January 2, 2021 2021, diario/journal

The above images – on the left Modular by Le Corbusier and on the right Vitruvian Man by Da Vinci – have finally been united.
I bought the Modular poster when the Wertheimers and I were in Romchampt at Notre-Dame du Haut – the amazing chapel designed by Le Corbusier to commemorate the resistant fighters of World War II. And it’s been in the downstairs big-room since then – some 30 years.
I knew it was based on Da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man drawing, but I was always too bashful about putting the two pieces next to each other, mainly because Da Vinci’s man was naked. But time and age change many things; I bought a poster of the famous geometric man and put it next to Modular.

The Vitruvian Man – L’uomo vitruviano – originally known as Le proporzioni del corpo umano secondo Vitruvio – The proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius – is a drawing made by the Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci in about 1490. It is accompanied by notes based on the work of the Roman architect Vitruvius. The drawing, which is in ink on paper, depicts a man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and inscribed in a circle and square. – Wikipedia

The Modulor is an anthropometric scale of proportions devised by the Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier (1887–1965).
It was developed as a visual bridge between two incompatible scales, the Imperial and the metric systems. It is based on the height of a man with his arm raised.
Le Corbusier developed the Modulor in the long tradition of Vitruvius, Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and other attempts to discover mathematical proportions in the human body and then to use that knowledge to improve both the appearance and function of architecture.The system is based on human measurements, the double unit, the Fibonacci numbers, and the golden ratio. Le Corbusier described it as a “range of harmonious measurements to suit the human scale, universally applicable to architecture and to mechanical things”. – Wikipedia

the 12th day

January 6, 2021 2021, diario/journal



On this the 12th day of Christmas, the feat of La Befana and the day that right-wing terrorists stormed the US Capital, I wanted to use the wonderful note, from 1922, written by the young Marco. (I love the old fashion cursive.)

In the note, the young-man is writing to his dad and his mom – Babbo, Mamma. And in it, he prays that the child born in Bethlehem, will help end the war; that the child born in Bethlehem help the many wounded and imprisoned soldiers.
It’s an amazing sentiment that still rings true some hundred years later.

And to commemorate La Befana, I used a drawing of the ‘old hag’ from another antique card, as the featured image for this post.
Growing up in Aprigliano, in the early 50s, our stockings were filled for the feat of the Epiphany, when the Magi came to the stable bearing gifts. December 24 and December 25 were occasions for family and friends, for Christmas Eve dinner with Midnight Mass. We got gifts on January 6, and they were brought to us by La Befana.

Today, with the feat of the Epiphany, the Christmas Season ends.

after the war

January 11, 2021 2021, diario/journal
  • Many are tired of the COVID news reporting; I’m tired of the January 6 reports. Cable news reports with the same high-anxiety they brought to election night 2020.
    I know it was horrible, but I’m not one of those people who needs convincing, so I’ve turned off TV.
  • Today Sheldon Adelson died; he was part of the white-supremacy movement that began in 2009 with the founding of the Tea Party and morphed into the terrorists that attacked the Capitol on January 6.

And now a word from the merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail …

He had it comin’
He had it comin’
He only had himself to blame

You know how people have these little habits that get you down
Like Bernie
Bernie, he liked to chew gum
No, not chew, pop
So I came home this one day
And I’m really irritated
And I’m looking for a little bit o’ sympathy
And there’s Bernie lyin’ on the couch, drinkin’ a beer and chewin’
No, not chewin’
So, I said to him, I said “Bernie, you pop that gum one more time”
And he did
So I took the shotgun off the wall
And I fired two warning shots
Into his head
Now, I’m standing in the kitchen
Carvin’ up a chicken for dinner
Minding my own business
In storms my husband Wilbur in a jealous rage
“You been screwin’ the milkman, ” he says
He was crazy
And he kept on screamin’
“You been screwin’ the milkman”
And then he ran into my knife
He ran into my knife ten times

If you’d have been there
If you’d have seen it
I betcha you would have done the same

in the long ago - 1

January 22, 2021 2021, diario/journal

Two events – a FB posting and an old old photograph – stirred memories of that long ago.

One – Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo

Between April and August of 1972, I lived in Perugia attending the Universita per Stranieri – Italian University for Foreigners. It was a program similar to what today may be called Junior-year Abroad; in other words, my course-work was pre-approved by Manhattan College and I received credit for my Italian classwork.

  • In the late 20th century, Perugia was still a hilltop town. And the main street – Corso Vannucci – was the center of life for us stranieri.
  • One of our favorites was the fancy espresso bar that was presided over by a most masculine woman. (In the early 70s, masculine women were a novelty; and we would gawk every time we walked by. But prices were way beyond our student budgets, so we ventured in maybe once a month.)
  • I lived in rooms that a nice woman rented out to students. There were 3 of us. I shared a room with a young-man from Georgia, and the other was a single.
  • The young-man from Georgia, had begun his time in England where he bought a Triumph and then drove it down to Perugia.
  • There I was, studying Italian but on weekends, the young-man from Georgia and the transplant Calabrian, via Canada and New York City, headed out into the Umbrian countryside.
  • Assisi, from down in the valley, from the back of a motorcycle, was a fairy-tale landscape.

