January 1, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections

birds like leaves on winterwood

The image is of the trees – maclura pomifera – across the street. A more common name is Osage orange tree.

In 1804, Meriwether Lewis, of “Lewis and Clark Expedition” fame, sent cuttings of the plant back east. Supposedly, the descendants of those samples can still be found as far away as Philadelphia. As a result, although the trees are native to the southwestern United States, they have been used widely throughout the country, and have probably been in the region for nearly two centuries.

The tree bark can be used to make a yellow dye, and the Osage Indians — who introduced Lewis and Clark to the plant, and for whom the plant is named — valued the tree for its exceptionally strong, rot-resistant wood.

In the days before barbed wire, the trees were often planted in close-knit hedgerows — both to hem in the livestock and to mark property lines. It’s a “pretty tough tree,” says Masiuk, which has “potential for rugged, polluted areas.”

In fact, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s guide The Trees of Pittsburgh notes that the trees were once used as hedges here. “The remains of such a planting can be seen on the south side of Dorchester Avenue in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Brookline,” the guide notes. Located just off Penn Avenue near Frick Park, “Osage Lane in Point Breeze was once lined with these large trees,” though only a few small survivors remain. 1

This morning continued the dark-and-gloom that is early winter in Western Pennsylvania. As I was opening the shutters, I saw the birds in the trees and went out with my camera. All I did to the image was adjust the white level slider; this removed the gray and produced the white background.
1 Pittsburgh City Paper – They’ve been called “monkey balls” since my youth.


January 1, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections

In the Coen Brothers’ movie The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, in the last short, The Mortal Remains, Brendan Gleeson sings the old Irish ballad The Unfortunate Lad. Listening to the directors talk about the film’s soundtrack, Joel Coen mentioned that the old Irish ballad was the basis for the American song Streets of Laredo  whose melody serves as a unifying thread – a leitmotif – throughout the six short segments.

I really like Burl Ives’ cover of the ballad, re-titled Cowboy’s Lament, on his album A Twinkle in Your Eye. His honey-sweet tenor adds pathos to the story of a young man facing death. The lyrics, especially the couplet at the end of the first verse, brought to mind Roberto Ferri’s painting of the XIV Station of the Cross – the white shroud cradling the dead body. I saw the Ferri paintings of the Stations of the Cross – Via Crucis – at the Cathedral of San Nicolò in Noto, Sicily.

The Couplet
I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in white linen
Wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay

Yes, I can hear you asking; Who the hell pairs a cowboy ballad and a Caravaggesque painting . . . with a Jesus in it?



As I walked out in the streets of Laredo
As I walked out in Laredo one day
I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in white linen
Wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay


I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy
These words he did say as I boldly walked by
Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story
I’m shot in the breast and I know I must die

It was once in the saddle I used to go dashing
Once in the saddle I used to go gay
First down to Rosie’s and then to the card house
Got shot in the breast and I’m dying today

Get sixteen gamblers to carry my coffin
Get six jolly cowboys to sing me a song
Take me to the graveyard and lay the sod o’er me
For I’m a young cowboy and I know I’ve done wrong

Get six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin
Get six pretty maidens to sing me a song
Take me to the valley and lay the sod o’er me
For I’m a young cowboy, I know I’ve done wrong

Oh beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly
Play the Dead March as they carry me along
Put bunches of roses all over my coffin
Put roses to deaden the clods as they fall

As I walked out in the streets of Laredo
As I walked out in Laredo one day
I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in white linen
Wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay 2

1 Roberto Ferri. “XIV Station of the Cross.” Cattedrale di Noto, Sicily, 2014.
2 Burl Ives. “Cowboy’s Lament.” A Twinkle in Your Eye, Sony Wonder, 1997.


January 23, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections


the new white hoods

Drag legend Jinkx Monsoon has summed up the controversy surrounding Covington High School boys perfectly. Monsoon’s Instagram post is a refreshing take on the situation because she breaks the issue down to the basics.

     It’s possible that this whole thing was sensationalized by the media to whip us all up into arguments – encouraging us to click on each outlet’s story… It’s possible that it’s exactly how it looks – a group of teenage boys harassing one man with mockery and arrogance.

     But there’s one constant in this sea of variables. The MAGA hat.

     The phrase ‘Make America Great Again’ is synonymous with taking a step backwards in regards to progress, and there’s no way around that. To the minorities being oppressed, that red hat is frightening, and people need to understand that.

     Americans have the right to wear whatever they want – but you can’t be surprised when people are on edge, when you sport a symbol of oppression.

     After all, if you’re still wearing a MAGA hat after baby cages, admitted sexual assault, a Muslim ban, a trans military ban, a refugee ban, Charlottesville, Mexican rapists, Puerto Rico, Pocahontas, shithole countries, NFL protests, and support for white nationalism…

     You can’t be surprised when people assume you’re a racist prick.

However, Monsoon needed to follow up the above comments with – Yesterday I posted a meme, referencing the stand off between a teenager wearing a MAGA hat, and an indigenous protester. I have taken it down, because my comment section was flooded with threats of violence toward the teenager, and threats to violence towards other followers … and that’s not something I want to promote. These are divisive times, and passions are running hot – but we do not prove our points by inciting violence.


March 6, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections

frank gehry’s galleria italia


Today we went to the Art Gallery of Ontario; it’s one of my favorite Toronto museums. The building was re-imagined by Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry in 2008. On the second floor, on the northern face, Gehry designed a long gallery – Galleria Italia – which displays the names of rich, prominent Torontonians, of Italian heritage, who contributed to the redesign. The image on the left is the gallery; the image on the right is an example of the commemorative plaques on the spine-line ribs of the block-long gallery.
What was interesting about the plaques, was that the man’s name had been Anglicized – Albert, Benny, Jimmy – but the women’s names retained their Italian formats. Frank suggested that the men Anglicized their names, because they were interacting with the English majority. The women, who stayed home and socialized in their immigrant communities, didn’t need to change their names. (My dad became Frank, only his Italian friends called him Ciccio. My mother kept her Italian name – Mafalda.)


March 7, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections

home-cooked rabbit

One of the benefits of visiting in Toronto is eating really good food.

At my cousins’ in Pickering, the food is simple, healthy and delicious. The wine is plentiful and the atmosphere is homey, congenial and full of laughter.

At Frank’s it’s Nouveau-Calabrese with a healthy absence of all things wheat, carbs and sugar. Breakfast is homemade granola, fruit chased by strong Lavazza espresso. And because it’s morning it’s a Cappuccino. Lunch is homemade soup, homemade olives a la Calabrese, (smashed and jarred in a salt brine until ready to eat), finocchio (fennel) and salad. The beverage for this repast is a red wine at room temperature. On Tuesday, dinner was eggplant parmigiano and on Wednesday the meat dish was baby-goat, his mother’s recipe. (He had to go out to Scarborough to a Middle-Eastern butcher to get the baby-goat and he had to buy half the goat. He has a goal for after his hip surgery, he’s determined to find a butcher who has milk-fed baby-goat. That is supposedly the best.) Frank is famous for his small side-dishes; every meal has at least 6 or 7 small-sides and every meal has a fresh salad.

Late afternoon-tea is espresso and a piece of chocolate. This time, Frank had homemade chocolate truffles. He used a bitter chocolate this round, but they were still an amazing compliment to the rich dark coffee.

But the above served as prelude to what happened Thursday.

