Ode to Brody.

Brody was a man of many graces.
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He was humble, patient, gallant, and polite.
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True to his two breeds, he could both bark and howl, but did both very selectively.
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The Rottweiler in him was expressed rarely, but overtly: either hollering loudly at trucks which looked like jungle animals on the ride into town, or howling alone in the dogshed during the workdays when nobody was home, or gnawing territorially on a bovine knuckle. During the latter, his favorite pastime, he would snarl and growl so fiercely so as to resemble his pureblood sister, Bella. Together they would live out their primal instinct on those bones, often fighting over the one closest by.
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But, the black Labrador in Brody gave him his sweetness.
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This boy was tolerant. He needed no training. Always stepping aside, or waiting, just that much slower on the draw than impetuous Bella, he’d take his treats without biting.
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Outside, he’d amble along. In the spacious country yard, he’d be the one to head to the pond, and come out smelling like everything in it. When we took both dogs to MudPuppies for their baths, I got to bathe Brody.
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By the time I’d become part of his life, he’d already lived out most of his years. But, because I had fragile wrists and no short muscle, he was always my charge at the leash. He moved more slowly, and knew how to sit, and he endeared himself to me. I began to call him “mummy’s boy”, and every day I told him how good he was. He was such a good, good boy.
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Women who have never had children, and never will, have a certain kind of love for the souls which belong to others.
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Some become adoptive step parents.
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Others become step pet parents.
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I will miss my boy so much, my Brody Ode, because I loved him, too.
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© 10/13/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

Gather Ye Red Flags.

 

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

The girl was some blonde.

Looking at him, smirking, thinking the whole scene too amusing.

The fact that he’d called the blonde his “cousin”?  Two bright red flags, a-whipping in the wind.

But, she had not set face into the wind.

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

Next came the ones who, calling out his name in greeting, emerging from the restroom at Target or while walking up the street to the arena, she and he a date. Who does that, to somebody’s date?  Two, at once, seemed everywhere.

Always the point, a back story, from him. Tale of yet another he had seen for just a “couple months.” Red flag, number three.

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

Then, the burner phones, near the kitchen tray, some excuse about retrieving dog pix.

The dishes for two, stacking in the sink.

His wandering eyes, the ones that twinkled.

Six flags. Amusement park of fair warning.

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

Then the foghorn, in the bathroom drawer. Set for 6:20 a.m., alarming on his one day off. She’d never seen a clock in that drawer, and she’d seen everything in that drawer. She’d seen the sleeve of false eyelashes appear in that drawer. But, the clock, never in that drawer, not before that morning.

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

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© 10/9/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   All rights those of the author, the stooge, the beard. Steal at your own risk. He’s everywhere.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Disconnect.

There is a profound disconnect between an active alcoholic’s self perception and the image others develop about him/her.

Repeated blackouts cause both memory fails and amnesia; whereas those who were present observers of the blackout behaviors cannot forget what they have seen and heard, to the alcoholic such behaviors never happened.

Therefore, the person the alcoholic thinks he or she is bears no resemblance to that person others have come to know.

If you have become entangled in the life of an active alcoholic who indulges repeated blackouts, categorically reject all blame assigned to you for any of their actions.

You caused nothing, are responsible for nothing about their behavior, and must forgive yourself every reaction to it.

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© 10/1/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.
littlebarefeetblog.com

“Undercover Billionaire” builds UNDERDOG BBQ in Erie, PA.

Just watched the Season Finale of “Undercover Billionaire” on the Discovery Channel – after following every episode, all summer.

This is a story of faith, and commitment, and the work ethic which built our city. That team, so artfully chosen by Glen, staying strong on a volunteer basis, just because some guy walked into their lives with a proposition.

Glen Stearns has me convinced as an adorable, warm, genuine, positive, and true guy, and I really don’t care what his net worth actually is. Admittedly, after the first episode, I wondered how he could get somebody to buy used tires from him on a discard lot, and I said so on Facebook.  Then, about three weeks ago, I and members of my string quartet had lunch at UNDERDOG BBQ, the restaurant he and his team built in 90 days.

We had a really great time there! The sandwiches were hearty, the portions were generous, I had well more than a scant one or two gluten and soy free options, detecting no added sugars or excess salt in the meat – in fact, my lunch was complete – (about which I was ecstatic!), and the service from Carmen was personalized and memorable.

Some locals have compared their food to Federal BBQ on Peach, but I have never yet been there so I offer no quality judgments; what I will say is that I cannot wait to return to UNDERDOG BBQ for a rib rack on a plate and a fair taste of the entire menu. This multi-faceted, multi-armed venture has the potential to do so much for our beloved hometown and people who are really willing to w.o.r.k., just like his team, and we should get b.e.h.i.n.d. them 150%!!!! In fact, as a former “waitress” to Panos, on Pine, Denny’s on Peach AND W 26th, and Friendly Ice Cream, this old retired teacher might just show up and apply for a summer job!

I’m SOLD.

UNDERDOG BBQ — featuring ribs, brisket, multiple sides/love the collard greens, original sauces, complete gluten and soy free options, and a hallmark craft beer, Undergrog.
Where: 3040 W Lake Rd, Erie, PA 16505
Phone: 814.790.4001.  Merch available online.
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© 9/25/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo, Erie PA.
littlebarefeetblog.com

The Sonata.

 

Introduction.

He was familiar.

In the wake of fake widowers, oil magnates, and satellite engineers, he was just the guy who’d cut her hair. Her father had also cut her hair; he’d cut hair, every day, for a living. They were both barbers.

And, like her father, he was Italian.

In a sea of fluid sexuality, snakes, and white supremacists, he shared the blood of her heritage. Like most of the rest of the traditional Italian American men, he liked women, and he remembered her.

She thought being remembered, after two haircuts and a perm, was meaningful. He recognized her. And, he didn’t forget.

Thirty years had passed, but he remembered.

And, she remembered him.

From this one, momentary flash of commonality she took her first step.

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1st Mvt:  Andante  “Courtship.”

It was his face.

Appearing online, with a short greeting, his photo.

She’d always recalled a certain boyish beauty, but this was an expression. She wanted to call it apologetic, yet resigned; he seemed to be telling the camera to take or leave him.

They began by writing to each other.

Though he only lived twenty three minutes south, she had a major performance two weeks from the day he surfaced and knew, in her gut, that if they met up her focus would significantly shift. So, they messaged each other.

Long paragraphs. Outpourings. Every day, for two weeks, earnest exchanges between them. The face she’d seen in the mirror, as he stood behind the barber chair emanating it’s subdued chatter now replaced by the poetic revelations of a philosopher. The man had depth. This she had managed to miss, entirely, during that first impression.

And now, he promised to wait for her.

Thirty years had passed between that first meeting and this encounter, yet he was still able to wait for her.

Though this aspect had a tremendous effect on her attraction to him she would not, ultimately, learn to appreciate it.

She invited him to her recital.

The date of the performance came. Looking out into the dark of the hall, she was able to spy the outline of a man’s head which looked like his. Whenever there was a break in the program’s music, she fixed on that man. Surely, he had made the drive over the state line to hear her performance.

When the concert ended, and applause rose, the lights came up as well and she was finally able to see the man upon whom her gaze had settled.

That man walked forward.

It was her old friend Steve, a college classmate – and, his praise came freely. But, she was already in her head; the morning wouldn’t come soon enough, their planned meet up to take his dogs for a peninsula walk kicking her heart rate.

Perhaps she should have taken the sign.

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2nd Mvt: Largo “Coupling.”

The dogs appeared on the landing, first. They were so big. She loved how they wriggled, and pressed in. She laughed, out loud.

It was his face.

He looked ten years older than his photo. Of course, this is because he was, at least, maybe more.

But, beyond that, he seemed tired, maybe dehydrated. And, then, something in her said: “Forgive; accept.” And, she rubbed the top of his head, over his thinning hair.

The rest wrote history.

They talked and walked the dogs, embraced, then reconvened that evening at her house. She played her cello for him; he stood, a bit tense, unmoved. She played the piano. When the song ended, he kissed her. He was quietly eager. He made overtures. He persuaded more.

Now, it was difficult to go back to the beginning. Images of him, arriving at the back door; a gift of food, or a small vase from home. Earnest kisses. And, the attic loft.

She wasn’t completely clear when the first doubts crept.

He worked long hours, at the hospital. The claim was that he had to get home and feed the dogs. She would not know the extent of that which impelled him; she knew only that he had to be encouraged to spend more than a couple hours at a time with her.

Dinners out. Plays; shows. The attic loft. And, stories. Stories, of his ex wife of so many decades ago. Then, stories of the woman who had died the winter before, about whom he’d spoken in his letters. He had so much to reveal, explaining the demise of all his previous entanglements, and she heard him. She remembered being made to feel transcendent in his company, silently pre-eminent in the wake of the remarkably ungrateful women who had preceded her. In her heart, she began to promise him love and acceptance.

Weeks passed. The pattern was set. Then, one day, he arrived with photos of his house and gardens, and an urgent disclosure.

He’d had a deeper past.

Seated across from her on the living room sofa, he began this new story. Tears rolled from his eyes. Decades earlier, he’d committed a felony, and had been incarcerated for five years.

He was utterly contrite. He looked like a sad boy, sitting with his wet face. Her heart surged in her. Commitment to loving him gelled. He had her.

Two weeks of numbness, the euphoric effect of shock.

Then, a visit to the reference library. He’d provided the year, the month, the day. She found the local newspaper microfiche, and scrolled to the bottom of page one.

A New Year’s Eve drama unfolded. This was the kind of story nobody alive at the time could forget. Her eyes stopped blinking.

Silently, she removed the film from the manual device, rolled it up, set it back in its box, placed it into the small drawer and pushed the drawer back into the cabinet.

Life went on.

Death began.

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3rd Mvt: Scherzo “Land of Diminishing Returns.”

It took two years, but she would call them little slips.

What became notable was how deftly he retrieved the ones she managed to catch.

Early on, the short blonde following them back to the green room, curiously smiling at her then him, called his “cousin” when queried. Except that he had no known relatives.

The fleeting reference, to a woman by name, a call he needed to make. Not mutually known. The gaslight: hadn’t she just talked of someone named the same?

The casual recall of their having recently been together. Except that, fact be told, they hadn’t. Some vague excuse about his relative time frame for remembering.

Sidelong eye contact, with his coworker who preceded her into the room, an arresting control. Cool dismissal of the girl upon query as a student shadow, without even the value of a first name. And, no formal introduction.

Eye contact, with women passing in the grocery and department store aisles. Their startled recognition. His reference to them knowing he needed/abrupt modulation to the recipe books at the check out.

Eye contact, with young women in restaurants, out on dates, in doctor’s offices. Their blank stares of deliberate anonymity.

Eye contact, twinkling, with the B&B hostess. Curious attention paid to the sliding lock on the adjoining door, calling to mind a time he’d gone out in the night visiting Italy while his woman companion deeply slept. A jarring juxtaposition.

Dirty dishes, in the sink. Two plates, two bowls, two spoons. One meal. One lone chicken leg, left in the skillet. A bottle of new wine, and a single wine glass never before seen.

