Monday, December 29, 2014

My Back Pages:    In a few days, we will be welcoming the year 2...

My Back Pages:
   In a few days, we will be welcoming the year 2...
:    In a few days, we will be welcoming the year 2015 AD. I wonder, as people my age are wont to do, will this be a truly better year? O...

   In a few days, we will be welcoming the year 2015 AD. I wonder, as people my age are wont to do, will this be a truly better year? Or will it be more of the same? We, as a people, have the ability to really make a change, and make things better for our children and grandchildren. 
 Oh, I know, I can hear so many people saying "What can I do? Things are out of control, and I am but one person!" But, my friends, each and every one of us can start to turn things around. All it takes is to treat everyone that with whom you come in contact, with a little respect! A smile, a thank you, I have found, turns around most people. The cashier that seems to be hostile,  the server who seems to be less than caring... I have found that smiling and being nice turns the most hardened person around. Be kind and pleasant to everyone that you come in contact with, and you will be surprised at the way their actions change.
  We are in the middle of a crisis with police and the public. People seem to want to either blame police for every trouble out there, or condemn them before they actually know what has happened. Both of these reactions are wrong. I happen to be privileged to personally know several people in the Law Enforcement community. These are upstanding, hard working men and women who do their best to enforce the laws, while respecting citizens and their rights. To condemn all for the actions of a few is not only wrong, it is unconscionable! It is no different than profiling someone for their race, or religion. To say that all police are bad or corrupt is no different than saying all Italians are in the Mafia. It's no different. We need the police, regardless of what many people may think. Without the police, we would have anarchy and people killing each other in the streets. The society that we live in would break down without laws and people to enforce them.
  If we are civil to each other, and not treat people with indifference, it would be a start to a more civil society. Small steps lead to great rewards. 
  2014 has been a hard year. We have violence in the streets, and anger in our communities. We have war and atrocities across the globe. Sociopaths posing as religious zealots are once again killing and maiming their fellow humans without care. They claim to be following the will of their God, but their only goal is to instill fear into anyone that would oppose them.
  We again have those who whip up public anger to aggrandize themselves. They cloak themselves in the robes of righteousness, but they revel in the discord that comes from real or perceived wrongs. They are demigogues who thrive on the discord that comes with trouble. They don't want to find a way to make people heal. Rather, they look to build on the anger and the hatred to forward their own agendas. They don't want to help heal, they want to inflame the wounds. We have to, as a people, find a way to heal and come together so that these people do not get their way.
  I know some will think that this is a simplistic view of the world, but changes would come if we just learned to get along with each other. 
  I wish each and everyone of you a Happy and Healthy New Year. I wish for all the peace and tranquility that I so long for. Love and Peace to you all.
 John Zaffino
 Kent Lakes New York
 December 29, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Back Pages: Peace On Earth, Good Will Towards Men......???

My Back Pages: Peace On Earth, Good Will Towards Men......???:     This is the season of Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men (and Women!)..... Right! We are supposed to be charitable to our fellow human...

Peace On Earth, Good Will Towards Men......???

    This is the season of Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men (and Women!)..... Right! We are supposed to be charitable to our fellow humans, and spread Happiness and Good Cheer.. and that's what everyone is doing.... right? Think again, John..
   Children are slaughtered in Pakistan as retribution, by people calling themselves 'The Taliban', which loosely translates to 'Religious Students'. They walked into the school, brandishing automatic weapons and were told to 'Kill them all!'.. they pulled students out from under desks and shot them to death. 
  In Australia, an Iranian Immigrant holds hostages in a cafe for 16 hours, before police rushed in and freed most of the hostages after hearing gunshots from within. The gunman had killed two of the hostages, and he, in turn, was killed by the police. The gunman was out on bail for being an accessory in the murder of his exwife.
  In upstate New York, a woman tells police that a child she was caring for was kidnapped by masked assailants. The young boy is later found dumped in a culvert 50 yards from the trailer home in which he was staying. His 19 year old cousin, who had called the police, was arrested for strangling him to death.
 In New York City, non-violent protests turned ugly when police officers were punched and kicked. One of the assailants was a college professor. Some students, who were interviewed about the charges against their professor, lauded him for being involved. 
  Some of the protestors started chanting "What do we want? Dead Cops!" while being led by the Reverend Sharpton. A few days later, two cops are shot to death while sitting in their patrol cars on a lunch break.
 They people were protesting the failure of a Staten Island Grand Jury to indict an officer in the death of a man last Summer, after they arrested him and did nothing to help him when he told them that he could not breath. Another man was accidentally shot by a rookie cop in a darkened stairwell, and the protestors were calling for charges against that officer as well.  
 Two cops were ambushed and shot to death in Decatur Georgia......
 The list goes on and on... 
  Through this so-called 'Social Media', we keep sniping at each other. We are threatened at every turn, and yet we do nothing to try to get along. Each group blames the other, and this does nothing to solve the deep chasms that threaten to divide us all and tear down all that we have tried to build.  
 The politicians are no better. In fact, they do everything but try to unite us. They push our buttons and play us against each other to distract us by everything that refuse to do to make our lives better. Our infrastructure is crumbling, yet they do nothing to repair it. They scream about immigration reform, but again do nothing. 
 Our world threatens to implode, and no one seems to have any answers. I'm old and tired, and about done with all of this. I worry for my children and grandchildren and for all of those in the generations to come. I will not be around to see them, and I can only hope that some sanity eventually overtakes this human race. 
 I long for 'Peace On Earth, Good Will Towards Men!' but I know that I shall never see it in my time; but I wish you all Peace and Love and a better New Year.
 John Zaffino  Kent Lakes, New York
 December 21, 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

My Back Pages: Tis The Season......

My Back Pages: Tis The Season......:  As we enter another Holiday Season, let's try to get along. Recently, the 'Holidays' have become a time of contention... who&...

Tis The Season......

 As we enter another Holiday Season, let's try to get along. Recently, the 'Holidays' have become a time of contention... who's celebration is the real  one. Let me tell you, as the product of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic family... as a someone who married someone who was raised in another religion from the one that I was raised in.. we all need to chill and accept everyone else.
  I don't care if you are a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, or a Wiccan... I don't care if you believe in Jesus, or Buddha, or just the God Of Abraham... I don't care who, or what you believe in.... I respect your beliefs, or your lack of beliefs! I think that we all have a right to worship whomever we believe in, or to not worship anything or anyone, if that is what you wish. What I would love to see is everyone being accepting of the beliefs of everyone else. Differences it what makes the world go 'round. Difference makes life intriguing. 
  I keep hearing that there is a 'War on Christmas'. Well, I believe that the 'War' is in the minds of those who believe that there is no room for any belief but theirs.. Why can't we just all celebrate what we wish to celebrate? What is wrong with believing in Chanukah? Or just celebrating the Solstice? Or celebrating Kwanza? What is wrong with just loving the season, without having a religious connotation to it? Why can't we just celebrate 'Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards All?"
  I love the season. I never put a religious connotation to it, at least not as an adult. It saddens me to see the legal actions against towns and villages because they have a creche in the public square. Why can't we just live and let live? Why do people have to get up in arms about something, simply because it does not represent their view of the world?
  I feel that the world would be a sad place without the Holiday Season. Even in the days of the old Soviet Union, they found that they could not just ignore the joys of the Holidays. Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or a non-believer,  you need to just give in and to with the joys of the season. It all started with the Solstice, and now we celebrate whatever you joyous heart desires. There is no need for arguments. Let's just go with 'Peace On Earth, Good Will Towards. All"
  Happy Holidays, Everyone... no matter what you believe!
 Peace and Love to All
 John Zaffino, Kent Lakes New York
 Novewmber 28, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Back Pages: Thoughts....

