Endurance.

 

The other day, I saw a photo of a teacup.

No; not an English collectible.

A dog.

Some tiny furball, with stubby, fuzzy legs, bounding around with the sheer joy of being alive. In a still photo, no less. Irresistible Factor: 10+

Yes; I adore dogs. And, bunnies. Guinea pigs. Soft creatures, that bring warmth and devotion. Dogs, especially, because they embody emotion.

I remember Nero.

Nero was actually a female, rescued by my brother from the backseat of a junked car at the local dump. A whole litter, she’d come to him first. Tail bitten off halfway. Rump that wiggled with the tail. Face like a doe. Love at first sight.

She was his, until we as a family inherited her from him when, relocating to an apartment near Cleveland State to finish his PhD, he couldn’t take her with him. Thereafter, she was “our dog”, and my Neebs.

I won’t ever forget Neebs. On her fateful day, she met me, by the back steps, like she did every time I bounded inside upon returning from my night shift at the Greek dinor. Teeming with readiness to chase the stick, she was. Customarily, I’d toss it for her a few times, and watch her tear across the yard, falling all over herself to capture and bring it back for another round.

On that day, I remember looking at her and hastily saying something about not having time, the look on her face branding in my memory.

I’d found her, later in the afternoon, beside the house on a shaded patch, panting, her belly swollen. Attempts to get available family members to lift her and take her to the vet were met with scoff and dismissal. Fatal hours passed; by morning, a phone call bore the news: the vet had diagnosed a flipped stomach, and surgical intervention was impossible, something about the weekend and scheduling. Nero died, likely a horribly painful death, and without any of us there to hold her.

I cried for three days.

And, I did not forget that grief.

In the solitude of advancing life, we hear even more about the value of owning a pet. Therapeutic affect: heart rate; blood pressure; state of mind. And, I don’t doubt any of it.

If I were to cave and get a dog, I’d probably get a teacup. Tiny enough to live in the house and run in the small yard. Yes; I would fall hopelessly, deeply, and irrevocably in love with my teacup.

But, life expectancy under normal, healthy circumstances is probably fifteen years at most, for a lapdog. And, owning a dog takes endurance.

Endurance requires stamina. Emotional as well as physical. We have to be capable of accepting that the life of a dog is terminal. The day we let that creature into our lives, we have to be able to say goodbye.

I’ve said many goodbyes. Grandfather, grandmother. Uncles, aunts. Mum, and Dad. Former loves, a couple of them tragic.

The world today requires of us a massive stamina. We have to process increasing, encroaching violence. We have to cope with a state of fundamental uncertainty in global conditions. We have to endure.

My stamina extends about as far as my position from the TV. Beyond that, it’s all I can do to conserve sufficient energy for the life I embody.

Don’t ask me to endure the love, and loss, of a teacup.

I wonder how long we’ll live before we all lose the ability to say goodbye.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  8/26/16   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. To all dogs, everywhere, the loved, the lonely, the lost: Happy National Dog Day.

 

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

Figuring.

FigureGesture2016FigureRear2016FigureRearStanding2016FigureRearEnd2016FigureSeated2016First3minGesture2:2016

FigureFacingRear2016

Conte and pressed charcoal on newsprint

All gestured images the original renderings of blog author, Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  8/25/16  All rights reserved. Please do not share images either independently, or as a blog post. Everybody wants increased traffic to their blog sites; should you direct viewers and readers to my site, I’d be grateful. Thanks.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

Tripling in the Pit.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

She’d spent the better part of the night before just stunned and hurt. It was that email.

Then, last night, deciding to push away all that to think about other things, other people. There were the other concerns, after all. ( Like imminent loss of a nearly thirty year stint playing cello, celesta, and harp cues for the ballet.) (Good luck finding her replacement, she’d thought bitterly.)

So, tonight, to tell the story.

***

Her conclusion had finally come. Any pain, embarrassment, or other unpleasant emotion felt was the fault of her own projection.

Not projection of Self. Projection of notions. About him, onto him.

First, the flattery had caught her. You know, “salient writer”, and all that. Gushing praise. Still gullible, after lo, too many years. Still a sucker for the old Verbal Veneration.

Then, the long, earnest messages about how wonderful life was now, how rewarding living could be, and all the photos of him, smiling into the camera. She’d hardly known what to think.

What she’d actually thought was that, finally, here was somebody who could maybe care for her.

So, of course, she’d begun to ascribe to him all the Glowing Attributes.

Radiant Optimism.

Lightness of Being.

(Dang. Did those whining stage moms know what they’d done to a musical collective that had been meeting every Christmastide to present Tschaikovsky’s gorgeous masterpiece?) (Disbanding their annual holiday “reunion”, for Christ’s sake?)

And, noting his slip up, on two occasions, referencing some sort of test passing on the Mate Front. All his talk of being “happily single” sliding into a neat slot, to be addressed later. She knew what was really happening; she was being scoped out, gauged, for her Coupling Potential. He really was checking her out.

His lovely mother had seemed genuinely happy to see her, each time she visited. She really believed it to be true.

(And, where was the loyalty toward committed musicians, anyway? Had anybody said they didn’t want to play?)

It had taken tracing the patterns of behavior over the past several months for her to finally see. First, warm enthusiasm; then, distance, almost formality. Followed by a sudden declaration of an actual visit, possibly within days, accompanied by detailed, very persuasive descriptors of how they’d spend their time together.

No visit.

And, the long periods of silence, in between.

Interrupted by two, even more surprising, phone calls, a return to Warm and Wonderful.

All culminating in a final, curt, condescending “cool it with the emails”, as if she had somehow transgressed a Set of Rules that had never been laid out.

Not that her personality had ever bowed to anybody else’s, anyway. But, off had gone another whole summer of Hopeful Anticipation, shot dead by a single dictum.

(No matter that many thought the whole thing a shrewd, political move to consolidate power. The fact that familial traditions, and even livelihoods, were being shredded in the process felt far more like a grotesque twist on ethnic cleansing than any alleged “raising of the bar” of performance quality.)

One thing was certain: she had to cease this infernal devotion to fickle, feckless men. Two years of over half a century; no do-over. And, two decades, or more, of foundering in their fomenting wake.

( Good God. Three decades, tripling in the pit.)

Time to raise her life to the third power.

 

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  8/19/16  All rights those of the author, whose story it is (can you play cello/celesta/harp cues?), and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for Applying Within. Now, back off.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

Happy Anniversary.

August 14.

It’s always somebody’s birthday.

And, I think I often forget that.

Today was also the wedding anniversary of R.A. and Paul. Paul was a really fun traveling companion, full of energy and optimistic anticipation. Loved birds, and trails, and fishing and hunting. Took this body all the way up Mt Washington, on foot, in spite of itself. Always eager to face a new day.

Poor thing got stuck married to the wrong woman. Yeah. It happens. People do things, especially when they crack 35 years old. He played the oboe like a pro, with no college degree in music; but, that still never meant that he should be with me.

So, this would have been our 25th anniversary. Maybe there would have been a couple kids. Hopefully, not unhappy, neurotic kids, but there might have been one or two. And, maybe we would have finally gone to Montreal, today, like we should have on our honeymoon. But, life has moved along and Montreal, last I checked, was still intact.

People say single women should just travel alone. There’s a whole world still waiting to be experienced from that singular point of view. And, according to a couple I know who have already been around the globe, there’s a cruise line they take that always has at least one of us on board. To the pure, all things are pure; not my place to question why.

Sigh. Maybe it’s time to plan a sea faring wardrobe. Today could be a really sad day. But, given the number of people who think I have it made, might be time to prove that to them. Or, to myself.

Happy Anniversary. Happy Birthday. Happy Day.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  8/14/16   All rights those of the [single, female] author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your deference.

littlebarefeetblog.com

Oh, Sun.

 

 

Oh, August sun.

You smolder

You cast your flame

And blind us, taunting;

Defiant claim

On all domain

You, source of life

Our withering frame

Your glaring heat

Disparing;

Flowers, fatigued

Straining stems

Not knowing whether to reach

Or cower

Soon

Fall

will send her soothing song

Give it up, sun

Move along.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   8/11/16  All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

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One Dry Sabbath.

 

Well, goodness.

How were we to know that being panned for an entire Saturday in late summer would render this self – involved blogger intensely concerned that she had offended, what, an entire following collective with just one, indirect reference to a specific national heritage*?

Having toyed with taking a more brazen stance, I’d opted instead for a sort of meandering through device and subtlety, just seeing where one word would direct the next. My intentions were almost too much, even for me to face; addressing the whole thing under veil of inference was somehow safer.

So much for safe. Haven’t we been preoccupied by safe, for the better part of the last fifteen years?

I mean, I could have done the simple thing. I could have said that I’d seen a boy again whom I’d adored from a distance at a tender phase of life, a boy who, in genuine appreciation for my having jumped to the Coda precisely when he did, went the extra step and had a bouquet of flowers delivered to his accompanist’s door.

But, that would have been just too naked.

I couldn’t expose a man who’d attended an Ivy league school, been married for years, sired three sons, established a successful professional practice, and then returned home to say goodbye to his father. Rather, waxing on and off and on again about his character, and how it was sourced, with bits about how much I honored him for everything his gesture represented at a time when I couldn’t have known how pivotal such an act would be to me in my own life? That seemed almost worthy.

So, yeah.

I saw a boy again. And, it was nice. And, I wanted it to mean something. But, of course, it could only mean what it was. Just a nice little chat, at his father’s wake. Not some treatise on the comparative theological value of Judaism. Not the apologist’s view of the Jewish character from a Gentile-based mentality. No study of social construct; no mask for ulterior motivation. Just a little visit, with the boy who played Sabre Dance on the xylophone in 1974.

Call me some kind of bigot; I really have no defense. I do not know the meaning of “Anti-Semitism.” If you think you do, then by all means, judge me and cast me off.

Otherwise, have a nice, dry Sabbath evening.

L’chaim.

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*Twelve Pink Carnations.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  8/6/16  All rights those of the Gentile girl who wrote the piece, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line.  Thank you for your mercy.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

Twelve Pink Carnations.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

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This is the kind of thing she writes that her mother tells her must never be written. Her mother warns her that, once you say it, you cannot unsay it.

She’s never quite sure if her mother speaks from her own experience or that of one wayward younger sister, the one who is always getting usurped by her older sister’s righteousnesses. She only knows that, even from the grave, her mother is still speaking. And, she is still hearing. And, still, she is not heeding. Against all her better graces anyway, she proceeds. She writes.

She is neither totally unconscious, nor without conscience. She just knows that Jewish boys are different from her. She gets that their life style choices never quite match those of even the most devout Gentile. Traditions are their life blood; life decisions, therefore, are made according to them. And, so it is that, in both the face and wake of cultural shifts happening even at their elbows, they retain the ability to keep promises. Even for their own sake. Promises are part of their character.

And, character is what drives their identity. And, their identity is Jewish. And, so it goes.

She almost wishes that she could make public even some small claim on their heritage. Lost tribes, and all that. She could swear: even the Mormons at Ancestry.com concede 5 % unknown DNA in every sample. She’d take Ashkenazy; it feels like a fit.

She could never have told them then or now that the Judao-Christians, so small in number, really did adopt many of their sacred values. She could have hardly said that, though the jargon was different, the attitudes were indistinguishable: faith; commitment; loyalty; and, finally, faithfulness – the fulfilling of faith, through commitment to the promise.

But, beyond the commonalities, the Jewish boy had brought traits that craved fulfillment in her. Inquiry. Contemplative thought. A capacity to embody paradox. Intellectual freedom. A spiritual recognition of what is human, and an acceptance thereof.

Now, sitting in the Temple social hall, even at his father’s wake, she feels it. So close, yet so far. He is standing there, seven feet away, forty years hence. Non-locality has nothing on this kind of power.

Coupled with a scant, yet singular memory that embedded her own emerging identity, she realizes that this boy, all those years ago, had managed to brand her. With one, simple gesture of gratitude for an act of her own toward him, he had burned the standard of his character into her skin. And, she still bears that mark, like a tattoo on her heart.

It is with all this vibrating through her being like some trans-dimensional electronic signal that she broaches what her mother has forbidden. She feels ready to throw wide the doors. She could burst with the boldness of it all. After all, she’s written this much, already.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  8/4/16   All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line.   Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

The Altar Call.

 

Well.

Woody Allen is a brilliant storyteller, screenwriter, and director.
And, he’s probably, on some level, a criminal.
Yet, I still love the body of his creative work.
(I mean, seriously. His insights, into American character and human relationship ?)  There is none like him, no; not one.

And, I cannot justify that love. Not with law. Not with anything.
It’s unjustifiable.

Likewise, Hillary Clinton may be guilty. Of many things. So, also, might Donald Trump. Who am I to say?

Speaking only for myself, I must acknowledge that I cannot know.

I can, however, acknowledge that, across all systems in this world of marketing and promotion, there is a level of player, in an anonymous strata, that stops at nothing. It stops at nothing, in the act of promoting its figurehead, grasping, in the hopes of some reward or recompense or even personal promotion. And, through that window of possibility, greed and corruption drop their fecalith. And, in that hardened piece of excrement, a seed is carried. That seed finds soil, and takes root. And, what grows can defy both expectation and imagination.