One afternoon, I was exploring the area north of the university and I saw this round structure at the end of stone-paved alley. It turned out to be a beautiful Medieval chapel.
I saw no signage, so had no idea what it was. I went inside to discover a chapel of sorts. The place was empty, but around the altar, on a raised dais were sheaves of wheat – which the sun, from windows up in the dome, bathed in golden light.

Even now that sweet memory lingers.

For some fifty years, I’ve been trying to figure where that chapel was. But memory is fickle, it’s elusive, it’s unreliable and I never figured out what I had stumbled on, all those years ago.
Until today.
There on Facebook was my chapel from memory. I recognized it from the one pic in the post. And that led me to Google Maps. It’s the Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry for the small church.

San Michele Arcangelo, also known as Sant’Angelo, is a paleo-Christian temple in the city of Perugia in Umbria. The circular building dates to the 5th to 6th century and it incorporates Corinthian capped columns from a prior pagan temple. It is dedicated to the Archangel Michael, whose churches were often located in elevated spots. The small round church is also often called Tempio or Tempietto, and is located in the neighborhood Borgo Sant’Angelo, near the ancient northern gate (Porta Sant’Angelo) of the city.

The structure of the church has been altered across the centuries; in 1479, it was converted into a small fort. A major restoration occurred in 1948 that revealed ancient frescoes and sealed windows. The architecture is an early Romanesque with Byzantine influences in the chapel placement, but the circular temple is something seen in other ancient churches in central Italy.

The interior has a circumferential ambulatory delimited by sixteen columns with Corinthian capitals. The interior has some notable early Christian symbolism, including a pentagram at the entrance and some crosses belonging to Knights Templar order.


February 2, 2021 2021, diario/journal

Today has many names – Midwinter, Groundhog Day, Candlemas, Feast of the Presentation.

First: I didn’t know that February 2nd marked the mid-point of the season. The confusion comes from the fact that the carol – In the Bleak Midwinter – is part of the Christmas repertoire. And even though it makes no sense to reference the middle of winter in late December, I went with the timeline – it’s a Christmas carol. But when I calculate the length of winter 2020 – there are 89 days – February 2nd is day 43 and close enough to claim the mid-point.

Second: Groundhog Day is famous for Punxsutawney Phil and the Bill Murray, Andie McDowell movie. The famous Pennsylvanian rodent is an American icon and this year predicted six more weeks of winter; the movie wonderfully captured 1990s America – stupid, harmless, oblivious, repressed …

Third: I first came across the term Candlemas, in the 1970s, in the Deryni novels by Katherine Kurtz. The author did an amazing job blending Catholic monasticism and Church of England traditions in a surreal feudal landscape. The main characters are hybrid monks with great powers and Candlemas was a day to call up strong magic.
Wikipedia says the following about the day. (The Mother Church sarcasm and calling-out the hundred-year olds are all mine.)

Candlemas, is a Christian Holy Day commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It is based upon the account of the presentation of Jesus in Luke 2:22–40. In accordance with Leviticus: a woman was to be purified by presenting a lamb as a burnt offering, and either a young pigeon or dove as sin offering, 33 days after a boy’s circumcision. And using Holy Mother Church’s trumped up calendar, it falls on February 2.
On Candlemas, many Christians, (especially those over 100) especially Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, Orthodox and Roman Catholics also bring their candles to their local church, where they are blessed and then used for the rest of the year.


Fourth: The Andrea Mantegna painting of The Presentation At the Temple is one of my favorites.
the child is swaddled in a fassa – an old Calabrese word. I still remember my sister being wrapped up when she was first born; (we’re talking 1955) my mother claimed it was to insure that her legs would grow straight
the frame is part of the painting – notice how the mother’s elbow rests on the bottom horizontal
the line halos are the best
– the middle figure – who the hell is he; who pissed in his corn-flakes (bet you it’s Joseph)
– and, nothing like dressing up a group of humble, devout Jews as Italian Renaissance aristocrats (I want the rose robe Simeon is wearing – look at that embroidery; even his skull-cap would be OK on a cold winter night.)

1. The winter landscape, at the top, is by Peder Mørk Mønsted.
2. The featured-image – the post thumbnail on the main-page – is of the small church of Santa Maria dell’Assunta in Aprigliano.


February 6, 2021 2021, diario/journal

Shakespeare’s famous couplet from Richard III:

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

is generally truncated and only the first line referenced.
For years, I too used it to refer to the cold, miserable season; I too assumed Mr. Stratford-upon-Avon had given us mortals an apt descriptor for the winter doldrums. But once I realized I was taking the line totally out of context, and once I read the entire couplet did I understand its wonder, its beauty.

  • The soliloquy is Gloucester’s harangue against his brother King Edward.
  • The initial couplet is sarcastic and playful using the word sun to both mock and confuse.
  • Winter of our discontent is as wonderful as Made glorious summer.

