Colleen Ahern.

 

CHAPTER 43.

 

The bookstore was the warmest place to be on the coldest November day.

And, her north wall would not endure another, whole year without its large calendar being adequately replaced.

She’d stared across the livingroom at the space between the levelored windows, for the last time, determined never to stare at that wall again for the rest of her life, unless the block calendar with its proverb for each month was within direct sight line from the sofa.

Last year she’d waited too many weeks, and the bookstore’s selection of remaining 2018 samples had come up short of expectations. Settling for some poolside garden setting theme, only to find its color scheme too purple for the room’s palette, she’d just left the previous December, with its simple:  “Be Kind And Carry On” as place holder for the entire year.

Now, time was truly of the essence. The second winter storm would be upon them by late morning, bringing freezing rain to crust the waning first snow. And, the bookstore had confirmed: their 2019 shipment was racked, and ready.

This year, the store had chosen to place the large wall variety on a rotating spindle display. After several revolutions, there at last was her proverbial, boldly colored favorite. But, just above it – a stunning series, images of Italy. Though talk of a trip to whomever would listen had been ongoing for at least the past five of a total seven since retiring, she’d likely not soon be getting to Italy.  Tucking that one under her arm, she added the flat art favorite, and then spied Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, in cartoon, offering monthly Yoga for the year. No senior woman worth her own salt should be without this vitally hip exercise aid heading into the cusp of the close of yet another decade. Up came Ms. Ginsberg, to join the rest.

Calculating that the Yoga calendar would work near the mirror opposite the railing barre in the loft and the views of Italy would make the music room pop, she wended her way toward the check out, all three securely in hand. Rounding the corner just beyond the recipe books, reading glasses, and Godiva, she could already hear the familiar deep basso resonance of the former radio host turned store clerk addressing the needs of an unseen patron just ahead of both herself and a smiling gent who said nothing.

Peering around him, she could just see to whom the clerk repeatedly spoke. A tiny woman, her tightly pulled grey hair almost white around her head, seated in a rolling cart chair, barely able to see above the counter upon which were placed several, thick hardbound novels.

She could clearly see the books. One John Grisham. Two John Sandfords. No, three. Another, by an unknown woman. Her weight shifted from one faux leather boot to the other. This could be awhile.

No. There was no interest in the stuffed Grinch promotional exclusive. Yes, to a contribution toward the elementary school book drive. Would points to her store membership be welcomed?

She was not processing the content of their exchanges, only watching both, hearing his voice fill the otherwise empty room and hers barely audible above it. The silent gent turned, smiled apologetically, then took an alert on his smartphone.

Another woman approached, from behind, wearing a necklace with roped silver, her outfit its complement. She wondered where the woman might be going after a solitary bookstore visit on this Thursday morning. Two more patrons appeared, behind her. They were a line of six, ahead of the ice storm which would surely glaze upper Peach Street within the hour.

She turned to the woman in the silver necklace, commenting on her outfit. With a gesture toward the counter, she made mention of their mutual future as aging women – including anecdotal references to her own father, nursing homes, and the anticipated final third of life without dependents. Was she also single? No; the woman was a mother of four. Nodding with respectful envy, she bowed her head slightly and resumed her stance facing the counter.

The tiny woman was finally paid in full for her $160 order. Slowly, she stood. The store clerk handed her the plastic sack of hardbound novels. Could she get that? Would she need help? The bag of books settled into its spot on the seat of her rolling cart, as she bent to secure it. Oh, I think I should be fine, in tones of seasoned familiarity.

And so, she spoke. Perhaps he might call for assistance, to help the woman get everything to her car. The booming basso cut into the quiet, summoning available help, as the tiny woman moved away from the check out counter toward the exit.

The space cleared, she was up. He opened with the promotions and the school book drive. Hastily, she added the stuffed toy for her grand niece, thinking of the twin siblings due any day. Having taught public school for 25 years, for her the book drive a no brainer: Clifford, the Big Red Dog. Was she permitted to return any one of the calendars, if unopened? Paid in full, she too moved toward the door.

The tiny woman was still seated, large burden in her lap. There was a soft expression on her face, a faint smile at each corner of her mouth. Her eyes were quietly alert.

In less than a breath, she felt her spirit enter the woman’s body, hover, and return. Approaching, she spoke to the woman. Would she like some help?

They were quickly joined by the bookstore manager, complete with laniard and peeping walkie talkie, who pushed the woman in her cart out thru the door as she held it and over to a blue, four door sedan parked at the front of the store. The walkie talkie’s peep crescendoed and the two women relieved her, chatting already and gathering the car keys which, of course, were manually required to unlock the doors.

Had she been a teacher? No; but she was often asked if she were. This was her reading for the whole winter! Well, who wouldn’t believe it? Folding the rolling chair cart, just able to lift and place it in the backseat, the woman crept down into the driver’s seat and turned, smiling.

What was her name? Colleen. Colleen Ahern. Was there anyone to look in on her? Yes; she lived behind Mount St. Benedict, happily well cared for and won’t you have a lovely Thanksgiving!

You have a wonderful winter!  Carefully closing the door, she stepped away.

In a rush of hope she crossed the lot, manually unlocking her own door and settling into her front seat. Tail lights lit, the blue four door sedan sat idling for several minutes. She watched the woman wait until she was sure her engine was sufficiently warmed, then turned to arrange her packages on the passenger seat. When she looked back, the parking spot was empty. The sedan was already moving onto Peach Street, ready to coast all the way to Harborcreek before the storm descended. Before any threat of isolation could lurk. Beyond any doubt or fear, a stack of novels waiting to become her world, one for each month of the year’s end and up and over and across to the new one.

Carry on, Colleen.

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© 11/15/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo            All rights those of this author, whose name – not Colleen – appears above this line. Thank you for respecting authentic stories.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

The Sixth Decade.

 

White hair speaks for itself.

Would I have remembered her, had she thinning salt and pepper strands enhancing facial lines and furrows?

Maybe it was her height, barely five feet two. Her carriage quick, like a bird.

But, the keynote speaker at Fredonia State University’s May 1982 commencement exercises was impossible to dismiss.

I cannot name a single one of the multiple degrees she carried behind her name, nor title of authored paper or book. Even her name escapes me.

But, what I cannot forget was the fact that she had earned the first of those college diplomas at age 60.

This remarkable life, for all intents and purposes begun in the sixth decade, had been a firebrand of motivation, determination, persistence, and resolve. And, twenty plus years hence, she was still at it.

What’s interesting to note is that I carry no recollection of anything she did prior. The woman herself might credit the sum of those first five decades as molding and shaping; but, what really set her apart was that time, and social expectation, even the power hierarchy, had no deterring role whatsoever.

Perhaps she’d approached the age of 55 in quiet contemplation. Perhaps a beloved spouse had departed the earth; maybe an inheritance bestowed. Whatever the impetus, she’d set about to do, and followed a plan to repeated completion.

Granted, our society still reveres the paper credential. But, no matter. Expanding the mind, digging deeply into those integrated circuits which can only connect with age, unearthing gems of time borne wisdom and then giving them away like birthday presents this single female, now 83, was traveling the country as a motivational speaker for entire classes of graduating university students.

And, she spoke to me.

I had entered Fredonia right out of high school, on a visual art scholarship. Two years hence, withdrawing to transfer to an esteemed art institute, insufficient funds and the recession of the 1970s prevented my enrollment and I remained at home, securing a summer job and opening a savings account. By the fall of the second year of work, I had saved enough to return to school, switch my major, and earn the Bachelor of Music in Music Education.

But, at least three years older than my undergraduate contemporaries, I was a ripe twenty five. Only one other music major could claim this kind of seniority: my boyfriend. But, he’d already moved on, several months prior to the ceremony.

So, for about twenty minutes, from the podium at King Concert Hall, this white haired woman embodied me. As we all sat, capped and robed, she made her mark on my mind and heart.

And, I would not know it until now.

Now, in the sixty first year of my own life.

Perhaps you are one of the special minority of those whose hair has whitened well before middle age. Enjoy your singular beauty. But, for me and the rest of my greying generation, we have the privilege of returning to our self starting childhood, before the agenda of opportunism and exploitation began sniffing around our necks and long before we ever felt the crush of competition and its inevitable corruptions. We need acquire nothing; we still have what it takes. The means has reached its end. We can own our moment.

Mine won’t likely be white for awhile.

But, every hair is numbered. And, each strand as it appears inspires a deep, rich, and nourishing breath.

Time to take the next one!

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© 11/11/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material, especially when it comes from an old person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Covering the Mirror.

 

The henna tinted haircut had become oily and matted. Clothes, twice worn, and I’d missed the shower in the a.m. It was nigh on 5:37, and the service was to begin at 6.

I looked a sight. Yet, the temple being a scant four minutes from the house, my heart told me that missing their open invitation would be the greater regret. Dabbing some under eye concealer, a bit of pink powder and a neutral lipstick, I fluffed what remained of the haircut, grabbed the short raincoat, and headed for State Street.

Turning left at the top of Cherry Street, my Pontiac soon joined a steady trough of traffic. Parking at the temple’s Jefferson Society lot was limited, and street options could extend north all the way down the hill if we didn’t get all the greens heading east. I wondered how many from as far away as Fairview had also accepted the invitation?

West of the stadium, cars were already lining the curb. But, two schoolbuses were also present, next to the academy. The stream of drivers was intended for their evening football game. My thymus relaxed, a little.

Reaching the temple, I was relieved to see a spot up from the Jefferson entrance. People were still walking from lot to front, and I joined them, hugging the mustard yellow rainjacket around my jeans to cut the wet chill. Sure enough, ladies were in mid calf skirts, men in dark dress, and then Jack, looking pensive, the news cam man who’d taken my one and only career black and white decades earlier. I resumed my customary cringe. Find a seat in the very back, slide in swiftly, say nothing. Stepping past the security guard and the packing, body armored special agent, I entered the foyer. There was Charles, standing at the door.

We greeted, me offering the self deprecating reference to shabby attire and he quick with the witty retort, something about God not caring and me hoping so. He, with his hearty, reassuring laugh.

My seat awaited, one of four in the far right rear row, two fellow Gentiles on either end. I sat beside Maria, who looked as Bavarian as if she’d just arrived from northern Minnesota.

The room was filling, rapidly. I recognized several, from various stages of my own history in our ageless community. The men, in their yarmulkes. A respected surgeon, in his, plus blue scrubs. An extremely tall gent, in his, ball of the hand curved over a carved walking stick. The current Erie County Executive. A former Mayor of Erie. At least two Mizrachi, with stronger noses in profile than hardly anyone saw anymore, likely never in a fashion rag. And, me, feeling every percentage of the Persian/Turk in my Ancestry.com DNA reveal.

I missed, quietly, Rabbi Len and Faith Lifshen, and their son, Moshe. This had been their temple, prior to the move south and Rabbi’s subsequent death. Turning to Maria I made mention of them, and pointed out the Ark of the Covenant glass encasement in the center of the altar. After my lengthy paragraph, she mentioned the Torah scrolls, me realizing that, yet again, I’d presumed the role of teacher rather than learner.

One of the last to enter was a short young woman, who chose the remaining seat beside me. She was the only female in a yarmulke within my sight line, and I hadn’t remembered ever seeing a woman wear one. Just as she became settled, removing her coat, around the aisle came a slender man who extended his open palm to the Gentile on the left end. He took the hand of each one of us in the back row, introducing himself and asking our names. He was the new Rabbi up from Pittsburgh, where he lived, to conduct the Shabbat Kaddish at Temple Brith Sholom.

This was my second Jewish service. At Yom Kippur, several musical colleagues and I had been invited to the other temple, across town, by another of us who, being a Jew, was slated to play the Kol Nidre on her flute. The rabbi that night was a woman, a guest from New York, and the remaining four vocal musicians and their pianist were all Gentiles but one.

The music at this Shabbat was all vocal. It was produced by the Rabbi, and his seasoned congregation.

After an earnest and warm welcome from, surprise! Doris, a retired teacher with whom I had worked nearly thirty years earlier, the rabbi explained in detail what we as the guests could expect from the service. He encouraged us to select a prayer book from the racks attached to the chairs in front of us. The prayer book pages were turned briskly, from rear to front, as the rabbi chanted in fluent Hebrew and the congregation sang along. I was reminded that, let alone a language strange to my tongue, unless I could see the notation my ability to retain a new melody was woeful. We sat, and stood; remained standing, and sat. Stood. Turned; bowed; sat, again. At each rise and return, a room filled with slightly damp athletic shoes squeaked, in chorus.

The Kaddish, Rabbi explained, was the congregational prayer, uttered in unison aloud. Some Shabbats were mourning Kaddish; this one would have two aspects, the first for private mourners and the second for the victims of the tragedy at Tree Of Life.

Just before the time had come to offer up the Kaddish, the Rabbi spoke in short sermon. He described the innumerable traditions which were the foundation of conservative Judaism. One point in particular spoke to me, as an aspect of mourning.

