christmas – 2014

December 14, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

 owls call the breathless moonchristmas 2014 – 1st entry
sunrise (pgh) – 7:35

dec-moonAI shot the image last Sunday morning; I was up early with the dogs. And there, as if hanging from the fire-escape, was the full moon. My favorite aspect of the image is that it came out as a black-and-white photograph. In the past to achieve a B&W effect, I’d strip all the color from and image, but the stripped image lost its contrast giving it a pale blurry finish. The outline is the west wall of the Mattress Factory.

I leave for my trek into the wilds of the Upper Peninsula and Northern Ontario later in the week. The weather forecast for the Gaylord and St. Ignace areas includes no snow. If this holds, it will be the first time in five years that I won’t have to deal with winter storms and dangerous driving conditions. Sault Ste Marie has had snow since the middle of November. But my dad says the city-roads are clear.

Have been spending my time writing opinion pieces and finishing a short-story. (18,000 words take up 90 pages double-spaced.) The first opinion piece is the posting – dual citizenship. It the posting opinion #1 in the footer. I am in the process of shopping it around. (Out of civic duty, I sent it to the local paper, but I hold up no hope with them.)

The second piece I’m trying to write is more an essay than an opinion. I want to write about finding the lead into a story, finding the character that can take me into the narrative. I’ve titled it Finding Vigil. The premise is that a person from one’s real life can act as the guide into a fictional narrative. And that the real-life person changes and becomes a fictional character as the narrative gets written.

The short-story took about four weeks. I write first in long-hand using an HB .9 mechanical pencil and after a couple of re-writes, word-process what is on the loose-leaf sheets. Every two or three day, I read the word-processed file out loud. Word-sounds and word-rhythms are critical for me and the reading aloud gives me a way of checking both. I also eliminate as many words as possible during the read-aloud. I believe writing should be free of words that don’t contribute to meaning. (I give myself license to add descriptive words when describing landscape.) A friend, that I did a lot of academic writing with, would always comment that my edits made the piece we were working on ping. I am proud of that comment.

The short-story is not ready to be sent out. I have about another two/three weeks of edits. I also need a title. (The working title – Year after Year – made sense when I first began, but by the end it no longer reflects the story. The working title along with the real-life person I used to lead me into the story got lost in the fictionalization.)


December 22, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

the last four dayschristmas 2014 – 2nd entry
sunrise (ssm) – 8:19, sunrise (pgh) – 7:40

breakfastThe trip up had a scary part and a non-scary part. I left Rose-and-Derrick’s around 9:00. As I was packing up I realized their front steps were very icy and I had to be careful, but the outside temp wasn’t above freezing, so I didn’t worry. Was I wrong. Going up Michigan 24 there was snow everywhere and in a few spots there was a white-out. What the … I get on 69 West and start seeing all these cars in the median. The whole time I’ve driving there’s been a steady drizzle, but again the temp was above freezing. Next came the fender-benders and the highway patrols. 69 West and 475 through Flint were littered with accidents and police cars.

As I near the exit onto 75 North, I’ve already decided that if the drizzle continues, I’m pulling over checking into some motel and waiting out the weather. I get close to 75-N exit and traffic is at a stand-still. Luckily, the exit lane is moving. Up ahead I see ambulances and flashing lights. However, as soon as I turn onto 75-N, the drizzles gets down to a few drops, the road-bed is dry and traffic is moving fine.

I was able to make up the lost time and still got to my parents’ in 5 hours.

The challenge at this time of year is – how many times can I say no and not offend everyone? My parents seem to think that I should eat-and-eat-and-eat. My dad, who gets up even earlier than me, was pushing polpette at six in the morning. When I told him they weren’t breakfast food, he just waited a longer block before offering the meatballs again. And every time company comes over, it’s another occasion for the prodigal to again reject his heritage and not drink wine or eat large amounts. If I ate everything they want me to eat, I’d be huge as a house and then I’d get criticized for having no self-control.