The next four lines feel like something I would read in the Palmer Report. It’s as if Bill Palmer is addressing his fellow Democrats, but without his constant reminder not to get complacent, because gerrymandering and voter suppression can take the delightful measures all away.

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

And then comes this weak piping time of peace. My only hope, and I believe the country’s only hope, is that the GOP is leaderless. The GOP seems to have lost its thinkers, its statesmen; its elders, its spokesmen. The Grand Old Party seems to have lost its soul; it has certainly lost its mind.
If the shift to Republicanism started with Goldwater in 1964, the GOP has had a some 50 years to deteriorate into the party that believes Jewish lasers started the California wildfires.

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

I began this post, because I wanted to record the date that I got my COVID vaccination appointment – February 9. And from there I went to the Bard.
Also, I’ve been grabbing many pics off the FB site Dal Rinascimento ai Pittori Macchiaioli e oltre and have been trying to use them. Both the above winterscape and the featured image on the mainpage are from the FB page.

1. The winter landscape, at the top, is by Scottish painter Joseph Farquharson.
2. The featured-image – the post thumbnail on the main-page – is by Italian painter Alessandro Tofanelli.


February 9, 2021 2021, diario/journal





I left my house at 7:15 this morning and trudged through unplowed streets and sidewalks lost in snow to get to Allegheny General for my COVID vaccination.
It’s normally a 10 minute walk, but this morning it took me 20. The next task was to find where the vaccine was being administered and given the complexity of the campus that took some time. But I still got to the location by 8:40 and I was sixth in line.

And now the antics …

  • A clerk came into the hallway and announced that because of the snow storm, their volunteers were running late and therefore they would start the vaccinations a bit after 8:00.
  • And one of the people in front of me – an old, fat white man – went off. You would think that some great injustice had been visited upon him. He just kept running-at-the-mouth about how this was all unacceptable. (OMG – are old, fat, white men the new face of the whiny-bitch?)
  • The same clerk who announced the delay shortly come back and called in the first four. And 4, old, skinny, white women with helmet-shaped bleached-hair rushed in, leaving the black-woman and the black-man who were first and third in line in their wake. (A Lord of the Flies moment if there ever was one.)
1. The winter landscape, at the top, is from a FB post. It’s the northern section of Aprigliano.
2. The featured-image – the post thumbnail on the main-page – is by American artist Eyvind Earle.
   (Earle drew Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.)


February 16, 2021 2021, diario/journal

Tornerà il tempo

in cui me revestirò

da brigante

e verrò a cercarvi

uno ad uno,

e non sarà

per carnevale.

There will come a time
when again, I will dress as an outlaw
and then, I’ll go searching
for each and everyone of you
and it will not be
to celebrate Carnival

I found the above photograph and the accompanying quote on FB. And I immediately downloaded it; made it my FB image and now writing a post using it.

Deconstruction – Part One
  • Today is Carnevale, the last day before the lean season of Lent. And since the quote with the photograph references the holiday, I decided to acknowledge it by using the famous Venetian, plague-doctor mask as the featured image; given that we are living through a modern plague.
  • Also, the idea, in the quote, that a time will come when the speaker will once again have to put on his outlaw clothes, is a call to action after the November election; after the horrors of January 6. Like the speaker, I believe it’s time sane, honest people got up from their couches and grabbed back their country.
  • And this morning, a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Representative Bennie Thompson against former President Donald J Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers alleging they violated the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act for inciting the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol.
    The act, formally known as “An Act to enforce the Provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for other Purposes”, passed as the racist KKK was waging a campaign of voter suppression and murder against newly-freed Black citizens of the US.
    Representative Thompson is another person putting his outlaw clothes back on; another person who has heard the clarion call.


February 25, 2021 2021, diario/journal

The image was posted on a FB vintage photographs page; and I thought it beautiful, elegant, gorgeous . . .

The couple is from Holdrege, Nebraska; it’s their wedding photo; it’s dated Thursday, August 27, 1908.

The title comes from the 2016 film – This Beautiful Fantastic – and I’m thinking through using it for my next piece of fiction.
What would a story with the title – Long Ago, Before the World Was Round – be about? And how can I include Claude and Jessie in that narrative?

thomas mann

March 15, 2021 2021, diario/journal

Another Post Full of Mixed Metaphors
– the pairing of Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde from Visconti’s Death in Venice), and Giuliani is common on social media
– Venice and Washington, Gustav and Rudy – their lives leeching down their faces
– it’s cholera and COVID, past and present, Dorian and Faustus, fixation and delusion


– the soothsayer warns Caesar of his untimely death
– the title – Thomas Mann – calls to a conflicted writer, to a dark time
– and the featured image, also from Visconti’s film, is Tadzio in silhouette; he’s standing feet-deep in the river Styx; his hand stretched towards the gates of hell


March 20, 2021 2021, diario/journal

The above images, specifically the one on the right, was re-shot.
(First of all, I don’t like either of the two images in the composite. But I decided to use them because they record the changes I’m making. Am hoping to shoot a second set of after pictures – on the right – tomorrow morning and deal with the blow-out and shadows.)
Given the great weather, I decided to clean up the rock-garden and in the process decided to get rid of all the various shelves and under-pinning. (Buried under the various post were 7 large cinder-block, 6 square cinder-blocks and at least a dozen bricks and pavers.) Also, I wanted to showcase the ceramic pots, Wright’s Native American and the ornamental grasses that have finally filled out; and that meant re-thinking the entire layout.
The end result is a more streamlined rock-garden and a whole new planting on the left-side. (More on that later.)

