kaua’i – 2015

March 13, 2015 diario/journal, kaua'i

the cold canadian1st entry – kaua’i 2015
To read this series in chronological order,
click on the category title: kaua’i – 2015.

Fri-13 009We got here yesterday, late afternoon. And this year Daniel is with us. We spent the time after we landed food shopping and getting situated in the condo. We all headed to bed by 9:00, because our bodies were still on Eastern Standard Time. (It’s a 7 hour flight from Phoenix and it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The pilot reminded us that it was winter and the flight crew was dealing with the winds and the turbulence. I also don’t know why the route isn’t considered a high-end destination. The plane was old, there were no individual screens, the seats were jammed and the service was minimal. The flight from Pittsburgh to Phoenix was on a newer and roomier aircraft.)

We woke to cold and winds. Daniel was so cold he huddled on the lanai as we ate breakfast. I had brought no long-sleeve shirts, and wore my LL Bean sweater to keep from shivering. (It is winter even here in Kaua’i.) After lunch, we drove down to Hanalei and I bought a long-sleeve T and a long-sleeve hoodie.

Spent most of the afternoon in the hot-tub, but left for half-hour to go back down to Hanalei to return one of the items, because it had a rip. Did get some sun, but that was in between cloud cover and the cold winds off the ocean.

Dinner was broiled mahi-mahi, rice and salad. (The trip marks the beginning of switching over from winter-available foods to fresh vegetables.)


March 14, 2015 diario/journal, kaua'i

Fri-13 084

in the war of magic and religion, is magic ultimately the victor2nd entry – kaua’i 2015

Every year, I take a pic in this mirror on the ground-floor of the St. Regis. We come in from the beach and use the elevators to get back up to the top of the ridge. The mirror is in the elevator lobby.

When I told Daniel that no one wears their hats backwards anymore, Uncle Derrick piped up with, “If you’re wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs hat you want to make sure no one sees the logo.” (I claim immunity, because I have to be able to see through the view-finder.)

The title is a quote from Patti Smith’s book Just Kids.


March 15, 2015 diario/journal, kaua'i

Sun-15 027B

perhaps priest and magician were once one3rd entry – kaua’i 2015

We’re on a beach on the other side of Hanalei Bay. (The path down is cement, extremely steep and through one of the ritziest condo developments.) Daniel decided that he had to walk into the surf, regardless of the slippery or jagged rocks. It’s fun having Daniel here, we can make fun of him all day. He does get some come-backs, but the old folks are so better at the gibes.

In the above image, I told Daniel that he’s inconsequential, that what I liked were the black trunks matching the rocks and the red shirt in contrast to and in opposition with the rocks and sky. He just laughed.

Again, I’m using a quote from Patti Smith’s Just Kids in the title.


March 16, 2015 diario/journal, kaua'i

but priest discarded the spell for prayer4th entry – kaua’i 2015

Mon-16 010On our way up to Waimea Canyon, we stopped at the stream. The color of the earthen mounds is true.

Sunday was a full day. We left Princeville and drove south hoping to get to the canyon before the hordes. We were one of six cars in the parking lot, but on our way down, the tour buses were making their way up the mountain.

From there, we headed to our favorite taco place for lunch. As we made our way south, we had to stop at the farmers-market in Koloa and Rose and Derrick promised to just get a few things. Daniel and I laughed, because there’s no way Uncle Derrick and Zi-Zi Rose can only get a few things at a farmers-marker. It’s not in their DNA to pass up fresh food, regardless what state or country they are in. (In Fossombrone one year, we went to the market after having been there the previous day. They claimed to only need some herbs. By the time they were done, they had spent over $100.)

We spent most of the afternoon in Po’ipu on the lawn of a fancy restaurant. The beach is great for snorkeling and the lawn is best for sunning. The South attracts the move conventional tourist – white, old and over-weights. The clientele here reads from their Kindles and tables while shrouded in floppy hats, Hawaiian shirts or skin-tight tops.

After the beach, we headed back to COSTCO for coffee, taro-chips and cookies.

The title will be the last quote from the Patti Smith book.


March 16, 2015 diario/journal, kaua'i

great things – not accomplished by popular opinion5th entry – kaua’i 2015

Mon-16 048I believe it’s a Jack Kerouac rule that at seventeen you have to show disdain, detachment and boredom otherwise your teenage ID gets revoked. No worry Daniel, you have the anti-establishment attitude down to an art. And still we love you and are glad you are here with us old folks. (The seventeen-year-old insists on referring to my shorts as capris. I remind him that in Italy, I am very stylish. He reminds me we are not in Italy. His attempt at mockery is endearing.)

Waimea Canyon is in the background. The woman who took the pic actually knew what she was doing. When I told her it was a fixed lens, she knew what that was and she actually took several pics and all came really well. (At the Queen’s Bath, I asked the woman with the Canon to take our pic, she was confused that there was no zoom, even though I told her it was a fixed lens, and all the pictures she took had our faces in shadow. So much for thinking that a decent camera equates with knowing what you’re doing.)

One year, I didn’t bring the D90 with its Auto feature and didn’t get any pics of us. After that, I always bring one camera that I can hand to someone and make taking our picture an easy step.

The title is a quote from Kerouac.


March 17, 2015 diario/journal, kaua'i

beautiful insane in the rain6th entry – kaua’i 2015

aniniAnini Beach is this amazing place; it’s a giant shallow pool. The coral reef keeps out the mighty Pacific and for miles the water is glass-still and knee-high. The beach is sand and long and curvy.

We walk down the cliff by the Hilton and then along the beach. There a stream at the bottom of the cliff that you have to cross in order to continue down the beach and every year we’re tried different methods. This year, I gave in, took my shoes off and walked across. Derrick used a rope swing, but got all wet. Daniel too used the rope swing and almost dropped his iPhone in the water.

In the above image, the dark line is waves crashing on the coral reef. Anini tends to attract strange people. This morning we again saw two women searching for the tiny shells that they will make into jewelry. (Crouching in the sand picking up tiny items looks strange. We know what they’re doing, because one year our curiosity got the better of us and we asked.) Further down, the public beach is full of young people camping. OMG, I never camped and the modern conveniences don’t make it any more appealing. And then there are the multi-million dollar homes. Many have a Japanese motif with pagoda-like roofs. One of the band-members from R.E.M. has a house on Anini Beach.

The title is Jack Kerouac.


March 17, 2015 diario/journal, kaua'i

the wicked witch of the west7th entry – kaua’i 2015

Mon-16 110The condo complex is on the Makai Golf Course and it’s not uncommon for people to walk the cart-paths. We do that without thinking, but yesterday we ran into true bitch. She was in her 50’s, skinny and well groomed and she reminded us in her belligerent voice that it was dangerous to walk on the cart-paths. There was no way I was gonna let some tight-ass, Republican snot-nose talk to us that way and I had to answer. (I was so surprised by her attitude that I didn’t use my best stuff. I really wanted to tell her about herself. I consoled myself with the fact that she must have a husband and children that she talks that way to.)

The plant/flower on the left, I found on the pavement in the parking lot of a resort in the south. The first image in the slide-show is the Shaving-brush tree that the plant/flower fell from. The real name for the tree is – Pseudobombax ellipticum.

Also, we went to the golf course to watch the sunset and this time an employee came out to tell all the trespassers that we were allowed to stay tonight, but we were not to come back again. We were on private property.


March 18, 2015 diario/journal, kaua'i

the warm breath of spring8th entry – kaua’i 2015

mountainsToday was the first day that the sky was clear and the sun was out. The image is of the mountains behind us. Throughout the week the sky was shrouded in mist and the mountain peak was topped by grey clouds. (I keep forgetting that it’s still winter.)

I’m gonna spend the afternoon by the pool, in the sun, with a gin-and-tonic on the small table beside me. Everyone else is seeking refuge on Anini Beach. (I told Daniel I no longer do beach, sand, and salt-water. I’m perfectly happy coming here to enjoy the warm weather, the walking, the fresh fruit and vegetables and the eating on the lanai.)

This morning we went searching for a path down to a snorkeling spot below the Cliffs condo complex. After following the path for a bit, I turned around and went back to shoot the flowering plumeria on the Cliff complex. On my way back to the condo, I had to be cheerful and say hello to everyone I passed. Normally Rose and Derrick do the friendly and I can ignore all the well-wishers. Well not this walk.

Tomorrow is Daniel and my last day. Daniel is anxious to sleep in his own bed again; I’m looking forward to being back among the real world. The Disneyland quality of the vacation compounds puts me in a foul mood. (Princeville is full of old, rich white people. And even though I fit into those categories, I live my life in a very diverse environment. The homogeneity here is stifling.)


March 19, 2015 diario/journal, kaua'i

Wed-18 011

here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy

9th and last entry – kaua’i 2015


Today is our last day and we moved from the unit we were in to a two-day rental in the same complex. This has been the easiest move, because we went from one unit to a similar one without having to put everything in storage and wait for an afternoon check-in.

Daniel asked why I didn’t stay longer and I answered that I can’t take the old, rich white people for two weeks. Also, I come for the warm weather, the fruit-and-vegetables and after a week, I’ve gotten my fill.

The complex reminds me how vacationing in America has turned into a Disneyesque experience. Every morning someone wipes the bottom of the pool; every morning someone picks up any leaf, flower or stem that has fallen off a tree; every morning someone power-washes the pool area; every morning someone sweeps the cart-path of the Makai Golf Course. The complex is beautifully maintained. All workers are dressed in their Hawaiian shirts and by 9:00 AM they are no where to be seen. I suspect that the workers are told to stay out of sight. They work an 8 hour shift, and they are available throughout the day if you need more salt, a stick-free skillet, more dish-washing detergent … But they are not seen on the property other than first thing in the morning. (It could also be that the crew moves to the next condo complex to do grounds maintenance. But I like the Magic Kingdom metaphor.)


March 31, 2015 diario/journal, kaua'i, reflections

epilogue-1 – kaua’i 2015

winter’s last blastrose-snow

and a free breakfastFri-13 025

Rose sent me the image of her Michigan backyard covered in spring snow and I took the pic of her and Daniel eating the free breakfast-donuts at the Ka ‘Eo Kai condo complex. The breakfast image was taken two weeks ago.

Yes, we traveled to Kaua’i a month earlier than other years and we found cold weather in the garden island. (Why Daniel is all covered up and why I went out and bought a long-sleeve T and a left-over-hippie, VISSLA hoodie.) Finding cold weather when we got back state-side was not a surprise, but three inches of SNOW!

I’m adding to this post on April 1. The date officially puts March 2015 away. Don’t know why, but with March done, winter also feels done.



stroll around the grounds until you feel at home 


Sitting on a sofa
on a Sunday afternoon.
Going to the candidates’ debate.
Laugh about it, shout about it
when you’ve got to choose
every way you look at this
you lose.
Where have you gone,
Joe DiMaggio,
our nation turns
its lonely eyes to you.
What’s that you say,
Mrs. Robinson
Jolting Joe has left
and gone away.

Easter Sunday is one of my least favorite holidays. I guess once you let go of religion, the myths go too. Christmas is more accessible, more human in its narrative. Easter requires belief in the myth of resurrection. And where its an amazing human construct, belief removes it from a sense-of-wonder and makes it an article of faith; belief removes it from its historical context and makes it a litmus test for Church membership.