The consistently odd nights of spaghetti and fried chicken, from an otherwise experienced self taught gourmet.

The presence of cash, on her bureau, when he stayed over. Not placed there by her. His never having cash, otherwise.

Her toiletry bottle, alone on his kitchen counter. Her toothbrush, always precisely replaced, once on a different cabinet shelf and again out, on the bathroom sink. Then, a new brand of toothpaste, appearing on the sink, the old one still in use.

An alarm clock, going off at an odd hour, found in a drawer, never before seen.

And, always, always, the sudden flame of anger at mentions made, escalating to verbal derision, then shut down.

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4th Mvt:  Funerale/Coda.

She’d given up all honor, including that to love by example he who had never been. By the end, denial was not an option. The music had stopped. The story was over.

Familiarity had inbred with contempt; miscarried, still born. She had forsaken her soul for one who had long since lost his own.

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Sonata (/səˈnɑːtə/Italian[soˈnaːta], pl. sonate; from Latin and Italian: sonare [archaic] in music, literally means:  “a piece played.”

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© 9/18/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights solely those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in part/whole/jot/or, tittle permitted, for any reason at any time.  Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Autograph.

Mammy had an autographed photo of Billy Sunday’s wife.
She kept it in her Bible.
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But, why?
According to Wikipedia, William Ashley Sunday was an American athlete who, after being a popular outfielder in baseball’s National League during the 1880s, became the most celebrated and influential American Christian evangelist during the first two decades of the 20th century. Helen Amelia Thompson Sunday was his wife, an indefatigable organizer of his huge evangelistic campaigns during the first decades of the twentieth century, and eventually, an evangelistic speaker in her own right.
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Mammy was my grandmother. Born in 1890, she and Pappy moved to Erie from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when Pappy was hired by BuCyrus-Erie to build cranes.
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She used to tell me of the tent meetings down state which she had attended, where she met Pappy. These were huge gatherings of people, who came together from all points rural to hear the Gospel preached by Billy Sunday. I believe Mammy recounted that she was led to the Lord by Helen Sunday, after one of these meetings. I also remember that, while she used to enjoy playing Solitaire alone in her bedroom, Mammy gave up the deck of cards once she got saved. I often wonder if thereafter she stopped playing the Key Game, which celebrated psychic skill and at which she excelled, as well.
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Mammy’s name was Mae Elisabeth Learn. She’d been second maid to a wealthy, Jewish brewer in the Poconos before meeting Henry. He courted her, to and from Sunday’s tent meetings, until the day he declared: “ You Mae Learn to be Sweet.”
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Pappy’s name was Henry Thomas Sweet, and his parents had hailed from Cornwall, England. When he and Mammy married and traveled to Erie, Pappy carried on Billy Sunday’s evangelism by preaching on the street corners. His was a hellfire and brimstone, Bible brandishing English orator’s style; with his booming, a-tonal baritone, he’d hand down God’s order to the vagrants: get up from the gutter! repent! and, get a job.
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When I look at images of Billy Sunday, I can’t help but note how much he resembled my grandfather. They shared cut features and a strong jaw and the same, resolute expression. Mammy did not resemble Helen Sunday; she had a softer countenance, and always bore a sweet smile.
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But, together, they had both responded to the call of evangelism proposed by Billy and Helen Sunday. They’d pulled up stakes and moved all the way across the Commonwealth to carry it forward. And, Mammy, who spent the rest of her days raising their four daughters, tending two flower and vegetable gardens and, together with Pappy baking hundreds of loaves of bread and both hooking and braiding rugs, sat in her rocking chair when day was done, Bible in hand, praying for everyone who came to mind, with Helen Sunday’s photograph just inside the cover of her Bible.
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I remember the year I met my husband. We’d been introduced through a mutual friend, whom we both respected greatly. Our friend, and his private teacher, was the principal oboeist of the Erie Philharmonic during the years when Maestro Eiji Oue held the baton.
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I had developed a deep respect for our maestro, which bordered on fixation. He had aroused every passion within me, from artistic to sensual to spiritual. He, however, had a strong preference for his principal oboeist, whose petite stature and feisty nature matched his own.
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My husband to be was enamored of her, as well; but, she was soundly married to the love of her own life, consumed by their mutual performing careers and and the raising of their four children.
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And so, each of us foundlings was brought together by stronger forces, upon the common ground of emotional commitment to another – he, to our mutual friend, and I to my Maestro. When my husband proposed marriage to me, the act was spurred by her very challenge; when I accepted, my anticipations extended to include the potential for an expanding realm of human connection which a bond with him would create. I would marry up, into a world which could include, by scant degrees, the object of my passions.
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Maestro Oue did not attend our wedding, though I believe we sent him an invitation, and both of us were sure to include our beloved oboeist in the musical ceremony. Our marriage lasted just over two and a half years (not counting the year of courtship), the second of which my husband spent living and working in Indiana, and it ended seven months after my mother’s death.
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I have two, framed companion photos of myself with our maestro. And, there is a Wheaties cereal box which features his image, nestled on the top shelf of my entertainment center in the music room of my home where I have practiced, rehearsed, and provided private lessons for 30 years.
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At the top of the box, just above the logo, in Japanese:
his autograph.
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© 9/18/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or in part, permitted without the author’s permission. Thank you for respecting original material.
littlebarefeetblog.com

Collection of Essays.

 

 

You know……this isn’t the first time a celebrity book of essays has been marketed.

There was Dear You.

Now, comes Unfinished.

And…….w.h.o. wrote these, exactly?

So many ghost(s) [writers]; so little time………

I plan to check them out, you know…….seeing as I’ve written 600+ of my own, over the past 5 years and, well, I’m no celebrity.

Wouldn’t want to see anything published that felt, shall we say, familiar……..would we?

I’m serious about this.

Pens aren’t selling; Pen campaign. Essays, written with a pen.

Call me a skeptic, even a cynic.

But, it bothers me.

Alot.

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You, too?

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Selah.

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Marketing.

The scourge of the century.

 

 

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© 9/17/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo. She writes her own. Every, single word.

littlebarefeetblog.com   p.s. lots of traffic from India, lately………………………………………………….

 

 

The Mouthpiece.

How the mouthpiece speaks its way into relationships.

 

© 9/14/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.       Feel free to visit YouTube for more outrage.

littlebarefeetblog.com

Love. Do We Need It?

Recitations from littlebarefeetblog.com:

 

 

© 9/12/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.      More, in print, at this blog  (littlebarefeetblog.com) , at your leisure; for my purposes, these essays, poems, and proverbs were written over the past 5 years.  Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

“Separation Anxiety” [newly edited]

This video has been edited for content.  Please, reconsider a review.  Remember: these disclosures may strike you as raw, but they are bound to help somebody and that is the intent. Thanks~!  ❤

 

© 9/12/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   For more tedious slog, please visit Ruth Ann Scanzillo at YouTube.  Thanks for the stop in.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

RuthAnnTALKS© – The Series.

RuthAnnTALKSPROFILEPIC**

This is a series of videos produced for YouTube, created between August 1, 2019 – September 8, 2019. The links are presented in chronology, but you may select according to preference. Thanks for stopping by!

 

© 9/9/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   All references to previously established theories, tenets, or publications are inadvertent and are duly acknowledged.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

Separately Together*

[ *this piece written, entirely oblivious of Dr. Martin Spurin’s book, Separately Together © 2016 ]

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I can still see her face, and hear her voice.

Carol Burnett, on the Tonight Show, crowing:  “Oh, I’d LOVE to get married, again! He could live in his house – right next door – and, I could live in mine!”

Perhaps it’s simply that she and I share a birthday. Stars aligned, and all that. Needing our independence, abhoring being led around by anyone – especially a h.u.s.band.

But, just yesterday, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Apparently, seniors like me – single, little baggage, or kids all grown and gone – are finding themselves perfectly content to sustain relationships without the benefit of cohabitation.

In fact, there were several couples cited by name and photograph enjoying just such a radical lifestyle. Yes; imagine that. Loving somebody, without living with somebody.

Up until encountering that societal revelation, I’d been struggling mightily with my relationship of the past two and a half years. Both of us over 60, each of us happy in our own homes, I’d been driving out more than three times weekly to spend much of my time on his property with him; after all, I’d been retired from my full time teaching position for over five years, and he was still trying to eke out the final two before he could leave his position as a dialysis nurse to our regional medical center and take his own. I rationalized that being on site had to be a help, rather than a hindrance.

But, I was underfoot. The things I did, all voluntary, were not required by him. My desire to modify my surroundings to make them feel more welcoming to me were taken as criticisms, as if he needed to make changes heretofore unnecessary. The pop of color I wanted to add to his dreary den in the form of pillows and throws pleased me but, to him, they were just more things and, invariably – considering the presence of his two Rottweilers – more laundry.

On the nights I’d spend there with him, he’d need to be asleep well before 10 in order to rise by 4:30am, while I’d need several more hours of nocturnal biorhythms to wind down. Likewise, the mornings on his rare days off he’d already be up and roasting coffee before I’d even had my REM phase of sleep.

As winter encroached, his desire to keep the house at 64 degrees F hit my small boned body like a rush of blowing snow when the door opens. I shivered until my heart almost hurt, resorting to leaving my coat on through dinner until he commented that doing so was unsettling. Wearily, I’d pull on double layers and endure, not so secretly wishing I could just crawl into my warm bed.

After the first full year, taking stock and keeping tabs became my subconscious ritual. How many times had I driven out, vs his effort to spend a day with me at my house? When I counted the dollars spent on gas, and declared them, this was cause for one of many, increasing disagreements which became verbal volleys which, in turn, escalated into a pattern of lashing out every time I had overstayed my welcome. At the height of each of these, I would pack up whatever I’d brought with me and drive away. Unbeknownst to both of us ( until the counselor intervened ) he interpreted these actions as evidence of an unstable relationship which lacked the emotional security he sought.

Were we breaking up? Were we getting back together? What, exactly, were we doing?

Admittedly, we’d talked about what we’d do, going forward. He’d alluded more than once to selling his 2 acre rural idyll and downsizing to a condo near the water; I’d openly stated that, after 30 years, I would never sell my house. This was clearly our impasse, and I wondered if it would become our deal breaker.

Imagine my astonishment.

Entering the fray: The 100th Monkey Phenomenon. The Wall Street journalist had been doing the study and, here, as by fire, were the results: couples meeting later in life were opting to stay in their own, individual homes and sustain their loving relationships anyway.  And, by all accounts, they were actually happy.

Mum and Dad loved each other, exclusively. Theirs was a match made on a train, circa 1940; Providential meeting, whirlwind courtship, broken engagement (hers) and a wedding before the war. Living together, for them, was a trial. Dad took to jogging to get out of the house, and Mum sat at her sewing machine to be alone. They held out until death, leaving so much for the family to vividly recall. My brothers had long since left town, but I’d stayed as witness.

Now, I love to witness my partner drive away. I know where he’s going, and I know where I am. I’m home, where I can keep him in my heart and thoughts until we meet up in the next day or so. It’s called space, and now it’s okay to both want and need it. And, it requires faith, expressed and exercised. Trust is better nourished when tested.

