A Year in Erie.


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

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

200 inches.

In one winter.

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

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

But, take a moment.

Consider this.

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

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

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

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

And, the cherry on top? Sara’s, Erie’s 50’s retro ice cream stop, featuring foot long Smith’s hotdogs with all the trimmings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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






He Won’t Feel.



He won’t feel the gut slash.

He won’t feel its cut.

He won’t feel the grieving

He’ll say something, but

His words will have meaning

Only for him

Because that which I feel will

Mean nothing to him.


I don’t know what love is

But, bonding is true

And, devotion is proven

In all that we do.


We commit through the actions

Mere words can’t decry

And, the thoughts which inform them

Catch wind, and then fly

In the face of denial

Determined to prove

That the feelings they carry

Can make a heart move.


But, hearts are not subject

To forces of will

They do what they must do

Until they are still.






© 3/11/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line.








“Blessed Assurance”.


The boy had a mouth on him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is, not until one, singular occasion.

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

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

But, John.

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

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

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

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

Master Sergeant John Jefferson, US Air Force.

In full dress.

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

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

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

See, something else had happened to John.

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

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

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

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

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

It only took me a couple days to decide.

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

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

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

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

Then, the final occasion.

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

This time, I could not attend.

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

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

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

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

I hope to God it’s all true.

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

And, I can still hear him.


© photo by Ruth Ann Scanzillo 10/17.





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










The Erie Chamber Orchestra Will Rise, Again.


Some things must never be said.

And, other things must never be done.

After last night’s performance of the Erie Chamber Orchestra, I can contain myself no longer. Having been urged to keep quiet about everything until now, it is time. I must speak.

I come to you as the principal cellist of the orchestra whose inception took place in the mind of one Bruce Morton Wright. An Erie boy, raised by faithful parents, he grew to express musical talent early on – earning enrollment at our local Mercyhurst College as a music major, on tenor sax. After completing his degree and spending several years “playing out” at various jazz clubs, he found himself in the audience of a symphony orchestra.  As he sat, listening, Bruce had an epiphany.

I can remember him telling us about it.

Bruce could always tell you about it. The man had stories, each more vivid and hilarious than the last. This one was fairly straightforward; as he sat there, in the audience, the thought occurred to him: “I could do this. I could start an orchestra.”

Never daunted, that is exactly what he did. Bruce traveled, first to Vienna, Austria and, from there, to Colombia, South America, to study conducting and gain experience. Upon his return to the states in the late 1970s, he and his wife Merja came home to Erie to establish his first orchestra. And – ever the maverick – the new maestro took his newly formed ensemble one step beyond the norm; Bruce vowed to make his performances available to anyone who wanted or needed to hear them. No admission charge. None.

Nearly 40 years hence, through a couple incarnations ( originally named the Erie Bayfront Orchestra, housed at a local urban center and, in its second decade, enjoying a CNN special feature interview broadcast world wide), Bruce’s orchestra still breathes life into the works of the greatest composers, living and dead. And, March 3rd’s concert was shimmering testament. We performed the Barber Adagio, Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings, and – incredibly – the entire Vivaldi Four Seasons with none other than the brilliant Buffalo Philharmonic Concertmaster, Dennis Kim, as leading soloist. And, we did THAT in a 15 minute Tutti read and one 90 minute rehearsal.

N.o.b.o.d.y. does that.

The Erie Philharmonic doesn’t do that. I would wager that even a top ten tier orchestra doesn’t put Vivaldi’s Four Seasons out to the public on one rehearsal.

If you were in our audience, you heard the outcome. Thank you, so very much, for coming.

Now, here’s the ugly part.

Though the ECO was being sustained by both the Musician’s Trust Fund and the generous endowment of one Clarence Byers, about twenty years ago Bruce entered into an agreement with Gannon University. Founded by Catholic Bishop John Mark Gannon, it would become the region’s primary science and technology institution, attracting a long history of pre med students( in a partnership with Hahneman Medical School) and  an ever increasing multitude of potential engineers of every persuasion, many of them foreign students. Gannon agreed to subsidize the orchestra.

From Gannon Bruce commanded comparatively little by way of compensation, and received for his musicians not a penny. As for staff, well, Bruce was everything: musical director, baton, librarian, publicity agent, and stage crew. Many a conversation in trusted confidence occurred after rehearsal, as Bruce stocked chairs and stands into their proper storage. As a single, self supporting woman teaching music in the public schools, I had no more valued an advisor or counsel than that of my chamber orchestra maestro.

In 2011, Bruce succumbed to multiple myeloma. We grieved, deeply.  But, in keeping with his vision, we pressed on; hiring a new musical director, as well as a general manager (knowing full well that Bruce could never truly be replaced), we never missed a beat. By fall, we were ready with our season. And, we thrived; our repertoire expanded, and our audience burgeoned to 800+, creating a lovely problem: we needed a performance space large enough to accommodate our audience!

Therewith the following six years.

According to the story we were given, in the fall of 2017 Gannon discovered that they could no longer support us financially. We aren’t entirely sure when, as an institution, they came to this conclusion; we only know that the news came to us, as a professional collective, when we read about it in the local paper.

Yes. Forty years of collective professional commitment and artistry, and we received the equivalent of that which a parent experiences when he/she first hears of a child’s death on the televised news.

Not a single one of our section principals was consulted. Our newest Maestro, Bradley Thachuk – also totally ignored. We were never even apprised of the ongoing financial concerns, yea the threat, of dissolution as it emerged; instead, we found out by reading the published announcement that our beloved orchestra would fold at the end of the season.

This act, on the part of Gannon University, was unconscionable.

Not only does it reflect badly on Gannon’s management but, far worse: their action represents a sin of omission, a complete abdication of the precepts upon which they, as a Catholic institution, were founded. What they did to us was callous, low class, and professionally unacceptable.

Had any number of the orchestra’s membership been contacted with any degree of warning, we could have done several things. We could have set about to solicit regional support; we could have appealed publicly, via the news media; we could have prepared for the worst, in order to save our orchestra.

Instead, we were left high and dry, offered only the option of accepting the venture created by the one person Gannon contacted, allegedly on our behalf: our former general manager, who now worked for another orchestra!

Gannon actually gave our remaining funds to this individual, who created a chamber series (quartets/trios, et al) and went public about his plan. The only problem with this series is: the vast majority of Erie Chamber Orchestra members, both recent and of longest standing, are set to be displaced by this venture, which will only be utilizing contracted members of the other orchestra. At last count, there were only a handful ( I count eleven) of Erie Chamber orchestral musicians (total membership: 40+ ) holding contracts with the other orchestra.

I am among those displaced.

As fifteen years’ principal cellist with the Erie Chamber Orchestra, I performed cello continuo last evening to Buffalo Philharmonic Concertmaster Dennis Kim’s Vivaldi. As of April 29th, 2018, I and many others are officially without a position in a professional orchestra.

The blogosphere is world wide. You, dear readers, are hearing this story because it is a.) true; b.) worthy of your ears, and c.) of critical importance to the entire artistic community. We cannot let our educational institutions behave like hostile corporations. We cannot permit them to play with lives as if these are mere pawns on the chessboard of their own, self serving interests. And, we must preserve those entities which consistently produce the beauty and truth which the highest art embodies.

We need to start, from scratch. We need a new name, the funds to pay a conductor, plus enough to cover basic musician’s wage and advertising. Yes; we are already taking the steps to regroup. If/when we re-emerge, we hope to have your name proudly attached to those who care most about the ideals we bring to life. We’d hope for your support.

We have never asked much. Four rehearsals, plus performance, plus the unlimited number of hours in private practice preparation for a paycheck not exceeding $250 per musician. That is a pauper’s wage, in our time. If you were to step up to help us, our love for you would grow with every breath.

And, Bruce Morton Wright, from his spirit, would thank you.







© 3/4/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo – Principal cellist, ERIE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA. Erie PA.



Everyone’s Gone.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Everyone’s gone…….to the Moon…….”






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






Philip Tryon.


We may never know, Jim said.

I’m sure Philip wouldn’t have known, either, when he was four. Back then, in 1981, he was busy at the computer writing a story and, since the machine had managed to erase the whole thing, he had to stay right there until he could rewrite every word.

Then again, when he was six, at the piano, picking out every song he’d heard, so many tunes, the ones that seemed simple and the ones that sounded complicated, all of them.  Hunched intently over the piano keys, he’d not have had even a moment to know anything else, for sure.

Nor would any other considerations have crossed his mind as he stood in the middle of the bass section, on the Warner stage, sending forth with his choirmates the Brahms Requiem accompanied by the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra. In the midst of singing a mass for the dead, Philip was way too alive to know anything at all about what could never be known by anybody else.

In fact, Philip was extremely alive. Word was he had been born with a raw intelligence far superior to any other in his realm. His mind being his most interesting companion, he was easily engrossed for hours, days, weeks, and months, never once being distracted by any notion of time passing. By the time he was seven, he likely knew that time did not pass, that both space and time were on a continuum and that light was both a particle and a wave.

In truth, that which could never be known had long escaped his concern. All Philip knew was that whatever could be known reached his understanding with effortless ease, only to be quickly sorted, catalogued, and compartmentalized ad infinitum, all to be cross referenced later when integrated thought was required to feed theoretical proposition.

It was in just such pursuit that Philip apprehended the Bible. Having read every other book in his household, likely twice within any twenty four hour period, this one kept him fascinated longer than the entire Baroque and Classical repertoire combined. Having been taught to take this holy book with very great and sober respect, his allegiance to its prophets, psalms, proverbs and letters of admonishment was total; he’d memorized essentially the entire King James canon before even the most earnest had finished the study of one gospel.

Most could hardly grasp what Philip could know, about anything. One thing is certain: nobody knew Philip. Not like Philip did.

All anybody did know was that the man called by his name showed up for family get togethers, eager and smiling, bringing homemade cookies and board games, and then to work the next day, still smiling, ready to greet his loyal customers at the grocery check out with pointed acknowledgement of their families by each of their names and often in the language of their birth, regardless from which remote country they had come. Those who might have been inclined to observe would have seen a tall, slender, fair skinned gentleman, applying to tasks at hand his devoted energy until the last chicken had been bleached and packaged and the store had closed for the day. Still others might have seen him enter his solitary room at home, perhaps with more than one book under his arm, only to disappear into the vast depths of the comprehensive universe of his own company for the remainder of the evening.

Philosophers have been known to declare that one can never truly know anything but oneself, to which one should then be true.

Jim was likely right about one thing. We would never know what Philip finally knew.

Never know why. Why Philip jumped. Why he jumped to his death, from the bridge at Wintergreen Gorge, sometime between Saturday night and Sunday when they found him.

But, Philip did.





” Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.”  — I Cor. 13:12



© 1/30/18     Ruth Ann Scanzillo.    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Respect the living, and the dead.  Thank you.








The Character.




Sitting, facing the mirror, she watched him in its reflection.

Jet black, the short spike receded his hairline like a halo – he, also short, but broad of shoulder like her grandfather and with the same, thick hands, a complete opposite of the tall, long boned, pony-tailed basso who had proposed to her earlier that winter. His upper lip, soft and reaching, moved asymmetrically across wide, hidden teeth as he chattered away in low, private tones, multi-tasking easily through the cut, the set, the perm application, twinkling eyes darting from the window to the clock and back into the mirror. Unlike most hairdressers, he worked alone, and asked no questions.

She sat and he proceeded, both parlaying whatever the other disclosed into the predicted personalizations of their shared generation. These were the waning days of brass and glass and Cala lilies, of disco dreams and hair bigger than the faces framed by it, when nobody could hear anybody and posture was the performance of the day.

Pulling the processing cap over her rolled up head, he stepped back, disappearing from the mirror.

She’d forgotten all about having asked if there were a restroom in the salon. Rather, turning in the chair she was quietly startled to see him, standing at the back of the room by a small, opened door. Bending in response to her gaze and presenting a courtly bow, he gestured toward the opening as if to offer her invitation.

Thirty years passed.

During the interim, he’d made a few, vivid reappearances. A handful of vignettes, crystallizing over time, first at the credit union with a pixied platinum blonde, looking remote and sad and somehow adorable, the two of them waiting to meet a loan officer neither speaking nor meeting each other’s glance. She was sure he saw her and the Mona Lisa smile likely marking her recognition, but he’d registered none. His mouth had slowed to still, his eyes had softened, and he had stopped talking.

Even now, thirty years apart and ten months in, she would not be able to say what drew her. Perhaps the gesture by the door, and its thousand and one nights of wonder never actualized; perhaps their two ships, having long passed in the night, each sounding its mourning horn like the mating call of the post-menopausal. His hair grey, his eyes tired and their twinkle, refusing the camera, now only alight in the fleeting glance at another woman he, and her characterization of him, had at last collided in the space between reality and imagination. Only during the occasional nights reflecting alone would she find it increasingly hard to choose between them.






© 1/24/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo         All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for staying in your own corner.









A Sonnet to Nadine Elisabeth Moon.


Lydia Elisabeth “Betty” Sweet was my mum. She was born on February 11, 1919, in Erie, the second of four daughters to Henry T. and Mae Learn Sweet.

“Astrology impels, it does not compel”, so said the syndicated representative who appeared for years in our daily newspaper. That said, I do recall reading that Aquarians were natural dreamers, but that some of them would live against type. Mum was one who, ultimately, did.

While we’d collected more than one of Mum’s creations these three gems had been nearly lost to the ether until, as the family historian, our cousin Lydia Todd recently unearthed and sent them to me in a letter. Especially devoted to Mum, Lydia shares her birthday.

Though the poems were written in 1935, when she was 16, I can’t help but think about what eventually unfolded only four years hence in the United States: the Great Depression. Just prior to that tectonic shift in reality Mum had been hot on the trail of a dressmaking career, and would win a contest whose prize would have been a trip to New York.

Herewith her prophetic state of mind and heart, just before the door slammed on all those dreams.


“A Sonnet to Nadine Elisabeth Moon”

                                                         by Betty Sweet, about 1935


I saw a babe this afternoon

So dear, so loving, and so sweet

Lying there, so clean and neat

Ah! She is proud to be a Moon!