Background: when I visit Toronto, I begin in Pickering – the first suburb east of the city – and work my way back west, so that by the end of the visit I’m in Mississauga – the first suburb west of the city – visiting my Cumpare Joe.

Four of us – Joe, Carlo, Frank and I – went to dinner and Joe called in a favor and asked his friend Mike, the owner of Vivo Pizza and Pasta in Etobicoke, to make us a special dinner. He asked if Mike had any rabbit available.

It blew my mind to realize that I was going out to dinner and we were going to have a dish that was not on the menu; a dish the owner was making specifically for us.


March 13, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections


first snowdrops

How do you decide which elements of an landscape to keep in focus and therefore critical to both composition and meaning and which elements to leave in the background and out of focus?

In the image, on the right, I liked the smaller flower, its spiky green leaves and the branch reaching out of the picture more than I liked the larger white flower or the red spike. To me, the larger flower will be front-and-center no matter where I focus; and the red spike will pull the eye from the greens and browns around it. I chose to concentrate on the smaller secondary flower and to keep it in sharp focus. (Cropping the whole right-side of the image further showcases the flowers, the branch and the red spike.)

Snowdrops multiply and cluster each year they are in the ground. (My last group of snowdrops had reached clump status – blooming in large batches – in the side flower-bed. When the side-bed was removed, I didn’t bother transplanting the clumps, because I assumed all I had to do was replant. Wrong. I had forgotten all the years where only one or two flowers came out.) This is the second year for the snowdrops and already the bulbs are producing more than single white flowers.


April 17, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections

the centurion and the magdalene

I’m on Woodward Avenue, in Royal Oak, Michigan, at the Basilica of the Little Flower. (Man, I could spout snark about Catholics, Art Deco and Detroit, but …)

Art Deco is one of my all time favorite visual-arts styles. (There’s a surprise – Zinga, clean geometric lines, symmetry, stylized bodies, handsome curves …) And, the Basilica built in the thirties, in the Art Deco style, is adorned with warrior angels, super-sized men and mournful women; in the picture on the left, the two figures are among some of the most striking.

The bell-tower carvings depict the crucifixion; the Centurion and the Magdalene scale the right wall; John the Evangelist and Mary the Mother anchor the left face. (Earlier, I use the verb adorned, because the exterior walls of the church are yellow stone-block; only the bell-tower, the windows, the window frames and balustrades are decorative, carved limestone.)

In the image on the left, I don’t know what I like best – the Roman’s extravagant drapery, the toggle-button holding the cape closed, his helmet, the sword, the lance the centurion holds up to the Christ. (Art Deco may be French in origin, but it’s definitely masculine and phallic in its lines and trajectories.)

In this south-east corner of Michigan there are many Art Deco structures among the soulless suburbs that surround the once-great Motor City. I noticed the massive tower a couple of years ago when I was driving down Woodward towards I-696. But, it was on Google Maps that I found out it was a Catholic basilica dedicated to a very non-Michigan, non-American woman – Thérèse de Lisieu.

From the Basilica’s webpage – The church was first built in 1926 in a largely Protestant area. Two weeks after it opened, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in front of the church. The original wood structure was destroyed by a fire March 17, 1936. Construction of the new building started in 1931 and ended in 1936.

A dramatic limestone Art Deco tower called the Charity Crucifixion Tower, completed in 1931, features integrated figural sculptures by Rene Paul Chambellan, including a large figure of Christ on the cross, 28 feet high on the Woodward Avenue façade. It was built as a response to the Ku Klux Klan as a “cross they could not burn”. … At the upper corners of the tower are symbols of the Four Evangelists. … On the front are carved depictions the Archangels Jophiel, Raphael, Michael, Gabriel and Uriel. The pulpit is flanked by depictions of John the Apostle and the Virgin Mary to the left and a Roman Centurion holding a spear and Mary Magdalene on the right.

Slideshow – My Images of the Basilica



then & now
The photograph is from the Facebook page – Calabria ieri – and the caption reads – Ballerini Mottesi, tutti ci hanno lasciati – Dancers from Motta, they have all left us.

Motta San Giovanni is a small hill-town in the province of Reggio Calabria. The small black dot on the map is approximately where Motta is located.


I started on this corner of the back-yard sometime in early March; I did the work in small increments whenever the weather allowed. My goal was to have all the prep done by Mother’s Day, the frost-free date for this part of the country. The main work was putting down stone-fill to anchor the various shelves, cinder-blocks, pavers and posts that held the pots. I also needed to eliminate the many tunnels and bolt-holes that the supports had created behind the stones and under the pots. In behind the flower-pots and rock-walls, the tunnels and bolt-holes had become home to a family of Northside rats. (And you can imagine how the dogs – also known as Ratters – reacted to the squatters in their back-yard.)

A secondary goal was to delegate all ceramics into this landscape. Ceramic pots look great, but man they are a bitch to move; and taking them in for the winter was becoming too much work. The large greenish-blue pot in the back corner has been coming in and out of the house for almost 10 years; I was done with that routine. (The large urn in the foreground has always been decorative and therefore empty.)

This year, I added the small flowerbed in the right-hand corner of the landscape image. I want to grow rosebushes that I can trellis in front of my neighbor’s garage wall. When we first moved into the house back in January of ’83, there was a spectacular rose with wine-red flowers. It lasted all of one year; the next winter killed it. And since then, I’ve been trying to grow roses with minimal success. Am hoping that the rosebushes will work out.

On a separate topic – I’m trying to figure out the optimum location and light for the Ƶ-7. The two image in the above composite were first shot with the Mirror-less camera, but they were too dark. I re-shot with the the D7100 and used the new images from that shoot to recreate the composite.

The Ƶ-7 is a great camera for indoor, no-flash photography. The images of the quilts that I shot at the Westmoreland Museum were absolutely amazing. The colors were true and touch-ups were minimal. I will use it for indoor shoots throughout my trip to Italy. The D7100, with a zoom lens, gives me better results out-of-doors and so I will use it when walking the streets of Florence and the alleyways of Venice.


wisteria – 2019

I was convinced that the wisteria bloomed in mid-June and it was early this year because of the the unusually warm weather – WRONG. I had to go back to 2017, but there it was – a late-May post that showed the wisteria in bloom.

This is the first year where the vine covers the entire top of the fence. (Last year the focus was on getting it to the end of the west-side.) The other surprise is that all of the vine, even the youngest stems, have flowers. And it also seems that there are more flowers than ever. (The pic on the right was added later to show the density of the flowers.)



breathless with adoration 1

Many photographers live in morning light; in its coolness, its intolerance, its sting. But I work in evening light; with its softness; its solitude; its warmth. Evening light gently unwraps the landscape; it bathes in new-mowed grass; it hums with drowsy songbirds. It calls the fading light to walls, to meadows, to marshes. I found the tiny Forget-me-nots along the edge of a new-mowed meadow.

This was my first time in North Park in May. (Last year, I spent the first part of May in Norther Ontario and the end of May in Peru.) The shoreline of the man-made lake and the banks of the creeks that feed it are lined with clumps of yellow Iris.