Breakfast is the only meal I eat my mother’s Christmas cookies. On the blue paper-plate are biscotti and turdilli – Calabrese Christmas fritters covered in honey. This year her scalille – braided Calabrese Chritmas fritters covered in honey and sugar – came out really nice. I’ve switched from turdilli to scalille.


December 23, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

wires and winter-lightchristmas 2014 – 3rd entry
sunrise (ssm) – 8:19, sunrise (pgh) – 7:41

There is Internet at the Zingas. Connie got it all set up with a Bell sales-clerk she know, I figured out how to do a seasonal suspension so that we’re not paying while no one is here to use it and yesterday the technician came to do the install. (There are so many phones in this house, that in order to boost the signal to a normal high-speed bandwidth, he had to install adapters on all the various phone extensions throughout the house. BTW, there are 3 phone on this floor, two upstairs and one in the garage. I suggested to my dad, that we get rid of all the lines and cords and that I get him some portables that will also have the hearing-impaired feature, he scoffed. I went on to a different subject.)

pozzobone2Except for the first day that I got here, the weather has been grey and overcast making for poor picture taking. The image on the left was one of the rare mornings when I saw the sun. It didn’t stay long, within the hour the cloud-cover brought back the grey. Will not complain. This is the first Christmas visit where we haven’t spent all our time shoveling snow or retreating indoors because of the severe cold.

Company has been visiting on a regular basis and Monday night I went and visited Connie and Ron. We laughed when she told me that she will no longer invite the parents over. The times she’s invited them for dinner, they bring all the food, even though she has spent money and time getting the dinner ready. She and Ron went on and on about having bought all these stakes, just to have to freeze them all, because the parents walked in with pasta, a meat dish, cheese, salad and fruit. “It drives me crazy. I invite them and they don’t get that I’ve cooked.”

Last night my dad got all mad and left to go upstairs when my mother and I told him to not cook all the fish for Christmas dinner. The menu has been – soup (chicken broth with small meatballs), lasagna, fried shrimp, fried calamari, fried white fish, baccalà in a tomato sauce, baccalà in a olive-oil sauce, turnkey, stuffing, cranberry-sauce, mashed potatoes and all sorts of other vegetables. Salad to finish the meal and then fennel, oranges, mandarins, chestnuts, and prickly-pear. Dessert would be served after all the gifts are opened.

christmas 2014

December 24, 2014 8th grade, christmas, diario/journal

field of dreamschristmas 2014 – 4th entry
8th grade – 16th entry
sunrise (ssm) – 8:20, sunrise (pgh) – 7:41

There is a thaw going on, but I need a walk so I head out with my cameras. It really is a pea-soup environment. There isn’t much I can shoot, but with Photoshop I can get rid of some of the gloomy grey. I’m walking down to Ron’s and decide to shoot the empty lot where we used to play baseball. The brick house in the background is where Corrine lived. Sometimes she would play with us. And even though she was a girl she could pitch, hit and run like a boy. The lot was beside Ron’s house and behind Corrine’s. The house on the left of the image was not there.

field3Like everything from childhood, the lot looks small. In my mind it was huge. (I’m standing across the street in the church parking lot shooting.) Most of us hit inside the field. Frank Bitonti and Jacky Porco could hit the ball into the church parking lot, so the fielders would back up when they were at bat. (In my old neighborhood, I never played any team sports. The subdivision was just starting to get built and there were not enough kids or established families to organize team sports.)

Tonight we head over to my aunt-and-uncle’s. It’ll be a meatless meal with lots and lots of fish options. All the fish will be fried. My aunt, my mother and I will eat spaghetti slathered in anchovies and olive oil; the others will have it with a meatless red-sauce. My uncle is from Aiello – and small mountain town south west of Aprigliano – and in his town the rule was that you left 13 items on the table on Christmas Eve. So after we are all done with dinner, he and my aunt make sure to leave 13 items on the table overnight.