He said that Jews, by their nature and by their tradition, are open. They encourage emotional expression. Crying during mourning is a given. But, he also insisted, mourning was to be embodied. There would be no preparation of fine adornment; instead, Jews were to begin by eliminating bathing. They were to immerse themselves, entirely, in grief. And, to render this practice intently selfless, they were to cover all the mirrors in the house.

My eyes opened, wide. I looked at the Rabbi.

For that moment, and in the moments later, I stood in solidarity with God’s chosen people against both the recent horror and an entire epoch of vile hatred which had wrenched their global family. Soiled, unkempt; unclean, I was right there.

Out of body, present in spirit, I no longer saw myself.

Only Adonai.

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© 11/2/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.       littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Principle Of The Thing.

 

My partner is a registered nurse.

He works in the hospital where I was born.

But, it’s not a hospital, anymore. A medical center complex, owned by a huge health corporation which also provides insurance, it is one of the area’s largest employers.

One would think that, being enormous in scope and financially well endowed, said corporation would be able to sustain the employment of at least one person whose job it would be to enforce fair practices.

Like, staff scheduling.

Instead, the man I love is forced to fill his week with days which often run fifteen consecutive hours or more on site. And then, add being on call, which ties his hands and his imminent presence at least one day per week until 5:30 am the following morning.

And, he isn’t even in the Emergency Room, the scenario which provides fodder for more televised drama than the field of poorly managed medicine deserves. He’s in the dialysis department. This is where patients come, three times a week, to have their kidneys flushed so that they don’t die in a matter of hours from uremic poisoning. And, unlike other departments, such as the cardiac catheterization lab, the doctors aren’t actively on site throughout the shift; the entire week is managed by the nurses, and their supervisor.

Most dialysis patients are in house, admitted, many for weeks or even months at a stretch. These are individuals who are vastly unwell; most have multiple afflictions, including morbid obesity, all of which must be factored in when the four hour, tri-weekly dialysis commences. Each is wheeled to the department on a gurney, where the line forms in the narrow hallway leading to the shallow bay of treatment cubbies.

But, unlike a hair salon, which effectively staggers multiple customers between wash, rinse, cut, set, dry, and style, each of these patients must be watched carefully. First, their vital signs must be monitored for sudden drops in pressure or heart rate; next, potassium levels must be regulated, these directly affecting heart rate. In short, each nurse must be ready to administer the safest, most effective intravenous cocktail of chemicals intended to maintain patient stability throughout the four hour procedure.

Imagine some fourteen patients, in the course of a shift, all of them in a long line awaiting treatment. Visualize eight of these, in active dialysis, at various stages across their four hours. Now, realize that several may be in significant discomfort. One may be thrashing about, yelling; another may be hovering at death’s door.

But, then, there are those patients who have been admitted to the ICU. These are critically ill, but in need of dialysis, perhaps due to drug overdose or sudden sepsis.

Now, consider how many nurses would make for secure, attentive coverage of fourteen patients plus ICU in a given fifteen hour shift. Would you be surprised to discover that the dialysis department currently employs only 5 nurses?

That’s five, in total. Scheduled across a six day work week. Covering a contingent of sick patients, patients who don’t get well. Not on dialysis.

Dialysis is extended palliative care. Patients on dialysis either get a kidney transplant, or expect to reach the end of their lives within five to seven years.

And, for their troubles, these get: five nurses. (There had been six, but the one most willing to work the longest hours tore her meniscus, and now needs surgery.) Has the medical center hired her replacement? Oh, no. Easier just to stretch the remaining five thinner than a dime.

Money. Money drives everything. Money is allegedly the reward for a job well done. At least, it used to be. Now, we have to ask “Who benefits?” Why? Because a job well done is no longer rewarded. Now, a good worker is exhausted, with little recourse against a killer schedule which, especially critical in the health field, renders most nurses chronically sleep deprived, socially constrained, and increasingly embittered.

Let’s require of our massive corporations that they use their equally vast resources to establish a department for accountability to devoted workers. Delegated supervisory roles only work as far as the individual assigned is willing to make the extra effort necessary to create scheduling which both serves and benefits those over which he or she has domain. On principle.

Principle used to represent that moral, conscience-driven act to which one adhered, in process and procedure, even when one stood to benefit nothing. Now, unless there is something in it for the “me”, nobody does anything.

Except the nurses.

The nurses will always do the hard thing. The dirty thing. The critical thing. And, they’ll be asked to do it all on four hours’ sleep, five days a week, irrespective of their advancing age or the responsibilities they maintain when they finally get home at night.

An army of these rising up would force a revolution.

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© 11/2/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tree of Life.

Just about every child in the United States now over the age of 30 has heard the story of Adam and Eve.

For many Americans, and scores of others across the globe, this was the beginning of life as many had been taught to believe it.

And, for every patriarchal society wallowing in male dominance, the first woman and her original sin became the bane of all who walked in her shadow.

But, whether man or woman what many may not know is that this story is shared by both Christians and Jews. The Torah, the sacred Hebrew book, predates the Biblical canon by a swath of time and contains the first five books of what would later become the Christian Old Testament.

And so, both Jewish children and Christian children were raised by the story of the Garden of Eden, as told in the book of Genesis.

Now, when we read those early chapters in Genesis, we find that Jehovah Elohim, after creating everything else, including Man, put not one but many trees in Eden. And, then we are told that he singled out not one, but two trees: a.) The Tree of Life, in the midst of the garden, and b.) The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And, then Jehovah commanded Adam. He told him he could freely eat of the fruit of every tree in Eden, except that of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, lest he surely die.

Then, God created Eve.

The story continued, painting Eve as both approachable and easily confused. The serpent tempted Eve, by challenging the words of Jehovah and putting a question in her mind. But, beguiling her, he made reference not to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil but to the tree in the midst of the garden. This was the Tree of Life.

(So, which was it? From which tree was she permitted to eat? And, whose fruit would bring certain death?)

We all remember what happened. Eve partook of the fruit of the tree to which the serpent had led her. Sharing with Adam, they knew their nakedness, were ashamed, and tried to hide from Jehovah. And, Jehovah banished them from the Garden of Eden.

But….the Tree of Life. In the midst of the Garden. 

I have pondered this wonder, for most of my own life.

Perhaps the Jewish children know the secret.

Of note is that, whether male or female, the Jews as a people are equally thoughtful, equally respected. Equally forgiving. Equal.

They still worship in the midst of the Garden. They still honor the Tree of Life. Regardless of our faith or the absence thereof, let us all offer up a prayer for those who will meet at the synagogue which bears its name, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, again this Saturday. Perhaps there is one reaching out to us in spirit, from among those whose lives were taken. Whether Jew or Greek, bond or free, let us clasp hands and sit under the Tree of Life, together.

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© 10/28/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo     Thank you for respecting the beliefs of all people, and the words of Genesis.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Yesterday.

 

I love the past.

1970’s superstar Billy Joel has his own SiriusXM station. Unlike the breadth of his continuing career, he gets to keep Channel 30 for just a few weeks, kind of like a feature. I’ve been enjoying his retrospective, while driving to the Food Co-op, or out on errands – every time I’m behind that wheel. Along with legions of others, I get this brief chance to travel across his repertoire with him, in between snippets of commentary and gems from his recollection.

Of particular interest is the story of how he became a songwriter. Apparently, his mother always played her favorite records, at home. She loved Gilbert and Sullivan, and others from her era. Billy absorbed solid songwriting from these masters but, as he recounts, his fire wasn’t really lit until he heard the Beatles.

And, the other day, while presenting his Songs I Wish I’d Written segment, he invariably cited one of them: Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday.”

Now, everybody knows that the popular song is the capsule for every memory, in our lifetime. And, most of us have a narrative for every favorite we can name. But, only the psychologists have warned that nostalgia isn’t particularly “healthy”; they, along with those Be In The NOW proponents, argue that living in the past is oppressive, even toxic.

At least two songwriters might challenge that.

Here we have legends, in their own time – Joel, and McCartney. I’m betting neither of these song meisters are wallowing in whatever happened to them. Their respect for the past is a real religion; they both know that, if we lose faith in what has made us who we are today, we’ll have little upon which to grow for tomorrow.

The Millennials, who live in a world of instantaneity, may not have a concept of history. They may be missing a reverence for that which is foundational, upon which the new must be built. They may not realize that what they deem worthy may have come from the mind of one for whom effort to produce it was lifelong. From their perspective, that which isn’t current is both passe and dispensable, devoid of value. Displacement has supplanted any concept of what used to be termed “classic.” Yet, how many of their pop celebrities are producing music which will endure? Whatever happened to “the test of time”?

We may long for that which is past, but we can hide away, even believe, in our yesterdays. I’m grateful, today, to be part of a generation which can still embody that which it can also remember.

Sing on, gentlemen.

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© 10/21/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

 

The Prolific.

 

Beethoven was a loner.

Reports are his hair was often dirty. He’d wear a long top coat, pencils in the pockets, and pace the streets, muttering under his likely foul, acidic breath. His personality was neither warm nor appealing. To use contemporary vernacular, he was not well liked. Had there been a club, he would not have been invited.

Upstairs, where it all happened, he’d pore over his scores, for hours on end. The man was a driven perfectionist; his original manuscripts show so many scribbled erasures so as to have damaged the paper upon which his markings were made.

The totality of his compositions, while many, were not what one would call evidence of a prolific; rather, they were each in their own way masterpieces. They were masterpieces because, whether Beethoven himself realized it or not, he was changing the sound of music for ages to come.

And, in fact, there is hardly a civilized person who cannot place the 9 Beethoven symphonies among the pearls of creative treasure for all of history.

Bach preceded Beethoven, by a stretch.

His output was enormous.

Each Sunday, there was a new Chorale for the church. Bach wrote 600 of these. And, within the mainstream of cultured society, although they are among the most beautiful of musical creations he isn’t even known for them; most cite his volumes of two and three part inventions for keyboard instruments, his partitas, his chaconnes, his toccattas and fugues.

Two singular composers, both creative geniuses.

Is one of higher value than the other?

In matters of taste, two constituencies may form. Under Beethoven, those who prefer to be moved by chordal harmonies and driving rhythm; under Bach, those affected by the intricate complexity of voicing and counterpoint.

But, each contributed not by the collected volume of individual works, but by sheer artistic impact. Regardless the quantity, the power of their affect lay in the quality.

Let’s not ask of our artists that they fulfill our time based expectations. Let us cast aside judgment against the frequency of their contributions. Art needs neither justification, nor critique upon its merit. The next masterpiece may already be in progress. All we have to do is wait, and prepare our hearts.

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© 10/18/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Closet Politik.

PappyAndTheGirlsAtTheBeachCirca1929
L to R:  Dora Mae; Lydia Elisabeth (“Betty”); Henry Thomas Sweet; Front row, L to R: Martha Louise; Frances

My grandfather was a closet Republican.

Harry Truman was his hero.

Born in Wilkes-Barre, PA, of parents who’d hailed from Cornwall, England, he’d brought his young wife, Mae, across the Commonwealth on or about 1915 to build cranes at Bucyrus-Erie. Yet, Erie, newly founded, was up and coming and this move – for a working class conservative – was, at its heart, progressive.

But, after having attended a tent meeting led by Christian evangelist Billy Sunday, this naturally gruff dogmatist had experienced a conviction of belief which would solidify his politics for life. He brought with him to Erie a Bible thumping, street preacher’s passion and, after meeting two elders of the Plymouth Brethren at the City Mission, would join their fellowship at the Gospel Assembly Hall on East Avenue.

But, Henry Thomas Sweet would not register to vote.

He and the rest of his fellow fundamentalists would populate a small, but ardent, segment of this growing town. Their teachings were the most extreme among conservatives; preaching that only those things due Caesar would be rendered, the rest would be left up to Almighty God – who would put into office whom He will.

Still, Henry Sweet taught his family all the values upheld by the Republican party. Hard work having yielded sufficient income, all resources would be put toward the sustenance of family and a tenth toward “the Lord’s work”, all capital kept close to the vest for just such purposes. The downtrodden were to be regarded as slacking, irresponsible, vagrant, and were admonished – from the street corner pulpit – to “Get up out of the gutter, repent, and get a j.o.b.”

What Henry and Mae did was work. Raising four daughters, they used their hands – baking bread, and delivering it door to door; hooking and braiding rugs, from old, discarded wool coats rescued from the Salvation Army; planting vegetable gardens, and fruit trees, gathering their harvest (had poultry been permitted inside the city limits, they’d likely have had hens and chickens); “slaving” over the stove, preparing meals for the entire, extended family for every holiday and birthday celebration. Mae also sewed, repairing and altering all manner of clothing, and creating from remnants everything from pajamas to suits and spring coats, draperies, and furniture slip covers. Henry, after a long day at the crane factory, maintained every inch of their humble property on East 29th Street, as well as their royal blue Chrysler.

In his final decade, disaffected and excommunicated from the Brethren for “railing”, sunken into his harvest gold La-Z-Boy recliner in the northeast corner of the livingroom reading his National “Geographs” and his Bible, listening to talk radio (and, calling in daily), he would brood.

Sympathy was not part of his lexicon. Compassion was merely a concept, to be contemplated while meditating upon the person of the Christ. Weakness was not to be indulged; one was given a life, and one must take up the reins of it and serve the Lord with all one’s might. Paying income tax was the bane of existence.

