a cup of kindness 1

January 3, 2020 2020, diario/journal

It’s different getting to your seventies and looking back – the focus is softer, the memory forgiving. 2

I’ve been emailing with an old acquaintance from when I was a monk back in the 1960s and it seems that the correspondence is slowly moving towards a friendship. What an unusual development. It’s certainly not what I had expected.

Reconnecting with someone you knew as teenagers is always a crap-shoot. You have no idea what life has done to them. Have they become adults in the time between; are they able to look at the intervening years and see a shared history or are they stuck on the mythology of the past? And, if the reacquaintance proves awkward – difficult even, is it OK to resettle that person back in memory?

The past is a different country; they do things differently there. 3

Exchanging emails with an old classmate has been a great surprise. In memory he was a brooding clairvoyant who seemed to see much more than he could contain; that made him both scary and appealing. And, as a snotty teenager, I focused on the scary and repressed the pull to get to know him.

Fifty years later, I’m discovering a kindred spirit – a thinker, a hard worker, a self-made man, a responsible adult, a dad, a husband, a son-in-law, maybe a friend.

What a curious situation to find myself in …

So why the pic of the wreath on the gray-washed door?
The picture has the two elements that I’m struggling with – background and foreground – memory and clarity. The door is an old design, with age-old patina and classical hardware, the wreath, with its withering greens and garish ribbon, is 2019. And yet the two elements exist in alignment, in proper arrangement; they compliment each other.

They make a great visual composition.

1 – Dougie MacLean. Auld Lang Syne. 2014.
2 – It’s my 71st birthday.………………………….
3 – Hartley, L.P. The Go-Between. 1953.

a simple dinner

January 4, 2020 2020, diario/journal

The holidays insist on lavish and traditional meals. And this is true both in Sault Ste Marie at my uncle-and-aunt’s and at my mother’s as well as here in Pittsburgh. The New Year’s Eve meal here in town, that we’ve come to call ‘the all meat dinner,’ had 8 different dishes. It’s been a month of big dinners.

Tonight, I wanted a simple meal – rapini sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with garlic and hot pepper flakes, a sharp Australian cheddar, a crusty baguette  and a glass of Chianti.

I’ve been forced into a transition – a shift away from a hard-copy newspaper. For years, I’ve been getting the New York Times daily and I read half of it with breakfast and half with dinner. Well, this week the paper hasn’t been there in the morning. To compensate, I moved my laptop to the kitchen and began reading the Times online. (i miss turning the pages – yeah, yeah i know – turning pages is so 20th century)

Also, since my November visit to Sault Ste Marie, I decided to have a glass of wine with my dinner. (in the past, i would have wine with meals only when visiting with my immigrant family and friends or if i went out to dinner) This shift was prompted mainly by my uncle’s discovery of the Spadafora Winery’s Terrano Rosso. Its grapevines run the south-west side of the mountains that Aprigliano sits on; and this Rosso is exceptional. (i was born in aprigliano/cosenza, many moons ago) And thanks to LCBO online – Liquor Control Board of Ontario – I was able to order a case and it’s waiting for me at my cousin’s. (my uncle is great at discovering new wines and the LCBO brings in many calabrian wines that he judiciously samples) In the image below, the Terrano is the second from the left.

The Prosecco – far left – is from the Prosecco Hills of Conegliano e Valdobbiadene a UNESCO World Heritage Site, north-west of Venice. This bubbly was the inspiration to go back to northern Italy this coming May. (i’m saving this last bottle for when my friends move into their new condo) The Terrano, besides its low tannins and its home-town appeal, I’m keeping until I can retrieve my reserves from my cousin’s. The Appasimento is another Venetian; this Passito Rosso is full-bodied with a 14% ABV – alcohol by volume. My fellow immigrant from San Giovanni in Fiore introduced me to this hardy red. (it’s my only bottle, so until i can get more it’s gonna sit and look pretty, i love the label) And lastly the Chianti with its classic fiasco bottle wrapped in raffia, it’s imported into Pennsylvania by the Emilio Pio Group of California. (the prosecco, terrano and appasimento are from the LCBO, the chianti is from the PA state store)

Both of the above images were shot with my phone camera.
The featured image – not shot with a phone camera – is the label on the Appasimento bottle.

the magi

January 6, 2020 2020, diario/journal

The image is a fragment from Gentile da Fabriano’s Adoration of the Magi.
The altarpiece is housed at the Uffizi.

I like the palette – the golds, the dark-blues, the yellows, the rich browns. But the fact that the Magi look like Renaissance Florentines, in extravagant dress, just heightens my disdain of the 1%ers and my antipathy for Holy Mother Church.

The little boy, in the blue top and bending under the skirt of the third king, is removing the regent’s spurs. Don’t we all want a lackey following us around and bending to remove unnecessary accouterments when we’re on our way to an important meeting?

And spurs can be so inconvenient and never mind how long I had to wait for that jeweler to make me something that matched the hose I had picked out for the meeting with them Jewish peasants.

The falconer behind the third king and above the little boy is Palla Strozzi who commissioned the altarpiece; and the young man on his right is his son Lorenzo.
Palla Strozzi was heard whinnying to a local TV anchor that he had no choice but to commission the painting, because his fellow Florentines didn’t believe that he was there in Bethlehem with the Three Kings.

