February 11, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

pilgrimage as economy

To those of us from certain parts of Calabria, today is a major holy-day – the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Even today, throughout southern Italy there are shrines to Our Lady of Lourdes. In many small towns, in Calabria, in Basilicata, in Puglia you can still see posters advertising pilgrimages to Lourdes. Devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes is still wide-spread. Many of my relatives in Aprigliano have made the pilgrimage to Lourdes, some more than once.

This date and this holy-day were important religious events of my early life. When we came to Canada, I had all sorts of memorabilia for Our Lady of Lourdes. My dad, who did a 3-month work-stint in south-western France, went to Lourdes and brought back most of the paraphernalia we had in Sault Ste Marie.

But age and some ability to connect dots previously isolated by cultural myths, allows me to look at the past through a different lens. What I’m finally realizing is the economic and PR machinery that promoted the pilgrimage to south-western France. An industry that got poor peasants from Italy’s poorest regions to travel to south-western France. A 2,000 kilometers or 1200 miles bus ride. And imagine all the people and businesses, along the 1200-mile route, that made money off the pilgrims. And imagine all the restaurants, all the hotels, all the souvenir shops in Lourdes that profited from the pilgrims from southern Italy.

When we were in San Giovanni Rotondo, in Puglia, it was clear that the town was totally dependent on its Santuario Padre Pio for its economic livelihood. (Padre Pio is southern Italy’s own saint and his burial place in San Giovanni Rotondo is a huge pilgrimage site.) Assisi is the prototype Italian pilgrimage town. The whole town is a religious tourist destination. The old medieval town has been cleaned up and refurbished; all the buildings are pointed with new grout, all the walls – houses, palaces, churches – are clean; there are beautiful medieval street lamps throughout; and all the hotels, the restaurants cater to the religious tourists.

Thinking about the economy of pilgrimages, led me to realize that my dad and his friends didn’t end up working in south-western France by accident. I’ll bet that the same people who organized the bus-trips from Aprigliano to Lourdes, over the years, got to know the small business owners – in this case the forestland-owners – in south-western France and when those business owners needed migrant workers to prune and cut trees, the pilgrimage organizers recruited in Aprigliano. How different can recruiting to fill a bus or a small hotel be from recruiting workers who can chop down trees? In post-war Calabria men transitioning from a farm economy to an urban economy were a dime a dozen. Transportation and lodgings options were already in place, so what that the people going over were going to work rather than pray.

What gets revealed in this new awareness is the religious veneer – the patina that covers the economic engine of moving people from one location to another.

The above image is an old postcard of the grotto at the shrine in Lourdes. Note the hundreds of crutches hanging on the wall and from the ceiling in the cave.



February 21, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

thursday, february 16

Thursday morning, fat flurries were dropping delicately, nothing massive or blinding enough to make me want to cancel the road-trip. What I had forgotten though was that wet-snow and wet-roads make for lots of windshield fluid and salt-spray gunking up my car. 79 North was a mess. Outside of Erie, it was a winter-wonderland and I started to worry, however, as soon as I turned east onto 90, the winter weather stayed behind me and I drove into sun and dry roads.

In Hamilton, I took the 407 East, rather than stay on the non-toll, super-congested QEW, 427 and 16-lane horror known as the 401. Driving the 407 Express-Toll-Road (ETR) is like driving a Pittsburgh highway – limited traffic and pleasant surroundings. Got to Mary-and-Dom’s, in Pickering, around 4:00.

Friday morning, Rose and I took Sadie out for a walk in the sub-division. The above image is of one of the older houses in the neighborhood. This particular section of eastern metropolitan Toronto began development in the 1970s and the bungalow was the premier house design. The house in the above image was a high-end version of the common bungalow. The large property and the sheltered front door were not typical design elements of the affordable suburban ranch. Today, many of these older homes are being demolished and replaced with faux mini-mansions.

In the afternoon, I went into town to High Park to Frank-and-Norma’s for dinner. We always have a nice time, even if we talk about the crazy-man in DC.

On my way home, because I was staying in Pickering, I had to get on the Gardiner going east. I’d never done that before and I wasn’t familiar with the downtown entrance ramps. I vaguely remembered that they were short and had no merging lane. And sure enough when I found one I immediately ended up on the side of the highway with cars zooming by. I managed to get on even if the car behind me sat on his horn until I achieved cruising speed. It reminded me of driving in Calabria, specifically in Reggio where most entrances onto the highway were up short ramps with a stop sign at the top. Talk about nail-biting. But then, there’s nothing like going from 0 to 60 to get the adrenaline running. Guess those experiences in Reggio prepared me for the Gardiner at night.

saturday, february 18

Everyone at the Melchiorre’s kept referring to my Saturday schedule as Driving Miss Daisy. (I was driving down to Oakville, picking up Connie, coming back east to The Danforth for lunch, taking Connie back to Oakville and then eventually driving back to Pickering.) It was a beautiful day and the various drives didn’t bother me. I got to Oakville by way of the 401, the 427 and the QEW. (The 401 is really a miserable highway.)

Connie and I were going out to lunch with her friend Jim and his partner Dan. Jimmy is an old friend from Sault Ste Marie. (The last time she had seen him, my sister Jo’ was still alive. Back then, Jimmy had come down to Oakville visited with Jo’ and then he and Connie went for coffee.) At Christmas, Connie asked me to contact Jimmy through his FB account. He was very glad to hear from her and to meet me and suggested we all get together the next time we were in Toronto.

Over the last couple of months Jimmy’s FB comments and messages have popped up on my account. When Connie and I knew we were heading to Toronto for late February, we all exchanged phone numbers and made arrangements to visit. Jimmy suggested that we go to his place, off The Don Valley, on The Danforth for lunch.

The valley gets its name from the small creek – the Don – that flows through the park. The valley separates the sprawling, Blade Runnerish downtown from the more human scaled Danforth/Greek-Town neighborhood. The area has none of the glass skyscrapers that litter downtown and most of its original housing stock is still in place. As a matter of fact, the first time I was in the area, all I could think of was the Toronto I knew from my high-school days. A small Canadian city of two-story structures and wide commercial streets with lots of food markets. My grandfather and I would walk down to Bloor Street and within a three/four block radius he could do all his grocery shopping. The Danforth has that feel – the businesses are all on the street floor of the two-story structures and the avenue is wide and teeming with people. BTW, Danforth is the name Bloor Street takes on east of the Don Valley.

Jim and Dan live on the edge of The Danforth facing the valley. The above image is taken from their balcony. And the bridge in the lower-right is the span that connects Bloor Street on the west to Danforth Avenue on the east.

sunday, february 19

The day before Rose and Mary had gone walking down by the lake and Rose kept commenting about the wonderful walk and how much I would like it and what a great place it was for pictures. So Mary decided that for our Sunday morning walk, we should go back down to the lake-front park. The area is the Rouge River National Park and the Waterfront Trail. The above image is shooting into the silt-ponds at the mouth of the Rouge before it empties into Lake Ontario. I love the haggard cat-tails – left-overs from a distant fall.

There are three estuaries that originate in the moraine north of the city and flow through modern metro Toronto to Lake Ontario. Roughly, the Humber comes into town along the western edge of High Park; the Don is the middle river separating the city into west and east; and the Rouge is the third watercourse marking the eastern edge of the metro region.

We got home from our walk along the north-eastern shore of Lake Ontario, Mary went to all the downstairs windows and lifted them open. Holy shit, it’s February in Canada and she’s opening windows as if it were spring.

Early afternoon we drove down to Oakville for my niece’s birthday party. (It was so warm in the car, I ended up putting on the AC rather than keeping the windows open and letting in the road-noise.) I took the super-clogged highways going down, but on our way home, I took the Gardiner and the Don Valley to the soul-draining 401. Mary was surprised by my facility with getting around and to knowing more than one way to get home that she asked if I had ever lived in Toronto. I just said that I had been coming to town all my life and once I started driving, I had a car to explore with.

I have to say that this was the first time when I didn’t think-about or worry-about driving. Took me long enough to get to the point of seeing Toronto highways as familiar and ordinary.


February 26, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

february’s spring

It’s taken two years for the snow-drops to come up and bloom. I say that, because in the old, side-yard flower-bed, these early bulbs never missed a season. But that’s really not accurate, because I have no idea how long it took them to take root, because I have no idea when I first planted them. Back then, I didn’t know one bulb from another. (In an area with limited sun, I planted tulips, and other long-stem flowering bulbs.) It took me a while to understand that I have limited sun in my urban back-yard and that tall plants, because they follow the sun, tend to fall over when reaching excessively for the afternoon light that just touches the fenced in back-yard.

I didn’t missed the snow-drops, in the side-yard, until I was in Cambridge in March of 2013 and they were all through the monastery courtyard. (I had removed the side flower-bed the previous summer and had totally forgotten about my harbingers of spring.)

The ones in the above image are not from my back-yard; mine are just coming up and when they first bloom, they’re singles – one plant per bulb; it takes a few years for the bulbs to multiply and clusters. Also, the above flowers are a giant version – genetically modified for sure – of the original plant. (The modified bulbs produce large white flowers the first couple of years, but then the modification appears only in the leaves; the flowers revert to a more standard size.)

What is most strange about spring 2017, is that on February 23, the temperature reached 76o. (The last time there were temperatures this warm was 1906.) There is no snow and the galanthus are one of many early flowering bulbs. For this year, they have lost their uniqueness as the first flowers of spring and instead are competing with lush crocus, iris retuculata, dwarf daffodils, bushy forsythia and fragile magnolia.


March 2, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

armored scale – chionaspis pinifoliae

The pine needle scale, Chionaspis pinifoliae, is probably the most common armored scale found on conifers in the United States and Canada. The white, oystershell-shaped scales can completely cover needles, causing plant discoloration to needle and branch death. Heavy infestations of pine needle scales remove considerable amounts of plant juices resulting in yellowed needles. From a distance, trees appear frosted or silvery.

The scales appeared last year and by the time I noticed them, it was too late to treat for them. (I also didn’t want to start spraying insecticide all over the back-yard.) This year, the tree’s spring growth was greatly reduced; gone were the green plumes and candles of scale-free years. I made the decision to cut the tree down and to replace it with a hardy fruit-tree. (Last spring, I planted a peach suitable for this climate and this zone and it did very well.) I went back to the same growers and looked for a hardy apricot and when I found one, it made replacing the Scotch pine easier to stomach. The image is the west-corner minus the cascading pine tree.

Both the now defunct pine and the gigantic red-wood – the trunk on the left of the image – began life as bonsai. I wintered them on the west-side of the yard, the most protected side, and in the spring discovered the roots had started growing into the ground. I left the trees there and watched, year after year, as they grew from their miniature pots to fill up my back yard. Of the two, the pine tree took up most of the usable space, because it was low and cascading. (The red-wood shot straight up and with yearly pruning of the lower branches all that was at eye-level was the beautiful trunk. The last pruning brought the green growth almost 30 feet above the ground; proving more light and space in the back-yard.)


March 8, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

blades in shadow

Today, the sun was back in full-force and the images it created with the bare branches, with the windmill-blades, with the shadows are amazing. The pic on the left is of the back flower-bed and it’s full of lines – verticals, horizontals, diagonals, perpendiculars, ellipticals, parabolics. (Whoa, how often do you get to use all those great words in a post about a sunny day in spring?) My favorites are the candy-striped verticals created by the gaps in the fence slots and the red bricks, of the houses across the alley.

The branches are blueberry bushes, fat and bursting with buds. The green stake is a support for the tall blueberry plants and the black steel shaft is the base-pole of the windmill. I just noticed the circle shadow of the yellow tomato-cage that will hold up the lanky, hybrid cornflowers. The ground-cover is pine-needles from the red-wood, the purples and yellows are crocus and the white are snow-drops.

It’s that time of year when we can briefly forget the disgrace of urination in a Moscow hotel-room; it’s that time of year when we can briefly forget the disgrace of Kellyanne Conway of Jeff Sessions; and it’s that time of year when we can briefly forget the disgrace of November 8.

It’s that time of year when we dream of slim waists; it’s that time of year when cancer briefly loses its grip; and it’s that time of year when old-age dreams of midsummer nights.

It’s that time of year when new-life sneaks among the winter bareness; it’s that time of year when daylight lingers among the evening chill; and it’s that time of year when warm temperatures play among the March winds.

The image is the antithesis of simplicity, of minimalism; representations and expressions I obsess over. It’s also not a cool image; it’s full of reds, vermilions, purples, yellows, browns, tans, sepias.


March 12, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

daylight saving time – sommerzeit

In our family, daylight saving time is a horror. (Paul claims that if Trump had promised to end daylight saving time, he would have voted for him.) The first day of the time-switch is always disorienting – you’re waking up an hour earlier than usual and then there’s no way of determining what time it is throughout the day. You look at the clock and are amazed that’s it’s 7:30. What! What the fuck happened to late afternoon and why is it still light out?
a brief history
William Sword Frost, mayor of Orillia, Ontario, introduced daylight saving time in the municipality during his tenure from 1911 to 1912.

Starting on April 30, 1916, the German Empire and its World War I ally Austria-Hungary were the first to use daylight saving time – sommerzeit – as a way to conserve coal during wartime. Britain, most of its allies, and many European neutrals soon followed suit. Russia and a few other countries waited until the next year, and the United States adopted it in 1918.

Broadly speaking, daylight saving time was abandoned in the years after the war with some notable exceptions including Canada, the UK, France, and Ireland. However, it became widely adopted, particularly in North America and Europe, starting in the 1970s as a result of the 1970s energy crisis.

The above image is of the setting sun lighting the east corner of the back-yard.


March 15, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

on the ides of march – winter’s last gasp

The back-yard is totally covered in snow and it’s still coming down. (I shot the pic from the alley-window in the downstairs big-room. It’s the side-yard and east-side of the back-yard. The burlap covered pots hold hosta. I covered them to stop the vagrant squirrel from digging in them, but it just ripped the burlap. What’s next, chain-mail?) Somewhere under all that white covering are crocus, snowdrops and other early bulbs. Will they be dead when the snow finally melts? My Japanese lilac, in the back there, is full of green buds; the peach tree is also ready to bloom; hope the tender leaves don’t freeze. And the newly planted apricot is also a great worry. My only consolation is that the storm wont freeze the thawing ground and therefore the roots should be OK.

It’s hard to believe that only days ago, I shot the pics of the spring bulbs in the slide-show. And how long will it be before all this new snow melts? The forecast for the next couple of days is not for warm weather.

Yesterday, I cancelled my travel plans, because I didn’t want to travel the New York Throughway and the snow-belt that is Buffalo. Snow totals for the area were in the 8 to 10 inches with hazardous driving conditions. On the Canadian side, the strip between Niagara and Hamilton got dumped on, but Toronto missed it. And because Toronto was storm-free, Porter was able to fly and I did not get a full refund on my cancellation. The damage was $67 between the cancellation and the rebook.

I had opted to travel to Sault Ste Marie in March, thinking that there would be less chance of winter weather and winter driving, man did that probability prove wrong.

Also, today I got rid of a 70s hold-over – a platform bed. Taking the platform apart was an awakening especially considering what Ikea has been able to do with pre-fab furniture. The platform was primitive by Ikea standards.