Three of the four daughters carried on the traditions of his closet politics. All honorable citizens they, nevertheless, also never registered to vote – raising their children to accept having come out from among them, being separate, avowing to touch not the unclean thing. There were us, the elect bride of Christ, and there were them, the reprobate, damned to hellfire lest they repent and believe the Gospel.

I don’t know what happened, but something did. Time, and its inevitable evolution. Being Republican of mentality used to mean such noble (if self centered) intent, even if it appealed to the most narrow minded among them. One wonders if the GOP was forever affected by those who would only vote for he or she whom their God had ordained. Being a Democrat came to defy such selfish, belief driven ideals. In between, I now find myself – a registered Independent, caught, without a closet in which to hide. We are all part of America, a nation of so many countries, fighting to stay socially intact, more exposed than ever before, members of a globe of earthly nations pushing and pulling and hanging on.

And, the world’s eyes are still on our family.

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©10/15/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The No Party System.

 

The world is flat.

Thomas L. Friedman wrote the book, over a decade ago.

The Internet explosion and outsourcing have brought us into instantaneous connection with everything that can carry a signal. Provided we sustain electronic linkage, we can now communicate with virtually everyone – about anything – and provide goods and services for anyone from anywhere.

I can remember when one had to drive to a local library, navigate the research department catalogue, and sit for hours copying columns of material just to prove an historical point. Now, one smart phone and about twelve minutes can accomplish the same task – and, save all relevant documents into a virtual folder.

In the United States alone, I’m sure there are scholars who can provide enough data to support Friedman’s thesis. But, let’s consider the political realm, in this context.

Based in the last couple political campaigns, the Internet has proved itself responsible for the rise of Bernie Sanders and the election of Donald J. Trump. Social media has become the first avenue for publicity. We don’t even need graphic designers, anymore (and, I was one); banners and yard signs can be self produced, using available software, and picked up at the nearest print outlet.

Instant access; equally swift information transmission. Do we even need to be present, to win?

Now, consider how we might review the political platform of a potential political candidate. Said hopeful creates a website, and lists his/her political views, point by point. Televised ads would be retained, albeit many of them viewed via smart phones. Door to door campaigns would still carry significant local weight, but these would no longer require anything but prior familiarity with a candidate’s position on all the issues.

So, how do we place value on political party? Primarily, citizens align on platform – a set of commitments to action which follow a certain ideology. Fiscal conservation. Equal rights, for women and minorities. Federal programs. Single payer health. Flat tax. Retirement options. Self-employed business ownership. Industry. Agriculture. The environment, and its protection. Fuel and power sourcing. Medical services. Insurance coverage, for home, auto, and equipment. Military defense. Employment opportunities.

But, why do any of these issues require party delineation? Can’t each be addressed, per its degree of relevance to the citizen? Is this populism? Well, why not?

The branches of government as vehicles would not have to be party dependent, either. Is there really a philosophy governing what has historically been defined as Democratic or Republican, anymore? I can’t even list how many op eds have been written about the evolution of party ideologies, and almost all address a direction which moves away from their original intent. It’s as if each is enduring the pull to divide, like a human cell.

Why not just consider all issues across a scale – left; center; right?

By working merely from such a scale, we would have a clearer perception of needs vs wants, and might more easily dispense with entrenched, outmoded thinking.

I am certain that sociologists would concur, on one point: the class system is the principal offender, here. Those who are defiantly party aligned are usually class conscious. And, this mentality is inherently divisive.

I fully expect to be bombarded by the resistant and the outraged. I’ll be called a simpleton. Have at me! Yet, I firmly believe that this is an idea whose time is coming. Please, be open. We cannot continue as we have been, with partisan gridlock tripping every step we attempt to take and, worse, resorting to suppression of the truth.

Institutionalized thinking is the bane of progress. Most importantly, morality has become subject to the interests of partisan politics – and, that is the foreboding harbinger.

“Government by, and for, the people.”

First.

It’s our national call, in our world.

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© 10/11/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

A Crisis of Childishness.

 

Kindergarten.

The term itself is Germanic in derivation and, I believe, the concept as well.

Children, able to be separated from their parents for a single school day, brought together in groups according to their chronological age to be led by a competent adult, because socialization is considered vital to the success of an earthly civilization.

I remember what we did in Kindergarten. The year was 1962. Mrs. Williams’ room was the largest one at Lincoln School, with the bay window where the painting easels stood.  We each had a spot on the rug, sat cross legged, and faced her laced up shoes as she stood in front of us. We always opened each morning with a song, then the day of the week and the weather. We always made pictures, had a nap, played games and ate a snack.

But, beyond all this, a sentient sage compiled all the things that made it truly important and put them onto a lovely poster: “Everything I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. Herewith, a couple I’d like to add to that list:

a.) Keep your hands to yourself.

Goodness. Need we say more?

b.) Be kind.

How about:

c.) Tell the truth.

Are there any questions?

Does everybody understand?

Over the past couple of decades, I have watched the nation I call my own collapsing into a puddle of human depravity. This has made itself manifest in the form of fundamental behaviors we used to tell children were unacceptable.

Grown ups, touching each other inappropriately, but with sophisticated persuasive tactics that would make a chemist blush. And, then, going to equally intricate lengths to scrub out the crayon mark tracks they leave behind.

Alleged adults, grasping after power over one another’s things, taking what doesn’t belong to them with such drooling greed that even the 5 year olds would stop, stare, and wag an admonishing finger.

Moreover, the leader of our country, who is supposed to be the model for doing what is right, paying money to keep quiet those who would tell on his bad behavior to the people and then saying to everyone that, even though a girl said a man didn’t keep his hands to himself, we should let him into the little club where they make all the rules for good behavior for the whole country.

In fact, just today, all the leaders of the other countries laughed at him.

I don’t know about you, but I am embarrassed.

I’m mortified.

I suspect the Chancellor of Germany is appalled.

Our country is remedial. We need a retake, and a redo. We could do well to start over. Before we know it, the bell will ring, and school will be out.

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© 9/25/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Put A Stake In It.

 

The last of the tomatoes were done.

Unlike squash, they wouldn’t have survived creeping across the garden soil; their vines required staking, this year by aluminum wire cages. Stepping into the collapsing mess of metal, I reached down and plucked the final fruit from its stem, inhaling for the last time that distinctive, acidic scent.

This season, everyone seemed to have had a stake in something.

I was a professional musician. Roughly half of my colleagues either’d had contracts with an established organization, or hoped for hire; the rest were investing in a newer venture, because it served them in familial ways.

After having taken a tally of all concerned I’d discovered that, just as my beloved would suggest, none of those involved had wanted to risk their own potential benefit by standing against anything – least of all, it seemed, any moral component in actions taken. None of them, that is, but me.

And, so, I’d been left facing my remaining options. They were few.

1.) Take whatever I could get, which would likely be a rare to never hire by the established organization’s newly created collective of contracted members;

2.) Join the new venture, which clearly served first those already attached – by either employ, or enrollment – to a local institution.

In short, both actions sidelined me. The possible motives had emerged, and none of them were attractive: a.) I was perceived as aging out? b.) I was not accepted, because I did not submit to those who sought authority over me?

The third option only became clear after I had confronted the initial two and found them both undesirable:

3.) Walk away.

Facing the reality that my net income would only be marginally affected, seeing as that generated by both options had never, in the past, even remotely covered the number of uncompensated hours, the likelihood of garnering more creative time had begun to feel more like a reward than a punishment.

And, so, the decision was actually easy.

The outcome, however, I could not have predicted.

First, there’d been the sheer relief. Had there really been that much pressure, and stress? Being locked into a work schedule, occupying weeknights and weekends, pre-determined by those outside of myself. Yes; yes, there had. The release of this weight was euphoric in its effect; I felt as if I’d just been granted an unlimited vacation!

But, secondly, I’d begun to note a silence. Nobody seemed interested in remaining in touch, even those I’d thought were friends.

My declaration of intent was never challenged, no attempts made to persuade a re-consideration, only two polite assurances of future, independent collaborations from among dozens. Stock replies, and more silence.

The stakes were just too high.

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A favorite metaphor among Biblical apologists is the fruit of the vine. Believers, so called, are to bear it; if they do not, they are cut off from the host.

I love tomatoes. I eat them, nearly every day when they are in season. But, maybe I am more like a squash, or a pumpkin. Meant to grow on another vine, close to the soil.

I’ll stake my life on that, instead.

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© 9/24/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material, however unimportant.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Sink.

 

They had said they’d do it.
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For him, it was a plan. And, that was hard.
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Open ended all the way, perhaps borne of a deep seated low self esteem (“I don’t deserve to want anything”) he’d much rather let the overwhelm swirl in his head until, completely oppressed, 3 o’clock p.m. would arrive at which moment he would fatalistically declare: “The day is over.”
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She, on the other hand, the result of 25 years of the strictly imposed assembly line mentality expressed in the form of a teaching position within public education, had learned – entirely against her nature – to plan. A day could never reach its end, with any hope of success, without a clear, linear, step by step process divided precisely into 40 minute increments.
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Thus had become her life.
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And, in order to actually prove her worth (another deep seated esteem problem), she’d managed to pack active effort into each waking minute. For every one of those 25 plus years, should less than an hour of uncommitted time appear, this would manifest as a vacation – gorging on cookies and ice cream, in front of late night television, in the words of the late Dudley Moore: “Time, well…spent.”
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He’d spent his operating from a point of zero expectation. Trained in nursing, submerged in the kind of erratic, exhausting days and weeks known only to the world of American human health care. No two twenty four hour periods ever the same, in any way, he’d grown to covet the equally protracted blank spaces whenever they presented themselves. Yet, his work was never self directed; rather, at the mercy of emergent need, what he called familiar was an act of response.
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She, the head of the classroom, had always been required to generate action. Furthermore, framed in forty minutes at a time by day (and, two and a half hours at evening rehearsals) for each of these, clock watching had become the driver; the challenge was beginning, developing, and completing – and, then, doing it all again, all day until – sure enough – 3 o’clock, when the day shift really did end.
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Here they then were, at her house, facing thirty years of accumulated kitchen paraphernalia. Hers had been a deferred fantasy, that of preparing hot h’ors doerves and sweet creme treats for enough guests to populate the living, dining, and music rooms, the attic loft, the backyard, and the wrap around porch. This wistful dream only realized once, at the house warming; thereafter, from the advent of Ronco Tv she had acquired every tool, slice/dice/splicer gadget, storage system, and portable fryer publicly performed by the proponents of InventHelp – only to completely ignore them, forthwith. There was no therapy for regret; full circle, having come around to both the application and compartmentalization of this lifetime, even the storage system had been of no assistance.
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Time: Four hours.
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Every cupboard expunged of its static story – the two dead mice in their sticky traps to the trash, their hole into the bottom shelf plugged with steel wool and Duct tape; the Pyrex bowls graduating across the counter, the holiday potpourri, candles and mugs sent to the Xmas box, the lone Pampered Chef casserole dish holding its breath in fear of the impending sterilizing pool; the Princess crystal wine glasses, the portable mixer and French press and Bullet and Bonzai Chopper and George Foreman grill, the rice maker and bread maker and Jack LaLane Juicer and wafflemaker all disinfected and repositioned behind each cupboard door – he and she had successfully reoriented her entire food preparation space into the back end of the second decade of the twenty first century.
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She kissed his mouth, and smelled his neck, and smiled him out the door. Back at his place, the dogs needed out, the tomatoes staked. She turned, and took the five steps from the mudroom to the edge of the double wide porcelain basins completely invisible beneath their mound of soaking Rubbermaid and stainless steel. A sink load of dishes was worth doing alone. Because she couldn’t, they’d brought themselves all the way through her past to their present, and they’d done it together.
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© 6/25/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material
littlebarefeetblog.com

Destined To Be Lost.

It was cold, again.
The chapel was often cold.
Not because of its grand hewn stone or stained glass, the height of its vaulted ceiling, or its inlaid flooring.
The chapel was cold because the door facing south was open – permitting access to the front by those unable (or, unwilling) to use the main entrance at the back of the church.
This open side door allowed the south westerly wind direction to thrust the front of the sanctuary into what, for my small frame and unprotected heart, were temperatures beyond chilly. And, those of us hired to play string quartet with added winds for the baccalaureate mass at the local university were very concerned. Not for our bodies, though they shivered, but for our valued instruments – collectively worth several thousand dollars, and not designed to withstand protracted cold drafts.
This was commencement week. Matriculating college seniors, being sent into the world to preach their own gospels by the administrators of the catholic institution granting their academic degrees, their presiding priest had chosen from among his readings passages intended to encourage all the young graduates in attendance. Wrapping my legs around the belly of my cello and crossing my arms over my heart I sat, listening keenly to the one from John’s Gospel, chapter 17:
“Holy Father, keep them in Thy Name which thou hast given me, that they be one…Those thou hast given me I have kept, and none of them is lost.”
My attention was captured by the single clause which followed that affirmation. Yes; Jesus had kept all those God had given him, and not one of them had perished – “ except he who was destined to be lost, that the scriptures might be fulfilled.”
Destined.
To be lost.
The mass ended, I hurried home – to get warm, and to do some digging.
My research brought me through several Biblical translations, finally discovering the International Standard Version. The King James, and those directly following ( including J.N.Darby’s, which I hold personally ) all maintained Judas to be “the son of perdition”; but, the International Standard referenced destiny in his characterization. Apparently, it was now considered archaic to think of the one who betrayed Jesus for a bag of silver as merely the “son of perdition”. Judas had been born to damnation, because it was his destiny.
Several months ago, I watched as something I held precious was snatched from me. Helpless to hold on to it, I could only hope that those determined to be capable of its rescue would step forward. But, due to the collective interests of everyone else involved, this was not to be. What I held dear had been unprotected; what I lost could not be saved.
Many argue that everything happens for a reason. In spite of the failings and fortitude of mere humans, the scripture of our lives will be fulfilled. For some, this means playing any number of roles, from savior to scapegoat. All for the greater good.
When one door opens, God closes another and opens a window. We choose both our entry, and our escape.
I just can’t, for the life of me, figure out why it has to be so damned cold.
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© 5/13/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material.
littlebarefeetblog.com

Bring It To The Table.

