Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year and New Possibilites

It's New Year's Eve and my readers in Europe are coming close to the end of 2013. We still have several more hours to wait. This evening was a big family night. We would all gather at one of the aunt's house to snack on sweets, play board games, and watch the televised event in Times Square in NYC. The family gatherings are smaller. The dinner on the Eve is still a celebration. It should be a celebration to close out one year and to welcome another. Our feast replicates the Christmas Eve dinner with seafood.
So we wish ourselves a year of promise. This current year had its days of good things and sadness. Loss is a part of life and we can't be spared from it. We can only wish for the best. Those are the times that are joyful.
If I had a champagne glass in my hand, I would raise it to my readers and wish you the best for 2014.
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Some Nostalgia For This Season

This caption is from our miniature Christmas display. The whole set is a replication of a nineteenth century village. It seems customary during the Christmas Season to view this era as idyllic. Life was simpler but also harsher. But it wouldn't seem right to display a contemporary scene because how could it evoke sentiment?What is the cause of that sentiment? Was it the story of a miserly old man who was radically transformed to become a better person? Scrooge evolves from viewing everything in life as humbug to embracing all that is good within it. Dickens makes Christmas in his little novella the hallmark of all the goodness in life. It is a time of giving and joy. It is also a time of innocence as captured here in these children building snowmen.

So what are we doing to recreate a setting that existed in the past? It is decorative. It's purpose goes deeper than a pretty display. We set up space in our living room to remind us that Christmas is just not about how many shopping days there are until Christmas. There weren't Black Fridays or Cyber Mondays in the nineteenth century. There wasn't a need to get the best deals. It was a slower pace of life which we can never regain. We live in the twenty-first century and go along with as much of the commercialization as possible. Our village display along with the creche will always remind us of what really is Christmas.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Keeping Busy during Recuperation

I prefer not to write about my health issues in detail. Everyone has a struggle. I will mention briefly that I have had pneumonia for a couple of weeks and it never seemed to end. Probably the strain of endless coughing and stressing about the condition lead to this weird condition called broken hearted syndrome. It mimics a heart attack. So I got my first ride in an ambulance on last Friday morning.
The emergency medical techs were fantastic and when I entered the hospital I was taken immediately for a heart catherization. So fortunate to not have any blockages and just to be admitted overnight for observation.
But enough of this ordeal. I was hesitant to enter this entry in my blog. I'm not looking for sympathy. It's more of an activity to keep myself creative. I've read my local newspaper everyday and have read periodicals. These are things that I usually don't have time to read. They stockpile and when I get a chance when not watching TV, I'll retreat to these materials. Of course, the news changes everyday. I've never been a big sports enthusiast but there have been features in the sports sections that I have been following. I always favored the women's basketball games over the men's games. So, pleased to read that the UCONN women's team is playing well this season. It is only the start of the season and they have three players that are injured.
I have also been following the negotiations with one of the New York Yankees members. His agent is trying to negotiate a 10 year contract with the team for $310,000,000. The management isn't yielding even though this player has been productive. Many of my readers are overseas and don't have this news presented in their countries.
The weather is cold here. Sometimes our November can be a little milder but we are in a cold snap for a few days. Our national holiday of Thanksgiving is in a few days. I'm saddened to think that the retail stores are opened on this holiday. Families don't have time to be together. The retailers have opened this day for consumerism. Everyone has to gear up for Christmas shopping. I'm so glad that our family doesn't observe this obsession with buying.
Everyone credits the Pilgrims the first people to celebrate a feast of thanksgiving. Some of it has been morphed into myth. I just read today that turkey may not have been the fowles that the settlers hunted. They may have been geese and ducks. Regardless of history I do prefer turkey over duck.
So, I'm preparing myself to sit down at the table on Thursday feeling grateful that my health is improving.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Life Remembered