And let’s not forget the two women behind The Virgin examining the gift presented by the kneeling king.
“Buff, it’s only gold-plated. It must be a re-gift.”
“Muff, they’re foreigners.”

In the 15th century, Palla Strozzi, one of the richest man in early Renaissance Florence, commissioned Gentile da Fabriano to paint the altarpiece for his family church of Santa Trinita.

west-end overlook

January 17, 2020 2020, diario/journal

The last time I was at the West End Overlook was easily 30 years ago. It was my first visit to Pittsburgh and Jerry-and-Diane took us there. (jerry worked in the west-end and knew about the scenic overlook)

Where Mount Washington gives one the view of downtown from a southern vantage point, the West End Overlook faces east and directly at the downtown triangle with Point State Park at its vertex.

round & round & round

January 19, 2020 2020, diario/journal

In Calabria, it’s still common to celebrate one’s Saint-day – onomastico. And today, being the feast of Saint Marius, many of my Aprigliano relatives sent congratulations. What a contrary experience – receiving best-wishes over social-media for a tradition begun some six hundred years ago.

The image on the right was shot in front of the glass windows of the West End Overlook visitors center.
And what I like best are the verticals and horizontals that live in the flat surface. (the only rounds are the glasses, the lens-face and the logo on the jacket)

It seems narcissistic and presumptuous to use a reflection as the image on a post about one’s Saint-day, but I like juxtapositions and I rarely take pictures of people and when I do, I default to reflections. (an old friend, who recently found my images, pointed out that i have many pictures of myself in mirrors) Glass and mirrors filter; they reverse; they distort; they reflect an unreality; they create a surrealism. (think orson well’s the lady from shanghai – rita hayworth in the funhouse mirrors)

With the thumbnail that leads to this post, I wanted to distort the selfie motif. And since the bottom of the original, with the tan snow-boots and striped socks, is my favorite detail, I made it the featured image. It continues the contradiction theme – this time going from self-promotion to anonymity.

winter’s grip

February 4, 2020 2020, diario/journal

Being Calabrese, I’m very susceptible to superstition – there’s a lot of my maternal grandmother – Marietta Perri – in me. Hockey players may have the reputation for being the most superstitious of athletes – lacing their skates a certain way, putting on their equipment in a particular order, wearing the same underwear each game – but let me tell you, they have nothing on us Southern Italians.
For example …
– I always put my car key into the ignition button-side forward. It obviously insures that the car will start.
– My shoes are always lined up in a particular order because random invites evil.
– I always wait for an odd-numbered time to get out of bed, because rising on an even-numbered time could totally wreck a day.
– And all my journal entries have odd-numbered time signatures. Some of the best times are 1:03, 5:13, 7:17, 9:59, 11:11, but the most auspicious is 3:33.
And I blame it all on my grandmother and my Roman and Greek ancestors.

With that set-up, you can understand why writing this post is scary. I worry that if I make any reference to a short and mild winter, the weather gods will summon the snowstorm from hell; or for laughs-and-giggles, conjure an arctic vortex and bury us in a deep freeze until April. And I know no prayer or offering I can make that could entreat leniency.

My grandmother could counter the curse of the malocchio – the evil eye – and her fellow immigrants came from near and far to have her minister to them. But she never taught me her secrets, so I remain captive to my unjustified beliefs and their hallucinatory consequences.

first snow

February 7, 2020 2020, diario/journal

The first week of February brought the first significant snowfall. That is the best.

Winter 2019/2020 has 89 days and today is day 47. We made it through the first half of the season without snow. Also, today’s snow is a wet-spring-snow and will probably be gone in the next couple of days.

Wet-spring-snow always reminds me of March days in Sault Ste Marie, when we would chase the last snows of the season on the cross-country trails. Skiing in March required specialty waxes and I can still remember the drudgery of waxing skis just to get another run before the woods would be drowned in mud from the retreating melt.
No-wax skis were useless in heavy, wet snow and we were forced to abandon the new technology for the true and tried elbow-grease of old fashion waxing.


February 12, 2020 2020, diario/journal

I left Aprigliano when I was 8 and at that age you don’t get to hear all the stories that define a place.

The small hilltop town southeast of Cosenza is organized around its parishes; my family lived in the Santo Stefano parish and neighborhood. A recent online posting explained the origin of the ‘special’ saint associated with the parish of Santo Stefano. For the families of the parish, La Madonna di Porto Salvo was our patroness. Her feast day is September 11 and the ensuing celebration was as huge an event as Christmas. I remember the procession to bring the statue from its small chapel in the woods east of town and the installation of La Madonna in our parish church. The next couple of days the main street in Santo Stefano was lit with luminara and under the lights street vendors hucked toys and foods; I tasted peanuts for the first time at one of these feste.

On an online post, a person from Aprigliano explained that the Madonna di Porto Salvo was established as a response to the 1854 earthquake that supposedly spared the parish of Santo Stefano.
Earthquakes were a preoccupation of everyone in town. And I guess that when you live in stone buildings – structures that are all interconnected – seismic shifts are things to be greatly feared.