My Back Pages: Thoughts....:  Where to start.... there is so much to talk about, and yet I cannot find a starting place. It seems like we have been here so many times ...

Thoughts....

 Where to start.... there is so much to talk about, and yet I cannot find a starting place. It seems like we have been here so many times before.... riots in the streets... peaceful protests gone bad.. Opportunistic sociopaths taking legitimate protests and turning them into reasons to loot and burn businesses and homes, making people who are already living lives of misery more miserable. Spokespersons who, instead of trying to be calm and reasonable, use the protests as a time to justify their dubious claims to being 'Leaders'. It does no good for the people to loot and burn. It does nothing to make anyone's lives better. It does nothing to right any wrong, or to avenge any death. All it does is promote more misery for more people. Dr. King would not be happy with this. He believed in peaceful protests. The violence always came from the other side, not from him. This all just makes me so damned sad. Sad, because I thought that my grandchildren would grow up in a better, more peaceful world. Sad, because I thought that we were on the way to resolving our differences 50 years ago. Sad, because I love this country, and I believe in the good that people have deep in their hearts, and the good that they can do for each other. I believe that we can all get along, if we just try. I believe that there is place, deep inside us all, that is good and loves peace. I believe that we can all learn to live with each other, if we can just learn to accept each other and not dwell on superficial differences.  It breaks my heart to see all the violence and hatred that shows it's ugly face in these riots and deliberate destruction of people's lives. 
  Rodney King said it for all of us, so many years ago, when ther riots broke out over the injustice done to him. He was deeply troubled by the death and destruction in South Central.... "Why can't we all just get along?" he said, his voice shaking and on the verge of tears. 
 If we are to continue as a vibrant, good country; if we are to continue to believe that we have the best form of government in the world, then we must learn to live together in peace! We cannot continue down this road of chaos and violence. We must put aside our differences, and come together in unity, as one people united for the greater good of all. We must reject those who make their living by trying to divide us. We must make a commitment to work together as the citizens of the United States, and not as the members of one group or another. We must learn to get along. We don't need to love everyone, but  we must learn to accept all good and decent people. 
  Only then, when we have started to resolve our own internal differences, can we take baby steps towards peace in the whole world. Now, there is too much hatred and violence, and it must be stopped.
  Now, as we approach Thanksgiving, we must look to the ideals that Mr. Lincoln spoke of and give thanks for being able to speak our minds without repercussions. We must give thanks for the ability to be whom ever we wish to be. 
 I love this beautiful country. I love the stated ideals. I wish to give thanks for being born an American from the United States, who's heritage is of Immigrants and Native Americans. I give thanks for my family and all those in the world who I have come to know and love. My wish is for the healing of this national wound, and for people of all stripes to finally start to realize Dr. King's dream.
 Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Love and Peace, from my family to yours.
 November 25, 2014
 John Zaffino, Kent Lakes New York

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Back Pages: Veteran's Day...

My Back Pages: Veteran's Day...:  Veteran's Day, Armistice Day, to me is a time of reflection. Over the years, I have known so many good men and women who quietly served...

Veteran's Day...

 Veteran's Day, Armistice Day, to me is a time of reflection. Over the years, I have known so many good men and women who quietly served their country in time of war, and time of peace. They came from all religions, from a multitude of ethnic groups. They didn't question why their country made the call, they just knew that this was the price of living free and without fear. Some of them did not have the same freedoms  as the majority; but that would change over time. 
 Most were unassuming young men and women, who's lives were interrupted by the madness of those beyond their immediate control. They were still youngsters, barely out of childhood; yet they were asked to take up arms and place their lives on the line so that this nation could remain free.
 Who are the Veterans? They are not politicians... although some politicians are veterans. They are Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Liberal, Conservative.. of every political stripe. The thing that they have in common is that they are free to be anything that they wish. 
 The Veteran is the cashier in the supermarket, or at Walmart. The Veteran may be your doctor, or your mechanic. The Veteran might be the nurse in the ER who worries over you when you come in hurt or ill, or he/she may be the cab driver that takes you to the hospital. The Veteran is a student, a father, a mother, a grandfather or grandmother. Your favorite aunt.. or uncle. The Veteran might be that homeless person that everyone walks around as he or she sleeps in a doorway, desperately trying to escape the terrors of the war that continue to haunt them. The veteran is that quiet soul who lives down the street, and raises his hand to wave as you drive by. The Veteran is me... the Veteran is my friend..... the Veteran is everyman and everywoman... a citizen who is ordinary to people who come in contact with them every day.
  Some veterans are true heroes, though most who are do not want to be known as a hero. They just know that they did a job that had to be done. Most veterans are the rank and file who just did the job that was given to them, without question. 
 Today, the nation comes together to salute them. I believe that the nation should salute them every day. Veteran's Day should not be just another holiday to hold clearance sales on. It should be a day of solemn remembrance.
  If this essay seems rambling, it's because i wrote my thoughts down as they came to me, and I tend to ramble at times. There's one more thing I need to say: There are some today that chose to use the moment to rail against the government, while giving a backhanded recognition to the Veteran. To those I say "Please, save it for another day! This is the time to thank the Veteran and remember their sacrifice. It's not the time for your political agendas/"
  In closing, I wish to thank all those that honored me on this day. It was my honor and my duty to serve. That is the price of freedom.
 Peace and Love to all....
 John Zaffino, November 10, 2014
 Kent Lakes, New York


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Back Pages: A Word For Brittany

My Back Pages: A Word For Brittany: Brittany with her husband, and shortly before her death.   Brittany Maynard died the other day. She had terminal brain cancer and was sl...

A Word For Brittany

Brittany with her husband, and shortly before her death.
  Brittany Maynard died the other day. She had terminal brain cancer and was slowly slipping away. She had forgotten the name of her husband, even though she still knew him and had been married just a short time.  She suffered increasingly long seizures and excruciating headaches and neck pain. She chose to end her life with dignity, instead of having the cancer take away her sense of self, and having her loved ones bear the agony of watching her slip slowly away, unaware of who they were. 
 "She died as she intended — peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones," said Sean Crowley, a spokesman for the advocacy group Compassion & Choices. Many people admired her choice. Others, such as myself, think that her decision was a personal one, and that she made it of her own free will. I think that she was a brave young woman who decided to take her final journey by her own hand. It should have ended there, with tributes to her life and a mourning period for her loved ones. But no.. that was not to be. As soon as her death was announced, the negative, hurtful comments started.
 "She was no hero!" wrote one person. "She was a coward! She had no right to take her own life!" said another. "Only God can make the decision to take a life!" 
 Really? Who are we to judge her? Who, in fact, has the right,  who is not going through what she was going through, to say anything about this young woman's decision? "Only God can make a decision to end a life?" Think about this for just a second.... if you believe that God influences all that we do, and that we are God's creations, did not God give her the free will to decide this? Humans take other lives every single day. They justify it through there legal systems. They justify it through the biblical 'eye for an eye', and yet they would condemn this poor young woman for seeking peaceful relief from her suffering. It seems to me that they are being more humane to convicted murderers than they are to someone who is in agony. I am so astonished at the condemnation by the people who claim to be holy and God fearing. I just don't understand their reasoning.
  Those who insist on judging this young woman on religious grounds, I refer you to your own bible.