Paleyellows are native to Europe, northern Africa, and temperate Asia. A valued horticultural plant, paleyellow iris was brought to North America and escaped cultivation, often spreading down watercourses or washing downstream in floods. A review of early floras documented paleyellow iris in Virginia as early as 1771. Paleyellow iris is widely distributed across most of the United States and Canada. In the eastern United States, paleyellow iris is found in forested wetlands, open wetlands, and in riparian and floodplain communities.2

Golden light rounds the edges; it hides in leaves; it dissipates trials and tribulations; it calls to tranquility, to prayer. – Now in the fading light of day/ maker of all to you we pray/ That with your ever watchful love/ you’ll guard and keep us from above/ Help and defend us through the night/ danger and terror put to flight/ Never let evil have its way/ preserve us for another day.3

1  Wordsworth, William. “It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free.”
2  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer)
3  Monks, Mount Savior Monastery. Opening Hymn of Compline.


June 5, 2019 2019, diario/journal, italy

click to read all the italy – 2019 posts


In the image on the right, the foreground piece is a Medieval angel hanging from a nail on the fence-slat. What I like best about the sculpture is the wings.

And there are two elements in the photographs that I really like:

– the fade from the super-focused angel, to the grey Sprite, to the out-of-focus, white structure in the far back, and

– the delicate, almost-open, tiny, cerise flower-stem in the bottom left corner.

I said to my sister, who left for Toronto this morning, that we are taking our youngest sister’s kids to the land of their Nonno and Nonna; to the land where their uncle and aunt were born; to the land that is part of their DNA; that is part of their heritage. We leave for Italy Saturday. (Our youngest sister died of breast cancer on June 30, 2001.)

As we get ready for the trip, let me add a piece of serendipity that I’ll probably came back to throughout the posts.

When my family came from Italy in May, 1957, we landed in Halifax and then traveled by train, with our fellow immigrants – relatives and neighbors – to Montreal.

The Montreal rail-yard and the park across the street from the station are images that I can still see in my mind’s eye – I stick my head out the train window and see a young priest in his black cassock and wide cloth belt, crossing the tracks; in the park, in the shade, our group from Aprigliano is sitting and eating panini americani – Wonder Bread sandwiches – as we wait to transfer out.

It was in Montreal, that the group from Aprigliano, after crossing an ocean together, split up. My family got on a train and headed north-west to Sault Ste Marie; my cousin – the young man sitting on the far-left – got on a different train and headed south-west to St. Catherines.

It’s 2019 and on the outbound leg, we have a layover in Montreal. And once again, after 62 years, Connie and I will transfer out of Montreal, but this time we’re going east. This is her first time back to Italy. (In the sepia print, my sister is the small child between my mom and dad.)

leaving on a jet plane

first-post – toronto
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Christian looks like he just rolled out of bed/gutter; Seane just rolls her eyes at us all; Connie is anxious beyond beyond, she hates plane-travel and has never flown over-seas; and I’m there with my salmon hat, black Calvin, AppleWatch, skinny jeans and new Balance. Let’s go!

The group is ready to go to the airport, even if it means we’re there early. (Christian is the only one who would rather go at the last minute, but it’s 3 against 1.) The pic is in the Thorman’s driveway and Isabel is the acting photographer.

Have never flown Air Transat. It’s one of the charters, out of Montreal, that in the winter months shuttles Canadians south to the Caribbean and in the warm months ferries them east to Europe. The price – Toronto/Rome return – was $600.

                             Left-to-Right – Christian (26), Seane (23), Connie (63), Mario (70)

uncle & aunt

second-post – orvieto
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seane with her uncle and seane with her aunt

We’re still in our traveling clothes – Seane is minus her shoes – but how can you pass up an opportunity to show off Orvieto – our first stop. (Christian is behind us moving the car. And Connie is hiding her cigarette; she didn’t want a pic with her holding a lit cig.)

The B&B La Magnolia is a wonderful place; we’re 100 feet away from the Piazza del Duomo, on a pedestrian-only cobblestone street. Connie and the kids are in an attic apartment across the way and I’m in the main house.

By 6:00, the street is full of locals out for their evening passegiata. We’re sitting at a bar watching the Italians in their amazing clothes.

behold the gates of mercy

third-post – orvieto
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The 3 front doors, of the Cathedral of Orvieto, are recent additions; the original wooden doors were replaced in 1970. The new bronze doors were designed by Sicilian sculptor Emilio Greco. And my favorite pieces of the side-doors are the angel door-handles. In the image, Seane is holding onto the angels’ legs and feet. These are the pulls-and-push to open and close these massive side-doors.

Equally amazing are the frescoes by Signorelli in the Cappella di San Brizio – San Brizio side chapel. Signorelli, who lived before Michelangelo, creates a visual choreography between the Last Judgment, the apocalypse and the redemption. I like these frescoes more than those that cover the Sistine.

I’ve told everyone that in Florence we will not get the same quality of food that we’ve had the last two days. The reason is that even though Orvieto attracts a large number of tourists, most come in and leave after visiting the Cathedral. Florence, on the other hand, will be filled with tourists who stay in town, and the restaurants cater to this trade. (My only hope is that the people at the Airbnb will offer suggestions of restaurants owned and operated by locals.)

in the hills of tuscany

fourth-post – florence
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On the drive from Orvieto to Florence, the car GPS took us into the Tuscan hills. And we loved it. Seane saw a peacock and Connie insisted we stop; I saw a field of poppies and I insisted we stop; Christian deciding that he needed to climb the wall surrounding a derelict villa, turned off the car and made for the wall. The care abandoned, the destination forgotten, we just played.

We realized the GPS took us to an area north-east of the city – Fiesole – and once we corrected for the mistake, we were back on the road towards the city of The Medici.

Coming into Florence at 4:00 in the afternoon, on a hot day should be forbidden. The place was crawling with tourists indiscriminately walking and locals rushing to get home. It was not a pretty site or an easy situation.

After negotiating the technology to get into our Airbnb, rush-hour traffic to find a parking garage and luggage lugging up 3 landings, we headed to Piazza della Signoria. (Seane is the navigator, and she’s excellent at it; I can co-pilot – read the Italian street signs, point to where we need to go and explain what we’re seeing – what I can’t deal with are directions and figuring out how from point A to point B. My mantra is, “We need to go this location; get me there and I’ll take care of the rest.”)

We get to the Piazza and it’s set up for Salvatore Ferragamo men’s wear presentation. The entire area in front of the Loggia and the Palazzo Vecchio is sectioned off and guarded my a small army of men in black – security squeezed into skinny-fits jackets and pants.

“No fashion show has ever been allowed in Piazza della Signoria before,” . . . It was also the first show with the designer – Paul Andrews – in the role of creative director of both the men’s and women’s lines, and the first time that Ferragamo staged a fashion show in its hometown of Florence.

The label contributed to the recently completed restoration of the majestic Fountain of Neptune, which dominates Piazza della Signoria. 1

1 Vogue Runway – Spring 2020 Menswear

on the roof of the uffizi

fifth-post – florence
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We began the morning at the Uffizi. (It’s probably my least favorite museum. It’s art collection covers such a narrow period that after a while I think, “How many more Marys; how many more crucified Jesuses do I need to see?”) However, the Medici palace, that is the museum, is an amazing place; it’s a precursor of Versailles. And the views of Florence, out of its massive windows, are spectacular. (I have to wait until I get home to post some of those images, because they are in the camera hard-drive not on a removable memory card.)

