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

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

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

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

scarborough beach

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

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

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

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

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

in front of the novitiate

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

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

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

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

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

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

50 years later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st post

September 23, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections

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

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

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

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

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


italy – 2019
eighteenth-post – rome
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62 years later

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

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

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

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

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


italy – 2019
seventeen-post – rome
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rione i monti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


italy – 2019
fifteenth-post – venice
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magical mystery tour

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


italy – 2019
twelfth-post – venice
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la serenissima

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

the mists of avalon

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

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

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

some of my favorite things-1

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

the tipping point …

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

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

on the roof of the uffizi

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

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

in the hills of tuscany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Vogue Runway – Spring 2020 Menswear

behold the gates of mercy

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

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

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

uncle & aunt

second-post – orvieto
click to read all the italy – 2019 posts


seane with her uncle and seane with her aunt

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

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

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

leaving on a jet plane

first-post – toronto
click to read all the italy – 2019 posts


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

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

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

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



breathless with adoration 1

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

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

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

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

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


wisteria – 2019

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

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


April 17, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections

the centurion and the magdalene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slideshow – My Images of the Basilica


March 13, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections


first snowdrops

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

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

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


March 7, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections

home-cooked rabbit

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

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

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

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

But the above served as prelude to what happened Thursday.

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

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

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


March 6, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections

frank gehry’s galleria italia


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


January 23, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections


the new white hoods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


January 1, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


January 1, 2019 2019, diario/journal, reflections

birds like leaves on winterwood

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

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

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

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

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

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


December 24, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

vigilia di natale

In the last 10 years, we’ve eaten at my aunt-and-uncle’s for Christmas Eve and then at my parents’ for Christmas Day. I’ve rarely brought my camera to Christmas Eve, but this year I wanted to capture some of the meal. Instead, I saw this beautiful orange cactus and decided to shoot it. The black background in the image – and great contrasting color – is the plastic pot the plant is in.

Derrick’s dad joined us for dinner; my uncle’s 97-year old aunt – Teresina – couldn’t make it this year and my dad was fondly remembered. Seane and Dave drove up and were there for the fish course (they still had the left-over pasta, even though both the white and red were cold – terribly non-Italian); by 10pm, the Melchiorres – Dom, Mary, Daniel and Alyssa – who spend Christmas Eve at Dominic’s mom’s, came by; so, we all got to visit – a day earlier than usual.

The Christmas Eve – vigilia di natale – Foods

pasta course
• white spaghetti with anchovies, red spaghetti with calamari sauce and a fish-stew topping,
fish course
• breaded fried shrimp, calamari, clams and muscles in a tomato sauce and cullurilli – potato donuts
• brussel-sprouts, broccoli salad
(I passed on the shrimp and ate the fish stew, using the cullurilli to soak up the delicious red sauce. Also, this was a reduced menu; in past years there would have been fried clams, perch, salt-water smelts and the old standby baccala – cod – prepared, in at least, 3 different ways.)
• leaf-greens and cherry tomato salad in a red wine vinaigrette
after-dinner palate-cleansers
• anise, cantaloupe and melon
• genetti – soft anice cookies, scalille, turdilli, tangerines, oranges, apples, espresso, and various liqueurs

And we easy went through 5 to 7 bottles of red wine.


December 19, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

solstice moon

The image is by Luigi Tuoto and it was posted on the Facebook page of Fuscaldo e le Sua Terra, a hill-town in Calabria north of Paola on the Tyrrhenian coast.

The following post accompanied the picture.
Una bella vista del Convento di S.Francesco di Paola di Fuscaldo paese con la luna pronta al solstizio d’inverno (21 dicembre) che fa registrare la notte più lunga e il giorno più breve dell’annoa beautiful vista of the Convent of St. Francis of Paola in the town of Fuscaldo with the moon ready for the Winter Solstice (December 21) which will mark the longest night and the shortest day of the year

Some interesting language differnces
 Fuscaldo paese – Fuscaldo town
This is to distinguish between Fuscaldo the hill-town and Marina di Fuscaldo the beach-town below on the Tyrrhenian coast.
 (21 dicembre) – December 21
In Italian, the numerical date is written first and then the month; also the month is not capitalized.
 che fa registrare – that will register
The verb register is used in American-English more as a legal term therefore, I translated the phrase using the verb mark.

I photoshopped Luigi Tuoto’s original image, because I wanted to focus on the structure at the top of the hill. And, I wanted to contrast the russet-browns of Calabria with the insipid white-christmas of America. The convent also reminds me of the Spanish mission in Kill Bill: Vol. 1  where The Bride  is spectacularly gunned down and presumed dead. A false assumption similar to the lie of  peace on earth and goodwill to men  when the reality of  this holy tide of Christmas-2018  is a world gone mad.


December 11, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

soft power
wielded like a machete

Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Chuck Schumer met with the President and Vice President to discuss a proposed wall on the southern border and whether Trump would, in fact, shut down the government if he doesn’t get the cash he wants for it.

The conversation, which was televised, quickly turned heated and ultimately ended without a compromise, but with the President accepting and owning the possibility of a government shutdown. The Democrats took that as a win.

And as soon as images of Pelosi emerging from the West Wing started making the rounds, Twitter was abuzz at the sight of the Speaker-designate’s power look: the sunglasses, the smirk, the impossibly fabulous rust-colored coat.

Barry Jenkins 1 – And she knew exactly what she was doing wearing THIS coat on THIS day coming out of THAT room, placing THOSE shades on JUST so. This is diplomacy in motion, soft power wielded like a machete through the diligent, decisive act of dressing. They’ve never been JUST clothes.

The New York Times was one of the first to correctly identify the maker of the coat: Max Mara 2. This wasn’t fresh-off-the-runway, just-hit-stores Max Mara, though, Pelosi’s burnt-red style dates back to 2013.

Ian Griffiths, the creative director of Max Mara, issued a statement on the Pelosi sighting too: “You develop an emotional relationship with a coat like nothing else in your wardrobe. I can imagine why Ms. Pelosi chose to wear it for this important moment, and I’m honored.” 3
Barry Jenkins – What I love about this coat is what it says about the supposed impotence of fashion. From the asymmetrical front to the high collar, the strong yet unstrained shoulder and, of course, that COLOR — a deeply serene yet emphatic & ravishing color. This look kicks soooo much ass.

And it kicked HIS ass.
1 Barry Jenkins is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter based in Los Angeles. The quotes are from his Twitter account.
2 Max Mara is an Italian fashion business. It markets up-market ready-to-wear clothing. It was established in 1951 in Reggio Emilia by Achille Maramotti.
3 Nancy Pelosi’s Red Coat – by Ana Colón at Glamor Magazine (excerpts)


November 29, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

oranging evergreens

This image made it to the blog because of the title. It’s not often you get to put the present participle of orange and the compound evergreen next to each other.

To quote from Sondheim’s Into the Woods, “Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor.” So when it comes a-knocking, you steep the Earl-Grey, bring out the Fine-Bone china and lift your pinky as you slowly sip.


November 27, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

winter rose

My complaint is less about the snow and more about the facts that I haven’t seen the sun in two-and-a-half weeks and that it’s been raining non-stop. (The last time I was able to go walking was back in early November.)

I’m slowly learning how to use the new camera with its 47.5 MP resolution; the image on the right was taken with the new camera and its unique 24-70mm Z-mount lens.

This is also the time to bring in all the summer stuff – chairs, tables, pots – and the weather has really hampered the process – I keep bringing things in that are wet or snow-covered.

The last winter-prep I need to do is wrap the fig tree. This year, I’ve decided to use roofing tar-paper and see if it keeps the branches from freezing. Roof-paper and duck-tape – what can go wrong?


November 14, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

lake simcoe

The inland lake that the Huron people called Beautiful Water, was renamed by the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada – modern Southern Ontario – in memory of his father, Captain John Simcoe of the Royal Navy. (To the conquerors go the spoils.)

We drove up to Georgina, an administrative-township along the south shore of Lake Simcoe; the township is a collection of 5 smaller communities – Keswick, Sutton, Jackson’s Point, Pefferlaw, and Udora. We drove through Sutton along Hedge Road – a beautiful residential road that follows the shore of the lake.

The township, 40 miles north of the city, was covered in snow; it’s a micro climate, a snow-belt, in the Greater Toronto Area. I haven’t been in this part of the country, at this time of year, in a long time and it’s a surprise to see snow in early November. (I keep forgetting that Sault Ste Marie had snow in early October.)


November 13, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

the red door

After years, I crossed the tracks and found a whole new world.

The west-side of the tracks, where Frank lives, is the edge of the High Park North residential area; the other side is the Junction Triangle neighborhood. And on this east-side, developers have installed a green-way along the tracks, renovated an old warehouse (the red door is the entrance to the renovated warehouse) and razed old houses to create a new neighborhood of fancy condos and Millennial worthy apartments.

I’m amazed that it’s taken me all this time to cross the tracks and explore the area across the street from Frank’s condo. (the small image on the left is the bridge over the railroad tracks)


November 13, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

the promise of the new

I’ve been going with Frank to the offices of TV-Ontario – Independent Learning Center for years. He goes to pick up the exams of the students he tutors online. One of my favorite things in the lobby are the doors leading to the TV-Ontario offices. This is one of the many examples of modern design throughout Canada.

A couple years ago, I began researching a road-trip from Toronto to Halifax and each time I looked at online pics of cities like Oshawa, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Moncton, I kept seeing modern housing, modern office buildings that looked like all the other housing and buildings throughout Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. (my sister reminds me that most of modern Canada was built in the 1970s and the 1980s)

Within this milieu is another characteristic of modern Canada an aversion to anything old. The last 50 years have see a rush away from the old downtowns, the abandoning of old housing; wholesale permission to rip down old buildings. The disdain of the old was balanced with an euphoria for new housing, new subdivisions. The immigrants that made Canada their home after the Second World War, wanted nothing to do with anything that looked old, that looked old-worldish. They wanted new bungalows, new appliances, new cars, new colors, new designs. They wanted the promise of the new.


November 12, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

remembrance day

Here in Toronto, most people are walking around with a poppy pinned to their clothing. The red poppy, a native plant along much of the Western Front – a meandering line of trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss border with France – has been used since 1921 to commemorate military personnel who have died in the First World War. It was inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields.

The poem, written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, and the poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols in Canada, where In Flanders Fields is one of the best-known literary works. But the wearing of a symbolic poppy to commemorate The Great War is a British tradition that has been adopted by Canada, Australia and New Zealand – countries that were once part of the British Empire.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
. . .

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
1 McCrae, John. “In Flanders Fields.”

all souls – 2018

all souls – 2018


Helena McCaig

Sunday, January 21

Aged 75

(My cousin Rose’s mother-in-law)

Derryll McCaig

Friday, May 11

Aged 56

(My cousin Rose’s brother-in-law)

Hin Tan

Saturday, August 11

Aged 64

(My friend Carlo’s partner)

Ciccio Zinga

Thursday, September 6

Aged 92

(My father)


Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them.




once the cursed have been silenced
and sentenced to blistering flames

 call thou me with the blessed 1

1 The Dies irae – verse 16
   Confutatis maledictis
   Flammis acribus addictis
   Voca me cum benedictis


October 15, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


beaver dams
on whitefish island


September 18, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


the road not taken 1

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled


1 Robert Frost  —  The Road Not Taken

(Saturday, September 8 – Fort Creek Park – Picture by Seane)



September 12, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

on the river

Connie’s friends – Carl and Terri-Lyn – invited us to go on a boat-ride down the St. Mary’s River. We began at the marina in downtown Sault Ste Marie and followed the river some 30 miles south and east to Lake George/Echo Bay.

What always amazes me about this area of Northern Ontario is the vast scale of the wilderness. Lake George is part of greater Lake Huron. And in the middle of Lake George and looking south you can totally forget you’re in the middle of the continent. There’s water all the way to the horizon. (the lake has an official name mainly because it’s such a large body of water and the surrounding islands, that cluster in this northern section of Lake Huron, almost create a seamless shoreline)

Carl anchored the boat in 3 feet of water and the three of them – Connie, Carl and Terri-Lyn – all jumped in; not me. The three of them marveled at the fact that it was mid-September and that they were still able to still jump into the water. (normally, by this time of year the temperatures and the water is too cold)

In the pic, Connie has just come out of the water. The camp-grounds behind us are on the Garden River reserve; in front of us is the vastness of Lake George.


September 9, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

hints of fall

Last evening, Seane, Connie and I went walking and there was yellow yarrow along the side of the path. (it’s one of those flowers I can rarely pass up)

The cooler weather has been great. Going from miserably hot-and-humid to temperatures in the low 60s is OK. In Pittsburgh, schools were letting out 2 hours early, because of the heat and humidity.

Indian Summer is no longer a respite from the onset of fall; its extremes hearken to the dog-days of August not the last blush of summer.


now in the fading light of day 1

maker of all to you we pray
that with thy wonted favor thou
wouldst be our guard and keeper now

from evil dreams defend out eyes
from nightly fears and fantasies
tread underfoot our ghostly foe
that no pollution we may know


now in the fading light of day 2

maker of all to you we pray
that in your ever watchful love
you’ll guide and keep us from above

help and defend us through the night
danger and terror put to flight
never let evil have its way
preserve us for another day

1 Opening Hymn, Compline (Liturgy of the Hours – Official Public Prayer Life of the Church)
2 Modern, Catholic Version


August 27, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

open are the double doors
of the horizon 1

Behind the Superintendent’s residence at the Sault Locks is the original garden and on the canal side of the garden are the gates in the picture on the right. (the residence was built in 1896)

Cement was a wonder material and the idea of building the frame for the gates out of this wonder material showed both ingenuity and wealth. Looking at these garden gates today, it’s an odd juxtaposition.

The Superintendent’s House 2
The Superintendent’s House is set among a group of buildings located on St. Mary’s Island, which is bisected by the Sault Ste. Marie Canal. The two-and-a-half-storey stone building has a gable roof with a decorative bargeboard – an ornamental board fixed to the gable end of a roof to hide the ends of the roof timbers – regularly placed windows and doors with stone surrounds. An open porch protects the main entrance.

The House is a late example of a building inspired by the Gothic Revival style. The massing, design and good functional interior arrangement of the Superintendent’s House reflects the important social position of the Superintendent in Sault Ste. Marie society.

The House is a good example of a building associated with the construction and operation of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal, commencing in 1889, and illustrates the theme of the development of the Canada’s transportation network during the later 19th century. The first ship passed through the locks at the Sault in September 1895, and most of the canal buildings were completed by 1896. The complex of buildings illustrates the crucial years when Sault Ste. Marie was transformed from a small community into a modern industrial center.

The title is from one of my favorite operas – Philip Glass’ Akhnaten – and when I saw the garden gates, I knew I had an image that could fit the refrain – Open are the double doors of the horizon, Unlocked are its bolts. – the scribe sings in Act I.

The image also marks my d800e going on the blink. The shutter-release button is not operating correctly. It’s acting on a delay.

1 Philip Glass – Akhnaten, Act I
2 Canada’s Historic Places – The Superintendent’s House


August 19, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

on some of the rocks are timeless raindrops, under the rocks are words 1

Southern Ontario, the region above Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, is dry, the grass is brown; and fire warnings are everywhere. Western Pennsylvania is wet, the fields and streams are swelled with rain. Pine Creek runs fast with rainwater and North Park Lake is filled to the brim. (because of all the rain, the wisteria is still putting out shoots)

The sign on the right, at the southern entrance to North Park, is out of another time and another place. I remember when Smokey Bear was the spokesperson for forest fire prevention.

The five-mile route around the Lake is getting easier; somehow, it’s been internalized and I just walk it without thinking; without getting bored and counting shelter-signs. (the Erie shelter-sign let’s me know I’m nearing the end when walking the Ingomar Road/eastern side first; the Kilbuck sign lets me know I’m near the end when walking the Lake Shore Drive/western side first)

1 Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories


August 13, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

moons and junes and ferris wheels 1

What amazes me about many Canadian songwriters and vocalists is their attraction to the surreal, their blending of bizarre images with images of nature and their compilation of unrelated words – o solitude of longing, where love has been confined 2. Guess when you live in a country settled by Native tribes, opened by French explorers and conquered by British Redcoats you live in a strange land; guess when you live in vastness – 7,000 miles East/West, 3,000 miles North/South – there’s no way to avoid wilderness, to avoid nature. And when you live in the Great White North, you realize that dreams are critical to surviving winter’s darkness and that dreams make you comfortable with contradictory words, ideas, images.


tragically hip
Sundown in the Paris of the prairies wheat kings have all their treasures buried
And all you hear are the rusty breezes pushing
Around the weather vane Jesus

gordon lightfoot
The way I feel is like a robin
Whose babes have flown to come no more
A tall oak tree alone and cryin’
When the birds have flown and the nest is bare

joni mitchell
We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

loreena mckennitt
Take me with you on this journey
Where the boundaries of time are now tossed
In cathedrals of the forest
In the words of the tongues now lost>/p>

leonard cohen
I lit a thin green candle to make you jealous of me,
But the room just filled up with mosquitoes, they heard that my body was free
Then I took the dust of a long sleepless night and I put it in your little shoe
And then I confess that I tortured the dress that you wore for the world to look through

julie doiron
Let’s get out of the romance
The house that I walk home to is in flames in this wind
The wind is getting stronger
The emptiness shows
The breath that moves the branches saying words that I don’t know

k.d. lang
I was lying in a burned out basement
With the full moon in my eyes.
I was hoping for replacement
When the sun burst thru the sky.

There was a time when the Hosta flowers signaled the end of summer and the coming school year; am gland that time is passed.

1 Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now
2 Leonard Cohen – Come Healing


August 3, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


everything turns, repeats, resonates

I bought the shorter spirals last year because I liked the yellow finish and they would add color to the backyard. They were not very good stakes for tomatoes, even when I added verticals to keep the spirals from falling over.

This year, I stuck them in among the blueberry bushes. I later saw the red verticals at Home Depot and added them. The configuration was looking interesting and so I went looking for more spirals. The newest ones are taller and in a variety of colors. Together with the shorter, yellow ones, I now have a composition of spirals.

I found the title online and just modified it a bit. (quotes about spirals aren’t all the plentiful) What I like about the title is all the R sounds.


July 29, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

michigan seems like a dream to me now 1

It’s good to be back home and to walk familiar paths. The perimeter of North Park Lake is filled; the shallow waters are covered with lily-pads and the shores are littered with wild hibiscus swaying in the evening breeze. (the spider web, between the two large flowers, is delicately surreal)

Left Northern Ontario on Tuesday afternoon and drove I-75 South to Oxford; David Sedaris’ new book Calypso kept me laughing all the way down. (the portion after saginaw is tedious, but david sedaris’ voice made me forget the drudgery, the long stretches, that michigan voted for that crazy man in white house) Visited with Rose-and-Derrick, Mary-and-Domenic and left to come home Thursday morning.

1 Simon & Garfunkel – America


July 24, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

ducklings and goose

Frank and I walked the northern trail of Whitefish Island. We saw three beaver lodges, as well as all the other aquatics that live around the pond. There’s a large number of Canada geese and various ducks that make the beaver pond their home. And given that we were walking in early evening, many of the ducks were finding their way to sleeping areas. (i assumed ducks slept on the shore, but these three were snuggling on the large rock)

There are three beaver dams lower in the channel, but I wasn’t sure about the beavers, because there are very few large trees on the island and I thought that a pond covered in lily-pads could suggest no beaver. Not true.

Water lilies are one of their favorite foods, and through both consumption of the water lilies and construction of wetland habitats, beavers help support water lily populations. This is how John Eastman puts it in The Book of Swamp and Bog: “Beavers relish [water lilies], sometimes storing the rhizomes. Their damming activities create water lily habitat, and they widely disperse the plants by dropping rhizome fragments hither and yon.” 1

The lodges have weeds growing on them which suggests that they’ve been here for a while. In a large pond, one beaver family can maintain several lodges; the group here has three.

There were two surprises – the chipmunks on the trails seemed to have no fear of people, as a matter of fact they kept approaching us and approaching us. Because many walkers feed them, they were expecting us to do the same. And people also feed the ducks and geese, so when they saw us walk by, they made a beeline to the shore. Of the two wild animals expecting food, the chipmunks were the most startling.

1  Beavers and Water Lilies


July 20, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

the powerhouse

The shot is from the Canadian side; Frank and I are walking the downtown, river-front boardwalk. It’s the St. Mary’s River and the powerhouse of the Cloverland Electrical Cooperative on the American side. The massive structure has been a famous landmark when looking across the river and I finally found its history.

In 1885, with the state approval to divert water from the St. Marys River, the village of Sault Ste Marie voted to construct a canal and hydroelectric milling center. The St. Marys Falls Water Power Company was to dig the canal and construct the waterworks system.

The design agreed upon consisted of a canal 200 feet wide and 23 feet deep and running in length two and one half miles from the intake to the powerhouse at its end. In the canal, water traveled from six to seven feet per second. The bend would slow the water down in preparation for its entrance into the powerhouse.

In April of 1899 a Romanesque design was selected for the powerhouse. The design was both economical and would give the impression of power, importance, and stability to the building. The new design called for three large pavilions, one at either end of the structure and one in the center, thus breaking up the structure’s extraordinary length. The roof would be double pitched, also helping to counter balance the length of the powerhouse. 1

            The image is from the Cloverland Electric Cooperative webpage.     1 the history of the powerhouse


July 20, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

the english insisted on calling them horse-beans

This morning I harvested the fava in my parents’ garden.

Here in Northern Ontario, fava is ready between the middle and the end of July. (in calabria, it’s planted in the fall, where it overwinters and then is ready for harvesting in late spring) Earlier in the week, a local Calabrese farmer who grows fields of fava brought his crop to market and my parents and my uncle-and-aunt bought a bushel each. We shelled the beans and then my mother blanched them, put them in bags and froze them for later use.

My aunt and my parents still use the term – horse-beans – for the legume. I tried to explain that in the mouths of the English it was a pejorative and that it’s purpose was to insult and demean the immigrants by suggesting that their prized fava was nothing more than food fit for horses.

The left image is the fave on the plant; the middle image is the plants in a pile after I’ve pulled the fave off and then pulled the plants out; the right image is the harvested fave in a bushel.


July 19, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

wild elderberry

Tonight’s walk was through Fort Creek Park.

At the end of the walking path, a bee flew into my lower lip. (who ever heard of a bee just flying into a person) I quickly brushed it off, but not before it stung me. It didn’t get a full bite, and it didn’t leave behind a stinger, so my lip never swelled up, but it hurt. My cousin Rose had some salve and that helped to lessen the pain. Amazing, I’m walking and a bee runs into me.

I’ve never been on the Creek trail in summer; the conservation area is totally filled in with wild greenery; it’s like walking through the woods, but you’re in the middle of town.

The red berries in the above pic and the shrub they grow on are everywhere; they were all over Whitefish Island; they were on the side of the road up at Red Rock where Connie has her cottage; and they were all through Fort Creek Park. It’s wild elderberry – Sambucus racemosa.

The Italian liqueur Sambuca is made from elderberries. How come it’s taken me all these years to discover that fancy Sambuca is made from the lowly elderberry; and that the red variety is ubiquitous in Northern Ontario where thousands of Italian immigrants live? Not one of these transplants has ever identified the berries or explained that his/her preferred espresso sweetener is made from this wild fruit.


July 18, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

whitefish island

The St. Mary’s River, at the bend between Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and Sault Michigan, runs between 4 islands. On the Canadian side, St. Mary’s Island and Whitefish Island interrupt the river’s rush to Lake Huron.

St. Mary’s Island has the Sault Ste Marie Canal going through it.

Whitefish Island, on Goggle Maps, is listed as an Indian Reservation; it belongs to the Batchewana First Nation, an Ojibway tribe. Among themselves, Ojibway refer to their people as Anishinaabe, which mean Original People.

When French settles got to this part of Canada, the island had a permanent Anishinaabe settlement; it was also a fishing base for the tribes in the area, and therefore an important trade center. The earliest written accounts of the island date back to Jesuit reports from the 1600s describing the fishery at the rapids. (a side note – smoked, freshwater whitefish is sold in delicatessens and eaten as part of ashkenazi jewish cuisine)

Because of its rich history, the Canadian Government designated Whitefish Island a national historic site. Today, the island is open to the public and wide dirt trails cross and perimeter the 22 acres between the rapids and the canal.

The artfully arranged stems of white berries were lying on a rock on the side of the trail; they look like poison-ivy berries. (the small drawing is from the webpage wikiHow) It’s hard to believe that someone would intentionally displayed a poisonous plant in a way that invited touching, picking it up, or bringing it home to put in a vase. But there’s no logic to what locals will do to fuck with them tourists.


the south fork

A glimpse of the south fork of Pine Creek – the stream, that in North Park creates a huge lake, meanders almost 30 miles south to Sharpsburg where is enters the Allegheny River just below the 62nd Street Bridge. Months ago, the winding creek was the most obvious landmark in the winter landscape, but summer has hidden it and it’s only at rare openings that you can even spy it through the green.