For the first time ever, I am sitting on the deck with an unplugged laptop, working on this post, drinking Grey Goose and Anisette and listening to music. It’s hard to go back to mythology when modernity puts magic at my fingertips.

I downloaded Mrs. Robinson when I got back from Kaua’i, to remind me of the woman who hit on our Daniel. It was Sunday, March 15 and the employees’ families were using the pool. One of the woman tried to get Daniel into a conversation; he was polite, but gave no openings and she soon went back to her tattooed family.

     iTunes has moved on to Mick who is warning, “Don’t play with me cause you’re you’re playing with fire.”
     now, Peter Sarstedt is asking, “Where do you go to my lovely, when you’re alone in your bed?
     . . .
     Remember the back streets of Naples, two children begging in rags, both touched with a burning ambition …”

The neighborhood is full of night-light – the Mattress Factory seems to have captures two moons in its windows, the street lights on Sampsonia Way are covered in wild-grape and above it all, the beanstalk Tower looms its red, blinking lights punctuating the dark.

epilogue-2 – kaua’i 2015



May 15, 2015 diario/journal, sault

fava in the cold northsault 2015 – 1st entry (May)

favaIt’s always a disturbing experience to come north in the spring. I leave behind warm weather and trees full of leaves for cold days and colder nights, bare trees and gardens growing to the rhythms of a winter dominant land.

The above image is of fava leaves. In Calabria they are already eating the bitter beans, but here in Northern Ontario, the leaves are just sprouting. (I remember going looking for fava, in the Strip, in early July only to have the vendor tell me that fava are an early spring bean and that July is the time for summer fruits-and-vegetables. My reply was that at my Dad’s we always ate fava in July. And then it dawned on me, that we ate fava in July in Northern Ontario. I apologized and went out with a new piece of awareness.)

My Dad’s garden is planted with garlic, onions, fava, radish and early bush-peas. Anything else would not survive the cold nights. (The tomato plants are in the sun room waiting for the threat of frost to retreat.) The garden is also full of seedling from the nearby willow and my Dad is threatening to call the Forestry Department and have the tree cut. I suggested that trees are good for the environment and for air quality. That fell on deaf ears as he pointed to the thousands of seedling he’d have to weed from his precious garden. (The man is 90 and is still planting a huge garden. Hard work that he does all on his own. As he says, he’s now doing it very slowly, but it isn’t like he had to get up and go to work. I think I get my love of putzing around in the soil and planting from him.)

One last note: When it was still a detriment to be Italian in Sault Ste Marie, fava were called horse beans another slur and negative hurled at the immigrants and their foreign foods. Today with the awareness of a nutritionally bankrupt food system and a need to find viable, healthy foods, the fava has regained its status and lost its immigrant negativity. All the grocery stores now carry fresh fava and all the foodies are rushing to eat the bitter, peasant bean. BTW, in Calabria, in the winter, the dry bean was fed to donkeys.

This series will also cover the early August return trip under the category sault 2015.


May 16, 2015 diario/journal, sault

the warm breath of springsault 2015 – 2nd entry

Sat-16 057The day began gray and overcast, but at least no rain. I like the west-end of town with its industrial landscape and rugged coastline. It’s also littered with streams that empty into the St. Mary’s River.

The image on the left was taken early evening. The stream is on Connie-and-Ron’s property in the Base Line section of town. The area at one time was all farmland, now solar-farms sprout from the thawing soil. In heavily developed cities, we introduce old icons – weather-vanes, split-rail fences, Home-Depot barns – to remind us of the long ago when the streets, highways and suburbs were rural, forested lands. In Northern Ontario, the inhabitants add modern icons – John Deer tractors, satellite dishes, solar panels – to their properties to remind them that they live in the 21st century. I’ve been taught to regard the old icons as quaint and the new ones as contrary; I don’t know if I can keep to that distinction.

The stream goes through an area that was once a beaver pond. There are still reminders of the pond – felled trees with teeth marks, remnants of a dam and the top of a lodge. The main channel – the stream – when the area was flooded, was probably 10 feet deep and the surrounding area is bordered by a natural embankment that the beavers used to border the pond.


May 17, 2015 diario/journal, sault

the big lake they call gitche gumeesault 2015 – 3rd entry

Sun-17 056

Because the Thormans head home tomorrow, we had the big meal at lunch today. Afterwards, we headed out to Connie’s cottage and we walked the Voyageur Trail from the cottage south towards Gros Cap. The above image is of Lake Superior along the trail.

Before we got to the cottage, there was a discussion about making the big meal simple. I failed to alter those plans; my mother made lasagna, my dad roasted rabbit and potatoes, deep fried breaded shrimp and cooked calamari in a tomato sauce; these were complimented with various vegetable dishes and salad to finish the meal. For dessert, we had these amazing cream-puffs that my mother’s friend made and dropped off before lunch.

I was able to extract from my Dad a change of venue. Instead of preparing all the food here in town and then packing it up and carting off to the cottage, I made the strong suggestion of eating in town and we did. My parents work very hard when we are all visiting and I know they enjoy the company, but they are 90 years old. And cooking everything to then cart it off to eat an hour away was added work that they did not need to do. (I probably robbed my Dad of an outing, but that will just reinforce my reputation as a difficult and uncooperative family member.)


May 17, 2015 diario/journal, sault

the birch treessault 2015 – 4th entry

Sun-17 043On the way back from Connie’s cottage, two men were stopped on the side of the road retrieving birch tree bark from the side-ditch. I assumed the two men were collecting the bark to use in some art project.

In elementary school, we learned that Native Canadians made canoes out of birch bark. (In Ontario, the tree is also called the Canoe Birch.) That has always fascinated me and that memory always comes back whenever I see the tree or the bark. The bark is also prized by Canadian artists who make all sorts of things from it. The bark from a dead birch rots very slowly; remaining solid long after the wood had decayed into dust.

The image on the left is from the Voyageur Trail outing. The trail follows the lake-shore, is well maintained and at this time of year mosquito-free. (I hate visiting in early August, because the mosquitoes are in full force and I leave covered in bites.) The white birch grow all along the lake and it was great finding this small stand. The Voyageur Trail is really a series of smaller trails that when linked go across Canada. This particular section, about 20 km, goes south along the Red Rock Ridge and comes out at Gros Cap. In the region most trees still have no leaves and the apple blossoms are weeks away. Spring flowers are almost two-and-a-half weeks later than they are back in Pennsylvania. For us, the spring flowers are done and the trees are full.

I liked the birch tree with its white bark enough to have Derrick cut a dozen of short logs that I put in the non-working fireplace in my Mexican War Street house. (They were hard to keep clean and eventually had to be thrown out, because they were encrusted with dust.)


May 18, 2015 8th grade, diario/journal, sault

the resurgence of the west-endsault 2015 – 5th entry
8th grade – 17th entry

Mon-18 016

My generation wanted out of the West-End and ran to buy houses in the Protestant East-End. Sir James Dunn High School was the envy of every immigrant living in the West-End. The Dunn was new and full of Canadians. The West End elementary schools were full of immigrant children. (St. Veronica and St. Joseph Elementary were full of children with names like Stocco, Zinga, Bitonti, Pozzobono and Fratesi.)

Forward 50 years and the world has changed. St. Veronica’s and St. Joseph’s are shuttered and the sons and daughters of the immigrants have taken over the political machines. The mayors and aldermen, for the last thirty years, have all had last names ending in vowels. Gone are the McCaigs and the Smiths. And the West-End with its wooded lots and undeveloped ridge has become a magnet for young families and well-to-do families looking for large parcels of land with a view to the Lake.

And the fact that much of the political class has come from the West-End, much of the new development has occurred in the West-End. The above image is of the Fort Creek Conservation Area. The walking path through the area is amazing. The metal bridge in the image is one of three that span the Creek.


May 20, 2015 diario/journal, sault

cruciform on drahner roadsault 2015 – 6th entry (May)

Tues-18 009There are two side-trips I’ve been wanting to do when at Rose-and-Derrick’s. Today, I got to do one of the two – visit St. Benedict Monastery on East Drahner Road. Rose and I got back to her place in the early afternoon and after expelling the last of the Sault residue, we took a drive down East Drahner. (Rose who’s lived there some 20 years, had no idea the monastery existed.) The complex is rather small in comparison to other monastery properties. It has a huge modern church, the monastery and a new large retreat house.

The chapel is this huge modern church with floor to ceiling windows behind the main altar. (The chapel was completed in in 2000; the architect was William Wyzinski.) The image on the left is of the corpus behind the main altar. The architect uses the window frame for the cross, putting the corpus at the junction of a horizontal and a vertical pipe. I like the image, especially the blue rectangle on the left. It’s a window shade that was pulled slightly down. I find modern religious architecture not very inspiring; it lacks a sense of the sacred. However, the monastery chapel on East Drahner Road works well as a sacred space. The best example of modern religious architecture that invokes the sacred is Le Corbusier’s Notre-Dame du Houte in Ronchamp. Seeing the hilltop chapel for the first time in the rear-view mirror and then walking its stark interior were amazing experiences. The chapel at Ronchamp was commissioned by the Dominican friar Marie-Alain Couturier. His quote – better to commission geniuses without faith than believers without talent – is amazing and a pillar of faith for the Church during the Renaissance. (The modern-day Republican Party seems unable to commission politicians who are either craftsmen or geniuses at compromise or governance. Primary voters would rather elect a presidential candidate who is a believer in the rule of white-men, regardless of his lack of talent to lead a heterogeneous country.)


telegraph hillsan francisco – 1st entry

sailboatMy first day in San Francisco and we went on a boat ride through the harbor. The harbor is huge reminiscent of the one in Naples. And the hills that surround it are brown with no vegetation.

The city itself is of a human scale. All the housing is two, three and four story buildings. You walk out of Tom-and-Kathi’s house and the neighborhood is proportioned for humans. (It is different to see all the housing constructed from wood. Coming from a cold climate where wood had become an interior material and brick the pervasive external sheath.) The city also has a Mediterranean feel to it making it familiar and accessible. Even the downtown office buildings do not create the caverns of Manhattan Island.

The image is from the harbor cruise-ship looking at Telegraph Hill and the Bay Bridge on the left.


i could be in spainsan francisco – 2nd entry

churchUp the street from Tom-and-Kathi is the Jesuit University of San Francisco. And given that the Spanish discovered California and that Ignacio de Loyola was a Spanish nobleman, the university church and the priests’ residence are late Baroque and beautiful against the morning sun.

The image on the left is the copula and one of the bell-towers from the large campus church. (My goal is to go there tomorrow morning and shoot the interior.) The image was shot from the Jesuit Mother-House that now houses the University Admin offices. The Mother-House complex is high Baroque and its soft stone facade gleams in the California sun.

As I walked around the old Mother-House, I kept thinking that Tom and I lived in the Christian Brothers’ Mother-House in the late 60’s. It wasn’t in California, but in grey New England. But is was every bit as grand and expansive.

There really was a time when Mother Church added to the American culture; when it nurtured its European immigrants in the New World. Mother Church brought over the priests, nuns and brothers that created some of the best schools in the country. And it supported this group that educated the children of the immigrants giving them the opportunity to fully participate and contribute to the economy and culture of the New World. And for this grand legacy, I may have to rethink my antagonism towards Mother Church.



the northern coastlinesan francisco – 3rd entry

What amazes me is how similar the San Francisco area is to southern Italy, to Calabria. The topography and the look are so familiar, I keep saying, “If my Dad could see this. If the Calabrese could have come here instead of severe Northern Ontario, their transition would have been so much easier.”