We did have to have coffee at the cafe overlooking the Piazza della Signoria. It was worth every Euro (3 coffees, 1 Pepsi, 1 cognac = €27) maybe not.

the tipping point …

sixth-post – pisa
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I’ve avoided Pisa for 20 years, but given that this was Connie’s, Christian’s and Seane’s first time here, I gave in and we went. OMG, what an absolutely amazing place. (I’m referring strictly to the complex that is the Cathedral, because we saw nothing of the town.) The Duomo complex has been all restored – the Bell-tower glimmers, the white marble on the Cimitero arches are crinoline elegant and the Baptistry and Cathedral sparkle under the Tuscan sun.

Everyone – Asian, Indian, African, Canadian, American – takes selfies holding up the leaning Bell-tower giving the place an atmosphere of playfulness and just plain fun. Seane mentioned that she’s seen these selfies all over the place, but had no idea how much fun it would be to create them.

the rich and the dead

June 12, 2019 2019, diario/journal, italy

seventh-post – pisa
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The Cimitero – cemetery – is one of the four structures that make up the Duomo complex in Pisa. The Cimitero straddles the northern flank of the complex between the Cathedral and the Baptistry. The image on the right is the courtyard of the Cimitero.

The cycle of life is represented within the complex. You begin as a child being baptized in the Baptistry. (Baptism is evidence that you now belong to the ‘club’.) The bells ring out for the new member; the bells also mark the hours and on Sunday call you to Mass at the Cathedral. At the end of your life, you are carried into church and after the funeral Mass, the procession makes its way to the cemetery, accompanied by the tolling of the bells. (The Catholic Church organized and managed everything in Medieval times.)

The complex has green grass in between the buildings which adds to a sense of frivolity and serenity. (Missing is the hassle and bustle that is Florence.)

In the above image, I was interested in capturing the amazing blue sky through the lattice stone-work. (How do they make stone look so delicate, so ethereal?)

It is fun to remind Connie that she’s in a cemetery; that she’s walking on top of people’s graves.

some of my favorite things-1

eighth-post – pisa
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  • The host at the restaurant last night, told the wait-staff that we were a Milanese family. When the young server came over, she was confused that we were all speaking English, especially the one person in the group that looked most Italian. (That would be Connie and she was very proud of that comment.)
  • My sister wanted to buy something that she could say, “I got this in Florence.” She decided to buy a print from a street vendor. We tried to warn her, but NO, she was determined. The street vendor’s buddie started hassling the rest of us for discouraging her and we walked away. The vendor she was negotiating with took her €2 coin and wouldn’t give back unless she gave him more money for the print.
  • Christian has decided that no matter how miserable Italian drivers behave, he’s just going to act his Canadian self.
  • We get to the Airbnb in Bologna and Seane has me give her my phone and she is able to figure out how to get into the locked gate. Me, I would have been there cursing a blue streak.
  • When Connie goes into a church, she goes up to one of the side-niches and lights 3 small votive candles. One for our sister Jo’, one for our father and one for ‘good luck’. In Bologna, I was there with her in the Cathedral when she lit the votives and I told her that she needed to leave an offering. NO – she was not leaving an offering and her father would agree with her, because them Catholics have enough money. And it wasn’t like they were giving the offerings to the poor.
  • I purposely packed the Not Today T-shirt and several times throughout the two weeks people game me a thumbs; one woman from New York City asked if we could take a pic together.
  • Once we got to Venice, I insisted that we go up to the train-station so I could see Santiago Calatrava’s foot-bridge – Ponte della Costituzione. It was time to laugh at the old man, who up to that point had tried to meet everyone else’s expectations and was now demanding that his be met. “Yeah, I was in Venice and I’m an out and proud Calatrava groupie, so yes I want to go see the bridge. Everyone get changed now, because Seane is taking us there.” Lots of ribbing and laughing followed, all directed at me. Who cares, we’re going to see a Calatrava bridge.
  • The night of the 17th, we walked down to San Marco all ready to dance to Billy Joel’s Keeping the Faith. (If Venice was going to be out backdrop, then let’s pick San Marco.) We had Billy on my phone; Christian had his 4D camera going and we danced. A fellow tourists, enjoying the music joined in. (I’ll post the video as soon as I get it.)

the mists of avalon

ninth-post – bologna
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We’re staying at this amazing Airbnb in the southern hills of Bologna; it’s a 3-bedroom apartment. There’s a park – Giardini Margherita – across the street. (On our way into town, we went food shopping and had a picnic in the park.) The apartment building is nestled in the hillside surrounded by sumptuous villas and giant ever-greens. From the balcony, I captured the image on the right. The Romanesque bell-tower is down in the flats, in the city proper.

Bologna is a respite from the craziness of Florence; it breaks up the drive to Venice; and we can eat some of the best food in all of Italy. We went out for gelato; it was so good that we decided to try out their granita – amazing. We then walked over to Restorante Alice and made reservations for tomorrow night. Restorante Alice was one of the reasons to come to Bologna. (Rose, Derrick and I first ate at Alice some 15 years ago and we’ve coming back whenever we’ve been in this part of the country.)

My mother’s generation knows Bologna as a premier medical center; my group knows it as the foodie capital of Italy.


italy – 2019
tenth-post – bologna
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laundry, gelato, mortadella and alice – part one

I planned Orvieto as an alternative to Rome, that way when we got in we wouldn’t have to deal with the craziness that is The Eternal City. I planned Bologna as a place to decompress after Florence and a place where we could do laundry. (How gouache would it be to dry your undies on a balcony in the city of Lorenzo de’ Medici?) Also in Bologna, we could have amazing gelato, as often as possible, and we needed to have dinner at Ristorante Alice.

The other thing we needed to do while in Bologna was buy mortadella at Ceccarelli’s and eat it in the courtyard of the Palazzo Communale – City Hall. It was 2012 and my cousins – Rose and Derrick – bought mortadella and when we went into the courtyard, they decided that they had to have a snack. I remember being aghast at their audacity, but when it comes to good food these two will break all protocols, all sense of civility. (The middle image, in the triptych, is of Rose and Derrick.)

It’s 2019 and the four of us proudly followed in their footsteps.


italy – 2019
eleventh-post – bologna
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laundry, gelato, mortadella
and alice – part two

This post has two goals – explaining the various foods and explaining the hands grabbing the bowl of Parmigiano.

We’re at Restorante Alice on the edge of the University quarter. We ordered the buffet and by mistake added a tortelleni-al-brodo and a tagliatelli-a-ragu.

The buffet is what Ristorante Alice is know for. It’s a series of amazing delicious tapas – zucchini grilled in a balsamic reduction, eggplant wonderfully charred and drizzles with olive oil … but the all time favorite is the ricotta. It’s so creamy we were wiping the side of the bowl with our fingers and bread, because we weren’t going to let any of it go back. And the small bowls just kept coming. There was cured sausage, cherry tomatoes in olive oil, a sweet cabbage, grilled red and yellow peppers, mortadella. (Seane and I were trying to distract Christian from eating his creamy ricotta, but he wouldn’t cooperate.)

The last item of the buffet is fresh pecorino scooped with a spoon and served with 4 amazing toppings – pumpkin jam, fig jam, local honey and onion jam. The jams are made by the chef. (The very first time Rose, Derrick and I were at Ristorante Alice, the server brought us the pecorino wheel and a spoon stuck in the middle along with the jams. We didn’t know what to do. But we learned quickly.)

Reaching for the Parmigiano
We discovered that Connie loves her grated Parmigiano. She will literally move heaven-and-earth to get to the cheese. We first noticed in Orvieto when she told the server that he could leave the grated pecorino; he gave her such a look, but he left the cheese bowl. Our standing comment was that Connie like some brodo – broth – with her cheese. But let’s be clear, the emphasis was on the grated cheese.