Now, I also grew up bathed in the shimmer and aura of the Gospel preacher. I learned to believe that the words which poured from the mouth of the great orator were practically inspired by God. I learned to fear the presence of the Holy Spirit, descending upon the throng. And, I learned to shudder, deep within my soul, at the power of the words themselves.

As Americans we’ve all, if our minds were truly unbiased and open, heard the two political gospels this month. The gospel of Trump, and the gospel of Clinton. And, all the little henchpeople, exploited or no, in between. I just hope that God preserves our individual capacities for comprehension, reason, and clarity of thought long enough for us to make our very powerful decisions, each of us distinctly, when the time appointed arrives. May we consider all of our choices both wisely, and informatively, with prudence, humility, and internal calm, for the next rightful leader of the free world. And, if we cannot, then I pray God Almighty makes the next move on our behalf. Lord knows, we’ve never needed Providence like we do now.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  7/29/16    All rights those of the author, whose commentary it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

Diamonds.

 

Oh, Fortuna.

Yes. Karma happens. And, it doesn’t matter which kind you’re due.

At about 1:30 am, steamrolling through the rest of the latent spring cleaning, I spied a Chinese cookie fortune on the floor. Picking it up, I smiled ironically at the sage advice on its face. Then, inspired by the Hershey’s chocolate still coursing through my arteries even at such an hour, creative juices set the ball sliding.

I looked around for my phone camera.

The lighting wasn’t right. It never is, when the flip phone is the device – that d.a.n.g shadow. Squirming into all contortions to get just the right angle and focus, my body must have turned too quickly for the blood sugar. Foot, caught in the loop of the sack holding the water bottles, I lunged – against the Schwinn 26″ cruiser sitting in the middle of my kitchen – and plunged to the floor, face down by the garbage can.

Even tripping over, yes, the Stability Ball (?) last winter was no match for this mess.

Yes. Several days ago, also during deep spring cleaning [Note to Self: back off the internal condemnation about clutter, alrighty then?], I’d unearthed my beautiful diamond engagement ring from amongst the rubble of the past. Wearing it proudly, stubbornly, every day since, I’d only spent a fleeting moment considering the relative propriety of doing so, seeing as my ex-husband had been remarried for years. But, the ring was gold, after all; best to keep such valuables close to the vest.

However, on this morning, the God of the Universe rendered all human logic void against the crystal clarity of illumination. Upon impact with the floor, that diamond – prongs up on my ring finger – made puncturing contact with my face. Through the optic stars, and the stunning silence: blood. All over my hands. Blood, dripping all over the floor.

The sight in the bathroom mirror, in sharp contrast to the usual vanities, was ghastly. Mashing a crispy paper towel against my chin, I tore out the door, down Cherry, around the cemetery and, for the third time in five weeks, across to the ER.

They all know me, over there. Every head followed my moaning face as it floated past. Tick bites, two at once. Garden rake tines, to the ball of the foot. Hives, to the throat. All this, to the people who save the lives of the socially unimportant, the hapless, and the homeless, every day: a night at work. Their stride was set.

Those assigned to my case were born to gentility and compassion. The nurse, who held my hand. The young surgeon’s eyes, deep teal, his manner careful and patient centered. And, the supervising physician, a lord of insight and empathy.

Two hours later: two deft stitches, just under the chin. And, some serious, jaw bruising bone pain.

At least the tetanus shot from the rake attack was still fresh.

Arriving home at 4:36 am, I quietly slipped the diamond off my finger and placed it under the rest of the costume jewelry. Like the nurse said: the marriage hadn’t worked, either.

That photo?

Fortune cookie:

“There is nothing permanent except change.”

Superimposed over:

a pile of coins.

This, my friends, is a case of the artist literally falling for her art.
And, a scar under the chin to nurse for the next six months, just for humility.  Gold, silver, diamonds….earthly fortunes, only for time.

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FortuneCookieFate

CoinsInTheAftermath

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   7/12/16    All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Trust me; you don’t want to steal pain.

littlebarefeetblog.com

Kings.

CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.
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It takes a lot for royalty to comprehend the common man; what ordinary people take for granted is actually uncommon to them.
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Such are the musings of the barber’s daughter this humid evening at the peak of summer on the Great Lake of Erie, as she watches the last private cello student walk out the door after completing the week’s lesson. Time for some uncommon entertainment.
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Donning her hot pink pullover, red yoga pants, Rocket Dog flats, and widebrimmed straw hat, she drives down Liberty Street, across 12th, and right on Cranberry toward the “8 Great Tuesdays” free open concert at the Bayfront Amphitheater, just at the water’s edge.

Her friend Mike Miller on tap, with a pick up band gathered by Erie’s own Eric Brewer to include local wunderkind Hayes Moses, song stylist Brittany Morton from The Groove, vocalizing violinist Abby Badach, cover troubadour Angelo Phillips, Taylor Herbstritt (vocalist, and her former student) the show is a tribute, to the majestic musical entertainers who have passed in 2016. Prince. Bowie. Glen Frey. Natalie Cole…

She’s promised Mike. He used to be married to the eldest sister of her two cousins’ husbands, who were brothers. Ahh, Erie.

So, she gets to the parking, and it’s an hour in, and Mattie B and the Dirty Pickles are wailing Elvis’ Hound Dog, and every lot is full all the way to the edge of the two yacht clubs. Three thousand people, plus. The attendant, a teamster on a golf cart, tells her all she’s got is the Blasco library lot, where the shuttle will haul loads back to the venue.

Not one to leave a car miles away, and determined to listen from the comfort of her front seat, she stops to let a trough of imminent attendees pass, peering at the skinny old guy manning the “Boat Pass Parking Only” lot. She takes one more look at him, thanks her better graces, and keeps driving.

And, driving.
All the way out of the parking lot, and down the Bayfront to the Cranberry boulevard. Yep. In typical fashion, almost ready to bail; it has taken all she’s had to make this appearance, already her mind churning out what she’ll tell Mike later.

Then, she spies it.
A circle around.
A narrow, wending, disappearing way.
Something flips a switch. July 4th, from about three years ago?
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Following the way, and her memory, she ends up at Plum, turns left, and there it is: Cascade Creek overlook, on Front Street. The sweet spot. A whole curbside, empty of cars; a grassy bank; three people, on a bench and wheelchair, respectively.

And, the music. Clear as a canyon. Every note. Every word.

Rolling all the windows down, she nestles in for an hour of nostalgia and solitude, the cross breeze just enough to keep the pink hot and the hat on.

Unaccustomed to merely sitting, she makes a list of clothes to wash. Loose fitting pullovers to hide her belly, and sleeveless for sweltering heat, and the new capri jeans with the control panel.

The Dirty Pickles finish with Johnny B Good and local newscaster Mike Shoop, whom everyone else calls Lou, leads the water balloon toss. And then, the headliners are up.

She gets out of the car. The red yoga pants have sprung a run up the center back.

The pink pullover gets a solid yank.

 Sitting carefully on a slab of concrete bench, she keeps her eyes downcast as an elderly black couple walk slowly past toward a nearby bench.
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A male voice that must be Hayes Moses’ cuts across the valley; then, Brittany counters with her smoothe contralto.

She turns toward the couple, seated on their bench.
Do they think they hear Hayes Moses? And, isn’t he a multi-talented boy?

Then, unmistakeably, it’s Mike Miller. He sings a spot on rendition of Glen Frey’s “Peaceful Easy Feelin'”. But, this is the last song she will name of the evening.

Thirty two minutes later, she has heard the entire history of the tenure of Erie Mayor Louis J. Tullio. Knows all about the incinerator fire and the endless dumptruck trips over some nine weeks to the mudpit landfill. Finds out why it is that Lou Tullio is the only mayor in the city’s history to be voted in by an overwhelming majority for 27 solid years. She knows all this, because she has heard it straight from the horse’s mouth: Douglas Watson, Deputy Mayor of the City of Erie, PA.

Legend.

Resting on a bench with his wife, high school sweetheart Evelyn Stewart Watson, and their white toy poodle.

Mike’s set ends. The sun, deep orange red, touches the horizon.

The only name she doesn’t get, dropped or otherwise, is the poodle’s. Strangely, she hardly notices. It has been the greatest Tuesday in her memory. She has heard the story of kings.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  7/5/16   All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

 

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

The Bronze.

DAD'SBRONZECLOSEUPDAD'SBRONZECERTIFDad'sBronzeStar

Dad, always full of fascinating stories, remembered these details consistently every time he recounted them.

Surrounded by “Krauts”.

Snowing.

A tickle in his throat.

A sugar cube, passed down the silent line, to cut his cough.

Orders: “Infiltrate. Take nothing with you.”

Three days, in the snow.

Three.

Days.

Cpl. Anthony Scanzillo, part of the forward observing team.

Hodges, the commanding officer; General calling the play: George S. Patton.*

The rest, profoundly, history.

I am still not quite sure how to thank my father for all this. Thank him…..for enlisting in the US Army when, as a 20-something vagabond orphan, the military service might have been the only place he could go for three square meals and a bed?….Thank him…..for sticking it out once the war hit, promising his new wife he’d come back to her from Germany?…….Thank him…..for enduring abject fear, horrifyingly explosive sudden death all around him, the demand of primitive conditions and unending misery?…….Thank him…..for using all his internal resources to survive, to come home, to open his barber business, to marry mum twice so that I could be brought into the world.

Thank you, Dad. They tell me that what you did saved the world from an oppressive dictator whose mentality could have overtaken freedom itself. I hope they’re right.

I’m just glad you came home.

***

 

*Footnote:

[ He bit his lip, and kept trudging. And followed orders, and kept breathing, and kept holding his breath, and never closed his eyes (I knew my father. He never closed his eyes, mark that.) and kept watching, and kept looking, and kept listening, and kept trudging, and stood stalk still, and liked to have died, and then the orders came down, and the German prisoners were lined up, and shot dead, and then more trudging, and straight ahead, and no thinking, and then suddenly the orders came down, and surprise attack, and blood, and heads being blown off right beside him, and ear splitting booms, and meemies, screaming, and carnage, and more shooting, and then the orders came down, and they all turned, and back they trudged, and trudged, and trudged, and then they were clear. And, the end. Of that. And, probably peeing and drinking, and eating, and smoking, and finally sleeping.

Dad came home with PTSD that never left him. He was 95, and it still haunted him. My one, retrospective relief is that he died dreaming, in feverish sepsis, turning his left wrist like he was still playing the bones.]

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 7/3/16  All rights those of the author, including the photographs, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

A Year for the Roses.

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CLICK to VIEW PHOTOS:

YellowBlushFriday2:2016TropicalOrangeRose2016PinkFullOn2016*YellowBlushFriday2016PinkBlushHALFSUN*2016PINKHalfSun2016YellowBlushTWINS2016TropicalOrangeSideView2016Cropped

YellowBlushCLOSEUP2016

On the edge of Lake Erie, the climate usually perfect for roses, some summers can wait for rain. This one, free of Japanese beetles, has n.o.t disappointed.

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   7/1/16    All rights to photos those of the photographer, whose name appears above this line. Thank you, and enjoy!

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

The Date.

 

 

*Originally written June 28, 2013.

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About twice a year, this girl deep cleans.

It’s about being a grand-daughter of the Great Depression.

Mum, the daughter, saved everything. Only she was a sorter. There were jars in the cellar, each filled with whole items according to size and shape. A jar for nuts. A jar for bolts. (She worked a semi-automatic machine during the war.) A jar for screws. A jar for nails. A jar for brads. A jar for rubber bands…..

Me? I’m a chaotic. It’s all there, just……..in a sea-salad of the casually-tossed, collecting for a majority of months, sometimes, in a single calendar year……until the dining room table slowly sinks out of sight.

This week, the tablecloth finally emerging, the last nine items stacked neatly by my purse so as to be addressed tomorrow, there remained one smaller pile – of greeting cards. Half were blank, awaiting use; the other half, those too precious to throw out.

Carrying these to the secretary for precise placement, I spied another which had been set aside on the cedar chest. Reaching for it, I was startled to see the handwriting inside; it was from Dad.

A note from Dad was always a keeper. His having reached the 5th grade at the Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded back in 1925 without a mother or father to help him with his homework, Dad’s penmanship was a curious, halting conglomeration of large, stylized caps and illegible lower case, as he expertly compressed his rare uncertainty about the spelling of words between inflated left-handed lower loops. Yet, ever the entertainer, the rhythm of his elaborate speech was woven into the writing, and I sat down to read once more what would be his final note to his only daughter.

But, most amazing was the date at the top.

This was a blank card, in fact a Thank You note that he’d selected from a miscellaneous box. Floral on the front, a simple “thank you” inside – and, his message on the facing frame.

And, this message was for my birthday. He’d wanted to give me money, so he said, a gesture more formal than anything because he knew I never asked for a penny from my Dad. And, sharp as a tack until well past 90, he wanted me also to know that he knew the gift was coming early this year because he could remember my birthdate without prompting. I was, after all, the first baby he’d ever held as a father.