March 19, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

feast-day and father’s day

part one
March 19 is the feast-day of Saint Joseph. The holiday’s roots date back to the middle ages, when Sicily underwent a major drought that threatened a massive famine. The locals prayed to their patron saint to bring them relief in the form of rain. In exchange, they promised to honor St. Joseph, the husband of Mary, with a proper banquet. Sure enough, he answered their prayers. In return, they feasted on local foods such as fava beans, which thrived after the rain, as well as many sweets. Since the feast occurs in the middle of Lent, it is a meatless celebration.

The Father’s Day angle is a more modern emphasis. As Catholicism shrinks to a tradition, rather than an active religion, the day is more about fathers than the Saint. (Most notices on social media have holy-card pictures of St. Joseph, but text over the images wishing congratulations.)

There are two things I associate with this date:

  •   – the tradition of naming children born on March 19 after St. Joseph. My sister was born on March 19, 1963 and was named Josephine. This naming tradition also applied if the child was born either the day before or the day after the 19th. My cousin Joe who was born on the 18th of March.
  •   – eating fave. These early spring beans were planted back in the fall and wintered in the cold ground, but with the spring rain, the plants would shoot up and produce their log green bean-pods. Eating the fave when they are fresh and tender minimizes the bitter taste. (Up in Sault Ste Marie, the fave will be ready in June. Talk about a radically different harvest time-frame.)

There was little fanfare in Aprigliano around St. Joseph, because none of the churches had statues of him and therefore there were no processions. Interesting enough all my relatives from Aprigliano are posting congratulations to fathers and little about the feast-day on their Facebook pages. Even the dessert most associated with this feast-day – zeppole, a dough fritters covered in sugar – are not common in the Apriglianese sweets repertoire.

The old, 1955 postcard is from Pizzo Calabro, a small sea-side town on the Tyrrhenian Sea in south-western Calabria. The photograph on the right (photographer Osvaldo Spizzirri) is from the procession in Cosenza earlier today. (By American standards, Aprigliano is like a suburb of Cosenza, most Apriglianesi work, shop and socialize in Cosenza.) Both pics were posted on the Facebook page Calabria Ieri e Oggi.

Oh my, how things have changed in 62 years!

the saint

March 20, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

  the saint, the bishop and the politician

part two – click to go to part one
This photograph was in the collection of images that Osvaldo Spizzirri posted on Facebook yesterday after the procession for St. Joseph in Cosenza. I had to use it. The man in the red-pink cassock and white-gold stole is some bishop or other; the man in the suit and sash is the mayor of Cosenza, Mario Occhiuto.

It’s common knowledge that the Pope gets his largest audiences in Puglia, Campania, Basilicata, and Calabria. They are regions where Catholicism still holds a firm grip. And they are also some of the least developed, most rural areas of Italy.

  •     – Lecce, in Puglia, was a showcase of Baroque Catholicism run amuck.There amid the olive groves and the poverty, Mother Church built palaces and churches fit for a fake New York billionaire turned president.
  •     – Naples, with its dark, sadistic streak of Catholicism was a wonder. It’s Spanish legacy of S&M Catholicism – reliquaries full of blood, guts, severed body-parts – was everywhere to see.
  •     – A couple of summers ago, our short foray into Basilicata left me amazed at how many priests, in full regalia, were walking the streets. Matera is where Mel Gibson filmed the blood-fest better know as The Passion of the Christ.
  •     – And Calabria, my native land, is full of small and still operational churches. In Aprigliano, a town of 2,890, there are 9 churches – San Leonardo, San Nicola, Santo Stefano, Portosalvo, San Rocco, San Dimitri, La Madonna Delle Timpe, L’Immacolata and L’Assunta. And many of the town leaders are actively involved in keeping these small chapels functioning.

So, it’s no wonder that the St. Joseph celebration in Cosenza shows the affinity between church and state. An affinity that has not served the people of the Mezzogiorno, or southern Italy well. Mother Church has just been another controlling factor in the lives of the Italian contadini.

I remember my utter depression when at Monte Cassino I realized that in 1944 while Calabria emptied, because its people were starving, Mother Church rebuilt the Benedictine monastery, bombed by the Allies, in 6 months. Tell me Mother Church was about the poor, the hungry, the forgotten, the victims of Italian and German fascism. Go ahead, tell me.

It’s no different now; the church where the statue of San Giuseppe was housed is well maintained, its outside walls freshly plastered and painted, but the historic center of Cosenza, where the church is located, still looks like a slum. (Calabrians don’t seem to gravitate to gentrification or restoring their Medieval heritage. The cry seems to be, “Let’s move out and into new construction.”)


April 8, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

bracketing the wisteria

I needed to solve two problems – replacing the weathered 2X4 cap on the wolmanized back fence; and creating guide-rails to hold the ever-growing wisteria vine. Where the fence posts and pickets have held up exceptionally well, the 2X4s across the top had deteriorated. Also, I had started weaving the wisteria around the old caps and as the vines thickened they were swallowing the old 2X4s. It was time to replace the fence caps and to design a workable solution that would allow the vine to grow and spread.

This will be the third season for the wisteria and it’s easily some 30 feet long. (Wisteria has a very rapid growth rate – up to 10 feet a year.) It’s a genetically altered plant and it already bloomed last spring. (In the old days, before genetically modified plants took over, the rule-of-thumb was that wisteria didn’t bloom its first 7 years.) Also, you can trick the plant into blooming by planting it in dire soil conditions – a nutrient starved soil can triggers the plant’s survival mechanism forcing it to bloom and seed. I planted the vine in the most inhospitable corner of my back-yard. I still remember walking the Upper East Side and seeing wisteria growing among the cement cracks of the front pads and seeing the vines, full of flowers, snaking up the fronts of the brownstones.

Years ago, we planted a wisteria at Rick-and-Sarah’s, but it has never produced flowers. It was probably not a genetically modified variety and we planted it in very rich, well-watered soil. Every year the plant covers their back deck in a luscious, green canopy, but it doesn’t bloom. It doesn’t need to; it’s living in the mar-a-lago section of a Wilkinsburg back-yard.)

The contractors at DNL Home Improvement came up with these Japanese looking brackets that got screwed on the sides of the new caps across the back-and-side fence. (In the slide-show, the second image is of the wisteria twisted around the old weathered 2X4 and the third image is the wisteria inside the new brackets.)


April 14, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

getting the ground ready

My 91 year-old father plowed the entire back-yard, (The image shows only half of the garden.) cut down a 20-foot tall plum tree and is now growing tomato seeds in the small sun-room. And his latest medical issue – giant cell arteritis – hasn’t slowed him down any.

The trip up was easy – guess Good Friday means the airports are not too busy. The flight from Pittsburgh had some 30 passengers, but the flight to the Sault was full.

This was a trip I was supposed to have done back in March – driving to Toronto and then flying up to the Sault, but the unexpected snow-storm put off driving the New York Throughway. It took three phone-calls to Porter before I got an agent who was able to figure out a new itinerary that wouldn’t cost me a fortune. He kept parts of the original Toronto/Sault ticket and just added a new return date and a Pittsburgh/Toronto leg to the reservation. The whole change-package cost me $100 more than the drive-and-fly trip I had originally planned.

This is not my favorite time to come up north; the region can still be in the grips of cold weather, the left-over snow-piles can look like mountains of filth and the sand that was used on the ice-covered roads can swirl into eyes and ears and noses. But the weather isn’t extreme; the dirt speckled snow-piles are almost melted; and the sand has been cleared away. (They’ve had a lot of rainfall and this helped clean the streets of sand-powder and blackened ice-chunks.)


April 15, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

a glooming peace

If I was prone to Catholic imagery, I would have used this pic with yesterday’s post (Good Friday). It was great stripping what little color was left from the image and have it look almost B&W.

After driving my mother to visit her friends, I headed for the neighborhood below old St. Mary’s College – the Catholic boys’ high school I attended – to scout it for a photo trip. OMG, the area between the railroad tracks and the slope of hill is a wreck. After the James Street area, it’s the second oldest part of town and it’s showing wear. Even when I lived here, it was known as a low-income area full of Protestants. And the economic migration for this non-ethnic group was to go from this central section to the east-end.

There’s no Catholic church in that central part of town, but it’s full of old Methodists, Lutheran and Anglican churches. For my grandparents’ generation it was a desirable neighborhood, because it meant you could move out of the tenements in James Street and into one of the many small, newly-built houses. Both of my grandparents were buried from a funeral home in this Protestant section of town and my parents have made similar arrangements. (The march to assimilation continues across generations.)

The original town was laid out between the St. Mary’s River and The Hill. The plain had room for the steel-mill, the tube-mill, the rail-yards, the highways and the workers’ houses. Along the riverbanks, long cargo ships unloaded coal and other raw materials needed to make steel. Through the locks, connecting Superior to the rest of the Great Lakes, ships brought out raw materials and finished steel. Modern Sault Ste Marie has moved away from the industrial yards that gave it life; it has moved to the top of The Hill. And modern Sault Ste Marie has followed the hilltop west, abandoning the once-desirable east-end. (The eastern part of town, and the portion of The Hill that borders it, is Indian land and not available for development.) Locally, The Hill has no identifying name, instead it’s named and added into conversation based on the street that climbs it – Second Line Hill, Bruce Street Hill, Pim Street Hill.


April 16, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

where is the risen sun

Talk about a glooming hanging over the land. It’s day two of cold, wet and gray. Bet there were no sun-rise services anywhere in Northern Ontario.

And given that gray is the color, there’s a need to find something other. Can these qualify – the green moss, the blue plastics, the yellow globes, the white towel, the clay pot, the arctic-blue fencing? Can they lighten a dreary morning?

The branches are off the plum tree my dad cut down. He will finish removing the rest of the trunk and the lower branches once he gets the chain-saw serviced. It’s amazing that a 91 year-old is taking down 20-foot trees.

Easter lunch was pleasant and low-keyed. It was a Sunday meal with a few extras – Connie and Ron, Uncle and Aunt, Rose and Derrick, my parents and I. Here in Canada, Easter and Catholicism don’t have the same cultural pervasiveness that they do back in Calabria.

In contrast, my relatives in Cosenza have been uploading hundreds of pictures showing Palm Sunday processions, passion plays complete with chubby Jesuses and fake blood, Good Friday stations led by arch-bishops and Holy Saturday services with huge vigil fires and giant Pascal candles. The rituals of the week have brought the people of the Calabrian hill-towns into the streets to celebrate both spring and their shared cultural heritage.


April 17, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

               on moffly hill

The following is an excerpt from Brian Kelly’s March 22, 2010 article in the Sault Star.

The 12-tonne cross was erected by the St. Mary’s College Men’s Club on May 14, 1960. It’s believed to be in the same area where a cedar cross was raised on June 14, 1671 as part of a French celebration that drew thousands of aboriginals.

A monster bingo, the largest ever in the city at the time, was held at the Memorial Gardens in 1958 to help pay for the cross’s construction.

The cross, which can be seen for about 30 kilometres, is lit by 15 bulbs.

Bill Taylor, Mike Perepelytz and Mike Lukenda spearheaded the cross’s creation.

An acre of land is leased for a dollar a year from Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board.

The following are excepts from Mike Verdone’s November 13, 2014 article in the Sault Star.

The cross that stands on Moffly Hill near St. Georges Avenue East, is one of the largest in North America.

It was erected in 1960 as a reminder of a wooden cross that was erected on a hill in the area — more than 340 years ago — overlooking the St. Mary’s River after the French proclaimed sovereignty over a vast portion of the New World.

In 1671 the wooden cross was the centre piece of ceremony dedicating the area to God.

The ceremony was reportedly attended by aboriginal people that represented 17 nations, Jesuit priests and traders, trappers and French army officers.

In September of 1964, when Frank and I started at St. Mary’s, the giant cross was already a city landmark. What I remember most about the 27,000 pounds behemoth was the long steel rope that hung from the horizontal. It acted like a bell-clapper hitting the vertical – black steel banging against black steel. I never thought about what was causing the clanging; it was just one of the sounds of high school. Don’t think I ever considered that a cross, standing on a promontory, could be susceptible to winds rushing across the flats and spiking up the slope. Way too scientific for the addled teenage brain.

As teenagers, we hated the spring winds. The cold weather may have broken, but the miserable winds would flap the tennis-court nets and jar the ball enough to screw up your swing. (And you didn’t dare blame a bad lobby on the wind.) It would be late June before the winds died down enough to not interfere.

Note: The above image has been heavily Photoshopped. The last image, in the slide-show, is a more accurate representation of the area.


April 18, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

the italian ghetto

When my grandparents first came to Canada, to Sault Ste Marie, the Italian immigrants lived west of downtown, in an area butting up against the steel-mill. The neighborhood was called James Street after the main commercial street in the area. The stores on James Street were all owned and operated by Italian families – Tagliabracci, Scarfone, Bumbacco, Greco, Spadoni, Boniferro.

By the time we arrived in the late 50s, many of the Italians had moved to the north-side of the west-end. The north-side was separated from the official west-end by rail-yards and the Tube-mill. My grandparents were part of the first wave to leave the west-end and head north to the other side and that’s where we first lived when got to Canada. But they still went back to James Street to shop; and we all went back to the west-end for Midnight Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel – the Italian church.

Biagini Studios, which all the Italians used for births, first-communions, engagements and weddings, was the premier photography studio in town and it was in the west-end. My aunt-and-uncle’s wedding pictures were all take at the studio. (End of November 1957, and little May-ree-oh, in his Sunday-best that Mafalda brought from Calabria, is standing sideways at the end of the family line in his little suit-jacket and looking like a little old man with a pot belly.) I remember this huge camera and the photographer getting under a dark-cloth and the noise and burst of the flash-powder.

My sister Jo’s first-communion pictures were taken at Biagini’s. And she has the famous 1970s big-hair; we’re talking a serious bouffant, big enough to put a crown around it. (At least she wasn’t on a kneeler looking off at a superimposed Jesus surrounded by heavenly clouds.)

I bought my very first pair of hockey-skates, used, at a shoe-store next to the James Street Hardware. I can still picture the wooden display-box, up on 2X4s, and full of worn skates. The leather was all scuffed, the blades covered in dust and my friend told me that they would need sharpening. They were so narrow and so uncomfortable, but buying a new pair that actually fit was beyond the means of a struggling immigrant family. A new pair of skates was more expensive than dress-shoes. Oh yeah, my parents were gonna buy me skate; skates and hockey-sticks were frivolous things; things for English people. (I used my Christmas money to buy that first pair; I think they were $6.00.)

The Sanguinettis lived in the James Street area when they first came from Calabria. (Joe was born while they were still living in the Italian section, and I babysat him in that second floor walk-up.) From there they moved eastward to Bush Street and then finally to the new subdivision at the northern corner of the expanded west-end, to Digby Crescent. I remember when they moved into the new house; my dad was helping and took me along; I carried in a coffee-table with a glass top. (What strange details the mind keeps and brings forward.)


April 19, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

the ladies who lunch

left to right – Zita, Mafalda, Elda, Angie, Nunzia (sitting Francesco)

Mafalda’s birthday was March 2, but this was the first free date that her friends – Zita, Elda and Nunzia – could get together to celebrate. They came by around 11:00, dropped off a cake, picked up my mom and headed out to lunch. Afterwards, they came back here for coffee, cake and happy-birthday singing. (They pulled in as Angie was heading home and convinced her to turn around and join them for cake.)

Mafalda told me, before the ladies came, that they wanted me to be ready to take pics. OK, I can do that.

Once they had the coffee made and the cups and plates on the table, my dad and I were called upstairs.

