There are three of us left who use them.
We love their portability. They even fit in the back pocket of a ghetto butt in jeans.
And, they take a spectacular photograph.
The I-Phones are in their, what, sixth or eighth incarnation? They’re supposed to be so “smart”, but somebody keeps making them bigger and better. They talk back. They respond to voice commands, the little robots.
But, take this. You just think you have a telephone.
You don’t. It isn’t.
It’s just a little thief, in a radioactive frame.
And, the thing has the power to take over your very life.
I’m one of those they always called an “artist”. With an old fashioned, hard formed tool, I draw. On paper, no less. In a nearly single gesture of beveled Conte, I plan to keep newsprint from going belly up. See, give me a stylus, with a real core of graphite; mine is a concrete world, using stuff you can actually hold in your hand until you’re ready to put it down.
The last time I tried to send a text on a “smart” phone, there were so many altered parts of speech my thought was rendered unintelligible. I couldn’t even use an expletive for effect; the little beggar had other plans. Insufferable plagiarist.
But, what really sends me screaming for the actual hills is the swipe.
With one casual brush, just one fleeting nudge, everything you think you just said or did can vanish.
And, you won’t even quite know what or how or where it went. The previous window? Check “history”? Even if it is to be finally retrieved, there is no denying: at any moment, you can be staring down utter blankness. This devil device can shut black, with no warning at all.
And, that is the demon.
Because, even when you can get the thing to say what you mean, or make what you put into it, and you even save to print well, let me tell you, from the invisible realm there are no guarantees. If they can let you make it, they can take it. Yah. You think you always knew what an original could be. Trust me; only your smart phone knows, for sure.
So, call me. Text me. Send me a link. I’ll open my little flipper, and accept it. And, worthy of my save file, I’ll keep whatever you send me. Indefinitely. Just like I’ll keep pressing the tiny buttons which represent the alphabet I learned when I was four. I like the kind of reality I can pinch with my own finger and thumb.
Better to touch what’s really there.
And, hold on.
© 1/6/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, who lives in real skin, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting reality.
Lisa worked in advertising.
Big, commercial advertising.
She was a music producer for Ogilvy & Mather WW, in midtown Manhattan.
And, she’d been my college housemate.
I can remember the accounts. Winter Olympics. Huggies Disposable Diapers. And, the piece de resistance: Folger’s Coffee…..the first, serial ad in anybody’s memory, complete with installments which brought a sweet couple together forever ( everybody hoped.) Hardly a word ever spoken. Just that knock on the door; a lot of deep, eye gazing; and, the music, underscoring the whole story.
Lisa was always quiet around people. Like, silent. Applied music/flute morphing into a degree in sound, she was an aural learner, storing endless loops of tunes and calling them to mind in an instant. Rising to rank after assisting Faith, who retired to open a B&B in Santa Fe, her working girl day began with meetings. The video would either already be complete, or clients sat at table describing what they envisioned. Within minutes, Lisa would have several ideas, heading to the agency library to pull four or five reels for their perusal. One chosen, the edit would begin.
She performed all this grandly important work in the name of international (they had offices in London and LA, as well) product presentation. And I, her loyal housemate all those years prior, wondered with admiration and pride. There would never be a TV ad, from that point until the big layoff after her David was born, that didn’t pique my attention and respect.
Last week, CNN was drumming along in the background as I finished the pre-holiday preparations. These days, what with the new pause and rewind options provided by cable, I was wont to mute and FF when the commercials kicked in.
But, this one caught me.
A certain, familiar insurance company having dispensed with its inane gecko for the holidays, the goofy lizard had been displaced by two humanoids. Seated shoulder to back on a laminate floor, faux [ electrically flickering ] fireplace behind, equally faux brass poke and stoke set alongside, laminate paneling, the gushing couple faced camera holding drinks. The only notable feature of the man being his Persian blue contac lenses, the woman by contrast was bedecked: polyester ski sweater over a starched, button down shirt, outsized faux coral hoop earrings, haircut overgrown just enough to have required large rollers for shape, jeans and, just as the camera pulled back – knee high, faux leather, heeled boots.
Their only dialogue byte to pull me out of my stream of subconscious was a reference to “starring in a real commercial”. Might it have been the angle of her jaw, or the artificial lilt in her voice? I stared, momentarily, at her face. Suddenly, it all came together.
Perhaps I’d taken one too many cheap flight connections from Detroit to parts east. Maybe fussed just a bit too much getting strapped onto my seat in coach. But, somebody was watching. Somebody who’d replaced one of Lisa’s coworkers in video all those years ago. I didn’t have to take any bait, from GEICO or anybody else. Somebody, as I stood in the shoot waiting for my orange ductape labeled Travelocity carry on, saw me and said: “Ope. There she is. There’s our girl.”
Cheese is a favorite of mine. I like them all. Brie; Havarti; Colby Jack; Muenster; Feta; Goat; New York Sharp. If you need cheese, or cheesy, just call me. I’ll be sitting by the phone, branded, waiting for the role of your lifetime.
c 1/1/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, somebody who looks exactly like the person she isn’t, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material.
It takes all kinds.
And, I’m glad to say so.
What if we were all reticent and deferential? In America, we’d be stuck on a street corner, bowing and gesturing for the other to cross. Crowds would form. Traffic would stall. Chaos to commerce. Only the strong would survive. Finally, one lone person, likely among the shortest, would push through the throng and head across the road, shaking his or her head in disbelief at the inefficiency of it all. That would be the Italian.
For every proponent of tolerance, acceptance, and the next festival in celebration of diversity there’s an old Dago who sits, reading the paper and chuckling. Somebody brings him a sandwich. Talking with his mouth full, he’ll tell you what for. He knows. He’s Italian. We always do.
For the final decade of my twenty five in public education, I worked at an elementary school at the cusp of the county line. Demographically, there were few Italians living over there. True to their history in our town, the surviving generations were still maintaining their family homes closer to the center of the west side. I remember being told by my then very blonde and fair skinned boss that I was “a bit harsh.”
Nobody at the other school, over in Little Italy, would have called me by that moniker. Everybody who worked there or ran that building told it like it was. There was a happy extroversion in that climate. And, the faculty was the most cohesive social group in the entire city. I will never forget the night of my first all school program; there had to have been seven teachers there, all helping run herd, and they’d all organized entirely unsolicited by me. They were led by one woman. She was Italian.
For just under three years, I had a mother in law. She thought Italy was a third world country, and “loved my brown eyed grand children just as much as my blue eyed grandchildren.” Everybody tries, some more than others. But, we’re all different, it’s always easier to stay the way we are, and inherent bias is unavoidable. But, when you cross the line, the Italian will tell you so.
Well, back when civilization was trying to evolve beyond barbarism, there was a people who, though their motive was to establish power, were adept at assessing a situation, identifying its obstacles, and spending intelligent energy and willpower developing a solution. To expand their influence, roads were developed and constructed, the kind which could be traveled beyond the dusty sandal and walking stick. In fact, entire transport systems were created which ultimately established connections, yielding an increase in trade and cultural exchange. Prior to this, there were kings and their extended families, and land owners, and slaves, and the poor – the latter, in droves. These expanding road systems enabled pockets of civilization to become independent and self governing, by virtue of their access to resources which existed, well, down the road. These pockets became known as cities.
Yes. The very structure of workable American society is framed by transit routes and cities. And, we have the Romans, from Italy, to thank for it; their drive to achieve a dominating empire left behind what we now call infrastructure.
Oh, and the next time you look at something beautiful that did not occur in nature, take a moment. Be they paintings, sculpture, even cathedrals, much of the world’s most magnificent works of art were created by Italians. Inlaid tile. Stained glass. Frescoes. Even before Michelangelo and DaVinci, there were artisans. These swarthy, well oiled, slightly hairy brutes did their part to decorate the entire, known world. They frosted the cake.
Yes. Every human frailty eventually makes itself known. There is weakness, right along side strength. Nothing lasts forever, not empires, not even life. But, for every moment constrained by decorum, there will be an emergent crisis. Let’s be ready to thank the personality which steps up. That will, eight times out of ten, be the Italian.
From us, you will get candor. We’ll smile at you in public if you deserve it, and reprimand you in kind. You’ll always know where you stand, with us. We are as proud of our heritage as you are of yours, and we know one more thing. We know the value of preserving that history. We are a part of the greatest generation, in this country we call home, and you can call us by our name. It’s pronounced exactly the way it’s spelled.
© 12/22/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name is pronounced “Skan – ZILL – o”, and appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.
Between Roger Stone and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the eyes tell the story.
The first time I ever saw a fluke, my then husband and I were fishing off Mystic Point.
According to AnimalSake, the fluke is a member of the flatfishes. As these types lie low on their side at the bottom of the oceans, they express a freakish feature: both of their eyes appear on the left sides of their heads!
Such an eye position serves them critically. Found in the Atlantic, low on its undersurface, they blend with their environment where a mottled camouflage helps them to take their prey by surprise and hunt it down.
Fluke fish (photo credit: AnimalSake)
Never having so much as held a fishing pole, I took to this new pastime with gusto at my tender age of 34, finding the whole enterprise juvenating and the light, flaking meat delightfully mild.
But, though decades have passed since both my last fishing expedition and the marriage which began and ended it, the eyes of the fluke are these to which I now return.
It would seem that all life forms at any proximity to the grande unraveling in Washington, D.C. would do well to have eyes in the backs of their heads. No one has a clue what the leader of the free world will say or do next, only that all within range will be both duly shocked and awed by his baffling incongruity with law, order and any form of conventional governance.
Speaking of incongruity, take Press Secretary Sanders. I watch her keenly, every time she appears at podium to face the queries. Facial asymmetries notwithstanding, there is something about her eyes which sends me back to Mystic Point.
I’m in the boat, dropped anchor. Water laps quietly, on all sides. The tug on the line is almost imperceptible and, with a silent woosh, up comes the catch, flapping its tailfin with every muscle on a smooth, flat back. And, staring up at me, from some other dimensional realm, are its two, side eyes.
Why do Sanders’ eyes seem to fight for their presence on her face? The forehead muscles alternately pull her left orb upward, momentarily boggling and bulging it while the right eye, intent on maintaining some form of stasis, cannot control an involuntary reaction to the left. And so, they both lurch and roll in their sockets, like a couple mismatched lychee nuts. What does this tell us about the war going on between her brain hemispheres, for God’s sake? Can anybody say “cognitive dissonance”?
As for Roger Stone, I am inclined to think that he keeps his Cliff Notes under his eyelids; can the man verbalize a thought without closing and holding both, completely? Watch him too intently, with your own hopefully healthy set, and your chest might notice a faint atrial flutter. Never have I witnessed such anti-rhythm since Glen Close in “Fatal Attraction” sat, catatonic, unblinking, flicking the lamp switch on and off with the erratic tempo of her own madness.
It’s winter, in the Great Lakes. Ice fishing is less common on Lake Erie and there are no fluke to be found in these parts, even in summer. Still, I’d love a fresh one, fried or steamed, to warm the cockles of my troubled heart this day. Tomorrow will come, soon enough. Best to be grateful for whatever clear vision it may bring. The eyes of the Lord are upon only the righteous; one wonders how many times, in recent days, God Almighty has had to turn in divine disgust, and look away.