Today, Tom and I drove south as far as Santa Cruz. (The above image is of the coastline south of San Francisco.)

The other refreshing aspect of being here is the lack of references to anything English. Canada with its British legacy and Pittsburgh with its English obsession are annoying. Here everything points to its Spanish past. There is no Queen or King Street and there are no East-enders swooning over Masterpiece Theater and its latest costume farce. You know, the ones where the dukes-and-duchesses look down their noses at the chambermaids and footmen. (If only help weren’t so hard to come by or so demanding of a living wage the East-enders too could live like the Royals of public television.)


the jesuits in san franciscosan francisco – 4th entry

dome2Sometimes I look at all the religious architecture I shoot and think that maybe I’m over doing it. I’m on the campus of The Jesuit University of San Francisco in a modern atrium. Looking up, I realize that it was built to face the old church and to frame the old copula, so I had to shoot it.

It’s and urban campus and therefore everything is compact. The area must have had a collection of religious organizations, because there are two convents and an old all-girls college surrounding the university. (The all-girls college has been assumed into the university.) Within a five block radius, there are many Spanish style steeples. I wonder if the convents are also Spanish in origin.

I’m not interested in going into St. Ignatius Church; I just like the steeples and dome against the blue San Francisco sky.

Tomorrow we head up to Napa. We will tour a couple of the vineyards that Tom-and-Kathi like. (Frank claims that Napa will look even more like Calabria. He and his family were here in 93. So what it took me 23 more years to finally get here.) The weather in Napa is supposed to be warm. The 3 days I’ve been here, I’ve been in long-pants and sweaters. On one level, I want to say, “But it’s June.” but then I remember that I would be wearing the same clothes if it were February – amazing.


off the silverado trailsan francisco – 5th entry

canvasWe spent the day in the Napa Valley. We went to two vineyards, the first one because of its art collection, the second one because of the tram.

The above image is of the canvas awnings in one of the wine tasting areas.

Some of my favorite things about Napa:
– Finding out that the valley runs east and west. This allows the hot winds from the desert to blow into the valley. It was so warm, we were glad to have AC buildings to go into.
– The valley topography is obvious and the flats are covered with grapevines.
– The Christian Brothers have a Novitiate in the Valley and at one time they had one of the largest wineries in the Valley. They made Christian Brothers Brandy.
– The wineries on the Silverado Trail are better.

I did hate the traffic on 29 especially through St. Helena.


naked in napasan francisco – 6th entry

nudeThis triptych is in the Hess Gallery at the Hess Winery – the first winery we visited. (I guess wine has made millionaires of the Hess family.) And next door was the Christian Brothers Novitiate and Conference Center. I don’t know what I liked more – discovering the Christian Brothers Novitiate in Napa, especially after having written about the contributions of the religious orders to American culture, or that the old and retired Brothers are living next door to a modern art collection.

In the whole United States, there are about 700 Brothers left in the organization I joined back in my youth. (The average age of the group is over 70.) The religious order that took me out of northern Ontario and opened the door to New York City and Pittsburgh is dieing. Within 20 years the Brothers, Sisters and Priests that ran the Catholic Schools in the United States will be no more. Bobby, who is my remaining friend in the Brothers, is in Concord, CA; he is the principal at the Brothers High School there; and Bobby is my age.

Tom and I did go up to the Brothers House asking if Brother Robert was in, but school, in the East-Bay Area is still in session.


the christian brothers in napasan francisco – 7th entry

altarThis is the third entry about Napa.

The surprise yesterday was finding the Christian Brothers Novitiate and Holy Family Institute next door to the winery. Tom-and-Kathi had been to the winery before, but neither had ventured into the next property. I saw the bell-tower on the Spanish facade and had decided that I wanted to come back after touring the gallery.

Tom went up to the sign and discovered that it was the Christian Brothers Novitiate. This is comparable to the Novitiate we were at in Narragansett, Rhode Island. This was the west coast version. The above image is the Mont La Salle Chapel and what’s amazing about it is that it was renovated in the same style as the chapel in the Brothers Novitiate in Barrytown, New York. I found the black-and-white picture of the Barrytown chapel online.

barrytownWhen we were at Narragansett they took us on a trip to the Barrytown Novitiate and Mother-House. (Most of the Brothers who were 10 years older than me, had gone through the Novitiate here on the Hudson. The Narragansett facility wasn’t built until the early 60’s.) The original chapel building, from the outside was your typical European church structure, and walking in to see the modern renovation was a shock. It was amazing to see this minimalist chapel in a building that must have dated from the 30’s.

I’ve sent Bobby an email asking if he can find out who did the renovations both at Mont La Salle and in Barrytown. He answered that the Brothers had contracted with the Rambush Architectural Firm for the Mont La Salle Chapel, the Barrytown Chapel and the chapel at the Brothers Washington DC house.


the aids memorial in golden gate parksan francisco – 8th entry

aidsGiven that in 4 hours, I’m headed to the airport, today was a down-day. We walked up to Haight Street and then down into Golden Gate Park. Two observations about the Park: one – all the marginal people are white; two – the Park is full of people. I said to Tom, “If San Francisco can do it, why can’t New York City? Why can’t Central Park be made safe so every part of it can be used?”

It’s a very walkable Park and we ended up at the AIDS Memorial. I had seen the documentary that chronicled the building of the memorial and I’m glad to see that those who wanted a low-keyed, subdued commemoration won out. The place is peaceful and serene.

There are boulders throughout the grove and many of them are carved with people’s names and various epitaphs. The one above was a strange one. I liked the quote, but under it was the name of the corporate sponsor. I removed the corporate name and kept the message.

Running through the grove is a dry stream-bed beautifully landscaped with hand-picked rocks. I found a rock that was split and took it as my souvenir from San Francisco.


June 10, 2015 diario/journal, san francisco

bay-bridgewhen sundown pales the skysan francisco – 9th entry

It’s been four days since my first visit to Northern California. I really liked San Francisco; it felt both safe and accessible. The brown hills, the pine trees, the vineyards were so familiar that I kept thinking I was back in southern Italy. The temperature was cool; the whole time I was there I wore a light sweater and long-pants. The Pacific can be ignored, but the Bay is wonderful. The city exudes a sense of tolerance and the gay community takes that tolerance as a given. I was proud to be in a city where Liberals run an amazing urban center. The urban landscape is on the other side of the Bay – out of sight and maybe out of mind. The housing density is second to New York City and housing prices are extreme. (I kept thinking that Tokyo, must have the same dense feel to it.)

The Golden Gate is majestic, but the Bay Bridge is elegant. (The above image is of the Bay Bridge.) Mendocino is New England, but Napa is Italy. (The rugged coastline and quaint shops of Mendocino stand in for Jessica Fletcher’s home in the fictional town of Cabot Cove, Maine. And the Spanish haciendas and Italianate cantinas blend wonderfully with the long rows of grapevines of the Napa Valley.)

But San Francisco shows that Liberals can succeed in an America held hostage by an intolerant Republican Congress.


June 11, 2015 diario/journal, san francisco

        four expatriatessan francisco – last entry

hollyHTalking to my mother about norther California was funny. She revealed that it had always been a place she had wanted to see. Don’t know why she never told me that before. When I told it was my first sight-seeing trip to the state, I had to explain why I had avoided The Golden State, The Land of Milk and Honey, La La Land. She laughed.

What I keep thinking about is the amazing weather. Tom-and-Kathi just put in a furnace in the last 3 years. (Can you imagine no AC bills, no heating bills?) And the fact that I spent the entire time with long-pants and a light sweater was amazing. Without sounding too sarcastic, I loved that fact that there were no references to England or English things. (The Spanish architecture is so much more interesting than the British influenced, severe buildings of Toronto.)

And then to top it all off, I got an email from one other Calabrian expat – Pietro – who lives in San Francisco. The four of us – Pietro, Gabriele, Carlo and I – left Aprigliano in the 50’s and came to the new world. Pietro’s family went to Montreal, but he couldn’t deal with the winters and left for Florida. But he left The Sunshine State, and headed for the golden, rolling hills of California. He opened two restaurants, one in San Francisco – Ristorante Parma – that his daughter still operates and one in Napa. Gabe landed in Toronto and is the most financially successful of the group. Carlo too ended up in Toronto where he is a partner in a healthcare firm. And Rick Wertheimer and I managed to build an innovative and successful charter high-school in downtown Pittsburgh.

For those who come to San Francisco, summertime will be a love-in there . . . Scott McKenzie’s song was one of my favorites and for the first time ever, I have hollyhocks blooming in my back yard – the accompanying image. But it was too late, by the time I got there, to wear flowers in my hair.


August 21, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

apulia – the english strike againpuglia 2015 – prologue 1

puglia2I started using prologues last year when I began writing about Sicily before we got there. In those and these prologues, I use images from online. In both instances, the prologues serve to set the scene. Reflecting on last year’s prologue posts, I’d have to say that we skipped many of the recommended sites that I wrote about. With that in mind, I am using these early posts as introductions.

The word Apulia is a Roman corruption for the name of the two tribes of Lapigi people – Dauni and Messapi – who first lived in the region. (In ancient times only the northern part of the region was called Apulia; the southern peninsula was known as Calabria, a name now used to designate the southwestern tip of the Italian peninsula.)

In 14 days, I head up to Toronto to begin the 2015 trip to Italy. Like last year, I’m going in September, no more needing to travel in August when the tourists and the heat are at their worst. And this time, I’m flying out of Toronto. (We were able to get the best prices and the least connections. We fly Toronto/Rome, Rome/Bari. Martina Franca, where we’re staying, is an hour south-west of Bari.)

Puglia came on the radar, because of Earle-and-Suzanne the Australian couple we’ve stayed with the last three times we were in Le Marche. In 2013, they told us they were buying a rundown trulli in Puglia and renovating it so they could get away from the winters in Le Marche. And that the new house would be ready for rental the summer of 2015. Given that Rose, Derrick and I like their house in Isola di Fano, the thought of renting from them again in Puglia was an easy decision. However, this is old-house-renovation and I don’t care where you are, the time-frame is never what you think. By February, Suzanne told us the house in Puglia would not be ready to rent until the summer of 2016.

Rose got going and found us an amazing rental – Villa Faraone – near Martina Franca. The online images are great and the reviews, from people who have stayed there, are very positive. This is the first time we are staying at something so grand. We have been gravitating to the best in the low-price range. This bumps us into the next category – rentals with amenities.


August 22, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

via appia – the ancient road to brindisipuglia 2015 – prologue 2

Via_Appia_map2The Via Appia – Appian Way – was one of the earliest and strategically most important roads of the ancient republic. It connected Rome to Brindisi in southeast Italy. The road is named after Appius Claudius Caecus, the Roman censor who began and completed the first section. Its importance is indicated by its common name – regina longarum viarum – the queen of the long roads. The modern Via Appia Nuova – Strada Statale 7 (SS7) – follows the route of the ancient road.