The cake was from the Calabrese bakery up the street and it was really good – thick layers of cream surrounded by moist cake.


April 30, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

global warming = april garden

The common wisdom, in this part of the country, is to wait until Mother’s Day to plant annuals. Well, I’m two-and-a-half weeks before the guaranteed frost-free date.

The flowering plants seems to be relegated to the left corner and only white and yellow are being featured this year. Yes, that’s a fig tree in the foreground. It’s a Chicago Fig touted as able to survive our Zone 6 winters. I’ll let you know how that goes. And it’s a dark fig not the desirable, uppity white variety I had from Aprigliano. Also, returning for a new season are the oregano and the chives planted last year.

Confession time – I did something I’ve never done before – throw plants away. I wanted to cram the vegetable planter with seedlings and so I bought 2 cherry-tomatoes, 6 basil, 4 zucchini and 4 cucumber plants. Even though I hated the taste of the cucumbers and the vine had become totally infested by the striped beetle, I put 4 of the plants in my cart. (Come on, they were big and bushy. And I pretended that this year, the cubes would taste better.) Then on Saturday, I went to another nursery and they had a Burpee variety that I knew and immediately decided to replace what I had. This would mean pulling out and throwing away what I had planted only days ago. The next trow-away was for aesthetics. It appears that Dragon-wing Begonias, my favorites, only come in red and that’s not a desirable color this year. (Need I remind you who perpetually wears an overly long red tie to cover his bulging fatness?) So today, I bit the bullet and replaced the beautiful Dragon-wings with a hybrid Wax Begonia, in white.


April 30, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

                        nothing is in primary colors

Acupuncture, an imaginative light sculpture by German artist Hans Peter Kuhn, will appear to “pierce” the roof and south-facing side of the building. The installation will include components of what Kuhn calls “light sticks.” Attached to metal scaffolding, the “sticks” will appear to cut through the top floor of the building, coming out of the roof, and then cutting back through the staircase tower. The installation’s size and configuration will make the piece visible from all angles, throughout the neighborhood and the city.

From the Mattress Factory website


For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Twilight is about getting older and relationships – not about a murder mystery.
It’s about love when you reach a certain age; nothing is in primary colors.
Robert Benton

If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more,
we shall speak again together and
you shall sing to me a deeper song.
And if our hands should meet in another dream
we shall build another tower in the sky.
Khalil Gibran

It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.
Hubert H. Humphrey

We’re living through the twilight of American economic dominance.
Shia LaBeouf

Truth, like light, blinds.
Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.
Albert Camus

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such a twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of darkness.
William O. Douglas

The image is taken from my back-yard.
Quotes are from the website – BrainyQuote


a bird house – not!

The shots are down the side-alley and the focus is the white concrete structure with the vertical thingy on top. In the left image, I purposely opened the louvers to add to the horizontals – bricks, mortar-lines, louvers, window-sashes. In the right image, because I wanted to show the copper insects and because I wanted a background for the birdhouse, I shut the lower louvers.

The blurb on the card, attached to the birdhouse, read:

A quartet of birdhouses sits perched atop the Darwin D. Martin House conservatory roof – one at each of its four corners. Frank Lloyd Wright designed these solid limestone structures for the Martin House Complex as homes to attract the purple martin – North America’s largest species of swallow. It is also believed that Wright intended these birdhouses to serve as a whimsical, yet metaphorical, nod to his clients – the Darwin D. Martin Family. It is not fully known whether purple martins ever nested there; regardless, the birdhouses with their distinctive Pagoda-like shape are an architectural element unique to and in complete harmony with the overall composition of the site.

I can tell you that no self-respecting swallow took up residence in Mr. Wright’s stone dwelling. Man, his houses look great, but live in one, NEVER! We all know humans, with their little brains and giant egos, can be talked into almost anything. Think stiletto heels, neckties, skinny jeans. But I assume purple martins don’t have a style obsession or a better-than gene and therefore flew by the whatchamacallits on the roof of the fancy-house and down to the homey birdhouses built by the little kid and his parent on the next block. (The Martin House is surrounded by regular, 1940’s, Buffalo houses – two-and-a-half story, wood construction, clapboard siding, peaked roof.)

One last thing – the birdhouse weighs nearly 140 pounds. Good thing it’s in pieces – the finial, the roof-slab and the 3-floor residence. It was delivered wrapped in cellophane and situated on a huge pallet. The delivery person left it on the sidewalk and I had to take the wooden crate apart to get to the birdhouse.

Also, the 32″ high pedestal that it sits on, weighs close to 300 pounds. It’s the concrete base of a fountain, but because it’s cracked, the guy at the greenhouse was willing to sell it separately. I got it for $50. It took 3 big guys to load it into my Forester. And I drove around with this monster in the back, for almost a week. (Yes, weight impacts gas consumption; filled the tank twice in one week.) Finally, last night, my neighbors – Marcus and his dad – helped me lift the pedestal out of the back of the car and onto a hauler dolly.



where are you going
can you take me with you
for my hand is cold
and needs warmth
where are you going

far beyond where the horizon lies
and the land sinks into mellow blueness

oh please, take me with you
let me skip the road with you
i can dare myself

i’ll put a pebble in my shoe
and watch me walk
i can walk, i can walk

i shall call the pebble dare
we will talk, we will talk together
we will talk about walking

dare shall be carried
and when we both have had enough
i will take him from my shoe, singing
meet your new road

then i’ll take your hand
finally glad
that you are here
by my side1

nu garofalu russu 2

1  By My Side – Godspell (modified lyrics) In the play, the haunting lyrics are sung by the Magdalene watching the man, who has just forgiven her, go off to be arrested and crucified.
2  The title is again in dialect. My mom and dad and others of their generation would say, è nu garofalu russu – it’s a red carnation. Standard Italian sanitizes it to è un garofano rosso. Sorry, the old Calabrese is less fussy, less flat; the dialect is robust, guttural.

In western society, carnations are common at funerals and cemeteries; the image, with its deep reds, compliments the sentiment of the lyrics. (In Italy, chrysanthemum are the flowers of the dead.)

I garofali russi are in my backyard, and I shot the image with a 40mm micro lens.



the bees have found the wisteria


The honey bees, and I’m talking big fat ones, are all over the wisteria flowers. Last year, a few visited, but this spring it seems like an entire hive has found the the purple clusters on Sampsonia Way.

Wisteria facts

Wisteria is deciduous vine that belongs to the pea family.

Lounging languorously over a fence or pergola – the charms of wisteria are almost impossible to resist. Marco Polo was an early conquest. He brought seeds back from China.

The world’s largest known wisteria is in Sierra Madre, California, covering more than 1 acre and weighing close to 500,000 pounds. It was planted in 1894 and it’s a Chinese lavender variety.

In modern times, botanists are making new plants from layering or grafting; these methods have produced plants that bloom quickly and abundantly.

Chinese and American wisteria twine in a clockwise direction; Japanese wisteria twines in a counter-clockwise direction.

Bees and hummingbirds are the main pollinators of wisteria.


Image – the pink blur is the bricks of the alley-houses; the white blur is a car; and the black blur is the top of the backyard fence.


     ascension thursday – 40 th day of easter

This post began life last week when Lucy Gagliardi, a FB-friend from Aprigliano, posted about the Feast of the Ascension on Thursday, May 25. She explained the old Apriglianese tradition of collecting a furtunella – a good luck plant – on your way home from Ascension Thursday Mass. As a kid, I remember collecting the plant and bringing it home for my mom to hang on a nail on a wall in our kitchen.

I spent most of the week trying to identify the plant known in dialect as a furtunella. Lucy sent me a picture she took with her phone, and Maria Lucia Le Pera posted the image on the left.

The references I found on were under the title l’erba dell’ascensione – grass of the Ascension. And that made sense – generalizing the legend and linking it specifically with the Feast Day. The research placed the legend of a plant, collected on the Feast of the Ascension, and bringing good luck, to the towns and villages of central Calabria; and identified the plant was a succulent belonging to the sedum group. Google images along with Lucy’s and Maria’s pictures helped me narrow down the varieties in the group to sedum stellatum.

The most surprising finding was that the plant was a succulent. That had never crossed my mind, but once I thought about it, it made perfect sense. Calabria is dry and desert-like; succulents would be common wild flowers in that environment.

According To My Cousin Annarita Femia

The legend

A furtunella, è una pianta inodore con dei fiorellini rosa tenui.

A furtunella is a plant with soft pink odorless flowers.

Si racconta che nella festa dell’ascensione viene raccolta e appesa al muro a mazzolino,

It’s said that if on the feast of the Ascension, you pick a bouquet of it and hang it on a wall,

nel corso dei giorni essa fiorisce e i suoi rametti vanno verso su,

and if during the following days it blooms and branches up,

se succede questo porta fortuna.

then good luck and good fortune will come to that home and that family.

grazie – Lucy, Maria Lucia, Annarita




the founding of the republic


The Festa della Repubblica is the Italian national holiday celebrated on June 2nd. It commemorates the institutional referendum of 1946 when by universal suffrage, the Italian population was called to decide what form of government – monarchy or republic – to give to the country after the Second World War and the fall of Fascism. With 12,717,923 votes for a republic and 10,719,284 votes against, Italy became a Republic; and the monarchs of the House of Savoy were deposed and exiled.

The referendum swept away the feudalism that both the monarchy and the church used to subjugate the people of the peninsula. And let’s not pretend that it won by a great majority; it won by 5%. Does this mean that only after horrendous experiences will people consider advancing systems that push for expanded human rights?
The pic was taken by Osvaldo Spizzirri during the holiday celebration in Cosenza. (Notice the graffiti on the wall behind the flag.)


the martin house

This was my first time in a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie-house. The Darwin D. Martin house in Buffalo was a wonderful surprise. It actually works as a house – unlike Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. The kitchen in the Martin house is functional, spacious and beautiful. (I kept thinking of the octagonal, claustrophobic kitchen in Kentuck Knob. This was nothing like it.)

I could actually see myself sitting in any of the first-floor rooms of the Martin House. I can never picture myself in any of the overwhelming spaces of Fallingwater or Kentuck Knob. Do I want to sit on the step going down to the stream at Fallingwater? Absolutely! Do I wanna have dinner at Fallingwater? Absolutely not! Would I like to sit in the library at the Martin House? Absolutely!

The Martin House has been greatly restored – much of the original complex was left to the elements or torn down and only through the efforts of the Martin House Restoration Corporation have the property and the structures been brought back to life. The corporation used photos taken in 1907 as their blueprints for the extensive restoration. For example in the space between the main house and the carriage house, Wright designed an amazing pergola – breeze-way – to connect the two buildings. After Mrs. Martin abandoned the house, because she could no longer maintain it, the space between the main-house and the carriage-house was sold to developers who took down Wright’s pergola and put two five-story apartment building in the space.

The above photo is of the pergola.

This is the first entry for the June trip to Toronto and Sault Ste Marie.


oaklands – gothic revival in toronto


I spent the day with my friend Booby walking the area around De La Salle College in the Summerhill neighborhood of Toronto. Bobby is the head of the Board of Trustees for De La Salle College and he was in town for a meeting.

The various Christian Brothers districts throughout Ontario and the U.S. have consolidated and Bobby, an American Christian Brother from New York City, now works with the Brothers’ schools in Canada. It’s the first time that I met one of the guys I was in Novitiate with here in Canada.

The above image is the Brothers’ House on the campus of De La Salle College. The elaborate mansion was built in the 1860s by John McDonald, a successful dry goods merchant. The sprawling house – Oaklands, because of the many oak trees on the property – was completed with a tower observatory that provided Mr. McDonald with a clear view of Lake Ontario some 5 kilometers to the south. The Oaklands mansion has been designated as a historical building by the City of Toronto, as an example of local Gothic Revival architecture.

The Christian Brothers have run a school on the property since 1931. The school is named after the founder Jean-Baptiste de La Salle.


at connie-and-ron’s

My goal today was to figure out how to get from Oakville to the Toronto City Airport using public transportation. (The last couple of times I did this, I used a cab and that was an $80 tab going and a $100 tab coming back.)

At 7:00 am, Seane drove me to the Oakville GO-Train station; the ticket to Union Station – downtown Toronto – was $9.00. I got on an express and was downtown in 30 minutes. (The QEW/Gardner at that time of morning was crawling with commuter traffic.) From Union Station, I walked the block to the Royal York Hotel and got on the courtesy shuttle to the airport.

Connie picked me up in Sault Ste Marie and we headed to my parents where we joined Dom, Marcella, their grandson Dawson and my parents for lunch. The garden is full of plants whose seeds wintered in the frozen ground. Fava, swiss-chard, garlic, carrots and spinach color the brown earth in my dad’s garden. My mom made fritters, a salad and a soup from the fresh spinach.

In the evening, I went over to Connie-and-Ron’s to visit and take pictures. It’s early spring here in the north country and the fields are covered with wild-flowers. (At this time of year, they have almost 45 minutes more daylight than we do in Pittsburgh. It was 9:33 and it was not even twilight.) The above image is from Connie-and-Ron’s property on Allen Side Road in the south-western section of Prince Township.


a soft, lilac-scented breeze

The last time I was in the Sault, in early June was 1968; and I had forgotten about the extended daylight, the dark-green lawns and the ubiquitous lilacs – their thicket fill the yards. So this morning on my walk to my aunt-and-uncle’s all these markers of spring in the north-country were everywhere.

The west-end – from Goulais Avenue to Korah Road – is filled with lilac trees. This older section was full of Polish, Ukrainian and other Eastern European families. (Interestingly, lilacs are native to the Balkans. Did the early immigrants bring seeds with them?) Every house seems to have several lilac trees in their yard. And it was amazing to see that many lilac trees in full bloom. But as soon as I crossed Korah Road, the trees disappeared.

The area north and east of Korah Road is the newer section of the west-end. Houses in this area are from the 1960s and the 1970s; there are even newer subdivisions in the quadrant. Guess these immigrants, people like my grandparents, saw themselves as different, as younger than the Slovaks that filled the streets closest to the mill. And these immigrants were from Western Europe and they planted fava, rapini, and tomatoes. No one planted cabbage or root-vegetables; those winter-hardy crops belonged to the Polacks over there in the old section of the west-end.

The first time I visited Rome was in June of 1972 and the streets were lined with blossoming Japanese Lilacs. Their scent filled the city. I still associate Rome with that scent. And it was such a strong and lingering memory that when I bought a house, the first tree I planted was a Japanese Lilac. (It’s my very own reminder of 1970’s Rome.) My parents’ neighborhood in Sault Ste Marie is purple-blue with thickets of lilacs and their scent fills the streets of the old west-end.


minnehaha falls

After dinner, Connie and I drove up to Minnehaha Falls. The last time I saw the falls my grandparents were alive; mid-1960s. And back then, it was known locally as Hiawatha Falls; and back then, there were stairs from the bottom of the valley up to the cascade.

What I don’t remember are the mosquitoes. Holy shit! As soon as we got out of the car, we were assailed by swarms of stinging, miserable insects. As the locals like to remind me, “June is mosquitoes only month, but July, well the black-flies wake and join the swarms.” And people wanna live here, WHY?

The section of Hiawatha Park with the Falls, is run by the Kiwanis Club of Sault Ste Marie and the organization maintains a paved road down into the valley. From the parking lot, we walked up the ravine, on foot-paths beside the falls. (Connie mentioned that when she was much younger, she and her friend Jodi jumped from one of the outcrops and into the ice-cold pool at the bottom of the falls.)