In the above composite, on the left is the Madonna di Porto Salvo and on the right is the Madonna del Pilerio in the cathedral in Cosenza. The feast of the Madonna del Pilerio is February 12.
I suspect that the prototype for the statue of the Madonna di Porto Salvo was the statue of the Madonna del Pilerio. Aprigliano is a suburb of Cosenza, the provincial capital.

In the composite above, on the left is the small woodland chapel of the Madonna di Porto Salvo and on the right is the cathedral in Cosenza dedicated to the Madonna del Pilerio.

It’s taken almost 70 years to fill-in-the-blanks.


February 14, 2020 2020, diario/journal

It may be the beginning of spring here in Southwestern Pennsylvania, but damn is it cold outside.
Many, in this part of the country, have re-calculated the seasons:
– winter spans the time between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day
– spring goes from February 14 to Memorial Day
– summer begins the last Monday in May and rolls on to Labor Day
– fall starts in the early weeks of September and ends with Thanksgiving in November.

But if today was our ‘over-the-hump day’, we were all being laughed at by the weather gods that live in them there clouds.

Also, I’ve been trying to figure out a correlation between latitude/longitude and highs/lows and it’s clear that many factors contribute to temperature and geographic coordinate are not necessarily great indicators of warm or cold. What follows is a list of four cities, I’ve tracked today.
– At 40o North Latitude, Pittsburgh is the southern most city of the four. Today’s low was 12.
– At 43o North, Toronto is the next southern most city and its low today was 15.
– At 44o North, Saint-Émilion, France had a low of 38 this morning – go figure. This southwestern French town made it onto the list, because I follow a couple of British expats who run a vineyard –
Clos Vieux Rochers – outside of town. And their recent photographs show a region free of snow or they record activities – pruning, laying cement – I associate with mild spring temperatures.
– And finally at 46o North, Sault Ste Marie registered a low of 11 this morning.

Saint-Émilion is the outlier and I want to know why.

The image is my bay-leaf plant with its copper dragonfly hovering above the green leaves. The temperature was freezing, but the sun was shining, so I took the pot outside, positioned it in front of the angel and photographed it. I wanted to pretend that, on my favorite holiday, winter was on its way gone.

february light

February 19, 2020 2020, diario/journal

You could see how at the end of each day the world seemed cracked open and the extra light made its way across the stark trees, and promised. It promised, that light, and what a thing that was. As Cindy lay on her bed she could see this even now, the gold of the last light opening the world.

The quote is from Elizabeth Strout’s new book Olive, Again.
I found the description online, liked it a lot, decided to copy it down and use it in a post.

Today the sun was brilliant and I walked up Walter Road and then along the eastern shore of the man-made lake at North Park. Elizabeth Strout’s quote flashed in my mind as I shot picture after picture of the blue sky and the blue waters. The image is of Pine Creek as it flows into the artificial lake that is the heart of the park.

I’ve never paid much attention to the vagaries of February; never knew that there was such a thing as February light. And yet for the last couple weeks, I’ve been amazed to find it still light at 6:00 pm; to see the snowdrops sprouting in my back flowerbed; to discover the lenten-roses full of buds; to see the robins chasing each other.


February 20, 2020 2020, diario/journal

Flying too low is even more dangerous than flying too high,
because it feels deceptively safe.

Three version of Icarus are represented in this post:
– the thumbnail, featured image on the homepage is Henri Matisse’s Icarus painted in 1947
– in the above composite, the left image if from the Valley of the Temples in Sicily and the fallen Icarus is from ancient Greek
– and the image on the right is Pierre Le Faguay’s Art Deco sculpture of Icarus created in 1928.

In myth, Icarus is Daedalus’ rule-breaking and tragic son.

Literary interpretation found in the story the structure and consequence of over-ambition.

In psychology there have been synthetic studies of an Icarus complex – an alleged relationship between fascination for fire, high ambition, and ascensionism. (love the word) Psychiatrists saw disease in the ecstatic-highs and depressive-lows of the complex an illness similar to bipolar disorder.

Seth Godin’s 2012 The Icarus Deception points to the historical change in how Western culture both propagated and interpreted the myth. Everyone knows that Icarus’s father made him wings and told him not to fly too close to the sun; he ignored the warning and plunged to his doom. The lesson: Play it safe. Listen to the experts. It was the perfect propaganda for the industrial economy. What boss wouldn’t want employees to believe that obedience and conformity are the keys to success?

But Godin also argues that “we tend to forget that Icarus was also warned not to fly too low, because the seawater would ruin the lift in his wings.”

In the composite, I put the fallen hero first; so that in reading left-to-right, you see a young man getting ready to leap last. It’s the strategy of putting the most important element at the end.


March 13, 2020 2020, diario/journal

For three long years, the country has tolerated, has showcased an administration that has repeatedly told lies and now when we are confronted with a pandemic we’re insisting that the same people who’ve been lying to us turn on a dime and tell the truth.

I am one of the people who believes that MSNBC and Fox News are equal partners in propping up the lying. Just because MSNBC scolded and was outraged for 3 years, the network never stopped covering the lying. Every one of their shows was about the lying.
The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal covered the lying every day. In the last 3 years more ink and more newspaper was used to keep the lying on the front-page, above the fold.
Every comedian from Stephen Tyrone Colbert to Trevor Noah, to Bill Maher  made the lying the centerpiece of their show.
It’s been the trump-show 24/7 for 3 long years. And all media profited GREATLY from this focus – chiching, chiching!