Monday, March 23, 2021

I began work on the backyard on Friday; today is Monday. I easily put in 6 to 8 hours a day.
The final modifications have produced two very distinct gardens; note – the middle image is from Friday:
– the planting on the right will be full of annuals
– on the left, I’ve begun a Zen garden.
All three images are from my phone camera.


March 28, 2021 2021, diario/journal

the greatest



not conforming

The left side of my backyard has for years been a forgotten step-child. But for some reason, this spring I decided to make it other. My solution, and it was a serendipitous process as to how I got to a decision, was to turn it into a zen-garden. And with that idea in the back of my mind, I began to shape it.

What you see, in the above pic, is its latest transformation.

Some Background
At one time the left-side had a 50 foot sequoia on it. It had started life as a bonsai but its roots left the confines of the pot and borrowed into the soil; the blue marble sits on what’s left of the tree-trunk.
Where the apricot tree stands, there once was a cascading spruce. It too had been a bonsai that refused to conform. It grew a magnificent canopy and every spring its soft, green candles danced with the night winds. But a late, heavy, wet snow ripped it from the ground.
The blue marble that everyone loves, is really a tribute to my sister Jo’. I bought it the weekend she died – June 30, 2001 – and it has been in the backyard ever since.
Between the fern and the tall terracotta planter is a large blue-stone from the shores of Lake Superior. Under it is written September 6, 2018 – the day my dad died.
The Buddha, in the back against the fence, too has been in the backyard for years.

It very much feels like I’ve been circling the idea of a zen-garden for years – look at all the elements that have been always part of the left-side. At one time, in the area with the small, blue stones, I had fashioned a stream-like feature using hundreds of blue rocks that I brought back from the shores of Lake Superior. Those are now along the left fence where the pots are.


May 24, 2021 2021, diario/journal

to dance beneath the diamond sky
with one hand waving free
. . .
silhouetted by the sea
. . .

. . .
with all memory and fate
driven deep beneath the waves
. . .
let me forget about today
. . .
until tomorrow

the artist

May 28, 2021 2021, diario/journal
a country church in le marche

Every once in a while, especially in this time of pestilence and gloom, I need a reminder that there are still artists working; that there are artists searching for a path through this anguish; that there are artists interpreting this devastation.

The above image is of the altar in the Church of San Silvestro in the small town of Pietrarubbia, north-west of Urbino. (a small country-church – chiesetta – among the rolling hills of Le Marche) The artist is Arnaldo Pomodoro.

And I used The Moses, shot in shadow and light, as the featured image, because like the ancient Hebrews, we too need passage out of this darkness.


Both images – The Moses and Pomodoro’s altar sculpture – are from Facebook posts.


June 6, 2021 2021, diario/journal
l’amurella bianchi

The Italian for mulberry is gelsi; the Calabrese word for mulberry is amurella.

Now tell me that amurella isn’t a more interesting word than the pedantic gelsi. But then modern Italian is about Florentine snobbery not the rolling r’s that are produced by vibrating the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth, just behind the

In Aprigliano, this is the time of l’amurella. As kids, we would eat our fill and maybe, just maybe, bring some home. I remember lining the bottom of a panaru – shallow willow basket – with mulberry leaves to keep the berries from getting squished against the woven strands. (Mafalda and I were amurella aficionados; we only ate the white ones. Mafalda is my mother.)


The white ones – amurella bianchi – were prized for their subtle taste, their scarcity. The dark mulberry were common; they grew anywhere and everywhere.


This post is dedicated to Lucy Galiardi, an Apriglianese FB friend. She posted both the featured image and the one above.


June 13, 2021 2021, diario/journal

It’s early evening, and the heavens open up. The rain is coming down so hard and so dense that I can’t see anything out the window.

When I hear a cracking-like sound, I open my front door and see the tree in front of my neighbor’s house down.

My new car was parked behind the Mini; it’s undamaged and I move it. In the pouring rain, with a tree down and electrical wires low enough to touch, I maneuver the car, climb it onto the sidewalk, all in an effort to get it away from the massive down tree.

The linden was no longer healthy. It’s canopy was sparse, but I certainly didn’t think it would come down in a Biblical caliber rain storm.

The cable wires are keeping it from falling onto the street and crashing the red truck. The Mini is not as lucky – its rear window is shattered and its suspension is probably gone.

The fire department determined that the wires were not broken or live and just put up yellow tape to close off the street.

Monday morning, some time around 2:00am, the electric utility came and removed the low-hanging wires cutting off electricity to my neighbor house.