There will be cullurielli – a deep fried sweet dough – made either plain or at Christmas with an anchovy inside. (I like the ones with the anchovies. My friend Chris Colecchia coats the plain ones in powdered sugar and has them for breakfast.) In my extended Calabrese family, the cullurielli are a Christmas tradition and I eat them instead of bread for the time I am here.


December 25, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

no shrimp, no calamari, no baccalàchristmas 2014 – 5th entry
sunrise (ssm) – 8:20, sunrise (pgh) – 7:41

My mother and I were able to convince my dad to not fry shrimp, calamari or baccalà. Don’t forget that these would be in addition to – a chicken broth with polpettini – tiny meatballs – and pastina, lasagna, turkey, two types of stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, and various vegetables that no American would ever see on a dinner table with roasted turkey.

decorationConnie came over after lunch hoping to help with the preparations, but all that was left was for her to put out the glasses. (We looked at each other acknowledging how the prep work must have gone down.) The kids, Dave, Isabel and the dog got in by 4:00, but dinner wouldn’t be for two more hours. But, for the two hours until ate, I had to restrain the parents, because they wanted to carve the turkey, mash the potatoes that way everything would be ready. They’ve insisted on having two different menus for the Christmas dinner for years and this is the first time there was some negotiation towards a more reasonable amount of food.

After all the food was put away, more wine drinking and fennel eating followed. (Rose, Mary and Connie manage the dishes and the clean-up.) And by 9:00 we were upstairs opening gifts.

What remains is helping the parents through the next couple of days. I head home Sunday, but between now and then there will much food preparation to manage and keep under control. (My mother will now follow the kids and I around asking if we’ve had breakfast, what foods we want for lunch, what foods we want for dinner, if we want coffee, if we want a snack …)


December 26, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

  that old british left-over – boxing daychristmas 2014 – 6th entry
the first day of christmas
sunrise (ssm) – 8:20, sunrise (pgh) – 7:42

stringChristian and I put away the extra table and the extra chairs. Both were keeping my father’s obsession with everything-in-its-place on edge. He had already been busy at work drilling rebar into the outside wall of the garage to hold the folding chairs. He used to tie them and then put them on hooks, but the rebar hook would make getting them and putting them back easier.

The long table is one of two that gets brought in at this time of year to accommodate the 18 to 20 people that eat Christmas dinner at my parents. The tables are hung against the side of the garage, but in order to get them there you have to move everything. Christian moved the huge snow-blower; I moved all the shovels and brooms my dad uses to remove the snow from the double driveway. (Who knew how heavy a snow-blower was. Certainly not me who has no driveway.)

The parents are now busy getting lunch ready. (It’s no use interfering. With the grandchildren in the house, anything I may say about reducing their amount of work will be seen as my suggesting they shirk their responsibilities. And neither of them will tolerate that. I guess that’s what you get when you have 90 year old grandparents from the old country.)

Any minute now, the call will go out from my dad and we will all be expected at the table ready to eat.


December 28, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

heading home, at lastchristmas 2014 – 7th entry
the third day of christmas
sunrise (ssm) – 8:21

Dec2014 044Today, I get to go home. And it seems that the weather is not going to be an issue. (It did snow last night on this side of the lake, but the forecast for the snow-belt, better known as the area between Saint Ignace and Grayling, Michigan, is for sun and temperatures in the mid 30’s.) It has been 5 years since I was able to head out and not worry about winter weather in the northern Michigan.

I’ve used the time driving up to think through the character development in the Saturday Smiles short-story. I need to figure out how to end the piece, so the drive to Rose-and-Derick’s will give me a chance to think this through.

The visit was too long. (I thought it would be OK, thinking that since I didn’t make a fall trip I would make the Christmas visit longer. I was occupied working on the Saturday Smiles piece, but it would have been OK to have gotten here a few days later.) For the first time ever, my mother and I did the Christmas dinner. She did the soup and the lasagna, I did the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberries. My dad did the green vegetables and they were done by 7:00 AM. And even with that reduced menu, there was a lot of left-over turkey.

