Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sicily 1963

At the suggestion of my dear friend Mary I moseyed over to my neighborhood library and took out the book The Almond Picker by Simonetta Agnello Hornby. Mary raved about this book, and a rave from Mary means a lot, so I put it at the top of my “must read” list.

So how was it? It’s wonderful; a time machine back to Sicily 1963.

The Almond Picker is the story of servant Maria Rosalia Inzerillo, known as Mennulara, the almond picker, whose death in the village of Roccacolomba sets off a torrent of gossip and speculation about her life, her loves, her rise to power within the household of her masters, and her supposed fortune and will. There’s lust, love, rape, betrayal, jealousy, friends, foes, family dynamics, and of course the Mafia.

Hornby holds the reader’s attention by slowly feeding the mystery of Mennulara and carefully doling out different stories of this beloved, hated, and often misunderstood woman. For me it was a wonderful character study; one that exposed the class culture of Sicily in a time when woman kept their mouths shut and obeyed the man’s rule often turning a blind eye to what was really happening.

With summer upon us I recommend adding The Almond Picker to your summer reading list. I’m glad I did.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Me and My Twenty-One Speeds

After having just finished working on a film I’m enjoying the time off before the next adventure begins. Because it’s summer I want to experience as much sun as possible. For me the hot sweltering sun is something to behold... aaah.

To satisfy this craving I’ve decided the best way to get lots of sun and exercise would be to ride my bike in and around Los Angeles. To do so I first had to change the flat tires and oil the chain; it’s been a while since I rode. With the help of a youtube instruction video I changed my tires with relative ease, and with a can of Tri-Flow I sprayed and lubed the chain. My Windstream twenty-one speed bike was now like new and ready for action.

On Saturday and Sunday I donned my geeky biker’s helmut, removed my shirt, slapped on some sun tan lotion, and rode and rode and rode. I first headed to the Los Angeles River and rode along the near empty river for a few miles before veering off into Griffith Park. The sun was hot, my body glistened, and I was in biker’s heaven.

Only once was I almost hit by a inconsiderate unapologetic car. WARNING: Drivers need to remember to look to their right when they’re making a right turn!

I flashed the car the finger and continued on my way.

As I rode along I entertained myself singing bicycle songs.

Broken Bicycles (Tom Waits)
Brand New Key (Melanie)
Bicycle Race (Queen)

It was a load of fun.

Today I rode into Hollywood to the gym, did an arm workout, and rode back home.

Tonight my legs are telling me they need some rest.

Tomorrow’s another day...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Another Adobe Adventure

I love visiting adobes. I love poking around and learning the history and imagining myself living there when it was first built. It’s my “I was there and part of history” fantasy. Of course I wouldn’t trade my modern amenities for the rustic living they had to endure, but in my fantasy I can avoid the hardships and concentrate solely on the grandeur.

Sunday afternoon I ventured out in the 100 degree temperatures and ended up at the Catalina Verdugo Adobe. This adobe, at the base of the Verdugo Hills, was built in 1828 and is one of the oldest buildings in the City of Glendale, CA.

Surrounding the house is a 1.3 acre park with indigenous plants, statues, walking paths, and the historic “Oak of Peace.”

The “Oak of Peace” tree was named in 1847 and it’s at this spot that many believe is the birthplace of California. Sadly the tree died of natural causes in 1987, but the spot still contains remnants of the dead tree. It is here that Jesus Pico, representing Lieutenant Colonel Fremont and the United States, met with his brother, Commander of the Mexican army General Andres Pico, and recommended Mexico surrender to the United States. Two days later a peace treaty was signed, not at the “Oak of Peace” but in the area where the Hollywood Bowl now stands.

I walked the paths and pinged the bell and breathed in the surroundings. I learned a little history and can honestly say I'm now a bit smarter than I was on Saturday.

Knowledge is fun.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Pocketful of Ice Cream

As many of you may already know I love ice cream in all it’s plain and often bizarre flavor combinations. It’s my favorite addiction and I will fight to death anyone who would be stupid enough to deny me my ice cream fix.

During my childhood years in the late 70s I was infatuated with bubblegum ice cream, though in retrospect I see it as low point in my personal ice cream history. Right now I’m fancying the more common flavors like pistachio and peanut butter.