I am saddened to learn about the death of one of my residents where I do volunteer service. I offered my assistance in computer skills. My unique experience with Stuart will always be treasured. A webcam was set up on the desktop computers for the residents. They could do video conferencing through Skype. When Stuart discovered that the webcams could do still photography, he resumed his passion for photography.
I never asked him how long had he been without his camera equipment. I'm sure that he had to let go of some of his possessions to live there.
Over the course of four years, I learned a lot of things about Stuart. He traveled through Europe when he was younger. He stayed in London for awhile and went to Jean Straker's Visual Arts Club in Soho. Stuart was interested in photographing nude models and at the time, Straker's studio was well known.
I was always amazed by what Stuart accomplished using foil, napkins, flashlights, bubble wrap, and ornaments. He spent hours at the desktop modeling the objects and experimenting with angles and lighting.
Stuart was allowed to do a gallery presentation of his images in the main floor of the facility. The public was invited. Refreshments were served. He was so delighted that day.
His dexterity was becoming increasingly limited and he had to stop creating images. I still continued to visit him and I knew how difficult it was for him to be resigned to his limitations. Yet I sometimes could see that joviality emerge. He loved having visitors. I always enjoyed my visits with Stuart because we could laugh and when he laughed it was a good jolly release of endorphins. Audrey Hepburn said, "I love people who make me laugh." She went on to say, "It's probably the most important thing in a person."
And so it was with Stuart.
Here are three images saved on my hard drive that are Stuart's.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Visit to Short Beach on a Stormy Day

Curiosity got a hold of me today. I have been driving my brother to physical therapy appointments and we travel through this neighborhood to get there. It's a picturesque drive along the shore. I had my camera with me today so I was set on parking somewhere to take some photos. I returned here after I left my brother.
Short Beach can be called a village or a hamlet. It's incorporated into the town of Branford. This was originally a summer resort but now most homes are winterized. So the residents live here through the year.
The streets are narrow and really can be considered as lanes. Traffic is directed in one way streets. There are signs posted prohibiting two way traffic.
I liked this home with the three windows and window boxes.
 I walked down to the water and watched the waves crash on the wall. I can imagine how large these waves can become in a hurricane.
 I found this cottage charming with the lace curtains in the windows. The color of the storm door is complimentary to the color of the cottage.
 Some of these residents make their property appealing.
 Until I came upon this scene. Actually the front of this house is well groomed, so I don't know why this is abandoned.
 These photos are of the Short Beach Union Church. It was founded in 1883 for the summer residents. It is still a worshiping community. The name of the street is appropriate. It's Pentecost Street.

 One more walk to the shore to capture the intensity of the waves.
 I was returning to my car when I spotted this angled view of the water. This gives you an idea on how close these cottages are close together.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Music at an Italian Feast

                We have come again with our folding chairs wanting to hear the music. Most of the words are not understood but we know these songs as well as we eat lasagna and pasta fagioli. These are the songs our parents knew. They are our songs too. They have a different meaning to us. Many of the songs were written when our families emigrated from Italy. The lyrics are stories in themselves. Some of them celebrate love. Some of them hold double meanings with sexual inferences. They are all heart-felt songs. They probably are not sung as many times in Italy as they are here.
 Here we are, under these trees, on a summer’s night, watching the leaves rustle in the breeze. Is the breeze spreading music through this neighborhood? It used to be New Haven’s Little Italy. So many people have come here and it is good to see this. There are as many young as there are old. We are here blending ethnically and trying to hold on to what goes with our surnames.
 We have our favorite songs. They are associated with memories of past feasts. I remember one woman who attended this feast every year. She would shout a request for Malafemmina. When the band did play the song she would shout “whoop” and raise her right fist as if she won a prize. It has become our shared family moment. We jokingly say it and know that eventually the performer is going to sing it.