At Alice we ordered two additional dishes – the tortellini and the tagliatelli – by the time they were served we were already bursting, but Connie was not going to pass up a pasta dish that allowed her to add grated cheese. In the above image, Connie is reaching for the cheese bowl.


italy – 2019
twelfth-post – venice
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la serenissima

My favorite explanation for why Venice is referred to as La Serenissima is:

In addition to being prosperous for the wealth it held, it is said that Venice was particularly tolerant of foreigners who went to the city for commercial reasons. Thanks to the incorruptible system of justice, in force at the time, a real climate of peace and serenity had been established in the city, for which the lagoon would continue to boast this name – La Serenissima – in the following centuries.

The last time I was here was some 20 years ago and we did day-trips, because we couldn’t find accommodations over Easter. (Venice was full of Italians who travel during the Easter break.)

This time, we were coming into the city through the airport. (I figured returning the rental at the Venice airport was easiest.) And the Airbnb in Venice gave me a list of options for getting into town. There is public transportation – boat – for approximately $20 between the Marco Polo Airport and the center of Venice. It took an hour to get to the Rialto Bridge, a central point on the Grand Canal. And our Airbnb was a ten minute walk towards the Mercato – the farmers’ market area of town.

The above image was shot from the airport-boat taking us into Venice.


italy – 2019
thirteenth-post – venice
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a voice in the wilderness

As soon as we put our suitcases in the rooms and changed, we headed into the calle – allies – and canals of San Polo, Santa Croce and the Dorsodouro. In one of the many small piazza, Seane spotted the graffiti about bombing and fucking.

For someone with little sense of direction and a need for visual landmarks in order not to get lost, the beehive that is Venice doesn’t bother me, mainly because no matter how deep into the maze I am, I can always reach the Grand Canal. And as long as I know that, all the disorientation of the twists and turns don’t bother me.

I used the title, because it was somewhat of a shock to see in very plain, very correct English a pertinent announcement. It’s not necessarily a new message, I’ve seen variations before, but it was a shock to be reminded of the hypocrisy we live with, and it was a shock to see it in Venice.
Let me get something off my chest. I dislike Florence; I prefer Venice. And I believe the tourist industry and the cultural cognoscenti push Florence over Venice. Florence is pretty; Venice is falling apart; Venice stinks; Venice is full of graffiti. I say, Florence is pretension and attracts the pretension. I never saw so many men in salmon colored suit-jackets, so many over-coiffed peacocks strutting around; so much artificial cleanliness. To me, Florence is a mausoleum being jealously guarded and excessively polished. It’s a glorification of wealth; it calls out to the wannabes telling them that they too can bask in the Medici’s leftovers. It’s Americans watching Downton Abbey and believing that they are part of the Upstairs people.

Venice is alive – the graffiti, the Bienales, the people still living in the calle, on the secondary canals. La Serenissima is still subject to the whims of nature, the pull of the moon. You can never forget that the sea is a punitive mother; you never forget that old dowager is fading.


italy – 2019
fourteenth-post – venice
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through a glass darkly

We’re at the Peggy Guggenheim. The collection is housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, an 18th-century palace on the Grand Canal, which was her for three decades. It is one of four Guggenheims; the other three are in New York City, Bilbao and Abu Dhabi.

The last time I was here, the Wertheimers went to the museum and I went to the cemetery on the Isola di San Michele; I went to find Stravinsky’s grave. I even collected a handful of small pebbles from the grave-site and still have them on my desk in a shallow bonsai pot.

I want to write that it was a simpler time and Venice wasn’t yet over-run with foreigners using its majesty as a backdrop for their selfies – ME on the Rialto bridge, ME in front of the Campanile, ME in San Marco square. But that certainly sounds hypocritical given that I took home rocks from Igor’s grave.

In the image on the right, the small poured-glass figurines, on shelves in the window, overlooking the Grand Canal, are sculptures from sketches by Picasso. The grand palazzo in the background was once home to Caterina Cornaro, the daughter of an ancient Venetian family.

The Marino Marini sculpture – L’angelo della cittàThe Angel of the City – in the entrance courtyard, is silk-screened on all the museum’s T-shirts and as much as I wanted to buy one, walking around Pittsburgh with an line-drawing of a man on a horse with a hardon just wouldn’t work.


italy – 2019
fifteenth-post – venice
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magical mystery tour

We began our last day in Venice riding the elevator to the top of the Campanile. What an amazing vantage point. (We had expected to walk up, but that is no longer an option.) And to top off the experience, the massive bells began to toll while we were up there. OMG!

Our next stop was the island of Murano. We got to see a glass-blowing demonstration, but Murano is very commercial and very touristy. After walking into a few stores and seeing the extravagant prices, we opted to get back on the boat and head up to Burano – the northern-most, peopled island in the lagoon.

Muraon is glass; Burano is lace. What we didn’t expect were the outrageously painted houses. We went off the main canal through an archway and headed into the small town and what we found was house after house painted in the most outlandish colors. It was Disneyland like. The above image is in town on one of the smaller canals.

What I liked best about Burano were the regular people going on about their everyday lives. I stopped at a small Frutti e Verdura – fruit and vegetable market – and everyone in line spoke the Venetian dialect.

All the boat-rides – Rialto to San Marco, San Marco to Murano, Murano to Burano, and Burano back to Rialto – as well as the boat-ride to the train station the next day cost us €20 per person.


italy – 2019
sixteenth-post – venice
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The Venice train-station deserves its own post.

This brief history of the train-station if from Wikipedia. – The current station building is one of the few modernist buildings facing the Grand Canal. It is the result of a series of plans started up by the rationalist architect Angiolo Mazzoni in 1924 and developed by him over the next decade.

In 1934, a contest for a detailed design for the current station was won by Virgilio Vallot. Between 1936 and 1943, Mazzoni and Vallot collaborated on the construction of the station building; Mazzoni also designed the train hall. The final implementation, however, was undertaken only after the Second World War. In 1952, the station was completed on a design which had been developed by another architect, Paul Perilli.

In November 2009, work began on the renovation of Santa Lucia station. The renovation would include improvements to the use of spaces and the flow of internal transit. In addition, certain architectural elements would be recovered and restored; the atrium would be altered to house several retail spaces. This project was completed in 2012 with a cost of 24 million euros.

Throughout Italy, train-stations tend to be in the older, poorer sections of town; well not in Venice. Throughout Italy, train-stations are riddled with graffiti and garbage; not in Venice. Throughout Italy, train-stations are areas that attract pickpockets, migrants and the homeless; not so in Venice. Throughout Italy, train-stations are cruising areas, pick-up spots and venues for beggars; not in Venice. Throughout Italy, the old, 19-century train-stations are being torn down and replaced by soul-less concrete coverings; the Venetians renovated their pre-war station for modern times. The Santa Lucia train-station is elegant, clean and well run; it has cafes and small restaurants that are efficient and reasonably priced. And Venice is on the newly built, high-speed – Frecciarossa – train system. (I decided that I wanted to travel at bullet-speed and in comfort, so I bought tickets in the QUIET/Business carriage of the Frecciarossa; we enjoyed our 4-hour ride to Rome.)