© 12/19/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Thank you for respecting original material.
An Open Letter to the Unsuspecting:
the limpid ale
deceived by death
© 12/17/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Thank you for respecting original material.
We all have them.
For every rare individual, in the grip of dissociative identity disorder, there is the vast remainder of relatively normal society. And, society, whether or not we are ready to admit it as fact, seeks to shape our personalities.
The earth is populated by so many nations, within them so much distinct culture. And, what each civilized group of persons grows accustomed to is a set of mores, actions, and reactions which are profoundly influenced by the behavior of those who founded and perpetuated them.
Back in the 18th century, Scottish philosopher David Hume developed his theory of social behavior and led his fellow citizens to assimilate it. He believed that a people is profoundly marked by its public persona, and established a specific protocol for interaction. As such, the Scots as a society became characterized by Hume’s notions of what was both a healthy and proper comportment.
Centuries hence, the essence of who we are has come to be known as personality. Within that, there are potentially many subsets of behaviors, all influenced by those with whom we have had to do since birth.
(Enter DNA. We are still learning, and most of us not privy to, the exact nature of genetic expression. What we do know is that we inherit much which will shape how we choose, act, and react to the world around us.)
But, if we are encouraged, from infancy, to express a wide range of emotion — smiling, laughing, crying, giggling, as well as reactions including surprise, shock, and even dismay — we will develop habits which include these expressions. Moreover, if we are rarely taught to suppress emotion, we will become capable of spontaneity. If, conversely, we are taught to stifle, we will become characterized as stoic.
Now, what of emotional range? Could a correlation be made between the degree of emotional expression and the capacity for multiple aspects within personality?
Some scenarios seem to call for grace, latitude, and acceptance; yet others demand assertive action, such as those of sudden health emergency or public threat. The degree of importance one places upon each as they emerge might call up a wide variety of personality expressions. The Scots, in the 18th century, likely never had to endure either challenge or threat to their social securities.
And, what of intellectual expression? How do distinct personalities demonstrate the way they think? And, how is this valued in a society?
Perhaps we might reflect upon those who seem different from ourselves. What are the aspects which distinguish us? Which among these could be encouraged, deemed of value?
America is unique, in that we have been attempting to survive as a society within which innumerable social mores and personality expressions have coexisted. Proximity has proved a challenge, for many. Judgments have been made. Inherent bias has ruled outcomes of disagreement. Crime has become a hallmark, instead of a rare aberration.
Consider these points for contemplation, the next time you register the following thought: “I don’t like that person.” Perhaps add a Why? And, then, take that additional, sometimes painful but objective step. Find something worthy in that personality. Then, inspect yourself.
Each of us has so many glorious features. Even as we celebrate diversity, let us broaden that resolve to include the details of multi-faceted individuality. We would feel so much better about each other, and our collective personality would become something of a masterpiece.
© 12/15/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose personality you may not favor but whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material.
“You can’t get through life without telltale signs of living.”
———— David M. Sammarco 2018.
12/9/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.
“Celebrate diversity, but never describe it.”
© 11/30/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo
He said it, again.
“I need to be alone.”
Well, he might.
But, according to my calculations and a bit of simple math, he’s not.
At last count there were – first – two, large dogs. Brody and Bella, lab mix and Rottweiler each, occupying as much space stretched across the king mattress as another human slightly larger than his broad shouldered, 5’ 6” frame.
Then, little Fitz Willie (Fritz), the cat. I’m severely allergic, but the anti-dander creme allowed us a sweet fondness.
Oh, but let’s take a walk outside.
Down across the grassy stretch of the first acre, just to the right of the pond we reach the fenced in coop. Four fluffy, extremely well nourished laying hens. We bought them, together, from the little store down the country road which closed last summer, when they were just chicks, days old. There were six, but Bella got one and a hawk the other. I brought home several scarecrows, to protect the remaining four who grew into beauties.
Follow me, back up toward the house. We’ll pass the gardens. Squashes, spinach, arugula. A whole row of red raspberries, still bearing fruit into November. The pear tree. The next, raised beds, framed with leftover wood from my front porch. Asparagus, first every spring, surrounded by gladiolas. More spinach, red and green leaf lettuce. Beets. So many radishes. A row of onions. A couple carrots. And, kale. So much kale, most of it left for the rabbits.
Another row, this one blueberries. I remember netting these, to try to save them yet again from the early birds, who got their feast even before the tiny fruit had matured.
The apple tree. Helping to gather them, soft green and sweet, and the applesauce later which needed no added sugar.
Stand with me, and turn. Gaze back down the yard, all the way past the four hundred foot hose I found so he wouldn’t have to haul sprinkling cans. Rows, and rows, and rows, and rows, of tomatoes. Red, and green, peppers. This year, added chilis, and a whole line of tall garlic.
Now, stop, and listen. Hear them? The birds. Cardinals, wrens, robins, bluejays, finches, Baltimore orioles, red winged blackbirds, chicadees. Hummingbirds.
The bird feeders, filled with sunflower seed – four, maybe five, of these, circumventing the entire house. I won’t forget the sight of their banquet, last winter at the first snow.
And, if you stay ‘til dusk, you’ll hear the final chorus:
For these, there are simply no words.
Yes; this is where he spends his time, “alone.”
For the past nearly two years, I’d spent much of my time there, too.
Never in my life had I ever been surrounded by the fruits of one man’s labor. Not ever had I been with a man who was truly self made, who needed nothing from me. I treasured every minute he permitted me presence, the true opportunity to share in his little world.
I was just, however, another form of life. Just one more. Letting me go, for him, would be comparatively easy, maybe even welcomed. One less mouth to feed. One less need to meet. One less voice, to interrupt the serenity. Hardly missed, one less heart to break.
But oh, how I will miss him. And, the dogs, Brody Ode and Belly Belle, mommy’s two velvet babies. And, Fitz Willie, preferring the guest room by day but padding across my fleece covered body, poking at me until I crawled out to feed him before the sun came up. And, the chirring hens, their abundance of eggs more than enough for both of us.
And, the birds.
I had tomatoes, this year. They all bore fruit, without once watering. And, in spite of neglect, last year’s kale shot up just ahead of the first frost.
I have birds, in my tree. And, the trees down the street. They offer me their own chorus, at summer’s end and, again, crackling in the spiraea through winter.
But, the tree frogs.
What will I ever do without them?
My love, and his menagerie. God, protect them all.
May they never be alone.
© 11/28/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is, whose name appears above this line and whose menagerie is glass.
I used to have a wicked sense of humor.
Meaning: at school, R.A. was the funniest girl in class.
Of course, this was in that archaic phase of history formerly known as “junior high”. And, maybe the cusp of sophomore year. But, details don’t matter. Once life kicked into high gear, the end began.
Yes. Somewhere between the first side impact car accident and the onset of the migraines, something started to chip away at the old edge of wit. Perhaps the newest pain medication, intended to act on serotonin receptors. Whatever. Once I got to college, a secular state university, all my energy was required just to function semi socially and remain a virgin. Well, technically, anyway. While still a sitting infant I’d plopped down, on top of a phallus sized, lead painted steel truck from my elder brother’s collection, and broken my hymen.
But, yeah. Directly proportionate to the degree of accepted responsibilities, any vestige of humor pretty much konked out, was a burgeoning skill as a tedious bore. Add to that a vocal cord surgery, in ’98. Losing my hallmark guffaw was the icing on that cake; I was the most profoundly unfunny person in the world, and couldn’t even laugh about it.
By way of outcome, or perhaps some damage to the central amygdala, across the multiple decades hence there emerged one topic about which I could speak as a veritable Rhodes scholar: grief.
It’s true. If any girl knew anything about sobbing her way through a workshop on teaching the gifted, it was I. Even attending a lecture presented for local women and hearing Nelson Mandela’s absolution on letting your light shine, I cried like a blubbering baby. As for the dark of pre-menstrual night, and that old familiar fetal position, there would be me, screaming into the pillow like nobody’s mama.
Interestingly, grief being directly the result of loss, I seemed to have cornered the market on losing loved ones. Whether grandparents, parents, relatives, or significant others, I had spent more on funeral arrangements in the course of the gift giving budget than anything else. Add to that far too many failed attempts at intimate relationship and you had Doctor Ruth, minus the short legs and the cheery grin.
Now, as self appointed spokeswoman for the wisdom of aging, I come to you on the better side of post menopause with a seasoned appreciation for synthesis. Perhaps the out of pocket orthodontia to cure tempo-mandibular joint dysfunction gets the prize, because the migraines have significantly ceased and, with them, the need for brain chemistry altering medication. If there is anything to be gleaned from it all I now offer the following: grieving — with a sense of humor.
Herewith a list of tips. (And, no. Mind altering substance ingestion is not required.)
As we all know, the state of the planet and the world upon it hanging on for dear life, we don’t have to look very far to find the latest disaster during the holidays. In fact, sudden horrific events seem to emerge out of nowhere just as the malls open for business. And, even if we’ve had to say goodbye to the one person we were sure would be holding our hand when we croaked, there is nothing quite like a tsunami on the Pacific rim to jolt us back into relative reality.
I recommend finding the channel which covers the latest world news, and scrolling til we find something geographic. There is a surreal comfort in gaping at massive destruction, particularly if we find ourselves a.) reasonably clothed; b.) sufficiently nourished, and c.) able to adjust the internal temperature of the room to our liking. Allowing ourselves to sit quietly and attune, as the warm surge of relief that none of what we are witnessing is actually happening in any remote proximity, can resemble momentary bliss. It can also gently nudge our better angels to remind us that we could count our blessings.
Speaking of taking a tally, even if we retired way too early to collect enough to pull us out of a declining demographic, sending twenty bucks to help victimized children does wonders for the dopamine. Contributing to these, as well as those who manage to survive catastrophe, is the most guilt free (and, grief releasing) pleasure on earth. We can do so joyfully, with absolutely no concern for subliminal self righteousness, which can lead to self loathing which, in turn, can frequently cause us to dial a friend and vent. Venting on friends, during the holidays, is the perfect way to get crossed off the last party list that held out hope for the most wretched among us.
But, be cautious; if we do send money, be sure that we have decided with certainty that we hate holiday parties. Sometimes the cascade of cause and effect is too powerful to quell and actually accepting that the phone won’t chime an invitation, at all, must be adequately addressed and confronted with a mature resignation.
Everybody drowns their sorrows in consumables. I suspect that appetite is triggered by a gaping sense of loss.
That said, congratulating ourselves for being sufficiently devastated, we can set about the table before us with any number of syrupy, savory, and textured delectables knowing that – now that we are utterly alone in the world – we don’t have to share them with anybody.
However, keeping various protein sources at arm’s reach is strongly suggested. Every twenty minutes, as the eyelids begin to flutter, stuffing a block of cheese into the face will cut that glycemic rise, effectively preventing ten minutes of sudden coma. During grief, every ten minutes missed is ten minutes lost. And, we all know that the objective is to indulge, for as long as we can remain coherent and capable of sudden wailing and gnashing of teeth. Keeping a glucose monitor handy is also prudent.
