An Independent Candidate.

The final debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, prior to Decision 2016, is now one for the record books. Televised pundits are all over the fact that the GOP candidate reserved commitment, regarding public support of whomever is elected, until the time comes; to them, this seemed the most outrageous take away from the debate, simply because it was unprecedented.

How about we take precedence one step further.

After the second debate, this writer declared support for neither party’s candidate for the office of President of our [persistently dis-]United States. Here’s why.

Party politics are restricting and divisive. They pit legitimate ideas against one another, drawing a hard line between them and, on the grounds of dubious, yea, evolving “platform” position, preventing any potential for fusion or synthesis. Yet, pragmatic solution is all about selecting from among many kernels of verifiable truth and grafting them into something that bears digestible fruit. Nobody in the midst of this invariably creative process gives a preponderance of thought to the sources of the truths. The sources aren’t relevant.

In a world where robotics rule the surgical rooms, drones fly unmanned, and computer chips track the activity of countless populations, this writer (yours, truly) feels almost at home designing her own Presidential candidate.

She’ll borrow from a dormant category long since deemed irrelevant, and call hers an Independent. (After all, can you name the Independent PARTY candidate? Yeah. Thought so.)

This Independent candidate distinguishes between human rights issues and civil liberties, realizing that the right to choose extends far beyond the debate over a woman’s power regarding her own body to include the right to choose from among a variety of medical treatment options and physicians, even places of residence; to marry, or to cohabit; to study, or to create; to work, to earn, save, invest, spend, and bequeath; to live, even to die; and, that defending civil liberties, while they include the right to bear and collect arms, to consume the foods and substances one prefers, to worship according to one’s beliefs, and to live in the privacy of one’s home in whichever lifestyle suits one’s liking can sometimes be a foil for extreme behaviors that are at heart both harmful and subversive.

This Independent knows the Constitution by heart, and also understands how and when the context of an issue factors into its application. While neither judge nor jury, the Independent realizes that he or she represents the integrity of that document as leader of the free world.

Maintaining a cogent world view, this Independent knows both his or her place in the universe and the role of nation in an increasingly global society. This candidate is both a peace maker and a protector, knowing the difference between keeping the people informed and holding defensive strategy close to the vest. This Independent avoids employing sanction or no fly zone tactics, as these are a predicate for war.

For this reason, this Independent is neither imperialist nor isolationist.

Regarding relationship with other civilized nations, this Independent respects the right of place and resource without greed or covetousness, and works to foster interdependence by sharing what is plentiful and graciously receiving in kind what is found to be needed or valuable. Trade agreements are made in the spirit of symbiosis, and enforced without rancor or a mentality driven by any need to acquire.

Concerning human resources at home in America, this Independent pays keen attention to inventive minds and ways in which those with outstanding drive to accomplish and contribute can be paired with emerging markets. Education is given priority as an institution, and both sound philosophy, proved pedagogy, and experimental methods share the stage in any implemented plan. This Independent abolishes the assembly line mentality and, overriding outmoded notions of class and segregation, provides education for the entire population with equitable opportunity.

This Independent is not a taker. Rather, this candidate is a gatherer, knowing that successful mobilization of people with widely varying cultural histories and traditions requires a deep understanding and respect for individual differences and a magnanimous acceptance. This Independent knows the value of building community without attempting to enforce behavior.

With regard to those from other countries interested in becoming citizens, the Independent is able to balance amnesty with programs that facilitate rapid assimilation, using the educational models established a priori. A defender as well as protector, this candidate firmly enforces border security by providing both practical guidelines for distinguishing threat and the resources to address them.

Finally, this Independent knows that hard work in any arena deserves recognition and reward. Beholden to no corporate entity, this candidate is free to accept support from all peoples, irrespective of old notions of race, creed, or socio-economic demographic. With regard to the dispensing and allocating of government funds, all such decisions are made with every facet of the needs of the people in mind. If money is required of the people to support programs that serve them, these are collected according to the amount of income generated and distributed using a system of accountability that prevents fraudulent appropriation. Because there are no lobbying entities, the system of accountability is free of infiltration by vague language which creates loophole.

This Independent accepts the role of leadership neither emboldened by prior party successes nor shackled by previous party failures. In this way, such a candidate can only move forward, with eager anticipation of a multitude of opportunities to serve the nation and its people.

This writer would vote for such a candidate. At this writing, this writer isn’t ready to vote.

So, before we are all asked to cast our ballot, perhaps both party candidates might do well by taking one step away from their platform, just long enough to see the world from an independent perspective.

Perhaps this might generate an outcome unprecedented in our time.


* Any similarities found between this blog post and any other such treatise? ex: George H.W.Bush’s letter to Bill Clinton, or the preamble to PeeWee Herman’s Playhouse are, as God is my witness, purely coincidental. will vouch for the post time of this piece as preceding any press releases containing similar material.

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   10/20/16       All rights those of the author – an American citizen, a woman, and an Independent. Thank you, and God Bless America.



Erie, PA is an anomaly. You should visit.

Located in the northwest corner of the Commonwealth, well away from the rest of the populace, we are a perfect hub between Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo.

And, when I say “perfect”, I mean it.

We are a vacation destination. We have incredible beauty of nature, here. Our Presque Isle peninsula has eleven public beaches, with walking and biking trails, lagoons for canoes and paddleboats, a campground, warblers, coyote, fox, owl……and, on the lakefront, (“Bayfront”) at the foot of the central artery, its magnificent view blocked by a huge hotel and convention center and not nearly enough of anything else except two restaurants and a tower, there are, nevertheless: sailboat races.

We have the magnificent Erie Art Museum, the leader for Gallery Night at least twice per year for all 14 art galleries to strut their stuff. We have 5 dramatic theater companies (just saw AUGUST: Osage County, and ALL MY SONS, just three blocks from my house – both Broadway quality), 20 dance studios, 2 professional symphony orchestras (Erie Phil/Erie Chamber), the best a cappella choir on the east coast (Erie Renaissance Singers – go listen, at YouTube), and even film societies. Even live poetry readings! The best Jazz anywhere, endless rock bands. A casino and racetrack. An indoor water slide paradise. A huge amusement park. And, hundreds of restaurants, many of them privately owned featuring master chefs.

Yet, we are a distressed city. Go figure.

28% poverty rate. Among 100,000 total population, 4700 vacant housing units, 1900 abandoned (data revealed at a development symposium, attended last evening.) We used to be a thriving manufacturing center; yet, General Electric is dumping jobs like waste and the paper mill has long been gone, leaving behind toxic nickel plating and bronzing, and tool and die, and now three plastics plants likely pouring their poisons into the air and water (thankfully, not near me).

I have an air cleaner, and a filter on my heating system, and a radon mitigation sub slab system, and I never drink or cook with the tap water because we have as much lead (and, toluene) as Flint, MI.