And keeping with the driftwood-as-animal theme, the two pieces of wood, lying on the creek mud-bed, look like giant pond-skaters.

Also, at 4:00, it’s still harsh afternoon light – the sun was almost directly over the western leg of the walking path. The sun needs to sit much lower in order to get a delicate diffusion.


driftwood antlers

Another image showing the delicate light of the evening sun. Look at the upper pool; at the glass surface, at the gold shimmer in the water before it spills over the rock-wall. The gold flecks in between the driftwood branches are a spider web catching the fading light. And like the picture of the geese in the previous post, what you see is what came out of the camera. All I did was crop the image. And like the geese picture, the light is coming from the right.

The dam is at the cross-over from Lake Shore Drive to the paddle and tennis courts, the zip line and the boathouse. And the dam is on the north fork of Pine Creek. I shot the driftwood from the small bridge that crosses the creek. The extra 100mm on the Tamron lens gave me enough of a close-up to both capture the image and render the driftwood surreal – a submerged prehistoric Megaloceros.

Also, it’s only when I’m reviewing the images that I get to see the amazing effects of the evening light; and at that point, in the post-production, it’s a total surprise.


evening light

After reviewing the shots, on the memory-card, I was amazed by the light in some of the images. The geese and goslings were in the direct path of the diffused evening light. (the sun is setting on the right hand side) I made no alterations to the image. What you see is what the camera captured.

What do I like best about the image?

  • the reflection of the sand-bar that the group is on
  • the softness of the browns and blacks
  • the out-of-focus reeds and daisies
  • the shadows on the water
  • how the light moves from right to left

For years, I’ve been shooting in afternoon light. I like its harshness; its extreme; its contrast. What’s been missing though is softness, but that was the trade-off. Also, afternoons were the time when I was out. I only started walking in the evening, because it’s been miserably hot during the day. I also kept thinking that evening light would be nothing more than a reduction, shrinking the majority through shadows. Instead, I began to see that objects, low to the ground, got bathed in delicate light; that branches grabbed the fading rays; that berries and fruit gleamed in the indirect glow. It never occurred to me that evening light could bring a new dimension a beautiful clarity to the objects I was shooting.

Earlier in the week, while reviewing my cable and Internet options, I upgraded to 5G. And the technicians are coming Tuesday to make the necessary adjustments. However, since the conversation with the agent, I’ve been noticing a degradation of my connectivity – movies and music weren’t streaming; and tonight, I just lost all access. Going in to reconnect, I noticed a new network, same name as the old except for the 5G add-on. I tried connecting using the old password and it accepted it. All of a sudden, I’m running on 5G and everything is streaming. Good-bye net-neutrality, hello higher costs.


June 30, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

milkweed blossom

Yesterday after dinner, I decided to head to North Park to get a walk in. (managed 3.4 miles before the dark descended) The setting sun provided a soft light, bathing the low-lying plant in a delicate palette. With the light sliding through the canopy, I got some amazing shots. The image on the right is as it came out of the camera; I just cropped it to showcase the blossom. The twilight dying the stamens gold just takes my breath away.

I’m getting rid of the fanny-pack. The same problems that I found while in Peru became obvious again. It’s a pain to keep twisting it around to get anything; it holds nothing but my wallet and phone; and because there’s no room, I have to carry everything. Last night, for the last mile, I had my hat and headphones in one hand, the water bottle in the other and my camera over my shoulder. Bad set up. When I finally abandoned the fanny-pack in Aguas Calientes and started using the Inkaterra mini-backpack, carrying things while walking became easier; the camera even fits in the mini-pack.

Also, during the walk, the Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love came on and I just wanted to dance. But, it probably would have gotten me picked up; “Officer, there’s an old man thrashing and twisting. I think he’s having a seizure. You should probably send an ambulance.” After cancelling the urge to dance, I thought it would be funny to call Ron and tell him about my need to twist and shout, but even the call got cancelled. Ron is always surprised to hear me say that I’m out walking; it seems that for him walking needs another person. But give me my headphones and my camera and I can walk and walk; and I can even dance in my mind while walking.


June 29, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

how terribly strange to be seventy

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my generation; its unwillingness to accept the fact that we’re old; its belief that to wind-down or slow-down is tantamount to surrender; its refusal to stand aside and let the next group come to bat.

And why should we? There’s a 72-year old in the White House who insists that he’s full of vigor; many of my contemporaries, who find themselves alone, are rushing into new romances; and even as we scoff and deride the modern world, we are bathing in its comforts and perks. (i expected something different from a generation of daydream believers and homecoming queens, really)

So, what brought on this introspection? The new car has Pandora and I’ve been listening to old songs from the 60s and 70s. OMG, some of them are embarrassingly trite and stupid.

The image is from the many I took when walking around North Park Lake. I saw the two guys and immediately thought of using the photograph for a post about friends on a park-bench. (the image is a detail of the larger wide-angle shot – i pretended to focus on the boat-house and the lake in order to not alert or disturb the guys) The subject is unusual, in that most people in the park are walking, jogging or fishing; they are the first two people I saw just sitting, enjoying the evening calm. And they seem the right age and the right shape to fit into my musings; also their idleness gives me hope that my generation may not be as far gone as i feared.


June 29, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

gentle curves

I certainly don’t consider myself a technically savvy photographer. (over the years, i’ve used more and more of the bells-and-whistles available on my cameras, but these are always secondary to identifying an interesting item to shoot) My skill has always been in the area of seeing a unique piece of the whole.

One of the people on the Machu Picchu trip said that he always looked to see where I was pointing my camera, because he would see something that he had missed or not considered. I understood his comment to mean that I focused and shot objects and landscapes that most others didn’t see.

Also, I’ve also gotten better at using Photoshop to make the unique perspective more evident. This usually involves removing excess people, distracting foliage, overhead wires, glaring signs. And most often taking a slice of the image and making that detail the photograph. I use the crop and stamping tools all the time. And yes, once I alter the photograph it’s no longer a visual record; it’s no longer a representation of reality, a snapshot of a particular time and place; it’s a new narrative. (i like to think that i don’t alter the original to the point where it’s no longer a photograph, but a photoshop piece that started as a photograph)

The image with this post is a good example of what I’m writing about. I saw the curve of the spillway as I come around the corner and onto Babcock Boulevard. It’s a perspective that you usually don’t see because it’s hidden behind the shrubs that crowd the hillsides and, most people wait until they get past the intersection to shoot the spillway into Pine Creek head on. What caught my eye was the gentle curve of the south rim. It was elegant in its simplicity. To emphasize the bend, I zoomed in on the original image and cropped out what you see in the above photo; I also stamped out leaves and two of the plumes on the Sumac on the bottom right; this excess foliage interfered with the sweep of the curve.


June 27, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

heron at the dam

The last time I went walking in North Park was the end of April. And back then, spring was just edging into the hillsides and shores around the man-made lake. Two months later and the park has pulled its green canopy over the roads, the trails and steams; it has dressed itself in thorny briar, new cattails, red berries, pink roses and hanging vines. (i began hiking north park in mid november, so I never saw it green)

Two things surprised me last night; Pine Creek, along the southern bend of Lake Shore Drive, was totally obscured by trees and shrubs; and the evening skies were filled with acrobatic chimney swifts.

From the Allegheny Parks Foundation Webpage
Chimney swifts are beneficial birds to the environment because they are voracious eaters of bothersome flying insects including mosquitoes and flies.

Chimney swifts are migrant birds, returning to our region in April, when they begin looking for nesting sites.

They roost by hanging vertically on the interior of hollowed trees and chimneys, but these options have been lost as dead trees are removed for suburban development and chimneys are capped for more efficient heating.

To counter this loss, the Parks Foundation in collaboration with the Audubon Society, Allegheny County Parks and The Pittsburgh Foundation constructed a number of towers that could serve as nesting sites for the returning birds. The 12-foot towers have a grooved wooden interior that allows the birds to hang and build their nests.


June 24, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


dalí in lego bricks

The Nathan Sawaya exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center is an unusual collection of pieces. I didn’t much like his rendering of famous sculptures, paintings or windows in Lego bricks. The Easter Island head worked best in plastic blocks; but The David, Caesar Augustus and Winged Victory were greatly reduced in size and looked amateurish rather than majestic. His original pieces, however, were very different and very interesting.
One of Sawaya’s original pieces – Hanging Man – reminded me of Dalí’s painting Corpus Hypercubus. Dalí’s geometry, his cubes, the lighting are all there in the way Hanging Man is rendered and exhibited.

BTW, the two images are the same width, height and resolution, and yet the image on the right looks wider. I think the outstretched arms fool the eye.

Also, the photographs Sawaya and Dean West collaborated on were great. The Lego sculptures – tree, towel, umbrella, dog, railroad tracks, dress – that were integrated into West’s photographs were part of the exhibit.


June 20, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

blueberries – 2018

This year’s crop is plentiful and the berries are big, plumb and juicy. I love going out, first thing in the morning, and eating the sweet fruit.

Jack has been picking at the plants since they set flowers and now that the berries are ripe, he can’t stay away from the back planter. Bilby has also discovered the berries, but he’s nowhere as obsessive as the other one. And Bilby eats because he’s hungry and even then he’s fussy about finishing his bowl; Jack on the other hand would eat and eat and eat. The berries are a treat that both will run in, sit and wait for me to give them a berry each.

Last night and this morning, the light has been amazing. I did nothing to the image on the right except crop it.


June 19, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

back to the garden

I always need some incentive, some starter to pay attention to the back-yard. And because this year’s spring-planting was interrupted by the trip to Peru and the re-acclamation once back, I didn’t get to the rock-garden until last weekend. The incentive came in the form of an urn. (i’ve been wanting to buy an amphora, that a potter in Highland Park makes, but never got around to it) I saw the urn at the greenhouse when I was looking for an organic-insecticide, (i’m now trafficking in oxymorons) because I’m determined to grow zucchini plants and not lose them to mildew and borers. (i don’t want to use monsanto poisons to achieve this goal, hence the organic-pesticide)

Hahn’s Nursery in the North Hills is my go-to place for organic sprays for the roses, vegetables and fruit-trees; it’s also my favorite place for wall ornaments and other decorative garden pieces. (i tend to buy at the end of the season and I buy items that are slightly damaged and therefore reduced) While walking through their non-plants area, I saw this large urn – in the middle in the pic – but when I looked at the $180 price-tag, I moved on. However, I did notice that it was missing two of its four handles, so I asked about it. The sales-woman, that always given me great advice on fungus and insect treatments, said that it was reduced to $75. I bought it. (a third handle was inside the urn and i glued it back on with super-glue)

Integrating the 3-feet tall urn into the flower area, required a redesign of the rocks and the pots that fill up the north-east corner of the back-yard. And I’ve been working on situating everything for the last 5 days. Today, I made the final re-arrangements.

Items in the pic – left to right – bay leaf, yellow daisies and vermillionaire or firecracker plant, the urn and an ornamental sweet-potato vine.



black locust

The last time I was in North Park was April 23, almost a month ago. Between my trip up to Northern Ontario and the fact that it’s been raining for the last two weeks, my options for hiking have been reduced. But, the rain and the moving season have transformed the Park. The tree-canopy is the beautiful new-green of first growth and there are flowering trees everywhere. There are Black Locust throughout Western Pennsylvania and at this time of year the tall skinny trees are in bloom.

off on a tangent
Every once in a while, I can grab, a slice of an image that totally re-imagines the original shot. The cropping process always reminds me of the pre-digital photographers and artists looking through an eye-magnifier at slides; looking for a detail, in a large image, that is extraordinary that is transformative.

On today’s walk, I shot several images of flowering trees; the image on the right is of the loose drooping clumps of the Black Locust. I also shot the flowering clusters of a Northern Wild Raisin, also known as Viburnum. It’s a mid-size shrub that can reach 12 feet. (The naturalist at the Allegheny County Parks Department said that there only a few Viburnum in the Park – along North Ridge Drive, the section near the Ice Rink.) In Photoshop, I looked to see which section of the image showcased the tiny white flowers with the giant yellow stamens. The best detail was at the bottom of the cluster and that’s the section that I cropped. The result is one of my favorite images.  Click to see the image detail.



through the cracked concrete

I noticed the cluster of violets in the corner of my neighbor’s front steps. They rose proud and defiant through the old, cracked concrete of the North Taylor sidewalk. The sidewalks are the home-owner’s responsibility and the results are a patchwork of new-and-old, brick-and-concrete slabs. The hodgepodge is proof that we are not a cookie-cutter suburban plan, even though when the area was first developed it certainly was a new, non-city housing development.

The Mexican War Streets, originally known as the Buena Vista Tract, is an area on Pittsburgh’s northside, filled with restored row houses, tree-lined streets and alleyways. The neighborhood dates to around the time of the Mexican–American War – 1846.

In the 1970’s, as a means of kicking off the gentrification process, community leaders and promoters planted trees in front of the historical houses; this meant breaking the sidewalks to create plots for the new trees. And once the cement was broken, the remaining slabs started to crack and chip. The results are what we have today – old cement that is broken, cracked and covered in thin layers of mildew.



almost wind-swept

I spent the day working in the back-yard. Began by pruning the Japanese Lilac. Wanted to get rid of the vertical branches near the garage wall for two reasons: (1) wanted to create a wind-swept effect (am thinking of the pine trees, leaning over the rocks that I saw around French River, Ontario) and (2) wanted to get sun in that corner, because the shade and moisture were creating idea conditions for moss.

The image on the left is from the French River area; the image on the right is the Lilac trimmed and leaning; hopefully I can work on making more of a flow and less of a jut.

After all the work trimming, I tackled the mess, on the pavers, that winter left behind. The four levels were covered in moss and the corners were filled with leaves, needles and sticks from the redwood; the debris and a layer of green covered everything. Grabbing the hose and a wire brush, I went to work. The moss was the most difficult to clean up; I literally wire-brushed half of the back-yard. The resulting accumulation of water, ripped moss and other winter residue was a witches’ brew. There’s a great Calabrese word for this kind of wet mess – fracoma. The meaning suggests something rotten, something putrefied. And the word even sounds like what it means. (As a junior, I had an English prof who explained that fuck was one of the few English examples of onomatopoeia. And that correlation between sound and meaning was more common in other languages, especially ones derived from Latin.)



lilies of the valley & sophia loren

Rather than photograph the fleur-de-lis  in the patch, in the back-yard, I decided to stage a more dramatic shoot. The lilies are in front of my black computer tower in a one-flower, heart-shaped, glass vase.

Also, I needed a segue from the posts about Northern Ontario to images and writings about the routines of daily life here at home. And here in Western Pennsylvania, the spring bulbs, the tree blossoms are done; and it’s now time for the lilies, the wisteria and the annuals.
Back in March, Franchino had given me a bunch of Dylan albums to listen to. (He’s taken on the job of educating me on his unparalleled fav – Bob Dylan.) And listening to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was one of the highlights of last week’s road-trip. It’s only my second time listening to an entire Dylan album. (The other Dylan album I’ve listened to is Tempest.) I had no idea that some of his best compositions and best-known songs – Blowin’ in the Wind, Girl from the North Country, Masters of War, A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, Bob Dylan’s Dream – were on that 1963 album. (Freewheelin’  is Dylan’s second studio album; and eleven of the thirteen songs are original compositions.)

The album cover is a photograph of Dylan with his girlfriend Suze Rotolo. It was taken in February 1963 by CBS staff photographer Don Hunstein at the corner of Jones Street and West 4th Street in the West Village.

But it was the last song in the album – I Shall Be Free – that had me howling. I was at the Thruway toll at Buffalo, laughing hysterically at Mr. Dylan’s surreal lyrics.

Well, my telephone rang it would not stop
It’s President Kennedy callin’ me up
He said, My friend, Bob, what do we need to make the country grow?
I said my friend, John, Brigitte Bardot
Anita Ekberg
Sophia Loren


beaver country

Yesterday, my cousin Joe and I drove back from the Sault to Toronto. (The last time I did this drive, I was in high-school.)

The trip has two distinct parts – the first part is east to Sudbury, the second part is south from Sudbury to Toronto. Between the Sault and Sudbury you’re on Highway 17, part of the Trans-Canada Highway, and the drive is very boring. The highway follows the contours of Lake Huron and is a flat uninteresting landscape. The highway also goes through many one-horse towns – Spragge, Serpent River – where the speed-limit drops to 30mph or traffic-lights force you to a complete stop. And did I mention that for the 190 miles it’s a two lanes road; this means that to pass you have to cross into the oncoming traffic lane. (Joe drives a Mercedes Coupe; and having an 8-cilinder engine in that driving environment made passing a ZOOM experience.)

However, once you get to Sudbury you turn south and for this portion of the drive down to Toronto, you follow the bend of Georgian Bay. Here you get to see the famous Canadian Shield or Laurentian Plateau. (The Shield is one of the world’s richest areas in terms of mineral ores. It is filled with substantial deposits of nickel, gold, silver, and copper. Throughout the Shield there are many mining towns extracting these minerals. The largest, and one of the best known, is Sudbury.) The highway is cut through exposed Precambrian and metamorphic rocks; these red-rocks formed the ancient geological core of the North American continent. There are areas in this part of the Shield that look totally surreal, other-worldly and there are areas where the rocks cradle deep-blue pools – above image – and everywhere there are marshes with evidence of beaver. There were beaver-dams and lodges in all the ponds and marshes off the highway.

The norther Georgian Bay region has slowly been sucked into what the Toronto urbanites call cottage-country. Yes, it’s almost 200 miles north-west of the city, but if you’re looking to buy a summer-home, prices in the established cottage-country area around Lake Simcoe, are in the stratosphere. Driving an extra hour brings young families into an affordable, hip and amazing landscape. It’s no wonder that the provincial government is invested millions into upgrading transportation into the region – there will soon be a modern divided highway from Toronto all the way to Sudbury.

After 50 years, the highway between the two largest cities in Northern Ontario – Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie – is still a two-lane road; and there are no plans to expand it into a modern divided highway.



yes!  breakfast

My mother’s friend Teresa, whose son is getting married this summer, brought these amazing dolci as a thank-you for my mother’s gift for her son’s shower/stag. And Teresa made them all; she has a reputation, among the Calabresi in the Sault, as a great baker.

So, for breakfast, I indulged. (It’s OK to have sweets for breakfast, because you can burn off the calories throughout the day. Every Italian knows that; it’s one of our rules.)

I’ve seen these dolci all my life, but it’s the next generation that has made them bite-size. My mother and her group of friends made the orange peaches, bottom right, the green-yellow pears, top right and the walnuts, top left corner, actual size. (The round white cookie in the bottom left is known as a ginetti and the round brown cookie with an almond in its middle is an amaretti. The two custard cups are new and I didn’t try them. They don’t fit the definition of a Calabrian breakfast.)



Highway 550, locally known as Second Line, runs 14 miles from Black Road in the east to Gros Cap in the west. (Gros Cap, is a jutting point on Lake Superior. It’s the southern tip of Goulais Bay, a small inlet on the south-eastern shore.) The western section of the Highway, rings the rock-ridge that borders the flats along the north shore of the Lake.

The white trees, in the above image, are birch and at this time of year, they shimmer in the sunlight.

As I’m driving Highway 550 towards Gros Cap, I’m wondering – are memories different for people who stay in the place they were born than for people who move away?

If you stay, the brain seems to adjusts for the contradiction between memory and current reality. You drive by the location where you experienced your first kiss, but now it’s a dilapidated, graffiti strewn wreck of a school building. The brain seems capable of allowing the memory and present to exist simultaneously. The brain doesn’t let the current reality tarnish or corrupt the memory.

If you leave the place of that first-kiss, then the brain hasn’t worked to balance and ameliorate the memory and the present reality. So, while in Pittsburgh, the first-kiss memory stays in that golden realm of long-ago. However, when I come back to the location of that memory and I see the wreck that is the school-yard, where someone kissed me for the first time, the contradiction between memory and reality is disconcerting. My brain has had no time, no practice to adjust, to ameliorate between the euphoric remembrance and the devastation that is the present location.

For me driving through sections of the West-end, where I spent my preteens and my teenage years is driving in a landscape of ghosts. An area that was full of young kids, full of young families is now an area in transition. My elementary school is wreckage; many houses that I hung out in are boarded up and abandoned; and my aging parents and some of their friends and neighbors, who have stayed in the area, are the last remnants of that long ago.



hundreds and hundreds

I was in the East-end, where the better people live, driving down Queen Street, when I glanced this front-yard full of crocus. Had never seen so many naturalized crocus and totally unexpected up here in the northern latitudes.

I find a place to turn around and head back. There’s no parking on Queen, so I turn right and pull up in front of a 1970s bungalow on fancy Lake Street. There’s an older guy sitting on his crowded front-porch behind his painted wrought-iron railing which some West-end immigrant crafted and installed. (Why do men’s chests and abdomens, as we age, look like barrels when we sit?)

It’s a short walk across the street, to the yard covered with crocus. And in my head, I script the following monologue for the East-end home-owner who eyed me as I got out of my dad’s van:

who’s this person parking in front of my house
he doesn’t look like one of us and look at that old rusted van
must be one of them dark-skinned EYE-talian from the West-end
doesn’t he know his kind aren’t welcome in this end of town
bad enough them other people took over the university down the road
we need to take back our province from them EYE-talians and them Injuns
Dough Ford is my man; he’ll make Ontario strong again.


it’s still daylight

I’m at 46o North and 84o West and sunset wont be until 8:50. The area has almost 45 minute more daylight than Pittsburgh (40o North and 80o West).

The snow is finally gone. This is an amazing statement given that two weeks ago everything was covered in snow and the white stuff was still coming down. But the extended daylight has dried the ground and waken up the trees. I walked the neighborhood around my parents’ house and there were trees everywhere full of buds. Also, the new, soft-green grass is a clean breath in the industrial landscape.

My cousin and I drove up. (He had two goals – make it on one tank of gas and avoid getting a speeding ticket. He accomplished both.) It’s been 40 years since I made the trip from Toronto to Sault Ste Marie by car.

The trip has 3 section to it – Toronto/Parry Sound (150 miles), Parry Sound/Sudbury (107 miles), Sudbury/Sault Ste Marie (195 miles). My favorite part is the stretch between Toronto and Perry Sound particularly around Georgian Bay. The highway is one rock-cut after another. It’s a surreal landscape through low mountains of rock.

Also, from Toronto up to Perry Sound, it’s a divided highway. But at Perry Sound it becomes a two-lane road with occasional passing lanes. Finally after some 50 years, the province is rebuilding Highway 69 making it a modern divided highway from Toronto to Sudbury. And, you can see the path of the new lanes, of the new highway. (There was some evidence of new construction between Sudbury and the Sault, but it’s in its early stages. Sudbury to the Sault is still a two-lane highway. And because you’re following the contour of the lake, the landscape is flat and boring.)



proof of heaven

By April 1945, the Allies had landed in Southern Italy; Mussolini was losing his grip on the country; and the Third Reich was considering surrender.

In late April, Benito Mussolini his mistress Claretta Petacci together with other Fascist leaders joined a German convoy fleeing Italy. A group of local communist partisans attacked the convoy and forced it to halt. In all, over fifty fascist leaders and their families were found in the convoy and arrested. On Saturday, April 28, 1945, Mussolini and Petacci were executed by Walter Audisio an Italian partisan, in the small village of Giulino de Mezzegra, 80 kilometers north of Milan.

The next day, the bodies of Mussolini and Petacci were brought to Piazzale Loreto in Milan, the scene of a mass execution of partisans the year before. The corpses were beaten and urinated upon and left to hang upside down from a rusty beam outside a gas station on the north-west corner of the square. (Petacci had not been wearing any underwear and a group of old women rearranged her skirt to preserve her modesty.) People surged around, desperate to get a look, to laugh at and spit upon the bodies, wanting to make sure that Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italy for 23 years, was dead.


April 23, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 25
click to read the hiking posts


eastern spring beauties

With every recent hike through North Park, I’ve been looking for early woodland wildflowers (I’ve been looking for violets, hoping to find a hillside covered in delicate purple hues) and it wasn’t until yesterday – late April – that I finally saw some. Research names them Eastern Spring-beauties – claytonia virginica. It’s an herbaceous perennial and its native range is Eastern North America. Its scientific name honors Colonial Virginia botanist John Clayton (1694–1773).

This plant has been used medicinally by the Iroquois, who would give a cold infusion of the powdered roots to children suffering from convulsions. They would also eat the raw roots, believing that they permanently prevented conception. They would also eat the roots as food, as would the Algonquin people, who cooked them like potatoes.


March 27, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

a hawk and a dead rat

I parked and there across the street on a white SUV was a hawk. Amazing! I had no camera, so I took our my phone, not the best telephoto, but … Figured I could get in the house and grab my camera. Before going in, I looked at the raptor and realized it held a dead rat in its talons.

By the time I got back out with camera in hand, something had scared it and it was flying, low to the ground, weighted down by a wet dead rat. It lighted onto the street sign and I ran up, in the rain, and started shooting. Palo Alto is half-a-block up from me and the white background is the corner house on Taylor and Palo Alto.

