pâté, and Eastern European meatballs. For the longest time it was an all-meat dinner, but the last couple of years a green-beans casserole and a cubed-potatoes and bacon casserole were added to the all-meat menu.
The impetus for this entry is the magical word twelfth. I can’t spell it, because I have no understanding of how you combine a t, a w, an e, an l, an f, another t and an h into a word. What were them Middle Englishers thinking? And yet I love the contortions the tongue has to perform in order to make the sound. It comes out like an incantation.
Not to be outdone by them 14th century peoples, I’ve assembled my own contradictions from highfalutin Shakespeare (the post title), and Giotto (the image), to the low-brow Twelve Days of Christmas (the entry title). While using the Catholic feast of the Epiphany to tie them all together.
The pic is Giotto’s Adoration of the Magi. (Giotto’s frescoes remind me of American primitive paintings.) With camels and gifts the three kings have followed the comet – the brown ball at the top of the image – to the stable at Bethlehem. In the fresco, this stable seem to be the end of the road. The oldest king has taken off his crown and kneels before the child. All present watch except for the camel driver who prefers to attend to his animals. (He’s my favorite character in this Medieval pageant.)
The 2013 Christmas season is done. And good riddance. I am so glad to be nowhere near northern Michigan; to not hear anymore carols, holiday greetings, birthday wishes or questions about retirement.
Yesterday, I went over to Rick-and-Sarah’s and we booked our flights to Italy for August.
“. . . string-and-percussion music rises from the room below. The source is an array of eight mechanized sculptures by the Mexican artist Pedro Reyes, made from pistols, assault rifles, machine guns and grenade cases that the Mexican government confiscated from drug cartels.” (Peter Schjeldahl – The New Yorker, October 21, 2013)
The 2013 Carnegie International has two pieces that I really like – Pedro Reyes’ gun-sculptures (The sunburst on the right is made of gun barrels.) and Taryn Simon’s photographs of all the weapons, vehicles and most of the actresses from the James Bond movies. My favorite image was that of Honor Blackman whose character in Goldfinger is forever hardwired into every 1960’s boy’s brain. The photographs of the Bond women were recently taken and Ms. Blackman now looks like an elegant grandmother. But in my mind she will always be Pussy Galore.
There are two outside pieces, one by British sculptor Phyllida Barlow and one by the Swiss designer Yvan Pestalozzi. The Barlow piece is an immense jungle of boards wrapped with wire mesh, slathered with cement and gray paint and festooned with strips of colored cloth. It covers the space in front of the main entrance and leans against the miserable Richard Serra steel plates. The Pestalozzi piece is playground equipment – a huge, colorful, snaking tunnel with kid-size openings.
It’s not a large show, but many of the pieces are fun and that is not something you can say about most museum surveys.
I’m continuing the quotes from Isaiah, but I don’t think there a Pussy Galore like contradiction out there this time.
Well, I’m just going to abandon the idea of opposites and make the post about new words being added to the language. Ian Flemming gave us permission to use pussy in polite company and the weather-people are bringing unique words like vortex into everyday parlance. My questions is, can Old Testament Isaiah teach us to not learn war anymore?
There’s a new, unauthorized bio of Roger Eugene Ailes and the book suggests that at Fox News, Ailes made a conscious effort to speak to those people left behind by the pot-smoking hippies – Nixon’s silent majority. And for the last 30 years Ailes and the conservative right have controlled the national dialogue. And they have added to the American lexicon giving us terms like Moral Majority, Right-to-life and Religious Right. I’m wondering if we’ve finally hit a time when the Right will again be eclipsed; when a new progressive movement will push back; when the young will abandon the old guys dream of war.
Took the image on the left at the end of the day. The sun was soft on the rooftops, but I couldn’t capture its hues. Instead I got this vertical contrast between the green porch-post and the red wall. The weather is again frigid and the polar vortex has again descended on the lower 48.