Tuesday evening, around 9:00pm, a tree company showed up with a cherry-picker and after a thorough assessment began to cut the tree apart.

My neighbors and I sat on out stoops drinking wine and beer and watched as they dismantled the fallen tree. It took the crew, working in the dark, 3 hours.


June 20, 2021 2021, diario/journal
for t. stack
I am just a poor boy
Though my story’s seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles
Such are promises
All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station
Running scared
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places only they would know

Lie la lie, lie la lie la lie la lie
Lie la lie, lie la lie la lie la lie, la la lie la lie

Asking only workman’s wages
I come looking for a job
But I get no offers
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there

Now the years are rolling by me
They are rocking evenly
And I am older than I once was
And younger than I’ll be
But that’s not unusual
No, it isn’t strange
After changes upon changes
We are more or less the same
After changes we are
More or less the same

Lie la lie, lie la lie la lie la lie
Lie la lie, lie la lie la lie la lie, la la lie la lie

Then I’m laying out my winter clothes
Wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters aren’t bleeding me
Leading me
To going home

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains, he’s still remains

Lie la lie, lie la lie la lie la lie
Lie la lie, lie la lie la lie la lie, la la lie la lie

53 years ago

June 29, 2021 2021, diario/journal
53 years ago this was the christian brothers novitiate

Fifty-three years ago – Saturday, June 29, 1968 – six of us – Nelson P, Jimmy C, Ray St G, Mario Z, Brother Phillip P, Brother Lucian R – traveled from Scarborough, Ontario to Narragansett, Rhode Island, to the Christian Brothers’ Novitiate. Nelson, Jimmy, Ray and I were beginning our path to becoming Christian Brothers.

I’ve trying to piece together some of the events I remember from that long-ago:

  • We stopped in Providence; it was late afternoon, and the place was a ghost-town.
  • After a light, early dinner, we got back on the road and I remember seeing an exit-sign pointing us towards Scarborough (we had left Scarborough, Ontario that morning and here was another Scarborough).
  • By the time we got to where we were going, it was dark and I really couldn’t see the place or the grounds we pulled into.
  • That evening, I remember that Brother Frank, a Canadian Novice who was finishing his year and returning to Canada, showed me to my room. It was on the top floor, at the end of the hallway on the west side of the dormitory (in the above image, the dormitory is the black roofed building and my room/cell would have faced what is today a volleyball court)
  • Brother Frank, he was a kid not much older than me, told me that he was on morning duty and that he would knock on my door in the morning to get me up for Lauds. (I had no idea what he was talking about.)

The Saturday arrival makes sense, because Bobby, who remembers much from that time, was saying that he and the other guys from Mater Christi High School in Queens also arrived on the 29th.

gli azzurri

July 6, 2021 2021, diario/journal


August 23, 2021 2021, diario/journal, in memorium
Tuesday, April 21, 1925
Monday, August 23, 2021

Eulogy for Barbara Bitonti
Friday, August 27, 2021
St. Gregory RC Church, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

Welcome and thank you for attending this celebration for the life of Barbara Bitonti.

I’m Frank Bitonti, the eldest of her four surviving children.

Barbara lived a full and most productive life in her 96 years..  She has left us a very rich legacy of perseverance, of devotion and of love, and a zeal for living.

Barbara’s perseverance – born in San Giovanni in Fiore in 1925, she grew up during a very turbulent period in Italian and world history. She was a teenager at the start of World War II.  She and our father often spoke of those lean years, of many days of hunger that many in southern Italy experienced during the war.  Molte volte abbiamo provato la fame.  Many times, we tasted hunger.  Their reminders recall the famous scene Gone with the Wind where a famished and desperate Scarlett Ohara, near the end of the Civil War, raises her fist defiantly crying “As God is my witness, as God is my witness, I shall never go hungry again.”  I picture Barbara doing a Scarlett Ohara during the lean years of World War II.  And perhaps true to those words, she made sure for so many years anyone who entered her house, never left hungry.  And for her children and grandchildren she made sure her pantry and cold cellar were always full; we all came to benefit from her incredible and varied skills as homemaker – baking home made bread, making sausages and prosciutto, curing olives, and pickling tomatoes, melanzane, and peppers.  Not to mention, the strength that she showed in administering the fatal blows to rabbits and chickens we kept at 154 McFadden well in to mid 60’s.  The rest of us, including our Dad, would squeamishly leave Mom on her own to pluck the chicken feathers and skin the rabbits.  Her grandchildren always marveled how she could quickly whip up chicken cutlets, French fries, and a tomato salad in minutes to feed them a hearty lunch.