I find it interesting that in Le Marche, we drove the Via Flaminia all the time. And in Rome last year, I insisted we go to the Piazza del Popolo to where the Via Flaminia began. This year, it’s the Via Appia, the most famous and most known of the ancient roads, that we will be using. (It won’t be as ubiquitous and I’ll have to find a reason to get on the SS7. Maybe when we’re on our way to Matera.)


August 24, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

granita di caffè con pannapuglia 2015 – prologue 3

granitaDuring junior year, I lived on granita di caffè, senza panna – coffee ice, no-whip – until my hands shook so badly and I had to cut back on the caffeine. I mention this, because the image on the left, from the FB page of Caffè Tripoli in Martina Franca, looks most like the granita I gorged on. But granita has gone up-scale and therefore is now served in small cordial glasses befitting the new glitterati traveling through Italy. (F that, I want a sundae-size glass of finely shaved, frozen coffee. Tell me that that doesn’t look like something worth getting the shakes for? Minus the whipped cream of course.) In college we were poor kids, and a big scoop of coffee ice was a cheap order that allowed us to sit and people-watch for hours. (We saved our money for Courvoisier.)

One of the hopes of this trip, is that we’ve finally found a place that has all the amenities – salt-pool, AC, remote location, but close enough to the centro storico to allow us to go out for a passeggiata, a gelato, a granita. (This means I’ll have to pack some decent, non-tourist clothes.)

As much as I liked Earle-and-Suzanne’s in Isola di Fano, going out after dinner was really not an option. The closest small town with somewhat of a night-life was Mondavio, but it was over the hills and through the woods on narrow roads with no street lights. But Puglia is flat and Martina Franca is a two minute car ride. I hope we can walk there, but that will depend on decent roads free of mad-driving Italians. (As I pack, the old bitch of a nun who told me that I was obviously Italian, but my clothes screamed tourist is still in my head.)


August 29, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

villa faraone 1puglia 2015 – prologue 4

villa_faraone7The website that Carmello, the owner, uses only shows the house and the immediate grounds. But on google-maps you can see Villa Faraone and the land around it. Before finding it, I had no idea where and how the house was situated. And then taking it a step further, I got walking directions and followed them into town. Google-maps says that it’s a 30 minute walk, but I don’t have a good sense of distances in street-view. (It’s a 30 minute walk from my house to downtown Pittsburgh and I did that walk almost daily the last three years, so the walk to Martina Franca shouldn’t be impossible.) By car, it’s a 7 minute ride from the Villa to Piazza Maria Immacolata – the main square, but you cannot take a car into the centro storico. This means we are gonna have to find parking and then walk in. Street-view is clear that once you are in the old town, there are Medieval alleys instead of modern streets.


August 31, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

villa faraone 2puglia 2015 – prologue 5

villa_faraone10Rose and I spend yesterday going through restaurants, vineyards and pilgrimage sites we want to visit. The most surprising were the restaurants and gelaterie. My comment was that Derrick will love all the meat dished, Rose will like the risottos and cheeses and I will love all the vegetables and cured meats. And in Ostuni, Rose found a famous artiginal gelato maker and never mind all the options for the famous Pugliese bread.

I don’t remember having all these options when we were in Calabria. It could be that we were in Calabria early on and we didn’t know how to find things. But I’m beginning to think that tourism in Puglia is better organized than it is in Calabria. There certainly seems to be many more accommodations options than we ever found in Calabria. I probably need to decouple Puglia from the Mezzogiorno. I’m beginning to suspect that Basilicata and Calabria are on a similar tourist trajectory and that Puglia is much further ahead. There is a lot of online content for Puglia and there seems to also be a group that left, but has come back. There are several chefs that have gone back to Puglia after they made their reputations here in America.


September 8, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

first light – martina francapuglia 2015 – 1st entry

mf-1We’re here in Martina Franca. And the image on the left is the sun through the pine-tree. (The property has the beautiful gate.)

It’s 6:00 in the morning and after about five hours of sleep, the bells from some monastery woke me. I’ll have to ask our contact where the place is. Or listen to see if I can figure out where the tolling is coming from. (It’ll take me a couple of days to get onto this time zone.)

South central Puglia is full of olive trees. And when I saw full it means as far as the eye can see. From the plane, the whole area surrounding the city of Bari was green with olive trees. And for the whole hour that it took to drive down to Martina Franca, all you saw were olive trees. The place is green, gone are the brown hills of Calabria. Also, the area has a well-kept, lived in feel to it.

We left Toronto at 10:30 Sunday night, and that got us into Bari late Monday afternoon. And after the drive down and meeting up with Carmello it was too late to eat in, so we asked for a recommendation and Carmello brought us to this very nice pizza restaurant. (I got Derrick to take a pic of my pizza – arugula and fresh mozzarella – and I’ll post as soon as I can get it.)


September 8, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

another mario – class of 32puglia 2015 – 2nd entry

figs“These were not stolen.” (Rose accused me of doing a Derrick, which means stealing figs from a tree close to the street.) I went walking Via Cupa, the street that the house is on, and saw this huge fig-tree. There was an older man in the driveway, so I asked if I could shoot the tree. I introduced myself and he asked what class I was. (BTW, his name was Mario.) Asking one’s class is asking how old you are. The class is the year your were born. I told him 49; he said his was 32. For an 83 year-old he looked damn good.

He explained that the tree contained several varieties. They had let three trees grow and entwine together. The limbs where I was standing had the white figs. I picked six ripe ones and took them back for us to have with breakfast.


September 8, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

the old trullipuglia 2015 – 3rd entry

trulliThe country roads in this lower part of Martina (The locals do not refer to their town as Martina Franca and looking at the Italian maps, the Franca part of the name is generally smaller and less emphasized.) are full of old and renovated trulli.

We took a long walk down Via Cupa going away from Martina and found both renovated trulli and old, falling-down ones. The renovated trulli use a rounded stone-brick to cover the outside of cone.

The original trulli use a flat stone to cover the cone. The flat stone allowed for stacking without mortar. In the image on the left you can see the flat stones. And between the outside stones and the inside plaster, the old farmers filled the space with the small stones found in their fields. The small stones are exposed in the back cone where the exterior stones are missing.

I’m gonna start writing about the legacy that the peasants left in the Mezzogiorno. In Puglia, the trulli that now attract visitors from all over, were peasants houses. The stones that they removed from the field they used to build the walls that parameter the roads, the properties and the cones that topped their farm-houses. (Both the walls and the trulli use a dry stone construction.)

The cucina povera that is now the rage in all the healthy eating books, was developed out of necessity. When you had no money and the padrone owned the land you farmed, then developing inexpensive, but healthy nutritional option was a necessity. (Today, the first-world nations have freed up their population from the demands of foods production so that they can concentrate on the development of new products and technologies that will make life easier.)


September 9, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

     the white city – ostunipuglia 2015 – 4th entry

OstuniThis morning we went to the open-market in Martina Franca. It had a huge number of clothing vendors and in the back were the fruits and vegetables. (The images of the yellow grapes and the peaches in the slide-show are from the market.)

In the afternoon, we drove to Ostuni. It’s considered one of the five white cities of Puglia. The designation comes from the fact that all the houses are painted white. This tradition is a leftover from the time of the plague, when the inhabitants noticed that there was less contagion in and around the white-houses. This most likely was because of the antibacterial effects of the calcium carbonate – the mixture of limestone dust and water that they used as paint. Today, the white-houses attract the tourists and the local government encourages everyone to repaint every two years by paying half the cost.

The bell-tower is one of the few structures to sit above the roof-line of the old town.

In all the years that we’ve been coming to Italy, this is the first time that we’ve had cold weather. Here we are in a renovated trulli with a pool and haven’t been able to use it yet. But starting Saturday, the weather is back to hot.


September 9, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

our first meal – cucina povera-1puglia 2015 – 5th entry

pizzaOne of the benefits of traveling with my cousin Rose is that she will steer us to the best places to eat and to the best food items to buy. And Puglia, more than anywhere else we’ve been, has a rich tradition of cucina povera – peasant cuisine, or the food that the poor grew, cooked and ate. And with our parents being poor southern Italians, this is the food we grew up eating.

We got here late Monday night and rather than try and cook, the rental agent suggested a pizzeria in town. I had the arugula and mozzarella (Derrick took the pic with his phone.), Rose had tuna and capers and Derrick had a capicola topped pie.

The next day we went walking and picked figs and blackberries as we walked the stone-walled lanes. Dinner last night was a fresh tomato sauce, seasoned with sweet Tropea onions, and fresh ricotta over a pasta. Today, we had lunch in Ostuni. Rose and I had the antipasti and Derrick had a pasta in a green pesto-like sauce made from nettles and served in a cup of bread. (Nettles is such a clear example of cucina povera. Imagine making a delicate sauce from a plant called a stinging-nettle and that most Americans would call a weed and kill on sight.)

The antipasti were different. There were two of each of the following:
– start-shaped asparagus mousse
– potato polpette
– fresh ricotta topped with caramelized onions
– stuffed eggplant
– a grain mixture colored black with squid-ink and topped with melted Gorganzola
– cod in a black squid-ink tempura batter
– sausage and mushrooms
– polenta cakes, and
– a bag of different cuts of bread.


September 10, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

alberobellothe trulli of alberobellopuglia 2015 – 6th entry

How can you pass up a title like that? The trulli of Alberobello are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When we got to Alberobello – beautiful tree – I was expecting a small town with a lot of trulli scattered throughout. Instead, the old town is all trulli. In Italian, the old town is called la zona monumentale and all the housing in the area is trulli, hundreds and hundreds of trulli; their cone roofs filling the sky.

Alberobello is in the Valle d’Itria in south-central Puglia. The region is really a land depression, a giant sink-hole, not a true valley. The rock-table that the land sits on is full of caves and the stone is very porous factors that contributed to the depression as cave walls collapsed because of drainage. The stone that got exposed because of the land sinking is what the peasants used to built their homes – the trulli – and the stone walls the form the boundaries of their properties and the lanes we drive on.

I had seen pictures of Alberobello, but I had no idea the old town had such a dense collection of trulli. Seeing that many trulli, all clustered together, is what make Alberobello amazing. (These trulli all have their original stone cones. Many of the renovated trulli throughout the Valle d’Itria have replaced the ancient stones with modern stone-bricks that keep the look, but change the engineering of the original trulli. The old stone was long, wide and flat. These were stacked without mortar to form the cones.)


September 11, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

materamatera in basilicatapuglia 2015 – 8th entry

Matera, in Basilicata, is another UNESCO Heritage Site famous for its sassi. The Sassi di Matera – the stones-dwellings of Matera – originated in prehistoric times. (The original dwellings were caves carved into the side of the mountain. Some are still visible on the opposite side of the valley.) And the caves are thought to be among the first human settlements on the peninsula.

The top of the mountain is a different story. Here the Church and the nobility appropriated the land. The area is littered with cathedrals, monasteries, convents and palaces. The old monstrosities have been converted into expensive hotels. (Many of the room are in caves; the exteriors are built outside the rock, but the interior spaces are carved into the mountainside. The daily rates, to sleep in a cave can hit over $400 a night.) The above image is of the restorers working on the cathedral at the top of the mountain.

Derrick’s reaction to dwellings on the side of the mountain was similar to Rick’s; both did not understand how people lived in vertical spaces. Having grown up in a vertical space, Aprigliano is built on the side of the mountain, the sassi felt familiar and I knew immediately how to navigate the steep stairs and alleys.