The image is amazingly incongruous – a raptor with its prey, perfectly perched on a blue Pittsburgh street-sign and photographed with a high-end camera using a Japanese telephoto lens.

Yeah, one wants to ask, What the hell is a hawk doing in a residential area? but then one is happy to see it killed a rat, so maybe the question of a raptor on a street with families with children is less important. (Too bad it wasn’t a pigeon in its claw. Oh come on, pigeons are just the rats of the air.)


March 25, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 24
click to read the hiking posts



I’ve refused to shoot or write about the March 21 snowstorm. After spending a week in Northern Ontario where there’s still two to three feet of snow in the backyard, I won’t showcase another winter event.

The shift to Daylight-Savings-Time is a major inconvenience. The only saving grace is that at 7:30pm it’s still light.

h-park house

March 18, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

on grenadier pond

The lingering ice on the edges of ponds and lakes is a reminder that winter still holds Canada in its grip. The sea-gulls, in the bottom of the image, are standing on the thin edge-ice. Here in Toronto winter’s grip is not the tight fist that is still strangling Northern Ontario, instead it’s a velvet choker suggesting we wear winter coats, winter hats, gloves and scarves.

We did a 2.3 mile hike through High Park and I shot the house because I had never noticed it before – it’s been hidden by the greenery that perimeters Grenadier Pond. It’s one of the many high-end houses, in the upscale neighborhoods, that surround the Park.

When my family would visit back in the late 50s and early 60s, the Park was one of the first destinations my grandparents took us to. They lived 2 kilometers west of the Park on Jane north of Bloor. Sundays we would drive into the Park and picnic. My grandmother was in charge of the food and set-up; my grandfather walked us down to the pond and the zoo. And here I am, fifty years later, still in Toronto’s west-end; still walking High Park.

The main difference between that long-ago time and today, is that this morning the Park was full of young families, lycrad joggers, and determined walkers. In the late 50s/early 60s we had the picnic grove to ourselves. Immigrants went to the Park; the staid, nose-in-the-air Torontonias never did anything as plebeian as eat outdoors.

Back then, Toronto was ruled by first and second generation British immigrant families. Blue Laws were in effect and Toronto closed up at 5:00pm on a Friday and didn’t reopen until Monday morning. If you wanted to have a good time, you drove the 5 hours to Montreal. Them French were uncivilized, uncouth, peasants still. My aunts and uncles would often head east to Quebec for a weekend away from the rigidity that was English Toronto.

The British legacy families are in their twilight; their children have inter-married with the non-English and new immigrants have pushed the old British into the insignificant single-digit demographics.


March 18, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

morning light

It’s 7:00 am, it’s a chilly -3 Celsius, and we’re on our way to the St. Lawrence Market. Because we can’t find on-street parking, guess others were up well before us, Franchino parks in the Loblaws’ lot and we walk up to the Market. (The shot is from the roof of the parking lot. The shadow on the bottom right lets you know that we are in the eastern part of the city and the sun is coming up off the Scarborough bluffs.)

There has been a public market on the site – corner of Front Street East and Jarvis Street – since 1803. It was great to see a plethora of root vegetables in the various stalls. My favorites were the orange beets.

After the Market, Franchino went to Loblaws for mangoes and cilantro; he’s making a salad for Sunday dinner.

Finding a landscape, in Northern Ontario, that was still covered in feet of snow was disconcerting. Temperatures in Toronto may be chilly, but blue skies and the absence of snow point forward to spring not backwards to the misery of winter. It’s great to be out of snow country.

Besides the weather, being away from the claustrophobic immigrant community is another plus. I can’t figure out if the atrophy, in the Italian community in Sault Ste Marie, is due to aging. The majority of immigrants that came to Canada in the 40’s and 50′ are now in their 90’s and focused on end-of-life issues rather maintaining a healthy, progressive community. The claustrophobia may be symptomatic of aging and the lack of new blood, but Sault Ste Marie is not unique in this degeneration. Most manufacturing centers in Canada and the US are wasting away and the left-over populations are unable to deal with the protocols that impose a new world-order.

Small-town Canada – Sault Ste Marie, Harrow, Leamington – is where I know people that reject cell phones, reject the internet. These new fangled devices and technologies don’t fit into their analog experiences and are therefore marginalized. It’s these attitudes and fears that make slogans like – Make America Great Again – resonate because small-towns are being decimated my modernity.


March 17, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


in the mist

We’re on the boardwalk east of Exhibition Place and I’m shooting the mills in Hamilton.

There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun

But time has no beginnings and history has no bounds
As to this verdant country they came from all around
They sailed upon her waterways and they walked the forests tall
Built the mines the mills and the factories for the good of us all 1

There was a time when the steel-mills in Hamilton lit the horseshoe that is this section of Lake Ontario; when train-whistles and boat-horns serenaded the golden horseshoe. Today, the mills are silent, dark, skeletal. And the city is being invaded by Toronto hipsters looking for cheap rents. Dirty, polluted Hamilton is becoming the Brooklyn of Canada.

Lightfoot’s lyrics talk to an aging generation, my parents’ generation, a generation that is quickly passing. No one under 50 sees mines, mills and factories as good. And yet these aging infrastructures built the middle class; built modern Canada.

The province is on the cusp of an election that will either return the Liberals and Premier Kathleen Wynne to power or embrace a loud, obnoxious Tory – Dough Ford – who is promising to return Ontario to the manufacturing giant it was 50 years ago.

1 – Gordon Lightfoot. Canadian Railroad Trilogy.


March 15, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


my aunt and my mother
making taralli

On Thursdays and Fridays, a relief-worker comes in to sit with my dad and my mother uses the time to go shopping, keep appointments or bake.

This week, because I’m visiting she asked if we could make taralli when the relief-worker was here on Thursday. This morning, I suggested we put off making the taralli and that she take the time to rest. Her answer – “Rest !!! And have people think I’m a vacabunna – a lazy good-for-nothing?” Needless to say, we made taralli. My mother is 93.)

Taralli are bread-sticks in an oval shape. They are most common in southern Italy, and in Calabria they are flavored with small black anise seeds.

My mother began early this morning to set the yeast and by noon, she had mixed the dough and was ready to make the taralli. In the image, my aunt, on the left, is rolling out the dough into a long thin strip that she will then form into an oval pinching the ends together. (The small bowl has water in it and both my aunt and my mother would lightly wet their hands while rolling out the dough. The wetness stops the dough from sticking to either their hands or the kneading board.) My mother, in the middle, is rolling the dough, she had cut and kneaded into small pieces, and making long ovals. Making the dough into long ovals begins to break the yeast down and gets it ready to roll into long strips. On the right are some of the raw taralli.

The most I could do during this portion of the process was admit that I could never roll out perfectly even strips; keep them company and take pictures. However, I could certainly do the next two steps – boil the taralli and then bake them.

The raw taralli get dropped into a pan of boiling water and removed once they float to the surface. Boiling the dough gives the baked taralli their shiny surface.

The boiled taralli are then put onto the oven rack and baked until golden brown. In my mother’s electric oven, because the heating coil is on the bottom, the taralli need to be flipped when the one side is golden brown. We made close to 75 taralli.


March 13, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections



As Imperial England marched across the new continent, the Anglican Church was one of its most successful brigades. The Shingwauk/Fauquier Chapel, on the grounds of Algoma University, is a left-over from the time of subjugation and raping of Native people by the British Redcoats.

The Bishop Fauquier Memorial Chapel is a small red sandstone chapel built in 1881-1883 on the site of the Shingwauk Indian Residential School, a newly established school for boys, from the Garden River First Nation, in the Anglican Diocese of Algoma. 1

But the time of empire is over, and as it recedes into shadow its war-crimes get whitewashed and disguised in pageantry, romantic melodramas, heroic movies,2 country homes and quaint stone structures. I’m shooting a beautiful historic chapel, on a rise, on the north shore of the St. Mary’s River. In the early 19th century, what did the Indian children, ripped from their families and tribes, see when they looked out their dormitory windows, what did they feel when they heard the chapel bell toll?

1 – The Bishop Fauquier Memorial Chapel
2 – In Winston Churchill, Hollywood rewards a mass murderer


March 12, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


in a small canadian town

This morning took my dad into the hospital for a follow-up appointment and I was able to reserve an ambulance that came to the house and comfortably wheeled him out on a portable chair. (My dad has limited mobility, because of severe arthritis in his knees.) The Canadian health-care system has its detractors both here and certainly in the US, but this public system provides extensive care and support for 36 million people. The ambulance service, part of the large out-of-hospital support, is an amazing component of this universal health-care. (I marvel at all the at-home support my parents are getting.) The at-home option is a way of keeping patients in familiar surroundings and out of the hospital unless absolutely necessary.

After the appointment, I called the ambulance service to schedule the return and the dispatcher told me it would be a two-hour wait. (Because I had no idea how long the appointment would take, I couldn’t make a reservation for the return portion, so we had to take what was available.) My dad didn’t want to wait, so I called my sister and we went to the lobby to wait for her. (I had ridden in the ambulance and expected to get home the same way, so I didn’t have a car.)

While we were waiting, a relative of my dad’s saw him and came over. When she realized we were waiting to go home, she immediately called her husband and arranged for him to come by and pick us up and take us home. This all happened so quickly and without any hesitation on the relative’s part, that I didn’t even get a chance to tell her that we already had a ride. So, I was left to call my sister and tell her not to come up.

Only in a small town, where one frequently sees extended family and where everyone lives near, is this happenstance possible. The flip side of this feeling of belonging/of community, is the suffocating experience of living in a place where everyone knows your name.

I left the small town 50 years ago; I thrived in the anonymity of New York City; I experienced the freedom of living away from parents and relatives; and I got to create my own non-biological extended family. But even I, skeptic and stranger, could appreciate the serendipity of this morning’s chance encounter.
The above image is the pond, still under winter snow, above the Fort Creek spillway.


March 11, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


finding winter – again

Years ago, I promised to avoid coming up to Northern Ontario in March, because I knew I would find winter again. But family circumstances brought me back.

The flights up were a retreat back into a frozen, snow-covered landscape. Western Pennsylvania was snow-free, so was Toronto, but from Barrie north, white covered the land.

What I found is that the snow is slowly melting and that my dad is probably in the best mindset and the best health I’ve seen him since the onset of winter. The end of the seasonal confinement and the hope of spring are bringing smiles back. He’s also figured out how to use both the wheelchair and the walker to get around and he now goes all through the house. He, my mom and I spent two hours in the sun-room, talking about all the crazy relatives and basking in the late afternoon light. The image on the right is a Christmas cactus, in the sun-room, that has decided to bloom in artless March rather than in deep December.


February 24, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


from winter’s wreckage

These appeared between yesterday afternoon and this evening. When I went looking for first shoots yesterday, the flower-bed was awash in wet rotting leaves; tonight, as the sun was leaving the western sky, I went looking again and there they were – the first shoots, the messengers, the heralds of spring.

This is also the beginning of the extreme-period – the last hurrah – that ends a season. (If only the same process spilled into the political arena, we could wake from our winter of discontent.)

It’s been a whirlwind of sunny/warm, windy/chilly, rain/close. And this turmoil will probably continue through March, expiring with the showers of April.

The first post on snowdrops is dated March 13, 2011 – le bucaneve – and I titled the post with the wonderful Italian word for these heralds of spring. (bucaneve is literally translated as puncturing through the snow.)


February 20, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 23
click to read the hiking posts


bucolic north park

The temperature at 4:00 pm was 78o; the previous record was 77o on February 8, 1900. Today, a 118-year old record was broken.

North Park was full of people and cars. I forget that there are many for whom a car-ride, on a nice day, is an outing. Why walk or jog when you can sit in the comfort of your monster-car and see the sunshine, see the walkers, see the joggers through your tinted windshield?

I hiked up Walter Road and walked the western half of Lake Shore Drive for a total 2.8 miles with a 70 feet elevation.

The photograph on the right is deceptive. I noticed the structure and the creek through the bare trees and decided that I could configure an image that would look rustic, remote, romantic. Didn’t realize it would also has an appalachian feel to it.

The structure, built many years ago, has been re-purposed as a concession stand and bathroom facility.

Today’s record-breaking temperatures and the 11 hours of daylight can cause deadly damage to dormant trees. A heat spike, followed by a week of above normal temperatures can start the sap running. And where that sounds promising and spring-like, running sap can turn lethal in a cold-spell. Trees running sap will die if the mercury drops below freezing. (In 2014, we had similar temperature aberrations that caused the sap to start running before the last frost date for Western Pennsylvania. That year, throughout the region, thousand of trees were lost – died when the running-sap froze. I lost the two huge fig trees.)


February 10, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 22
click to read the hiking posts


no winter lasts forever and no spring skips its turn

Everyone who’s been hiding from the cold and snow came out today. The 4-mile loop around the manufactured lake was full of joggers, walkers and bikers. It was also the first time I saw two red-tails chasing each other.

hawk facts

  •      Red-tails are striking birds that belong to a group of hawks with broad wings and relatively short tails.
  •      The hawks can ride air currents in lazy circles, using very little energy. The combination of broad wings and short tail makes them
          well-adapted to soaring for hours at a time.
  •     Red-tails construct large, untidy nests made of sticks and twigs. These nests can be found at the top of large trees. 1

All I did was point the camera and shoot and that’s how the above image came about.
1 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


February 6, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


in the bleak midwinter
frosty wind made moan
in the bleak midwinter
long long ago

The midwinter mark was February 3 (the season has 88 days); we have turned the corner and are moving towards the end of snow and cold.

Yes, there was a time, long long ago, when winter was full of things to do and the snow and the cold were just incidentals. Why pay attention to your cold toes when there was a rink to shovel; when there was a warming-hut full of friends and hot apple-cider? Why worry about the 10 inches of new snow when there was a Bon Soo 1 dance to get to and a promise that Jim Morrison would plead, Come on baby, light my fire?

Remember Ron’s 1959 Buick LaSabre?
Yeah, we spun round and round up on Pine Street hill.
Whoa! Man, that was great.

That was a boat not a car.
The tree-huger speaks. Oh speak again dark angel.
We all fit in that boat and in winter it went everywhere. And don’t forget, we were the only kids from the West-End
with a friend who had his own car. Yeah Ron!!

Hey, hadn’t you just started dating that Anita chick? Man, you were the first one to have a girlfriend.
Oh wait, you still have one of those.


My favorite memory, was tobogganing down Garson’s Hill.
You took my brother’s toboggan without even asking.
Well, I wasn’t going down on no sleigh. Them was for losers.

Tobogganing was great until we started cross-country. Remember going down the snowbanks at my parents’ with our first skis? Yeah! 2 seconds of downhill.

My sister smoked and she still kicked my ass on the trails. She could do the Pinder
9K extension and never break a sweat. Man, I hated her.
Aren’t you like supposed to get winded and wheeze when you smoke a pack a day?

This from the man who refused to pay trail-fees. And bragged about it. Of course, focus on your sister
and not on your ILLEGAL activities.

You have nothing to say, so put a straw in that mickey, shuck on it and shut-up.
Remember you refused to come skiing, because it was TOO COLD. A Canadian whining about winter.                                                                    

1 Bon Soo – the Ontario Winter Carnival, Sault Ste Marie
Images: top left – kitchen outside wall; top right – 1959 Buick LaSabre; bottom right – Hiawatha Highlands trail


February 5, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

ponte sul crati – in b&w

The above images were posted by Antonio Rende on his Facebook page. They’re amazing.

My favorite is the image in the middle; il signore Rende was able to maintain the monochromatic elements even though there’s a red-light at the top of the tower and a person, with a mustard coat, on the bridge-deck.

Deciding how to organize and create the above composite was also great fun. The blog-page is 950 pixels across. And, I wanted to showcase the narrow center image and bookend it with two wider horizontal ones. The center image is 15 of 950 and the other two are each 25 of 950. (Visually, the image on the left looks wider than the image on the right, but they are the same width.)


January 28, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

ponte sul crati – dedication

For years, officials in the city of Cosenza have been working on an ambitious urban regeneration project. One of their primary goals was to bridge the gap between two neighborhoods, Contrada Gergeri on the eastern shore of the Crati and Via Reggio Calabria on the western shore of the Crati. (Cosenza is at the confluence of the Busento and Crati rivers; the Busento terminates in Cosenza and merges with the Crati that feeds into the Ionian Sea.) To accommodate this difficult site, Santiago Calatrava suggested a cable-stayed bridge with a single inclined pylon rising above its urban surroundings.

The slender steel pylon has a quadrilateral cross section shape with rounded corners (the image on the left is of Mario Occhiuto, the mayor of Cosenza, inside the pylon) and it is inclined backwards to show visible tension as well as create a clear visual direction towards the city. Overall the strings and form of this structure suggest a giant harp that’s been floated above moving water. The structure stretches some 460 feet between the two neighborhoods. Traffic for both vehicles and pedestrians moves in both directions.

“I’m proud and honored to be a part of this momentous urban improvement project for the City of Cosenza,” Santiago Calatrava said in a statement. “Thank you to the officials of Cosenza who have placed their trust in me to deliver such an important piece of urban infrastructure …”

Facts: – Cosenza, with a population of 71,000, is a city in Calabria (population – 735,000); it is also the capital of the Province of Cosenza which has a population of 268,000. The ancient town is the seat of the Accademia Cosentina, the second academy of philosophical and literary studies to be founded in the Kingdom of Naples (1511) and one of the oldest in Europe. To this day, the city remains a cultural hub in Southern Italy, with several museums, theaters, libraries and the University of Calabria.

Partial Text: Nick Mafi – Architectural Digest – link
Photos: Osvaldo Spizzirri – January, 2018


January 25, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


barrie, ontario

Wikipedia describes Barrie as a city in central Ontario. The city was named after Sir Robert Barrie, who in the early 1800s was in charge of naval operations in Canada and frequently commanded forces through the city. Today, with a population of about 136,000, Barrie is the 34th largest city in Canada.

Barrie is 70 miles north-west of Toronto and in a show-belt. Prevailing westerly, blowing off Georgian Bay, just dump lake-effect snow onto the Barrie area. This morning, we drove up to Barrie to go cross-country skiing. (The last time I cross-countried, I had more hair, more stamina and less weight.)

What I like best about cross-country skiing in Canada are the groomed trails. (I used the above image to show the groomed trails.) When I tell Pittsburghers about groomed trails, they have no idea what I’m talking about; when I tell Canadians that people in the US cross-country in the woods, on golf courses, they look at me, shake their heads and whisper, crazy Americans.


January 24, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


through the bare trees

This shot is from Frank’s balcony, looking west, and it’s the first time I’m seeing the steeples.

Winter in Canada is a miserable season. The ticket-clerk at Union Station commented on the cold, but it was a throw away line, because her tone suggested the freezing weather was nothing out of the ordinary. When I got off the train at Bloor, it was -100 Celsius and with the wind-chill factor it felt much much colder. In the one-block walk to Frank’s, it was so cold my face hurt.

Spielberg’s movie, The Post, is an interesting period piece. It reminds us, that the publication of The Pentagon Papers was the beginning of the end of Richard Nixon’s presidency; that women in the 1970’s were absent from the decision-making process (Katherine Graham’s father – Eugene Meyer – chose her husband – Philip Graham – to head The Washing Post, rather than his own daughter. And she didn’t see that as wrong or unusual.); that analogue technology ruled; that the entanglements among journalists, politicians and policymakers in Washington is normal.

I generally don’t like Spielberg movies. They are too romantic, too sappy, too pretty, too long. I hated what he did to Thomas Keneally’s book on Oskar Schindler. A character that in the book is anything but attractive, is impersonated in Spielberg’s romantic retelling by gorgeous Liam Neeson. Talk about making Schindler a superhero; talk about manipulating an audience.

The only over-the-top, sappy scene in the current movie is his having a reporter repeat out-loud the Supreme Court decision – In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.

Yes, Mr. Spielberg we get the message. Thank you Mr. Spielberg for making sure we don’t miss your elitist liberal views, because they weren’t on display throughout the film. (Frank says that I’m being too harsh and that normal people need the repetition, the pointing out of the obvious.)


January 19, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 21
click to read the hiking posts


ballo con te, nell’oscurità

My favorite version of Ed Sheeran’s Perfect Symphony is the one he does with Andrea Bocelli. I like the orchestral arrangement and Bocelli’s tenor voice singing the choppy lines in Italian. Sheeran sings about dancing in the dark, Bocelli makes it even more intimate with his – ballo con te, nell’ oscurità. The English – dancing in the dark – provides an amazing image; the Italian wraps beautifully soft sounds, ballo con te, nell’ oscurità around the dancers.

Went back to Ridge Road for today’s walk. The southern half from the junction of Babcock Blvd/Pearce Mill Road to the Wyoming Grove – the midpoint – and back is 3.2 miles. So, I’ve now walked both the northern half and the southern half; somewhere along the line I’ll have to walk all of Ridge Road.

The second image in the slide-show – the trees – and the above image are both from today’s walk.


January 17, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 20
click to read the hiking posts


in order to see birds
it’s necessary to become part of the silence

Walking Walter Road was a way of getting back into a routine. (The cold and snow have made walking sporadic. Today, the cold was still there, but it was sunny.) Walter Road, from its southern junction with Lake Shore Drive to its northern junction with Pearce Mill Road, is 1.2 miles with an elevation of 203 feet. I walked to Pearce Mill Road and back to the southern junction.

There were birds all along the walk. They flew in and out of the reeds, that were above the snow on the side of the hill, pecking for seeds. Most were brown, sparrow-like things, but the one in the image on the left could be a mockingbird, but I’m not sure. I liked that I caught it fluttering its dark-blue wing and I liked the contrast between its very white tail-feathers and the surrounding snow.

Actually today was a wildlife day; besides the various birds hunting for seeds, there was a red-tail hawk monitoring the skies and deer that came down to the roadside where the snow was less deep and twigs were accessible. Never mind that the snow, around the picnic shelters, was littered with animal tracks.


January 11, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 19
click to read the hiking posts


the holly bears a berry
as red as any blood

I’ve been trying to incorporated hills into my North Park walks. The first was Walter Road; before I walked it, I drove Walter Road and knew where it lead, its terrain and elevation. North Ridge Drive is a second hill road. But a major part of the drive is currently closed to traffic and therefore I can’t picture the walk, the elevation or the ups and downs. (North Ridge Drive is approximately 3.3 miles. This is from rough calculations on Goggle Maps.)

The climb from the skating rink, at the bottom of Ridge Drive, to the top is a 250 foot elevation change. The initial hill, the rest of Ridge Drive and then Pearce Mill Road back to the car is a 5.2 miles trek. (I’m leaving this loop for a nice spring day.)

Ridge Drive at the top has a number of new plantings – American Holly Trees. These are native to Western Pennsylvania and have been planted along the northern slopes of the road where there is good drainage and much organic-laden mulch. It was a surprise to see these small evergreens among the tall, bare trees. I also saw and shot a young red-tail. I’m assuming it was a young bird, because it was half the size of the others I’ve seen.

I think I’ve settled on the d7100 and the Nikon 18-300mm for the trip to Machu Picchu. It’s definitely the lighter camera, much more versatile and easier to hand off it I want someone else to take a pic with me in it.

Today, I walked 3.7 miles.

L to R – dead tree with fungi and nest-hole, North Ridge Drive, young red-tail, observation tower top of Ridge Drive


January 9, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 18
click to read the hiking posts


and where do all these highways go
now that we are free

Today, the Park’s rodents ventured out – squirrels and chipmunks were everywhere. The miserable freeze is in retreat and the January thaw has marched in. The Park’s inhabitants, like its human users, ran the branches, rested on the tree-tops, crowded the roads and the tramped the trails.

I got in a 3.9 mile hike. And given that it was my first in a while, I stayed on the flats.

This is also the beginning of using the d7100 with the Tamron 18-400mm. Discovered that the lens couldn’t read the focus-point at 400mm, the solution was to switch to manual focus. (I want to see if there a difference in picture quality between the Tamron and the Nikon 18-300mm. The Tamron is a slightly lighter lens.)


January 7, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 17
click to read the hiking posts


you chose your journey long before
you came upon this highway

The last time I did any walking was a week ago and that was indoors at Pearson Airport going from the domestic terminal to the new gates for the puddle-jumpers between Toronto and the American cities within a 500 miles radius. The pedometer clocked that walk at two-and-a-half miles.

Between getting over a cold and the miserably frigid temperatures, I’ve been indoors the last ten days. But today I wanted to see if I could get some walking in. Not too successful. After being out in the wind and cold for less than a half-hour – 1.1 miles – I turned around and headed back to the car. But I did shoot the red-tailed hawk in the above image; I’m on Lake Shore Drive with my camera pointing at the sky and clicking away.

I’m staying with lyrics from Cohen’s first album. The title, like that of the last post, is from Winter Lady.