And now we’re tired; we’re bored; we’re scared. Now we’re in crisis and we want someone to tell us the truth; we want a new show … good luck with that.

the sisters of mercy

March 15, 2020 2020, diario/journal

they lay down beside me, i made my confession to them


Oh, the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song
Oh, I hope you run into them, you who’ve been traveling so long

Yes, you who must leave everything that you cannot control
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul
Well, I’ve been where you’re hanging, I think I can see how you’re pinned
When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned

Well, they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
They will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon
Don’t turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon
And you won’t make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night
We weren’t lovers like that and besides, it would still be alright
We weren’t lovers like that and besides, it would still be alright

the great empty

March 31, 2020 2020, diario/journal
the title comes from a section in this week’s sunday’s new york times

The image is of Pope Francis, in Piazza San Pietro, walking up the rise to the outside podium on the evening of March 27. An empty piazza, rain washed steps, a pope alone in a time of plague.

It’s strange for me to use this image, but I know what that space looks like, having been there with thousands, and to see it empty, shimmering and blue let me get over my own prejudices.

In this time of plague

  • every sniffle, every cough feels like a symptom
  • hand washing and washing, and washing
  • avoiding the doom-and-gloom of TV
  • avoiding the lies from the WH
  • doing FaceTime
  • texting morning noon and night


April 2, 2020 2020, diario/journal

In a town in Calabria …

Today is the feast of San Francesco di Paola – St. Francis of Paola – the Calabrese mendicant friar and founder of the Order of Minims. He is the patron of Calabria, and because Paola was an hour away from my hometown of Aprigliano, my family made the trip several times.

My most lingering memory of Paola is a day-tip with my dad and our cousin Za Peppina – Aunt Josephine. We went to the beach. And among the various entertainment, there was a vendor, who for a small fee, would take you out to the outlying rocks on his wooden rowboat. I refused to go, but my dad went and when the small wooden boat disappeared in the swell of the wave, I was convinced the boat and my dad were lost forever. (was it a lack in object permanence development or a lack of knowledge of waves?)

Also Tomie dePaola, the American writer and illustrated who created the children’s book Strega Nona, died on March 30. His Italian grandparents came from the city of Paola. The book begins with the endearing phrase – In a town in Calabria …

Tomie dePaola at Glastonbury Abbey, Hingham, Massachusetts.” August, 1962

On the death of Tomie dePaola, the Glastonbury Abbey published the above image on its Facebook page.

The next paragraphs in this post are about my cousin.

My cousin and her husband live north of Detroit an area hit particularly hard by the COVID plague. And as a relief gesture, I sent her a copy of dePaola’s Strega Nona.

She came home from her walk in the subdivision to find an Amazon box on her front steps. She opened the box and saw the children’s book. Her first thought was that someone had hacked her Amazon account and her credit card account. She spent the next couple of hours frantically trying to contact both Amazon and the credit card company. She had no luck.

She went back to the box and after lifting out the book, noticed a piece of paper that had information saying that the book was a gift. She called and relayed the story.

My first comment was to suggest she not tell the story to anyone else. My second comment was – WHAT HACKER WOULD BREAK INTO YOUR ACCOUNT AND THEN SEND YOU A $15 CHILDREN’S BOOK? OMG!!!

the red gate

July 15, 2020 2020, diario/journal

Haven’t posted since the beginning of April.

(Pennsylvania went into lock-down on March 16.)

Didn’t want to write during the quarantine mainly because everyone else was documenting the experience, and I didn’t think it needed another voice. After-all, I’m a retired 70-something – I have a pension; I don’t work, I don’t have to worry about rent; I don’t have to worry about health care ...
Yes, I learned how to Zoom and that has been fun. I even play canasta online with 3 Canadians – Frank in Toronto, Ron in Leamington and Brian in Markham.


So, what finally gotten me here?
The newly painted alley-gates – the above image is of the gate at the sidewalk; the featured image is of the back alley-gate. Both were designed and built by Steve Shepherd of Gilgamesh Forge up in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania.

The above pic came after several tries. I’ve been shooting the front gate for the last 3 days and it was only this morning, when I went back to simply remove the lock so as to get only the gate in the pic, that I began experimenting. And, the result is the above image. It looks like something you’d find in Europe.

In the next paragraph, I’m going to reference Freud’s definition of uncanny – the class of frightening things that leads us back to what is known and familiar. (now tell me that isn’t a spectacular definition)

Let me begin by saying that I am terrible at picking a pallet from a set of color chips. Every time I’ve had to do this, I always picked wrong. (In the kitchen, it took three paint jobs before I got the right color. In the bathroom, there are paint splatters around the light fixtures that no where match the wall paint, but the bathroom is getting re-done, so it’ll get repainted.)
This inability to generalize from color-chips continued when I went to pick the paint colors for the wooden window-trims, door-frame, door and decorative cornices on the front of the house. The painters had to paint over the accent color I had picked. (For a couple of days, the front of my house looked like an Italian flag – OMG!!! – tacky to the max.)
However, I did pick the right color for the front-door and on a whim, I decided to have them paint the alley-gate the same red as the front-door.
And wallah, I got a red alley-gate.