4.) PUBLIC DISPLAYS.
Five days ago, I had to endure the excruciating extraction of my entire self from an environment into which I had voluntarily placed myself for twenty months. Granted, the psychic abuse of living in suspended disbelief, instead of squarely facing that hope for a future of committed mutual trust was likely a serious joke, had been preferable for a remarkably protracted period of time. Denial is the pablum of the pathetic.
Since then, to my personal chagrin, I have dissolved into tears in two, distinct Post Office service lines. Completely uncontrollable sniffling and face wiping, with the back of a fading red glove. And, this year, I cannot even blame a single hormone for the rush; all mine are externally introduced, on call or in the stickered ziploc.
The woman with the most empathic reaction actually allowed me back into my queue, after a failed attempt to help another customer carry her packaged burden to her car. The man in the next line who spoke the most encouraging words to me was none other than the service department manager at the car dealership where I’d purchased my Pontiac, with the lemon engine, whose six or seven gaskets had been replaced and for which I had successfully sued GM for five grand.
No. We truly cannot make these things up. Reality really is stranger than fiction. For this cause, I highly recommend that the grieving take it to the streets. Cry, out loud, whenever and wherever we go. Displaying raw, authentic emotion will spur the most outrageous outpouring of human altruism most never knew they possessed, including being reminded that crying is good because it detoxifies the body. A room full of weeping people could ensue. This would provoke entire gaggles of clasping hugs, grinding all commerce to a dead halt and shutting down the economy. Cars would remain parked, people choosing to walk, arm in arm, forsaking their petty materialisms and inviting one another in for a hot meal and some group singing around the piano, revolutionizing society for an entire generation.
So, throw back your head. Squeeze your wet eyelids til they squint out the last tear. Tomorrow will never come. Instead, you will wake up from your sleep, when your body is finally done resting, and your today will be waiting right where you left off.
Isn’t it funny how that works?
© 11/27/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Thank you for respecting the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Try not to laugh.
“I’m treading water.”
“We could both use a break from the ‘unhealthy pace’.”
“I need space to process feelings, desires, choices and goals.”
And, to add, the operative noun:
For never coming back.
The tenacious ones always get hurt.
Being a barnacle. Hanging on, trying harder, being mindful, vowing to practice good listening skills. Harvesting scraps, from dinner.
Denying how much the one so loved wants to leave.
He’d been talking about “incompatibility” for months. Good listening skills notwithstanding, I’d refused to hear it. Compatibility was a small thing; heck, I’d been “matched” for it at eHarmony.com in 2006, spending three weeks with a bona fide, raving psychotic. You laugh?
I thought that really caring, providing nurture, being helpful around his house, thinking of his needs first whenever I entered a store, trying to find solutions to an endless litany of problems, and being willing to drive the twenty three minutes each way to his place three, four times per week were the ways to show love. Oh, and, the big one: forgiving him all his sins. Past, and present. Repeatedly.
I was mistaken.
In the end, everything I said or did, and how I said and did it, drove him away. He couldn’t stand being around me. He only wanted me there when I wasn’t.
And so, he treated me in kind. I often found my words dismissed – grammatically and syntactically correct texts, each one requiring an intolerable twelve seconds to digest – deleted because there were just too many of them; my overall behavior frequently subjected to declarations tinged with sarcasm and outrage; sweeping generalizations about what was “normal” regularly put up as the barometer against my every act. And yet, to sum it all up, this was “just me”, and who was he to try to “change” me?
By now, with the single exceptions of downhill skiing, skydiving, scuba, performing surgery, and giving birth, everything about life had happened to me. There’d hardly been an experience to which there hadn’t been at least some tangential connection. I’d hiked to the top of Mt. Washington, reeled in a mahimahi off the Honolulu coast, and played on stage with YoYo Ma. Taught competitive marching band (not very competitively, being a poet and aesthete), choir, chorus, hundreds of strings, scores of private students, and coached/produced/directed childrens’ drama ten times in ten years. In 1984, traveled alone to Scotland, England, France, Germany and Switzerland. Written and illustrated three childrens’ books. Bought my own house at age 29, my own cello at 28, and my own Steinway at 57.
But, being dumped as a single woman, at age 61. That smelled more like terror. Who wanted an old woman, for a partner? Surely not an old man. Men were largely unteachable, to begin with, unless groomed by a registered Suzuki instructor by age 4; how could they be expected to adapt to anything, by this time?
I suppose that, just like I myself declared in the musings of a prior piece, beginning again at age 61 might entail going more solo than ever before. That multiply published author, as she traveled the college keynote circuit, never made mention of either a husband or even children. But then, the tiny one, in the bookstore. Carefully laying out all the major novels as her world for the remaining winters of her solitary existence.
So, what did I want? And, what would it be? Serving at the soup kitchen, on Christmas day? My own mother had regularly helped do the very thing, every week in the final few years of her life. She died, anyway, at age seventy six, not a day older than she was at seventeen.
Ask, and ye shall receive. But, isn’t it better to give?
I’m tired of giving. Giving up, that is – most of my entire self, for another (but, keeping the house, dammit. The only thing I hadn’t done was build it, for God’s sake.)
Maybe spreading love around is the secret. I’m a sprinter anyway, after all – good in short, intense spurts. For the long haul? The biggest load since the space shuttle crossing country on a flatbed.
No matter that the shuttle altered life on the planet as we all knew it. The shuttle was never intended to win friends or influence people, or get tucked into bed at night between the dogs and the warm, familiar embodiment of romantic idealism.
Even as a child, I was not well liked. My own mother found me irritating. And, she was quick to say so. I bore every, single trait inherited from her husband which she never knew until after he’d married her.
So, time to go.
Tonight, I’ll be at my house. It’s warm, inside. Been mine, for thirty years. Plenty of space, to fill with perpetually collecting reminders of everyone who’d ever been next to me in the room, now to sit alone and think.
But, just don’t ask me to feel.
For that, I would need a really exquisite, carefully selected, and truly exceptional metaphor.
© 11/26/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the world’s most rejectable woman, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for stifling your self satisfied derision.
The bad man
calls me mad.
I was glad;
now, I’m sad.
The bad man
calls me sad.
I was glad;
now, I’m mad.
A good man
is the man
© 11/24/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. From the forthcoming ” How to Succeed Human Relationship[By Building A Robot]© ”
I objectify you
with all my heart.
‘Til death do I part
from my objectivity
© 11/23/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. littlebarefeetblog.com
Never a “thank you”
Never a “please”
Rarely “I’m sorry”
Except to appease
Never a need
Ahead of his own
Except when the dogs
Are expecting a bone
Always love, first
My mother would say
For love is of God
And, remember to pray
Forever the giver
Of love, even still
She endured to the end
As an act of the will
Always the teacher
Who never learns
Love never fails
Except when it burns
True love may elude
When two lives combine
Never is always
The telltale sign
© 11/22/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo Thank you for respecting original material, however lame.
In space he held like bone
His body taut
Against the wall
A hiding place
His heart held cold like stone
Its secrets caught
Until the sneer
Besmirked his face
© 11/22/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Thank you for respecting original material.
The desire to fire
so, higher ups are hired
to light the match.
© 11/21/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo from the forthcoming “How To Succeed Human Relationship [by Building a Robot]©”, by the author whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting that which is sacred.
It happened, again.
This time, in the grocery line.
I’d grabbed a couple early evening, post Sunday matinee snacks and taken my place behind those who appeared to have the least number of items. Two guys, knit capped, the one slightly bearded, directly ahead of me were perusing the tabloid mags on the rack just behind them. As one commented to the other, I noted the latest TIME special edition feature: “The Criminal Mind.”
Feeling a tad grandiose, I pointed to its title and ventured some crack about Italians all being corrupt. As expected, they turned to look at me. Tossing my olive skinned, greying brown haired head to one side, I demured:
“Well, not all of them.”
My own father, second generation Napolitan/Sicilian blend, had always maintained a flawless public testimony – or, so I’d always thought.
The more we chatted, the more gradually I noticed the telltale accent of a Latino coming from the more talkative of the two. And so, typically of me, I asked him.
Reaching up to insert his card into the reader, he answered me. “Yep.”
Then, I did what I too often do. I asked the next question. And, I did it because I was born in 1957, raised in this town, and had grown to expect that asking would be acceptable. I said:
” You know Julio…Julio Reyes?”
Smiling, he said: “No….”
“Owns Latinos — the restaurant??”
I was genuinely surprised. I thought everybody knew Julio. Or, at least, everybody who enjoyed real Mexican food. Like, Mexicans. Ergo, Julio.
The cashier, tall African American, young, bright eyed….smiled, looked at the two Mexicans.
And, because, even though an aging biddy I am still a quick study, I got it.
Looking right at him, I crowed: “Oh, I am SUCH a white girl!”
[ he was laughing, now ]
“I know….”All black people are related!” [ he doubled over ]
“All Mexicans know each other, personally!”……
[ everyone chuckling ]
“All Italians are corrupt…….! “
The three men busied themselves. I rearranged my items on the conveyor.
“Well…….my little daddy was a sweetheart”, I said, softly.
I thought, again, about that moment when somebody I knew said he’d been told dad was the man. And I felt, again, just how much I did not want to believe it.
The two Mexicans finished their purchase. We all smiled at my transparency. I shimmered.
My turn, at the register. The young cashier’s presence was too hard to resist. And, so I had to ask the next question, the one I always ask.
“You know, I taught school for twenty five years. Had four thousand students. I still bet you might have been my…..what school did you go to?”
Nope. Didn’t teach there.
“What’s your last name?”
Nope. I’d gone to school with a woman with the name, but hers wasn’t recognized by him. In fact, he scratched the back of his head with one finger, averted his eyes, and mentioned that he was known by another family name. Still, I had to tell him the family names I knew. And, he was already no longer interested.
I felt sorry.
Sorry that I had been born in 1957. Sorry that I had done the thing, yet again, that would define me forever as the white girl who just had to ask all the questions that used to mean a willingness to generate conversation, create an atmosphere of casual openness and, most of all, express a genuine interest in finding the connections which linked people to one another. In this town, that used to mean not just family, but family origin. The generation which endures dismissal today used to know that people from certain parts of the world always settled in specific neighborhoods, and then stayed there. We all grew to know that they preferred to spend time with one another, largely because they shared their own language and secondly because they knew that staying close would keep everyone accounted for. And, our city was small. Each of these neighborhoods was block to block, side by side. We had Poles, Russians, and Czechs. We had Germans, and Irish. We had Italians, for miles. We had African Americans, which were called Negroes then. And, they all made their life purpose the sustenance of their people – its customs, its food, its dress, and its family names.
I wonder whether the young men who passed through that grocery line will give any of this another thought. Perhaps their parents will help them understand.
The cashier completed my sale and, as he handed me my receipt I thanked him, by his name. And, he smiled, again – brimming with authenticity, and inner strength. His smile came from deep within his heart and mind. And, his laughter had forgiveness all over it.
