RIPLEY – Believe It, Or Not.

 

The host in Miami was Peruvian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The host was immediately accessible. He had provided a cell number, for use texting any concerns, as had the host from Manhattan. Entering the digits into my addressbook, I couldn’t help noting that the NYC host’s number was still there. And, I marveled yet again at this world-wide, yet present in the palm of the hand, travel agency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I stepped forward, leaning my head toward the room. “Hello…?” I tried. “Hello…..?”

A small terrier came tearing around the corner from the room where the voices had been heard, yipping menacingly and heading directly toward me. I turned, trying to get away, just as a tall, broad shouldered man appeared and followed behind.

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

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

And, then I introduced myself.

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

” GET OFF MY PROPERTY!!!!DON’T YOU THREATEN MY FAMILY!!!!!GET OFF MY PROPERTY!!!!’

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

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

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

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

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

I saw nobody.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two and a half hours later, after a phone conversation with a state trooper who had never heard of AirB&B, two of these finally pulled into the bank parking lot. The younger was the officer who had heard my story by phone; the elder, whose face was flushed like someone who could either use a drink or be well on his way toward the next one, in the full authority of his seniority expected me to recount the whole thing one more time. My presence had interrupted his day, they had both traveled all the way from Fredonia, and he was in no mood to defend a single, 60 year old woman in workout clothing driving a 2008 Pontiac with a PA license.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know about that. I’ve been to Ripley, NY.

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watching the Gladiolas Die.

 

[first draft]

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Watching the gladiolas die

Each branch, straining away from the other

Like the handwriting of a psychotic.

Blossoms, closest to the vase, drooping first

Those furthest away spiking, like thorns do

Defying the spine-curling sigh.

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

Spanish Peanuts.

 

LAST CHAPTER.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

Butchie.

Butchie'sBowl

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Butchie stepped in right behind me.

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

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

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

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

I asked him to sit at the nearby piano.

He refused.

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

I stared at him.

And, I never, ever found out why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

Marshall’s.

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

Mrs. Diehl.

Erie, Pennsylvania has been straining, lately.

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

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

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

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

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

But, Mrs. Diehl had lived a generation before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erie, Pennsylvania could use just such recognition and encouragement.

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Spies.

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

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

That said, allow me.

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

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

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

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

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

So, there.

Factor that one up your faux ass.

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

That Good Part.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Hinge.

[ final draft ]

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Take your hand off her shoulder

You

With the empathy of a brass hinge

Playing spine

To one grand plank

Of solid mahogany

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Were the door

To have her way

Such massive progeny of tree

Wood

Not to be cut

And hung

As subject

To the pushing and slamming

Of lesser living

Would choose

The wall.

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You

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Up against the wall.

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

littlebarefeet@msn.com

“The Most Recent Piano Trio.”

It’s almost impossible to believe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At this moment, the gift awaits.

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

When:  Friday, February 10, 2017

What time:  7:30 pm.

Where: Luther Memorial Church, Erie PA.

Extra parking in the West 11th lot.

Epilogue:

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

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

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 2/9/17

littlebarefeetblog.com

Betsy.

 

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

Perhaps you have also known such an one.

QUALITIES:

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

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

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

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Vive la difference!

Play on, thou minstrels – play on!

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

The Corner.

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The new set up finally felt right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Shed.

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CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

How Shall We Know?

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Michael Gerson has an established history as a public commentator. His most recent article appears in The Washington Post. Its subject: Julian Assange.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is serious allegation.

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

Censorship [edited].

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

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Dear Readers,

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

I am a home owning, tax paying American professional.

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

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

Does the thought of viewing this video scare you?

Why, or why not?

Don’t be.

Watch, and listen; then, repeat.

And — don’t shoot the messenger.

Thanks.

littlebarefeetblog.com

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

What Happened, 2016?

 

None of us can say what happened.

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

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

One day at a time!

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

Happy 2017!

Your fellow blogger,  Ruth Ann Scanzillo

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

Jay Badams.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo    12/20/16

Quiet Men.