I’m sure she’ll show a smile soon

And, find enjoyment in her feet.

Her parents (surely, it is meet!)

Are proud, and hum a happy tune.

This babe, so pure and innocent

Knows nothing of what life will bring

Into her life, just now begun

Ah! Grant that she, whom God has sent

May live for Him and always sing

Of Him, the true and faithful One.


“God is Near”

                              by Betty Sweet 1935


As each morning dawns, anew

Filling the sky with a ruddy hue;

I know God is near.

When the sun is at its height

Revealing God’s great strength and might,

I know God is near.

Even when the sun sinks down

Silencing the country, lake and town

I know God is near.

When at midnight’s smallest hour

I feel God’s matchless love and power

I know God is near.

by Betty Sweet 1935



Trusting Jesus, all along life’s way

Trusting Jesus, each and every day.

Trusting Jesus, whether sad or gay

Trusting, all life’s way.


by Betty Sweet.


Had Mum not been determined to live a life of faithfulness to Jesus, like her own mother before her, I am certain that I would not even be here today. Her model of what many termed “a Godly life” kept each of us in the family from coming apart, and taught us resistance to those things which would bring down our very lives. She led an honorable, committed life, both to her God, our father, and to us as her children, sacrificing her every want and need in deference to ours. Have not met another like her, since. ❤ Mum.


© 1/16/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo, quoting her mother, their author. Please respect our family. Thank you.










Pam Baker.


I learned one of life’s most valuable lessons from Pam Baker.

She wasn’t a teacher.

She was a classmate, and she sat behind me in 7th grade.

Pam wasn’t a close friend of mine. During the first months of junior high everybody was a bit strange, so many of us having converged from the various elementary schools in the area. I still missed my 6th grade teacher, and struggled to find each room in the building which had been designated for every subject being taught.

I was fairly tall for a 7th grader, as was Pam and, yet, we’d both either chosen or been assigned seats near the front of the room in the center row. Gone were the days when the tall girls ended up in the back, of each row, with the boys.

The scenic memory is vague. Perhaps we were doing seatwork, or the teacher had stepped out of the room for a moment. I felt a tap on my shoulder.

I turned around.

It was Pam.

“What race are you??”  she said.

In those days, white people called those of color Negroes. None of the white people had a clue what Negroes called their white counterparts because, in those days, there was no dialogue between people of differing race. Pam was one of the Negro girls and, that year, I was the darkest skinned white girl in the entire school.

My father’s parents had both emigrated to New York on a ship just as the 19th century was flipping to the 20th. They were each of Southern Italian descent, though my grandfather would have born the darker shades of hair and skin. Appearing to be Sicilian, my grandmother had the light eyes and broad, full features marking Moorish ancestry. Dad had only met his mother once and his father never, providing the family only a bridal photograph, and I took after him almost entirely.

In early September, Pam’s skin was the color of coffee with milk, just like mine. Hers stayed that way, though, as the winter encroached, and mine faded just enough to make the subject less of a concern to anyone.

Clearly, Pam had never seen a white girl with skin the same color as her own. And, up until then, I had seen few African American people at all in my world, only those who came from Virginia to Grove City College to attend our Eastern Bible Conference every summer, among them the Hintons – Arthur being the thin, quiet boy who always smiled at me across every room.

What I learned in 7th grade was that there were those who weren’t sure what I was when they looked at me. I also learned how it felt to be the person nobody was sure about, unless they knew my family or attended the Bible Conference where people came to worship in spite of their skin color even if they did not sit together. Arthur Hinton could have been my boyfriend, and Pam Baker and I could have been sisters, but in those days nobody would have understood.

The bitter cold had lifted somewhat and there were about forty minutes for three belated returns, one a large postal shipment, before my private students would arrive. A full thirty of those had already passed before I realized that the Post Office would be closed. Today was a legal holiday, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pam Baker would have remembered.







© 1/15/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo       All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Leave prejudice at the door. Thanks.





The Coldest Day of the Year.





The service elevators were easy for her to find.

She’d spent an entire week of her life at that hospital, nights and days in the summer of ’95, and not as a patient.

Somewhere between Father’s Day June 14th and the last week of July, hair bobbed shorter than it had been since right after she’d given it up in ’82, each sundress from the now ex-honeymoon taking its paper doll turn down those glued carpet halls with their bands of border color marking every corner, her feet, incongruous in hospital issue tube socks, rendered right of passage. She’d worn those rubberized socks, every day that sweltering summer, claiming her route from just past the ramp to the room to the cafeteria and back, just like the help. In the third bed of the second quad of the ninth floor, her mother was dying. She could do whatever the hell she wanted.

Admittedly, entering the grand lobby and approaching the receptionist was, over twenty years hence, an odd thing, but this time she wasn’t entirely sure of her destination. In fact, taking care to wear her oversized, wool-lined denim jacket, one of the knit scarves from the plastic storage bag, the fading pair of black boots, ratty brown leather gloves inherited from her oldest aunt, the most shapeless, unmatched winter hat and even a pair of oval tortoise shells from ninth grade she felt it fitting that, not really knowing where she was going she should appear entirely unrecognizable.

Quietly, uncharacteristically, she bowed her head. Where was the dialysis department, and what was the quickest way to get there? Stylus poised, she mapped the receptionist’s recommended path without comment. Marveling at life’s minor consistencies, she wondered if the thickened skinned, transparently vacant woman had quit her second job at Macy’s or if the retail chain had already let her go.

The row of lobby elevators stood like the gates of Hades, too large, too chrome, too imposing. There were just too many, at least four, the product of Total Quality Management’s marketing ploy to make this medical complex look like the diocesan center for all who came to worship.

The receptionist, powerless in every other aspect of her life, had been eager to disclose the insider’s view, sending her well past the Lake of Fire and into the alleys of the old wing where the walls were still painted mint green and every step could be heard. Decades earlier this had been one lone brick building, where every appendix burst, every broken bone arrived to be set, and every child who wasn’t Catholic came to be born. Equally fitting that these were the walls and halls wherein those whose kidneys were failing would spend three days of every week of the final five to seven years of their lives.

She could see them now, just beyond the vending machines. She knew that, stepping in or out of a service elevator, her denim sleeves might brush against any number of incoming patients or aides. Her wager was that the costume she had affected would blend her into the scenery, render her subconsciously dismissed by even those in closest proximity.  She had come to seek a panoramic picture of the whole operation from the point of view of invisibility.

This was, allegedly, a work day. Word was the census was low; with good Irish luck, all patients would be finished before the next round of lake effect. She knew that there would be no snow on this shift, however; sub zero windchills into the double digits would prevent even the most determined flake from crystallizing. This would break all records for the coldest day of the year.

Reaching the first of the two double doors, she extended a gloved finger toward the Down button. Just as she pressed it, “ding!” – the plastic arrow above the second one lit up cherry red and its doors opened, releasing all occupants.

There were no patients in this elevator. From the distorting corner of the right lens of her ninth grade tortoise shell glasses she could just make out the form of his broad shoulder. Looking out from under the frames, however, her newly far-sighted eyes could clearly see the short, wide fingers of his right hand, fingers which had grasped her own flesh and traced every inch of the surface of her skin even as they reached to graze the small of the back of the uniformed woman who stepped out after him.





© 1/6/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo  All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Do the right thing; write your own. Thanks.








‘Snow Kidding.

On the eaves…………………………
….the tree………………….
…the shovel……………
….the bannister………( 53 “, and counting………… )
” DOOOT, Doot, Do……… Lookin’ out my…..back door………..”  December 26, 2017. #1 in the Nation (The Weather Channel) and record-breaking @ 53″ + counting, 6:51 am, in Erie, PA. Totals at 11:30 p.m: 63″, and still coming…

Tip of the Iceberg Age.


The Museum of Natural History in Cleveland was the first.

A wooly mammoth, life sized, in a room trimmed by taxidermy. Murals, glass encased, tracing the alleged history of its life on this planet. Something about a monster ice floe and fossilized bones of sufficiency to reconstruct the entire elephant. On a trip with the eighth grade science classes, I was disinterested. The Age of Aquarius was all the rage that year.

A month or two ago, I and my equally old boyfriend took a day trip back to Cleveland. Yep; right alongside the whole Paleolithic Age, that wooly mammoth was still there.

The pre-historic had a new meaning to us, now, as we mutely viewed primate skulls and their gradual similarity to our own. Two elderly lesbians, aged a good decade beyond us, eagerly soaked up the narratives in each chapter of the timeline, reading aloud to one another as if no one else were in either the room or the world, for that matter.

A few hundred miles south of the museum, President Trump was meeting with his military advisors. The Senate and Congress were addressing the trespasses of members of his campaign committee and cabinet. Televised pundits worked overtime to cover everything in a single news cycle. The stock market was ballooning.

Biblical prophets had foretold the Last Days. Gog and MaGog would be lining up, all the power centering in Israel, then Jesus would come in the clouds and all the born-again Christians would disappear into the air with Him along with the dead in Christ, which would have been summoned first from the grave. Somewhere in Africa, in the midst of all this, a family of chimpanzees was screaming in the trees.

Today, it was Christmas. A snow squall the size of the North Pole swirled around outside our window, holding all of us living hostage until at least 2:45 pm while the prime rib seasoned in the new, French doored fridge. Having a “White Christmas” around this Great Lake used to be typical, so being enveloped in drifting and blowing snow felt oddly comforting, as if we weren’t really living in the Tip of the IceBerg Age. Maybe, for just one more night, the whole world would hold off melting with fervent heat before that great and terrible day of the Lord.

Twenty four hours hence, and a record breaking sixty three inches of pure as the driven. God only knows what our wooly mammoth would say about the whole thing.







© 12/25/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo         All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Be a civilized person; there’s still time. Thanks.








We all think we know what it is. For the artists and designers, it’s all about symmetry – balance, equal emphasis on all sides. Others envision an absence of flaw, neither errant marking nor crooked cut.

But, all of us know one thing: perfection ain’t us.

Nope. Those angelic beings on the Hallmark Channel who gaze deeply into the souls of the downtrodden and despondent, assuring them of that which God sees in each one are the only ones convinced. We already know, full well, that they are likely full of the old, well meaning Welbutrin of life.

We know our every stumble, each faltering uncertainty a reflection of that profound propensity for fallibility.

One equally well-meaning fellow told me recently, in the form of a compliment, that he loved my vocal style as solo cellist. That particular performance, by my own assessment, had been plagued by inaccuracies, provoked by hasty rehearsal and general physical discomfort with the surroundings. But, momentarily, I’d been taken aback in a sort of reassured fashion, concluding that said “vocal” style so described was both pleasing and somehow elevated in value above the usual critique – at least, to his ears.

But, more to the intended point, that moment gave me further pause to consider. To what end do we recognize the distinction between both that which is flawless and that which is both worthy and beautiful?

Much like a white patch on a black cat, a well-placed mole can render a human face visually balanced and lovely; whereas, the bridge of a certain nose can interrupt the flow of an entire profile, tossing the whole impression into that familiar pile, the “plain” face.

Now, take the Creator. If God had wanted to reveal Omnipotence to the human race, might the Almighty have appeared in some daunting, looming, larger than life presentation, commanding our immediate subjection and pronouncing upon us, the created collective, one sweeping absolution?

And, how might we have responded?

Rather, the inconspicuous, messy fragility of childbirth, followed by growth to maturity – this manifestation coming upon the clear midnight with us almost entirely, save a handful of lowly onlookers, unawares.

How many of us have been, through the ages, then found to be drawn in by this, as if to a mystery, compelling our best intuitive, analytical and reactive efforts – and, our recognition?

That which is just beyond our reach and experience is ever of pre-eminent value.

Better to be persuaded to ponder perfection.





© 12/22/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo      All rights those of the author, whose lowly name appears above this line. Be human, but good. There’s the challenge.




The Gift Card.



Last week, I thought I’d found it: the perfect Xmas gift.

In fact, it seemed perfect for BOTH of my oldest, and dearest, friends.

Free food. Who could possibly reject free food – for the whole family, for a solid week, brought to their doorstep, complete with all supplemental ingredients and specific instructions as to how to prepare each meal for a truly gourmet dinner? And, how truly practical, as well; who enjoyed taking time to grocery shop during the holidays?

Yet, there it was: Hello, Fresh! the company – and GROUPON, the third party offering a discount that just could not be ignored.

Eagerly, I clicked on the appropriate online link, and ordered the products as Gifts. Filled out the forms, paid with PayPal, and off they went. So enthused was I a big, pink Facebook post followed; I’d found t.h.e. perfect Christmas present.

At first Lisa, my old college housemate, was ecstatic. She’d just sold their house in NY, was closing on the new one in the LA burbs in just days and starting a new job within the week…..this, she said, was a “godsend.”

Well, God’s been busy. It’s the holiday season, after all and, in these times, He’s had to field all manner of religious holy weeks and festivals and fasts and, well, who would want that job?

PROBLEM #1: How would this [free food] be shipped to either of my friends (in California), if their addresses had not been filed by GROUPON?


The Voucher.

There was a Voucher, a Gift Card of sorts, which had to be printed by the Gift recipient who, in turn, needed to sign on to the site to select the meals. I quickly emailed my friend, with the heads up.

In between viewing job prep clearance videos and appointments for the requisite physical, she’d managed to open the email and become thoroughly confused. Perhaps she’d wait until her husband came home from his job as cartoon editor at Warner Bros. He’d make heads and/or tails of why she couldn’t seem to.

PROBLEM #2: And, this was huge. Access to the menu selection site. GROUPON, she said, was actually asking the gift recipient for credit card info, claiming some “ongoing subscription” requirement.

WHAT??! Did I do this to my two, best friends?!

Over on the other side of the county Alex, whom I’d called Sandy since first grade, was beyond any gratitude; she was incensed.

To her, self-employed business owner for decades, the whole thing felt so impersonal, and annoying, and no way was she entering any credit card info in order to receive food or anything else alleged to be a “gift.”