September 11, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

altamura – la citta di panepuglia 2015 – 9th entry

altamuraFrom Matera in Basilicata, we drove back into Puglia and then to Altamura famous for its rustic, artigian bread.

The photograph on the left is of the main street. For more than three blocks, the street is lined with these luminaries. They will fill the night with their LED light.

A couple of things set me off.
-It was 1:00 and all the high-school kids were off and hanging out everywhere. And like high-school kids everywhere they were annoying and totally self-absorbed. The latest fashion craze among the young and stupid is m c hammer pants. There they were walking around in their isolated, selfie world with their balloon pants and looking like they hadn’t showered in days. The girls have adopted model poses and walk around as if on a cat-walk. (One set of girls were ecstatic, because I took a pic of the street and they were in it. OMG!)
-We saw two weddings. While eating lunch we saw all the wedding guests going back to their cars. All the men, young and old, were wearing suits that had skinny-pants and short jackets and sneakers. (Only the older men still had on dress-shoes.) And on our way back to the car, we walked by a bride-and-groom and their photographer/videographer. The bride was lying down on the cathedral steps, her white dress hiked up and looking at the photographer/videographer with this wanton look. Time Square whore or new bride? (I wanted to ask if I could take a pic, because nothing I can write will do justice to the image of the young woman on her back, on the church steps with her white dress hiked up to her knees and her legs crossed and her one leg dangling a white stiletto shoe.)

I am definitely old.


September 12, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

on a wall, in the fields of pugliapuglia 2015 – 10th entry

meThis is the first day of full-sun and we headed out into the country to walk the stone-wall lined lanes. We are in the middle of an olive grove and I was determined to shoot the gnarly trunks, but in order to do that, I had to climb the wall and jump into the red fields. Derrick took the pic of me on the wall with the old trulli behind me.

What is different about Puglia is that we can walk. The area where we’re staying is the flat depression between the hill of Martina Franca and the hill of Locorotondo. And the depression runs some 30 kilometers north and west all the way to Alberobello. (The first pic in the slide-show is Locorotondo and the flats below it.)

And to take advantage of the sun, we decided to have lunch in and to go out for dinner giving us the afternoon at the pool. This is our first luxury rental and we’ve been waiting all week for the sun.

The evening passeggiata in Martina Franca is famous, so tonight we’re eating in the old centro and then joining the walkers as they stroll back-and-forth between the three piazzas – Piazza XX Settembre, Piazza Roma and Piazza Plebiscito – of the old town.

Every town and city in Italy has a Via XX Settembre or a Piazza XX Settembre. The date commemorates when the Italian unification forces entered and captured the city of Rome defeating the Papal army fighting against unification. The September 20 capture of Rome and the defeat if the Papacy meant the Papal States could be annexed into the new unified country.


September 13, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

a tower to warn of the saracenspuglia 2015 – 11th entry

Mon-Sept-14 137We drove two-and-a-half hours north to the Gargano, a peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic. It was the first time I saw mountains.

We rented at a B&B right on the ocean. The problem was the address. We’ve had the most problems getting people to give us house numbers for the places we’re going to. The B&B was no exception. We headed into town thinking that someone could help, but we quickly realized that the town and the resorts down on the water were not necessarily integrated. The best we got was directions down to the water and from there we stopped a couple of times until someone knew the B&B we were searching for.

Originally, the B&B was a defense tower along the Adriatic coast. The grandfather bought it and added a second floor. The stone is the original tower, the bricks are the addition. The shutters on the right are for the room I was in.

Rose and I were both worried about this booking, because it was made through an international group rather than directly with the owner. But when we got there all the worried went away. The second floor is all decorated with precious antiques, amazing.

The reason for the trip north was to go see the Santuario San Michele in Monte San Michele and Renzo Piano’s cathedral in San Giovanni Rotondo. (Renzo Piano designed the Pompidou Center and the new Whitney Museum.)


September 13, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

the night lit by LEDspuglia 2015 – 12th entry

Mon-Sept-14 100We went back to Mattinata for dinner and found the place full of people. The passeggiata was in full swing. It was a three day festival for the Madonna – patron of Mattinata. The main street was decorated with the lumieri. The image on the left is a small portion of the light-decorations. (The image was taken the second night of the festival. But Sunday night, the square was packed.)

I remember the light-decorations from when I was a kid. They were no where this elaborate, because they were still using good-old-fashion incandescent light-bulbs. Also, back then the light-decorations were limited, because Aprigliano doesn’t have the long streets that Mattinata has.

In each town we’ve visited, it’s clear that Puglia either didn’t suffer the drainage that Calabria did or it has recovered much quicker. The whole province looks prosperous; there is little evidence of abandoned towns and villages. In the Valle d’Itria there is a resurgence of locals renovating the trulli and an effort to build a tourist industry. And here in the Gargano, as evidence in the passeggiata, there are lots of young families with kids in tow.


September 13, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

cucina povera-2puglia 2015 – 13th entry

Mon-Sept-14 105Rose had found a restaurant in Mattinata that had gotten a lot of good online reviews and we headed for it. (The owner of the B&B had recommended a pizzeria that we passed on, because nothing on the menu looked interesting. That was his third recommendation and we took none of them.)

Again, the menu at the restaurant was typical peasant food and it was delicious. The image on the left is a fava dish. The fave are mashed and mixed with cime di rape – rapini. It was one of the antipasti that Rose had the first night. I asked if I could have it as my main dish the next night and the waiter said yes. We had three main dishes, a half-liter of house wine and bottled water and we still only paid less than 25 euros.

The first night I had an eggplant casserole that was amazing. It was thinly sliced eggplant with layers of parmigiano cheese and tomato sauce in between. I’ve been able to eat vegetable dishes the whole time we’ve been here.

Internet services have been crazy the last two days. We’ve not been able to upload anything, so I’m doing a lot of catching up. The heat has returned and I’m writing, jumping into the pool, coming back to the laptop and going back out to the salt-water pool.


September 14, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

not the whitney – renzo pianopuglia 2015 – 14th entry

Mon-Sept-14 065The new basilica at the Padre Pio Santuario in San Giovanni Rotondo was designed by architect Renzo Piano. The image on the left is the inside of the cathedral. We went there specifically to see the new basilica.

I really liked the inside of the building and the outside courtyard. The outside of the building is less interesting and easily overlooked. One of the most interesting designs – all the secondary doors leading into the basilica work and look like garage doors. At street-floor, the building looks like a huge airplane hanger and the garage-door design works great with that motif.

But like all Catholic sites in Italy this too makes it clear why Martin Luther was able to start a revolution. On Sundays and other feast-days the place is full of Italians of a certain age, dropping coins into the hundreds of offering boxes scattered throughout the church and believing that they can negotiate with the Almighty through the intersession of the local saint. (There’s even a set of holy steps next to the old cathedral that people, of a certain age, climb on their knees looking to have their requests and demands considered by the recently canonized Padre Pio.)

Padre Pio was a favorite of the Polish Pope whom I call the Nazi Pope. The Nazi Pope liked Padre Pio as much as he liked Mother Teresa. And the three of them are infamous for their nasty attitudes. The day we were there, a large Polish tour-bus dumped its people into the church. They immediately went down to the crypt and formed a line to view the coffin of San Pio all the while taking selfies – their grinning faces in the foreground, the gold encrusted coffin in the background.


September 15, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

l’asinopuglia 2015 – 15th entry

Mon-Sept-14 053On our way back south, we drove to see the famous Frederick II castle outside the city of Andria. And on the way we saw a drove of donkeys. Some were eating the thistles that littered the rock covered ground, others were lying in the sun.

Some random thoughts:
– Andria was a dirty, crammed town and there’s no way of avoiding it, because all roads go through it.
– The lunch we had in San Giovanni Rotondo was the worst ever. The trattoria obviously caters to the thousands that come to the sanctuary looking for favors with the Almighty.
– After the castle, we stopped in Trani for lunch and picked a fancy restaurant where we had one of the best meals. Trani was not very interesting. It’s claim to fame is the huge cathedral at the water’s edge.
– The GPS needs some help, or we need to figure out how to better read it. In the old towns, there are small roads that we often miss and therefore the machine is doing a lot of recalculating.
– There are no other American tourists anywhere in sight.
– Kids in Italy go to school 24 hours a week compared to American students who are in school 32 hours a week. All Italian students go home for lunch. Schools do not have cafeterias; they also don’t seem to have sports teams.


September 15, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

in frederick’s courtyardpuglia 2015 – 16th entry

Tues-Sept-15 034Aus2Castel del Monte, Frederick-the-Second’s 13th-century citadel is 14 kilometers south of Andria. It stands on a promontory, on land inherited from his mother Constance of Sicily. It has neither a moat nor a drawbridge; it was probably built as a hunting lodge. It is considered one of the most fascinating castle built by Frederick II. The castle and surroundings are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle appears on the Italian one-cent euro coin.

The castle is an octagonal prism with an octagonal tower at each corner. The floors have eight rooms and an eight-sided courtyard occupies the castle’s center. In the image on the right, the three of us are in the courtyard.


September 16, 2015 diario/journal, puglia


the old man and the catpuglia 2015 – 17th entry



September 17, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

an old namepuglia 2015 – 18th entry

Thurs-Sept-17 021Mafalda di Savoia was born in 1902. She was the second daughter of the Italian king Vittorio Emanuele III. (Rose likes to point out how similar our grandmother’s maiden name is to name of the King of Italy. Our grandmother’s maiden name was S A V A I A.) My grandparents, in 1927, named their second daughter Mafalda. At that time a very popular name. (All the Italians of my parents generation as well as those of my aunt-and-uncles age group, all know the name Mafalda.) But by the end of World War II, Italy was a different place; the monarchy was gone, Fascism had brought the country to its knees and the south was beginning to empty out. The next generation, whether they immigrated or stayed, forgot the name of the old king’s second daughter. I’ve never met anyone else with the name Mafalda. (I don’t remember where we were in Le Marche when someone called to a woman, my mother’s age, and called her Mafalda.)

The street sign is from the small town of Cisternino, one of the three white-cities here in central Puglia.


September 18, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

looking for risiti – cucina povera-3puglia 2015 – 19th entry

DSC_2595Tuesday and Wednesday we had no upload capability and today for a short time the uploading problem happened again.

This morning we went to the farmers-market in Locorotondo. (The image on the left is one of the white houses in the Medieval town.) The intent was to buy more of the red mushrooms – Lactarius deliciosus – know in our family as risiti. The link takes to the Wikipedia page for Lactarius deliciosus. The following is the entry from the page about wild-mushrooms in Calabria. Lactarius deliciosus – detto volgarmente “rosito” per il suo colore rosa-arancione, è uno dei funghi più noti e ricercati in Sila. (And in the dialect of the Apriglianese, the word became risiti.) Earlier in the week, I bought some risiti at the farmers-market in our area.

When our parents were still going wild-mushroom picking, the risiti were the prized ones, because they’re meaty and have a wonderful flavor. And my Dad would give me some cooked and seasoned in vacuum sealed jars.

When we got back, a great debate ensued about how to prepare the risiti. I suggested – frying them in a olive oil with some small tomatoes to add liquid. Rose and Derrick remembered my uncle preparing them without tomatoes, because they supposedly made their own sauce. I kept explaining that they were a meaty mushroom and released little to no water when fried. In the end we added the tomatoes. They were great over pasta.