Her determination would be most evident after her first unsuccessful attempt at settling down with her children in Sault Ste Marie in 1952. She returned to Italy in 1954 with four children in tow.  Our Dad Pasquale stayed in Canada hoping to get permanent employment that would hopefully lead to Barbara returning with his family.  Barbara returned in 1956 determined to settle down.  I recall vividly her strength on the ten-day voyage in 1956 from train to passenger ship across the Atlantic and back to train to Sault Ste Marie with four young children.  There were moments on that voyage that she was so exhausted she’d burst into tears.  I remember vividly trying to console her in our cabin on the passenger ship as we crossed the Atlantic.  She could have been feigning sea sickness to keep me and my brother Joe from leaving the cabin to roam the ship – which we too often did.  Little did I know that she was so prepared this time to meet the challenges of the new world.  My brother Joe had completed grade 2 in Italy and I had completed grade 1.  And my younger brother Sam, at 4 was only two years away from starting school. As some of you older Italians are aware, Italian school children wore black smocks and coloured bow ribbons that we would don to indicate a specific grade, red for example for grade 1, blue for grade 2 on so on.  She brought with her all the correct coloured ribbons that would last her children through elementary school only to be told by Aunt Lucia, her sister-in-law, that black smocks and coloured ribbons are not worn by students in Canadian schools.  She recovered from this revelation to her lack of understanding of Canada.  She was determined to become more informed and made sure that we all got the education that would serve all of us well into adulthood.

Barbara’s Devotion to Family and Friends
Barbara’s devotion to family was best illustrated in the care and commitment she showed our father Pasquale during his five-year battle with colon cancer.  She was at his bedside when he passed.  In 1969, when she was able to afford it, she made the trek back to Italy to see her aging mother.  In 1985, she and Pasquale, reconnected with the extended family back in Italy.  Beyond her immediate family, she was devoted to maintaining her relations with all her relatives in Canada and in the United States, sending her famous bread-sticks to her uncle Bill and her cousins Albert and Rosemarie in Clarksburg, West Virginia and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as well as sewing and mending dresses on her Singer machine for so many in the neighbourhood.

Barbara’s Unconditional Love
She always made sure that her children and grandchildren got the love and attention she was always so eager to give. In 2006, she and her sister Lucrezia, made a trek to Nova Scotia, to visit her grandchildren Pat and Anthony, their wives Heidi and April.  Her piercing hazel eyes would sparkle with delight upon seeing her great grandchildren Megan, Matthew, Kiara, Kalie.  In the last year, Henry her youngest great grandchild was the light of her life.  Her love for her family came with some deep pain with the loss of her two adult children, Sam in 2008 and Joe in 2020.  No greater pain does a parent experience than the loss of a child, even an adult child.  Mom often talked about the pain her own mother had had losing three children – Lucrezia, Barbara, and Giovanni – to the Spanish Flu in 1918.

Barbara’s Zest for Life
Barbara raged and raged against the dying of her light because she loved living so much.  That was so evident in way she reveled in relating her stories of the old country and her life experiences. As an adult, I could listen to her entranced for hours at her incredible memory of the minutest details of her life in Italy.  She was often tired of late but a few weeks ago after lunch I saw how in the presence of Kaitlin and Courtney, two of her Personal Support Workers, (PSW) she lit up brilliantly and talked incessantly for over a half hour.  The three of use could only understand a word or two of what she was saying but she felt she was communicating well by the sheer power of her emotions.  Barbara loved the bright lights and excitement that was part of her many visits to the casinos with her sister Lucrezia.  Similarly, she reveled in the noisy screaming game shows such as The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune and Family Feud.  She and Lucrezia would watch these shows faithfully for many years even though they didn’t understand the English well.  And their limited English did not prevent them from becoming big fans for many years of the soap opera, The Young and the Restless primarily because of the popular character Victor Newman played by actor Eric Braeden.  They would refer to him affectionately as Mr. Newman.

Special thanks to my sisters Theresa and Rose and my younger brother Tony, their spouses, Rick, Marchy, and Julie as well as their children for the immense sacrifices they made over the last seven and half years in caring for our dear Barbara after her stroke in 2014.  They showed enormous love and care for Mom by making sure she had someone there for her at night and in the morning.  Up to 2014, as so many of you know, Mom was a fiercely independent woman in her home.

I recall Mom saying a number of times, that when she lived in Italy, she could never in her wildest dreams imagine living in a house so big and with so much.  To her, only the very rich lived in such palaces.  Quest casa e un palazzo, – this house is a palace.  And perhaps over the last 7 and half years she arguably deserved to be waited on hand and foot like royalty for all she did for her family.  And true to form, she felt an allegiance and special kinship to Queen Elizabeth with whom she shared many birthdays.  Queen Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926, exactly one year to the day after Barbara’s birth.  And of course, when Queen visited Sault Ste. Marie many years ago in 1959, Mom rushed downtown to try to get a glimpse of her.

The family would also like to extend a special thank you to Vicki Fecteau, the special PSW who for seven and half years provided such wonderful care for our Mom.

Mom, was often so distraught at having lost her son Sam in 2008.  He was such a supportive son to her after Dad died.  Theresa and Rose would often joke with her that Sam who was such a fine handyman, was building a castle for her in heaven.  Mom, your castle is now waiting for you.  We will miss all things you did for us on earth.  Mom, now heaven is blessed to have you.