Yes. We are two old habits, and we cannot break. And now, we can still love each other, thank God.

Even if, on this particular night, we only see and hear each other in our dreams.

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© 9/5/19  [essay by] Ruth Ann Scanzillo.      All rights those of the author (of the essay), whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original [ essay] material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

RuthAnnTALKS – Episode 5:

“The Painted Woman.”

In defense of vanity as art.

 

© 8/26/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   Feel free to visit my YouTube channel (Ruth Ann Scanzillo), and thank you for respecting original material however tedious and redundant.

littlebarefeetblog.com

RuthAnnTALKS – Episode 2:

“From A Distance.”

 

 

© 8/24/19  Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube Channel (Ruth Ann Scanzillo). Thank you for respecting original material, including that due any tenets and theories espoused in this interpretation.

littlebarefeetblog.com

RuthAnnTALKS – Episode 3:

“Knowing What Love Is.”

Kids, I’m still learning to wield YouTube Editor. You are suffered to omit the adjective “whole” and ignore the fondling of hair and clumsy irregularity in tense within the first seventeen seconds, and to substitute the word “imagination” with “intention” at the end.

© 8/24/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo       Feel free to Subscribe to the YouTube channel of the same name.  Thank you for respecting original interpretations, including that due the originators of any tenets or theories espoused by this piece.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

RuthAnnTALKS – Episode 1:

“Swipe Phones and Sunday Mornings”

Ruminations on devices of the past and present….

 

© 8/21/19     Ruth Ann Scanzillo.    Thank you for stopping by.   Please respect original material, in all its forms.

originally posted at my FBK page, The kNose Feed.

littlebarefeetblog.com

Easier.

 

[first draft]

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Easier to sleep than stay awake.

Easier than giving, always take.

Easier to hide than show your face

Easier than moving, stay in place.

Easier to blame than make amends

Easier than breaking that which bends

Easier to quit than ever try

Easier than living, slowly die.

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© 8/21/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo      All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

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Where Does Love Go?

 

Where do you put

The love that you have

Where is its place to go?

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How can you hold

The loving inside

When will you ever know

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Who will receive

So grateful to take

Needing what you can give

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How can just one

Take without giving

How do they both then live?

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Where does love go

When given and gone

Will it not be returned?

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Where does love go

Does it die like death

Once afire to be burned?

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© 8/17/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material.

Love, littlebarefeetblog.com

 

The Refuge.

EPILOGUE.

She could already feel the cushion beneath her weight.

The car sped, following its familiar travels, winding north then west and north again, as if of its own volition, her hands on the wheel just some form of balance as she sat, riding along.

The trip home. Always such clarity, on this route.

More than the place called by its name, the house was her.                                                                  Protector; solace. Nobody had given it, and nobody could take it away. She had earned every inch. Moreover, having a place to go meant, increasingly, the place to be.

No matter that three decades of accumulated life had found a depository. She was a keeper, not a dispensary; every detail of her life experience had found some representation within its walls. Embodied sentiment; symbolic memory. Lost spirits were welcome, and likely took up residence while she slept.

He was all about property ownership and maintenance. Investing, then selling; every four years or so, he’d moved on, taking his profits. And, the place he currently called his own both stood to generate plenty and required every minute of his self imposed standards to keep up.

If he had a soul, he kept it to himself. Lawn; garden; dogs; hens. Beverage. These were friends, family, and mistress enough.

Into the occasional cracks of empty time she’d found herself, inserted.

Convenient entertainment. Easily displaced.

Desolating.

The fog would lift, by morning. Only two miles remained. The lost spirits beckoned her to her own bed, in the place where she could always go, with the promise of sleep at the center of self love.

All this she knew, on the road home.

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© 8/3/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.    All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

The Assembly Line Mentality and Public Education — Feeding from the Same Trough?

My mother was a World War II “We Can Do It” poster girl. When she wasn’t seated at her sewing machine making gowns and coats and fully lined three piece suits, she worked a semi-automatic machine at Csencsis Manufacturing, a shop which produced nuts and bolts for the war effort.

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Every morning, my brother and I would awaken to her shrill holler, frantic herald that our nocturnal sludge threatened to make her late for work. The round jar of Pro-Tek greeted us on the toilet tank, next to her fragile hairnet, foreshadowing that petroleum products intended to protect skin from the stain of petroleum products would shorten her life. And, every day after we walked to school, she’d stand at the noisy, oil spewing tool, tapping and threading out “piecework” until the buzzer signaled either lunch or the end of her shift.

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Like everything else mum did, she excelled at the numbers; her quota always long exceeded, the other workers grumbled that her standard was beyond expectation and made them look lazy. But, to her, one must put one’s hand to the plow and do the work to one’s best ability. This was all part of the grand order of things: the assembly line of life, and her part in it.

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Back in school, mum was a math “whiz”, and tutored other students. She also wrote clever verse, and kept a diary. But, hers was a life of deferred dreams; winning a sewing contest as a girl, the award — a trip to New York, to study fashion — was aborted when the Great Depression called a halt to everything, and the French soldier pen pal over whose letters she obsessed would never come to the States to finally meet; instead, she would deliver the home baked bread door to door, take in sewing, and marry the Italian soldier, who appeared on the night train just in the nick of time to save her from a life with preacher Willie. Once the war ended and the dust settled, dad would have a house built for her and faithfully carry home the cash from his barbershop, on Saturday nights, to count it on the kitchen table.

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The extra money earned in the machine shop meant more material for our clothes, which were all handmade by her, and food for the cooking; my brothers and I ate at mealtime, then dad would arrive home by 8pm to sit down and eat his supper alone. I never had any memory of mum having supper with any of us.

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While mum was at work and dad was at work, I’d be up the hill to Lincoln School, watching the other children in my class, trying to remain in my scratchy spot on the Kindergarten rug, cringing bewilderedly at Mrs. Williams gentle scowl every time I opened my mouth, then stretching my arm as high as it could go and waving my hand until she finally let me speak. There were so many things in the classroom — easels, for painting; a piano for playing; so many books to read; so many things to make. I would look around, at everybody on the rug, then stare at the teacher’s laced up shoes, waiting, waiting for a moment to do what I wanted to do. To my eye, everything in that room was there to be used, and I couldn’t stand sitting while we talked about the calendar and the days of the week and what time it was until we could finally do any of it.

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Twenty five years later, I would be at the front of the room, facing hundreds of children, all week long. For the first time, I could actually see all their faces, and absorb their expressions. And, for twenty five more years, I did this every week from September to June.

Fifty years went by; had I contributed anything important?

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The assembly line mentality had herded me, and my mother before me, into a predictable, limited life. I grew up to perpetuate the myth that controlling the masses mattered most, that a democratic majority could be found among those who followed along. Somehow, in spite of intellectual strength and inborn gifts, my mother would die at age 76 from a cancer which had never, before or since, appeared in any member of her family, a disease which the assembly line had wrought, caused by multiple chemicals produced in shops, chemicals used on the lawn at which she knelt all summer weeding the flower gardens, chemicals in the artificially sweetened beverages she drank to lose mid section weight brought on by daily, sedentary toil and malnutrition, chemicals in the air surrounding the manufacturing machine and in the water she used to make her coffee.

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The assembly line generation is fearful that their jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence. This is borne of a lulled sense that, apart from the job they do all day, their lives have no further value. And, that is tragedy on the cusp of realization.

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Ours is a structurally outmoded society. And yet, those in power persist in allowing war to dictate how our economy survives. If this doesn’t change, we could very well starve to death before we have ever truly lived.

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© 8/1/19  Ruth Ann Scanzillo      Originally published at Medium.com    Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

Why You Never Saw Her Out.

Formerly titled:

RUTH ANN SCANZILLO,

Professional Pianist / ‘Cellist.

Dear Readers of littlebarefeetblog.com:

A few have pointed out that I have no professional website; herewith a brief history of my work in the region, as a preliminary bio for the future website. Dates are occasionally approximate because, well, I’ve been around awhile and the memory isn’t complete….thanks!

Ruth Ann Scanzillo

pianist; ‘cellist

PO BOX 3628 Erie, Pennsylvania 16508

DOB: April 26, 1957                                                                       814.453.3523; 814.881.5372

littlebarefeet@msn.com

EDUCATION

SUNY @ Fredonia, Fredonia NY

1975 – ’77 – Graphic Design/Printmaking;

1979 – ’81 – December, 1981: Bachelor of Music, Music Education, magna cum laude, concentration: cello – Dr. Louis Richardson, Professor of Cello;

1989 – ’94 – SAA Suzuki Summer Institutes, Stephen’s Point WI; Ithaca College, Ithaca NY; Chicago, IL; registered, Violin IA; IB; Cello, I, II, and III

PIANO:

Theater:

1975 – rehearsal/performance piano, Footlights Theatre, Erie, PA

  • “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown!” – Jane Behan, musical director

1982-83 – rehearsal/performance piano,  Lincoln Theatre, Erie, PA

  • “SUGAR” – Mark Moffatt, director;
  • “HAIR”  —  Mark Moffat, director;

1984 – rehearsal/performance piano/instrumental ensemble director, Erie Playhouse, Erie, PA:

  • “Ain’t Misbehavin'” – Leo Estes, John Burton, directors;

circa 1985 – rehearsal/performance piano, live scene underscoring, Erie Playhouse, Erie PA:

  • “I Remember Mama” – Charlie Corritore, director;

circa 1999 – Piano I,  Fredonia Opera House, Fredonia, NY:

  • “The Fantastiks” – summer stock cast; Harry John Brown, music director;

1999 – 2000 – rehearsal pianist, Mercyhurst University D’Angelo Department of Music:

  • “Song of Norway” — Louisa Jonason, opera director;
  • “Don Giovanni” —– Louisa Jonason, opera director;

2000 – 11 –  Production, direction, set design and build, live piano accompaniment and synth. keyboard underscoring, The Dillon Drama Club,  Grover Cleveland Elementary School, Erie PA:

  • Beauty and The Beast (final production assisting founder Carolyn Dillon)
  • Wizard of Oz (2002)
  • Oliver!
  • GREASE!
  • Annie, Jr (2009)
  • A Christmas Carol
  • A Christmas Story
  • Spanky and Our Gang (two shorts, original staged adaptations);
  • Star Wars (five movies, consolidated, original staged adaptation by verbal permission conference call w/ LucasFilm licensing);
  • You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown (2011)

2011 – rehearsal and performance piano, Mercyhurst University, D’Angelo Department of Music/opera:

  • “TINTYPES” — Louisa Jonason, director (slated for August, 2011, West Bank Cafe, Manhattan. Hurricane Irene aborted); performed, September 11, 2011, Walker Hall, Mercyhurst University;

2015 – rehearsal pianist, “The Selfish Giant”, original opera by Stephen Colantti, Erie Opera Theatre, Brent Weber and James Bobick, directors;

2019 – performance piano, Keys 3, “MAMMA MIA!”, Cathedral Prep, Fr. Mik DeMartinis, director; Will Steadman, music director;

Collaborative/Chamber Music:

1986 – present:  piano collaborator for juries, hearings, college recitals and concerto competitions:

