ITALIAN AMERICAN

CULTURE AND STORIES

December 2013

 

 

Three Shots Fired!

 

Geraldeena's Memoir about a Life of Yelling, Laughing

 

...and Attempted Murder

 

Look for The Whole Story Coming Soon!

 

 

There is Anxiety in Choice

 

Creative ethnicity...that is, using one's ethnic heritage as the starting point upon which to build one's own identity in a selective and critical way, as opposed to total and unquestioning acceptance of tradition.  There is anxiety in choice.

The Historical and Social Context of Silence, by Helen Barolini

 

 

 

Saluti!

 

 

Here I am toasting "always a bridesmaid, never the bride."  But I'm never the bridesmaid either.  I'm the wedding guest -- at one of those WASP weddings without food.  The weather was eighty-nine degrees. It took two hours from Grand Central to New Haven where I arrived just in time to see a man pass me with the last shrimp. 

 

My last name, Salvatorelli, means "little savior" neither of which I am.  I'm 5'10" and anything but "little."  And I've never saved anyone unless I count the little girl whose hand I grabbed as I  mouthed "meet me at 72nd Street" to the mother through the door  of the #2 train as it took off. (more)

 

 

 

                                                       Photo by Leanna

 

Post 9/11 Woman

 

I was waiting at the bus stop on my way home from work selling pianos at Macy’s and it was freezing. So I went back inside and headed towards the Fur Department like a robot on tranquillizers, I went up to Maddie, the Manager, and asked,  "Do you have one of those that would fit me?"  She looked me over, and without missing a beat replied, "Your size came in today." Five minutes later, I was back out on Broadway waiting for the bus. The only chill I felt was from the womens’ stares.  One said, "You go girl."  It was like that every time I wore it.  (more)

 

 

Real Things Gone

 

The New York version of nostalgia is not simply about lost buildings or their presence in the youth of the individuals who lived with them.  It involves an almost fatalistic acceptance of the permanent presence of loss... New York toughens its people against sentimentality by allowing the truer emotion of nostalgia.  Sentimentality is always about a lie.  Nostalgia is about real things gone. Nobody truly mourns a lie.  That is why, in a million small ways, New Yorkers behaved so well on September 12, 2001.  Millions of us wept over the horrors of the day before...But nobody ran.  Our only consolation would be nostalgia...That tough nostalgia helps explain New York.  I believe that New York nostalgia also comes from that extraordinary process that created the modern city:  immigration. Many were illiterate and wrote no memoirs or letters; memoir was a genre practiced by their children.

DOWNTOWN My Manhattan by Pete Hamill

 

 

 

 

Rosemary

My Mom

 

My grandfather tried to kill my grandmother.

My mother saved her mother's life....more

                    

 

 

Geraldeena

Glady's Comedy Room NYC

 

 

Was it wise to be out three and four times a week trolling from room to room? (more)

 

 

 

 

 

My First Holy Communion

 

The ritual ceremony in which Catholic girls marry God and stay married until someone with a clean suit, benefits and a good 401k happens along. That morning, I sat in a photographer’s studio fielding pinches in the forehead from a freshly sharpened barber scissor as my mother trimmed and sculpted until I resembled the youngest of the four Lennon sisters who appeared on The Lawrence Welk show, known for its wholesome American style.  The veil slipped and was crooked in every photo. I knew I wasn't perfect.

 

 

Mom's First Holy Communion.

 

 

 

My Brother's First Holy Communion

 

Holy Communion proved to be less than holy in my family...

 

 

Excuse for unhappiness?

 

Childhood is less clear to me than to many people:  when it ended I turned my face

away from it for no reason that I know about, certainly without the usual reason of unhappy memories.

 

For many years that worried me, but then I discovered that the tales of former children are seldom to be trusted.  Some people supply too many past victories or pleasures with which to comfort themselves, and other people cling to pains, real and imagined, to excuse what they have become.

 

I think I have always known about my memory:  I know when it is to be trusted and when some dream or fantasy entered on the life, and the dream, the need of dream, led to distortion of what happened."

 

Pentimento by Lillian Hellman

 

 

Sportier and Less Scratchy

The Irish kids on the streets of East Harlem tormented my mother with ethnic curses. (more)

You will stand out. You’re unique. Never forget. These were a few popular behests my mother directed at me and seem to apply even when the nun sent a note home requesting all mothers to please send their daughter’s to school in a pastel colored dress for the annual class picture -- I had no other choice but to wear the red plaid cotton.  It was sportier and less scratchy than the puffy, multi-layered skirts all the other girls were wearing but I didn't mind. The other dresses made rustling sounds that I I liked.  (more)

                                                                    

Miss Red Plaid

 

 

 

In the Name of God, What Were They Thinking?

 

My Nun Abuse List

 

#1.  Mother Gregory said, "Girls, I'm going to go around the room and  read everyone a two-line poem, and I want you to tell me the two words that rhyme, "Geraldine ran and fell on her can."   Why was she being mean to me?              (more)

 

 

 

Mona Deena

 

 

Short Men LOVE me

And I LOVE THEM!

 

 

 

 

Talk about a pair.

 

Anita Hill and The Reporter

Day two: the Clarence Thomas hearings.  I was literally glued to my TV when the phone rang.  Friends know better than to call between nine and five, since despite my unemployed status, I try to maintain some semblance of a schedule.  That day, I left the machine off and when it rang, I picked up. (more)

I would put the Anita Hill statue right here in the middle of Columbus Circle next to the statue of Christopher Columbus.  And I'd probably put an inscription underneath that says:

"You go girl."