Several texts and emails later, far longer than it would have taken to coast over to the nearby department store for its weekly Tuesday Over 55 sale, true story: Hello, Fresh!, greedy as they came, in cahoots with GROUPON, the latter offering a discount to the giver, was roping the gift recipient into some ongoing subscription contingency; in short, no Hello, Fresh! meals delivered unless membership was first established which, of course, everybody knows, could be Cancelled At Any Time By Calling The Number On The WHAT??

My wallet was already filled with Gift Cards. There were 5 bucks left on the Bed, Bath & Beyond; at least one bookstore; and, now defunct, a local Mall card so old so as to carry an actual expiration date – meaning, in spite of the money put down by my former students’ parents, after a certain date that chunk of cash was doomed to the ether, or Bank of America, whichever held out solvency longest.

I’ll give you Cancel At Any Time.

I’ve got your number.

Commercial America: you want attention?

I’ll send you a card.






© 12/13/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Be a good person; it’s free.








The Difference.

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

Then, she’d set about to do it. She’d think about what she could do, for him, and then she’d do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


“Is love a binder of wounds?

…or, merely a lubricant on a squeaking part?

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

——  David Michael Sammarco  ©12/1/17







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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She placed her hand on Tim’s shoulder.

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

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

“Is he your father?”, she apologized.

“Um, no…….my neighbor….”

She nodded. Slowly. Feeling her forehead contract.

“Bless you”, she said.

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

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

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

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


Again: “Bless you”.

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

“Oh! Are you the door man?”

“I am, today…” she said.







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







RIPLEY – Believe It, Or Not.


The host in Miami was Peruvian.

Her husband was from coastal Italy. Their AirB&B room to let, at a quiet condo in Kendall, was small, comfortable, and private, and included a larger kitchen whose facilities were completely open for use. Just minutes away from every thoroughfare and all things Miami. Perfect.

With the need to travel to the upper west side of Manhattan about a piano, going AirB&B seemed the ticket once again. And, again, everything from start to finish was just right; a young couple, she a former life coach, offering a living area, a kitchen and, together with bed and bath, easy access to all transportation hubs.  Yes; I was sold on this, the world’s newest option for affordable, overnight and vacation destination lodging.

Ripley, New York had always been a vignette in the landscape of my history. Traveling to and from college via Rtes 5 or 20 back in the day, I knew its village status to house one or two fellow professionals opting for a small scale, easily paced, virtually anonymous lifestyle. So, when one weekend in late July beckoned both my professional and personal schedule to the banks of Bemus Point, I looked up AirB&B in Western NY.

Among several picturesque offerings which appeared, the real stand out hailed from: Yes. Ripley, NY.

Not only directly en route home from Lake Chautauqua, the setting seemed bucolic; an historic mansion, no less, sure to please the palate of two aging aesthetes after a long and dazzling evening making music at The Italian Fisherman’s Bemus Bay Pops, its summer concert series lakeside.

Plus, the price: for one night, a solid $25 cheaper than its regional counterparts, and with multiple rooms to tour a bonus.

The host, via AirB&B’s messaging template, readily responded to my initial queries. Yes; there was a bathroom, down the hall; no, a late check in would not be prohibitive – he was up ’til all hours. No; there would be no minimum time frame to secure a room and, yes; there was one available for Saturday. I booked it.

Immediate accessibility. A cell number, for use texting any concerns, just like the host from Manhattan. Entering the digits into my addressbook, I couldn’t help noting that the NYC host’s number was still there. And, I marveled yet again at this world-wide, yet present in the palm of the hand, travel agency.

Excitement: short-lived. Due to a number of concerns, one of them ultimately medical, our stay at the mansion had to be cancelled. As soon as I knew I texted the host, telling him so, being sure that my notice was given well within the allotted time frame as outlined by the host’s page; and, once again, he promptly replied, assuring me that no cancellation fees were ever assigned by him to guests of the mansion.

The weekend came, and the weekend went. By Monday, I began to observe more than one automated email, coming from AirB&B and inquiring into our visit to the mansion. How did we enjoy our stay? Would we rate the host? Would we complete a survey? We had not stayed; we could not rate; we could not complete a survey. Something was wrong.

Via the links they provided within the body of the automated emails, I began to send replies to AirB&B. Within hours, they’d connected me to one Sushil, an AirB&B representative, who advised that my credit card had, indeed, been charged the full fee for one night in Ripley: $125. I had failed to note, never having been advised throughout, that cancellation required notifying not the host but AirB&B, directly, via their website. My only recourse, Sushil said, was to fill out a Resolution Form.

Dutifully, I moved to the Resolution Form at the AirB&B website. While filling the message box with gushing apologies for my oversight to the host, I could not help also noting that this form was intended for guest complaints, rather than refunds of any previously cancelled fees. Since Sushil had also stated that the only way I could actually secure any refund would be through the host, directly, I made sure to gush appropriately to that end. I also noted that the maximum amount allowed by AirB&B for such reimbursement for damages would be: $107.

Tenaciously, I returned to the host’s messaging option. He had provided his cell phone number; I had saved it in my addressbook; so, I reiterated my embarrassment, per failing to note the proper cancellation procedure, in a text. I asked him if he would please refund my fee, as I fully intended to be a future guest at the mansion.

However, though he had been readily responsive during the steps leading up to my having booked the overnight, now the man fell silent. Two subsequent phone calls placed went right to voicemail; two more texts, no reply. Then, I searched out the mansion itself, for an office phone number, and found one – at their Facebook page. But, the voicemailbox, so said an automated outgoing, was full.

Summer was peaking. On the cusp of its waning toward fall, in this Great Lake region, the foliage on Rte 5 would also be full. Perhaps a drive east, toward NY state, would be not only pleasant and richly nostalgic, but effective. I texted the host in Facebook messenger, asking one last time for reimbursement and suggesting that I might just head to the mansion to resolve the whole thing in person.

Crossing into the borough of Ripley, I soon recalled that the community itself was situated between Rtes 5 and 20; turning east on 20 after taking the north-south connector, I quickly found myself leaving the town behind entirely and stopped at The House of Pottery for directions.

Its proprietor, an artist, mentioning that the mansion had recently been repainted, rerouted me back eastbound. In minutes, I came upon the stately, stone edifice, quite close to the north side of the highway which had become the town’s main street, its expansive presence encased by a wall of the same structural stone and a black, period, wrought iron fence.

Pulling up to the curb, I could see through my car windshield that a central, double main gate had been tied closed. Where was access to entry into this castle?

A smaller, single gate to the right of the main and just beyond a section of stone wall and some greenery appeared unlocked; furthermore, across a small interior patio, a large single wooden door stood ajar.

I stepped out of my car, approached the gate, and carefully released the latch. Passing through the gate, I noted gardening materials – a bag of soil treatment product, maybe a tool….gingerly, I took the two stone steps leading to the open door, and peeked across.

Voices could be heard, in a room not visible to the far left. Straight ahead, beautiful wood carved furnishings could be seen within what appeared to be an area in the process of being cleaned.

I tip-toed forward, leaning my head toward the room. “Hello…?” I tried. “…..hello…..?”

Instantly, a yipping terrier’s crescendo from the room where the voices had been heard, and charging directly toward me…. I turned, trying to get away, just as a tall, broad shouldered man appeared behind.

Reaching the door itself just after I, he took ahold of the door as if to close it, presumably to prevent the dog from escaping. I looked up at him, recognizing the face of the host at the AirB&B site.

“Hello!….I began, asking if he were the host by name. “Yes”, he replied, smiling.

And, then I introduced myself.

No sooner had the final syllable of my last name left my tongue  – within less than two seconds – his whole countenance contorted. Jaw jutting forward, he bit his lip; and, bursting forth in rage, he hollered, directly into my face:


Blindly, my eyes crossed. And, then, I felt it. A large, steel-tined rake in his hands and he, SWIPING it at me, slamming it against the pavement behind my hastily retreating feet, slamming and slamming and slamming it as he screamed, missing the back of my head by hairs, and the back of my ankles, hollering and chasing me all the way to the gate through which I was just barely able to escape.

From the mouth of my shaking face, the only words that came forth:

“I didn’t threaten you!!! I just came to ask for my money back — !”

Looming, with his left arm raised, pointing at me like Caligula, relentlessly roaring at the top of his lungs – as I scrambled into the car, with useless legs that buckled and folded, I lurched away.

My first thought was to wonder if anybody saw. Anybody from the town of Ripley, NY. Perhaps a car had driven by. Perhaps a head had poked out, from a nearby storefront or a residence window. Anybody. Surely, somebody had HEARD. The bellowing was ungodly.

I saw nobody.

My next thought was to drive back to The House of Pottery. I had to tell somebody, to make contact with a living human, a sane being, something that breathed healthy life and could restore me to the here and now before I endured a psychotic break from which there would be no return.

I entered the Pottery store. Its proprietor was right where I had left him, behind his counter, and a woman entering as I had left was still standing inside with her child in arms.

Both of them believed me, and the state of terror which had seized me. Both were sure that I should report the incident. Where was the police station? They looked at each other. The proprietor thought it would be at least Mayville.

I drove back toward town, and turned into the post office parking lot. The door to the post office was open. Though the time was not even 2 pm on a Thursday, a strange ceiling to floor transparent plastic vertical blind with a lock on it enclosed the entire service area, and there was nobody human anywhere near it. I exited, and crossed the lot to the bank on the corner. Inside, there were several women behind a teller window so old it seemed part of a time warp straight out of Film Noir. None of this was comforting.

All of the women, however, seemed to know the host of the mansion. The tallest one stiffened and set her lips when I mentioned his name.

After each woman registered her own reticent recognition of this situation, the tallest one gave me a piece of paper with the Sheriff’s phone number on it and let me use the restroom, which was downstairs opposite the round table in the breakroom with its door wide open.

Then, I went outside, and sat in my car, and called the Sheriff.

Two and a half hours later, after a phone conversation with a state trooper who had never heard of AirB&B, two of these finally pulled into the bank parking lot. The younger was the officer who had heard my story by phone; the elder, face flushed like someone who could either use a drink or be well on his way toward the next one, in the full authority of his seniority expected me to recount the whole thing one more time. My presence had interrupted his day, they had both traveled all the way from Fredonia, and he was in no mood to defend a single, hysterical woman in workout clothing driving a 2008 Pontiac with a PA license.

I rehashed the entire incident. Reaching the part where the host raised the rake, I was emboldened by traumatic drama. The elder officer told me to quiet down. I said I thought they wanted the details of the case, as it had unfolded.  When I was finished, the elder officer set his two hands parallel about two feet apart and declared that NY law did not permit trespassing on private property. I looked at him, and asked him if he was afraid. Then, I asked him if he had already decided that he would not defend me.

Both officers were sure of two things. One: the mansion was private property, not owned by AirB&B. Two, there were no witnesses. And, without the latter, I would be subject to whatever version of the truth the host of the mansion chose to present. In court. Because, as the younger officer intoned, neither of them could represent me to the alleged. All they could do was file the report, and send it along to the court in western NY, Southern Tier or whatever the label appropriate for that string of hamlets lining wine country along the lake, each of them completely free of the presence of law enforcement until at least Mayville.

I stood beside my Pontiac. The time was well beyond mid-day. I had spent over three hours, from arrival to pending departure, on this venture. “DON’T THREATEN MY FAMILY!” he’d bellowed, as he slammed me off his patio with that metal rake. I stood, the orphan of an Italian barber and his wife the seamstress. Images of the house I’d called my own for nearly 30 years, now thoroughly spinning off into the cosmos on the wings of a twister, swirled in my head.

I looked at the two officers. Offering something about being a 60 year old woman alone in her own house, in need of protecting that which was hers, I thanked them for their time and apologized for taking it. Then, I got in my car, and drove home.

Just as I was about to sit down to a carefully prepared meal of pasta in oil, with fresh home grown herbs of basil, thyme, rosemary, and sage, and a chopped clove garlic, and some roasted reds under Parm-Romano, sprinkled with crumbles of Hilary’s Thai burger and more cheese I saw where, ringer off,  I had missed a call.

It was from the official phone number of a certain historic mansion in Ripley, NY.  And, it came in just as I spied two emails from AirB&B. The host had refunded me the maximum allowable by the Resolution Form: $107. And, he had done so at approximately 1:34 pm – on or about the moment I had unlawfully stepped onto his property.

I’ve heard it said that Peru is the place to go when you want to escape the present, have your senses challenged by the incomprehensible, and enter worlds yet unimagined in this lifetime.

I don’t know about that.

I’ve been to Ripley, New York.




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  7/27/17     All rights those of this author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Be a good person. Or, pretend to be. Make it work.
























Watching the Gladiolas Die.


[first draft]


Watching the gladiolas die

Each branch, straining away from the other

Like the handwriting of a psychotic.

Blossoms, closest to the vase, drooping first

Those furthest away spiking, like thorns do

Defying the spine-curling sigh.







© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  7/23/17      All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Be a good person.





Spanish Peanuts.



Antonio’s daughter was always the misfit. Squinting, nail biting, and a fixating stare. Dark eyes, the kind that didn’t fit the decor. In junior high, all she’d wanted were knees that didn’t show when she walked, calves that met each other when she stood, and a nose that looked like it belonged to her head. High school was horrid; those “must have” Ali McGraw hats had made her look like a bowling ball on a stick, and she would never know, until all the vicarious Y-Co dances and even the senior prom had burbled their wake, that her brain was bigger than her face.

But most everything else, she knew. She knew that God had made the heavens and the Earth, that Jesus had died and risen on the third day, and that everybody who went to the Gospel Hall on Sunday and got saved was going to Heaven. She knew who her mother was, and her grandparents, and her two brothers, and all her cousins and aunts and uncles. She knew her father had met her mother on a train and married her, twice. And, above all else, she knew that she was Daddy’s girl.

The drunkard, who could bed her like no other and love even more deeply, was the one. He would appear on the cusp of the sixth decade of her miserable life, right when she was sure that wringing out the rest of it as anything but a spayed hound shape shifting into a human that used to be female just in time to leave the house for groceries was beyond any hope. And, he would tell her. In the midst of a brew-infused gourmet meal of sirloin and cremed spinach, between entree and foreplay, he would bring her the news.

Antonio hadn’t merely been a butcher. He’d been the Man. He’d run the whole city.