But – we can buy the sweetest spring water. In 32 count bottles, it comes from NY state, sold at the local Tops market. And, everything we ever need is within a ten minute drive, or a twenty minute WALK. I’m serious.

So, if you are a visionary, come.

If you are a city planner, come.

If you are an environmentalist, come.

If you are an investor, please come.

Yes. Come visit.

We need you.





© Ruth Ann Scanzillo     10/13/16


“How did you learn to draw like that?”

That was the [ unanswerable ] question.

Ever since the first Crayon was [ likely snatched ] by my pudgy little infant hand, I have been among those whom society calls “artists”. The mystery that continues to baffle most of us: where does the propensity, let alone the compulsion, to draw come from? This is not a disclaimer; it’s just the truth.

[*Aside: Haters, just go someplace else and do your thing, because we all have something to say.]

From my earliest memory, what could be seen by the human eye utterly fascinated me. Never a casual viewer, I looked at everything – every shape, line, and detail, and every hue.

To this day well, yeah…still the looker, a watcher (go ahead; catch the staring) –  voyeur to life itself.

To an artist, every magnificent human being reveals:

  • form of figure, shape of frame;
  • stance, and gait;
  • countenance, and expression;
  • profile;
  • volume, length, and texture of hair;
  • features of face;


And, color of skin.

In America, we have a veritable banquet for the lens. When I look at a “white” person, I see:

short, wiry, ruddy or freckled, auburn Irish, Scot or Welsh; tall, regal, fair, platinum Nordic and stocky Swede; broad, strong raven haired Serb, or blonde German and Netherlander; lean, long limbed, sandy haired English; curvy, bronze, brown haired Latin; petite, wavy haired Sicilian, or olive skinned, acquiline French, Italian, Greek, Macedonian, and bronzed Arab; straight nosed, blue eyed, chestnut haired Russian or Ukrainian; muscular, green eyed, curly haired Polish and Jew;

When I look at a “black” person in America, I see:

licorice skinned, curved forehead Sudanese; tall, straight, reedy Maasai of Kenya;  broad grinned Nigerian; mahogany, black eyed Somalian; golden, robed Ethiopian; wiry, dark, short muscled Pygmy; bronzed, almond eyed Egyptian; freckled, red haired, copper toned Creole; and, a majority of the above, also carrying the deep gaze and strong cheekbone of the Native American.

When I look at what used to be called “yellow” skin, I see Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Malaysian, Thai, Filipino, Samoan, Mongolian, Polynesian, and those representing countries yet to be known to me.

If we were to meet, for the first time, you might find me staring keenly at your face. I might even ask questions, like: “Are you possibly of Russian heritage, with some Irish?” or, “Are you from West Africa, maybe the Ivory Coast? ” I do not do this to pigeon hole you; I do it because you captivate me.

Racism is a scourge. In our country, it has reached embarrassing and increasingly life threatening proportions. Distinguishing merely “black” and “white”, or “Latino” is literally small minded, vastly uninformed, and hopelessly restricting. In fact, we are a multitude, spanning the spectrum of the living, and if we shift our gaze to what makes us representative of culture and its heritage, what colors our vision will be radiant and illuminating.




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  10/7/16   – All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

Pittsburgh Symphony Musicians Take Charge!


The management of the Pittsburgh Symphony has threatened its musicians with a lock out, attempting to impose a pay cut which would reduce them to a second tier orchestra, and making noise about hiring substitute players.


Since Friday night’s concert was to have been CMU night (Carnegie – Mellon), Carnegie-Mellon University has graciously provided their Kresge Theater as a venue, and the musicians will perform Friday, after all – FREE, to all public, including those who had already purchased tickets to hear the originally scheduled concert at Heinz Hall.

The concert begins at 8:30pm. this Friday, October 7th, at Kresge. God knows where that is, but I’ll find it.

I’m so proud of these musicians. This is just a brilliant solution – bring your audience with you!!

We are there.




Ruth Ann Scanzillo, principal cello, ERIE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA, ERIE PA








SOCIAL MEDIA: It Was Supposed To Be A Party.


Dear Social Media:

[The ones who haven’t hidden my posts.]


It’s been 7 years. Is this the itch?

Here’s what I think of our relationship. (Like a good therapy patient, I’ve made two lists): Good Stuff and Not So Good Stuff.

Good Stuff:

  • Re-acquaintance with old friends, remote family, DNA determined ancestors, and former students;

  • New friends, some special and close;

  • Community Bulletin Board announcements, including:

          a.) “In a ‘relationship'”; b.) marriages, c.) births; d.) pet acquisitions; e.) deaths;

  • Photos and video of fine art, music, dance, soccer goals, and drama;

  • Promotion of performance based events;

Not So Good Stuff:

  • False picture of the social landscape in the real world;

  • Subconscious drive to “keep up with the Jones’s”;

  • Political proselytizing, not always fact-based;

  • Passive-aggressive verbal warfare;

  • Flat out braggadocio;

Consequently, each of us has unwittingly submitted to a cinematic characterization of ourselves that distorts public perception.

The Introvert, Extrovert and Ambivert: It’s a @#$% Party!

Introverts rarely post; they read, and draw conclusions. Extroverts enter one liners, then leave the house to actually go and be with their people. Ambiverts, caught between creating in print and communicating with intent, post excessively – leaving themselves wide open to extrapolation and interpolation, only to wonder why cliques shun them in public.

The Interpretation

We have come to interpret reactions to our persona on social media with far too much of the alternate angst, delusion, and regret. The Blocking Feature has been deadly, cutting off all hope of public reconciliation; it’s as if that 3 foot barrier in three dimensions has taken on an anti-gravity shield, distinct from any currently being employed by the alien civilization presently closest in proximity (sic) to earth.

And — how many of us knew it was just a @#$% party!?




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  9/30/16    – All rights those of the author. Thanks!




Walking Dead.


A moment ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie presented his portion of the 2:00pm EST press conference, following the deadly commuter train crash in Hoboken.

During his speech, he declared:  “The silver lining? Only one fatality.”

And, furthermore, “due to injuries caused by debris”.

A woman died. A woman, whose name has not yet been revealed, pending notification of next of kin.

Her only defense: standing on the platform, waiting for the train.

Soon, we may be permitted knowledge of her identity.

And, perhaps there will be a retrospective of her life, aired by the media.

But, a word, please.

The world of statistics. Those who live within it are to be pitied. Theirs is a realm of calculated loss, some mumbling about “the greater good”. Oh; and, a mentality that is fed by tactic and strategy.

This is a war mentality.

It is not civic minded. It is not compassionate. The value of human life is reduced to a numerical equivalent, like the toluene levels in drinking water. Acceptable, or not. One death, equating to some notion of Acceptability.

I suppose we should all thank our God that we were not standing on that train platform at 8:45 am this day. And, we might pray for the family who lost a beloved sister, daughter, perhaps mother.