 

 

 

 

Vincent Sardi

 

Evenings That Linger Long After They End


I was a 23 yr. old graduate student from Teacher’s College in my first year working as a high school Writing and Literature teacher a Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic girl’s school in upper Manhattan. I shared a homeroom there with a British Dance and Phys. Ed. teacher who used to work in a finishing school in Rome and who in her short time in NYC had become a well-seasoned veteran of the night scene. She introduced me to one of the first underground discos, Le Jardin, in the basement of the Hotel Diplomat, the first time I’d ever seen people dancing without a partner -- as a tall woman who rarely got asked to dance, this was a liberating moment. I had not been thrilled with  my role as a high school teacher -- as an authority figure. I was more comfortable when I was asked to accompany the junior class who performed GREASE in their annual talent show – which several of them did so well they were accepted into the CUNY dance program.

 

One night, on our way out of Le Jardin, after a night of vigorous dancing, my friend ushered me into a taxi and said I have someone I think you should meet and my friend ushered me into Sardi’s to meet Vincent. I was wearing a daring, “Some Like It Hot,” backless, red banlon dress that was made in Israel and that I purchased at Loeman’s in the Bronx. I clutched a hand made, Spanish shawl, I bought in Madrid tightly around my shoulders that I’d brought along just in case -- I didn’t really expect to be going anywhere well lit. The evening felt like I had made my formal debut -- the ever charming, charismatic Vincent treated me like the star of my own opening night. Nights like that one that drive memoir writers like me to think and write about people like Vincent with profound longing and nostalgia long after they’re gone. Almost two decades later, I encountered Vincent in my office at WNBC-TV, when my job was to prepare him to be on television.

 

 

Vincent Sardi towards the end of his life.

 

As a memoir writer I spend a lot of time

Googling the dead.

 

Vincent Sardi touched an Italian immigrant chord in me at such a young age, I was 23 and not ready to look at "being Italian" and what it meant, at least, not the way I am now doing decades later.  Sardi's looks as well as his robust, joyful spirit reminded me of my Aunt Katie. She was alive when I met him and I never made the connection.  Even now, I'm not really sure why I'm making these connections.  I suppose they're just commemorative.  I'm commemorating. I like that word.




 

Aunt Katie

 

I was 32 when Aunt Katie died.  In some ways, I was closer to her than I was to my mother.

 

 

Women of The Shadows

 

Italian American women writers are, in fact, women of the shadows.  They come from a background of negative injunctions:  don't step out of line and be noticed, don't be the envy of others, don't attract the jealous fates who will punish success.      

The Historical and Social Context of Silence, by Helen Barolini.

 

 

 

The Office at 30 Rock, WNBC-TV. 

 

Here, I'm the access to power, working for Joe Michaels, the Editorial Director and on-air host of The Prime of Your Life with Arlene Francis.

 

Earnie, a divorced stagehand whose son was in the Nutcracker, was taking up photography and took this photo soon after my mother was killed in a head on collision on a Detroit highway, in a General Motors car, on her way home from working for the General Motors Corporation. 

 

Women are good at turning their desolation to their advantage; from waiting comes intensity of focus, words straining to be heard, passion, conviction, an inner voice.

Witness by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

 

THE USSR 1987

 

Purgatory was time spent waiting in deserted Russian airports.        

 

 

 

Sometimes I can be a real Lolita.

 

 

 

I kept trying to get out but Mom kept holding me back.

 

 

 

 

 

1961 Italian Family Kitchen

 

Brother laughs, Mom's hair in curlers, Dad and me stuck between them.  Eventually, we became a bunch of lapsed Catholics. 

 

 

 

Dad (b. 1917) Mom (b. 1919)

Married (m. 1940) Separated Never Divorced (1970)

 

 

 Real Things Gone

    

The authority of memory is a personal confirmation of selfhood, and therefore the first step toward ethical development.  To write one's life is to live it twice, and the second living is both spiritual and historical.

I Could Tell You Stories, Sojourns in the Land of Memory by Patricia Hampl

 

 

 

 

Mom and Dad posing in front of my Story and Clark piano.

Mom searched, questioned  and nearly tortured every piano salesman before buying the cheapest piano with the best sound.

She knew that the strings in the base should be copper.

Here they are before departing to chaperone my high school prom where they had a better time than I did.  

 

 

Mom looking stern while posing in front of 3001 Briggs Avenue with cigarette, me and Dad and if you look at the car on Dad's left -- his Plymouth with the licorice black running board.

 

 

Dean Martin Dad

 

Dad was a heavy smoker too.  He says Mom goaded him to put a cigarette in his hand so he would look sophisticated. 

 

 

 

Dad in front of 3001 Briggs 1941

 

 

Dad could have been a contender!

 

He wanted to become a Golden Gloves boxer.  He says he could throw a quick punch, but says his mother tore up permission papers right  in his face, and by doing so may have saved his face.  (more)

 

 

 

 

Mom and Dad's Wedding Day

 

Our Lady of Mercy Church on Marion Avenue in the Bronx and my grandfather horning in.  I bet this was his way of taking credit for footing the bill.

 

 

 

Family Photos

 

When I took my photo history...and studied it, I was deeply disappointed, I sat at the downstairs table of my parents' home, poring over sheet after sheet, and I got the same deflated feeling I sometimes get when I read over what I've just written and realize that I did not begin to capture the thought or sensation I was after. Now as I sat in a different place--my own house--distanced somewhat from parental entangelments, caught up more in the toils of my own daily business, I was, for whatever reason, suddenly vulnerable to the images. I felt the flash of a terrible poignancy.  It was the poignancy of genetic distance. 

My Sky Blue Trades by Sven Birkerts

 

 

 

Family Mystery

 

My cousin gave me this photo of my father with his parents. It's the only one of them together. My grandmother died in 1945 before I was born. Dad married my mother in 1940 when he was 23 yrs. old but his mother is absent from the wedding photos and he doesn't know why only that "she was always sick and miscarrying."  My mother did tell me that on their wedding day my grandfather slapped my father across the face in front of her for no apparent reason other than to remind him who's boss.  I have a theory that he was jealous of my father's good looks.  