Matthew 7:1 - 3 King James Version
 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measures ye mete, it shall be measured against you again.

 Now, I am far from a religious person, but when someone uses the bible and wraps themselves in scripture to cast aspersion on another, then I have to use a quote from the bible to try to make them see that they should not condemn another so easily. 

 This young woman's story broke my heart. I sorrow for her and her family, especially her husband, who knew the joys of being married to such a good woman for only a short time. 
  I know that there are those that will disagree with me, and that's alright. I just want people to understand that this woman thought that she was doing the best for her family and her, and I would like people to show some respect for her memory, and for her family.
  As always, I wish love and peace to all that wish it.

John Zaffino, November 5, 2014
Kent Lakes, New York

 

 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My Back Pages: Reluctant Politics

My Back Pages: Reluctant Politics:  A week or so ago, I posted on my Facebook page that I was backing away from politics on facebook, except for my blog. Well, circumstances...

Reluctant Politics

 A week or so ago, I posted on my Facebook page that I was backing away from politics on facebook, except for my blog. Well, circumstances being what they are, I need to post my thoughts on the political situation in this country. This is my take on it, and my take alone. If you feel an urge to comment, please do. It will not change my mind. I carefully study every position that I take, Every vote that I cast, and these opinions are mine, and mine alone. Do not attempt to change my mind.. my positions and my feelings come from a lifetime of experience.
  I am very disappointed in this President.  I approved of his message of hope, but i feel that he has let us down, and missed his calling. I find that he has been very indecisive in so many areas. He should have stood up to the far right and moved his agenda forward. Instead, we are still left with a crumbling infrastructure, and a half assed healthcare plan. Oh, it's better than nothing, but it should have been made to be under a single payer, instead of this mis-mash that we have. The President let these damned extreme right wingers bully him into the mess that we have. Hopefully, it will eventually right itself. 
 This is not to say that the congress, those miscreants that run the government, are without blame. No, they must take the brunt of my wrath. They have blocked every initiative that would advance the average person outright. They bow to the multinational corporations and do all that they can to thwart anything that would benefit Mr. and Mrs. Joe Average. We have bridges, highways, tunnels, and every other kind of infrastructure, falling apart.. yet, they balk at every attempt to correct these problems. They do nothing to stop our porous borders. They argue and rip at their garments, yet nothing gets done. They point fingers at each other, while the situation in the country deteriorates with each passing second. It is a sad state of affairs in the United States, at this point.
  I must tell you that I am an American Patriot. I won't be pigeonholed  to a certain political party or belief. I believe in the American Democratic Republic. I also believe that, if we don't help each other out, we are no better than the third world countries that the elitists disdain. We must be better than that. We must help those of us less fortunate to get a leg up. If not, we are doomed to failure. The least of us must be helped to succeed, or we are no better than others who exploit the downtrodden.
 I said that I was disappointed in the President.. this does not mean that I would change my vote. I will not vote for anyone who helps send jobs to other countries, simply because it's cheaper to have them done there. I will not support a politician who helps these multinational corporations avoid sovereign Untited States taxation. I will not support those who grind their heels into the necks of the working man. I believe in helping each other, and working together to make a more perfect union.
  If my beliefs upset anyone, I'm sorry. I am nothing, if not honest. I have worked my entire life to make things better for people around me. I will continue to do so until I draw my last breath. Love and peace to you all, and bless this beautiful country.
 John Zaffino
 Kent Lakes, New York
 October 15, 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Back Pages: Farewell To The Captain... We May Never See Your L...

My Back Pages: Farewell To The Captain... We May Never See Your L...:   A legend played his last game in Yankee Stadium tonight. I have watched this still young man from the time that he was a 19 year old roo...

Farewell To The Captain... We May Never See Your Like Again..

 A legend played his last game in Yankee Stadium tonight. I have watched this still young man from the time that he was a 19 year old rookie through the present day. He is a man of grace and honor. He wore his uniform with pride, and he brought honor and a will to win to a storied franchise. Derek Sanderson Jeter was raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan by loving, caring, parents. They instilled in him a sense of respect and honor that he has carried with him his whole life. His mother had contracts with him concerning his schoolwork and baseball time. His father constantly challenged him to be competitive. Not to show him up, but to make him always try to do his best. 
 I first heard of Derek from another Yankee legend: Phil 'Scooter' Rizzzuto. He would mention him often during Derek's time in the minor leagues. He spoke glowingly of "This kid, Jeter, that the Yankees have in the minor leagues. He's going to be the next great shortstop! Fittingly, Scooter called his first home run when he came up from triple A.
  The 'Boss', George M. Steinbrenner, knew what he had in Jeter. He listened to Stick Michael and his braintrust, and observed him for himself. Derek grew to love the 'Boss' over the years, and they had a special relationship. When Steinbrenner signed Alex Rodrequez, he let him know that he would have to learn third base: George already had a shortstop, and his name was Derek Sanderson Jeter. Derek caught the eye of manager  Buck Showalter and he, to this day, speaks glowingly of Derek. When Joe (Mr.) Torre took over as manager, he knew that he had something special in the the cocky, but respectful, Derek Jeter. He always says that Derek always seemed to fit. He never seemed to be the rookie.. he was an old soul. That's not to say that he was rude or disrespectful, he was just the opposite. He was always respectful of the veteran players.. he just always seemed to fit.
  Derek was a part of the 'Core Four' ... the players that were in the middle of the Yankee's push for World Series dominance. Jeter, Posada, Petite, and Rivera, helped them amass the needed wins to dominate the baseball world in the mid to late '90s. One thing that they all had in common was that they were all good people. One by one, they have gone from the stage... Derek is the last. I will always remember him rubbing Don Zimmer's head for luck..... calling Joe Torre 'Mr. Torre' out of respect, and having Bob Sheppard announce him, even after Mr. Sheppard had died. I will remember the play where he dived headlong into the stands to catch a pop fly, seriously hurting himself, because the game was important. Meanwhile, his contemporary, Nomar Garciaparra, sat out the game because he was in a dispute with the Boston Red Sox. This was at the end of the discussion of who was the better shortstop, Garciaparra, Rodriquez, or Jeter. Derek has show them all how a great player and a good man reacts.
  They've tried over the years to find something on Derek.. some flaw, something that they could sink their predatory teeth into. The New York Post and Page Six always tried, but Derek was always above reproach. He would do nothing to sully himself, his parents, or the New York Yankees. This is one of the reasons that George M. Steinbrenner made him 'Captain. Derek has always been class, but never at the expense of thinking himself above the people who came to see him. He was always interacting with the fans, and they loved him for it.
  Tonight was Derek's last game in Yankee Stadium. Typically, the game came down to him, and, always with a flair for the dramatic, he won the game with an single to drive in the winning run. I am listening to him now thanking the fans again for cheering him on.  Derek is a truly good human being.. as is Mariano. Derek's Turn 2 foundation is helping deserving need kids. Derek is truly a good man. The tears in my eyes are for the passing of a truly deserving legend. Goodbye, Derek. Thank you just for being you and really being a shining example. We love you!
John Zaffino
 Kent Lakes NY 
September 25, 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014

My Back Pages: Fading

My Back Pages: Fading:   I haven't written anything in a while..... not because there are not things that I have strong opinions about, but because I just c...