Using our 24-hour pass, we boarded the #1 vaporetto to Santa Lucia at 8:11 and by 10:30 we were speeding towards Baroque Rome. We made 3 stops – Padova, Bologna and Florence. Only the Bologna station was as clean and as graffiti free as the Venice terminal; the rest fit the stereotype. The Florence train-station was particularly dirty, graffiti strewn and surrounded by dilapidated buildings.


italy – 2019
seventeen-post – rome
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rione i monti

We arrived at Roma Termini on time and after realizing that we were 10 minutes from the Airbnb, we decided to walk.

Rione I Monti is Rome’s hipster neighborhood. It’s also one of the few remaining areas that is home to actual Romans not tourists. It’s also Rome oldest neighborhood.

Monti is an eclectic neighborhood in the city center, with both bohemian and classical elements. Archaeological sites like Trajan’s Markets and Nero’s Domus Aurea palace occupy its southwestern edge. Family-run trattorias, hip wine bars and funky vintage boutiques are tucked in its piazzas and back streets, and draw a mix of expats, students and locals. (from the web)

Our Airbnb was on via dei Capocci – Cabbage Street – and the small square down the street from us was Piazza degli Zingari. My last name in a form of zingari which in Italian means gypsies.

The Airbnb – I Capocci – was the best accommodations of the entire two weeks. It was a two-floor apartment beautifully renovated. The bedrooms were substantial, the kitchen/dining area were wonderful spaces to cook eat and socialize. (Such a contrast to the place we had stayed in Venice.) Even though the Colosseum was down the street from us, and the massive Santa Maria Maggiore was up the street, the area was quiet and felt like a neighborhood instead of a heavy trafficked tourist thoroughfare. Also, we were nowhere near the Vatican with its swarming sycophants and its men and women prancing around in Medieval dresses. (Oh tell me your surprised by my comments.)

BTW, we went nowhere near a church while in Rome even though San Pietro in Vincoli with Michelangelo’s Moses was only a short walk from us. We were in town for a day-and-a-half and I decided that we would do Outdoor Rome, rather than museums and churches. We walked 14 miles in our day-and-a-half visit in temperatures in the 90’s. (Here’s a generational comment – Seane and Christian drank and filled their water-bottles from any outdoor fountain they could get near. Their old uncle wouldn’t touch the water coming from the hundreds of fountains. It’s still in my head that the water isn’t as clean as the water here at home.)

None of the images on this post are mine. Because we were visiting locations that I had shot several times before, I didn’t take any new pictures. And we were in Monti for such a short time before we headed to the tourist sites, that I didn’t get to walk and shoot the neighborhood.

The image on the left is Piazza della Madonna dei Monti a hot-spot for hip young Romans and a couple of block down from where we were staying. In the image on the right, in the middle background, is the monumental Santa Maria Maggiore.


italy – 2019
eighteenth-post – rome
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62 years later

We began this morning at the Colosseum. We were there early and still had a long wait, because once they reach a capacity of 3,000 in the amphitheater, they slow the lines down until some leave. From Monti, we walked to the Pantheon to see the oculus, (I refuse to acknowledge that the amazing Roman temple has been turned into a church.) then onto Piazza Navona and then across Ponte Sant’Angelo and into the Vatican.

In memory – sixty-two years ago – Spring, 1957 – Ciccio, Mafalda, Mario and Connie sat in St. Peter’s colonnade and had lunch. We were in Rome for our physicals, a requirement before we could emigrate to Canada. And in my memory, it’s always the right-side and the area as soon as you go into the of the colonnade.

After our picnic, we went into the basilica and touched St. Peter’s foot – a certain good-luck-charm of the time. We even bought a small statuette of St. Peter, from one of the many hucksters outside the colonnade, to give to my grandmother when we got to Canada. (The thumbnail on the left is the statue inside the church. The left foot is so worn, from pilgrims touching it, that it no longer has toes.) And I remember that when we got to Sault Ste Marie, I gave grandma the small gift. She displayed it proudly and I can still see it on the dresser in the living room that had become my grandparents’ bedroom. (Ciccio, Mafalda and Connie had taken over their old room.)

And that’s where we are, 62 years later, under the right colonnade and away from the white, Roman sun. No food this time only water.

Connie suggested we do a generational pic – the two of us and Seane and Christian – and the composite is those images. (The two images are slivers, because I had to remove a family who was sprawled in the background.) When Connie told Mafalda about our re-enactment, my mother said she had no memory of having gone to the Vatican. All she remembers of the trip was that she had worn heals to “look good” and her feet were so sore that she stayed back in the hotel room when we went on our trek across Rome.

italy … final thoughts

June 21, 2019 diario/journal, italy

italy – 2019
final thoughts
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reflections and memories

This is my favorite picture from the trip. (I like the frame of the second mirror behind Christian and I like the green of Seane’s shorts in the lower right corner.) We’re in Murano at a glass factory and the gilded mirror, created by the factory glass-blowers, was hanging in the hallway.

from the prologue – I said to Connie that we are taking our youngest sister’s kids to the land of their Nonno and Nonna; to the land where their uncle and aunt were born; to the land that is part of their DNA; that is part of their heritage.

I’m writing this entry on June 30, 2019 the eighteenth anniversary of Jo’ death. This is my toast to someone I still miss very much.

It was great having two weeks with the kids; and I can honestly say we had a lot of fun. Connie’s sense of wonder allowed me to see Italy through an unfiltered lens; Christian’s focus on safe-driving made the trek to Venice enjoyable and gave me one less thing to worry over; Seane’s navigational skills always got us where we needed to go, removing all anxiety about finding ourselves lost.
Maneuvering the ancient alleys of Orvieto in an over-sized Ford van, finding great pasta in the side streets, the kids in their blue capes, in the Cathedral, looking like penitents or super-heroes
      — Ferragamo in Florence, the Medici Chapel, the cannabis shop, a street-vendor
      hocking God-and-Adam’s hands, and a beautiful Armani sweater
A leaning bell-tower, a Cimitero, and the gleaming white of Pisa’s wedding-cake Duomo
      — santo stefano gelato and mint granita in the university quarter, mortadella in the courtyard, a picnic in Gardini Margherita,
      and then Ristorante Alice
The Peggy Guggenheim on the Grand Canal, the vaporetto to Murano, dancing in Piazza San Marco, and the painted houses of Burano
      — The cobble-stoned streets of Monti, Piazza degli Zingari, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s colonnade, the Airbnb on via dei Capocci,
      the home-cooked meals and the sparkling white wine
All amazing

red sky at night …

July 17, 2019 2019, diario/journal

red sky at night …

It’s been a miserable couple of days – the temperatures have stayed above 80o and the humidity is so close it’s like walking through a sauna. And the forecast is the same for the rest of the week. (Venice was hot and humid, but Rome was just hot and we still walked from Monti to the Vatican. It’s the humidity that I hate most.)

Recently someone asked a friend, who now lives year-round in Florida, what happens during the summer months down in the sunshine state; the answer was great, “We do what you guys do up here during winter; we stay indoors.”

There are a number of small projects that I want to do in the backyard, but they will have to wait for better weather. (The above image was taken right before a summer-storm and the sky was a deep brownish-red.)

Toni Morrison

August 5, 2019 2019, diario/journal, in memorium

Toni Morrison

Wednesday, February 18, 1931 – Monday, August 5, 2019

We die. That may be the meaning of life.
But we do language.
That may be the measure of our lives.

Excerpts from the Nobel Lecture – December 7, 1993 1

Thank you. My sincere thanks to the Swedish Academy and thank you all for this very warm welcome.