(moore) Reclining Figure, (barlow) Tip, (serra) Carnegie, (left) Scaife Wing, (right) Cathedral of Learning – University of Pittsburgh.
Weather talk is always so cliché, but this has been an incredibly cold month. Frigid temperatures and snowfall have interrupted 25% of our school-days and it looks line next week will get chewed up again by the descent of the Polar Vortex below the 49th parallel.
I used the image on the left more because inside of it is a sense of spring. Barlow’s sculpture suggests growing things. This morning I was thinking about all the snowdrops that I planted in the blueberry beds in the back of the yard. I’m hoping to see some evidence of green in the next 3 or 4 weeks.
The other topic to keep me hopeful through this miserable January is the trip to Italy. This year I’ll be there 3 weeks and for the first time ever, I am not traveling in early August. Three of us are going and we’ll begin in Sicily the first week, travel through Calabria, Basilicata and Campania the second week and then onto Rome for our third week. This will be my first time in Sicily. (I’m not counting the one-day trip to the Aeolian Island of Panarea in 2009.)
After my experience with doing a bank transfer for a down-payment on the apartment we are renting in Siracusa, I’ve decided to chronicle the planning of the trip to Italy.
The bank transfer done, means that I can concentrate on housing for the other two weeks. (The third leg of the trip is Rome and because we’re there for a week, lodging will be easier.) I’m now trying to figure out the middle week and how to divide the time. Rick-and-Sarah want to go to Aprigliano, so we’ll be in southern Calabria for at least 3 days.
The first week, we’re staying in south-eastern Sicily on the peninsula of Ortigia – the ancient city-center of Siracusa. Cicero claimed Siracusa was one of the most important and most beautiful cities of the Greek world. Its grandeur rivaled Athens.
I shot the image from a bridge over old East Ohio Street. (And I decided to Photoshop all communication towers and light-poles off the horizon.) This is 279 North the modern highway into the North Hills. (The highways in this part of the commonwealth were built into valleys and entrances and exits follow the contours of the rounded Alleghenies. Therefore none have of the supra-structures that one sees in California or Southern Ontario. 279 North is the exception.) The buildings on the horizon are the towers of downtown.
I’ve been watching the new HBO series – True Detectives – and have been fascinated by the opening music. Found it online; it’s the song Far From Any Road by the Handsome Family. (Randall Roberts the Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic calls the song a death dirge.) The title is a line from the song.
We’ve just endured the second Polar Vortex in one month and where the bright blue sky is a great backdrop for an image, in winter a clear sky always means frigid temperatures. Today, the near zero degrees were accompanied by blue skies and cold winds. (The wind on the truncated hilltops that house the big-box-superstores cuts through any insulated poly-mix that is my winter coat.)
This calendar date has many names. I grew up going to church on February 2nd and having the priest, using two X-crossed candles tied with a ribbon, bless my throat. (My mother always insisted that we get our throats blessed to prevent winter coughs and colds.) It was the feat of St. Blaise. However, this tradition seemed to go away with Vatican II and the feast got re-branded as the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. When I moved to Pittsburgh it became Groundhog Day using a German legend about winter predictions. Candlemas is more of an Anglican term for the feast-day, but its history also points to predicting the end of winter.
If Candlemas Day is clear and bright,
winter will have another bite.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
winter is gone and will not come again.
Now Lord you may dismiss your servant
in peace according to your word;
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have set before all the nations,
As a light of revelation to the Gentiles
and the glory of your people Israel.
from Common Compline
Traditionally the Western term Candlemas – Candle Mass – referred to the practice whereby a priest blessed beeswax candles for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home.
Something’s lost, but something’s gained in living every day.
I was looking to hear Dave Van Ronk songs and found a video of him singing “Both Sides Now” and that led to listening to Joni Mitchell’s most recent version. I had forgotten that “Both Sides Now” was written by Mitchell. (In my mind it’s associated with Judy Collins.) The old Canadian drops it an octave and makes it a reflection, a lament; gone is the virginal voice; gone is the angel hair, the ice-cream castles, the feathered canyons. The fairy tales have been put to sleep and the grand-children don’t dream of moons or Junes or ferris wheels.