  • SUNY@Fredonia Conservatory of Music (1989 – 2008) – studios of Barry Kilpatrick, Marc Guy, Susan Royal, James East, Jack Gillette;
  • Edinboro University music department (1999 – 2014) – studios of LeAnne Wistrom, Patrick Jones, David Sublette, Robert Dolwick, Howard Lyon, Brad Amidon, Anne Wintle-Ortega;
  • Mercyhurst University D’Angelo Department of Music, vocal and instrumental performance departments (1999 – 2000; 2008-12) – studios of Louisa Jonason, Geoffrey Wands, Robert Dolwick, Chris Rapier, Alyssa, Scott Meier; and, with Shaun Pomer (1989) and Glen Kwok;
  • Erie Jr. Philharmonic Eiji Oue Concerto competition (1989 – 2013) – violin; trumpet; clarinet; tuba;
  • COYO Concerto competition, Cleveland, OH (2007) – cello; soprano;
  • Young Artist’s Debut Orchestra concerto competition (2007-08) – violin;

2011-12  – rehearsal and performance pianist, vocal performance studio of Louisa Jonason, D’Angelo Department of Music, Mercyhurst University;

2019 – String Trio, Caryn Moore, vln; Sunny Saunders, vla; self, cello; works by Pleyel, Boccherini, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Massenet, et al;

Repertoire:

including, but not limited to:

  • Artunian; Bach; Barber; Beethoven; Bernstein; Bozza; Brahms; Britten; Creston; Chopin; Chaminade; Copland; Colantti; Dvorak; Franck; Grieg; Hartley; Haydn; Hindemith; Hummel; Ibert; Korngold; Loeffler; Mozart; Mendelssohn; Neruda; Piazzolla; Puccini; Rossini; Rachmaninoff; Ravel; Saint-Saens; Schubert; Schumann; Shostakovich; R. Strauss; Telemann; Vaughn-Williams; Wieniawski; Verdi; Von Weber; H. Wolf;

for the following instruments:

  • soprano; mezzo; tenor; baritone; bass;
  • violin;
  • viola;
  • cello;
  • bass;
  • clarinet;
  • oboe;
  • bassoon;
  • flute;
  • trumpet;
  • trombone;
  • Euphonium;
  • French horn;
  • natural horn;
  • tuba
  • marimba;
  • alto and tenor saxophone;

Orchestral Piano:

1989 – 2000   – Erie Philharmonic Orchestra, Maestros Eiji Oue and Peter Bay; composers: Copland; Korngold, et al   (film scores)

CELLO:

Orchestral:

1986 – 2013   — section cello, Erie Philharmonic Orchestra, Erie PA, under maestros: Walter Hendl; Eiji Oue; Peter Bay; Hugh Keelan; Daniel Meyer; Jeff Tyzik; various additional guest batons;

1986 – 2011 — section cello/Principal cello/harpsichord, Erie Chamber Orchestra, Maestro Bruce Morton Wright;

2011 – 2018 — Principal cello, Erie Chamber Orchestra, maestros Matthew Kraemer and Bradley Thachuk, musical directors, and various baton candidates;

1999 – present:  Principal cello, Bemus Bay Pops Orchestra/Chautauqua Pops Orchestra, Bruce Morton Wright and John Marcellus, musical directors; Chautauqua Pops Strings, Lenny Solomon, musical director;

Artist Pick up hires:

  • circa 1987 – Johnny Mathis, Erie Warner Theatre;
  • circa 1992 – Anne Murray, “
  • 2008 – Clay Aiken, Erie Civic Center;
  • 2015 – MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER, Red Tour, Erie Warner Theatre;

2019 – String Trio, Caryn Moore, vln; Sunny Saunders, vla; self, cello; works by Pleyel, Boccherini, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Massenet, et al;

Other Work History:

1986 – 2011 —  Public school music teacher, K – 12, School District of the City of Erie, PA  –  general/vocal and instrumental, including: marching band, choir, chorus, string ensemble, string orchestra, music appreciation, and special classes for the hearing impaired

1989 – present — Private studio teacher, Suzuki-registered cello (Books 1 – 4) and violin (Books 1 – 3).

Chamber Music:

To be continued…………..

Scholarships and Awards:

1975 – Card-Catlin Art Award, Erie PA – portfolio adjudicated;

1981 – Gaeliewicz String Award, SUNY@Fredonia; Hillman Scholarship, SUNY@Fredonia;

1984 – S.A.D.I.E Award for Drama In Erie :  Best Orchestra, “Ain’t Misbehavin”, Leo Estes/John Burton, directors; starring Wydetta Carter, John Burton, Michael Henderson, Tootie Howard, Marlene Spells…..

© 7/22/19  Ruth Ann Scanzillo. I certify that the above information is true and accurate, to the best of my memory. John Burton may not have been a director of Ain’t Misbehavin’, but I believe that I am correct on all other points.  Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cold Holy War.

There are many layers to the oppression of immigrants, in our time.

Because of 9/11, both the cause and perpetrators of which have never actually been proven, immigrants of a particular religious persuasion are regarded as suspect by those who assign terroristic activity in a broad swath to anyone to which the alleged 9/11 terrorists’ religion ascribes – namely, Islam.

It isn’t immigration the objectors resist; it’s the threat of infiltrating terrorism, driven by a belief that those who practice Islam are intent upon destroying everyone who does not.

They falsely assign the threat of terrorism to every immigrant woman wearing a head covering, every immigrant whose skin is a particular shade of brown, and every immigrant whose surname begins with Al.

What we are embroiled in, presently, is the secondary effect of a not-so-cold, holy war.

Never before has the separation of church and state been more relevant, been more vital, been more required, if we as Americans are to survive as a nation.

As for the holy war, we must leave that to those who practice religion.

If the government attempts to assign value to anything based in religious persuasion, it is already out of its lane; unfortunately, such assignments are being made, every day, by those in power.

President Trump was described recently by the news media, following his obvious tacit acceptance of the rally chant against the Congresswoman: “Send Her Back!”,  as an “old-world segregationist”.

Perhaps society needs to take a straight ahead look at itself. To what extent do cultural groups self-segregate, and to what end does doing so protect and sustain culture itself? People of similar ilk stay close together. When they do not, or when they are forced apart – such as when Hurricane Katrina scattered the Creole population in the Gulf of Mexico – how do they survive?

Many old world beliefs, discarded by progressives intent upon a new world order, had value. Educated people can distinguish between what is old and worthy, vs. what is archaic and outmoded.

But, President Trump represents neither.

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© 7/18/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo      All rights, including the title, those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect original material. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

The Capriol Suite.

Strains of Warlock, piped across the live night air; amplified, then compressed: a posted video, momentarily searing the thymus. A fresh brushburn.
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Wax;
wane;
philosophize.
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Before that which honors principle, do most choose that which serves them?
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Remembrance of the glory days, decades past, under the town’s most celebrated maestro’s baton, integral to these. The house, always full; the town, equally filled, with its talk. Performance, live, virtually every weekend. Inside; outside; running out, further, by bus. To most ears and eyes, everybody fully involved, equally satisfied.
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Except not.
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One handful, older musicians, heretofore secure, contracts unceremoniously revoked, scheduled to drop out of sight from month to next.
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These, positioned, in the back desks of string sections, barely noticed by the teeming and energized, that complement rallied close to the stick to be among those increasingly closer.
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The lesser talk, of discontent, unnoticed; no warning, no choice; mutterings, whisperings of master contract terms, incongruent with the surrounding ebullience. Such exchanges not self sustaining, lacking gravitas, generating remote, averting eyes, fading like irrelevance…
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Now, among these, to float, beyond the stage
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to dance
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the Capriol Suite.
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© 7/16/19  Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, who played the Capriol Suite, and all the other Suites, under all the batons. Please; don’t steal “fading like irrelevance.” Okay? Thanks.
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littlebarefeetblog.com

Defending the Indefensible.

I have heard the defense of Donald J. Trump, many, many times.
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But, let me tell you – as a former teacher to 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 year olds for 20 years, and 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 year olds for five years: Donald Trump’s DAILY utterances, his weekly Tweets, his blatant and endlessly repeating lies….these are traits which, taken in totality, overwhelm those of all prior elected Presidents in my lifetime.
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He displays behavior – posturing, verbal bullying/name calling – which equates with a 14 year old candidate for high risk school program placement, the kid every teacher in the building considers future potential criminal material.
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In short, neither Clinton nor JFK, while they expressed sexual behavior patterns which many would not condone, bore carriage in public, on air, in print, or in virtually every interaction portrayed in live or videotaped media, in the character of anything but mature, adult men aware of the image they were modeling for the next generation. Were they hiding their sins behind social graces? Perhaps. But, the nation’s c.h.i.l.d.r.e.n were never subject to their lies, their meanness, boorishness, or juvenile posturing.
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When you try to apologise Donald Trump in the terms outlined by his devoted base, you stoop to the level of the schoolgirl defending the most outrageous brute of a boy in school, just because she thinks he’s cute and he winked at her in the cafeteria.
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The man is summarily indefensible.
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Would you vouch for the devil, just because he knew Jesus, personally?
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© 7/8/19  Ruth Ann Scanzillo.
littlebarefeetblog.com

Pride, not Prejudice.

I’m so happy and encouraged that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can feel loved and accepted now, at least in theory and, increasingly, by law.

Now, I hope that straight people and gay people alike can befriend, hire, promote, and even fire without regard for sexual identity.

Nobody ever likes to feel pre-empted because of sexual identity. Women hate it when men do it; men hate it when women do it; minorities hate it when majorities do it; majorities hate it when minorities do it; gays hate it when straights do it; straights hate it when gays do it.

Let’s choose our friends, our colleagues, our employees, our managers, our leaders, on inherent merit and value, alone.

Please.

Let’s at least try, and see if we can.

 

love XO,

Ruth Ann Scanzillo

© 6/30/19

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

A Letter From The Law.

Sometimes realization comes in the strangest costume.
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Last night, I spent several significant minutes concluding that the latest female Trump accuser was, at best, unbalanced.
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Watching the excerpted clip of the final two minutes of her interview with Anderson Cooper, I declared E. Jean Carroll a delusional loon with a rape fantasy. Tonight, taking the entire interview – which gave the final two minutes their proper context – I discovered a lucid testimony maker making a bold assertion: the man who attacked her was living out a rape fantasy. And, the point missed by so many: she claimed this within the framework of generational context.
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Perhaps only old people will get it. Those, say, over 60.
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What was society’s collective position on rape when a husband could force himself on his wife, by law?
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I doubt that husbands behaving within the bounds of a law which served their patriarchal domination considered themselves rapists; to them, it was their estimable right to have their wives, whenever and however they so chose.
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As such, this accuser described her attacker in the very terms; she implied that he acted within his perceived right, the embodiment of the residual effect of the letter of the law.
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Now, how is it a different conversation to ask what society’s collective moral position was on abortion, prior to the connotation of the term “reproductive rights”?
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For every option a man took, within the law, a woman had none; now, the law states that a woman can dispense with the very life carried in her womb. Could one law have led to the other? Whether or not, in both cases the letter of the law acts as enabler, driving morality to drink.
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So, which leads: law, or conscience? How much longer will humanity use the law not as judge but as scapegoat for amoral action against another, before semantic label becomes libel?
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It takes courage to remove the mask.
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© 6/26/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   Thank you for respecting original material. If you are reading this from 163.com, we are already wise to your action.
littlebarefeetblog.com

QUESTIONING The ANSWER: How to Get Labeled the “Troublemaker” in Your Own Hometown.