Even the cigar store owner, the biggest bookie in the tri-state, had answered to him.

Just what being that Man had meant in her lifetime only the movies could say. Something about broad shouldered henchmen with pea brains, envelopes stuffed with cash, sudden gunfire, and blood, and lone cars bursting into flames by the side of the road.

This was like finding out that UFOs circled the house while you slept. That flies were aliens readying their ranks to magnify for attack. Or, that Jesus was just the son of a Moroccan trapeze artist, marketed to the known world by some disaffected Turk with a hookah and a scribe. No wonder the idea of selling their house after Antonio’s death had left her dry. The Spanish peanuts in their tiny cardboard cannister he’d always hand her through the window of his DeSoto when she was 5, the salt stinging her tender, nailbitten fingers, were mold in her memory now. There was simply no such thing as reality. Now, she was sure.

Yes, now. Now, only Rufus Wainwright could sing “Nuthin’s Gonna Change My World.” The one thing she couldn’t have known at the time was the only truth which remained. Antonio’s daughter could never go home, ever again.




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  7/6/17    All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line.  Be a good person. Yeah, whatever that is.










The Italians in Erie have always been different from those at the other end of Pennsylvania.

Not sure why, probably settlement patterns. Perhaps the bricklayers all ended up in our port city.

But, Butchie was typical of Erie. He was a Sicilian and Calabrese mix.

And, most of these were deeply familial, multi-generational. All associated, historically, with the mob mystique that shrouded our town for so many decades.

Many of the rest of us, whether Italian of heritage ourselves, or among the scores of other ethnicities represented in Erie’s closely juxtaposed ghettos, regarded the short, broadly smiling, muscular men of his ilk as classed alike.

Most of them worked for the City. Streets. Waste management. Water treatment. Parks and R. They were the crews in charge of maintaining what kept the city going every day.

I confess. I always thought Italian men born and raised in Erie would be workers, to the core. Never did I assume, and errantly, that a single one of them would be at all like Butchie DeFazio.

We’d met in the late 1980’s at Denny’s Restaurant on Peach Street, the old Sambo’s. He’d always come to the counter with Roberto, the tailor. Didn’t know it then, but they were both committed betting men, wagering on the horses at the nearby Downs racetrack. There’d be a coffee, and then several minutes at the PackMan over by the wall, Butchie leaning against it and deftly playing the thing like a slot machine.

Butchie didn’t say much. He liked short words, quick phrases, thick with his tough, second generation accent and attitude. He seemed like a street kid, shy but never letting on, and the first man in town to have hair implanted right across the forehead. Many others would make the attempt, and we’d find out how the pain aborted their efforts; not Butchie. Like everything else we’d come to know about him, he wanted a clean line and would do whatever it took to get it.

In 1986 Mr. Veltri, who’d taught sixth grade at Lincoln, came in for dinner and told me about a vocal music position opening up at the junior high I had attended.  Mr. Ciotti was retiring; did I want to apply? It had been over 5 years since my college graduation day, and this role as waitress had settled nicely for me; short, intense shifts, nothing loading the frontal lobe after hours…..I liked my life. But, expectation beckoned, along with a faint memory of why I went to college in the first place. I took the interview.

The panel included administrators, Personnel, the district psychologist…what were my thoughts on marching band? Obliviously, I gushed; as lead bugler, my father had led his battalion in a parade for the US Army dignitaries. I loved parades!

When the letter from the district arrived, I’d been assigned to East High School.

As music teacher to the East High marching band, choir, chorus, “stage band”, and whatever else the principal called his depository for students not destined for academic superiority, I was both energized and scared; I hadn’t been around teenagers since student teaching years before, and this was the roughest neighborhood in town. Gingerly, I stepped into the bandroom to check out my new digs.

Butchie stepped in right behind me.

Never knowing he’d been employed by the district all this time,  I was astonished to discover that, he having bid out and vacating the position to the newbie, I was the winner of his prized legacy.

Mr. DeFazio hadn’t been at East very long – maybe a couple years. Figures. He’d not been at all understood, by anyone there, any more or less than I might have been. Politically, the East side belonged to the Poles and the Germans and the Russians, after all, and the Italians should stay on the West side where they came from.

He was heading to the elementary schools, he’d said – something I would do many years later, to stay, just as he. And, then he carried on with his usual flair. Only this time he peppered his delivery with complex chord progressions; a jazz pianist, he disclosed, he had “played out” in the Erie scene for many years, all in the past, he kept assuring me.

Turned out we’d both graduated from Fredonia State University. He’d been a piano major, no less. Then, the teaching degree, same as mine. Who was this masked man, and why had I never heard him play?

I asked him to sit at the nearby piano.

He refused.

He’d stopped playing, he said. Stopped playing out. Stopped playing.

I stared at him.

And, I never, ever found out why.

Years in, when I had moved to the elementaries, he would stop in out of the blue. On his final visit, a couple years before I retired, he brought me a huge box of videotapes to use – and, did I want them all for just 200 bucks?

One time, I’d asked him to stop over to the house. I thought maybe, if he did, he could play me some Chopin. I’d heard from Mary Ann, his sister, that he played a hell of a classical piano, too. I pled. I begged. He never came.

About four years ago, after his beloved sister Judy died, he moved from his house to the Glenwood Towers. And, he called me. Would I stop over? He had some music he wanted me to check out.

He looked good. Enhh…a little sugar, he said. A bit thinner, but still vital and on it like always. He took me to the storage cages. Here were boxes filled with Fake books, sheet music, and volumes of classical literature – the Beethoven sonatas. The Brahms. My God. The man had played everything.

He insisted. Ruthie, he called me, Ruthie, take it. Take the stuff. Take the Fake books…….I left most all of those, selecting a Brahms folio and some Beethoven. It was so good to see him.

A few months ago, Butchie died. He had been failing, Mary Ann said – getting ever thinner and thinner. But, true to form, never a peep about discomfort, never a need expressed, always tough, always cheerful. The casket was closed. I averted my face, feeling utterly exposed at the funeral. Why did his death feel like a tragedy?

Mary Ann told me, a few days later. He’d played his graduating recital at Fredonia, and the family was there. She said he came out, and sat at the piano, and didn’t move. He sat, for an entire seven minutes, without placing one finger on the keys. Then, he began to play.

She said the performance was stunning. Everybody in the audience felt it. And, everybody at Fredonia talked about it, for weeks and weeks thereafter. Samuel “Butchie” DeFazio was brilliant. A master.

I don’t know whether Erie will survive. Our city has been mismanaged by proud, short sighted people for decades. Entrenchment has seeped its dulling, molding poisons into the landscape and, in spite of a whole generation of emerging talent and intelligence, its families of longest standing – and, their legacies – are threatened with extinction.

One wonders how many Butchie DeFazios have been lost in that terminal shuffle.




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   6/24/17    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Be a good person.  Thanks.







“Oh, God. My God. How excellent is Thy Name, in all the earth.”
Among his endless list of attributes, the new boyfriend has a far more evolved sense of style than the woman he calls his, these days. He’s left for the evening, calling back a shopping spree for later on tomorrow but, as the evening wanes, something fixates me: the Persian blue print maxi dress at Marshall’s he’d selected last week that just didn’t fit. Maybe I could alter it, like mum always did, he’d suggested – reminding us both that we still had a long way to go before we could say we truly knew each other.
Finally, I can resist the compulsion no longer. After sufficient Reese Cup consumption, I jump into the car at, what, 8:50pm? and, cruise all the way up Peach Street in the increasing dark to the Best Buy plaza.
Marshall’s. Where the dressing room lighting is so flattering, you buy everything you try on. Unlike Gabriel’s where, even though the merchandise was designer fare, the sight of yourself under poorly directed, cheap fluorescence made you break down and cry and go home with nothing. Gabriel’s is shut, reopened in disguise, is anybody surprised; Marshall’s lights are still on. The place is mercifully empty. I love slow close hour; you get the whole room to yourself.
Sure enough, as expected, the dresses are no longer in the front rack. Marshall’s. They know how to mix it up. I look around. Over by windbreakers and sportswear, a stash of flowing fabric beckons.
No Persian print.
The girl with the laniard and the perfect skin tells me all the rack rounds have dresses. I am nothing if not tenacious. Me, the spider with the suction cups for fingers, I am.
Thwap, thwap through the rack. Several other deep blues – stripes; solids, with flirty bodices. Suddenly, could it be, I see the Persian. Glory Hal, there it is – in a.l.l. t.h.r.e.e. s.i.z.e.s (S;M;L). I grab eight hung garments and drag ass to the fitting rooms.
In the immensely enhancing golden glow of the Marshall’s ethos, it takes me only as long as dress on dress off; seventeen minutes later, four dresses, and three sets sleepwear/clearance, I am beating the clock to the check out.
Now, why does the lone, spectacled African American beauty behind the counter look familiar? Do I dare ask her the Usual Question? Have I not struck out at least twice in a week with that socially jarring: “WEREN’T YOU MY STUDENT??” No; I would let her be. This was go time. I was the Purchasing Person at 9:15pm on Thursday. This was go time.
Patiently, and with grace, she gathers all my hangers and my garments and my TJMax Reward Card Application because she is just that good, and then she says it.
“Didn’t you teach at Grover Cleveland?”
DANG, how’d I miss this one?? I am slipping, for sure. Old Ms. Scanzillo never overlooks a single one, especially not the stand outs. Hearing her name, it all comes rushing in like it always does, because it always does, every face, every personality, every student, all four thousand of them.
Tamara Baker.
Fourth grade violinist.
Front row. Top of the class, always on it. A real future.
And, she says it, too. “I always wanted to continue, but there was nobody to teach me.”
I am already there. She graduates this year, from high school. And, this summer, there will be a violin in her hands again. I am already there. No student of mine gets passed over. Not by God Almighty.
Last week, adult student, Title I Reading specialist Kim, yearned for a string quartet. Was there anybody? I knew an attorney she heard me say, a violist, named Zanita. We’d look into it.
The next day, driving up the hill to Sacred Heart auditorium, I’d prepared to cast my vote in the local Primary. Again, the room was mine, only one other person outside of the staff at table. And, behind that table sat Elva who, every year, greeted me with the reminder that we’d played in the Jr Phil string section together back in high school. But, might I be interested? This year, her piano trio needed a ‘cellist.
Who was the violist?
“Zanita”,  said…..well…..God.
Kismet. Serendipity. The Persian blue print, size S, fits. The boyfriend, who comes to me again tomorrow like a bolt just like he did a bit shy of nine weeks earlier, after twenty five years distance and nearly five years of increasing resignation that life is meant to be lived out alone unto death, will embody the surprise, too. Somehow, and only by our Creator, even the hairs on our heads are all numbered.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  5/18/17      All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Be a good person. Thanks.

Mrs. Diehl.

Erie, Pennsylvania has been straining, lately.

The Commonwealth is being alarmingly recalcitrant about sending sufficient funds all the way to its northwest corner, as if defying the entropic forces that pull all assets toward the valley is just too much effort, too much of a threat to the homeostasis of those driven to entrench an already archaic class war; as a result, the School District of the City of Erie is in total crisis – closing high schools, losing five thousand students with only the scent of enough loaves and fishes to feed those who remain.

And, even the contingent of otherwise-safely retired teachers bite their nails, wondering if the time will come when somebody decides to dip into their rightful, guaranteed pensions, that portion of their salary which they deferred for twenty five to forty interminable years on the promise of that guarantee.

Mrs. Diehl doesn’t have to think about any of this. She’s long been dead.

Her daughter, however, just passed away. Today. Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong’s life ended in federal prison, her body succumbing to cancer, the disease which often overtakes those who are otherwise hopeless.

Marjorie, a troubled child taken in and adopted by the Diehl family, as accomplice to what would become the stuff of national tabloid news had managed to cap her life in Erie by participating in the most bizarre crime in the city’s history: the case of the “Pizza bomber.” Details of the morbid scenario included a frozen body, a bank robbery, and an innocent delivery man whose life came to an end in that bank parking lot in the blazing sun, the bomb strapped to his neck exploding in front of an entire flank of helpless law enforcement officers and medical personnel.

But, Mrs. Diehl had lived a generation before.

She first appeared at Lincoln Elementary School as a substitute teacher. In those days, substitute teachers paid their dues, and those dues were sure to be rewarded; show up enough times to cover the random classroom, and the offer of a secure, full time position was assured.

I first saw her, seated, at the upright grand piano against the wall, which ran parallel to the teacher’s desk in virtually every classroom at school. She wore perhaps a dark green Chanel styled suit – boxed jacket, small lapels, simple sheath skirt; on another day, a dark blue and black plaid shirtwaist, its full, pleated fabric draping the piano bench. Her lipstick was scarlet, and her hair raven black, classically curled around her ears and neck with the dramatic upward swoop over the forehead which marked a woman of real class who’d come of age in the 1940’s.

It was customary, during the 1960’s, to begin the school day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a silent prayer. But, if the teacher played the piano, there would also be a song. And, this is why I loved Mrs. Diehl.

Already seated as we entered the room in the morning, Mrs. Diehl would already be playing that piano. Full on, with the grandest of gesture, her arms arching and diving from bass to treble, the strains of “America the Beautiful” resounded like a cross between a rousing march and a triumphant anthem. There was nothing, absolutely nothing rudimentary about this woman or the music she made, and the result was utterly infectious. Had we slept restlessly the night before, or endured the screechings of a “We Can Do It”, post-wartime mother frantic to get her children off to school so she could get to the machine shop without being late, the sound of Mrs. Diehl at the piano dispelled any and all angst of such a hyperventilating morning with one, windswept burst of song.

Furthermore, after we had stood to Pledge, to pray, and to sing, only to dutifully be seated, Mrs. Diehl would continue to play. And, for myself, a budding young musical student already being chauffeured off to the Erie School of Music every Thursday at 4:00pm for my own piano lesson, I was deeply transfixed, listening, watching. Several minutes would pass, as Mrs. Diehl, never once making eye contact with any of us, her countenance intently introverted by her voluminous musical mind, played song after song. She would become my first true model of performance, giving herself totally to the enterprise, instinctively knowing and manifesting the inherent value of the music itself.