I know that, at my own mother’s death, she lay in her own bed in her own home, the sun streaming in to receive her soul. As for those to whom her death was merely a calculated, statistical risk, who administered the treatment protocol that did nothing to save her life, I wonder how long ago their own souls left their bodies.

The walking dead. They are among us.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  9/29/16    –  All rights those of the author. Thank you.



By now, every civilized person who has ever been to a counselor or read a self help book knows: the emotion behind anger is fear.

Fear drives anger.

And, anger is usually expressed as aggression.

Hence, aggressive behavior is fear-based.


Sometimes that fear is rooted in a need to protect self, or those loved by self, or things owned and treasured by self.

Other times, that fear is rooted in a perceived threat to power or control.

But, fear is at the root. And, the consequent behavior is: aggression, sometimes brutal.


Enter the system of control in place to enforce laws intended to maintain order.

If there is fear driving a threat to a loss of that system of control, those in place to enforce its laws will behave aggressively.

The result: police officers, on the offensive. Ready to use their power, aggressively.


I believe that, in America, white police officers are afraid of black people, and black people are afraid of white police officers. Now, fear drives both. And, the behavior of both has become aggressive.

Those with official power behave aggressively; those who feel powerless behave passive-aggressively. Both are simply afraid of the other.


In America, white people who are afraid of black people were taught to be afraid of those they do not know. Black people were taught the same thing. Many white people who actually know black people, and many black people who actually know white people, have established trust one with another. And, even love.

And, I was taught that perfect love casts out fear.


Jimmy Carter should be consulted, and others like him should be running our country. Individuals with genuine compassion for the downtrodden, the powerless, and the fearful.

We need to start over. As simplistic as it sounds, we need to dig up our forgotten ability to pour out authentic love for one another. If we do not, we are doomed to destroy ourselves.


And, all because of being scared to death.




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  9/24/16       Please share. Thank you.




Mercury Retrograde.

Man, Alive.

Whoever said “believing can make it so” has never lived through an astrological prediction.

Mercury Retrograde had three whole weeks to wreak its magic: September 1st through the 22nd. (Check any Astrology site for the lowdown.) Today, the 21st, opened bright and sunny, reeking of possibility. But, Mercury Retrograde still had 24 hours and, apparently, making its final 12 intolerably spectacular was the order of the universe.

10:45 am: Sunglasses appointment, 300 State St. Fair enough. Easy. Tool down Peach St; pick out the latest tortoise shell horn rims; find out that Anthony, who has recently lost weight, also has four kids in all and one set of twins; and, give him the money: [too much.]

Done. No casualties.

11:55 am: The Pontiac tank is on Empty. Post Office box, first, before the lunch rush. Endless catalogs; several Thank You notes from Erie Gives Day; the UBS annual report; and:

Peebles’ coupons.

Peebles has cosmetics. Maybe check to see if they have DermaBlend, to cover the scar on the chin caused by face planting onto the found engagement diamond from 1993?

Oh; but, they have clothes.

12:10 pm: Peebles, Liberty Plaza. On sale. 50% off. 30% off. Red Line.

12:33 pm: Twelve hangers later, I’m at the check out. Do I have my Peebles’ charge? Of course, I do not. And, of course, none of the sales are valid without it. Of COURSE. (This is Mercury Retrograde, isn’t it?). Wait; only the Red Line sale items require Peebles’ charge. Had I selected any Red Line items? Please keypad your phone number. Please keypad your zip code. Residential? Please keypad your Social. Not accepted. What? Not my Social? Please keypad your Social, again. Not accepted.

Three years’ shy of collecting Social Security;  Social Security number not accepted.

[Mercury, Retrograde.]

Oh; not my z.i.p c.o.d.e of record. (NOTE: Social Security number now dependent upon correlating zip code of record.)  Oh; try b.i.l.l.i.n.g zip code? Aha. Social Security number accepted.

Driver’s License, please?

Twelve hangers, and no Red Line items selected. I will pay with my EFCU card, of course. Or, Mastercard. Both of which are with the driver’s license in the Altoids Peppermint tin in the — where is the Altoids Peppermint tin?

Could it be stuck at the sunglasses appointment?

1:10 pm: In the parking lot, I call the eye doctor’s office. No; they have no Altoids Peppermint tin on their counter. This is because the Altoids Peppermint tin is caught in the front seat of the car, ready to slip into oblivion like everything else that ever falls out of the purse.

But, why is the driver’s license not in the Altoids Peppermint tin? Because it is still in the card slot of the piano sack, from the recital at the Tuesday Morning Music Club, of course.

1:30 pm: Home for the driver’s license.
1:41 pm: Back to Peebles. (Yes; This is Erie, Pennsylvania: Five minutes, Home; Five minutes, Away. )The lady clerk has hung all my selected garments by the register. And, there is my brother’s ex-wife’s twin sister, Jean, waiting in line ahead of me. Hadn’t I seen her at Peebles just seven years ago?

After I answer Jean that my brother, her ex-brother in law, is still alive, Jean and I laugh our heads off about everything. Then, Jean buys one blue top and off she goes.

2:02 pm: I step up to the counter, making some crack about my looking like an Arab to the woman standing beside me. She tells me she’s Native American, and we exchange stories about being mistreated in the airport because of our facial bones. The cashier rings up my sale: $216.31 YOU SAVED $192.65

2:12 pm: I take my big fat savings to the car, and then remember I have to check at the cosmetics counter about DermaBlend. No; they don’t sell it. But, the clerk is the parent of a former Perry student, and she takes pity on my chin scar and breaks every rule of good merchandising and tells me DermaBlend is sold by Sephora at JC Penney.

2:25 pm : I have to pee, have not eaten, and the tank still reads Empty, ding ding. Stop home; chug a protein shake; check email.  Skip filling the tank, still ding ding dinging. Somebody has said you get miles on Empty.

2:50 pm:  Head up Peach to JC Penney. The first person I see in the store is a former Grover Cleveland student, Leah, and her mother, who both work there. Mrs. Papucci takes me to Sephora. They don’t have DermaBlend. But, ULTA might; ULTA is in the strip mall, outside.

3:00 pm: Mrs. Papucci and I walk back into Penney’s. I can’t get to my car without passing through the clothing department.

75% off sale. Evan Piccone dresses. Liz Claiborne curvy fit jeans.

3:42 pm: Twelve more hangers. Gush at flirty baby in stroller. Pass on the Evan Piccone.
But, this time, I have all my cards, and the girl is quick because I tell her the roofer is coming at 4:00 and I have twelve minutes to get home in time.

4:01 pm: Home. No roofer. An hour later, still no roofer. I text; I call. Mike, and Bo’s buddy, Dave, can be there later, around 7:30 or 8.

4:15 pm: Set up Judy’s Kyrie cello obligato, and start to read the French horn accompaniment.