 

Anybody who was born in Erie, Pennsylvania within the past century knows.

This town has an unspoken history.

What has appeared in print, alternately surreptitiously or boldly depending on the relative acceptance of the author’s credibility, has alluded more than once to what everybody has always known: this was a Mafia “mob town”.

Back when Italians and Irish were the dominant first generation immigrant population, the “connected” families were well established. One of them led the city’s government for decades. These were the days of scenes from The Godfather movies; small business fronts, numbers runners, clubs, and neighborhood networks all set up to keep everything smoothly under control.

Into this picture, my Italian father appeared as a displaced citizen. A Bostonian ward of Massachusetts, he’d found himself here by way of a night train and a native Erieite who would become his wife, twice – the first time, in 1944, and again in 1955. Having graduated from barber school after WWII, he would set up his first shop on what, in those days, was the center of the East side: Parade Street. A decade later, he would move to purchase a cement block building on the corner of East 5th & Wallace Streets, and serve a regular clientele of Russian and Polish immigrants as well as city officials for 44 years.

I can remember Dad speaking about the BB gun holes in his plate glass windows on 5th. He and Mum would discuss them, in front of my brothers and me; these were Union people, harassing him to join and follow all their rules for price fixing. I cannot remember when the BB gun holes ceased, but something happened to end them because, once they stopped, they never appeared again. The city officials, however, continued as loyal customers until their deaths by natural causes. Many a final haircut would Dad give, to each of them, in their hospital beds at Hamot, St. Vincent, and over at the Vet’s.

A dear widow and long time Erie resident told me her take on the city, recently. Her late husband was beloved, and well known. And, as secretary to an attorney’s office, she knew who all the racketeers were, by name. She said that, back then, there was no crime in Erie; the mob saw to it that the streets were clean.

Nowadays, Erie is in transition from being an industrial mecca to a vacation resort, and shows promise. But, socially, vestiges of its history can be found in a continually manifesting tribalism. Because, geographically, the city is set on the water’s edge of Lake Erie its flat terrain is laid out in the “Philadelphia grid” style of endless, square city blocks. Consequently, there is nothing to distinguish one neighborhood from another except immediate, unspoken boundaries of ghetto; those living in poverty can be found one square block away from the wealthy, investing elite who own historic villas converted into office space and executive rentals just down the street from City Hall.

So, these tribes of peoples, set apart by closely juxtaposed neighborhoods from Glenwood Heights to the upper lakefront blight, still function in parallel proximity. Even as each nationality represented continues to celebrate its heritage in the multiple summer ethnic festivals, one problem persists: Social segregation. Now, who is in control?

And, that is the first question.

In Erie, as in these United States, every citizen is free to ask that first question. Ask any question, once.

The answer given is expected to be accepted.

But, what if the answer, often the official position on any topic, isn’t acceptable?

What if there is a problem with its content?

I have always been the inquisitive child. If Why? is the question, I will be the first to ask it. Unfortunately, though an established professional in my own right, I am merely the barber’s daughter. Who will give me the straight, factually accurate response? Do I need to know it?

In Erie, you can ask; but, you cannot ask, again. If you challenge the answer you are given, what happens to you is swift and inescapable: you are labeled the “troublemaker”.

And, once branded, you had better retreat into the shadows and stay away. Control is everything to those grasping after it and, in a town where the history was all about leaving well enough alone, if you wonder you are to do so in solitude; if you doubt, you are to keep quiet; if you disbelieve, keep your religion to yourself.

To what end can we know how Erie, Pennsylvania will survive those who do?

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© 6/12/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  Born at Hamot; raised on the East side; educated in the public schools; taxpaying homeowner on the West side; lifetime Erieite. God Bless Our Home, and all who dwell within it. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Naming Mental Illness: It’s A Mind Game.

My beautiful pictureIn the wake of multiple lives lost at the hands of another, lone gunman, we as a society pause yet again to face the truly disturbing: sick minds are a threat to us all.
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And, the bigger problem looms. Our care and oversight with regard to detecting, diagnosing and treating the mentally ill is, to this degree, still woefully incomplete.
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To begin with, I believe we use the term “mentally ill” far too loosely, and imprecisely; consequently, a “cry wolf” mentality seeps into the public consciousness. We misappropriate the term, applying it whenever we think we don’t particularly like or understand someone, and miss the truly deadly potential in those who really are unwell.
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Let’s take a step back, and lay out some facts.
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MentalHealth.gov, the official website on the topic, states:
  • One in five American adults experience a mental health issue;
  • One in 10 young people experience a period of major depression;
  • One in 25 Americans live with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.
Yet,
“Half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before age 24.
Unfortunately, less than 20% of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need.”
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Given the above indisputable data, over 80% of those who are really ill get no treatment in their earliest years, when containment and rehabilitation is possible.
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Meantime, we go about our days interacting with all manner of personalities. Somebody demonstrates a trait not common to our own notions of good protocol, rubbing us the wrong way. Perhaps louder, or more vociferously than we might, such an one misbehaves in public. One of us says to another: “She’s mental.”
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Let’s not mistake acute passion, expressed in the presence of others, for imbalance.
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Fact:
“The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%–5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness.”
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How many of these lone gunmen were ever described by anyone who knew them as out acting? Rather, categorically, up until the moment of their psychotic break, each behaved in a manner decidedly well beneath the radar of public condemnation.
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Even as we move forward to improve our detection and diagnosis of the mentally ill, let’s check our reactions toward each other at the door. Become more wary of the unusually silent, among our young and old; watch eye movement; document the absence of response, rather than each outburst otherwise easily recognized; and, communicate all observations to the appropriate resource as soon as they have been made.
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But, withhold public declaration. Defaming the innocent is almost as deadly to our collective relationship as is missing one capable of suddenly taking yet another life.
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© 6/7/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Originally published at Medium.com
littlebarefeetblog.com

“Thank You, Very Much.”

She was shorter than I, with soiled, shoulder length salt and pepper hair and a walking tripod cane. I recognized this cane, as Dad would use one in his final years while living with me. Because her head was lowered slightly, I couldn’t determine the woman’s relative age; but able to, on account of my relative height, I reached above her to hold the door open to enable her to navigate into the lobby of the South Erie Postal Station.
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Silently, she preceded me.
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Taking those few steps required to reach the service window enclosure, again there was a door and again, as she reached forward, I took ahold and held it for her so she could get through with her cane.
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Again, she remained silent, not looking back in my direction.
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As we waited in line, she having stepped past both me and the others utilizing the materials island to prepare our packages for mailing, I silently observed her. Perhaps she was a “deaf mute”, the term my father had always used for one of his neighbors across from the barber shop on 5th. Or, maybe a first generation immigrant, preferring not to speak unless she could converse in her native tongue. These speculations, I decided, would explain her silence.
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Having completed the woman’s transaction, the postal worker wished her a good day. At that point the woman turned left, preparing to make her exit. In so doing, she spoke. Clearly, and distinctly, in perfect English:
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“Thank you, very much!”
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I watched her, moving slowly with her cane, to the door and out of the station. Checking an impulse to break from the line and follow her, I thought better of it, considering the number of tasks awaiting me at home.
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But, I wanted to follow her. I wanted to catch up, and speak to her. I wanted to ask her, to confront her. Why had she not thanked me, even once, for holding the door for her?
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What was it – my dark hair? my sunglasses? my yellow raincoat? The jeans. All my colors. My complexion? my bone structure? my ethnicity?
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Was it some vestige of either fear, or repugnance, she felt at the sight of me?
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Perhaps she’d preferred to make her own way through the doors, without any assistance at all. Was my gesture interpreted as condescending, or some unnecessary spotlight on her apparent infirmity?
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Some fleeting recollection of childhood spun across my subconscious. I was the only brown girl, in a legion of Anglo-Saxons. Always complimented for my “beautiful skin”, by our grandmother, for a moment I was that girl again, the one different from everybody else in the family. Then, fast forward, to Customs in the Toronto airport, 1984. My curly perm, and the cans in my carry on from the Scottish butcher shop; detained, interrogated and then, me, running with all my might to get to the gate before the plane closed its doors.
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I left the post office, walking through the doors of my own accord and out into the sun. I didn’t want to feel hatred, only wonder, and a little sadness.
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She was gone. Still, I heard my voice speak to the woman, declaring my self, my family history, reveling in the clarity of my perfect English. I, too, was a woman, my father’s daughter, and proud, thank you very much.
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5/31/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.     All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose real, Biblical, birth name appears above this line.
littlebarefeetblog.com

The Kiss.

 

I swooned with everyone else.

Not only was he tall, strong, and handsome, Cuomo was fresh, well rested, adroit, and the picture of health. A shrewd contrast to Maddow’s incisive, rapid fire analysis, this broadcasting commentator offered a more streamlined, to the point style which appealed not exclusively to heterosexual females but to everyone on the go seeking a solid, bottom line summary of the day’s political events. The package was just the icing on the beefcake.

Frankly, tuning in was already old to me; I’d been a daily news viewer for years. Perhaps growing up in a fundamentalist sect affected my latent thirst for up to the minute real time check ins on world realities. Who knew? For the past decade following the ticker had become my thing, and what better way to finish off the day than with a face which harkened to my own beloved? It’s true; both Cuomo and my significant other are genetically similar, bearing the wide, toothy grin and broadly open eyes of either Calabria or Campania, though mine a decade or so ahead in age and, okay, we Dagos like to keep it in the family. Besides, being on call in a hospital keeps my own absent on most evenings. But, you aren’t convinced.

So, it was time. Time for the latest heartthrob of the astute and vigilant to visit Colbert Nation.

He wouldn’t have been the first. AC had already been, as had his own late night comrade, D Lemon. But, he would be a first, and inimitably so. Chris Cuomo would bring his winsome charm all the way to the mats.

They’d made it nearly to the end of predicted reparte, “getting after it” for a solid twelve. Can we even remember how it came next? No. We can’t. But, we won’t forget it, either.

Somebody challenged somebody to the floor. Who could do 100 push ups?

The ties came off. The cuffs came up.

It was brain to brawn, lean to clean, waddaya mean. Counting aloud, the audience held their collective breath.

Then, just past 40-something, the inexplicable happened. The five second delay kicked in, and the frame froze. No amount of rewind could retrieve it; the outcome was lost. Cable rarely gave out, not nearly as often as dish, but it would be the next day, on the Tube, that we’d see why.

The host had been the first to give, well, because he was the host. Collapsing to the floor, Colbert curled almost fetal, closed his eyes, and smiled like a baby in a bassinet.

Then, Mario’s youngest did what all good Italian boys do. He laughed, crawled over on top of Colbert like a puppy in a litter, hugged him, and kissed him on his face.