Other cultures on this planet also know the inherent value of the musical art. They make certain to include music and music related activities in as much as 50% or more of their student curriculum. And, research scientists who devote their efforts to the study of the human mind and the brain which drives it are consistently putting out data in support of the multi-level value of music as both a discipline and art form. Now, there is enough evidence to defy all detractors; those who make music, and specifically those who play the piano, have some of the most highly developed brains on the human spectrum.

Mrs. Diehl may have been a superior musician, but she was also a woman of compassion. No one knows for sure how or why she adopted the girl who was called Marjorie. But, she did. Yet, just as every human is capable of both strength and profound weakness, of confident stride and defiant misstep, Marjorie made a rocky pattern out of her life. And, Mrs. Diehl did not live to see the culmination of her daughter’s actions, a blessing indeed; diagnosed with mental illness, Marjorie very likely did not receive the benefit of music therapy in her lifetime and, in the end, even her mother could not alter the behavior potential of a starling child, though she had made the effort of a lifetime.

But, Mrs. Diehl did contribute to the nurture of hundreds and hundreds of Erie’s children, mentoring other teachers as well, and is remembered by many as a remarkable educator. She also left distinctive, inspiring musical renderings in the minds and hearts of everyone who entered her classroom. Lest the community of Erie and those who view it from afar regard the story of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong as a tragic stain, a moment of honor is due her mother, whose efforts painted an elegant, graceful picture of enduring nourishment. Perhaps her story, and those of Erie’s best teaching professionals, should be celebrated instead.

Erie, Pennsylvania could use just such recognition and encouragement.









© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  4/4/17       – All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect for those whose story is told herein.


The Spies.

So, now those who just read headlines are all up in a bunch, pantiwise, over the latest Wikileaks release.

Seems it’s merely official, finally; everything we say and/or do, on either our phones or computers, and even via our TVs if they are Smart /and, phhh, even if they are dumb as stone can be intercepted; viewed; seized; and, Lord knows, transported into any number of Files Are Us.

That said, allow me.

“Hey, there, iRobot. You like my style? You watch me chat with my people, and toss me a photo essay about the vegetables I search and their corresponding polyphenols? You like my test results? You need to feed me the latest fake horoscope?

Your attempts to flatter are folly, you of the artificial intelligence. If thou art so smart, why dost thou even need me and all my trolling patterns?”

You really think I’m not immune, by now, to all the ploys?

That bit about getting into our cars, via satellite radio, and programming us to crash? That’s old. Richard A. Clarke already told us all about that, in his novel, PINNACLE EVENT.

The Will is strong in me. I get my kicks out of skewing data. Anomalies Are Moi, I say!

So, there.

Factor that one up your faux ass.




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo    3/7/17         All rights those of the living, breathing female human person from whom these blog posts come, whose name appears above this line. I’d thank you for your respect, but you don’t process the meaning of the concept.


That Good Part.

According to reports Judge Robert Sambroak was bedridden, under hospice care, the week I stood in line at the Post Office awaiting my appearance at small claims court. It couldn’t have been he, therefore, standing to my left as I prattled my anxieties, commenting: “ You feel irrelevant…” Yet, whomever that man was he did seem placed there for a purpose, like so many who found themselves in line at the South Erie Station. There was something about that gathering, a Federal office no less, which brought about the most unlikely convergences.

I had awakened this morning, Friday, with a passage of Scripture running across the ticker of my frontal lobe. The scene was Jesus, Mary at his feet in place to absorb his every word. Martha, her sister, bustled about the serving, taking care of the practical concerns that the presence of such a significant house guest likely entailed.

Jesus had spoken to Martha. She had complained to him, regarding her sister’s apparently passive position on the floor near Jesus as he sat teaching, beseeching him to implore her to help. He’d said: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and troubled, about many things; but, Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken from her.”

On such a Friday, after a week of arduous preparations, mine musical, tasks requiring repetition and drill, analysis, experimentation, and more drill, muscles tired, mind absorbed with the complexities, how was it that I had been awakened by this Scripture?

My mother was a task master. Rather, she mastered tasks like no other. Machine operator at a local manufacturing shop, her “piece work” tally always exceeded the rest of the workers’, a fact which isolated her from them. Yet, she pressed on, tirelessly, determined to produce above and beyond expectation. This was the American work ethic, nobly represented by the then-dominant working lower middle class, and my mother was at the top of the heap of the “We can do it!” women of her age.

But, it wouldn’t be until many years beyond adolescence that I would become aware of another aspect of my mother. Also a professional seamstress, she worked out of our home and, that, late into the evenings after much of the rest of the house had retired for the night. Our younger brother, however, one inclined to drive his latest, favored car until all hours, would often keep her awake well after she had slowed the treadle on her Singer sewing machine. Myself having taken a job as waitress in a local dinor I would often work two shifts, entering the house at odd hours; it was at just one of these junctures that I met my mother, seated in the kitchen at the table.

She wasn’t just having coffee. She was poring over her Bible.

Our mother, in dark green robe, would sit up waiting for our brother to return home, and read Scripture. Not neglecting those moments of reflection, of seeking counsel, of meditation and contemplation, she was effectively both Martha and Mary. Whether she read to calm her nerves or occupy her thoughts, mum sacrificed for the family all day and then sought that good part, for herself.

Judge Sambroak passed away, yesterday. He’d served the courts of Erie County more honorably than any other – advising even opposing counsel, entering the schools to set up “mock courts” – representing all that was good about the law. Like the Judge, mum’s life was cut short decades before she was likely intended to depart us, her body exhausted by the toxic overload the local environment had bestowed. But, she had lived her life with the kind of integrity that would, as the decades passed, become increasingly rare.

So, today might be yet another Friday. One more week in the life may be history, but I exhort us all to take that pause. The world is spinning, faster and apparently more recklessly by the minute, rendering our reality more unpredictable than ever before. If we seek that good part, one thing is as certain as the voice which intoned the words; Jesus said it shall not be taken from us. Seems like a worthy treasure, indeed.



© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  3/3/17   – All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting the work of all writers, both recognized and unknown.


The Hinge.

[ final draft ]


Take your hand off her shoulder


With the empathy of a brass hinge

Playing spine

To one grand plank

Of solid mahogany


Were the door

To have her way

Such massive progeny of tree


Not to be cut

And hung

As subject

To the pushing and slamming

Of lesser living

Would choose

The wall.




Up against the wall.





© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  2/21/17      All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.


“The Most Recent Piano Trio.”

It’s almost impossible to believe.

Tomorrow night, by this time, there will have been a.) a Full Moon; b.) an eclipse; c.) a visible comet ; and, d.) the realization of the intended performance of the Erie Chamber Orchestra’s piano trio, formerly titled “Strange Bedfellows.”

Strange. A few hours past 48 ago, a very strange thing happened, indeed.

Right in the middle of dress rehearsal, without a cross word ever spoken, without an evil eye, without any confrontation whatsoever, one member of the trio walked out.

Doing the math, that left us two: myself and one other musician, aghast and agape, respectively.

This was never done. No professional did this. Certainly, in my nearly 60 years, 30 of which having been spent as a Union card carrying pro, this had never happened. Nobody bailed at the dress rehearsal – and, got away with it.

Maybe the impending Full Moon, maybe the alignment of the planets and our star sun, maybe the schedule of the comet. Maybe the Almighty God. Somebody found Julie.

Julie was the kind of phenom who entered a room without even a peep of apparent genius. She dressed for comfort. Easy going, a bit chatty; carrying a bottle of water – and, her viola.

Julie had never seen our music before in her life. Most chamber musicians hadn’t. There are only nine works of music at IMSLP for oboe, viola, and piano – and, we were performing three of them.

As of tonight, Julie has now seen every note. Three hours of steamrolling accomplishing the entire rehearsal task, as I write this she is likely home, nursing a sprained ankle, seated at the music, tightening up the last loose end. And, tomorrow, by this time, she will have triumphed over an unprecedented adversity.

Power is an awesome force. Sometimes it is grasped after, with the last functional breath. And, sometimes, it descends upon a scene like soft rain. Tomorrow, by this time, in the eclipsed light of the Full Moon, comet streaking by,  The Most Recent Piano Trio will have taken its place in a much smaller history. The power, on this serendipitous night, will have made its subtle and profound shift in the favor of three specks in the universe – three women, committed to making live music.

At this moment, the gift awaits.

What: “The Most Recent Piano Trio”:  Hilary Philipp, oboe; Julie Von Volkenburg, viola; Yours truly, piano. Performing works by Charles Martin Loeffler; Felix White; and, August Klughardt. Cee Williams, and Dr. Gregory Brown, featured poets.

When:  Friday, February 10, 2017

What time:  7:30 pm.

Where: Luther Memorial Church, Erie PA.

Extra parking in the West 11th lot.


Here is a YouTube link to our videotaped performance. Though I utilized the mute pedal at frequent intervals and the lid was down, the audio quality reflects the fact that we are performing in a church, and you will note reverb. I wish I were beautiful, but my nose is strong and my jaw is weak and I talk like a biddy and that is just the way it is; however, our oboeist and violist are both lovely, so if you do feast your ears, you may cast your eyes upon them for a truly satisfying experience. We didn’t compose this music, but we are certainly among the most fortunate for having had the opportunity to perform it for you.

*Update: Do we suspect, also, that either YouTube “adjusted” the volume whenever the music became quiet, i.e. effectively neutralizing all dynamic fluctations (the videographer calls this “compression”), or that the videocam had a built in “adjuster”? Sigh.




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 2/9/17




The sight of her, and the hearing of her, and the discovery that, though she plagiarizes from others the White House, no less, is  “100% likely” to be confirming her as Secretary of Education,  reminds me of the kind of [female] I once knew.

Perhaps you have also known such an one.


  • Posture: Nose in the air, yet always a condescending smile toward those who can act as servile or subordinate;
  • Attitude: Hostile, and two faced, toward those who threaten power of position, and/ or possess innate qualities which cannot be bought (i.e., talent, intelligence, etc.)
  • Backstory: Descending from money, generally inherited rather than earned;
  • Social Behavior: Moves within those whose code: ” You have it. I have it. They t.h.i.n.k they have it.” (“it” being money, i.e. “class.”) dictates their social circle, which is extremely tight, populated by their own blood, others of perceived similar social class, and a handful who are effusively encouraged to come/brought in to entertain, usually because of their blatant, if charming, idiocy. (Starlings are, on occasion, carefully selected, but can be dispensed with as fleetingly as a moment on the toilet.) Energy is spent selecting the finest garments and accessories, and twisting ones ankles from side to side in the seated position to demonstrate superior footwear.

I suppose I have taken this moment away from the gruel of my woodshedding at the piano, today, to bring these observations to the general public.

If you are in support of Betsy DeVos, and her ilk, none of these observations will make a dent in either your opinion or position; if you are not, perhaps I bring you a moment, in kind, of welcome levity. We are not, in fact, all alike, and we certainly are not all equal.


Vive la difference!

Play on, thou minstrels – play on!

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo, starling and proud. 2/4/17    – All rights those of this author, from whom these observations come. Come Prima.

The Corner.

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The new set up finally felt right.

The laptop should never have been situated anywhere near the davenport. Hardly welcoming to plunk one’s “office” right in the middle of the living room. Add to that the endless stream of paper mail – charity pleas, financial statements, natural health provocateurs, catalogues. Burgeoning piles, taunting every, lifelong attempt to keep an orderly house.

No matter that finding the means to actually toss the static stacks forever eluded. This would harken back to that Great Depression mindset and, well, that was inherited.

Yes. The corner was, finally, just perfect. The wicker rocker had been lovely neo-nostalgia, but sprawling, determined to scrape the last of the baseboard paint all the way down to its 1895 dark wood. And, sitting in the rocker was never right; its ergonomics, or lack thereof, had wrecked both her neck and sacra, the latter already pesky after the fall from the stage in ’09. Perhaps the new chair was more than just easy to assemble. Perhaps she could finally extend her spine fully, and expand her lungs. Perhaps she could finally, functionally, actively: sit.

With the sofa pushed forward, making room for the slender pole lamp, peace lily to the left wafting its oxygen, and heat vent just below, she was at last comfortable enough to troll Facebook, watch Showtime, and write without descending into the dull, half-wit of the couch potato. She noted that getting up to go to the piano was a far more frequent occurrence, now, the most encouraging observation of the hour.

Hardly anybody of any social importance anymore even knew that she played piano. The purchase of the Steinway was only meaningful to her, after all. Funny how expectations were fueled by fantasies, and these by notions. Notions of relative value.

Time didn’t actually pass, she’d been told. But, years did. And, she hadn’t been part of the league of pianists since at least 2005. A decade, to the Millennials and those who spawned them, was a lifetime.

She noted that, from this angle, her reflection appeared in the screen. The way the light refracted provided a clear image. Her face appeared to be receding from its head, the absence of estrogen draining the last of its contouring fat. She used to see an exotic Napolitan, even at her loneliest moments marveling at how distinct she was from the sea of Sicilians in the spectre of her locale. Now, she could only ponder the generic picture of a woman toward which nobody would even look twice.

She wondered if anybody would be listening seven days hence, as she made her recapitulating debut on the live airwaves. The year was probably 1990; Mavis Sargeant, ever the pioneer and a rare Brit in a community of staunch Germans and ethnic ghettos, had initiated “Potpourri”, live classical and its corollaries for a solid hour at high noon at the local PBS affiliate. For quite awhile, it stuck; now, nearly two decades in, live music was once again featured at WQLN – FM. Her selected colleagues had agreed to perform a trio program, and the marketing standard included a live broadcast “teaser” to lure attendees to the scheduled recital.

Thus was her life, lived – by the standards of her alleged family – in complete self-indulgence. Somehow, she had missed the importance of being seen out, in the evenings, where people gathered. She had neglected to form relationships with those who would sustain her social standing. Now her words, last testament to the proof that she had lived, were batted about by anonymous ghost writers, grifters in a world of the younger, prettier, and classed.

Pressing the space bar and the shift key, she placed the next set of them onto the template of the laptop screen.






© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   1/27/17   Post #478, all authentic, created by this writer, whose rights are reserved in spite of all attempts to the contrary. Yeah. To all the pathetic parasites: Someday, all your sins will find you out. To the honest among you, go in peace.


The Shed.

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They always drove used, beige American cars. Unmarked could be many things, but never exotic. Only the marked dressed outlandishly, she’d read. To these, standing out in a crowd was purposeful; for the subversive, bland was the order.

Such was the descriptor of the vehicle and driver she’d registered that Easter Sunday morning in 2002, just missing it pull away from her curb opening her own car door and stepping in.

She’d always been able to know a face, particularly one which had become the object of her fixation.  And, this white haired balding Anglo-Saxon profile staring straight over the steering wheel was unmistakeable through her side view mirror, the sedan slowing briefly at her corner Stop sign as she passed by heading toward the boulevard.

Her white trimmed navy sheath suit with the covered buttons all the way down the skirt looked smart, her dark hair fluffed full with the last gasp of peri-menopause. If only the side entry shed were not completely overrun with garbage in bags, too many, the stench of rotting food wafting upward through its confined space every winter thaw.

She’d been a good seven years shy of early retirement from public ed and spring, still the season of accelerated chaos, over the more recent five (and, final) years had morphed into rehearsal and production for the school musical, interrupted most inconveniently by Easter vacation.

This year, the living room floor cluttered with the customary foamboard and prop pieces, she’d been invited out. Private studio parents, Ukrainian first generation Americans, he a urologist and she mother to three sons, members of the west side country club for the wealthy elite. Would she meet them for Easter brunch?

Their eldest son her student, readying for high school, was most enamored of the liquid chocolate fountain, driven by soy oil and some obscure solvent. She, recently diagnosed gluten and soy intolerant, would pick at the lavish buffet, a tiny salad, some fruit, relieved to eat sparingly so as to be more comfortable in public dressed in her white buttoned navy sheath.

Congruent with the formality of the grande dining room, tables set several feet apart like the upper classes preferred, his mother – who always spoke in hushed, rapid delivery – would choose this luncheon to disclose to her a history with the NSA. His father, a Venezuelan, confirmed.

Even her tax accountant and his wife, seated just a table away, he, feigning nonchalance, deliberately sniffing around the buffet well within her field of vision, would never be the wiser.

Listening to this revelation, she wondered whether the stink in the side shed had so put off her curious visitor that he’d made a hasty exit, never to return. Perhaps he had placed a bug on her wall, some high tech chip capable of recording her every utterance, her goings and comings, or perhaps that had merely been his plan until he’d caught a whiff of the decay. She’d been reading his best seller, published soon after 911 and thought, sitting there over brunch that, if he had placed one, it would be well hidden from any chance of her discovery; he was certainly impossible to trace, though she’d made several attempts at locating contact info. On the way back home across town, she’d settled for one fleeting hope that he might have considered the foul mess residue from a renter, and herself the lady of the manor.

* * * *

Fifteen years hence, the shed was still a catch all for the loose ends in her life. It had, however, taken on a more refined character, transformed to reflect the subtle but evolved nature of her existence. Gardening tools, political yard signs, several Green Blender boxes, and a large cluster of dug up dahlia bulbs now filled the space formerly suffocated by trash.

He’d published several more books, and she was reading his latest, a novel, one or two chapters at a time before sleep in the wee hours after practicing her trio program on the new Steinway. He’d won a prestigious award, his acceptance speech archived on YouTube, he, standing in classic grey suit, slacks draping the kind of body which preferred boxers to briefs. She marveled at his vitality, and wondered if he played tenor sax like the hero in the novel, or whether this was merely a nod to the former leader of the free world.

The world had come at quite a price, anymore, bond or free; as for herself, she could no longer fit into the white buttoned navy sheath, which had faded to maroon.






© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 1/20/17         All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for reporting all ghost written plagiarisms.


How Shall We Know?

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Michael Gerson has an established history as a public commentator – most notably, as George W. Bush’s speech writer throughout said President’s administration. But, Gerson’s most recent article appears in The Washington Post. Its subject: Julian Assange.

Over the past couple of months, much has appeared in the publications of virtually every source of news and opinion available in print regarding the integrity, the credibility, even the veracity of the WikiLeaks founder and editor.

Until the week before the Presidential election, I had barely even heard of Julian Assange. I certainly had never been to WikiLeaks, and I knew absolutely nothing about its editor. My introduction came in the form of a Facebook post, shared by someone only known to a mutual friend; the post, a video, contained an entire interview given by Assange to Australian journalist and published author, John Pilger.

As soon as I viewed that video, my comments regarding its contents were posted into the political discussion already in play. What followed, almost immediately, were multiple entries by trusted friends. Two of them, both female, were particularly negative in their commentary; they did not like Assange, they did not trust him, and one concluded that a mere “gift of gab” drove his persona. Via their posts, I would be further informed that Assange stood accused of rape, living in seclusion at the Ecuadorian embassy because he was awaiting either trial, or extradition, or both.

In spite of this, I was compelled. The demeanor of this man as he sat answering John Pilger’s gentle, noticeably open and accepting queries, was sober, apparently humble, at times almost contrite. He spoke in measured phrases, with care to make only statements which were both clear, concise, and fact based. Furthermore, nothing he said by way of reply seemed to render him suspect, in my observation; rather, he seemed intent upon declaring the purpose of his every act, and that with an objectivity which centered around a search for the truth.

This central point spoke volumes. Dare I use a buzzword – yes; it resonated with me. Friends of longest standing knew me to be a clarion for the truth; and, as time had aged me, I had become more passionate about its value.

I researched this man. Dug into everything I could find online about him. Viewed nearly every interview, listened to every audio, and read as many of his words as were available to me in print.

What continues to strike me is this glaring reality: every news outlet, every publication intended to affect public opinion seems determined to malign, condemn, and pigeon-hole his efforts through a process of both conflation and grande accusation, the latter largely unsubstantiated. By contrast, Assange seems to provide substantive defense for everything about which he has been accused, the strongest of which is the declaration that none of the legion of Wikileaks’ posts over the past ten years has ever caved to scrutiny or been proven unverifiable. In fact, if he succeeds in protecting the integrity of his publication, WikiLeaks may very well rise to the level of the last truly independent counsel left on the world stage.

Yet, what of its founder?

In 2014, The New Republic released a detailed historical documentation of the rise of Assange relative to that of both Snowden and Greenwald. Its article painted Assange as an anti-authoritarianism subversive whose view of the world as “individual against institution” was informed by his personal history. And, that is the characterization which has pervaded the press, ever since. He is to be regarded as the enemy of our state.

Most recently, Assange agreed to a Reddit AMA(“Ask Me Anything”) online “press conference”. WikiLeaks offered a Twitter link to transcripts from that AMA, but hardly anyone has defended its contents. Instead, we have Michael Gerson, who now portrays Assange as an enemy of the “tribe”, one having caused threat to the lives of Americans. And, any American who takes an objective position with regard to him is being made to feel as if such objectivity is somehow akin to treason.

This is serious allegation.

I am an American. Born in the town wherein I have spent my entire life as a working professional, I remain committed to the ideals of our Republic. Humbled to own my home, to live responsibly, to maintain a lifestyle above reproach, and to owe no one, I do not take kindly to any suggestion that my honest investigation of Assange or anyone, however radical or challenging, represents lack of patriotism. I remain a defender of the freedoms of both speech and thought, and intend to devote the rest of my days to that which I have built – one life, lived with integrity. Perhaps I see myself as a lone individualist, powerless against institutionalized control; to this end, my world view may be akin to that of Assange. This does not translate as treason against the government of the United States.

Tonight, President Obama commuted the 35 year sentence of former Private Chelsea Manning, whose 700,000 leaked documents published by Assange at WikiLeaks disclosed human atrocities committed in the name of war. And, there are still those who believe that the act of releasing these “secrets” was a sin more grave than the very atrocities, themselves.

I will trust anyone who proves trustworthy. If Julian Assange can be proven guilty of anything by anyone, I will not sit as his judge; if, however, he is now extradited to our shores, given a fair trial, and proven innocent, I will stand in his support just as I stand with anyone who speaks and lives in truth. As Americans, we should set about to do just that for everyone; aligning, to any degree, with the alternative is to risk everything for which life is worth.

What say you, Mr. Gerson?




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  1/17/17     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.


Censorship [edited].

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“For there to be justice, there must be open justice.”


Dear Readers,

*UPDATE: The live streamed audio press conference, aired January 9, 2017, has been added to this blog post. It appears just ahead of the original video.

I am a home owning, tax paying American professional.

In our recent Presidential election, I voted for neither the DEM nor the GOP candidate.

Below is the long-awaited interview, by an American employed at a major news outlet, with Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange.

Does the thought of viewing this video scare you?

Why, or why not?

Don’t be.

Watch, and listen; then, repeat.

And — don’t shoot the messenger.



p.s. more updates following the Reddit Q & A. Should be interesting; did anybody see the Qs?

What Happened, 2016?


None of us can say what happened.

We only know that 2016 was filled with some of the most excruciating challenges, tests of both faith and resilience, and flat out heartbreaks in a lifetime of memory.

Here’s to the fresh start we are guaranteed, every morning. If I may borrow from AA:

One day at a time!

Hold fast to those who have proven trustworthy in your life. And, vow to be that one in the life of another. Honesty is the path; take it, with courage.

Happy 2017!

Your fellow blogger,  Ruth Ann Scanzillo



Jay Badams.



He’d stepped quickly in and out of our designated classroom, about to be introduced to our faculty collective by the Superintendent of Schools. Upon his return he’d stood, on the sidelines – black suit, white shirt and tie, black hair neatly trimmed in a conservative cut – as the Superintendent announced his name. I remember thinking how his presence harkened back to the men of my own extended family, the good boy still visible in his countenance and bearing.

I wondered, then, as he stood being lauded by his own boss, what the goals were for this man. Was he being groomed for something bigger? That was usually what happened within the hierarchy of The School District of the City of Erie, PA, the town that forever clamored to be just like all the big cities.

He wasn’t an Erie boy; of that, I was certain. Face a bit too clean, features smaller and more refined, frame just too tall to match its counterparts in the full figured strata of city workers and dutiful sons which populated our familial landscape.

What set the man further apart was his poise. He was only momentarily still; even when his feet stopped, the rest of him – his mind, his purpose – kept moving. He was ever forward thinking, yet reserved in the company of people.

The Superintendent introduced him as Jay Badams, the new head of some curriculum level; he was to be a force in the implementation of the latest plan. I remember thinking that, perhaps that year, the latest plan would actually have functional legs; this man seemed equipped to engage.

But, being the music teacher, once that convocation had ended I’d set about to perform the many tasks to which I was committed, and rarely gave another thought to the machinations of the District and its administration. The next time I heard about Jay Badams, he’d become just another of the multitude of parents in my building, the entire population of which were my students. He’d risen in rank and stature; but, to my purposes, he was Emma and Jack’s father.

Emma was quiet, a watcher and listener. She was bright, and talented, too, and perfect for the lead in A Christmas Story, and not because she was Jay Badams’ daughter. Her little brother was also on the quiet side, but a typical boy of his generation; both children were clean, like their father, well presented, respectful toward their elders, good students, and well liked by all.

I met their mother, Tiffany, and her mother, for the first time in the hall behind my stage door. It may have been on Parent Teacher Conference day; it might have been after a concert, or the show. I do remember that she made a point of expressing her appreciation directly to me for a job she deemed well done, and did so with grace and warmth. I also recall wondering if a woman of her presence had found a happy life in our town. Lord knew, I had become so fixated on my own work that I could hardly have been a friend to any parent, even if I’d wanted to be.

I remember, however, the next time I saw Jay Badams.

The day had been exhausting. It was production week, for the extra-curricular drama club, and the final concert of the student body. I’d managed to cram everything into the last days of the semester, every year, my mind and body paying the price and the students feeling the fall out.

There’d been a contingent of first grade boys that had worked my final nerve. And, while I knew that testing the teacher’s patience was a prospect anticipated with very great enthusiasm by many children, I always reserved my fiercest expressions for its limits. On that day, my pent up inner monster – raging against a system which had become increasingly thankless toward its hardest workers – had roared long and loud, sending more than one unblinking stare back to the classroom reeling from the onslaught.

School had dismissed, and there was the usual bustle of movement down my stage door hallway as the buses flanked in the lot outside. Something, perhaps it was the long, black topcoat, caught my peripheral vision. I looked up, as a father with his son passed quickly by the stage door toward the parking lot exit. His expression was one of concern, yet resolute; Jay Badams had his small young boy’s hand in his own.

A father, in black topcoat; a white collar professional, walking his boy to the door and holding his hand. He was not rushing. He was with his son. They were simply walking, with purpose, to leave the building at the end of the school day. But, the image of the two of them pierced me.

Had my ferocious bellowing frightened his child, that day? Had I scared all the children? Was I hurting my students? Would the Assistant Superintendent find out from his little boy, on the ride home from school?

So many parents had taken, in recent years, to reporting teachers to the school principal. A child coming home, with a story of alleged behavior, would frequently result in a closed door session between said parent, the principal, and the teacher being accused. And, these sessions rarely found the teacher anything but guilty as charged; rather, many an educator, usually a woman, would exit such a meeting in tears.

If I had traumatized Jack Badams that day, I never heard about it from his parents.

Needless to say, I would not forget that image. Nor would I forget Jay Badams, or his children, especially his daughter, who was musical; she took to the xylophone with the same determined purpose I’d seen on her father’s face.

A full year after my own father’s death, followed by my retirement, I ran into Jay and his wife, and Tiffany’s colorful father, at a local social establishment. Tiffany spoke to me as I approached their table. She wanted to know if I taught the xylophone. I gave her the name of our premiere local piano teacher, Linda Kobler and, within the year, Emma was performing as pianist in recital, reflecting a relationship forged between student and teacher that would endure to this day.

Jay had said to me, that evening, and every time I’d seen him since: “We miss you.” He said it with earnestness, and I knew that he meant it. He’d become the Superintendent, and, if I’d had even one second thought about leaving the District, it had been because Jay had become our leader. I knew him to be a supporter not just of the arts, but of every committed teacher who broke her back to make creative, nourishing, and memorable things happen in the lives of children.