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I like quiet men.

But, there are three kinds.

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The Shy Boy.

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

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

The Snake.

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

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

The Spy.

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

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

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I’m sorry. Were you speaking to me?

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****

So.

Boys…….

…….who are you?

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Let’s guess.

😉

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

Pittsburgh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

We Are So Small.

 

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

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

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

“Close proximity.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family.

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fathers’

mothers;

sisters;

brothers’

wives;

husband’s

lives;

other’s

   sin.

     .

  judge,

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   jury;

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     next of kin.

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

WordPress.com won’t let me edit!

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

It freezes.

I force quit.

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

The edit template will NOT let me in.

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

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

You’re kidding. Right?

Ruth Ann Scanzillo  littlebarefeetblog.com

p.s. Safari: same.

The Truth.[ edited]

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

“We have The Truth.”

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But, of course, they didn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

This confidence was uninformed.

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

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

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

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

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

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Few shared my passion.

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

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

I was among their prime targets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please visit littlebarefeetblog.com

To the Third Power.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

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

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

Sincerity has an indefinable ring to it.

Like a well worn song, it is always recognizable.

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

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

Bernie had it, until he was shut down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

Evolution and Christians of The Alphabetical Order.

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps it was time to count sheep.

I began with the letter A.

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

B  — Baptists; Brethren, Church of;

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

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

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

F — Federated Free; Franciscans; Fundamentalists;

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

H — Holiness Pentecostals; Holy Eastern Orthodox;

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

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

K — Knights Templar;

L — Laodiceans; Latter Day Saints; Lutherans;

M — Mennonites; Methodists; Mormons, Reformed;

N — Nazarenes; New Apostolics; non-Denominationalists;

O — Open Brethren; Orthodox Greeks;

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

Q — Quakers;

R — Roman Catholics; Reformed, so called;

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

T — Theologians, Academic; Thessalonians;

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

V — Vatican, The;

W — Wesleyan Methodists; Worldwide Church of God;

X — Xmas Celebrants;

Y — Youth Pastors;

Z — Zionists!

.

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

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

Almost Done.

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CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

She’d made a little list.

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

What Got Done at 2201. (in 2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

What is RSSING.COM, and Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruth Ann Scanzillo, author, littlebarefeetblog.com

The Promise.

 

I promised myself to you

For a life spent, I and thou.

I promised you my honor

In deep reverence for the Lord.

.

Committed to my promise

But, not really knowing how

To keep this promised promise

And, to be of one accord

.

I knelt before a witness

Made a promise keeping vow

And, for my one kept promise

I was promised a reward.

.

So, I will keep my promise

Although life with me is fraught

I’m in this thing to win it

Whether you like it or not.

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

Email.

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Working for over a decade at the elementary school furthest west, on the district cut off between city and upscale suburb, I became accustomed to being told: “Think before you speak.” The leading admonishment was usually: “Sometimes you come across as ‘harsh’.”

On that side of town, this was code for Being Italian-American.

Typically stating my case without fear, and preferring to do so in person I think it was 1997 before, finally caving, I joined the generic introverts’ preferred mode: the Internet. But, even then, uncertain about losing locus of control I chose a medium that, while touted as cutting edge by the guys at Kinkos, would prove – like myself – the least attractive to the hip and swanky – Web TV.

During that short lived phase of technological indoctrination, every thought which heretofore had escaped my lips transferred into this strange new “room”, all but silent except for the inane background underscoring of electronic Erik Satie.

I was soon addicted to the red dot which signaled New Mail, appearing on the small black box perched atop its Sony 27 inch. And, late into the evening, anyone driving past the long forgotten, wide open levelors could see me, keyboard on lap, staring across the livingroom at my very own words traveling in light blue font across the blackened screen of the television.

Words. Within a year, I would become their first victim.