 

 

 

The Second Wife

 

I used to call  her Aunt Ida.  She was my grandfather's second wife who everyone else referred to as Ida.  Thus begins the slow, uneasy transfer and flow of family money.   Ida sat my parents down one day and said, "Better make sure your father's papers are in order because I'm not going to give up anything. That's why I'm in this."  (My grandfather was a tailor who made quality men's suits and was partner's with a Jewish man we called Marchowitz in lower Manhattan.)

 

Are you sure.  Did she really do that.  I thought it may have been my mother's sharp powers of perception,  her ability to launch an inference that landed with the accuracy of a stud missile about a person's character, ability, and capacity to do harm. I sensed this was one time my mother was repeating what she heard, the way she had heard it.

 

 

He was better looking as a young man.

Anthony Salvatorelli, Dad's Father, My Grandpa.

 

 

A Sin When Misapplied

Nostalgia is really a kind of loyalty – also a sin when misapplied, as it so often is.  But it’s the engine, not the enemy, of history.  It feeds on detail, the protein of accuracy.  Or maybe nostalgia is a form of longing.  It aches for history.  In its cloudy wistfulness, nostalgia fuels the spark of significance.  My place.  My people.           

Dead of the Night by Patricia Hampl

 

Happier days -- a more mellow, widowed grandpa -- when he was single and used to pay for summer's in Far Rockaway.

 

 

                                       

Every woman has a grandmother she has to be wary of taking after.  Mine was obese.  I go in and out of stages of favoring her.  My mother was so afraid of obesity, she ran and fell a lot, despite the fact that she suffered from malnutrition as a child.

 

Notice her knees.

 

 

 

 

Bronx, Tibbets Brook

 

This is swimming pool that's called Tiebbets Brook. Pools symbolize the happiest moments of my life

 

 

Life is best lived when not  "in above my head."  I'm all about comfort, safety. A philosophy my mother found unacceptable and lacking ambition. It wasn't until she died that I packed it in and began to live dangerously.

 

 

EAST HARLEM

 

NYC Department of Records/Municipal Archives

 

Dad's birthplace, 453 East,  119th Street in East Harlem where he developed muscles carrying coal to the top floor to help his grandmother.  She was in charge of  bringing heavy garbage to the basement.  One day, while Dad was at the movies, his grandmother tumbled to her death.

 

Dad's Maternal Grandmother

 

Memoir is saying it out loud.  It contradicts the rules of silence observed in many families. Every Italian knows this, perhaps more than most people do.

Crossing Ocean Parkway by Marianna De Marco Torgovnick

 

 

 

 

Dad's baby sister.

 

He doesn't remember her name. My grandparents took her into their bed in one night to keep her warm.  They rolled over and smothered her. She was waked in the same apartment where she died.  There is a photo of her lying in her silk lined casket.  That was tragedy number two that took place in his East Harlem home.  There would be one more before the family moved to the Bronx.

 

 

THE BRONX

 

 

 

Dad, preparing bird food just in case  bird flies into his apartment or his girlfriend wants him back 2008.

 

 

 

Dad, spending his days alone after being dumped by his girlfriend of thirteen years.

 

Welcome to my crumbling abode! Dad taking his building's renovations that don't include his rent controlled apartment, in stride. 

 

These are publications where the issues surrounding his apartment are mentioned. 

 

"Homeless Shelter Surprise Riles Bedford Park"

Alex Katz, NORWOOD NEWS, February 5, 2009

 

"Tenants Wary of Clustering Homeless"

Julie Bosman, NEW YORK TIMES , March 3, 2009

 

"Apartment Building To Homeless Shelter" by Alex Katz, NORWOOD NEWS, March 5, 2009.

 

Dad, asleep, before there was enough heat and he was using his oven that was giving him bloody noses that sent him to the emergency room twice in one winter.

 

 

Dad, waiting for the pregnant bird on his fire escape to give birth.  

 

 

"What am I running a shelter for the birds?"

The following year, Dad thinks it may have been the same bird who returned to deliver again.

Dad's the only one refusing to fly the coup. 

 

 

 

 

Crib Balls

 

Why were they there? What was I supposed to do with them? I was trapped in a coffin with a row of grenades attached to my crib. My brother would peer into my crib. Was he getting ready to smother me?  Between keeping an eye on the ghosts living in the radiator, and his staring, who could get any sleep...

 

 

MANHATTAN

 

 

Photo by Geraldeena

 

97th & Columbus 2006

 

 

 

97th & Amsterdam Avenue 2008

 

Good Friday.  I photograph the Good Friday procession.  It's my way of connecting with the religion of my youth and roots.  I am drawn to the ways that people meet outdooors -- street fairs, parades, sidewalk cafes and free concerts public spaces and parks, rallies and demonstrations.

 

 

  Good Friday Street Procession 2009

 

In the street, a van hooked up with a loud speaker moves slowly alongside the procession as a woman sings a doleful hymn through a microphone.

Every year, I'm touched by the way in which the Catholic Hispanics in my area take their devotion to the streets of NYC. 

 

 

 

Good Friday, 2009

 

Two women assist the priest by holding up prayer and hymn sheets as Christ stands beside awaiting crucifixion.

 

 

A slight change of scene on the same church steps

 

 

Bank Commercial, June 2, 2009

97th & Amsterdam Avenue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testifying.

 

 

 

 

Open the Hatch!

 

I played, sold, loved and listened to pianos whenever I was unsure about what to do with my life.

 

My success in selling one particular Yamaha DGT-2iiXG, the Grand Touch digital, a three foot piano that imitated the touch and tone of a 9' concert grand, awarded me with trips all over the United States -- and short term stays in luxury hotels in West Palm Beach, Rhode Island, and New Orleans before Katrina hit. I was so backed up with rewards I did not have enough time to use I passed them on to friends. That was very rewarding.

 

 

 

 

"Broadway Gerry Rose!"