Did the tape stop, on purpose? Was there a mad dash to edit?

Now, it might only be the Italian Americans who will have understood. We claim no corner on the market of affection, but we do hold this court. And, I’m betting that even the most stoic Swede in Minnesota felt it, right where open meets honest and fake is the joke, right?

That’s right. It’s all there, in the heart of everyone with a will and a brother.

Swoon on.

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© 5/29/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   Thanks for the read, and the respect. Be well.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

What Happens When Language Changes.

TodaySponge95

The French woman was adamant.

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The Swiss woman sat, staring at her. The English couple, from Trent, lifted their chins just slightly. Next to them, the German husband arched his back. His wife wilted, averting her downcast eyes, and the American’s widened.

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These all sat around the dinner table, in Zurich, on a Sunday. It was a Bible conference weekend, but this was a bigger deal.

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The French woman was talking about language.

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She said you have to live among the people, and learn the language. Only then will you know the culture. Because, and she closed emphatically, the culture is in the language.

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That was 1984.

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In 2019, we might be members of a culture whose language remains a leading means of discourse among the powerful. But, as English speaking people, our culture has changed.

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There are words which have been added to our lexicon which have become so embedded in it that we hardly realize there was ever a time when they were not there.

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Here are two of them, taken separately.

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“Reproductive” and “rights”.

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Reproductive — having the capacity to reproduce.

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Rights — (n.) moral or legal entitlements to act.

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But, taken together, they form a term, embodying a concept. “Reproductive rights” refer to a specific entitlement, that being: to bear a child.

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The problem is, this term has evolved to become broader in scope than one might have initially perceived. No longer merely representing the right to bear a child, it has come to also mean the right not to. And, this evolution has been driven by social forces.

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Plus — in the present day, not only are we talking about the right to or not to bear a child, this term has actually become one which encompasses a concept never actualized by humans born before 1930. Reproductive rights have come to represent the option to cease carrying a child already conceived.

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In our language.

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In our time.

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The intractable problem with this is: now, the public debate tosses this term to and fro, throwing it around as a tool supporting any number of arguments from the right to receive compensation to emotional support, counseling, products, services, and all manner of supplemental medical procedures. Now, women fight to preserve their reproductive rights, their choice as women to make exclusive decisions about their bodies, decisions which are exempt from anyone else’s decision-making power.

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Reproductive rights have melded into one argument, when they are actually two, distinct and even unrelated. And, the fundamental problem is one of conflation.

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Somehow, the right to make independent decisions affecting one’s body, as a woman (or, as a man) has become conflated with another right, that of the option to dispense with a conceived embryo which has nested in one’s uterus, having begun the process leading toward birth. While the female body belongs to one, independent person, once conception occurs that independence is, in part, forfeited — because another life exists inside of it.

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There are English speaking women to whom the term”reproductive right” is moot. These have already acknowledged that, once fertile, each of them bears both the ability and the responsibility of conceiving another human being. As such, they exercise only the right to be that vessel, should conception occur. To them, there is no other right. The right to bear a child is beyond the right they have over their own body. There is no argument. There is only the honor of a higher calling.

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And so, embodied in its language, the very culture is divided. And, living amongst its people, this disparity is palpable.

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Someone once said that the English language is the most inconsistent on the planet, riddled with exceptions to the rule of order.

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Does this also reflect a problem within the culture?

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If she could, would the French woman speak to this, and what might be said?

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One wonders whether silence would be required by all.

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Selah.

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© 5/25/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

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What Is This Thing Called Life?

Joleen'sNephewYAWNS
Jodie Johnson’s baby boy.

A lot changes in one lifetime.

My grandmother was raised without the car, the radio, or the television. I grew up without a computer. Transistor radios were the first portables, the size of a human hand; early televisions were sold in black and white; and, the term “wireless” originally applied only to morse code and telegram.

Technology has advanced our civilization like no other force on the planet. We can do things, and interact, in ways which were unimaginable just fifty years ago.

But, one thing hasn’t changed.

Humans are still required to reproduce themselves.

Whether we engage in sex or not, sperm and egg must converge in order for conception to occur, and female bodies must be their host.

At present, fertile women hold an immense amount of power. They endure pregnancy, and bring into the world the next generation. Until the day when alternate hosts for gestation are provided, women alone will carry to term every conceived life.

Or, not.

My elder brother is an expert witness. He possesses the qualifications to serve in court. Attorneys hire him to comment on the facts related to scientific inquiry, because he is a chemist with a PhD. While not required to have been present at the scene of either a crime or as yet unexplained death, he is permitted to speak with authority as to its evidentiary details. Growing up at his elbow, I learned to pay attention to what science teaches us.

Now, while scientists irrespective of gender across the nation remain in hot debate over which of them has the authority to determine the origin of life, society and its politicians are now re-visiting when life begins.

Here is what can be clearly understood. Millions of sperm are observed under a microscope swimming like tadpoles. Furthermore, the human egg does appear to burst from the ovary of its own volition, spurred by the follicle stimulating hormone. A single sperm is known to penetrate the egg, and a merger of the two produces a zygote which immediately begins to divide, cell by cell. Cell division is the natural process of what is called growth within an organism and an organism, by definition, is alive.

Nature is our reliable educator. All we need do is become its attentive student. The female body signals its every cyclic phase, and the process by which these phases can be followed has been called the Sympto-Thermal Method*.

As fertility approaches, both the basal body temperature changes and the vagina begins to secrete an opaque solution; once the solution becomes clear and viscous (like egg albumin), this indicates that the mature egg has exited the ovary and is traveling down the fallopian tube to the uterus. During this phase, should sperm be introduced into the vaginal canal (or, already be present in waiting), conception becomes increasingly likely. Once the egg has reached the uterus, there is a precise, 24 hour period during which basal body temperature remains elevated and the egg will remain viable, able to be fertilized by one sperm.

If a male sperm reaches the egg first, a male child is conceived. Female sperm swim slower and live longer; perhaps a female sperm will penetrate the egg, by the next day, if the egg does not begin its own demise. But, once penetrated by a sperm, if sufficient progesterone is present the fertilized egg attempts to nest in the wall of the uterus. If successful, the zygote begins to grow; if conception and/or nesting does not occur, the egg dies and the basal body temperature descends. Once this temperature returns to normal, conception can no longer occur until the cycle repeats.

Nature also has its own means by which unviable fetuses are dismissed. This is called miscarriage. The relative health of the mother as well as the fetus usually determines this involuntary outcome but, one thing is certain: this decision is made by the body, itself, and not the mind of the person dwelling within it.

The act of disturbing any living fetus to the extent that it can no longer continue growth is called abortion. Is there a species from within the animal kingdom on our planet which has demonstrated voluntary interruption of fetal growth? If so, what are the conditions which predicate the act?

Put yourself in the following position. A female kangaroo is within arm’s reach. Inside the kangaroo’s pouch is a gestating fetus. What would happen, were you to attempt to reach into the kangaroo’s pouch?

Women are entitled to three humanitarian options. We have the option to conceive. We have the option to gestate and give birth. And, we have the option to let nature take its course. Anything else is in violation of the living organism our bodies are capable of producing.

And, women, because we are currently the hosts, must take full responsibility for the potential of life in the womb. We must educate girls and women fully, both in the area of pregnancy health as well as pregnancy prevention. The Sympto-Thermal method can be taught, and should be a requirement within every public and private school curriculum. Even very young girls, regardless of socio-economic background, can be given a thermometer and shown how to take their basal body temperature in preparation for puberty. As for the small number of those who remain unteachable, great care of these should be taken by the entire society’s watchful and compassionate eye and any children they bear should be cared for accordingly.

Each of us has been given life, entirely outside of our own choice; as such, we should respect this involuntary gift, and sustain life by choice.

And, this would render the agonizing and impossible abortion argument null and void, forever.

Why?

Because in spite of life’s endless changes, living itself is precious.

 

*https://www.factsaboutfertility.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/SymptoThermalPEH.pdf

 

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© 5/15/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to The Love Of My Life.

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Dearest Love,
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Remember when we met?
I was alone, inside my head.
You appeared. And, you were beautiful.
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Both smoothe and firm, your face was perfect. Your eyes, twinkling, deep and introspective. Your mouth soft, and fleshy. Your hands, quiet, self possessed, silently speaking only to me. Your body strong. Your voice clear, and resonant. Your smile, slow, and real.
I loved you, instantly.
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You, in all your manifestations. Sometimes you embodied those I came to know. They channeled you well, a few better than others. You came to me, so many times, across so many paths, in so many ways, sometimes suddenly, at others gradually, taking me by surprise thereafter.
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I loved you, as God loves his own creation. My object d’arte, you were ever mine to adore. Endless latitude I gave you, always believing in you, ever hopeful of your capacity to accept my love.
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If ever you are lost, there is a home for you in me. To me, you can come always — your staunchest defender, your honor, your solace, your devotion.
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You are not alone. I know you.
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You live in my heart.
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What is your name?
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© 5/2/19  Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  This is original, personal material. Be a good person. Leave it alone. Thank you.
littlebarefeetblog.com

Original Poetry.

 

You know, these blogs really are a great place to store your best stuff. They aren’t 100% plagiarist proof, but at least you have a shelf to put it on. Meantime, some of the templates are easier to navigate than others; the one I use was designed in 2013 and, for an old girl, that’s recent enough.*

Billy Collins is doing a Masterclass on Facebook. He spoke at Chautauqua a few years ago, in the Hall of Philosophy. I was there. He also did a talk with Paul Simon, in the Amp. He, together with James Kavanaugh, is/are my continuing inspirations and emulations.

But, my mother was my first.

She could rhyme a verse in minutes. For anything I’ve ever crafted, she gets best credit.

So, in honor of mum, whose dreams were deferred, read a few poems today. On her behalf, I will thank you.

It’s also William Shakespeare’s birthday.

Read.

Thank you.

*[ Categories appear in the bar across the top. Click on original poetry. ]

 

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© 4/23/19  Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

“harmless” Bots and WordPress.com

WordPress.com “Happiness Engineers” have repeatedly declared to me, in email correspondence, that bots who troll my account and latch on as “Followers” are “harmless.”

Within the past hour, I have been reading the Mueller report. According to this report, from as recently as 2014 the Internet Research Agency, or IRA, a Russian funded group put in place to influence public perception – principally for political reasons – used both fake internet personas and bots to accomplish their objectives.

If bots could be used by such an agency, what lucid reader or writer is going to believe anymore that a bot is harmless?

WordPress.com, I hereby put you on notice. Protect our accounts, and our material, by whatever means possible. Many of us are paying yearly for our domains, yet we are persistently trolled by aliases posing as legitimate WordPress.com and other websites.

Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

Ruth Ann Scanzillo, author and administrator.    4/19/19

 

 

 

 

The Tyrant.

 

Truth is inherent power.

And, one who manipulates or misrepresents it is a tyrant.

Such a creature recognizes that by lying, or misrepresenting facts, one can exert limited control over another’s perception of reality.

