Alphonse was on a quest: he wanted to commit the perfect murder. As a fledgling novitiate in the 16th-century order of the Aquinas Brethren, he considered himself a devout Christian. But the one precept he had difficulty obeying was “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” The neighbour in question was Bernard who slept in the cell next to Alphonse.
The monastery was several centuries old and its moldering dampness exacerbated the elderly Bernard’s afflictions: among them, severe arthritis and chronic catarrh. Alphonse was a light sleeper at the best of times, and much of his night was constantly disturbed by Bernard’s moans and groans, his teeth-rattling coughs, not to mention the incessant sounds and noxious odors brought on by his neighbour’s well-known digestive troubles. (More…)
It’s hard to imagine a finer human being than Brenda Tipps. I do not use that phrase lightly: Brenda was a person one so rarely meets in one’s lifetime. We met twenty-eight years ago, and for me, the friendship born of that meeting has been life-changing.
Brenda was extraordinary. She was beautiful and classy but always in an understated way. I am sure that she was completely unaware of how her physical presence affected and captivated her circle of friends. Neither vanity nor jealousy of others ever wormed their way into Brenda’s life.
Those of us who had the good fortune to enroll in an OLLI class with Brenda know that she possessed a trove of literary information. She deeply loved and understood books and poetry and plays. She spoke never to demonstrate her brilliance or knowledge but only to contribute to the topic under discussion. Her comments were wise, considered, and often slyly witty. In her classes she was supportive and respectful of participants and she had the ability to respond to all remarks with insight and charm. When Brenda spoke, the class paid attention. (More…)
Back in 1956, my parents watched politics on television often. Even though there were only three commercial stations and a public television station (WTTW – Window to the World) in Chicagoland, they managed to cover President Eisenhower (nicknamed Ike) well. He not only was our current President, but he also was running for reelection that fall.
It was perfectly normal to see my father drawing caricatures of him and other politicians while watching television. After all, he made a living drawing gag and editorial cartoons for local newspapers.
In early 1956, my dad even created an animated character for WNBQ-TV to introduce color television to Chicagoland. Red-haired Tommy Tint was dressed in a green shirt and blue overalls. Tommy painted the town and blew it up with a dynamite plunger to show off the vivid primary colors and entice the audience to tune in. Unfortunately, our family did not own a color television set, so we missed (More…)
How Pietro Gallucci crossed the ocean and we became Americans
PART ONE: COMING TO WEST VIRGINIA
My Dad, Peter Palmer Gallucci, was one of the smartest people I ever knew…and he only completed fourth grade. The best thing he did, in my eyes, was to immigrate to this country so we could become Americans! He took, as you will see, quite a circuitous route.
Things were tough in the Meggogiorno, the southern part of Italy where my father grew up. There were few jobs and no prospect of any in the future, even for a distinguished veteran of WWI. Farming, the only industry in Aprigliano Grupa, Calabria, my dad’s hometown, offered few work opportunities. The family farm already employed my dad’s older brothers, so he worked from age 10 on local farms needing seasonal help. He learned how to prepare the land for seeding, when and how to plant and then to weed, and the best way to harvest. He loved working the land all his life. Later, growing produce, fruit and flowers became his hobbies instead of his occupation. (More…)
In one of my favorite scenes from the movie, The Lonely Guy, Steve Martin enters a fancy restaurant and requests a table for one. Spotlights from all angles zero in on the lowly intruder as the diners shrink back in shock and distaste.
A long-time bachelor, I know that rebuff well. Once, after I was seated in a restaurant, the waitress asked, “Will we be joined by the missus?” “Highly unlikely,” I said, “I’m single,” and over her face passed a fleeting shadow of pity and mistrust.
I was always eager to get married, I told myself, certain the world would eventually beat a path to my doorway… someone from Publishers Clearing House would ring and—surprise! —present me with the woman of my dreams. Then one day I checked my watch and noticed that five decades had gone by. (More…)
In Acapulco everything slopes downwards to the sea. The mountains are green and lush. Houses are built into the sides of hills and on the tops of hills. We are here at the house of I do not know who, a man who plays some prominent role in the world of bull fighting. There is a group of men (boots, hats, gleaming teeth, all geniality), and Kelly and me. They might be ranchers, toreros, impresarios, or just friends, aficionados. I do not know, or, to be truthful, care.
The hospitality is impeccable, the dinner interminable and when the table has been cleared and the silent serving women have disappeared somewhere in the back of the house, the men are still seated, settling themselves to talk. Cigars are being lit and bottles opened. The mood is becoming more jovial, expansive. They’re launching into an evening of reminiscences, gossip and jokes and I sigh, despondent at the prospect of the long evening ahead. Though studiously polite, these men barely recognize my existence, I am simply not relevant, and I’m self-conscious, dismayed also at the struggle to keep up with the Spanish, the sheer exhaustion of trying to seem engaged. This, in the 70’s, seemed a requirement, I thought. Why am I here, I ask, not for the first time. (More…)
As we celebrated New Year’s Eve last year, there were dozens of cases of a new virus in China with no evidence at the time that this virus was going to be spread by humans. On January 11th, as we partied on, the first death was reported from this novel virus. Mr. Yu was a regular customer at the live animal market in Wuhan, but he had other health problems, so, as his death came right before the Lunar New Year in China, there wasn’t much mention.
Then in January, the first case comes to the United States when a man in his 30’s develops symptoms after returning to Seattle from a trip to Wuhan. The Chinese authorities close off Wuhan by canceling planes, trains, ferries, and automobiles. At this point, 17 people have died and more than 570 others have been infected in other countries, including Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and the U.S. (More…)
“…I can’t even imagine what it would be like to get to middle age and never have seen a positive representation of myself in literature, because that is the story I hear from a very many of my friends who are people of colour. Imagine only ever seeing yourself reflected back as a terrorist, a thief or a drug dealer during the whole of your formative years.”
Kath Cross, “Why Diversity and Representation in Literature Matters,” August 27, 2016
I was raised in a mostly white, medium-sized city in Illinois, but I attended a university near Detroit in the sixties along with many Black students. I went to classes and lived in a dorm with Black students; I mourned the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. with them; I listened to Motown with them; I felt the first stirrings of the Black Panthers on campus with them, and I eventually worked with Black colleagues in a small adult group home in Virginia. I currently live in an apartment complex with Blacks and many other persons of color. However, as the Black Lives Matter protests and its leaders have tried to make clear, as a White person, I don’t have anywhere near a real grasp of Black lives and culture. (More…)
Poetry is everywhere. All around us. But it’s shy, elusive, and difficult to see. Unless you’re a poet. And they don’t find it easily. They break a sweat, seeing the half seen beauty around them. And capturing it for the rest of us with their clever words, sometimes tricking us into thinking that we had seen it all along. This is our final collection of poems for National Poetry Month this year. Read them with fierce attention, the way they were written. (More…)