 

He probably had no idea.

But, many women crushed on Anthony Bourdain, myself included.

Given what we have now been told about his life, his worth, and the scope of his experience, this fact may have come to bear no importance to him. Like everything he’d touched, women were likely a “been there/done that” episode in an otherwise keenly focused and ultimately vital social intention.

Because, Anthony Bourdain wasn’t just a fantastic chef. He was an explorer, a journalist, and a visionary. He may also have been, in spite of his rugged earthiness, rather an idealist – receiving, with private reflection and no small frustration, the socio-political realities he encountered.

And, he found them all.

From the rapid fire race of the planet’s cosmopolitae to the cramped corners of primal civilization, Bourdain covered the story – by boat, rickshaw, taxi, mule and the boots on his own feet. And, he reached the very heart of it all, at table.

There is something about the art of not just preparing good food, but in the eating of it. When this man sat down to share a meal, be it finger fried or stew pan steamed, he brought his open mind. And, as his interviews sat with him, they ceased being subjects and became friends. And, so many of them had, until he came along, never been seen or heard by anyone outside of their tiny place in the sun.

In many cases, neither had the culture they represented. And, this was Bourdain’s fascination. He didn’t just bring his appetite. Anthony Bourdain was hungry. He really, genuinely, wanted to know them all, and everything about their lives.

And, they told him.

They told him, both through their food and the act of sharing it. By coming to the table, the story itself unfolded – unprovoked, and unrestrained. It spoke candidly, about the political upheavals of the day and the ancient history in a single pot of oil. It openly expressed the views of its people – their ideas, their needs, their hopes for survival and preservation.

I don’t know what happened in that hotel room in Paris. We are long past the proving of any of it. And, maybe that is just what Anthony Bourdain wanted. Beyond marketing and media ratings, release to our eyes and ears his legacy. Let the story tell itself.

But, do pass the mushy peas.

Please.

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©9/16/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All right those of the author, who wonders just how many private islands there are. Really.   Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

Published!

 

She did it.

After God knows how many months, years, painstakingly crafting, artfully arranging, she completed her novel.

It had to happen. I wrote a children’s book; she wrote one. I performed on a Steinway; she bought one. I wrote a screenplay; she got a Master’s in Creative Writing.

And, wrote a novel.

We’re supposed to celebrate each other’s triumphs. It sends positive energy into the universe, or something like that. I’d just tired of being her Applause! sign, every time we met for dinner. I mean, really tired.

For one, I am afraid to open the first chapter for fear I see myself or a member of my own family, illustrated in my blog, now characterized in official print. We all do it, as a sort of emotional release, when relationships break our hearts or sour on the vine. But, there is no law requiring me to read that book, just like there’s no law preventing her from lifting, along with a few, choice turns of the old phrase and an essential rhythm, somebody else’s nationality, personality, or family story and calling it fiction.

Power; influence; prestige; status; and, marketing savvy. The best connections an established, multiply credentialed, white collar professional can gather, just by entering the room. It’s been the way of the world, for awhile now.

Jealous? To use her favorite exclamation: “Naah.”  Jealousy is about wishing you were the other person. No desire for that; grateful for everything God gave me, thank you mum and dad. Envy? Perhaps. Being published is enviable. It means that your novel will garner reviews, and sit in a bookstore with all the others. Sometimes people buy books in bookstores. Sometimes they sit, and read them there. Others flip through, looking for the best gift for that relative who doesn’t get out much.

And, a segment of the population actually spends quite a bit of time reading. Prisoners, for example.

Do I attempt to minimize this accomplishment? Nothing likely could, if its inherent value is deemed worthy by the National Association of Writers. Oh, wait. She’s a member. There it is. Nothing I could possibly say or do would depreciate this product of no doubt arduous hours of research, rewrites and edits. It’s hers, after all. Here’s hoping she gets everything she deserves.

I, myself, don’t just love to write. I need to write. Writing may be the very last thing I do before drawing my final breath. Whether anybody reads, well, that’s up to Providence.

Meantime, there are several drafts awaiting completion. Inhale; exhale. Mindful awareness. Plod along. The purpose emerges.

Just keep on.

You can do.

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© 9/14/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  Please respect original material, however unimportant. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Missing Earring.

It happened so fast.

One final page flip, at the piano, in the midst of the soprano duo. Up went the right hand, catching the hoop and flicking it out of the piercing in my earlobe.

At a momentary break in the service, I stepped over to my pew and set the earring in my gig bag. Two Sundays and a Tuesday hence, I searched for the pair to complete a casual outfit. Only one hoop appeared.

Yesterday, the purge began.

I’d been keeping a whole lifetime of outfits, with matching accessories, for years. Probably a symptom of a life deferred. How was the daughter of strict fundamentalists to know that a career scrambled after would render an artificial social milieu which would leave her starving for the nourishment which living out her true identity would have provided? She could only manifest this subconscious realization by regularly purchasing clothes and jewelry from mail order catalogs, like shut ins who live in the country. Her world, perpetually professional, draped in black, would rarely afford her the creative pleasure of wearing any of it.

So, now seemed to be the time to dig through all the jewelry. Two hours in, and my bedsheet was gritty with dust and residue from any number of bracelets, rings, necklaces, pins and earrings.

The last wrangle of particularly intractable chains was the most resistant. A rhinestone bordered cut out heart, silver mounted, reminded me of its original owner. My first sister in law would last 13 years as a member of our family, but bequeathing to her skinny pre-adolescent equivalent this piece. I remembered wearing it, every summer at the annual Bible conference and its subsequent winter retreats, through any number of hopeful crushes and handholding in the dark. The tiny silver “R”, on its even more delicate chain, was a throwback to the lumpy fonts of the 1970s. But, the shiny heart locket, gold in color. What was this?

I opened the heart.

Inside, a tiny photo of mum, smiling into the sun she loved so much. Given to me, only now recalling, by my cousin’s wife ( the daughter of mum’s first crush ) at the time of mum’s death.

Stroking the miniature photo with my thumb, I sat, its context returning. The locket, back then in 1995, had seemed gaudy, shiny next to my usual wardrobe. I’d been teaching elementary music, dressing most days in full theatrical costume to illustrate concepts as a human object lesson, a tactic keen student observers would take back to their methods college classes and hand off to their instructor’s eager doctoral candidate’s thesis. When out of such get up, I dressed for comfort; sweats, and flat shoes, were the order of my hopelessly nocturnal brain and interrupted sleep each morning. The locket had been relegated, with mum’s watch and the opals inherited from her Aunt Mary.

Now, twenty three years hence I sat, and remembered only my mother.

Our singular Mum, speaking to me yet again, and always during a cleaning run. Mum, always sorting everything, keeping busy, pushing down all the unrealized dreams by organizing the small but vital world over which she had domain. Mum, always with me whenever I’d “finally get around to it.” I closed the locket, and wrapped its chain around my throat, attaching the clasp.

The lost earring would take its place among the sundry and unimportant. Better to get busy and spend my remaining energy in the joy of living authentically.

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© 9/12/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect the original stories of their narrators. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

It’s Official!

[Final edit]

I’m no sports enthusiast.

But, I do know that those who judge the plays and fouls used to be called referees. Now, they’re all called “officials”.

I’m guessing that’s because, according to the rules of the game, theirs is the official decision – on everything that happens. The official word. From God’s mouth, to our ears.

Oxford’s says that “official” is “having the approval of an authority or public body”.

I note that the keyword appears to be “authority”. Or, is it “approval”?

From my short stint in the world of graphic design I am reminded of a concept. We called it “truth in advertising”.

Except, beginning in the days of MAD MEN, the phrase actually meant something.

The product had to be everything the ad claimed. The company which made the product was believed to be everything the product represented. And, the people who ran the company were trusted, by the long line of consumers who proudly purchased their product.

The word of the producer was good. It matched that which the product had to offer.

Trouble is, now the world is so big that even corporate conglomerates need their own refs. There is so much distance, between the consumer and the place where the product they buy is made, that whole departments have to be put in place to represent their word.

To my horror, even as I type these words, I now see the perfect subject for this piece: Tennis pro, and multiple champion, Serena Williams’ contention with her grand slam referee.

(Can we say “100th Monkey Phenomenon”??) (Hold on. To those who may not know: said phenomenon speaks to a thought or behavior, showing up simultaneously in two entities, as first demonstrated between two primate tribes living an ocean apart.) ( No; this is most definitively NOT a slur.)

I was going to take this all the way to the issue of “public” authority over truth, i.e. the official position of a ruling body representing fact. And then, further, to the real, palpable danger in this allegedly official truth.

But, now, I don’t have to hypothesize; sadly, we have more than one living example.

These officials, wearing the moniker of authority, have begun to abuse their power in the world of competitive sport. (Remember LeBron James’ final game at the 2018 NBA Championships?) And, the irony is: with sophisticated playback technology, every observer can see all the evidence, from every angle.

Yet, the official word in any arena, my friends, is at the very least subjective and, at worst, may very well be a bold faced, broiled lie, grilled to perfection.

Author Don Miguel Ruiz, in his contemporary classic The Four Agreements, has the better idea.

Beginning with each of us, he challenges, let every word be impeccable.

Would that we all showed such enthusiasm for the truth.

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© 9/8/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or part, permitted. Please respect original material. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

The Impression.

 

“That’s impressive.”

Sigh.

Have we not tired of being impressed?

Yet, in tandem with the dissolution of standard bearing, implicit honesty, and conscience, now we are subject to presentations intended to do just that.

Fast. Agile. Loud. Complex. Obscure. The “wow” factor.

But, impressions, even those privately gleaned through earnest searching, are at best shallow and short lived. Why? Because the motives behind the actions of their source are fed by ego.

One voluntarily seeks to impress in order to obtain something. Perhaps merely praise. In other cases, promotion, or a kind of awe which generates momentary respect.

Whenever ego is the driver, what is brought forth actually creates distance. Watchers and listeners are put off, pushed away, intimidated. Such impressions serve only to separate, even segregate, people from one another.

Used to be those who were “trying to impress” were looked down upon as conceited. All this serves to support the theory: impression is without soul.

That which is of inspiring value is self-sustaining. Beyond merely making its mark upon us, it bores through the superficial layers until, reaching who we are, it leaves a lasting change in us. And, the source of such a profound experience is then sought after. We are drawn to the one who provides accessible value to us, rather than being left to gaze from afar.

Don’t impress me. Just move me. Provoke and unsettle me, heat me up. Make me think, expand my perceptions, broaden my vision, open my heart. Make me feel, touch my emotions, stir me, feed me instead of yourself. Make a valued connection, with me.

If that is not your purpose, pack up your show. Move on down the road.

I will be happily unimpressed.

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© 9/8/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect original material. Don’t be impressed. Thanks!

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

Password!

Hey!

Thank God, WordPress.com offers a password option.

What does this mean?

Simply put, it represents a chance to present original work at your site which is not visible to everyone.

Bit by bit, I am taking advantage of this opportunity.

If you are a reader, and would like to access certain pieces at littlebarefeetblog.com, there is a password which I can give to you.

Please, go to my About page, find the email address, email me directly – and, I will provide you the password. But, first, you must offer me a short descriptor about YOU – in case we do not know each other, personally.

Then, click on Short Stories. The password protected installments can be found there.

Thank you!!

p.s. isn’t Obama right on the money, at this moment? I’m listening; are you? Feels like a Gospel Meeting, frankly.

Sincerely,

R.A.S.   littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

Writer’s License.

Hello, dear readers.

A word, if I may, about writers and their characters.

It is my opinion that any writer will derive character from a blend of personal, observational experience and imagination. As such, any writer who rejects this is denying the very enterprise itself.

If, at any time, you think you see either yourself or someone you know in a work of fiction, trust that the writer likely knew somebody very much like you or created a composite out of several individuals. The beauty of storytelling is that it mimics life itself, but the truth in such stories lies in the messages they carry and the value derived.