The left-overs make some appearance, but the parents have to cook new foods, because they have the grandchildren to feed and heaven forbid their favorite foods are not on the table. (The advantage of the grandchildren is that no one tells me to keep eating. The parents tell the grandchildren to keep eating more.)

The image on the left is the inside of a very old ornament. (I’m purposely using the out of focus image, because I like the impressionistic quality.) I remember buying it back in the mid-sixties.


December 31, 2014 christmas, diario/journal

  six geese-a-layingchristmas 2014 – 8th entry
the sixth day of christmas
sunrise (pgh) – 7:43

If it’s New Year’s Eve, then it’s the all-meat dinner at Jerry-and-Diane’s.
This year, I didn’t take a pic of the long dinner table at my parents, because I have enough pictures of it, and instead decided to shoot the dining-room table at Jerry-and-Diane’s. And being consistent with the other dinner images, I shot the table before all the food was put out.
jerry-dianeWe affectionately call this the all-meat dinner, because the only vegetable in sight is a cucumber salad, everything else is a meat dish – meatballs in a red sauce, ham, roast beef and in past years kielbasi and sauerkraut in a sweet tomato sauce.

The sunrise time was an add-on when I noticed the difference between first light here and what I was seeing up in Sault Ste Marie. (There’s a half-hour difference between the two places.) I’m an early riser, but I’d stay in my room and wait until there was a hint of light before I went upstairs to have breakfast. I’d take my time making coffee, defrosting the scalille and cutting up the oranges hoping to find some morning light when I made my way into my mother’s sun-room. (The window-rich room gets appropriated by the dog and the kids’ stuff when the Thormans arrive on Christmas Day.)


January 1, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

seven swans-a-swimmingchristmas 2014 – 9th entry
the seventh day of christmas
sunrise (pgh) – 7:43

X-mas-TMy grandmother used to say that what you do on New Year’s you will repeat throughout the year. (Chi fa a Capo d’Anno, fa tutto l’anno.) Kielbasi and sauerkraut are supposed to bring good luck; eating lentils on this first day is also supposed to bring good luck. With the image on the left, I’m reaching back to the tree worship customs of the pagan Europeans who decorated the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year’s to scare away the devil.

The decorated tree is in the side-yard. It’s on top of the Hosta pot. (I saw the live tree at the grocery store and decided to pick it up and put it somewhere in the backyard. And after the holidays, if it survived, I’d plant it.)

It has been a slow, lazy day full of sunshine and mild temperatures, and I’m glad for it.

I’ve expanded the dog’s domain on the first floor. They are no longer confined to the kitchen, they have access to the whole floor. I do have to block off the stairs, because Jack loves to go up and then continue on to the loft, but then has no way of getting down. He doesn’t do down-the-stairs yet, so you have to go get him and carry him down.

They love running the big-room chasing and mock wrestling. Jack has figured out that he can wait for Bilby by one of the entrances and pounce as he streaks by. (I’ve brought the water spray-bottle to my desk and threaten when the rough-housing gets to be too much.)

I finished the second short-story. It’s 90 pages and 32,800 words. I’m beginning to think of a collection of novellas that share the same theme – men whose lives get re-organized. I’m staying away from dramatic events as plot devices and letting the day-to-day tell the fictional narrative. It’s much more fun to weave reality into the fiction and let it shift and impact the storyline.


January 3, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

nine ladies dancingchristmas 2014 – 10th entry
the ninth day of christmas
sunrise (pgh) – 7:43

rain-treeThis morning was a mess. There were accidents all over the place. It started to rain around 6:00 and with the temp below 33, a slick surface covered the asphalt. Drivers in trucks and Range Rovers seemed to pay no attention to road conditions. I was out, because I needed a longer HDMI cable; took the side-roads, because there was an accident on McKnight and I wanted to avoid the two hills.