Tomorrow, I get to see the area again from an airplane. Two things surprised me on this trip – the profusion of lilacs in the west-end and the various shades of green as spring fills the trees with leaves. Coming up, I saw the variant greens from the air, but wasn’t sure why I was seeing this spectrum of green. Then, I saw the variants again when Connie and I went to her cottage and realized I was looking at different trees coming-into-leaf at different points in their development towards a full crown of leaves.


June 10, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

a birthday . . . depends how you count

Canadian Confederation, through the British North America Act, was the process by which the British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united into one Dominion of Canada. (The Act received royal assent on March 29, 1867, and set July 1, 1867, as the date for union.) Upon Confederation, the old province of Canada was divided into Ontario (Canada West) and Quebec (Canada East); along with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the new federation was thus composed of four provinces. Over the years since Confederation, Canada has seen numerous territorial changes and expansions, resulting in the current union of ten provinces and three territories.

But it wasn’t until 1931, that Canada achieved near-total independence from the United Kingdom with the Statute of Westminster. Near independence meant that the British Parliament could amend Canada’s constitution, on request from the Canadian Parliament. Total independence had to wait another fifty years; and with the Constitution Act 1982, Canada finally took control of its constitution, removing the last legal dependence on the United Kingdom. The Constitution Act of 1982 gave Canada full sovereignty – a mari usque ad mare – from sea to sea.

I was living in Canada in 1967 when the country celebrated its 100th birthday. But wait, in 1867 Canada wasn’t a self-governing country; it was still a colony of Great Britain. And yet in 1967, all Canadians celebrated the country’s birthday. In Sault Ste Marie a brand new, state-of-the-art library was build to commemorate the centenary. My 1967 yearbook had, on the inside front-cover, a sweeping picture of the Montreal World’s Fair honoring the birthday. Isn’t the Constitution Act 1982, the real date marking Canada as a sovereign nation? But then I’m probably being too detail focused and too contrary.

Well this July 1, using the date of Confederation as its beginning, Canada celebrates its 150th birthday. (Lets note that in 1867, when John A. McDonald and the rest of the Fathers of Confederation were in London compiling the resolutions that became the British North America Act, my house in Pittsburgh was 50 years old.)

This is the last entry for the June trip to Toronto and Sault Ste Marie.


June 16, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

torrential rains in june

This post is about several things: the rains we’ve had all week, the image on the left, a liqueur made with grappa & camomile and fat blueberries.

the rains

I could go on about climate disruption, but I don’t know enough about the science and I don’t want to come across as another blabber-mouth. It’s just that since Tuesday, we’ve had between 8 and 10 inches of rain. That’s more a July weather pattern, but then everything these days is topsy-turvy.

I may not have to water, but the excess moisture is wrecking havoc with the roses.

the image

The rains have been crazy – one minute there’s a torrential downfall, the next the sun is out. I wanted to get an image with raindrops and went out to shoot the hosta flower-stalk. Looking through the view-finder I realized that if I shot with the kitchen window in the background, I was gonna get some strange colors on the stained-glass. What I got was the beautiful gold-brown at the top right of the image. The color comes from the overhead light in my kitchen.

And I used the gold-brown in the border around the image.


Visiting my cousins Renato and Gina is always a wonderful time. This visit, the highlights were Gina’s sister and brother-in-law and Marolo’s Milla liqueur. The label describes it as a liquore alla camomilla con grappa.

First we went on about gagumilla, camomile in Calabrese dialect. How at any sniffle, cough, ache, suggested melancholy our mothers boiled water and made a cup of gagumilla which we had no choice about drinking. (Gina and Angie’s mom is Calabrese.) We all agreed that we hated the taste; it was yuck. And yet there we were sipping the delicious extract made from camomile and laced with grappa.

I’m old enough to remember my mom making the brew with the dry, yellow-orange, daisy-like flowers. Forget tea-bags or sachets, back then you put the loose dry flowers into a cup and poured hot water over them. Drinking the tea, you hoped the stems and flowers stayed at the bottom and didn’t migrate into your mouth.

Renato and Gina wrapped up a bottle of the liqueur for me to take home. (They are very generous that way and on previous occasions, because I was worried that the custom agents in Buffalo would confiscate any alcohol, I said no to their generosity. But between the beautiful packaging and the great taste, I wanted to try getting the bottle across. The agent in the NEXIS lane had no problem with my having the liqueur and I now have a bottle of Milla in my home.)

the blueberries

The rains have swelled the blueberries and (a) the plants are full of fruit and (b) the berries are huge. Normally, the berries are medium size, especially on the low bushes in the front. Not this year. The low bushes are full of plump berries and they actually have taste. And the rains have made this possible.

I love going in the morning and picking a bowl full to have with breakfast.

One of the dogs, loves the berries; as soon as they’re let out, he runs to the blueberries and tries his best eat anything within reach. Well that’s not allowed; the berries are for me, so I put up fencing.

Three years ago, after several disappointing harvest, I did some research and most of what I read, suggested cutting the bushes down to ground level. The first year, there was new-growth; the second spring, the plants were full of berries. And now in the third year since the drastic cut, the plants are producing more and bigger berries than ever.

The majority of the plants in the plot are over 30-years old. I have added some newer varieties, but these new plants haven’t produced fruit yet.


June 19, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

i have squandered my resistance for a pocket full of mumbles, such are promises


when i left my home and my family
i was no more than a boy
in the company of strangers
in the quiet of a railway station

now the years are rolling by me
they are rockin’ evenly
i am older than i once was
younger than i’ll be, that’s not unusual

no, it isn’t strange
after changes upon changes
we are more or less the same
after changes we are more or less the same

in the clearing stands a boxer
and a fighter by his trade
and he carries the reminders
of every glove that laid him down


or cut him till he cried out, in his anger and his shame, i am leaving, i am leaving



June 28, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

i primi pittuli e iuri – first zucchini-flower fritters

When my neighbors re-paved their back-yard, the contractors mounded some of the excess dirt against my back fence. This is a four-inch wide mound, on the side of the alley-street – Sampsonia Way – behind my house. To prevent it from turning into a weed bed, I went to the greenhouse, grabbed some zucchini plants and stuck them in. It’ll take another couple of weeks for the plants to acclimate; they are producing small flowers and today I picked enough to make a small batch of fritters.

I’ve been teasing with my Italian relatives that only an immigrant who still has some WOP1 in him is gonna plant zucchini on the side of an alley-street. Guilty as charged.

The title is dialect.

1. WOP is a pejorative slur used to describe Italians or people of Italian descent.


July 12, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

peaches in the backyard


Last spring, I made the decision to replace the ornamentals in the backyard with fruit-bearing trees or plants. (Some may say that in my old age, I’m becoming an immigrant; others may say I have too much time on my hands.) The first new planting was a Redhaven dwarf-peach. (I researched the best peach variety for Zone 6 and the Redhaven kept coming up. The variety is known for its attractive pink spring flowers, sweet yellow fruit and bright gold fall foliage. The Redhaven produces large, yellow freestone peaches that are ready for harvest midseason – July. The dwarf version of the tree, reaches only about 6 feet and can be expected to live more than 40 years with proper care.) By the end of last year’s growing season, the tree was spindly, but almost 5-feet tall. All the literature on the plant mentioned not to expect fruit in the first two or three years. But this spring, the tree had a number of blossoms. This was a wonderful surprise.

The above pic is one of the peaches and it was juicy and very tasty. Imagine eating a peach that isn’t hard as a rock or a peach that you can eat by just biting into the flesh. Going out, first thing in the morning, and picking a peach off the tree and having it with my toast is what summer is all about.

And I’m certainly looking to fall and to pruning the very full tree. I found these guidelines online.

Prune the tree every year in the late fall when the leaves have all dropped and the tree is dormant. Remove all dead and diseased limbs, followed by any that grow toward the center of the tree and those that cross or rub against each other. Cut off any branches that grow straight up and shape the tree similar to a vase or lollypop. Thin the canopy by removing any branches that will shade the fruit growing at the center.


July 17, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


go the edge of the cliff and jump
build your wings on the way down


July 21, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

the old distillery district

Downtown Toronto is slowly being over-developed into a Blade-Runner environment. There are sections of the Gardner Expressway, downtown, where it’s lined with glass high-rises on both sides and when driving this portion, it feels like a Blade Runner set. All that’s missing is the constant acid-rain that bathed the building in the 1982 neo-noir classic.

The Torontonians refer to the over-development as the Manhattanization of their city. They insist that the many, many glass towers are making their city into a replica of the mess on the Hudson. And is everyone forgetting that winter here is not just cold, but f’in freezing?

I think of Manhattanization as a disposable architecture, allowing real-estate conglomerates to take down and rebuild every twenty years. And here in the north country even sooner. Bet that in twenty years, the glass tower behind the century old distillery buildings will be gone.

Today, we went to the old distillery district that has been reclaimed and re-imagined as a tourist area. We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant; the food was very good. One of the things that I always find in Toronto is that tourists destinations are less full of clap-trap and cheap memorabilia. The distillery district is populated with high-end restaurants, antique shops and boutique clothing stores.


July 27, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

arts and crafts homes in toronto

High Park is the largest in-city park in Toronto. It begins on Bloor Street and stretches all the way down to the shore of Lake Ontario. And I’ve walked around the High Park neighborhoods all my life. My grandparents lived on Jane Street and High Park was an easy destination. I remember on one visit, my mother and I walked from my grandparents’ house all the way to the entrance of High Park.

The High Park neighborhood, as well as many others east and south of Bloor Street, are filled with Arts and Crafts houses. The one in the image is on High Park Boulevard and an old friend lived there on the second floor, before he and his partner bought a house. My cousin Gina lives in an Arts and Crafts house east of High Park and below Bloor. Apparently, most of the upscale neighborhoods High Park North and Swansea included went Arts and Crafts at the turn of the 19th century.
I found the following text while doing research on the Arts and Crafts movement in Toronto.

By the time the Arts and Crafts movement had reached Canada, the defining elements were well set. The overlying theme was the house as a living element within the natural environment; it was based on the function of the home as a shelter for the family, not a banner building relentlessly trumpeting the owner’s status. Houses were meant to fit intrinsically into their sites: orientation of the house was based on the relationship of the house to the garden. Rooms were positioned to take advantage of the movement of the sun for warmth and light during daylight hours. The grandiose central entrances of so many other styles were often replaced by side entrances that allowed for manipulation of the front façade for light or garden use. Entrances were often recessed, accessed through a covered porch, giving the impression of solidity and permanence, almost like entering a cave dwelling.

And then a comment on what is happening in modern day Toronto.

Scott Weir’s excellent article on Arts and Crafts homes in Toronto sums up the sad fate of many of these homes beautifully. He says “It may be that the Arts and Crafts house’s lack of ostentation has been its undoing.” Many of these fine homes are being torn down and replaced by monster homes that are beige on beige monuments to the owner’s pretensions and self delusions. Where the Arts and Crafts aesthetic was to provide a beautiful living space built in harmony with nature and the surrounding area, many of these new buildings are simply overlapping masses of ill proportioned, unrelated architectural features. Return On Investment building (ROI Modern) is wiping out some of the best houses in the province. Instead of fine homes where people actually live and are part of the community, there is a growing trend for ‘renovators’ to hop from one spot to another gutting old homes and gutting established neighborhoods and leaving behind houses, not homes, that can only be described with Dickens’ famous term “Architectooralooral”.


August 6, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear 1


Wikipedia – Midsummer is the period between June 19 and June 25, and centered on the summer solstice.
In northern Europe, it is better know as St John’s Day and celebrations accompany both the solstice and the feast-day.

That may be the formal definition of midsummer, but I want to use the term more literally to mean the half-way point of the season – mid-way between June 21 and September 21. That would make today the middle of summer.

Where spring is renewal and re-birth, summer is lazy days and vacations. It’s the season for picnics, fireworks, baseball, for sun-bathing. It’s the season when economies slow down, when highways are filled with campers, when cities are abandoned and the country-side and the beach are teeming; it’s the time when schools are shuttered, repainted and cleaned. In Calabria, it’s the dry season when rivers become rivulets and streams turn into stagnant pools. In Northern Ontario it’s the season of endless daylight.

Summer is temporal, fleeting. It’s a time to experiment, explore, to dabble; it’s the season of no-strings, no commitments.

– 1967 was the summer of love, the summer of the Detroit riots

– 1968 was the summer I left Canada for Narragansett

– 1972 was the summer I went back to Italy for the first time

1  William Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Act V, Scene I
2  The pic is of from the second-floor deck – looking through the slats to the waning light.


August 9, 2017 2017, diario/journal, in memorium

frances elizabeth thorman


Born – Sunday, August 17th, 1930     Died – Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

The first time I met Frances and Tim Thorman was in the spring of 1989 at a great restaurant – Oro – in downtown Toronto. Jo’ and Dave were getting married in June and this was the first time the two families were meeting. (Interesting that I was the only other sibling there. Guess I was there to help my parents navigate the meet-and-greet and to help translate the menu.)

The next time I saw Frances was at the back of St. Veronica’s Church, in Sault Ste Marie, waiting to go down the isle at Jo’ and Dave’s wedding. I remember her comment about having reached an age where her oldest was getting married. “I never saw myself as the mother of a groom, that’s for old women.” We laughed.

At the service on Saturday, Dave and Bridget remembered their mom’s life. A recurring theme of the speech was Frances’ belief in the importance and power of family; her belief in the importance of transformation and of moving forward regardless what life hands you. That idea got me thinking of how Frances and Tim, how my parents, how the parents of most of the people sitting in that small chapel were and are part of a generation that created modern Canada. A generation of adults that worked hard; that worked long hours so that their children could have a better life in a new country.

Frances and her generation were pioneers building a new land for their children; determined pioneers, moral upright pioneers. And all of us sitting there honored her hard work, her determination her strength. We are who we are, because Frances and her generation made sure to raise children who could continue the hard work she and her group started. We are who we are, because Frances and her generation sacrificed to make a better world for us sitting there at her memorial service.


August 16, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

additions to the 7th circle of hell

Stephen Colbert used the seventh circle reference in his monologue on Tuesday night.

In Dante’s Inferno, the seventh circle is reserved for those who’ve committed violence. In the first ring of the circle, murderers, war-makers, plunderers, and tyrants are immersed in a river of boiling blood and fire. These monsters are sunk into the boiling blood, each according to the degree of his guilt – the more monstrous the violence they committed, the deeper they’re sunk.

The same day, Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee Chairman, described Trump and his comments about the riots in Charlottesville: He’s the schoolyard bully and no matter what the teacher, in this instance the news media, says, the bully looks to his sycophants, in this instance, the White Supremacists, the KKK, the Neo-Nazis and together they snicker. Who cares what the teacher/news media says?

fall is coming

August 22, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

fall is coming

Here in the north country, hints of fall are everywhere. The weather is cool enough to wear a sweatshirt (I brought a limited number of long-sleevers, so I’ll have to dig into the winter clothes I leave here.); the sun rises at 6:00 and by 8:00 pm it’s getting dark (very different than June when daylight lasted almost 16 hours.); and my father’s garden has large empty patches (the bush peas, the lettuce, the fava, the onions are all gone.); the winter vegetables are filling in where the garlic and the other early summer greens once grew.