I’m glad about that.
Because the next time I’m the white girl, I’ll probably do it all again.
© 11/18/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the white girl, whose name appears above this line. Thanks for your forgiveness and respect.
The bookstore was the warmest place to be on the coldest November day.
And, her north wall would not endure another, whole year without its large calendar being adequately replaced.
She’d stared across the livingroom at the space between the levelored windows, for the last time, determined never to stare at that wall again for the rest of her life, unless the block calendar with its proverb for each month was within direct sight line from the sofa.
Last year she’d waited too many weeks, and the bookstore’s selection of remaining 2018 samples had come up short of expectations. Settling for some poolside garden setting theme, only to find its color scheme too purple for the room’s palette, she’d just left the previous December, with its simple: “Be Kind And Carry On” as place holder for the entire year.
Now, time was truly of the essence. The second winter storm would be upon them by late morning, bringing freezing rain to crust the waning first snow. And, the bookstore had confirmed: their 2019 shipment was racked, and ready.
This year, the store had chosen to place the large wall variety on a rotating spindle display. After several revolutions, there at last was her proverbial, boldly colored favorite. But, just above it – a stunning series, images of Italy. Though talk of a trip to whomever would listen had been ongoing for at least the past five of a total seven since retiring, she’d likely not soon be getting to Italy. Tucking that one under her arm, she added the flat art favorite, and then spied Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, in cartoon, offering monthly Yoga for the year. No senior woman worth her own salt should be without this vitally hip exercise aid heading into the cusp of the close of yet another decade. Up came Ms. Ginsberg, to join the rest.
Calculating that the Yoga calendar would work near the mirror opposite the railing barre in the loft and the views of Italy would make the music room pop, she wended her way toward the check out, all three securely in hand. Rounding the corner just beyond the recipe books, reading glasses, and Godiva, she could already hear the familiar deep basso resonance of the former radio host turned store clerk addressing the needs of an unseen patron just ahead of both herself and a smiling gent who said nothing.
Peering around him, she could just see to whom the clerk repeatedly spoke. A tiny woman, her tightly pulled grey hair almost white around her head, seated in a rolling cart chair, barely able to see above the counter upon which were placed several, thick hardbound novels.
She could clearly see the books. One John Grisham. Two John Sandfords. No, three. Another, by an unknown woman. Her weight shifted from one faux leather boot to the other. This could be awhile.
No. There was no interest in the stuffed Grinch promotional exclusive. Yes, to a contribution toward the elementary school book drive. Would points to her store membership be welcomed?
She was not processing the content of their exchanges, only watching both, hearing his voice fill the otherwise empty room and hers barely audible above it. The silent gent turned, smiled apologetically, then took an alert on his smartphone.
Another woman approached, from behind, wearing a necklace with roped silver, her outfit its complement. She wondered where the woman might be going after a solitary bookstore visit on this Thursday morning. Two more patrons appeared, behind her. They were a line of six, ahead of the ice storm which would surely glaze upper Peach Street within the hour.
She turned to the woman in the silver necklace, commenting on her outfit. With a gesture toward the counter, she made mention of their mutual future as aging women – including anecdotal references to her own father, nursing homes, and the anticipated final third of life without dependents. Was she also single?
No; the woman was a mother of four.
Nodding with respectful envy, she bowed her head slightly and resumed her stance facing the counter.
The tiny woman was finally paid in full for her $160 order. Slowly, she stood. The store clerk handed her the plastic sack of hardbound novels. Could she get that? Would she need help? The bag of books settled into its spot on the seat of her rolling cart, as she bent to secure it. Oh, I think I should be fine, in tones of seasoned familiarity.
And so, she spoke. Perhaps he might call for assistance, to help the woman get everything to her car. The booming basso cut into the quiet, summoning available help, as the tiny woman moved away from the check out counter toward the exit.
The space cleared, she was up. He opened with the promotions and the school book drive. Hastily, she added the stuffed toy for her grand niece, thinking of the twin siblings due any day. Having taught public school for 25 years, for her the book drive a no brainer: Clifford, the Big Red Dog. Was she permitted to return any one of the calendars, if unopened? Paid in full, she too moved toward the door.
The tiny woman was still seated, large burden in her lap. There was a soft expression on her face, a faint smile at each corner of her mouth. Her eyes were quietly alert.
In less than a breath, she felt her spirit enter the woman’s body, hover, and return. Approaching, she spoke to the woman. Would she like some help?
They were quickly joined by the bookstore manager, complete with laniard and peeping walkie talkie, who pushed the woman in her cart out thru the door as she held it and over to a blue, four door sedan parked at the front of the store. The walkie talkie’s peep crescendoed and the two women relieved her, chatting already and gathering the car keys which, of course, were manually required to unlock the doors.
Had she been a teacher? No; but she was often asked if she were. This was her reading for the whole winter! Well, who wouldn’t believe it? Folding the rolling chair cart, just able to lift and place it in the backseat, the woman crept down into the driver’s seat and turned, smiling.
What was her name? Colleen. Colleen Ahern. Was there anyone to look in on her? Yes; she lived behind Mount St. Benedict, happily well cared for and won’t you have a lovely Thanksgiving!
You have a wonderful winter! Carefully closing the door, she stepped away.
In a rush of hope she crossed the lot, manually unlocking her own door and settling into her front seat. Tail lights lit, the blue four door sedan sat idling for several minutes. She watched the woman wait until she was sure her engine was sufficiently warmed, then turned to arrange her packages on the passenger seat. When she looked back, the parking spot was empty. The sedan was already moving onto Peach Street, ready to coast all the way to Harborcreek before the storm descended. Before any threat of isolation could lurk. Beyond any doubt or fear, a stack of novels waiting to become her world, one for each month of the year’s end and up and over and across to the new one.
Carry on, Colleen.
© 11/15/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of this author, whose name – not Colleen – appears above this line. Thank you for respecting authentic stories.
White hair speaks for itself.
Would I have remembered her, had she thinning salt and pepper strands enhancing facial lines and furrows?
Maybe it was her height, barely five feet two. Her carriage quick, like a bird.
But, the keynote speaker at Fredonia State University’s May 1982 commencement exercises was impossible to dismiss.
I cannot name a single one of the multiple degrees she carried behind her name, nor title of authored paper or book. Even her name escapes me.
But, what I cannot forget was the fact that she had earned the first of those college diplomas at age 60.
This remarkable life, for all intents and purposes begun in the sixth decade, had been a firebrand of motivation, determination, persistence, and resolve. And, twenty plus years hence, she was still at it.
What’s interesting to note is that I carry no recollection of anything she did prior. The woman herself might credit the sum of those first five decades as molding and shaping; but, what really set her apart was that time, and social expectation, even the power hierarchy, had no deterring role whatsoever.
Perhaps she’d approached the age of 55 in quiet contemplation. Perhaps a beloved spouse had departed the earth; maybe an inheritance bestowed. Whatever the impetus, she’d set about to do, and followed a plan to repeated completion.
Granted, our society still reveres the paper credential. But, no matter. Expanding the mind, digging deeply into those integrated circuits which can only connect with age, unearthing gems of time borne wisdom and then giving them away like birthday presents this single female, now 83, was traveling the country as a motivational speaker for entire classes of graduating university students.
And, she spoke to me.
I had entered Fredonia right out of high school, on a visual art scholarship. Two years hence, withdrawing to transfer to an esteemed art institute, insufficient funds and the recession of the 1970s prevented my enrollment and I remained at home, securing a summer job and opening a savings account. By the fall of the second year of work, I had saved enough to return to school, switch my major, and earn the Bachelor of Music in Music Education.
But, at least three years older than my undergraduate contemporaries, I was a ripe twenty five. Only one other music major could claim this kind of seniority: my boyfriend. But, he’d already moved on, several months prior to the ceremony.
So, for about twenty minutes, from the podium at King Concert Hall, this white haired woman embodied me. As we all sat, capped and robed, she made her mark on my mind and heart.
And, I would not know it until now.
Now, in the sixty first year of my own life.
Perhaps you are one of the special minority of those whose hair has whitened well before middle age. Enjoy your singular beauty. But, for me and the rest of my greying generation, we have the privilege of returning to our self starting childhood, before the agenda of opportunism and exploitation began sniffing around our necks and long before we ever felt the crush of competition and its inevitable corruptions. We need acquire nothing; we still have what it takes. The means has reached its end. We can own our moment.
Mine won’t likely be white for awhile.
But, every hair is numbered. And, each strand as it appears inspires a deep, rich, and nourishing breath.
Time to take the next one!
© 11/11/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material, especially when it comes from an old person.
Check the box:
I am not
not to buy.
is your question?
© 11/10/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo
The henna tinted haircut had become oily and matted. Clothes, twice worn, and I’d missed the shower in the a.m. It was nigh on 5:37, and the service was to begin at 6.
I looked a sight. Yet, the temple being a scant four minutes from the house, my heart told me that missing their open invitation would be the greater regret. Dabbing some under eye concealer, a bit of pink powder and a neutral lipstick, I fluffed what remained of the haircut, grabbed the short raincoat, and headed for State Street.
Turning left at the top of Cherry Street, my Pontiac soon joined a steady trough of traffic. Parking at the temple’s Jefferson Society lot was limited, and street options could extend north all the way down the hill if we didn’t get all the greens heading east. I wondered how many from as far away as Fairview had also accepted the invitation?
West of the stadium, cars were already lining the curb. But, two schoolbuses were also present, next to the academy. The stream of drivers was intended for their evening football game. My thymus relaxed, a little.
Reaching the temple, I was relieved to see a spot up from the Jefferson entrance. People were still walking from lot to front, and I joined them, hugging the mustard yellow rainjacket around my jeans to cut the wet chill. Sure enough, ladies were in mid calf skirts, men in dark dress, and then Jack, looking pensive, the news cam man who’d taken my one and only career black and white decades earlier. I resumed my customary cringe. Find a seat in the very back, slide in swiftly, say nothing. Stepping past the security guard and the packing, body armored special agent, I entered the foyer. There was Charles, standing at the door.
We greeted, me offering the self deprecating reference to shabby attire and he quick with the witty retort, something about God not caring and me hoping so. He, with his hearty, reassuring laugh.
My seat awaited, one of four in the far right rear row, two fellow Gentiles on either end. I sat beside Maria, who looked as Bavarian as if she’d just arrived from northern Minnesota.
The room was filling, rapidly. I recognized several, from various stages of my own history in our ageless community. The men, in their yarmulkes. A respected surgeon, in his, plus blue scrubs. An extremely tall gent, in his, ball of the hand curved over a carved walking stick. The current Erie County Executive. A former Mayor of Erie. At least two Mizrachi, with stronger noses in profile than hardly anyone saw anymore, likely never in a fashion rag. And, me, feeling every percentage of the Persian/Turk in my Ancestry.com DNA reveal.