September 18, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

pipi e patate – cucina povera-4puglia 2015 – 20th entry

Fri-Sept-18 016Today’s farmers-market find was new potatoes. So for supper we had pipi e patate – fried red pepper and fried new potatoes. We also saw Borlotti beans and even though they were mature, we bought a kilo. So along with our pipi e patate, Rose also stewed the beans. This is the time of year for big, red peppers, new potatoes and mature beans.

In the image, Rose is cooking at the outside kitchen. One pan has the pipi e patate, the other the beans.

Growing up, pipi e patate were a staple. Often, the left-overs made it to my lunch. (Tonight we did not eat them with bread, but Rose and Derrick did sprinkle finely chopped Rosemary on theirs.) And as much as I like them, I’ve resorted to just frying the peppers; frying the potatoes takes too much work.

The mature Borlotti were really good. The beans were plump and very tasty. They’ll probably find their way to a pasta dish tomorrow night.


September 19, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

baroque lecce is a warrenpuglia 2015 – 21st entry

DSC_2615We drove down to Lecce. It’s a city of contrasts – the old city is full of Baroque architecture, the new city is full of modern, well-designed buildings. Lecce is the largest city in the Salento Peninsula. The County of Lecce was one of the largest and most important fiefs in the Kingdom of Sicily from 1053 to 1463, when it was annexed directly to the crown. From the 15th century, Lecce was one of the most important cities of southern Italy, and, starting in 1630, it was enriched with precious Baroque monuments.

The old city is exceptionally well maintained. Where the Baroque cities of the Valle de Noto were not well preserved, Baroque Lecce is being rehabbed and made even more splendid.

The old city is large and because southern Puglia is flat, the elevation that gave us perspective and direction in Sicily was missing in Lecce. This made the experience of exploring the old town more like a walk in a rabbits’ warren. And the add to our confusion and discomfort, the place was crawling with bus-loads of tourists.

We parked the car outside the old city and I got Derrick to program its location into the GPS so that we could find our way back. And it’s a good thing we did, because even following the GPS in walk-mode it took us a while to get out of the old Medieval town and back to the car.

The above image is an old ad for a chocolate store in the heart of the old town.


September 20, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

the ents of pugliapuglia 2015 – 22nd entry

Sun-Sept-20 014This morning we drove south to Grottaglie. Online there is information about ceramics and murals. What the blogs don’t tell you is that the old town is a mess and the new town not very interesting.

The GPS took us over the mountain and down on the flats we saw the ancient olive trees. We stopped and went into a grove and shop for about a half-hour. The gnarled trunks seem to give personalities to the old, old trees. In the grove we were in, most of the trees were grafted. It seemed that two small trees had been grafted together to produce trunks a good six inches in diameter. Is that why the ancient trees are so gnarly? Are the ancients really a number of trunks intertwined?

One of the photo-essays will be on olive trees. (Tolkien had to be thinking of olive trees when he created the Ents. And Peter Jackson certainly made his Treebeard look like ancient olive trees.)

In the afternoon, we decided to walk the road on the other side of SS-172, going towards Locorotondo. On the horizon a dark thunderstorm covered the hilltop and Locorotondo’s white walls shimmered. We made it to a rise where I was able to shoot the city on the hill and then ran back to the car, determined to not get rained on.

The last image in the slide-show is from a convent garden we passed on our walk. They are red hot-peppers.


September 20, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

Sun-Sept-20 049a storm on the horizon – cucina povera-5puglia 2015 – 23rd entry

One of the back-road to Locorotondo takes you through beautifully renovated trulli and red-brown fields. The GPS took us down this narrow, stonewall-lined road and I’ve been wanting to walk it ever since. Today, we risked a walk before the storm.

I’m on a small rise facing north and watching the storm come in. Immediately overhead, the skies were blue, but the wind was pushing it towards us. For a brief moment, Locorotondo shimmered against the angry blue-black sky. (Look how dark the left side of the image is. The storm was racing in our direction.) Behind the white shimmer, lightning was cutting the sky, but I couldn’t capture the red bleed.

For lunch, I had pane-e-caso – bread and cheese. And for dinner Rose made a wonderful stir-fried tomato sauce that she mixed the left over Borlotti beans and left-over orecchiette pasta.

Tomorrow is our last day.


September 21, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

our last day – cucina povera-6puglia 2015 – 24th entry

Mon-Sept-21 035Considering it’s our last day and it began with driving rain, we made good use of the rain-free afternoon.

We went to our favorite town – Locorotondo – for lunch. Rose finally had the fave e cicorie Derrick and I had cavatelli con ceci neri.

Fave e cicorie are described as: un piatto povero della tradizione pugliese, fatto con ingredienti semplici e genuini: fave secche in purè con cicorielle selvatiche. A peasant dish from Puglia made from simple home grown and field gathered ingredients: dry fave reconstituted and pureed and wild dandelions.

Cavatelli con ceci neri is cavatelli pasta in a black chickpea sauce. It too comes from the peasant tradition in Puglia.

We came back to the house and took a walk down the lane. The image of the chestnuts is from the walk. The rain, yesterday and today, dropped the temperature and the wind gave the air a chill. It’s the first day of fall and the wind reminded us of the change.

I’ve been reading the political commentators and they’ve been referring to the summer of 2015 as The Summer of Trump. Yesterday, CNN announced an 8% drop in Mr. Trump’s numbers. I guess even for the reality-TV star, the season has turned.


September 24, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

ficunnianapuglia 2015 – epilogue

The title is the Calabrian dialect word for cactus-fruit. There are two colors for the fruit, yellow and the burgundy-red in the image on the left. I think the red ficunniane have a bit more taste.
Mon-Sept-21 029With this being more of an eating trip than a sight-seeing one, we picked and ate a lot of fruit as we walked the stonewalled narrow lanes. We picked and ate figs off the trees, we picked and ate blackberries off the brambles that covered the stone walls and Derrick decided to try his hand at the prickly cactus-fruit; the plants were everywhere and they were full of ripening ficunniane. Rose put up a fuss, because of the spine – the thin thorns – and I was determined to not get them on my hands. Derrick diligently used paper-towels to handle the fruit and then cleaned them in the sink. I went after him to clean the skins and made sure to reach into the sink with a thick wad of paper-towels and then dried my hands on the tea-towels. Well, I got the thorns on my fingers and I spent lots of time finding them and pulling them off with tweezers.

Ficunniane are a difficult fruit to pick and handle, because the outer shell is covered in both thin and thick thorns. The thick ones are obvious and easy to avoid; it’s the thin almost invisible ones that get stuck in fingers. (I’ve never been able to peel them without getting the almost invisible thorns stuck in my fingers and in my old age, I let my Dad peal them.) The fruit is also full of seeds and not everyone is willing to deal with the seeds or focus on the fleshy pulp.

Last year in Belmonte, the owner of the albergo diffuso had made a wonderful after-dinner liqueur from the yellow cactus-fruit.

Let me talk a bit more about the eating. Puglia is now famous among travelers for its cucina povera. (Many of its chefs have come to America and made a name for themselves and the foods they grew up eating.) As a matter of fact, Puglia cuisine is everywhere online and Rose was able to identify well-reviewed restaurants in each of the small town we visited. The most talked about dish in the cucina povera repertoire is fave e cicorie selvatiche – pureed fave with wild dandelions. One place we ate at, the owner made an effort to explain that fave e cicorie selvatiche are really a winter dish and that restaurants who serve it are doing nothing more than catering to the tourists. That made perfect sense; the dish is heavy and not something I associate with light summer fare. But we weren’t ever gonna get to Puglia in the winter, so we joined the throng of tourists and ate the pureed dish.

The best part of the cucina povera was that I could eat vegetarian the whole time we were there.


September 25, 2015 diario/journal, puglia

   trulli, red soil, olive trees and dry-stone wallslast entry – puglia 2015
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Sat-Sept-12 040Puglia is so unlike anywhere else I’ve been in Italy. In the past, as soon as I got off the plane, the environment and landscape seemed familiar; it felt like I belonged; there was a connection. All of that was missing in Puglia. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that the region is flat, the soil fertile and green fills the landscape. In the flats between the rise of Martina Franca and the Adriatic, there are olive trees as far as the eye can see. And what’s not olive groves are either wheat fields or vineyards. (Mussolini wanted to make Italy self-sufficient and Puglia soon became the new bread-basket.) Because the wheat was all harvested, all we saw was the red-earth. In the vineyards, the grape plants are kept very short; the grape arbors were no more than a meter tall.

And there was not a mountain to be seen, no brown, dry earth, no precipice to look over, to scare you. The vistas from Calabria’s hilltop towns, the cultivated rugged, mountainsides, the switchbacks leading to the villages don’t exist in Puglia. Even the small country churches that litter the Calabrian countryside are not there. (The small country churches of Calabria are full of amazing folk-art.)

There are no great museums or important churches with great works. The Valle d’Itria is interesting and the trulli are unique and fit into a landscape cleared of rocks. But beyond the Itria depression, Puglia is ordinary.

Immigrants from Puglia make up only 8% of Southern Italian in Canada; Calabrians make up 18%. There was less reason to leave Puglia. Several times throughout the two weeks, my cousin Rose said, “Imagine what our parents could have done if they had had fertile, flat land in Calabria?

I think Puglia, like Calabria, as a destination makes most sense if your family emigrated from there.


November 29, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

the buckets have all rustedchristmas 2015 – prologue 1
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buckets-rustToday is the first Sunday of Advent. In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve.

For the posts in the Christmas 2015 category, I’m going to use the lyrics from the Va pensiero chorus from Nabucco and the biblical prophesies for titles and starting-off points.

Isaiah 7:14 – … behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son and she shall call his name Emanuel. I am far removed from all this mumbo-jumbo to actually look at it the same way I look at Greek mythology. Gone are the days of miracle and wonder. The bomb in the baby carriage is real and religion its detonator.

This new day started with Thanksgiving when I made the conscious decision to turn of the boob-tube. What I found was that without its incessant droning, without the broadcast sentimentality, without the push to eat, to shop, without the religiosity, without it being ON its mind-altering suggestions were silenced.

Forget Isaiah, Bradbury is the real prophet. Fahrenheit 451 – Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of facts they feel stuffed, but absolutely brilliant with information.


December 2, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

memory – so precious and so fatalchristmas 2015 – prologue 2
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R&G2015 073

The title is a line from the chorus Va pensiero from Nabucco.
O membranza si cara e fatal!

It’s my opinion that in this context, the word precious is closest in meaning to the Italian cara. I kept fatal as an antidote to the residue of precious.

In memory, Christmas isn’t all that interesting. It took years to shuffle the various families into a routine. And the blending of Italian foods and Canadian dishes never really worked. We’ve settled on two separate menus with enough left-overs to refill the fridge.

Our current routine is to celebrate Christmas Eve at my aunt-and-uncle’s. This has only 8 people and many traditional Italian dishes. Christmas is at my parents’ and I do the Canadian dishes – turkey, stuffing, cranberry, gravy. My mother does the soup, the lasagna; my dad does the vegetable, the salad, the fruit and the chestnuts. This meal has anywhere between 17 and 20 people representing seven related families.