January 3, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections


and weave it on a loom
of smoke and gold
and breathing

The image is from Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller released June 24, 1971. It’s gorgeous Julie Christie toking in an opium den.
Film Facts 1

  • Carpenters for the film were locals and young men from the United States, fleeing conscription into the Vietnam War; they were dressed in period costume and used tools of the period, so that they could go about their business in the background, while the plot advanced in the foreground.
  • For a distinctive look, Altman and Zsigmond, the cinematographer, chose to “flash” (pre-fog) the film negative before its eventual exposure, as well as use a number of filters on the cameras, rather than manipulate the film in post-production; in this way the studio could not force him to change the film’s look to something less distinctive.
  • Pauline Kael wrote: The classical story is only a thread in the story that Altman is telling…The people who drop in and out of the place—a primitive mining town—are not just background for McCabe and Mrs. Miller; McCabe and Mrs. Miller are simply the two most interesting people in the town, and we catch their stories in glimpses, as they interact with the other characters and each other… Lives are picked up and let go, and the sense of how little we know about them becomes part of the texture; we generally know little about the characters in movies, but since we’re assured that that little is all we need to know, and thus all there is to know, we’re not bothered by it. Here we seem to be witnesses to a vision of the past.
  • The three Cohen songs used in the film were The Stranger Song, Sisters of Mercy and Winter Lady. (The title is from the chorus of Winter Lady.)
  • Altman had Lou Lombardo, the film’s editor, use the music to maintain a rhythm for the film (in effect using it as a “temp” track). He later said, “I think the reason they worked was because those lyrics were etched in my subconscious, so when I shot the scenes I fitted them to the songs, as if they were written for them.”
  • Scott Tobias wrote in 2014 that The film is unimaginable to me without the Cohen songs, which function as these mournful interstitials that unify the entire movie.
  • Julie Christie’s performance was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography received a nomination by the British Academy Film Awards, and the film’s screenplay garnered a Writers Guild of America nomination. Greeted with muted praise upon release, the film’s reputation has grown in stature in the intervening years.
  • In 2010, McCabe & Mrs. Miller was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.

1 The information in the Film Facts came from Wikipedia.


January 1, 2018 2018, diario/journal, reflections

new year’s wolf-moon

I went out my front door, with the camera on a tripod and just shot up at the moon. Also, I did nothing to the image in Photoshop except to crop it.
Fifty years ago, the album – Song of Leonard Cohen – was released. On the back cover of the album is a Mexican religious picture of the Anima Sola (Based on Roman Catholic tradition, the Anima Sola or Lonely Soul is an image depicting a soul in purgatory, popular in Latin America, as well as much of Andalusia, Naples and Palermo.) depicted as a woman breaking free of her chains surrounded by flames and gazing towards heaven. In a Rolling Stone interview, Cohen described the image as “the triumph of the spirit over matter. The spirit being that beautiful woman breaking out of the chains and the fire and prison.” Cohen found the picture in a botánica near the Hotel Chelsea in 1965. The album’s front cover depicts a sepia tint photo of Cohen credited to Machine.

The first two LPs I ever bought were Gordon Lightfoot’s first album – Lightfoot! – released in January of 1966 and Cohen’s debut album – Songs of Leonard Cohen – released on December 27, 1967.


December 24, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

winter has hit

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

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

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

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


December 21, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 16
click to read the hiking posts


st. peter’s

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

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

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

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

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


December 17, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 15
click to read the hiking posts


red-tailed hawk

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

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

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

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


December 15, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 14
click to read the hiking posts


on the north ridge

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

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

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

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


December 14, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 13
click to read the hiking posts


on my way into town

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

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

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

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


December 13, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 12
click to read the hiking posts


he who makes himself a dove is eaten by the hawk

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

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

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

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

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


December 12, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


winter’s first snow

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

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

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


December 7, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

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

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

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

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

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


December 6, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 11
click to read the hiking posts



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

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

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

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


December 5, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

social services in northern ontario

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

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

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


December 3, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

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


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

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

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


December 1, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


glad tidings of comfort and joy

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

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

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

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


November 30, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


November 29, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

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


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

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

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

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


November 26, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

trek – 7
click to read the hiking posts


hiking north park – northern mockingbird


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

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


November 22, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


November 19, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


November 11, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

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


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

I love the golden door.

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

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

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

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

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

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


November 9, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

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


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

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

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


November 9, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

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


the other side of the tracks

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

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

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


October 29, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

the witch of november

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


October 23, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

looking north-west

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


October 22, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

in the haze

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

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

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

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

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

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


October 21, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

my uncle’s 80th birthday

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

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

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


October 20, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

new kitchen, pressed-glass

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

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

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

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


October 19, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

new kitchen, new counter

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

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

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

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


October 17, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


new kitchen, reflections

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

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

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


October 16, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

new kitchen, following-days

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

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

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

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

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


October 10, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

new kitchen, day-two

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

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

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

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

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

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


October 9, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


new kitchen, day-one

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

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

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

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

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


September 30, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


visiting south-western ontario

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


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

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

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


September 29, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

back after a year away

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

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

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

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


September 23, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


last rose of summer

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

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

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


September 13, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

where did it go …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


September 13, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


le musée aga khan

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

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

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

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


September 12, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

man-made waterfall in wild high park

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

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

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


September 12, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

hint of fall

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

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

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


September 11, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

morning has broken

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

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

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

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

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


August 24, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

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

Click to read the first entry of making sauce.

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

fire burn and caldron bubble

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

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

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

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

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

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


August 23, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to read the second entry of making tomato sauce.


fall is coming

August 22, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

fall is coming

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

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

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

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

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


August 16, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

additions to the 7th circle of hell

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

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

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


August 6, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear 1


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

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

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

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

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

– 1968 was the summer I left Canada for Narragansett

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

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


July 27, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

arts and crafts homes in toronto

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

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

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

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

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


July 21, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

the old distillery district

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

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

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

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


July 17, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections


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


July 12, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

peaches in the backyard


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

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

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

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


June 28, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

i primi pittuli e iuri – first zucchini-flower fritters

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

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

The title is dialect.

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


June 19, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

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


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

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

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

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


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



June 16, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

torrential rains in june

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

the rains

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

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

the image

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

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


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

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

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

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

the blueberries

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

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

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

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

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


June 10, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

a birthday . . . depends how you count

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

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

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

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

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


minnehaha falls

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

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

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

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


a soft, lilac-scented breeze

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

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

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

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


at connie-and-ron’s

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

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

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

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


oaklands – gothic revival in toronto


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

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

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

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


the martin house

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

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

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

The above photo is of the pergola.

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



the founding of the republic


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

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


     ascension thursday – 40 th day of easter

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

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

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

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

According To My Cousin Annarita Femia

The legend

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

A furtunella is a plant with soft pink odorless flowers.

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

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

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

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

se succede questo porta fortuna.

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

grazie – Lucy, Maria Lucia, Annarita




the bees have found the wisteria


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

Wisteria facts

Wisteria is deciduous vine that belongs to the pea family.

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

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

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

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

Bees and hummingbirds are the main pollinators of wisteria.


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nu garofalu russu 2

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

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

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


we plow the fields and scatter
the good seed on the land
but it is fed and watered
by god’s almighty hand

he sends the snow in winter
the warmth to swell the grain
the breezes and the sunshine
and the soft refreshing rain

all good gifts

we thank thee then
for all things bright and good
the seedtime and the harvest
our life, our health, our food

no gifts have we to offer
for all thy love imparts
but that which you desire
our humble thankful hearts1

nu cocci e granu 2

1  All Good Gifts – Godspell (modified lyrics – I tried to de-god them, but had to leave in one reference.)
In the play, the song and the scene portray the ultimate hippie stereotypes – the cast holds hands and dances around the actor singing the simple song; and as they get to the end-chorus, they lift the singer up and out of their closed circle.

2  The title is in dialect. My parents would often talk about the post-war years in Calabria as a time when, ud aviamu mancu nu coccio e granu – we didn’t even have a grain of wheat. Standard Italian flattens the phrase to – non avevamo nemmeno un seme di grano – removing all the emphatic guttural sounds of the dialect. Sorry, the old Calabrese, using a double negative, drives home the dire straits of a people on the verge of starvation. The old Calabrese captures the desperation of a people mired in feudalism and then abandoned by the same patroni – landowners – who had subjugated them.

The Winnabago Indian woman, holding the pannier and carrying her two children, is the Frank Lloyd Wright Nakoma statue in my backyard. (I shot the image from my second floor porch and the yellow haze, in the top right corner, is an out of focus white lilac blossom.)

The sculpture represents both the sentiment of the song and the tragedy of nurturing children during periods of deprivation.


a bird house – not!

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 30, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

                        nothing is in primary colors

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

From the Mattress Factory website


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 30, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

global warming = april garden

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

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

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


April 19, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

the ladies who lunch

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

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

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

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

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


April 18, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

the italian ghetto

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 17, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

               on moffly hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 16, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

where is the risen sun

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

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

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

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

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


April 15, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

a glooming peace

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

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

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

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


April 14, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

getting the ground ready

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

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

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

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


April 8, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

bracketing the wisteria

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

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

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

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

the saint

March 20, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

  the saint, the bishop and the politician

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

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

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

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

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

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


March 19, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

feast-day and father’s day

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

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

There are two things I associate with this date:

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

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

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

Oh my, how things have changed in 62 years!


March 15, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

on the ides of march – winter’s last gasp

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

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

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

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

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


March 12, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

daylight saving time – sommerzeit

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

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

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

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


March 8, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

blades in shadow

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

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

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

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

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

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


March 2, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

armored scale – chionaspis pinifoliae

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

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

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


February 26, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

february’s spring

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

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

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

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


February 21, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

thursday, february 16

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

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

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

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

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

saturday, february 18

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

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

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

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

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

sunday, february 19

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

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

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

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

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


February 11, 2017 2017, diario/journal, reflections

pilgrimage as economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



December 10, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

and what’ll you do now, my darling young one



In the online edition of The New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich wrote a schmaltzy, but wonderful piece about Patti Smith’s performance at the 2016 Nobel Prize ceremony. My favorite paragraph …

Smith was accompanied by the Philharmonic performing a spare and gentle arrangement of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” orchestrated by Hans Ek, a Swedish conductor. She looked so striking: elegant and calm in a navy blazer and a white collared shirt, her long, silver hair hanging in loose waves, hugging her cheekbones. I started crying almost immediately. She forgot the words to the second verse—or at least became too overwhelmed to voice them—and asked to begin the section again. I cried more. “I’m sorry, I’m so nervous,” Smith admitted. The orchestra obliged. The entire performance felt like a fierce and instantaneous corrective to “times like these”—a reiteration of the deep, overwhelming, and practical utility of art to combat pain. In that moment, the mission of the Nobel transcended any of its individual recipients.2

Smith is priestess, chanting an anthem, to a generation that lost its soul on November 8. She is troubadour and in the last verse, she rejects the alt-right’s silencing of democracy; and with fists clenched, she insists, she will – tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it. Her Druid voice makes Dylan’s words a clarion call.
1  A defiant and nervous Patti Smith performing  A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall  at the Nobel ceremony. (The above image is a still from the video.)
2  Amanda Petrusich writing in The New Yorker –  A Transcendent Patti Smith Accepts Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize


October 23, 2016 2016, diario/journal, reflections

calabrian diaspora

Calabrians expatriates number almost two million – 1, 872, 500 to be exact.
Calabrians also form the largest Italian community abroad.
• 226,500 live in Europe
• 590,000 live in North and Central America
• 896,000 South America
• 160,000 in Australia and Oceania

A breakdown by country, shows the following distribution of Calabrian immigrants:
• Argentina – 580,000
• United States – 360,000
• Brazil – 270,000
• Canada – 230,000
• Australia – 160,000
• Germany – 73,000
• Switzerland – 54,000
• Venezuela – 15,000
• Chile/Uruguay – 18,000
• Belgium – 13,000
• Great Britain – 12,000
• Sweden – 6,000
• Luxembourg – 1,500.

Both the image and the data came from the FB page – Calabria Ieri e Oggi.


October 15, 2016 diario/journal, reflections


Excerpt from Toni Morrison’s Acceptance Speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature (December 7, 1993)
The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek – it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.

Excerpts from George Orwell’s 1984
the consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival.

The invention of print, however, made it easier to manipulate public opinion, and the film and the radio carried the process further. With the development of television, and the technical advance which made it possible to receive and transmit simultaneously on the same instrument, private life came to an end.

They were born, they grew up in the gutters, they went to work at twelve, they passed through a brief blossoming period of beauty and sexual desire, they married at twenty, they were middle-aged at thirty, they died, for the most part, at sixty. Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer, and, above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds.

Often she was ready to accept the official mythology, simply because the difference between truth and falsehood did not seem important to her.


October 6, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

harvesting pears

It was time to harvest the winter pear tree, so my dad and I got the ladders out and my mom brought out the bushel and the crook. When I asked for a pair of pruning shears my 90 year old parents laughed. “Just rip them down.” Guess using pruning shears was too hoity-toity.

My dad is one of those people who just wants to get the job done, whether it’s done well or done correctly is less important. So while I was on the ladder cutting the fruit off the branches and placing each pear into a bucket so not to bruise it, he was on the ground with a long stick whacking the fruit off. So much for gathering unbruised fruit. My cousin Joe tells the story that his dad and his son-in-law couldn’t work together, because his dad was similar to mine – get the job done and style and accuracy be damned. His son-in-law would measure twice before cutting a piece of wood; Cump’ Armunte would cut and use whatever came out, making it fit by hook-or-by-crook. Ciccio Zinga is the same way. Guess growing up in Aprigliano in the 20s and 30s must have ingrained similar sensibilities.

For me the obsession for accuracy and correctness come in the writing. I can spend days going over a couple of paragraphs. It would drive Rick crazy. He would write a memo, give it to me to proof and then hate the process of revision.

Many of the pears were on the ground and you could tell the ones I cut from the ones that had fallen to my dad’s whacking stick. He explained that because they’re not eating pears, it’s less important that they not banged up. After-all, the fruit is gonna be cut up and made into jam.

The pic is my mother, holding one of bushels with the pears, in the downstairs kitchen.


October 5, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

blooming alone

One of the surprises is the flowers in my parents’ front yard. These are the genetically modified flowers – geraniums, begonias, dahlias, impatience, roses, petunias – we all plant. They are on their last bloom. Soon the morning frost will wither them and the hurried winds will rip their petals apart.

In order to snap the pic, I had to hold the stem, because the wind was whipping everything.

It’s interesting to have been here in May when all the fruit-trees were in bloom and my dad and my uncle were planting their gardens. Fast forward four months and the gardens are empty. My uncle still has plants in the ground in his greenhouse. But my dad has pulled all the vegetable plants and turned them into the soil. The only plants left in the garden are escarole. The plant is hardy enough to last well into early winter. And as long as the snowfall is minimal, my parents will eat garden-fresh escarole salads and my mother will make pasta-e-scarola well into December.

The summer days of endless light have given way to cloudy skies and early sunsets. This is the In-between. By late October, there will be snow flurries. (Languid Indian Summer is for the domains south and east of the 49th parallel.)


October 5, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

47 years is a long time

korah-roadThe last time I was here, at this time of year, was October of 1969. (Writing that date makes is seem so long ago.) I was a freshman at the University of Windsor and I drove up with a fellow student. He was older and could rent a car and in exchange, I invited him to my parents’ for Canadian Thanksgiving. He was an American from Cincinnati.

It’s a nice time of year, the weather is mild, but everywhere there are indicators of winter. Every yard, has hockey nets and hockey sticks – the kids are anticipating upcoming season; the gardens are all harvested; and the lawns have had their final cut.

The image on the left is of the corner of Korah Road and Douglas Street. The house is both a residence and a music school. When we came from Italy in 1957, the area was full of stores. My parents ran a tab at Tagliabracci Groceries; their first chesterfield they bought at Spatone Furniture; and in between the two was the pharmacy where I bought my DC and Marvel comics. A couple of doors was the infamous Roosevelt Hotel Bar. No self-respecting Italian immigrant, of my parents’ age, went anywhere near the place, but the previous generation of immigrants, the ones well on their way to assimilation, the ones who had traded in their home-made wine for Carling Black Label; the ones who could speak English without an accent; the ones who drove new cars not used junkers; they flocked to the Roosevelt.


September 22, 2016 8th grade, diario/journal, reflections

summer’s end

lanternIt’s official, we have moved into fall.

The rusted lantern sits on top of the fence between my back-yard and Carl’s; the Rose-of-Sharon is in his yard, a legacy of Joe and Rose Ferrara the previous owners.

Try to remember the kind of September when you were a tender and callow fellow

  • I was in elementary school and living in Northern Ontario. It was early September and I remember trying to fall asleep the night before the first day of school. It was terribly muggy and we had no AC. We were living at my grandparents’ and my bedroom was a nook off the living-room.
  • It was a Saturday morning in mid-September and Ron, Frank, Rainer and I met up at the basketball court at our elementary school for a game. Mike Bonder, one of the Goulais Avenue kids and a fellow 8th grader also showed up. We let him play. In the distance, the hills were covered in fog, because the weather was turning. And even though the sky was super blue, a chill wrapped around us as we ran up and down the court.
  • September was also wild mushroom time. It had rained the night before but Saturday morning the sky broke blue and my dad and I went mushroom picking somewhere off Highway 17 North. I remember the meadow grass; it had turned gold and brittle and rattled in the breeze.
  • In Norther Ontario, in September, you could wear a heavy sweater in the morning. It was a great day when you walked out the door and the cars were covered in a light frost.


September 16, 2016 diario/journal, reflections


removing the deadwood – le frasce

sometimes an image surprises
and then it’s worth the time
to expose that kernel of wonder

the pruner’s pose
is classical in its reach
baroque in its setting
american in its clothing
ethereal in its glide
and generous
in its offering

Today, the tree-service guys came to prune the lowest branches of the Redwood. And Jason – the pruner in the pic – used a cherry-picker for the job. He parked the humongous bucket-truck in the alley, and because there were parked cars, he only dropped two safety feet. He did an amazingly job setting the right foot a millimeter away from the parked Acura tire. (In another life, he was a surgeon.) He then telescoped the bucket, using the 60 foot hydraulic lift, over all the wires and brought it into my back-yard and into the Redwood. After cutting the six bottom limbs, he climbed into the tree and removed all the deadwood. My father would have used all these dead branches – frasce; the large ones as stakes in his garden and the small one for kindling .


September 14, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

i stole again

I again went out onto Sampsonia Way and picked zucchini flowers from the plant growing in my neighbor’s alley flower-bed.

The last time I made the pittuli, I added no additional salt thinking that what was in the cheese would be enough. It wasn’t. This time I added a bit too much. (I have an excuse to make another batch.) I also separated the zucchini flower from its base and made the batter more liquidy; both alterations made it easier to fold the flowers into the batter. The only change from my mother’s recipe is that I add parsley. (In the image on the left, the black specks are parsley.) I take my mother’s frozen parsley and shave it into the batter. My mother gives me the parsley frozen in a tube-shape wrapped in cellophane. BTW, the frozen parsley looks like a bag of weed.

This is an eat-standing meal, because I eat the fritters as soon as they come out of the pan. Yes, they are very hot and you have to delicately rip them into small steaming chunks or risk burning your mouth. In the Zinga family, there are two foods – zucchini pittuli and fried potato wedges – that you eat out of the frying pan or immediately after you take the item out. I love eating the crispy fritters hot out of the frying pan; my dad loves eating the potato wedges as they brown.

The black prongs and the coin-shaped gas-burner lid add interesting elements to the image. Also, I like the rigid circles of the frying pan and the coin shaped gas-lid as well as the amorphous circular shapes of the pittuli.


September 7, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

new shutters

The new shutters give me the option of opening some louvers to let in daylight. The thin blinds that were there could be set to either opened or closed. And because the front windows are right on the sidewalk, the blinds were always closed. The shutters have an upper and lower section and I can open the upper louvers and not sacrifice privacy. This should mean that I don’t have to automatically put on the electric lights in order to see. I also like looking through the upper louvers and seeing the tree in front of the house and the rooftops of the alley-houses in the back. (It’s a surprise to realize that this is the first time in 30 years that I can sit and my desk, in the big downstairs room and see the outside.)

The real surprise is that from the outside, the shutters look plywood like. On first impression, the yellow-pine finish makes it look like the window is boarded up, but the well between the shutters and the glass, and the yellow paint on the sides of the well correct that first impression. The other thing that corrects this first impression is having the louvers point up. This allows interior light to come through.

This is the second image I’ve posted that has a number of items in it that I like. Going from left-to-right – the angels, the Amish dining-room table, the overhead light, the fancy frame on the window and the blue radiator. The contractor is Rick from Blind Doctors.

John, who is the owner of the company and an amateur wine maker, promised me a bottle of his wine. When he came to take measurements, he saw the Terra Cruda/Aliatico wine bottles on the side-board and that got us talking.


September 6, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

crawling the walls

The majority of the wall-plaques have no color and then, I found 3 painted-aluminum salamanders from Mexico. The one on the left is the biggest. I like the hints of the other things in the pic; on the left are the green leave of the sweet potato vine as well as their shadows; the black-green rope holds one the buckets hanging from the Japanese Lilac; in the middle is the hint of another one of the ropes; and on the right is the outer arc of a circular iron ornament.

My favorite image from this shoot is the first one in the slideshow – the tiny, blue oregano flowers, the rocks, the sweet-potato vine and the negative black spaces. Whenever I’m hiking and see a hole in the rock or a deep black tunnel on the side of a cliff, I fantasize that some creature lives in it. The black spaces in the above image bring back those wild ideas.

This miserable election has me turning off all cable news. People who live with it 24-7 must be living anxious lives. Everything is an occasion for anxiety; everything Trump does is widely reported; nothing Clinton says is reported at all. By November, on Fox, there will be real-time Trump fart-alerts and a death-watch for Clinton. Will this election finally put the nail in broadcast TV’s coffin? Will this election finally marginalize all the old people who have been living with the boob-tube in every room of their house? Will this be the last election to play out on TV? Please let it be the last election to use broadcast TV with its headline porn, because the next generation has no loyalty to the manipulative, greedy bastards running the networks. At least the head of CBS admitted that Trump is the ruin of the country, but a ratings super-star.


September 3, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

stolen flowers

Along Sampsonia Way, my neighbor, whose back-fence is not up against the alley, planted a couple zucchini plants in the small, raised flower-bed outside her back-fence. The plants are now well over 10 feet in length. And because some of my other neighbors planted annuals along my back-fence, I am out in the alley watering; and because I need to keep the wisteria contained, I am out in the alley, with my little step ladder, trimming all the off-shoots sprouting from the wisteria vines; I’ve been keeping an eye on the zucchini plants. And my neighbor seems to have no idea that the golden male flowers are edible. And after watching many of these golden delicacies shrivel and wither, I decided it was time to pick them and make fritters.

Zucchini, like all squash, has its ancestry in the Americas. However, the green, cylindrical squash harvested immature and typically called zucchini was developed in northern Italy. A description of this new squash, under the name zucchini, occurs in a work published in Milan in 1901. Zucca is the Italian word for pumpkin/squash and zucchino (zucca + ino = little) is the diminutive form, becoming zucchini in the plural.

I went out with my colander and filled it with both opened and unopened flowers. (Paul went on and on about my having stolen from my neighbor.) I cleaned the flowers removing the stems and green petals. The shriveled flowers need to be opened, because ants and cucumber beetles tend to get caught in them. Next, made the batter – equal parts flour and cheese, two eggs, parsley and salt to taste – threw the flowers in and fried them. (At my parents’ zucchini flower fritters are a summer staple. My dad picks the flowers every morning and my mom makes and fries the fritters for lunch and a late afternoon snack.) The above image has the fritters – some golden brown and some still in the skillet.


August 24, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

now the sun’s sinking down, spilling gold on the ground


got a tattoo of a snake
and a ski-mask on my face
but i woke up in a ditch
behind the stop’n go

lying in the weeds
with a bullet in my gut
watching dollar bills
fly away in the dust

Handsome Family, (2016). Unseen. Gold

In the image on the right, I’m experimenting with Photoshop Adjustments. I tried to wash out most of the colors except for the green and the red of the leaves and trumpet-flowers. A contrast to the image on the left with its setting sun hues and gleaming gecko.

Sitting here watching Rachel Maddow interviewing Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s new campaign manager, and it’s amazing to see Conway squirm as she tries to explain the Republican candidate.


August 5, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

a new planter

Aug-5 059Last year at this time, the back-yard got all new pavers. The back-planter had to wait, because I was leaving for Puglia. When I got back, I decided to wait until next summer because by then, the blueberries would be all harvested. The guys come yesterday and ripped out the old wolmanized 6X6 and built a new planter out of rock-slabs.

The plants in the front got severely disrupted. Two of the oldest blueberry bushes got dislodged. When the old 6X6s were removed, the bushes just fell out into the trough the guys were digging for the foundation. The fact that the plants weren’t yanked out, should mean that the root-ball is intact. I wrapped the root-ball and its surrounding soil in a plastic bag to keep it moist and prevent further damage. I replanted them today.