Fading



  I haven't written anything in a while..... not because there are not things that I have strong opinions about, but because I just can't find it lately. I'm in a funk, and I don't know what to do about it. I have started no fewer than four different blogs in the past month and a half, but I just can't find the rhythm to flesh them out and finish them. I hate this.. it's like losing my voice in the middle of a conversation.
  I've had a lot of things going on in my life this year. Perhaps this is the cause of the loss of my ability to put words to print. It's hard to find clarity amidst chaos, and that's what it's been since the early Spring. Added to that is the fact that I have been in some pain recently, mostly in my hands and knees. Age has a way of slowing you down, and it's never subtle. In any case, I have been distracted by these things, personal and public, that have made it hard for me to compose.
 I have plenty of opinions about all that is going on in the nation and the world, but I just can't find it in me to write it down. I would love to be able to tell you how I feel about the NFL, and the way that they have invaded all aspects of our lives, but I can't get it together. I would love to talk about ISL, and how I feel that the entire Federal Government has failed us. I cannot do so at this time.
 To those who read what I have written: Thank you for being so kind and loyal to me, even when what I have written was poorly written. You have been my friends to the end, and I will always appreciate that. 
 I don't know when, or if, I will ever find the inspiration that I need to write again. If I do, well, then.. you will see it here. If not, all I can say is that it's been fun. I've always written from the heart. 
  I wish Peace and Love for you all. Never forget the angels of Sandy Hook. I know that I will not.
 John Zaffino, September 20, 2014
  Kent Lakes, NY

Friday, September 5, 2014

Respect

What has happened to people in our society? We seem to have lost any regard for those who raised us, or came before us. RESPECT... it's a simple word, and a simple concept; yet, so many have lost the ability to respect anyone, or any thing, that they do not agree with. It has come to the point where the younger generation does not acknowledge a death, or a sad occurance in the lives of those who came before them. 
 Oh, I do not mean everyone. I have had so much grief in my family in the past year, and my family, for the most part, have responded with love and respect. First, I lost my godmother, Aunt Mary Huffman, last October. Then, my great nephew, Damien, died this past Spring. My cousin, Phil Cassara, died just a few months ago, in July.  The outpouring of support and love from my dear friends across the world, overwhelmed me. Yet, there were those that should have been among the first to come forward to offer support, were dead silent.. These same people demand that I respect and love them for who and what they are. Well, I have taken enough disrespect from them over the years. I have always supported them, and helped them whenever I could, and yet they continually show me that they do not respect me or my darling wife. Not only do they not respect us, they shower us with contempt! It breaks my heart.
  I always try to respect everyone. It does not matter what religion, what ethnic group, or anything else that they belong to. The point is that I  respect and accept what they believe in, and who they are. Sadly, some of them do not offer me... do not offer US, the same courtesy. I/we have been called 'Low class  trash'... well, I submit to you that anyone who does not offer condolences to those who are grieving, to those who are suffering, are the real 'Low class trash!'. I am sad for you all...but, I will not forgive you! The love in my heart extends to all who want it.. to all who reach out and love me back... not for who I am, but just for the fact that I am a good human being.
 To my family, who loves and respects me, and to my great friends around the world, I want you to know that I love and respect and support you all, no matter what your political beliefs, no matter what you believe... I love you all.
 To those of you who find that they must do everything that they can to humiliate us because they do not support our beliefs, I can offer you nothing. If you hate us, if you feel that you must do everything that you can to destroy us, I can only tell you that you will never succeed. Still, I wish you happiness, as long as it does not interfere with ours.
 Love and Peace to all of my dear friends, as always.
 John Zaffino, Kent Lakes, New York
 September 5, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor Day

It's Labor Day, 2014.. and what significance does the day have in the modern era?
 When I was a young boy, the Labor Force in this country was making great strides, thanks to the policies of our government, and thanks to organized labor. I'm not talking about the corrupt people within organized labor.. I'm talking about the actual strides that unions made to improve the life of, not only their members, but all workers. Wages increased.. we had healthcare offered.. retirement programs... improved working conditions. 
 These were all backed by politicians like Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and yes, even Nixon.. who gave us OSHA. I remember the Golden Days well. We all gathered together to celebrate how great America was for the working man. Every gain trickled down to every worker.
 I remember, after I joined the great labor force of the '70s and '80s, proud Labor Day parades and celebrations. We were celebrating America's respect for the workers in the country. We were all proud to be Americans, and happy to be included in the great American Dream. We were celebrated throughout the country as the workforce that could do anything. 
  Somehow, in the late '80s, and again in the late '90s, we lost our edge. We had our politicians, who were supposed to protect us and keep the American worker strong, suddenly give in to the multinational corporations, and aid in their quest to send our manufacturing jobs overseas. This was called the great shift to a global economy. This was called 'Fair Trade', when, in fact, it was the death knell to fair wages for the American worker. I must tell you.. we are not alone in this tragedy. The same theme is echoed in all the economies across the globe that were once thriving. Australia, The United Kingdom... any economy that depended on keeping their citizens at work in manufacturing, are now suffering because these multinationals have sent their jobs to countries that pay mere pennies to their workers, if they pay them at all! How can we compete against countries that use child labor, or slave labor, to produce goods? How can we compete against countries that have no regard for human life, and do not care about providing their people with a living wage? We cannot!
  These multinationals do not care about the human beings that power their companies. They do not care if they make a living wage, or if they have healthcare, or if they live or die. Their attitude is that, if a worker dies, they will be replaced by some other poor person who is struggling to feed their families, perhaps at a cheaper wage.
  It saddens me.. and old Unionist who fought for better wages and healthcare for not only those that he or she represented, but those who also got the benefits from the struggles of our unions. It saddens me because my grandchildren will have to face a labor market that has no regard for them. It makes me afraid for their futures.
  Those of you who celebrate the gains of these corporations and think that you and yours will benefit from them will have a rude awakening one day; and I think that this day will be sooner, rather than later. I can only hope that, someday in the near future, Labor Day will again be to celebrate the Great American Worker. I can only hope that I will live long enough to see that day.
  In the meantime, I wish all of those who work to make this a great world, Love and Peace.
 John Zaffino, Kent Lakes New York
 September 1, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Back Pages: War and Peace

My Back Pages: War and Peace: War... I cannot remember a day without it, and I will be 68 years old in October. If we are not directly involved, we are supporting one fac...