Freud would refer to the serendipity as uncanny; I like his word better.

plague & infection

July 26, 2020 2020, diario/journal

North Park was full of walkers – even an a morning when the mercury hit 87 before noon – and no one was wearing masks.
I got in a 2-mile walk before heading home.

The above image is of a fallen log – the reflection and haziness are what I liked best.

According to Amazon, I’ve reading non-stop since January 1, 2020. Don’t understand why that’s worth recording. And in the course of my reading, I’ve lifted the following quotes from the various books.

Nothing is impossible at seventeen. The world lays open like a giant buffet of possibilities. Seventeen is bulletproof. Seventeen is Superman with no kryptonite. Seventeen is fast cars, raging hormones, loud music and instant infatuation. Seventeen is fuckin’ amazing.

Time folds in on itself.

Tell me again how we fell in love.
It was during the smaller moments in our lives … and all the spaces in between.

He latched onto it, trying to anchor himself, only to be caught by an eddy of questions and suppositions.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice
TS Elliot

What is amiss, plague and infection mend.
Timon of Athens

hiding behind hay-bales

July 29, 2020 2020, diario/journal

They were hiding behind hay bales
They were planting
in the full moon
They had given all they had
for something new
But the light of day was on them
They could see the thrashers coming
And the water
shone like diamonds in the dew

And I was just getting up
hit the road before it’s light
Trying to catch an hour on the sun
When I saw those thrashers rolling by
Looking more than two lanes wide
I was feelin’ like my day had just begun

Where the eagle glides descending
There’s an ancient river bending
Thru the timeless gorge of changes
Where sleeplessness awaits
I searched out my companions
Who were lost in crystal canyons
When the aimless blade of science
Slashed the pearly gates

It was then I knew I’d had enough
Burned my credit card for fuel
Headed out to where the pavement turns to sand
With a one-way ticket to the land of truth
And my suitcase in my hand
How I lost my friends
I still don’t understand

They had the best selection
They were poisoned with protection
There was nothing that they needed
Nothing left to find
They were lost in rock formations
Or became park bench mutations
On the sidewalks and in the stations
They were waiting waiting

So I got bored and left them there
They were just dead-weight to me
Better down the road without that load
Brings back the time when I was eight or nine
I was watchin’ my mama’s TV
It was that great Grand Canyon rescue episode

Where the vulture glides descending
On an asphalt highway bending
Thru libraries and museums
galaxies and stars
Down the windy halls of friendship
To the rose clipped by the bullwhip
The motel of lost companions
Waits with heated pool and bar

But me I’m not stopping there
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line in the field of time
When the thrasher comes
I’ll be stuck in the sun
Like the dinosaurs in shrines
But I’ll know the time has come
To give what’s mine

Neil Young, “Thrasher,” Rust Never Sleeps, Reprise, June 22, 1979.

the shift

August 5, 2020 2020, diario/journal

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone, and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead, and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them


This morning, I went walking in North Park and the cool weather made it feel like fall; also, finding acorns on the ground reinforced the shift that’s coming.
And where shifts and change push us away from the present, push us further from the past, they are also occasions to remember what went before.

après la guerre

August 10, 2020 2020, diario/journal

Rene and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Returned to their hotel suite
Easily losing their evening clothes
They danced by the light of the moon
To the Penguins, the Moonglows
The Orioles, and The Five Satins
The deep forbidden music

Rene and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Were strolling down Christopher Street
When they stopped in a men’s store
With all of the mannequins

dressed in the style
That brought tears to their immigrant eyes

the butterfly effect

August 11, 2020 2020, diario/journal

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”

      quote from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Today, Joe Biden named Kamala Harris as his running mate.

Recently, Franchino and I have been talking about chaos theory, specifically the butterfly effect. I believe that when Dylan, on August 12, 1965, walked on stage at the Newport Folk Festival carrying an electric guitar, he was the butterfly who flapped its wings changing pop music forever.

In the last six months, something has occurred, something small – somewhere a butterfly has flapped its wings – and the world will be forever changed. I can’t identity the incident; it will probably take some time, some distance from the current chaos to be able to point to the event that was the butterfly effect of 2020.

morning light

August 18, 2020 2020, diario/journal

        I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love

The above quote is from Hamilton – King George singing about his relationship with the Colonies. (It’s such a Southern Italian sentiment.)
It also seems pertinent today with our own ‘mad king’ making threats – threats that he thinks sound normal. But many of his rants force us to acknowledge that we are are witnessing a leader deteriorating into mental illness at a time when our country is most in need of honest, and talented leadership.

Last night at the opening of the Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama said the following:

So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.

And the above pic is of North Park Lake. Morning light is amazing. When I came back around, an hour or so later, the contrast, the details were all bleached out by the late morning sun.

sacred & profane

August 31, 2020 2020, diario/journal
angel and sprite
and trunk

One of the things I like best about photography is its ability to define reality. Looking at the above pic, it’s easy to pretend that we are looking at some lush landscape. No, ur looking at my backyard.
The green shoots in the foreground are chives, the green in the background is my gigantic oregano plant.