In the smaller section on the left, I did an experiment – I cut all the lily-of-the-valley down to soil-level and then covered the entire bed with Peat Moss. Am hoping that since the lily is a rhizome, the Peat Moss should protect the disrupted underground stems and next spring the bed should be full of lilies. (I did the same thing a couple of years ago with the blueberries and within two years I had a bumper crop.)

The small bed has the fencing, because the dogs just want to climb into it. The attraction is the blueberries in the other section. (Jack hasn’t figured out that the berries are all done. He still goes up to the plants looking for berries. Jack has a great personality, but he is not the smartest dog we’ve had.)


August 3, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

rounded, curvilinear  . . .

nakoma-AWright created the Nakoma sculpture as a tribute to the Winnebago Indian Nation. The female Nakoma and the male Nakomis were to stand in large circular shallow water basins at the entrance to the Wright designed Nakoma Country Club in Madison. Neither the statues nor the clubhouse were ever built in Wisconsin. But, a group of developers purchased the clubhouse plans from Wright’s Taliesin architects and built the stunning structure on the brow of a hill in the Mohawk Valley of Plumas County, California.

There are three figures in the sculpture – the mother, the daughter at her side and the papoose on her back. (I noticed the papoose today for the fist time. I was thinking that the ball shape behind her head was her hair in a bun. And because of that oversight, I cut the papoose out in the large image in the slide-show. In the photo on the left, the small ball shape shows itself to be a face – amazing.) Originally the sculpture was meant to stand 16 feet high with water spilling from the round bowl. The flow was to be the water source for the basin. In 1929 Wright had small models of the female and male figures produced in terracotta. The reproduction I have is from the statue at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

I saw the sculpture back in November when I was at Fallingwater with my cousins and I was temped to buy it, but didn’t. Then when I made the decision to get rid of the Alfonso Ianelli garden sprite, the Wright sculpture came back into play.
(Leger referred to the Ianelli as the breast-examination statue.)

Last Wednesday, I called the gift-shop at Fallingwater and the gentleman that answered – Keith – said they had a second Nakoma sculpture in their store-room. I drove up on Sunday and picked it up. And I spent today rearranging the plants around the new piece.


August 1, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

 coneflower – echinacea purpurea

Aug-1 016I had to move the Midway Gardens Sprite, because the contractors are sealing the seam between the house-bricks and the cement pad on the side of the house. At first, I moved it into the corner with all the annuals. (I left a post from the old bonsai shelf and put the Sprite up on top of it. It’s way too tall for that location.)

When looking for a new place for the Sprite, Leger suggested that I put it on the ground next to the Japanese lilac. I wasn’t sure about this, but I tried it. It didn’t work on the right side of the trunk, but man it looked great on the left. To balance it, Leger suggested a Wright-like pot for the opposite side. Today, I found a great Wright-like pot at Home Depot. The Coneflower is a great match for the blue-stones and the patio-bricks. (I have to keep the dogs away from the plant; they like eating the leaves. They touch no other plant, but the Coneflower.)

It’s a surprise how well the Sprite, the pot and the Coneflower fit the space.

The National Gardening Association has the following info about the plant on their website – Coneflower is a native North American perennial sporting daisylike flowers with raised centers. The flower, plant, and root of some types are used in herbal remedies. Widely renowned as a medicinal plant, coneflowers are a long-flowering perennial for borders, wildflower meadows, and prairie gardens. Blooming midsummer to fall, the plants are relatively drought-tolerant and rarely bothered by pests. The flowers are a magnet for butterflies, and the seeds in the dried flower heads attract songbirds. Flower colors include rose, purple, pink, and white, plus a new orange variety. Plants grow 2 to 4 feet tall, depending on variety.


July 11, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

a new domainfirst post in domain –


With the many available new domains, I bought and Dan moved the entire website over.
The image is by Fernando Lucianetti; it was taken around the town of Lucania in Basilicata. It is absolutely one of my favorite landscapes.


June 30, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

pittsburgh – latitude 40.4 o Nsunrise – 5:53, sunset – 8:54 (15 hours and 01 minute of daylight)

harrow – latitude 42.0 o Nsunrise – 6:00, sunset – 9:11 (15 hours and 11 minute of daylight)

sault ste marie – latitude 46.5 o Nsunrise – 5:48, sunset – 9:34 (15 hours and 46 minute of daylight)

blueberriesI keep reminding myself that temperature is not the most important variable in determining agrarian yield. In Harrow it’s its geographical location. The severe weather goes around the Southwestern Ontario peninsula; winter weather skirts the area and dumps its snows on London and Cleveland. In Sault Ste Marie it’s its latitude. Toady, the Sault had 45 more minutes of daylight than Pittsburgh. In Northern Ontario, daylight is the critical variable during a short growing season.

This is the first post in the domain.



May 29, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

mandevilla, redstar-spike, ianelli sprite and fernsunrise – 5:53, sunset – 8:42
14 hours and 39 minutes of daylight

tall-potFor the last two years, I’ve been working on creating a number of set-pieces that would only require annuals to fill the various pots. Last year I purchased what I thought would be the last set of pots – 3 large, plastic things that I imagined would last and in which I would plant vegetables. They were a disaster – drainage was so bad that for most of the growing season they were filled with water. My only option was to break the trays at the bottom and even then the soil never got dry. This year, I replaced the cheap pots with a planter I built out of wolmanized. OK, that wasn’t too bad, I now had a decent sized vegetable-bed. But then I discovered I needed another pot to fill the space where the bird-bath was. (Birds never came to take a bath. And, it was either block/fill the space or have the dogs sneak in behind the pots and rocks.)

This morning, I set out for Lowe’s, Home Depot and the various North Hills greenhouses looking to find something that would block/fill the space. I found this amazingly tall pot at Brenckle’s Greenhouses and there sitting on the concrete next to it was a large Mandevilla. I checked that the plant fit into the tall pot and it did. I walked out and headed home. No need to do any more shopping.

The title refers to the items in the back-row – red Mandevilla in the tall bronze pot, a Cordyline Red Star Spike, an Alfonso Ianelli garden sprite and a large fern. The twisty vine above the fern is the wisteria coming up from its bed in the corner.
15 hours 31 minutes of sunlight in Sault Ste Marie


May 26, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

bumblebee and ant in the wisteriasunrise – 5:55, sunset – 8:40
14 hours and 35 minutes of daylight

wisteriaThe wisteria is planted in the worst soil, in the most inhospitable spot and yet in its second year it bloomed. There are more than a dozen flower-clusters and the bumblebees love them. They climb right into the flower, almost disappearing into its cup-shaped petals.

I spent some time tying the new growth down so that it didn’t look like wild green hair sprouting from the top of the fence post. I want to grow the vine all the way down the lateral beam keeping it long rather than thick. And I suspect it was that pruning and shaping that I did last year that produced the flowers; that and the genetically modified plant the company shipped. (Years ago when we planted a wisteria at Rick-and-Sarah’s the literature all said that it would take 7 years before the plant produced flowers. Research also pointed out that the plant produced blooms when it determined that it was in danger – poor soil, bad environment. I remember thinking that I could plant it in the concrete, in the corner near the alley between my house and the neighbor’s.)

The genetically altered plant ended up in the north-east corner, because the grape-vine I had there needed extra care to produce grapes. (I wasn’t willing to introduce the insecticides needed to keep the grapes from falling off the cluster.) It took almost 3 years to get rid of the grape-vine. When I planted the wisteria, I was expecting a vine that would cover the long two-by-four that straddles the top of the fence. By the end of last year’s growing season, the vine was half-way across the back-yard. It gave the top of the fence an added dimension. I liked it.

I’ve been recording the daylight in Sault Ste Marie, because I finally figured out why my dad and his fellow immigrants are able to grow vegetables in such a short growing season. The answer is the amount of daylight. Down here we have the temperatures, up there the cold lingers, but once the daylight comes it stays. They get almost an hour more of daylight than we do down here in Western Pennsylvania.
15 hours 26 minutes of sunlight in Sault Ste Marie


marsh-marigoldssunrise – 5:56, sunset – 9:13
15 hours and 15 minutes of daylight
canada 2016 – may(4)
click to read the canada 2016 posts

marsh-mThe last two times I was up here in the spring, I shot these beautiful yellow flowers that lined the ditches and covered the bogs in and around Connie-and-Ron’s cottage. Connie has transplanted a bunch of the plants from the boggy back-lot across the street to the banks of the drainage-ditch on the north-side of the property. The plant is also know as Caltha cowslip and kingscup.

Naming this plant turned out to be easier than I had expected. I went to Google-Images and once I found something that looked like the plant, I was able to trace it back to a name and a genus. (This is not a plant I remember from when I was living here, but then looking at spring flowers or shooting them weren’t things I was doing or interested in. Never mind the fact that I went no where near bogs or ditches. These wet-areas were reminders of winter, reminders that we were living in a non-urban landscape and therefore undesirable. And let’s not forget, that the ditches, the stagnant waters were mosquito breeding-tanks.)

The long Victoria Day weekend is the traditional time to go out and open the cottages that line the shorelines of this norther community. The weather is cool; the land has lost its winter moisture; and the trees are full of blossoms and sap. It’s a great time to be out in the woods. The evergreens on Connie-and-Ron’s property are now mature and provide a wonderful canopy. Connie was putting in annuals and trying to rake-up all the twigs and dead branches winter left behind.


the vernacularsunrise – 5:57, sunset – 9:12
15 hours and 13 minutes of daylight
canada 2016 – may(3)
click to read the canada 2016 posts

The title – vernacular – is a favorite word of mine. However, it’s always been difficult to apply it to anything other than the switching of the Catholic Mass from the universal Latin to the local language. This mental block comes specifically because I was raised Catholic and can remember Vatican II and the switch – the altar moved so that the priest faced the congregation and the old Latin became English. But my non-Catholic friends have always used the term to refer to the architectural designs common in an area. And I like applying the term to housing design. The house in the image is a typical 1920’s/1930’s frame structure here in Northern Ontario. It resembles in form, what we in the US, would call Cape Cod style. (I remember seeing similar house in the beach communities around Narragansett. John’s family summer cottage looked a lot like the house in the picture, just smaller and with no basement.) The alterations, to the typical New England cottage design, are mainly in the steeper roof pitch – understandable given the northern climate and the snow-bound winters and in the addition of a basement lifting it off the ground, off a ground that can stays frozen 5 months of the year.

Without a car, I’ve been walking everywhere and this morning I headed west and into the subdivisions on the other side of Goulais Avenue. I had never walked in this area before and it was wonderful to discover a neighborhood full of old houses that have been maintained, upgraded, but not fractured. (The house in the image does not have its front steps, but the pylons are there to support them once they are installed. Let’s hope that they don’t use wolmanized or pre-fab materials.)


ready to opensunrise – 5:58, sunset – 9:11
15 hours and 13 minutes of daylight
canada 2016 – may(2)
click to read the canada 2016 posts

lilacsI took a walk to my aunt-and-uncle’s and along the way, shot every spring flower I found. I’m here at a great time – all the blossoms are on the cusp, the lawns are yellow with dandelions. A sense of hope and new-life is everywhere. (I’ve always wanted to be in Italy for spring. I want to shoot poppies in the wheat fields; eat fresh fava with old priscuitto.) In industrial Sault Ste Marie, spring disguises the dirt, the deteriorating housing stock, a west-end neighborhood full of old people.

The walk took me through streets full of memories – the recurring one is of the old sub-basement church that was St. Gregory’s. I remember walking there in the winter; we were still living at my grandparents’ and I would walk over on Saturday night to go to confession. (Talk about a long time ago and a ritual that no longer exists.)

My dad’s garden is the opposite of my uncle’s. Where Ciccio is ambiguous with his environment, Milio is exact and methodical. My father’s garden has randomness built into it; my uncle’s garden is laid out in precise, even rows. The roof of my father’s greenhouse is covered in moss; shiny glass panels front and roof my uncle’s greenhouse. (My uncle is able to grow primrose; he has several beautiful clusters that come back year-after-year. I’ve had no luck with spring primrose.)

Lunch today is gnocchi, deep-fried chicken from some fast-food place, and rapini. I complained to my mother that the chicken is full of salt, but the warning went in one ear and out the other. (I can’t figure out if buying deep-fried chicken is a convenience or a gesture to the idea that they are not hide-bound to old immigrant traditions.)
14 hours 36 minutes of sunlight in Pittsburgh


finding blossoms in maysunrise – 5:59, sunset – 9:12
15 hours and 11 minutes of daylight
canada 2016 – may(1)
click to read the canada 2016 posts

blossomsI am up in Northern Ontario and on the 19th of May, I found apple-blossoms that are getting ready to open – AMAZING. Earlier today, in Oakville, I was surprised to find that the dandelions had all gone to seed and here I am some 250 miles north of Oakville and the dandelions are just in bloom. Where Oakville is two-and-a-half weeks behind Pittsburgh, Sault Ste Marie is easily three-and-a-half weeks behind us in Western Pennsylvania.

The blossoms are on my dad’s trees in his back-yard.

This is my first time flying up in at least 20 years. And I think it’s going to continue. Combining the Toronto trip and the Sault Ste Marie trip was an inspiration. Last night, I visited with my cousins, when I go back I’m visiting with Frank-and-Norma, helping Joe plant his back-yard and going to dinner with Dave-and-Seane. In the past I would have done two separate trips. It’s nice to drive only to Toronto and then fly up to visit with my parents. (The two day car trip from Pittsburgh to Sault Ste Marie is now a thing of the past.)
14.5 hours of sunlight in Pittsburgh


May 13, 2016 diario/journal, reflections


then and now

left – on board the Dahu II. Renée Bolloré, Denise Grey and Bibi. Royan, France. July 1926
right – on the porch at Earle-and-Suzanne’s. Empty-chair, Derrick, Rose. Isola di Fano, Italy. August 2012

Rose claims that in the Lartigue photo, I’m the old man snoring, she’s the one shelling the Romano beans and Derrick is the person on the floor. My contribution was to add the Empty-chair character and to note that the two women shelling both have erratic hair.


May 13, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

  fast cars and femmes fatales

Frick-carYesterday, Sarah and I went to the Frick to see the photographs of Jacques Henri Lartigue – The privileged, younger son in a wealthy, glamorous French family, Jacques-Henri Lartigue (1894–1986) was a first-hand witness to the amusements and pleasures of life in the Belle-Époque and early-20th century France. The title of the show is Fast Cars and Femmes Fatales. (Isn’t the alliteration great – the f’s, the a’s and the t’s?)

It’s always both amazing and a surprise to see how the one-percenters of early-20th century Europe lived. The women in yards and yards of silk and satin, their exaggerated hats and their frou-frou dogs; the men in their Spats, fur-lined over-coats, their fedoras, their cigarettes.

Frick-car2Afterwards we went to see the new space that houses the Frick’s collection of antique cars. The image on the left is our reflection in the hub-cap of a 1939 Bantam Roadster; and the image on the right is the car. The coupe was built in Butler by the American Bantam Company. With the coming of WWII, the car was adapted for use as a reconnaissance vehicle, making it the first jeep prototype.

The first image in the above slide-show, is the hood-ornament on the Bantam Roadster.


May 11, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

peach-tree and cucumbers – the before

planter1Had thought that after buying the 3 large, plastic pots, I was finished with buying new containers and that I could look forward to growing vegetables along with the flowers. But the large pots were the worst. They didn’t drain, even though I had filled the bottoms with shards of the terra-cotta. One was so bad that the whole pot became water logged. I had to break the bottom tray to get the water to seep out and even then drainage was so poor that the soil stayed wet throughout the whole growing season. Well at least I now know why the vegetables did so badly last year. My plan was to re-fill the plastic pots with new soil and to replace the shards with stone. When I did that, I discovered that they were all cracked. After some consideration, I decided to replace the pots with a planter. The planter would also give me added room to grow a few more vegetables.

This year, I’m growing cucumbers. (The green leaves in the wolmanized planter against the wall.) The hybrid plants will produce fruit throughout the season and I love cucumbers from the vine. A very different vegetable than the wax covered, tasteless things one buys at the grocery store. I’m also adding chives this year. These I will use too. The other big step was to not grow basil. I never used enough of it and once the stalks turned wooden, the leaves would be bitter.

The narrow trunk in the foreground is the new Redhaven peach tree. This purchase started, because I wanted a white dogwood to plant in front of the brick-wall. I had pictures in my head of white blossoms against the red bricks. But a Calabrian immigrant can’t plant for ornamentation; it’s against our DNA. So, I did some research on the best fruit-trees for this region and came up with a dwarf Redhaven peach. It will put out blossoms and give me tree-ripened peaches.

The contraption behind the peach tree is my old kitchen door in two saw-horses. It’s a great work area, minimizing bending and lifting. At the edge is a rusted, old lantern that I want to restore and repaint.


April 29, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

blossoms – blueberry, scots-pine, wisteria, lily-of-the-valley

Span-Spring2Two years ago, I cut the blueberries down to ground level and this year there will be a bumper crop. (The cutting came about, because the plants were producing little to no fruit. And after some research found that the remedy was to cut them down and let them re-grow.) The candles on the conifer are always beautiful. The wisteria is a total surprise. I thought that it would take years before the plant was ready to shoot out flowers. Clapping for genetically modified intervention. The lilies-of-the-valley take up a whole corner of the back-yard and I love the smell these tiny bells give off.

Today is my parents’ 68th wedding anniversary. April 1948 was an unusual time in Calabria. The aftermath of World War II hung over this rugged, poor land. My grandfather would tell the story of the American soldiers marching down Strada Statale – the main thoroughfare through Aprigliano.


April 24, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

morning sky

morning-skyIt will take some time to get the back-yard all planted and re-organized. I bought a Red Haven peach tree and will plant it tomorrow along the garage wall on the eastern side of the yard. The research said it was the best variety for this region. It will be nice to go out and pick a peach off a tree.

The other great development is the wisteria – there are blooms all over the long trellis. That is a shock and I’m being accused of reacting to the prospect of a flowering wisteria like an old immigrant. BTW, I am an old immigrant.


April 9, 2016 diario/journal, reflections


nebbia – morning fog

Franco Middonno took the above image. And it’s described on his FB page as: Nebbia sul Golfo di Sibari, visto da Albidona. (I sent Franco a message asking if I could use his image in a blog post and he very generously gave me permission.)

The modern name for Golfo di Sibari is Golfo di Corigliano and it it part of the huge Gulf of Taranto – the body of water between the spur of Puglia and the eastern coast of northern Calabria. Franco shot the image from the hill-town of Albidona. Under the dense clouds are the golf waters.

What I like best about the image are the telephone/electrical poles and wires at the edge of the green. The poles and wires put a human dimension into a surreal landscape.

The motivation for the post is the experience of mixing cold and hot. In north-eastern Calabria, the mixture produced a cloud-blanket over the warm waters. In south-western Pennsylvania the contradiction left us freezing and full of fear that winter hadn’t lost its bite. Last week it was so warm I took the pots of roses and rosemary out into the garden to soak in the sun. But withing 3 days I had to haul them back in, because snow and freezing cold had vanquished the warmth. (I know it’s a last hurrah, but MAN is it depressing.)


April 2, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

smock, collar and bow

studentIn 1950’s Calabria, elementary-school students wore black smocks, white collars and colored bows. The color indicated the grade-level. (In modern times, the smocks have become light-blue. U G L Y!)

There’s actually a picture of my 3rd class in Aprigliano, me in my smock and collar and bow.; I just can’t find it. (I sent my friend from back then – Franco Ciaccio – a FB message asking if he has a copy of the pic.)
School-DoorThe school was on the second floor of a local house just around the corner from where we lived. There were only two classes and they were across the hall from each other. Back then, like in so many other small towns in Calabria, there were enough kids to warrant having these small, two-room schools. It was also after the war, and new construction, new schools weren’t affordable. (I remember the teacher showing us a film-clip imploring its audience to not go near anything that looked like a grenade or bomb. The Germans had left many live land-mines throughout rural Italy and the government wanted kids to stay away from such dangerous war relics.)

Withing ten years, Calabria would be empty, its people leaving, in droves, for Canada, Argentina and Australia. The one and two room school-houses would be consolidated into regional schools.

The picture on the right is me in August of 2006 in front of the school-house door. The B&W image is from the FB page Calabria Ieri e Oggi.


March 24, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

new flooring in downstairs large-room

flooring2After many years, I’m replacing the abused carpet in the downstairs large-room with a laminate wood-floor.

Spent yesterday emptying out the bookshelves, the side-board, the coat-closets and this morning moving the TV/cable table and the computer/printer table into the hall. And where I liked the color of the carpet that was down, it had been terribly abused by the 8 dogs we’ve had over the years. And given its light color, it did not do well in this high-trafficked room.

This morning, I had to figure out how to lay the flooring-planks and I decided to have them run north/south – the direction of the room. I also figured that it would make the room seem longer if the eye went north/south when looking down at the flooring. An Amish family from north-east Ohio is doing the installation. The young man in the image on the left is bringing in the planks and laying them down as they will be installed. The planks are floated on top of a padding. No nails or mastic are used to secure the new flooring onto the old joists.


March 24, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

come on vogue

balcony5AMarco Passaro posted the image on the italian-street-photography FB page. The image was shot in Rome near the Pantheon. Here, in Western Pennsylvania, the mornings are still too dim and too chilly to sit outside and have breakfast. (One of the things I like best about Kaua’i in March, is having breakfast on the lanai and watching the eastern sky turn blue with the sunrise.)

And even though we’ve had a mild winter and I have put the rose-bush and the rosemary outside, the weather is still variable. Denver had a mild spring day on Tuesday and a severe, blinding snow-storm yesterday. Patterns here show that March 17 seems to be dividing line between winter and spring weather.

I’ve always wanted to go to Italy in late-spring/early-summer mainly to see the country-side in bloom and to sit on a balcony and drink my espresso and eat my Nutella filled cornetto as the sun warms the sky.


March 6, 2016 diario/journal, reflections



There are two photographers – Gianfranco Mancini and Walter Meregalli – that I am friends with on FB, whose work I really like.
Gianfranco wrote the following about his image – Esci di casa di buon’ora e agli occhi appare questa bellissima immagine della natura –
Da viale Gramsci il paese dove abito Montegranaro.
Nella foto si vede avvolto dalla nebbia Monte San Giusto paese confinante della Provincia di Macerata.

Walter’s image is of the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany.


sunrise – 6:45, sunset – 6:18
11 hours and 33 minutes of daylight

13 days till spring


March 4, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

last gaspsunrise – 6:48, sunset – 6:15
11 hours and 27 minutes of daylight

It has been a topsy-turvy week. Sunday through Tuesday the temperature hit 670, but by Wednesday it had dropped 20 degrees and by Thursday it plummeted to 190. And to add to the misery, last night it started to snow. It’s the wet-snow of late spring and it won’t last long, but man winter needs to be over.

In the image, east and sunrise are on the right. On the bricks, you begin to see the morning sun creeping down Sampsonia and lighting the row-houses. (I thought of re-shooting, but it’ll be well after noon before the sun hits the backyard.)

I never understand March, its weird weather patterns feel like a torture regiment. I’m terribly impatient with the yo-yo mercury. And even though this has been a mild winter, certainly compared to last year, I want it done. And to think there was a time in my life when wet, March snow just meant using the red ski wax.
15 days till spring


February 27, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

awakeningsunrise – 6:58, sunset – 6:09
11 hours and 11 minutes of daylight

spring13I went rummaging in the flower-bed looking for sprouts and I found them. (I noticed the green shoots the other day, but the weather was miserable and gray, too ugly to shoot. Today, the late afternoon sun was on them and I simply removed the dry leaves to expose the green.) I wish I knew if they are crocus or snow-drops. I so want them to be snow-drops. Everything I’ve read says that it takes the bulbs a couple of seasons to naturalize and bloom. And I’m so hoping to have them bloom this year. I really like the pendulous, bell-shaped white flower.

Last year I got no snow-drops. Very disappointing. They had been a staple in the side-bed for years and when I removed the flower-bed, I just assumed I could replace them. NOT. The bulbs in the side-bed had been there a good twenty years and they came up every February. (Most flower in winter, before the vernal equinox.) I don’t know when I started using them as indicators of spring, but it must have been years after I had planted the bulbs, because I had no idea that they didn’t bloom the first or second year after planting. Back then, I was putting anything in without reading the packages. And the only reason I read up on snow-drops was because I missed them the spring the side-bed was gone.
21 days till spring


February 25, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

a french ticklersunrise – 7:00, sunset – 6:06
11 hours and 06 minutes of daylight

The area below the railroad tracks and above Lakeshore Road and between Trafalgar Road and Ford Drive is the most desirable section of Oakville. The area is chuck-full of millennials and their elders.

The area north of the tracks is full of cookie-cutter homes; the strip south of Lakeshore is reserved for the one-percents; and west of Trafalgar is full of older homes and families who have lived in the community for generations.


Trending in the AAA enclave is french-provincial – the mcmansion on the right. Realtors and their surrogates are buying up existing homes, tearing them down and putting up monstrosities sheathed in Loire-Valley ribbing. And the millennials are scarfing them up. So what, they have a $5,000,000 price-tag and you can touch your neighbors’ side-wall; the area is free of undesirables. At Whole Foods on Cornwall Road, I overheard the following comment: “It’s people like us.” The speaker was referring to her neighbors.