In the image, Ciccio is doing his morning ritual – every morning, my dad gets up and at sunrise heads into the garden and harvests what is ready. In the garden, the other indicator that points to fall is the beans. In the bowl, Ciccio has the Romano beans he shelled yesterday and on the table he’s cleaning the flat-green beans. In my mind, whenever the beans were being harvested, I knew summer and the growing season were coming to an end. On the picnic table is a basket full of zucchini flowers that my mom will make into fritters, also on the table are five cucumbers.

I’ve always liked going into the garden and picking the small cucumbers off the vines and eating them as I walked under the pole-beans and towards the peas to eat my fill. A breakfast of small, juicy cucumbers and big, sweet peas will always mean summer in my dad’s garden. (Under my rimless Cartiers, my blue-swede Hubbards, my fitted Etro and my skinny-jeans, I really am an old Calabrese.)

Also walked over to my uncle-and-aunt’s and in their garden too, the harvest was in full swing. My uncle grows amazing eggplant; the plants, in plastic barrels, were heavy with a second picking.

I don’t think I was ready for the chill. (Everyone talked about it having been a wet and cold summer.) But then, I’ve been here in early August and even then we were eating indoors, because by late afternoon the weather had begun to cool.


August 23, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

two bushels – shit, that’s a lot of tomatoes

After finding out that Rick, Sarah and I didn’t have any more tomato sauce, Ciccio Zinga made a dash to Metro, a Canadian grocery chain, and came back with two bushels of tomatoes. He paid $12 a bushel. (He was proud of that price, because No Frills wanted $18 a bushel.)

I was called out to take them from the van and to the room in the back of the garage (notice all the stuff – table-saw, grill, stool, table, ladder, and patio-chair), and to spread them on his table with the lip all around. Also, as I dumped the hard Romas on the green table, I’m thinking that they will be here for a while (they as hard as baseballs).

The next task, was to get the ladder and climb into the crawl-space above the garage and bring down the huge caldron for cooking the tomatoes and a smaller caldron for transferring the cooked mixture to the table with the milling machine.

After supper, Ciccio announced that he was going out to cut up the tomatoes, so that tomorrow morning he could start cooking them and be done by noon. WHAT!!!

Next thing I know, I’m lugging bowls of tomatoes from the back-room to the sink; washing them, and then lugging them to middle of the garage where Mr. Zinga had set up his chair and pails. He cored the pith, cut the fruit in half and threw the halves into one of the tall pails. When I asked why he was removing the pith, he said, “We’ve always done it that way.” Never one to accept tradition, I went online and found several discussion about removing the pith, because it was often unripened and if left on, added a bitter taste to the sauce. That made sense.

Let me be clear – I took 4 half-bushel boxes from the van to the back of the garage (each box weighing around 30 pounds), then I took all those tomatoes back out to the sink in the garage and then to the work station in the middle of the garage. WHY!!! Why didn’t he have me stack the boxes next to the sink?

Two bushels of cored and cut tomatoes filled two 10 gallon pails and two 5 quart metal bowls. My mother covered the cut tomatoes with clean dish-rags and we all went back in the house.

Click to read the second entry of making tomato sauce.



August 24, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

It’s 5:00 and I’m standing in front of my dad’s garage, facing south-east and shooting the house across the street and the waking sky.

Click to read the first entry of making sauce.

The door behind Ciccio, leads into the back-room where the tomatoes rested for 5 minutes on the green table. On his left is the sink. Yes, I carried 4 half-bushel boxes from his van into the back room, then back out to the sink and then over to the table. Oh yeah!!!

fire burn and caldron bubble

It’s day 2 of the tomato sauce protocol. My dad has been up for a half hour and he’s already started cooking the tomatoes – the huge pot with the lid on the left, on the burner.

We’re in the garage, where there’s a third kitchen for canning and making tomato sauce. The machine in the forefront will strain the cooked tomatoes removing the peels and the seeds; the big plastic bucket under it will catch the tomato sauce. The long paddle on the small green table is for stirring the tomatoes in the giant pot. (The stirring is muscle building, well at least after the strain goes away.) My dad is getting ready to plug in the milling machine; the tall bucket on his right is full of halved tomatoes that will soon get added to the large pot (more muscle building). The tomatoes cook for about two hours.

The next step is take the very liquidy mixture and transfer it to a smaller pot that he and I lug over to the table. My dad then begins to put the liquidy pulp through the milling machine. (After this first round, I opt for a smaller transfer bowl. Man, lifting a pot full of hot tomato sauce is not pleasant.) When all the sauce has been milled, I get to take the caldron out into the back-yard and scour it clean. (Ciccio claimed that I didn’t need to keep stirring, that the flame was low enough to prevent burning. Wrong!!!)

The caldron is back on the burner and now I get to transfer the sauce from the blue bucket under the milling machine into the cleaned pot. Once I transfer all the sauce, Ciccio starts cooking it a second time and I drive off to my uncle’s to get basil.

By the time I’m back, Mafalda has joined the crew. She is washing the jars and putting then on the round table near the caldron. She shifts and quickly washes the basil and she and I begin to add two leaves to each of the empty jars. My dad using a small pot with a handle and a funnel, begins filling the jars. It’s my job to place the lids on the filled jars and to then screw the rings on tightly. We fill 58 Mason pint-jars. (I asked about putting the jars in a water-bath canner, but my dad said they haven’t done in years. The lid, tightened by the ring, seals as the piping hot sauce cools.)

The jar end up on the counter in the back and covered in a green synthetic blanket. This will slow down the cooling process guaranteeing that the lids seal tightly onto the top of the jars.


September 11, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

morning has broken

We’re walking in Humber Bay Park – two landspits situated at the mouth of Mimico Creek where it empties into Lake Ontario. The Park is below the Gardiner Expressway on the south-western edge of Humber Bay; following the Bay’s contours takes you to downtown Toronto.

Background – The Park, opened on June 11, 1984, is built on 5.1 million cubic metres of lakefill. Several habitat restoration projects have been initiated at Humber Bay Park, including the planting of Carolinian trees and shrubs, the establishment of wildflower meadows and the creation of a warm-water fish habitat and wetland on the east peninsula. The park is also a popular destination to view migrating birds.

We got up early and Franchino drove down so that we could see the sun rise.

I’ve been traveling this end of the Gardiner for years, but this is my first time in the Park.

What I like best about the image is the golden hues bathing the skyline silhouette. The morning sun’s reflection, on the glass skyscrapers, is more obvious in the larger image in the slide-show.


September 12, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

hint of fall

This morning’s walk was through High Park. It’s a walk we’ve done before, but not first thing in the morning. The dew was still on the grass; the fog lazied just above the ground; the sunlight fracted from the east; and morning silence filled the hollows.

High Park anchors a huge green-space in southwestern Toronto. This green-space, along the lakeshore, goes from Humber Park, in the west, to downtown. It’s almost 7 miles of beautiful park-land along the shore of Lake Ontario.

I remember when Canada, because of its wilderness, its open lands, its small population, its miserable winters was considered a backward country. Canadians, when compared to their southern neighbors, were labeled second-class citizens. Today, those once negative attributes make Canada a very desirable destination and Toronto a world-class city. (Franchino has been showing me all the parks and green-spaces within the city limits. Within the city there are multiple golf-courses and it seems like every street has some kind of park or green-space. The city, the 4th largest in North America, doesn’t have the paved-over look of New York or Los Angeles. Toronto actually looks green.)


September 12, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

man-made waterfall in wild high park

High Park is 400 acres (in comparison Central Park is 780 acres). Every time Frank and I walk High Park, it’s always amazed me that we can do the whole perimeter in one session; now I know why.

Another difference is that High Park relies much more so on natural contours and elevations. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park to such detail – creating every rise, every path-twist, every pond, every knoll – that after all these years and because the park looks so natural, we forget the structure they imposed on the acreage in central Manhattan. On the other hand, one third of High Park is still in its natural state and the rest of it has been added onto to provide amenities – tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, pools, zoo, sculptures and fountains – for its many users.

The Park is part of the Canadian penchant towards wilderness, towards natural environments, towards a love of its rugged lands.


September 13, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


le musée aga khan

How can I pass up such a header – a French article, an accent aigu and an ancient Islamic title.

The pic on the left, is of an 15th, underglazed, painted tile from either Syria or Egypt. The blue-and-white color scheme was meant to imitate Chinese porcelain. The tile is one of the 300 artifacts and art pieces on display at the Aga Khan Museum in North York.

The building is faceted, white geometry; the gardens, a glimpse into paradise; the black pools, the quality of mercy. The Museum represents Islamic culture from the Iberian Peninsula to the Malay Archipelago. Its collection is remarkable and beautifully displayed; its textiles and clothing shimmer in the ambient light; its Korans and manuscripts illuminate (the museum holds the earliest surviving manuscript of Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine, the text that kept ancient Greek thought alive while the west plunged into the dark ages); its apothecary jars chipped, but lustrous; its ancient pottery ablaze with reds, oranges and blues.

Prince Shah Karim Al Husseine – The Aga Khan – is the 49th hereditary Imam of the estimated 15 million Shia Muslims and a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. He was ready to build his museum in London; a site, on the southern bank of the Thames, had already been selected, but it became politically difficult to locate an Islamic museum in Brexit-drunk England. The push-back brought the Prince, his famed Japanese architect and his collection of Islamic masterpieces, across the pond, to multi-cultural Toronto.


September 13, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

where did it go …

Consiglio’s Kitchenware has been on St. Clair (this northern east/west thoroughfare is always referred to without the street identifier) for as long as I can remember. Every time my parents, my uncle-and-aunt visited Toronto a trip to St. Clair and to Consiglios was mandatory. (all my stovetop espresso makers, my colanders were bought at Consiglios)

My grandparents and their fellow immigrants settled in the west-end around College. (In everyday language, this southern east/west thoroughfare is also referred to without the street identifier. This use of the street name without the road, way, crescent … identifiers is very common in Toronto. The exception is Avenue Road.) Back then the city was a small urban grid hugging the lake-shore. The next wave – my parents’ generation – stayed in the west-end, but went north to St. Clair.

There’s a great story of my dad and I standing in front of a woman’s apparel store, holding bags containing half of a goat that one of his paisani had to cut up; my mother, seeing the sale sign, had rushed in looking for a bra, because after all the bras on St. Clair were so much cheaper than anything she could buy in that little outpost better known as Sault Ste Marie. And not to be outdone by the two old people, I texted Welch and described the whole absurd scene.

Welch, I’m in the middle of St. Clair holding two bags of goat meat
My dad is cursing, there’s blood running out of a bag and onto his shoe
My mother is in the underwear store
I can see her through the window, she’s touching the bras feeling them

My generation left the city behind and moved further north into the suburb of Vaughan and Woodbridge.

Franchino wanted to go to St. Clair to Consiglios to buy red remembrance candles for his mom to use at the cemetery up in Sault Ste Marie; I was looking for a stovetop, Neapolitan coffee-maker. We went to the small parking lot on Via Italia (I’ve been parking here for years) and made our way to the store. St. Clair isn’t the street it used to be; there are several vacant store-fronts and the foot-traffic is minimal. And when we got to the store that used to be Consiglios we found an empty building. “What is happening? We’re at the right place, right? Where’s the store?” On the door was a small sign announcing their new address in an industrial area off the western QEW.

The new store has a series of small showrooms, but its focus has shifted from a traditional brick-and-mortar store to an online business. (My parents have lost their favorite store.) The owner explained that going online, going virtual was the only way to survive. “We’re trying not to go the way of Sears.” OK, I understand, but my world has tilted. A store that has been there all my life, a store where I bought most of the items in my kitchen, is now doing business in the ether.


September 23, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


last rose of summer

Am I ready to let go of summer and consider that we’re getting closer and closer to the end of 2017?

Summer-2017 was not great for the trees and vegetables in my backyard – the peach tree produced wonderfully tasteful fruit, but then developed a leaf fungus and lost all it leaves by the end of July. (i have no idea if it’ll come back next spring) The only vegetables that survived through the season were the tomatoes. The kale, the cucumbers, the fennel all withered and died. The flowers that filled the many pots in the north-east corner were filled with yellow and white annuals. The pallet soon faded – the yellow begonias were rust ridden by the end of June, the white geraniums were feeble and stringy. Ended up replacing the begonias and diversifying the color pallet to include purples and reds.

And finally, summer-2017 brought 3 deaths – Frances Thorman died August 9, Norma Cornblat died August 21 and Tom Stack died September 16. And for that alone, I’m ready to leave the season behind for a time to re-group, re-examine and remember.


September 29, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

back after a year away

Frank, Ron and I met up in Windsor at the indoor tennis courts that we played at before. (the indoor courts are easier on the feet and way easier on the body than the heat-reflecting asphalt courts in the public park in Harrow.) We volley, two on one, for an hour.
Franchino had volunteered to cook veal scallopini, so I took everyone to the LCBO down the street to purchase many bottles of Pinot-grigio and Italian-red. (ontario has liquor stores – LCBO – as well as separate beer stores) The Pinots would be for before dinner, the Reds for during and after.

The image on the right is really the next evening. (l to r – Ron, Franchino, Lynn) Franchino brought all the ingredients he needed for the veal scallopini and we all helped putting it together.

The drive from Windsor to Harrow is through flat farmland, perimetered by scrubby thickets with some trees sprouting above the green walls (the locals call these “the woods” and they are home to foxes and feral cats). The GPS takes us south through Harrow and down Snake Lane to Gore Road. The last time we were at Lynn-and-Rainer’s was October of 2015 and in two years the property has changed significantly. The cedars that line the west side of the long driveway are now easily 30 feet tall; the other trees on the property are full, tall, massive; the landscaping is now settled and the property no longer has that work-in-progress look.

Once we unload, we migrate out to walk the property. In the fading light, the dissonance is made obvious by the lack of ambient noise. (imagine a place with no urban sounds) The second jolt comes when a stream of beautiful young cats comes running to greet us. There are 14 of them.


September 30, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


visiting south-western ontario

  •     – Rainer-and-Lynn live almost as far south as you can go in Canada. Lake Erie is two miles from their front door.
  •     – At one time, the entire area, around their house, was marsh-land. Early settlers, in the 1700, in order to farm, built a series of ditches to drain the water. Many of those ditches are still in use, but many are blocked with silt accumulated over the centuries.
  •     – This is a corn year, but because the field in front of the house was under water during the planting season – early spring, the farmer ended up putting in the faster growing soy. And, because it’s basically a filler crop, he hasn’t tended it as scrupulously resulting in tall weeds among the low soy plants. (The drainage ditch, in the field in front of their house, was clogged and in spring the field became a shallow pond. Swans found the water and stayed eating the seeds that had settled on the bottom.)
  •     – Bungalows are everywhere in the area. Rainer-and-Lynn’s 19th century farmhouse is the anomaly. Rainer said that the farmer who severed the property they own from his larger holding, would love to buy it back and that his first improvement would be to tear down the old, original farmhouse.
  •     – All the houses around Rainer-and-Lynn are all on septic tanks and weeping-fields; and all the houses have wells that they get their water from. Even if Essex Township brought sewage and water to the area, tapping in would be very expensive. Their house is some 500 feet from the road.
  •     – The only time you hear noise is when there’s a car on Gore Road.
  •     – Self-reliance along with chipping-in to help your neighbor are key pillars of living almost off the grid.
  •     – There are many families living on the edge of poverty. And many of these same families have more than 2 children.
  •     – The modern world with its Internet, smart-phones, tablets is peripheral for many people living in this rural area.
  •     – A cash-only and a barter system are common economic models among the people living in this part of south-western Ontario.
  •     – Rainer said they’ve been hearing people coming onto their property late at night and trying to get into their out-buildings. Many are also scouring the area looking for marijuana plants. Small marijuana growers are not harassed in a province getting ready to legalize marijuana. The Provincial Government has announced that on July 1, 2018 marijuana will be on sale in all its wine and alcohol stores across the province.