Those who need to control others’ perceptions of reality seek to use them, in some way. Perhaps minions are sought, to do bidding, as delegates or constituents. Perhaps the tyrant needs to hide nefarious actions by cloaking them in deceit. But, in every case, the liar assumes power because, in the mind of the used, truth is taken captive.

However, truth is also omniscient and omnipresent.

While one may seize upon another’s apprehension of it, truth transcends perception.

In spite of the actions of one tyrant, what is real is known to reveal of its own volition.

This could be argued as evidence of a higher power. Many name God.

Don’t lie to me. My trust is in Truth. As such, I am impermeable.

I am your tyrant.

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© 3/26/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.     All rights those of the author, whose truth it is, and whose name appears above this line. Tell it.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

Two Plane Crashes and the Death of Accountability.

 

The world is, indeed, flat. But, it’s vertical, and small enough to exclude everything that was ever important. Like the value of life.

Did anybody see the press release?

Boeing pilots transitioned to the 737 Max 8 by taking a “self-administered online test” which made no mention of a critical program, the MCAS (maneuvering characteristics augmentation system) which ultimately brought about not one, but the two, deadly crashes now part of our visceral history.

I can recall testing, when I was a child. The memories are also visceral.

You studied all week. The night before, your mother (the woman who bore you) would ask you the pre-test set of questions which either your best teachers had already devised and provided as study guides, or those which she herself had composed after thoroughly perusing your test material. Biting your nails and squinting, you answered them until they were all correct. Then, you went to bed, squirming with anxiety in anticipation of the next day in the Court of Assessment.

Granted, some of us conquered testing by sheer memorization, the rote kind, devoid of actual comprehension but note-perfect and able to be recited in a heartbeat under pressure.

Those of us who knew that getting good grades was the only path to a good job and a secure life took our tests seriously. We really couldn’t have cared less about the students who blew them off by cheating or skipping them entirely. We were in it to make it. We were that proud.

Oh; and, the proctor. The proctor was always live. That teacher never left the room, not for a second. Eyes on our eyes, the whole time.

Wow. Can you name the number of things which have changed, since our day? How long is your list? Bullet points?

Can we fully imagine that those who take some 182 humans lives in their very hands, every day, as soon as they step into the cockpit, wouldn’t be at least as serious as we were when we were just kids?

We can’t blame the pilots. It’s the testing system, itself. What robot is responsible for the “self-administered” online questionnaire, in the first place, and which computer genius was it who enabled the software? And, above all, which flight specialist designer overlooked including the critical component change ignorance of which brought down the planes?

Gone is the age of accountability. In its place, software. A series of apps. Nobody looks over anybody’s shoulder, anymore. Nobody looks at anybody, or anything — except the screen in front of them. We’ve managed to get sucked into an alternative universe, one with only two dimensions. Flat.

When Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, though they may have tried valiantly all the King’s minions couldn’t repair his shell. But, maybe, once enough body parts are collected from the rubble of a shattered jet, somebody will look up and face what’s really there. In three dimensions.

That’s the test. Will we pass it?

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3/22/19 *originally published at Medium.com as Two Plane Crashes and the Absence of Accountability.   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

littlebarefeetblog.com

She Was.

CHAPTER 40.

Carrie Fisher, Carol Burnett, Ruth Buzzi and Barbra, all rolled into one potato bug, from a town where stupendous lived next door to mediocre and across the street from feeble and nobody knew the difference except the crone on the corner keeping tabs.

Her family: Toy Story. Original script. Stuffed animals, wind ups, and a nearly dead parrot delivered their dogma by the light of a single, sectarian light bulb hanging over the kitchen table. Mr. Incredible, waiting in the wings to scoop up the most demure among all women, already coolly rejecting her for her swarthy complexion and dark stare, the cowboy too weak kneed to capture even a passing glance, Mr. Potato Head would love her with his whole tuber and she would never know.

Vanity: her middle name. If there were a mirror, she was near it; were there competitively symmetrical women in the room, she would be unsettled. Some synergy of self doubt and grandiosity had entrenched, and crystallization was imminent; only Marianne Williamson, in person, could save her. The real issue: was she worth the rescue?

From age two, crayon in hand, her head had exploded with intricate, cinematic narrative. Barely able to fit the words onto the white space surrounding the always centered image on the page, syntax to the wind, her first attempt dictating to a marveling mother demanded the correct spelling for everything.

The earliest of her best efforts were lost. Somewhere between acquiring the Pontiac Ventura custom painted blue and trading it in for a creme toned Sunbird, the paper grocery bag filled with the precious college journal, Ebony penciled drawings, poems, and her fledgling essays would remain in the trunk with the vintage tin child’s kitchen and the navy blue laced wedged sandals as the car rolled off the lot. This was the charter for parsing out, but nobody would tell her a thing.

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© 3/21/19  Ruth Ann Scanzillo.    All rights those of the author, who was, and whose name appears above this line.  Thank you for remembering.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The International Musician, The American Federation, and The Professional Audition.

IMALookAtTheAuditionProcessAug2009

The issue was August, 2009.

The magazine: The INTERNATIONAL MUSICIAN, a periodical published by and for the members of the American Federation of Musicians, which is the Union of performing professionals in both United States and Canada.

In these issues, usually with an up and coming musician featured on each front cover, articles meaningful to the professional population are included, along with numerous ads for products and services and, possibly most importantly, in summer a complete listing of vacated symphonic and military band positions open for audition in the coming fall.

However, the August 2009 issue presented a remarkably illuminating piece on the orchestral audition process, itself. Happening upon it only three years later, I found its contents startling and, suddenly, very relevant.

Having spent nearly 27 years as a regular, and even first call, sub, I’d played my third and final audition for a seat in the cello section of the Erie Philharmonic in early September of 2012.  The summer of that same year found me training intensely for what, I’d hoped, would finally be the job security which I had so long coveted. For this purpose, I’d commuted to the nearby Chautauqua Institution to obtain multiple private sessions with cellist and Ann Arbor Symphony conductor, Maestro Arie Lipsky, on staff every summer to conduct the Festival Strings and instruct the population of cello students.

Maestro Lipsky established a solid footing for my concerto movement of choice, and offered often ingenious fingering options for the list of orchestral excerpts required by the highest professional orchestral standard. Nearly weekly, from spring until summer’s end, he put me through my paces, as only a seasoned symphonic conductor could; Lipsky not only knew the cello repertoire, he knew what a conductor sought in a section player and made certain I did, as well.

Come audition day, I was ready – and, familiar with the protocol: Show up; sign in. Unpack; warm up. Wait. Each candidate having been assigned a number, per his/her moment of arrival, the proctor would call one at a time to enter the arena, usually a small room or stage, wherein the panel of adjudicators would be seated behind screen. A voice would speak, sight unseen, declaring which excerpt would be required first, and the audition would commence.

Two, maybe three excerpts later, plus an entire concerto movement, and the entrants would wait again, this time as a collective, while the panel entered into their deliberations. At the close of these, the second round would be announced and those fortunate to have advanced would be revealed.

The final, third round was face to face with the adjudicators, usually two of the orchestra’s principals and their maestro. From among these ultimately three or four candidates, the panel would select the one (or two, if the same number of positions had been vacated) musicians whose performance had been deemed worthy of an orchestral contract, a document which would seal their hire until such time as either they chose to resign or their bodies could no longer execute the music.

I would not be rewarded with a contract. This being my third attempt, then at age 55, my future was likely equally sealed; it would take the latest age reversing compound, or efforts truly single minded and super human, for me to obtain the secure membership among my contemporaries for which I had longed my entire professional life.

But, back to the subject.

This article in the International Musician was, in a word, surprising. Did the collective of Local #17, or any other AF of M Local realize that, in accordance with the rules and regulations in place to govern symphony orchestras, the entire audition process was not even required?

Apparently, it was true. An orchestra’s artistic director could bypass this process, completely, and appoint musicians – to any number of seats within the ensemble each season. In fact, the thrust of the article’s thesis was an intent to present this debate: did musicians have to spend grueling hours and submit to the knuckle whitening, live evaluation of every gesture and breath, in order to secure a professional orchestral contract?

That question was posed just shy of ten years ago.

Many an orchestral audition has been held, over the past decade, since that magazine article went to press. One speculates, as did the writer of the article: how many orchestras have simply gone through the motions, submitting their available vacancies to the International Musician and hosting official auditions, when the decision to appoint was already made? And, how many – from executive, down to the latest musical protege – have been privy to such a potential decision?

The corporate world, as the Rev. Charles Brock recently intoned in print, has become our society’s idol. We have bowed to elitist, administrative control over the masses like Haitians, in line for flour and water. Efforts to break Unions, in place to protect the rights and fair practices toward subordinates, have become ubiquitous. And the brainchild of its era, Total Quality Management, still gives lip service to the most earnest and powerless while dismissing their inherent value like so many dropped beats.

The issue isn’t just what appears in an old magazine, anymore.

We need to return to a life of professional transparency.

The Greatest Generation called this “honor”.

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© 3/13/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights those of the author, a seasoned professional, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting rights inherent to human dignity.

littlebarefeetblog.com   *below is an image of an article which bears a slightly different title, as sent to me by the AF of M per August 2009 issue: (although, curiously, it bears a date of September 25 2015 in the Google search)……I had extracted the article from my copy of the issue, and cannot find it to prove that what appears below matches what I remember reading.

Working Musician

A Look at Both Sides of the Audition Process

by Nathan Kahn, Negotiator, AFM Symphonic Services Division

All orchestral audition candidates are looking for the same thing in the audition circuit: a fair chance to compete for a symphonic position, and to be treated as a professional in the process. On the other side of the process, audition committee members and orchestra management encounter their own set of challenges. An understanding of the issues each side faces will promote a more fair and enjoyable audition process for everyone.

Challenges for Candidates:

Expenses—Whereas job candidates in other professions are often reimbursed for their interview travel expenses, that is certainly not the case with symphonic auditions. I have yet to hear of any symphonic orchestra who pays the expenses of preliminary round candidates. However, many orchestras do pay the travel expenses for finalists called back to audition in final rounds.

Orchestras may even require audition candidates to send a deposit check. As long as the candidate shows up on audition day, the check will be returned or destroyed.

Audition scheduling—Suppose you open your copy of International Musician and find that there are five forthcoming and very desirable orchestra violin vacancy auditions, and all of them are scheduled for the exact same day. This happens more often than you might think. To minimize this problem, the AFM Symphonic Services Division maintains an audition scheduling website for AFM orchestra personnel managers. This service is free of charge and benefits both the candidates and the orchestras. If your AFM orchestra’s personnel manager has not yet availed themselves of this service, please have him/her contact me at nkahn@afm.org.

Just getting in the front door—Getting admitted to an audition can be almost as challenging as the audition itself. While there is no AFM bylaw that requires any orchestra to grant a live audition to union members, the AFM can sometimes assist candidates who are seeking acceptance to an audition by convincing personnel managers and audition committees to hear “just one more.” Appearing at an audition without having been invited, although some candidates still insist on doing this, will get you nowhere and is strongly discouraged.

Audition conditions and requirements— Audition candidates have the right to warm-up and audition in an environment that is sufficiently comfortable and that is free of any considerable distractions. Candidates should not be expected to put their instruments in any type of weather-related danger, or to spend excessive amounts of money on difficult-to-acquire music.