I missed, quietly, Rabbi Len and Faith Lifshen, and their son, Moshe. This had been their temple, prior to the move south and Rabbi’s subsequent death. Turning to Maria I made mention of them, and pointed out the Ark of the Covenant glass encasement in the center of the altar. After my lengthy paragraph, she mentioned the Torah scrolls, me realizing that, yet again, I’d presumed the role of teacher rather than learner.
One of the last to enter was a short young woman, who chose the remaining seat beside me. She was the only female in a yarmulke within my sight line, and I hadn’t remembered ever seeing a woman wear one. Just as she became settled, removing her coat, around the aisle came a slender man who extended his open palm to the Gentile on the left end. He took the hand of each one of us in the back row, introducing himself and asking our names. He was the new Rabbi up from Pittsburgh, where he lived, to conduct the Shabbat Kaddish at Temple Brith Sholom.
This was my second Jewish service. At Yom Kippur, several musical colleagues and I had been invited to the other temple, across town, by another of us who, being a Jew, was slated to play the Kol Nidre on her flute. The rabbi that night was a woman, a guest from New York, and the remaining four vocal musicians and their pianist were all Gentiles but one.
The music at this Shabbat was all vocal. It was produced by the Rabbi, and his seasoned congregation.
After an earnest and warm welcome from, surprise! Doris, a retired teacher with whom I had worked nearly thirty years earlier, the rabbi explained in detail what we as the guests could expect from the service. He encouraged us to select a prayer book from the racks attached to the chairs in front of us. The prayer book pages were turned briskly, from rear to front, as the rabbi chanted in fluent Hebrew and the congregation sang along. I was reminded that, let alone a language strange to my tongue, unless I could see the notation my ability to retain a new melody was woeful. We sat, and stood; remained standing, and sat. Stood. Turned; bowed; sat, again. At each rise and return, a room filled with slightly damp athletic shoes squeaked, in chorus.
The Kaddish, Rabbi explained, was the congregational prayer, uttered in unison aloud. Some Shabbats were mourning Kaddish; this one would have two aspects, the first for private mourners and the second for the victims of the tragedy at Tree Of Life.
Just before the time had come to offer up the Kaddish, the Rabbi spoke in short sermon. He described the innumerable traditions which were the foundation of conservative Judaism. One point in particular spoke to me, as an aspect of mourning.
He said that Jews, by their nature and by their tradition, are open. They encourage emotional expression. Crying during mourning is a given. But, he also insisted, mourning was to be embodied. There would be no preparation of fine adornment; instead, Jews were to begin by eliminating bathing. They were to immerse themselves, entirely, in grief. And, to render this practice intently selfless, they were to cover all the mirrors in the house.
My eyes opened, wide. I looked at the Rabbi.
For that moment, and in the moments later, I stood in solidarity with God’s chosen people against both the recent horror and an entire epoch of vile hatred which had wrenched their global family. Soiled, unkempt; unclean, I was right there.
Out of body, present in spirit, I no longer saw myself.
© 11/2/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. littlebarefeetblog.com
My partner is a registered nurse.
He works in the hospital where I was born.
But, it’s not a hospital, anymore. A medical center complex, owned by a huge health corporation which also provides insurance, it is one of the area’s largest employers.
One would think that, being enormous in scope and financially well endowed, said corporation would be able to sustain the employment of at least one person whose job it would be to enforce fair practices.
Like, staff scheduling.
Instead, the man I love is forced to fill his week with days which often run fifteen consecutive hours or more on site. And then, add being on call, which ties his hands and his imminent presence at least one day per week until 5:30 am the following morning.
And, he isn’t even in the Emergency Room, the scenario which provides fodder for more televised drama than the field of poorly managed medicine deserves. He’s in the dialysis department. This is where patients come, three times a week, to have their kidneys flushed so that they don’t die in a matter of hours from uremic poisoning. And, unlike other departments, such as the cardiac catheterization lab, the doctors aren’t actively on site throughout the shift; the entire week is managed by the nurses, and their supervisor.
Most dialysis patients are in house, admitted, many for weeks or even months at a stretch. These are individuals who are vastly unwell; most have multiple afflictions, including morbid obesity, all of which must be factored in when the four hour, tri-weekly dialysis commences. Each is wheeled to the department on a gurney, where the line forms in the narrow hallway leading to the shallow bay of treatment cubbies.
But, unlike a hair salon, which effectively staggers multiple customers between wash, rinse, cut, set, dry, and style, each of these patients must be watched carefully. First, their vital signs must be monitored for sudden drops in pressure or heart rate; next, potassium levels must be regulated, these directly affecting heart rate. In short, each nurse must be ready to administer the safest, most effective intravenous cocktail of chemicals intended to maintain patient stability throughout the four hour procedure.
Imagine some fourteen patients, in the course of a shift, all of them in a long line awaiting treatment. Visualize eight of these, in active dialysis, at various stages across their four hours. Now, realize that several may be in significant discomfort. One may be thrashing about, yelling; another may be hovering at death’s door.
But, then, there are those patients who have been admitted to the ICU. These are critically ill, but in need of dialysis, perhaps due to drug overdose or sudden sepsis.
Now, consider how many nurses would make for secure, attentive coverage of fourteen patients plus ICU in a given fifteen hour shift. Would you be surprised to discover that the dialysis department currently employs only 5 nurses?
That’s five, in total. Scheduled across a six day work week. Covering a contingent of sick patients, patients who don’t get well. Not on dialysis.
Dialysis is extended palliative care. Patients on dialysis either get a kidney transplant, or expect to reach the end of their lives within five to seven years.
And, for their troubles, these get: five nurses. (There had been six, but the one most willing to work the longest hours tore her meniscus, and now needs surgery.) Has the medical center hired her replacement? Oh, no. Easier just to stretch the remaining five thinner than a dime.
Money. Money drives everything. Allegedly the reward for a job well done, at least it used to be. Now, we have to ask “Who benefits?” Why? Because a job well done is no longer rewarded. Now, a good worker is exhausted, with little recourse against a killer schedule which, especially critical in the health field, renders most nurses chronically sleep deprived, socially constrained, and increasingly embittered.
Let’s require of our massive corporations that they use their equally vast resources to establish a department for accountability to devoted workers. Delegated supervisory roles only work as far as the individual assigned is willing to make the extra effort necessary to create scheduling which both serves and benefits those over which he or she has domain. On principle.
Principle used to represent that moral, conscience-driven act to which one adhered, in process and procedure, even when one stood to benefit nothing. Now, unless there is something in it for the “me”, nobody does anything.
Except the nurses.
The nurses will always do the hard thing. The dirty thing. The critical thing. And, they’ll be asked to do it all on four hours’ sleep, five days a week, irrespective of their advancing age or the responsibilities they maintain when they finally get home at night.
An army of these rising up would force a revolution.
© 11/2/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. littlebarefeetblog.com
In travail shall she give birth
All men are born of women
Deep, bellowing, and long
He that hath an ear, let him hear:
There Are No Barbarians
The Emperor is naked
© 10/7/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. littlebarefeetblog.com Originally posted at Medium.com
Just about every child in the United States now over the age of 30 has heard the story of Adam and Eve.
For many Americans, and scores of others across the globe, this was the beginning of life as many had been taught to believe it.
And, for every patriarchal society wallowing in male dominance, the first woman and her original sin became the bane of all who walked in her shadow.
But, whether man or woman what many may not know is that this story is shared by both Christians and Jews. The Torah, the sacred Hebrew book, predates the Biblical canon by a swath of time and contains the first five books of what would later become the Christian Old Testament.
And so, both Jewish children and Christian children were raised by the story of the Garden of Eden, as told in the book of Genesis.
Now, when we read those early chapters in Genesis, we find that Jehovah Elohim, after creating everything else, including Man, put not one but many trees in Eden. And, then we are told that he singled out not one, but two trees: a.) The Tree of Life, in the midst of the garden, and b.) The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And, then Jehovah commanded Adam. He told him he could freely eat of the fruit of every tree in Eden, except that of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, lest he surely die.
Then, God created Eve.
The story continued, painting Eve as both approachable and easily confused. The serpent tempted Eve, by challenging the words of Jehovah and putting a question in her mind. But, beguiling her, he made reference not to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil but to the tree in the midst of the garden. This was the Tree of Life.
(So, which was it? From which tree was she permitted to eat? And, whose fruit would bring certain death?)
We all remember what happened. Eve partook of the fruit of the tree to which the serpent had led her. Sharing with Adam, they knew their nakedness, were ashamed, and tried to hide from Jehovah. And, Jehovah banished them from the Garden of Eden.
But….the Tree of Life. In the midst of the Garden.
I have pondered this wonder, for most of my own life.
Perhaps the Jewish children know the secret.
Of note is that, whether male or female, the Jews as a people are equally thoughtful, equally respected. Equally forgiving. Equal.
They still worship in the midst of the Garden. They still honor the Tree of Life. Regardless of our faith or the absence thereof, let us all offer up a prayer for those who will meet at the synagogue which bears its name, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, again this Saturday. Perhaps there is one reaching out to us in spirit, from among those whose lives were taken. Whether Jew or Greek, bond or free, let us clasp hands and sit under the Tree of Life, together.
© 10/28/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo Thank you for respecting the beliefs of all people, and the words of Genesis.
I love the past.
1970’s superstar Billy Joel has his own SiriusXM station. Unlike the breadth of his continuing career, he gets to keep Channel 30 for just a few weeks, kind of like a feature. I’ve been enjoying his retrospective, while driving to the Food Co-op, or out on errands – every time I’m behind that wheel. Along with legions of others, I get this brief chance to travel across his repertoire with him, in between snippets of commentary and gems from his recollection.
Of particular interest is the story of how he became a songwriter. Apparently, his mother always played her favorite records, at home. She loved Gilbert and Sullivan, and others from her era. Billy absorbed solid songwriting from these masters but, as he recounts, his fire wasn’t really lit until he heard the Beatles.
And, the other day, while presenting his Songs I Wish I’d Written segment, he invariably cited one of them: Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday.”
Now, everybody knows that the popular song is the capsule for every memory, in our lifetime. And, most of us have a narrative for every favorite we can name. But, only the psychologists have warned that nostalgia isn’t particularly “healthy”; they, along with those Be In The NOW proponents, argue that living in the past is oppressive, even toxic.
At least two songwriters might challenge that.
Here we have legends, in their own time – Joel, and McCartney. I’m betting neither of these song meisters are wallowing in whatever happened to them. Their respect for the past is a real religion; they both know that, if we lose faith in what has made us who we are today, we’ll have little upon which to grow for tomorrow.
The Millennials, who live in a world of instantaneity, may not have a concept of history. They may be missing a reverence for that which is foundational, upon which the new must be built. They may not realize that what they deem worthy may have come from the mind of one for whom effort to produce it was lifelong. From their perspective, that which isn’t current is both passe and dispensable, devoid of value. Displacement has supplanted any concept of what used to be termed “classic.” Yet, how many of their pop celebrities are producing music which will endure? Whatever happened to “the test of time”?
We may long for that which is past, but we can hide away, even believe, in our yesterdays. I’m grateful, today, to be part of a generation which can still embody that which it can also remember.
Sing on, gentlemen.
© 10/21/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.
Beethoven was a loner.