Saturday morning, at first-light, I’m outside with my camera. And the cats, assuming that I’m there to feed them, swarm around me. There are currently 14 cats on the property and none of the females will go into heat until early spring. This will be the first winter Rainer-and-Lynn will have this large of a pride through winter.

One of the things I like best about the image of the cats in the tree is the direction of the light. The morning sun falls on the eastern side of the tree trunk.

The image on the right is of Ron’s 1988 Lincoln Town Car (I refer to it as the boat ). It was his brother Louie’s car. We are on Gore Road, facing east. Ron had gone home to Leamington to water the new sod he had put in around his house. In the image, Rainer is standing on the left and Franchino is talking to Ron who is in the driver’s seat.


October 9, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


new kitchen, day-one

Over the weekend, the contractor began taking down the old kitchen cabinets – basically dismantling the old kitchen and removing the old microwave. She left the sink, the sink-cabinets and a portion of the old counter. This gave me a usable sink and a somewhat usable kitchen for a couple extra days.

This morning Marty, from M&D Plumbing, came in to take apart the old sink and to cap all the pipes and drains under it. Once he had everything cut, he and I dismantled the last two reaming cabinets and partial counter. Marty then stayed until the carpenters and installers showed; he wanted to make sure that all pipes and drains had been cut and capped to minimize the least amount of holes in the new sink cabinet.

The left image is the spice cabinet. One of the reasons I ended up with a custom cabinet maker is because he proposed options that gave me the largest amount of cabinet space. The other bids, used standard cabinets from the large, home-improvement chains; and their solution for the non-standard space that is my kitchen, was to use fillers – covering any unused space with Sheetrock. Joe Kelley covered the side and back of my dish-shelf with a laminate to match the new cabinets; he extended the height of the dish-shelf to match the new above the counter cabinets; he added the spice cabinet on the left of the stove; and designed an amazing unit for the alcove between the old warming-oven and the back wall.

In the middle image Ross, one of Joe’s people, is starting to cut the cast-iron ring on the side of the warming-oven. He only managed cutting one side before the grinder over-heated and died. Once the ring is cut, a great custom-built unit will fit into this space, giving me additional storage.

The image on the right is of the base cabinets. The push was to get the base-cabinets installed so that the counter measurers can come tomorrow morning. I will have no water or sink until the new pressed-glass counter is installed. And it will take a week from the time of measuring to the installation. As soon as we knew the base-cabinets would be done today, both Joe and I called the counter people and the measuring is rescheduled for tomorrow. (Once the new counter is in, Marty will come back and reconnect all the plumbing. If things work out, I should have a full functioning kitchen by next Wednesday.)


October 10, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

new kitchen, day-two

I’m going to begin by writing about the image on the left. It’s probably one of my favorite images. In reality it’s the inside panel of four cabinet doors above the microwave. The larger image at the end of this post shows the knobs as they are on the cabinets.

I selected drawer-pulls that are large and have a modern design; for the very top cabinets, the glass fronted ones, I selected a blue ceramic knob; the large doors have hidden finger pulls. The two doors above the microwave have the finger pulls. But once the microwave was installed, it mounted beyond the depth of the cabinets so the finger-pulls were inaccessible. I suggested that we use two of the blue ceramic knobs on these doors.

Creating the abstract, vertical image was great fun. It’s a sliver of the left image in the triptych below. I kept cropping until I had what you see on the left. The blue knobs on the cherry stain, the vertical line of symmetry, the cruciform, the different grains. If you look carefully, you can see the finger-pulls on the underside of the top knobs.

The top cabinets came in 3 sections – the largest is above the stove; the smallest is the cabinet in the alcove; and the third sectional is above the sink. The new cabinets doubled the space I had before. Also, the new cabinets were fixed 22 inches above the counter. That is 4 inches higher than standard, but the extra height makes for a more open counter area. (The old cabinets were a whopping 25 inches above the counter-top. The standard is 18 inches. I don’t know why the original contractor put them so high. In the right image in the triptych, the white patch above the stove was the old microwave and the patch to its right was the old above-the-counter cabinet.)

There are some minor fixes that need to happen – the drawer-pulls are very wide and the second drawer in the cabinet closest to the sink can’t open, because is butts against the pulls on the sink cabinet. (My suggestion is that we replace the two pulls on the sink cabinet with something similar, but narrower. And if we find the right replacement, then I want two more smaller/narrower pulls for the spice cabinet. This cabinet is itself narrow and a smaller/narrower pull would look better.)

Tomorrow the electrician comes in to connect the microwave and put power behind the alcove cabinet for TV, cable-box and router-amplifier. The counter-top people aren’t due until the middle of next week. And when the new counter is in, I can get Marty back to hook up the new sink.


October 16, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

new kitchen, following-days

As soon as the new cabinets were hung and the carpenters gone, I put everything back. I needed a semblance of kitchen even if there was no microwave, no TV, no counter, no sink, no water.

Last Thursday, Clay came in and put power in the alcove, behind the unit pictured on the left. (There were two additions that Joe Kelly suggested that in many ways clinched the deal. The first was the alcove unit, the second was a custom built table to replace the IKEA special that we had been using for 30 years.) Clay hooked up the new microwave, and ran power into the back of the alcove. All wires – cable, electrical – are now well hidden behind the new, open, corner cabinet.

I covered the bottom cabinets with some thin plywood that was left over from a bed platform. Got out the electrical saw and cut the pieces to fit on top of the cabinets. It’s not the best, but it gives me a place to work when making coffee, lunch or filling the dogs’ bowls. The new, pressed-glass counter-top is being installed Thursday morning.

Marty is coming Thursday afternoon to hook up the faucet and disposal to the new sink. It’s hard to believe that I may have a functioning kitchen by dinner time Thursday.

Items in the alcove cabinet: the ceramic canister on the bottom shelf holds dog biscuits and is from Deruta – a hill-town in central Italy known for its ceramics; the squat, yellow canister on the second shelf is a garlic-keeper also from Deruta; and the jars on the top shelf are glass canisters with spring-sealed lids that I use to keep coffee in.


October 17, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


new kitchen, reflections

I’ve been working on the image most of the day, hoping that the daylight would fill the kitchen especially the top of the cabinets. It didn’t and I ended up adding a floor-lamp light source – notice the bottom of the image and the shadow of the knobs. Also, the best shots came from me standing on a ladder and getting eye-level with the top-cabinets and even then they needed a lot of Photoshop tweaking.

In the above image, besides the espresso pots, you can see the stain-glass windows and the bowl of the overhead light. The stain-glass and the knobs are in the blue range, the espresso pots add primary colors and the red-cherry cabinets frame everything.

A side note – the renovation sparked a great cleaning-out; last week, on garbage-day, 10 huge garbage bags lined the alley. They were filled with dishes, pots, pans – anything we hadn’t used in over a year; they all went. The cleaning-out is continuing and so far I’ve filled 4 forty-two gallon bags and it’s only Tuesday. (Update – counted 15 large garbage bags for this week’s pick-up.)


October 19, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

new kitchen, new counter

Getting closer. This morning they came to install the new counter, but didn’t bring the back-splashes, so they’re either coming back later today or tomorrow morning.

The pressed-glass counter is very low-keyed. Up close, you can see all these amazing bits of color – reds, greens, blues, tiny shards of clear-glass, even things that look like shells. This splattering will make it great at hiding dirt and crumbs. The new sink is fastened to the bottom of the pressed-glass countertop with 7 small pieces of corian. The installer put glue on the corian and then fastened the small pieces around the perimeter of the new sink holding them in place with painter’s tape. Apparently the corian and the glue are strong enough to hold the sink in place. (The two installers said that anymore, it’s rare to drill into the counter-top and use metal clips to fasten a sink. The new glues are strong enough and long-lasting enough to forego drilling.)

Besides using the corian as a fastener, the next interesting aspect of the install was to see the worker use two electrical vacuum units to move the heavy slabs into alignment. Once he had them aligned and level he added the poxy to the seam.

Right now, Marty is beginning to rebuild the pipes and drains under the new sink. Wonder if I’ll have water by dinner time?


October 20, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

new kitchen, pressed-glass

The countertop is actually more white than it appears in the image, but in an room full of yellows, browns and cherry-reds, it’s hard to eliminate the tan hue. (Paul says it has a 1950’s look.)

The back-splashes are in and Marty is here to finish hooking up the plumbing.

Two weeks after it all began, I have a working kitchen again. The last two things before it’s completely finished is the flooring and repainting.

Total cost was approximately 28K and that includes – demolition, cabinets, table, countertop, sink, microwave, electrician, plumber, flooring and painting.


October 21, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

my uncle’s 80th birthday

Today is my uncle’s 80th birthday and last night we celebrated with dinner and cake. We’re at Mary-and-Domenic’s and it’s my uncle and aunt, Daniel and Alyssa in the pic.

What amazes me is that my uncle began life in a small Calabrian town – Martirano – on a remote farm and 80 years later, his life is such that he flies down from Sault Ste Marie, to Toronto and then to his daughter’s in Pickering to celebrate his birthday.

I believe Canada has been enriched by these courageous immigrants who left their homes and made a new life in a foreign land. It’s a generation, pushed out of Italy because of the war and its aftermath, but it’s also a generation of pioneers. And much like the pioneers of an earlier age, they too had to conquer the wildness of Northern Ontario in order to establish homesteads, build cities and raise families. Sault Ste Marie is no longer the industrial center that it was back in the 50’s and 60’s when my uncle’s generation worked its mills and factories; it has lost most of that manufacturing base to cheap labor in other parts of the world; and it has lost most of the kids, from those immigrant families, to Toronto, to Vancouver, to the United States. But the modern world, unlike 19th century Europe, affords us the opportunity to meet up and to celebrate life’s milestones.


October 22, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

in the haze

I drove from Pickering down to High Park and both the 401 and the Don Valley were congestion free. But the Gardiner between the Air Canada Center – hockey arena – and the Rogers Stadium – baseball park – crawled. Once through the downtown tourist bottle-neck, the highway opened up and I thought I was making good time until I hit the Dunn exit and road construction forced me onto Roncesvalles Avenue. Roncy, in local parlance, is the current hip-area and at 12-noon it was full of older, well-dressed residences who had left their suburban enclaves to come back to the old neighborhood for Sunday Mass in Polish and young hipsters in their torn jeans and low-fade haircuts anxious through a sunny afternoon.

Franchino and I were walking through Humber Bay Park and there in the haze was the skyline. (I like the image because of the ephemeral, far-off quality of the skyline silhouette and the immediacy of the fall colors on the trees in the bottom left corner.)

It continued to be a day of contrasts. The apartment was excessively warm, but the shoreline walk, with the wind whipping off the Lake, was uncomfortably cold. We took the paths away from the water and the chilling wind.

Franchino always has a movie ready and tonight’s was as disturbing as High Noon. Tonight’s movie was The Ox-Bow Incident. I literally sat there with my mouth open. Wikipedia has the following description – The Ox-Bow Incident is a 1940 western novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark in which two drifters are drawn into a lynch mob to find and hang three men presumed to be rustlers and the killers of a local man.

Clifton Fadiman wrote an introduction to the Readers Club edition in which he called it a “mature, unpitying examination of what causes men to love violence and to transgress justice,” and “the best novel of its year.” In 1943, the novel was adapted into an Academy Award-nominated movie of the same name, directed by William A. Wellman and starring Henry Fonda and Harry Morgan. The movie was seen as a repudiation of Fascism.

What is jarring is that the actions/plot of the novel/film are based on fake-news – the cattle were legally purchased and the local rancher was hurt not killed. And watching this classic with a 2017 sensibility, l can’t stop thinking that like the 1940’s, fake-news is driving much of our political discourse, group-think and military actions. And fake-new, now like then, seems to be pulling us towards killings, towards war. (About 46 percent of Republicans support a preemptive strike on North Korea; 11,000 troops are currently in Afghanistan; and American special forces are in South Sahara Africa.)


October 23, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

looking north-west

Frank’s apartment is in the back of the building and it faces the North High Park neighborhood. I’m on the balcony and shooting the canopy that covers the area north of Bloor and west of Dundas.


October 29, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

the witch of november

My mother was telling me that they were having miserable weather, that the winds were wrecking havoc across the city. When the weather front hit us yesterday and today, we had the rain and cold, but no winds. This is the first true fall weather of the year and I almost want to say, about time. The pumpkins were the only color is an otherwise dreary, gray and cold day.

Last night, I made comfort food – pipi e patate. I fried potatoes and red-peppers – an old Calabrese dish that fits cold damp weather. The variations are on how long you cook the pipi e patate; I like the potatoes to be firm, so I toss them in first and brown them before throwing in the red-peppers. And I do not cook the red-peppers to limpness; I like some crunch in my fried peppers. And last night for some reason, I didn’t add onion. I used my dad’s recipe and he doesn’t add onions to his oil when he’s frying.

Listening to Motongator Joe’s cover of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and wanting to use the line – T’was the witch of November come stealin’ – for this post, I did some research on the term – witch of November.

The witch of November refers to the strong winds – gusts greater than 100 mph – that frequently howl across the Great Lakes in the fall. The witches are caused by intense low atmospheric pressure over the Great Lakes pulling Arctic air from the north and warm Gulf air from the south. When these contrasting air masses collide, hurricane-force winds churn up massive waves across the lakes.1

Since the mid-1800s there have been more than two dozen of these cyclones recorded in the Great Lakes, most of them in November, and many affecting the largest lake, Lake Superior.

  •  The 1905 Blow: Destroyed or damaged 29 vessels, killed three dozen seamen, and caused more than $3 million in damage along Lake Superior. Winds were estimated at 60 to 70 mph.
  •  The Big Storm of 1913: Probably the worst storm on record, it affected all five Great Lakes. Thirteen ships sank and more than 240 men lost their lives, most of them on Lake Huron. Winds were estimated at 90 mph, with waves of more than 35 feet, along with whiteout snow squalls.
  •  The Duluth Storm of 1967: This is also known as “Black Sunday” by locals. Three boys and their rescuer were killed after being swept off a pier. A rare fall tornado outbreak accompanied this storm, which also brought waves of more than 20 feet to Lake Superior and winds gusting more than 50 mph.
  •  The November 1975 Storm: Probably the most infamous storm – nicknamed the “Witch of November” – which caused the sinking of the Great Lakes freighter named The Edmund Fitzgerald.2

And finally, BuzzFeed Canada had some amazing photos by Dave Sandford. He recently spent time on Lake Erie shooting the Great Lake’s turbulent fall season. From mid-October to mid-November, the longtime professional sports photographer traveled each week to Port Stanley, Ontario, on the edge of Lake Erie to spend hours taking photos.3
1  Wikipedia – link
2  WeatherBug – link
3  BuzzFeed Canada – link


November 9, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

hiking the northside – spring gardentrek – 1
click to read the hiking posts


the other side of the tracks

The area, outlined in blue, is bounded on the east by Highway 279, on the south and west by Route 65; its northern border is the first ring of hills that reach all the way into the middle of the state. This area is sometimes know as the Northside Flats (it’s the northern shore of the Allegheny River). The area is approximately one-and-a-half square miles or 960 acres, and it has been the focus of great renovation and redevelopment over the last 40 years. The Northside contains the 4 largest historic districts – The Mexican War Street, Allegheny West, Manchester and Deutschtown/East Allegheny; it’s the home of The Mattress Factory, The Warhol Museum, The Children’s Museum, Alphabet City/City of Asylum, The National Aviary, Allegheny General Hospital and the oldest park in the city – Allegheny Commons.