War and Peace

War... I cannot remember a day without it, and I will be 68 years old in October. If we are not directly involved, we are supporting one faction or another in some part of the world. Countries go to war over land, over religion, over perceived slights.. just the damnedest things. Young men and women get slaughtered and maimed in the wars, while old men (and women!) use them as pawns in the games of power. It has been like this since the beginning of time, and I fear that it will always  be like this, as long as there are humans on this planet. 
  We war not only over religion, but over different sects in the same religions. We war over borders, or to prove who is the biggest and baddest in the world. Who is the most powerful, or who will determine how the rest of the world will live. We war because some little wannabe Cossack wants to bring back a system and an empire that collapsed under it's own weight. We war because people resent one another because of religious differences. We war over energy, political differences, ethnic hatred, and for reasons no one can even fathom. It's a sickness with we humans. We just cannot seem to get along. 
  The carry over of our war-like society goes right to our streets. How can we expect our young people to respect life and live peacefully when those who set the rules  set the example of sending young men and women out to kill each other for their purposes? We bemoan the killing on our streets, when this is only a reflection of what is happening out in the larger world between people that should be brothers and sisters. Because of this, the slaughter of our young people continues at home and abroad.
  Fanatics slaughter people as a way to terrorize others into bending to their will. They bring down plane loads of innocents, who have nothing to do with their grievances, just to strike terror into the hearts of all that would oppose them. They crash planeloads of innocents into buildings because they want to bring the body count ever higher in the name of their twisted interpretation of God.
 Why can't we have a society where, instead of leaders rattling sabers and trying to show the world who is the most powerful, they vie to see who is the most peaceful, and who can do more to make the lives of the people that they represent, better? Why can we not really show that we are a 'humanitarian' race? 
  We will never know peace as long as we have people who claim to be 'Leaders' constantly rattling sabers and thumping their chests. We will never have peace until we learn, as a people, to accept each others differences. Until we do, we will forever be warring with each other, and this is a sad, sad thing for the entire human race.
  One more thing.... why is it that many, though not all.... many, who are always calling for war on this one or that one,  are the same ones that, when they should have served, took the cowardly way out and refused to serve... finding ways, most of them dishonorable, to avoid serving and going to war, when people like myself, and many who were sacrificed on the field of battle, served without question? It just boggles my mind.
  I wish for you all a peaceful future. I hope that my grandchildren will live to see a time without war. This is my wish for all. 
 Love and Peace 
John Zaffino, July 18, 2014
Kent Lakes, NY

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My Back Pages: Independence Day, and My Independence....

My Back Pages: Independence Day, and My Independence....: The Fourth Of July..... our Independence Day! It has so many meanings to me. The founders of this country were brilliant men. They had a v...

Independence Day, and My Independence....

The Fourth Of July..... our Independence Day! It has so many meanings to me. The founders of this country were brilliant men. They had a vision that endures to the this day, despite the best efforts of varied politicians and justices to change that vision.. to divert it.... to dilute it. This is a Democratic Republic... a Democracy, of the People, by the People, and for the People, as father Abraham said, despite the efforts of some politicians and radicals who wish to convince us that we are not a democracy. 
 Perhaps they should have told GW Bush that. He envisioned spreading Democracy to the the Middle East. It was a flawed effort, but he did it with good intentions, with poor advice. It is important that we all remember that we are a nation founded on democratic principles. 
  I love this country, and the ideals that it was founded on. I love the fact that it not only guarantees freedom of religion, it guarantees freedom of choice. It disturbs me that some politicians, and some judges, fail to remember that we have these freedoms. We can worship however we please, or not at all, if that is our belief. There are those that would force their beliefs on everyone. What makes them any different than the radicals who are terrorizing the world from their religious bastions? What makes them any different, if they would enforce their beliefs on everyone?
  I celebrate my ability to have independent thoughts, and the freedom to express them without the fear of being arrested or persecuted. I celebrate my freedom of speech. This does not mean that I have the ability to call for someone to be hurt. We must always remember that words have consequences. It means that I am free to disagree with the government, without fear of reprisal.
  I celebrate my right to make a choice about who will lead this country. Who will represent me in the government, and who will be in charge of making and enforcing the laws of the town, state, and country that I live in. By the same token, I celebrate the freedom to civilly disagree with these same elected officials, and to work to have them replaced if I do not like the job that they are doing. I love the fact that we do not advocate violence to overthrow those who we do not agree with. This would be anarchy, and would be the death knell of our Republic.
  I would remind those who scream about rights being taken away, to just look and see the rights that are being REALLY being taken away. There are those who would take away freedom of religious choice. Some of them are the same people who scream about having their second amendment rights taken away. Smoke and mirrors, friends. They use this to distract you from the rights that they want to take away from you. 
  We, as Americans, must stand strong, and not allow ANY rights to be taken away, or diminished. We must support each other, and the right to be individuals who have our own Independence. If we do not, then we have failed the Grand Experiment. 
  On this Independence Day, I ask all of you who know me, to support each other, and to stand up for the rights as outlined in the Constitution. Don't let special interests change what this nation has always stood for... Freedom, and Independence from those who would tell you how to think and how to worship, or not to worship, if that is your choice. If you are a good person, that is all that matters.
  Happy Fourth, everyone! Remember what it means. Defend what the founders envisioned. Love and Peace to All....
 John Zaffino, Kent Lakes, NY
 July 1, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Back Pages: Summer

My Back Pages: Summer: Summer! What I have waited for all year... I love the Spring, but I am head over heels IN LOVE with Summer. My favorite day is the Summer So...

Summer

Summer! What I have waited for all year... I love the Spring, but I am head over heels IN LOVE with Summer. My favorite day is the Summer Solstice... the longest day of the year. You will usually find me out early, and staying out late... I need to absorb every single second of light that is given to me on this day. It is Yin and Yang.. good and bad... it signals the beginning of the hot Summer season; but, sadly, it also signals the beginning of the Sun's inexorable march south. The days are beautiful, but each day is slightly shorter. Still, I love it. I love every drop of sweat that trickles from me. I love the caress of the Sun's rays on my aging body. I love the songs of all the birds, starting early in the morning, and lasting until dusk. Sadly, my hearing has deteriorated to the point where I no longer hear the peepers and the crickets singing at night. I miss those songs. However, I can still see the lightning bugs signaling to each other, as they search for a mate. I can still watch the little brown bats come out as the daylight starts to fade, doing their best to rid the area of mosquitoes and other pests..
Summer, 2013, on Whaley Lake
  During the day, as I sit on the deck, or lie in the hammock, listening to music, the memories of Summer days past come flooding back. Days of my youth, not appreciated then as much as they are now. My friends and I at the beach... the smell of the suntan lotion. The hopes of finding some young girl who would find the skinny, pimple-faced, lank haired youth that I was, attractive enough to speak to. 
 I can smell the ocean and also the french fries and other foods at the concession stand. I can hear the sound of the WABC, WMCA, and WINS Rock and Roll radio stations coming from so many different transistor radios, from blanket to blanket.... The Temptations, the Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas, The Beach Boys.... all of the Rock and Roll groups from the early '60s. What a great time to have grown up... before the President was assassinated... before Vietnam came along and stole our innocence. 
  At night, we sat out on our stoops... or under the street lamps, playing cards, singing, or just talking about our plans for the next day, the next week.. and not much further than that. We were young, happy (for the most part), and alive! 
 I think about those days, and friends who have come and gone, and a smile comes to my face. I'm happy and sad at the same time. Happy to have lived in the times that I did; but sad for the loss of those now gone... for whatever reason. I sit and listen to the music and lose myself in it for the few precious hours that I can. I will enjoy every moment of this beautiful time of year, because I know that time is fleeting, and it grows shorter with each day. Have a beautiful Summer, everyone. As always, Love and Peace to all.
 john Zaffino June 24, 2014
 Kent Lakes, New York

Monday, June 16, 2014

My Back Pages: Respect, Family, Friends, and the Facebook Problem...

My Back Pages: Respect, Family, Friends, and the Facebook Problem...:   I am really upset! I usually do not start my blogs with this kind of a statement, but I have to put this out there because someone that I ...

Respect, Family, Friends, and the Facebook Problem.