Malafemmina is about a man’s torn love for a woman. She has a voice like sugar and the face of an angel and yet she is like a viper poisoning his soul. He doesn’t  know to love her or hate her.  The lyrics cannot be expressed like this anymore. How is it though that a man’s torment can be entertaining. There is a quality about these Neapolitan Songs that expresses melancholy, passion, earthiness, comedy, and love. They are the expression of the Southern Italian culture that hopefully will always be sung.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Historic Homes and what we learn

On Monday, my daughter Rachel asked me did I have any plans for the day. I said that I hadn't any plans.
"What do you want to do?", I asked.
She wanted to tour the Mark Twain Home in Hartford. I always wanted to tour it as well. We were close to touring it years ago but it was late.

Our travel to Hartford took twenty minutes from Wallingford. Interstate 91 to Interstate 84 West was easy to pass through. Mid-morning traffic was light.

The visitor center is impressive. There are galleries to explore. We visited the gallery about Samuel Clemens' life. We entered the gallery from the right instead of the left. So we were reviewing his life from the end of life to his birth.

Twain's American Classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was criticized as bigoted because of the "N" word. Twain wrote his dialogue in the vernacular and it was common to call black people that word. We consider the term derogatory now. Twain's original intent was to publish this book as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer but when he returned to the South and saw the failure of Reconstruction, he was saddened to see that the emancipated slaves were still denied rights. There is a quote from his autobiography about viewing slaves being sold. He recollected that there were the saddest faces he had ever seen. Growing up in the South, he heard the justification of slavery preached in sermons. The doubters were told to read the Bible and there written in the holy word was the truth about owning slaves.

I remember in my American Realism course we discussed that turning point for Huck Finn. He is torn between turning Jim, the escaped slave back to his owner or face damnation by turning his back on God's Word. That's when Huck states he would rather be damned than turn Jim in.

When we toured the home we learned about Samuel Clemens. He was only known as Mark Twain in the published world. His wife, children, family, and friends knew him as Sam. The family moved into this house in 1874 and lived there for the next seventeen years. The home was filled with joy. Sam and Livy had three daughters. They lived a wonderful life here. Sam would always say that he spent his happiest years here. They were also his most productive as a writer. His novels Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn were written here.
We learned how Susan, Jean, and Clara lived happy and creative lives. When we toured the library, the docent told us that Sam would tell a bedtime story to the girls every night. He used objects on top of the mantel in his story. His daughters would mischievously arrange the objects so he would have to alter the story.

Clemens lost his fortune from an invention, the Pager Collaborator. It was designed for printing but it had many movable parts that needed constant repair. It failed and the family faced bankruptcy. They left their home in Hartford and traveled to Europe. It was there that Clemens rebuilt his fortune with his lectures. The family always wanted to return to their home. They were heart broken when their oldest daughter got sick. Friends thought it would be better if she recovered in the home. She died without her family there. The house was rented to the Bissel Family and Clemens sold the house in 1903.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How Sweet It Is

Years ago, the actor Jackie Gleason hosted a variety show. It was aired on Saturday night. Jackie's favorite opening remark was "How Sweet It Is". I remembered this quote now as I write this blog entry. We went to a restaurant named The Cheesecake Factory. The restaurant offers a full course menu but we opted for dessert. The menu has close to twenty varieties of cheesecake. There are some intense creations loaded with chocolate. There is a cheesecake with snickers but I opted for an unusual blend of mango and lime. I don't know how anyone could eat a full meal and then order one of these fantastic desserts.