I’m trying to develop a walking routine that will get me ready to hike the Inca Trail in late May, and this morning I decided to walk up the hills east of Highway 279. The area is know as Spring Garden. Many life-long Northsiders who lived in the Flats migrated to Spring Garden when gentrification and redevelopment forced them out of their old neighborhoods. The contrast between the Northside Flats and this old neighborhood was amazing. The slopes of Spring Garden feel more like the hills and hollers of West Virginia than a Pittsburgh neighborhood. The housing is edgy, the yards are littered, the sidewalks are crumbing, but the views of downtown are spectacular. As I’m walking and taking pictures, the mailman comes over to tell me there’s a Pit-bull running loose, so I may want to move on and take the headphones off.

The old expression – the other side of the tracks – gives way to the modern – the other side of the highway.
The image is taken from Perrysville Avenue the ridge that borders the Flats and I’m shooting south. The Northside Flats – the facing hillside is Mount Washington; the tall structures on the right are CCAC-Allegheny; you can also see one wing of Heinz Stadium. The bridge on the left is the Fort Pitt spanning the Monongahela River at the Point. The black circle in the bottom is my house. And all the trees in front of my house are the park – Allegheny Commons.


November 9, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

hiking the northside – itin streettrek – 2
click to read the hiking posts


The image on the left is one of the renovated houses in the Flats; the image on the right is a view from a set of stairs in Spring Garden. I’m shooting the smoke from the Heinz Plant. Recently, after the merger with Kraft, the old Heinz Plant is slowly being converted to hipster lofts. The smoke and all manufacturing will soon be gone.

The word – Galileo – was part of Alphabet City’s wordstream, an art event creating a stream of words from its location on Sampsonia Way to its new headquarters on West North Avenue. Many of the old hipsters, living in the Mexican War Streets, tacked a plethora of words on their walls and windows helping to create the stream from Sampsonia to North Avenue.

From my house to the top of Itin Street in Spring Garden is 3.1 miles; (yesterday I walked from my house to Gateway Center 1.9 miles). I headed into Spring Garden because I wanted to climb Itin; it was my first uphill hike.


November 11, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

hiking the northside – buena vistatrek – 3
click to read the hiking posts


Along the periphery of the historic district – The Mexican War Streets – there is great development and we’re finally seeing modern design infiltrating the staid and traditional. The two images are new houses going up on Buena Vista just north of the historic district boundaries.

I love the golden door.

Seeing the new designs is seeing new life in an area that was rescued from the wrecking ball by the urban homesteaders of the 1960s and 1970s. And those same pioneers are now welcoming new homesteaders who have a different world-view, a different sensibility than those of us who preserved and rehabbed the old structures.

The construction and rehab rules are different outside the original historic district – the gray area – and what these new home-owners seem to be doing is using the lines and the symmetries of the old houses to develop a new architectural language that looks to the past, but isn’t confined by it.

This morning’s hike was up Buena Vista Street. The Department of Public Works classifies Buena Vista at 12.5% – 6o grade/steepness from horizontal. (A 0% grade is perfectly flat and a 100% grade is 45 degrees from the horizontal. The percentage expresses the steepness of the hill as the rise over run expressed as a percentage.)

I walked up Buena Vista to Perrysville and then took steps down to Arch and then home; the hike was 1.5 miles. The uphill portion – Buena Vista – was .6 miles; Google Maps shows a rise from 761 feet at the bottom to 1063 feet at the top. (My Thursday hike up Itin Street was a rise from 761 feet at the bottom to 965 feet at the top. No wonder this morning’s hike was so much more strenuous.)

Also, found a set of stairs from Perrysville down the hillside to Arch Street. I’m not ready to do stairs yet, but I’ll keep using them as the way down to the Flats.

Am also using the hikes to better learn the d800e camera. Today, all the images were shot using the preprogrammed settings – P is Nikon’s auto setting for its high-end cameras. I’d like to take the d800e (36.3 effective megapixels) with me to Peru and I’m assuming that I will be handing it off to other people on the tour so that I can be in the Machu Picchu pictures, and so I need to get familiar with the auto setting.


hiking north park – lake shore drivetrek – 4
click to read the hiking posts


As the cloud-cover leached the reds and yellows from the turning leaves, chilly rains shellacked the tree trunks and branches black. Whenever I’m out in this ashen miasma, I think:
A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:

And given that in Catholic lore November is the month of the dead – Frances, Norma, Tom and Joe – Shakespeare’s quote adds an emotional dimension to this sunless day.

Rather than hide indoors, I decided to explore the lake-trail in North Park. The artificial lake covers over 75 acres and because I’ve never walked this trail, I used the solid portion on the southern shore; I walked to a 1¼ mile-marker and turned around. The hike was 2.8 miles. On the map, it’s the blue line; I started in the bottom left corner, 1600 feet before the beginning of the marked trail on Lake Shore Drive. Afterwards, to better understand the whole of the lake route, I drove the perimeter road. From where I parked, it’s a 5 mile trek around the lake.

Tomorrow morning, I’m gonna walk Walter Road; it’s the road on the left-hand side of the map. It has some elevation, going from 968 feet at the bottom to 1,158 feet at the top. In contrast, Lake Shore Drive is a set of low rolling hills. And next week, I’ll do the entire 5 miles around the lake.

While walking, I’ve taken to listening to music (franchino would chide me, insisting that i’m missing the natural sounds, the world around me). On my own, with my camera on my shoulder, it’s amazingly peaceful listening to music and walking. The road-noise is silenced by Tracy Chapman’s repetitions in Stand By Me and Dylan’s longings in If You See Her Say Hello. And then, I look up and there on the hillside is a deer snacking on the green grass. What else can I ask for?


November 19, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

hiking north park – walter roadtrek – 5
click to read the hiking posts


Walter Road, for a mile-and-a-half, climbs the hillside above the lake and then descends to meet the Lake Shore Drive at the man-made lake’s northern most point. At its steepest, Walter Road climbs 200 feet above the lake. (The pedometer, on my iPhone, assigns a 9-floor or 90 feet elevation to the climb and descent.)

North Park is full of shelters that look like they were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The old ones, like the one in the above pic, are made from local materials – field-stone, hand-made bricks, logs and planks from the park’s trees; and these old shelters seem situated to blend into the hilly landscape. (An aside on the pre-programmed setting for the d800e – it takes great pics in overcast, gloomy weather. The above pic was taken on a gray, dull day.) The back of the shelter is built into the hillside making the top deck accessible directly off the parking-lot.


November 22, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

hiking north park – pearce mill roadtrek – 6
click to read the hiking posts


This post is dedicated to Father Pierce one of my high-school teachers. (Yeah, I know it’s two different spellings, but let’s not forget English’s propensity for homophones.) I called Franchino to ask about Father Pierce, because I couldn’t find him in my 11th or 12th grade yearbooks and Frank remembers high-school much better than I do.

Father Pierce was a tall Texan who taught us Religion – Catholic History – in 9th and 10th grades. (I learned about the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar from the tall Texan.) He was famous or infamous for insisting that on every sheet of foolscap – writing paper measuring 13.5 inches by 17 inches – we write JMJ – Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – in the left-margin and the date on the right-side (i don’t remember where we wrote our names). Also, he lectured and we were expected to take verbatim notes. He also checked homework. His was the only class that I did homework for, simply because he checked it. Most of our teachers only checked homework if during the homework review, you couldn’t answer their questions (any homework that I knew how to talk through, I didn’t do, because if called on, I could answer and prevent the teacher from asking to see my notebook and my homework).

We had final exams twice a year, first in December before the Christmas break and then again in June before summer vacation. There were no classes during finals week and you were expected to study and prepare for your tests in the time when you were not scheduled to write an exam. All finals were taken in the auditorium/gym and the Friday before finals we would bring our classroom desks down to the auditorium/gym and set them in long rows. You wrote finals either in a 2-hour morning session or in a 2-hour afternoon session (the afternoon sessions were most desirable, because you could study in the morning). The teachers proctored the exams.

Back in 1964/1965, all exams required essay answers and you had write in ink. Foolscap was provided and you could ask for as much paper as you needed. The only exams that had fill-in-the-blanks or multiple-choice questions were the French or Latin finals (verb conjugations and noun adjective agreements were common fill-in-the-blanks or multiple-choice questions). Father Pierce’s finals were renowned for their length and the amount of writing they required. And because of Father Pierce long exams, a saying developed among the “brains” (in 1964 terms like geeks and nerds were not in use, the geeks and nerds of that bygone time were known as brains). After taking Father Pierce’s final we would come out and ask each other, “How may foolscaps did you write?” Franchino always wrote more than the rest of us; I’m talking 15 to 20 pages in a two-hour sit-down. The expression stayed with us even after Father Pierce was gone from St. Mary’s.

The image at the top of the post is of the weather-vane shot through the archway at the entry to the pump station. The two smaller thumbnails on the right are of the pump station and its weather-vane.

Today, I walked the circumference of North Park Lake – 4.7 miles. Google Maps tracks the circuit at 5 miles, but I took a .3 mile shortcut. I decided to start on Pearce Mill Road and to circle the lake north-shore to south-shore. The northern shore is amazingly diverse. First, Pine Creek that looks inconsequential from the south shore turns out to be wide and meandering; second, the north shore has all these new walking-paths that take you down to the creek banks; third, the north shore has all the historical plaques outlining the park’s origin; fourth, on this side are the historical stone structures – pump-station, boat-house – that iconically identify the park; this side also has the dams and spillways that create the lake and direct Pine Creek into the surrounding Hampton Township.


November 26, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 7
click to read the hiking posts


hiking north park – northern mockingbird


Today was the first time hiking North Park that the sun was out. (The background in the above landscape image is water. I’m high up on the riverbank shooting through the trees and bare branches at the lake below.) Walked Walter Road and the north side of the lake for a total of 4.1 miles. Saw the bird at the beginning of the trek. Almost missed it, because it’s beautifully camouflaged among the vines draping the dead tree.

I sent the image to the Interpretive Naturalist at North Park’s Latodami Nature Center for ID and she wrote back identifying it as a Northern Mockingbird – once quite rate, they are becoming so common that they are now year-round residents. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the specie – These slender-bodied gray birds apparently pour all their color into their personalities. They sing almost endlessly, even sometimes at night, and they flagrantly harass birds that intrude on their territories, flying slowly around them or prancing toward them, legs extended, flaunting their bright white wing patches.


November 29, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

hiking north park – oriental bittersweettrek – 8
click to read the hiking posts


Today, I walked 4.7 miles. Once at the top of Walter Road, I followed a utility-pole access-path to the top of the hill and the North Park golf-course, this added more uphill to the walk giving the hike an average 110 feet elevation. My route has three parts to it: 1.Walter Road – the first half of Walter Road is the climb – to Pearce Mill Road (1.6 miles), 2.Pearce Mill Road to Babcock Boulevard (1.7 miles), and 3.Babcock Blvd. to East Ingomar Road, right onto Kummer Road and right onto the parking area on Lake Shore Drive (1.4 miles).

This was the first time I used a wide-angle lens – 17-55mm. Turns out it’s not the best lens for use in the Park; there aren’t any open landscapes; and I’m walking along the edge of an artificial lake at the bottom of the holler. (Yes, I’m using an Appalachian term.) I’ve used this lens very effectively up close, but the ravines and hillsides don’t allow me to get near any of the things I’m shooting. Several times today, I found myself wishing I had a second camera with a telephoto lens.

The main reason for the walking is to get in shape for the trip to Machu Picchu. When I walk, I wear a fanny-pack and carry a camera – d800e – things I will have with me on the trip. The wide-angle lens is heavier than the multi-purpose 18-300mm that I normally use, but I wanted to see if the results made it was worth packing and lugging it on the Inca Trail. Today’s pics decided that the wide-angle lens is not coming with me. I have one more lens to try the 80-400mm before making a final decision. (The 80-400mm needs to return great pics to warrant its weight.)

With a super blue sky, I decided to shoot the vines with the orange berries that cover many of the trees on Walter Road. The best results were impressionistic images showing a red/orange haze in the trees; the details – the berries – didn’t come through. There’s a large image of the vines and the berries cascading over a tree-trunk in the slide-show. The vine is Oriental Bittersweet and here in Western Pennsylvania it’s considered an invasive species – the vines twist themselves around the trunk eventually strangling the host tree. And let’s just add that all parts of the plant are poisonous to humans. The species is native to Eastern Asia, but was introduced to the US for aesthetic purposes – it has been used in floral arrangements. Now, the plant is recklessly affecting the ecology of over 33 states from Georgia to Wisconsin. And here in the Paris of Appalachia, in North Park, Bittersweet is everywhere.


November 30, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

highland park – male cardinaltrek – 9
click to read the hiking posts


Today, I had two goals – see if the 80-400mm lens was a viable option for the Machu Picchu trip and measure the walk around the Highland Park Reservoir.

the lens
In the plaza, in front of the reservoir, are several holly plants and they are full of red berries. In order to get the shot that is in the slide-show, I had to move far away from the bush and shoot it from a distance. I like the shot, but not having used the 80-400mm lens in a while, I had forgotten that it needed the distance. And where normally I like a manual focus, because it allows me to decide the core of the image, the problem with the 80-400mm is that it’s so heavy that keeping the camera still while adjusting the focus becomes a difficult balance. Also, I want to take a user-friendly camera with me to Peru so that I can hand it off and be in some of the pictures. The manual focus and the weight of this lens don’t make this an easy set-up.

the walk
The flat asphalt path around the two reservoirs is .96 miles. The reservoirs are at the highest point in the park and I had thought that being high up I’d get some good vistas and some good shots of the environments below. Nah! The trees are so thick around the path that the Allegheny River and valley below are, for the most part, hidden.

For the second part of the walk, rather than do the path again, I went down to Reservoir Drive which circumscribes the two huge reservoirs; this part of the walk clocked in at 1.1 miles.

It was just past the pump station, half-way around Reservoir Drive, that I saw the Cardinal. The above pic has been greatly zoomed. I took the original RAW file and zoomed in until the bird was front-and-center. A 300 pixels per inch resolution makes this zooming process easier and the limited zooming maintains pixel density and resolution. I copy the zoom detail into another file, creating a brand new image. And it’s at this step that I save the new image for the web – 72 pixels/inch.

I so want to say something about the contrast between the suburban Mockingbird and the urban Cardinal, but I may be beating a dead horse …


December 1, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


glad tidings of comfort and joy

Last night, I discovered Annie Lennox’s Christmas album. It’s great fun; she takes all the schmaltz out of the seasonal songs and replaces it with pounding drums, African voices and her smooth contralto.