So, next time you take a novel off of a bookshelf, remember that nobody lives in a vacuum. We all express our strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and dreams every time we enter the fray. Perhaps your life, viewed through the eyes of the next author, will be of benefit and service to someone else. That is both the point, and the purpose.

.

Thank you!

 

Yours in the story,

Ruth Ann Scanzillo,

author,  littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Twinkling Eyes.

 

 

Some eyes just gleam

and, others glare

Some flash, or glaze

Behind a stare

 

Beware the orbs

Whose smiles alight

These will betray

Intent at sight

 

Though falsest face

A mask belies

The truth will speak

Through twinkling eyes.

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© 8/28/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect original material. Thank you very much.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

The Book.

 

The reader lives inside a book

The writer quite outside it

The story told

Will take ahold

Of each by size until, to wit

They dress alike

A perfect fit.

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© 8/28/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect original material. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

The Anonymous Thank You.

Dear Fellow WordPress.com bloggers:

Within the past couple of days, an Anonymous poster has entered Comments regarding two of my blog entries, both of them “thanking me for the post.” The tone of both these comments suggests that I am sharing the work of somebody who chooses to remain anonymous. However, in both these cases, the pieces are my original material.

Has any one of you received anything similar, at your most recent blog posts? If so, could you please comment, using your own WordPress.com accounts, so that those of us receiving these can be identified by WordPress.com ?

Thank you, all!

Your fellow blogger, littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

A Certain Regret.

 

Six feet two, at least, and all leg, polio hadn’t stopped him. Steel crutches swung the lower limbs, but the rest of the man carried on with the kind of aplomb that filled any room. Louie was the professor of cello at Fredonia State University, and beloved.

The year he finally died (“Why am I still here??”), his daughter presented his truest epitaph. Readying to leave the wake, and in the midst of a warm hug, Sarah said to me: “Dad didn’t live in the Land of Regret!”

Regret. The kind of sorry which affords no take backs. Louie either did it, or he didn’t, but when it was over he never looked over his shoulder.

Not so his perpetually fledgling student.

I suppose guilt is a factor. One cannot feel regret unless one entertains guilt. The Should Haves, in their illicit bed with the Could Haves. Seduced by the If Onlies.

“If only I’d done x, I could have had x. I should have done x; if I had, I could have had… well…x.”

About six months ago, something near, dear, and precious to me was destroyed. For nearly 32 years, I had been a member of the cello section in the Erie Chamber Orchestra and, for the back half of those, its principal cellist. This ensemble was unique. It’s founder, Bruce Morton Wright, had established the mission to bring classical orchestral music to the entire community, free of charge. And, that’s exactly what he did.

This monthly convocation of musicians was my social life. Four nights and one afternoon, every three weeks, preparing a concert program and then performing the music at St. Patrick’s Church, or the Mary Seat of Wisdom Chapel, for an audience of hundreds populated by retired professors, social misfits, loners, the extremely bright and the feeble and, unlike the monied who attend just to be seen, all of them genuine music lovers.

When this organization was cast into the trash bin by the local university which had subsidized it, my world was shattered. The value I had placed upon my role leading that cello section couldn’t be quantified; it had become my professional identity.

And, so, I became the loudest voice of protest. No; we would not go quietly. No; we would not be obliterated.

Others saw an opportunity.

Privately, a group was formed. Those of us from ECO who had been members of longest standing were to step back, and just wait. Wonderful things, we were promised, would happen.

We waited. All summer.

Plenty of time, to think and reflect. Gradually, without warning and not seeking one, I had an epiphany.

Taking a tally of the orchestral repertoire, I discovered that, over those 32 years I’d performed, in random order: all the Beethoven symphonies; all the Tschaikovsky; all the Mozart, and Haydn; all the Brahms. Most of the Dvorak, all Schubert, Schumann, and Mendelssohn; the Sibelius, Prokoffief, Shostakovich; All the Mahler! And, the Bruchner, the Saint-Saens, the Berlioz. Plus, Strauss’s Eine Heldenleiben, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring; Ravel, Respighi, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons; Gershwin, Copland, Korngold (as pianist); the operas of Puccini, Verdi, Mozart, Strauss; Tschaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” ballet; and, every requiem, oratorio, overture, and orchestral accompaniment to virtually every piano, string, brass, woodwind and percussion concerto on the books.

The realization was sudden: I could accept whatever the new orchestra had in store…..

Or, walk away.

But, why make the choice? Why not just stay, and play?

Because, in the world of fine art music – already proven too vast for one lifetime – there was so much music I had never played. Like, the solo and chamber repertoire, for cello and piano. These were my instruments, and their music had never been dependent upon an orchestra to be realized. For every symphony, composed by any and all of those already performed, there were several corresponding works for solo, duo, trio or quartet. A piano accompanist for decades (Creston; Brahms; Ibert; Hartley; Hindemith; Mozart; Beethoven, Shostakovich, et al) , I had never even covered the sonata repertoire; a musical freak, beyond R. Strauss and some Boccherini I had also never performed the solo repertoire for cello. One could spend a decade on Bach, or Chopin, alone!

Yes. Suddenly, an orchestra seemed confining. Always led by a conductor, a musical director, all programming dictated. Rehearsals, scheduled by those in charge of its calendar. I’d longed to wake up each day with music I alone had chosen to play; but, instead, there was always, it seemed, the next folder filled with material to be conquered. The cello part, so much of it non-melodic; sometimes, as many as 65 pages in one concert (one Mahler symphony’s cello part is over 35 pages!)  Endless notes, uncompensated private hours, all requiring collaboration to make musically complete. If I returned to all that, I might reach my final breaths never having touched the rest of the music!

Last Sunday, Yo-Yo Ma presented in their entirety the six suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Bach, on the stage at Blossom. He had likely been honing each movement of all these for the better part of his lifetime. There he was, alone on that massive stage, dwarfed by its majestic teakwood shell. And, there had to have been between ten and fifteen thousand people, nearly a half mile wide, in his audience.

Had Mr. Ma not chosen to submit to these masterworks, he might have endured a certain regret. I, however, am certain of this: he likely never missed the relentless docket of orchestral folders. Not for a minute.

I can just hear Louie’s voice. I can see his bright smile. He’d be shaking his head, with a chuckle. “Rootie”, he’d say, with so much love. “You can do whatever the hell you want.”

And, so I shall. With absolutely no regret.

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©  8/15/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo        All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for listening. Stay tuned.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Uncle George O’Keefe.

Some men just stand alone.

George O’Keefe was an instantly recognizable American Irish. He’d been born in Erie, PA but never spent hardly a day in any run of the mill fashion. Devout, one might say precociously, as a young boy, while other kids rode bikes or played army this kid stood on the steps and played church, preaching to his sisters’ dolls.

Amen.

And, lest one think him a shirker, George had perfect attendance at public school. For 12, solid years.

Mum met him when he took up with her sister, Frances.

As a very young man, he’d prove traits like constancy. Our grandfather, Pappy, loved to tell the story. George would always reappear, at the door, no matter the misunderstanding or disagreement. See, George was hooked – on God, his Savior Jesus, and Fran Sweet – and, he never looked back. Not once.

Defying virtually all other Irish, not a drop of alcohol could be found at his table, unless he had just poured out the wine for Communion. Then, it was the sacred blood of the Lord. He knew this, like he knew his own reflection in the mirror.

George would marry Frances, and move to Spartansburg PA and then to Clendenin, WV. His bright bell tenor rang out everywhere he went – whether founding Bible study classes or camps, or playing outside with his children no matter the season. Becky, the eldest, said he was up at dawn every day, making breakfast for the whole family and packing each lunch for school. And, even into his late 70s, still water skiing, fishing, and hitting the racquetball courts.

Beyond all this, his influence extended into the lives of countless others. One of these was my father.

Dad had met mum on a train, during R & R from the US Army. The week he decided to travel to Erie, to check out her digs, George and Frances were on hand.

Calling the Bible a comic book, Dad had no use for the obvious brand of Christianity he would confront as he stepped foot into the home of Henry and Mae Sweet on 29th Street. Mammy, the first to hand Dad a small New Testament, set about praying for his conversion; Pappy, the hardliner, was sure this WOP was a lost cause, gruffly declaring:  “He’ll never be saved”.

But, George O’Keefe was also in the room.

And, the day Dad decided to propose marriage to Mum, he’d set his shrewd little ducks in a row; praying the “sinner’s prayer” aloud, he managed to convince Pastor George O’Keefe that he meant business.  And, George, filled with the kind of faith that gave even the hardest sinner the benefit of the doubt, was more than ready to believe it. In fact, he rejoiced; when Mum and Dad got hitched, George O’Keefe “married” them.

Two years in, Mum was pregnant and Dad’s cover was blown. He’d admitted to one of his customahs in the bahbuh shahp that he was “tired of the charade.” When Mum found out, he had no choice but to divorce her.

Ten years into that chapter, God finally made His move. Drawing Dad into the church of a family friend, Pastor LeBeau, the Almighty spoke the Gospel to him one more time. So convicted was Dad of his sins that he walked out of that service and drove to Cleveland, in search of a Burlesque show to distract his heart.

That lasted about twelve minutes.

Back to Erie, into his small one room apartment, Dad dug out his New Testament and read all the verses which Mammy had underlined for him. This time, he prayed in earnest, and repented, and accepted Jesus as his Savior. And, then he told Mum.

George O’Keefe, almost as happy as she was, rejoiced once more. And, George married them all over again, the second time – performing this ceremony in the living room of the new house they would call home for the next 50 years.

In 1995, Mum was stricken, for the second time – with cancer. This time, the disease was in her brain, and terminal. After a mere five and a half weeks, she lay in a hospice bed in the room I had always called mine growing up – mute, the tumor having taken her speech entirely.

Those closest to Mum had come to visit, if they could. Among them, her youngest sister, ending an estrangement that had lasted for years. Then, early one evening, Frances and George drove in from their cottage on Lake Chautauqua.

Mum’s face had taken on the shape of the tumor’s affect. Her mouth, drooped to one side. Her eye, nearly closed. George and Frances walked into the room, and George leaned down close to her ear.

In his bright, bell tenor, with that ever present, big broad grin, George told Mum a joke about a horse. The joke, and its punchline, would be lost to the ether but Mum, as soon as she heard it, burst out laughing – the laugh of recognition, indeed of comprehension, in a rush of affirmation. And, her number ten smile flashed across her face, obliterating completely any sign of palsy or paralysis.

Then, her eyes closed and she went to sleep, never to wake again. By morning, the sun streaming in through the windows, Mum had released her spirit and was gone from the earth.

But, Uncle George had brought the gift of his presence into the room. He’d provided us one more glimpse of our mother, before death came to take her body.

This past Sunday, Uncle George passed away. He was 98 years old. And, he left with that same broad smile on his face.

Thank you, Uncle George. Thank you for being such an important part of our family and the far more inclusive family of God. When the voice of the archangel heralds the trump of God, we’ll be ready to rejoice with you for all eternity.

 

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   4/11/18

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There You Are.

 

Once you enter into the life of an addict, you are there. Not only are you there, but you might often find that you are no longer here.

Here is where only you are. But, you are no longer. A barnacle, superglued to the other, not sucking life but giving, your purpose becomes it.

Every time you try to extract, the primordial ooze of regret suffocates you like a stagnant oil spill. You are sure that, without your presence, the addict’s return to dissolution will be far worse than the time before, perhaps tragically. So, you return, just to make the sludge drop off before you shower.

And, then you go to Al Anon. Al Anon is where everybody goes who can’t leave. And, they sit around, and follow all the rules of the meeting, and bite their lips during the droners and chew their tongues when somebody cries out for an answer. And, when it is finally your turn, you know full well that everybody else is either biting it or chewing it but you adopt the mantle of denial just long enough to say your piece so that your face doesn’t come off your head and melt under the lights.

Being at Al Anon serves one purpose. It helps you accept that, from within your particular demographic, there are between nine and twenty two other hapless partners and spouses whose lives are as inextricably caught as yours is.

There are two ways people exit these meetings. They either bolt out as quickly as they arrived, or linger interminably, usually gathered around the latest newcomer. When you are the newcomer, you experience a few minutes of comfort realizing that the rules of the meeting can be bent just long enough for some actual human contact.

Thirty eight minutes later, legs crossed in a standing position, you still haven’t shaken off the last, most desperate proselytizer, the one whose week was by far the most traumatic. That one really needs you. Without you, at least in symbol, the meeting will have been meaningless.

When you finally get into your car, momentary relief that you can finally go floods your being. And, this going is of the highest value. By leaving the meeting, you have performed the only true act of departure you’ve made all week.

And, you drive away.

At this point, you have two choices.

You can keep driving. Or, you can return to the arms of the addict, who waits anxiously for you.

And, everybody knows where you will go.

You go back. You go there, because that is where you are. Even when you leave, you are still there.

There you are.

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© 4/4/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

Lone Hometown.

 

“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it”  – Winston Churchill.

Just spied that as the heading to another WordPress blogger’s post, of this day. Hoping, at the moment, that the other blogger won’t mind the borrow; Churchill’s words are just too illuminating a heading for that which must be said here, as well.