 

"Broadway Gerry Rose!" at the Mozart Cafe on Manhattan's Upper Westside...my first paid gig.  This was a great training ground for performing in public.  The Cafe discontinued the pianists because of acoustical problems.  By that time, I was excited about playing publiclyso I made a tape and gave it to Judy who managed McDonald's on Broadway and was hired as their Sunday pianist. (see next photo).

 

 

 

 

1993. The Wall Street McDonald's

 

At the Sunday pianist at the Wall Street McDonald's, a well known tourist attraction at 160 Broadway, I played a piano from a cage that overlooked Broadway on one side and inside a  two-tiered McDonald's that reminded me of an amphitheater.  Tour groups booked McDonald's breakfast reservations and got table service. I played six hours straight with ten minute break just enough time to down a big mac or step outside for ten minutes of relief from the smell of French fries.  I had a lot to think about those days besides my love of music...

 

 

 

 

The Salvatorelli's

1962

Dressed up lookin' happy.

 

 

 

Ex-Sister-In-Law

 

The emergency room nurse, taking aim, ready to fire at the Salvatorelli's or maybe to return fire. Who knows for sure.  In those days, we all made each other see red. 

 

 

 

 My Poor Brother. 

 

Lou was forced to include me in everything.  Mom even tried to pull one of those Italian customs that forbid the oldest boy in the family from marrying before the youngest sister goes first. Just his luck to have a feminist for a sister.  If I had turned out to be a Lesbian, the poor guy would still be single.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 11th floor Rockefeller Garden, 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

 

A rare moment, pose and location.  My big claim to fame were the the windows to my WNBC-TV office were better than Sue Simmons' because they faced this rooftop garden and overlooked the Radio City roof where Rockettes could be spotted sunbathing in summer. 

 

30 ROCK

 

 

1985. WNBC-TV Christimas carol sing -a -long. Wearing a white coat is Poncetta Pierce the 30 Rock friend and confidante to Megan Marshak, a name the Rockefellers would soon pretend to forget. Next to her a popular Tape Editor. Geraldeena in white hat, and next to me, Bob Howard, my former boss used to be the NBC-TV Network President.  In the photo, he was demoted to Vice President and General Manager, WNBC-TV, and my then boss, Joe Michaels, the editorial director and host of Newscenter Forum until the show went to Gabe Pressman.

 

We all froze while waiting for cues to sing -- I said I thought it was a good thing we were wearing hats because we loose body heat through the head. Howard said, it depends since some people's heads are in their feet.  Howard was responsible for the programming of, Saturday Night Live.

 

 

HOWARD STERN ADDICT

 

 

 

ROBIN QUIVERS, PAUL D'ERMILIO

 

Cousin Paul  posing with Robin Quivers at her L.A.book signing. Paul and I are indefatigable Howard Stern fans for different reasons.  We learned this about each other in our later adult years.  Paul went all the way to California to prove his devotion.

 

 

 

HOWARD STERN, GARY DELL'ABATE, AND STUTTERING JOHN

 

 

 

 

HOWARD STERN, 20th Century Radio Icon

 

Paul recorded the History of Howard Stern and gave me a copy.

 

 

 

FAST FORWARD...to 2006

 

 

Despite the tacky, tasteless stuff, Howard Stern is a 20th Century icon. I couldn't help myself. I ran out to the streets that morning sick as a dog and managed to catch the tail end of a media era. This was the best I could do.  Some Shudderbabe I turned out to be.

 

 

Two guys holding up t-shirts...

 

 

 

...and a police cascade, well at least I can say I was there!

 

 

So were these people.  Even though they were with their faces and backs turned.  None of us really wanted to be seen just in case people get the wrong idea why we love Howard!

 

 

 

PAUL D'ERMILIO AND TONY SIRICO "PAULIE" ON THE SOPRANOS

 

The two Paulies. Here goes my Cousin Paul goes again with the celebrities.

 

 

Artie Lange

2009

 

I was among the last on line at Artie's New York City book signing at Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue on Veteran's Day, this year, 2009. I'm working on my own memoir and was not going to take time out that morning but my 91 yr. old Dad was released from the hospital the day before and I realized how attached I have become to both Artie and Howard's stories about their fathers. 
Frankly, I was totally dismayed. He looked more clear eyed and alert even a bit slimmer than the average cop on the street. It was difficult to reconcile the man I was facing that morning with the dissipated one in some of these photos.  When I finished reading the it I gasped and felt a bit like Richard Lewis said he felt towards the end -- almost wanting to put it down and not finish reading because it did feel like I was reading a dead man's story. I like Artie so much. I love his baseball stories even though I'm not a sport's fan, I grew up in the Bronx near Yankee stadium and I used to play hooky just to go to games with my 8th grade friend Maureen who was a bigger fan. I just liked adventure and cutting school for a good reason. I'm Italian too so I know how it feels to be so addicted to food -- I've had huge battles all my life with eating. 
I'm sending my best vibes his way -- he not just a good comedian he's a good memoir writer.

He cracked me up Tuesday, May 12, 2009 when Robin Quivers reported on the news that

Victoria Gotti may loose her house in Westbury –
because husband borrowed against it she is two years behind in mortgage payments and Artie says:
Well, I’m in the market for five enormous white pillars.

As an Italian I'm sensitive to comments about plastic covers, front lawn grottos, overeating and white pillars.

 

 

BARNES & NOBLE, UNION SQUARE, ARTIE LANGE BOOK SIGNING, JUNE 17, 2009

 

A MUCH BETTER BOOK SIGNING EXPERIENCE FOR ME THAN THE VETERAN'S DAY SIGNING AS YOU CAN SEE BELOW WITH ARTIE,  POSING.

(SIGNINGS ALWAYS GOOD FOR MY COUSIN PAUL, JR. ON THE RIGHT, HE ATTENDED EVERYONE'S HOWARD, ROBIN SEE ABOVE PHOTOS).

 

 

 

(SEE STORY ON SIGNING, COMING SOON)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chauncey Howell kissing my hand at the Italian Cultural Institute on Park Avenue in Manhattan where Chauncey is preparing to regale a group of Italian culture buffs with one of his  observational stories mixed with the right blend of sensation, trivia and art and always backed by scholarly knowledge led by his curiosity and joy towards life and people. 