The Audition Committee View:

The process of filling a vacant seat varies widely among orchestras, but these are some factors that management takes into consideration:

Whether to hold an audition—The audition committee must first decide whether or not to hold an audition. In lieu of a live audition, some orchestras may decide to appoint a certain musician who, for example, may have performed successfully with the orchestra in the past. They can do this through a previously negotiated “appointment” procedure within the orchestra’s collective bargaining agreement, or by some other mutual agreement between the audition/orchestra committees in conjunction with their local union and the management.

I often get complaints from audition candidates demanding that the AFM should “force” the orchestra to have a competitive audition for a position. There is no requirement that any orchestra hold a live audition for any vacancy, unless otherwise specified in the orchestra’s collective bargaining agreement. Even then, the audition/orchestra committees in conjunction with their local union and the management could agree to waive that requirement.

In some instances, a group or an individual will try to force the local orchestra to hold a competitive live audition when the prevailing sentiment was to appoint a certain person. This only results in the orchestra going through a farce of an audition where no one is hired and the original appointment proceeds regardless, wasting the time, energy, talent, and money of audition candidates.

How to screen the candidates—If the audition committee does decide to hold an audition, they must also decide how large a field of candidates to seek. Some orchestras want to hear every candidate who applies, while others may specify in their advertisement that they will only hear “a limited group of highly qualified candidates.” In such circumstances, it is much less likely that the AFM can assist in getting someone admitted to the audition if the audition committee has refused to grant them a live audition.

Some orchestra vacancy advertisements include the following language: “The Audition Committee reserves the right to immediately dismiss from the audition any candidates who do not exhibit the highest professional performance level at these auditions.” These orchestras want to hear as many candidates as possible, but their time is limited. A candidate will often complain that he/she was cut off one minute or less into the audition. I refer the candidate back to that statement in the advertisement; it means what it says.

Scheduling auditions times for candidates—One method for audition scheduling is to assign a window of time to an entire group of candidates, and then have the candidates draw lots to determine the order in which they audition. While this tends to alleviate the problem of time flexibility for the audition committee, it has the opposite effect on the candidates. Some candidates may have to perform their audition with little or no warm-up time, while others may be forced to wait around for hours.

The other method is to assign specific audition times for each candidate. There are, at least, two problems with this approach. First, audition committees complain that such a tight schedule prevents them from hearing as much as they would like in order to be able to make an informed decision. Second, is the problem of no-shows: musicians who have been assigned an audition time, and for whatever reason, fail to appear. When multiple no-shows occur, personnel managers must either round up other candidates to fill in the empty time slots or require the audition committee to wait for extended periods of time for the next group of candidates to appear.

Recurring auditions for the same position— Sometimes an audition is inconclusive. Perhaps the voting procedure in the audition process failed to produce enough votes to select a winning candidate, or perhaps no candidate was deemed qualified for the orchestra. In these cases, the orchestra reserves the right to continue to hold auditions until a successful candidate is engaged.

Use or non-use of screens—In the 1970s, the Saint Louis Symphony and the Boston Symphony started using screens to protect the identity of the candidates, and many other orchestras followed suit. Now, it seems that more orchestras are reversing course and removing screens in the audition process, since some audition committees and music directors have expressed that they feel the need to see, as well as hear, the candidates. Neither the AFM, nor the Code of Ethical Audition Practices, takes any position on the use of screens. That determination is made on the local level; often through the collective bargaining process.

Fixed auditions—Proving that an audition outcome was predetermined is extremely difficult, and investigations are often inconclusive or show that the orchestra’s collective bargaining agreement, in fact, allows for what may appear to be a “fixed” result. For example, some collective bargaining agreements automatically advance musicians who have successfully subbed with the orchestra, who have reached a certain level of professional experience on their résumés, or who may have been in the finals of a previous audition in this or some other orchestra.

When it can be demonstrated that a predetermined audition did occur, the local union, combined with the AFM, works to get candidates reimbursed for at least their travel expenses.

Playing Fair

As competition for some orchestral positions increases, so should vigilance on the part of local unions and their audition committees to uphold the highest standards of ethics and integrity in the conduct of auditions. At the same time, candidates should be aware of the difficulties in taking auditions and should understand that not every orchestra is willing and able to grant a live audition to all who may apply, even with the AFM’s assistance to candidates who may request it.

Musicians who have symphony audition complaints should contact the AFM Symphony Audition Complaint Hotline at 719-520-3288 or send an e-mail to nkahn@afm.org. All complaints are handled anonymously, unless the nature of the complaint would require identity.

To view the Code of Ethical Audition Practices, approved in 1984 by the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), the Major Orchestra Managers Conference (MOMC), and the AFM, visit www.icsom.org/miscellany/auditioncode.html.

 

 

Me, to the Second Power.

 

Tarana Burke is coming to Penn State Behrend during Holy Week.

She travels the country, speaking up as the founder of the me, too. movement.

I have a church gig that night, but it should work out for me to finish my offering on cello, pack up, and head across town to catch the back half with the other girls.

The thing about being sexually harassed, violated, or assaulted is that there are no witnesses. If you reveal yourself as the victim, you have to rely exclusively on your prior reputation, so established, and the trust of those who have known you forever.

When you tell your truth, publicly, it can feel like you’ve stepped onto the surface of another planet. Many don’t want to hear stories like yours. It reminds them of things they don’t want to think about, like how one isolated event can ruin an entire life.

But, this meeting, while open to the public, will probably only be attended by those who’ve been there. Girls, like me, who seek their own kind. Fools, all, gullible and vulnerable, feeling alternately stupid, humiliated, and many still as pained when they are reminded. How did we know one encounter would alter the course of everything?

We will meet each other. Strength, in numbers, and in emotional support. If you live where I do, and you know this open wound, come to the meeting. 7:30 pm, April 17, McGarvey Commons, Behrend Campus, Penn State University.

Thank you, Tarana Burke. You started it. Let’s find a way to finish it.

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© 3/11/19  Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

Polar Bears.

[*formerly entitled: The Tail of Winter.]
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Boscov’s had chocolate.
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Upstairs, above the endless racks of merch ( likely special purchases from the south that didn’t sell ) three whole glass cases of it, at least a third of which: gluten free. I’d been craving since 3:30 pm, and this was the tail of winter, the flagellate, whipping us into a frenzy on the final frigid night of the year.
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Parking lot nearly empty, normally packed to the gills during the day and across the weekend, it was Thursday night, the cusp, and see above. I’d fought the craving for over four hours. At 8:02, time enough to get there before closing, the flush of rationale; hustling into the store with one other straggly woman, braving the ascending escalator, straight ahead I saw them: not confections — end of season sheet sets. My having just ordered a dog print flat and pillow shams from catalog for a resounding 93 bucks, these fleece for 19.99 tempted redemption. Grabbing a King of pale blue polar bears, I rounded the corner of packaged displays to the candy counter.
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She was stooped over the open rear of the fudge case, sweeping crumbs into a tray, when I called out. A short, ponytailed woman with a Latino accent and what would be a penchant for calling me “honey”, she had a cold.
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This, of course, was God. This was his reprimand for my weak, sniveling sin of the flesh. He would let me have the desires of my heart, but send leanness to my soul. I would eat a bag of chocolate, but be exposed to a virus likely potent enough to cause pneumonia and a reactivation of the chicken pox. I would get shingles, followed by post-herpetic neuralgia, and be in excruciating pain for the rest of my life.
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In reality, selecting thirteen pieces with sugar and two without, I’d pay for everything, take the elevator down to the first floor because of descending escalator PTSD and head home in the solitary dark.
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The cold. The God forsaken dripping nose. The two sugar free were packed in their own box; I could tear open the end, where she didn’t touch, and pull one almond bark out for the car.
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So as not to break the last, number six stainless wire of orthodontia, I went for the first bite with two molars, rear left. Coasting down Peach Street, I thought of every diabetic I’d ever known and how relatively grateful they’d be to be eating something shaped right that sort of felt recognizable under the teeth. Like some chocolate with your carnauba wax? Anyone?
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But, the total price was gnawing. $34. 95? for a box of chocolate? Not even Suzanne Somers charged that much for her cancer-safe creations.
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She’d said, albeit nasally, that the sugar free was 19.95, honey, and the regular 17.95. I’d always let mum do the math. And, money was no object to addiction. But, mum was gone now, for almost twenty years, leaving me quite adrift when it came to tallying up indulgences, let alone the flat out mortal variety.
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Pulling up to the curb, I crawled out, locking the driver door, and headed in. Dispensing with the bag would prevent transmission of the virus to the edibles within. Reaching the kitchen sink, I grabbed a plastic container and poured the bag’s contents into it. Even under the LED track lighting, this stuff was the shit; dry, faded, even the white peppermint bark lacking luster, I stared at thirty four dollars of specialty confection and felt nauseous. The girl who’d called me honey had ripped me off. At this price, there should have been twice as much candy.
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After one phone call to the Boscov’s operator and the courtesy desk, I was already out the door. I-79 was a bleak vista at this hour, but a straight shot back to the mall. I’d find a manager. No; I’d confront her, quietly. No; I’d get the courtesy desk, which “didn’t know anything about the candy, let me put you through to can —” No; I’d say nothing – just dump it out, onto the counter.
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Maybe the caffeine, theobromine, maltitol had created a synergy. Maybe the dark highway, and me alone on it. But, I began to follow a different train, one which took me deeply into the psyche of the candy woman. She had a family, at least some children. She made minimum wage, working the candy counter. She was a first generation immigrant,  and she was sick.
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Just ahead of the parking spot closest to the Boscov’s entrance, I’d resolved my intention; I would speak confidentially, my voice hushed. We’d be the only two who knew what had been done, and I’d tell no one else. She needed to feed her family. And, she could have the chocolate. The receipt had indicated 9.95 for two “seasonal” candy purchases; she’d falsely categorized my purchase, too. There was the 19.99, and a grand total of 34…….my lungs filled with the purest air, swelling my chest with a powerful self righteousness that could have been true goodness on a better day.
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Then, I spied them. Sitting on the front seat. The pale blue polar bears, dancing across their fleece sheets inside the plastic see through case with the PAID sticker on it. And, mum, faintly, speaking from the world beyond, calculating out loud again, rising vocal inflections reaching the slightly hysterical, and me, seated again at the corner of the kitchen table against the wall, feet over the heat vent as she “helped” me with my math word problems. Now, listen to me!!! Nine ninety five plus nineteen ninety nine for the seasonal sheet set equals: $34.95 !!!
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My foot was still on the brake pedal.
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Turning the key in the ignition, I thanked my own for saving me, as by fire, from public humiliation and full on, single mother first generation immigrant retaliation. Every scenario ever devised by my oppressively overactive imagination converged, in a flood of expulsion. Thrust back into the present, I flew down Interchange Road to the interstate, stuffing chocolate absolution into my gullet like a starving Biafran.
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The candy was disgusting.
I’d been whipped by addiction, for the last time.
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Boscov’s had nothing on epiphany.
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© 3/7/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.