September 5, 2021 2021, diario/journal, in memorium
Sunday, May 14, 1939
Sunday, September 5, 2021

Eulogy for Amalia Muto
Saturday, September 11, 2021
St. Gregory RC Church, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

delivered by Mary Melchiorre

My sister and I would like to thank you for coming to celebrate my mom’s life during this very unpredictable time. When the pandemic began my mom lost her love of coming to church so it would mean a great deal to her to know that you have come to celebrate her life in a place she felt very much at home.

It is important that we share with you our mom, nonna, wife, sister, zia, friend and what many would come to affectionately call her “G”! 

My mom came to Canada from Aprigliano in 1951, at the age of 12 with her mom by her side to start a new life as many of you here have done. How brave for one woman with a young child; no English, uncharted territory, and a long boat ride to take such a leap of faith. Thank you for the courage to begin a new life that your grandchildren are fortunate to experience.

My mom was able to attend school in Canada and would graduate from St. Theresa’s school where my sister and I both attended. How remarkable is that! She was always self-conscious of being older than most of her peers in her class but later she would appreciate the value of being given the opportunity to learn another language. That skill would help many new family members and friends to this country. And so began my mom’s journey of how we will remember her as always concerned for others and wanting to help in any way possible. 

Soon my mom would be reunited with her sister Mafalda in Canada. A bond that has served as a beautiful example of what being sisters means! The two have taken care of each other through many joyous and tragic events in both their lives. Just recently my aunt shared a story of how she would teach my mom various crochet patterns over and over until they could both create heirloom pieces for their families. 

My mom and dad would begin their life together of 64 years strong! And together they would surround themselves with the love of family and friends! During this summer, my sister and I have been able to share many memories with my mom. Her greatest concern was that she never did enough for her family. We would like to take this time to let her know how much she thinks she didn’t do (Italian)

My mom would selflessly provide for her family in the best way to demonstrate love…through food! And how fortunate we were…there is nothing like coming home from school on a cold, winter Sault day to the smell of fresh homemade bread. We couldn’t get to the Nutella fast enough! Or being picked up from school that was literally around the corner because we forgot our umbrellas. My mom would soon share her love of kids by becoming a “special zia” to many! We have grown in an extended family through the various children my mom helped to raise. My sister and I had firsthand experience on what would happen if foul words were used…apparently hot peppers and soap came in handy and soon the kids would learn this lady can cook and she means business. Nothing but love came from the care she gave and she so proudly shared in the many accomplishments of the children she cared for. 

My mom loved to sew and we have fond memories of Fabric Land and watching her sew our many outfits for special occasions and in true waste not spirit the scarp material was always available to make our barbies matching outfits. 

 My mom never missed baking for our birthdays and a special cake tweaked with a little Vermouth was something to always look forward too. Friends would soon learn of her baking skills and her famous Ginetti to which my friends lovingly referred to her as “Gina Ginetti!”

Knitting and crocheting intricate patterns became her hobby. And she found comfort in creating for others. A few years ago my mom completed two bed spreads for Daniel and Alyssa  to bring to university. How fortunate for them to have these beautiful  heirloom items to remember their nonna!

While knitting, sewing, baking and crocheting are not necessarily skills my sister and I have developed yet they definitely became the patterns and recipes to which she would use to give to others. 

Besides the love of her family our mom had very strong religious beliefs, a great devotion for prayer and an abundance of devotion to God. Her phone calls to the kids when they were studying always ended with “don’t worry Nonna will pray for you!” We will miss the unconditional love for us through your prayers! 

In a kitchen most people might have a junk drawer mom has what we call the “church drawer” where you can find many past bulletins, news articles of Fr. Trevor’s ordainment, tributes, prayers, the rosary and obituaries.  These mattered to mom because they honoured someone’s life and their life story mattered!

Our mom became involved with the Catholic Women’s League (CWL) and how proudly she spoke of the work done by these ladies. She would find joy in a community of women that also had a strong faith and wanted to contribute. In our house St. Anthony is held in high regard. And there was a great deal of joy for my parents in both being able to contribute to a festival that they loved being a part of. A part of bringing what they left to their new life. 

My mom was often humbled by others’ generosity and would never want to inconvenience others. She was extremely honoured to receive an award from the CWL for her contributions. She had never won an award before and this honour meant so much to her.

As small as Gina was it was the big things that mattered most family, faith and friends. 

Her greatest gift was her kindness, care for others and gentle spirit. We are grateful to celebrate our mom in a place that was extremely important to her. My mom was able to celebrate her last mass on Sunday via the efforts of the church and volunteers to keep the community connected. 

As difficult as it is to physically let go of someone the legacy of their memory is everlasting! So mom thank you for always wanting to do so much more for us that it felt like it was never enough! You will always be Our Little Mom, wife, nonna, Zia, friend with a big heart! 


Editorial Note:
The featured image is my aunt’s passport photo. It was probably taken in 1950.
(there’s a similar picture dated August, 1950)

The above image was taken at my grandparents’ house – 106 Henrietta.
(and given that it’s dated, my aunt was 20 years old)

I opted for a different title for this in memorium post, because within her family – among those of us who were born in Aprigliano – she was know as Gilia. And I will always remember her by that name. The formal name, in Italian, was Egilia, but she hated it.