 I am really upset! I usually do not start my blogs with this kind of a statement, but I have to put this out there because someone that I love with all of my heart and soul is being disrespected simply because of her political beliefs. That person is my soulmate, my love, my wife.... Sheryl. She's being disrespected by members of my family and some of my friends, and I will not tolerate it without making my feelings known.
 First of all, if you have a differing opinion, you have a right to it. This is a free country. However, being disrespectful is not only unnecessary, it shows your lack of decorum. First, let me ask you all... and you know who the hell you are..... what has she ever done that you treat her so disrespectfully? You don't like her politics? Fine... you don't have to. She doesn't try to put down your political or religious beliefs, even though she may not agree with them.  I am so damned angry, I can hardly think clearly enough to write.. but I must push on, because, goddamnit, I want you to know exactly how I feel. 
  If you do not respect a friends opinion, then you are not a friend. If you think that you are smarter or more educated than someone who has had more life experience than you, than you are sadly mistaken. When you try to humiliate my wife; when you try to make her look stupid... then you have to deal with me, and I am one friggin' angry Marine at this point. You need to take a good look at yourselves and stop the bullshit that you are putting out there. 
   Families and friends should never discuss political OR RELIGIOUS differences in public... (Facebook)...  these issues should be discussed face to face. You, however, have chosen to do it in a manner that holds my wife up for ridicule, and you have angered me more than anyone else has in the past 20 years. I am sick over this. 
  Smarten up, and learn to give respect where respect is due, or we will have a really serious problem.  I wish all people love and peace. To you few, I wish love, peace, and enlightenment, or all is lost.
   I have several friends.... Patty Ann Smith Sporano comes to mind... with whom I do not always agree..... but we agree on so many things, and we respect each others opinions... why can you not do the same? If you cannot show respect, then you are not a friend, you are not a member of my family.... you are nothing to me. 
 I proudly served my country, believing that everyone was entitled to freedom of Religion, and the right to their political opinion. Obviously, some do not feel that way. 
 John Zaffino, Kent Lakes, NY
June 16, 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Back Pages: Father's Day.. Dedicated to all the fathers who di...

My Back Pages: Father's Day.. Dedicated to all the fathers who di...:  Another Father's Day has come. We celebrate that hard working man, who made our lives a bit better by all of their hard work. What sa...

Father's Day.. Dedicated to all the fathers who did their best.

 Another Father's Day has come. We celebrate that hard working man, who made our lives a bit better by all of their hard work. What saddens me is that so many are cast aside as the years wear on. Not necessarily purposely, but due to the pressing needs of immediate family. Soccer games, football games, baseball games... they all come to take precedence over visiting aging family members. It's not of any conscious neglect... it's just that the needs of those in the household overshadow those of the family that we have all left behind.
  Those fathers that worked hard to make a better life for their children and step-children. Those who worked  so hard to try and make a better life than they had growing up; they are often overlooked and cast aside because the pressing issues of day to day life make it so hard to even think about them. Children demand and require attention. Aging parents are slowly pushed to the background....  the only time they are paid any attention to is when they are ill, and the time grows short. This is not to say that all families are like this... this is just to say that it happens to many.
 When I was a young married man, with five children and a wife. I was there for my mother and father every weekend, whenever they needed me or wanted me. It's the way that I was raised.
 Today, I ask all those who have a father who is living to give a little respect and love to the man who worked hard to put food on the table and make a decent life for you and your family. It only takes a few minutes to show your love and respect. 
 To all those fathers out there who have worked hard to give their families a good life, alongside of a great woman, I wish you all a Happy Fathers Day. My love and respect goes out to you all. May all the good will and love of your families follow you to the end of your days.
 John Zaffino Kent Lakes, NY
 June 15, 2014







Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My Back Pages: Friends and Loss In The Modern Age

My Back Pages: Friends and Loss In The Modern Age: Facebook... Twitter... I love the ability that we have to reach out and find old friends, renew acquaintances, and find new friends across t...

Friends and Loss In The Modern Age

Facebook... Twitter... I love the ability that we have to reach out and find old friends, renew acquaintances, and find new friends across the globe. It's a heady, fascinating thing. We get to meet new people, make friends in different cities... different countries.. and have meaningful dialogues with each other. We can transcend cultural, religious, and political differences, and establish real friendships, despite our differences. I have made many new friends this way, and found so many friends from my past that it boggles the mind. Some, I have sought for years (Yes, Don Radogna, I mean you). Others, I have thought about from time to time, and stumbled on while reaching out to others. It's an amazing time for us. We can use it to all come together, or to affirm the differences that our prejudices already have told us that we have. I choose the former.
 Making new friends is exciting and fun, and it was through this means that I became friends with Ginger Lloyd Wood. I was pretty adamant during the last election about keeping Mitt Romney out of the White House. I just knew that his brand of Conservatism would be bad for the American Worker. Not to mention that when he had the opportunity to serve his country, as I did, he chose to go over seas in service to his church. I am not happy with the way that our President has performed, but I still would not pick Romney over him. 
  But I digress. It was through the election and my opinionated  posts and blogs, that I came to know Ginger. She liked what I had to say, and trusted my instincts. I learned that she was battling cancer, and that she was afraid for her children and grandchildren of what would happen if the Romney's came to power. I assured her that her instincts were correct. After the election, we often communicated about the state of our country. Ginger was so afraid of what was coming to pass, thanks to the Tea Party and all the crazies who were basically calling for the downfall of the government. I tried to assure her that the world for her grandchildren would not change that much, if only we could keep things balanced. 
 Ginger was a religious lady. I am not very religious... no, that's not true.. I am not at all religious.. but we respected each other and, as I always said, 'Who's to say what is right and what is wrong? We need to respect and love each other, regardless of religious beliefs.'.. Ginger agreed.
 When she took a turn for the worse last year, she asked me to pray for her. I asked her permission to have all of my friends and relatives pray for her and send healing energy. She agreed. The last that I heard from Ginger was just a month or two ago. She told me that she had had a crisis, but that she had come through it. That was the last that I heard until tonight.
  Tonight, I heard that my dear friend, Ginger Lloyd Wood, had lost her battle with the hated cancer. I am so devastated that I cannot think. That's the trouble with this brave new world: We have more people to lose and to mourn. 
  Ginger, my dear friend, I salute you. You were brave and never complained or cursed your fate. Your concern was for the future that did not include you. You were a sweet, and loving soul, and I will always miss you. Rest In Peace, my dear, sweet friend. Know that you were loved.
 John Zaffino, Kent Lakes, NY
 June 11, 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Back Pages: Memorial Day... My Personal Sorrow

My Back Pages: Memorial Day... My Personal Sorrow:    I have already posted my Memorial Day blog. While it is what I feel on this day of remembrance, I left one person out: My Father.   My...