So, though he cited my birthdate by number, the 26th, he was giving me my money gift this year with the admonition that I “spend it wisely.” This, after first telling me how much he loved me and just how proud he was that he could brag about his only daughter. These were always the first words coming from Dad ….the “I love you” part.

But, the date at the top. The date at the top jumped off the page this time. Though I’d remembered reading it back when he first presented the card to me, the date he’d written his note was never more poignant, more mysterious, more baffling, more heart-rending, nor more inspiring than at this moment: it said, (and, he’d underlined it, too): ” April the 9  Lord’s Day“.

“April the 9” was the day Dad died.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 6/13   All rights – in whole, part, and letter – those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

GILDA BARSTON – A Tribute.

 

To all the skinny girls, this was a woman “of size”.
Birkenstock sandals held solid feet, the kind that bore the frame of a woman focused entirely outside of the body which carried her. Her movements were slow; her mind, constantly active, always engaged by whomever was nearest to her at any moment. And, that one was almost always a student.
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 It didn’t matter if you were already in the room, or just entering; Gilda Barston was already in the chair. And, once seated, she became who she was: a master teacher.
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 Gilda was a Juilliard trained cellist, a mother, and an educator devoted to the Suzuki philosophy. You didn’t call her Dr. Barston; she’d spent her energies as Chairwoman of the Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA),  presiding over numerous Board sessions planning and revising the pedagogic literature and, I believe, ultimately founding what I am remembering to be the Music Center of the North Shore in Chicago. I first met her at Ithaca College in the early 90’s where, attending only my second Suzuki Summer Institute, I was lucky enough to be among the teacher trainees in her class.
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 That year, my being a relative newbie, most of the SAA teacher trainees were seasoned, having either attended multiple summer institutes or been established in communities where the Suzuki philosophy enjoyed a thriving presence. And, the institute clinicians were, to my narrowly informed observations, a mix of New England blue bloods, liberal Jews, and lesbians. I was totally outclassed.
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 Up until the year before, I had been a pupil of the traditional studio mentality – averted by endless etudes, practicing the day before my lesson, and squeaking through each weekly session with negligible progress under the stern standard imposed by critique of my every shortcoming. Gilda was different. She actually wanted to know her student.
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 For her, the process was all about recognition. She regarded each of us teacher trainees with the same dedication she gave to her private students. Earnestly and keenly observing – watching, listening – really learning everything about us, she looked for strengths and, when she found them, always told us what they were. And, each of us was as important as the next; there were no stars in her firmament shining any brighter than the rest. But, whenever they shone, she eagerly sang their praises to all around.
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 Gilda was completely selfless. She always drew attention to the needs of the student, and taught by example what it meant to respect each one. Never once did any of us ever hear her talking about anybody in anything but a positive, supportive context; this woman was inherently incapable of spreading anything but good will.
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 I can still see so vividly the smile as she spoke, hear the youthful vitality in her voice, and watch the eye contact that sparked between her and the young player having the lesson. She related to everyone with equal enthusiasm, be they parents, students, or teachers; hers was an agenda of nurture, nothing less. And, the nurture didn’t end when the lesson was over; time after time, I’d follow her out of the room and down the hall and outside toward the dining hall, listening to the continuing conversation she was having with, you guessed it: her student.
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 That summer, I learned so much about myself. In one week, I discovered that I could be both enthusiastic and encouraging, and get results without ever pointing out a single flaw simply by modeling after her. Most importantly, after struggling in the public schools with every aspect of the profession, Gilda made me believe that I could be an effective teacher.
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 Over 20 years have elapsed since that summer yet I cannot count how many times, during private sessions in my studio, she would come to mind. Whenever a particularly successful lesson would unfold, I would always find myself thinking: “I wish Gilda were here, right now. I hope she would be proud of me.” This actually became a recurring fantasy – Gilda Barston, watching me teach. I realized that she had set the standard; in my heart and mind, she was the Queen.
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 Rachel Barton Pine just posted news today that Gilda had passed away. When I saw the words, my heart started. I realized that I had missed my final opportunity. I had missed my chance to express to her my gratitude, for being the beacon in my firmament, the guru of my graces, the all time best, most dedicated professional – the most beloved teacher.
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 Thank you, Gilda. Thank you for recognizing me, for wanting to know me. Thank you for nourishing us all with your remarkable gift for truly loving.
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 Earnestly,
your student, Ruth Ann.
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 © Ruth Ann Scanzillo  6/26/16    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. Please note Gilda Barston’s bio, below:
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 *From the SAA page:  GILDA BARSTON – dean emeritus of the Music Institute of Chicago, artistic director of the Chicago Suzuki Institute, and CEO of the International Suzuki Association. She has served as board chair of both the ISA and SAA. A student of Leonard Rose, Gilda received BS and MS degrees from the Juilliard School of Music. Gilda received a Distinguished Service Award from the SAA for her work with the SAA Cello Committee, and was the recipient of the American Suzuki Institute’s 2005 Suzuki Chair Award. A registered teacher trainer of Suzuki pedagogy, Gilda has taught at institutes and workshops throughout the country and in Canada. She was a faculty member and soloist at the International Suzuki Teachers’ Conference in Matsumoto, Japan, taught at the World Conference in Edmonton, AB, the Pan-Pacific Suzuki Conference in Adelaide, Australia, the Melbourne Autumn Festival and at the Korean Suzuki Association Winter Camps. In 2006 she was an honored guest and faculty member at the 14th Suzuki Method World Convention in Turin, Italy. In 2010 she and her daughter Amy were the guest master class clinicians at the 14th SAA Conference in Minneapolis.

The Voice of My Generation.

The Chinese boy’s name was Doonk. Or, at least that’s how he pronounced it when I asked him who he was. And, he’d done everything humanly possible to make my take out buffet dinner as delectable, if gluten and soy free, as he could.

But, sometimes,  we’re just in the right place at the wrong time.

I brought my dinner home, alright. Got it all set up on the sofa, and turned on the TV.

There he was.

Catching the tail end of the finale of his live one at PBS’ Austin City Limits just a day or two before, I’d heard enough to know that James Taylor and his band of back up singers and musicians had been one of the all time best that series had ever known. The collective light in everybody’s eyes told that tale.

And, this night, the time on the clock said 7:06 p.m.; with my carefully selected repast laid out before me, I’d be able to enjoy nearly the whole hour of his concert! This was more than the old single girl had bargained for, on such a Sunday evening in early summer.

Eagerly, I dug in to my meal, glancing up every so often at the radiant face of the man who had clearly come out the other end of a life that had borne its depths with what could only be termed a riding high. Smiling broadly as he sang, segueing from one song to the next with that rare fluency that only comes with the perfect band, the perfect night, the perfect scene, the perfect moment…..he was the perfected artist. As attuned to him as if they were inside his head were the flush, back up vocals, a wailing sax, Jimmy Johnson’s solo bass, and the subtle drumming of Steve Gadd always just under the lead of his clean, smoothe tenor.

To the innocent, Taylor seemed uncontainably happy.

But, I’m old, now. Just old enough. Old enough to know most of the stories – about people, and places, and things. There’s rarely a newsbyte or a bit of sound that comes across the ticker that doesn’t, in some way, trigger an associated memory. My fascination with the pure joy emanating from Taylor’s face was informed. His was a story of triumph.

In the early years of his fame, James Taylor was our lead balladeer. When we were down, or troubled, or we just needed a helping hand, that song……..that song brought it all home, for us. We didn’t know until the next decade that his own life would rise to the heights and plummet to the pit of despair; he would come out to us, eventually, not as a spokesman, but as a confessor of sorts for the rest of the bi-polar community.

And so, as I sat over my Chinese take out, I soaked up James Taylor in his finest hour, feeling the celebratory relief of a life that had come up out of its own troubles, coasting in conquering mode.

But, as if to gently prod my sensibilities, my taste buds started talking back. How audacious of them, really, in the midst of a perfect sensory evening. What was that bitter residue that seemed to be saturating every mouthful of my banquet?

Choosing my buffet meal with alleged care for only protein sources and clean nutrition, one fleeting, personal moment of weakness had permitted two small squares of red jello to pile on before I’d closed the styrofoam container. These had, in the emerging summer heat, decided to melt. Liquified, this red stream had meandered under the whole dinner, soaking up the rice, the noodles, the cheesy potatoes, the shrimp; and, worst part was, this was the artificially sweetened variety. The whole meal had been tainted by an alien chemical; it tasted awful.

Now, everybody knows – at least, anybody who reads a nutritional report produced by health conscious experts – that artificial sweeteners are, in large part, toxic. There is a larger point, here.

My generation is in that rare place: still comparatively lucid, and able to connect vast amounts of information from the past to the present. We are in the decade of now or never, the one that nobody has to tell us is our moment. What’s important, here, is that we go beyond realizing and actually do something with it.

We can look back, while we still have perspective; we can look ahead, while we still have our health. We can make ourselves available to any and everyone who seeks to benefit from our various wisdoms, and we can do even more: we can change our course completely without any concern for the judgments of others. We can break brand new ground, with far more than the idealistic notions of our youth; we now have the freedom to make sound decisions born of  the vision that comes with the experience of knowing.

Had I been some twenty years younger, that melted red jello, that faux food would have ruined my entire evening. I would have brooded at the injustice of it all, maybe even written a letter to the restaurant owner berating his choice of dessert options.

But, James Taylor’s voice was still there, its beauty and clarity undiminished, to teach me everything I needed to know. There was a bigger picture, finally, even if I had needed almost a lifetime to see it. There would be another Sunday night, more Chinese take out to be had. Duke, as his name turned out to be, would greet me cheerily the next time, with added recognition.

And, there didn’t have to be any more melting jello embittering anything. We could all rejoice with the voice of our own, small triumphs.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   6/18/16  All rights those of the author, in whole and/or in part, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respec. Bon Appetit.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

The Greatest.

 

The beauty of Dad’s storied history was all in the mystery. None of us could connect so much as a finger to any of it. The people, we never knew; the places, we’d never been. And, the experiences, well, nobody else could touch.

He talked often of his life as a young ward in the state of Massachusetts, living so briefly in the foster home of Mrs. Bracchi somewhere near Boston. While there, he’d be challenged to fight her big, redheaded sons. The winner would get a hot meal; the loser, a nickel – or, maybe it was the other way around. All Dad knew was, being the runt of a lost litter, he had to muster up some chops in short order.

And, this, apparently, led to some training in boxing.

He’d said he was, what, a welter weight? Only five foot three and a half, without shoes, he had to rely on quickness and agility, and we knew him to have these in abundance. Like a bird on a wire, his would be the very first head to turn at a sound or a sudden move in any room. And, when he’d raise his hand to anyone in defense, his tongue would curl under and get bitten down by his teeth. That’s how we’d know he was serious.

As father to myself and two brothers, he’d listen to the fights on the radio or watch them on the Tv in his barbershop. After Mum died, he’d view them alone, at the house, until well past his 90th birthday. And, while he enjoyed every fight he could find, his all time favorite, the best boxer he’d ever seen, was Cassius Clay. By the time the rest of the world caught on, they called him Muhammad Ali.

Dad, having the charm of a whole cast of clowns all wrapped up in one wiry little body, was captivated by Ali. He loved the quickness, and the moves, and reveled in the sassy, self confident challenge that always burst from Ali’s belly as soon as the mouth guard found its way out. He’d hoot with joy every time the man said anything.

But, Dad’s time stopping moment would come heading south on Ash Street, right before dusk, driving the Catalina home from just another day at the shop making long hair short. Always sharp of eye, he’d noticed a figure emerging from a parked car and looked twice, recognizing both the head and the cut. There, standing on the sidewalk right across from the Polish Falcons, was Muhammad Ali himself.

Ali had been brought in, for a charity event, perhaps to speak at the Sportsmen’s Club or be the special guest at an athletic awards ceremony. Those in attendance select VIP, the rest of our small city would gain its collective satisfaction just knowing the Great One was in town.

But, not Dad. He swerved the car to the curb, jumped out, scrambled for his wallet, selected a tiny, faded scrap of paper, fumbled into his pocket protector for a pen and, unabashedly, bounded right toward his hero.

I don’t remember what was said. Neither, as time passed, would Dad. He’d only known that Ali was gracious and kind, and signed his autograph to that little scrap of paper.

What I do remember was the moment when Dad tore through the back door, rushing the kitchen in exclaiming triumph: ” You’ll NEVAH believe it! I cayun’t hahdly, myself! LOOK! Look what I have, hea-uh!” He was trembling.

After Dad died, his little zippered pouch that carried only his precious things remained in the drawer in my bedroom. In it, he’d kept a handful of silver dollars, a couple rings, and his flat, smooth tan leather wallet. I haven’t looked in that wallet, but I’d bet a shave and a haircut that Muhammad Ali’s autograph is still there. After all, the Greatest, they know their own.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   6/5/16    All rights, in whole, part, participle, and letter, those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

Honor.

 

[ formerly titled “Objection.”]