No, dear readers, friends, enemies who also read. I do not intend to write history.

In this, my hometown, my options for shaking the earth have diminished to nearly nil.

Why? Because, in this blog of well over 500 essays and poems, whether the reader wants to hear about them or not all my sins are confessed. Before you, I am unafraid. I defend only truth.

This is a challenge to the actions of those who render the vulnerable both implicated or condemned. The late Fr Mike Annis, beloved man of God and brilliant mind, told me my ability to read others was uncanny and that I should be careful to avoid alienating until trust was established. This has been a difficult charge. But, I have learned, approaching the age of 61, that some people – for reasons driven by unspoken motive – will not be trustworthy. It is these I have sought to expose, in an attempt to nullify the power they wield over those they seek to control.

But in this, my hometown, there will be those whose sphere of power will just grow larger. The truth will be buried by their actions. Because, as soon as these are challenged, all their energy will be spent contriving ways and means with which to discredit the truth teller. And, with enough resources at their disposal, they might silence the lone voice.

Yes. Sometimes, too many become convinced that the story they have been given is the truth. Famous words: if a lie is repeated enough times, it becomes a truth to those who accept it.

At this juncture, perhaps you, my reader, can relate. Perhaps you, too, have held a truth all alone. Perhaps you have watched those who would have rallied in support of your veracity retreat toward those who have nefariously captured their trust. Perhaps you know the isolation.

At moments like this one, faith is the only buoy. We really do find faith when all else has failed us – all people, all circumstances, all events, all hopes or dreams.  I am convinced, now, that faith is far more than the substance of things hoped for or the evidence of things not seen; beyond this, faith is further evidence that humanity carries within its collective soul an ultimate gravitation toward the higher Spirit. We do not seek that Spirit often – only at moments of absolute finality, when all else has truly failed.

I may very well carry to my grave the truths which burden my heart, today. But, my Creator knows exactly what they are, and in that source of the truest power I forever place all my trust.

To the rest, I say: go forth, and write the history you intend for the world to believe. Most of the history books of the past seventy five years are being revised, as we speak. Apparently, the truth they should have contained is only finally coming to light.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   4/3/18    All rights those of this author, who speaks the truth, and whose name appears above this line. May God strike down all evil forces, everywhere, which rise up in protest.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

KEEP YOUR MONEY.

URGENT:

Dear beloved members of the Erie Chamber Orchestra audience: KEEP YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY.

Via a letter mailed to all patrons of the ECO, Gannon University is luring contributions. Do NOT give any money to Gannon, on our behalf! The money they receive will not come to us; it will be redirected to another, distinct entity.

Our ECO manager just told me, in print, that there are sufficient funds in our ECO budget to completely cover the cost of our final concert in April. Any money you send to Gannon, at this time, will therefore be considered “surplus”, and THAT money will never reach us.

I have that information, straight from the horse’s mouth.

The whole thing smells of some attempt to bolster funding for the hand-off initiative created by Gannon which, on the surface, appears to sustain the “dream” of Bruce Morton Wright. It doesn’t; rather, it sidelines the vast majority of his orchestral musicians, indeed the entire orchestra, selecting only the handful from within it who already have contracts with the other orchestra. Bruce was fiercely loyal to each and every one of his musicians, and eliminating even one of them from any effort which takes his name is nothing short of blasphemy.

By the way, citing Bruce’s historical role on the Board of the other orchestra is also deliberately misleading; disaffected, Bruce withdrew from that Board, years and years ago.

So, stop.

KEEP.YOUR.MONEY.

Wait for the actual Erie Chamber Orchestra to provide you the information you may seek. Attend our final concert, April 28th. We’d love to see you!

Thank you.

 

Sincerely,

Ruth Ann Scanzillo, principal cellist

ERIE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA

member since 1986.

 

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   3/21/18

littlebarefeetblog.com

A Year in Erie.

 

Tom Atkins is holding forth, on JET/FOX/ERIE, the latest weather forecast. Given tonight’s projections, our home town that time forgot might just jump into the national hot lights.

Seems we could break the all time record for 200 inches of the white stuff.

200 inches.

In one winter.

(Yes; around here, Punxsatawney Phil’s shadow notwithstanding, we will winter until the bitter end.)

Spring will arrive, according to the vernal equinox, sometime next week. But, Erie, PA is set to capture yet another snowfall, 8pm tonight through 8pm Wednesday night, 10 more inches that could blanket the already frosted landscape. Plus, another shot coming Thursday evening into Friday morning. It could happen.

But, take a moment.

Consider this.

Erie is known, already, for far more than snowfall in inches. And, the scope of its offerings could astonish you.

First of all, let’s look at the landscape.

Projecting out onto Lake Erie, one of the region’s most spacious state parks, the Presque Isle peninsula, boasts eleven public [public] beaches, complete with sunbathing, swimming, sailing, yachting, and skiing, as well as nature trail hiking, a family campground, bicycle path around the entire 13.4 miles, a nature center, lagoons for canoeing and paddleboating, the Oliver Hazard Perry Memorial, endless picnic groves and, nestled at its interior – a houseboat community!

Directly ahead of the entrance to the park, and careening overhead, the Ravine Flyer – a major rollercoaster – one of numerous amusement park rides, concessions, and arcade attractions at Waldameer Park.

And, the cherry on top? Sara’s, Erie’s 1950’s retro ice cream stop, featuring foot long Smith’s hotdogs with all the trimmings.

For evening, or other afternoon fare, try the Erie Seawolves, a pro baseball team at UPMC Park; a pro hockey team, the Erie Otters, and pro basketball, the Erie Bayhawks, at the Erie Insurance Arena; some 20! dance companies; more than one symphony; at least 5 (FIVE!) world class civic theatres; one of three of the original operational Warner Theatres; Jr’s Last Laugh, the comedy club; the fabulous Erie Art Museum (housing several thousand works in its collection); at least 10 art galleries; A Poet’s Hall; two Indy film societies; the Erie Zoo; LECOM – the largest Osteopathic medical school in the nation – and, 3 universities complete with their own collegiate offerings open to the public.

Hungry?  For every ethnic group ever populating this port city turned industrial turned vacation destination, there is a top notch dining experience. Latino’s, for authentic Mexico City fare; Cloud 9 Wine Bar; Mi Scuzi, Calao’s, and Serafini’s, only three of a multitude of Italian full course sit downs; Like My Thai, for the real Asian taste; Tandoori Hut, for Indian; and, Pineapple Eddie’s, for Caribbean. These are just a handful of remarkably high quality eateries literally too numerous to mention in one travelogue.

Thirsty? For wet: The Ale House. Jekyll & Hyde’s. The Plymouth. Two Public Houses. And, Brewerie, where a plethora of handcrafted beer holds court. Et al. For dry: The Juice Jar, or our Whole Foods Co-op. Et al, et al. ‘Nuff said?

But, here’s something else. The design layout of Erie is Philadelphia grid style. This means a geometry of symmetry. Anywhere you want to go, from the Polish/Russian/German/Irish/African American/Middle Eastern East side to the Italian/Puerto Rican/Mexican/Greek west, you can clock any trip within 10 minutes. And, easy access means increased options –  for a weekend packed with more events and encounters with friends and family than most metropolitans can manage in ten days.

In fact, actor Tom Hanks liked us so much, he made a movie here, “That Thing You Do”.

So, suppose you get displaced. Or, you just need to make that jump.

Do this thing. Spend one year in Erie. Erie, Pennsylvania. If, after 365 days, you don’t feel like settling into the plushest comfort of All [waterfront] American cities, you can go.

But, you’ll never know unless you come to town and find out.

We’ll be here, like we’ve been for over 200 years, still reinventing what’s always been the best thing about living. We’d love to have you.

And, a year means you’d still be around for the first snow.

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copyright 3/13/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  Share liberally. Thanks!!

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

He Won’t Feel.

 

 

He won’t feel the gut slash.

He won’t feel its cut.

He won’t feel the grieving

He’ll say something, but

His words will have meaning

Only for him

Because that which I feel will

Mean nothing to him.

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I don’t know what love is

But, bonding is true

And, devotion is proven

In all that we do.

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We commit through the actions

Mere words can’t decry

And, the thoughts which inform them

Catch wind, and then fly

In the face of denial

Determined to prove

That the feelings they carry

Can make a heart move.

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But, hearts are not subject

To forces of will

They do what they must do

Until they are still.

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© 3/11/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or part, permitted. Thank you!

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Blessed Assurance”.

 

The boy had a mouth on him.

He was the shortest, darkest, angriest trumpet player I had ever seen. Furthermore, his embouchure (through no fault of his own) had never been properly set and his tone, well, that’s what happens when your embouchure hasn’t been set right.

But, there was something in him. He had a deep, inborn sense of the good. He had principle. And, this combination produced a student of such determined commitment, a young man who put forth with every cell in his body to produce. I was merely the music teacher – a scant, 29 year old, belated second year fledgling – and this guy had convinced his impassioned concoction of underprivileged, underserved, and undertrained in the East High marching band to vote “Yes” to compete. I had my work literally cut out for me – by John Jefferson.

The first solution seemed to be a transfer to the F horn. This instrument’s conical bore mouthpiece would allow an easier tone production, in an alto range. John took to it. He learned the solo. I felt my first small triumph.

But, this, of course, was short lived. John spoke out. From the top tier of the bandroom at the end of the annex, he’d answer me back, in full on challenge, and loud enough for the whole room to hear. He was the alpha male, and I needed to know my place.

As for the next decision, I can remember neither the day nor the hour. I only knew that John needed to be out front. He needed to lead. And, that is exactly where I put him. By the end of his first season as a sophomore, John Jefferson was East High drum major.

The whole uniform fit him like the glove on his right hand. The epaulets were never more proud to grace any shoulder. But, most of all, John could finally assume the position he was born to take. John Willis Jefferson could stand, stock still – chin up, eyes fixed – at attention. And, John Willis Jefferson could salute.

The band did their absolute best. I always regretted that the association in charge of the competitions never produced a trophy for Most Developed Ensemble, because my kids deserved a big one. Nevertheless, led by John and his cohorts Shawn and Melanie, the students faltered not once. They just held up their heads .

John graduated from public education during my final year at his high school. The district would move me, against my will, across town to fill a vacancy, and I would never see either him or the rest of the students who would call me “mom” again.

That is, not until one, singular occasion.

Via the blessing of social media, I had been reunited with several former students. Naturally, one of the first to find me was John. Except that he had produced quite a life story – married, to Mindy, and the father of at least two of his three boys. But, about to realize more of that story, quite without warning I received news of an upcoming event: a 20th Class Reunion.

I’d been to several. In fact, every five years, my classmates from Academy High had dutifully taken on the enormous task of bringing us all together for dinner and more.

But, John.

John didn’t just tell me about his. John invited Miss Scanzillo to the East High 20th Reunion of the Class of 1990.

He was hosting, he said. Would I please come? They would be honored by my presence.

To my memory, no teacher had ever attended a high school class reunion. Certainly none of my former teachers were ever present at any of mine – not the 5th, the 10th, the 15th….you get the picture.

The night of the event, I thought perhaps I should appear low key. Clad in a casual, soft summer top and capris, I slipped into Calamari’s Squid Row. The doors opened into a full diningroom draped in white linen. A grand buffet spread across the front, covered in decorative stainless steel. And, presiding at the head of the long, formal room was: John Jefferson.

Master Sergeant John Jefferson, US Air Force.

In full dress.

The red and grey drum major’s costume had been replaced by the dark woolens of the United States Military, Sgt Jefferson’s chest emblazoned with three rows of colored ribbon and precious medals. I was beyond stunned.

Finding a discreet seat at one of the table rounds, I set my gaze on our John. He spoke as loudly as ever before, but with a refined speech, a grace, and a carriage that made my heart well up. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.

We kept in touch, after that. Facebook chat was a great place to convene, no matter where he was deployed. He’d check in, from Iraq, Afghanistan….and, always, the sign off: “I love you!”

See, something else had happened to John.

During the first year he and Mindy became a couple, they had both committed their lives to Jesus Christ. Now, not everyone will know what that means to those about whom such an act bespeaks. But, to the faithful, becoming a born-again Christian is what happened to John. This meant that, like my father before him, John accepted a life changing force into his heart. They called this the Holy Spirit, and to this Spirit’s direction and counsel both men would vow to remain true.

John and I continued, now familiar references to prayer and faith peppering his dialogue.

Life marched on, past another decade of Veteran’s Days. Twenty five more years, to be nearly precise. My adored father passed on into eternity, age 95, and I retired from public school music education. Then, word came to me that John and his family were coming back to Erie for another visit. Would I please join them all, for dinner?

Overjoyed, I met the entire family – at Chic-Fil-A. The boys were sweet, quiet (like their mother!) and polite. John talked of his travels and experiences, of meeting President George W Bush; I marveled. Mindy and I met, for the first time, that day – and, before we ate, John bowed his head and publicly asked the blessing for our food.

Last October, (could it be?) John had reached a life milestone. Now Senior Master Sergeant, he was set to retire from the US Air Force. Twenty six years of devoted service to his God and country. A full military ceremony was scheduled, at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. On Facebook, the word went out as an open invitation.