5:23 pm: Eat sweet potato ravioli, and then remember that “Midnight Special” is playing at FILM at the Erie Art Museum, and the exquisite boy who plays opposite Michael Sheen in MASTERS of SEX is the star, and I have vowed to attend. I call the roofer; can he come by 6:45, or Thursday?

6:25 pm: Mike calls back. He decides to come Thursday; I put on my denim long shirt (from JC Penney), and drive to the art museum.

7:00 pm:  The introduction to the film features several trailers for upcoming movies, saved on laptop Powerpoint, as well as a joyful announcement involving the Film Society of Northwestern PA’s recent collaboration with the Erie Phil, an orchestra with which I recall playing for 27 years until 2012.

7:20 pm: “Midnight Special” begins. It is riveting, from start to finish; perfectly paced, superbly acted, brilliantly conceived. During the Discussion Period, those of us in the know keep mum about what we believe concerning extra terrestrials; there is one comment about Michael Shannon, one Brush with Greatness anecdote, and no discussion.

9:20 pm:  On my way out of the museum, Betsy asks me if I can put together some background music for the annual Oscars party at the Sheraton. I suggest string quartet playing arrangements of the nominated songs. Brian’s date tells me she likes my track shoes. I remind that the foot surgeon has ordered only sneakers until the end of October.

9:30 pm: Hungry for Dairy Queen GF vanilla, I drive up Peach Street to Taco Bell for a Cantina Chicken Bowl. Pulling up to the drive through, behind two other cars, I look down at the tank reading Empty, and turn off the engine to save gas for the coast down Peach that leads home.

9:35 pm: I turn the key in the ignition. The car sputters; the battery light comes on.  I turn the key, again. The engine shakes in the manifold.

9:37 pm: I get out of the car, and walk toward Taco Bell. A LIFT driver exits, and I ask if he’ll push my car with the dead battery out of the drive thru to a parking spot. He and another guy approach my car, look into the cab, ask me to turn the key, and say:

“You’re out of gas.”

They heave my car into a parking spot, and retreat.

9:42 pm: In my denim long shirt, yoga pants, leg warmers, and sneakers,I start walking north on Peach Street, toward the Citgo Station a half mile down the hill.

9:50 pm: I reach AutoZone. The two guys inside say they don’t sell dry gas; they sell gas cans. Do I want 2 gallons, or 1?  Hau, from Viet Nam, says he’ll drive me to Taco Bell.

9: 58 pm: I walk to Citgo, with the can. I can’t get the nose off the can. I take it inside, where a customer says my leg warmers remind him of Olivia Newton-John. The two clerks inside jimmy the nose off; I go back outside, fill the can, and walk back up to AutoZone. My foot is hurting, and I am biting my lip to keep oncoming traffic from recognizing me as the auto lights pass by on the road.

10: 05 pm:  Hau drives me to Taco Bell; Mike, his manager, follows behind. Hau fills my tank with the gas from the can. I ask Mike and Hau to wait while I start the car. The engine sputters and shakes, and stalls out. Mike takes the keys. Mike turns the key in the ignition about twelve times. Hau lifts the hood. The engine shakes in the manifold. Mike looks at the battery, and asks when I have replaced it.

I haven’t.

10: 20 pm: Mike jumps the battery with his cables from his SUV. Nothing happens. Mike speculates that sediment in the empty tank has clogged the fuel filter. Yes; AutoZone sells batteries, and installs them; no, AutoZone does not replace fuel filters.

10: 25 pm: I call AAA. I ask them for a tow to Greg’s Auto, and a battery. They tell me I can have one, or the other, but not both.

I take the truck.

10: 33 pm: I walk up to the Taco Bell window, and order a Cantina Chicken bowl, double chicken, no black bean.

11:10 pm: Just as I finish the last bite of the Cantina Chicken Bowl, AAA arrives. His name is Don. He pops the hood; he tries the key in the ignition; he looks under the hood. Then, he goes to his truck, pulls out a 3 gallon can and a long funnel, and pours 2 more gallons of gas into the tank.

11:14 pm: Don turns the key. The engine ignites; the car idles; the battery is fine. The car is, too. Don has saved the car, and the tow. Don says that 1 gallon of gasoline is not enough to stimulate the [Pontiac] fuel pump to get any gas to the engine.

11:20 pm:  I pull into TOPS parking lot, get out, go in the store, and buy one 1/2 cup of Haagen Dazs vanilla for $1.79. I bring it home, add a tablespoon of almond butter, and sit down to eat it all.

11:24 pm: I turn on the TV. The news announces another fatal shooting of an African American by a police officer, this time in Charlotte, North Carolina, where my cousins live.

I am safely home, safely nourished, and safely past Mercury Retrograde.

But, a believer?

You had better believe it.




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 9/22/16   All rights those of the author, whose story it is, would you wish this on anybody? and, whose name appears above this line. Thank you. Happy Birthday, Abby!

“How Delicious.”


— a poem.


How exciting it is

To curl up and watch a catastrophe on TV

Especially when it cancels work.


How delicious it is

To make a joke out of someone else’s confusion

Exchanging glances and a smirk.


How absolving it is

To scapegoat somebody to cover your transgression

Earning another social perk.


How important it is

To be the one whom everybody else thinks is cute

Except when you’re really the jerk.


— from “Bad Poems About People”  Volume I.

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo



© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 9/16/16   – All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line (who would steal a bad poem?). Thank you for your respect. Now, off with you; there’s colluding to do.

Toni Dillon.


The good teachers – the really good ones – don’t wait for rewards.
They’re usually too busy to market themselves to anybody. Anybody, that is, except their beloved students.

Such was the case with our Toni Dillon.

I’d met Toni at Lincoln Elementary, the big brick fortress on East 31st street where even my mother had been a student back in the 1920s. Having attended Lincoln myself, I was already familiar with the lay of the three floors, the hardwood, the massive stairwells, the big bay window in the largest Kindergarten classroom, and the steep auditorium whose stage was the lip of the gym. There were old school buildings all over Erie, but none quite like Lincoln.

Toni hadn’t grown up in our town. She was one of those special people who’d applied all around the country, and taken the first position that had opened up for her. Toni was from New Jersey, and probably one of only a handful of people from that state who had ever even been to Erie, Pennsylvania.

Newly bid into K-6 from the high schools, I was grateful to get one of the largest classrooms, an old art space complete with working sink, right across from the big Kindergarten with the bay window where I’d sat on the rug in 1962.

Toni was around the corner and across the hall, right near the door, and she had a whole wall of windows. Her students were the Emotional Support kids, boys, ages 9 – 11. Her room wasn’t huge, but it was packed with everything imaginable.

She had live critters everywhere, and growing things, and gizmos, and collections, and graphics, and all sorts of new activities to do every week, which she called her Projects. And, nobody was more enthusiastic about the latest Project than Toni, herself.