By phrasing “Both Sides Now” with hesitation, as though it were an ongoing thought process, the song is completely divested of its singsongy trappings. Its conclusions – I really don’t know love at all and I really don’t know life at all – becomes devastating confessions of ignorance and failure offered is a weary tone of defeat.
I’m discovering that many of the songs-tracks that I like were not done by the original artists. I had been listening to the commercial singers who had re-recorded these landmarks at the urgings of their handlers and made them into billboard hits, cash cows. For example, I knew “Heard It Through the Grapevine” as a Creedence Clearwater song and then Frank pointed out that it was Marvin Gaye’s anthem. I no longer listen to the pop version, but to Marvin’s voice.
Van Ronk sang his version of “Both Sides Now” 45 years ago. “I may have been the first New Yorker to fall in love with her. She was still living in Detroit when we met. Clouds – Joni didn’t like my tampering with her title for this one. She insisted, justifiably, that the original title – Both Sides Now – be included. Still, though, she did entitle her next album Clouds.” (Dave Van Ronk) Live at Jabberwocky Club – Syracuse, NY – February 1969
Nothing is reliably known of St. Valentine except his name and the fact that he died on February 14
on the Via Flaminia in the north of Rome. In Le Marche on our way in and out of Fossombrone,
we travel the state highway – Strada Provinciale 3, SP3 – that parallels the old Roman road.
This year the Valentine gifts were reduced, intentionally. And yet, I came down this morning and my office space was all dark except for this red glow. A string of chirtmas-tree-like-lights, with heart shape illuminations, was strung across my desk. And a French porcelain bowl sat next to my keyboard. There were other hear-shaped objects scattered on my desk.
I am more interested in the fact that February 14 marks the beginning of the last leg of winter.
I’m counting the days until the spring equinox.
I’ve been listening to a group of Canadian artists – Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot – and I’m surprised by the recurring language, themes, ideas. All talk about nature as landscape, nature as character. Mitchell talks about a river to skate away on; Cohen talks about hair on a pillow like a sleepy golden storm; Lightfoot sings about pussy-willows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses.
My own writing is full of winters, of big skies, of autumn landscapes, of sunsets and early mornings. My references are about the rhythms of rain, the winds of November, the closings of a December snowfall. I was born in Calabria, but I found the voice that I write in in Northern Ontario.
My sensibilities on the other hand are strictly Italian. (The image I wanted to use for the right was one in which the title – Partito dei Communisti Italiani – was pasted above a self-reflection in an announcement window.) I am an iconoclast and I always attribute that to my Italian ancestry.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the kids I grew up with. Renato was one of the Musso children. The photo on the left was taken in 1964. (left-to-right — Ciccio Zinga, the Sirianni – Connie and Frank, Renato holding my sister Jo’, Saveria Musso, Mario and Frank Musso.) The Musso family had recently arrived from Aprigliano. They were from La Grupa the neighborhood that my dad was from. They were his friends, but in Sault Ste Marie they became part of my extended family.
Shortly after their arrival, Lena, the oldest of the Musso children, was engaged and getting ready to marry. Renato immediately went off to work. (He and my dad got along real well. They were young men in a foreign land working construction.) Frank and I were in school. I was at St. Theresa and Frank was at St. Joseph.
Frank Musso and I looked up to Renato, he was the big brother interacting with the world. We would follow him around, listening to his stories; eyes big with wonder. He was the bridge between the world I had left behind and the brave new world that was Canada. He had left the childhood of the school-house behind and was out there in the world of work, in the world of English speaking people. When he came home after a long day, Frank and I listened to his stories. (We followed him around every chance.) He would come home, go up to his room to change out of his work-clothes and we followed hoping for a story. And he would tell us what it was like out there, in those places where we couldn’t go. School seemed so tame, so ordinary compared to his adventures in the adult world. I envied his experiences, his privileged position at the kitchen table. I envied his apprenticeship with my dad, his camaraderie with Ciccio, their easy laugh.