This man has been a tireless worker on behalf of the students in our District. The forces of resistance he has encountered might very well vanquish the mightiest among us. One thing I do know; as teachers, we are trained to recognize. We learn to read behavior, body language, inflection, intent. To that end, I know Jay Badams. I’ve met his wife, his in laws; and, I knew his children, when he and his wife were raising them. To witness the entire community rise up against him in the ongoing crisis that is our public school system in this Commonwealth is to endure the sight of public betrayal.

If Jay leaves our city, the loss will be ours. I wish him the longest vacation his body can withstand, followed by a welcoming and warm contingent of dedicated educators and leaders who know the meaning of accepted responsibility. If he stays, we need to stand up and thank him for facing Harrisburg head on. He is the genuine article, a man of integrity and courage, and our town has been starving for a leader like him for a long time.




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo    12/20/16

Quiet Men.

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I like quiet men.

But, there are three kinds.


The Shy Boy.

Men who began their lives hiding behind their mother’s skirts (those who wore them full and fluffy, below the knee), are keenly observant but hesitant to make any version of a bold statement. As men, their actions do the talking, and are manifest in a self-possessed confidence which is, at heart, un-self conscious. To them, a woman is a source of fascination, much like their mothers were from the first moment. These are men who possess either an innate or finely cultivated ability to recognize and appreciate every detail about a woman’s body and mind. They look, long to touch, and the restraint they express makes a woman feel secure in their company.

Were they to speak or act suddenly, their fear is that the woman will turn away. And, since they are almost content to simply admire from afar, they provide by their silence the space for a woman, in turn, to fully express.

The Snake.

Some boys learn early on that they possess attributes which are considered commodities. Should those in their sphere laud such traits, fuss over them, make public commendations regarding their value, they develop a certain, smug self-satisfaction. Whether these features be physical or mental or even social in nature, the men who bear them enter a scene assuming that others will recognize both their presence and the prize they offer. For this cause, with the exception of those with comic ability they rarely develop social skills which garner attention, even if they seek any; content to simply appear, they are confident that what they both want and need will come to them, and that without effort. When it does, they take what comes, giving little in return; when it doesn’t, they often opt to drink heavily or simply leave the room.

Such men, while known to most everyone because of their persistent presence, can put some women off, as their lack of effort to engage others in anything but the most perfunctory, even slick dialogue comes across as self interest.

The Spy.

This man is quiet because he holds secrets. His own actions, either past or present, dictate his social behavior, setting limits. His demeanor is usually gentle, pleasant, even warm, but he reveals little. When prodded, he changes the subject. Such a man may be hiding a life of profound trauma, embroiled in international espionage, or engaged in subterfuge; whichever the case, his boundaries are clear only to him, leaving those who maintain a distance to conclude that he is merely shallow or simple minded.

A man who deliberately withholds remains uncommitted to individuals and groups, occupying the loner’s role with ease. Women are intrigued by such men, often drawn to them but, because their intuition picks up all the red flags, are rarely emotionally at ease in their company.


I’m sorry. Were you speaking to me?





…….who are you?


Let’s guess.







© Ruth Ann Scanzillo    12/13/16      All rights those of the woman who wrote the piece, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you, children.



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Tomorrow morning, unless a magical window of escape beckons before me otherwise, I am slated to appear in Pittsburgh, PA for a dentist appointment.

Along with its many and varied cultural offerings, Pittsburgh houses the national president of holistic dentistry. And, I have a hot root canal, poised to wreak its systemic havoc via the lymphatic channels of my unsuspecting body.

But, there is no havoc wreaked on the mind or body greater in breadth or scope than a trip to Pittsburgh.

The rest of the Commonwealth, at least at the northwest end, is easily accessible. The city where I live was laid out, port to its companion Great Lake, in a logical, “Philadelphia” style grid; everywhere we want or need to go is well within a solid ten minutes of commute in any direction. And, this is all accomplished simply by turning either right, or left, and proceeding in a straight line.

One wonders if the developers, who transformed Pittsburgh a couple decades ago from a smelly steel town into a hip and swanky hang for the wealthy and sophisticated, even cared if anybody ever came to visit.

The freeway lay as a driver approaches the metropolitan area is, simply put, foreboding. In an effort to escape the narrow streets and steep hills of its established neighborhoods, multiple steel reinforced layers of looping concrete envelope the entire landscape. Add to this an equal number of routes marked One Way, and you have a recipe for the Race to No Place. And, you get there in a far bigger hurry than you could possibly anticipate.

A couple years ago, I went my way down into that pit to search out a Steinway piano sale. The shop was situated on a narrow side avenue, across a bridge and between two hills that curved and diverged into infinity. The proprietor, a surgeon, was dispensing with all of his high end pianos because, he said, the location of the sales room drew few potential buyers and made deliveries difficult. Well, hello.

When I finally found the place, he was standing on the corner with his cell phone, directing me into the appropriate parking lot. Had the weather been pouring rain I would still be circling that block, two full years hence.

Historically, were the freight routes, bearing their loads of steel on large flatbeds, capable of being negotiated to and from the mills and refineries? If so, why are mere automated vehicles forced into this maze of intimidating, multi-lane, endlessly branching, suddenly exiting ramps and roller coasters?

There’s a trend in American civil engineering. Perhaps it receives its cue from the cardiac surgery industry. Take an existing ghetto, populated by the intractably impoverished, and build a cement bypass around it; take multiple slums, and build a whole tree of these. Get everybody to camp out at full speed for twenty nine minutes, just to be sure they never see how the other half lives, and hope they all arrive at your destination station without collateral damage.

I know one thing. No dental diversion will force me into a street marked Wrong Way, coasting to a stop just to stare balefully at the place where I am trying to go, its building fully visible from across the river. If the computerized voice on my GPS tracker can’t get me there, I’m not going.

And, Pittsburgh, you can bet that, next time, I’ll be inviting that dentist to move to Erie.





© Ruth Ann Scanzillo    12/12/16        All rights those of the insulated resident of Northwestern PA content to live where there are eleven public beaches and total access to everything a human wants or needs, the author. Thank you for coming.



We Are So Small.


The other day, as I proof-read some sundry social media post, the TV was prattling along in the not so distant background. Whether from some inherited distractibility syndrome, or due to my particular penchant for multi-media creative activity, or merely the generalized chaos of a brain on overdrive, it was not uncommon for multiple media to be activated in my realm. That is, simultaneously.

As I read, CNN was airing a special on the military’s role in the impending satellite conflict. War in Space, I think. And, this was the interview portion. Some Lieutenant Colonel was holding forth on tactical strategy intended against powers competing for orbital dominance.

But, what happened only needed an instant to manifest, yet left several minutes thereafter of baffling wonder in its wake. For, just as my eyes passed across a specific phrase in my own media post, I heard the Lt. Col. utter the very same words.

“Close proximity.”

I had typed, and was now reading the phrase “close proximity”, even as he was speaking the phrase aloud.

Just today, my elderly friend sat across the room from me as I completed transcribing some music, reading an article in an old issue of one of my magazines deliberately saved since the year it was published ( 1992.) At one point, she looked up from her reading to quote an adage which appeared there:

” Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? ”

Then, she marveled, had she not just been recollecting the very same just the day before, remembering it to be a favorite of her beloved church minister. There, merely leafing through the magazine, she would hone in on the phrase, word for word as it had appeared in her thoughts.

Given these two cosmic events happening so close in, well, okay, proximity to one another, I found myself commenting. If such convergences could occur so entirely out of our control, identical factors finding immediate locality, how did this not comment on the vastness of that which was really out there over which we had absolutely no domain?

Dr. Steven Greer, licensed E.R. physician, has stepped boldly into the public forum with his declarations about our universe. Herewith his latest,

* Linear, relative reality and non-local, non-linear reality both simultaneously exist as Reality. Their perception and understanding is wholly dependent on the level of consciousness of the observer. Even physical matter has an aspect of its nature which is non-local, transcendent and conscious.
* Conscious, intelligent biological life forms, whether on earth or from some other planet, have physical realities as well as spiritual realities. Pure mind or unbounded consciousness is innate to all such life forms. It is the ultimate highest common denominator which all life shares.
* Beings which do not have biological bodies (so-called astral or spirit beings) are also conscious, intelligent entities and as such can interact with other conscious life forms both biological and otherwise. On rare occasions they can even effect a physical manifestation. Once again, the highest common denominator linking these beings with other life forms is unbounded consciousness, or non-local mind.
* The universe consists of both linear and non-linear, or transcendent, aspects which, while seeming paradoxical, simultaneously exist at every point in time/space and non- time/space. From this standpoint, every point in time and space exists in every other point in time and space, through the quality of non-locality.
* The concept of God or of a Universal, All-Knowing Being is enhanced and magnified, not diminished, by the recognition of the vast multiplicity, infinite diversity and limitless scope of life in the cosmos.
So how does intelligent life in the universe actually manifest? While keeping the above concepts in mind, let’s review this diversity of life and how we our inner and outer senses may perceive them.
From Dr. Greer‘s paper: Extraterrestrials and the New Cosmology
Read the full paper here.
Can’t speak for you, dear reader, but I’m about to read that full paper. In the meantime, perhaps a little review is in order. A.) We are but specs in the magnificent reality of our cosmos, both physical and spiritual, both seen and unseen; B.) Our fixation on the relative size of our troubles is greatly diminished, thereof. In the words of another, comparatively famous quote, from Steve Martin: “Let’s get small.”
My mother’s favorite comes to mind, perhaps quoted from her own mother whose birthday was this day in 1890.
“Know your place.”
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  12/5/16    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. Remember the little people.


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     next of kin.






from “Bad Poems About People”, Volume I (pre-publishing)

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   11/27/16    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.


WordPress.com won’t let me edit!

ALERT: WORDPRESS.COM won’t let me edit my most recent post, Family.

It freezes.

I force quit.

Firefox reappears, all embarrassed; I hit Restore, and the timer spins again.

The edit template will NOT let me in.

And, this only happens at the original poem, Family.

Oh. Waiting for a Happiness Engineer to receive, read, and respond to an email?

You’re kidding. Right?

Ruth Ann Scanzillo  littlebarefeetblog.com

p.s. Safari: same.

The Truth.[ edited]

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Unheard of by the mainstream on any continent, the Plymouth Brethren were the collective, non-denominational Christian sect which held domain over the first twenty five years of my life. From infancy through the end of my university education I regularly heard, from their pulpit:

“We have The Truth.”


But, of course, they didn’t.

They – their earliest Bible scholars hailing from Scotland and Ireland, establishing Assemblies in America by the late 1800s, enduring repeated schism through the 20th century, and continuing to splinter off across the threshold of the 21st –  just believed that they did.

And, this belief, once I realized that it was only a belief, set me on a quest which would become a theme, occupying my days for twenty five more years and beyond.

I’d embarked on my own, earnest search for the truth.

Only, this time, I would settle for nothing less.


First, the intention was benign enough: just simply vow to always speak the truth. Seemed easy – never, knowingly, make a false statement, to anyone. I was confident that, were I to tell the truth, somehow nothing but the truth would return to me, in kind.

This confidence was uninformed.

As life took us all through various levels of schooling and gainful employ, it grew increasingly remarkable to me how frequently, and ably, those around me could toss off a lie.

My little brother, whom I genuinely loved, was particularly adept.

Too oblivious, and fearful, was I to realize that he had harnessed a tactic which, in many ways, was motivated by my own behavior; whenever he needed to assert himself in the eyes of both our parents and my [ then overshadowing ] presence, he’d pop another just as easily as a hen lays a hot one.

But, to my ears, the lies were both awe-inspiring and mildly frightening. I felt their power, the alternate reality they created, recognizing that all it took for that reality to take hold in our parents’ eyes was their trust in the veracity they had allegedly instilled in us. It would take years for me to realize that truth was a precious commodity, and that I was surrounded by imposters.

But, the fear of God had imbued me with a certain fortitude; I would honor the truth, all the more fervently.


Few shared my passion.

Behavioral scientists had determined that those whose reality seemed hopeless would take to creating one in their own minds for solace. But, those who imposed theirs on others for personal gain were the real predators. Most had learned that trust was a vital prerequisite to contriving a convincing reality. Either these had been taught this by example, or some random experience had been brought to bear; whichever the case, trust was the liar’s first prey.

And, the liar succeeded by isolating the gullible, those whose trust, for whatever cause, was blindly automatic.

I was among their prime targets.

Initially, this made manifest in “the butt of the joke” which, of course, was yours truly.  Exploiting the trust of the gullible teaches that a lie can hurt, and I learned to feel its isolating pain.

Perhaps the memory of this pain dulled my resolve; admittedly, the time would come wherein my veracity would be tested.

The stage of life which presented the greatest challenge to my determined commitment to truth was young adulthood. A late bloomer by all standards, I was still living with my parents at age 25, following graduation from college. Once the opportunity arose to establish autonomy from them I moved out, while they were on vacation in Florida. My lifestyle, though hardly promiscuous by most standards, just prior to and following my leave taking I’d attempted to withhold from my family. This was my first venture into the realm of deceit.

And, because I had to justify this deceit in my own mind, rationale stepped up. Only one thing trumped full disclosure: the bonds of love. I needed my parents’ love, and that of my family; revealing everything about my life to them would have caused everyone involved pain, and created enmity, I decided.

Interestingly, now that I am older and fully autonomous, nothing about my life is hidden from anyone. There is no longer any motive for deceit.

(And, by way of history, my beloved brother cast off his childhood penchant in favor of a life as practical missionary. He has also, for 25 years, been the devoted husband to one wife, raised five boys, and repeatedly sacrificed his every personal desire in the service of his wife and family.)

Nevertheless, “bearing false witness” is the bane of both safe, and secure, existence. It renders a climate of suspicion, demands of its generation a degree of wariness that drains health, and obscures any possibility for mutual trust. A society of liars is, at best, one which renders its members in constant competition for power over the running story and the constituents in place to believe it.

All have known the discovery of a perpetrated lie. All know the stages of emotional response. And, all know the tenacious effects, long after the deed is done.