 

 

2006

 

 

Under no circumstances would I want to mess with Chauncey the Pugilist even though...

 

 

 

Chauncey Howell remains always and ever a gentleman.   

   

 

 

 

 

Penelope Cruz.   She depicts me in the upcoming movie, "Nine.  I see the resemblance.

 

 

 

I said this to a literary agent recently at a meeting of the WNBA (Women's National Book Association) and she told me to be careful claims like that will make people think I'm crazy. I am crazy, I admitted but I don't see that as a problem. A majority of people writing memoirs are plagued by demons and being crazy is just one.  She nervously admitted to being a little crazy herself then deferred to someone else with a blog who warns writers, or women or people  to guard against coming across like a Yahoo which I could not quite recall the definition of so I looked up Yahoo -- yahoo /yaahoo, yhoo/
  • noun informal a rude, coarse, or brutish person.
  — ORIGIN named after an imaginary race in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726).
▸ noun:  one of a race of brutes resembling men but subject to the Houyhnhnms in a novel by Jonathan Swift
▸ noun:  not very intelligent or interested in culture.

 

I'm changing my name to Ya Hu. 

 

 

 

 

 

She simply landed in our apartment one night and demanded to use the bathtub. (more)

                                       

 

Geraldeena and The Seine

 

 

 

Penelope rehearsing for "9" says one of the gossip websites I was googling late one night.

 

 

Me getting out of the lift in Paris, France.

 

PARIS, FRANCE

 How many can begin a sentence like that?  This is me in my Audrey Hepburn phase.  I spent too many hours studying her photo on the front  the sheet music of the theme  theme from Charade  thinking I'll never be that thin but I can at least try to be as graceful.  Forget about it.

 

 

Me descending French staircase. In those months that I lived in Paris I think I got my fill of grillwork, cast iron, gargoyles,  marble and curliques and bidets.

 

I shared an apartment with two Columbia women from Baranquilla.  Their grandfather was the U.N. diplomat from Columbia and he got us the apartment.

 

First we lived in this hotel.  Both places were in the Latin Quarter but this room looks more like some Times Square flop house.  It was on the top floor however and afforded us a view of the Pantheon. 

 

 

 We snuck Olga's sister Aida into our room that had two sets of bunk beds. An ex-college dorm mate and I rented the room for our first three nights in Paris.  After that we would have to move. One night while out walking around the Latin Quarter (there I go again with the names) we wandered into the lobby of a woman's dorm to find a woman arguing with the concierge in Spanish.  Another woman younger stood by watching the two argue.  In those day,s my Spanish was good enough to make out what the argument was about -- only one of the women, the older one, Olga was authorized to stay at the dorm.  The concierge refused to allow her sister, Aida, who'd been ordered to accompany her sister to Paris as a chaperone (I'll never get that one) to room with her.   Olga was an abrogada (lawyer) who was enrolled at the University to learn French and return to Baranquilla to practice law.  Well from the way things were going she was going to need a lawyer to get permission from the concierge to allow her sister to share her room. So I stepped up to the plate and suggested that we wait until much later that night and sneak her sister into our hotel room.  I loved the challenge of trying to defy a French concierge who I think undergo the same training as French police inspectors.  And so we have the photo below writing to her boyfriend.  It was Olga who phoned their grandfather and got him to get us all out of that dirty, sloppy room.

 

 

Aida was usually doing one of two things deciding what to where or primping over what she has on in an armoir mirror then posing.

 

 

Her primpting was endless, incessant. The armoir with the full length mirror was located in my room and it was not unusual to awake and find her twisting and turning from front to back to examine herself in them mirror. After counting to ten, twenty, fifty once I got all the way to one hundred, Aida would still be stationed there admiring her reflection.  I wonder where she is today.  Maybe she has devoted herself to a life of couture or has a big  house in Baranquilla full of mirrors.  Maybe she has joined the Red Cross and labors for selfless causes across the globe.  Perhaps she's lost more weight chasing children around the yard. Maybe I'll place an add in a Columbian newspaper, "Desperately Seeking Aida," just to find out whatever became of her.

 

 

Olga was prone to primping too but not to the extent of her sister.

 

 

Olga married her boyfriend who studied in Raleigh, South Carolina. What did he study? I don't recall, I just remember that she traveled to America to purchase a wedding dress and was sweet to trave to the Bronx to visit me.  I think my parents were stunned by this elegant, exotic, Latina princess's presence in their home. I was so embarrassed when she sat on the sofa and the plastic covers released a wave of air that sounded like gas being let out of a tire.

 

 

 

The Old Yankee Stadium

 

 

THE BRONX  IS  YANKEE STADIUM

 

9/17/08

 

This is Rachel and Lisa -- Niece and Aunt, Yankee Fans at the final game in the old Yankee stadium saying farewell.

 

 

WE WERE THERE!!!!!!!

 

 

 

SAYING GOOD-BYE!

 

 

 

Yankee fans can be found everywhere!

 

 

Central Park lake is this clipper's home base.

 

 

 

Gus Heninberg, Host of Positively Black, public affairs program on WNBC-TV, September, 1982.

 

 

Selected 12 times as an All-Star and known for helping underpriviledged children, Dave  Winfield was one of the first baseball stars to include charitable work in his contract, and his foundation was the first organization of its kind created by an athlete.  His foundation had come under scrutiny and he appeared on Positively Black to clear things up.

1982

WNBC-TV Studio 3A Green Room.

 

 

1982, Dave Winfield, Yankee All Star on the set of Positively Black public affairs television program, WNBC-TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Uncle Dominic Salvatorelli

1885- April 20, 1942.
The first of three brothers and one sister to come from Vasto to America.  Dominic arrived in 1902 at 16 years old. He married Grace and died at 57.