You could not contain your own energy when Toni was around. She was a whirlwind. She had to be; her boys, some of them fragile, many of them potentially volatile, needed her keen, undivided if indirect attention at every moment. And, Toni made it her mission to keep that attention, from the moment they passed through the door in the morning until they were safely on the bus at 2:30.

The reason I got to know Toni was all because of her personality; not a natural mixer, I was content to stay in my space. But, she loved to pop in, with an old filmstrip series found in a forgotten closet that she was sure I could use, or some other such reason to make contact. She called me RAZZ, a moniker I frankly enjoyed because, well, Toni “got” me; I, too, was enormously enthusiastic about my job as music teacher and, during those five years at Lincoln, probably the most committed and immersed in my role as I ever had been before or since.

The most admirable aspect of Toni was revealed to me the day she told me about her trips to the circus, with the one child in her class whom she had discovered to be essentially without family. This young boy, a slight little child with curly brown hair, had become a focus for Toni. Way beyond the call of duty, she had become a major part of his life. And, she did it simply because she was needed. Nothing ever stopped this woman from caring. Nothing.

The winter following my mother’s death, I’d spent Christmas day with almost everyone in my family except, of course, mum. The day was fractured by miscommunication. And, I, without going into detail, had been deeply hurt by the actions of my unwitting family. Running home to throw myself into bed and wail from the depths of grief and loss, I became quite hysterical and felt frightened by my despondency. I knew I needed to talk to somebody.

Toni was the first person who came to mind.

When I called her, she was actually home. And, she picked up. And, she listened. Toni listened, and let me cry it all out, and shared in my hurt and pain. She’d had similar experiences in her own family, as it turned out, and understood acutely everything that had just happened to me.

I never forgot that day. She may very well have saved my life.

As we proceeded through our teaching careers, forced to submit to the district’s bidding process, we were both moved out of Lincoln the same year, torn from students who had become such a part of our lives. Fatefully, the two of us ended up at Perry School, once again just down the hall from each other. And, for five more years, I was blessed again by her enormous heart.

But, the district would re – pair the schools, yet again, and this time I had to make the gut wrenching decision to leave Perry School. So, Toni and I were separated for the first time in nearly a decade.

Like too many teachers who had worked in those buildings, Toni had been diagnosed with cancer. She’d battled back, but this time the disease had moved further into her body and the fight was a full on suit of armor. We stayed in touch via email, Toni putting us all on a long list of friends and colleagues and, in true Toni style, mincing no words in describing her latest treatment plan and its progress.

For ten intense, exhausting years, Toni battled. Her goal, every year, was to get back to school. She needed to be with her students. And, somehow, she’d get through every day, sick as a dog, pushing, pushing, making it always, somehow.

Her funeral, just a few days after her 50th birthday, was impossible for all of us. We weren’t supposed to lose this woman. She’d been an Amazon of strength, of positive, up beat, fully open energy. She was always out there – kayaking (kayaking?!); befriending everybody at the Erie Zoo; mailing huge shipments of Care Packages to the soldiers in Iraq from, of course, her students (we’d met in the Post Office, the day that happened); supporting student efforts in the community, everywhere; and, even finding time to pay her respects to those who had passed (another bear hug, in the funeral home.) She was our Woman of the Year.

Toni died on Orthodox Christmas, January 6th, 2014. One of her dearest colleagues had made hologram ornaments for each of us, as remembrances; her face, and an angel, flickering back and forth, with her name on the back and the reminder: “Toni – an angel on earth, and now in heaven.”

I had saved mine on the secretary in the music room, amongst so many little things of sentimental value to me with which I could not part. Somehow, her face ended up propped against a mug and a Hallmark keepsake, between a tape measure, a ribbon, and a Sharpie, in random memorial.

This afternoon, I was in the midst of giving private Suzuki cello lessons in the music room. At one point, just after spending an intense phase of a session playing conductor to my newly appointed junior orchestra enrollee, I sat back down in my cello chair, to take a moment.

In that moment, I happened to glance over at the secretary.

There was Toni’s face, shimmering in hologram, smiling right at me.
But, right beneath her face, inexplicably, coming to me from the dimension where only Toni could reside, was the back of the tape measure upon which the ornament rested. And, this particular tape measure had extra room on its metric side, just enough for these words to appear, words which, at that moment, leaped out at me from across the chasm that separates us all from those who occupy the world which awaits:

“Commit. Succeed.”

Toni’s smiling face and, now, her caption: “Commit. Succeed.”



As if that weren’t totally enough to transport me for hours thereafter, I vowed right then to capture this in photograph.

When I went for my phone, and aimed its lens at Toni’s face, the hologram had more to say. Instead of Toni’s face, all I could seem to get was the angel!

Frustrated, I pulled up my cello chair and sat, to stabilize my arm, thinking that all my excited trembling was causing the angel to phase over Toni’s face.

Amazingly, as soon as I sat, Toni reappeared, smiling impishly right at me.

I stood up. And, the angel, again, covered her face.

I could only see Toni unless I was seated, on my cello chair!

“Commit. Succeed.”


Toni was telling me something. She was reminding me that it didn’t matter if I was pushing 60. It didn’t matter that I had retired, and only had some 14 students now instead of 800+. As long as I remained devoted to them, both I and they would reach the goals we’d set together.

All I had to do was stay in my cello chair. Be the cellist. Make the music. Teach my students the cello’s music. Some day we’d all rise up; but, until then, Toni’s angel would watch over us all.







© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 9/12/16  All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect – for Toni.❤



Joe Rozler.


Buffalo, New York doesn’t get nearly enough press.

Or, I should say, it gets far too much of the dreary kind: Snow Belt Capital of The Rust Belt. The End. Thank you for coming.

But, nestled between the heart and soul of the big Buffalo is a bird. A song bird. His name is Joe and, if I had my way, he’d be the household word where everybody else calls home.

Granted, there are enough televised competitions already presenting the freshest young talent. And, occasionally, hidden gems have found their way to these stages. But, for a legend in his own time, there is no Tv show. That is because a Tv show could never do justice to a legend like Joe Rozler.


I met Joe in the halls of Fredonia State University, in 1980. He was probably loading equipment from a practice room to the trunk, heading off to a gig at the Jumping Frog on Route 5 for the weekend. All I remember was that voice, and a pair of legs that went on forever. And, his rendition of “Imagine” by John Lennon.

To say he seduced me is an understatement. I was completely overtaken, mesmerized by every sound he made and the way he made it. That, and the faint scent of Royal Spyce: he had me, with a warble and a hook, for life.

We were both the odd ones, returning after a two year absence – me, to earn enough to fund myself across the finish line, he to follow his bliss. Mark that last phrase; Joe never did anything but follow his bliss.