The sacred–profane dichotomy is an idea by French sociologist Émile Durkheim, who considered it to be the central characteristic of religion: religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden.
In Durkheim’s theory, the sacred represented the interests of the group, especially unity, which were embodied in sacred group symbols. The profane involved mundane individual concerns.
Durkheim explicitly stated that the sacred–profane dichotomy was not equivalent to good/evil. The sacred could be good or evil, and the profane could be either as well.

The most amazing piece of the quote is that Durkheim saw the profane as mundane, individual concerns.

In the 21st century, on the cusp of a national election, we Americans must choose between the sacred and the profane.

BTW, people who know me will not be surprised by the following confession – I rarely use the chives and oregano to cook with, but I diligently keep them free of yellow, dried-out stems and rigorously prune for the right form. (Please – the chives and oregano plants are showcase worthy. The featured image for this post – the image on the homepage that links to this post – is the oregano plant.)

beauty & pride

September 8, 2020 2020, diario/journal

why do you stand by the window
abandoned to beauty and pride
. . .
lost in the rages of fragrance
lost in the rags of remorse
. . .
and come forth from the cloud of unknowing
and kiss the cheek of the moon
. . .
and leave no word of discomfort
and leave no observer to mourn

Sunday, Sarah and I did the 5-mile loop around the man-made lake in North Park.
The above pic is from the Demonstration Garden at Babcock and Ingomar. (I need to go back and get the name of the plant.)

Because I got some great shots at the Garden, I’m trying something new – embedding large images into a post. Pictures this large have always been reserved for the homepage slide-show or the galleries; I wanted to see what a post full of images looks like. (The Featured image on the homepage that links to this post is also from the Garden.)

All I did was crop the three large images – 1200px X 500px.

tending my own garden

November 7, 2020 2020, diario/journal

I always find it difficult watching playoffs and election results. And this time it was the election results that were spiking my anxiety into the stratosphere.

I had tuned off the TV last Friday, October 30. Couldn’t deal with the tension coming from the cable-news readers. And on election night, the best I could do was watch for a minute at 8:00, 9:00 and 10:00. And even that became an exercise in frustration, so the TV went off and stayed off.

But just because the ‘boob-tube’ was off that didn’t mean my anxiety was reduced or controlled. The thought of 4 more years of the ‘asshole’ was not a thought that settled me in any way; if anything it made me crazy. So, I decided that it was time to step away from the electronics and to tend to my garden. I was Candide returning from the New World of 24/7 cable-news and scattered social-media to the slower more practical reality of my backyard.

The lilac tree that has been part of my backyard landscape for some 30 years was badly diseased and needed to be cut down. So, Thursday morning I got my pruning sheers and my saw and began cutting it down. And by Friday afternoon, the contractor was taking out the stump.
The images below show the progression from bare trunk to removed root-ball.

The last four years have been my slow and painful disillusionment of the American culture I readily joined in 1968.

The novella begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism by his mentor, Professor Pangloss. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this lifestyle, followed by Candide’s slow and painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes Candide with, if not rejecting optimism outright, advocating a deeply practical precept, “we must cultivate our garden”.

And I too returned to my garden after the craziness of the last 3 days.

And then at 11:44 am, I started hearing people outside cheering and celebrating.


November 17, 2020 2020, diario/journal
  • it’s been a year since I drove to Narragansett for the 50-year re-union (the image on the left is the admin office at Homewood Cemetery, but the detail reminds me of the mansion at the Brothers’ Center in Narragansett)
  • it’s been two weeks since the election
  • and it’s been 11 days since the election was called for Biden
  • and it’s been two weeks since I turned off cable-news
  • to distract myself from the chaos and hyper-tension of the last two weeks, I took down the lilac tree, paid to have the front-steps replaced and paid to have new concrete poured in the alleyway
  • and to keep the idea of change alive, I’ve decided to raise a middle finger to conventions and to wear what I want
  • in the mist of this existential crisis, I began listening to two amazing books – Gay New York (Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1940) by George Chauncey and The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name by Brian C. Muraresku
  • the Chauncey book explains the why, when and how the current white-privilege and toxic-masculinity culture was created
  • the Murarsku book connects religious ecstasy with Psilocybin 
  • Murasku also taught me the acronym SBNR – spiritualist, but not religious

thanksgiving – 2020

November 26, 2020 2020, diario/journal, thanksgiving

What I remember of that first Thanksgiving, back in 1968, in Warwick, Rhode Island …
Saturday morning, John and I drove into Providence to visit his uncle and aunt and, I remember seeing,
for the first time, three-story clapboard houses.
John’s uncle and aunt – his mother’s brother and sister – lived just down from La Salle Academy – the Christian Brothers’ highschool in Providence and John’s alma mater.

This morning the sun peaked over the rooftops landing on the red leaves of the trees in the garden of the Mattress Factory. It was an interesting effect. The above image doesn’t capture the brightness of the morning sky.

It’s a strange time in post-election, COVID-raging America. Yes, some 61% of people opted not to travel for Thanksgiving, but all college-students are returning home both for the holiday and for the semester. The rest of the world has no idea what Americans are doing traveling given the infection rate and an out-of-control virus.

And the Supreme Court ruled to temporarily block governors from applying mitigation efforts to gatherings at religious institutions. The crazies are cheering, because the Supreme Court is finally fighting for religious freedom – OMG.