It only took me a couple days to decide.

I flew in. Mindy met me, at the gate, to grant guest of family passage. High security, all around. Miles of real estate, devoted to air power, air men and women, and their commander. I was introduced to the latter, in the office where SMSgt Jefferson had been spending most of his time. A gracious civilian base employee chauffeured me all around the grounds, allowing me a few select photos.

And, then the ceremony. Getting a bear hug from John was the icing on the cake, or so I thought. But, then John’s colleague, a Major, stepped to the podium.

What followed was a litany of awards and accomplishments so vast that I could not contain the realization. John hadn’t just devoted his life to service; he had positively excelled. Officer of the Year. Medals for this, and medals for that. A contract officer, SMSgt Jefferson had, near as I could tell, managed millions of dollars of military monies over two decades of military action across the globe.

The celebration was surreal, a fascinating trek through life passing before one’s eyes. His insisting that I sit “with the family”, me stubbornly resisting that “order” so as to get my choice photos, I sat on the officers’ side. The formal presentation was followed by John’s individualized “thank you’s”. I received the final, single red rose, and words of gratitude which could only be overtaken by those of my own; this old music teacher just had to make sure everyone in the room knew that John had begun his career out front, directing the East High Marching Band. Always a leader, always an outstanding man, from the beginning.

Then, the final occasion.

Last week, I would receive the last of so many words on my beloved student, the boy who came closer to being my own son than any other child I would ever know. Inexplicably, after a mere two months of retired bliss and following a statistically innocuous routine medical procedure, John would cease breathing; efforts to revive him failing, his brain would swell; by sundown the same day, those in power would declare his brain death and, only hours thereafter on a vent and then off, at the age of only 45 his body would give up its ghost to the God of all believers.

This time, I could not attend.

John’s had been a life so worth celebrating; how could I even acknowledge his untimely and unacceptable death? My best effort was to sit, holding the single rose he’d presented to me, and weep.

The world had become, in large, increasing part, a frightening and sinister place for humans to reside. Nations, rising up against nations; holy wars fast becoming the order of the day. Addiction and apathy, married; deceit and treachery, lurching into the limelight; and, all efforts to revive hope, faith, and charity met by the darkest of demons.

Today, many a Scripture verse from the Book of my childhood speaks to me in solitude, along with the memes on my grandmother’s wall:

“For if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

I hope to God it’s all true.

Because, if ever there were a voice on earth deserving of the realization of its passionately held convictions, that voice belongs to the soul of SMSgt John Jefferson.

And, I can still hear him.

SMSgtJohnJeffersonFinalSalute2018

© photo by Ruth Ann Scanzillo 10/17.

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© 3/9/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  This piece dedicated to the life and memory of SMSgt John Willis Jefferson, of Erie PA. All rights to its contents the strict property of the author, copied only by the author and shared with those who carry respect for its subject.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone’s Gone.

 

CHAPTER 35.

The latest winter weather advisory’s radar put the wall of white about twenty minutes behind her, due northeast, she having just joined the early morning commuters ahead of sun up.

Thirty odd minutes between his and her place dictating how many miles would drain the tank and how much more frequently anymore, the indicator had held just above empty for at least seven miles, it’s warning light only now sending forth the accompanying chime. Bypassing the convenience store, she could make it home on fumes if she coasted the hills. Timing was everything.

Two monster lights, enlarging toward her, passed by heading south. Where to, at this hour? And, that lone white SUV, always parked at the Blue Spruce motel?

Flipping from 60s to 70s and 80s and then back, on the car radio, her ear settled on the familiar strains of the sixth decade of life in the century of her birth. Those songs always brought the scent of varnished wood floors, and noisy feet traveling them, into school and out again past the stacks of galoshes and racks of patrol raincoats in the east foyer; of delicious, pre-pubescent fantasy now only fleeting as she recalled one realization now over four years history. How could he still be alive, diagnosed with COPD so many years earlier? Had she been taken in, yet again, by the wiles of the mind of homo sapien, male?

Steven Greer held some credibility, he with his own history as lead physician to the E.R. Surely one could put stock in his claims of alien life already embedded within society as they had all come to know it. Perhaps her fifth grade crush wasn’t a native of the planet; maybe he possessed some bionic, self healing powers, and the mind to match, gaming the system just like regular earthly citizens. She turned the corner, taking the outer lane’s wide arc, and followed the grade up past the zoo to the next intersection.

More white headlights moved beside her and behind, maneuvered by headless horsemen of the Apocalypse. No voices spoke on the radio anymore, just the songs presetting the stage on their tape loop assigned to the hour. The Kwik Fill was dark. She passed the only high school left in the city, still too early for police vehicles to be parked anywhere on its premises.

The radio moved to MoTown. Dennis Edwards really was Aisha’s father, then. A wife, alleged to have abused him, in the months before his death. She could still recall Aisha’s proud face, hear her magnificent voice. No memory of a mother. Only one car, at the corner gas pump, exhausting angrily at a closed store. Getting home was just a goal; fumes couldn’t hold out much longer. She rolled on, toward the grocer.

Turning into the wide open lot, she wound the car toward and around. Empty gas pumps and their vacant attendant station basked in the hum of dusk to dawn fluorescence. The chime was relentless, now. Out, and right at the signal, to the Country Fair.

Gliding up to the first pump she stopped, and turned off the ignition. 5:27 am, on the dashboard clock. Snow was nowhere. Digital hotdogs and colas polkaed the marquee. The radio sang, alone:

“Everyone’s gone…….to the Moon…….”

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© 2/7/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Happy Birthday, James and Sierra.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

The Difference.

 CHAPTER 32.
The sheets and blankets rolled into their customary clump again, like a load of laundry waiting to be sorted. There was the top sheet, placed to protect the rest from animal dander; the knit blanket; the small downy; and, somewhere impossible to determine, the sheet intended to cover the body directly – never found, just felt, in a tangle, around the calves.
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At her frustration, he cursed, and tossed them all on top of her, four frozen minutes later getting out of the bed and heading to the kitchen. He was finished sleeping, after all, and it was morning on his day off; five in the morning, but morning in his world, just the same.
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She really had no definition of love, apart from her own experience; as such, it likely differed from everyone elses. When she awoke in her morning, her first thought was usually about what she could do. Might she help clean, or find something else practical that should make all his days off easier before the inevitable return to the grind? Maybe there was a gadget to acquire, or some task she could cover; maybe a food, or a practice, that could increase the quality of his health or environment.
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Then, she’d set about to do it. She’d think about what she could do, for him, and then she’d do it.

Granted, sometimes there was a failure to recognize how he might want to spend a day, or how he might want to do something or have something done. Her desires for him, in conflict with those for himself.

This is how love was expressed toward her, indeed the only way it was ever expressed in her family, and that by the mother; Great-Gramma, Mammy and then mum were ever about doing what would keep the family going – sustained, protected, cared for. It was the definition carried down by her family, and its small, exclusive, Fundamentalist fellowship; a woman, after all, born to serve.

She, however, had inherited at least half of her father’s DNA and he was nothing if not independent-minded. While primitive in scope, he’d much preferred exactly the way HE did things, even when his wife felt differently about either the quality of his efforts or the choices he prioritized.

And, that had been their fifty-plus years together; mum, serving what she determined to be dad’s needs, and he serving himself.

She couldn’t think of a single thing that dad ever did for mum. Ever. Perhaps he’d tried, early on – only to be met by her bitter ridicule of the quality thereof. Yes; that was mum – a child of the Great Depression, who’d been raised to perform tasks for her very survival. There was nobody else who knew how any better than she, and she made sure that everybody knew it.

Now, she could hear him, even with the bedroom door closed, emptying the dishwasher of its cutlery – each fork and spoon, dropping into its slot in the drawer, like water torture during World War II, she envisioned, tightening her arms over both ears. Even in spite of his particular family dynamic – absent biological father, present if abusive step dad – he’d been raised to expect a woman to care for his needs, and to place them at the top of her agenda. Even when he didnt want her to, he still ultimately expected it.

This was generational. Eventually, many women got wise to the fact that, unless they did for themselves, nothing they really wanted out of life would come to them. That was when they began to put aside enough money to buy their own cars, and then their own homes, and to make lives for themselves.

Others continued in the tradition of their forebears, by: attracting the man they’d selected; manipulating him into supporting them; and, getting their needs met through him indirectly without his realizing —  including going elsewhere, behind his back, to get what he could not or would not offer, all within the framework of the life they’d maneuvered for themselves.

But, she was part of the generation of women which broke ground and established separate identities. In her case, truly believing that she would attract a man of such quality that he would actually want an independent female who would share in the load of life. Yeah; that.

That was her generation, and it pretty much left the men who were her contemporaries blindsided; who would be left to care for them, in the manner to which they had become accustomed?

In an effort to feel worthy, her generation of men had become the step-dads of their era. The new step dads – not like those of their own, bitter experience. They’d become the ones who rode in on their steeds, fully armored, ready to love both the single woman AND her brood of offspring left by the deadbeat in his wake. Hence the acronym: SMILF (and, the title of the new Tv show): Single Mother I’d Love to F@$k.

This was hard. The women watched, from inside the houses they’d bought and the full time jobs maintained, as the vast majority of their own men selected “unwed” or divorced mothers instead of independent women to care for and love.

It didn’t surprise her, at all then, that he remained curious about his ex’s daughter, even after the death of the girl’s mother. Neither was she surprised when he became annoyed every time she asserted a need of her own, however small or petty it may have seemed to him.

Unclasping her arms from about her head she shoved away the mound of covers and sat up, her aging, overtired body fighting to right itself. His mattress, designed to absorb the body’s configuration, had no rebound capacity. On this morning, even the bed was no help.

Playing second, third, even fourth – behind the dogs, the cat and the laying hens –  on this morning, her reality had come home to roost. Only she wasn’t home. Not really.  There was an old, displaced farmhouse about eighteen minutes northwest, one she’d acquired at age twenty nine for thirty four five at eight and a quarter fixed; paying on the principal each month, she’d become its owner in just under sixteen years. For her purposes, the location had been ideal; under ten minutes, in any direction, to get anywhere in town. On this morning, still very much the middle of her night, its walls were calling. Her house, her spouse.

She just had to get back to her established domain, and nurture it for herself. Today, she must. She had learned that, in spite of the overwhelm left in its neglected wake, that home was still her own. Her comfort zone wasn’t built for her; judged however by the outside world, she. had. built. it.

Yes, she had built it, just like he had built his own. The difference was: having spent a lifetime waiting for somebody to express as much interest in trying to care for her needs and enhancing the quality of her life as she did for the man for whom she now felt love, per this morning it appeared that she was still waiting.

Perhaps he did truly love her. Maybe tomorrow, she would know. But, even in the cold car, she could already feel it. Her bed. One warm flannel, and a fleece.

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© 11/30/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thanks for being that good person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

“Is love a binder of wounds?

…or, merely a lubricant on a squeaking part?

…..or, an element of transition from rough to gem?……”

——  David Michael Sammarco  ©12/1/17

 

 

 

 

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© 11/30/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo      All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thanks for being that good person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

Tim.

 

Pulling himself out of the driver’s seat he rose up, hulking, above the diminutive walker, a solid 6′ 4″ even stooped over, and trudged forward – the door to the Post Office just ahead beyond a cement incline.

He was immense. Baggy jeans, lumberjack plaid flannel, knit skullcap, sagging grey face enveloping vacant, downcast eyes. His image, apart from the size of him, taking her back to 2009 or 10 and her own father she was, already, at the door – opening it, leaning back against it, standing, waiting with careful, familiar, experienced patience.

As he approached, she offered a calculated greeting, something about pretending to be in New York and having a door(wo)man. No reaction, no response; without looking up, he placed the walker across the threshold and passed through into the lobby.

Her eyes followed him plod toward the glass doors leading to the office counters. Its long, late Saturday morning postal line still testing the space, she quickly stepped up to catch its door for him as well when, without any warning, he spoke. Loudly.

“Come ON, Tim – for ChrisSAKES! What’s TAKING you so LONG?? GET OUT OF THERE!!”

The voice which sprang from his body belied both its countenance and carriage. Gruff, angry – and, directed at somebody almost hidden in the middle of the line.

As if spotlit, the face of Tim turned. Instantly, and deftly, with the intent of one trying not to be noticed at all he slid past the women who had quickly backed up at the sight, and through the door she stood holding, and out into the lobby.

Tim was of medium height, wearing a dark colored Steelers knit hat, short dark blue jacket, dark pants. Approaching middle age, his face was plain, unmemorable, except for the skittish averted eyes when she spoke, eyes which behaved like those of a child who expected to be slapped as a matter of course.

She placed her hand on Tim’s shoulder.

“What’s your name?” she said, automatically.

“…er…Tim!” he nodded, as if to affirm what he’d been called moments before.

“Is he your father?”, she apologized.

“Um, no…….my neighbor….”

She nodded. Slowly. Feeling her forehead contract.

“Bless you”, she said.

Moving to exit the post office, she stepped through the door. Once outside she turned, yet again, gazing back into the lobby….and, re-entered.