Friday, May 31, 2013

It was the letter E on the countdown to the end of school

The school that I have been substitute teaching is doing a countdown of days to the end of the school year. Yesterday was the letter E. The teachers honored Eric Carle, the author and illustrator of childrens' books. One of the little rewards of doing this job is becoming exposed to childrens' literature. I don't remember if my daughters read any of Eric Carle's books. There aren't any here in our house. 
Elementary school has its quiet time built into the day. The absent teacher assigned The Hungry Caterpillar to read to her class. I read the book and engaged the students in a discussion of what they liked about the book. The illustrations are beautiful. The story progresses from the hatching of the caterpillar to the metamorphosis into the butterfly. Eric Carle delights in making the book enjoyable. The caterpillar continues to eat and eat and eat. The students laughed when the caterpillar had a stomach ache because it ate so much at one time. Most of what it ate was loaded with sugar.
The teachers showed a video to all of their classes in the afternoon. It was a documentary of the author and his work. Carle said that The Hungry Caterpillar was about growth. He wants children to develop their potential. He was fortunate to have his parents' support in his artwork. It all began when the kindergarten teacher asked for his mother to come to school. The teacher recognized Eric's creativity and asked his parents to encourage it. That is what he wants to do in his books. 
I observed the teachers during the viewing. They were looking at one another when Eric Carle said something they valued. There was a mutual assent to everything he stated about his life's work and maybe they felt the same way about their life's work. I was watching the kids during the video. Some of them were restless, some of them were not interested, but for those who watched it intently, I am hoping some ideas are germinating in their young minds. These will become the butterflies.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On

We had a disaster this week. Our basement was flooded. We have curtain drains underneath the basement floor that lead to a well in the corner of the basement. There is a sump pump in there that pumps the accumulated water to outside. We've had a record amount of snow and there was a day of heavy rain. The ground water swells and where can it go but underneath the foundation. Our sump pump failed to trigger last Tuesday evening and we had a lot of standing water. One room is furnished with carpeting and furniture. Fortunately, my wife was still in this room when it started. Had we gone to bed the water would have risen higher and there would have been much damage.
I thought of this poster that was intended for the British people during the beginning of WWII. Our disaster was minimal compared to a bombardment but it was sensible to keep this slogan in mind as we cleaned up the water, salvaged what is good to keep, hired a company to treat the carpet, and installed a new pump.
So, it's a positive idea to hold on to when inconveniences or disasters come along.

Friday, March 8, 2013

One more winter storm

It's been a month to the day that we had the blizzard. This snowfall fell gracefully. March snowfall is wetter and for a short time everything object is coated. You have to quickly grab the camera and capture all of it before all of it falls away. This tree is our backyard taken from our bedroom window.

We weren't greatly inconvenienced by this snowstorm. Sure it was treacherous driving during the night and in the early morning hours. As temperatures rise snow turns slushy. In a few days, all of this will melt away. We're that much closer to spring.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Inspired by Pat's Blog Entry

I was inspired today from reading Pat Gerber-Relf's Thingamajig. My wife and I were in Philadelphia last May. We ventured through the city. A family friend told us about Isaiah Zagar's Magic Gardens. It is an art museum of mosaic murals. It is a half a block long on South Street but it is spreading. It is open to the public and the admission fee is minimal. Philly Magic Gardens is a non-profit organization that promotes cultural events.It has become a destination spot in the city.
Isaiah Zagar began working on his murals in 1994 on a vacant lot adjacent to his house.He spent the next fourteen years excavating tunnels and grottos, and sculpting mural walls.
Here are some of my photos.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Blizzard

Now that it is Monday and activity is resuming slowly, it gives me time to write about this phenomenal blizzard. Weather forecasters were predicting accumulations of 20 inches (50.8 cm.) in parts of our little state of Connecticut.
One weather system accurately predicted over 30 inches (76.2 cm.) of snow but being skeptical folk, everyone didn't trust that forecast or we clung to a more comfortable range. Well, that forecast was correct. We did exceed that amount. I live in Wallingford (which is neighboring to Meriden on the map). Our snowfall accumulation was 35 inches (88.9 cm.).
The storm began on Friday morning and by late afternoon it started to accumulate. A blizzard is defined as a snowstorm with winds of minimum speeds of 35 miles per hour winds (56 kilometers) and visibility of less than 400 meters. By evening all these conditions were met.
When we awakened on Saturday morning I photographed the after effects surrounding our home.
Here is our mailbox.
Will Mail Be Delivered?
By the way, the USPS delivered the mail on Friday. 
Our neighbor's mailbox was demolished.