I finally broke down and got a desktop to better deal with Photoshop and other high res programming issues. The other convenience is that I can now use the laptop throughout the house. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen writing and I the laptop is great for research and for word processing first drafts. (The best would be to have WiFi access to the printer, but that will have to be the next upgrade.)

The White-pine is one of my favorite photo subjects, especially after a rain storm . The long needles hold the raindrops.

I was thinking that 66 years ago, a twenty-two year-old Mafalda had a baby. And the world at that time was vastly different than the one we all live in today. While up in the Sault, Mafalda comes downstairs one night and asks, “Ma, did you touch the electrical?” (Ma, which rhymes with fa, is short for the Italian version of my name.) I had no idea what touching the electrical could possibly mean, so I ask if something was not working. And she told me that the TV had gone off. It came back shortly, so I guess I hadn’t touched the electrical after all. The next day, I tried to explain dish-technology to my 88 year old mother. With my dad, it was trying to get him to understand that the new router wouldn’t interfere with his phone service. Both understood that something had changed, but had no references to make the connections to the new world.


January 5, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

eleven pipers pipingchristmas 2014 – 11th entry
the eleventh day of christmas
sunrise (pgh) – 7:43

samsoniaIt has been a crazy three days. Saturday morning the roads were a sheet of ice. It started to rain around 6:00 and for the next three hours driving was at your own risk. Sunday the temperature went up to 60 and today it never went above 25.

I walked into town and when on the foot-bridge over the Point, I thought the wind was gonna freeze my face. I came home via the 6th Street Bridge. The wind was not as virulent.

Today, the Euro hit an all time low and while in town, I went and bought some. I came home and spent the afternoon restoring the system on the new tower PC. I had downloaded a package of analog-clocks screensavers and with the package came a miserable trojan – pop-fuz. It littered the browser with pops up; it put McAfee into overdrive; and on the blog, it made any Internet related word a link. I would try and do some work, but instead spent the whole time responding to McAfee’s virus alerts.

For some reason in this round of pictures, I am noticing how many wires there are. The above image is of Sampsonia Way the premier Art Street here on the North Side. The wire mesh is a combination of the ubiquitous wires that cross the street and the wild-grape vines that use the wires. Last year someone cut the vines, but it will be a few years before the dead vines disintegrate. And when I was in Canada, I couldn’t get over the fact that every image I shot had wires in it.


January 6, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

twelve drummer drummingchristmas 2014 – 12th entry
the twelfth day of christmas
sunrise (pgh) – 7:43

snow-treeThis is the last entry for the christmas 2014 category. And I wanted to end the posts on the twelfth day of Christmas and on the feast of the Epiphany.

Today is gift giving in Italy. I still remember that January 6 when I found gifts and coal in the sock I had hung by the fireplace. Let me tell you, I was not happy. And about trees in old Calabria – our tree was decorated with fruit – oranges and tangerines, and with candy – torrone wrapped in shiny cellophane and chocolate bars, which friends of the family brought when they came to visit during the Christmas season. And I was allowed to eat these decorations. I saw tree ornaments for the first time when we came to Canada.

The winter weather continues and today is a snow-day. I really like what the grocery store tree looks like covered in white. The dogs love eating the snow.

It’s slowly beginning to feel like I’m back home, back to my own routines. The week after Christmas began with the long drives – to Rose-and-Derrick’s, then across Ohio to Pittsburgh. What followed were: the New Year’s dinners, the birthday, coffee with friends and the new tower PC. All were fun, but they were part of the social fabric that began back on December 17 when I left to go to the parents. Monday was my first day back to exercising. I had been away a month. And like all other post holiday weeks, the place was packed. This was on a Monday morning when it’s usually the retired set, but the kids are still home and everyone who had gotten a gift certificate showed up hoping to shed their holiday pounds.