Dad never knew his parents. He heard about them both, from his Uncle Gabriel and Aunt Marietta in Springfield, on the rare respite they’d give him from the foster home or the Walter E. Fernald School in Waverly. They’d tell him things – how his brute of a father sang opera that you could hear down the block, in between the storied rumors of his philandering….about his mother, being committed, speaking only Italian, with no defense….and, about his cousin, Jerry Marengi, who would go on to become a world famous Munchkin. These things we all, as his family, would carry forward in the form of his legend.

So, when Dad escaped the confines of his anonymity,  via the freight cars that carried him all the way to California from Boston, joining the US Army seemed almost logical. Free room and board, a hot meal (for which he’d panhandled so artfully as a self taught harmonica and bones man), a little physical agility, and he was in. In, to await deployment by the powers in place to submit him. No ties, no accountability; he was their easiest prey.

Fort Riley, Kansas was the first destination. Having had a few trumpet lessons in the Fernald school, he was ripe for lead bugle – and, played Taps and Reveille dutifully on the horns the army gave him. Organizing, and then leading, a parade for the dignitaries on base earned him the rank of Corporal, which he held proudly until his death.

Dad, however, didn’t die in battle. Oh, no. He was one of the survivors. In fact, when the war commenced, he being third fastest runner in his outfit they shipped him to Germany right off. But, from that point, his always colorful stories were few; Dad would only speak in detail of the day he, as a member of the forward observing team of the 3rd armored, had to “infiltrate the enemy” at the Bulge. It was snowing, and he had a cough, and they had to shoot all the German prisoners on orders. But, they all lived through that hell and, in exchange for it, every infantryman received the Bronze Star.

But, somewhere between enlisting and coming home the victor, there were less celebratory if more defining moments. There were the AWOLs. There was the all night guard duty. And, there was the guard house – where he’d frequently qualify, to all who would listen, his presence on Pearl Harbor Day, which was also his birthday. Dad’s role in all this emerged as a stand alone story; he wasn’t there for the medals.

I can’t remember what year it was. PBS was airing several mini-series, most of them documentaries, and the historian who stood out above the rest was Ken Burns. Ken Burns made his life work the chronicle of America, and he did it well. Never before seen footage, all the real thing, of everything from the jazz greats to, yes, American soldiers, in action.

Naturally, in the course of the Burns chronology of World War II, America’s most outstanding general received his own, multiple chapters. George S. Patton, the formidable, would be displayed in all his imposing force, with selected film clips in abundance. One of these stopped me in my tracks.

I’ll never forget the evening. Probably dull of wit from a snacking binge, I had to be jolted awake by the scene. But, the image. The image was unmistakeable.

Patton, Burns narrated, was always hard on his men. He never entertained the faint of heart, for any reason, chasing them down whenever he could. On one particular day, seems he’d found one: there, before our eyes, underscored by the unwitting Burns, was an army hospital, and one, lean, lone, raven haired soldier on a cot by the wall. The General loomed, raising his hand over this cowering young man, even in silent film barking forcefully at him to get up. The cameraman did not include the strike, but rumors were well circulated that this was part of the Patton package.

I recognized my father instantly.

No one knows when this happened. All anybody knew was Dad left the war a decorated forward observer, shell shocked, a victim of PTSD for the rest of his life. He could never tolerate fireworks (“screeming Meemies”) or sudden explosions of any kind, and would warn us repeatedly until his final years never, ever to come up behind him in the dark.

I wrote directly to Ken Burns, asking him to edit that segment from his series. The next time it aired, as God is my witness, actors portrayed that scene.

But, no actor could characterize my father as he was. Dad was a transparent innocent. He had none of the conventional role models, not a one. He was blessed with many gifts, one of them being the honest candor for which he was beloved by all. Dad was nobody’s victim.

God, in the wisdom mankind will never understand, spared Dad’s life – his, along with so many others, a fact for which the man himself always gave his Creator the glory. I like to think that Dad was protected because of his honesty. There is a fearlessness in such truth.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   5/30/16    All rights, in whole, in part, in word, and in letter, the sole property of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

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 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

 

 

 

 

 

Name It.

 

Last evening. Yet another Friday night.

The debut of a university chamber orchestra.  A big band.  And, “The Music Man”, in concert.

Having failed to mark not one, but all three really worthy performance events on her calendar, she’d found herself in the kitchen – occupied with the contents of a voluminous, stale smelling cardboard box overflowing with charity collectors, mail order catalogs, medical documents, and receipts, material to which she would affectionately refer in disclaimer to visitors as her “household flammables”.  And, emanating from the laptop, mounted on a chair to her left: Tara Brach’s podcast, Awakening Your Fearless Heart.

The latter being the primary intention, this belated sorting was a manifestation of necessary yang to Tara Brach’s yin; and, on this night, she’d forsaken a majority of her colleagues’ live musical offerings to position herself at home, as mediator.

Her house was a load, a prohibitively inhospitable space cyclically overtaken by stuff which could ignite in a heartbeat. These people who had long since graduated to online banking, online mailing, and online purchasing had left her in the awe of their wake. She was a pack rat, the residue of a generation doomed to save.

As she sat, self-righteously separating out the home improvement brochures from their neighboring Harvard health letters she attuned to Tara, who was underscoring these efforts with measured, modulated monikers for successful triumph over human failing. Be Mindful. Be Present. Name the feeling, the Fear. Call it out.

She knew what to call it.

You don’t begin life in the shadow of a much older sibling who happens to be male, the only daughter of two parents with diametrically opposed needs (inheriting the lion’s share of their strengths and weaknesses ) without learning to expect equal parts indoctrination, condemnation, and exploitation.

She knew fear. Knew it viscerally, in the cinematic mind inherited from her father, colored by the surefire flames of Hell and the rapturous hope of the heavenlies. She knew it in the sectarian dogma to which her mother had dutifully ascribed, pinning and then initiating her headlong into the warm fellowship of jealousy, envy, gossip, and slander. After all, if “come out from among them, and be ye separate, touching not the unclean thing” was the dicta, then surely all those found either haplessly or willfully just outside of the gate were of all things most contaminated and worthy of immediate rejection.

Decades hence, she would be the master of branding. She would know, in a millisecond, which sin-laden emotion drove any action – in both herself and, formidably, others. She’d learned at the feet of the Sunday School teacher, and the Gospel preacher, and the demons that left prints on all their glass houses. Tara Brach’s multi-headed gargoyle deities would have nothing on her scary story.

But, the guru of inherent good would not be moved – not by anyone’s notions of self-defeat. Brach, too, sat, presiding at a podium, smiling out across the unseen throng of attending participants and, in tones barely penetrating, gently gathered them all into direct self-confrontation.

She wasn’t at all sure she’d wanted a fight, that night. Trauma wasn’t something to be addressed in adherence to some syllabus. You didn’t relive its destabilizing pain in a conference room, or even a warmly lit kitchen. Only God as Infinite Wisdom would have known the protective power in a box of junk mail on any other evening.

Her recognition came in a flood. She allowed it. Inspecting, she both identified and then freely detached.

Anger at being displaced in musical collaborations was supplanted by her own creative efforts. Fear of being left out was diffused by the comforting company of her imagination. In short, by being present in the moment, recognizing her primary motivations, allowing their validity, inspecting them for corrupting influences, and finally submitting to the greater consciousness, she was liberated. Liberated, to clean the kitchen on a night when half the population was sitting in somebody else’s audience.

But, missing “The Music Man” ?

Regret. Transcending even guilt.

Ye Gods.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   5/14/16   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. Good night, my Someone.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Math”.

 

Most of us can remember our first Math class in school. Mine, however, doesn’t stand out as worthy of any Save File. I think it’s because, for me, words always held ineffable depth. They were my perpetual fascination – right up there with picture, and flavor, and song.

But, math seemed like more of a force with which to be reckoned, some mysterious matrix within which one could easily be consumed. It seemed, with its persistent symmetry, its finality, to be at enmity with imagination and passion, with life force itself.

Sure enough, I struggled against the thing. I’d try to skim through the process, to make it go away faster; invariably, this tactic led to that common term, the “careless mistake” – the fleet error in computation that would always render my sums and quotients “wrong.”  Getting “wrong answers” unnerved me; effortlessly able to memorize, I and my natural lexicon made no room for them.

As school and, with it, life progressed, I would come to invoke math teachers as my nemesis; they didn’t seem to see into my soul and, if they ever did look in my direction, appeared lacking in any recognition. Rather, an expression of annoyance, restrained tolerance, would pass across their collective countenance; I was the stranger in their room.

In later years, as I developed and was trained to understand the human mind, I came to appreciate math from my own point of view, aspects of its discipline as they integrated themselves into my real time experience. I waited tables, and would add figures both quickly and accurately; my brothers would use formulae to build the beautiful homes with which their construction was entrusted. My mother’s dressmaking even depended upon the role of measurement. Sure enough, its devoted teachers were right about one thing; occasionally, we would use the maddening mathematics in our daily lives.

But, if I have to hear one more political pundit declare that Bernie Sanders can’t become President because “the math” isn’t in his favor, I think I might morph into a Texas Instrument Terminatrix.

Allow me to USE math to present my argument.

Statistics are known to cluster. Predictions are still at the mercy of the random life event, which cannot be measured. The mob effect is not without its power to alter the course of history. The human element must be f.a.c.t.o.r.e.d. IN.

And, the math pundits aren’t doing that. Moreover, when we see the crowd swell of human passion at every single Bernie rally, the collective captivation of human imagination, and ignore its unmeasurable power, we simply aren’t computing. After all, isn’t this how Donald Trump reached presumptive nominee?

It seems, rather, that the political math defenders are more about preserving the present system of gathering desired data, known as the electoral college, than any real concern for authentic democratic representation.

Bernie Sanders has a mathematically sound platform, by the way – possibly the only one any candidate can boast.

Best to lean in, and address that arithmetic, before saying another word.

Bernie Sanders for President 2016.

Thank you.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  5/12/16      Use freely, everywhere, with respectful acknowledgement of the author. Thank you, again.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

The Grand Equalizer.

 

A couple nights ago, in the midst of post-Presidential Primary furor, and cresting to the height of their vigorous political panel discussion, somebody on CNN farted.

Now, we’re not talking your fleeting emission. This was a massive gasso profundo, one that could only have come from a colon of awesome dimension, stretched to its ultimate limits of retainment. This was the Grand Prize Winner of all Wind.

I was so gobsmacked, I actually stuck around until the whole news segment revolved, just to see what the audio crew would do with this monstrosity.

Perched on the edge of my buttocks, I waited with poised anticipation for the slightest of scant, aberrating vibrations.

And, then……

Nothing. Absolutely no sign of the mortifying mortar – apart from a deftly inserted, if faint, moment of Muzak, just as the camera pulled back to display the defendants’ line up.

Yes, CNN was nothing, if not prepared. I knew, at that instant, should the planet suddenly find itself under siege by unrecognizable life forms, this giant of the news circuit would be ready to photo and audioshop anything anybody on earth was absolutely certain had been seen and heard. Alternate reality was already in da house.

Even when whatever a pundit had for dinner refused to submit to digestive enzymes, anybody could be rendered the picture of virgin, if probiotic, equilibrium. We live in an air brushed, auto-tuned world.

But, just what are these public personae consuming? Is there some kind of sphincter syndrome plaguing our pontificators? Or, have they all been overcome by a fetish for the fanny fortissimo?

In my day, farting out loud was the predominant domain of the 8 year old boy. Oh; and, his father, on some joint expedition to the great outdoors. I even had a college professor, whose genius expanded to include a profound appreciation for the full on function; Dr. Walter S. Hartley*, composer, multiple ASCAP award recipient, was known to cut one loose, stop, raise a pointed finger, grin mischievously, and declare: “I believe that was a B-flat.”   then, lumber off, with the weighty gait of one whose cranium could barely contain its contents, leaving all to ponder the pitch potential of their own pooter.

Yes; uproariously hilarious to them all, we girls and various other civilized creatures just reserved ours for the appropriate time and place – being sure to strategically flush if guests were in proximity, of course.

But, this? Google “farting on Tv”, and you’ll be mildly alarmed. The women outnumber the men – and, most of them are either broadcasters or politicians.

One could speculate.

The media’s been catching a lot of flack, lately, regarding its veracity. Truth, in fair and balanced reporting. The profession used to be populated by the noble and impeccable, those who embodied what we all called “dignity.” Now, in the interests of appealing to a “wider demographic”, perhaps we’re settling for something that masquerades as the “human” element.

Either that, or the Euro-American diet finds itself at a crossroads. Consult your local gastronomist: health-conscious vegetable smoothies can’t be paired with bacon fat without explosive consequences.

Maybe we should be grateful for the technological touch ups that seem so essential, anymore, to our socio-professional survival.  After all, we’re a cross cultural melting pot, now, and the models held up for our children are coming from the four corners of the earth.

And, that, if nothing else, puts a whole new spin on blooming where you’re planted!

***

In Memoriam

Dr. Walter S. Hartley

February 21, 1927 – June 30, 2016

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 5/9/16 – littlebarefeetblog.com   All rights reserved by the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. Now, pass the Grey Poupon.