And, we’d both converged in the midst of completing that last bastion of fallback options, the Bachelor of Music in Music Education, a certificate that told the world in official terms that we were qualified to do what we were already born to. We were creatives; college was just where we came of age.

Or, I did. Joe was already the oldest soul on the block, caught in a body that bounded around like a nine year old at summer camp.

I’ll never know what precise configuration of DNA, or momentary inspiration, drove Joe to be who he was, but I do know this: Joe always knew. And, that was enough for Joe.

A natural rebel, he never wasted time submitting to any authority, or system, or institution that prevented him from living out his life’s intention. In school, he was already writing arrangements and selling them to a studio in Utah; in the summers, a metal band from Germany enlisted his keyboard wizardy for their tour.

But, the only thing Joe ever intended to do was sing, or play, or sing and play, the song.

Oh sure, we completed the requirements to obtain the degree. He played a piano recital; I played one for cello. Mine took six hours a day, and four months of those, committed to two works of music. Sitting in the audience for his, I remember thinking about hearing him do two straight sets at the Frog, engine revving until I thought he’d just pop right there in front of everybody, that this lone piano recital was just a parenthesis, merely the half time show of what would become the totality of his life.

As it turns out, thirty five years hence, I was right.

By now, there is no tune ever written that Joe has not sung. He, at the age of something like sixty,  is the oracle of the American songbook. He has become the song.

So, while lesser mortals steamroll through their days, clamoring for their piece of the greedy pie, bowing at the feet of expectation and the promise of reward, Joe Rozler will still be singing. And, you’ll swear you never heard anything else quite like him in your life.

All you have to do is find your way to Buffalo. You can shuffle, or you can hustle but, however you make the trip, Joe will be there when you arrive, just a couple blocks shy of Elmwood, at the piano. With his guitars and synth, and even a ukelele, nearby.  And, if you’re lucky enough to catch his solo act, he’ll play them all, nearly simultaneously, just for you.

The song will be yours. You’ll recognize it. You’ll remember it. You’ll know it. And, he’ll be bringing it on the most dazzling silver platter your eyes and ears could possibly behold.

Joe Rozler.

The American songbird.

Buffalo Hall of Fame.

Buffalo, New York.




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 9/8/16      Please share, liberally. Thank you!







NOTE: This post will be of interest to those who have, or have had, issues with total cholesterol and/or triglycerides. While just one personal anecdote, it provides corroborative data that anyone might find both remarkably enlightening and, I hope, ultimately helpful.


I love food.
And, I always have. Appetite for the culinary taste sensation is just one of life’s gifts.
But, like all drives in life, appetites can get out of hand.
On August 3rd, I had blood drawn to test the “lipid panel” (HDL; LDL; triglycerides; Total Cholesterol), among other things, and for a reason that is not immediately relevant. THE POINT: The results were concerning.
Very small of frame I had, in recent years, become quite sedentary and gained weight around the mid section. For someone of such build, pushing 140 lbs was not a good thing.

At all.

And, certain eating habits were curious: Always fastidious about buying only organic and eating mostly whole foods, for much of the month I would follow such a food plan – except for concert week (if you’re new here, I’m a professional musician) which would invariably be all about “carb loading”  – massive pasta with cheese and olive oil and peas and broccoli, generally, plus cheese sandwiches for “breakfast” – , as playing cello for two and a half hours takes raw, caloric power; MENC (Music Educators’ National Conference) discovered, decades ago, that cello takes more kinetic energy to play full throttle than any other instrument in the orchestra.

However, post concert rush (or, blues) (depending on [ highly self-critical ] personal outcomes), I had begun, in the privacy of my solitude, to binge. Never either anorexic or bulimic I was, nevertheless, a grotesque over-eater; I could pound seven cookies and never feel it; chocolate; a bag of [organic, whole grain] chips; or, even a pint of ice cream before passing out for the night.

Now, that lipid profile always requires a twelve hour fast.

So, dutifully, I’d fasted the 12.

The results, from August 3rd:

  • HDL – 65 (great – all the avocados paid their dividends!)
  • LDL – C (calculated*) – 166 (not good)
  • Triglycerides – 304! (Serious.)
  • Total Cholesterol – 291. High. Not good.

*(LDL is calculated by subtracting HDL from Trigs, then dividing by 5; it does not represent an actual measurement)

One doctor, viewing both these results and me for the first time, decided that I was seriously abusing my body. He told me to CUT THE ICE CREAM AND COOKIES. He said to CUT CARBS. He said to BOOST protein intake, and agreed that the supplement I’d found at the Co-op, with its massive Niacin component (2300 gs?!), COQ10, and red yeast rice, plus another, methylated B-complex, was a good regimen to continue. (I’d started on the two supplements August 22).

So, I did. I took about half the daily recommended dosage of each for about 8 or 9 days. Stopped eating cheese. Stopped eating bread and, not until Sept 3rd did I consume any of my beloved pasta.

But, the Niacin did a number on my heart. Atrial flutter was not new to me (1988 echogram revealed mitral valve prolapse, common among women of very small frame), but this jumping heart was keeping me awake at night. Research revealed that some people just can’t tolerate extra Niacin, for this very reason. And, the doc had also seen the blip in my heartbeat on the EKG.

Reluctantly, but with relief that I did not have an electrical “node” problem, I ceased the Niacin supplement, added Magnesium (thank you, Merja) returning it to the Co-op (for a full refund.) (They’re good like that.)

BUT: Here’s the thing:  On the advice of a Facebook friend (thank you, David), I stocked up on my favorite Wild Caught Red Sockeye salmon, the smoked variety which was ready to eat. I ate about 7 ounces per day, for about a week. This had become a favorite anyway over the spring and summer – easy, tasty, and a quick source of major protein. Originally consuming it to reduce abdominal inflammation, I was about to find out just what else wild caught sockeye could do for me.

Plus, the Co-op had frozen salmon burgers. These would steam up in 6 or 7 minutes, and mix well with avocado and fresh, homegrown tomato.

And, I added about three breakfasts of oatmeal and a handful of whole walnuts to the plan, as well as a return to about six days of sometimes two servings of my predigested powdered rice bran derivative almond milk shakes (Rice Manna/Patty McPeak).

So — in Summary:

1.) approx. 9 days of half doses of massive niacin, red yeast rice, COq10;
2.) approx. 9 more days of major sockeye salmon intake;
3.) predigested rice bran derivative almond milk protein shakes;
4.) a few small bowls of oatmeal, w almond milk, and walnuts;
5.) deletion of cheese, bread and pasta. 6.) increased daily intake of  Vitamin C, D3, and B-complex.