Fiction has never been entertainment for me. It has been the work I have done for most of my adult life.

I believe that one of the principal ways in which we acquire, hold and digest information is via narrative. So, I hope you will understand when the remarks I make begin with what I believe to be the first sentence of our childhood that we all remember, the phrase “once upon a time.”

“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind but wise.” Or was it an old man? A guru, perhaps. Or a griot soothing restless children. I have heard this story, or one exactly like it, in the lore of several cultures.

“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise.”

In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question.

Speculation on what (other than its own frail body) that bird-in-the-hand might signify has always been attractive to me, but especially so now thinking, as I have been, about the work I do that has brought me to this company. So I choose to read the bird as language and the woman as a practiced writer. She is worried about how the language she dreams in, given to her at birth, is handled, put into service, even withheld from her for certain nefarious purposes. Being a writer she thinks of language partly as a system, partly as a living thing over which one has control, but mostly as agency – as an act with consequences. So the question the children put to her: “Is it living or dead?” is not unreal because she thinks of language as susceptible to death, erasure; certainly imperiled and salvageable only by an effort of the will. She believes that if the bird in the hands of her visitors is dead the custodians are responsible for the corpse. For her a dead language is not only one no longer spoken or written, it is unyielding language content to admire its own paralysis. Like statist language, censored and censoring. Ruthless in its policing duties, it has no desire or purpose other than maintaining the free range of its own narcotic narcissism, its own exclusivity and dominance. However moribund, it is not without effect for it actively thwarts the intellect, stalls conscience, suppresses human potential. Unreceptive to interrogation, it cannot form or tolerate new ideas, shape other thoughts, tell another story, fill baffling silences. Official language smitheryed to sanction ignorance and preserve privilege is a suit of armor polished to shocking glitter, a husk from which the knight departed long ago. Yet there it is: dumb, predatory, sentimental. Exciting reverence in schoolchildren, providing shelter for despots, summoning false memories of stability, harmony among the public.

The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheekit must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.

The old woman is keenly aware that no intellectual mercenary, nor insatiable dictator, no paid-for politician or demagogue; no counterfeit journalist would be persuaded by her thoughts. There is and will be rousing language to keep citizens armed and arming; slaughtered and slaughtering in the malls, courthouses, post offices, playgrounds, bedrooms and boulevards; stirring, memorializing language to mask the pity and waste of needless death. There will be more diplomatic language to countenance rape, torture, assassination. There is and will be more seductive, mutant language designed to throttle women, to pack their throats like paté-producing geese with their own unsayable, transgressive words; there will be more of the language of surveillance disguised as research; of politics and history calculated to render the suffering of millions mute; language glamorized to thrill the dissatisfied and bereft into assaulting their neighbors; arrogant pseudo-empirical language crafted to lock creative people into cages of inferiority and hopelessness.

Word-work is sublime, she thinks, because it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference – the way in which we are like no other life.

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.

1 Toni Morrison Nobel Lecture – The Nobel Prize

John J. Greeley

August 10, 2019 2019, diario/journal, in memorium

John J. Greeley

Monday, October 7, 1929
Saturday, August 10, 2019

During my year at the Novitiate in Narragansett – 1968/1969 – John Greeley was our theology teacher. And he was funny, dynamic, smart, subtle – amazing. He introduced us to the study of scripture. And what Greeley did, that was severely left for the time, was present the Old and New Testaments as archives to learn from, to understand. He was our resident scholar and the bible our research lab. (John never suggested that these testaments were recipes or guidelines for a good Catholic life.)

John had us work from The Jerusalem Bible, the first Catholic bible translated from the Hebrew and Greek texts, rather than from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. (One of the postulants who left the Novitiate shortly after we got there in June of 1968, deeded me his copy of The Jerusalem Bible. His nickname – Pini, written in ballpoint – is still scrawled on the inside front-cover.)

The Jerusalem Bible became our textbook; we wrote in the margins; we folded corners, we stored our notes among the verses … Greeley opened up a window into the study of scripture that I never knew existed. And because of John, the love and study of these ancient texts has stayed with me.


John J. Greeley S.T.D., 89, of Middletown, Rhode Island, passed away at Newport Hospital on August 10, 2019.

John was born in New York, NY to the late Arthur L. Greeley and Mary F. (Fogarty) Greeley. He was the husband to Mary Louise (Ide) Greeley, PhD.

After John had graduated from Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in New York, NY, he entered the Novitiate of The St. John Baptist De La Salle Brothers of the Christian Schools. John received his Bachelor of Arts at The Catholic University of America and moved on to receive his Master’s degree at Manhattan College. He received his licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) and went on to complete his Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.) both at The Catholic University of America.

In 1979, he received his dispensation from the Pope to leave the Christian Brothers. In January of 1980, he was hired by Salve Regina University as chair and professor of Religious Studies. John assisted in the Roman Catholic Initiation of Adults Program (RCIA) at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Newport for many years. He also helped with Troop 1 Portsmouth Boy Scouts.

John is survived by his loving wife, Mary Louise Greeley, their son, John J. Greeley Jr., of Somerville MA.

Besides his parents, he was predeceased by his three brothers, James Greeley, Arthur Greeley, and his twin brother, Charles Greeley.

1st post

September 23, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections

This is the first post in the re-designed website. I’m no longer working in code. WordPress has me learning to use blocks.

Today is also the autumnal equinox with both the Northern and Southern hemispheres experiencing an equal amount of daylight.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the beginning of astronomical fall, with daylight hours continuing to shorten until the winter solstice in December.

The image is from North Park, I was walking up Walter Road and saw the Milkweed pod along the hillside. My favorite route is to climb the southern ridge using Walter Road and then take flat Lakeshore back to the parking lot. It’s one of the most quiet and car-free of the various trails in the Park. (The best is North Ridge Road in the winter when it’s closed to traffic.)

I made no alterations to the image except to crop it – sometimes it’s just right the way it comes. I’m using the new camera in aperture priority and am getting some decent results. The bend in the filaments show the direction of the wind – a soft autumn breeze.

50 years later

September 26, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections, reunion

I’m in Narragansett at the Christian Brothers Center – what used to be the district’s administrative offices and the Novitiate.

I was assigned a room in the new wing. In the image, I’m on a small deck between the old mansion and the new wing. (This is the first of several images that I shot through a ‘looking-glass’.) Greg is in the mansion; and where my room, in the addition, is modern and well appointed; his is a bit more dated.

The drive up was amazing – the area around Newark Airport was a massive traffic jam and getting across the George Washington Bridge was nightmarish.

And when I crossed into the Bronx, the density of the region just hit me – from Philadelphia east it’s a mega human colony – and I shivered remembering a time when I too lived in this eastern beehive.

Thankfully, Waze took me off I-95 and sent me up to the Hutchinson Parkway and then onto the Merritt Parkway; these ‘parkways’ made up for the New Jersey Turnpike and the George Washington.

I-95 through Connecticut was also an experience in driving through human density just not as stressful as earlier in the drive. But once I hit Rhode Island and turned south towards the beaches, the environment changed. The buzz and swirl of I-95 gave way to the bucolic Rhode Island landscape. A landscape and lethargy I remembered from years gone by.

in front of the novitiate

September 26, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections, reunion

The coastline in front of what was The Novitiate, we always referred to as The Rocks. It’s a rugged, inhospitable sliver just north of Scarborough State Beach.