 

 

 

 

Gee, Oh Pee.

 

This piece, originally written 3 months ago, is being rescheduled for posting on May 4, 2016 – in the wake of the “presumptive GOP nominee’s ” win in Indiana.

It is this writer’s opinion that it contains a foreshadowing of what appears increasingly likely to be the Rise of the Independents.

******

 

Yes, world.

By now, you’ve heard.

The latest “candidate for President of the United States” felt compelled to defend the size of his genital member on a nationally televised debate.

The fact that this portends the dissolution of a major political party, the Republicans, goes without saying; but, there’s more.

Let’s just suggest that Nero fiddled while Rome burned, and now there looks to be a major diddler on the rise while the United States defends its rights to liberty and hot pursuit of international favor.

Nostradamus warned that the “village idiot” would rise up, but this is enough to obliterate all memory of one George Dubyah. This is Benny Hill meets MAD Magazine.

As the GOP teeters over the cliff, the stage will finally be set for the rise of the Independent Party.

And, its candidate?

Stay tuned.

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.© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  3/4/16  All rights reserved by the author.  Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

Lifting A Finger! [audio]

 

 

THE NEW ENTITLEMENT: Restricted Access and “Reimbursement.”

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“FREE MONEY! FREE MONEY!”

This writer is feeling the burn, today.

Yesterday was the first day in my life that I got within eye contact of a living American Presidential candidate. It was also the first time in my life that I was ever so convinced by everything said, so aligned with every outlined principle and proposed policy.

Looking around me I saw a room, filled with young adults, and poor people. Over two thousand, showing up with less than 24 hours notice, at least five of them my former students.

We all heard him say that America is the richest country in the world, and that he’d come to tell us we deserved a piece of the proverbial pie provided we worked to earn it. I wondered if everyone present fully understood the underlying structure of our candidate’s position – particularly as it related to money.

The teacher in me revved its engine; I came home compelled to speak. Here is my story.

About ten years ago, I signed up for a course in spread trading options. This course was held both online and over the phone, a group conference call in session two nights a week with a handful of participants. It came with volumes of hard copy reference material, which I have saved in my storehouse of human experience.

I learned buckets about the massive industry that dispenses free money. And, it ain’t what yer thinkin’.

I learned that, with essential skills in chart reading of key indicators and prudent decision making, putting down small money can, by day’s end, yield unbelievable windfall. How? By betting on the stock market. Betting that prices will rise, and betting that prices will fall, and doing so simultaneously.

The course trainer said to watch for a 20% move, and then act – in both directions. And, he was teaching caution!

What I discovered about myself was that chart reading was a piece of cake for me. What I also discovered was that I was far too impulsive to make the prudent decision. I’d place a trade, the smartest option on the boards, and then either close it out too soon or wait too long and watch my bet evaporate. Yes; along with obeying the indicators, timing was absolutely key.

But, what everyone needs to know about all this is:  the training necessary to do the thing right, that which yields incredible profits purely on the investments made by OTHER PEOPLE (i.e. their money (!), comes with a hefty price tag of its own: $10,000. And, though, by some fluke, my credit card was only charged $2000 for the course, in the end, I barely broke even on the trades I placed.

Yes; any American dream of making millions can come true. But, the price tag restricts that option (npi) to only those with enough to pay for the course in the first place. And, even then: one false move, and somebody else takes every penny.

Sound like the story of life in these United States?

Yeah.

And, here’s what: trades on stock, from the big corporate Blue Chips to the pennies, are happening every second, twenty four hours a day. There is computer software that does the thinking, following formulae (algorhythms) that would make the average math hater run for the vomitorium. And, by only lifting a finger, the top one tenth of one per cent of the American population is cashing in.

One key Presidential hopeful wants to impose a tax on the finger lifters. He’s the man I saw and heard, yesterday.

It only takes a fourth grader with the skill set and a calculator to estimate how much $$$ such a tax would generate. Senator Bernie Sanders would use that money to fund public education at the college level. Heck. There’d be enough left over to fund public education, period.

Yes. Wall Street has some ‘splainin’ to do. Problem is, there are those who are protecting their own stake in it who are fighting to prevent this. Certain Presidential candidates come to mind. The biggest among them, however, are the pharmaceutical giants, the ones who make the pills you take daily.

There’s a word, in the recording industry: payola. Look it up. Ever get free sample packets from your doctor of the latest drug to treat your condition? You’re right about one thing. Ain’t nuthin’ really free; somebody benefits. And, here’s the worst of it: medical oncologists get kickbacks for prescribing chemotherapy drugs. These kickbacks are called “reimbursements” and, for every drug that costs [the insurance company] 10 grand (and, you an increasing co-pay), the doc gets 600 bucks. Imagine 600 extra bucks for every customer who walks into a hardware store; if you’re the owner, you can by a yacht AND a second home.

So, yeah. I don’t blow the hot air. I might be a little behind on occasion [ totally missed Mellencamp at the Warner ], but I only speak when I’m as sure as I can be at the moment that I know what I’m talking about. And, if you find me errant, you tell me and I’ll be on it.

[ insert extemporaneous audio ]

Meantime, take a second look at the candidate you’ve been supporting for President. Then look, again, at Senator Bernie Sanders. There is far, far more under that shock of white hair than you’ll find inside the cranium of anybody else telling you for whom you should vote.

Speaking of voting, catch the latest in fraud following the still open New York primary. One hundred twenty five thousand New York voters, stripped of their option to vote at all, one of whom the daughter of an American veteran I know personally. Just enough to tip the scales for the other Democrat’s 10%, according to my calculations – and, my math skills are fairly rudimentary.

The verdict is not yet in. But, there are plans – concrete plans, in the mind of the only real visionary on the horizon. If you think for yourself, without fear, you’ll make the choice that will be right for you and everybody else. And, you’ll only have to lift your hand.

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Bernie Sanders for President 2016.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  4/20/16   SHARE THIS POST. SHARE IT, LIBERALLY! THANK YOU!!

LITTLEBAREFEETBLOG.COM

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRIMARY VOTERS! :

 

ATTENTION ALL VOTERS participating in the APRIL 26TH PRIMARY:

BERNIE SANDERS’ DELEGATES in the 3rd Congressional District, PENNSYLVANIA ARE:

(women):

Cindy Purvis

Veronica Wexford

(men):

Wayne Hanson

Lou Vergari

Kirk Atwood.

(*Anita is in the 12th District).

 

DO NOT VOTE FOR A SIXTH [UNCOMMITTED] DELEGATE, UNLESS YOU KNOW PERSONALLY THAT THE SIXTH DELEGATE YOU CHOOSE IS A BERNIE DELEGATE. YOU DON’T HAVE TO VOTE FOR SIX!

When the screen prompts you to vote for a sixth, just press CONTINUE, and the machine will REGISTER YOUR VOTES, for Bernie and for his five delegates.

This is important.

The Erie Times News did NOT publish the names of Bernie’s delegates. We have to do it!

GO, BERNIE!!

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littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

Modulating Jane.

 

Jane Sanders is speaking, right now, in a Wolf Blitzer interview at CNN.

Jane is Bernie Sanders’ wife.

I’m a musician. A musician, with some significant background in voice.

With quite a bit of experience, singing solo, and singing in ensemble and, given a history teaching marching band, with nodes, cord surgery, and follow up voice lessons with none other than the world’s most enduring Madama Butterfly, Louisa Jonason, yes.

I know the voice.

You can tell a lot about a person by the sound of that person’s voice.

It’s called modulation. The voice is either shrill, raspy, tight, muted, or well modulated.

Jane Sanders’ voice is beautifully modulated.

This suggests that she is a woman of inner calm. She takes time to breathe. She takes time to listen. She does not push into the auditory realm; she simply enters, with grace.

You can also tell a lot about a man by observing his wife.

I think everybody, and I mean everybody, should do a search for that Blitzer interview which just took place on CNN. Between 1pm and 1:15pm, EST, today, April 21. Watch Jane Sanders speak, and listen to her voice. Hear what she says.

You’ll be finding out a lot about the man you should be seriously considering as your candidate for President of the United States. And, it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 4/21/16   – littlebarefeetblog. Please share this post!  Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

Blessings in Disguise.

 

 

Two weeks ago, inexplicably, or as fate would have it, or Providentially, or whichever persuasion suits the reader’s bent, I tripped over my Stability Ball and crashed to the floor. Tendering a bruise the size of your fist on my left hip and a swelling injury to the outer wrist, being a professional musician I did not take this lying down. Oh, wait. Well, you get the picture.

Wouldn’t we discover that, being forced to juggle a performing schedule, I would choose to push back one event by a month, the full length recital for which collaborative piano was my commitment and which was to have been presented two and a half full hours prior to call for another ensemble performance.

As the referenced weekend approached, the demand from the rest of the music – one Bach Cantata No. 4, for which I was to provide cello continuo – soon became evident; had I remained committed to the recital date as well, the mental gymnastics would have been excruciating. Neuroplasticity is not the forte of the post-menopausal, nor is any inclination toward proving feats of extraordinary finesse. Ask your mother.

Quite without warning, perhaps due to a combination of immediate attention to emergent need and a diathermic dinosaur complete with pallets for paws at the chiropractor’s office, the wrist healed within three days. The Bach, rumor has it, was exquisite.

Bach’s music is always exquisite. No respectable musician ever takes the credit. Oh; and, the flute student for whom the recital was rescheduled would reveal no small relief at a reprieve of several weeks. So, one full on resolution for the composition book.

Within days of the performance of the Cantata, I joined the Y.

Yes. That was an abrupt modulation. Middle aged women hold the monopoly. Tell your father. Having narrowly escaped a ruptured ulnar ligament, I’d call it gratitude.

Traveling light being the preference of the standard cellist, I arrived with application form completed and my driver’s license in hand, for verification. When it came time to head to the track, simultaneously discovering that I had no pockets outside of the jacket which would take its place on the wall of hooks, I reached down and slid the license into the elastic belly band of my yoga pants.

Two miles later, and eighteen solid months of support cushioned, sofa seated decompensation, my right hip flexor hit raging revolt. Off to the chiropractor, for round two.

He, being the intuitive by practice, rejected my presumption toward decompression and began to manipulate my lower appendages like a pretzel maker’s apprentice. The volume of vocalizations generated from deep in my diaphragm embarrassed all the men in the waiting room, but he would show no mercy. This is the role of the healer, after all; pain is proof.

It wouldn’t be until I’d been home for over an hour that any realization would come.

My driver’s license. was. missing.

In full celebration of advancing age, I searched the pockets of my coat. Then, the corners of the car seat, and between, and across the drive to the brick path leading from the house, and again. After which, the phone calls ensued – first, to the administrative offices of the Y, complete with reprimand regarding the absence of fair warning with respect to theft on premises; then, to the chiropractor, asking for complete search of the chair and examining table. Lord knows, the pretzel I had assumed that afternoon was convoluted enough to dislodge a gallbladder, let alone one flat, laminated card placed squarely beneath my bellybutton.

Earning nothing whatsoever except a round of apologies, I loaded my ammo for the email onslaught. No amount of ten plus years in the service industry would permit me any compassion toward any part time temp who cared insufficiently for my encroaching needs as a woman old enough to be everybody’s mother. I mean everybody. Give me the old woman’s shoe. I’ll make it my palace. What are you looking at?

The mind’s tricks are unfathomable. They lie in wait to deceive. The tactile memory of arising from the commode infiltrated like a stealth trooper, accompanied by fleeting contact between object and point of arrival. Inorganic object, to be sure; this was no common lavatory caper.

I looked down at the belly band of my yoga pants. And, then I remembered. Lifting it, I did what every bewildered existentialist did in the ’60s: I stared at my navel. I had no choice. There was nothing else there.

Convinced that I had flushed the driver’s license down the toilet, I made the requisite, illegal trip up the miracle mile to the DMV, declared mine to be the Story of the Week, paid the $27 fee, and drove legitimately back down the hill for home.

Then, just as my mother before me, and every other Daughter of the Great Depression (look it UP), I dug out the recently acquired, turquoise LED flashlight from the ValuHome dollar bin, and the scalloped foam Outdoor brand knee pad, also strangely turquoise, and made one, final, dedicated effort to search the depths of the car floor for the license.

Setting the pad on the driveway cement, I placed my dormant knees on the turquoise foam, crouched forward, and stuck my whole head of smelling henna under the front seat.

No generational equivalent of illumination could have prepared me for what that mini-LED wand would unearth. There, between, the seat and the gearshift compartment, lodged in that raw, steel Mechanism of Death, was a white, laminated card.

The Highmark. PPO. Blue. medical. insurance. card.

The one I’d blamed the local ER intake department for retaining. The last time I’d presented with migraine induced vertigo. That one. Don’t point. Pointing is rude.

Now, most west side Italian girls were raised Catholic. I’m an east side transplant. This is enough to skew all the statistics, baffle the bigots, and make the idiots really angry. But, I will thank the Patron saints, the ones who protect all those who travel and those who search, for listening, loving, and then teaching even the oldest woman in the room that blessings always arrive in the shimmering, brilliant, mystery of disguise.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 4/16/16     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. And, please. Don’t stare.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthed.