The two men stood side by side at the self-serve booth, Tim waiting as his neighbor inserted and received the customary materials for mailing, describing as if rehearsing the proper steps to be taken.

Task completed, they both turned to leave. She, still standing there, looked up again at Tim and asked for his last name. “Lauer”, he pronounced. As they exited the lobby, she continued: “Are you in the phone book?”

“No…!” he turned, swiftly, head down, trying to remain anonymous. She spelled the name. Looking away, he corrected:

“L-o-w-e-r.”

Again: “Bless you”.

Hunched over, Tim headed toward the car. She looked up, facing the Post Office door. The large man was coming toward it. This time, inspired ever and only by every dutiful act branded into her consciousness, she opened the door and stepped back. He looked up at her, brightly, and spoke:

“Oh! Are you the door man?”

“I am, today…” she said.

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© 11/25/17 Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting the creative material of those beneath you in class or station. Be a good person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Opera Wars.

 

 

*AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Periodic Update:  All rights to these pieces at littlebarefeetblog.com, in whole and in part are, unless otherwise specified, strictly those of the author. Thank you for your respect.

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Possibly the most profound gift from the universe to humanity on this earth is the singing voice.

After last night’s presentation of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil Vespers, offered by the combined choirs of Mercyhurst University, the Erie Renaissance Singers, Chautauqua Chamber Singers, and Church of Christ Savior –  masterfully directed by Rebecca Ryan, Andrija Andelic, and Vladimir Gidenko with soloists  Ainsley Ryan and Brandon Miller, any witness concluding otherwise would have to be missing either a cerebral lobe, or a soul.

Rachmaninoff captured the depth of an entire nation’s reverence for its God and Christ, and set as sacrament voices, alone – in polyphonic unisons, in woven harmonies, in unique tonal rhythms and rapturous resolutions – that would forever mark his masterpiece in ironic, final testament to a people who would soon be stripped of their right to worship at all. The result was repeatedly, and increasingly, breathtaking.

A work, of this magnitude, begged a mass choir. And, the many voices came, from four distinct ensembles, so willing to collaborate to make this music a reality.

Morning reflection took me back to the early ’90s and a graduate course in Baroque music, taught by Associate Professor Jeremy L. Smith at SUNY Fredonia.

Now, a good historian will address such a broad topic by constructing a course around highlights that were in some sense pivotal to the development of the style of the period. Smith, in his rich academic wisdom, chose to cover Bach/Vivaldi; castrati; and, the infamous opera house wars.

I was remembering, on this morning, the latter.

If you search the internet, you won’t find anything substantial about the Baroque opera house wars. But, Jeremy L. Smith had his sources. There were two major theaters in Europe during the Baroque era, and they so bitterly competed for pre-eminence that many underhanded and spiteful attempts were made to squelch the other, including paid infiltrators who would make raucous, vulgar and berating sounds throughout their competitors’ productions. One house was even successfully shut down by its opposition! Easy to wonder if the current American political system of “smear” campaigns takes its lesson from this regrettable chapter in history.

In the West, large metropolitan areas have a distinct advantage; should rifts occur within any performance discipline, those alienated by its effects can just move across town, birth new entities, and watch them rise from the rubble. Entire neighborhoods welcome the new asset, their audiences ready, eagerly awaiting. In fact, following the model of organic cell division, this could actually be considered a healthy evolution, one more likely to ultimately preserve the art as life form.

But, small towns have a problem.

If any one inadvertently, unwittingly, or otherwise unintentionally offends, there might very well be no place to go. The gossips, made up of the variously frustrated, powerless, or mediocre, are equally eager, and the news of the offense is their fodder.

Becoming the topic of public conversation only serves to inflate the value of any disagreement or misunderstanding. Before long, alliances form – usually against the hapless ones who managed to bring the insult. But, because proximity is the issue, the decision to leave the group is far from liberating; rather, those who do merely find themselves outsiders, maligned in their own locale. Any who choose to remain endure the negative energy which imposes upon their efforts.

It is with no small wonder, therefore, that those who use their voices in combined song commit to the enterprise without rancor. In reality, singing well requires a mind in congruence with the body which bears it; animosity in the heart can only produce a shrill and ego-driven outcome.

This is not what anyone heard coming from the combined choirs on Sunday night. The one hundred twenty voices were one strong, students of music, adult amateurs and professionals, people of all persuasions unified by purpose, melded by Rachmaninoff’s masterwork, mobilized by the devoted heart and determined spirit of Rebecca Ryan. In such a place of communing unity, a true chorale emerges – the singular voice of the created, manifesting its Creator’s song.

In such a place, no war of any kind is possible.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  5/16/16   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

Promming.

[*Note: The use of the adjective “sudden” appears without prior knowledge of its similar use in a published poem by my friend, Anna Rose Welch] 10/14/15

A rainbow of sequins shoots across the grey landscape of split-levels, flats, and bungalows.

Too early in the season for fireflies. Just another evening in spring for most everyone….maybe a movie at home, some goodies, a game.

Ah.

No.

Tonight is Prom.

And, the empty streets are budding.

Sudden boys in stiff tuxes, girls balancing on stilettos at the edges of tired sidewalks, leaning in for the anxious lens of a wistful parent.

Then, off.  Off to the blooming banquet ballroom, spongy carpet waiting to test the heels, brocaded corners settling in for the clusters of nervous children staring dolefully toward the dance floor.

Regal table rounds, draped with welcoming linens, ready to class the cliques and comfort the outcasts and soothe the swollen feet.

Noisy chattering over the relief of electronic sound emanating from the bandstand, not hearing anything intelligible, not caring. Laughing, just because.

Eyes glistening over icing on tiny cakes, licking fingers. Furtive glances across the chasm at the king and queen’s court, wondering how many minutes before all the chairs are empty. More chatter. More indefinability.

Photos, all. Phones, and photos. Poses, as many as Barbie and Ken could configure on the playroom floor. More songs from the band. Favorite songs. More looks from the DJ, waiting his turn.

Caravans of organza, tulle, crepe chiffon, and faux satin lumbering to the lavatory, clutching palm purses concealing tampons. Tinted mirrors, tugging bodices, mascara wands tracing eyelash tips.

One magnificent Conga line finale, led by the beloved gym teacher everybody knows is gay. No quibbling. No worries. True gaiety.

Trouping to the carpool, hormones at full tilt, sailing up the curb drive into the all-night restaurant. The grand, self-possessed entrance of a wandering circus act.

Mounds of fries and bacon and whipped creme.

Minds, winding down; bodies, wearing thin.

Hearts, hopeful.

Time, gathering its notes for the remembrance book.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

5/16/15  All rights reserved. Prom away.

littlebarefeetblog.com

We Do?

Do we ever feel like one person in our own bodies, but then see ourselves in photos and videos and think: “But…..that’s not who I thought I was?”

Our body language, the way our personalities play across our faces. It’s no small baffle, really. But, I’m talking about something else.

Maybe mine is a preoccupation of sorts, in more recent decades. Say, since 911.

Prior to that tragedy, being the Mediterranean in a room full of standard white people was the norm for me. To some, I was the “exotic” one, meaning of course that, to them, I was different. One guy actually saw me performing from a distance and thought he was looking at a girl straight from the Old Country. He told the conductor he wanted to meet “the woman from Italy”. And, his parents were both Italian. Go figure.

Hah. Ah, well. It was a fun year and a half. Too bad my shabby apartment, grey suede fringed boots, and acute lack of scholarly gravitas put him over the top. I was teaching marching band, for God’s sake; give me a freaking break.

Oh. Both my brothers have since been to Italy, the elder five times or more. The younger went to Rome on his honeymoon. Sure enough, he said: “All the women in Rome look like you. ALL of them.”

Okay, then.

After 911, I began to see something else in the mirror. I profiled myself, and was found wanting. I had the facial bones of a suspect.

Invigorated by regular summer travel, I’d been across much of Europe (though, not Italy) most recently for a third round to Scotland in August of that same year. Now, it was clear; no wonder the little children in Selkirk had stared balefully at me, their unblinking eyes wide with fear. I did not board a plane thereafter until 2006.

Now, as our American society becomes increasingly global in its representation, the Millennials seem completely immune to any effect from categorical differences. Whereas we from their parents’ generation notice Asians, Middle Easterners, and other fairly new nationalities as soon as they walk through a door, these kids never seem to look up. Or, if they do, the subject is addressed and dispensed with in some fleeting informality (“Are you, like, Thai? Okay. That’s cool.”) most probably because, among any group of six or more, there is likely to be a greater mix of types than ever before.

My problem, yes, so it is, might likely be related to having grown up surrounded by Anglo Saxons, never associating with my Dad’s side of the family. Being the brown one. Being the odd one. The boys took after mum. Being the only one.

In fact, I have a dear cousin I hadn’t seen in probably 15 years who, seated beside me at a family wake, kept repeating rather self-consciously: “You really look Italian.”

Hmm. Okay?

For all of these reasons, postulates, theories I see images of myself, and the first thought that takes shape is: ” I look like the girl whom many people don’t trust. I look like the villain. Hard, severe, and type-cast in my own body.”

For starters, people around this town, for multiple generations, saw a dark toned Medi and thought: “Roman Catholic, west side, multi-generational family; probably Sicilian, or Calabrese. Somebody’s niece. Father worked for the city.”

All wrong.

[Former] Sectarian Fundamentalist, east side, second generation; mom’s side indoctrinated English, nobody’s niece anymore. Dad was a barber, from Boston, and his father was Napolitan. Didn’t know what gnocchi was until I bought my house on the west side.

Wrote a short poem years ago. It’s in my original poetry; you can find it. “Ode to the Ethnic Child.” That’s actually the second title. The first one was: “Ode to the Unwanted Child.” Yeah, well. Changed it, when I thought such a moniker wouldn’t sell. I’m shrewd like that.

Oh, and just to deflect that percentage of the readership that is poised to find complimentary ways to respond, I’m really not addressing relative attractiveness. This is about what makes people feel warm, secure, safe, comfortable.  For all their attributes, “exotic” and “ethnic” to those who are neither, well, they don’t make that cut, do they.

See, the term “ethnic” has undergone its own evolution. Some social factions think the term applies to black folks. Still others think it must include Latinos. Really, “ethnic” to these people applies to any nationality not already appearing in their own DNA.

[ insert winking smiley icon]

As for “exotic”, many shop at Pier I because they want to add a certain element to their decor. More drama; striking texture; the unexpected image. To them, that’s exotic. Imports. These bring it.

(No surprise to anyone, I love Pier I. Feels like home, to me – !)

The interesting thing about the exotic element is, were people to be brutally honest and open they’d have to admit that decorating their entire home in exotic images, shapes, textures, and elements might just make them feel, well, a tad uncomfortable. Exotic elements are meant for accent pieces, or that one, relatively small room featured when they entertain.

Touche. Like the court jester, trotted out to amuse the King.

Now, all this would be a benign yawn were we not talking about a real person with, allegedly, a soul and a mind, a heart, feelings and, that load, needs. But, we are, see? We’re talking about a girl. With a look that didn’t match who she thought she was when she entered a room. With a presence that still might leave all kinds of misleading impressions in her wake.

In fact, this might be one of the reasons I started this blog. Beginning with those in closest proximity and reaching all the way across the planet, I sought to dispel myths. Myths, first, about myself, and then well beyond merely me to reach all those baseless suppositions that push people apart instead of bringing them together.

We, perhaps instinctively, seek our own. And, we self-segregate. Yes, we do. It’s about familiarity, which is synonymous with comfort. We don’t call ourselves bigots, because we don’t feel like bigots, and we certainly aren’t prejudiced because we hate prejudice and self-loathing is not healthy.

To one extent, I might be the only formally Caucasian woman who understands how black folks feel in American society. Or, the newest of Middle Eastern immigrants. Not because I have a rich Mediterranean heritage, because I actually don’t; my father was displaced from his immediate family at birth, remotely connected to them thereafter, and absolutely none of the customs of the Italian American were ever a part of my life.

How I do relate with these is as one who appears to be different. I know how it is to be superficially accepted, to be gently patronized, to be called “striking” (please stop), to be kept, ultimately, at arm’s length – just beyond the mainstream of power and influence. You know, like the “ethnics” in the perceived majority of American society.

Perhaps actors are the only group immune to all this agonizing self-examination. They probably take a frank look at their faces and body language in some Movement or Characterization class, acknowledge their “type”, and proceed to compile their qualifications into a series of head shots and demos. They learn to believe Who They Can Be and, by some mercy, can forget who others might think they are.

Maybe this is why, for all my life, I have been so transfixed by thespians. You know, the ones who can put on a thousand masks and be whatever their role asks of them. Who can enter any room at any given moment, and bring whatever they choose to be. I can’t imagine where they go for trust, or comfort, or any sense of reality. Perhaps they are as protective of their own as the rest of us, and place a premium on their families. But, beyond this, at least they have a community of distinctive and disparate individuals, all under the same tent – clowns, tragic heroes, buffoons, tyrants, ingenues, matrons, sages. Like the children of our generation, they look past type and see one another.

Can we do this, too?

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  3/22/15; edited 7/12/18

all rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you.

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