There were no children.

 

My Brother, Louis Salvatorelli.

 

 

 

 

Gallery of Dad

 

 

Dad's Women

 

 

 

 

Elly arrived in Dad's life with bad news. JayJay, his ex-roommate and decorated World War II soldier had died.  We attended the wake and the funeral director informed us Sister Annunciata had died several months before. That's how it is when you are elderly, all your friends and acquaintances go missing including Elly.  She and Dad didn't hit it off that well.

 

 

 

 

 

"Our parents stand for previous generations until they die, whereupon we have to."

 

Compass Points: How I Lived by Ed Hoagland

 

 

ITALY

 

 

 

Positano, 1988

 

I just attended a one week conference in Rome sponsored by the National Organization of Italian American Women meant to strike a dialogue with women members of the Italian Parliament. It was six a.m. I awoke with a cold and was eager to drink something hot. I dressed quickly and made my way to the lift which did not go directly to the breakfast room. 

 

 

ABRUZZI

 

Vasto in Abruzzi -- Dad's ancestral origins...

 

 

Vasto by The Sea

 

Paola's Husband Brother Alberto Marascino and Paola Maraschino

 

Vastese Cuginas!

 

Here is Paula's husband, brother Alberto and Paula.

I have never met my second cousins but now we e mail from time to time.

 

This is quite a story in several parts.

 

Part I

                                           

The first part involves my father's cousin and best man Paul who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and took advantage of an invitation by the United States Army to visit his mother's family (the house of the Zona's) in Vasto before returning home. to Staten Island.

 

 

 

 

Cousin Paul D'Ermilio, Sr., who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and accepted the government's invitation to visit the home of his ancestors before returning to America after the war.  He traveled all the way from Marseilles.

 

And arrived at the house of  Zanna, the marriage name of his Aunt Vincenza the youngest of three brothers and one sister who did not emigrate to America from Vasto, Abruzzi.

 

It was always sad for her to look back and wonder what became of her siblings.

 

 

Part II

 

Part 2 of this story reunite a family divided by war involves Paul's son David who became a Naval officer and whose ship the docks in Naples in the 80's. Armed with the town and address of his father's Aunt Vincenza David carries on the next generation's contact with Italia, Vasto, w ith Vincenza and her family. It's Easter a wonderful time to be an American guest in an Italian relatives village.

 

 

The USS McCandless, FF-1084 in the Port of Toronto around 1985.  Also the ship that took Cousin David, a Naval Officer to Naples, Easter, 1982.

 

 

 

 

Cousin David  Visits our father's first and second cousins in Vasto. Angelico Zanna, Alberto Maraschino, (Angelico's nephew) David D'Ermilio,  Rita Zanna wife of Angelico and Paola Maraschino (Alberto's sister and Angelico's niece).  Angelico Zanna is my father's first cousin. He died  having only met his first one cousin, Paul, Sr. who traveled from Marseilles to Italy shortly after the war in Europe ended and G.I.'s were offered liberal furloughs to visit European family before returning to America. David and I Keep In Touch with Vasto via Internet.

 

Part III

 

Part three.  Cousin David and I reunite at his Uncle Nick's (a.k.a. Buster's)  funeral and decide to stay in contact.  I realize immediately by his understanding and use and humor around the word diaspora that we are going to get along famously. We run around town and attend many cultural events focused around Italian heritage, art, and culture.  I introduce him to Judy who is Italian who introduces him to her best friend Pam who is not Italian and they begin a relationship that lasts two years during which time they eat at a tiny hole in the wall pasta restaurant and then eventually they break up.

 

Image

 

Cicciolina

 

Part IV

 

Part four.  In 1988, as a Board Member and Head of the Programming Committee of the National Organization of Italian American Women,  I attended a conference in Rome hosted by hosted by the former Prime Minister's wife, Maria Piafanfani.  The purpose was to meet women members of the Italian pariament (with the exception of Cicciolina, the porn star "who served a five-year term and -- an outsider who forced her way into the boys' club upsetting their sense of comfort and entitlement over politics.")

 

 

 

 

 

Maria Piafanfani, former Prime Minister of Italy's wife and Conference Chairperson

 

 

 

 

1988 Maria Piafanfani, Rosemarie Galina, Matilda Cuomo and Josephine Lerro

 

My  Cousin David had given me the phone number and address of our second cousins who I phoned when the conference ended --- an intense week of meetings, dinners, receptions, talk groups and touring ended -- the Italian cousins I had never met offered to drive to Rome,  pick me up and bring me to Vasto and then back to Rome but Alitalia airline pilots decided to strike and since I was tired from a week of meetings, dinners, strikes and of traveling to Bari, Florence and the Amalfi coast,  I declined and  returned to America worried that because of the trike if I didn't leave immediately I could wind up there indefinitely. Besides, I'm  having terrible internal debates about having run into my ex-lover Mario when I first arrived in Rome and having watched him duck his head in a very self- important manner as he drove off in a car with Matilda Cuomo for a meeting. (He was then the executive director of her organization, Due Casa.) He was Abruzzese from L'Aquila.  I was not only struggling with my relationship with him but with our shared Abruzzese origins well in a way I was struggling with the entire affair.  (I had ended it the year before and my feelings were still very raw.) I was also thinking about what a cold, indifferent, ignorant man my grandfather was. At any rate, I didn't want to be anywhere near Mario or his home town.  In the 80's, I  was often torn all over the place like this.                      (more)

 

 

Piazza Quirinale, the President's Palace where we were invited to lunch.  As we arrived some said the car we spotted driving away belonged to Michael Douglas who had just met with the President. His Italian film editor had recently won an Academy Award.

 

 

Judy Curacio, and Geraldeena, "Dui Americani" with the royal palace politzei -- politzei sounds so much better than police or cops.