The building on the left is Canadian vernacular. And along the Trafalgar dividing line there are many examples of simple homes. They are unpretentious and hark back to a time of modest means and hard work.

The faux mcmansions won’t make it to the next tend. After-all, the price tag is based on the absence of the undesirables not the quality of the construction or the beauty of the architecture. And soon the arched windows and the mansard roofs with be passé.
23 days till spring


February 22, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

sunrise – 7:02, sunset – 6:05
11 hours and 03 minutes of daylight

Feb-2016 078A

a walk in the woods

On the drive back from Kingston, we stopped in to see Connie’s friend Jody in Castleton. Jody and his partner bought 55 acres in this small farming community an hour-and-a-half east of Toronto. The location is beautiful and after coffee and muffins we went walking in the back-thirty. Jody has cleared an entire trail system in the woods behind their log-house.

Jody and his partner went from urban Vancouver to bucolic South-eastern Ontario.
24 days till spring



February 20, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

seanse’s 20th birthdaysunrise – 7:08, sunset – 6:01
10 hours and 53 minutes of daylight

Feb-2016 040Today is Seane’s 20th birthday. (left-to-right – Mary, Alyssa, Cathy and Seane blowing out the candles.)

I drove up yesterday and the New York Thruway was hazardous. There were very high winds coming from the south and where there were no trees to on my right, the winds dumped all the snow from the open fields/the vineyards onto the highway creating white-outs and a slippery road-bed. There were several accidents; at one point traffic was down to one lane, because paramedics and police were untangling two cars that had somehow wrapped around each other. Also, there were many cars in the median. The winds were so strong that I was gripping the steering wheels trying to stabilize the car in order to minimize the sway from side-to-side. But once I was beyond the vineyards, the winds were also behind me. (It was strange to have the south lanes be so hazardous while the north lanes going west were free of drifts and raging winds.)

Because there was a full-house at Dave’s, I booked a room at the Holiday Inn. When I got there, the lobby was swarming with young kids all girls. They were chasing each other through the lobby playing tag and the screams were bouncing off the metal ceiling amplifying the volume. The parents were all Millennials and they were totally ignoring their children’s bad behavior. (They were in line waiting to check-in and until the kids started to come up to them, I thought that they like me, had nothing to do with the screamers. But no, they were the parents and totally oblivious to the disruption. OMG!! There they were with the iPhones, and their Coach bags, and their skinny jeans, and helmet hair, and their put-upon attitudes waiting on the overwhelmed clerks who didn’t seem to know who they were dealing with. We were in WASP Oakville and they were the better people. So what that the nannies weren’t there to take care of the out-of-control kids that shouldn’t reflect badly on the aging thirty-somethings in line.) I asked the receptionists what was going on and she told me it was a girls hockey tournament. What? Yap, seven and eight year-old girls playing hockey.

28 days till spring


February 17, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

a glimpse of the strait 1sunrise – 7:12, sunset – 5:57
10 hours and 45 minutes of daylight


1 Uno sguardo sullo stretto – mario greco

The image was taken from Bagnara Calabra a small town on the western coast of Calabria just north of the mouth of the Strait of Messina. On the left and around the bend are the cities of Scilla, Villa San Giovanni and Reggio. On the right is the northeastern tip of Sicily. The image was taken by Mario Greco. Il signore Greco has posted some amazing images. I cropped his original image to fit into the post. (Follow the link attached to the footnote to get to the image Mario Greco posted.)

The rant today is about the garbage all over southern Italy. (It was not as pervasive in Le Marche and in Puglia it was restricted to the sites where the garbage bins are located.) How did I get to garbage? I wanted to see what the northeastern tip of Sicily looked like, so I went and looked at images of Torre Faro, the town at the tip. In almost all the images there were empty plastic bottles and cardboard and paper lining the streets. And among the litter were the Italians walking around as if they were strolling down some grand boulevard with not a care in the world.

One excuse is that garbage collecting is a government task and in a country where government is suspect, why would I be surprised that there’s garbage all over the place. You could also say that garbage collection is controlled by crime syndicates and there’s no oversight that anyone can bring to the problem. I reject both excuses. I think it’s about conspicuous consumption. Southern Italy grew rich after The War and the garbage is evidence that il mezzogiono it’s no longer poor, that it’s people are no longer peasants; that it’s stores are chuck-full of the products and conveniences of the north. What’s a little garbage next to that brag? And what’s the problem with old refrigerators lining the side-of-the-road? The American tourists are getting more and more like the Germans. Stop looking down and look at the azure sky. Where else do you see a sky this color?

O mia Patria sì bella e perduta

31 days till spring1 FB – Calabria Fotografia


February 13, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

quadro della sacra famigliasunrise – 7:17, sunset – 5:52
10 hours and 35 minutes of daylight


chi di voi lo possiede?     nelle famiglie del sud quasi tutti lo avevano 1

The B&W image on the left shows a Calabrian family in all its poverty, but there on the wall is the iconic painting of the Holy Family.
The comments below are from the FB page – Calabria Ieri – where the image of the painting was first posted.
The comments are a response to the above question – who has one? and to the comment that all families in southern Italy had this painting.

Antonella Dominici – Si ce lo e credo che sfiora i 50anni il mio quadro trovato in una casa vecchia abbandonata e rotta entrai ed era appeso al muro pieno di terra lo preso e lo portato via adesso e come nuovo

Mario Zinga – i miei genitori hanno portato il quadro dalla Calabria – Aprigliano – a Sault Ste Marie, Ontario Canada

Francesca Liguori – Lo abbiamo anche noi sulla testiera del letto dei miei genitori eredità dei nonni

Antonio La Rosa – io ce lo odintico con la stessa cornice e lo vendo

Giovanna Trichilo – vero.. io ce l’ho.. in camera da letto appeso sulla parete del letto matrimoniale dei miei genitori.. anche se non ci sono piu

My favorite comment is from il signore La Rosa who has no shame using the comment-string to pitch a sale,
because after all, he has the same image in the same faux-wood frame.

35 days till spring1 FB – Calabria Ieri


February 11, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

leni riefenstahl, cable-news and social-mediasunrise – 7:19, sunset – 5:50
10 hours and 31 minutes of daylight

Leni Riefenstahl with Himmler in Nuremberg 19341  Yesterday was the first time I heard a cable-news/social-media personality admit that Donal Trump was a scary presidential prospect. The occasion was Trump’s retweeting of a white-supremacist’s tweet. Ezra Klein of Vox Media finally admitted that Trump has been very good for cable-news and social media; that the ratings and number-of-clicks have skyrocketed when they run all-things-Trump. But Mr. Klein went on to admit that what cable-news and social-media are dismissing as entertainment is really scary political policy. DUH!

And what about the fact that cable-news/social-media has advanced the Trump political agenda, because he serves their all-consuming need for viewers and eyeballs. Cable-news/social-media is doing for Donald Trump what Leni Riefenstahl and Joseph Goebbels did for Adolf Hitler in the Weimar Republic. Riefenstahl was the epitome of the young and talented generation that overlooked Hitler’s dark side. The generation that presented Nazism as the new religion. Cable-news/social-media is the young and talented phenomena of the current age and they have enshrined Trump on every TV, computer and phone screen.

To me, the current political climate is similar to the 1928 presidential election. The progressives/Democrats were for decent, common goals – repealing prohibition, religious tolerance; the conservatives/Republicans were for tougher enforcement of Prohibition and stricter immigration restriction. The Klan and the Protestant churches were potent forces against all things democratic and Herbert Hoover, who had no electoral experience, was swept into office by a landslide beating out Roman Catholic and Democratic New Yorker Al Smith.

37 days till spring1 Leni Riefenstahl stands near Heinrich Himmler while instructing her camera crew at Nuremberg, 1934.
In Nazi Germany, a version of the undercut – long on top but shaved at the back and sides –
was popular among the young men of the Wehrmacht – armed forces.



February 9, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

my first time back in 34 yearssunrise – 7:22, sunset – 5:47
10 hours and 25 minutes of daylight


It’s 2006, I’d found an interesting stone. The B&W1 image is from 1955. Both were taken at the beach at Gioia Tauro.

My family left Calabria in 1957. I went back in 1972 and spent a couple of weeks in Aprigliano at my uncle-and-aunt’s and then went up to Perugia for school. The next time I was in Italy was 1999. Rick, Sarah, Shana, Mim and I went. (British Airways was winding down its Pittsburgh/London route and they offered a $99 seat sale. Imagine $99 to go from Pittsburgh to London.) We stayed in Verona and did day-trips to Venice.

In 2006, Rose, Derrick and I went to Italy and we stayed in Calabria. We flew into Lamezia and drove down the coast to Gioia Tauro where Rose had found us a very nice apartment.

39 days till spring1 FB – Calabria Ieri e Oggi


February 2, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

nimoy matisse and stewsunrise – 7:29, sunset – 5:39
10 hours and 10 minutes of daylight


photography is by Leonard Nimoy
inspiration by Henri Matisse
and lyrics by Mark Stewart

Naked girls at breakfast tables
Talking Hegel and Camus
While men dressed up in Gauloises smoke
Quote Marx right back at you

46 days till spring


February 1, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

cosenza – spring 1959sunrise – 7:30, sunset – 5:38
10 hours and 08 minutes of daylight

cosenzaWhen I see these old images, I think about where I was at the time. In 1959, my family had been in Canada two years; we were still living at my grandparents; my aunt had been married a year-and-a-half – November 30, 1957 – and living upstairs; and I was in 3rd grade at St. Theresa’s. Nineteen-fifty-nine was also the year there was a construction fire down the hall from my classroom, in the new extension. The smoke damage was enough that all students were bused to other schools until the damage was cleaned up. My 3rd class was sent to Sacred Heart Elementary on the edge of downtown. And for the next three months, we had class in the basement gym of Sacred Heart School. There were at least two other classes in the space and portable blackboards were used as dividers between the groups. Imagine 100 kids sharing a large open space and keeping quiet. (I could look under the blackboard and see the shoes of the kids in the other grade.) But lessons went on and we did our work. And because we couldn’t go home for lunch, they fed us. It was my first experience with school lunches. It was all very exotic.

Meanwhile, in Cosenza it was spring and they were walking around in suits; in Sault Ste Marie, I went to school in my winter coat, got on a school-bus and went cross-town to a basement gym. And for lunch, I ate Canadian cafeteria food. Bet my fellow Cosentini had never had Wonder Bread. (I remember being on the train from Montreal to Sault Ste Marie and my dad disgusted with the mushy white-bread they gave us for lunch.) The thought that my fellow Cosentini were eating good Calabrian bread while we gummed the bleached, nutrient-free wonder-food of modern Canada makes me believe in the power of advertising. We left Calabria because of the poverty and because we were told that the streets of America were paved with gold.

47 days till spring


January 30, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

bagnara calabra and the strait of messinasunrise – 7:32, sunset – 5:35
10 hours and 03 minutes of daylight

reggioWhen I borrow someone else’s photograph, I usually write down all the attributing info so that I can add it to the post. But, I can’t remember which site or from whose FB page I downloaded this image.

The image is taken from the small town of Bagnara Calabra. The town sits north of Reggio on the coast looking across the Strait of Messina. And there looms Etna in all its winter beauty. (My favorite part of our week in Pellaro – August 2009 – was having dinner on the roof-terrace and seeing the volcano on the horizon. Then in 2014, when we drove right by it on the Autostrada, the immensity was something I had never considered. When you see it from far away, there is no sense of scale. Etna is enormous. Being below it and realizing that there is a whole city at its base was disconcerting. I don’t understand how you live at the base of an active volcano.)

Wanted to compare sunrise and sunset between Pittsburgh, Aprigliano and Sault Ste Marie.
Pittsburgh – 10 hours and 03 minutes (7:32 – 5:35)
Aprigliano – 10 hours and 10 minutes (7:03 – 5:12)
Sault Ste Marie – 9 hours and 30 minutes (8:02 – 5:37)

49 days till spring


January 28, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

more memoriessunrise – 7:34, sunset – 5:33
9 hours and 59 minutes of daylight

For these three images, I’m gonna quote the Italian comments posted with each on the FB page Calabria Ieri e Oggi. I see no need to translate the words when the images evoke sentiment and meaning.

Left Image: Emigranti si preparava la valigia di Cartone e un vecchio Partiva a quei tempi in cerca di fortuna per il Nord per le Americhe e per l’Australia. Ma al giorno d’oggi troppi nostri calabresi lasciano la loro Terra a causa della disoccupazione e per andare avanti si cerca fortuna altrove. Ma la Calabria rimarrà per sempre nel loro ❤.
My mother still has the cardboard suitcase and the trunk. I remember the shoes with the metal clips. It was a way of extending the life of the shoes.

Middle Image: Peppino e Ntonuzza furono i miei primi fotomodelli, amici e vicini dei miei nonni si prestarono ai miei primi scatti con una vecchia Koroll Bencini, sono passati 41 anni da allora ma il ricordo è vivo, loro non ci sono più, di loro conservo la loro straordinaria bontà e semplicità antica, a loro la dedico. (Mario Greco)
Imagine, they are not husband and wife, but friends and neighbors.

Right Image: Ricordi di un tempo non avevamo il PC e lo Smartphone ma in compenso avevamo il giradischi dove ascoltavano Modugno, Morandi e Celentano.
The guy on the right could easily be me. I had that haircut and I have that nose.

51 days till spring


January 25, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

centennial – WWIsunrise – 7:36, sunset – 5:29
9 hours and 53 minutes of daylight

warThroughout Italy every town has a piazza with a WWI memorial. And I try and shoot all the various monuments, walls, commemorations. In Aprigliano, the WWI monument is how I remember Piazza Guarno; it’s how I identify the town. For me, it’s as iconic as The Eiffel, Lady Liberty, The Vatican, Cinderella’s Castle, The Pantheon, The Brandenburg.

Over the last couple of years, a number of WWI memorial images have emerged. And given the Italians penchant for pretty and romanticism, the new posters present a sanitized event; a memory wrapped in sharp whites, greens and reds. Nothing like remembering the drab khaki landscapes, the shell-blasted sludge, the blood-baths, the trench warfare with modern, digital pretty.

And talking about pretty, there’s an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee where Jerry is talking with Fred Armisen in Portland about good coffee:
Fred: Have you been to Italy?
Jerry: It’s amazing that it only functions on this level of charm.
Fred: Yeah
Jerry: Without that, it’s like a young pretty girl that never ages. That’s Italy.
Fred: Absolutely
Jerry: She never gets older; never looses her allure; and you can’t get enough of it.
Fred: Yeah
Jerry: And it survives, but all other beauty on earth fades,
Fred: Yeah
Jerry: Except Italy.
Fred: Why is that?
Jerry: I don’t know.
Fred: That is perfect, what a perfect description.

54 days till spring


January 24, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

first storm of the seasonsunrise – 7:37, sunset – 5:28
9 hours and 51 minutes of daylight

first-snow5The shot is from the porch and so the weird perspective.

The snow started Friday evening and lasted all the way through mid-day Saturday. I went out with the broom to clear the area in front of the back-door, but it was fruitless; within the hour the swept area was covered in snow. Total accumulation was between 6 and 10 inches. We were on the northern edge of the storm.

I kept thinking of all the farmhouses we passed going up to my parents in Northern Ontario and how isolated they all seemed; how scary it felt picturing myself in those farmhouses; and yet the snow-storm here left many isolated. (I have a pic that Jo’ gave me of a barn in winter in the middle of a field. It’s all gray and blurry with falling snow. It’s one of the most desolate, depressing photographs I have ever seen.) Is the difference one of duration? By the middle of the next week, the snow will be gone, but in Northern Ontario and the Upper Peninsula winter and snow will last into April.

And it’s on days like this that I go looking for summer rental in Italy. (I’m already counting down to Kaua’i.) In Calabria, the rental situation is very different than in other parts. Even Puglia, which is similar economically, had several viable rental properties. Most of the online rentals in Calabria are in resort areas and most are new construction. Forget refurbished medieval housing with modern amenities. The albergo diffuso in Belmonte was truly a find.

55 days till spring


January 22, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

memoriessunrise – 7:38, sunset – 5:26
9 hours and 48 minutes of daylight

Found the FB page – Calabria ieri – and these three amazing images. I downloaded the one on the left, because my parents had that same picture of the Holy Family in their bedroom in Aprigliano. Today it’s in Jo’s old bedroom. I’ve been meaning to take it, maybe next time I’m up. The image in the middle is the best. I couldn’t pass up. I love his head against the wall and his looking down. And that has to be his sister keeping guard, right? Mi piace troppo. The image on the right is there, because of the brazier. I remember us having one and my playing on the wooden stand holding the copper dish with the coals. Also, I love the two women; there’s a wonderful sense of camaraderie and ease; and those shoes, and those big feet – OMG.
57 days till spring


January 12, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

inverno – winter in apriglianosunrise – 7:42, sunset – 5:14
9 hours and 32 minutes of daylight

aprigliano-winterI stole the image from Maria Callari’s FB photos. It all started with me commenting to Vincenzo Martire that he should add names to the various people pics he posts on the Sei di Aprigliano FB page. And naturally that resulted in a barrage of follow-up comments. My favorite was from Cinzia Fuoco who claimed that Vincenzo Martire just wants everyone to guess who people are. Maria Callari followed that with how can we know everyone. A sincere question, but one that triggered sarcasm and laughter. The conversation wasn’t mean-spirited just edgy. After all we’re Apriglianesi and nice isn’t in our gene structure. We’re not mean, but we’re certainly not nice. (My family members accuse Seane and I of being cut from the same cloth. Apparently the two of us are anything but nice. Seane and I delight in that assessment.)

I have to say, it’s great fun to comment back-and-forth in Italian. (You really do get to a point where writing and talking in Italian stops being torturous. I’ve stopped hesitating, stopped worrying that the spelling is wrong, that the verb tense is screwed up. And Google Translate is there to make sure I don’t misspell anything, because that would be very embarrassing even though Italian is no longer my primary language.)

Over the years, I’ve collected many images of winter in Aprigliano. I like snow on the medieval structures in desert-like Calabria. It’s a contrast that appeals to my sense of absurdity.


January 11, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

porch gridsunrise – 7:43, sunset – 5:13
9 hours and 30 minutes of daylight

porch-latticeI only write about weather in winter. Within two days – Saturday to Monday, we went from 59o to this morning’s low of 19o. And since the last post, there are 3 additional minutes of daylight. (For some reason that was a difficult sentence to create. Daylight is an odd noun to structure a sentence around.)

The 2X4 grid, in the image, is the roof structure on my back porch.

I’ve decided to not watch any of the 24-hour cable-news except for Rachel Maddow. She’s the only host who doesn’t traffic in innuendos, gossip, fear-mongering or personal opinion. (Chris Hays will chase any story that has an African-American angle. And then contort it so that he can layer his version of liberal tolerance on top of it. Lawrence O’Donnell can’t disguise his dislike of Hillary Clinton and obsession with politicians from New England. He practically orgasms over Elizabeth Warren.) But it’s because of Rachel Maddow that anyone if paying attention to the horrors happening in Flint, Michigan.

The three main networks – CNN, MSNBC, Fox – run Trump all day. And with the three channels chasing ratings, the Presidential primaries have become reality TV. Every word, gesture, pause is analyzed and great pronouncements made.
Is the Vice-President endorsing Bernie?
Is President Clinton going to stay on message?
Is Donald Trump going to go after Ted Cruz?
Did you see Hillary’s face when the announcer mentioned Jeb?
Did you see Rubio’s new shoes?

Is this what 17 century Versailles was like?
The King’s toilette was exceptionally fragrant this morning. Were you there?
Of course. I had a front-row seat next to the Cardinal.


January 8, 2016 diario/journal, reflections

a new camera – d7100sunrise – 7:43, sunset – 5:10
9 hours and 27 minutes of daylight

buckets9It was time to upgrade to a camera with more mega-pixels and replace the d90. And like an old fashion immigrant, I started putting money aside. (Tell me that isn’t anti-modern, anti-consumer.) The d7100 is an entry level camera, but I need one of those. There are enough times when I hand someone a camera to take a pic of the group of us and it has to be something a stranger can just point-and-shoot. I also like the no-flash feature.

The Christmas anxiety and hype seem to have disappeared. It’s as if the season never existed.

The weather has been unusual; today it’s 53o and the sun is out. In the image, I like the glow it casts onto the buckets and the nylon strings. But January always has this confusing period when we pretend that winter will stay away or stay north and not reach down into south-western Pennsylvania. And we are always disillusioned when the frigid temperatures grip the land and we start the count-down to March 21.

Don’t know if I have too much info in the header. Between the sunrise/sunset, the hours of daylight and the countdown to March 21 it looks a bit crowded. So I removed the countdown.


November 21, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

  fayette county, pennsylvania

DSC_2894Renato, Gina and I are on the summit at Kentuck Knob the other Frank Lloyd Wright house in south-western Pennsylvania. (We started off the day at Fallingwater.) My great-grandparents’ three oldest children were Salvatore, Francesco and Michele. Francesco was my grandfather and Michele was Renato’s father.

Kentuck Knob is a one-story house on Chestnut Ridge, the western-most ridge of the Allegheny Mountains. The home is recessed into the southern side of the 2,050 foot peak. And the summit offers a sweeping view of the Youghiogheny River gorge.

Wright never set foot on the site before designing the house. He made a short visit during the construction phase and one of the local engineers pointed out that the cantilevered porch-roof did not have enough supports. Wright supposedly went back to Taliesin and had one of his minions make the necessary corrections. This would be one of the last homes Wright completed.

It’s always a great surprise to my Canadian relatives when I drive them into the mountains and we show up at places like Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. There are no comparable houses in Canada.

Renato and Gina visited for four days and we spent Saturday in the Ohiopyle area. It was fun taking them around; I haven’t had visitors for a while and it was great to go back to Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. (They texted once they crossed over into Canada and the subject was snow. Yuck!)


November 8, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

     upper canada steeples

Kingston2015 025Kingston is full of church steeples. But unlike New England, the ones here in the capital of Upper Canada are made of white limestone. (They have the look and feel of the colonial steeples of New England, but are much much taller. Guess you could do that when you’re not using lumber. Also this is not a heavily forested area.) Geologically, the Kingston area connects the Algonquin Dome in north-central Ontario with the Adirondack Dome in New York state. The Queen’s University buildings, The Royal Military College, the Martello Towers, the old mansions are all made from the limestone found in the area.

Besides steeples, the area is full of commemorations to Sir John A. Macdonald a Scottish-born Canadian politician and the Father of Confederation. He was the first Prime Minister of Canada (1867–1873, 1878–1891). (Macdonald was the leading figure in the discussions and conferences which resulted in the British North America Act and the birth of Canada as a nation on July 1, 1867. A hundred years later, in Sault Ste Marie, the city build the centennial library to commemorate the founding of Canada.) Macdonald’s greatest achievements were building and guiding a successful national government, forging a strong Conservative Party, promoting protective tariffs and building the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway.

I promised Seane I would visit again, because I want to take the 1000 Islands boat tour and the old city bus tour. I know enough about the area and the city that the tours could be a way of stringing all the random information together.


November 7, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

queen’s university

Kingston2015 043School legend has it that a group of engineering students, probably drunk engineering students, decided to leave their mark by changing the face of the clock on Grant Hall. They redesigned the Roman numerals and changed the IV to IIII. (The legend is questionable given that it wasn’t unusual to represent the number 4 using the four IIII.)

The Victorian Romanesque style is everywhere on campus as well as in the large, rich houses in the old town.

The university is relatively small by modern standards – 25,000 students. Its campus is well defined and not at all cramped. In the last few years, new construction has been for dorms and other student amenities. Classrooms and research centers are housed in the old, retrofitted buildings. (The new library, keeps many of the Romanesque lines; they’re just in concrete rather than stone.)

When I was living in Canada, Queen’s was not a school anyone I knew, went to. All the kids from northern Ontario went south to the University of Toronto, the University of Windsor or the schools in the London, Kitchener, Guelph area. We gravitated to the urban centers and to the Math/Science schools. Also we were not drawn to anything that looked or smacked of Englishness. And Kingston has always had an air of Englishness about it. Also, the Kingston of the 1960’s was famous for it federal prisons more than it tony university.

The term English in the Canada of the 1960’s represented colonial privileged and colonial entitlement. It was the pejorative that we called the non-Italians. The next generation changed the slur to mangia-cake. A reference to the fact that these non-Italians seem to eat a lot of soft desserts; foods devoid of flavor, but loaded with sugar. The sub-text of the insult was that the diet made these non-Italians stupid. We were the generation that wanted nothing to do with Canada’s British legacy. Because, we were constantly reminded that we were not English, that we were less than. And proof of that diminished status was our olive skin.