Even the Pope seemed to disagree with the Court – Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate . . . It is all too easy for some to take an idea- in this case, for example, personal freedom- and turn it into an ideology, creating a prism through which they judge everything.

the children of …

November 28, 2020 2020, diario/journal

Last night, I watched an interview with Sidney Lumet. And one topic that he kept coming back to was – what happens to the children of radicals. Four of his films – Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Running on Empty, 12 Angry Men and Daniel – try to examine this disturbing topic.

Also, an amazing short – Tragedy In A Temporary Town – from his days in early TV, deals with what happens to a young man when there’s mob-rule. Lloyd Bridges, as the antagonist, is amazing.

All of this had me thinking of what has happened with the children of many of the ‘radicals’ of the current administration.

  • the children of the out-going president
  • Michael Flynn’s son
  • Kellyanne Conway’s daughter
  • Giuliani’s daughter who is estranged from him and his son who works for the current administration
  • Kyle Rittenhouse, whose mother dropped him off in Kenosha, Wisconsin in the middle of a riot (the above image is of the young man with supporters and the featured image is of the young man among the vigilante in Kenosha)
  • and finally the children of the migrant, seeking asylum, who were separated from their parents and locked up in cages

The Media and the Left have focused on the outrageous behavior of the out-going president; who will finally look-at/examine the tragedy, the abuse of what the adults, associated with the current administration, have brought on their children?

‘alfway in light

December 1, 2020 2020, diario/journal

it came …

I’m having an absolute ball listening to Brian Muraresku’s The Immortality Key. The other day I was walking in North Park and laughing at his telling of the story of Persephone and Dionysus at the wedding feast. Muraresku makes some amazing statements …

  • the Greek language makes no distinction between madness and drunkenness
  • ——————————————————————————————————–
  • New Testament scholars acknowledge the Bible isn’t the most accurate record of historical events
  • the story of the Wedding in Cana is only in the Gospel of John (I had forgotten that) and it’s a retelling of the story of Persephone and Dionysus – a story of Persephone asking her son to help at a wedding feast and Dionysus changing water into wine, at the prodding of his mother
  • if you read Euripides’ The Bacchae and the Gospel of John side by side, . . . the same scenes show up, sometimes even the same words
  • the early Church Fathers were well aware of the disconcerting relationship between Dionysus and Jesus
  • ——————————————————————————————————–
  • the pagan continuity hypothesis – if drugged wine was the Greek’s path to immortality, did a drugged Eucharist offer the first Christians the kind of experience reported by the participants of the psilocybin experiments at Hopkins and NYU
  • did the original Eucharist promise the dissolution of the self and the melting away of barriers mentioned by the Jewish, Christian and Islamic mystics
  • without the genuine psychedelic sacrament inherited from the Greeks, how could a placebo Eucharist convince anyone to drop paganism
  • ——————————————————————————————————–
  • the original, obscured truth of Christianity has nothing to do with worshiping Jesus, and everything to do with becoming Jesus
  • if the Greeks didn’t need Jesus to find salvation, why do we
  • ——————————————————————————————————–
  • according to Carl Ruck – author of The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries – the true origin of Jesus’ Greek name is the root for drug or poison

Some Explanations
– today was our first snowfall
– the title is from Chim Chimney from Mary Poppins;
Up where the smoke is all billered and curled
‘Tween pavement and stars is the chimney sweep world
When there’s ‘ardly no day nor ‘ardly no night
There’s things ‘alf in shadow and ‘alfway in light

– the photo is of the various garden-posts clustered in the back-corner flowerbed;
– and the tag next to the pic is from the carol – It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.

Don’t ask what Mary Poppins, tomato stakes and a Christmas carol have to do with psilocybin, the Greeks and the Eucharist, because I don’t have an answer. But in my head these 6 topics all travel the same neurological pathways.

half in shadow

December 13, 2020 2020, diario/journal

  • the plants in the backyard are almost all cleaned up – the geraniums are still green and I can’t bring myself to cut them, but the next cold-spell will surely freeze them
  • the bay-leaf is indoors and so it the Frank Lloyd Wright Indian Woman (on a whim I put her on the window sill next to the bay-leaf)
  • all the new bulbs are planted (I was anxious that the weather would get ahead of me, but this past week has been unseasonably warm)
  • it’s been a deep and dark December


December 21, 2020 2020, diario/journal

May the longest night and the shortest day,
bring rest to your mind and soul, I pray.

May you find guidance and may you find peace,
as the cycle of light will slowly increase.

Embrace the magic that the darkness bears,
breath deep in the chill and shift in the air.

May you always be blessed with the light from within,
and may well-being be yours as the new cycle begins.

The geranium is still alive – it’s been covered by snow for the last 5 days.

The Solstice Blessing was poster by JoAnne.

In the Featured image I tried to show the darkness and the light.

buon natale

December 24, 2020 2020, diario/journal

For the first time since 1968, I am not in Sault Ste Marie for Christmas.
I am at home.

I’m living in Narragansett, Rhode Island and Brother John Veale, our Director of Novices, decided that we could go home on December 26.
(I did miss the two major holidays meals – the traditional Calabrese Christmas Eve meal and Canadian hybrid Christmas Day dinner.)