Memorial Day... My Personal Sorrow

  I have already posted my Memorial Day blog. While it is what I feel on this day of remembrance, I left one person out: My Father.
  My father was a quiet man. A patriot, and someone who loved this country more than he could ever put into words. He also loved his family the same way. He was not outwardly affectionate. I can not tell you when my father kissed me, because, to my memory, and it goes back to when I was two, he never did. I don't know why.. all I can think of is that it, somehow, made him uncomfortable. I know that he loved me; he just never physically showed it.
  My father was of the Greatest Generation and, to me, at least, he was a hero. He joined the US Army to fight Hitler and his Nazi's. He met my mother at his basic training camp of Fort Sill, OK.... then, they shipped him to Panama. PANAMA! They wanted him to stay there for the duration of the war. They wanted to make him a sergeant  and put him in charge of troops guarding the Canal Zone. My father, bless him, had other ideas. He wanted to go to the European Theater, and kept putting in requests until they finally gave in. They told him that he would not get his promotion, but my father did not care. He wanted to help stop the Nazi war machine, so off to France he went. 
  They sent him to the Rainbow division.. ant there, my knowledge of what he did, stops, to my shame. Except for one incident, I know nothing of what my father did in Europe. That incident involved finding a German motorcycle with flat tires, doing some work on it, so that it would run, and riding it through an area that had not been secured. That was my father. He was a man who loved his family and his country in that order.
  I came along and was not the best son. I joined the Marines in 1966, something that, finally, made him proud of me.. even though he was afraid for me, and told me so. I did my time, and when I came back, we resumed our relationship of holding each other at arms length. I think that the only thing that my father finally approved of, after some time, was Sheryl.
  My father never talked about his war years. I had asked him so many times when I was growing up, but he really did not want to talk about them. Finally, in the last year of his life, he wanted to talk. He started telling me about his time with the Rainbow Division, but I was such an ass that I did not listen. He looked at me one Sunday afternoon, and said..'I want you to know what happened..'.. and I just did not retain a thing that he said. He died a few months later. To this day, I am so very sad and angry with myself for not listening to him. I thought that he would be around forever, until the day that I got the phone call that he had had a stroke. By that evening, he was gone.
 I have spent my life trying to atone for what I did. I cannot. All I can do is urge any of you out there that follow my blog, if you have a parent that served this country, that felt the call to defend freedom, Listen to what they have to say. It's important.. not only to them, but to you. It will preserve their sacrifice, and it will preserve their memory. Don't be a fool, like I was.
 John Zaffino, Kent Lakes, NY
Memorial Day Weekend, 2014

My Back Pages: Memorial Day. 2014

My Back Pages: Memorial Day. 2014: They didn't choose to be heroes. Freddy, Bobby, William, and all the others that heard and answered the call. They were just normal yo...

Memorial Day. 2014

They didn't choose to be heroes. Freddy, Bobby, William, and all the others that heard and answered the call. They were just normal young men.... boys, really.... who just went about their day to day lives, dreaming their dreams of a future filled with love and marriage, perhaps a couple of kids and a house with a yard. They walked the streets of my hometown, as so many others like  them did in their own hometowns across this country, filled with the bloom of youth, the promise of their futures which were still shining brightly.  Whether they joined, as I did, or were drafted as others were, they still made the choice, without question, to answer it. They were swept up in the war machine and and did their best to play their parts. They paid the ultimate price, did Freddy, Bobby, William and others. They could have run and hid, as some did. They could have done other things, as so many of those who beat the drums of war  today, did to avoid service at that time. They didn't, because they were taught, and believed, that freedom is never free. There is a price to be paid for all of the freedom that we, in these great United States, enjoy. No matter what their political leanings, if they had any at that tender age, they served for the idea of freedom. This is what made them great. This is what made them all heroes in my eyes, and in the hearts and minds of so many who knew them. They served with honor and they served with pride. Regardless of what you think of that war, they served their country well.
 Our fathers and grandfathers also served. They brought down killing machines that were laying waste to all they regarded as lesser than they. Shooting, starving, killing indiscriminately, women, children, men. Old and young. Men and women from the Armed Forces of the US joined with our European Allies to turn the tide and stop the killings. They did the same in the Pacific theater as well, at the cost of so many lives.
 Today, we are at war again. Whether you support the war, or not, you must support and honor those who, again, are serving and dying in the name of freedom. Regardless of politics, we must, as citizens of this great country, honor the memories of those who have served, especially those who paid the ultimate price.
  in quiet moments, I can hear the voices of those whose memories I honor. If I close my eyes, I can also see their faces. The easy smiles, the ready laughter... their voices and images echo through the decades, back to me. I don't need Memorial day to think of them, because I think of them every day, but I will take the time on Monday to honor them all, to thank them all, for their service to this country and to what it is supposed to stand for. I hope all that read my rambling tribute will do the same.
 Peace and Love to All.
 John Zaffino, Kent Lakes NY
 Memorial Weekend, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014

My Back Pages: Spring and Summer of '59 - "What doesn't kill you....

My Back Pages: Spring and Summer of '59 - "What doesn't kill you....:  While reading the posts from friends the other day, I saw one by my friend, Peg Teague Guelakis about how cruel some boys were back in ou...

Spring and Summer of '59 - "What doesn't kill you......"