After getting here, Greg and I walked down to The Rocks. Fifty years ago, all of us would walk through under-bush to reach the water, now the area across from the Christian Brothers Center, is a park with gravel trails leading both to the rocky coast and down to the beach.

Back then, I never considered the thought that there would come a time when I would be 70 years old and again walking The Rocks with a friend from my Novitiate group.

In ’68, the Rhode Islanders – John and Mike – kept telling us that by fall the beach would be empty; by the end of September, the tourists and the summer residents would be gone. And I do remember having The Rocks and Scarborough Beach to ourselves; looking for starfish in the rocky pools; body-surfing in the warm salt water.

And this weekend, we again had the rocks and the ocean to ourselves .

scarborough beach

September 27, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections, reunion

In 1968, I was wearing out the grooves of Simon & Garfunkel’s LP Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. And Scarborough Fair/Canticle was my favorite cut on the album.

are you going to scarborough fair
parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
remember me to one who lives there
she once was a true love of mine

And a series of coincidences, surrounding the Scarborough Fair/Canticle track, will always be linked in my brain:

  • At the end of June, 1968, I left Sault Ste Marie for Toronto to meet up with the group that was going down to the Brothers’ Novitiate in Narragansett. We met at the Toronto Brothers’ headquarters in Scarborough, Ontario. (That’s were the Toronto Brothers’ Motherhouse was back then.)
  • The next day, we piled into a beige van for the trip. There were 6 of us – Jimmy, Nelson, Ray, Brother Lucian, Brother Phillip and me – in a boxy vehicle driving into the unknown. (My experience of the U. S. was crossing the bridge into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and I certainly had no idea what Rhode Island, let alone this strange place called Narragansett was. I remember looking it up on a map and still had no reference for what I’d find.)
  • I can still see the green highway sign on the 401, pointing us back to Scarborough, but we kept west, making our way towards the US border at Buffalo, New York. ( Scarborough Fair/Canticle playing in my head.)
  • We must have stopped throughout the 9-hour drive, but the only stop I remember was in Providence. We got there late afternoon and went looking for someplace to eat and I couldn’t get over the fact that the place looked deserted. It was the weekend, but I knew nothing of American cities and their work-week rhythms. So, it was strange to see this empty city.
  • The last leg of the trip took us south, probably on I-95, I again saw a green sign announcing Scarborough Beach; we took that exit. Talk about surreal.
  • Days later, after some settling in, a group of us walked down to Scarborough Beach. It was like I had come full circle.


September 28, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections, reunion

Saturday morning Greg, Paul, Bobby and I headed over to Newport. In the image on the right and going L to R – Bobby, Greg, me and Paul; we’re on the grounds of Salve Regina and walking around the Ocre Court mansion – the main administrative building. The two images were shot against the massive mansion windows. (Ochre Court is a large chateau-like mansion. It was commissioned by Ogden Goelet, a New York financier (robber baron), and built at a cost of $4.5 million in 1892. It is the second largest mansion in Newport after the nearby Breakers.)

The Newport Bridge, like us, was also celebrating its 50th. (I remember it being a big deal when it opened back in 1969. Narragansett is across the bay from Newport and we practically watched as the new bridge was going up.)

Salve’s 80-acre historical campus, bordering the Newport Cliff Walk, is set on seven contiguous Gilded Age estates with 21 structures of historic significance. And the college has weathered the transition from Catholic, all-girls school to co-ed, modern university. It’s also dear to the hearts of the four of us, because our Theology teacher during the Novitiate, John Greeley, taught here and our Director of Novices – John Veale – ran a house of prayer on campus. (Bobby pointed out where John’s office had been and Greg pointed out the building where he had spent a summer with our Director at the house of prayer.)

still life

November 16, 2019 2019, diario/journal

The last week had me fly to Northern Ontario; visit with my mom; meet with her rehabilitation team; deal with the first snow-storm of the season; negotiate the roads and streets of a town drenched in six-inches of snow; visit with Franchino; and finally come home.

I was totally unprepared for the weather. WTF, it’s early November. (my only concession was to bring a knit, in-between Canada Goose jacket. and even with that, I risked being mocked by the ‘manly’ Canadians.) Besides the snow, it was freezing. Parking lots and streets were treated with sand, it was too cold for salt. And by the afternoon, walking anywhere meant sloshing through dirty, sand covered melt.

The image on the right came about because I was pruning the bay-leaf I had brought in for the season. Didn’t want to throw away the stem I had cut, so decided to put on my desk as counter programming to the coming of winter.

The Objects
– tile from Deruta that I use as a coaster
– tin cup is from the gift-shop at The McMichael in Kleinburg, Ontario
– light-bulb-and-base is an industrial table-lamp
– oval mirror is IKEA’s best
– bay-leaf stem
– glass bottle – truly vintage (it comes from Paul’s grandparents’ house in Wilmerding, PA)
– and a brushed-steel cell-phone stand


November 17, 2019 2019, diario/journal

In contrast to the gloom of Northern Ontario, today the skies were brilliant (even if pittsburgh is the fifth gloomiest place in the lower 48). And even though it’s November – the month of the dead – and even though we’re racing towards the winter solstice, having a sunny day helps to neutralize, helps to balance the gray.

The above image is from my walk in North Park. My favorite route is up Walker Road and once off the hill, south along Lake Shore Drive to my car.

Many of the bare trees along Walker Road are draped in vines full of orange berries. (i don’t remember as many berries last year.) I kept thinking – is this a harbinger of a bad winter? is nature providing for its creatures in what may be a long dark season?

tom stack

December 11, 2019 2019, diario/journal, in memorium

Tuesday, September 26, 1950
Saturday, September 16, 2017

I hear the drizzle of the rain
Like a memory it falls

Kathi – my friend Tom’s wife – moved back to Pittsburgh back in September and today, we spent the morning walking through Phipps Conservatory. The Winter Flower show was beautifully pretty.
And talking with someone who lived with and loved a dear friend was a restorative experience.

And from the shelter of my mind
Through the window of my eyes
I gaze beyond the rain-drenched streets

I wanted to know about Tom’s end-of-life and Kathi was amazingly generous and honest.

Tom died two years ago and I’ve been trying to write an in memorium for him ever since. I think today, after spending the time with Kathi, I can write about Tom.

My mind’s distracted and diffused
My thoughts are many miles away

Tom and I were friends from our time at the Novitiate in Narragansett. The friendship was forged in the winter of 1968/69. One of my favorite memories of that time is of a bunch of us going out walking, after a huge snowstorm, through the fairways of the golf-course that surrounded the Novitiate property. I got stuck in a snow-drift and Tom lay down flat on the surrounding snow and reached over to pull me out of the mound. (who knew that a kid from Queens, could conquer 10 feet of snow.)

christmas – 2019

December 29, 2019 2019, diario/journal

This was both a familiar and an unusual Christmas in Sault Ste Marie.

The familiar
– Christmas Eve dinner was at my uncle-and-aunt’s and it consisted of the traditional dishes.
– Christmas Day dinner was at my mother’s house. My sister created the same menu my parents have served the last 50 years. My brother-in-law and his family cooked and prepared the meal with my sister and my mother.

The unusual
– my mother, who now lives in a retirement home, was both a participant and a guest.
– I stayed at the Water Tower Inn during my visit. (the image on the right is the courtyard from my window.)
– never saw the sun the whole time I was visiting. It was wonderfully warm (as warm as Northern Ontario can get in late December), but gloomy.