Reports are his hair was often dirty. He’d wear a long top coat, pencils in the pockets, and pace the streets, muttering under his likely foul, acidic breath. His personality was neither warm nor appealing. To use contemporary vernacular, he was not well liked. Had there been a club, he would not have been invited.
Upstairs, where it all happened, he’d pore over his scores, for hours on end. The man was a driven perfectionist; his original manuscripts show so many scribbled erasures so as to have damaged the paper upon which his markings were made.
The totality of his compositions, while many, were not what one would call evidence of a prolific; rather, they were each in their own way masterpieces. They were masterpieces because, whether Beethoven himself realized it or not, he was changing the sound of music for ages to come.
And, in fact, there is hardly a civilized person who cannot place the 9 Beethoven symphonies among the pearls of creative treasure for all of history.
Bach preceded Beethoven, by a stretch.
His output was enormous.
Each Sunday, there was a new Chorale for the church. Bach wrote 600 of these. And, within the mainstream of cultured society, although they are among the most beautiful of musical creations he isn’t even known for them; most cite his volumes of two and three part inventions for keyboard instruments, his partitas, his chaconnes, his toccattas and fugues.
Two singular composers, both creative geniuses.
Is one of higher value than the other?
In matters of taste, two constituencies may form. Under Beethoven, those who prefer to be moved by chordal harmonies and driving rhythm; under Bach, those affected by the intricate complexity of voicing and counterpoint.
But, each contributed not by the collected volume of individual works, but by sheer artistic impact. Regardless the quantity, the power of their affect lay in the quality.
Let’s not ask of our artists that they fulfill our time based expectations. Let us cast aside judgment against the frequency of their contributions. Art needs neither justification, nor critique upon its merit. The next masterpiece may already be in progress. All we have to do is wait, and prepare our hearts.
© 10/18/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Thank you for respecting original material.
My grandfather was a closet Republican.
Harry Truman was his hero.
Born in Wilkes-Barre, PA, of parents who’d hailed from Cornwall, England, he’d brought his young wife, Mae, across the Commonwealth on or about 1915 to build cranes at Bucyrus-Erie. Yet, Erie, newly founded, was up and coming and this move – for a working class conservative – was, at its heart, progressive.
But, after having attended a tent meeting led by Christian evangelist Billy Sunday, this naturally gruff dogmatist had experienced a conviction of belief which would solidify his politics for life. He brought with him to Erie a Bible thumping, street preacher’s passion and, after meeting two elders of the Plymouth Brethren at the City Mission, would join their fellowship at the Gospel Assembly Hall on East Avenue.
But, Henry Thomas Sweet would not register to vote.
He and the rest of his fellow fundamentalists would populate a small, but ardent, segment of this growing town. Their teachings were the most extreme among conservatives; preaching that only those things due Caesar would be rendered, the rest would be left up to Almighty God – who would put into office whom He will.
Still, Henry Sweet taught his family all the values upheld by the Republican party. Hard work having yielded sufficient income, all resources would be put toward the sustenance of family and a tenth toward “the Lord’s work”, all capital kept close to the vest for just such purposes. The downtrodden were to be regarded as slacking, irresponsible, vagrant, and were admonished – from the street corner pulpit – to “Get up out of the gutter, repent, and get a j.o.b.”
What Henry and Mae did was work. Raising four daughters, they used their hands – baking bread, and delivering it door to door; hooking and braiding rugs, from old, discarded wool coats rescued from the Salvation Army; planting vegetable gardens, and fruit trees, gathering their harvest (had poultry been permitted inside the city limits, they’d likely have had hens and chickens); “slaving” over the stove, preparing meals for the entire, extended family for every holiday and birthday celebration. Mae also sewed, repairing and altering all manner of clothing, and creating from remnants everything from pajamas to suits and spring coats, draperies, and furniture slip covers. Henry, after a long day at the crane factory, maintained every inch of their humble property on East 29th Street, as well as their royal blue Chrysler.
In his final decade, disaffected and excommunicated from the Brethren for “railing”, sunken into his harvest gold La-Z-Boy recliner in the northeast corner of the livingroom reading his National “Geographs” and his Bible, listening to talk radio (and, calling in daily), he would brood.
Sympathy was not part of his lexicon. Compassion was merely a concept, to be contemplated while meditating upon the person of the Christ. Weakness was not to be indulged; one was given a life, and one must take up the reins of it and serve the Lord with all one’s might. Paying income tax was the bane of existence.
Three of the four daughters carried on the traditions of his closet politics. All honorable citizens they, nevertheless, also never registered to vote – raising their children to accept having come out from among them, being separate, avowing to touch not the unclean thing. There were us, the elect bride of Christ, and there were them, the reprobate, damned to hellfire lest they repent and believe the Gospel.
I don’t know what happened, but something did. Time, and its inevitable evolution. Being Republican of mentality used to mean such noble (if self centered) intent, even if it appealed to the most narrow minded among them. One wonders if the GOP was forever affected by those who would only vote for he or she whom their God had ordained. Being a Democrat came to defy such selfish, belief driven ideals. In between, I now find myself – a registered Independent, caught, without a closet in which to hide. We are all part of America, a nation of so many countries, fighting to stay socially intact, more exposed than ever before, members of a globe of earthly nations pushing and pulling and hanging on.
And, the world’s eyes are still on our family.
©10/15/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line.
The world is flat.
Thomas L. Friedman wrote the book, over a decade ago.
The Internet explosion and outsourcing have brought us into instantaneous connection with everything that can carry a signal. Provided we sustain electronic linkage, we can now communicate with virtually everyone – about anything – and provide goods and services for anyone from anywhere.
I can remember when one had to drive to a local library, navigate the research department catalogue, and sit for hours copying columns of material just to prove an historical point. Now, one smart phone and about twelve minutes can accomplish the same task – and, save all relevant documents into a virtual folder.
In the United States alone, I’m sure there are scholars who can provide enough data to support Friedman’s thesis. But, let’s consider the political realm, in this context.
Based in the last couple political campaigns, the Internet has proved itself responsible for the rise of Bernie Sanders and the election of Donald J. Trump. Social media has become the first avenue for publicity. We don’t even need graphic designers, anymore (and, I was one); banners and yard signs can be self produced, using available software, and picked up at the nearest print outlet.
Instant access; equally swift information transmission. Do we even need to be present, to win?
Now, consider how we might review the political platform of a potential political candidate. Said hopeful creates a website, and lists his/her political views, point by point. Televised ads would be retained, albeit many of them viewed via smart phones. Door to door campaigns would still carry significant local weight, but these would no longer require anything but prior familiarity with a candidate’s position on all the issues.
So, how do we place value on political party? Primarily, citizens align on platform – a set of commitments to action which follow a certain ideology. Fiscal conservation. Equal rights, for women and minorities. Federal programs. Single payer health. Flat tax. Retirement options. Self-employed business ownership. Industry. Agriculture. The environment, and its protection. Fuel and power sourcing. Medical services. Insurance coverage, for home, auto, and equipment. Military defense. Employment opportunities.
But, why do any of these issues require party delineation? Can’t each be addressed, per its degree of relevance to the citizen? Is this populism? Well, why not?
The branches of government as vehicles would not have to be party dependent, either. Is there really a philosophy governing what has historically been defined as Democratic or Republican, anymore? I can’t even list how many op eds have been written about the evolution of party ideologies, and almost all address a direction which moves away from their original intent. It’s as if each is enduring the pull to divide, like a human cell.
Why not just consider all issues across a scale – left; center; right?
By working merely from such a scale, we would have a clearer perception of needs vs wants, and might more easily dispense with entrenched, outmoded thinking.
I am certain that sociologists would concur, on one point: the class system is the principal offender, here. Those who are defiantly party aligned are usually class conscious. And, this mentality is inherently divisive.
I fully expect to be bombarded by the resistant and the outraged. I’ll be called a simpleton. Have at me! Yet, I firmly believe that this is an idea whose time is coming. Please, be open. We cannot continue as we have been, with partisan gridlock tripping every step we attempt to take and, worse, resorting to suppression of the truth.
Institutionalized thinking is the bane of progress. Most importantly, morality has become subject to the interests of partisan politics – and, that is the foreboding harbinger.
“Government by, and for, the people.”
It’s our national call, in our world.
© 10/11/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.
I remember 1982.
Graduating the previous December from SUNY@Fredonia, earning a B.M. in Music Education, I would spend January and February in a reactive depression – sleeping all day, and watching Letterman at night. In March, I would travel to Orlando, FLA to visit Disneyworld with my aunt, uncle and cousin. Soon after my return, I would be hired in April to wait tables at Panos’ Greek Dinor on Pine Avenue in Erie, PA. Working there, I would learn about a walk of life which smoked in the break room and dropped the “g”s at the ends of all verbs with the suffix “-ing.” The day manager would revile me, calling me “College Girl” whenever I struggled to make change at the register. I would move to the 3rd shift and, as the bar across the street emptied its contents into the booths and tables for their enormous “breakfasts”, serve some of the most indulgent and pathetic people I’d never before seen in my life.
Many of those who frequented our establishment remain vividly in my recall, both by name and face. The costumed square dancers, led by Mr. and Mrs. Babo; the transvestites, in black lace and lavender, from Buffalo; the young rock band, led by Brian and Steve. Later, dark Renee and svelte Tony, always arriving about 4:30 am; Rich and his young girlfriend, playing PacMan along the back wall, she in her bare feet; the “counter culture” of lone men, mostly silent; the disturbed, muttering quietly over fries and tartar sauce; the police officers – Ed, who was tall; Chris, with the twinkling eyes; and, Dennis, who chuckled. The early morning businessmen, led by happy Harvey, at their table round. No; the summer of 1982 will never be forgotten. Not by me.
Scientific research tells us, every new day, something more about our magnificent brain’s ability to record and save both all that we do and everything which happens to us.
But sometimes we create our own, hand made testaments.
In my case, as an early teen I took to the daily, floral pink bound diary, with its tiny lock and key, and that with fervor. Less focused on events, however, I was wont to write of what (and, whom) I’d thought about, and exchanges I’d had with others from within my small realm. I used a pen with red ink, too. My handwriting back then had a marked right slant, and long, slender lower loops. I remember writing “Timmy”, repeatedly.
Being an artist, by the time I’d reached high school these daily journals were replaced by poetry. I’d come to prefer rendering encapsulations of momentous emotional events, rather than the sundry and social acts common to the larger society. Many of those poems survived, a couple even making it to my blog.
Now, in adult life, essays have provided the broader template for both observation and rumination. And, email is the perfect place to create, label and contain all correspondence worth saving for later reference in a folder. Personal email, on my own laptop, that is. Wink; smile.
But, my memory, like everyone’s, is fed by all the senses; from somewhere within the nervous system – what I recall hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, and touching.
Perhaps Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford can relate.
Possibly the most fascinating aspect of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee was the presentation of his monthly calendars, a virtually lifelong record of his nearly every day activity.
Of particular note, to me, on those calendars was this date: July 1, 1982.