One of my favorite stories about my aunt is her admitting to a group of us, in one of our many visits, that she hated her formal name and that when she applied for a Sears Credit Card she used the name Jean because she liked it.


September 11, 2021 2021, diario/journal, in memorium


The lunatic is on the grass.
The lunatic is on the grass.
games and daisy chains and laughs.
Got to keep the loonies on the path.
The lunatic is in the hall.
The lunatics are in my hall.
The paper holds their folded faces
to the floor
And every day the paper boy brings more.

And if the dam breaks open
many years too soon,
And if there is no room upon the hill,
And if your head explodes
with dark forebodings too,
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

The lunatic is in my head.
The lunatic is in my head.
You raise the blade, you make the change,
You rearrange me ’till I’m sane.
You lock the door
And throw away the key,
There’s someone in my head
but it’s not me.

And if the cloud bursts thunder in your ear,
You shout and no one seems to hear,
And if the band you’re in
starts playing different tunes,
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

“I can’t think of anything to say, except…
I think it’s marvelous.”

All that you touch
And all that you see
All that you taste, all you feel
And all that you love
And all that you hate
All you distrust, all you save
And all that you give
And all that you deal
And all that you buy, beg, borrow or steal
And all you create
And all you destroy
And all that you do
And all that you say
And all that you eat
And everyone you meet
And all that you slight
And everyone you fight
And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that’s to come
And everything under the sun is in tune,
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon…
“There is no dark side in the moon really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.”


i’ll see you on the dark side of the moon

dark eyes

October 5, 2021 2021, diario/journal


Oh, the gentlemen are talking
and the midnight moon is on the riverside,
They’re drinking up and walking
and it is time for me to slide.
I live in another world
where life and death are memorized,
Where the earth is strung with lovers’ pearls
and all I see are dark eyes.

A cock is crowing far away
and another soldier’s deep in prayer,
Some mother’s child has gone astray,
she can’t find him anywhere.
But I can hear another drum
beating for the dead that rise,
Whom nature’s beast fears as they come
and all I see are dark eyes.

They tell me to be discreet
for all intended purposes,
They tell me revenge is sweet
and from where they stand, I’m sure it is.
But I feel nothing for their game
where beauty goes unrecognized,
All I feel is heat and flame
and all I see are dark eyes.

Oh, the French girl, she’s in paradise
and a drunken man is at the wheel,
Hunger pays a heavy price
to the falling gods of speed and steel.
Oh, time is short and the days are sweet
and passion rules the arrow that flies,
A million faces at my feet
but all I see are dark eyes.

Dark Eyes
written by Bob Dylan
copywright 1985

The lyrics are usually shown in long lines (I cut each line into two.).


December 13, 2021 2021, diario/journal

u 4 Barbara

u 6 Nicola

u 8 Maria

u 13 Lucia

e lu 25 lu messia


The above holy-card is of St. Lucy; I remember it from when I was a kid back in Calabria.
Believe it or not, the holy-card, with the eyes in a dish – bizarre as that seems – is the sanitized version of the legend of St. Lucy. The narrative, of Lucia of Siracusa, is full of horror and carnage. (BTW, the palm is there to symbolize martyrdom.)

  • According to legend, before she died, Lucia foretold the death and punishment of the Roman rulers in Sicily. This so angered the Roman governor that he ordered the guards to remove her eyes. Another version has Lucia taking her own eyes out in order to discourage a persistent suitor who admired them. When her body was prepared for burial in the family mausoleum it was discovered that her eyes had been miraculously restored. This is one of the reasons that Lucy is the patron saint of those with eye illnesses.

The rhyme on the right of the image, with its Calabrese definite articles u and lu, was something we all learned in order to remember the important feast-days preceding Christmas. I associate the rhyme with my grandmother, remembering that it was she who I went to when I forgot one of the lines.

December 4 is the feast of St. Barbara.
December 6 is the feast of St. Nicolas.
December 8 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
December 13 is the feast of St. Lucy.
And December 25 is the feast of The Messiah.

  • The Sweeds’ traditions around the feast of St. Lucy include sweet buns, called Lussebullar – the featured image. The buns are supposed to represent the eyes that are on the plate in the holy-card.
  • In parts of Northern Italy, St. Lucy is said to bring gifts to good children and coal to bad ones the night between 12 and 13 December. According to tradition, she arrives in the company of a donkey and her escort, Castaldo. Children are asked to leave some coffee for Lucia, a carrot for the donkey and a glass of wine for Castaldo. They must not watch Santa Lucia delivering these gifts, or she will throw ashes in their eyes, temporarily blinding them.
  • And on a more local level, my cousin often exclaims, “Santa Lucia, chi citruli“; roughly translates to – Oh my god, what assholes.


December 14, 2021 2021, diario/journal

three lives

il canto delle serene

1949aprigliano, cosenza
january 3
san giovanni in fiore, cosenza
october 27
caltabellotta, agrigento
july 4