If I have a prayer at all, it is that humanity return to its earliest recognized truth, laying hold of and marketing its value to anyone who will hear. And, most of all, I pray for those with the courage to tell it.



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

Please visit littlebarefeetblog.com

To the Third Power.

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In my senior year of high school, due to an oversight by the guidance counselor, I ended up choosing a higher math class instead of taking civics. Hated math, quit the homework, ended up with a D in the final, and saw my class standing drop from 18 to 26 – missing the highest honors by just a few points. It wasn’t until the last week of school that somebody told me I didn’t even need that math class to get accepted into college.

Nothing makes my blood hit boil faster than being told I should have done something differently.  Oh, except, maybe, being told that I should have done differently because my actions will have had a negative effect on outcomes, whether mine or those of another.

Since birth, I have been a creative. This means that, without knowing whence the impulse originates, I have been moved to make something – whether story, song, or visual image – and that, daily. Sometimes hourly.

Creatives don’t take kindly to being assessed for either their inherent value or the value of that which they are producing. During the creative process, there is no conscious attempt to meet any external standard. Praise is always thrilling, but that comes after the process has come to a close, and has no direct cause/effect relationship to the process itself.

Deadlines are the bane of the creative. We use time according to the nature of what is being made. If external deadlines are imposed, total control over the outcome is interrupted, and the quality of the end product correlates directly.

However, even in the life of a creative there are processes that take a line of reasoning, instead. Rather than make something, we are sometimes called upon to draw conclusions about events or people, taking any action where deemed appropriate.

Major decisions, regarded as important both by self and others, this creative makes with very great deliberation. Weighing multiple factors, I seek out as much information/data as can be obtained.  Once I determine that I have sufficient data, I draw my conclusion and then I act.

Now, such data to me might be factual, or it might be impression-based. It might be intuitive, knowing no linear path, or historically correlated. I suspect that what is required of the brain during the creative process is brought to bear in this reasoning, but how or where or wherefore I could not say.

What is key: I determine that I have sufficient data at the moment when I see my conclusion in sight.

With regard to the recent Presidential election, I can safely say that I spent hours of days over a period of many months gathering data, and then deciding which factors played a role in what I determined independently to be the priorities.

The wild card factor played a significant part in my readiness to meet its deadline.

When that wild card played, I came upon a vital collection of data within a time frame that had a rather sudden death effect on my final decision. Up until that point, I had gathered a wealth of impressions, and some facts; but, my nagging intuition kept informing the process, suggesting conclusion. This vital collection of data was historically relevant in nature; once I entered it into the equation, my entire body released all inner tensions. I knew that I had reached conclusion.

At that point, my vote was ready to be cast.
I chose a third party candidate, one occupying the outermost fringe of the landscape.

Post election, the uproar about those of us who chose to do so was almost violent. An entire army of party driven players since declared, some using allegedly mathematical calculation, that we who chose a third were the single, collective entity which decided the outcome of the election. And said party, convinced in their own minds that said outcome was absolutely vital to the survival of the species, deigned to pronounce the most condescending of judgments upon us.

No challenge to either the reasoning or the relative value of any voter’s decision is relevant, here. By applying a tiny percentage of votes not cast for one candidate to a total outcome, and discounting the massive percentage which weighted the lion’s share for the other candidate, those who do so only make themselves out to be Draconian imperialists, runt Napoleons pretending to fight Goliath with a jelly bean.

Being reactionary serves no one. Indulging in melodrama inhibits constructive solution. The third party may have wielded a mighty little exponent; but, each majority on either side of the equation still bears the responsibility of solving for x.





© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  11/10/16     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. I Voted. Pardon Julian Assange.


“How Can We Lose, When We’re So Sincere?”

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“How can we lose, when we’re so sincere?”,  Charlie Brown bemoaned.

Sincerity has an indefinable ring to it.

Like a well worn song, it is always recognizable.

In children, it moves the hardest heart to tears, and silences – albeit momentarily – the otherwise blindly ambitious. In all its raw irrepressibility, sincerity always trumps deceit.

The Obamas have it.
And, Joe Biden – God! In abundance.

Bernie had it, until he was shut down.

Donald Trump.has.it. Granted, he is largely repulsive to most of us, with his unbearable absence of couth, his defiant arrogance, his inability to remember what he said or when he said it, and his awful, even cruel, sometimes infantile, attitudes toward people who are not like him.

But, deep within all of us, somewhere in our oldest brain, the stem maybe, we harbor a matrix of survival instincts. And, within this matrix is a sense for the authentic. We can’t, no matter how loudly we protest to the contrary, live without sincerity, because it is the embodiment of truth.

Julian Assange is openly reviled by many. He’s the single entity who brought down Hillary Clinton.

Or, is he? Could she not have been the victim of her own missteps, and did he just happen to find the footprints?

I know one thing. As a musician, I am always listening for pitch, tones that are matched with specific vibrational frequency. And, I am attuned to tone quality, as well, the timbre of a well-adjusted instrument and its player’s technique for bringing that out to the ear.

There was always something about Hillary, in her voice, her manner, that just didn’t ring true for me. I couldn’t name it; I couldn’t find it; and, yet, I needed to know it.

Less than twenty four hours before this election day, I finally made contact with its source. To my interpretation, she had something so profound to hide that the efforts to keep this from us were gargantuan. And, consequently, deceit permeated every cell in her body.

Deceit is distinct from dishonesty. One can make a recklessly untrue statement, and that can qualify as a lie. Even pathological liars are sincere. Deceit is deliberately obscuring the truth.

The reason Trump won the Presidency is being hotly debated well into the morning hours of this new day, by those far more qualified than I to say a word about it. But about this, there is no denying: the sheer volume of American people who craved sincerity over deceit trumped all.

Now, the rest of us must live in that light. And, our ears are ringing.



© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   11/9/16    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. I voted for Jill Stein. Good night, John Boy.


Evolution and Christians of The Alphabetical Order.

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Yet another Sunday had come to its close. A certain combination of migraine medication side effect, rice pudding, the Autumnal Equinox, and the impending national election had proved a potent cocktail; I lay in bed, fighting a rare inability to fall asleep.

Sundays in my life had gone through a tangible evolution. What had been a consistent pattern of weekly church worship, from infancy through early adulthood, had been displaced by alternating themes: night shift sleep schedules; nocturnality; intellectual curiosity; and, ultimately, abdication (translation: loss of virginity). In my life, the Lord’s Day, like the Sabbath, had become indistinguishable from any other day of the week.

But, I would be intellectually dishonest were I to hide the fact that my belief patterns had also been morphing. The absolute truths put forth by proponents of the Holy Bible literalists had come into serious question and, with this, any commitment to a Christianity specifically defined.

What, after all, was Christianity? I’d read The History of Christianity, by Paul Tillich. I’d read other speculators, William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience among them. And, I’d read virtually every word of the Holy Bible – King James Version, Scofield Reference, and J.N. Darby translation. Raised by sectarian Fundamentalists to believe that the One Way To Worship was their exclusive domain, and accepting Jesus as my Personal Savior at age six, the moment I’d consciously set one toe outside of that sanctified corral had set me on a path leading directly to the Grand Nowhere.

Now, eyes to the ceiling in the dark, I ruminated. How many called to worship on that day, who called themselves Christians, were there, exactly?

Perhaps it was time to count sheep.

I began with the letter A.

A  — Abyssinian Greeks; Amish; Ames Brethren; Anglicans; Assemblies of God

B  — Baptists; Brethren, Church of;

C — Calvinists; Closed Brethren; Colossians; Converted Jews; Coptics; Corinthians;

D — Davidians; Denominationalists; Doctors of Divinity; Dogmatists;

E — Ecumenicals; Ephesians; Episcopalians; Evangelicals; Evangelical Frees;

F — Federated Free; Franciscans; Fundamentalists;

G — Galations; General Association of Regular Baptists; Gnostics; Gregorians;

H — Holiness Pentecostals; Holy Eastern Orthodox;

I  — Independent Baptists; Inter-Denominationalists; Irish Catholics;

J — Jehovah’s Witnesses; Jesuits; Jesus Freaks;

K — Knights Templar;

L — Laodiceans; Latter Day Saints; Lutherans;

M — Mennonites; Methodists; Mormons, Reformed;

N — Nazarenes; New Apostolics; non-Denominationalists;

O — Open Brethren; Orthodox Greeks;

P — Philippians; Plymouth Brethren; Protestants; Presbyterians; Pentecostals;

Q — Quakers;

R — Roman Catholics; Reformed, so called;

S — Scientist, Church of Christ; Seventh Day Adventists; Smyrnans;

T — Theologians, Academic; Thessalonians;

U — United Brethren; United Church of Christs’; Unitarians;

V — Vatican, The;

W — Wesleyan Methodists; Worldwide Church of God;

X — Xmas Celebrants;

Y — Youth Pastors;

Z — Zionists!


Indeed. The alphabet proved a useful tool; its twenty six letters had successfully taken me across the spectrum of Christianity, from the Apostle Paul’s inception through to the present day.

Further research, beyond the ironic – though futile – quest for the letter “X”, revealed the Hartford Institute for Religion Research and their list of Official Denominational websites. In Hartford’s list, the number of entries for the letter “A” alone, while inclusive of other religions, exceeded the number of letters in the alphabet.

As I drifted off to sleep, a final thought formulated in my mind. It was neither a proclamation, nor a dogma, nor a tenet. Rather, it appeared as a challenge, in the form of this question:

When fairly addressing the argument for or against the theory of evolution, wouldn’t one only have to consider the history of the Christian church as evidence?




© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 11/7/16    All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. Like my Mammy always said, “Prayer Changes Things.”


Almost Done.

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She’d made a little list.

This list was not intended to make other people feel beholden to the qualities of list making. Nor was it meant as some kind of grand announcement. But, perhaps, she thought, said list might just help one person, ahead of those New Year’s Resolutions waiting just around the corner. So, therewith, she’d presented the list, on Facebook.

What Got Done at 2201. (in 2016)

Got that ugly foot bone fixed, so I can still walk when I’m too old and too ugly for anybody to care. Ugh, is right. Be sure you get a surgeon who agrees that the way your foot looks when [ the six weeks ] are over actually matters;

Had the sagging gutters and soffits on the front porch and rear saltbox replaced with new ones. Repaired the front porch roof with new wood and rolling shingle, too. Now, that porch finally looks like it belongs with the house instead of being reluctantly attached to some abandoned slumlord palace. Sorry, Carpenter Bees; this AirB&B is officially closed;

Got bright new white fascia, to replace the poorly installed, Southwesterly wind-whipped, Ruffles Have Ridges sorry-ass excuses for fascia which had cake-decorated every peak and gable. Bring on the gales!

Had the cracked and soggy living room ceiling replaced with gypsum, and the walls painted Sunset Gold by Valspar. You cannot know how much energy can be contained in one body until you wake up to Sunset Gold walls. It’s enough to make a person change the bedsheets to…….you got it, Sunset Gold.

The foyer is in process. Walls are replastered, after holes in the porch roof were plugged, and painted. Trim on the front door awaits carpentry finishing. Hey. The contractor’s kid has strep, and it’s Voting Day on Tuesday.

Finally got the bathroom shower tiles pulled, the crumbling-to-powder walls behind them replaced with sheetrock, and new tiles installed. Stealthfully avoided dispensing with the original [ antique] cast iron tub by telling the tile installer I’d forego the cheap Jacuzzi. Grateful to discover only one, tiny patch of mold. This 1895 migrant house thanks God for sparing the spores, and so does the Steinway M.

Expanded the raised garden bed to accommodate twelve tomato plants, two peppers which never bore fruit, spaghetti squash which, once again, merely blossomed without conceiving, and what appears to be several sweet potatoes in the soil beneath. Poison Ivy found its way into the periphery, but thankfully I’m not allergic and, at least this year, there were no tomato worms. Enjoyed fresh tomatoes from mid-August until just this week.

Had a white picket fence installed, with charming gate, to block the alley and frame the rear of the yard. The old rodent infested garage is finally a dim memory, and the new Rubbermaid shed stands in the opposite corner, housing all the crap that used to lower the property value of the entire house just by being seen.

Bought a total of 21 garden tiles, and created a tiny rear patio complete with ValuHome’s Best, compressed plastic Adirondacks in hot pink and red, respectively, with corresponding putty grey foot stool. The Sunbeam grill now has a respectable place to reside, and the turquoise vinyl, weighted portable umbrella stands at the ready for guests and grilling.


Summer was over. Fall was battening itself down for the dreaded onslaught. Snow fall totals for NW PA were predicted to be in the triple digits, again this year .

But 2201 was ready. It had better be. The budget was dry. In 2017, the only thing left to complete the picture would be bullet proof glass for the windows.





© Ruth Ann Scanzillo    11/6/16     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. Doors and windows, on; motions, on.



What is RSSING.COM, and Why?

I just tried to Google my blog site, by name.

Horrified, I discovered several of my blog posts at ANOTHER SITE, specifically RSSING.COM and another stupid one filled with hockey photos.

There is a form to fill out at RSSING.COM to complain, or make removal requests, but I am terrified that, if I click any of their boxes, my stuff will somehow disappear from WordPress.com, entirely!

Has any other WORDPRESS.COM blogger had a problem with RSSING.COM stealing content? I am paying $26 per year to OWN my blog URL. How, and WHY, can something like this possibly be happening?

WordPress.com says that my RSS Feed links to this site. But, why? Did I authorize this? “Increasing traffic”? Only spammers, from what I can tell.

Comments, advice, instructions, explanations – PLEASE? Thanks.

Ruth Ann Scanzillo, author, littlebarefeetblog.com

The Promise.


I promised myself to you

For a life spent, I and thou.

I promised you my honor

In deep reverence for the Lord.


Committed to my promise

But, not really knowing how

To keep this promised promise

And, to be of one accord


I knelt before a witness

Made a promise keeping vow

And, for my one kept promise

I was promised a reward.


So, I will keep my promise

Although life with me is fraught

I’m in this thing to win it

Whether you like it or not.






from “Bad Poems About People”, Volume I. (pre-publishing.)

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  10/31/16       All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line.  Promise. Thank you for your respect.