In modern Canada, Italian immigrants and their Canadian born children have become mainstream and my niece, nephew and cousins look at Queen’s as a feather in their academic career cap. How things change. Seane was whining about her bland surname. “Why can’t my last name be Zinga? Seane Zinga would be such a cool name.” How things change. I bet her mother would be shocked to hear that in one generation, an Italian surname was more desirable than the English one she left her children.

I just liked seeing a Canadian city without steel mills and mines; a Canadian city that hadn’t bulldozed its old housing stock in favor of the ubiquitous suburban track-house. Mind you, there is plenty of suburban housing in norther Kingston. You know, the ugly garage-houses with their cookie-cutter sameness, their shoddy construction and million dollar price-tags.


November 7, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

greeting the morning sun

Kingston2015 051I’m in Kingston, Ontario and Seane and I are walking the Queen’s campus. It’s a chilly November morning and even this far north, there are crazies who wade into the frigid waters.

I had never been this far east (Kingston is three hours east of Toronto.) and all the Canadian cities I’m familiar with are the industrial towns of southern and north-central Ontario – Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, Sudbury, Espanola, Sault Ste Marie. Kingston was a great surprise. It is free of heavy industry – mills, mines – and full of British colonial homes and structures. Kingston was the capital of Upper Canada – the British colony in Canada. The city is at the end of Lake Ontario and at the mouth of the St. Lawrence. It has always been a militarily strategic port. It is home to the Royal Military College of Canada. Modern Kingston has maintained its colonial infrastructure. Many of the old houses have been renovated and re-purposed. And there are no smoke stacks or mine shafts belching into the clean air. (The first and third images in the slide-show are of Kingston.)

Queen’s University – named after Queen Victoria – is one of Canada’s premier schools. (Professor Emeritus Arthur McDonald was the co-winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics.) The campus is beautiful and its old Victorian Romanesque buildings preserved and all still in use. (Some different names – the school’s head is called the principal and in Canada they do not use the terms freshman, sophomore … rather 1st years, 2nd years …)

Seane is living in an old turn of the century house. The houses in the old town remind me of the houses in England. They are very small. I couldn’t get over the fact that London was filled with these small houses. Outside the royal and government structures, the housing was low and narrow. And the old house in Kingston are low and narrow. (There are few tutor style houses, which became the rage throughout the industrial cities of Toronto, Hamilton and Windsor, instead the housing stock is older and much more classical in form.)


October 24, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

the making of a pride

Harrow2015 044There’s always a cat story when we visit Rainer and Lynn. This year, they had 4 kittens they were raising, because the mother, a week after giving birth, left and never came back. (Lynn suspects she was killed by the coyote or foxes that hunt the wild cats.) Lynn took over and the kittens are now eating solid food. They do not domesticate the cats on their property, but supplement their diets to make them healthier.

The two in the image on the left are part of a trio – Ursula, Cruella and Maleficent. The missing kitten is shy and nowhere as rambunctious as her two other sisters. While I was shooting, the shy one watched from her bed-box. The litter had 4 kittens – the three females and an all white male. The kittens spend the day outside in and around the milk-shed, but are brought in for the night. Eventually, they will spend their whole time outside. There are also seven grown cats in addition to the kittens. Five of the seven are males and when the females come in heat in late February, one male will emerge as the alpha and he will drive out all the other male cats. Lynn said that over the years, they have lost many many cats. The pride can only have one alpha and all the other males are driven off. (Lynn said that she saw one of their males at a nearby farm. He had apparently become the alpha in the pride that lived there. But that was the only time she ever saw one of the male cats that had been driven off from their property.)

In the morning, I stepped out to shoot the rising sun and the grown cats swarmed around me. Rainer feeds them in the morning and me coming out the door signaled food. They followed me around, but soon figured I had no bowls and sat down and waited for the one who did.


October 24, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

ready to harvest

Harrow2015 035On the drive to Harrow, I passed all these corn fields and I assumed the corn had been harvested and that what I was looking at were the dry stocks minus the ears of corn. Not true. According to Rainer, the corn is still on the stock drying. (The less water content in each kernel, the more valued the crop.) Weather permitting, farmers leave the corn on the stocks to dry as long as possible. This morning, Rainer called the farmer down the road to see if he was harvesting, because he wanted me to see the combine. The harvester is a gigantic machine. It cuts the corns stocks about six inches off the ground and then separates the corn from the stock.

Frank is in the middle of the dry corn stocks.

The other farm-thing we did was pick apples and eat them. Another of Rainer’s neighbors, grows a variety of apples and many were still on the dwarf trees. (The farmer explained how all his neighbors looked askance when he planted the dwarf trees.) What was surprising was how soft the apple skin was and easy to eat. Most times, I’m peeling the skin from store-bought apples. But when the apple is freshly picked, the skin is still full of juice. Also, the commercial apples at the grocery story are covered in wax to make them look shinny and appealing.

We spent Friday afternoon on an indoor court hitting tennis balls back and forth. I laughed when Ron and Frank had to wrap their knees in various contraptions and naturally I did a lot of trash talk. Here were the two premier athletes of the group having to don their bionic garments in order to hit some tennis balls. I continued the trash talking, because after the first 10 minutes I ended up playing against the two of them, because they needed breaks. Me, the one who had refused to play any organized sports, against the two who played organized baseball, basketball, hockey and tennis. During dinner, I asked after their various injuries and realized that young athletes come into old and middle age with a lot of aches and pains. Ron and Frank had suffered various injuries while playing sports when they were young and foolish. Their conclusion is that it had been worth it.


October 16, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

 and the leaves that are green


and they wither with the wind
and they crumble in your hand
hello, hello
good-bye, good-bye

The last growth spurt is producing some amazing colors. All summer long, I kept pinching the coleus to prevent it from getting long and leggy, but it was the October chill that forced it to fill out and bloom in rusts and yellows. (The plant in the foreground is the coleus.)

It’s been wonderful coming home to a new landscape in my backyard. The renovation was completed the day before I left for Puglia, so I never got to enjoy the new platforms, the short steps, the uniformity of the new pavers, the low stone walls that tier this small space.

I like doing second renovations, because I’ve lived in the space, I’ve lived with the limitations and now know what needs to change. In the first rev, you make the best decisions, but they are not based on experience with the environment, no, they’re based on abstract ideas. In the second iteration the ideas stay, but now there are materials and protocols that better match the abstract designs in my head.   — the before and after —

In the new renovation, the emphasis was on digging deeper footers for the walls, creating a solid foundation for the pavers and sealing the the surface to minimize weeds. (The first renovation was done by a group of amateurs who put down a layer of sand to rest the bricks on and who drilled rebar into the wolmanized 6X6 ties to anchor them into the ground.)

How long before I have to say good-bye to all these rich early fall colors?


October 12, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

it’s a still-life water-color            of a now late afternoon

ShadowsThe autumn sun moves so quickly. I shot the image from the upstairs deck and by the time I got downstairs, the area with the shadows was half what you see. I am trying to capture images that aren’t the typical fall items – turning trees and mounds of brown leaves.

Two Discoveries
1. Hearing the va’ pensiero chorus from Nabucco live and in context. It’s the lamentation of a people in exile.
o mia patria si bella e perduta
o membranza si cara e fatal

Verdi may have put the words of longing into the mouths of the Hebrews slaves, but every Italian knows them as the anthem of The Risorgimento – the struggle for unification and the fight for freedom from foreign rule.
2. Hearing a live recording of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1976 Carnegie Hall concert. It’s two voices and Simon’s guitar.
go home outsider
Mississippi’s gonna be your buryin’ place

A young Paul and Artie give a patina of innocence and naiveté to the words of revolution and introspection. And the lead into A Dangling Conversation sets up the recurring theme of isolation. Also, the album has a spontaneity and a bootleg quality to it.

Canadian Thanksgiving is being celebrated today, but this year like last, I didn’t go up. Rather, I’m heading up to Harrow in a week-and-a-half to play golf with the boys. Will grain and corn stalks still cover the concessions of Essex County or will the land have been stripped bare?


October 10, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

autumn morning

Tree-StonesIt’s two-and-a-half weeks since I got back from Puglia and the rhythms of the new season are everywhere; the morning light is bright but diffused; the heat sporadic sometimes tee-shirt warm and sometimes sweat-shirt cold. Summer has slipped into memory.

Puglia, like Naples and Pellaro, is not a place I would go back to. The Valle d’Itria, with its other-worldly trulli, its white cities, its cucina povera, is too far off the beaten track and not interesting enough for a return trip.

The image on the left is the shift from Puglia-travel to being back home. The two trees were originally in plastic bonsai pots. I often kept the pots on the ground to prevent the soil from drying out. With these two pots, the plants started growing into the soil and I let them. I now have a 60 foot red-wood and an umbrella shaped long-needled pine. I removed the pot from the red-wood years ago – its footprint is like a giant’s 40 inch hand with fingers 6 to 8 inches in diameter. But I had kept the pot on the long-needled pine. I liked pointing out that the huge umbrella shaped pine had started in a bonsai pot, but the pot was no longer flat on the ground, rather it tilted with the lean of the umbrella branches. And for someone who likes symmetry, order and harmony the lean upset the feng shui of the garden.

The other day, I decided to cut the pot and surround the root-ball with the blue stones from Connie’s cottage. The stone necklace corrected the lean and cleaning the root-ball of its soil shows all its gnarly tentacles. The long-needled pine now looks to grow out of the white marble chips. The visual harmony has been restored


September 3, 2015 diario/journal, reflections


almost finished – repaving5

The slag has been laid and packed, the retaining walls have been built and leveled. Today comes the sand and the pavers.

The images were shot early in the morning. The one on the left has the soft glow of the outdoor flood lights. For the one on the left, I turned the lights off.

One of the renters on Sampsonia has been particularly difficult. He’s moved the orange cones forcing the guys to constantly move the truck; he’s complained about the dust; he’s complained about the noise. Who is this fool? If he wants no interaction with workers, if he wants to not be inconvenienced by the density of urban living he should move to the suburbs.

They are currently laying down the sand-base for the upper section. The goal is to finish tomorrow.


September 1, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

      night light

Night2 002My second night shoot was about keeping the shutter open when there is little to no light and the shutter indicator suggests bulb. The shot on the left is down the side-yard. All the items are here, because the rest of the back-yard is torn up and being repaved.

I set up the tripod and did my calculations. The timer on this image was a minute-and-a-half. And the entire side-yard was practically pitch black. There are three light-sources – the kitchen light streaming through the windows; the office light seeping through the window in the center of the image and the night-sky peaking through the alley. The kitchen light is harsh in contrast with the dark also there are no shades on the kitchen windows. And even though they are stained glass, it’s not a colored glass. Because night-shoots in the bulb range and really a trial-and-error experience, I’m gonna shoot again tonight to see how I can minimize the kitchen light. I’m thinking of turning off the over-head and leaving only the light over the stove and the light in the alcove. Anyway, it’ll be a chance to experiment. (I also chucked my 60-Minutes stopwatch for the one on my phone. First of all, the one on the phone can be seen in the dark and the numbers are big.)

Tomorrow the dining-room/office is being replaced. The new window will not have a storm in front of it. I’m wondering what that will do to the light?

There are two aspects of the image on the left that I like: (a) the sliver of blue sky and (b) the soft light from the window. The blue sky between the two houses was a complete surprise. I could see blue above the street-light, but was surprised when I caught it in the image. The soft light is from the overhead light in my dining-room/office. It too was a surprise given how harsh the light from through the kitchen windows turned out to be.


August 31, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

repaving4repaving5Tim has finished the base for the first retaining wall – foreground left image. He said that by the end of the day, he will have a second one done and half of the large wall that separates the patio from the upper section of the backyard.

They actually did the three main retaining walls. The image on the right is the base of the longest wall. All that’s left is the small wall that is the step to the top platform.

The goal is to have the majority of the work done by Friday.

new walls – repaving4


August 28, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

the old is gone – repaving3

The above image was taken at first-light. I’m shooting from the side of the house and got to include the kitchen windows. I so wanted to brush out the telephone box, but decided that I’m recording what is currently there and therefore the box had to stay.
repaving 025repaving 029AThe pic on the left was taken around 9:30; the one on the right after the workers started. They are digging the trenches for the new retaining walls. The block is what they’ll use for the new walls. (The one surprise is how small the two sections with the white marble chips are.)

It’s a good crew, the guys are Puerto Rican. When I asked the older guy how he had ended up here, he said there was work and family here. We agreed the Latino community in Pittsburgh is small.


August 27, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

lifting the old wolmanized- repaving2

repaving2I have no memory of the first time the backyard was paved and landscaped. It was done by a greenhouse-group from Blawnox. I had gotten to know the old man who ran the greenhouse; he was a great source of information. I had asked him about landscaping my backyard and he said his grandson ran that part of the operation. The grandson came down, gave me a bid and I gave him the work.

Because I was working, I was not here to see them dig up the place and create the four platforms. What I remember most is my design of the curved upper platform and the left-over pavers. I had so many, that I decided to lay them down on top of the cement on the side of the house all the way down the alley to the gate. (There was almost an entire pallet of extra bricks.)

Watching the guys take everything up and getting the ground ready for a new foundation and new pavers makes me think back to when someone else did all this work to put the retaining walls, the cement-sand and the bricks in place.

The image is the retaining wall between the platform in front of the back-door and the large patio above it. All the wolmanized was anchored into the ground with seven-foot rebar. The drain cover was designed by the blacksmith at Gilgamesh Forge who also did the alley gates, and the flowerpot-holders on the outside of the deck. I love the text accompanying the images of the old and new drain covers. A previous client requested something interesting to replace a rusted drain lid in the courtyard of his Mexican War Street rowhouse. We went with a Celtic weave pattern, to create this interesting option for an otherwise ordinary utilitarian object. Lid is 12” in diameter.


August 26, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

lifting the old bricks – repaving1

repaving1The work on re-paving the backyard has begun. My neighbor from down the street is taking the old brick pavers. That means less stuff for the landfill and less time needed to complete the job. (They don’t have to haul the old brick away; one of the guys is stacking them in my neighbor’s garage.)

The old brick has been there some 20 years. All the dry-mortar between the pavers has been gone for a while and I’ve had to lift, clean and re-set the bricks in order to remove the moss and the weeds that want to grow in the empty spaces where the dry-mortar was. The wolmanized walls between the main patio and the upper section of the yard were bowed at almost 70o. The retaining walls had a layer of brick between the two wolmanized 6X6’s. The bricks gave the walls a unique old look and act as drains for the upper levels. The walls just bowed. (I’m hoping that the new walls will stay perpendicular. After all the upper levels have had years to settle.)

Also, over the years I made some changes to the five platforms that make up the backyard. (There was a long flowerbed on the side and a wrought iron fence between our house and Joe-and-Rose’s. When the sewer needed fixing – the big dig – the whole side of the yard got rebuilt. The flower-bed and the fence went. Also new cement was poured cleaning up the whole side-yard.) The dig, the new fence and the new cement flooring radically changed the platforms closest to the back-door. And new wolmanized borders had to be added to perimeter the lower platforms and un-weathered pieces and miss-matched bricks got added to the mix. (I compensated by adding pots to corners with the most miss-matched elements.)

The new pavers and walls should bring back a more uniform look.


August 20, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

and you think of all of the things you’ve seen
and you wish that you could live in between

mt-washingtonDon’t know where I’ll end up with this post, because I’m combining two unrelated things – lyrics from Giants In the Sky, and a night-shot of a church up on Mount Washington. I can talk about the imagery – the double-light at the far left, the gate, the dark is the woods, the lights a path in the night and the steeples at the far right, a false destination. And in between, the houses of those afraid of the dark and the Druid’s vicarage.

The above image is a sliver of the larger photograph, but I liked the light-necklace best, so I cropped more that 80% of the original.


August 14, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

just remembering you’ve had an and

ppgI’ve been listening to Into the Woods for the last couple of weeks. (Ever since the buckets posting) The following is another of my favorite Sondheim creations. And the title is a line from this word-play.

Must it all be either less or more
Either plain or grand

Is it always “or”
Is it never “and”

This is my first effort at taking pictures at night. I’m on the South Side, at Station Square, and the image is of the main tower at PPG Place.

And up to now, I’ve relied on the built-in light-meter and my judgement to shoot, but with night photography, I have to deal much more with the technology of the camera. Last night, after getting the aperture and and shutter speed I wanted, I began to experiment with White Balance settings and discovered that it can add a sheen to the overall image. However, didn’t like what the various adjustments produced, so I’m gonna stay with an auto setting for the White Balance.

And until I have a better sense of how to set up a pic at night, I’m going to have to work from a set of steps that I write down.


August 7, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

salisbury and north taylor

bluestonesOn Monday, Connie and I went up to the cottage, because I wanted to collect some rocks to bring home. Once I noticed the blue-stones, I decided that I wanted only them. At the water’s edge, being washed over by the waves, I found this beautiful, huge, flat stone (bet it must weigh hundreds of pounds) and if I had five or six people helping me, I would have dug it up and load it into my car. (I can picture it in my back-yard, a blue amoeba floating among the white marble-chips.) After a good hour and Connie going into the water to dig out some bigger rocks, we loaded all the blue-stones we had collected into boxes in the back of her SUV. When I got to my parents’ I asked my Dad if he had some old balsa-wood bushel-baskets I could take. He directed me to his greenhouse where I found hundreds of bushel-baskets. (My Dad is a pack-rat; you should see his tool-room in the back of the garage. Over the last couple of years, I’ve taken to borrowing things from this treasure stove. This visit, I borrowed two old extensions and a cutting-board.) I filled two bushels with the blue-rocks from Connie’s car.

What is U.S. Customs going to say when they see two bushel-baskets full of rocks in the back of my car?

I needed to find out what kind of rocks we had collected and the search brought up basalt – images of basalt rocks. I then started to think about the Bluestones at Stonehenge. The giant stones outside of Salisbury are also a type of volcanic basalt. It’s amazing to think that the blue-stones on the shores of Lake Superior and the monoliths in southern England share a geological profile.


August 4, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

    the old abitibi – st. mary’s paper

Tues-Aug-4 008When I lived in Sault Ste Marie, all those years ago, one the major industries was the paper-mill. And several of the new immigrants worked at the Abitibi. (This was the old name, before it was St. Mary’s Paper. The old name with all its vowels was way easier for the Italian immigrants to remember.) Michele Coccimiglio worked at the Abitibi and whenever we all went to Point des Chiens for Dominion Day, Michele would bring a roll of newsprint that was rolled on the many picnic tables that our families had commandeered. (Rose remembers cumma Maria – Michele’s wife boiling water for the pasta over an open-pit fire on the low bluffs above the cold waters of Lake Superior. The kids were all down on the beach pretending the water wasn’t miserably cold.)

The paper-mill went bankrupt a few years back, but the buildings are on the Historical Register and they are being gradually restored. The old admin building has been rented by Algoma University and is their music conservancy. (The University is expanding its campus into the downtown area. The old red-rock buildings will look great on their promotion materials.) The first of the mill buildings has been converted into an events space. The image is of this renovated space. Connie is on the small stage looking out onto the locks and the International Bridge.


July 21, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

The images below are of paint-buckets hanging from the Japanese Lilac in the back-yard. And the lyrics are from Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

high in a tower, like yours but higher  
a beauty asleep  
all ’round the tower, a thicket of briar  
a hundred feet deep  
agony, no frustration more keen  
when the one thing you want  
is a thing that you’ve not even seen  
  i found a casket, entirely of glass
  no, it’s unbreakable
  inside, don’t ask it, a maiden alas
  just as unawakable
what unmistakable
agony, is the way always barred
  she has skin white as snow
did you learn her name  
  no, there’s a dwarf standing guard
agony, such that princes must weep
always in thrall ‘most to anything almost
or something asleep
if it were not for the thicket  
  a thicket’s no trick, is it thick
it’s the thickest  
  the quickest is pick it apart with a stick
yes, but even one prick, it’s my thing about blood  
  well it’s sick
it’s no sicker than your thing with dwarfs  
  dwarfs are very upsetting
not forgetting
the tasks unachievable, mountains unscalable
if it’s conceivable but unavailable
ah     ah     ah     ah     ah     ah
agony, misery, woe, not to know what you miss
while they lie there for years  
  and you cry on their biers
what unbearable bliss

Sondheim’s Into the Woods   Agony – Part 1

Sondheim’s Into the Woods   Agony – Reprise


fourteen years ago

          Jo’ died Saturday, June 30, 2001 at 9:30 am.

Jo'My trip to Toronto this year was awkward. I’ve avoided heading up at this time of year, but I had forgotten why. And because of my busy schedule this spring, late June was my only option to go up and visit with Frank-and-Norma, Joe, Mary-Domenic-and-the-kids, Renato-and-Gina. But it wasn’t until I crossed I-80 that I realized why it felt so awkward. Fourteen years ago – Friday, June 29, 2001, I drove up and found my sister at the end of her life. By 9:30 the next morning she was dead. Dave was helping her out of bed and she died in his arms. (The grave marker doesn’t have the Saturday, June 30th date.)

So there I was driving up on June 29 just like I did fourteen years ago. And on the 30th, I visited the cemetery. The image on the left is from that visit. (I’ll have to tell my mother that I went up. I’ll make sure to explain that the time was a coincidence and not because it was the 14th anniversary of Jo’ death. I have to make that clear otherwise, she’ll think I planned it and I hadn’t.)

Fourteen years ago we all went to Mary-and-Domenic’s and Dave lit fireworks over the suburban houses. Mafalda, being the Calabrian that she’ll always be, was incensed – his wife, her daughter, had died the day before, and he was shooting off firecrackers. Needless to say the picnic was a very subdued affair. (I had driven back to Pittsburgh on the 30th to get my Armani and driven back to Toronto the next day. Remember, I left Toronto after the coroner had signed off on the death-notice and we had gotten the funeral arrangements set up so my mind wasn’t too balanced. I-80 was how I knew I was near home.)

Fourteen years later and both of the kids were absent from the Canada Day celebration. Dave is re-married and at the celebration, at his new house, no one mentioned the life-altering event that we all went through all those years ago. Everyone at the 2015 Canada Day picnic, except for Isabel and Clay, were present 14 years ago. (Why didn’t I make reference to Jo’s death? I probably couldn’t pull it off without tears.)


May 26, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

japanese lilac

lilacThe Japanese lilac is full of blossoms. The plant is part of the olive family and the blossoms are bisexual, with fertile stamens and stigma in each flower.

Bitter winters produce the most blossoms. The plant is threatened and produces more flowers ensuring more seeds. (In early spring, the city streets are filled with blooming wild almond. In late May, the old streets of the Central Northside are filled with blooming Japanese Lilacs.) And as the small flowers fall, the back-yard will be covered in white. One of the side-effects is that I’m popping antihistamines because of the over-abundance of pollen falling from the blossoms.

I’ve written about the Japanese Lilacs before – the smell reminds me of my time in Rome in the spring of 71. The white flowers are everywhere in the ancient city and the perfume infused the spring air.

Last year I began replacing the terracotta pots, because they were cracking and crumbling. They may look good, but they are made for a warm Mediterranean climate. Also, last year was the first year with the new surface on the side-yard. This year, I finished replacing all the old pots and filled in the holes. (I ended up buying 6 new plastic or ceramic pots.) I’m assuming that going forward, I will not need to buy replacements.

This year, I’m trying to grow some added vegetables – peppers and zucchini – and some new flowers – hollyhocks and sunflowers. Don’t know if I’ll have any luck with these. The zucchini is the biggest gamble, I have enough room for the runners, I just don’t know if the plant will like living in a huge pot. The hollyhocks will end up against the back fence, but the sunflowers are in serious danger of being eaten by the dogs. Bilby has discovered them and apparently the leaves must taste good, because he has eaten all but two plants. (Jack doesn’t seem interested, but Bilby has started to also eat the green blueberries. All the dogs have eaten the blueberry flowers, the green berries and the ripe berries.)


May 12, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

arturo’s graduation from becker

arturo 036Over the weekend, Sarah, Rick and I traveled to Worcester to attend Arturo’s graduation from Becker College. Over 300 kids graduated and they were able to keep the ceremony down to 2 hours. The ceremony was not very interesting, the head of Aetna gave the commencement address and she was very poor. (It was hard to believe that this person ran a multi-million dollar corporation.)

The night before, we had attended the Honors Convocation at Becker’s Leicester Campus. Arturo graduated Cum Laude. Arturo came to Becker from San Diego State and he had a great college experience. (The food at the reception was excellent.)

It was interesting to be back in New England for a college graduation ceremony. No one misbehaved, no one screamed, no graduate danced across the stage. It was all so correct. And that was good, because Arturo is someone who would have frowned on bad behavior. (The Boston area has the same frenetic energy as New York City. And when I’m sitting in the plane getting ready to take off, I’m glad to leave the intensity behind.)

The image on the left – Ryan Oliver, Mario Zinga, Arturo Nieto, Rick Wertheimer – the principals from City High. (Ryan is Arturo’s uncle and the main support behind his Gates Millennium Scholarship and his guide when he transferred from San Diego State to Becker College.)


we’re off to see the wizard

skylineI went walking along the North Shore down by PNC Park. The city looks amazing from the north shore of the Allegheny. And with Phillip Johnson’s fairytale skyscraper on the left and the drill-bit building on the right, how can you think of anything other than Oz.