In spite of Kavanaugh’s insistence before the committee that “weekends” were when any gatherings and parties occurred, I could not ignore that singular reference in July on his calendar. And so, I Googled the day of the week; sure enough, July 1, 1982 was a Thursday.
Though I cannot speak for anyone else, it seems to me that a Thursday in any July would feel, look, sound, and even smell like an ordinary summer weekend — especially to high school and college students. Furthermore, Thursday being right on the cusp of Friday one could easily imagine that those intent on partying through Sunday evening would be getting an early start.
Of most curious note was that Justice Kavanaugh had written on his calendar the identities of several friends who’d attended a gathering on that Thursday. Among those listed were at least two young men who, by name, had been cited by Dr. Ford in her testimony as she referenced the evening wherein she alleged Kavanaugh had physically assaulted her while one of them looked on.
Dr. Ford, and Judge Kavanaugh. Separated by 36 years, and brought together by the memory of the presence of two, mutually identified men attending a gathering at which she claimed her encounter with him took place.
Many of us had hoped to hear in more detail from the so named two who had attended that gathering, when the FBI agreed to do their final investigation.
Instead, President Trump stood before the nation, and apologized to Justice Kavanaugh. The media headline beneath read: “Proved Innocent.”
Most of us know this much: until Justice Kavanaugh is brought before his own Judge, after all the evidence has been both sought out, obtained, recorded, and presented, none of us will ever know if he is innocent.
Until that day, I will always wonder what really happened – at that gathering, in that house – on July 1, 1982.
Maybe you will, too.
© 10/6/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect original material. This piece can also be viewed at Medium.com, under PEER submissions.
The term itself is Germanic in derivation and, I believe, the concept as well.
Children, able to be separated from their parents for a single school day, brought together in groups according to their chronological age to be led by a competent adult, because socialization is considered vital to the success of an earthly civilization.
I remember what we did in Kindergarten. The year was 1962. Mrs. Williams’ room was the largest one at Lincoln School, with the bay window where the painting easels stood. We each had a spot on the rug, sat cross legged, and faced her laced up shoes as she stood in front of us. We always opened each morning with a song, then the day of the week and the weather. We always made pictures, had a nap, played games and ate a snack.
But, beyond all this, a sentient sage compiled all the things that made it truly important and put them onto a lovely poster: “Everything I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. Herewith, a couple I’d like to add to that list:
a.) Keep your hands to yourself.
Goodness. Need we say more?
b.) Be kind.
c.) Tell the truth.
Are there any questions?
Does everybody understand?
Over the past couple of decades, I have watched the nation I call my own collapsing into a puddle of human depravity. This has made itself manifest in the form of fundamental behaviors we used to tell children were unacceptable.
Grown ups, touching each other inappropriately, but with sophisticated persuasive tactics that would make a chemist blush. And, then, going to equally intricate lengths to scrub out the crayon mark tracks they leave behind.
Alleged adults, grasping after power over one another’s things, taking what doesn’t belong to them with such drooling greed that even the 5 year olds would stop, stare, and wag an admonishing finger.
Moreover, the leader of our country, who is supposed to be the model for doing what is right, paying money to keep quiet those who would tell on his bad behavior to the people and then saying to everyone that, even though a girl said a man didn’t keep his hands to himself, we should let him into the little club where they make all the rules for good behavior for the whole country.
In fact, just today, all the leaders of the other countries laughed at him.
I don’t know about you, but I am embarrassed.
I suspect the Chancellor of Germany is appalled.
Our country is remedial. We need a retake, and a redo. We could do well to start over. Before we know it, the bell will ring, and school will be out.
© 9/25/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you.
The last of the tomatoes were done.
Unlike squash, they wouldn’t have survived creeping across the garden soil; their vines required staking, this year by aluminum wire cages. Stepping into the collapsing mess of metal, I reached down and plucked the final fruit from its stem, inhaling for the last time that distinctive, acidic scent.
This season, everyone seemed to have had a stake in something.
I was a professional musician. Roughly half of my colleagues either’d had contracts with an established organization, or hoped for hire; the rest were investing in a newer venture, because it served them in familial ways.
After having taken a tally of all concerned I’d discovered that, just as my beloved would suggest, none of those involved had wanted to risk their own potential benefit by standing against anything – least of all, it seemed, any moral component in actions taken. None of them, that is, but me.
And, so, I’d been left facing my remaining options. They were few.
1.) Take whatever I could get, which would likely be a rare to never hire by the established organization’s newly created collective of contracted members;
2.) Join the new venture, which clearly served first those already attached – by either employ, or enrollment – to a local institution.
In short, both actions sidelined me. The possible motives had emerged, and none of them were attractive: a.) I was perceived as aging out? b.) I was not accepted, because I did not submit to those who sought authority over me?
The third option only became clear after I had confronted the initial two and found them both undesirable:
3.) Walk away.
Facing the reality that my net income would only be marginally affected, seeing as that generated by both options had never, in the past, even remotely covered the number of uncompensated hours, the likelihood of garnering more creative time had begun to feel more like a reward than a punishment.
And, so, the decision was actually easy.
The outcome, however, I could not have predicted.
First, there’d been the sheer relief. Had there really been that much pressure, and stress? Being locked into a work schedule, occupying weeknights and weekends, pre-determined by those outside of myself. Yes; yes, there had. The release of this weight was euphoric in its effect; I felt as if I’d just been granted an unlimited vacation!
But, secondly, I’d begun to note a silence. Nobody seemed interested in remaining in touch, even those I’d thought were friends.
My declaration of intent was never challenged, no attempts made to persuade a re-consideration, only two polite assurances of future, independent collaborations from among dozens. Stock replies, and more silence.
The stakes were just too high.
A favorite metaphor among Biblical apologists is the fruit of the vine. Believers, so called, are to bear it; if they do not, they are cut off from the host.
I love tomatoes. I eat them, nearly every day when they are in season. But, maybe I am more like a squash, or a pumpkin. Meant to grow on another vine, close to the soil.
I’ll stake my life on that, instead.
© 9/24/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material, however unimportant.
He probably had no idea.
But, many women crushed on Anthony Bourdain, myself included.
Given what we have now been told about his life, his worth, and the scope of his experience, this fact may have come to bear no importance to him. Like everything he’d touched, women were likely a “been there/done that” episode in an otherwise keenly focused and ultimately vital social intention.
Because, Anthony Bourdain wasn’t just a fantastic chef. He was an explorer, a journalist, and a visionary. He may also have been, in spite of his rugged earthiness, rather an idealist – receiving, with private reflection and no small frustration, the socio-political realities he encountered.
And, he found them all.
From the rapid fire race of the planet’s cosmopolitae to the cramped corners of primal civilization, Bourdain covered the story – by boat, rickshaw, taxi, mule and the boots on his own feet. And, he reached the very heart of it all, at table.
There is something about the art of not just preparing good food, but in the eating of it. When this man sat down to share a meal, be it finger fried or stew pan steamed, he brought his open mind. And, as his interviews sat with him, they ceased being subjects and became friends. And, so many of them had, until he came along, never been seen or heard by anyone outside of their tiny place in the sun.
In many cases, neither had the culture they represented. And, this was Bourdain’s fascination. He didn’t just bring his appetite. Anthony Bourdain was hungry. He really, genuinely, wanted to know them all, and everything about their lives.
And, they told him.
They told him, both through their food and the act of sharing it. By coming to the table, the story itself unfolded – unprovoked, and unrestrained. It spoke candidly, about the political upheavals of the day and the ancient history in a single pot of oil. It openly expressed the views of its people – their ideas, their needs, their hopes for survival and preservation.
I don’t know what happened in that hotel room in Paris. We are long past the proving of any of it. And, maybe that is just what Anthony Bourdain wanted. Beyond marketing and media ratings, release to our eyes and ears his legacy. Let the story tell itself.
But, do pass the mushy peas.
©9/16/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All right those of the author, who wonders just how many private islands there are. Really. Thank you for respecting original material.
She did it.
After God knows how many months, years, painstakingly crafting, artfully arranging, she completed her novel.
It had to happen. I wrote a children’s book; she wrote one. I performed on a Steinway; she bought one. I wrote a screenplay; she got a Master’s in Creative Writing.
And, wrote a novel.
We’re supposed to celebrate each other’s triumphs. It sends positive energy into the universe, or something like that. I’d just tired of being her Applause! sign, every time we met for dinner. I mean, really tired.
For one, I am afraid to open the first chapter for fear I see myself or a member of my own family, illustrated in my blog, now characterized in official print. We all do it, as a sort of emotional release, when relationships break our hearts or sour on the vine. But, there is no law requiring me to read that book, just like there’s no law preventing her from lifting, along with a few, choice turns of the old phrase and an essential rhythm, somebody else’s nationality, personality, or family story and calling it fiction.
Power; influence; prestige; status; and, marketing savvy. The best connections an established, multiply credentialed, white collar professional can gather, just by entering the room. It’s been the way of the world, for awhile now.
Jealous? To use her favorite exclamation: “Naah.” Jealousy is about wishing you were the other person. No desire for that; grateful for everything God gave me, thank you mum and dad. Envy? Perhaps. Being published is enviable. It means that your novel will garner reviews, and sit in a bookstore with all the others. Sometimes people buy books in bookstores. Sometimes they sit, and read them there. Others flip through, looking for the best gift for that relative who doesn’t get out much.
And, a segment of the population actually spends quite a bit of time reading. Prisoners, for example.
Do I attempt to minimize this accomplishment? Nothing likely could, if its inherent value is deemed worthy by the National Association of Writers. Oh, wait. She’s a member. There it is. Nothing I could possibly say or do would depreciate this product of no doubt arduous hours of research, rewrites and edits. It’s hers, after all. Here’s hoping she gets everything she deserves.
I, myself, don’t just love to write. I need to write. Writing may be the very last thing I do before drawing my final breath. Whether anybody reads, well, that’s up to Providence.
Meantime, there are several drafts awaiting completion. Inhale; exhale. Mindful awareness. Plod along. The purpose emerges.
Just keep on.
You can do.
© 9/14/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Please respect original material, however unimportant. Thank you.
It happened so fast.
One final page flip, at the piano, in the midst of the soprano duo. Up went the right hand, catching the hoop and flicking it out of the piercing in my earlobe.
At a momentary break in the service, I stepped over to my pew and set the earring in my gig bag. Two Sundays and a Tuesday hence, I searched for the pair to complete a casual outfit. Only one hoop appeared.
Yesterday, the purge began.
I’d been keeping a whole lifetime of outfits, with matching accessories, for years. Probably a symptom of a life deferred. How was the daughter of strict fundamentalists to know that a career scrambled after would render an artificial social milieu which would leave her starving for the nourishment which living out her true identity would have provided? She could only manifest this subconscious realization by regularly purchasing clothes and jewelry from mail order catalogs, like shut ins who live in the country. Her world, perpetually professional, draped in black, would rarely afford her the creative pleasure of wearing any of it.
So, now seemed to be the time to dig through all the jewelry. Two hours in, and my bedsheet was gritty with dust and residue from any number of bracelets, rings, necklaces, pins and earrings.