Gift exchange used to happen after midnight on the 24th, but since Jo’s passing it’s been moved to after dinner on the 25th. I’ve removed myself from the gift-giving and instead donate to the Canadian Cancer Society in the name of my niece-and-nephew, my aunt and my sister. (There are years when I have something worth giving. This year Connie is getting three interesting items, all re-gifts. I think she will like them.)


December 4, 2015 8th grade, christmas, diario/journal

deck the hallschristmas 2015 – prologue 3
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Door-WreathIt’s been a while since I decorated for Christmas and I’m going to use this as an opportunity to weed out ornaments and other chach. I have three huge boxes filled with nut-crackers that haven’t seen the light of days in years. I wonder how they’ve held up.

The image on the left is of the vestibule. I always put the wreath on the inside of the door that way I get to see it. (Putting it on the outside means I only see it when I’m outside. Nah!) I have a second wreath on the kitchen door. It took a while to get the image; I had to take a bunch before I figured out what I wanted and once I decided I wanted the whole door and the whole vestibule, the blue frame in the floor-tile and no transom, then I had to move some things to minimize the number of lines. (I like having the hall-wall and the picture in the upper right, the frame outside the doors matches all the other rectangles in the two doors.)

It’s amazing to research wreaths and to find that they’ve been part of human symbology since the Ancients. Wreaths has been used at funerals since at least the time of Ancient Greece. Evergreen wreaths were laid at the burial place of early Christian virgin martyrs, the evergreen representing the victory of the eternal spirit over death. My first memory of a wreath was in 8th grade at St. Veronica’s. Each Monday in December, Sister Drusilla would march us out to the hall; we would line up on either side of the corridor and we would participate in the Advent ritual of lighting one of the purple candles on the wreath she had placed on a small table. This was followed by the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel.


December 5, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

a righteous branchchristmas 2015 – prologue 4
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OrnamentsI’ve always know the various terms associated with Christ and Christmas and that they were part of the prophetic literature of the Old Testament, but I’ve never actually read any of the prophesies in context. The branch reference is from the Book of Jeremiah 33:14-16 – … in those days and at that time, I will cause a righteous branch of David to spring forth and he shall execute justice and righteousness … Amazing how male everything is and how men have been able to maintain this patriarchy for over two thousand years. Let’s not forget that the virgin prophecy denies women their power of procreation reducing them to mere passive vessels.

Is the root of tension in the modern world really about the assault on male power and supremacy? In fifty years when historians look back at this time, is that what they are gonna identify as the basis for the mess, the march to war? Currently, the tension is discussed in terms of oil, guns and Christianity – all male symbols. Rarely does anyone point out that if the woman running for president of the most powerful modern empire wins, the patriarchy will be lost. Let’s not forget that paragon of maleness – Henry VIII – gave way to Elizabeth who ushered in a new world empire. Will a female American president usher in a new world order? What are all those male-centered theocracies and monarchies gonna do if the US president is a woman? Will they ban together and oppose her at every turn like the Congressional Republicans did against the first African-American president?


December 10, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

has time rewritten every linechristmas 2015 – prologue 5
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R&G2015 072In a small shop, in the Strip, I found an old glass ornament. ornament The shape is what I remember as the treetop ornament I always used when I was putting up the tree in my parents’ house. (The surprise was that something that once cost under a dollar ended up costing me $10.00.) I always rejected stars or angels for the top of the tree, that was for everyone else, but once Connie took over the decorating, a red garland star covered the top branch. It’s a convoluted memory, given that I no longer put up a tree. The last time I put up a tree was in the mid 70’s – almost 40 years ago.
JOHAN GALTUNG: It’s an effort to try to externalize, to say that there are enemies abroad that are trying to get at us, instead of saying the obvious, namely that we have made a construction, and that construction is dying … If you try to dominate the world economically, militarily, politically and culturally at the same time, and then having these four support each other, it cannot last for a long time. And that’s the phase we are in now. Now, in that period, there will be fascist reactions. It’s not impossible that it could be a military coup in the US from the right, not impossible within this period.

The above is a excerpt from an interview on – Democracy Now.

Johan Galtung is a Norwegian sociologist, mathematician and the principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies. He has spent the past half-century pursuing nonviolent conflict resolution in international relations. His latest book is called The Fall of the US Empire, in which he predicts the collapse of the American empire. However, the decline of the US empire does not imply a decline of the US republic, and the “relief from the burden of Empire control and maintenance…could lead to a blossoming of the US Republic”


December 17, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

there shall come a starchristmas 2015 – prologue 6
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aprigliano-starThe star prophecy is from the Book of Numbers 24:17 – I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel …

The image on the left comes from one of the Apriglianesi that I keep in contact with. He posted it on his FB page. The festival street-lights are no longer restricted to the religious celebrations, in Aprigliano they were used only for the feast of La Madonna di Portosalvo, in mid-September. But as evidenced in the pic, they are now also used at Christmas time. The star in the image is in one of the vinelle – small medieval alleys – that crisscross the town. The abundance of modern Italy has replaced the lean times and the poverty that my parents grew up with. For them the shortages created by the War were the standard, not the incessant push to shop and buy and decorate that TV now proselytizes. (Why am I being such a curmudgeon? The street-light star shows that for those who stayed behind, for those who didn’t rush off in search of the gold-paved streets of America, life turned out OK. They have all the conveniences and the accouterments that their expatriate friends and relatives have in modern day Canada in consumerism America.)

When I was a kid, Christmas was about the bonfire at the church piazza and food and candy. The small tree my Dad cut was decorated with oranges, persimmons, tangerines and different brands of torrone. Most of these were gifts that friends and family brought when they came to visit the days before Christmas. And on the 25th I could eat all these seasonal and exotic things. The other Christmas tradition was a presepio, but we didn’t have one. Only the better-off families seemed to have the nativity figurines. I remember one of the kids down in Corte, her family had a presepio and she organized all the younger kids to go out and collect moss so she could create a landscape for the figurines.


December 20, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

  a sweet wine to start the seasonchristmas 2015 – 1st entry
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positoThe drive to Rose-and-Derrick’s was easy and with the sun. Also, Sundays mean no rush-hour traffic. And I’m getting more familiar with 696 East and Telegraph Road as and alternate to potholed I-75, cancer-alley and the heavy traffic through Detroit. Telegraph-Road/Michigan-24 parallels I-75, but it’s a much more pleasant drive. (I don’t know how to do this route going south. I’ll have to check with Derrick. I wonder if it’s the Square Lake exit on I-75 South?)

After supper, Rose decided to pull out the Passito wine she bought when we were in Umbria, in 2005. We had gone out to eat at this very nice restaurant. The place was in a converted post-office a bit out of town. Spoleto was a great place and I’d go back.

Passito is made from dried grapes. The grapes are usually dried on straw mats or left on the vine until almost raisin-like. The drying concentrate the grape juices. The technique dates back to pre-Roman times. The resulting wine is sweet and similar in density to a Sauternes. Needless to say, we finished the small bottle. (It’s a 375 ML bottle.) It was a great way to begin the holiday season.

The grappa box in the image is from San Marino. We had gone there in 2005 and Rose-and-Derrick bought many items at the duty-free in the small principality.


December 23, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

  a blond jesus in the basementchristmas 2015 – 2nd entry
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Jesus1I spent the morning with Domenic Belsito, known to everyone locally at Mo. (I cannot bring my self to calling him that, because it reminds me of one of the three stooges, but the nickname really comes from the Italian diminutive for Domenico – Mimmo.)

His youngest son bought an old church in the west-end of town and is slowly renovating it into six apartments. The image on the left is on the basement wall. The painting is easily 7-feet X 10-feet. Kevin has had it appraised and it has a decent value, but the size makes it hard for anyone to buy it.

The renovation is creating some great spaces in the old church. Kevin and his family will live in one of the apartments during the winter months. They now have two small boys and need to be in town during the winter months. Their home on Trout Lake is beautiful, but the location makes it a difficult place to access during the winter months. We drove to their house on the Lake and the road was covered in ice and melting snow. And there are some difficult hills and curves on this private road. (The City Road to the lake is well maintained, but the road that leads to the cottages around the lake is the responsibility of the residents and that maintenance is inconsistent. Because not all cottage owners are year-round residents it’s been difficult to assess everyone equally and pay for the upkeep and snow removal.) The area is a micro-climate and even though the city was experiencing a very mild no-snow December, up at Trout Lake, the land was covered in snow.

The images I shot from the decks overlooking the lake were not crisp. The weather was so warm that the lake and its environs were shrouded in mist.


December 25, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

    il mio bellissimo paese, 30 anni fachristmas 2015 – 3rd entry
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san-leonardoGiovanni Covello, one of the Apriglianesi that I keep in contact with through FB, posted the image and the title – my beautiful hometown, thirty years ago.

It’s Aprigliano’s emblematic church – San Leonardo. Its campanile can be seen from anywhere in the valley and from any hilltop. It’s not my family’s church, rather it’s the church of the generation that didn’t leave Aprigliano and made a life for themselves in post-war Calabria. My cousins, the Femias, live very close to the church. Mario and Tonina raised their family in this new section of Aprigliano.

As much as the image has been doctored, it still suggests a snowfall that doesn’t stay long. You can almost see it melting. When we were kids, my mother and everyone else, would rush out and collect the freshly fallen snow in a bowl and add a vino cotto – a sweet wine made from the grape juice of the first press. The juice was heated in a large pot and reduced to a half or a third of the original volume and then fermented. My mother would drizzle the vino cotto onto the snow to make a sorbet-like treat – scirubetta. The Passito we had at Rose-and-Derrick’s reminded Rose and I of the scirubetta our parents used to make with the first winter snows, here in Northern Ontario. There’s a great YouTube video of an old Italian making – scirubetta. He adds fig-honey to the snow. Fig-honey was not something anyone in my family made; they made the scirubetta with the sweet dark red-wine.


December 25, 2015 8th grade, christmas, diario/journal

christmas hyperactivitychristmas 2015 – 4th entry
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ingribelliThe image on the right is of the house that the Ingribelli family lived in when I was living here in the far north. The family that I knew is all gone. Frank, who was my age, died of an aneurysm when he was in his early twenties. Dave the youngest died of cancer last year. I vaguely remember the dad; he died before I left. The mom was a big woman, but her life was never the same after Frank passed away. The Ingribelli were related to us through my grandmother and I remember visiting in this house. (The house has since been renovated, but my mom had no problem identifying it. I was walking the neighborhood and when I saw the house, I shot it.)

Prepping for dinner and the incessant Christmas phone calls made the morning a whirlwind. At 7:00 am, my dad got a call from his cousin in Pietrafitta. (Pietrafitta is the next town over from Aprigliano.) This made his day. My paternal grandmother and his cousin’s mother were sisters. The two of them are probably the only remaining Capisciolti from that generation. (Capisciolti was my grandmother’s family name.) From there we moved to my father’s obsession about getting the tables brought in from the garage. Knowing how he can get OCD squared during the prep for Christmas dinner, I let him know last night, that Derrick and I would take care of the tables. Forget that, by 9:00am he was in the garage and had taken down the long table and carried it to the side-door. (This is a 90-year-old, riddled with arthritis, hard-headed Calabrese.) It was only my insistence that he stop with the craziness that got any slow-down. Derrick and I had the table down by 10:30 and it sat there until 2:30 when I set it for dinner.