So easy it was to send out a behind scene query to a colleague. Even easier to tell the whole story, when prompted, in reply. By the end of what would burgeon into a life altering episode, I’d become the subject of private meetings, pointed discussion, calculated betrayal and, ultimately, the villain in a scenario which would threaten to bring down both my professional life and the public image of my entire family.

Attorneys. Board Presidents. Urgent phone calls, on Hallowe’en night, bearing sobering warnings. Hysteria. Emotional terror.

All because of emails. Emails, sent; emails, received. Then, emails printed, and distributed. Words. Just words, now on paper, never to be retracted.

No option for apologies, either. Unlike outbursts of anger, which can often be dismissed with a hug and a couple tears, these printed testaments had taken on a life of their own. They would bear witness to me, and those with whom I had chosen to associate, to those whom I had never even met.

None of us will ever know what Hillary Clinton said in print, or to whom, unless the FBI releases that email record into the public domain. The thought of this happening makes me shudder with familiar recall. I may be the loudmouthed Italian girl with no filter, offensive to some and the object of ridicule by others, but words in print have become the most formidable weapon of our age. Perhaps we had all better realize just how powerfully they speak for themselves.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo    10/29/16      All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for leaving them here.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Brother Girls.[final edit]

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You’ll find us, easily.  We stand out, in a crowd, even when we’re sitting down.

We’re the girls who are seen out with one guy, who isn’t our boyfriend, for dinner.

Or, drinks. Or, in meetings. Or, in church. Or, at the concert, or the game, or wherever people spend any time at all together.

We’re the lone ladies who come from a family of boys. We’re the Brother Girls.

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I grew up in a brother “sandwich”: one older; one younger. They were quite far apart in age, but the younger was born only two years after me and, because our family was poor without realizing it (thanks to Mum), my little brother and I shared a bedroom until I was 10 years old.

Yes. We talked in the dark, across the room. We heard each other’s secrets, longings, and troubles – just like two sisters. (This, I found out from my girl cousins, a couple of whom lived around the corner and across the street.)

He and I would observe our elder brother, from the distance of age and experience, his activities and escapades filling us with wonder and admiration. I became aware of my little brother’s feelings toward our elder brother, and how they differed from those of my own as sister to each of them.

I learned the art of the boy.

But, as we grew, and encountered puberty, what made us distinct became both more apparent and less amenable to such closeness in proximity. Nevertheless, our emotional dynamics, and the patterns which would shape them, would be set forever.

I believe that women who grow up surrounded only by brothers have a perspective on human relationship specific to the needs of the opposite sex which may elude families of sisters. To many girls, their fathers are their model for the role men will play in their lives; to those with brothers, the models are as varied as the number of boys in the house.

Furthermore, in the absence of other girls, the sister to brothers has a relationship with their mother which is distinguishable from that of the brothers with the same mother. More on that, in a bit.

Brother Girls. We are, first and foremost, comfortable around men. We relax when they enter the room. Generally, they make us feel “at home.” We tend to treat them as familiar to us, even when we haven’t been formally introduced. To others, women with sisters, men without sisters, this behavior might seem forward, or driven by a need to dominate. It isn’t; it’s just our habit.

Men without sisters, for whom girls have played a more distant role ( not having been a part of their family’s ethos) prefer to idolize women. They place a set of expectations upon them, based in the model of their mothers, which are often subjected to disillusion. But, women who crave feeling special, in this way, perhaps due to neglect or trauma, seem nearly perfect for such men.

A brother girl, however, may squirm under the gaze of adoration. Such body language may even provoke from us an amused chuckle. We are far too wise about ourselves, and them, to buy into this brand of fawning. Burping and farting are far more easily tolerated than milky eyeballing and flattery.

(Important to include, here, would be those whose mothers have had a negative affect on men’s lives. In this case, and sadly, misogyny rules the roost.)

Brothers who had one sister may always need to be close to women. Additionally, upon marrying they may confuse the role of wife with that of mother, and continue to seek out the company of other women in search of their newly absent sister.

Why?