The last wrangle of particularly intractable chains was the most resistant. A rhinestone bordered cut out heart, silver mounted, reminded me of its original owner. My first sister in law would last 13 years as a member of our family, but bequeathing to her skinny pre-adolescent equivalent this piece. I remembered wearing it, every summer at the annual Bible conference and its subsequent winter retreats, through any number of hopeful crushes and handholding in the dark. The tiny silver “R”, on its even more delicate chain, was a throwback to the lumpy fonts of the 1970s. But, the shiny heart locket, gold in color. What was this?
I opened the heart.
Inside, a tiny photo of mum, smiling into the sun she loved so much. Given to me, only now recalling, by my cousin’s wife ( the daughter of mum’s first crush ) at the time of mum’s death.
Stroking the miniature photo with my thumb, I sat, its context returning. The locket, back then in 1995, had seemed gaudy, shiny next to my usual wardrobe. I’d been teaching elementary music, dressing most days in full theatrical costume to illustrate concepts as a human object lesson, a tactic keen student observers would take back to their methods college classes and hand off to their instructor’s eager doctoral candidate’s thesis. When out of such get up, I dressed for comfort; sweats, and flat shoes, were the order of my hopelessly nocturnal brain and interrupted sleep each morning. The locket had been relegated, with mum’s watch and the opals inherited from her Aunt Mary.
Now, twenty three years hence I sat, and remembered only my mother.
Our singular Mum, speaking to me yet again, and always during a cleaning run. Mum, always sorting everything, keeping busy, pushing down all the unrealized dreams by organizing the small but vital world over which she had domain. Mum, always with me whenever I’d “finally get around to it.” I closed the locket, and wrapped its chain around my throat, attaching the clasp.
The lost earring would take its place among the sundry and unimportant. Better to get busy and spend my remaining energy in the joy of living authentically.
© 9/12/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect the original stories of their narrators. Thank you.
“Asking a question is quick and painless.”
© 9/11/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo littlebarefeetblog.com
I’m no sports enthusiast.
But, I do know that those who judge the plays and fouls used to be called referees. Now, they’re all called “officials”.
I’m guessing that’s because, according to the rules of the game, theirs is the official decision – on everything that happens. The official word. From God’s mouth, to our ears.
Oxford’s says that “official” is “having the approval of an authority or public body”.
I note that the keyword appears to be “authority”. Or, is it “approval”?
From my short stint in the world of graphic design I am reminded of a concept. We called it “truth in advertising”.
Except, beginning in the days of MAD MEN, the phrase actually meant something.
The product had to be everything the ad claimed. The company which made the product was believed to be everything the product represented. And, the people who ran the company were trusted, by the long line of consumers who proudly purchased their product.
The word of the producer was good. It matched that which the product had to offer.
Trouble is, now the world is so big that even corporate conglomerates need their own refs. There is so much distance, between the consumer and the place where the product they buy is made, that whole departments have to be put in place to represent their word.
To my horror, even as I type these words, I now see the perfect subject for this piece: Tennis pro, and multiple champion, Serena Williams’ contention with her grand slam referee.
(Can we say “100th Monkey Phenomenon”??) (Hold on. To those who may not know: said phenomenon speaks to a thought or behavior, showing up simultaneously in two entities, as first demonstrated between two primate tribes living an ocean apart.) ( No; this is most definitively NOT a slur.)
I was going to take this all the way to the issue of “public” authority over truth, i.e. the official position of a ruling body representing fact. And then, further, to the real, palpable danger in this allegedly official truth.
But, now, I don’t have to hypothesize; sadly, we have more than one living example.
These officials, wearing the moniker of authority, have begun to abuse their power in the world of competitive sport. (Remember LeBron James’ final game at the 2018 NBA Championships?) And, the irony is: with sophisticated playback technology, every observer can see all the evidence, from every angle.
Yet, the official word in any arena, my friends, is at the very least subjective and, at worst, may very well be a bold faced, broiled lie, grilled to perfection.
Author Don Miguel Ruiz, in his contemporary classic The Four Agreements, has the better idea.
Beginning with each of us, he challenges, let every word be impeccable.
Would that we all showed such enthusiasm for the truth.
© 9/8/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or part, permitted. Please respect original material. Thank you.
Have we not tired of being impressed?
Yet, in tandem with the dissolution of standard bearing, implicit honesty, and conscience, now we are subject to presentations intended to do just that.
Fast. Agile. Loud. Complex. Obscure. The “wow” factor.
But, impressions, even those privately gleaned through earnest searching, are at best shallow and short lived. Why? Because the motives behind the actions of their source are fed by ego.
One voluntarily seeks to impress in order to obtain something. Perhaps merely praise. In other cases, promotion, or a kind of awe which generates momentary respect.
Whenever ego is the driver, what is brought forth actually creates distance. Watchers and listeners are put off, pushed away, intimidated. Such impressions serve only to separate, even segregate, people from one another.
Used to be those who were “trying to impress” were looked down upon as conceited. All this serves to support the theory: impression is without soul.
That which is of inspiring value is self-sustaining. Beyond merely making its mark upon us, it bores through the superficial layers until, reaching who we are, it leaves a lasting change in us. And, the source of such a profound experience is then sought after. We are drawn to the one who provides accessible value to us, rather than being left to gaze from afar.
Don’t impress me. Just move me. Provoke and unsettle me, heat me up. Make me think, expand my perceptions, broaden my vision, open my heart. Make me feel, touch my emotions, stir me, feed me instead of yourself. Make a valued connection, with me.
If that is not your purpose, pack up your show. Move on down the road.
I will be happily unimpressed.
© 9/8/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect original material. Don’t be impressed. Thanks!
Thank God, WordPress.com offers a password option.
What does this mean?
Simply put, it represents a chance to present original work at your site which is not visible to everyone.
Bit by bit, I am taking advantage of this opportunity.
If you are a reader, and would like to access certain pieces at littlebarefeetblog.com, there is a password which I can give to you.
Please, go to my About page, find the email address, email me directly – and, I will provide you the password. But, first, you must offer me a short descriptor about YOU – in case we do not know each other, personally.
Then, click on Short Stories. The password protected installments can be found there.
p.s. isn’t Obama right on the money, at this moment? I’m listening; are you? Feels like a Gospel Meeting, frankly.
Hello, dear readers.
A word, if I may, about writers and their characters.
It is my opinion that any writer will derive character from a blend of personal, observational experience and imagination. As such, any writer who rejects this is denying the very enterprise itself.
If, at any time, you think you see either yourself or someone you know in a work of fiction, trust that the writer likely knew somebody very much like you or created a composite out of several individuals. The beauty of storytelling is that it mimics life itself, but the truth in such stories lies in the messages they carry and the value derived.
So, next time you take a novel off of a bookshelf, remember that nobody lives in a vacuum. We all express our strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and dreams every time we enter the fray. Perhaps your life, viewed through the eyes of the next author, will be of benefit and service to someone else. That is both the point, and the purpose.
Yours in the story,
Ruth Ann Scanzillo,
Some eyes just gleam
and, others glare
Some flash, or glaze
Behind a stare
Beware the orbs
Whose smiles alight
These will betray
Intent at sight
Though falsest face
A mask belies
The truth will speak
Through twinkling eyes.
© 8/28/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect original material. Thank you very much.
The reader lives inside a book
The writer quite outside it
The story told
Will take ahold
Of each by size until, to wit
They dress alike
A perfect fit.
© 8/28/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect original material. Thank you.
“You can’t act with conviction if you don’t have one.”
© 8/27/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights to these proverbs the domain of their author. Thank you. littlebarefeetblog.com
“Those who generate respect by instilling fear are too afraid to earn it.”
copyright 8/26/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo littlebarefeetblog.com
Pulling himself out of the driver’s seat he rose up, hulking, above the diminutive walker, a solid 6′ 4″ even stooped over, and trudged forward – the door to the Post Office just ahead beyond a cement incline.
He was immense. Baggy jeans, lumberjack plaid flannel, knit skullcap, sagging grey face enveloping vacant, downcast eyes. His image, apart from the size of him, taking her back to 2009 or 10 and her own father she was, already, at the door – opening it, leaning back against it, standing, waiting with careful, familiar, experienced patience.
As he approached, she offered a calculated greeting, something about pretending to be in New York and having a door(wo)man. No reaction, no response; without looking up, he placed the walker across the threshold and passed through into the lobby.
Her eyes followed him plod toward the glass doors leading to the office counters. Its long, late Saturday morning postal line still testing the space, she quickly stepped up to catch its door for him as well when, without any warning, he spoke. Loudly.
“Come ON, Tim – for ChrisSAKES! What’s TAKING you so LONG?? GET OUT OF THERE!!”
The voice which sprang from his body belied both its countenance and carriage. Gruff, angry – and, directed at somebody almost hidden in the middle of the line.
As if spotlit, the face of Tim turned. Instantly, and deftly, with the intent of one trying not to be noticed at all he slid past the women who had quickly backed up at the sight, and through the door she stood holding, and out into the lobby.
Tim was of medium height, wearing a dark colored Steelers knit hat, short dark blue jacket, dark pants. Approaching middle age, his face was plain, unmemorable, except for the skittish averted eyes when she spoke, eyes which behaved like those of a child who expected to be slapped as a matter of course.
She placed her hand on Tim’s shoulder.
“What’s your name?” she said, automatically.
“…er…Tim!” he nodded, as if to affirm what he’d been called moments before.
“Is he your father?”, she apologized.
“Um, no…….my neighbor….”
She nodded. Slowly. Feeling her forehead contract.
“Bless you”, she said.
Moving to exit the post office, she stepped through the door. Once outside she turned, yet again, gazing back into the lobby….and, re-entered.
The two men stood side by side at the self-serve booth, Tim waiting as his neighbor inserted and received the customary materials for mailing, describing as if rehearsing the proper steps to be taken.
Task completed, they both turned to leave. She, still standing there, looked up again at Tim and asked for his last name. “Lauer”, he pronounced. As they exited the lobby, she continued: “Are you in the phone book?”
“No…!” he turned, swiftly, head down, trying to remain anonymous. She spelled the name. Looking away, he corrected:
Again: “Bless you”.
Hunched over, Tim headed toward the car. She looked up, facing the Post Office door. The large man was coming toward it. This time, inspired ever and only by every dutiful act branded into her consciousness, she opened the door and stepped back. He looked up at her, brightly, and spoke:
“Oh! Are you the door man?”
“I am, today…” she said.
© 11/25/17 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting the creative material of those beneath you in class or station. Be a good person.
*Author’s note: This piece was originally written on April 4, 2017, the day Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong died in prison.
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 all but one of the public high schools, losing five thousand students with only the scent of enough loaves and fishes to feed those who remain.
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 very guarantee.
Mrs. Agnes 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, featured on DATELINE NBC this past Friday evening, 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.
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.
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.
Well before any of us 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, to sing, and 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 intrinsic 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 became submerged beyond the point of return.
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.
Our hometown could use just such recognition and encouragement.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 4/4/17; updated 10/18 Thank you for your respect for those whose story this is.