This is the d800e, 36 megapixels and hues of blue. (My favorite part of the image is the white cloud in the top right. The contrast with the blue spires and the blue sky makes the cloud marshmallow soft.)

It was also game-day and Pirate fans were all over the place. I love being in an urban setting and having people all around – people strolling in the riverside park, people eating and drinking in the restaurant and bars, people dancing and running on the pedestrian-only bridge. A spots venue in the middle of nowhere is desirable only for commuters; a sports venue in the middle of town is dynamic, rich; a sports venue in the middle of town is a celebration of urban living. It’s our twenty-first century version of the Medieval festival. In Pittsburgh, our knights are dressed in black and gold and today they were jousting with the red knights of Cincinnati.

I fear that here in Western Pennsylvania we are slowly adopting the European model of city-living – the city is for the rich and the suburbs are for the poor. Pittsburgh’s downtown, its Southside and its North Shore have been taken over by the next generation. The areas are full of young working people who eat out, who live in apartments, who drive small cars, who take public transportation. The poor, the old and the car obsessed are being priced out of the urban core and forced to go live in the outer-rings. As the city becomes more gentrified, more resident-friendly, suburban Pittsburgh is becoming more poor, more remote, more detached, old. I saw that in Manhattan; the island is no longer affordable by middle and lower-middle class families and certainly not affordable by low-income retirees. I don’t know enough about Baltimore, but with DC as the center of the metropolitan region could it be that it’s where the poor and the old are retreating?


mcdonalds is in avignon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of my favorite movies is Ridley Scott’s A Good Year. And screen-writer Marc Klein wrote some of my favorite dialogue.
  You’ll come to see that a man learns nothing from winning.
  McDonalds is in Avignon, fish-and-chips in Marseille.
  No Max, it’s your life that does not suit this place.
  In California, they don’t make wine.
    They make Hawaiian Punch.
  We don’t say “shabby,” Max. We say
    “filled with the patina of a bygone era.”
  You know what Proust said,
    “Leave pretty women to men without imagination.”
  And remember you’re in France:
    the customer is always wrong!

The film is better than the Peter Mayle book of the same title. The convoluted relationships in the book are reduced, the cinematography of the Luberon is spectacular, the underlying theme of solace-in-a-world-obsessed-with-money is more obvious and Albert Finney, even at the end of his life, is someone you can’t take your eyes off. (He may not be the gorgeous hunk of Tom Jones or Two for the Road, but the voice stayed true to the end.)

“I don’t yearn for how I used to look,” Finney bristles. “I don’t think I’m particularly handsome. I think maybe I’m attractive. I remember with Tom Jones being very concerned to tell people that I was not just another pretty face, and that’s why I took all those character roles. Why I played Luther on Broadway, for instance. All those character roles were perhaps an overreaction to being treated like some kind of sex symbol.”

In the film, in the restaurant is the ubiquitous van Gogh poster – Country Road in Provence by Night. I wanted a less recognizable van Gogh, but one that showed the Provencal rural countryside. And though van Gogh’s blues are not something I like, the purples in the Farmhouse in Provence are very different. They make the blue gate, the blue trees, the blue shutters, the blue mountains palatable.


April 28, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

marbles in a glass cylinder

marblesYears ago at some yard sale, I picked up a tall, cylindrical glass-vase. I took it to the Pittsburgh Glass Center and had them drill a hole in the bottom. I filled it with marbles, because I love marbles. It doesn’t look bad.

I ended up putting the cylinder in among the lilies-of-the-valley. I also stuck the copper ornaments – dragon fly, butterfly, bee and sunflower – into the glass vase. (There are friends who are accusing me of making the back-yard look like Bloomfield. The negative comment references the Italian-American’s sense of decor that is on display in the Bloomfield section of Pittsburgh. A lower middle-class neighborhood with 3rd and 4th generation Italian-Americas.)

The rest of the planting is going slowly mainly because the weather has turned cold and at night it gets below 40. I’m trying something new this year – planted ornamental sunflowers under the white marble stones and zucchini in a pot. Let’s see what comes of this effort. And for the first time, I bought a huge fern and put it into the ceramic pot that last year held a hanging begonia. The green is a great contrast with the white stones.

And I’m finally going to get the back-yard redone. It’s been almost 20 years since the pavers were put down and the sand foundation has fluctuated to the point where nothing is flat. As a matter of fact, when it rains there are puddles all through the back.


April 18, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

putzing around – getting ready for spring-planting

new-potsThe terra-cotta pots did not last the winter. I’ve been using these large left-over containers for eggplant. (My dad mentioned that eggplants won’t fruit if planted where the ground gets cold at night. And that in this environment, unlike Italy, they need to be in pots if I want to improve the probability of getting fruit.) So yesterday, I went to Home Depot and bought 3 large plastic pots. These will hold my eggplants. (Getting rid of the terra-cotta also means getting rid of heavy pots that make re-landscaping tough work.)

I put the 3 new pots in the back and that meant rearranging everything else. This year the new addition is a bird-bath – top left-hand corner. (It was a solution to getting rid of a large glass dish from the dining room table.) I found the stand at the local grocery store and decided to use the large bowl that had been on my table full of winter hats, gloves and scarves. I incorporated the ceramic marble into the area and moved the tall glass cylinder full of real marbles to the front.

Was talking to my cousin who just bought a town-house in Mississauga and I asked him if he liked to putz around in the dirt. He answered that he hated it. I told him the cultural-police were going to revoke his Italian ancestry. I also asked Rose what she and Derrick are going to do about gardening when they are living 6 months in Kaua’i and 6 months in an apartment state-side. Haven’t received an answer yet.


April 8, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

easter sunday

easter-15 032Sunday was the first day of sun and warmth. Brought out the deck-chairs and sat outside after dinner. The fading sky was spring-blue and it was fun to shoot in the backyard. The image on the left is the Japanese Lilac. Last fall I cut a large branch that was at right-angle to the curving trunk. You can see the scar, the folding bark near the top. It’s healing, but I learned to trim branches differently after that tear. I took the hand-saw to the branch without making a first-cut at the bottom. The first-cut would have prevented the heavy branch from ripping off the trunk once I got deep enough. Instead of ripping it would have collapsed on the first-cut and ripped from the top, the part that I had cut with the hand-saw.

I like the shadow of the trunk. It captures the curve more than precisely than the trunk itself.

Kaua’i has always been a time to get ready for summer. I pack and try out any new camera accessories, so that by the time I’m packing for Italy I’ve have a test run. I learned that it wasn’t a good idea to bring only high-end cameras, because if I want someone to take our pic, I can’t give them a difficult camera to use. (Never mind the woman at the Queen’s Bath who was shooting with a Canon but had no clue when I handed her my camera with a fixed lens. She was looking for the zoom. And the pictures she took were useless. The woman who took our picture at Waimea Canyon did a great job and she knew about a fixed lens.) Other years, I got sandals – indoor Crocs and outdoor Keens. This year, I discovered that my runners weren’t the best for walking or trekking the jungle paths. They were too flexible for walking and not flexing enough when walking the lava boulders. I’ve finally figured out that the New Balance products work well for me. (The Merrells look great, but they were terrible for walking around. The summer before last – 2013 – we were walking in Rome and my feet were sweaty, hot and sore. I also had a pair of their original Encore slipons and I had to throw away, because at that time they had no breathing vents and my feet just sweated.) Last summer, we did more walking than I’ve ever done in Italy and not once were my feet sweaty or sore in the New Balance runners. So, when I got home, preparing for Puglia and future trips to Kaua’i, I ordered New Balance walkers and today I got New Balance trekkers. I find I can use the shoes right out of the box with very little breaking-in time. And both the walkers and trekkers have discreet N logos. (I ordered trekkers, because the walking shoes don’t have enough solidity or rigidity for the off-road walking to get to the waterfall at McConnell’s Mill. And I’d like to keep the walkers free of mud and grime, because I want to use them as an everyday shoe.)


stroll around the grounds until you feel at home 


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

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

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

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

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

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

epilogue-2 – kaua’i 2015



April 3, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

we are the warp, angels the weft

image2Last Sunday, I spent time at Allegheny Cemetery shooting images for my photography class. We were each given an assignment card and mine was to find abstract designs inside an image. I thought that I could shoot some of the scroll work on the various grave-markers and see if that would look abstract. The problem with the granite scrolls was contrast; there just wasn’t enough of it. Also, I think it’s harder to make curves look abstract. So, I headed up the hill to the Porter grave with its massive oxidized-copper angel. The green patina should give me the contrast I was looking for.

Porter Monument

 Porter Monument

I wanted to work with the 50 mm lens, so I climbed onto the steps of the massive Porter Angle monument and started shooting. The above image is the tip of the angel’s wing and the granite cross behind it. (I’m standing behind the angel, shooting up at its left wing.) The pic was shot in portrait, but I wanted to see if it would look even more abstract if flipped. In landscape all clues are confused and without some references it’s hard to identify each elements. I also cropped the bottom eliminating any clue of the massive granite cross. I also debated cropping the image so that that wing-tip would be at the right edge, but having the extra blue seems to suggest that the wing-top is reaching. (I sent the instructor the portrait image, but am thinking of also sending this version too.)

For some strange reason, the above image makes me think of Ortigia with its undulating coastline and the wing-tip a finger of a Colossal pointing east – back to its home in Greece.


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

epilogue-1 – kaua’i 2015

winter’s last blastrose-snow

and a free breakfastFri-13 025

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

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

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



March 22, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

spring comes and
we remember our innocence

crocusThe crocus are out. (I know that’s the wrong form of the word, but I refuse to use its plural form.) I went looking for snow-drops, but they’re not there, don’t know if they’ll sprout or if the winter burned the bulbs. In 2013, I filled the bed with crocus and snow-dops; last year got some snow-drops; this year got almost double the amount of crocus.

With the backyard cleared of all snow and debris, I want to start fixing things or plant. I want someone to come in and level the whole thing, maybe replace the 6X6 or dig them and re-position them and replace the metal band along the walkway. Once I have some time, I’ll go down to the gardening place on Babcock Boulevard and see if I can get them to come look at the back-yard and give me a bid on the work I want done.

Also, some time soon, I’m going to have to make the trip to Northern Ontario. Last year I went the middle of April and found cold and snow. I promised to not visit so early ever again. (Spring is an ugly season in Northern Ontario, because you see all the debris from the winter season and the snow-melt makes sidewalks and park-land impassible.) But Easter is two weeks earlier and my schedule in early May is full. The trip will have to be the week after Easter – early April.

The only consolation to the gray and dreary days is that winter is over and even if there is snow, it’ll not linger. (March, even with a week away, is still a long miserable month.)

The title is an adapted quote from Yoko Ono.


March 9, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

mounds of melting, filthy icesunrise – 6:42 (7:42)
winter countdown – day 79 of 90


ice2015The daylight-savings-times are in parenthesis. I’m using the non-daylight-savings to keep the ongoing record in the same time-frame. (On December 9, sunrise was at 7:32. We had 9.5 hours of daylight. Three months, we got 12 hours and 20 minutes of daylight.)

A couple of weeks ago when the ground had at least 4 inches of snow, it rained and turned the entire snow-cover into ice. And after the rain, it snowed. The ice was covered with another 3 inches of new snow. So, the melt has been slow. There are puddles everywhere. (I associate spring melt and puddles with Sault Ste Marie. On one side there was the relief of spring and then the puddles and the sand making the streets miserable.)

I’ve been trying to clear the back-yard so the dogs aren’t walking on the filthy, melting ice or walking into the freezing puddles. I use a heavy-duty scrapper with a shovel handle to break up the ice into chunks and then move them to clear as much of the back-yard as possible.

The large image on the left shows the ice chunks on the bricks below Wright’s Sprite. The flat, terracotta pieces at the base of the Sprite are brick-facing from my neighbor’s garage. As they fall, I collect them and use them as shims to balance pots and other garden ornaments.

The shards remind me of the rocks on Gertrude Steins’ and Alice B. Toklas’ grave marker in Père Lachaise Cemetery. gertrudeIt was the first time I had seen the rocks on a Jewish grave. One explanation is that flowers, though beautiful, will eventually die. A stone will not die, and can symbolize the permanence of memory and legacy. (The kids and I have painted rocks and left them on Jo’s grave-marker.)

Yesterday the weather was warm enough to break up a lot of the ice-cover. I shoveled all the ice chunks from the path leading to the back-gate out into the alley – Sampsonia Way. Paul accused me of being an old Italian, moving my snow and ice out onto the city street. Well, by this morning all the snow and ice I moved had been crushed by the passing cars and it was all melted. Left in my back-yard it would still be there creating puddles.


March 7, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

the end is nearsunrise – 6:45     sunset – 6:18
winter countdown – day 77 of 90

Tonight we move the clocks forward and even though I hated this shift when I was working, because it took the week for my body to adjust, I now welcome it. It’s an official marker indicating winter is done. Even if we are threatened with another storm, we know it’s the end. (What amazes me is how quickly the daylight gets added. In three days, 8 minutes of daylight have been added. And if I go back to late December, today there is an hour more of sunlight.)

march5Today is the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma. (Kevin McCarthy is the only Republican attending and he had to be embarrassed into going. What has happened to the Grand Old Party? Yes it has figured out how to win in segregated, gerrymandered districts, but this strategy has put it so far from the mainstream that it will never win the presidency. Its national candidates can’t talk rationally, can’t help explain the modern world, can’t stop hating on the President, can’t stop pushing for a holy-war.)

Let’s not forget that the Supreme Court of modern Alabama is telling all state judges to ignore the Federal ruling to allow same-sex marriages to go forward. Alabama again represents the inequality that has the potential of destroying this country.

Thomas Piketty, the French economist, claims that the inequality that pervades the American economy will change our status as the world economic power; that we are on our way to becoming an oligarchy with a ruling-class based on inheritance rather than talent. He also claims that economically, Europe is more equal than we are. And that that new status is a result of the two World Wars. And Piketty lists war, inflation and taxation as agencies that change economic inequality.

The image on the left is my first use of a fixed-lens with a UV filter. (And I want to reiterate that my experience with all technology has been to skirt the technical details and concentrate on what I want the finished product to look like. Learning the details has made me more comfortable with changing them, but I still have no interest in learning about the number of f-stops between one f/30 and f/64. But I do like knowing the Ansel Adams and his group were known as the f/64 group.)


March 5, 2015 diario/journal, reflections


bitter coldsunrise – 6:48     sunset – 6:16
winter countdown – day 75 of 90

I walked into town to buy €-euros (The exchange rate is really good.) and brought along the camera. The weather is strange – yesterday the ice was melting, but by last night the rain turned to snow and there’s now well over 3″ on the ground. (March is certainly coming in as a lion.) The landscape too is strange. With the sun it’s this beautiful winter-wonderland; with the overcast it’s grey and depressing. The two alternated all day.

The above image is during a cloud sweep, leaving the entire mountain-side dingy and dark. And all I did was remove the brown from the building on the far right; the scene was as dark and gloomy as is represented by the photograph.

The walk to town was easy, but by the time I was walking home, the temperature was dropping and it wasn’t fun walking in the bitter cold. It was the first time I’d been out with sweats and not dressed for winter in a while. (Guess I’m just so ready for this mess to be over.)


March 5, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

winter’s last hurrahsunrise – 6:48     sunset – 6:16
winter countdown – day 75 of 90

more-marchWinter will not go gentle into that good night and to prove its might, it dumped 3 inches of snow onto the region. The only thing I like is that the new snow covered the melting, filthy ice. (Sault Ste Marie looses its worn and tattered look when blanketed with new snow. At those times it can look postcard beautiful.)

In the background is the flowerbed full of snow-drops, but the snow-mound has kept them hidden and unable to poke through. (In other years, when the snow cover was minimal, they would have poked their green leaves and lantern buds through the white blanket to announce the coming sun.) I like the compression the lens is recording – don’t the branch and green needles look like they are part of the tree trunk? Well the trunk is the red-wood, the branch and needles belong to the pine tree – two different plants. Also, the small branches in the background are blueberry bushes. (The Cloudy White Balance does a really good job picking up the grain of the fence planks.)

The weathermen are all claiming that this is the last storm of the season. All I can say it that am glad it came this week, because next Thursday, at this time, I’m supposed to be on a plane heading west, looking for the sun.

What I’m enjoying most about using the Manual settings is that I can work with the built-in light meter. (My first SLR camera had a light meter slider on the display, but the next set of cameras have it on the light meter seen through the view-finder and it’s taken me a while to look at it and to use it. Now, I have to start to making decisions about what I want in terms of the reading the meter gives. I was making the adjustments already using the histogram, now I have to transfer those decisions to the light meter info.)


March 4, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

meteorological springsunrise – 6:50     sunset – 6:15
winter countdown – day 74 of 90

march2Meteorologists like to talk about meteorological seasons. There’s meteorological winter – climatologically, the coldest three calendar months of the year: December, January and February, meteorological summer – the three hottest: June, July and August, and the transitions between them: Spring is March, April, May and Fall is September, October, November.

Astronomical spring begins this year on Friday, March 20, at the Vernal Equinox, the time when the sun is directly over the equator on its way northward. But we think about seasons more in terms of the weather that’s associated with them than the placement of the sun and that’s where the concept of meteorological seasons comes from.

If you divide the year up into four roughly equal periods based on the coldest (winter), warmest (summer), and transitional (spring and fall) times of the year, then Sunday, February 28 was the last day of winter, the last day of the coldest 91-day period of the year.

My countdown is based on astronomical spring.

In the image on the left, I am experimenting with the built-in White Balance settings – in this instance the Cloudy setting. I’ve finally taken the step to using the built-in light meter and to shooting in Manual. It’s taken me 7 years to get here. (If you look carefully, there’s a rain drop on the Sprite’s chin.)

Coming back to the weather, this is the first time where Spring in Pittsburgh reminds me most of Spring in Sault Ste Marie. Given that we’ve had a lot of snow there are snow-banks everywhere and with the rain, much of the ground is ice-covered. And as rain keeps coming, the back-yard and the streets are full of cold, winter-water puddles. (The difference is that by the time astronomical spring arrives, the ice and puddles will be gone and we should have two or three months of Spring. In Sault Ste Marie, by the time the snow-mounds, the ice and the puddles were gone it was the end of May.)


February 20, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

visions of sunflowers dance in my headsunrise – 7:07     sunset – 6:01
winter countdown – day 62 of 90

sunflowersWe are in midst of an Arctic air surge. Overnight the temperature went into the negative. And, it’s an absolute luxury to stay home during this miserable weather.

Yesterday, I went out for milk and oranges and the flower-shop at the grocery store had these beautiful cut sunflowers and I brought two bunches. (For me, sunflowers are girasoli and associated with Le Marche. So I am certainly not dreaming of sugarplums or of California, but of Puglia and trulli in September.) I knew I wanted to shoot them in the kitchen, but I didn’t want to do the same thing that I did with the roses, so I moved the vase in front of the windows. (The dogs were all disoriented, because the kitchen furniture was moved. Bibly chose to sit by the door the whole time. As far away from the tripod and the rearranged furniture as he could get.)

The image on the left is one of my favorites from the still-life shoot. I love the stained glass, the cruciform mullions and the hint of silhouette. Glenn Greene created the stained glass. (You know, I love the church-look. Who says I can’t pretend religion?)

The shoot has a set of images using the natural light from the stained glass window and a second set where I used a camera flash. The flash gave everything a great orangey hue. (Decided to do a second shoot with the flowers in front of the other window. In this window, Glenn added some glass pieces that had burnt-orange striations in them. And in this shoot, I took the camera off the tripod and shot free-hand. The first image in the second row was shot without a tripod.) Also, the two sunflower images in the slide-show are from the flash set. Click here to see 6 other images from the shoot.


February 11, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

our lady of the immaculate conceptionsunrise – 7:19     sunset – 5:50
winter countdown – day 53 of 90

lourdes1Today is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. In our family this date and feast-day has a long history. Before we immigrated to Canada, my dad and a number of people including Totonno Zinga had left Aprigliano and through an agent ended up on a short-term contract in south-western France.

FranceTotonno was my dad’s first cousin and best-friend. They grew up together. (My dad is far-left, Totonno is in the middle.) Totonno’s two children still live in Aprigliano. The postcard is of the cathedral in Lourdes.

The narrative in our family is that my dad had wanted to move to the family to south-western France. He liked the area at the foothills of the Pyrenees and he had made enough contacts to secure work. But my mother wanted to join her family in Northern Ontario and she prevailed at a time when American was the land of streets paved with gold.

All through my preteens and the 1950’s, Lourdes and the feast of the Immaculate Conception were central themes. South-western France was a place my dad had fond memories of and lost to the wilds and winters of Northern Ontario. (I remember many time wondering what life would have been like had we taken that option.) And Holy Mother Church was on a campaign to establish both the doctrine and the feast of Mary’s immaculate conception. Holy cards, statues, rosaries, Lourdes water, crutches all kids of artifacts were distributed to the faithful to promote the new doctrine. (There are Lourdes grottoes throughout the Catholic world. When Mac and I were in Maine, we found one outside of Kennebunkport. In Italy Lourdes grottoes are as common as Mary statues. And pilgrimages to Lourdes are advertised the same way we advertise package trips to Disneyland.)


creamer salt-pepper copper
candle pitcher jar


February 5, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

espresso-pot and rosessunrise – 7:26     sunset – 5:43
winter countdown – day 47 of 90

rosesThe coffee-pot my mother brought with her when we came from Aprigliano in 1957. She packed it, six espresso cups with saucers in a trunk. I inherited the set a couple years ago. Fifty-eight years has not worn the gold plating on the handle and spout, but it has worn the black ink design on the body of the pot. (It’s a very common design and you can still find the coffee set all over Italy.)

The roses come from a vendor outside of Penn Mac. He was trying to sell off what he had, because the cold was keeping people home and the roses were beginning to suffer. I got two bunches for $3.00. (He was so busy reminding me that in two weeks the same bunch would go for $20.00 that neither he or I realized I had picked out a small and a large bunch. When I was putting them in the water, I noticed that the yellow roses were much bigger than the red ones.)

I paired the roses with a series of 6 other objects.

Top Row
creamer – salt and pepper shakers – copper pitcher
Bottom Row
candle – water pitcher – perfume jar

To see the images follow this link.


January 28, 2015 diario/journal, kitchens, reflections

pine boughs, tea-pot, toaster-ovensunrise – 7:33     sunset – 5:33
winter countdown – day 39 of 90

pine-boughsThe snow was so heavy on Monday that I needed to get it off the White Pine or risk it snapping the over-hanging bough. Using a broom, I hit most of the snow off the umbrella-like tree.pine-tree That got rid of the snow, but also broke off some of the small branches. Some info about the White Pine – it originally was a bonsai, and then one one day I put the pot on the ground to keep the soil moist and by the time I got to is again, the tree roots had started to grow into the ground. I’ve left it and now I have a huge tree growing out of a bonsai pot. Each year I sand off a small section of the main trunk in an attempt at creating a curve that begins at the pot-level and continues into the cascading green needles. The branch holding up the cascading branch is from the old fig tree. (The last time we had a major winter-storm, the snow toppled the tree out of its pot.)

At first, I left the broken boughs in the snow, but then decided that they could look interesting in a vase in the kitchen. It was well after midnight when I started shooting the images and loved the soft colors the non-flash setting produced. I particularly liked the retro toaster-over that the tea-pot and vase are sitting on. The wall, I stripped of plaster while Ronald Regan was down the street visiting a community employment program, the tea-pot is from an English dish set that I like and the vase is old carnival glass. (The vases were prizes at Kennywood at the various gaming booths.)


January 26, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

winter weather advisory – freezing fogsunrise – 7:34     sunset – 5:30
winter countdown – day 37 of 90

rain-dropsYesterday was one of those scary-weather days. All the Barbies on cable-news were hyperventilating about the incoming storm; the mayor of New York City was out there scaring everyone into staying indoors; and the meteorologists were warning of the storm of the century. In between the prediction of impeding doom the cable stations ran segments on Sara Palin, Rick Santorum and Chris Cristie. The faux candidates were in Iowa at some super-conservative convention where global warming was derided and family values were extolled. And when those became redundant, the Barbies talked about deflated balls. Welcome to 21st century America.

I am doing research on my maternal great-grandmother – Rafaela Savaia. I found an Adriano Savaia on Facebook; he lives in Aprigliano. I sent him a note asking if his family has any connection to my great-grandmother’s family.

The snow did come and it made everything pretty. (The image on the left is the White Pine, before the snows.)


January 21, 2015 diario/journal, reflections

from the balcony of the mattress factorysunrise – 7:38     sunset – 5:24
winter countdown – day 32 of 90

Jan-15 022There are two images taken from the balconies of the Mattress Factory tower. One is the Pittsburgh skyline in the slide-show and the other is the one on the left – my backyard. The brick wall with all the wrought-iron is my neighbor’s garage; the evergreen i