The lone sister plays the role of confidante in the lives of her brothers. She learns that their needs are both deep, sometimes confounding, and often persistently unmet. In turn, she learns that mutual revelations are bonding, and is more than ready to forge these. I will not reveal in this forum what I have both been told by my brothers, nor what I have disclosed to them, but I can say that no topic has either been off limits or alarming. It’s as if the brother and sister can confront anything, and that fearlessly.

Now, girls with sisters who are reading this piece might be reaching peak saturation annoyance. They may be thinking: “I have the very same relationship with my sister as you do with your brother.”   Right. Of course. Who’s arguing?

I might. I might suggest that, while similar, they are not parallel. Men and women, countless studies keep implying, do not think the same way. They view neither themselves nor the world identically, either. After all, society’s constructs dictate much of their response, and the history of gender bias in the workplace speaks for itself. No. Brothers need sisters not only to make sense of their feelings; they need them to make sense of their role in the lives of women.

In truth, every permutation of gender in any family dynamic has its pros and cons. In addition, the role of negative and positive influence cannot be ignored. But, I offer this piece from an informed perspective; how I view men is directly the result of my experience with those who lived in my family.

But, what of girls without brothers? Here, I can only speculate. Perhaps a lone girl without a brother forever subjects herself to men, either with joy due to having had a loving father, or with reluctance and fear for the opposite reason. However, in families of many sisters, the league of women may rise and overtake the father’s role, leading to future relationships between such sisters and their husbands marked by female domination of such total affect so as to render the men, at least at home, virtually subservient. I know this, because my mother was one of four sisters.

Now, I would be remiss were I to end this piece without addressing the dynamic between brother girls and other women.

Sister siblings, and brother girls, in the spirit of compatibility, are the least congruous. They have completely different views of men, and play equally distinct roles in the lives of men. Furthermore, because of their blind spot with regard to relating to each other’s experience, they tend to judge one another – and, somewhat harshly.

Brother girls tend to view sister siblings’ relationships with men as immature, lacking in insight or empathy. And, sister women likely see brother girls as a threat to the security of their own culture of female dominance. To them, brother girls don’t care enough about people, or children, nor do they possess any social finesse. And, the fact that their husbands disagree with them about such women is a source of contention and strife.

It may be true that brother girls appear to care more about men than women. But, this may be nourished by a cocktail of familiarity and experience; we are, after all, what we know and, increasingly, who we know. I, for one, have had a lifelong problem trusting women; yet, perhaps it is only sister siblings to whom I am reacting in this way.

I do know that I adore men, men of every type and persuasion. From the vantage point within my brother sandwich, I learned to value their dry wit, fierce intellect, brute strength, and inventive resourcefulness. From my father, I learned to desire creative genius and musical gift. And, from our mother, I learned that a woman should never be either subject or ruler.

So, brother girls, unite; we are, after all, in league with the canines. We are man’s best friend.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  10/27/16    *inspired by Margaret Andraso, who takes credit for the title. All other rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above these two lines.  Thank you, boys.  ❤

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Anesthesiologist.

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Bow tie underneath a grin

Peeking out as he looks in

To greet the body

Waiting for

His recipe for making sleep.

The anesthesiologist

Keeps a special, secret list

Of pills to feed the

Patient who,

Hallucinating mucous plugs

Devouring microscopic bugs,

Decides

that he is just a creep.

.

.

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

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo    10/23/16      All rights for lame poetry those of the author, whose name appears above this line.  Thank you for the disregard.

littlebarefeetblog.com

An Independent Candidate.

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

How about we take precedence one step further.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps this might generate an outcome unprecedented in our time.

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

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ERIE, PA.

Erie, PA is an anomaly. You should visit.

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

And, when I say “perfect”, I mean it.

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

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

Yet, we are a distressed city. Go figure.

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

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

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

So, if you are a visionary, come.

If you are a city planner, come.

If you are an environmentalist, come.

If you are an investor, please come.

Yes. Come visit.

We need you.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo     10/13/16

littlebarefeetblog.com

I SEE COLOR!