 

Finally, one week-end it's my turn to work the Sunday shift and a man enters the Piano showroom at Macy's, Herald Square where I have been selling pianos.  He is accompanied by two children, a boy and a girl.  He wants to trade their used piano for a new one. We exchange converation and it turns out that his mother-in-law, shopping in another part of the store with his wife, comes from the same town and went to school with my father's cousins. He finds her and his wife. He brings them to the Piano Department where I thought I was about to spend an ordinary Sunday working.

(To be contd.)

 

 

       Frammenti de Vasto by Gianni Quagliarella and Michle Benedetti (more)

 

Vasto

 

This is the house where my grandfather was born. The photo was the front cover of a book dedicated to Vasto. "Frammenti de Vasto" by Gianni Quagliarella and Michle Benedetti.  The doctors and my customers in the Macy's piano showroom hand delivered the book to me.  What a story this is.  The cousins I practically ignored in 1988 when I was in Italy have forgiven me. They live here now in 2009 and they have sent me this book with photos and warm regards. I'm proud of this book and of them for inviting me to connect with this part of my roots. Brava!               

 

 

 

 

Dad's grandfather.  My great grandfather.  It feels weird to say great grandfather when  I don't know anything about him.  Who knows whether he was great as opposed to average, even mediocre.  I'm curious about him.  Eventually, maybe I will conduct a fact finding mission with my Vasto cousins.  How did he say good-bye to his three sons and daughter. (more)

 

 

 

 

The Maraschinos

 

Vastese cuginas who live in Vasto not far from the beach.

 

 

There was something nostalgic and guild inducing to have received this photo in 1996 since I had passed up the opportunity to visit my cousins in 1988 when as my father likes to put things that involve emotions he's not up to dealing with -- I had too many things on my mind.

 

 

 

Florence, Italy

 

Sometimes a photo or painting is important because of the way the artist implores light, shadow or a special oil paint or the way objects are juxtaposed.This is a simple, photo I took in Florence that bears strong, personal symbolism -- it's a reminder of an idealized vision I have of myself as that of an easygoing, cafe goer, in search of engaging intellectual conversations, good books and a calm life that I have been half successful in achieving. The drama and negativity that have driven and dominated the  relationships between me and my Italian family, I'm convinced will never disappear and to console myself,  I have the tranquillity in this photo of Florence, Italy to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Mom, Millie, Dad Harold

In Millie and Harold's new home.

 

Mrs. Beller, Millie’s mother, a jovial, elderly woman who lived in Apartment 1A  of our apartment building on Briggs Avenue, always smelled like matzah ball soup, taught me Yiddish words and called me Boobala. My grandmother did not speak English and took long, deep sighs as if she was always suffering and in pain to show as much joy as Mrs. Beller whenever she saw me.  Mrs. Beller’s daughter, Millie, married Harold and they lived in Apartment 3A upstairs until they  had a little girl Karen followed by a second child they named Michael and moved to a big house. Harold worked for I.B.M. in Poughkeepsie they bought a house in Saugherties.  (more)

 

The Holocaust

 

 

The culture of television has deepened passivity, discouraging the active search for understanding.  But true students driven by simple curiosity, can still find the places where their grandparents or great-grandparents once struggled for them without even knowing their names.  In New York, the student (or whatever age) can enter the surviving streets, gaze at the tenements, visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and embrace the story.  In New York, most of that old narrative took place Downtown.   (more) 

 

Downtown My Manhattan by Pete Hamill

 

 

 

 

 

My Big City Jobs

 

 

You know everything at eight…but it is hidden from you,

sealed up in a way you have to cut yourself open to find.

 

Bronx girl, Geraldeena, at six, attending annual family reunion and visiting Main  Street, Susquehanna, PA wearing first Holy Communion dress and attracting celestial light pouring out of the heavens like a miracle and not poor photography.

 

 

 

Mom and I on our way to Florida. I'm 12.

Dad hides inside clinging to the wheel.

 

I can only describe this time in our relationship as beleaguering, polarizing, stressful to both of us.

 

There was so little she could do other than to smoke her way through it. How come our relationship only seemed to worsen never seemed to improve, or get better.

 

 

 

 

Patricia

 

But then along comes a best friend.One of life’s greatest treasures and consolation prizes – the best friend!   Who reminds me of my mother right down to the cigarette.

 

 

 

Someone who I can count on to give me the finger,

 

yell at me to get my ass in the car and hurry up about it, or who will just will (out of nowhere and when you think you are having a nice day) say, "Let's have a fight.  I feel like fighting."

 

 

 Czech hockey player

 

Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games

 

This is the key player for the Czechoslovakian hockey tean.

We met up in Lake Placid during the Winter Games. My friend Pamela and I were two girls on a ski week-end looking for simple recreational fun instead we would up in the middle of two political defections by two members of of the Czech hockey team.  This was the winter following the Soviet invasion of Czehoslovakia and they were seeking political asylum. The team had not been allowed to stay in the main Lake Placid, Hotel Marcy where the Candian and Swedish teams occupied two entire floors.         (more)

 

 

Sealing the Deal!

 

Here's Pamela cluching her pink bowl and sealing the deal with one of the Czechoslovakian hockey players and there's the notorious white satchel.

 

 

 

Swedish Hockey players. Marcy Hotel, Lake Placid, circa 1968.

These guys were a bunch of party animals with a purpose -- to win!

 

 

Peace Sign?

 

I don't remember having skiied that week-end. I did attend my first Bobsled competition.  Lake Placid has the only Bobsled run in the North.  Pamela and I were invited to stay an extra day and attend the reward ceremonies.  The following day, we returned to New York on the bus with the entire Swedish hockey team.

 

 

 

There's more to this story. Buy the book!

 

 

Poems 1

the old man (barnes & noble #1)

subito

botero man

 

Poems 2

commediennes

french girl

woman on a platform

john

upper westsider

 

Poems 3

hand concealing a smile

m.