Here is our above ground swimming pool. 
Pool is Closed
Today we have rain and fog. Our road is one lane. Two way traffic is passable by drivers pulling to the side to allow traffic from the opposite direction. Our biggest concern now is flooding because the storm drains are not cleared. 
Snowfall can be beautiful but when it is excessive it becomes inconvenient.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Forgotten Past Time

I traveled to visit friends in Portland a couple weeks ago. Route 17A parallels the Connecticut River. There are remnants of farms on it. There is still an apple orchard. Every time I travel this way I notice an old sign covered by thickets. It was a drive in theater. I am unsure when they were started and became popular. It had to do with the increased mobility of people and automobiles.It was a summer evening activity. Families and couples would drive through booths to pay their admission. I don't remember if it the admission was the number of passengers or one admission price.
Movies were shown on a large screen and there were rows of poles with speakers attached to them. The speaker had a clasp that could be secured on the car window. There was a knob for volume.  
Two movies were always shown which allowed for an intermission. Every drive in theater had a concession stand. There was always a line formed to order refreshments. The wise customers would leave their cars before the first movie ended so they wouldn't have to wait in line.

I'm unsure what caused the demise of the drive in theater. There are only a few remaining. There is usually no trace of a drive in theater when the property is sold and developed. This one remains.

There is a video in the next blog entry.

Drive-In Movie Ads : Drive in Intermission 1960's

Monday, January 21, 2013

Good Bye Multiply

I closed my Multiply account today. I imported all of my blog entries from that social media site. So you will see older posts and photos.
I am pleased to be using this site now and I'm beginning to become acquainted with other members.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Moving Forward into the New Year

   The day after New Year's Day seemed anti-climatic to me. We usually returned to school on January second with the exception of the holiday falling on Sunday. Monday would be the honored holiday. Our home would be stripped of the tree with its lights and ornaments. All of the Christmas greeting cards were removed around the door frames.
   January seemed to be a cold and banal month. It was colder and there wasn't anything to anticipate. The feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day wasn't commemorated with any celebration. It was now known as Little Christmas. We knew that some people held on to that tradition when we saw their homes still decorated. My family's Italian heritage had been completely assimilated with the American culture. I would later learn about Belfana, the Witch. All there was to wish for was school cancellations due to snowstorms.
   Yesterday we put our Christmas decorations in storage. We do it now with more of a feeling of relief then regret. I am grateful for our Christmas celebration but I realize that it's only a part of the year. We have to move forward through the year and face all of the uncertainties. There are some things that can't be stored until the following December and they are our memories. Our good times with family are the treasures.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Favorite Summer Spot

I awakened this morning to read the outdoor temperature at 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius). I considered going out to photograph some of the landscape but decided to remain in the warm house where the thermostat is set at 68 degrees Fahrenheit ( 20 degrees Celsius).
So with warm thoughts I want to share my photos of our visit to Newport, Rhode Island. It's a quaint New England town, famous for the summer mansions built by the wealthy industrialist of the late 19th and early 20th century. It's on an island in the middle of Narragansett Bay.
The mansions are preserved by the Newport Historical Preservation Society and they are opened to tours.
We selected to visit Chateau Sur Mer this past summer. Indoor photography is prohibited.
The Breakers has to be the jewel of these mansions. It was built by the Vanderbilts, owners of The New York Central Railroad.
There are shops and restaurants on America's Cup Avenue and Thames Street.
Our favorite place to eat is The Red Parrot.

Chateau Sur Mer

East view of The Breakers

Side view of The Breakers

Restaurant window on Thames Street

Chateau Sur Mer

The Cliff Walk 

Flower Garden at Chateau Sur Mer

Children's Cottage at The Breakers

Dedication to the US Marines

Monarch Butterfly

Newport Harbor

Narrow Street 

Store Window on America's Cup Avenue

Surfers at Easton Beach
I hope you enjoy viewing these photos and think about a warmer season.