In the last couple of months, I’ve touched base again with Frank Musso, Marisa Sanguinetti and Joe Sanguinetti. We coalesced around the death of Armante Sanguinetti, Marisa’s and Joe’s dad. And today, I went looking for the image I shot of Renato’s grave-marker.
I look at the image on the right and I’m shocked, truly disturbed. He was only 2 years older than me. And at 47, he died of an inoperable, cancerous brain tumor. What the … What am I supposed to do with the big brother memories? How do I understand that he had to be a grown-up while I got to sit in a classroom and draw in my notebook? How do I re-align the remembrances? How do I find empathy for the young man who never got to grow his hair long, never got to go to Uni, never got to sneak a joint?
How can I envy his camaraderie with my dad, their easy laugh?
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the group that I grew up in when living in Northern Ontario. For me, the Apriglianese Group of my youth can be best represented by a series of concentric circles. At the core were the Zingas, the Perris and the Mutos. These are my family, my grandparents, my uncle and aunt. In the next ring were the Belsitos, the Sanguinettis and the Mussos. These three families were from Aprigliano and friends of my parents. These are the people in the old black-and-white pictures, the people at the birthday celebrations, the people from the Christmas holidays. (Christmas gifts for me and my siblings came from my parents, my grandparents and my aunt-and-uncle. But the adults of the extended-family also exchanged gifts among themselves. There was a lot of effort to make certain the gifts the adults exchanged were of equal value, of equal prestige. I remember my mom opening up the gifts from her friends before Christmas. Jo’ and I were shocked by this save-face behavior.)
In the cump’armunte journal post, I wrote about Armante Sanguinetti, and that with his death only his wife and my parents remain in that group of friends from Aprigliano. The generation that left Calabria is fading, but they leave behind their children.
There were 14 children in the extended-family. (They are listed vertically – oldest to youngest.)
Three have died.
|Zinga Family||Muto Family||Sanguinetti Family||Musso Family||Belsito Family|
* My sister Jo’ died June 30, 2001; Renato died September 6, 1994; and Antonino died January 22, 1994.
Connie, Marisa, Lena, Frank, Angie and Mimmo still live in Sault Ste Marie. I’m in Pittsburgh; Rose is in Oxford, Michigan; Mary is in Pickering; Joe is in Mississauga; and Gianni is in Michigan’s UP. Surprisingly, I still interact with many of these next generation off-springs. (The only ones I do not see are Lena Musso, but then she was a bit older than the rest of us and once she married Bernardo Fragomeni, we began to travel in very different circles. And I haven’t seen Gianni Belsito in years.)
I went out into the backyard and there on the horizontal post were the mourning doves. They had come back.
But their nest in the Mulberry tree was long gone. The winter winds scattered the loose twigs.
Mourning doves mate for life. Is the one on the right the female? And is she ready to nest?
This morning I went looking for the snowdrops, but found no evidence of spring. In the side-yard, the early Galanthus would poke their heads above the snow-cover and remind me that long winter was waning. This evening the mourning doves soothed my disappointment. In the soft setting sun, their coos announced the fledgling season.
The dove posting from last year is dated May 9 and here they are back two months early.
I was in a monastery garden in Cambridge Mass when I spotted a regiment of snowdrops rigid against the basement wall. Seeing them reminded me that I had lost my bulbs in the dig for the new sewer. The heralds of spring were silenced when the flower-bed on the side of the house was demoed in order to dig down to replace the terracotta pipes that drained the sink, the toilets, the bath. So last October, I replanted fifty bulbs hoping to regrow my heralds. I planted them among the blueberry bushes and while I was at it, I buried tens of crocus bulbs in the same bed.
It never occurred to me that the mourning doves would announce the new spring.