  • – The beautifully lyrical chorus – Il est né le divin enfant, chantons tous son avènement – in the mouths of the South African Children’s Choir, becomes a staccato shout of rebellion, liberation and hope.
  • – In God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, she uses her belting range and her band’s hard-rock drums to pound this old traditional carol into an anthem of tolerance and generosity in a gone-crazy world.
  • – Her Coventry Carol is a hymn of solidarity with women everywhere who have lost their children to the duplicity of men and their religious hypocrisies.
  • – And in The Holly and the Ivy, you can forget pretty; Lennox’s incredible comfort in the lower extremes of her voice produces a solid, dark, male-like timbre as she sings about blood, thorns and bitter gall. 1
  • – But In the Bleak Midwinter her voice is soft, nostalgic for a long-ago time.
  • – In the angelic As Joseph was a Walking, her ability to sing a single syllable while moving between several different notes gives this old Lutheran hymn a haunting beauty.
  • – And her Universal Child – I see the tracks of every tear that ran right down your face – is most definitely the soul of the album. Let’s not forget our Annie is an atheist, this collection is not about the Christmas season.
  • – Of the 12 songs, Angels from the Realm of Glory, See Amid the Winter’s Snow, The First Noel, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, and Silent Night are not used to message. Yes, her powerful voice is still there, but she sings them straight adding no nuance.

After looking at all the images of Lennox online, I settled on the Mapplethorpe photograph. Come on, how can I pass up the opportunity to write about Annie Lennox, Robert Mapplethorpe and Christmas carols? (It’s my answer to, “We’re saying Merry Christmas again.” )

1 The website – Diva Divotee – has great info on Lennox’s unique voice.


December 3, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

base line to carpin beach roadtrek – 10
click to read the hiking posts


Today, I walked from my parents’ to Connie’s for a total of 4.97 miles. Connie and Ron live in Ron’s family old house, west of the city. Ron is the third generation to live on the land that his ancestors farmed. The original farm has been subdivided into smaller plots and various family members live on these smaller plots. And the original homestead, built in the 1900s, is still in use; it’s on the plot next to Connie-and-Ron’s and a cousin lives in the old farmhouse.

The farms are between Base Line and the shores of the St. Mary’s River; approximately a 3500 acres area. Base Line marks the bottom of the hill and the beginning of the flats. The St. Mary’s connects Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

The image was taken at the corner of Base Line and Carpin Beach Road; Connie and Ron live down Carpin Beach Road. The roads below and perpendicular to Base Line take their names from the beach where they terminate.


December 5, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

social services in northern ontario

Like all aging boomers, I’ve needed to look into support housing for my parents. My search is into the Canadian system, because my parents live in Northern Ontario. The advantage here is that it’s a small market and there are enough family and friends who can act of resources. The most surprising aspect is the cost. NOTHING like what the same facilities would cost in the US. And as my brother-in-law added, “Nothing like what it costs in metro Toronto.”

Currently, my parents tap into the various home-services that the provincial and federal governments provide. These services have allowed them to begin this phase of their lives while still living in their home. (My parents have always been practical people and we’ve begun the application process for an assisted living residence before we find ourselves with our backs against a wall, because one of them needs immediate placement.)

I’m using the farm photo for this post, because it’s a harkening back to an older time when grandparents, parents all lived in a multi-generational home; when extended families ran farms; when people didn’t move away from their communities and families. In today’s world, mobility, opportunities, schooling have dispersed family units and aging parents often find themselves alone in the town or city where they raised their kids. In my family, only my younger sister stayed in Northern Ontario. (I’m part of that age-group that ran to the cities for college and work.)


December 6, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 11
click to read the hiking posts



The Leslie Street Spit is a man-made headland, or land-fill, extending from Toronto’s east-end into Lake Ontario. Originally, it was conceived as an extension of the Toronto harbor, but it has evolved into a largely passive recreation area. On the map, it’s the green amoeba-like protrusion crawling into Lake Ontario. The area is officially the Tommy Thompson Park. Thompson is one of Canada’s famous Group of Seven artists.

Its common name – The Leslie Spit – is technically incorrect, since the land form is not truly a spit or a peninsula, but an amorphous landfill. The road running along the middle of the Spit is a southern extension of Leslie Street, hence the popular nickname.

The walk from the end of Leslie Street, on the mainland, to the end of the peninsula and back was 4.3 miles. (After two days of absolute miserable weather in Northern Ontario, it was great to find the sun again.)

The views of downtown Toronto are spectacular from this vantage point. The image on the right is deceptive, because it suggests that downtown is on the other side of vegetation. However, between the outcrop and the skyscrapers is the Toronto Harbor and Centre Island – better seen on the map.


December 7, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

after changes upon changes, we are more or less the same

Back in the late 60s and throughout the 70s, every time I went back to Canada to visit my parents, I would fly into Pearson Airport, take the bus down to the Islington Subway station and hop the eastbound train to Jane. I’d get off at Jane and Bloor and walk the 5 long blocks to my grandparents’ house and stay with them. I would visit with them; I would visit with my cousins; and I would visit with Frank.

It was great to fly in and get into town on public transportation. The airport bus and the subway allowed me to get to know my grandparents and to maintain my friendship with Frank and later his family. (At Norma’s memorial, Frank mentioned how through all the years – from grade-school on – we were able to stay in touch.) Toronto’s bus and train systems were an amazingly cheap and convenient way of getting around. I was a poor university student for many of those years and public transportation gave me options. (I remember meeting my cousin Gabe, after he and his family had moved from Calabria to Toronto, on the subway and us going out to lunch.)

Also, because of public transportation, I was able to nurture and expand my friendships into the extended Zinga family; I met, two or three times a year, with my cousins Gina and Renato. And 50 years later, I still see Renato and keep in touch with Gina through social media. I built a whole friendship group in Toronto and public transportation allowed me to come into town and visit with these friends regularly.

And, 50 years later, I’m repeating the process. This time around, I’m talking the UP – Union Station/Pearson Airport – train from the airport to the Bloor St. station and walking up to Frank’s. The trip cost $2.00. And it’s a 10 minute walk from the train station to Frank’s. This morning I did the reverse.


December 12, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


winter’s first snow

I shot these same pumpkins back at the end of October and then the focus of the post was the coming gales of November. (Back then, there were only the two large ones, the small one was still in the kitchen – fall decor.) It looks like the middle pumpkin may be collapsing. Once they freeze, with the next thaw, they collapse and it’s time to throw them away; fall is officially over.

Today, the weather turned – the skies stayed murky and gray all day, the winds brought blinding snow and when they had exhausted themselves, flurries and dropping temperatures allowed the snows to continue. (Dug out the snow-scraper and put it in the car.)

And today is the infamous election in Alabama. It all feels so much like the Carter years (1977 – 1981) when everything seemed to be in an upheaval; when we lived with stress on a daily basis. The difference is that back then the threats were external, now the threats are internal. Also now like then, new news-programs are emerging and reflecting the anxiety of the times. In 1980, Ted Koppel became the voice of the nation, counting the days that the American hostages were being held in Iran. Today, Rachel Maddow and Jake Tapper are rising above the din to tell the narrative of the times.


December 13, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 12
click to read the hiking posts


he who makes himself a dove is eaten by the hawk

The title is an old Italian proverb. I like it, because it describes the current political state of Democrats and Republicans. As Democrats, we are well off; civil rights are a foundation of the party; we champion LGBT people; we support net-neutrality; we believe in climate change; we stand for a woman’s right to choose; we want health-care for all; we believe wealth should distributed not concentrated; and we believe that a good education is a civil right. And yet, in 2016, we were shellacked by nasty, rapacious Republicans who with their first piece of legislation will take away health-care from 13 million poor Americans, forbid health-care to millions of children; loot the treasury to give their cronies – the richest Americans – even more of our money; and to make up for the revenue loss, will make poor people pay more taxes. The hawk has eaten the dove.

The only pause, and let’s not pretend it’s anything else, in this carnage, is that yesterday, Alabama voters, for the first time in 25 years, elected a Democrat to fill the seat vacated by Republican Jeff Sessions. (In the 2016 presidential election, 62% of Alabama voters voted for the Republican candidate. Clinton got only 34% of the vote in this very Red state.)

The image is from my walk up Walter Road in North Park. As I was climbing the hill, the hawk lighted onto the snow covered branch; he was quite a way up from me. The 18-400mm lens allowed me to capture the predator from a distance that didn’t disrupt or disturb him. I stood there and did shot after shot, hoping that one would come out; and when I saw the above image, I knew I got it. Isn’t he glorious. Makes me think of Albus Dumbledore. (I sent the pic off to the the naturalist at the Latodami Environmental Center for ID. And I may have to change the pronoun once she gets back to me.)

I walked from the Off-leash-dog-area parking lot to the Kummer Road parking lot; a distance of 2.5 miles with an elevation of 190 feet. I climbed the Walter Road hill twice.

In researching the proverb, which I never found in Italian, I came across another one which is in keeping with the tone of the post. (My translation is more sentiment than literal.)
l’amicizia fugge della ricchezza come colomba del falco 1  —  friendship is destroyed by wealth, like a dove is destroyed by the hawk.
1 Niccolò Tommaseo, Pensieri morali, 1845


December 14, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 13
click to read the hiking posts


on my way into town

I’ve finally hit the Ebenezer Scrooge phase, and I’m enjoying it. A recognition of the hypocrisy of the season has helped push me into an anti mindset. The media and the business community are telling everyone to spend and spend; to buy frivolous shit, because everyone needs something to unwrap on Christmas Day. And reality can be suspended, rejected if it interferes with anything Christmas. This coercion is everywhere. I’m seeing people, some in my own family, spending money on insignificant and even insincere gifts, just because it’s what you’re supposed to do.

And to stand against this tide of hypocrisy is to be a Scrooge. For years, I’ve been on the fringes of the Christmas craziness, this year I’m actively announcing my resistance.

I can appreciate the decor, I just don’t want to participate. The above image is three doors in the War Streets.

Today, the walk was into town, for a 3.5 mile trek.


December 15, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 14
click to read the hiking posts


on the north ridge

I’m looking for walks in North Park that include a climb. (I’ve walked Walter Road enough times.) Earlier in the week, I stopped by the park-office and got two trail-maps and a park map. The maps give a detailed outline of all the roads and trails in the park. In walking the circuit around the lake, I had seen a road that climbed the hill off of Pierce Mill that I thought it may be something to explore. Using the maps, I figured out a route to the intersection of the hill road and Pierce Mill and decided to give it a try.

I parked at Kummer-and-Walter, set the pedometer and headed across the street to walk the north shore of the lake. A mile and a half from my starting point, I got to the hill I wanted to climb – North Ridge Road. It was great seeing it closed off to traffic and not plowed – no oncoming traffic and undisturbed snow. This section of North Ridge Road is quite steep, shooting the overall elevation of the walk to 100 feet. Last week I had taken a spur off of Walter Road and I was careful, because it was a dead-end service-road. Today, I was less concerned, going up the closed road, because it was a wide two-lane and obviously used regularly, but out of service because of Wednesday’s snowfall.

The walk from the parking lot at Kummer-and-Walter, to East Ingomar Road, to Babcock Boulevard, to Pierce Mill Road, to the top of North Ridge Road, around the shelter loop, and then back down retracing my steps to Kummer-and-Walter was 4 miles.

Today was also a lesson in dressing for winter-walking. If I’m going to wear a short jacket, then I need to wear heavier pants or a base layer under my sweats. (When I did the first winter-walk a couple of days ago, I wore a long winter coat that covered me like a blanket. Today, I went back to the Canada Goose short-coat; not great for the lower body when the wind is pushing the cold through the sweats.)


December 17, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 15
click to read the hiking posts


red-tailed hawk

When I was doing the research, the Red-tailed came up as a common hawk in Western Pennsylvania, but I hadn’t seen the birds tail feathers and therefore couldn’t identify it such. Today, I saw one in flight and caught its beautiful cinnamon tail feathers. What also amazed me was the wide wing-span.

Because they are so common and easily trained, the majority of hawks captured for falconry in the United States are red-tails. Falconers are permitted to take only passage hawks (which have left the nest, are on their own, but are less than a year old) so as to not affect the breeding population.

Today’s walk was up North Ridge Drive. The road climbs the hillside above Pearce Mill and it starts and end at Pearce Mill. The other day, I walked the southern portion of the hillside road and today, did the northern leg. The road was plowed and open up to the Senior Center and the Water Tower, but closed for there on. The red-tail was in the trees below the Senior Center.

This leg of the Drive is steep; the overall elevation of today’s walk was 270 feet. I walked a mile-and-a-half in and then back out. Two factors restricted how long I walked: one, the day was gloomy, foggy and very gray making for dull, muted pictures; two, the Steelers were playing at 4:00 and I needed to get home well before that time or have no parking spot. On game-day, our street fills up with cars of fans who don’t want to pay the exorbitant stadium parking fees or get stuck in the post-game, get-home pandemonium. (It’s 7:30 and the fans are just now coming back; there’s a cacophony of beeping sounds out on the street.)


December 21, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 16
click to read the hiking posts


st. peter’s

My memory is that Mafalda took me to this Protestant church for my first set of vaccines back in 1957. (Nothing like two immigrant Catholics walking into a non-Catholic church. But Mafalda, ever the practical one, could set aside those cultural beliefs if it meant her child would get access to health services.) The free clinic was in the basement, so I never got to see the church or sanctuary.

The history of St. Peter’s Anglican Church goes back to 1906.

Got here yesterday afternoon. Pittsburgh was drenched in sunshine; Toronto was gray, but free of snow; Sault Ste Marie was covered in the white stuff and the temperature was at freezing. In the two weeks since my last visit, the landscape has changed radically. Only the major roads are snow-free, everything else is covered with ice and snow. There’s easily 6 inches of snow on the ground and the snow-banks are already almost 2 feet tall.

Today, Rose, Derrick and I went walking. I started from my parents’, walked to my aunt-and-uncle’s and from there up to the Fort Creek trail. The walk, there and back, was 5.4 miles.

Learned two things – cold weather drains the camera battery; the preprogrammed settings, on the d800e are not good on gray, overcast days. (For the first time, I brought only one camera and one lens, because wanted to see what I could do over a week’s time with one camera.) Between the cold weather, the gray days and the manual settings, the simpler d7100 may be the better camera for this environment.


December 24, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

winter has hit

In the last week alone, Sault Ste. Marie has received over 4 inches of snow. The most recent snow activity was yesterday and today – it hasn’t stopped snowing.

The image on the left was taken before the new snow fall. Notice the picture-window on the right side. The majority of houses in this part of town were built in the 1950; and having a picture-window was how you announced that you were living in a new house and that you were a young family.

Talking with friends of my parents, a couple of facts intruded into my consciousness:

  • when we came to Canada, in 1957, I was already 8 therefore the Santa myth was never part of my experience. And I never got Christmas presents.
  • In those early years, the tradition among the Calabrian families in Sault Ste Marie, was to exchange gifts with their friends and relatives. The gifts were for the adults. I can still remember one of the compari or commari visiting and coming with gifts that my mother would open as soon as they left. She wanted to make sure that the gift she bought was of equal value to what she had received. (It was all about saving face – vergogna – and not feeling ashamed of your gift.) The gifts were always household items for the women and a bottle of whiskey for the men. (I remember hating the fact that they would open the gifts before Christmas; open them, re-wrap them and then put them back under the tree. How immigrant.)
  • Another tradition was to spend Christmas afternoon visiting. My parents would go to their friends’ houses and at each house you drank a shot of whiskey in honor of the holiday. You then got in the car and went to the next friend’s house. Apparently back then, the police would help you if they saw you driving drunk. (I suspect that what prevented accidents was that there were very few cars on the road.)