 While reading the posts from friends the other day, I saw one by my friend, Peg Teague Guelakis about how cruel some boys were back in our day. It was about how some of them would torture animals, and how the mothers took a 'Boys will be Boys' attitude. As the day went on and I thought about this, I remembered how she also told  me that she was teased incessantly back then by certain boys. This brought to mind my Summer of Hell, in 1959. It actually lasted from mid-Spring until the fall; but, to me, it seemed to stretch out for an entire lifetime.
  We were a rough and tumble bunch of street kids, my friends and I. Most of us came from families that struggled every day. We never felt deprived,  because this is just the way things were. We made our bicycles from parts that we pulled from the city dump. Back in those days, every thing was taken there and put into the landfill, or burned. Things like bicycles, old baby carriages, toys, etc, found their way to the huge piles where they were unceremoniously left to rust or rot. These were golden pickings for kids like us. We would pick up a frame from one discarded bike, a seat from another. Wheels and tires from others. Sometimes, we had a 26 inch wheel on the back, and a 22 or 24 inch tire in the front. It looked 'Cool'.
 We would make the rounds of the factories where the workers would throw out their soda and beer bottles. They were like gold to us, because we would take them to the grocery store and cash them in to buy soda, candy, fruit... whatever struck our fancy at that particular moment. We had fun, and roamed all over New Rochelle on our re-built bicycles. We were, for the most part, good kids. A little dirty, a bit foul-mouthed, but we stayed out of trouble most of the time. We would discuss stupid things.. like, "Would you cut off your left hand for a million dollars?" and that sort of thing. We would argue, tease, and taunt each other... nothing vicious, just kidding. 
 One thing that seemed to fascinate my 'friends' was my American Indian heritage. Once in a while, they would call me a 'Red Skin', but usually just in jest. On this particular day, we had been arguing over whether or not we would grab a red hot piece of steel for a million dollars. This came up because my cousins owned an Iron Works, and we could always see them welding or cutting the steel with a torch. Anyway, they all said that they would. I said that I would not, because I did not want to be disfigured. Really, what I meant was that I was too chicken to burn my hand off. We were going back and forth on that, when, suddenly, things turned ugly. I don't remember who started it, or why, but someone called me a Redskin coward. This upset me and I told them to knock it off. Too late... the blood was in the water. They started taunting me, calling me a dirty redskin and telling me that I was not a 'Real American', because I belonged on  the reservation, like all the other dirty redskins. They started doing war whoops, and pretended to dance around like they thought Indians were. They poked me, and pushed me and kept it up until I started to cry and ran inside. I was all of 12 going on 13. This just seemed to encourage them, and they whooped it up and rode their bikes in a circle in front of my house until my father came home from work. Then they scattered. This was not the end of it, though. After dinner, they were back and war whooping as loud as they could. I didn't dare go out and show my face, because this would have just made it worse... or at least, that's what I thought.
 As the days passed, the taunting increased and I was isolated by these guys. You have to remember... they were all my friends!! Or, so I thought.... it's so strange how things cane turn so quickly. Parents, in those days, usually did not intervene. You were on your own to fight your own battles. These guys were just looking to either make me cry, or pick a fight with one of them. I was having none of it, because I knew that I would lose either way. I became stoic. As I walked past them, one of them might start reciting Longfellow's 'The Song Of Hiawatha'.. or they would start singing 'Pow Wow, The Indian Boy'. They did everything that they could to make me cry or attack one of them, but I refused. 
 The Summer dragged on, and I was alone. Finally, I started hanging out with children that were 2 or 3 years younger than me, just to have someone to play with. It was hard, and it was eating me up inside. Many hot Summer days, I would go to the local ball fields and play ball by myself. I was a very lonely young boy, and I could not wait for the Summer to be over.  
 There were glimmers of hope. Bruce Kocka, caught me when he was alone one day and said "Look, Zaff, I want you to know that I am not a part of that shit. I think that you're OK, but I have to live around here, so I hang out with them.. and that's it. No hard feelings?" I thanked Bruce, and told him that there were none on my part. As far as him hanging out with them, he did.. but he never once participated in the taunting.
  In late July, I got a two week respite from the torment, when my family made their trip to Oklahoma to see my grandparents and all my aunts and uncles on my mother's side of the family. I had a great time, fishing with my Uncles Mark, Parker, Keith, and Ken. It's the only time that I relaxed that whole Summer. Soon, though, the vacation came to an end, and I was right back in the crucible again.
  As July ended, and August got off to a hot and humid start, I started to realize that these taunts were not bothering me that much anymore. Oh, I still hated them, and would have preferred to be out riding around with these guys again, but I no long got that knot in the pit of my stomach. I no longer got an anxiety attack when I saw them and knew that I would have to walk past them. They were still giving the war whoops, but they had started to be done with less enthusiasm. 
 By the end of August, they had stopped. They would just go silent when I walked by. Nothing said... no taunts, no hellos... nothing. I secretly felt much better. As September started, and the School year started, I started making new friends. One day, Kevin, one of the larger of my ex-friends came up to me out of nowhere, stuck his hand out and said "Hey, Zaff. Can we be friends again? I don't know what happened.. it was stupid" I shook his hand, and with that, it was over. Like I said : These were my friends! Something went wrong, I don't know what. I have thought about it over the years, and never could figure it out. We remained friends, even though we drifted into different circles as we got older.
  Looking back on this experience from the distance of decades, I can see how this experience, although very traumatic for me, helped build my character and enabled me to get through the taunts and torment of Marine Bootcamp almost effortlessly. No matter how many names the DI's called me.. no matter how many times they hit me, they could not wipe the smile off of my face. I had already been through hell; this was nothing in comparison.
 I needed to put this down just to let my family know a little about my childhood. I don't talk about it much. This was the worst of it. I also want to show that we all have challenges to meet as we grow up. No one gets an easy ride. It's how you come out of them in the end that really matters. I wish that things like this didn't happen to children as they grow up. I wish that mine was an isolated case. I know that this is, sadly, not true. I wish them all the strength to persevere, as I did.
 Peace and Love to All.
 John Zaffino, Kent Lakes, NY
May 15, 2014

 September 27, 2016
  I wrote this post two years ago. The events of that Spring and Summer were very influential in what I became over the years. I have had many times where events in my life were difficulties that I had to overcome. This was just the first of many, but it may have been the hardest. 
  What I didn't say in the original post was that I had one friend that never turned against me. Despite the group cutting me loose and deciding to torment me like they did, this particular friend never did. Oh, he still hung out with the other guys, but he never participated in the harassment that the rest of my former friends rained down on me. He was always still pleasant to me. He never turned his back on me. I don't know if he ever had to answer for what was clearly against these guys, but he never was hard on me.
  Today, I got a message from a family member that he had died today. I have not seen him in years, but I heard from his family how he was fairing. It has not been good for him for the past few years. He almost died a few years ago, but, somehow, he pulled through. He lost his sight years ago and had to rely on others. When I heard this, it broke my heart. Why is it that the most terrible things happen to good people ?
  I won't mention his name, because his family want's his death to remain private. They are great people, one and all, from a good family. I just wanted everyone to know that a very good man has left this plane of existence, and the world is a sadder place because of his loss. I love you, my dear friend, and I shall never forget you!
  John Zaffino, Kent Lakes, New York

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My Back Pages: Mother's Day

My Back Pages: Mother's Day: Mothers..... where would we be without them? Well, for one thing, we would not exist... no miracles coming from someone's rib.. no gro...

Mother's Day

Mothers..... where would we be without them? Well, for one thing, we would not exist... no miracles coming from someone's rib.. no growing in a test tube somewhere, we simply would not be without one. For that reason, and for that reason  alone, we should bow down and thank them.. but that is not all there is to being a mother.. or having one.
  Whether your memory is of a woman in an apron who cleaned the house, cooked meals for you, did all the shopping and the heavy lifting around the house, while your father went off to work; or if it is of a multi-tasking, modern day mother, holding down a job, running a household, raising 2.5 children, and scheduling playdates and organizing all of the modern child's out of the home activities. Either way... she is the one who worried incessantly about your health and welfare, jumping up and taking your temperature at the first sneeze, comforting you when you hurt yourself, making sure that you eat a good meal (I won't get into a definition of a 'Good Meal' here, because it raises too many questions and debates). She took you to the doctor when you're growing up for your wellness visits, to the dentist to make sure that your teeth are healthy and straight. She attended your sports games, cheering you on to encourage you to win, and was there with a shoulder and more encouragement when you did not. Your mother was your friend when you felt that you had none. When you got out of line and misbehaved, she was judge and jury, meting out punishment with love, because she wanted you to grow to be a strong and law abiding human. She was always there when you needed her, and just when you made a mistake that you thought that she could never forgive, she opened up that huge heart of hers and let her loving forgiveness surround you. She taught you respect for others beliefs and taught you acceptance, not tolerance, of all people in society. She taught you to love with an open heart, and if she was like my mother, with an open mind.
 As you grew older, and approached those awkward teen years, she was right there with you.. giving advice, if you wanted it, and giving you a shoulder to cry on when your heart was broken. She, along with your father, prepared you for the harsh reality of life after childhood. We could not have survived without her love and guidance.
 Some mothers were more outward than others. Some stood in the background and waited for when you needed them. Others were always right there, over your shoulder, arms at the ready, in case you should fall. 
  When you married, she was there with tears and pride as you took your vows. As you brought children into the world, she beamed with pride and doted on them, giving advice, welcome or not, on raising children. Whenever she did, believe that it was with love and respect for you and your loved ones.
 Whether you called her mother, mom, ma, mama or whatever it was in your culture that was acceptable. Whether she was your birth mother, your adoptive mother, or your step-mother... if she is the one that took the responsibility to raise you, she is your mother. Mother is another way of saying unconditional love.. 
 So, when you honor your mother on Mother's Day, remember all that she has been for you. How she has always been there, waiting to help in any way that she could. If you are lucky enough to have a mother who is still living, thank God, or whatever that you believe in, that you still have her and cherish every second that you can still talk to her. If you, like myself, has a mother who is gone.. take the day to honor her memory. Make an effort to wish every mother that you know a Very Happy and Loving Mothers Day! I just did!

Love and Peace to All
John Zaffino, Kent Lakes, NY
May 10, 2014