On September 1st, I submitted to a Lipid panel again, this time specifically to test for lipid particle size and density. My research had shown that, if the fatty particles were small and prolific, these would adhere to the vessel walls and lead to cardiovascular disease; if large and “fluffy”, no threat in that arena, apparently, at all. A real coconut oil lover and promoter, I’d consumed quite a bit over the past weeks, as well, frying omelettes in it and, of course, using it as a facial make up base. Plus, the sweet desserts from the Co-op that populated my binges always contained coconut milk. The study I found had theorized that coconut milk and its oil only produced large LDL particles, the “safer” kind, and I was on a mission to see what kind were rolling around in my blood.

The only national laboratory  that tests for particle size and density is LABCORPS. My town tends to favor ACL, but ACL has no test for this – LABCORPS actually developed the test.

And, as many may know, my elder brother, Nathan, was a LABCORPS director for several decades across the country [ Albuquerque; Phoenix; Winston-Salem; Louisville; Cincinnati; Chicago ] and still consults. I texted him; he gave me the codes, and my doc called in the test.

The vial was shipped to Burlington, NC to be run. Results came in within 5 days. When I read them, I gasped and exclaimed so effusively that the two techs at LabCorps actually stared and laughed.

  • HDL – C — 90     (60, or above, is considered excellent)
  • triglycerides — 110  (ref.range:  0 -149)
  • Cholesterol, total — 167 (ref.range: 100 – 199)
  • HDL – P (particles) — 40.4  (ref. range: >30.5 = Low CVD risk)
  • Small LDL – P  — <90 ( ref.range: <=527)

And:  as for the size of LDL particles?   “LDL levels not sufficient for size determination” – There were so few, they could not fulfill the test!

….all this…….in less than one MONTH!


So, David from Facebook was, apparently, right; Wild Caught Salmon intake caused his trigs and LDL to plummet in a month’s time, as well; and, the LABCORPS tech knew of a friend’s relative who consumed only salmon and brown rice, and had been told he had “the heart of a 23 year old.”

Speculations Worth Noting:

Nathan had said to me that he’d been trying to convince physicians regarding the twelve hour fast, which is a requisite for lipid panel assessment. He believed that, unless eating patterns were relatively balanced and stable prior to the test, fasting for twelve hours would not produce a valid representation of overall maintenance levels.

In short: BINGING affects blood test results, even when fasting for twelve hours. Every time you consume carbohydrates, your triglycerides go up; if you consume them in massive quantities, they will likely remain elevated even if you fast for twelve hours — and, your test results will be, at best, misleading and, at worst, likely to provoke you to submit to dangerous statin drugs.

My Conclusion: A solid, organic, whole food plan, on maintenance (minus the binges on cookies, cake, ice cream, and chocolate) provides the true read on blood fats and cholesterol. And, binging is proof that it might only take one over-indulgence to threaten blood into sludge so thick that one clot could cause a nearly critical cardiovascular (or, cerebral) event.

I hope those of you who read this all the way to the end can take the same lesson from it that was provided to me: Maintain a solid food plan and, when you indulge, be sure to check your quantities at the door and then counter with blood cleansing foods like wild caught sockeye salmon (farmed is inflaming), whole walnuts, and rice bran derivative protein shakes. It’ll be far more than just the doctor and the lab techs who’ll smile about it; your blood will thank you, and so will your heart.







© 9/7/16 Ruth Ann Scanzillo  — Please share freely!!!!






It’s called woodshedding for a reason.

The Urban Dictionary reminds that the term finds its origin in the old woodsheds, where musicians would go for privacy so as not to be heard.

Music, not meant to be heard?

Oh, my dears.


Back when Ego drove everything (and, some would vehemently argue, Ego always drives performers?), we’d eagerly set the ticker and get started on our incremental repetitions, determined to be the fastest gun in the west. Being the fastest equated with being the best. Or, not.

And, frankly, in college, everybody WANTED to be heard in hot competition for that seat.

The woodshed?

Hardly. Doors open, baby.

Virtuosity was expected. It was built in. Audiences wanted to be dazzled.

But, what of [mere] beauty?

All wonderful offerings, lest they be the bequest of the Divine, take time to accomplish.

And, I think I’d rather spend mine perfecting the turn of a phrase, for all its delicacy and subtlety, and tone for its palette of color. The body of music waiting in silence to be found and played that requires not a moment of pyrotechnique is enormous. And, that which waits to be created: infinite.

Perhaps it’s a phase of life. You know, seeing the end from the beginning. Only, in this case, it’s not the end of the piece; it’s the end of the world, for God’s sake.

Just how much real time is there remaining, in any life, to wait for a metronome to dictate the next move?

If you find me in a woodshed, I hope to be heard playing Bach.

With the windows open.





© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  9/4/16  All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Sing on, call birds!





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.





© 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.





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. Thank you.




Tripling in the Pit.



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.







© 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.




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.





© 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.

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


Flowers, fatigued

Straining stems

Not knowing whether to reach

Or cower



will send her soothing song

Give it up, sun

Move along.






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





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.




*Twelve Pink Carnations.


© 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.


Twelve Pink Carnations.




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 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.




© 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.


The Altar Call.



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 advancement. 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.




© 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.



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.










© 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.

“Wherefore Art Thou, Comey?”


*Note to prospective readers:  This post was published shortly after the Oversight Committee Hearings on Hilary Clinton’s emails. A couple days later, for a number of reasons, I pulled it; however, given today’s press release, I am moved to re-publish. Readers may (and, will) draw their own conclusions.


Watching the Oversight Committee Hearings, I can’t help but think – and, who is with me, here? :

Why is it that, every time Comey is questioned ( at times with remarkable candor and clarity and logic and penetrating insight by more than one Representative), he makes frequent declarations that attempt to dogmatically assert his motivations. But, these assertions sometimes contain bold disclaimers regarding, well, the very things he actually did! And, when he is pinned, he hands off responsibility to another entity, with equal fervor insisting that said entity should claim responsibility for specific act.

Why does he passionately assert that he and his organization (the FBI) are committed to non-partisanship, possessing no “inside the beltway mentality”, when the facts suggest precisely otherwise?  Why does he declare: “If I did that, it would be  [ the very thing about which he is accused ]!” (But…..that….IS  what he did!)

Is this whole show intended to render some kind of cosmetic legitimacy to his actions, to leave in the hearts and minds of oblivious Americans some sense that the issue has been “officially” addressed so that it can be put to bed?

Because, to my ears and eyes, this is what is really happening: Committee Representatives are asking all the right questions, laying out sound and solid arguments. THEY are making the case!  But, what will the outcome be? Will Comey ever, throughout the course of these proceedings, ever bow to any of the arguments or questions they present? No!  He’ll just prove to those in power that he can hold up under an inquisition. There he goes again: “It is my intent to treat everyone fairly; my goal is to aspire to [ this] . ” He will only prove that he knows how to skirt and/or neutralize any question that, when actually answered, would indict his actions.