 

The American musical is ubiquitous. Sooner or later, all that is popular finds its way into the genre that delivers singing, dancing, singular sensation. Ever since opera buffa drew the local crowds to the town square, promising momentary diversion from war, pestilence, plague, and stench, humans have craved the escape of pure entertainment.

Enter Steven Sondheim.

A boy, born to a woman who loved a man who left her for another. Said child to learn at the feet of the greats – Oscar Hammerstein, Jimmy Hammerstein (Jimmy Hammerstein). Leonard Bernstein.

One would have thought that, bathed in such saturating influence, the young composer would have churned out second rate imitations of the icons who surrounded him. But, there was another factor at play, one that would be profoundly key to what would ultimately distinguish him as the social commentator of the age.

But, to reveal it would give away the heart of the story.

Steven Sondheim, for any musician from any genre, for any poet, for anyone who loves or has loved, for any student of the human condition…….people, you know when you come home from a session with your therapist, and all you can think about is how much money these people make for telling you to breathe deeply when you’re angry? Last weekend, I saw this man’s definitive autobiography, “Sondheim on Sondheim” at the Erie Playhouse. If you are privileged to see any production of this blended retrospective of his work, two full acts which he narrates on accompanying video, be sure to stay until the end. If you do, you will see into a mirror that will show you what you never before realized, feel things that you didn’t even know you needed to or could, and be floored by what is revealed.

As in his very life, the experience will tear you up and put you back together, like nothing else. It’ll be all the therapy you’ll ever need.

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© 4/15/16  Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

WRITERS and GHOSTS.

 

Periodically, this blogger posts a warning to “writers” who troll the blogs for ideas, sound bytes, dialogue bytes, and generally underhanded thieving. Please, if you must do any of the above, refrain from doing so at this blog; the author of this blog is published, albeit not for profit, and could also easily handle a court date.

Thank you, ever so much, for your respect.

 

Sincerely,

littlebarefeetblog.com   – Ruth Ann Scanzillo, author.

 

 

How to [Mis]Handle a Woman.

 

1.) Ask her, in print, if she is attending an event. Then, tell her you’ll pick her up.

[ Women have cars. ]

[ Generally, women prefer being picked up only by elephants, and even then, prickly backs.]

[ Never tell a woman what she is going to do. ]

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2.) Show up at her house, in the rain, while she is having company, and begin to alter the appearance of her property.

[ Women actually own property. ]

[ Generally, women prefer to make the decisions regarding their property. ]

[ Trespassing is a misdemeanor. ]

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3.) Offer to come over and set her mousetraps. When you arrive, declare that the house needs to be cleaned first, and then sterilize the floor. Don’t apologize when none of the traps are tripped.

[ Women know when they are pigs. ]

[ Generally, offering to do something for a woman that she is capable of doing for herself is considered condescending. ]

[ Mice urinate on their trails, so they can return to where they found the food.]

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4.) As a surprise, give her a gift of shower soap.

[ Women have shower soap. They get it from their nieces on Christmas. ]

[ Generally, a woman wears deodorant.]

[ Never imply that a woman smells funny. It’s probably the henna.]

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5.) When a woman puts on her coat, size her up and tell her you will buy her one that is black and more “appropriate” for the occasion.

[ Women are tired of black.]

{ Generally, a woman chooses outer apparel first for comfort, then for fabric quality and, finally, for color. ]

[ Never tell a woman what is appropriate for any occasion. ]

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6.) When a woman steps into her boots, tell her she looks “like an old Polack from the East side.”

[ Women wear the boots. ]

[ Generally, women both choose their own footware and the way in which they kick with it.]

[ You are a bigot and a jerk. Go home and [mis]handle yourself. ]

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© 4/11/16 Ruth Ann Scanzillo   – littlebarefeetblog.com

All rights strictly reserved; permission to reprint granted only by written request. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Sudden Scenes.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

Dreams are rare, unless she sleeps a full eight hours. This one takes her to church.

From its lobby doors, encircling the congregation, she can see him in the back row. During the singing, he turns, facing the door through which he is visible to her. He laughs when he sees her, and keeps on singing. Two guys on either side of him turn, also; they are faceless, their heads large almonds.

Sudden scene two. She is in the church. Those around behind her are seated in the pews at solitary points around the room, most of them women in high style black, their faces framed in nun-like headdress, their skin an opalescent, “pearl” quality. She is reminded of an audience at a sparsely attended recital, yet the strange countenances of the devoted seem like a mask.

Sudden scene three. They are in back hallways of the church, classrooms possibly. Crews bearing hoses are applying rat poison. It is chartreuse green, and leaking all over.  Attempting to sit on the floors, they slip on the viscous liquid. At one point, she tells the exterminator not to squirt the solution along the baseboards, as she is aware that this is “her house.”

A woman described as his mother is there. Her skin and hair are white,  and she is opalescent like all the other people in the church.

Reaching up, she takes his mother’s face in her hands.

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© approx. 2010   Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Petals On The Bed.

 

 

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one moment

random

one message

read

one memory

kindled

one spirit

fed

all reason

ceasing

figments

fill the head

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one soul

renewed

one mind

misled

one hope

abandoned

one word

unsaid

two hearts

in pieces

petals

on the bed.

 

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©4/6/16  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

Reservation.

 

[ first draft]

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Letting time hone

Meat much sweeter at the bone

The soul lives closest to the heart

Behind the vest

Lest

What seeks not of its own

Should render heart and soul apart

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© 4/3/16  Ruth Ann Scanzillo – littlebarefeetblog.com   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please, no copying, in whole or part. Thank you for your respect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pilgrimage.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

Following their latest screening session, she’d been mulling his story of traveling India on foot.

His disclosure of having had a traveling companion was of special interest, particularly his reference to their polar opposite outcomes.

She had a theory. Was he open to hearing it?

___ No; he’d pass

___Yes; he’d proceed, with caution😉

___She’d tell him anyway / did she EVER stop?

He’d declared his intention:  the desire to experience India, one step at a time. He’d shared this with his close companion. Perhaps he had been inspiring to him/her, speaking eagerly of the possibilities as he’d imagined them.

Suppose his companion was captivated by the idea of such adventure. Suppose this captivation was enhanced by anticipating his joyful company. Consequently, his companion might have mirrored his eagerness with an equally eager show of enthusiasm.

But, the pilgrimage was his, alone.
Intensely personal.
And, because he had so personalized the experience, he’d made ongoing decisions which reflected such intention. This was inherently noble. She wasn’t arguing.

Yes; the decisions – where to go on a given day, what to search for, or not, what to value in the search……his.

At first, perhaps following him and his motivations was entertaining, exciting, satisfying for the companion. And, maybe, after awhile, the interests/needs of the companion occasionally came into conflict with the intent of the pilgrimage. Maybe when to make a rest stop, or whether now had been a good time to eat, or how much the temperature affected stamina……

…and, then, the “very dangerous” situations.

Most of these needs might have been pushed down, on the part of his companion, until several had accumulated. At that point, perhaps the companion’s attitude had begun to shift. Perhaps he’d noticed this shift, somewhat belatedly and, addressing it, the exchanges between the two of them escalating rapidly…..

….climaxing in a philosophical discussion, or a heated argument, or both in either order. But, for him, an episode both blindsiding and emotionally draining. In short: had he been sure that his companion was totally on board with the original idea, the opposite having unfolded instead?

***

She wasn’t at all sure it would be her place to propose any of this to him.
Looking on, from this [ very great ] distance, ridiculously easy for her to judge.

Yet, she wondered if, had his companion gone solo, or been the initiator of the experience, would each have a far different story to tell?

And, had all of this already occurred to him, in retrospect?
And, is that why, from the outset, he’d urged that she experience all the wonders to be seen, heard, and felt in the world by taking her own, solitary journey?

*****

Her paradigms had changed radically since coming of age. Cognitive dissonance was still her modus operandi. One therapist had said: “ Given everything you’ve been through, you should be totally fucked up.”

Speaking of the latter, lest anyone wonder, she’d been born involuntary, with a surplus of sensory receptors.  Screen on, oh thou naked and unashamed, she thought finally. He was closing in on her.

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© 3/29/16 Ruth Ann Scanzillo   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

Single Inflection.

 

[ final edit. ]

 

Single — def.

  • not having, or including, another ; only one.

 

Defining words in any language is an exercise in understanding culture. This is unavoidable. So said the Swiss woman, at the head of the dinner table around which were seated: a younger, blonde French-Swiss woman; a middle aged, married couple from Kent, England, she with her brown hair rolled up away from her neck; a tall, good-looking, traveling salesman from Stuttgart; a young, bespectacled Scottish girl enrolled at university; and, one American woman of about twenty seven years; in 1984.

(There were no indigenous French represented at table, during that meal. Had there been, perhaps the conversation would have taken a decided turn.)

These had all convened around a common theme: one annual Bible Conference for the purpose of intensive study of the Word of God, held in a Zurich high school, complete with headsets and translators for those who had come from countries not fluent in Swiss-German.

I was the American woman.

That year, having embarked on my maiden voyage to Europe by way of Scotland, I was alone; meaning: nobody I knew personally had accompanied me on my trip.

Yes; according to a definition established by Merriam and Webster in the initial year of their copyright, I was a single woman. I knew it, most acutely, seated beside the two boys from Princeton on the flight to Frankfurt; the sassiest, plugged in to Purple Rain on his earphones, turned off to me as soon as I declined the gin. Failing the Test of Immediate Compatibility, here was a sure sign that I would be proceeding solo.

Not that I had any inclination to attach myself to either of the Princeton boys. I simply never figured in the equation established long ago by the Ivy League; their blood was blue, mine was too but, to them, a critical – if colorless – social component was missing .

The Swiss woman was dogmatic; the only way to truly know a people was through their language. One had to experience them in dialogue, to derive any understanding of their way of life. Inflection, the Swiss woman insisted, was the bearer of meaning.

(A decade hence, I would return to this table, after hearing a Japanese maestro articulate the meaning of his own name in his native language; he’d pointed out, none too subtly from the concert podium, that pronouncing his first name with the emphasis on the wrong syllable would render him nothing short of a hemmorhoid.)

I recall sitting and looking around that table at each guest, wondering, in my American English silence. Try as I might, I could not name a single descriptive adjective, noun, or verb in the language of my birth which, when pronounced differently, rendered a completely distinct meaning. I was able to call up several words, however, which had dual connotations but no alteration in their pronunciation. There were also words which were pronounced the same, but spelled differently according to their meanings.

With this realization came the sensation that singled me out: how could an American understand anybody from another country? Even the Brits, with their occasional syllabic de-emphasis, were a challenge to a fledgling on foreign soil. Here I was, singularly alone, and obviously about to make absolutely no connection whatsoever with any of the people in the room.

But, I had left a boy at home.

Long having moved on to pursue another skirt he had, however, managed to create a scandal in his wake. Here, in Switzerland, the home of his mother’s birth, I was supping with associates of the American employer she’d embezzled. Yes. I may have arrived alone, but there were those my presence represented who, after my departure, would remain; I had carried both of them with me, all the way to Europe, into a household diningroom of Christians in Zurich.

And, it didn’t matter to anybody that I wasn’t married to his mother. He would follow me for years thereafter, like a lurking shadow in the mirror, beginning the moment I left the premises. No one among any of those in attendance at the Zurich Conference, whether known to me or not, would be able to think of me in any terms thereafter without his name entering the conversation. Criminal behavior knew no cultural boundaries. No matter the country of origin; no matter the language spoken.

Recently, I became reacquainted with somebody I had only known in passing decades ago. A well and world-traveled American, he calls himself “single”. But, I beg to differ; his attributes draw the curious, the needy, the broken, the unfinished, the yearning. He works in the healing arts. His life has incredible, unmeasurable meaning in those of countless others. By the definition of any culture, he does not exist outside of their realm. He is, rather, spectacularly singular – part of the great Singularity.

None of us travels alone. We are never single, lest we attempt breath in a vacuum. If we do, we’ll be crying for help. And, we had better get the inflection j.u.s.t.right.

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© 3/25/16 Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abstractions of Peninsula Park

Peninsula Park is a wildlife refuge on the “other” side of Edinboro Lake, PA. Land, dredged for an [abandoned] real estate project, created multiple pockets of lake separated by mini-peninsulas.

Today, the first day of spring in Northwestern PA, the following abstractions from Peninsula Park.

© photography by Ruth Ann Scanzillo  3/20/16

 

PeninsulaParkRedBush*
Red Elbows
PeninsulaParkWood&AlumStakeAbstract*
Staked Out
PeninsulaParkTREETRUNKCloseup*
Portal
PeninsulaParkPavementAbstractNARROWCrop*
Natural Curls
PeninsulaParkYellowBelliedSapHoles
“Yellow Bellied Sap Suckers Wuz Here”
PeninsulaParkGlassLitter*
Still Glass Litter on Mulch.

© littlebarefeetblog.com      Thank you for visiting!

Spoiled Lettuce.