Paul and I had decided to leave New York City and move to Pittsburgh. And given that it would be our last Christmas in the City, I decided not to travel for the holidays.

My sister Jo’ had died at the end of June and I really didn’t want to be in Sault Ste Marie for Christmas. (We each mourn in our own way.)
Rick and Sarah suggested a trip to Israel and I was onboard.
(I remember calling my mother, on December 26 – the feast of St. Stephen –  to tell her I was at St. Stephen’s Gate in Jerusalem. Our frazione/neighborhood/parish in Aprigliano was Santo Stefano.)

The border with Canada is closed. Them Canadians are smart to keep us COVID deniers out; to keep us no-mask fools out of their country.
The Ontario government has issued a lockdown as of 12:01am December 26 – they are trying to prevent what happened in America after the Thanksgiving travel-and-spread.


I’ve been collecting Italian Christmas cards for years.
The image above is one of my favorites. Love its simplicity. The featured-image is another card in the same style.
Also, love being in my own home for the holidays; and I love not celebrating Christmas.
Are we finally able to define ‘family’ as something other than our DNA group; as something other than our husbands and wives?

santo stefano

December 26, 2020 2020, diario/journal

in aprigliano,
we lived
in frazione
santo stefano

Where in Canada today is Boxing Day, a leftover from British colonialism, in Italy this is the feast of Saint Stephen. All over the peninsula there are towns, and hamlets named for this so-called first martyr.

In Aprigliano, my family lived in the frazione/neighborhood/parish of Santo Stefano. We had moved up the hill once my grandmother and aunt left for Canada to join my grandfather.

We moved into what was my grandmother’s ancestral home.
– The term ‘ancestral’ is relative, especially when you consider it was two large rooms at the bottom of a wide staircase. But it overlooked the Crati valley and the mountains opposite – an outstanding view. The downstairs room had a window overlooking the mountains to the east; but the upstairs room had a balcony and a pergola; I used to love to sit and stare at the opposite hilltop; and in the fall eat the ripening grapes. (My mother claimed that the mountains were full of briganti – brigands, and 5-year old me believed her.)
– Also, there were no internal stairs. My mother tells the story of having to go outside and up the exterior steps to go to bed. My dad put in a set of inside stairs.

In the early 40’s that section of the hilltop was the new, up-and-coming neighborhood. It attracted the new families, the younger people. And yet these ‘middle-class’ families soon abandoned it for the wilds of Canada, Argentina and Australia. (If you’ve ever been to Northern Ontario, you know that my adjective is almost sarcastic.)

When I first visited, some 25 years ago, Santo Stefano was almost empty; the alleyways that I ran through as a kid were filled with derelict houses; the communal over where my mother baked bread and cooked taiella had been bricked over; our beloved parish church had a leaky roof; and the interior was water stained and musty with disuse.
Today, the frazione has become the hub of gentrification in Aprigliano.

In 2001, I spent Christmas in Israel – one of my all time favorite trips. On the 26th, we walked the Via Dolorosa in the old town. The route to Golgotha begins at St. Stephen’s Gate. I remember calling my parents and explaining that Stephen had been martyred in Jerusalem. (All that time I assumed Stephen was just another Italian Catholic saint – aren’t they all.)


December 30, 2020 2020, diario/journal


in royal

david’s city

The carol Once In Royal David’s City is a favorite, but it hits-you-over-the-head with its English syntax and its Anglo message.
               And through all His wondrous childhood
               He would honour and obey,
               Love and watch the lowly maiden,
               In whose gentle arms He lay:
               Christian children all must be
               Mild, obedient, good as He.

Tell me that the above stanza isn’t a description of how British children should behave. And in the land of severe class assignments and proper behavior, having a Christmas carol that preaches the ‘party-line’ can’t be a surprise.

Royal David – OMG
But in Oakville, the most English of Toronto’s suburbs, there’s Royal Windsor Drive.
And from the Property Portal come the following: Streets with regal or titled names such as Royal, Palace, Lord and Bishop can boost the value of homes lining their pavements.


The title Christmas head-space came from a text exchange with a friend. He began talking climate change and I answered that I couldn’t think about that right now, I was still in my Christmas head-space.
I had to explain that the term has NOTHING to do with belief. The Christian myths surrounding the season, to me, are just that – myths.
However, I do like the music. Wait, let me qualify that. I like the music associated with the Christian myths; the commercial American carols are not interesting. Sorry Rudolph, sorry Halls, sorry Bells, sorry Frosty …

without mercy

January 20, 2021 2020, diario/journal

an end

and a


I bought the lilies on January 11 to mark the death of Sheldon Adelson – a one-percenter who has funded the worst in our politics. And today, one of those worsts, the 45th president, became gone.
But then, by 11:59 am, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had been sworn-in to become the new President and the new Vice President.

By today, all the blooms had opened and for two days, I’ve lived in nasal congestive hell. But I wanted to have the lilies there for the inauguration; I wanted something that I had purchased to celebrate a death, become a symbol of new life.

Today, in the New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman wrote an amazing op-ed.
And he opens the piece with absolutely elegant writing.

Folks, we just survived something really crazy awful: four years of a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, amplified by a network without integrity, each pumping out conspiracy theories without truth, brought directly to our brains by social networks without ethics – all heated up by a pandemic without mercy.