The other day I came across an interesting law in New York State: A person may not walk around on Sundays with an ice cream in his/her pocket.

Lexington, Kentucky has the same law, but it’s not just for Sunday, it’s for every day.

Now this has gotten me to thinking...

Why would anyone ever put something as precious and delicious as ice cream in their pocket?

Were lawmaker strung out on crack when they sat around the lawmaking table creating such an absurd piece of legislation?

I think they were suffering from severe ice cream head rush and decided to take hateful revenge on poor innocent ice cream.

But a law is a law and it must be abided, so the next time I’m strolling the streets of New York or Lexington, Kentucky and witness someone putting ice cream in their pocket I’m gonna run right up to them and perform a citizen arrest. I’m certain this act of law abiding diligence will earn me a “Citizen of the Year” award.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Twist Your Mouth Around This

Being a man of words I am always amazed at certain phrases that people have difficulty wrapping their mouths around.

Allegedly the most difficult tongue twister in the English language is The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried again and I cannot seem to make my tongue move melodically over these melodic words. Each time I fail and I feel like a fat pheasant falling from the sky for flying too fast and far from the farm while foraging the forest for fast food.

I searched the Internet for a few more mouthfuls and here are some interesting tongues twisters I encountered:

I'm not a pheasant plucker, I'm a pheasant plucker's son. I'm sitting plucking pheasants till the pheasant plucker comes."

Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?

Nine nice night nurses nursing nicely.

Now I know all of you will try these tongue twisters in the privacy of your home or your work cubicle. You’ll initially feel empowered and convince yourself your tongue is different, more flexible than normal tongues. You’ll sit up straight and you’ll take a deep breath a you’ll utter a sound and you’ll quickly blush and try again and again and again and you’ll suck at it.

However, if on that rare occasion you do succeed at repeated repetitions I shall reward you dear reader with a rather red rosy rose of real rosy recognition.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Here Comes the Bride

I wonder what pissed off this bride?

Do you think she was still angry on the wedding night and bit off something else?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Silly Sarah

Now that Silly Sarah has resigned from the job she was completely unqualified to perform (insert huge sigh of relief from Alaskans and the world here) she is now able to pursue her life long dream of becoming the #1 selling Mary Kay Cosmetic consultant in the universe.
I heard she’s using her political contacts to open up Mary Kay markets in what she calls “third world nations like Crawford, Texas.”

She’s so smart.

Makes you wonder why we didn’t elect her our vice-president...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Taste of Italy

All through my growing up years my family would always go to the Italian feasts in the North End of Boston. They were something I always looked forward to, a real treat. There would be food booths, miniature carnival rides, and a parade honoring the patron saint that particular feast commemorated. Our family favorite was the Feast of Saint Anthony, which, if I recall correctly, was the last weekend in August.

The highlight of the parade was always the statue of the Saint reverently carried for all to see. People would tape dollar bills to the statue as it made its way along the parade route. It was truly a special experience, one that has left an indelible mark in my memory.

So it was with tremendous surprise when I learned that the Los Angeles Historic Italian Hall Foundation was having its first annual “Taste of Italy” event. I immediately purchased the $25 ticket. Proceeds from the event went to the soon-to-be-opened Italian Hall Museum.

The event was held at the Pico House of the El Pueblo Historic Monument in downtown Los Angeles. There were numerous Italian food and wine booths set up with food samples from many of the Italian restaurants and wineries in and around Los Angeles. To say it was delicious is an understatement.

Along with a silent auction and a drawing for a free trip to Italy (which I did not win, damn) the crowd was entertained by a group of Italian opera singers, and Italian folk music. One of the highlights was an older man playing accordion while people sang along. Memories of my childhood came flooding back and I felt like that suburban Italian/Irish kid standing on the streets of the North End in total awe.

After the show we sat outside under the stars to enjoy cappuccinos, freshly baked biscotti, pizzelles, and conversation. It was a lot of fun.

“Taste of Italy” was a step back in time for me, and also a step into the future with the Italian community of Los Angeles. I await next year’s event, and the opening of the Italian Hall Museum.

For more information about the history of Italians in Los Angeles click here.