This reminds me of that other legal loophole that one finds within the creative property licensing industry. Agencies declare that they “do not accept unsolicited material.” This is their legal position. In this way, should some dumb bunny send a screenplay without being invited to do so, said created work can, in fact, be eagerly devoured, parsed out, and completely marauded WITHOUT IMPUGNITY. In short – no legal case can be made against the agency, because said agency “does not accept unsolicited material.” See what ahm sayin’, heah?

So, FBI Director Comey sits before his accusers, his investigators, all of whom are defeated even before they open their mouths. All of this, in the interests of “preserving public perception of our system of justice.”

I call bull puckey.

The sticky kind.

I do, your Honor.

Anybody share my perceptions, in any small part? Please – weigh in. I have all day.

Thank you!




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  7/7/16   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for weighing in, using the Comment option below.





It takes a lot for royalty to comprehend the common man; what ordinary people take for granted is actually uncommon to them.
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.

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?
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.

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.


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.




© 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.



The Bronze.


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

Surrounded by “Krauts”.


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.



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.




[ 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.]




© 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.

A Year for the Roses.





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!


The Date.



*Originally written June 28, 2013.


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…… 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.




© 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.



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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
your student, Ruth Ann.
 © 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:
 *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.





© 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.





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.





© 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.








[ 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.





© 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.







The Opera Wars.



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


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.





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






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; know 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.




© 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.









“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.




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





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






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





Lifting A Finger! [audio]



THE NEW ENTITLEMENT: Restricted Access and “Reimbursement.”



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?


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.


Bernie Sanders for President 2016.




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











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


Cindy Purvis

Veronica Wexford


Wayne Hanson

Lou Vergari

Kirk Atwood.

(*Anita is in the 12th District).



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!








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.




© 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.




© 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.










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.





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





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,   – 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. ]


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. ]


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.]


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.]


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. ]


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. ]








© 4/11/16 Ruth Ann Scanzillo   –

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



Sudden Scenes.



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.




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



Petals On The Bed.




one moment


one message


one memory


one spirit


all reason



fill the head


one soul


one mind


one hope


one word


two hearts

in pieces


on the bed.








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








[ first draft]


Letting time hone

Meat much sweeter at the bone

The soul lives closest to the heart

Behind the vest


What seeks not of its own

Should render heart and soul apart







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














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.





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

The Don’t Make Me Waltz.

June 25, 2013


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.



Did you tell her that you didn’t ever

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

a woman “wife”?


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.


[unbearably mournful fiddle break/slow dance]


[repeat Bridge to END.]




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo
all rights reserved, in whole and in part. Thank you.

The Ides of October.



In spite of’s insistence that her saliva-spat DNA read 55% Southern Mediterranean, she was no Greco-Roman scholar. Nor was she specifically able to hold forth on the literary genius of Shakespeare, beyond an appreciation for his Stratford-mounted plays. ( 17% U.K., or no.)

But, with appropriate portense, her high school English teachers made sure they’d all met MacBeth. And, during her maiden visit to Scotland in ’84, the most brightly colored plaid scarf beckoned her purse and she’d succumbed. Right. A perfect accent for the navy Pea coat, every winter thereafter: the curse of the MacBeth tartan.

“Beware the ides of March”, saith the thespian from the stage, in character to warn Julius Caesar of his impending murder on the 15th of the month. Yet, curiously, had she not found October to be most pivotal?

Indeed; for her, the ides of the tenth month were to be approached with caution, as they would bring with them events of undeniable shock, a cut to the very core, challenging paradigms and forever altering the course of her life.

Specifically, on or about the 18th.

Beginning on October 18, 1981, her college boyfriend, whom she’d loved with every fiber of her as yet unclaimed hymen, told her that he had lain with the psych major with the green eyes and the overbite who’d met them both on the cafeteria steps, the stare of an unblinking flounder meant only for him. Upon hearing this revelation, she’d torn up the entire Temple Street hill from the center of town, kicking and screaming through terrified, dying leaves, finally veering into the driveway of her apartment to fist pound the side of the house in rage and disbelief.

A year to the day later, she would give it up on a foam rubber mat on the floor of a generic apartment to a Hungarian Don Juan who, five days hence, was already moving on the paprika-haired piano major from the House of Mercy.

Nearly every year following, the ides of her October would press in.

Once, a pink slip; at other times, an unexpected death. Being stood up for a home cooked chicken divan, signaling the end of yet another wobbly attempt at Being The Girlfriend. Occasionally, a suddenly new someone, or next enterprise. But, always a one – eighty, as if some spectral plumber had put a plunger to the top of her head, twisted, and physically plopped her onto some obstacle course, in unspeaking terms: “Now, you will be going this way. Don’t bother watching your step.”

So, it was with lessoned trepidation that she approached her ides, should they occur to her in real time; but, when inattentive: blindsided.

Such was the case in 2016.

The boys and their mother bounded into the kitchen with their customary aplomb, the youngest always ready with a minxy commentary infused with a delightful inflection that rendered him irresistible. The eldest, enduring a growth spurt these days, had been arriving more thoughtfully, less likely to have anything to say, but still sprinting to the sofa and the latest of her storybooks to bury his whole body behind the throw pillows until time came for his turn.

These were her prize students. The firstborn a cellist, he’d won a scholarship competition only months before; the younger on violin, their mother an experienced violinist herself, this was a family that was committed both to the process and the philosophy which founded it. She was a Suzuki-registered instructor, they were a Suzuki family, and nothing would ever break their equilateral triangle, ever.

Except the ides of October.

The announcement came so casually. The youngest, in the midst of disclosing he “hadn’t practiced” because they’d been in Kentucky.

Kentucky? No family there, no reason? The little one said it:

“We’re moving.”

She’d had other families leave the area. One, after less than a year, all the way to the Southwest. But, this family had been part of her life for over four years, and had begun to occupy her fantasies, those of a private teacher hoping for at least one student who’d see it all the way through to a major career. Never in a million did she expect them to just disappear.

The tears were immediate. What would she ever do without them? Their mother cried, too. Hugs, and more tears. The ministry had called the boys’ father to another parish, several states south, and there was no argument; they would be gone by mid-December.

The glorious maple across the street, visible through the living room windows, was grateful for another unseasonably warm October day. Much rain and cold had threatened to swipe its leaves before they’d reached peak performance. But, even as she watched, more orange flames seemed to ignite before her eyes. The season would run its course; the leaves would be spectacular once again, and then they would descend.

She had become more tenacious as she aged. Always in search of solutions which sustained, less inclined to accept finality in any form. Technology was a ready tool; they could Facetime on a Smart TV, after all, every week. This would even be fun.

The MacBeth tartan had been hiding in the bottom of the bureau drawer. Whether or not it could still wield a stab to the heart from that vantage point was up to the gods.

But, there was no denying the power of October. Like the fortune cookie foretold:

” There is nothing permanent except change.”

Et tu, Brutus?











© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  10/18/16     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.