Donald Trump was speaking again in yet another televised appearance. At this point, she only watched to keep her eye on him. You had to. You just never knew what would happen next in the theater of pernicious absurdity. But, she was getting hungry.

For the third time in twenty minutes, she stood at the open refrigerator door. They were still there. Organic spring greens, pre-washed three times.

Perhaps her motive arose from a deeply imprinted, Mediterranean gene expression, but she always spent the three extra dollars to get fully viable salad. And, that first serving…mixed with freshly baked Beauregard sweets, olive oil, Apple cider vinegar, a dash of Parm, a sprinkle of ginger…yes; the perfect gastronomic blend*. And, plenty more, where that came from, to serve an agenda guaranteed by all the gurus to melt all the sludge that had barnacled to her belly over the winter .

But, the week had been fraught with interruptions. Duty calls; deadlines. Easier to throw a cheese sandwich, or spread an avocado on the bread. Yet, this time, just too many vital days of life already passed.

She removed the large, canned ham sized plastic container, and opened it. Sure enough. The lettuce was talking back.

Greens were funny like that. Distinct from their isolated, molding fruit counterparts, lettuce created a certain society around its half life; each leaf seemed completely committed to the survivability of its own species. Why they didn’t all just give it up in chorus was beyond her psychology. No; only a few at a time, the ones prevented sufficient aeration by the amassed population, would begin their dissolution, leaving the rest unmarked by any sign of decay.

Even as the stench of each slimy morsel infused the entire collective, the majority was determined to rule. Liberal servings of spinach, endive, Romaine, and arugula remained. Would she play the conservative at this caucus?

The greens stared up at her, as if to challenge her most resolute bipartisanship, yea, her very morality.

Plus, the spoiling leaves were consistently adhering to the healthy ones, leaving snail trails on the surface of each. In order to rescue the edible members, one at a time had to be hand-selected, wiped clean, rinsed, and patted dry.

Here’s where the real would meet the road. Here’s where the mark of intention would confront the heart of the matter. Here’s where the gamete of the game would either take its chromosomes in the order they appeared, or wreak genetic relay. One way or another – selective euthanasia, or worse – the salad would meet its maker.

First, she decided, condemn the obviously contaminated; then, hose down the entire community. Next, dump the collective into the centrifuge, pumping furiously to spin out and extract every last drop of humid toxicity. Then, pour out the bilious liquid; separate; rinse; and, repeat.

Segregate selected, diverse populations. Lay in flat layers, on and under absorbing material. Wait, for nature to render a verdict.

The next morning, nature’s results were in.

The leaves were dry. They’d carried no trace of the scent of their decayed counterparts. She emptied a layer into a salad bowl, and mixed in the baked Beauregard, the oil, the vinegar, the ginger, and the grated cheese.

But, the salad was tired. Though bearing up in color, there was a marked absence of convincing flavor and texture. Not until most of the meal had reached digestive phase would she note the faint waft of spoilage. Had there been residue on her fingers? Perhaps the air contained spores? Could this be a ghosting of greens ?

Naturopathically bent, she went for the apple cider vinegar tonic, following with a denatured charcoal capsule. The salad had moved beyond her jurisdiction. Only the body, functioning as a whole, could feed the final conclusion.

She hoped the same could be said for the body politic.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 3/18/16   All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. *Credit to Amanda Kloecker from Jekyl & Hyde’s/Erie for the loosely based recipe; credit to Chris C. for the inspiration.

Bon Appetit. Namaste.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On March 17, 1987, New York Philharmonic principal 'cellist, Carter Brey, performed as soloist with the Erie Philharmonic. At that time, I was a hired member of the EPO cello section. Rococo Variations on tap, his selected cadenza was one written by famed Slava Rostropovich, who had been his principal teacher. 
After its performance, I approached him in the wings during intermission with what can only be termed the vacant, simpleminded slog of a bedazzled twenty-something who had squandered all hope of scholarly insight by daydreaming during music history class. 
"So..! What did you think of the cadenza?" he asked, looking at me keenly, with expectation.
 
My response was incoherent.

(Twenty-seven years hence, that loop would replay in my head like the voice of Chucky.) Hell-bent on redeeming myself, I'd scuttled home and gotten to work. The result: this little morsel, which he would receive from me in snail mail.  A copy, of course; I kept the original, just in case I'd wake up the next morning and realize it had all been ....yeah...time to learn the tune.

Carter Brey’s Cadenza.

CarterBrey's Cadenza.

On March 17, 1987, New York Philharmonic principal ‘cellist Carter Brey performed as touring soloist with the Erie Philharmonic. At that time, I was a hired member of the EPO cello section. Rococo Variations and another work on tap, his selected candenza was one written by famed ‘Slava Rostropovich, who had been his principal teacher.

After its rehearsal, I approached him in the wings with what could only be termed the vacant, simple-minded slog of a bedazzled twenty-something, who had squandered all hope of scholarly insight by daydreaming during Cutler Silliman’s music history class.

“So…! What did you think of the cadenza?”, he tried, looking at me keenly, with expectation.

My response was incoherent.

(Twenty-seven years hence, that loop would replay in my head like the Voice of Chucky.) Hell bent on redeeming myself, I’d scuttled home and gotten to work. The result: this little morsel, which he would receive from me in snail mail. A copy, of course; I’d kept the original, just in case I’d wake up, say, twenty seven years later and realize it had all been a………..yeah. Time to learn the tune.

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© 1987 lettered collage by Ruth Ann Scanzillo, presented to Carter Brey that same year.

Originally published at littlebarefeetblog.com, with accompanying caption,  © November 20, 2014; Re-Posted on March 17, 2016

All rights strictly reserved, on the artwork and the blurb. Thanks. — Ruth Ann Scanzillo

littlebarefeetblog.com

White Ptarmigan.

 

There was a pond in their yard.

Not in some back corner, bordered by stone, featuring fat goldfish, built from a home improvement kit. This was a small lake, fully visible from the master bedroom window, on thirty one acres of forested New England, a body of water fed by brown trout and otters and current generation, pedigreed bullfrogs.

In the front yard.

And, that first Christmas, four months shy of their officially announced engagement, she’d traveled there with her intended to meet his parents.

Winter favored the contiguous Connecticut boroughs, their white Covenant spires gathering all to worship every Sunday in the heart of each town. East Woodstock was the destination and, to her delight, Currier and Ives,’ Christmas card perfect. As their tiny white Ford Festiva tooled around the bend, past the orchards and the fenced in horses toward the private drive, she was sure they had stepped into her grandmother’s “Ideals” catalogue.

Greeted at the door by a beaming Norwegian, and warmly embraced, she was led into the livingroom to meet the entire family. Perhaps it was the strings of Swedish and Norwegian flags lacing the Christmas tree in the bay window, or the Drambui on ice; but, by evening, a grandly atmospheric golden lighting bathing everything had found its way into her imagination, and she was heady from the fumes.

Her husband to be was a true blonde, with large, immediate, bright blue eyes. He loved his life. Always outside playing, whether it be to fish in the sound, or hunt small game, or deeply immerse in some well-planned orienteering, no day was complete without at least one eagerly awaiting adventure in the vastness of the great American refuge which surrounded him.

That afternoon – clear, not too cold – seemed perfect for a short expedition.

They’d stood at the kitchen window, she drying the colander with a tea towel, he gazing out across the pond as his mother prattled on. The opposite side of the water was bordered by a steep rise, forested towards the top, across which they could watch the eastward traveling path of flocks of fowl. As they stood gazing, to their astonishment there appeared four, possibly five large birds the size of pheasant, in horizontal flight just above the evergreen canopy –  their feathers: solid white.

From the yard where he had hastened to take her, and through the high-powered binoculars, red crowns could clearly be seen. Her husband to be was beside himself: “They’re ptarmigan, Hon-Bun!  Ptarmigan!”

She stood, staring out over the vast expanse, watching the white creatures in their slowly floating processional. White ptarmigan. These trumped the sighting of a bald eagle, or even one great blue heron. In the spirit of a four leafed clover, she wondered if this were an omen. The good kind, after all. She was almost 36 years old that year, and even meeting this young, eligible, white collar professional the previous spring had been a fluke.

Fluke. Summer flounder. They’d been fishing already, on the sound, the two of them. And, hiking – all the way up Mt. Washington, to the summit, in her mother’s cheap white track shoes from Hill’s Department Store. Camping – at Big Rock, next to a celebrity musician and his family. But, now. White ptarmigan. She turned, to see if this mystical experience had translated to her future husband.

He was nowhere to be found. She called out; her voice caught the ear of his mother. He and his father had gathered their gear – their buck shot, their hunter’s orange, and their rifles – and, made for the woods.

Sure enough, seasoned game boys, they weren’t long gone. In short order, her intended came bounding into the house like a Golden Retriever pup, his prize tucked proudly under one arm.

He’d shot one of the white ptarmigan.

***********

Following the wedding, her new spouse had reluctantly emptied his apartment and moved into her house, a short lived respite to be followed by a season of daily commutes to a nearby college for additional certification and, from there, a job relocation two states away. The freezer cleared of its contents, in the very back, wrapped repeatedly in plastic bags, was the body of the white ptarmigan. By the end of the next summer, her mother was dead; seven months later, so was her marriage.

The spring thaw arrived gracefully in the Great Lakes, this year. The winter, taken as a whole, was far less ferocious than in previous seasons. Bald eagles, rare snowy owls, and a remarkably tame coyote or two were photographed in the nearby state park. But, like that short, bewildering episode in her life, truncated by errant choices and death, never again would she see a white ptarmigan.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  3/15/16 All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hard Place.

ThisBoduClimbedMtWash


 

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

[first draft]

.

His solid legs extend both feet onto firm ground after nearly three hours on the vertical rock. The endorphin high is descending now. He soaks in its coasting stretch, his skin cooling just beneath the layer of moisture beads as they prepare for lift off. Hoisting the pack to his back, once as weightless as he was at 4000 feet, it assumes concrete mass and he leans to bear it, trudging, anticipating the moment when it will swing from his shoulders even as he just did from the side of the mountain. His tongue touches the salt crystals forming on his upper lip. Hunger rushes in.

Her seated form penetrates the haze ahead. He can just see the outline of her body, at about thirty feet. The small pit is glimmering under the pot, whose contents waft their aroma. Head bowed over the drawing that has taken shape on her lap over the past hour, she looks up, hearing his approach. Her heart quickens; she smiles slowly.

It wasn’t his custom. Wilderness, teeming with the unseen, waiting to be felt, its banquet for the senses unfolding as he tapped each resource, was his playground. He’d earned his place there, the only homo sapien for miles; they’d come to an understanding. Her image, so still, yet so incongruous. Was it the composition that jarred him, or something else?

She’d been determined. A finished drawing, perhaps a four hour, was the plan. Twenty five years fallow was long enough to nearly lose an identity. She’d been born to it, after all; what had been the problem? And, here was the perfect setting: neutral, God given territory. No critics, no commission deadlines, just the canvas and the Conte crayon, and the man.

The man. He didn’t know. She wouldn’t tell him. He’d climb his rock, and she’d mind camp. Easy enough to stew over a fire. She knew how to stew. She knew about fire. She’d been smoldering for years, months at least. The power was in her lap, the seat of foregone fertility, and the drawing was looking good.

He couldn’t quite name the emotion. Was it annoyance? Perhaps he was unnerved. A shift was now required of him, of his attention; he’d conquered the vertical plane with his fingertips, but could hardly advance toward the amorphous shape presented before him. Her gaze was soft, maddening.

Silently, she places the drawing on the soft earth, laying the crayon beside it. He takes the pot from the pit, and serves up two portions, and sits. They eat without tasting.

The mountain breeze moves in their direction, but stops short, wary and uncertain. A force between them finds form. It is resistance, the armored guard of all resolve. Natural, and unnatural. Presence, and absence.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  3/14/16  All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

BUTTERFLY!

 

Listen. Those who know me know I always gush about the Erie Chamber Orchestra’s performances. Yet, this is a staged, fully costumed, fully dramatized, fully fleshed out musical production – MADAMA BUTTERFLY, the opera by the amazing Puccini. And, the English subtitles will be clearly displayed across the top of the stage, on screen.

EASY to follow the action.

But ….the music.
The music will completely o.v.e.r.t.a.k.e you. You’ll be totally dumbfounded. You’ll be weeping and screaming, by the end.
And, it’s free.

That’s what I said.
You’d pay $60 a ticket for a show like this, anyplace else.
That is, quite simply, the truth.
7:30pm Saturday, in the Prep Auditorium on West 10th and Sassafras, in Erie PA, behind St. Peter’s Cathedral. Seats 800.
FREE.

Parking at the corner of Sassafras and 10th.
Erie Chamber Orchestra, Maestro Matthew Kraemer conducting.
Stage direction by Brent Weber. All principals are established professionals – one of them nationally recognized James Bobick, bass-baritone, from New York/living in Erie, and my friend, soprano Margaret Andraso; plus, lead soprano Shannon Kessler-Dooley; mezzo Olga Flora; and, tenor James Flora.

Am posting this here, in my  blog, so the LinkedIn network will see it. If you live near, or are passing through, northwestern PA, take a look and listen. You won’t regret it.