 

Poems 4

mr. lying businessman

 

Poems 5

woman on a missioni

 

Poems 6

my breasts

of summer

masters of design

 

Poems 7

parental approval

patricia

 

Poems 8

sexy

transvestite sister

true comparison

bernard

the writer

 

 

 

In a very true sense, the Italian American woman writer has to be a self-made person; lacking a literary tradition, she works in isolation without models and interpretive critics, struggling against inner doubts and outer odds to become an author, sustained only by the need and impetus of what she is doing."

 

Seed of Doubt:  The Internal Blocks by Helen Barolini

 

 

Veteran's Day Parade, November 11, 2008

 

I went to Artie Lange's booksigning at Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue.  I snapped a photo of Artie with my cell phone camera but I was so excited about meeting him that I forgot to press the save button on my camera.  When I came out of Barnes & Noble, I caught this shot of the Veteran's Day Parade. 

 

6 A.M. Election Day, 2008, an historic turnout!   

 

OBAMA supporters voting at theWest 97th Street polls

between Columbus & Amsterdam Avenue.

 

I arrived at the polls at 5 p.m. and tired after spending the day with my 91 year old father.

 

                                        Visiting Dad

I often return from those visits fighting in my head with my family. Wondering why I am the only one doing everything for my father. In one such fight, I'm throwing a pot full of burning spaghetti at my brother.  In another I'm standing on the tracks in front of the D train as it is about to pull out yelling no wonder I loved reading Anna Karenina in college.

Of course, I know the answer but just don't accept it. Why is my father so resistent to change. Why is he slowing down. How am I going to deal with this if it gets worse.  How do I define worse?  Will I be emptying bed pans, cleaning up his mess and bathing him? 

I don't blame his ex girlfriend for dumping him when he hit 88.  (He did nickname her the Question Mark behind her back.) She was looking ahead.  How did she hang on that long.  Why did he renovate her apartment and not do one thing to his own in over twenty years. Did he, like all the actuarial scales, not expect to live this long?   (more)

 

2008, Arthur Avenue Indoor Market

 

The old men of Arthur Avenue who occupy the corner of the indoor market playing cards every day.  Dad used to go to the senior center on Bedford Park where he played cards with the Irish guys and one Asian and one Jew.  " I don't know what we would all do if it weren't for that game. It gives us something to do."  But two of the Irish guys were always fighting with one another so the game broke up.

 

 

 

Inside, the outdoor market of Arthur Avenue, I noticed there are fewer and fewer vegetable stands. A large area is now devoted to making cigars.

My mother used to recall the days she "went down Arthur Avenue" with my grandmother, a tough bargainer who drove the Carpenter Brothers crazy.  If they were selling five oranges for a dollar my grandmother wanted six.  Sometimes, my mother said, they had to beg her to stop, "Senora, please we can't. We have to make some money."  Three generations. My grandmother, my mother and now I shop on Arthur Avenue. I feel the spirit of my family around me whenever I'm there.  I remember watching my father as he reached up to pay one of the women vendors for a pound of broccoli raab as if he was genuflecting at the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes as he leaned in to brace himself.  Her stand was perched high up.

 

The other night on the news Arthur Avenue was mentioned as one of the few places where food prices were low while quality was still high.

 

CIGARS ANYONE?

 

 

Liz Sher

Liz, my good friend and neighbor happens to be a highly trained (Cordon Bleu), award winning chef who worked on the Queen Mother's 100th Anniversary cake.

Liz appreciates food and eating.  We share family rituals, customs and practices --

It's not just fun but important for me, a single woman who never considered herself the traditional type,  to carry on the tradition of "going shopping down Arthur Avenue."  Liz drives me to Arthur Avenue in her Volkswagon convertible. 

Her good friend, Vegar Abelsnes is responsible for the photos that went into making a bestselling cookbook about Arthur Avenue, appropriately named, The Arthur Avenue Cookbook ( by Ann Volkwin and Vegar Abelsnes.)

The Arthur Avenue shopkeepers have the book proudly displayed on top and behind their counters. 

 

Together we have re-discovered DeLillo's Pastry shop which now makes pastry and cookies good enough to eat again.  Bread from Addeo's can be frozen and stored for months.  The whole wheat biscuits make the best salad croutons.  Addeo only makes lard bread once a week and we do our best to avoid that day because lard bread is well, full of lard. Umm.  Terranova makes a mean loaf of bread too.  So do the Madonia Brothers -- they make one with fennel and raisins, another stuffed with provolone cheese and yet another with cinnamon and raisins that was just sort of okay.

 

 

 

 

June, 2009, I met Polly for lunch. Punjab Palace is the only restaurant on her block and besides serving delicious food at  affordable prices, the opening of Punjab Palace has shown signs of deterring car theft on the block.

Punjab Palace is a taxi driver's favorite (always a positive sign).   They stream in at all hours but generous size tables accommodate groups of all sizes.

 

 

Bathroom door.

 

 

I wonder if I'm the first restaurant reviewer  to include photos of the restroom.  Long before chef/authorTony Bourdain came along, I judged a restaurant by the restroom (followed by the bread basket, service and food). I was so impressed by Punjab's cleanliness I wanted to share it with the world.

 

 

 

Lovely, sweet family lunching at Punjab Palace.  They posed happily and didn't mind going along with my spontaneous, "I Love This City,"  picture taking enthusiasm.  Their children were there too but you know how kids are, they eat a few bites and they're off and scouting.

 

 

 

NYC SUBWAY LIFE

 

 

The D-Train Mariachi's

 

 

 

I spend a lot of time on the D-train traveling from Manhattan to the Bronx to see my 91 yr. old Dad and can't resist capturing city life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE PHOTOS NOT TO BE MISSED

 

2G My Front Yard

3G The USSR

 

A Plane onto the C-Train

 

 

Instead of taking the train to the plane this couple took a plane onto the train.

 

 

Dog on the C-Train

 

 

Dog owner transporting commuter dog in handy carrier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your comments are welcome at

 

ItalianStoria@aol.com

 

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Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 by Geraldine Salvatorelli