My mother’s version of Christmas anxiety is to tell me to call all her friends’ children. Her friends and their children are people that I rarely see, but that didn’t seem to deter her. I should call all her friends’ children and wish them Merry Christmas. I didn’t. In addition to this hyper sentimentality, let’s not forget her incessant suggestions of things I need or should eat. (The pushing of food lives side-by-side with us teasing Dave to no end, because he has gained weight.)


December 26, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

the big lake they called gitche gumeechristmas 2015 – 5th entry
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Maki-RoadIt’s Boxing Day. The term comes from an old British custom. Since servants and tradespeople had to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants were given the next day off to visit family and celebrate the season. The masters/employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses and sometimes leftover food. And here we are today, celebrating the legacy of reward and recycling; the legacy of Downton Abbey. Aren’t them Brits the best?

I drove out to Connie’s cottage, because I wanted to collect more blue-rocks to put around the base of the Scotch Pine in my back-yard.

The Red Rock area is very close to town and access is straight down Maki Road. Seven kilometers in and the view from this small rise is spectacular. It’s the last elevation before the flats and the lakeshore road with the cottages. It was a spring-like morning and I stopped the car and shot the scene. It’s Lake Superior at the end of the road. On the horizon is Ile Parisienne an island in the south-eastern channel of the biggest and deepest of the Great Lakes. The Ojibwe/Chippewa call the lake gichi-gami  meaning great sea. And Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the name as Gitche Gumee  in The Song of Hiawatha. (The poem is American Romantic literature, not Native oral tradition.)

Connie, Rose, Derrick and I came back to my parents’ for a lunch of left-overs and newly fried shrimp. We were able to convince Mr. Zinga to postpone cooking the shrimp until today. And even then, he had them breaded and fried by 7:00 this morning. (My mother is convinced that my dad believes all food should be served cold.)


December 26, 2015 christmas, diario/journal


a hazy shade of winterchristmas 2015 – 6th entry
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For the first time in ages, there is no snow here in Northern Ontario. And in the last week, the sun broke through the cloud-cover for about half-hour this morning. It has been a week of gray days. The above image is of the Haviland Bay area just north of Connie’s cottage at Red Rock.

I like shooting the misty gloom, it reminds me of the long trudge that was winter when I lived here. So, it was a surprise when Mo reminded me that life is different at this latitude. Winter-gray means warm weather and snow is part of live so you need to lose your fear and trepidation of the white stuff and of snow-covered roads. The road around Trout Lake was covered in snow-and-ice and he just drove. I was ready to turn around as soon as I saw the first hill and the first 900 turn. He continued as if we were driving on pavement. He also described driving in the tracks of a transport as a strategy for highway-driving in bad weather. I want nothing to do with winter and the accommodations the cold and snow demand. The older I get, the more I dislike winter.


December 28, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

on the road again – the drive homechristmas 2015 – 7th entry
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Section One – 52 miles
Sault Ste Marie to St. Ignace

Crossing back into the US is always a struggle, not as bad as the Peace Bridge in Buffalo or the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. But the International Bridge on the American side has no NEXUS lane and a weird plaza design.

Section Two – 66 miles
St Ignace to Gaylord

This includes crossing the Mighty Mackinac. The Bridge is beautiful, however the railings are very low and it’s easy to feel like you’re floating above the Straits. I have to keep my eyes straight ahead, because looking around me is terrifying. And to make the crossing even harder, the inside lane is a grate and driving on it is even more disconcerting than the outside lane with its almost absent railing.

Section Three – 28 miles
Gaylord to Grayling

This is a winter nightmare and a micro-climate. The weather in this section can close I-75. There have been years where I waited at Rose-and-Derrick’s for the snowfall and forecast to shift up here in the snow-belt before I headed up I-75.

Section Four – 42 miles
Grayling to West Branch

I stop at West Branch and gas up. In the spring and summer, I even stop and shop at the Eddie Bauer outlet.

Section Five – 65 miles
West Branch to Saginaw

The is the last section of I-75 with two lanes. And as I get closer to Saginaw, the rural, farmland begins to shift to light industry and shopping centers.

Section Six – 39 miles
Saginaw to Flint

This is the northern boundary of greater Detroit. The highway is now 10 lanes wide mainly because of the huge outlet mall – Birch Run. And I-475 is the beginning of the eastern direction of the trip.

Section Seven – 21 miles
Flint to Lapeer

Where I-475 goes through crumbling Flint, I-69 to Lapeer goes through suburban sprawl. The farmland has been converted to track-housing and strip malls.


December 29, 2015 christmas, diario/journal

anywhere but herechristmas 2015 – 8th entry
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map-of-michiganDom and I went walking a couple days ago and we got on the topic of expats. He’s always been disappointed that he hasn’t found a way to interact with the town where he was born. (The five of us visit family and that is our interaction with Sault Ste Marie.) This led me to make the statement that Sault Ste Marie and the state of Michigan share many similarities. Both are places that people leave and come back only to visit parents. None of my friends from high-school live in Sault Ste Marie; they have all left and now make their homes in southern Ontario; one has found his way to western Mexico. The city has lost close to 30,000 people since the mid-seventies. Also, I know several people who grew up in Michigan, but now live elsewhere and have never considered going back to The Wolverine State. Both groups of expats have some very successful people in them. The Sault Ste Marie expats include teachers, mid-level managers, agency directors, entrepreneurs …; the Michigan expats include architects, museum founder/directors, city-managers …

Dom believes that the weather and economic opportunities are the road-blocks preventing people from returning after college, after marriage. I also think the region has lost so much talent, that there’s a sense of stagnation everywhere one looks. And the stagnation stops the move back. Michigan on the other hand, has always been a rough and at times mean place. The 1960’s riots destroyed Detroit. And the sentiments and divisions that fueled that rage are still in evidence today. Look at what the Governor’s Office has done with the water supply in Flint; look what the Governor did to the elected mayors of Flint, Pontiac and Detroit.

In contrast, Pittsburgh pulls back its sons-and-daughters and when they return they make significant contributions to the civic life of the region.


December 30, 2015 christmas, diario/journal


bluestoneschristmas 2015 – 9th entry
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In the spring, I finally removed the bonsai pot that the Scotch Pine had grown through, but removing the pot exposed all the upper roots. I needed to protect the exposed roots and the tip of the root-ball now that the old plastic pot was gone. My solution was to bring back a couple buckets of the tiny bluestones from Connie’s cottage and use them around the gnarled roots.

When I go back, I’ll have to collect more of the small ones.


January 2, 2016 christmas, diario/journal

christian, maria and mariochristmas 2015 – 10th entry
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Christian-MariaChristian and Maria drove down to visit and we had a nice time. The last time Christian was here, he was 7 and the four of them – Dave, Jo’, Christian and Seane – spent their visit at Ross Park Mall. When we were talking about him and Maria coming down, he had no idea what they would do except go shopping. I explained that we would do the whole sight-seeing tour, but he had no sense what that meant. He was too young to remember; he did remember Kennywood Park.

I’m the only family member not to have met Maria and I was trying to find a way for us to meet when she was in from Nova Scotia. (The two of them graduated from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.) I even considered flying up to Toronto for the weekend, but that meant being there with no car and no way of visiting with Frank-and-Norma, Renato-e-Gina, Mary-Domenic-and-Alyssa. Flying in didn’t sound worth it.

We began with a walk from the North Side into town. This was through West Park, over the Fort Duquesne Bridge, through Point State Park and into Gateway Center. Once back on the North Side, we drove to the South Side and got on the incline.

After lunch at the Porch in Schenley Plaza, we walked the Pitt campus. When Maria saw the dinosaur outside the museum and I told her about the exhibit, we went in and did the gem and the dinosaur displays. (The last time I was in the museum to see these two exhibits, it was Frank, Norma and I walking through the jewelry cases and the reconstituted dinosaur skeletons.)


January 3, 2016 christmas, diario/journal

a male-only eventchristmas 2015 – 11th entry
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christmas-fireI find it odd to think back some 60 years and remember that I was living in Aprigliano and that my dad took me to see the Christmas bonfire. He had me on his shoulders as we walked from our house up to the church of Santo Stefano. I also remember that the days before Christmas Eve, someone came around and collected firewood from every family for the bonfire. The fire was lit on the small piazza in front of our parish church and it was nurtured through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Each parish had its own Christmas bonfire and if you had moved, you even went back to your old parish to view its bonfire. What I’ve learned since is that it was a male-only event. Both my mom and my aunt tell about not being allowed to go see the bonfire, because they were unmarried young women.

The image on the left is from a FB site for residents and expats from Aprigliano. There are several images of the bonfire; my favorites are of the old men in their white-plastic chairs sitting away from the sparks and heat of the bonfire. There are about 50 men in the Piazza and only two women. The men are well over 40; the two women are much younger and they are only interacting with a young man. Guess the old men still rule and the old traditions still hang on.

The fire in the image is in Piazza di Guarno, not at a parish church. Guess everywhere in the world centralization is the rule.


January 4, 2016 christmas, diario/journal


from JFO filmschristmas 2015 – 12th entry
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Text from JFO Films Facebook Page
Here are some stills from my first project! I’m creating a series of concept videos featuring dancers.
First up is PENSIVE, featuring the extremely talented Seane Thorman.
Shout outs to my amazing cinematographer, Michael Hitoshi Maddeaux, and support and assistance from Jessamine Fok – couldn’t have done it without you guys!
Note: The image posted on the JFO FB page is longer and has black bands above and below it. Given that I have space restrictions, I cropped off the right side and the black bands.


January 6, 2016 christmas, diario/journal

the thoughtful soul to solitude retireschristmas 2015 – last entry
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magi2The title is a quote from the poet Omar Khayyam from Reg Henry’s column in today’s PPG. The image is of the three Magi from the presepio Jo’ got me when her friend Pat went to Italy.

Twelvetide – the Twelve Days of Christmas – ends today. But for my relatives and Facebookers in Aprigliano the date marks the feast of La Befana and they have images of the old witch, albeit cute and colorful in her modern incarnation, all over their FB pages. (I want to find out if gift-giving in Italy has moved from the traditional January 6 date, the feast of the Magi, to the more American date of December 25.)

The Legend of La BefanaOn the evening of January 5, legend has it that the three wise men knocked on La Befana’s door while looking for the child Jesus. She let them come in, but when asked to go with them to visit the baby, she said she was too busy. Later she regretted her decision and ran out of her house with a broom in hand and gifts for newborn child, but was never able to catch up to the Magi. Today she is still looking for the baby Jesus so she gives all children gifts every eve before Epiphany.

gold-sockMy favorite quote is from my cousin Alessandra – non si è mai troppo grandi per aspettare la befana – the sentiment is that you’re never too old to hang a stocking by the fire and believe that La Befana will stuff it full of gifts. I’m assuming that the image is of her Befana stocking by the fireplace at her Dad’s house. (I particularly like the small, unraveling threads at the bottom of the opening. It must be an old, beloved sock. Wonder if it’s the sock from when she was a child. Is it the sock her Mom and Dad – my cousins Mario e Tonina – hung by the fire when she still believed La Befana brought gifts?) Dag! I remember using one of my Mom’s old socks, because it was the longest and biggest sock we had in the house. It was a plain woolen winter sock. It had no gold thread or fancy embroidery.

Henry’s column is about a long ago time – 1977 – when the first Star War movie premiered; when we were all young enough to believe in gifts and wonder.