You won’t.

Thank you!

R.A.Scanzillo

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Sin of Omission.

 

 

Shielding resentment, rage, and jealousy

Behind magnanimous kindness

She smiles and strokes and panders

Incarcerating her madness

In the prison of dutiful protocol

And the dictae of social grace

Her person thinly veiled

By perpetually falsified face

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  3/9/16   All rights reserved, the sole property of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

The Indictment.

 

In little over an hour from now, “The Bachelor/The Women Tell All” will air on ABC. This is the point, in the grande process toward “The Final Rose”, when all the jilted bachelorettes get to descend upon their alleged suitor with every grievance and moment of humiliation he’d brought to bear on their public life in a rush of female vilification that approaches the attack of a flock of buzzards. I, for one, on a night like this one cannot wait to be a mere spectator.

My online counselor and I just completed our session. I’d asked him to let me read aloud to him from one of my blog posts, “Pedigree”,  because I wanted him to know about something that had “happened to me.” To my mind, the incident about which I had written had happened to me, not because of me. When I finished the read, I looked up at him. His face was contorted. He looked down, and shook his head. Then, he said that he felt like acid had been thrown at him.  He called me snotty. He said I sounded, no; he actually looked right at me, and said it: “You’re a mean bitch!”

” It’s no wonder”, he added, “that you have so few friends!”

He also kept rubbing his forehead. It could very well be that he’d had a headache even before I signed on. If so, I am certain that it was made worse by my session, a fact that I will give him by way of compassionate concession. But, I realized that now I would be spending the evening processing that somebody who gets paid to counsel individuals in the realm of human behavior had just called me a snotty, mean bitch.

Perception is sometimes the agony of life.

I repeat: I’d asked him to let me read the blog post aloud to him, because I wanted him to know about what had “happened to me.” ; the incident about which I had written had happened to me, not because of me. He, on the other hand, insisted that I had behaved very passive-aggressively by starting the conversation, and aggressively by writing the follow up piece.

The community of psychologists and their corollaries’ consensus goes that, deep within the tangled mess we often see when we go inside, a fragile, tender child resides. We are told to fully see that child, to embrace that child, and to accept that child. That child is innocent.

At this moment, I feel like somebody just tore the skin on that child and inserted a poisonous penetrant. Psychic pain is not lost on me; in fact, in my trek through the jungle toward self-realization, I have become quite familiar with the sensation.

Where does one go, and what does one do, when one is told that others see, in the self we are trying to accept, only a snotty, mean bitch?

My first impulse is to shut down. In moments of extreme trauma, rather than act out emotionally as is my characteristic wont I simply go unresponsive. I sit very still. The muscles of my face cease any movement. I hide in plain sight, hoping that any and all external influences will retreat from their threat to my well-being.

But, being a seasoned, post-menopausal woman, I do have other options. I could take a hot shower. I could eat something that contains heavy creme and organic unprocessed cane sugar. I could meditate on those whom I love, or those who, over time, have offered the sincerest form of love.

Indeed. Even a trained counselor can have moments of lapses in humanity. Even those whose livelihood depends on the trust of the precariously healthy can make missteps. Forgiveness is the most magnanimous of traits. Time to employ it, with fervor.

Denial is only a temporary comfort. There is no place to really live in denial. Defiantly insisting, particularly at the top of my voice, that I am NOT a snotty, mean person serves nothing and nobody.

Having recently confessed, also in print, my total failure as a loving human, I’m hoping for further illumination. Perhaps the belief that we bring our own misfortune, that we invite our own misery, is worthy of contemplation tonight. I’d thought that opening the counseling session with a preamble about never having been trained in the social arts would carry some credence; apparently, when one asserts oneself in print, all bets are off.

Here’s hoping that the study in sociology presented at 8:00pm will purge me of any and all notions of superiority over others that my writing implies. After all, if one stable, otherwise healthy guy from a loving, supportive family can handle the challenge and condemnation coming at him from 25 angry females, an aging, single woman who struggles to remain relevant among her peers can certainly survive the perception of one man.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   3/7/16   All rights those of the snotty, mean bitch who wrote the piece. Back off, minions.

(there. I hope he’s happy.) (!)

 

 

 

March 4, 1989.

[*Originally posted December 3, 2014; Composed in 1995; Re-blogged today, 3/6/16]

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A fine, filming, flaking ice

on last year’s grass

and that grand, cleansing

lateral wind

the scent

of false spring

. . . .

wide-eyed sparrows

sleep-talking

in the dry crackle

of a naked hedge

home

on fledgling plans

for a weekend fling

without their coats

. . . .

he’d danced a side step

up the walk

in his long, grey tweed

would I come up for tea?

that week-ending

winter

.

and I

am not remembering

when I kissed him

if he

kissed

me

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.

of shaun

1966-1995.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

1995

all rights reserved. Really. Shaun was possibly the best cellist I ever knew; built the porch on my house; and, gave me my first public performance opportunity as a collaborative pianist. The year was 1989, and the music: Shostakovich Sonata for Cello and Piano; his Bach; and, a heartbreaking, prophetic encore called Restful Woods. Thank you.

The Love Chapter.

 

Today was Lance Barclay’s funeral.

Funerals, as a rule, are generally less well attended than are viewings, unless the deceased is a close friend or family. But, this memorial, a good thirty minute commute – practically a day trip for the locals in this town – was packed.

The Girard Unitarian Universalist Church is one of the Great Lakes region’s original “underground railroad” hubs. Maybe its spirits have infused the space. I’d wager something is influencing those small, close quarters complete with tiny balcony, because those who occupy its congregation are some of the warmest, most well rounded, most open minded and forgiving of humans you’d ever hope to meet.

Among them, Lance was a star.

The impact of his life really gelled at the moment I realized his death. Perhaps, because many of us had no idea he’d been fighting cancer at all, this element of surprise was a catalyst, of sorts. Whichever being the case, I found myself drawn and determined; Saturday morning long since having ceased to be my earliest rising, I nevertheless vowed to get to that church on time.

Historically, the drive had been, for me, the prohibitor – especially during our forbidding winters; for this reason, at least in large part, my attendance at the Girard UU had been spotty. But, the single person apart from its minister, Rev. Charles Brock, most welcoming toward me, whether I were there to present a musical offering or simply to join the collective, was Lance. Always smiling (always smiling), he engaged me in conversation. He attuned. And, unlike those whose training in proselytizing could be knee jerk, his interest was genuine.

But, most of those already seated as the gong sounded at my arrival were strangers to both the congregation and me; yet, I found myself entering with a former colleague and seated beside another, neither of whom knew the other. This was the first aspect of Lance Barclay worthy of note; he’d been everywhere. The man had been a devoted member of numerous well established organizations dedicated to service. He was a Son of the American Revolution. He’d held a leadership position in service to the mentally ill. And, together with his adored wife, he’d raised his beloved family.

The funeral began with a greeting and a congregational hymn, and then the reading.

Noting the reading’s address – I Corinthians 13 – I marveled privately. The “Love” Chapter. Wasn’t this reserved almost exclusively for the sacrament of marriage? Certainly, my own wedding, all those years ago, had featured the verses – front and center, just ahead of the vows and behind the parade of handmade gowns lovingly sewn by my mother.

Rev. Brock preambled with the pre-existing theme of the previous month’s homilies. Eros – Philios – Agape…….and, then, he began to recite the 13th chapter of I Corinthians.

“Love is patient….

and kind……..”

I sat. My coat was russet, faux suede, a stand out amongst the Navies and blacks of the appropriately attired. The remaining spot on the pew which had been offered me bore two, hand sewn cushions which met just where the halves of my body separated. I squirmed over the void. The small bag holding the tiny African violet for Bernadette, his widow, next to my oversized Sundance bag filled the space at my feet.

“….love is not jealous

or boastful

or proud

…..or rude……….”

Allan the organist’s forehead was just visible over the top of the music rack, in the tiny corner of the sanctuary facing the room. I looked at Lance’s face, painted in striking oils, his smile ever present now in portrait.

“It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.”……..

My heartbeat, particularly unstable back in the ’80’s especially during marching band season, pricked inside my chest. I looked over at Rev. Brock, head bowed over his New Living quote of the Scriptures, and back up toward Lance’s face. His image was a backdrop now for the youngest of two daughters, both of whom had presented so beautifully a litany of his many words of wisdom in remembrance. I watched as she kissed her child’s forehead.

“It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.”

It was clear, now, why Rev. Brock had chosen to read this chapter. Lance Barclay had embodied the love of Christ as received by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. There wasn’t a single blot on his record as either a responsible citizen, a father, or husband. He had lived a life utterly and completely above reproach.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

A sigh of ten thousand mornings and nights escaped from deep within me. I knew, then, what had compelled my attendance at this man’s funeral. Looking back over so many attempts at accomplishment, at professional contribution, at earnest effort, at production as a single, responsible woman in the world of the performing, visual, and teaching arts, I had failed completely at the one, divine directive. I’d been impatient, unkind, jealous, proud, boastful, and rude. I’d demanded my own way, quite irritably so, and had kept a record of every transgression against me. I had failed at love.

Lance Barclay’s gaze followed his family, friends, fellow parishioners, WWII veterans, and colleagues as they filed outside for his full military honors. The three (merciful) gun salute, the American flag folded triangularly and presented to the family, the single bugler’s Taps, and the lone piper’s “Amazing Grace” filling the early spring air, feathered now by fine flakes of snow. We stood. Then, the piper turned, and retreated, allowing the strains of the hymn to diminish across the portal that opened into eternity…………….

We were flooded.

I was infused with it. That grace! A vow to live love at all costs filled the blood in my veins. Seventy seven chapters closed in the life of Lance Barclay; another day in the life of those to whom he left his legacy. A new love chapter, ready to begin, just across the next horizon.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  3/5/16  All rights, in honor of Lance, Bernadette, Nicole, Martine, and the rest of their loving family, reserved. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Do.

 

Last week, Gary Viebranz said something striking. Now, anybody who actually knows Gary will find that statement amusing; indeed, he says something memorable every time he exhales air. The man is a comic legend.

But, beyond that. We were walking out of the Reed Union concert space, Penn State/Behrend following a wonderful performance by the Canellakis Brown Duo at his acclaimed “Music At Noon” Series last week (I missed today’s guests), and he said something to this effect: ” It’s nice when audiences appreciate performers, and performers appreciate audiences.”

I, of course, let being struck by that nestle in my ruminating lobe.

It’s funny. Have been almost embarrassed, as a fairly recent public blogger (just over a year and a half, this month) to admit how little I read published authors. Of equally awkward admission, having spent the past thirty years as a professional musician, I listen to far fewer fellow musicians than my colleagues. This is likely quite anomalous among performing professionals and writers. I do support them, and try to attend, but admit to finding what I need elsewhere.

Yes, I am devoted audience to two other art forms: drama, and dance.

Great acting absolutely fascinates me. I live for the story. Dance, equally so. Why? Oh, I love to dance, and had a blast taking some swing and salsa lessons; but, this scoliotic body, with these feet? Come on. I was definitely born to be audience in their room. And, when I am, nearly every moving image populates my imagination thereafter.

As for acting, well, I do dream. Would love to take a stab at a bit character. But, the sheer volume of memorized utterance is flummoxing; how they do it escapes me. Yet, what they do informs both how I think and what I create. To every single second of their offering, I am completely committed.

So, let’s just all relax. Stop the infernal, internal judging. If there’s a show, and you are busy creating, then you are where you belong. Be audience to just exactly whatever it is that feeds your fuel center. Take in what you need; then, go, and do. Please, do. Make something beautiful.

But, when you are the audience, immerse yourself. And, remember to appreciate your fellows, earnestly, even if it is in recording after the show. Locals, if you’ve never caught “Music at Noon” over at Behrend Campus, the quality is unsurpassed. Yes; even though some were born to write rather than read, to play rather than attend, just keep looking and listening.

And, then, like Yoda said: Just do.

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p.s. While we’re at it: Actors and dancers: check out live music, in a genre unfamiliar. You might get some unexpected nourishment!

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  3/1/16  All rights, please, to the author; however, sharing by ReBlogging and permission. Thanks so much.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Don’t Make Me Waltz.

June 25, 2013

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You can take her in a closet
You can dance her in the street;
You can fly her home to greet your mother
Show her off to everyone you meet

You can say that she outshines the others
Claim that none could ever take her place
Just don’t let

me see

her face.

You can work your magic on her
Make her think she’s born for you
You can call her, glory laud and honor
Every breath she takes as fresh and new

You can act like every other woman
Isn’t worth an ounce of love or grace….
Just don’t make

me see

her face.

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[Bridge:]

Did you tell her that you didn’t ever
ask

to have a life?
Does she know that you said you would never
call

a woman “wife”?

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You can say that she’s a stand-out
No one else could ever take her place
Just don’t let

me see

her face….

Don’t make

.

me see

.

her face.

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[unbearably mournful fiddle break/slow dance]

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[repeat Bridge to END.]
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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo
6/25/13
all rights reserved, in whole and in part. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com