“How did you learn to draw like that?”

That was the [ unanswerable ] question.

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

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

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

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

To an artist, every magnificent human being reveals:

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

Yes.

And, color of skin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

Pittsburgh Symphony Musicians Take Charge!

Ahoy!

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

THE MEMBERS OF THE ORCHESTRA HAVE CHOSEN TO PERFORM, ANYWAY!

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

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

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

We are there.

SOLIDARNOSC.

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

AF OF M LOCAL #17.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: It Was Supposed To Be A Party.

 

Dear Social Media:

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

.

It’s been 7 years. Is this the itch?

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

Good Stuff:

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

  • New friends, some special and close;

  • Community Bulletin Board announcements, including:

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

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

  • Promotion of performance based events;

Not So Good Stuff:

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

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

  • Political proselytizing, not always fact-based;

  • Passive-aggressive verbal warfare;

  • Flat out braggadocio;

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

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

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

The Interpretation

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

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

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

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Walking Dead.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Soon, we may be permitted knowledge of her identity.

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

But, a word, please.

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

This is a war mentality.

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

FEAR.

 

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

Fear drives anger.

And, anger is usually expressed as aggression.

Hence, aggressive behavior is fear-based.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And, all because of being scared to death.

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

 

 

 

Mercury Retrograde.

Man, Alive.

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

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

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

Done. No casualties.

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

Peebles’ coupons.

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

Oh; but, they have clothes.

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

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

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

[Mercury, Retrograde.]

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

Driver’s License, please?

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

Could it be stuck at the sunglasses appointment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re out of gas.”

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

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

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

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

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

I haven’t.

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

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

I take the truck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, a believer?

You had better believe it.

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

“How Delicious.”

 

— a poem.

 

How exciting it is

To curl up and watch a catastrophe on TV

Especially when it cancels work.

 

How delicious it is

To make a joke out of someone else’s confusion

Exchanging glances and a smirk.

 

How absolving it is

To scapegoat somebody to cover your transgression

Earning another social perk.

 

How important it is

To be the one whom everybody else thinks is cute

Except when you’re really the jerk.

 

— from “Bad Poems About People”  Volume I.

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

 

 


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

littlebarefeetblog.com

Toni Dillon.

 

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

Such was the case with our Toni Dillon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toni was the first person who came to mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Commit. Succeed.”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Commit. Succeed.”

tonidilloncommitsucceed2016

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

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

tonidilloncommitangel

 

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

Joe Rozler.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Rozler.

The American songbird.

Buffalo Hall of Fame.

Buffalo, New York.

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

Lipidinous.

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

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

At all.

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

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

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

So, dutifully, I’d fasted the 12.

The results, from August 3rd:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So — in Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

….all this…….in less than one MONTH!

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

Speculations Worth Noting:

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

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

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

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

“Woodshedding”.

 

It’s called woodshedding for a reason.

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

Music, not meant to be heard?

Oh, my dears.

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

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

The woodshed?

Hardly. Doors open, baby.

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

But, what of [mere] beauty?

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

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

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

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

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

With the windows open.

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

 

 

Endurance.

 

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

No; not an English collectible.

A dog.

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

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

I remember Nero.

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

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

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

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

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

I cried for three days.

And, I did not forget that grief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

Figuring.

FigureGesture2016FigureRear2016FigureRearStanding2016FigureRearEnd2016FigureSeated2016First3minGesture2:2016

FigureFacingRear2016

Conte and pressed charcoal on newsprint

 

 

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

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

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

“A Rose, By Any Other Name…”

The view from the porch at 2201, after aphids, heavy rain, and Japanese beetles…..

Mosaic arranged by the website template…..

…but, incredibly, every individual photo captured by an LG Trac “flip” phone.

Photographer: yours, truly.

Thanks for visiting – !

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All photos © Ruth Ann Scanzillo    7/8/17   Please, respect the rights of artists. Be a good person; thieves eat their karma. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com